back to article Microsoft engineer caught up in sudden spate of entirely coincidental grilling of Iranian-Americans at US borders

A Microsoft techie and his family are among those saying Uncle Sam is unfairly singling out Iranian-Americans for interrogation at US border crossings in the wake of the Soleimani assassination. Nega Hekmati, wife of the unnamed Redmond software engineer, says the couple and their two children were held for five hours and …

  1. TsVk!

    And the consequenques fo failing to act?

    One can just imagine the backlash if border security did not tighten itself against potential Iranian threats and there was an attack on sovereign soil.

    "Why didn't you see this coming?"

    "Well, we did. But people didn't like us trying to stop it. Sorry guys..."

    "Boooo! Traitor!"

    1. HildyJ Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

      The consequences would be that we would be shown to be a society that upholds its beliefs in freedom.

      I doubt the commenter would be supportive of a German couple with two American children being detained and quizzed about their connection to the white supremacist or neo-Nazi movements.

      1. Cederic Silver badge

        Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

        I'm so sorry, I must have missed the news reports of Germany attacking US military forces with missiles this year.

        Could you perhaps share a link?

        1. Dan 55 Silver badge
          WTF?

          Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

          Er, sorry, who just started this latest bout?

          1. Cederic Silver badge

            Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

            Well, not the Germans. Sorry, what's your point here?

            Oh, wait. You think the US should happily allow a regional ally to have their oil fields attacked by Iran, should allow their regional allies to be attacked by terrorists supplied by Iran and should allow their embassy to be assaulted by a mob organised by Iran, and take no action?

            No, you tell me. Who did start this "latest bout"?

            1. Dan 55 Silver badge

              Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

              Your memory seems to not stretch all the way back to last week where Iran's most senior general was assassinated by drone which I think for most countries constitutes a declaration of war.

              Your regional ally was warned by Iran that US bases on its soil would be hit in retaliation (not that I support Iran over this), and it said "go ahead". Even Israel and Saudi can't even support the US over this one.

              No country in the world has supported the US' threat to destroy 52 cultural sites if Iran retaliates in some way.

              Your president is a) making a calculated effort to divert attention from his impeachment trial in an election year, b) blundering about like an idiot not knowing how this could bring the entire region to war, or c) both.

              1. BillG
                Mushroom

                Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

                Your memory seems to not stretch all the way back to last week where Iran's most senior general was assassinated by drone which I think for most countries constitutes a declaration of war.

                Attacking an embassy is, by definition, an attack on a nation's sovereignty and is in itself an act of war. Failing to respond to such an attack is an open act of weakness - it's saying that attacks on this country will not be punished.

                1. veti Silver badge

                  Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

                  There is no meaningful definition of "an act of war". Basically, it's like "high crimes and misdemeanors" - it's whatever some politician wants it to be. If you want to start a war, and someone attacks your embassy, then you say it's an act of war. If you don't, then you don't.

                  Contrary to appearances, I doubt if even Trump is crazy enough to try to invade Iran. (Which would be approximately 6x harder and costlier, in both blood and treasure, than the Iraq war, with the added burden that America would have *no* allies supporting it at all, not even the Saudis, and the Chinese and Russians would actively help Iran.) On the other hand I'm sure he's quite happy to bomb it to buggery, and doesn't care what happens when the Iranians develop their own bomb because that'll be his successors' problem.

                  The Iran crisis is entirely of Trump's own making. He's the one who torpedoed the nuclear deal and announced that instead of negotiating, he would simply apply "maximum pressure" to Iran. Everyone, but everyone, warned him that Iran would retaliate by stepping up its efforts to thwart American interests in the wider region, but he did it anyway. He's a bully who instinctively expects enemies to fold when treated harshly enough, and is taken aback when they don't. Which they don't.

                  North Korea has shown the way. Iran will have its own bomb before long, and nothing Trump can do - short of a full-scale invasion, which would cost tens of thousands of American lives - can stop them. Start getting used to it.

