Posts Tagged ‘public services’

Bonuses are Back Pig Party – 2009

Wednesday, July 17th, 2024

Bonuses are Back Pig Party: I’ve never understood why people who are already paid obscenely high salaries get awarded huge bonuses for the work of people lower down in the organisations they lead. Even less that they still get them when these organisations are obviously failing – as with the water companies. So it was a small piece of good news in February 2024 when the then government announced they would block further bonuses to the water company after they had received £26 million since 2019 despite sewage spills.

Bonuses are Back Pig Party

Of course many of us felt that they should have been made to repay those bonuses and that the companies that have racked up huge debts while paying out billions to shareholders should be taken into administration to be run to serve the public.

Bonuses are Back Pig Party

Back in 2008 it was the predatory activities of the banks that led to the financial crash, but in 2009, “Despite everything that has happened over the past year, bankers are still getting bonuses, often at quite obscene levels, far in excess of most people’s annual incomes.”

Bonuses are Back Pig Party

And on Friday 17th July 2009 ‘The Government of the Dead‘ came to the heart of the City of London to ‘celebrate’ that “City pigs are truly back with their snouts in the trough” with “a ‘Bonuses are Back Pig Party’, wearing pig masks and setting up a trough with ‘Pig Pounds’ mixed with pig swill and getting snouts down and bottoms up to wallow in it.

Bonuses are Back Pig Party

The ‘Pig Pounds’ – were deliberately low-tech paper copies of fivers with a pig over the bottom half of the Queen and the pig swill was possibly the real thing but looked like some rather unpleasant and lumpy porridge with cornflakes mixed in.

Some of the protesters had come in fancy dress – city suits – with Chris Knight with his usual top hat and Camilla as Miss Piggy. Many put on latex pig masks and got their heads down in the trough in front of the Royal Exchange, scooping up the swill and the fivers.

More or less together they sang a number of cleverly reworded pig songs “including a number of hits by Miss Piggy, Pinky and Perky, The Simpsons and Piggy Pie“, as will as singing, dancing and miming along with some of the originals between sessions at the trough.

‘Lets Twist Again’, once recorded by Pinky and Perky became
Come on let’s scam again
Like we did last summer
Come on let’s scam again
Like we did last year
Come on let’s scam again
Scamming time is here.

Bonuses Are Back” Chris Knight and the others shouted at City workers on their way home, inviting them to “come and swill in the trough, all provided at the taxpayers expense thanks to Gordon Brown.

Tourists were bemused, but some stopped to enjoy and photograph the scene, with a few putting on the latex pig masks on offer and joining in.

Even the City of London Police seemed amused rather than worried by the protest, standing back and watching – and without their intervention there was no threat to public order.

After around an hour and a half of watching and taking pictures I decided it was time to go home. I’d taken too many pictures and the fun was wearing off.

Of course the bankers – and other bosses – continued to do well, while the rest of us had to suffer fourteen years of Tory austerity with public services being starved of cash and the NHS, prisons and more deteriorating at pace.

The Labour Party deliberately threw away the chance of getting into government in 2017, when the party under Corbyn got many more votes than in 2024. Starmer didn’t win the election, it was lost by the Tories who were poleaxed by Reform and had become clearly unable to run their own party let alone the country. I have no confidence that our new Labour government will be more than a very slight improvement over their predecessors, though it would be good to be proved wrong.

More at Bonuses are Back Pig Party


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Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Sunday, February 25th, 2024

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth – On Wednesday 25th February I photographed a number of protests in London, starting in Westminster with the Free Shaker Aamer campaign, striking firefighters and welfare rights activists, then with tube workers at Edgware Road and finally outside Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton.


Free Shaker Aamer – Parliament Square

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

A protest opposite Parliament called for the urgent release of London resident Shaker Aamer from Guantanamo, where he has been held and regularly abused for 13 years without charge or trial.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The Free Shaker Aamer Campaign had been holding weekly protests opposite Parliament whenever it was in session to remind government of the need for act over his release. He had long been cleared for release but was still held in the illegal prison camp with both US and UK governments dragging their feet as his testimony would be embarrassing to their security agencies, making clear their involvement in torture.

