Daily Kickoff: Rabbis argue against notion that Shabbat’s to blame for Trump tweets | Rich -> Putin tells Bibi to stop dwelling on past | Happy Purim!
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About Those Tweets… “Shabbat’s not the reason Trump tweets on Saturdays” by Annie Karni: “I think it’s a very foolish assumption to say that in some way, people in the Trump administration wait until the Sabbath so they can make decisions that otherwise, other members of the Trump administration might weigh in on,” said Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, rabbi emeritus at the Kehilath Jeshurun congregation on Manhattan’s Upper East Side… The rules of Shabbat “are not so black and white,” explained Rabbi Avidan Milevsky, the interim rabbi at Kesher Israel… But he said it was a “dangerous misconception” to assume Kushner was out of touch and off the grid during Trump’s most inflammatory moments. “It implies that anything disastrous is somehow indirectly to be blamed on Jared’s absence—and by extension, Jews,” Milevsky said. “It’s a dangerous narrative — this idea that he’s not allowed to discuss these things on the Sabbath is absolutely false… Jared is not locked in a room. It was a cool idea, and it got some press, but it is a dangerous and false narrative.” [Politico]
President-in-law: “Mexican foreign minister goes straight to the White House, skips usual channels” by Tracy Wilkinson: “Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray met at the White House with President Trump’s son-in-law and senior advisor Jared Kushner, along with National Security Advisor H.R. McMaster and Gary Cohn, a top financial aide, the Mexican government announced… When asked whether any sessions were scheduled at the State Department, the spokesman, Mark Toner, said he didn’t know Videgaray was in town.” [LATimes]
“Rex Tillerson is off to an agonizingly slow start” by David Ignatius: “Tillerson’s first big setback was his failed advocacy of Abrams… Trump seemed enthusiastic during an Oval Office meeting on Feb. 7 that included Tillerson, Kushner and Abrams. As they were leaving the Oval Office, Bannon, in a true “House of Cards” moment, said to Abrams: “Huge fan.” Several hours later, reportedly after Bannon showed Trump some critical comments Abrams had made about him during the campaign, Tillerson was informed that the nomination had been nixed. Tillerson tried to reverse the decision but failed. He’s still looking for a deputy.” [WashPost]
“Leave Steve Bannon Out of Your Shpiel” by Tevi Troy: “Comparing Mr. Bannon, or any Trump aide, to Haman diminishes the true threats that Jews face in a dangerous world. A political figure, even one with whom you disagree, is not worthy of comparison with someone who paid a pliable king 10,000 talents of silver for the “privilege” of slaughtering the Jews. The suggestion that the two are alike will only undermine legitimate criticism of Mr. Bannon… The Hamanization of Trump aides threatens badly needed Jewish unity and could also turn off otherwise sympathetic gentiles.” [WSJ]
“Trump’s Intelligence Nominee Gets Early Lesson in Managing White House” by Matthew Rosenberg and James Risen: “Until last week, the White House was weighing a plan to bring in Stephen A. Feinberg, a co-founder of Cerberus Capital Management and a friend of Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner, to lead a White House review of the intelligence community… Stiff resistance from [Dan] Coats and Mike Pompeo, the director of the Central Intelligence Agency — aided by pushback from allies in the Senate and even Mr. Pence — appears to have derailed the plan. Mr. Feinberg is now in discussions with administration officials to take on a still-undetermined role in defense, rather than intelligence… Mr. Coats saw Mr. Feinberg’s potential appointment as an effort by Mr. Bannon and Mr. Kushner to undercut him, according to current and former officials.” [NYTimes]
“When the Generals Become Democracy’s Guardians” by Andrew Exum: “Military officers have checked some of the president’s uglier populist impulses. But what does that mean for liberal values? …it makes me worry about what that means for both liberal values and the role of the military officer corps in American society. For some answers, it’s worth taking a look at another country in which the senior ranks of the military officer corps have been thrust into a role as the vanguard of liberalism: Israel.” [TheAtlantic]
HAPPENING TODAY: President Trump will speak with Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas by telephone at 12:15 PM, according to the White House.