                2. MrReynolds2U
                  Mushroom

                  Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

                  If Israel or Brits were to do the same thing, they wouldn't leave their fingerprints on it or publicise it; however everyone would secretly know they were behind it.

                  If the US were to carry out the assassination, perhaps they should have just turned around and said, "Yep we did it. He bombed our embassy. Here endeth the lesson." Without all the usual bluster and double-speak.

              2. Cederic Silver badge

                Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

                My memory manages to stretch back for more than just the last few days, which is why I referenced acts that occurred prior to the killing of the Iranian General.

                Incidentally, I don't have a president. You appear to be making a flawed assumption, as well as choosing to ignore the points I do make.

              3. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

                You really think anything Trump does is "calculated"?

                1. the Jim bloke Silver badge

                  Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

                  Absolutely

                  notice how the election and impeachment have disappeared from the news ?

                  1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

                    Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

                    Trump != Trump's handlers

              4. steviebuk Silver badge

                Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

                And he appears clueless thinking that if he hits the cultural sites (that is of interest to historians, not just Iranians), that they won't send people over to do the same in the US. Trump is truly a fucking idiot.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

            If you're looking for started, in any sense of the word, you'd have to look back a bit. Not to speak ill of the dead, but that dude's been behind quite a few American deaths in recent history.

      2. Timmy B Silver badge

        Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

        "I doubt the commenter would be supportive of a German couple with two American children being detained and quizzed about their connection to the white supremacist or neo-Nazi movements."

        I can imagine that during the 30's and 40's this kind of check was quite common.

        1. A K Stiles Silver badge

          Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

          Look at the Japanese-American detention^W interment^W security camps during WWII

          1. O RLY

            Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

            And German-American. And Italian-American.

      3. TsVk!

        Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

        White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi movements do not have the 11th most powerful military force in the world and are not backed by billions of dollars of oil money. They do not have the real power or wherewithal to pose a significant risk to the US public on home soil.

        If left unchecked Iran does. It is a powerful country, not just some funny little dessert nation.

        Underestimating your enemy is poor form. I can tell by the amount of downvotes on my initial comment that the majority of people don't understand how serious this confrontation could be and what a full confrontation with Iran would mean. They think they would totally be safe from any harm in their isolated 1st world society. You can be thankful that your government is not so naive.

        1. BigSLitleP Silver badge

          Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

          Not my government, buddy. My government isn't as stupid as yours and doesn't go round kicking over anthills like the neighbourhood bully. This is your own citizens that we are talking about. People that have lived and worked and even advanced your country, yet you are persecuting them simply because of their origins.

          This is why America is such a joke to the rest of the world. Absolutely shameful. We ought to build a wall around your entire country so that you can only endanger yourselves.

        2. AlReg

          Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

          "funny little dessert nation"

          And yet the US appear to host the majority of baking shows!

          1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

            Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

            We are the best baking nation! We have the best desserts! Bake America great again!

      4. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

        Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

        Don't forget that this is the country that interned 120k Japanese between 1942 and 1946, 60+ percent of which were Us citizens, despite there being no incidents of sabotage. The USA isn't a country familiar with the term "proportionate response" (or "evidence-based policy" either).

        Yippee-ki-yay, mother fucker!!

    2. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

      Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

      @TsVK! - "imagine the backlash if border security did not tighten itself"

      So it's about security theatre, not effective protection?

      Is there any evidence that such intensive questioning is actually effective in detecting and/or monitoring real violent threats? Or is it just a way to splurge money, intimidate innocents and please xenophobic supporters?

      At least the "Are you a terrorist? Y/N" check cards are cheap, and probably just as effective.

      1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

        Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

        If anything, tighter security increases the risk of attack. Terror organizations like to recruit people who are frustrated with a government, especially if that government is doing it for reasons beyond their control of the frustrated person. Much like if you were stuck in a traffic jam and someone came up to you and handed you a bomb, telling you to blow up the car in front of you. A lot of people would do it without a second thought.

