Wombs for Rent

Many go to the movies preferring to watch certain styles of films in order to be taken away from the realities of their every day lives.  For two hours they are entertained, whisked away to lands far, far away, they laugh, they cry, they jump out of their seats in excitements or they hide under the arms of the person seated next to them cringing in horror.  Yes, for approximately two hours  their troubles, their dreams, the hum drum of their every day lives are replaced with at times the unimaginable.  Matrix was one such movie for me.  It provoked thought while it entertained.  I paid full price over a dozen times  (no I’m not joking) and treated my friends just  to see it again, for every time I’d go I would learned something new.  I open today’s conversation because yet again real life is copying fantasy or perhaps fantasy has always copied real life. Our conversation today is about pedigree; pedigree, pregnancy, and surrogacy.

Surrogacy

Since the dawn of human history women bodies have been used by others for profit.  The first account of “surrogacy” is found in the bible transpiring between Abraham, Sarah and Hagar. The source of this “using women’s bodies as commodities” points to a time in history as early as  Genesis when the angels came down from heaven to mate with the women on the earth unleashing terror and corruption by teaching both genders certain crafts and skills of the kind that either originally wasn’t meant for human knowledge or they learned it too early in human development.  The account found in the bible is small, however, if you can get your hands on a copy of The Book of Enoch, you’ll find a detailed account of what happened.  Prior to the Fall of the Angels I would probably assume that satisfying a man sexually, and getting  paid for it, or having his child for whatever reason, and getting paid for it, was an act of altruism. I say this because if you believe in the myth that all of humanity are descendants from Adam and Eve, then perhaps that’s how were we able to populate the earth.  It’s important to trace the roots of these human transactions, to help you understand and form your own moral opinion towards these acts as being good or bad, righteous or evil, user and being used, vixen vs saint, husband vs slave master, exploiter vs the exploited and goddess vs prostitute.  For its the same act, however, it’s the intent that’s lies behind the act that most often determines if it is a ‘right‘ act vs a ‘wrong‘ act.

In biblical times a surrogate mother (usually a slave ) would, in many instances, be forced to have sexual intercourse with the man, become pregnant and once the child is born the barren wife would take the baby and raise it as her own.  Of course that introduced elements of rape and other gross sexual deviance and indecencies.  Today, however, thanks to the development of science, surrogacy can be performed in a way that is respectful to the surrogate mother without demeaning her femininity.  This is not to say that all surrogacy are performed in the way of science.  There are countless of instances where women are used as sexual slaves and intentionally kept in an economically challenged situation so they can’t take care of themselves or seek  necessary protection that the law provides.  It happens everywhere around the world despite how progressive a country’s law may be.  There will always be predatory crimes of this nature.

 “Behold, children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward. 4. Like arrows in the hand of a warrior are the children[a] of one’s youth. 5. Blessed is the man who fills his quiver with them!” ~ Psalms 127:1-5

We have also observed families that apply the rules of polygamy and especially among the Quiverfull movements where they believe they are building an army of Christians to outnumber ‘the wicked’.   In the past a pregnant woman were deemed blessed if she gave birth to a boy and if she had a girl, her body is viewed as a commodity to be used in trade negotiations to unify tribes and families. The successful book series by Margret Atwood, The Handmaiden’s Tale , touch upon these subjects as she writes about a dystopian community where fertile women are used as cattle to the upper echelons of society.  This is not a gender issue, make no mistake about that.  This is a patriarchal ideological issue  for women are just as equal to men who subjugate others, imprison them, sell them and breed them like the factory farmers that they are.  These militant men and women would attack the issue of reproduction through the eugenics movement, forced sterilization and breeding tactics that is not in any way at all biblically approved. This is not what God meant for his people, if it were then we wouldn’t have the  revered Song of Songs in the bible reminding us what true relationships should engender between a man and a woman.