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

The protest was longer than usual as an international event was taking place at the nearby QEII centre and they wanted to remind delegates there of Shaker’s torture and imprisonment. Eventually the long campaign of protests by this and other groups led the UK government they needed to back his release in practice and he was finally released on 30th October 2015.

More pictures: Free Shaker Aamer at Parliament


Striking Firefighters block traffic – Westminster

Shaker, Job Centres, Firefighters, Tube, Lambeth

Firefighters in England held a 24 hour strike on 25th Feb 2015 against the unworkable pension scheme the government intended to implement. They say that the devolved governments had recognised the problems in the scheme and made improvements but in England government ministers were refusing to talk with the union, simply ignoring requests for meetings. They accused the government of lies about the union, saying they were being labelled as militants despite them being ready and willing to enter into negotiations at any time.

After a rally in Westminster Central Hall, several thousand striking firefighters protested on the street outside Parliament before marching to Downing St. Their protest brought all traffic in the area to a standstill until they marched away.

They stopped outside Downing Street and refused to move, saying they would wait there until someone came out to talk to them. A senior police officer come to talk with Matt Wrack and the other FBU leaders there and was extrememly politie, taking Wrack’s mobile number before going away to see if anyone could be persuaded to come out from Downing St to meet the protesters.

I left them leaning on the barriers and looking into Downing Street waiting for someone to come and see them, though I doubted if anyone would ever emerge.

The Fire Service has also suffered like other public services from government cuts; in London these led to Mayor Boris Johnson making dangerous reductions, closing some fire stations and reducing equipment and staffing, which left the London Fire Brigade ill-equipped to deal with major disasters such as the Grenfell fire.

The FBU union later won a number of legal cases against the government over the changes that were made to the pensions scheme, leading to significant compensation for some members.

More at Striking Firefighters block traffic.


Welfare Advocacy not a Crime – DWP, Westminster

Welfare activists protested outside the Dept of Work & Pensions in Caxton Street as a part of the national day of action over the arrest of welfare rights activist Tony Cox. He had been arrested when he tried to accompany a vulnerable claimant to her job centre interview to argue for a fairer claimant agreement.

As well as several banners, one man was gagged in protest. By law claimants are allowed to have and adviser present with them at the interview, but when a claimant turned up with Cox, his interview was cancelled.

Cox and the claimant then left the job centre, but later in the day police arrived at his him and arrested him, charging him with threatening behaviour.

Welfare Advocacy not a Crime.


RMT protest Underground Job Cuts – Edgware Road Station (Bakerloo)

Around 20 RMT members handed out fliers at the busy Edgware Road Bakerloo Line station against the proposed 50% cut in station staffing and the closure of the ticket offices which they say will endanger the safety of both passengers and staff.

They got a very positive reception from many of the public going in and out of the station or walking past, although a PCSO came to harass and try to stop their picketing. Most of the public seemed to realise that staff do far more than sell tickets and offer service and protection to the travelling public.

Many promises were made to Underground staff and the public about how they would be protected when cuts were made, but most were later broken.

RMT protest Underground Job Cuts


Lambeth against £90m cuts – Lambeth Town Hall, Brixton

After taking some photographs of the protesting RMT staff I got on the Underground there, changing at Oxford Circus to take me to the end of the Victoria Line at Brixton.

There I walked down to Lambeth Town Hall on the corner of Acre Land to join around a hundred trade unionists, pensioners, library and other council staff, social housing tenants and other residents who were gathering for a lively rally outside Lambeth Town Hall.

A lively rally took place urging councillors who were arriving for the council meeting to reject library closures and other £90 millon cuts which were being passed there by the large Labour majority on the council. Labour then held 59 of the 63 council seats. Among the speakers at the rally was the only Green Party councillor, Scott Ainslie, who was to vote against the cuts. The Green Party gained four more seats in the 2018 council elections but lost three of these in 2022. Right-wing Labour councillors still have an overwheming majority and the council continues its policies which fail the community.

Lambeth’s finances were stretched by the development of a new Town Hall or Civic Centre the cost of which roughly doubled from the original contract of £55 million ot £104 million. Policies such as the closure of libraries and the demolition and sale of popular and well-built council estates like Cressingham Gardens had already produced a great deal of protest in the borough.

