ViA 2015: La trasformazione militare italiana (e molto altro)

Terminata la pausa estiva, Venus in Arms è di nuovo pronto a rituffarsi sui temi della difesa e della sicurezza (e molto altro). In questo breve post di inizio Settembre illustreremo brevemente gli argomenti che saranno al centro della nostra attenzione nei prossimi mesi, nei quali cercheremo sempre di collegare analisi e studi “accademici” a riflessioni legate al dibattito corrente.

Primo aspetto al centro del nostro lavoro sarà la trasformazione militare italiana, ovvero l’argomento del nostro ultimo libro. Il volume analizza il processo di cambiamento delle forze armate italiane nel nuovo secolo, attraverso una prospettiva comparata (Francia e Gran Bretagna). L’analisi illustra l’interazione tra alcune dimensioni della trasformazione (budget, impiego sul campo, dottrina) e la loro influenza sul percorso di cambiamento e adattamento avvenuto negli ultimi anni nella Difesa italiana. Attraverso interviste, documenti ufficiali e fonti secondarie sono state esaminate in dettaglio le operazioni in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libano e Libia.

Una particolare attenzione è stata dedicata alla dimensione istituzionale del cambiamento. In linea con quest’ultimo aspetto, in futuro ci focalizzeremo sulla dimensione dell’apprendimento, attraverso survey e questionari.

Nelle prossime settimane organizzeremo alcuni seminari di presentazione del libro, che riporteremo per tempo sul blog. Un po’ di pubblicità non fa mai male, naturalmente.

Un altro aspetto che continuerà ad occupare costantemente le pagine di Venus sarà la Difesa italiana, soprattutto alla luce della pubblicazione dell’ultimo Libro Bianco e della riforme ad esso collegate. Stiamo lavorando proprio sull’ultimo documento strategico e a breve saranno qui riportati i risultati delle nostre analisi.

In chiave comparata ci dedicheremo poi al rapporto tra l’evoluzione della Difesa italiana e quella tedesca avvenuta nell’era post-bipolare. Abbiamo già passato un po’ di tempo di Germania per interviste e analisi. Quindi aspettatevi un bel po’ di materiale da leggere e discutere (non in tedesco, tranquilli).

Una parte consistente del nostro lavoro sarà poi dedicata ai temi della political violence, del ruolo della criminalità organizzata (nazionale e transnazionale), dei conflitti contemporanei.

Al tema dei foreign fighters saranno dedicati alcuni post, i quali riporteranno i risultati di alcuni analisi che abbiamo condotto di recente in merito al caso dell’ISIL.

Non ci dimenticheremo del controverso tema degli F-35, cercando però di spostare la discussione da una prospettiva budget-driven a qualcosa di più articolato, come fatto in passato.

La sicurezza europea, scossa dalle crisi interne e regionali e dal dramma immane dei profughi, non potrà che essere esaminata in dettaglio, così come la trasformazione della NATO.

Infine, i guest-post cercheranno di ampliare l’orizzonte interdisciplinare di ViA, da analisi tradizionali di Relazioni Internazionali agli studi di intelligence fino ai “nuovi” metodi di insegnamento in materia di IR, sicurezza e scienza politica. Ogni contributo alla discussione è ben accetto ovviamente.

Sarete sempre tenuti al corrente dei principali appuntamenti con conferenze e seminari (in più qualche dettaglio sulle trasferte che faremo in Europa League).

Insomma, molta carne al fuoco. Senza dimenticarci l’appuntamento settimanale con la nostra Top-5, che raccoglie i migliori “5 pezzi facili” che provengono da blog, riviste, giornali di tutto il mondo. La dimensione “pop” del sito non verrà trascurata, soprattutto nella spasmodica attesa del nuovo capitolo di Star Wars.

Stay tuned

 

 

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The Privatization of Italian Vessel Protection – Guest Post

by Eugenio Cusumano*

Italian maritime security policies have recently undergone major transformations. As announced by the Minister of Defence Pinotti before the Parliament last April, the detachment of Italian Navy personnel onboard Italian-flagged vessels crossing pirate-ridden waters has now been suspended. Consequently, the only option now available to Italian vessels transiting offshore the Horn of Africa now consists in the hiring of Private Security Companies (PSCs).