Aaron David Miller: “Trump talks to Abbas. If Trump puts his brand on a peace initiative — like steaks, ties, wine — Bibi watch out.” [Twitter]
Dan Shapiro writes: “Today seems like a good day to debunk this oft-repeated but erroneous claim: That Obama’s first call as POTUS was to Abbas. It wasn’t. I was in the Oval Office that day, Jan 21, 2009… Operation Cast Lead had just ended, and Obama wanted to reinforce the shaky, Egyptian-brokered ceasefire that was taking hold. Just past 8:30 AM, we entered the Oval for the calls. The sequence had been carefully scripted: Mubarak, Olmert, Abbas, King Abdullah. Thank Egypt for its role on the ceasefire; support for Israel’s self-defense; appreciate PA helping keeping the WB stable; support Jordan.” [Twitter]
Greenblatt to meet with Palestinians, too: Jerusalem is preparing for the first visit by a Trump administration official, as the president’s special representative, Jason Greenblatt, is set to arrive next week. A US official told Kafe Knesset yesterday that Greenblatt will be visiting both Jerusalem and Ramallah, meeting both Netanyahu and President Abbas, as well as officials from both the Israeli and the Palestinian side.
On the Israeli side, Greenblatt’s visit is likely to be dominated by the settlements issue, as he is the US point man on the team coordinating the matter. He will arrive against the backdrop of right-wing pressure on Netanyahu to expand settlement construction and stand by his commitment to build a new settlement for the Amona evacuees. The Jewish Home is now threatening not to support Likud legislation until Netanyahu fulfills his promise on Amona. [KafeKnesset]
Bill Clinton Talks Rabin, Peace Process — by JI’s Aaron Magid: Former President Bill Clinton spoke to a packed audience at Brookings Institute on Thursday and called for an end to ongoing tensions between Israelis and Palestinians… Clinton called the day of [Rabin’s] assassination his worst day in the White House, adding, “I remain convinced that had he lived we would have achieved a comprehensive agreement with the Palestinians by 1998 and we’d be living in a different world today.” He recalled Rabin telling him once that he was making peace because otherwise, “Very soon we will either no longer be a democracy or no longer be a Jewish state.” [JewishInsider; Politico]
HEARD IN MOSCOW: “Rejecting Purim spiel, Putin tells Netanyahu to stop dwelling on past” by TOI: “Russian President Vladimir Putin told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to stop living in the past Thursday, after the Israeli premier tried to tie tensions with Iran to an upcoming Jewish holiday about a thwarted genocide of Jews in ancient Persia. Adopting a conciliatory tone, Putin said that the events described by Netanyahu had taken place “in the fifth century B.C.” “We now live in a different world. Let us talk about that now,” Putin said.” [ToI]
KAFE KNESSET — Putin’s perfect present — by Tal Shalev and JPost’s Lahav Harkov: At home, Netanyahu is dealing with an inconvenient gift scandal, but during his visit to Moscow yesterday, a present from President Putin actually warmed his heart. The Russian president and Netanyahu are considered quite close, and Putin chose the perfect gift for Netanyahu, the son of the historian: an antique copy of “The Jewish War” by Josephus Flavius. The volume was printed in Tuscany, Italy in 1526, almost 500 years ago. “It’s a very special gift.” Netanyahu told reporters in a phone call briefing from the tarmac before flying back to Israel. “There is no doubt this book has a significant place in our historical heritage. I really appreciate it,” he added, stressing he will be passing on the book to the National Library.
Gifts aside, Netanyahu stressed the importance of his Kremlin meeting, which was dedicated to the Syrian front and Israeli concerns about Iran bolstering its standing in post-war Syria. Netanyahu presented Putin with intelligence demonstrating recent Iranian moves from the past few weeks, which show Tehran is attempting to create a permanent military presence in Syria, including attempts to build a naval port. “I can tell you from past experience that these face-to-face conversations between us are very significant. It was a direct and frank conversation,” Netanyahu said, refusing to reveal what Putin’s response was. “I can tell you for sure – he got the message.” Read today’s entire Kafe Knesset here [JewishInsider]
ON THE HILL: The Senate Foreign Relations Committee advanced David Friedman’s nomination for US Ambassador to Israel. The vote was mostly along party lines with Democratic Senator Bob Menendez who, by voting yes, gave Friedman bipartisan backing. Friedman’s candidacy will proceed to a Senate floor vote at an undetermined time.