        Of course there is also more immediate risk at security checkpoints. You have a bunch of people clustering in a small area, if someone were so inclined, they could rack up a very high body count (And the fact that that hasn't happened is pretty telling)

        1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

          @Crazy Operations Guy - "tighter security increases the risk of attack. Terror organizations like to recruit people who are frustrated" - Yep, totally with you on that. Not everyone (probably only a tiny %) will react that way, but it might be the critical push for some.

          "someone came up to you and handed you a bomb, telling you to blow up the car in front of you. A lot of people would do it without a second thought." - Wait, what!?! Personally, I'd consider that sitting behind a car that might move in a minute preferable to sitting behind a burnt-out wreck of a car (for small values of bomb, large values probably result in lying dead behind a wreck of a car) that will never move. I can see why you put "Crazy" in your handle; is your estimate of "a lot" based on it's what you'd do, or is the whole world crazy?

          1. Crazy Operations Guy Silver badge

            Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

            I see you've never driven in the Los Angeles area. Road rage escalating to gun violence is not uncommon.

    3. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

      This is naive in the extreme. Any notion that US residents travelling with US citizen kids might be threat because of their (often ancestral) country of origin is... bizarre.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        No, not naive. Paranoid.

      2. PerfectBlue

        Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

        Not really. There are credible reports that Chinese Americans are regularly being approached by Beijing, which reminds them that they still have family back in the old country who might come to harm if China's interests weeren't taken into account.

        1. BillG

          Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

          Not really. There are credible reports that Chinese Americans are regularly being approached by Beijing, which reminds them that they still have family back in the old country who might come to harm if China's interests weeren't taken into account.

          I can affirm this is absolutely true.

          1. BigSLitleP Silver badge

            Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

            Scientology does this too, are you going to start cracking down on their movements?

    4. codejunky Silver badge

      Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

      @TsVk!

      "One can just imagine the backlash if border security did not tighten itself against potential Iranian threats and there was an attack on sovereign soil."

      Unfortunately you are getting a kicking for saying that while it is a logical move to make.

      @Malcolm Weir

      "This is naive in the extreme. Any notion that US residents travelling with US citizen kids might be threat because of their (often ancestral) country of origin is... bizarre."

      Totally naive. Just like thinking that schoolgirls want to go shack up with some ISIS bloke in the middle east warzone instead of staying in their country. Or that a nurse working in the NHS would also think going there to join ISIS would be a good idea. How many protesters burning flags were citizens of the country they protested in? Or those who killed for the foreign soil they felt more loyalty to?

      1. Just Enough Silver badge

        Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

        So the lesson here is everyone is a threat, no-one is above suspicion. Anyone could be a ISIS sympathiser, a communist, a terrorist. Close the borders, detain everyone, search them, ignore their rights. We must all live in fear and surveillance.

        All this must happen, otherwise the terrorists have won. (And Donald may not get re-elected.)

        1. PerfectBlue

          Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

          Yes, finally, somebody who gets it.

          This is what the wall is supposed to be about.

          Keep out the foreigners, MAGA, lock her up, drain the swamp, free cheaseburger for veterans and all that.

          I trust that we'll be seeing you at the Trump 202 victory party.

        2. codejunky Silver badge

          Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

          @Just Enough

          "Anyone could be a ISIS sympathiser, a communist, a terrorist."

          Amazingly yes. However with some profiling of similarities of a group you can narrow down those more likely to be such.

          "Close the borders"

          Has that happened?

          "detain everyone"

          Has that happened?

          "search them"

          Using the same protocols for drug smugglers and weapon smugglers? People get searched for that yes?

          "ignore their rights"

          Has that happened?

          "We must all live in fear and surveillance."

          Now that is where I will agree with you. The war on terror being impossible to win and ill defined. The idiot Bush allowing such serious changes and Obama enjoying them. So yes Trump is continuing with it.

