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"Forty-five percent of U.S. households prefer an environmental, social and governance (ESG) approach to investing… Among those between the ages of 30 and 39, this increases to 64%, and for those younger than 30, it is 67%."
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 Ethical Investing News/Commentaries: May 2007


Commentaries by Ron Robins

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Major Canadian Bank To Offer Socially Responsible Mutual Funds. - [COMMENTARY] RBC Asset Management, a subsidiary of Canada’s largest bank, the Royal Bank of Canada, is to offer three socially responsible mutual funds. RBC is partnering with Michael Jantzi, a pioneer and leader in Canadian socially responsible companies research. Also, RBC is taking an important ethical stance by reducing fund management fees (on 42 of its funds) as a  result of realizing that many investors are not getting value-for-money in the trailer fees they pay which are incorporated into the funds annual charges. Perhaps now all other Canadian banks and mutual fund families will follow the RBC’s lead!
It’s about time, by Rob Carrick, May 30, 2007, The Globe & Mail, Canada.

’Moral Hazard’, Ethics & The Chinese Stock Markets. - [COMMENTARY] Moral hazard is a term economists use to describe economic conditions that allow for the taking of increasing risk by market participants, and where in the event of losses, these market participants believe that others, i.e. banks, governments, etc., will come to limit their losses. This is the situation in China today, as you will read in this article, moral hazard exists because many Chinese ’investors’ (gamblers) believe that the Chinese government cannot allow for a stock melt-down to happen. Currently, the value of trading on the two major Chinese stock exchanges now rivals that of the New York Stock Exchange. This is also an ethical dilemma that all central banks and governments must take note of. When through monetary or fiscal policy, they promote the concept that ’you can never lose’, moral hazard gets created and conditions are set for an eventual momentous bust. I believe the enormous growth in asset prices around the world - which far out-distances actual economic growth - is evidence of increasing moral hazard and of faltering ethics by political and economic elites.
Students, monks and maids driving China’s hot market, by Geoffrey York, May 29, 2007, The Globe & Mail, Canada.

Battle For Coal-To-Liquid Heats Up In US. - [COMMENTARY] This deserves close scrutiny for all investors. The outcome of this battle will have considerable repercussions on our environment and on all energy related stocks.
Lawmakers Push for Big Subsidies for Coal Process, by Edmund L. Andrews, May 29, 2007, The New York Times, USA.

US 2007 Farm Bill To Prevent States Restricting Federally Approved Agricultural Products. - [COMMENTARY] Some US states are considering restricting GM modified agricultural products, recombinant bovine growth hormone in milk, etc. The states ability to do this would be illegal under the proposed 2007 US Farm Bill. Furthermore, states would be unable to recall, or barred from prohibiting the sale of, any unsafe food. It looks like all Americans will be forced to enjoy their frankenfoods! Good luck America.
US House may prevent states from protecting food supply, by Britt Bailey, May 28, 2007, IndyMedia, USA.

Unilever Commits To Buying Tea From Only Sustainable, Ethical Sources. - [COMMENTARY] More good news on how higher consciousness is influencing business. The growth of ethics and sustainability in business are unstoppable trends in business today.
Unilever commits to sourcing all its tea from sustainable ethical sources, May 26, 2007, Newsfood.com, Italy.

Is Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) More Than PR? - [COMMENTARY] Some commentators believe that many companies employing CSR are doing little more than window dressing. Jeff Ballinger in this article suggests that Nike’s efforts are just that, window dressing. Again, I bring-up the need for a generally accepted corporate CSR audited report. A report that is perhaps along the lines of the Global Reporting Initiative (GSI), then professionally, independently audited, in much the same way as today’s financial statements are prepared and audited. A few leading companies are already doing this. I have no doubt that such audited reports will be commonplace in the next few years.
Why Corporate Social Responsibility Programs are a Fraud, by The Corporate Crime Reporter, May 25, 2007, Counterpunch, USA.