“Menendez, Booker at odds over Trump’s ambassador to Israel” By Jonathan D. Salant: “Menendez said he voted yes after discussing his and constituents’ concerns with the nominee, including a two-state solution… “I believe maintaining that bipartisan support is critical, and that it is vitally important we enjoy open channels of communication with our ambassador.” [NJAdvance]
After the vote, Senator Rob Portman explained his vote to Jewish Insider, “He’s the President’s pick. I tend to defer to the President, Republican and Democrat alike. He answered some of the questions I had and I thought he did a good job responding to those.” Senator James Risch (R-ID) told Jewish Insider, “He’s the right guy for the job. Period,” [JewishInsider]
Clinton’s Rabbi backs Friedman — “A new US ambassador at a critical time” by Menachem Genack: “David Friedman is uniquely qualified to provide this sense of friendship and backing, and would be an excellent choice as ambassador to Israel. Not only does he possess extraordinary intelligence, he also is intimately familiar with the region, speaks Hebrew fluently, is at home with Israeli culture, and is sensitive to Israel’s concerns.” [JPost]
“Trump’s hard-line Israel ambassador pick will have to bend” by Aaron David Miller: “An argument can be made that the ambassador to watch isn’t Friedman at all but Ron Dermer, Israel’s envoy to the United States, who not only is exceptionally close to Netanyahu but also has close ties to the Trump administration. The issue on the US side isn’t really proximity to Netanyahu, but to Washington and the US President — and there Dermer and Kushner will have a distinct advantage… It would be a cruel irony if Trump ends up using the pro-settlement Friedman as his channel to the settlers to persuade them to act with restraint on some kind of settlements freeze.” [CNN]
COMING SOON: “British Royal ‘to become family’s first member to make state visit to Israel later this year'” by Niamh McIntyre: “Reuven Rivlin, the Israeli President, extended the invitation via Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson at a meeting in Jerusalem earlier this week… A spokesperson for Clarence House, the official residence of the Prince of Wales, told The Independent that the Prince of Wales’ overseas visits are only made at the request of the government. They could not confirm whether the Prince would be visiting Israel. However, they did point to the Prince’s “strong and growing relationship with the Jewish community.”” [Independent]
PURIM, beginning Saturday evening: Rabbi Jonathan Sacks writes… “Purim is the Jewish answer to one of the great questions of history: how do you live with the past without being held captive by the past? Ours is a religion of memory, because if you forget the past, you’ll find yourself repeating it. Yet it’s also a future-oriented faith. To be a Jew is to answer the question, Has the Messiah come?, with the words, Not yet. There are so many parts of the world today where ancient grievances are still being played out, as if history were a hamster wheel in which however fast we run we find ourselves back where we started. Purim is a way of saying, remember the past, but then look at the children, celebrate with them, and for their sake, put the past behind you and build a better future.” [RabbiSacks] • h/t Yair Rosenberg
IN AUSTIN THIS WEEKEND — Extra ‘Snap’ to SXSW: Purim Coming to the Streets of Austin: More than 300 people are expected at Shabbat dinner this week in Austin as part of the annual South by Southwest (SXSW) film, interactive media and music festival that takes place from March 10 to March 19. The Friday-night dinner, #openShabbat, is organized by Chabad Rabbi Mordechai and Chana Lightstone and co-hosted by Chabad Young Professionals in Austin. The joyous holiday of Purim comes right on the heals of Shabbat and SXSW goers will have every opportunity to celebrate and imbibe at the YAAASS Queen Esther SXSW Purim party which will begin at 3 p.m. on Sunday. Mordechai Lightstone will also be speaking Sunday with Julia Ioffe from the Atlantic about the rise of online anti-Semitism. [Evenbrite; SXSW]