The £90 million cuts passed at the council meeting later that evening have had a disproportionate impact on children, old people and the disabled who always rely on local services more than the average person. Council employees at the rally opposed the cuts not only because they feared for their own jobs, but because they knew those that remain in post will not be able to offer the public the same quality of service that they do at present.

Lambeth against £90m cuts


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TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed – 2011

Thursday, November 30th, 2023

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed – On Wednesday 30th November 2011 public sector workers across the country held a one-day strike against government plans to cut public service pensions with pickets at thousands of workplaces and rallies and marches in towns and cities across the country as well as a South East TUC organised march in Central London which I photographed. Later in the afternoon I went with Occupy London protesters who occupied the offices of the highest paid CEO in the UK to protest against corporate greed.


TUC Nov 30 March – Lincolns Inn Fields to Westminster

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

It’s always hard to estimate the numbers on very large marches such as this one but it was very large and when I arrived at Lincoln’s Inn Fields the large space already seemed pretty crowded an hour before the march was due to start. Many people gave up trying to get in waited to join the march on Kingsway.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

At the front of the march were Frances O’Grady, Deputy General Secretary of the TUC, NASUWT president John Rimmer (below) and other trade unionists. Many other groups had come with banners.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed

There were many placards suggesting ways to avoid the cuts, including by taxing the mega-rich and cutting the pointless and wasteful expenditure on Trident rather than job’s health and education.

TUC Pensions March & Corporate Greed
Peter Tatchell

Some of the students on the march felt it was going to slow and began to march in front of the main banner.

Police stopped them and held up the whole of the march at Aldwych but then didn’t seem to know what to do. Eventually they just let things go ahead.

I took a lot of pictures of the Education Activist Network who were the liveliest part of the protest but there were plenty of others to photograph too with many interesting hand-made posters.

I stopped for quite a while to photograph marchers as they went past.

and they were still coming in large numbers an hour after the front of the march had passed me.

I was still on the Embankment with marchers when the rally had begun closer to Parliament and people were still rolling in. I think there were probably between 20 and 30,000 taking part, but it was hard to know and I think many who had been on picket lines early in the morning had left before the rally began. I left too to meet with people from Occupy London.

More pictures on My London Diary at TUC Nov 30 March.


Occupy London Expose Corporate Greed – Piccadilly Circus & Panton House

Occupy London had called people to meet at Piccadilly Circus at 3pm but had not indicated what would be happening next. I arrived to find around a hundred protesters there along with quite a few Greek football supporters and a large number of police standing around watching them.

We stood in the intermittent rain for around half an hour waiting for something to happen. At 3.30pm around 30 people rushed across the road to stand outside a branch of Boots with the ‘Precarious Workers Brigade’ banner, but made no attempt to enter the store which quickly lowered its metal shutters.

Police rushed across the street to surround them, but soon became clear that this had merely been a diversion, as others close to Eros unfolded their long main ‘All Power to the 99%’ banner and rushed down Haymarket with it catching the police by surprise and leaving them behind.

I was running ahead of them, taking pictures over my shoulder and managing to keep ahead, but the police were well behind as we reached Panton St.

Here the protesters set off a bright orange flare, turned down Panton Street and rushed into Panton House. I followed the group with the main banner inside, but stupidly stopped in the foyer to take pictures through the glass frontage of the flares outside.

I was a little behind as the protesters ran up the stairs and rather out of breath after running along the street. By the time I reached the third or fourth landing I had decided to give up and pressed the button for a lift. Police arrived just as the lift came and one officer grabbed me stopping me from getting in.

Police told us all to go downstairs, but around 20 of the protesters and a few press had reached the roof. I made my way down, though it was difficult as more police rushing up pushed those of us going down out of the way.

The police had now surrounded the entrance, preventing any more people entering, but were allowing us to go out. I was pleased to get out because the air inside had been thick with the orange smoke and I had been choking slightly, Smoke flares aren’t intended for indoor use.