Surrogacy is an act where one needs to be very careful in how it is handled.  The surrogate mother more times than not will be doing it for ‘altruistic’ or economic reasons, or they are coerced for the economic reasons of another.  This is why we have international, national and provincial/state law regarding surrogacy especially against service providers who arrange the of services for surrogacy.  Because women are most often intentionally kept in an economically challenged condition, leaving them vulnerable to human trafficking, where surrogacy is often a way for a woman to make good income, or the use of their bodies be sold to economically to fill the pockets of others.   I became acutely aware of this when I took a certificate course, through  Ministry of Justice in B.C.,  as a front line worker supporting victims of human trafficking.  I took the course at the advice of Conservative MP, Joy Smith during the last 2015 federal election.  I never heard of human trafficking until by chance I read an election campaign email from Ms. Smith outlining all the positive anti-human traffic legislation that passed due to her efforts that was recently passed.  I was so impressed by Ms. Smiths achievements I contacted her office and offered my help with her advocacy work. I was also impressed with her achievements because I immediately made the connection of what Pope Francis outlined in his ground breaking encyclical just weeks before receiving her email:

“The culture of relativism is the same disorder which drives one person to take advantage of another, to treat others as mere objects, imposing forced labor on them or enslaving them to pay their debts. The same kind of thinking leads to the sexual exploitation of children and abandonment of the elderly who no longer serve our interests. It is also the mindset of those who say: Let us allow the invisible forces of the market to regulate the economy, and consider their impact on society and nature as collateral damage. In the absence of objective truths or sound principles other than the satisfaction of our own desires and immediate needs, what limits can be placed on human trafficking, organized crime, the drug trade, commerce in blood diamonds and the fur of endangered species? Is it not the same relativistic logic which justifies buying the organs of the poor for resale or use in experimentation, or eliminating children because they are not what their parents wanted? This same “use and throw away” logic generates so much waste, because of the disordered desire to consume more than what is really necessary. We should not think that political efforts or the force of law will be sufficient to prevent actions which affect the environment because, when the culture itself is corrupt and objective truth and universally valid principles are no longer upheld, then laws can only be seen as arbitrary impositions or obstacles to be avoided.”~  [para. 123, Encyclical: Laudato Si‘, Pope Francis]

Surrogacy Laws in Canada

Surrogacy has been practiced for centuries and it’s only within the last 100 years with the onset of feminism where laws have been created to protect those being enslaved; women.  I repeat this is not a gender issue its an ideological issue that required women to stand up! Surrogacy in Canada is not an Assisted Human Reproduction (AHR)  procedure although surrogacy arrangements are covered within the AHR Act. It is viewed as a social arrangement that commits the surrogate mother to carry and give birth to a child in which she consent to surrender the child  shortly after birth to the commissioning individual or couple. The parties can enter into either two types of agreement: traditional and gestational and each type could be either commercial in nature or altruistic.

Traditional surrogacy:  The donor provides his sperm through insemination to the surrogate mother while she contributes her egg and therefore is genetically related to the offspring.  The pregnancy could also be achieved through in vitro fertilization of the surrogate mother’s eggs and transfer of two or three of the resulting in vitro embryos to the surrogate mother.

Gestational surrogacy:  The mother in this process is not genetically related to the resulting offspring.  The eggs are surgically retrieved from the mother and the sperm from the commissioning father or donor. The gestational surrogate carries and physically nurturers the embryo and foetus, eventually giving birth to the resulting child.  This process is used when the mother cannot physically carry a child to full term but her eggs are still valuable.

In some ‘lawful‘ cases the mother is a relative or closed friend of the couple or individual and becomes a surrogate for altruistic reasons other than financial compensation.  Other ‘lawful‘ cases, the surrogate is financially compensated to become a surrogate mother (commercial).  In an agreement of this nature the mother is reimbursed for her services that includes her pregnancy-related expenditures. In an altruistic arrangement, the surrogate mother is not paid for her services but may be reimbursed for her pregnancy-related expenditures.  In both cases the parties must enter into a contractual agreement outlining their roles and compensation, setting out the terms and conditions.  In the case where there is a dispute the courts will not  rely on the contractual agreement and consider it void to due to public policy reasons. [The Law of Assisted Human Reproduction, Glenn Rivard, Judy Hunter, LexisNexis Canada, March 2005, p.7-8]

The Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies, Proceed with Care: Final Report of the Royal Commission on New Reproductive Technologies [1993] found that Canadians views on surrogacy are quite diverse and found it difficult to categorize their views ranging  from full support to complete opposition.  Surrogacy raises not only criminal issues but also Charter issues of bodily integrity, reproductive autonomy, personal liberty which basically are issues of freedom and often conjures images of “wombs for rent” and children as commodities. Altruistic surrogacy arrangements should not be undertaken, sanctioned, or encouraged.  “[e]ven if no money is involved, no one should have the right to make a ‘gift’ of another human being: that is offensive to the human dignity of the child.”  The Report recommended that the federal government legislate to prohibit these arrangements “under the threat of criminal sanction”, yet cautioned that it should be done in a manner that doesn’t penalize surrogate mothers because of their “vulnerability”.  As such altruistic surrogacy is discouraged not not criminalized.

