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Sleepwalking to Extinction


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OT: The price of a gallon of gasoline increased here in Alpine to $1.69 for regular unleaded a couple of days ago ....... as Iraqi oil pipe lines burn uncontrollably.

Something about the human mind appears to prevent us from grasping the reality of climate change.

We live in a dreamworld. With a small, rational part of the brain, we recognise that our existence is governed by material realities, and that, as those realities change, so will our lives. But underlying this awareness is the deep semi-consciousness which absorbs the moment in which we live then generalises it, projecting our future lives as repeated instances of the present. This, not the superficial world of our reason, is our true reality. All that separates us from the indigenous people of Australia is that they recognise this and we do not.

Our dreaming will, as it has begun to do already, destroy the conditions necessary for human life on earth. Were we governed by reason, we would be on the barricades today, dragging the drivers of Range Rovers and Nissan Patrols out of their seats, occupying and shutting down the coal-burning power stations, bursting in upon the Blairs' retreat from reality in Barbados and demanding a reversal of economic life as dramatic as the one we bore when we went to war with Hitler. Instead, we whinge about the heat and thumb through the brochures for holidays in Iceland. The future has been laid out before us, but the deep eye with which we place ourselves on earth will not see it.

Of course, we cannot say that the remarkable temperatures in Europe this week are the result of global warming. What we can say is that they correspond to the predictions made by climate scientists. As the Met Office reported on Sunday, "all our models have suggested that this type of event will happen more frequently."1 In December it predicted that, as a result of climate change, 2003 would be the warmest year on record.2 Two weeks ago its research centre reported that the temperature rises on every continent matched the predicted effects of climate change caused by human activities, and showed that natural impacts, such as sunspots or volcanic activity, could not account for them.3 Last month the World Meteorological Organisation announced that "the increase in temperature in the 20th century is likely to have been the largest in any century during the past 1000 years", while " the trend for the period since 1976 is roughly three times that for the past 100 years as a whole."4 Climate change, the WMO suggests, provides an explanation not only for record temperatures in Europe and India but also for the frequency of tornadoes in the United States and the severity of the recent floods in Sri Lanka.5

There are, of course, still those who deny that any warming is taking place, or who maintain that it can be explained by natural phenomena. But few of them are climatologists, fewer still are climatologists who do not receive funding from the fossil fuel industry. Their credibility among professionals is now little higher than that of the people who claim that there is no link between smoking and cancer. Yet the prominence the media gives them reflects not only the demands of the car advertisers. We want to believe them, because we wish to reconcile our reason with our dreaming.

The extreme events to which climate change appears to have contributed reflect an average rise in global temperatures of 0.6C.6 The consensus among climatologists is that temperatures will rise in the 21st century by between 1.4 and 5.8C: by up to ten times, in other words, the increase we have suffered so far.7 Some climate scientists, recognising that global warming has been retarded by industrial soot, whose levels are now declining, suggest that the maximum should instead be placed between 7 and 10C.8 We are not contemplating the end of holidays in Seville. We are contemplating the end of the circumstances which permit most human beings to remain on earth.

Climate change of this magnitude will devastate the earth's productivity. New research in Australia suggests that the amount of water reaching the rivers will decline by up to four times as fast as the percentage reduction of rainfall in dry areas.9 This, alongside the disappearance of the glaciers, spells the end of irrigated agriculture. Winter flooding and the evaporation of soil moisture in the summer will exert similar effects on rainfed farming. Like crops, humans will simply wilt in some of the hotter parts of the world: the 1500 deaths in India through heat exhaustion this summer may prefigure the necessary evacuation, as temperatures rise, of many of the places currently considered habitable. There is no chance of continuity here; somehow we must persuade our dreamselves to confront the end of life as we know it.

Paradoxically, the approach of this crisis corresponds with the approach of another. The global demand for oil is likely to outstrip supply within the next 10 or 20 years. Some geologists believe it may have started already.10 It is tempting to knock the two impending crises together, and to conclude that the second will solve the first. But this is wishful thinking. There is enough oil under the surface of the earth to cook the planet and, as the price rises, the incentive to extract it will increase. Business will turn to even more polluting means of obtaining energy, such as the use of tar sand and oil shale, or "underground coal gasification" (setting fire to coal seams). But because oil in the early stages of extraction is the cheapest and most efficient fuel, the costs of energy will soar, ensuring that we can no longer buy our way out of trouble with air conditioning, water pumping and fuel-intensive farming.

So instead we place our faith in technology. In an age in which science is as authoritative but, to most, as inscrutable as God once was, we look to its products much as the people of the Middle Ages looked to divine providence. Somehow "they" will produce and install the devices - the wind turbines or solar panels or tidal barrages - which will solve both problems while ensuring that we need make no change to way we live.