The penetration of the private sector into Italian maritime security was already envisaged by law 130/2011, which established a dual approach to vessel protection. Until last spring, however, the use of PSCs remained to a large degree a residual measure. Armed contractors could to only if VPDs are not available, and ship owners asking for the authorization to embark armed contractors needed to include written proof that a previous request for VPD personnel had been rejected by the Italian Navy due to the unavailability of military teams during that period. Moreover, the use of PSCs was de facto impossible before October 2013 because of an incomplete legal framework, which still required additional provisions on regulating the use, type, quantity and storage of weapons and clarifying the relationship between the PCASP and the Ship Master.

Due to these limitations, between 2012 and the autumn of 2015, the large majority of vessel protective missions were conducted by the Italian military. Italian Vessel Protection Detachments, consisting of teams of 6 to 9 personnel from the Italian Navy Infantry Fusiliers Brigade San Marco, conducted over 300 escorting missions, as opposed to the around 50 transits protected by PSCs.

As the use of VPDs has now been suspended, however, the use of armed guards for the protection of Italian-flagged shipped is set to increase. As of June 2015, PSCs have already conducted between 120 and 150 escorting missions.

Academic research has yet to unravel the fully unravel the drivers and implications of this policy change. While the minister explained the choice to refrain from using VPDs based on the decreased likelihood of piracy attacks and the full establishment of the norms allowing for a safe use of PSCs, other factors may have also played a role. The shifting priorities of the Italian Navy – now focused on the Mediterranean – and the problematic implications of detaching military personnel onboard merchant vessels – epitomized by the ongoing detention of two Italian Navy ‘marò’ in India – may be especially important to fully explain the decision.  As acknowledged by the Italian Senate Defence Committee, the use of private contractors may – due to their commercial nature – reduce diplomatic complications in case of incidents.  The effectiveness and appropriateness of using armed private security contractors both on land and at sea, however, has frequently been criticized by academics and journalists alike. Hence, more research is needed as to whether and to what extent PSCs offer a viable solution to the need for protecting Italian merchant vessels from pirate attacks. The article ‘Contractors as a Second Best Option: The Italian Hybrid Approach to Maritime Security’, co-authored with Stefano Ruzza, only provides a tentative starting point. 

* Eugenio Cusumano is Lecturer in International Relations in the Institute of History of Leiden University. More info here.

 

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Our book…

We are pleased to announce that we’ve just received the first copies of our book: “The Transformation of Italian Armed Forces in Comparative Perspective. Adapt, Improvise, Overcome?“, F. Coticchia and F.N. Moro, Ashgate, 2015.

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Here you’ll find the full contents list.

Here the first reviews.

We consider the manuscript as the ViA’s book. The blog will provide you further details on our research on military transformation in Europe. First of all, here you can download the introduction.

Let us know what do you think about…

 

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Book Talk: Strategic Narratives, Public Opinion and War

Today, 30 June 2015 at 3.30 pm, the NATO HQ (Luns Auditorium, Brussels) will host the presentation of the book: “Strategic Narratives, Public Opinion and War. Winning domestic support for the Afghan War“, edited by Beatrice de Graaf, George Dimitriu and Jens Ringsmose. The editors and three authors will illustrate the volume (unfortunately we have not been able to attend).

Here a description of the event.

The Former NATO Secretary General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, who wrote the preface, will introduce the event. 

Admiral James Stavridis, Supreme Allied Commander at NATO 2009-13 and Dean of The Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy, Tufts University, has defined the volume as a must-read to understand 21st century conflict“. 

As stated in a previous post, the manuscript aims at providing a  comprehensive analysis on strategic narratives, adopting a comparative perspective to examine the case of the military operation in Afghanistan. The case of Italy has been investigated by Venus in Arms‘s Fabrizio Coticchia and Carolina De Simone, in the chapter: “The winter of our consent? Framing Italy’s ‘peace mission’ in Afghanistan”.

Here will find more details on the book.

