Burning Down the Houses

Dear Friend and Reader:

THIS WEEK in the Seattle area, the subprime mortage crisis appears to have arrived at the top of the housing market. A development of model homes called The Street of Dreams, located in Snohomish County, Washington, was burned in an apparent arson. The homes, which were for sale for $1.6 to $1.9 million each, were constructed of non-toxic, extremely high-quality equipment and supplies — almost the way a home should be built.

Street of Dreams home in flames Monday morning. Courtesy of CNN.

The subprime crisis involves greedy banks having lent money to lots and lots of people who could not actually afford a house or mortgage. Most of these were done on variable interest loans, such that after a while the interest rate, and thus the monthly payment, would take a jump. Then the housing market plunged, and people owed more on their mortgage than their house was worth. And they could not afford the payments. So what do you do? Try mailing the keys back to the bank and walk away.

Except for one thing: This has begun to affect the high-end of the market as well, with relatively stable, well-off people not being able to afford their homes, either. Such as, for instance, homes similar to the decked-out ones that burned near Seattle this week.

Just to give a few examples, the Street of Dreams homes were designed to be extremely energy efficient, with R-26 or better insulation formulated without formaldehyde, compact fluorescent lighting, tankless hot water heating and heat recovery ventilators. They were built from wood certified by something called the Forest Stewardship Council. Wood floors were made from small-diameter trees harvested from a forest thinning program in Montana. Carpeting was avoided, and when necessary, wool carpeting was used if possible. The projects utilized recycled materials, and during construction, a recycling program collected and conserved building materials.

The environmental impact of the building site was reduced, for example, by the use of pervious driveway and walkway materials. Drought-tolerant native grasses were used to give a lawn appearance without using commercial (and chemical-intensive) turf grass. A water-management system was used to allow groundwater recharge. And on and on. I did not see that solar was used; many other low-impact technologies were not used. They were large houses which used a lot of construction resources.

Whether you believe that these structures are really better for the environment or were the product of greenwashing, they are certainly better for someone living in the home — and moreover, they were expensive to build. It seems like, within the stated design philosophy, no expense was spared in the construction of the homes, which were in the planning stages before housing prices started to tank last year — and, notably, with the market in Snohomish Country booming.

Then early Monday morning, three of the five homes were burned to the ground and two others were damaged. At the scene, firefighters found a bed sheet allegedly signed by the Environmental Liberation Front, or ELF, supposedly claiming responsibility for the fires. ELF had been blamed for other Seattle-area fires, and a similar sign was found after a fire on Camano Island in the Puget Sound in 2006. Thankfully, nobody was killed or injured in Monday’s fires. Yet before arson investigators had even left the scene, the ELF was being blamed for the fires and the cause was being linked to “domestic terrorism.”

By midweek, the FBI was taking a more cautious approach to placing blame. “At the end of the day it’s an arson, but why was it committed?” asked Fred Good, a special agent assigned to the investigation. “Was it to further some ideology? In which case it could be terrorism. Or are they just using that as a cover, and it was really something simpler, and criminal?”

I like the way Mr. Good has phrased this question — it works for astrology. (He was also kind enough to call me back about six times, every time I needed a clarification.) So let’s go to the chart. The Seattle Times reported that the fires began about 4 am. There may have been a delay between when the fires started and the 911 call (what else is new), but charts in this range will all give Capricorn rising. Here is the chart:

When you start reading a chart, where do you begin? Most astrologers look at the ascendant and the Moon. These are two of the fastest moving factors, so they are most likely to give something distinct or specific to the situation. Here we have a chart with Capricorn rising. Capricorn is the sign that most resembles government or corporations. From the astrology on its face, it does not look like these fires were set by extremists. It looks like they were set by conservatives.

The next thing we see, just sniffing the chart, are a lot of planets clustered around the 2nd house — money. Whenever you see an event chart and the 2nd house is stuffed, you probably have a chart that is really about money, even if the question is supposedly about a dancing pony. By 2nd house, I am referring to the contents of the actual 2nd house and also the 2nd sign from the ascendant — Aquarius. The Helenistic astrologers (a crew of students of ancient Greek astrology who I know) have definitely brainwashed me into having respect for whole-sign houses; that is, you look at where the lines are on the chart (regular houses) and you also count houses from the ascendant, and count the whole sign as the house. Both methods can be used simultaneously and crosschecked.