The Assisted Human Reproductive Act (the “AHR Act“) makes it an offence to pay a female person to be a surrogate mother.  In effect, the Act prohibits commercial surrogacy arrangements” but is silent on altruistic surrogacy arrangements.  Section 6 of the Act sets out the prohibited activities:

  1. no offer to pay or advertise that it will be paid,
  2. no person shall accept payment for arranging for the services of a surrogate mother or offer to make such an arrangement for consideration or advertise the arranging of such services.
  3. no person shall pay consideration to another person to arrange for the services of a surrogate mother, offer to pay such consideration or advertise the payment of it.
  4. No person shall counsel or induce a female person to become a surrogate mother, or perform any medical procedure to assist a female person to become a surrogate mother, knowing or having reason to believe that the female person is under 21 years of age.
  5. This section does not affect the validity under provincial law of any agreement under which a person agrees to be a surrogate mother.

Section 6(5) means that surrogacy arrangements are legislated under provincial law and remains in the jurisdiction of the provinces under subsection 92(13) of the Constitution Act, 1867.  Subsection 92(13) assigns the exclusive legislative authority to the provinces for matters coming within “property and civil rights in the province.”  “the penalties for contravention of the prohibition against commercial surrogacy, in s.6 of the Act, is a maximum fine of $250,000 to $500,000 or imprisonment for a term not exceeding four to 10 years, or both (see ss. 60 and 61 – the fine and jail term depends on whether the conviction is on indictment or summary).” [The Law of Assisted Human Reproduction, Glenn Rivard, Judy Hunter, LexisNexis Canada, March 2005, p.119, footnote]

“Amid this confusion, postmodern humanity has not yet achieved a new self-awareness capable of offering guidance and direction, and this lack of identity is a source of anxiety. We have too many means and only a few insubstantial ends.” [para.203, Encyclical: Laudato Si‘, Pope Francis ]

Artificial Womb

Human trafficking is the largest activity of organized crime only second to guns and weaponry, drug trafficking following closely behind where are most often than not these activities are closely intertwined.     At one time humans used to be bred into slavery, to do labor work for the ruling nation, this common practice has not ceased with the development of the Industrial Revolution and with all the technological advancement associated with this common era. Human slavery is a clandestine activity for a variety of reasons therefore making it virtually impossible to pursue perpetrators to bring them to justice.  However as technology continues to advance, age old techniques such as surrogacy no longer is outdated but becomes updated.

Most inventions are created with the utmost purest of intention and altruistic motivations, to satisfy a need that is lacking in today’s society, especially in the field of biotechnology.  For example, one up and coming invention is the artificial womb.  The altruistic need this invention satisfies is the desire to bring premature human babies to term outside of the uterus, it could also eliminate the health risk of pregnancies, however, scientists are focusing on the need to help very early premature babies a better environment which provides a better chance at developing to full term.   “…[F]or decades scientists have been trying to develop an artificial womb that would re-create a more natural environment for a premature baby to continue to develop in. One of the main challenges was re-creating the intricate circulatory system that connects mom to fetus: the mom’s blood flows to the baby and back, exchanging oxygen for carbon dioxide. The blood needs to flow with just enough pressure, but an external pump can damage the baby’s heart….“I think it’s realistic to think about three years for first-in-human trials,” says says Alan Flake, fetal surgeon at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia and lead author of today’s study.

All sounds [somewhat] good…..in theory….