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BUSINESS BRIEFS: Inbox maintenance was taking up a lot of Dan Ariely’s time, so he decided to study it as he would anything else [TheAtlantic] • Extell sells three UES walk-ups to Izaki Group for $42M [TRD] • Former Hedge Fund Exec Bruce Kovner Seeks $67 Million for Caribbean Estate [WSJ] • Lawsuit claims Mori Arkin misled eCam shareholders [Globes] • Patrick Drahi of Altice Is Struggling to Bridge Atlantic Divide [Bloomberg] • Despite sanctions relief, Shell still cool on Iranian oil buys [Reuters] • Sixers owner Joshua Harris meets with Trump over $1 trillion infrastructure plan [PhillyVoice]
“With Trump in White House, Some Executives Ask, Why Not Me?” by James Stewart: “Stu Loeser, once the press secretary for Michael R. Bloomberg, the former New York mayor who considered a presidential run last year, concurred. “If you run a company that has employed tens of thousands of people, and generated lots of profit and been undeniably successful, and you look at a sitting president who, to be honest, a lot of business people don’t have much respect for, you think, why not me?” he said. Mr. Loeser now runs his own strategic consulting firm, and told me he has clients who are business executives considering a run for high public office. “I can’t tell you their names, obviously,” he said.” [NYTimes]
“Blumberg Capital closes $200 million fund” by Katie Roof: “They are willing to look at opportunities that are just in the idea stage and will write checks “even in companies with no product,” explained David Blumberg, founder and managing partner. He likes focusing on seed- and early-stage startups because of the potential for bigger returns… He’s particularly interested in “helping the little guy do better,” and that guides some of his investments in the personal finance category.” [TC]
“WeWork Is Giving Away $20 Million in Cash Prizes to Other Startups” by Ellen Huet: “The New York-based co-working giant said it’ll give away $20 million in cash prizes to entrepreneurs and small businesses in a series of competitions called the Creator Awards. Adam Neumann, WeWork’s chief executive officer and co-founder, said the contest will serve as a way to celebrate reaching 100,000 members… In WeWork’s case, the company won’t take equity or ask for repayment from the startups it gives money to, Neumann said. “We’re doing this to give back,” said the 37-year-old CEO. “We’re not doing this as a loan. We’re literally giving this.”” [Bloomberg]
“Maverick’s Guy Oseary: ‘Engineers Are the Rock Stars of Today'” by Craig Marks: “A friend of mine started WeWork, and I didn’t invest. I loved the concept, too: It’s about sharing of services, location, support — it’s everything I love. And it’s now worth 20 billion dollars. What was I thinking?” [Billboard]
MEDIA WATCH: “An anti-Trump tabloid pulls back” by Joe Pompeo: “During a rare newsroom appearance last January, according to people who were there, owner Mort Zuckerman, the 79-year-old real estate mogul and long-time Democratic donor, gushed about what the News was doing and all the buzz it was getting. At one point, according to two of the sources present, he turned to Rich and quipped, “Where have you been all my life?” (It’s no secret in New York media circles that Zuckerman’s health is in decline, which is why he has now fully stepped away from running the paper, entrusting that responsibility to his nephew, Eric Gertler.)” [Politico]
“Being Norman Oppenheimer” by Hannah Brown: “At an expensive men’s clothing store, Norman insists on treating Eshel to a very pricey pair of shoes, and this creates a bond between them. When Eshel becomes prime minister a few years later, Norman congratulates himself, exulting, “For once, I bet on the right horse.” How Norman tries to cash in on his connection to Eshel is a story that is fun and full of twists. These involve connections and deals he tries to make among a diverse group of powerful men, including a blustering, self-important rabbi (Steve Buscemi) of an upscale Manhattan synagogue — genius casting — and not one but two billionaire financiers (Josh Charles and Harris Yulin).” [JPost] • With the help of A-list actors, Israel’s most successful director takes a jab at Israeli exploitation of U.S. Jewry [Haaretz]
SCENE LAST NIGHT: Carol Blue, widow of the late Christopher Hitchens, cohosted a book party for Jamie Kirchick’s debut book The End of Europe. In introducing Kirchick, Blue noted “No one could fill his (Christopher’s) shoes but Jamie comes close.” About 200 people were in attendance including Michael Barone, Peter Berkowitz, Jim Denton, Amb. Norm Eisen, Benjamin Haddad, Michael Pillsbury, David Satter, Amb. Andras Simonyi and Andrew Sullivan.