In either case, you get a lot in the 2nd house. Get out your adding machine. We need to consider the financial motive. The 2nd can indicate real property. Fred Good, the FBI spokesman, said Wednesday that four of the five homes were still owned by the builders’ banks, and that one was under contract for sale.

Let’s look more closely at the chart, using horary astrology techniques. Apologies if this seems to exceed your technical astrology skills. I will do my best to take it one step at a time.

Let’s start with the ascendant. I am going to take the ascendant as the victim of the crime, and the 7th house as the perpetrator. We can also look to the 12th house as the secret enemy, or hidden co-conspirator. When you study any house using this technique, you look at what is placed inside the house, and also where the planet that rules the sign associated with the house is placed.

For example, Capricorn is rising, and Saturn rules Capricorn, so Saturn would in some way represent the victim of the crime. It can also represent the question itself, and reveal something about the true nature of the question. Appropriately enough, we find Saturn in the 8th house, where phoenix-like changes happen. The 8th is also the house of banks and corporate profits. For a bunch of houses owned by banks that have just been turned to ashes, this is a suitable picture. Saturn is retrograde in Virgo — tied up, delayed, indicating something blocked (such as profits). Saturn retrograde in Virgo also gives us a picture of pseudo-green construction. Virgo is one of the signs associated with environmentalism, but Saturn retrograde is not exactly progressive.

The 7th and its ruler are going to represent the open enemy or perpetrator. No major planets are placed in the 7th house, but Cancer (the sign of homes!) is on the cusp. That means we need to look for the Moon, who will represent the open enemy. The Moon is in the 1st house. The 1st house represents the victim — the builder and/or the banks who owned the development. When the ruler of the 7th points you right back to the 1st, you are potentially looking at a picture of an inside job. Notably, the Moon is conjunct Jupiter in Capricorn — the quintessential nice guy. Jupiter in Cap looks like Santa Claus — the corporate entity with the friendly face. But Jupiter is also associated with the 12th house. So we have a chart that we could call “fair is foul, and foul is fair.”

Let’s check another house — the 10th. The 10th house often represents corporate and government interests. It’s the house of people with a good reputation, a track record, and an interest in the status quo. The 10th house is not the house that is associated with terrorists, extremists, groups, or activists. Rather, it’s the “establishment.” The 10th house of this chart is Scorpio (it’s the dark line, tilted a little to the left, with the Scorpio symbol on top).

Scorpio has two rulers — Mars, the ancient ruler; and Pluto, the modern ruler. When we look at these two planets, we see some interesting connections. First, they are opposing one another, with a violent feeling. If anything in the chart says “fire,” it is this Mars-Pluto opposition. And both of these planets represent 10th house-type interests — that is, big interests like companies and their investments.

Mars is dangling on the edge of Gemini — the planet with the latest degree, that is, the planet with the highest number, a placement sometimes referred to as “void of course.” (We usually hear about this referring to the Moon, but it can also apply to the Sun and planets as well, though different astrologers use different rules.) This gives it an unpredictable, volatile quality. Next, Pluto is lurking in the 12th house of secret enemies. It is in the sign Capricorn, the sign associated with corporations. We cannot seem to escape imagery pointing back to the banks and the owners.

Notably, none of the major factors covered so far points to, or even alludes to, a group of some kind, or extremists, activists or terrorists.

Building of the “green” homes on The Street of Dreams. Photo courtesy of The Herald/ Michael O’Leary.

Let’s check back in with the money. As I mentioned, when the 2nd house is loaded, there are financial interests involved. Aquarius is the sign on the 2nd house cusp. Saturn is also the ruler of Aquarius — and once again, we see the money itself tied up in the 8th house in Virgo, not going anywhere fast.

Imagine a situation where you invest a huge amount of money into a project, sparing no expense, planning for huge growth — and then the market tanks. A realtor in Maltby, where the fire happened, told us that in just one year, homes normally going for $500,000 are now going for more like $460,000. So with the high-end housing market falling out, investors in these huge projects stand to lose a lot of money. And that is where fire insurance may come in.