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Effective strategic narratives? Italian public opinion and military operations in Iraq, Libya, and Lebanon

Oddly enough, in the new Italian White Paper there are no references to the concept of strategic narratives. On the contrary, many official documents and statements by decision makers have recently emphasized the role played by strategic narratives to enhance the perceived legitimacy of military operations.

Venus in Arms has already addressed the concept of “strategic narratives”, defined by Freedman as: “compelling storylines which can explain events convincingly and from which inferences can be drawn”

Today, we are pleased to present the new paper by Fabrizio Coticchia: “Effective strategic narratives? Italian public opinion and military operations in Iraq, Libya, and Lebanon” (here, gated). The paper has been published in the first issue of the new Italian Political Science Review/Rivista Italiana di Scienza PoliticaIPSR/RISP (now published by Cambridge University Press) provides three fully English-language issues per year. Here additional info on the Journal.

Here below the abstract of the paper:

Public attitudes are greatly shaped by the cohesiveness of the strategic narratives crafted by policy-makers in framing the national involvement in war. The literature has recently devoted growing attention toward the features that define successful strategic narratives, such as a consistent set of objectives, convincing cause–effect chains, as well as credible promises of success. This paper provides an original framework for ‘effective strategic narratives’ for the case of Italy. The military operations undertaken by Italian armed forces in Iraq, Lebanon, and Libya represent the cases through which the framework is assessed. Drawing on content and discourse analysis of political debates and data provided by public opinion surveys, this paper explores the nature of the strategic narratives and their effectiveness.

The author has already addressed the issue of narratives, public opinion and Italian military operations, locking at the case of Afghanistan (here)

The current paper presents two main implications.

First, strategic narratives should not be realistic, but rather compelling. A certain ambiguity of the storyline could be sometimes inevitable due to the gap between long-established values (such as peace or humanitarianism, which are very difficult to modify) and a risky military environment, where those beliefs may appears as extraneous. In these cases, an integrated communication strategy, aimed at preparing the public opinion and avoiding counter-productive rosy pictures, could be crucial to avoid a collapse of approval towards the intervention.

Second, as already tested by literature, casualty aversion per se does not determine the fall of public support. However, mounting insecurity on the ground requires greater flexibility of the narrative to adapt and transform. In this case, a negative narrative dominance (i.e., a more persuasive counter-narrative) could play a fundamental role in hindering the plot’s effectiveness.

ViA will provide additional posts in the near future regarding strategic narratives and other security issues (e.g., the F35). Stay tuned.

 

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Organized crime and “political” violence: A report from MPSA 2015 and a focus on Italian mafias

Midwest Political Science Annual Conference last week in Chicago. Good place to keep updated – and try to contribute on – recent advancements in the discipline. Few strands of literature have been enjoying a blossoming in the past years as conflict studies did. Evolving political realities – lot of attention was devoted to “Afghanistan and Iraq-like wars” – and progresses in research design and methods – with a strong push coming from quantitative studies blended in making the field so rich. Within this growing body of studies, a relevant place has been occupied by research looking at forms of violence and agents, such as organized crime, which have often escaped classical analyses of “political” violence.  Or at least those following Schmitt’s classical distinction between political and criminal aims contained in the famous Theory of the Partisan.

Thus, the panel on “Political Violence and Crime” at MPSA constituted an interesting opportunity to discuss current research on the theme (I think the late Charles Tilly, who was always keen in relating organized crime and political phenomena, would have been happy about it). Five very interesting pieces of work were presented. Harvard’s Bradley Holland presented a paper on ethnic violence linked to drug-trafficking organizations (DTOs) in Southern California. Guillermo Trejo and Sandra Ley (Notre Dame) showed the link between the structures of political arenas and DTOs’ killings of politicians in Mexico. University of Wisconsin’s Nicholas Barnes presented his extensive fieldwork on gang governance in Rio de Janeiro’s favelas, and Wolfgang Muno (University of Mainz) laid out an interpretative framework to analyse “bad informal institutions”.