But the widespread deployment of these technologies will not happen until rising prices ensure that it becomes a commercial imperative, and by then it is too late. Even so, we could not meet our current levels of consumption without covering almost every yard of land and shallow sea with generating devices. In other words, if we leave the market to govern our politics, we are finished. Only if we take control of our economic lives, and demand and create the means by which we may cut our energy use to 10 or 20% of current levels will we prevent the catastrophe which our rational selves can comprehend. This requires draconian regulation, rationing and prohibition: all the measures which our existing politics, informed by our dreaming, forbid.

So we slumber through the crisis. Waking up demands that we upset the seat of our consciousness, that we dethrone our deep unreason and usurp it with our rational and predictive minds. Are we capable of this, or are we destined to sleepwalk to extinction?

www.monbiot.com

References:

1. Reuters, 8th August 2003. Europe's Heatwave Doesn't Prove Global Warming.

2. Geoffrey Lean, 29 December 2002. Official: next year will be the hottest since records began. The Independent on Sunday.

3. Meteorological Office, 28th July 2003. Europe and North America warming due to human activity. Press release.

4. World Meteorological Organisation, 2nd July 2003. Extreme Weather Events Might Increase. Press release.

5. ibid.

6. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, 2001. Climate Change 2001, Synthesis Report.

7. ibid

8. Fred Pearce, 4th June 2003. Global warming's sooty smokescreen revealed. New Scientist. http://www.newscientist.com/news/news.jsp?id=ns99993798

9. Research by the Cooperative Research Centre for Catchment Hydrology, cited in The Institute for Sustainable Futures, 2003. Impacts of Climate Change on Water Supplies and Soil. Sydney.

10. See for example Richard Heinburg, 2003. The Party’s Over: Oil, War and the Fate of Industrial Societies. New Society Publishers, Canada; Kenneth S. Deffeyes, 2001. Hubbert's Peak: The Impending World Oil Shortage. Princeton University Press; Bob Holmes and Nicola Jones, 2nd August 2003. Brace Yourself for the End of Cheap Oil. New Scientist.

http://www.monbiot.com/

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Please answer true or false to both of the following questions:

- the climate this year in all likelihood has been duplicated at some time during the history of the planet;

- the climate changes being noted have in all likelihood been duplicated at some time during the history of the planet.

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Originally posted by redman

Please answer true or false to both of the following questions:

- the climate this year in all likelihood has been duplicated at some time during the history of the planet;

- the climate changes being noted have in all likelihood been duplicated at some time during the history of the planet.

I am not an authority on such matters but I will try to answer. Using available information, duplicate climates seem unlikely unless your talking in general terms such as: have mild periods between ice ages been experienced in the planets past? Given the numerous records set only recently, as evidenced below, it is difficult to say whether or not current records were surpassed beyond the time during which records were kept. Of course we may speculate that during the planets infancy the weather experienced at that time is unlikely to be duplicated in modern day so an obvious precedent has been set.

-- THIS IS A SUMMARY *ONLY* AUTO-PRODUCED AS BEST AS POSSIBLE BY

WEATHERMATRIX --

-- TO SEE COMPLETE RECORD REPORTS, MAPS AND ARCHIVE VISIT THE URL BELOW --

http://www.weathermatrix.net/weather/records/

Record highs in the Plains and Rocky Mountains, but record LOWs in Florida,

along with scattered record rainfalls.

SUBJECT: LAS{at} 8/12/2003 1:49:28 AM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE LAS VEGAS NV

1048 PM PDT MON AUG 11 2003

...RECORD HIGH MINIMUM TEMPERATURE BROKEN IN LAS VEGAS TODAY...

SUBJECT: SAT{at} 8/12/2003 2:36:21 AM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE AUSTIN / SAN ANTONIO TX

136 AM CDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD DAILY RAINFALL AT SAN ANTONIO...

SUBJECT: GJT{at} 8/12/2003 4:19:59 AM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND JUNCTION CO

213 AM MDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE TIED MONDAY IN JENSON UTAH...

SUBJECT: GTF{at} 8/12/2003 4:39:29 AM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GREAT FALLS MT

215 AM MDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURES IN SOUTHWEST MONTANA ON MONDAY AUGUST 11TH...

SUBJECT: CRP{at} 8/12/2003 7:37:09 AM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE CORPUS CHRISTI TX

635 AM CDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD DAILY RAINFALL SET AT VICTORIA...

SUBJECT: MLB{at} 8/12/2003 9:20:33 AM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MELBOURNE FL

910 AM EDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD LOW TEMPERATURE TIED AT MELBOURNE...

SUBJECT: SHV{at} 8/12/2003 11:57:58 AM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SHREVEPORT LA

1054 AM CDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...A NEW DAILY RAINFALL RECORD ESTABLISHED FOR THE DATE OF AUGUST

12TH IN SHREVEPORT LOUISIANA...