          "All this must happen, otherwise the terrorists have won. (And Donald may not get re-elected.)"

          Donald will probably be re-elected I expect and I dont see it for any good reason but for lack of an opposition. Even the impeachment is flailing.

    5. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

      And yet, the biggest threat I see to Iranians I know is arbitrary detention without trial BY THE IRANIANS(*) simply for having contact with the west.

      (*) Their security services and revolutionary guard are hyper-paranoid

      In other words, If you're Iranian and you leave the country, you're in double jeopardy

      1. phuzz Silver badge

        Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

        "Their security services and revolutionary guard are hyper-paranoid"

        Can't imagine why that might be...

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: And the consequenques fo failing to act?

          But why only at the border?

          Surely these foreigners are a threat everywhere

  2. IceC0ld Silver badge
    Mushroom

    no way to win

    Sadly, I see this as a thing for the future

    and I also see that if this WASN'T happening, and some future outrage happens on ConUSA then people will want to know WHY there wasn't a heavier presence on the borders.

    the M.E. issue was always going to be complex, but maybe, MAYBE, if USA adopted a process of trust for their citizens of ALL nationalities, they could well show exactly why so many people wish to be a part of their society.

    and remember, that the greatest strength of a democracy, is also its greatest weakness, in that we treat ALL people identically, and would hope that ALL of our citizens are treated with respect by others too.

    and yes, I DO realise that the dropping of ordnance from a great height isn't helping in the 'respect' dept, but like I said, 'baby steps'

    And a much as I would like the future to be Golden, I fear that it may in fact be Orange - see icon :o(

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: no way to win

      Recently came across an open question: Paradox of tolerance. Until a person can answer how to manage this paradox, manage the balance of goods and ills, they should shy away from pronouncements about ideals.

      More timely, given the current hysteria, which of you remember what happened so long ago on September 14th? And the couple months preceding? Quit being conveniently amnesiac and connect the dots. Iran has been at war for years, with everybody.

      1. Pascal Monett Silver badge

        Great link

        "we should claim the right to suppress them if necessary even by force; for it may easily turn out that they are not prepared to meet us on the level of rational argument, but begin by denouncing all argument"

        Funny, I can't begin to count how many different domains I've witnessed that kind of attitude.

      2. KittenHuffer Silver badge

        Re: no way to win

        Please specify which September 14th you are talking about, as I am certainly one who does not remember.

        1. mr-slappy
          Unhappy

          Re: no way to win

          September 14th, 2009. The death of Patrick Swayze. Never forget https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Patrick_Swayze

        2. Intractable Potsherd Silver badge

          Re: no way to win

          Let's give AC the benefit of the doubt and accept that he meant September 11th, 2001, and the incident which evidence points more towards Saudi Arabia than Iran. Yep, AC is still not coming out well...

      3. Fading

        Re: no way to win

        It is only a paradox if the premise is "unlimited tolerance". Unlimited tolerance is only acheivable via unlimited apathy and as such should not be a desirable position for the individual or a country.

      4. jmch Silver badge
        Facepalm

        Re: no way to win

        " Paradox of tolerance" - not really a paradox. Allow people freedom as long as they don't behave like arseholes. Specifics may vary but the principle is good enough. True, there have been recent encroachments in supposed democracies abusing the people's trust and assuming ever more executive power to further questionable policies (US, Poland, Hungary...), but that's where people start a backlash and intervene.

        US should actually remember that the whole clusterfuck in Iran started with them deposing a lawfully elected government they didn't like to put in place the Shah who was their puppet. Then they act surprised when there's a strong anti-US, anti-western backlash. If they had left well-enough alone 50 years ago, it's quite likely Iran would be a functioning secular-ish state rather than a theocracy.

  3. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    When in America, say you're from ...