Let’s check one more money indicator — the ruler of the 4th house. That would be the property itself. Taurus is on the 4th house cusp. Venus rules Taurus. We find Venus in the 2nd house (money) in a conjunction to Neptune, which feels like “washed up” and reminds us that a lie may be being told, as aspects to Neptune often suggest. And while we are on this topic of Venus-Neptune as the significator for the land itself, how perfect can you get as Venus, the land and values, conjunct Neptune, the planet of Illusion, all represents a project called “Street of Dreams”? We might well wonder where the dream ends and reality begins.

And What About Those Elves?

Anyone who has read much of J.R.R. Tolkien knows that elves are not always friendly, and also they sometimes burn things. The sign referring to McMansions, signed by ELF, was the only evidence of ELF involvement found at the scene of Monday’s fire, which led to the domestic terrorism speculations that have been spread all over the media. A report in Wednesday’s Seattle Times said that Monday’s fires bore some similarities to a 2006 fire on Camano Island in the Puget Sound region, where a sign purportedly signed by ELF was also found.

This sign has disappeared from existence, and nobody seems to have a picture of it (we called all over the region looking for someone who did). The best we could do was track down Kelly Ruhoff at the Stanwood Camano News, who took a photo of the 2006 sign. Since it was not published, she deleted it. However, she told Planet Waves that the sign left at Monday’s crime scene “looked real familiar.”

Notably, an alleged ELF arsonist is currently on trial in the Settle area, for fires started between 1996 and 2001. The crime was solved by police in 2006, and it has finally gone to trial now. So despite the fact that these crimes can take years to solve, ELF would be a logical entity to blame Monday’s fire on — especially if they were not involved.

And what of the subprime crisis itself? Well — every economist in the world is watching this one. The reason is because banks who lend people money sell those mortgages into the economic system as “mortgage backed securities.” Like the gold that the Nazis took from their victims and sold into the global gold market, these securities have now found their way into every corner of the economy. We have yet to see the results. In a future edition, we will focus the lens of astrology and look at this issue closely, to see what it has to offer us.

Also, while I am not prepared to comment at this time, the synchronicity of another case of “domestic terrorism” with the Times Square military recruitment station bombing is difficult to miss, in light of what happened in Washington State. It is said that it takes three events to make a pattern, but it’s funny how we notice when there are just two.

Yours & truly,
Eric Francis

The Bacchanalia Moon

By Kirsti Melto and Eric Francis | Lunations


New Moon in Pisces — March 7, 2008, 17:14 UT. Chart by Solar Fire.


MAKE ROOM for divine madness and get ready for the Bacchanalia, held in a “gigantic tent.” The stars are now inviting you to a wild party. The Bacchanalia were wild and mystic festivals held in March in honor of the Roman and Greek god Bacchus.

The Sabian Symbol for this New Moon is Pisces 18 A gigantic tent. (The Sabian Symbols are a degree-by-degree symbolic reference system that helps illustrate and demonstrate the level of astrology that is symbolic). This is what Dr. Marc Edmund Jones says about this symbol:

“This is a symbol of the completeness with which man is able to see his experience both steadily and whole, dramatized here by the circus as representing an utterly naive intensification of self-consciousness. The totality of life is brought to some single center in every moment of true excitement or total sharing of skills and risks, and each individual at such times has a renewed insight into his capacity for putting his world in order for his ultimate on-going as well as for his immediate entertainment. The keyword is apportionment.”

On this New Moon of March, planets and asteroids have gathered in a razzle stellium in Pisces — like the colorful crowd accompanying Bacchus on his travels. Pisces is the last sign of the zodiac; winter is soon turning to spring in the Northern Hemisphere, and a new cycle of life is about to begin. Worship of Bacchus was related to the cycle of seasons and to the renewal of nature. Bacchus was also the patron deity of the theatre, which is one of the more Piscean activities.

The Sun and Moon are closely conjunct the rebellious and experimenting Uranus. In the same degree with Uranus there are two asteroids, Child and Bacchus. Also Vesta and asteroid Orpheus are in Pisces.

Asteroid Child can relate to one’s experiences as a child, but it also can indicate childish reactions, or stir up the childlike spirit within.

Asteroid Bacchus is named after the Roman god of wine, fertility and inspired madness. It was discovered in April 1977 by Charles T. Kowal (the same guy who later on the same year discovered Chiron). The god Bacchus was known by various names. He was also called Dionysus or Liber (also Liber Pater). He is the liberator who frees one from one’s normal self by madness, ecstasy, or wine. In Roman mythology, Liber was originally associated with husbandry and crops, but then was assimilated with Dionysus.