Again More US Drug Safety Concerns. - [COMMENTARY] Avandia, a best-selling diabetes drug may give rise to a higher incidence of heart attacks and cardiovascular problems. Now the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) first received warnings from an eminent diabetic specialist seven years ago about this drug and some professionals are accusing the company’s manufacturer - GlaxoSmithKline - of being aware of such adverse reactions many years ago. It is clear that the coziness of the FDA with the drug companies has to be abolished and that data and methodologies from all drug studies need to be put into the public domain for anyone to review and comment upon. Investors should understand that the relentless drive by drug companies for extraordinary revenue gains poses enormous ethical, market and stock price risks.
Ignoring the Warnings, Again? May 25, 2007, Editorial, The New York Times, USA.

Easy Money Contrasts With Shariah Investing. - [COMMENTARY] Jeff Sanford writes about the startling contrast of the apparent ’lightening-up’ of bank lending standards and Shariah compliant funds such as Canadian frontierAlt Oasis funds - which are highly conservative with regard to debt. I have long felt that the ability of banks to off-load credit risk by, for instance, their bundling of mortgages and then re-packaging and re-selling them to investors as mortgage-backed securities, plus their spreading of debt risk via derivatives, inevitably leads to much greater risks being taken by the banks. Practices such as this have given rise to enormous increases in global liquidity (money) - way beyond the actual growth in economic activity. It is possible that a global financial melt-down could occur at some point in the future, and that is why I believe, like many of the Shariah funds, that conservative debt loads will be the best practice over the longer-term.
The easy-money trend …, April 30, 2007, Jeff Sanford, Canadian Business Online, Canada.

Islamic Financial Products Gaining Ground. - [COMMENTARY] This Financial Times overview on the background and growth of Islamic finance is fascinating reading. It also provides insight into the potential influence of Islamic investment and banking on the global financial industry.
Islamic Finance: an FT special report, May 24, 2007, The Financial Times, UK.

Israeli Fund Based On Jewish Law Outperforms Markets. - [COMMENTARY] The Shoam Gmisha Fund was one of the best performing Israeli funds last year. The fund follows the Halakha Jewish laws, which includes not investing in companies that are open for business on Saturdays. I find this interesting, but the fund’s use of options to get around the strict Halakha laws might be too much of a compromise.
Fund that follows Jewish law outperforms Israeli market, by Tal Barak (Bloomberg News), May 22, 2007, International Herald Tribune, France.

Al Gore Talks About Sustainable Investing. - [COMMENTARY] In this interview, Al Gore and David Blood talk about their approach to sustainable investing. One thing I have long argued, and that they also point out, is that business executives today are predominantly short term thinkers. It is also why current global investing resembles a mammoth casino.
‘Focusing only on the quarter can blind you,′ by Lenny T. Mendonca and Jeremy Oppenheim, May 21, 2007. Article originally published in The McKinsey Quarterly′s online journal.

Most Canadians Bought Organic In Past Year. - [COMMENTARY] Organic food sales in Canada increased 31% in 2006 compared to 2005 and continue to trend substantially higher in most developed countries as concerns over pesticides and fertilizers grow. Farmland using standard monoculture, pesticides and fertilizers are deteriorating the quality of soil everywhere, whereas organic farming methods are not only showing comparable yields, but also do not erode the soil.
Canadian consumers push up popularity of organic foods, survey finds, May 14, 2007, CBC, Canada.

Barclays Offering In Canada New Socially Responsible Investment (SRI) Exchange Traded Fund (ETF). - [COMMENTARY] One of the world’s largest banks has created an SRI product in Canada. Now the key question is whether Canada’s own large banks will enter the fray, as they have lagged badly in this regard.
Taking notice of socially responsible investing, by Rob Carrick, May 17, 2007, The Globe & Mail, Canada.

Nano-Scale Chemistry Brings Possible Major Societal Risks. - [COMMENTARY] "The Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) accuses the U.S. government of gross failure to use its authority to protect citizens from the potentially dangerous effects of nano-scale chemistry, according to scientists and policy experts at NRDC... Several studies have associated nano-sized air pollutants with asthma attacks, heart disease, strokes and respiratory disease. Yet nanomaterials in consumer products remain essentially unregulated in the United States." - See their press release below. (Again, governments everywhere continue to be ’missing-in-action’ about these risks. Investors should find-out if any of the companies in which they own shares are in anyway involved with nano-technologies and determine from an ethical, environmental standpoint, whether to continue to hold such investments.)
NRDC Advances Regulation of Nanotechnology to Protect Human Health, May 16, 2007, NRDC, USA.