SUBJECT: PHX{at} 8/12/2003 12:28:07 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE PHOENIX AZ

925 AM MST TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD WARM LOW TEMPERATURE AT PHOENIX SKY HARBOR AIRPORT...

SUBJECT: SLC{at} 8/12/2003 12:46:34 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SALT LAKE CITY UT

1043 AM MDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...OTHER STATIONS REPORTED RECORD HIGH MINIMUN TEMPERATURES THIS MORNING

AUGUST 12TH...

...RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURES REPORTED IN UTAH FOR AUGUST 11TH YESTERDAY...

SUBJECT: GJT{at} 8/12/2003 2:18:09 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE GRAND JUNCTION CO

1215 PM MDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURES MONDAY AUGUST 11...

ACROSS EASTERN UTAH...

ACROSS WESTERN COLORADO...

SUBJECT: ISN{at} 8/12/2003 4:48:17 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WILLISTON ND

346 PM CDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE TIED AT WILLISTON...

SUBJECT: MLB{at} 8/12/2003 5:06:18 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE MELBOURNE FL

0451 PM EDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD LOW TEMPERATURE TIED AT VERO BEACH...

SUBJECT: ISN{at} 8/12/2003 5:49:35 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE WILLISTON ND

446 PM CDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD HIGH TEMPERATURE BROKEN AT WILLISTON...

THE TEMPERATURE REACHED 101 DEGREES AT 420 PM CDT AT SLOULIN FIELD

DATE...SET IN 1971.

SUBJECT: SAN{at} 8/12/2003 8:40:30 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SAN DIEGO CA

530 PM PDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD HIGHEST MINIMUM TEMPERATURES BROKEN OR TIED ON THIS DATE...

SUBJECT: RIW{at} 8/12/2003 8:51:49 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE RIVERTON WY

645 PM MDT THU AUG 12 2003

...RECORD HIGH TIED AT ROCK SPRINGS...

SUBJECT: BIL{at} 8/12/2003 8:55:20 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE BILLINGS MT

649 PM MDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD HIGH MAXIMUM TEMPERATURE FOR AUGUST 12TH SET AT MILES CITY...

SUBJECT: SLC{at} 8/12/2003 9:43:18 PM

NATIONAL WEATHER SERVICE SALT LAKE CITY UT

740 PM MDT TUE AUG 12 2003

...RECORD HIGH MINIMUN TEMPERATURES REPORTED ON AUGUST 12TH...

- the climate this year in all likelihood has been duplicated at some time during the history of the planet;

See the above answer.

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Originally posted by ThatGuy

I will say this. Up where I am in Canada, it hasn't been hotter than normal. Lots and lots of rain though. And the winter was one of the coldest on record.

I just don't really see it.

Some are seeing it in Spades.

OSLO (Reuters) -- Global warming will melt most of the Arctic icecap in summertime by the end of the century, a report showed Wednesday.

The three-year international study indicated that ice around the North Pole had shrunk by 7.4 percent in the past 25 years with a record small summer coverage in September 2002.

"The summer ice cover in the Arctic may be reduced by 80 percent at the end of the 21st century," said Norwegian Professor Ola Johannessen, the main author of the report funded by the European Commission.

The Arctic Barents Sea north of Russia and Norway could be free of ice even in winter by the end of the century, said Johannesssen, who works at the Nansen Environmental and Remote Sensing Center in Norway.

"This will make it easier to explore for oil, it could open the Northern Sea Route (between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans)," he said of the report, dubbed the Arctic Ice Cover Simulation Experiment.

Moscow and Norway reckon the Barents Sea could be a promising new area for oil and gas. The Northern Sea passage could save shippers about 10 days on a trip from Japan to Europe compared to traveling through the Suez Canal.

Johannessen said that the report, published on the Internet ahead of peer review, also indicated that a recent thinning of the polar icecap was linked to human emissions of gases like carbon dioxide blamed for blanketing the planet.

But the study showed a thinning of the icecap from 1920-1940 was caused by natural climate fluctuations, such as ocean currents and winds, rather than by a build-up of greenhouse gases.

Johannessen said the new survey added to evidence of a gradual thinning of the icecap and gave firmer signs that human emissions, such as exhausts from cars and factories, were mainly to blame.

Climate experts say that polar areas are heating up more than other regions.