A little back on Haymarket by the side of the building protesters outside were taking part in a mike chat group chant to inform passers-by what was going on. From this I learnt that Panton House contains the London offices of the mining company Xstrata, whose CEO Mick Davies they say is the highest paid CEO in the UK, and “is a prime example of the greedy 1% lining their own pockets while denying workers pensions.”

Police began to surround them and I quickly moved away as they kettled the protesters, and also to get a better view of what was happening on the roof. TI had missed seeing the ‘All Power to the 99%’ banner being let down over Haymarket earlier but saw them trying to do so again but being dragged away from the edge. More police vans were now arriving and I decided there would be little else I could see and left.

More at Occupy London Expose Corporate Greed.


Firefighters and Nurses – 2015

Friday, December 2nd, 2022

Key Workers were protesting in London on Wednesday 2nd December 2015, but their protests were ignored by government and then Tory Mayor of London Boris Johnson. Since then we have seen that the warnings of the protesters were real and the consequences of Tory policies have led to disaster. It’s a failure of our system of government that allows dogmatism and class interests to pursue such irresponsible policies at both local and national level, and one hugely facilitated by a media largely controlled by a handful of billionaires.


Firefighters say cuts endanger London – City Hall, Wednesday 2nd December 2015

Firefighters and Nurses

Firefighters and supporters protested at City Hall against plans to get rid of 13 fire engines and slash 184 firefighters in the London Fire Brigade. These came on top of previous cuts and station closures which have already led to increases in the time taken for firefighters to arrive at fires which have lead to people who would otherwise have been rescued dying in fires.

Firefighters and Nurses
The People of Shoreditch Say… Bozo Don’t take or Fire Engine Away! – Bozo the Clown of County Hall’

Trade unionists and others came to support the firefighters and some spoke at the rally along with speakers from the FBU. It took only a little persuasion to get George Galloway to speak. Members of the London Assembly had put forward an alternative plan to make savings and avoid the loss of the fire engines but these were dismissed by London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Firefighters and Nurses
George Galloway came to show support

One of the consequences of the cuts to London’s fire services came sadly and disastrously with the loss of 72 lives at Grenfell Tower on 14 June 2017. We found then that London simply didn’t have a single fire engine capable of dealing with a fire in the upper floors of the building. Fortunately Surrey, although it has far fewer high rise buildings had kept one which could be called in to help, or the death toll would have been even higher.

Firefighters say cuts endanger London


Save NHS Student Bursaries – Dept of Health, Whitehall, Wednesday 2nd December 2015

George Osborne had decided to scrap NHS student bursaries from 2017. Nurses and other healthcare students have to spend around 50% or their time working in hospitals for the NHS during training and so are largely unable to take on part-time work as many other students do. They only payment they get for this work is through the bursaries.

It seems totally unfair to ask them to take out student loans and work for the NHS for nothing as well. And since many of the jobs they go into are not particularly well-paid, it makes little financial sense as many would probably never fully repay their loans.

Always plenty of money for our arms manufacturers

But what nurses said it would do was to lead to a reduction of students applying for healthcare courses, particularly the many single mothers and more matures students who are enabled to take the courses by the bursaries. And to take this action at a time when there was a critical shortage of medical staff was sheer lunacy.

Of course they were right. The situation in the NHS is even worse now partly due to this axing of bursaries. Of course there are other factors too – including a racist immigration policy which has been made much worse with Brexit. And the continually increasing privatisation taking place.

The NHS has so far suffered various areas of breakdown caused of exacerbated by various government policies – including some under New Labour who promoted disastrous PFI schemes that have brought some hospital trusts to financial ruin. Covid was another savage test and things look set to get far worse in the coming winter months. And given the years of below inflation pay offers its hardly suprising that nurses are now about to strike.

The problems with scrapping the student bursary were so intense that the government was forced to set up a new bursary scheme in 2020. But while the previous scheme had a maximum of £16,454 a year, with a minimum of £10,000, the new scheme was considerably less generous, at a standard £5000, with additions for shortage areas and childcare giving a maximum of £8000.

Save NHS Student Bursaries


People’s Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

Monday, June 20th, 2022

People’s Assembly & Class War Against Austerity – Saturday 20th June 2015 saw a massive march through London from Bank to Parliament Square in the People’s Assembly End Austerity march against the savage and destructive cuts to the NHS, the welfare state, education and public services.