And then (highly likely that it is not the best piece, but for sure the dearest to Venus), Francesco (Moro) and Salvatore Sberna had a piece on violence in non-traditional areas – that is in the regions were mafia consortia did not have their roots – in Italy. The problem is a central one, given that organized crime and mafias are increasingly mobile and that violence perpetrated by these groups has been making the news on both sides of the Atlantic. Across the Ocean, there has been a lot of discussion over the effect of Mexican drug cartels’ presence in large US cities. Italian mafias as well sparked debate, both in Italy – where presence in the Northern regions of the country has been expanding for decades – and abroad – where violence erupted in “surprising” locations (such as Duisburg in Germany, where a massacre took place in 2007).

The paper addressed, both theoretically and empirically, two major puzzles. First, notwithstanding expansion in Northern regions, the number of mafia homicides in these areas is overall much lower than in Southern regions where mafias have their strongholds. Second, although limited, violence (measured by mafia homicides) in Northern regions present notable diversities: some provinces in some years are clearly more violent than others. How, then, can this diversity be explained?

Three main findings emerge:

  • Violence in non-traditional areas is more limited as groups do not find the same environmental conditions of territories of origin. First, the balance of forces versus law enforcement is penalizing. Second, business in new markets is less confined to the provision of “private protection” and more based on the attempt to penetrate legal markets, where resort to violence is less needed. Becoming legitimate, by way, has been the attempt of most criminals in pop-culture, from Michael Corleone to Lemond Bishop (a reference for the Chicagoans). This has always Third, and as a consequence, mafia groups in new areas often choose to “outsource” the use of violent means to other agents (often, coming from parent groups in areas of origin).
  • When violence happens in new territories, it is often the result of “transfers” (spillovers) from mafia violence in the old ones. That is, if a conflict erupts in a Sicilian province, it will likely affect violence in a Northern province where the Sicilian groups involved in the conflict previously migrated.
  • Violence transfers are affected by local conditions as well. Spillovers, in other words, happen in the provinces where the mafia groups’ presence has been more consolidated (over time) and where they actually have more capabilities/resources (which is signalled by the absence of other mafia consortia in the same area).

Work is under way in these directions. Stay tuned for details!

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Venus in Arms at the next BISA Conference: “Italian Foreign Policy and Radical Parties”

Venus in Arms will be at the 40th Anniversary BISA (British International Studies Association) Conference (London, 16th-19th June 2015).

Here you’ll find the programme and other details.

We will present the paper: “The Limits of Radical Parties in Coalition Foreign Policy: Italy, Hijacking, and the Extremity Hypothesis” (F.Coticchia and J.Davidson). The paper has been recently accepted by Foreign Policy Analysis for publication (forthcoming).

Here below the abstract:

Scholarly consensus increasingly suggests that coalition governments produce more extreme foreign policies than single party governments. This, the literature argues, is especially likely when coalition governments include radical parties that take extreme positions on foreign policy issues and are “critical” to the government’s survival, as the radical parties push the centrist ones toward the extremes. A look at Italy’s Second Republic center-left governments and decisions on military operations provides an important counterpoint to the extremity hypothesis. In three high profile cases of military operations–Albania 1997, Kosovo 1999, and Afghanistan 2006-08–Italy had a center-left government that depended on radical parties for its survival. In all cases the parties took a position against military operations but did not prevent the government from engaging in/continuing operations by threatening survival or forcing the government’s fall. Our paper seeks to explain the irrelevance of leftist radical parties in Italy’s Second Republic. We argue first that radical parties are reluctant to threaten or force government collapse as this can lead to a center right coalition coming to office and voters’ blame for the outcome. Second, we claim that relative salience has been critical: foreign policy has been less important to radical parties than domestic issues and it has been more important to center-left parties than radical ones. Finally, we argue that radical parties have appealed to their voters through theatrical politics (e.g., attending protests) and have affected the implementation of military operations.

See you in London

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2015: a look ahead into development cooperation and transparency

Venus in Arms has already focused on the complex relationship between security and development (especially from a European perspective). Here below a guest post by Francesca Fondi* on development cooperation and transparency. 2015 will be a crucial year.