UK Women’s Magazine, Lifescape, Focuses On Issues Relevant To Environmentally, Ethically Oriented Investors. - [COMMENTARY] Many interesting investment ideas might be gleaned from this publication. However, always seek professional advice before making any investment decisions. Just because something inspires you does not necessarily make it a good investment.
Lifescape Magazine, UK.

A Futuristic Look At The Supermarket. - [COMMENTARY] Many investment ideas might occur to you as you read this article. It also says that ’conscious consumers’ (concerned about ethics, the environment etc.) in the UK will grow from the present 1.5 million to 3.9 million by 2009.
A world of food – the supermarket of the future, by Jasmine Smith, May 14, 2007, FOODweek Online, Australia.

Sub-Prime Lending Report For Canadian Investors. - [COMMENTARY] SHARE (Shareholder Association for Research and Education) a non-profit, organization, has issued an interesting report that Canadian spiritual and ethical investors may want to read to gain a better understanding of the impact of sub-prime lending in Canada.
Sub-prime lending, how should investors respond? May 14, 2007, SHARE, Canada.

Americans Want Congress To Legislate Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). - [COMMENTARY] The study referred to below says that 82% of Americans want their government to make compulsory CSR standards in US companies. This could well become a 2008 election issue.
NCL/FH Second Annual Corporate Social Responsibility Survey Released, May 9, 2007, National Consumers League, USA.

Interesting Overview On Growth Of Islamic Shariah Investing. - [COMMENTARY] From the article below, "MSCI Barra, a company that creates and develops a wide range of indices, is set to launch a series of Islamic benchmarks based on their existing, more established, indices." Also, according to this article, there are now 125 Islamic funds worldwide with about $15 billion under management with the potential to grow by more than 15% per annum. It is good to see the interest in spiritually oriented investing growing globally.
A shout for Shariah investment, May 13, 2007, 7 Days AE, United Arab Emirates.

The International Standards Association (ISO) To Develop A Standard For Social Responsibility. - [COMMENTARY] 2008 is the release date for the standard. It will be interesting to observe both the debate surrounding the standard as well as to see which companies employ it. Spiritual and ethical investors will need to watch this next year.
Social Responsibility, May, 2007, International Standards Association.

New US Trade Deals To Include Labour Standards & Environmental Clauses. - [COMMENTARY] The Bush administration and Democrats from Congress will include in all new international trade agreements clauses that prohibit child labour, forced labour and guarantee the right of unionization among signatories. Also, such trading partners must enforce their own environmental laws. I am still unsure about the wisdom of including such clauses in trade agreements. In regard to child labour, I agree that children need to be in school - but what if there are no schools and the children’s family are dying of hunger? Should the child not help-out on his uncle’s farm to help feed his family - especially if they are in their early teens? Also, in many cultures the child learns a valuable skill from his or her father or mother, who can help them earn income latter in life. Again, if there are not any schools around for them to attend, is it not better that they learn a skill to earn income? Furthermore, the idea that each country enforces its own environmental laws implies uneven treatment whereby the country with the worst environmental laws may provide companies a competative advantage.
A Winning Deal on Trade, Editorial, May 13, 2007, The New York Times, USA.

Zimbabwe’s Minister Of Environment And Tourism Chairs United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development. - [COMMENTARY] How can a country that has decimated its agricultural sector and, unless someone can show me otherwise, made no real efforts at sustainability, chair this all-important UN commission? Investors concerned about the environment have to wonder if this will lead to any watering down of the UN’s Environmental Programme Finance Initiative - which promotes the concept of sustainability to corporations and investors. It is probably unlikely that this would be the case. However, at the UN, it seems that anything can happen these days.
Zimbabwe Ironically Takes Turn At Chairing U.N. Committee On Sustainable Development, by Susheela Hegde, May 12, 2007, AllHeadlineNews, USA.