    Years ago when a friend was being treated on an outpatient basis in the weeks following a blood stem cell transplant, a weekend check for need for an injection and/or transfusion was illuminating. The single outpatient nurse had prepped my friend for a transfusion and was waiting for the unit to arrive.

    The only other patient was an elderly native lady Texan. At one point the lady clicked to the Nurse's non-Texan accent and belted out the happy inquiry "Where're y'all from?" I kinda freaked and waited to see what would happen, as friend and I had talked with the nurse at length a few times before, and I figured the lady would have a heart attack when she heard 'Iran'.

    Perhaps it was the lady's age, perhaps it was knowing she was terminal (and apparently the family didn't want to worry her with details like that?!), and perhaps it was earned wisdom, but Sharon the nurse simply answered 'Persia'. She got a hearty "Welcome to Texas!" from the lady and a bow from me.

    A second passport would be nice. But perhaps I could pass myself off as being from "Tierra de gringos"?

    1. Def Silver badge

      Re: When in America, say you're from ...

      I think it was more a case of having the simple knowledge that most westerners are too dumb to realise that Iran and Persia are the same country.

      I'm pretty certain Persian Rugs wouldn't be as popular as they are if they were called Iranian Rugs.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: When in America, say you're from ...

        It's really going to confuse them when they work out where Aryan comes from

      2. Ken Shabby Bronze badge
        Holmes

        Re: When in America, say you're from ...

        Does that mean the cats will have to be positively vetted?

  4. MR J

    Hopefully targeting people who are mad means that the TSA might catch their first "Terrorist".

    IRAN says killing the American leader wouldn't be punishment, but leaving him in power is. So they are leaving him there, and thus winning the "war".

    1. Malcolm Weir Silver badge

      This isn't TSA, it's CBP. You know, the children-in-cages guys!

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      > Hopefully targeting people who are mad means that the TSA might catch their first "Terrorist".

      The USA has plenty of their own home-grown ones (they vastly outnumber any furrin ones that might sneak in) such as the McVeighs and Kazinskis of this world - and the TSA are doing absolutely nothing about trying to even start getting a handle on those ones.

  5. Will Godfrey Silver badge
    FAIL

    Typical bully behavior

    Been given a bloody nose? Pick on the nearest and weakest 'opponent'.

  6. Cederic Silver badge

    silly parents

    If the kids are too scared to sleep then the parents should step up and accept some responsibility.

    As a child I saw my parents searched and I was searched. The explanation was simple, "They're making sure that we're safe, and that where we live is safe."

    It was true. The tourists that didn't get searched died in a car bomb.

    Children aren't frightened of authority, or security, or searches. They're frightened of things their parents let them be frightened by.

    1. Just Enough Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: silly parents

      That's right. Kids are dumb and don't suspect a thing when they kept confined for 5 hours while their parents are cross examined. And if their parents betray any emotion about this, other than smiling delight, then that's their fault.

    2. phuzz Silver badge
      Facepalm

      Re: silly parents

      Wasn't searched as a kid, in a car or otherwise. Didn't die in a car bomb (despite the ongoing campaign of bombings in the country where I grew up at that time).

      It's almost like your logic is faulty or something.

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Re: silly parents

        "It's almost like your logic is faulty or something."

        I think the something you're looking for is "non-existent".

    3. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: silly parents

      "Children aren't frightened of authority, or security, or searches. They're frightened of things their parents let them be frightened by."

      Tell that to my kids after we happened to run into British police in our local park pointing guns at one of their friends who was a victim of mistaken identify being told that if they didn't comply they would be shot.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: silly parents

        I'll ask my boss what he thought as a child about not having any grandparents or why his dad had the cool number tattoo on his wrist

  7. W. Anderson

    A nasty pattern of discrimination however!

    There is no question that USA border forces need to check and double check those passing into the country, even from Canada. However, since the Iranian origin husband and wife were well documented, and the husband worked for Microsoft which is significantly more easily verifiable, there is little reason to suspect that a check would take an inordinate amount of time or effort.