People's Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

The march was supported by groups from across the centre and left, and my pictures show Clapton Ultras, CND, the Green Party, Labour MP Dianne Abbott, Focus E15, Left Unity, FRFI, People’s March for the NHS, Netpol, Socialist Worker, Global Women’s Strike, Union branches, and others on the march.

People's Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

Class War was missing. They were calling for an end to A to B marches to rallies and called for direct action, diverting several hundred from the march to support a squatted pub at the Elephant & Castle which Foxtons want to open as an estate agent. Had I heard about it in time I might have followed, but instead I went to photograph a Class War group holding banners on a footway above the march.

People's Assembly & Class War Against Austerity

They showed several banners, including a new version of one that police had seized (and then lost) showing political leaders, as well as another that police were then charging Lisa McKenzie for displaying with rows of graveyard crosses extending to the far distance and the message ‘We have found new homes for the rich‘, along with the Lucy Parsons banner with her message ‘We must devastate the avenues where the wealthy live.’

Two of Class War’s candidates from the previous month’s General Election were also there, Lisa and Adam Clifford, their Westminster candidate, today wearing a top with fake exposed breasts and holding a fairly lifelike looking baby.

Adam invites people to feel his breasts

The protest was massive, filling across the wide street and taking well over an hour to pass Class War, many raising fists and shouting in solidarity, clapping and otherwise showing approval, with just a few shaking their heads or trying hard to ignore it, though this was difficult, especially when they were letting off flares which sent blue smoke across the march. The organisers claimed 250,000 marched though my rough estimate was perhaps a little less than half this. The organisers claimed 250,000 marched though my rough estimate was perhaps a little less than half this.

Global women’s strike

I went down to street level and took many more pictures of the marchers going past, some with Class War visible in the background.

RMT banner with John Reid (left) and Steve Hedley (centre right)

I watched as around 30 police gathered behind Class War and thought they were about to take action. But charging the group on a wall ten foot above the street would have been highly dangerous for both officers and protesters, and after some lengthy discussions between several senior officers the police rapidly moved away.

Class War discuss how to continue their day in the Olde London

Class War joined in at the end of the march before leaving it to search for a pub, but few City pubs open at the weekends when the area is largely deserted. Eventually the found the Olde London on Ludgate Hill, and went inside, with a large group of police waiting for them outside as they relaxed and then planned further action.

Police followed Class War at a discreet distance as they made their way towards Westminster, rushing forward and forming a line to protect the Savoy Hotel as Class War stopped to protest, blocking the entrance road for a few minutes.

Eventually there were some rather heated arguments as police threatened them with arrest and slowly forced them away. They grabbed one man who had tried to stop a taxi entering, and when a taxi driver got out of his cab and threatened to assault the protesters they seemed far more interested in protecting him from the protesters than in taking any action over his illegal threats.

A woman argues with Adam Clifford at Downing St

Eventually the protesters moved away and on to Whitehall, followed by several police vans. Here they met a sound system and stopped to dance in the road for a while before going on to protest outside the gates to Downing St – and to throw a smoke flare over them. Here there was more dancing and a few short speeches and some of the marchers who had made it to the rally in Parliament Square came back to join them. Eventually Class War rolled up their banners and went off to another pub, telling me they would continue their protests later – but I’d had enough and went home.

Much more on the day on My London diary:
End Austerity Now at Bank
Class War and End Austerity Now
Class War at the Savoy
Class War in Whitehall


Cuts, Yemen, Shopping Problem & Police Violence

Sunday, May 23rd, 2021

Back in 2009 we had a Labour government, but public services were still under threat and public sector jobs being cut. The euphoria with which many had greeted the Labour victory in 1997 to the theme music of “Things Can Only Get Better” had long evaporated, thanks to the country being dragged against its will into a illegal war which had ended with Iraq in chaos and the failure to reverse or ameliorate disastrous privatisations and the attack on social housing.