Money Pouring Into UK Ethical Unit Trusts. - [COMMENTARY] More money poured into UK unit trusts (mutual funds) in the first three months of 2007, than all of 2006. Global warming, the interest in organics and Fair Trade, are all reasons cited for the increased flows by investment industry analysts. What a heartwarming sign this is to me. Hopefully, it is not just a fad, but that these investment flows into ethical funds will continue apace. UK businesses are noting the changes by the investing public and so many of them are going green and implementing sustainability practices to get their piece of the investment pie.
Smart money pours into ethical funds, by Tom Stevenson, May 11, 2007, Telegraph.co.uk., UK.

No Organic Bee Losses! - [COMMENTARY] ’Colony collapse’ among bees may well be confined to non-organic bee operations. How many more reasons do farmers need to go organic and for investors who invest in food companies to pay more attention to sustainable and green activities. Quoting from the article linked to below, "They [non-organic bee operations] put pesticides in their hives to fumigate for varroa mites, and they feed antibiotics to the bees. They also haul the hives by truck all over the place to make more money with pollination services, which stresses the colonies." Thanks to Larry Decter for alerting me to this.
No ORGANIC Bee losses, May 6, 2007, Lancifer, USA & Canada.

May 12 Is World Fair Trade Day. - [COMMENTARY] Fair Trade is growing into a multi-billion dollar global business and offers many investment opportunities for the spiritual or ethical investor. As always though, have a qualified investment advisor work with you before making any investment decisions. A good place to find out about today’s events and about Fair Trade generally is to start with the link below.
World Fair Trade Day 2007: Kids Need Fair Trade, May 12, Fair Trade Federation, USA.

Vatican Urges UN Action On Global Warming. - [COMMENTARY] A common theme now pervading most global religious groups is the need to care for our environment. It will be interesting to see how wealthy and influential religious organizations mobilize their own resources to aid in this goal. I just hope that their sentiments are backed-up with substantive monetary action as well as their verbal bluster. I am also curious to know what energy saving plans they might have for their sometimes very large and cavernous cathedrals, mosques, synagogues, and temples.
Global warming threatens world′s security, existence, Vatican tells UN, urging action, May 11, 2007, Catholic Online, USA & Canada.

Food For Your Genes. - [COMMENTARY] Controversy surrounds the science of ’nutrigenomics’ - the science of how foods, ingredients eaten, change our genes. Yet it is an area that spiritual and ethical investors will need to be increasingly aware of as the knowledge in this area explodes in the years ahead. From my perspective, the food and genetics industry are playing God here, and unless we have the all-knowing consciousness of God, these endeavours will backfire on us in the long run. For a first glimpse on the activities of nutrigenomics, read the article here.
Gene foods could lead to consumers ruling the food industry, by Jess Halliday, NutraIngredients-USA, USA.

Prospective Ads Target US Fidelity Investments & Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway To Divest Sudanese Related Holdings.  - [COMMENTARY] Now the pressure is really being turned on to major investment organizations to examine their ethical investing stance, whether they like it or not! As consciousness rises, organizations investing in companies whose activities create human tragedy and suffering will increasingly be under attack to act with a moral and ethical conscience - or lose assets and profits!
Divestment dilemma, by Joan Vennochi, May 10, 2007, The Boston Globe, USA.

World’s Most Ethical Companies According Ethisphere Magazine. - [COMMENTARY] This is a new publication which appears to be, quoting from their website, "...created by PLI, LexisNexis, and Corpedia in partnership with such leading corporations as Deutsche Telekom, Time Warner, Avaya and Kraft." I believe their aims are good, but with business representatives forming the backbone of their efforts it may be difficult to determine how objective they are in their analysis. However, their evaluation methodology looks good.
2007 World’s Most Ethical Companies, May, 2007, Ethisphere Magazine, USA.

British University Offers First Ever MBA in Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) In UK. - [COMMENTARY] It is heartening to see CSR spreading to business schools around the world. It promises that future business leaders will have a better understanding of the need to integrate social, environmental and governance issues into corporations everywhere. It is a win for business, a win for society, and a win for investors.
University of Nottingham Business School, May, 2007, UK.