I say “in theory” because we all know with each invention, no matter how well intention, there’s  the flip side of those who use those inventions for no good.  The question is also how do you go about conducting your inventions – every person who participates in a project needs to know what they are doing and why they are doing it and that they consent to doing it.   Thanks to the Nuremberg Codes, Hippocratic Oath, the Belmont Report and other ethical codes and guidelines for human experimentation we now have a clear set of rules to follow. For those who would prefer not to follow the rules, human trafficking, in all its varieties, from surrogacy to organ transplants to downright exploitation very much comes into play.  In fact, these ethical guidelines were actually created to stop such exploitative and criminal activity which began after the revelation of the atrocities from human experimentation performed in World War II.  There’s  organ trafficking, sex trafficking, labor trafficking and basic slave trade to scientists, researchers and doctors [among others] who perhaps don’t have the money to conduct their experiments lawfully, were refused funding on ethical, unsound scientific theories and other grounds, or those who are intentionally and blissfully ignorant [the “husband” or “owner”] of the fact that their human subject is actually an exploited slave by those who are motivated by profit.

TRANSLATION:   Meaning, this idea is pretty fantastic, we’ve got the means to do it and I want to make my millions selling it to get rich no matter at what cost!

“On the other hand, it is troubling that, when some ecological movements defend the integrity of the environment, rightly demanding that certain limits be imposed on scientific research, they sometimes fail to apply those same principles to human life. There is a tendency to justify transgressing all boundaries when experimentation is carried out on living human embryos. We forget that the inalienable worth of a human being transcends his or her degree of development. In the same way, when technology disregards the great ethical principles, it ends up considering any practice whatsoever as licit. As we have seen in this chapter, a technology severed from ethics will not easily be able to limit its own power.” [para. 136, Encyclical: Laudato Si‘, Pope Francis]

Under the Criminal Code, the  Law of Human Experimentation can be covered sections, 265(1), (3), Section 14, Section 219(1)(2), Section 220. 222(1)(5), Section 215(1)(2), for starters.  You can also review our Charter of Rights: Section 7 Security and Autonomy, Section 8 Search and Seizure (i.e. taking/withdrawing of blood and other genetic material without consent), “unusual treatment”, Section 52 of Constitution Act, 1982 “rule of law”  In any case, perhaps the next point is a sign that the Law and legislatures are doing very well, in terms of creating legislation and going after human traffickers because there seems to be a shift on the horizon in the trafficking business.  Their plan is still to traffic but the means in which they traffic is about to change where human women and children are no longer needed.   Sex Robots and artificial wombs .  I’m not necessarily pointing to fact that the need for criminals to conduct their business is what’s spearheading this trend, no it’s pure capitalism and making profit that’s spearheading this trend and you make a profit, or I should say, capitalism thrives when you make a product that’s high in demand and one that  services the needs of others.  The reproductive and sex industry will always be high in demand.

Today, with the onset of new technologies we will soon be able to skip the difficult pregnancies, the miscarriages, the sexually transmitted diseases, the psychological and emotional hurt derived from a failed relationship and grow a child right from the seed or have that perfect artificial robot relationship with no after affects. If you’re done with her and want to move on, just switch her off and buy a new robot with different traits, physical attributes and personality.  It also brings new meaning to prostitution and sex trafficking – buy/rent a doll and get laid.  Yes, with sex robots polygamy is no longer a moral question [or even a crime] you can have as  many wives as you want and children from the artificial womb and not worry about tiring the woman, disease or putting her health in danger.

TRANSLATION:   Meaning, this idea is pretty fantastic, we’ve got the means to do and I want to make my millions selling it to get rich no matter at what cost!

With these new inventions, what old problems are traded in exchange for a new set of problems that these new inventions could potentially create? First human dignity maybe preserved, you will no longer need to enslave women [or children] for exploitation – since there’s no ‘moral value’ violated when using a robot/clone/mechanical entity to do the ‘dirty deeds’ which now could be done ‘dirt cheap’ [as the popular AC/DC song goes] .  Women [and children] will no longer need to be trapped and sold, they can finally go on living their lives.  It also reduces the instances of sexually transmitted diseases and psychological trauma arising from these relationships.  (see: Sex doll brothel). Pedigree; what you ‘put in’ is what you ‘get out’ – “yes, that child is yours!”, extending a family lineage by using sperm posthumously.  In matriarchal societies back in ancient times, it is said that women would give birth to many children that are sired by a variety of men, it was hard to establish lineage; which child belonged to which man?  When patriarchal society developed, the majority of humans followed the lineage provided by men and was no long traced through the woman.  Then came the concept of marriage which established the woman being tied to or owned by a man, in some cases he can have as many wives as he wanted but the point is the woman were to be exclusive to the man she was with so that pedigree and lineage can be established.