Jim Morrision as Bacchus/Dionysus.

In art, Dionysus is usually depicted as a young, attractive and feminine man, wearing a crown made of vine leaves and grapes and holding a staff. He traveled from land to land, taught people farming and the art of making wine, and he spread drunken ecstasy and disorder everywhere he went. He was followed by singing, noisy, unruly revelers, many of them women. Peak experiences, pushing things past the limits, divine inspiration, wildness, excess, altered states, intoxication, alcohol, drugs, and escapism are attributes that can be associated with Bacchus/Dionysus. The archetype has a strong Neptunian association but the energetic intensity involved is similar to Pluto and Chiron.

Bacchus was the consort of Ceres and the father of the fertility goddess Libera, who is associated with Persephone of Greek mythology. At the moment asteroid Libera is also in Pisces in close conjunction with the Sun, Moon and Bacchus. In Taurus we find asteroids Ceres and Dionysus in conjunction. They are opposing Pandora and Psyche also in conjunction in the corresponding degrees of Scorpio. These aspects are echoing the unpredictable nature of this chart.

Pandora relates to curiosity. “Pandora’s box” is a familiar concept — we may face unexpected consequences for our actions or be getting something else than what we asked for.

Psyche points to psychological wounds and traumas and talks about the sense of oneself as having a wound that cannot be healed. It can be healed, of course, and Psyche can represent the key to finding how to resolve the negative thought pattern.

Vesta is the brightest of asteroids, and is now in Pisces as well. She is the goddess of the hearth. Vesta represents the core creative and erotic human fire. She is about tending a flame as part of a collective responsibility, and there is something impersonal about Vesta’s energy. She brings in the Piscean themes of sex and service.

Asteroid Orpheus in Pisces is opposing Saturn in Virgo. In mythology Orpheus was a magical musician and poet. His lyre and sweet voice could charm even wild animals and make rocks and trees dance. He was one of the Argonauts, and it was his music which prevented the crew of the ship Argo from being lured to destruction by the Sirens. Orpheus is also said to be the founder of the Orphic religious cult. The Orphic Mysteries were comparable to and linked with the Dionysian Mysteries. Orphics also revered Persephone and Dionysus or Bacchus.

When Orpheus’ wife Eurydice died of a snake bite, Orpheus descended to the underworld. His songs were so beautiful that Hades agreed to allow Eurydice to return to the world with Orpheus. There was one condition: he must not look back on their way back to the surface. Nonetheless Orpheus looked back and lost Eurydice again. In astrology Orpheus is often associated with sorrow, loss and grief, but also with power of music and lyrics. When we allow a change and move into a new phase, we may feel sadness because we know that at the same time we have to leave something behind us. Pisces is the sign of art, music and poetry, and Orpheus in Pisces can simply symbolize an exceptional art experience.

In Aquarius we have another impressive stellium. Chiron, Mercury, Neptune and Venus are in conjunction in vicinity of the North Node. Asteroid Lilith is close to the Node and asteroid Icarus occupies the same degree with Chiron. The Sun, Moon and Uranus are semisextile to the Chiron-Icarus conjunction.

Asteroid Lilith tells about the original woman inside the woman. It is her deeper idea of herself and, in the chart of a man, his deeper idea of what a woman is, and how he relates to her. Lilith can also represent the crisis that “being the real me” brings into the lives of both women and men.

Asteroid Icarus speaks about peak experiences, desire to break free or take a risk. Icarus can point to matters where you possibly want to have a lot of perspective. A broad perspective available is also one of the distinct qualities available in Pisces. In the Greek myth Daedalus and his son Icarus were imprisoned. They were able to escape with wings that Daedalus prepared for them. Daedalus warned Icarus not to fly too high or the Sun would melt the wax he had used on the wings. Icarus forgot the warning, the wax melted, and Icarus fell down into the sea.

Pay attention to the tight Mars-Pluto opposition aligned with the cardinal points, an aspect which adds some more explosive energy to this lunation. The cardinal points are the first degrees of the cardinal signs — hot spots related to the Aries Point. The cardinal points join individuals with the collective. At the Aries Point we are having a strong protective image though, Pallas Athene together with Bienor. Pallas is the archetype of strategy, law, protection and wisdom.