Apple Goes Green. - [COMMENTARY] After being criticized by Greenpeace as having some of the most toxic products among electronics’ manufacturers and a shareholder proposal by As You Sow to ask Apple to clean-up its act, Apple is now promising an aggressive recycling programme for its products worldwide.
As You Sow Will Withdraw Proposal After Actions by Apple on Electronic Waste, May 9, 2007, Ascribe Newswire, USA.

US Doctors Receive Hundreds of Millions of Dollars From Drug Companies. - [COMMENTARY] Talk about unethical practices! Not only do large drug companies pay huge sums to US doctors for giving patients their drugs, but in the case of anemia medications - for which the doctors receive hundreds of millions of dollars from the drug companies - they may now be deemed unsafe at presently used doses. Now should it not be declared illegal for drug companies to ’bribe’ doctors to use their products? Together with the direct-to-consumer television advertising where drug manufacturers push their products onto a medically unsophisticated public, typifies all that is wrong with US healthcare. And why the US has some of the worst health outcomes in the developed world. If you consider yourself an ethical investor and have investments in pharmaceutical stocks, you need to seriously examine the efficacy of the drug claims and marketing practices of the companies in which you own stocks.
Doctors Reap Millions for Anemia Drugs, by Alex Berenson and Andrew Pollack, May 9, 2007, The New York Times, USA.

Buffett Won’t Incorporate Socially Responsible Investing In His Criteria. - [COMMENTARY] He says it is too difficult to do as it is impossible to quantify the actions of huge numbers of people in large organizations. However, I would not be surprised if he is doing some real soul searching on this issue. For instance, in the past he has refused to invest in tobacco companies, and in almost everything he does he displays high ethical behaviour. My own suspicion is that he is concerned about having to sell some of his most profitable holdings, should he start down the SRI road.
Buffett rebuffs efforts to rate corporate conduct, by Charles Piller, May 7, 2007, LA Times, USA.

Brother Scores Highest On Ethical Printing Report. - [COMMENTARY] If you are concerned about getting a printer that is environmentally friendly, or interested in investing in greener companies, you might like to review this report.
Ethical printing report released, by Antony Sawas, ComputerWeekly.com, UK.

Wal-Mart Slapped By Wisconsin Regulators For Marking Non-Organic Goods As Organic. - [COMMENTARY] Was it inexperienced staff marking products incorrectly or a deliberate corporate policy to show increased sales? What do you think? One thing is for sure and that is critics of the USDA’s National Organic Program abound. They cite so many instances of flagrant abuse of this programme that US consumers buying organic products really have to rely on the retailer’s reputation rather than the markings on the product. Meanwhile, Wal-Mart’s venture into organics needs to be seriously questioned.
Regulators Slap Wal-Mart for Misleading Organic Consumers, May 8, 2007, Natural Newswire, USA.

Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Gaining In Central & Eastern European Companies. - [COMMENTARY] The following is an interesting and detailed survey of what might be called CSR in ’newly emerging companies’. This is an area of the world that few non-European investors have thought much about.
Reporting on Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) by the Largest Listed Companies in Eleven Central and Eastern European (CEE) Countries; Second-Time Comparison with Peers in BRIC and Ukraine, May 8, CSRwire.com, USA.

Study Shows Good Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) Promotes Positive Employee Attitudes. - [COMMENTARY] Another confirmation demonstrating that companies with good CSR policies are likely to attain greater success. Nick Starritt, managing director of Sirota Survey Intelligence, Europe, said: “Businesses that recognise the importance of social responsibility often have employees who tend to be more satisfied with their jobs, adopt similar values, and become more committed to achieving success within the industry.” - See linked article below.
Employer commitment to corporate social responsibility linked to employee attitudes, May 8, 2007, Personneltoday.com, UK.

G8 Labour Ministers Promote Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).  - [COMMENTARY] Again, we see the mainstreaming of this issue. The article linked to below also mentions how the German Confederation of Trade Unions (DGB) is asking for government CSR legislation. What, perhaps should be done is for all stock exchanges and governing securities organizations to require companies to annually complete a uniform CSR report (see Global Reporting Initiative) which also requires an independent audit. Investors and all stakeholders would then be able to more accurately compare each individual company’s CSR performance relative to its peers. Without such uniformity of reporting and independent auditing of results, investors never really know whether what a company is reporting is fact or fiction.
G8 Labor Ministers Call for More Social Engagement by Business, May 7, 2007, Deutsche Welle, Germany.