“DeVos praises Orthodox Jewish group that strongly backs public funding for religious schools” by Valerie Strauss: “U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has made school “choice” a policy priority, met on Wednesday with leaders of an Orthodox Jewish group that has been instrumental in pushing voucher programs across the country. She praised their “leadership and commitment” in helping communities secure schools that “meet the academic and religious needs of their families” and said she looks forward to working with them… Although Agudath Israel of America does not ordinarily advocate for Cabinet members, it urged its supporters to lobby the Senate to confirm DeVos, with whom it has worked for years on school-choice issues.” [WashPost]
Rabbi A. D. Motzen, National Director of State Relations for Agudath Israel, tells us: Agudah leaders walked away “very impressed” and encouraged from the meeting. “She was very genuine, and she sincerely wants to continue this conversation to work with us on these issues,” he said. “This about having a seat at the table so that our voice is heard. We are a minority, and sometimes the minority voice is not heard. With DeVos, we know we will be heard. Having someone who is looking out for that minority voice. Whatever the discussion might be, we have our unique voice in being loud and clear. That, I think, is going to be amplified much more in this administration.”
DESSERT: “Eric Greenspan Jumps Into the Deli Scene With New Kosher Sandwich Shop in Los Angeles” by Farley Elliott: “Fleishik (Yiddish for meat) lands in the former Urban Garden space right along that dense stretch of Beverly not far from The Grove, and next door to Sweet Rose Creamery. The spot will serve traditional Jewish fare that expands beyond the traditional deli, from brisket to grilled salami to more composed sandwiches you’d never find at Jerry’s Deli. You can also find throwbacks like a Waldorf salad and miniature bites of kugel, and all with a full underlying liquor license to boot.” [LAEater]
“The 10 Coolest Places to Eat in 2017” by Ann Abel: “If you’re from Israel you know this restaurant,” says restaurateur and sommelier turned professional bon vivant Kristian Brask Thomsen, host of the three-day gastronomic blowouts known as Dining Impossible. But it deserves wider attention. On a steep side street by the city’s bMy Dinner at Nothing: Dining at the World’s Most Exclusive Kosher Restaurant” ustling food market, Machneyuda is the creation of Israeli Iron Chefs Krav Sakinim, Asaf Granit and Uri Navon, alongside Jerusalem’s “slow food” champion, Yossi Asaf. “They realized a dream of serving guests ‘happy food’ in an extremely fun-loving dining experience, combining seasonal cuisine with a homey interior featuring china from one chef’s grandmother’s house,” says Brask Thomsen. “Add loud music and staff and guests dancing on tables, and you just might have the most memorable eating experience of the Middle East.” Ask for a bespoke evening at the Chef’s Bar, where one of the principals will curate a custom made tasting menu.” [Forbes]
PURIM SPOOF: “My Dinner at Nothing: Dining at the World’s Most Exclusive Kosher Restaurant” by Gamliel Kronemer: “I had been wanting to dine at the legendary Nothing ever since I first heard about it a year ago. Nothing, the brainchild of autodidactic wunder-chef Yankel Gornisht, is a 12-seat kosher restaurant located in the basement of Gornisht’s suburban Bergenfield home, where diners are treated to a six-course prix fixe tasting menu for an entirely reasonable $400 per person (plus wine and gratuities). For those following the treif world’s culinary trends, Gornisht might be compared to Damon Baehrel’s Damon Baehrel in Earlton, New York, a half hour south of Albany—which, for some, is the most exclusive restaurant in America.” [JewishLink] • Read the original New Yorker profile on Baehrel by Nick Paumgarten for context [NewYorker]
WINE OF THE WEEK — Odem Mountain 1060 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon — by Yitz Applbaum: Although travel has always been a necessary and important part of my life, I have always made it a policy to be home with family on Shabbat. The exceptions to this rule have been few and far between. Last Shabbat, I had no choice but to be in Maui. My better half could not join, so I invited my wine-making and wine-drinking buddy, Dan, to spend Shabbat with me. We opened a bottle which I recently acquired, the Odem Mountain 1060 Single Vineyard Cabernet Sauvignon, vintage 2012. The wine is produced by the Alfasi family.