    Furthermore, readers must remember that USA immigration/Border patrol have exercised blatant discrimination for decades, even in recent past when Mo Farah , 2012 British Olympic champion , leading a UK government sponsored Pub Relations trip passing through USA was alone held at USA border because of his ancestry - of being born in Somalia.

    Note that Farah's family brought him to UK at age eight, and neither he nor his parents have ever returned to that country.

    Also note that Farah was the only person of colour in the British contingent, was team leader and none of the other team members were held in custody.

    I understand that even those Americans that closely follow International sports like the 2012 Olympics in London, would unlikely have an inclination to know about or remember Mo Farah as ultimately most successful track athlete of the games, especially not being American, and non-white in that instance.

    What is not considered more closely is the culture and negative attitudes here in USA of anti - any other country, culture or ethnicity that is not born of White Anglo-Saxon protestant ancestry, no matter the circumstances.

    This is recorded fact! - not any personal opinion

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: A nasty pattern of discrimination however!

      You can't assume someone is a threat just because they work for Microsoft

  8. Boo Radley

    CBP are Terrible

    I'm an American, and coming back from vacation in Brazil in 2005 I was detained for a couple of hours. I wasn't told why I was being detained, but I was grilled on a variety of things. I finally found out that a little, empty, 2ml bottle in my luggage had alerted them that I may be a drug smuggler. It was overall a miserable experience and one that I don't ever want to repeat. They implied that I was guilty and would be going straight to jail if I didn't fess up, but again, I wasn't being told what I was being accused of until it was all over.

    1. Michael Wojcik Silver badge

      Re: CBP are Terrible

      Illegal traffic in small empty bottles is a plague in contemporary America and must be stopped by any means possible.

      Perhaps CBP was worried you were bringing nothing into the country. We already have a surfeit of nothing (see e.g. Nebraska), and our formerly robust nothing exports (see e.g. Hollywood) have not kept up with production.

  9. W. Anderson

    Continued blatant discrimination

    There is no question that USA border forces need to check and double check those passing into the country, even from Canada. However, since the Iranian origin of both husband and wife were well documented, and the husband worked for Microsoft which is significantly more easily verifiable, there is little reason to suspect that a check would take an inordinate amount of time or effort.

    Furthermore, readers must remember that USA immigration/Border Patrol have exercised blatant discrimination for decades, even in recent past when Mo Farah, 2012 British Olympics champion, leading a UK government sponsored International Public Relations tour passing through USA was alone held at USA border because of his ancestry - of being born in Somalia. Of the more than 16 other western nations on the tour, the UK contingent did not experience such poor treatment or attitude in any other country.

    Note that Farah's family brought him to UK at age eight, and neither he nor his parents have ever returned to that country.

    Also note that Farah was the only person of colour in the British contingent, was the team leader and none of the other team members were held in custody.

    I understand that even those Americans that closely follow International sports like the 2012 Olympics in London, would unlikely have an inclination to know about or remember Mo Farah as ultimately the most successful track athlete of the games, especially not being American, and non-white in that instance.

    What is not but should be considered more closely is the culture and negative attitude here in USA of anti - any other country, culture or ethnicity that is not born of White Anglo-Saxon Protestant ancestry, no matter the circumstances.

    This is recorded fact! - not any personal opinion

  10. Aseries

    How convenient

    Trump needed a distraction and some "strongman" action to unite his "base".

    Iran needed a symbol to unite citizens and a distraction from all the public unrest in large cities.

    Good coordination. Iran has lots more creepy generals.

  11. DanceMan

    Not just Iranian-Americans

    There's an Iranian-Canadian community locally, many in North Vancouver, They were also detained at the border (made the local news) for about 7 hours for daring to want to take a family outing to Seattle. Ever occur to the brainless CBP that these people may have wanted to get the hell out of Iran given it's current gpv't? Some of these people were among the dead in the 737 crash.

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