MBA Students Cheat More Than Other Graduate Students.  - [COMMENTARY] Duke′s Fuqua School of Business recently found that cheating on writing papers and exams was widespread in its MBA programme. This is not unique. A study released late last year led by Rutgers University professor Don McCabe, found that 56% of US and Canadian MBA students acknowledged cheating, compared to 47% of graduate students in those countries enrolled in other disciplines. I wonder what happens when these cheating students command large businesses? Ethics programmes at business schools are widespread, yet, they seem to have little beneficial impact on student behaviour. What is needed is a programme such as Transcendental Meditation that demonstrably improves ethical and moral reasoning.
Duke cheating scandal shows need for Sarbanes-Oxley corporate reform law, May 6, 2007, AP story in observertoday.com, USA.

America Orients Itself To Socially & Environmentally Responsible Businesses. - [COMMENTARY] This is a good general read as to how socially and environmentally responsible businesses are beginning to reshape America.
Businesses Try to Make Money and Save the World, Stephanie Strom, May 6, 2007, The New York Times, USA.

South Korea Determined To Be First in Robot Ethics.  - [COMMENTARY] To help with their goal of becoming the world’s leader in robotics, South Korea is preparing the way by passing the first ethics laws for household robots. There is little doubt that robots will be increasingly a bigger part of our technological development in the decades to come. The article linked to below provides an interesting perspective for ethical investors, particularly, on ’robot ethics’ as well as some insight into the robot industry.
Minding the machines, by Ian Kerr, May 4, 2007, The Ottawa Citizen, Canada.

UK Consumers Go For Organic Cosmetics.  - [COMMENTARY] In 2006, 31.3% of UK consumers sought toiletries and cosmetic products that were ’au natural.’ This is part of a trend that is going worldwide. Investors interested in cosmetics need to be aware of it.
UK consumers diversify needs for organic products, Louise Prance, May 4, 2007, Cosmetics Design-Europe, France.

Controversy Surrounds The SRI Policies Of Norway’s $300bn Government Pension Fund. - [COMMENTARY] The fund, amassed from the country’s oil exports, has banned 21 companies - 12 of which are American - from being suitable investments for the fund. Recently, $400 million of Wal-Mart’s shares were sold as the fund accused the company of allowing child-labour practices by its suppliers in various poor countries. A question I have is: How does the fund feel about investing in oil?
Selling oil is easier than investing ethically, Norway finds, by Mark Landler, May 2, 2007, International Herald Tribune, France.

’Responsible Property Investing’ (RPI) Gathers Momentum In The US. - [COMMENTARY] The survey by the Urban Land Institute and University of Arizona Professor Gary Pivo, shows that over 90% of US real estate executives believe that ’pursuing social and environmental goals as a business strategy will be more important in the future.’ Going green is seen as bringing more ’green’ to their bottom line. This is good news for the US as it re-orients itself to a pro sustainability era. An area of keen interest to me is that not only should buildings be constructed green, but that they should also promote our spiritual development. For this reason, I’m very interested in Maharishi Vedic Architecture.
ULI Survey Shows Interest by Real Estate Executives in Responsible Property Investment Strategies, May 2, 2006, PRNewswire-USNewswire, USA.

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Disclaimer: This website does not make investment recommendations. Nothing in this site should be interpreted as a recommendation or solicitation to buy/sell any securities or investments. Investing for the Soul is a source of general information and resources for ethical investing and socially responsible investing (SRI). Investors should consider their actions thoroughly and consult their financial advisers and other professionals, prior to taking any investment action. This website does not necessarily agree with the opinions expressed in articles on its pages or offered on the web pages to which it might be linked. Such opinions are the responsibility of the writers themselves. Furthermore, this site does not offer or provide any warranties, representations, guarantees, implied or otherwise, as to the accuracy, legality, copyright compliance, timeliness or usefulness of the information, materials or services on this, or other sites, to which it is linked. Also, Mr. Ron Robins is not an investment advisor, nor is he licensed with any professional investment related body, and thus is not able to, nor does he make, any investment recommendations.


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