This bottle is one of the top wines I have ever experienced. Reminiscent of a giant California cabernet, this bottle exploded with deep tannins on the front part of my tongue. In the middle palate I got a brief respite in intensity, then the finish overwhelms with unripened fruit — think blackberries. It was only five minutes later that it all actually blended together, in my memory. The grapes are grown in the northernmost part of the Golan, and it is predominantly Cabernet. The label does not list any Petit Verdot, but somehow or other I know there is Petit Verdot in this wine. The “1060” will last a very long time, but if you dare to open a bottle now, let it breathe and eat it with a 16-20 oz steak. [Harodam]
WEEKEND BIRTHDAYS: Long Beach, California general surgeon, Leonard M. Lovitch, MD turns 73… Record producer, former co-president of Columbia Records and a co-founder of Def Jam Records, Rick Rubin turns 54… Peabody Award-winning financial journalist and market news analyst for CNBC and one of the co-hosts of its morning show “Squawk on the Street,” David Faber turns 53… Stage, screen and television actor, the son of novelist Norman Mailer, Stephen Mailer turns 51… Investigative reporter for The New York Times stationed in the London bureau, Danny Hakim turns 46… CEO of DC-based International Lifeline Fund, an NGO focused on poor countries, previously President of both the Genesis Prize Foundation (2013-2015) and Hillel (2006-2013), Wayne L. Firestone… News editor of Mishpacha magazine, Binyamin Rose turns 61… Author and publisher of the Phoenix Scottsdale Jewish Friendship Trail Guidebook, Michael A. Ross… Chief Transformation Officer at Gaithersburg, MD-based BroadSoft, previously a consultant to Israeli start-up and established companies and government officials, Jeffrey Kahn…
SATURDAY: Professor emeritus at Princeton University whose research focused upon the Cairo Geniza and Jewish life in Muslim countries, Mark R. Cohen turns 74… Composer and conductor specializing in movie scores, since 1984 he has composed the music for nearly 100 feature films, David Louis Newman turns 63… Hudson Bay Capital’s Sander Gerber… Singer-songwriter who has also worked in film, television, voice-over work and children’s recordings, also promotes an eponymous line of eyeglasses, Lisa Loeb turns 49… Israeli singer-songwriter and pianist who has twice been recognized as Israel’s Singer of the Year, Keren Peles turns 38… VP for investor relations and communications at Ridgewood Energy, an energy-focused private equity firm, Samuel J. Lissner turns 31… Graduate of Yale Law School, clerked for Judge Cabranes on the 2nd Circuit, co-founder of Headliner Labs, Dana Stern Gibber… President of Jerusalem Capital Studios, a graduate of Harvard Business School, Michal Grayevsky… Graduate of NYU (B.A., cum laude), University of Illinois (M.S. in journalism) and University of North Carolina (Ph.D.), Sharon Polansky… Hermine Warren… Glenda Kresh…
SUNDAY: Chief Washington correspondent for CNN and anchor of the Sunday morning program “State of the Union,” Jacob Paul “Jake” Tapper turns 48… Attorney, real estate developer and president of AIPAC (2014-2015), Robert A. Cohen… Rabbi, born in Venezuela, raised in Israel, now residing in Lakewood, NJ, Yitzchak Abadi turns 84… Photographer, author of 15 children’s books and musician, married to Alan Alda since 1957, Arlene Weiss Alda turns 84… Director, producer and screenwriter of movies and television including “The Fast and the Furious” film franchise, Rob Cohen turns 68… Born in Bombay, British sculptor who recently won the $1 million Genesis Prize, Sir Anish Kapoor turns 63… Sportscaster for ESPN since 1993, host of SportsCenter best known for his work broadcasting NHL hockey, Steve Levy turns 52… Israeli figure skater who won the 2016 World Junior championship, Daniel Samohin turns 19… Chief Marketing Officer at Consensus Systems, better known as ConsenSys, a blockchain software technology company, Amanda Gutterman… Founder of, and designer for, a NYC-based eponymous clothing line that uses CEOs and other successful women as its fashion models (“role models not runway models”), Carrie Hammer… Principal of the Ryan Advocacy group, previously campaign manager for Rick Perry’s presidential campaign and an advisor for Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Jeff Miller… Sam Cohen turns 84… Carol Margolis turns 72… Lynne Blumenthal turns 59…
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