Jupiter-Varuna opposition offers another protective image in the chart. Jupiter, the traditional ruler of Pisces forms a harmonious sextile to the New Moon cluster. Varuna — an energy which is too large to comprehend, but which somehow touches us personally — forms a flowing trine to it. Varuna can be thought as a force that we invoke personally; we can ask for the help of this seemingly invisible energy, and it responds.




Weekly Horoscope for Friday, March 7, 2008, #704 – By ERIC FRANCIS

Aries (March 20-April 19)
You may be struggling with taking a diplomatic approach to a tense situation, but what you may not have noticed is that the pressure is finally off. It lasted so long that you grew accustomed to it as being an indelible part of the background, but even the mountains, sky and the sea change their shapes and colors. At times, they seem to do so with more ease and grace than you do. For a human, change arrives first in experiencing the need for change emotionally. At a certain point, it shows up as an idea. For you, both seem to have arrived at more or less the same time. Beware that when you let go of an attachment to a struggle, or any other experience that gives you a sense of grounding, you can feel like you’re walking on water and might sink at any moment.

Taurus (April 19-May 20)
You still may be sorting out what is true from what is false. Indeed, you risk falling prey to lies people tell you about yourself right now, particularly ones told by a group of people in some context. At the same time, you may be wondering if you’re telling yourself the truth — and in truth, that is all you need to worry about. You fancy yourself an extremely independent person, but you are as susceptible to mass hypnosis as anyone. This, however, is no longer proving to be so convenient, and a variety of factors are encouraging you to wake up to your talent, your ideas and your ideals — fully, completely and all the way. This is not a time to bog yourself down in practicalities. You’re in a rare moment when you can run on the strength of your passion, if you will only dare to believe such is worthwhile.

Gemini (May 20-June 21)
Mercury is about to enter new territory for the first time in nearly two months. It does so on what is for you the most visionary sign — Aquarius. Before this development takes place, you may want to clear up any lingering misunderstandings or pending business that stand between you and your future. There are likely to be a few small matters that would benefit immensely from several days of intense reflection and clarification. You have by now figured out that bigger and better things are calling you. You have noticed that you seem to be getting a lot more attention than you have in recent months or seasons. Now, all you need to have is some certainty about what direction you want to go in. As tempting as it is to seek that certainty from outside yourself, I suggest you not yield to that temptation. And if you spend time figuring out what is not true and dismissing that, what is true will become extremely obvious.

Cancer (June 21-July 22)
This week’s stunning New Moon in Pisces is here to tell you one thing — there is more in heaven and on Earth than you ever imagined possible. So start imagining. Give yourself space, and give yourself time. Be generous — stop living like life is a race, and step firmly into the reality that time is a gift designed to help you create your most meaningful priorities. The first step is almost always a visioning process. I cannot emphasize the importance of stretching your ability to see something different in your mind’s eye than currently exists in the world; than you can currently see with your physical eyes. Forget your beliefs about what is possible. Fear not that your faith is not strong enough, or that the world is not flexible enough. Just imagine, develop and elaborate your ideas. State them out loud to yourself, and enter into a conscious discussion with any voice that dares to tell you something is not possible.

Leo (July 22-Aug. 23)
Your solar chart is having one of those reality-bending orgasms at the moment. But don’t stop at just one — keep it going. Push all the limits your mind thinks are limiting it; you may just need one finger for that particular job. On the most practical level, you have the opportunity to renegotiate anything that is not working for you; and to negotiate your way into something that will most definitely work for you. But please make this a custom job, rather than prefab. Challenge the people in your life to be creative about the agreements you make, and to summon a higher principle than necessity. Or rather, strive for a more spectacular version of necessity. Progress is necessary. Community is necessary. New inventions are necessary. An entirely new way of looking at relationship agreements is very, very necessary.

Virgo (Aug. 23-Sep. 22)
For several years, existence has been guiding your life in one particular direction. True, “one particular” has not always been language that applied, particularly in those moments of what seemed like raging anarchy. You have, at times, struggled to respond; at others, you have done your best to leap at any chance to explore offered to you. In these very days, the doors and windows are being blown off, and soon enough the roof might come with it. This is to say: you now exist in a world of possibilities that existed only in potential before. And that world is handing you something entirely new, but which fits logically into the pattern that has led you to this point. Indeed, this may be the week when you get where it was all leading to. Look and you may finally see that you were making conscious choices — even when you thought you were being pushed around by circumstances, or by people you perceived as more powerful than yourself.