TRANSLATION:   Meaning, this idea is pretty fantastic, we’ve got the means to do and I want to make my millions selling it to get rich no matter at what cost!

This now put us in the trajectory for factory farming of human beings.  For example, factory farming of animals.  At a point in time humans became mindful and guilty of killing breeds of animals and endangering them to the point of extinction.  We now have factory farming for animals that are birthed and grown specifically for human consumption.  We are now on the precipice of following a similar template with humans.  Humans artificially inseminated, artificially grown in womb for what human function?  Is there a possibility that we’re creating another class of humans? This new class of humans could, “altruistically” be used not only to continue population growth among humans but they could be used to do the work that traffickers are currently enslaving others for the function of: the movement of weaponry, spying/cyber-spying, drug trafficking (i.e. drug mule) prostitution and sex slaves (minus the spreading of STD); or it need not be for criminal – per-say-  what about activity perhaps simply to carry out functions that were once listed as dangerous; super soldiers of war, astronauts for space travel, emergency workers safe handling of toxic chemical spills and radiation, raging fires for as many opportunity for good is equally balanced with possibilities for bad.

Pope Francis continues: (para132.-134)  This, then, is the correct framework for any reflection concerning human intervention on plants and animals, which at present includes genetic manipulation by biotechnology for the sake of exploiting the potential present in material reality. The respect owed by faith to reason calls for close attention to what the biological sciences, through research uninfluenced by economic interests, can teach us about biological structures, their possibilities and their mutations. Any legitimate intervention will act on nature only in order “to favor its development in its own line, that of creation, as intended by God.”

The Human Battery

Back to our movie The Matrix . Is it any wonder that the movie became  as popular as it did?  I think it’s because there’s some truth in the story telling.  For example, “The Matrix” can be interpreted as Surveillance Capitalism, the ‘all-seeing-eye’ we’ve been discussing in past entries.  The movie tells of a great catastrophic disaster that is so great it blocks out the sun where we humans, animal and plant life get our energy.  What are we doing today trying to stop? Climate change.  How cataclysmic and catastrophic can this be for the earth.  Yes, it could literally block out the sun.  And when we space travel to other planets can we find the right atmosphere for us humans? No, we need the Sun’s energy at the distance that we find Earth to the sun for the energy we need to grow our food and, instead of usign women as sex slaves, to grow humans.  And now what are we trying to do with the womb through Gestational surrogacy? to survive: “climate change” and disease.

Going back to Hollywood, yes perhaps art is a pre-telling of what can happen in real life.  In both the Matrix and a 2009 movie The Surrogate [see movie trailer above] starring Bruce Willis, in both films humans are “plugged” into the network.  In both films machines have taken over active life while humans live passively a non-existent life,  in which case the films suggests that we humans are merely conduits.  In a previous conversation (See: Roboto) we spoke about sociology theories and brought the concept of “determinism” and “free will” and “autonomy” into the conversation because  if we are “programmed” to act a certain way and it’s all “predetermined”, the question posed; what are we passing on in terms of programming to robots in their various types of behavior?   Can machines think?  Can humans not think? And more importantly, can humans be engineered to be incapable of thinking?

Especially with the onset of the ‘internet of things’ it seems that we humans and our activities are tracked, re-programmed for robots to fill those functions rendering even the simplest of human activity obsolete since machines can now do what humans do with extra precision and care.   Are we  getting to a point where basic decision making, especially ethical and morals ones will be handled by a computer machine and/or program that tells us what we should do whenever we have difficulty making decisions? Will machines be doing all the thinking for us while we intellectually digress because by relying on these programs we are not challenging ourselves intellectually and thinking critically?  This is what the film The Surrogate brings to our attention.  I’d say The Surrogate is a story of how humans get to the plot as told in the Matrix.  Humans are still used and are interactive in the Surrogate but if all they do is sit in a chair and live life in a dreamworld through neural stimulants why do they need a house, why do they need to be clothed, why do they need to eat – let them live in a gel filled six foot pod, connected by implants to dream their life away plugged into the “system” that makes us think we are actually living out our lives and feed them intravenously as suggested in the Matrix.  The purpose for humans in this story is to serve as energy conduits for machines.  We are grown and harvested to serve the needs of machines.