 

With 2014 officially over, 2015 already profiles itself as a key year for development cooperation. In particular, challenges are ahead for global, European and Italian institutions in order to fulfil international commitments and grant appropriate space and efforts to a transparent delivery of aid.

Firstly, 2015 is the year of the ultimate definition of the so-called post-2015 agenda, whereby the new strategic goals are set to fight poverty and ensure sustainable development on a global scale. The final deadline for the accomplishment of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs – eight time-bound targets set in 2000 during the Millennium Summit) is in fact approaching: whereas the MDGs have been effective for substantial resources mobilisation, some of the eight objectives are still far from being reached. The period following December 2015 will therefore require the finalisation of further priorities and targets for the world long-term development agenda (SDG – Sustainable Development Goals). The UNDP and the OECD are among the organisations leading the process.

Moreover, in a period when a number of OECD DAC members are decreasing their funds for development assistance, some of the basic concepts at stake are also being re-defined, such as the one of ODA (Official Development Assistance). Discussions are ongoing among international development stakeholders to broaden the definition of development assistance to more global development efforts and to include spending on security and stabilisation. The ‘new’ ODA would therefore encompass a wider range of activities, aimed at highlighting the link between development and security, in particular at times when instability and humanitarian crises are increasingly growing on a global scale.

2015 is also the final year for the donor community to align to the commitments made in Busan, Korea, in December 2011 during the 4th High Level Forum on Development Effectiveness. As outcome of the meeting, all major bilateral and multilateral donor organisations signed up to the Busan declaration, thus committing, among the others, to “implement a common, open standard for electronic publication of timely, comprehensive and forward-looking information on resources provided through development cooperation”.

Such statement entails the alignment to the common standard for aid transparency, made up by the ‘traditional’ OECD DAC reporting modules (the Creditor Reporting System – CRS++ and the Forward Spending Survey – FSS), as well as the IATI (International Aid Transparency Initiative) standard, already set up and agreed upon during the 3rd HLF in Accra in 2008.

Since 2012, multilateral and bilateral development organisations have therefore been struggling quite extensively to ensure that their organisation progressively implements such commitment, which is, above all, a political one. However, the results achieved up to now are not always satisfactory.

From one side, the common standard implementation is currently monitored by the Global Partnership for Effective Development Cooperation report, in particular through the Transparency Indicator, a composite indicator that assesses the three core features of the common standard: timeliness, coverage and forward looking information. From the other side, the alignment to the IATI standard is closely followed by the watchdog NGO Publish What You Fund, that every year, since 2011, assesses (68) donors’ performance through its Aid Transparency Index (ATI).

Not surprisingly, according to the 2014 ATI, the best pupils are the Nordic cooperation (for instance SIDA, DfID and the Netherlands), as well as some of the major multilateral donors and development banks such as UNDP and the World Bank. The European Commission, the biggest ODA provider worldwide, has been one of the organisations that most significantly improved their performance in the publication of data on foreign aid in the last couple of years. All services ranking among the top 15 in the 2014 ATI, DG Development and Cooperation (DEVCO) has been the frontrunner in the implementation of the IATI standard, shortly followed by DG Enlargement, Foreign Policy Instruments (FPI) and ECHO.

Within the framework highlighted above, a progress towards an increased transparency of financial assistance to third countries appears even more relevant and appropriate.

However, the significant efforts needed to adapt to a standard that, inevitably, cannot reflect the working processes and structures of such different organisations, need to be compensated not only by an increased transparency of external assistance towards the recipient countries and individual taxpayers, but also by internal benefits coming from a use of the published information, notably for policy making and evaluation of assistance programmes.

Finally, 2015 has also been made the European Year for Development: as per the communication by the European Commission, it will represent a key opportunity to increase knowledge and discourses on development across the continent. In times not only of economic crisis, but also of crisis of global solidarity values, Europe seems indeed in the need for messages and a renewed consciousness in this respect. The European campaign therefore intends to raise awareness within the wider public on the importance of the development agenda in Europe as well as worldwide, targeting in particular the ‘new’ Member States.