Libra (Sep. 22-Oct. 23)
What you believe about yourself is indeed the limit of what is possible. Once you figure that out, you can address those beliefs, which turns the key to the universe. Here is one problem you face, however. When confronted with some of the more enlightened potentials, the ones based on your core reality and not your false beliefs, you have a tendency to shrink back and tell yourself that something must not be true; something must be wrong. Can you really be this much, this talented, or a truly vital and authentic part of the world? Now, if you ever find yourself telling yourself questioning yourself this way, I suggest you ask yourself why. No idea exists in a vacuum; nothing exists without a cause. So let’s play with that for a moment. How would you live differently if you were absolutely certain that everyone approved of exactly, precisely who you are? This is the question.

Scorpio (Oct. 23-Nov. 22)
Ideas mean very little unless they are expressed. You have, at least started knocking down some of the more annoying barricades that separate you from your best thoughts. You have begun to address the conservatism that somehow traps you every time you make a move toward independence. I tell you, as much as old things can be beautiful and precious, you would benefit from strolling around one of your Museums of Inner Icons with a sledgehammer and smashing a few of them for good measure. While you’re at it, you probably need a new computer. I wonder when the last time was you held a paintbrush or calligraphy pen in your hand. And while you’re at it, this is a positively fabulous moment to do one thing after the next just because you feel like doing it — the more outrageous the better, and remember to take your socks off first.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22-Dec. 22)
You are poised to make a commitment to something much greater than yourself. This is on the level of getting married, only the betrothal is not to a person. Neither is it to an idea. Nor is it to a goal. Rather, you are discovering that you share a special connection with existence itself. There are some who would call this a form of spirituality, but I’m talking about something far less abstract. On one level, you may feel like you’re being called upon to let go of control, release your jealousy, and forget about envy. You are being called upon to witness how vast existence is, compared to who you are as an individual; yet you surely need to be reminded that existence has little meaning, for you, unless you are involved in the relationship. For as much derring-do as you may possess striding around the planet, you surely seem to wonder what it all means, and why any of it matters. Get ready for some entirely new information.

Capricorn (Dec. 22-Jan. 20)
A lover or partner is doing their best to help you open up, loosen up and figure out which way is up. There is a certain chance you seem reluctant to take, and it may be a chance on an excellent idea that seems too good to be true. Covering the very basics, you can afford to let go of some of your need to look good; you can afford to be perceived as someone who tries and fails. On that one point alone, you may be resisting the experiment that is beckoning you. However, living for a perception is extremely dangerous, mainly because you are almost always wrong about how you think other people perceive you. Since those ideas are stories you make up about yourself, you have control over them, and you have the freedom and indeed the power to make up new ones.

Aquarius (Jan. 20-Feb. 19)
You may feel like your time, energy and resources are running out, but I assure you that none of these are the case. What is evaporating is an outdated vision of yourself, and a tendency to fog over when you are confronted with life’s most meaningful challenges. When you finally sort out what is important to you and what is not, you may decide that paying attention to your environment needs to be higher on the list than it has been in the past. You may decide that what you actually do today is more meaningful than what you plan to do tomorrow. Living in the future and the past have one major benefit — they protect us from experiencing life now. Somewhere in your heart and soul is a person who refuses to conform to the idiotic ways of the world. This is a great place to start.

Pisces (Feb. 19-March 20)
There are moments when astrology points to an entirely new approach to life. There are times when planetary alignments reveal turning points so profound that they could never be fully explained, much less predicted. They don’t happen often. Today qualifies as a candidate. There is no belief about yourself that you are not free to give up; any possibility you can embrace in your heart, you can make real in your life. We are looking at a planetary harbinger for that thing known as living fully. I suggest, however, that you meditate on just why it is that human beings have such a hard time with change, and why so many people on this planet resist embracing existence even when nothing is stopping them. Are you afraid of freedom? I suggest you have a long talk with yourself about this, and make any decisions you have to make — sooner rather than later.

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