What if we were placed in an environment that would constantly be “nudging” us towards rational behavior and thinking; would that environment be dehumanizing?  Would we then, in constructed environments, be distinguishable from the machines? If so could we be making our first steps towards a society as outlined in these two films where the machines do all the living for us?   It seems we are afraid of disease, getting sick, growing old and dying.  With the invention of the artificial womb it doesn’t make it too hard to envision a future where humans, as proposed in the Matrix, are grown resulting in the diminished or loss of meaningful aspects of humanity.

Agency is another component of free well. Agency is about freedom to exercise one’s will including acting in accordance with one’s own intention.  Therefore crossing the Turing line when it comes to agency might entail degeneration to autonomy into simple stimuli-response behavior by humans.  Such degeneration can occur with an “over-determined” environment that has no practical freedom to exercise their range of free will and be authors of their own lives. “Constrictive” environment can be constraining to the range of actions one can take to the extent that there is no escaping the constrictive environment.  In one extreme, over-determined, leads to slaves and the other, “constrictive”, leads to simple machines.  You can’t get any more restrictive  than what The Matrix foretells for the future of humans, existing in six foot pods while life is literally being sucked out of you.

Slaves are humans with free will who, due to circumstances beyond their control, lack agency meaning the practical, situated freedom to exercise their will.  In other words, the “slave environment” dramatically reduces the scope of opportunities for humans; its constraints impede our ability to act and be authors of our lives.  Nevertheless, slaves retain their free will; they can think for themselves, have dreams and desires about their lives that can transcend the status quo.  Slave-owners have tried, and in some cases may have succeeded in effectively turning slaves into machines by determining their beliefs, preferences, tastes, and values there by depriving them of free will.  (See: DARPA)

As such, a person who lacks autonomy is merely a puppet.

Meaning we are “modifiable” by our “environments” and much of what we discussed transpires in a constrictive environment  to observe how the constrictive environment diminishes our free will, it can just as easily be applied to expansive environments enabling an agent to exercise his/her autonomy, agency and self-determination to fully express his/her own  beliefs, preferences, tastes, and values to his/her own fulfillment.  This should remind us of what was asked in the above paragraphs. “Can humans be engineered to be incapable of thinking?” Especially if one is living in a constrictive environments due to lack of skills or the lack of opportunity to make yourself relevant by learning  new skills therefore on the employment front there is a category of individuals going no where since robots now perform their jobs. This would be the same affects reported from those who are subjected to solitary confinement in prisons for years even decades (See: Bell Let’s Talk).

In developing these technologies we must error on the side of caution. In the book The Roots of Nazi Psychology, by Jay Gonen, it brings to our attention that Hitler’s powerful ideologies were generally accepted because he was speaking to a nation that was suffering from a psychological national and unhealed wound from a previous war in which the Jews turned out to be a benefactor.   It was a shared group fantasy that made capable setting the stage to new psycho-historical replays of old historical issues and fostered great receptivity to new ideologies so long as the latter tap into the existing public pool of emotional dispositions and psychological expectations.  New ideologies are capable of reactivating the old myths so as to channel their energy potential into the mobilization of the masses. The promised newness can be offered under the banners of change, revolution, messianism and utopia – “Make America Great Again” – but in all its attires the newness remains essentially a promised reversal of the status of any of a number of old psycho-cultural prototypes or myths, such as a stab in the back, that stand for an unacceptable condition.  This wound mirrored Hitler’s own personal unresolved wounds therefore it was easy to speak a language of wounded commonality.

I bring this up because anything that involves reproductive rights and exploitation also involves sexism and racism and we know that sexism and racism always goes hand in hand.  The backlash against feminism today still runs deep.  This group fantasy to bring back the myth of masculinity, the preservation of pedigree, lineage, chaste and class is very much alive.  It’s language of shared ‘woundology‘ from the womb. Remember Gloria Steinam’s words that she uttered at a Broadbent Institute event about humanity in that “we are linked not ranked”, meaning we are all from the circle -not pyramid- of life, and that circle ‘links us’ we are not meant to be ‘ranked’ in levels of hierarchy and used as cattle for the pleasure and exploitation of others.

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