Within this development framework, the Italian Development Cooperation has started its engagement towards a more transparent provision of information on its aid and also more in line with the international standards mentioned above. A recent observer to the IATI Steering Committee meetings, it has created an open portal that provides data on the financial assistance to third countries. Based on the OECD CRS reporting system, the portal collects information mainly from the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, local administrations and the Ministry of Finance; it is planned to further extend the data coverage also to private as well as non governmental funding sources in order to provide a complete picture of the global contribution of Italy in terms of development assistance.

However, efforts are still to be foreseen for a full or partial alignment to the Busan transparency commitments (Italy is still not publishing aid data on the IATI Registry and it is ranked among the bad performers in the 2014 ATI).

In any case, initiatives like the above need to be praised for their relevance in terms of efforts to align to global standards, as well as to make aid spending more transparent towards citizens and development organisations.

Finally, endeavours to create a global standardised information system on development assistance, well beyond the definition of ODA and of the list of OECD DAC members, are in line with the current discourse on the so-called data revolution, a UN-led initiative aimed at enhancing the collection and use of data in the development context. Although at times criticised for its intellectual sloppiness, the importance of accessing and being able to retrieve reliable data on which policy analyses and decisions can be taken is not debatable.

Indeed, this is going to be one of the major challenges for 2015.

 

 

 

 

* Francesca Fondi has been dealing with the Balkans and development cooperation since 2006, working firstly in the field and currently at headquarter level from Brussels. She holds a PhD from IMT Institute for Advanced Studies Lucca, with a dissertation on higher education in Albania.  

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“Our” book: The Transformation of Italian Armed Forces in Comparative Perspective

The editors of Venus in Arms are pleased to present their most recent book: “The Transformation of Italian Armed Forces in Comparative Perspective. Adapt, Improvise, Overcome“. Ashgate (Series: Military Strategy and Operational Art) has  just released online the detailed description of the book, which will be published in July 2015.

The book is about the change in Italian Armed Forces since 2001. The manuscript focuses on new empirical evidence on how the Italian forces, compared and contrasted with the French and the British ones, have devised their doctrines, their force structures and their budgets.

Here below an overall introduction to the research:

European armed forces have undergone deep changes in the past two decades. Given the breadth of the debate and the size of transformations that took place, it is somewhat surprising that relatively few academic studies have directly dealt with changes in force structure of European militaries, and the Italian armed forces in particular. The focus of this book is the organizational dimension of the restructuring of armed forces through 3 different lenses: doctrine and strategic framework, budget and resource allocation, and force structure and deployment. The key issues addressed relate to how these factors interact in shaping transformation. Of particular interest is the theme of learning, which is how armed forces endogenize change in the short and long run. This study provides valuable insights into the extent to which armed forces manage to adapt to the emerging strategic and operational challenges they have to face and to illustrate the weight of institutional legacies, resources constraints, and inter-organizational learning in shaping transformation. Focusing on the Italian case in comparative perspective and based on a large variety of military operations from airstrikes to peacekeeping and counterinsurgency, the book provides an innovative viewpoint on military transformation and significantly contributes to our understanding of contemporary security that is deeply shaped by the lessons learnt in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Iraq and Libya.

We will provide additional details and previews of main findings in next weeks.

P.S. Yes, “Adapt, Improvise, Overcome” refers to the Marine Corps’ mantra popularized by Sergeant Gunny (Clint Eastwood)

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Learning from others? Emulation and adjustment in Italian military transformation

Venus in Arms will be at the 73rd annual MPSA (Midwest Political Science Association) conference.

The event will be held April 16-19, 2015 at the Palmer House Hilton, Chicago.

As stated by the website: “Conference presentations are organized by topic in more than 80 sections based on different subfields or areas of study. Many of these are interdisciplinary and draw scholars from different fields, providing a variety of perspectives“.

Here you’ll find the link to the sections.

ViA will present the paper “Learning from others? Emulation and adjustment in Italian military transformation” at the panel 17-8: Role of Military Learning and Technology in International Security

The paper focuses on recent transformations in Italian armed forces to discuss mechanisms of learning and adaptation of NATO countries experiencing intense deployment in the last decades.

 

See you in Chicago

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