New Labour had also proved themselves inept in the huge expansion of the Private Finance Initiative, PFI, which gave a continuing huge windfall to the private sector and left public bodies, particularly parts of the NHS, with huge debts. The financial crisis in which hit stock markets around the world in September and October 2008 was a final straw, and while the actions of prime minister Gordon Brown may have helped saved the banks this came at enormous cost.

Government cuts were felt keenly in North London, where there were massive job losses including those of 550 mainly support workers from London Metropolitan University, 500 civil servants from Archway tower and more at City University, where adult education is under threat. On Saturday 23 May, 2009 around 500 met in Higbbury Fields for a march to a rally at Archway to defend jobs, services and education Among the mainly trade union speakers at the rally was just one local MP, Jeremy Corbyn.

From the rally I took the Northern line to Charing Cross and walked down Whitehall to Downing St. Protesting on the pavement opposite were Yemenis from the Southern Democratic Assembly. Yemen has been a split country for years, with two civil wars in the 1980s as well as the current ongoing war. Southern Yemen and North Yemen had agreed in principle to unite in 1972, and did so in 1990, but the Southern Yemenis revolted in 1994, accusing the government of grabbing land and property and of human rights abuses. Their protest in 2009 was calling for an end to the repression and military occupation by the North and for the release of jailed Southern leaders. In 1994 and now, the situation is complicated both by religious differences – Sunni and Shia – and by the interventions of a wide range of foreign powers – with often some strange bedfellows. The current was is of course led by Saudi Arabia, whose see it as a fight against the regional Shia power, Iran.

Opposite, on the pavement in front of the security gates to Downing St, I photographed a performance by the Reverend Billy and his ‘Life After Shopping’ Gospel choir from New York who were in London on their 2009 UK Shopocalypse Tour. Clearly the police didn’t quite now how to handle the holy activists, and the officer who stopped the Reverend to question him failed to make much progress – other than being diagnosed by Billy as having a “shopping problem.”

Like me, the Rev Billy and his team from the Church of Life After Shopping were on their way to the National Demonstration against Police Violence in London organised by the United Campaign Against Police Violence, set up following the G20 demonstration in London in which Ian Tomlinson, a man not taking part in the demonstration, was assaulted by and killed by a police officer.

Prominent among those taking part were members of two families of men who were killed in Brixton Police Station, Ricky Bishop and Sean Rigg. Ricky Bishop, a 25 year old black man died after being detained and brought into the police station in 2001. Sean Rigg, also black – like the majority of those who have died in custody – was taken into Brixton police station in August 2008 and within hours this fit 40 year old was dead. Police issued a number of misleading statements – as they did around the death of Ian Tomlinson, and failed to make a timely investigation.

Gradually over the years, dedicated work, led by his sister Marcia led to an inquest verdict ‘that the police had used “unsuitable and unnecessary force” on Rigg, that officers failed to uphold his basic rights and that the failings of the police “more than minimally” contributed to his death’. Further pressure by the campaign resulted in an IPCC report and eventual request of three officers. The CPS decided to drop the all charges against two of them, while the third was charged with perjury, though only after the Rigg family had forced a review. Despite the officer accepting he had given false evidence, a jury acquitted him. Further pressure led to an independent review of the IPCC investigation which ‘concluded that the IPCC committed a series of major blunders and that there had been “inappropriate conduct” by the Police Federation of England and Wales.’ (More details on Wikipedia). There have been several thousand deaths in police custody, prisons or other secure institutions in the last 50 years but only one officer brought to justice for the killings – convicted of manslaughter in 1986.

Police kept a close eye on the protesters and formed a line to protect Downing St, but otherwise acted reasonably until the protest held a solemn ceremony outside the police headquarters at New Scotland Yard on Victoria St, linking hands and holding a silence in memory of those who have died. This was rudely and provocatively interrupted by an woman officer sitting inside a police van blasting out a warning from her chief over the loudspeakers. Presumably as intended this produced an angry reaction from the crowd, and for a few seconds it seemed likely would provoke violence and lead to arrests, but those leading the event quietened the crowd and the ceremony continued, ending with the release of a large cloud of black balloons in memory of the dead.

Demonstration against Police Violence
Rev Billy Performs at Downing St
Southern Yemenis Demonstrate
March to Defend Jobs, Services & Education


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