Copyright © 2003 Reuters Limited. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of Reuters content is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Reuters. Reuters shall not be liable for any errors or delays in the content, or for any actions taken in reliance thereon.

http://www.reuters.com/newsArticle.jhtml?type=scienceNews&storyID=32 70708

Melting permafrost threatens Alps

Communities face devastating landslides from unstable mountain ranges

Special report: global warming

Paul Brown, environment correspondent

Thursday January 4, 2001

The Guardian

Permafrost holding together the highest peaks in the Alps and other European mountain ranges is melting and threatening alpine villages and ski resorts with devastating rockfalls and landslides. Some villages may have to be evacuated and there are also fears that rivers may be blocked by debris, causing potential flash floods when the unstable dams created subsequently collapse.

A Europe-wide monitoring of permafrost in mountain peaks has been launched by the EU to predict when disasters may occur and so isolate unstable areas. Scientists are blaming the changes on global warming.

Dr Charles Harris, from the earth sciences department at Cardiff University, who coordinates the research for the EU, said the main area at risk was the Alps in Switzerland, Austria, France, Germany and Italy, where the mountains were more densely populated and the slopes very steep. Among the places being monitored is the Murtel-Corvatsch mountain above fashionable St Moritz, and the Schilthorn, which towers above the Muran and Gandeg resorts, near Zermatt.

"A borehole sunk above St Moritz 15 years ago shows the temperature of the ground has risen half a degree to one degree in that time. If the temperature inside the mountain is only -2C at the moment then it will not take long to defrost," Dr Harris said.

He said that in Switzerland there were already rockfalls, landslides, mudflows, debris and slushflows as the ice melted and weakened the mountains. These were certain to increase. "What we do not understand is how big these falls might get. Whole mountainsides could go at once, potentially crushing settlements, cutting railway lines and roads. We need to try to understand and predict this process."

Dr Harris added that the Swiss government was seriously concerned about the problem. "They are very worried about the future of their mountain communities and where they can continue to live with this increasing level of risk."

Vulnerable

A new organisation called Permafrost and Climate in Europe (Pace) has been set up to monitor the creeping effects of climate change on the stability of mountains. The surface soil and rock temperature rises above zero in the summer and refreezes again each winter, while a few inches inside the mountains the ice is permanent, or has been for thousands of years. Pace literature says: "The combination of ground temperatures only slightly below zero, high ice contents and steep slopes, makes mountain permafrost particularly vulnerable to even small climate changes."

To their surprise, researchers have shown that in high mountains permafrost exists as far south as the Sierra Nevada in Spain on the edge of the Mediterranean. Dr Harris said he would have expected the ice to have disappeared long ago because of the warmth of the climate. Although ice was only in the tops of the mountains in Spain it started at around 2,500 metres (7,750ft) in the Alps and 1,500m (4,600ft) in Sweden. In Svalbard in the high Arctic it was at sea level. Britain's highest mountains are too low and too close to the warm westerly winds to have permafrost.

A series of boreholes have been made across Europe to monitor how deep the permafrost goes and how cold the rocks in mountains are. The colder the temperature, the stronger the ice, so as it warms the mountains may collapse before the permafrost completely melts. Most falls were expected in the summer and autumn but that may not always be the case, Dr Harris said.

Resorts

Other mountain ranges with permafrost being monitored are the Pyrenees, which form the French-Spanish border, the Jotunheimen range in Norway and Abisko range in Sweden. Boreholes have also been dug in Svalbard, the islands north of Norway, where coal is mined in the permafrost and the buildings have their foundations on frozen soil as hard as rock. There are fears that the buildings will settle and fall over if the frost melts.

This could be a serious problem in the higher ski resorts where foundations of ski lifts and other buildings assume the ground will remain stable.

Dr Harris said the boreholes recently sunk were too new to assess long-term trends. That would come over the next 10, 20 and even 50 years. But the temperature gradients in the first 100 metres of rock had revealed new information.

"We know that the rock is coldest in the middle. It is heated from below by the earth's core, and from above by the warmer temperatures. We would expect in stable conditions for the temperature gradient to be in a straight line, but it is not," he said. "From our calculations we already know that the tops of the mountains have warmed one or two degrees in the last 100 to 150 years. That is at a far quicker rate than the speed of global warming generally."

Among the factors accelerating the warming of mountain tops was the melting of glaciers. These had retreated in the past 100 years and half were expected to disappear this century. "Once the surface ice goes, the rocks warm much quicker in the summer sun," Dr Harris said.

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Originally posted by chiefhogskin48

Zzzzzz. never before has it been due to pollution and the like.

That may be true but look at it this way. How long have humans had the ability to fill the atmosphere with car exhaust or factory smoke? 1908 is as good a jumping off point. That was when the Ford Model T took off.

Originally posted by chiefhogskin48

Climates will change no matter what humans do or don't do.

True again but that doesn't mean that humans are unable to affect climate change, even if that climate change comes in the form of an the unintended consequences of human activity.

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tex-

My points above were indeed correctly interpreted generally, not specifically. And of course the answer in all likelihood is that the earth goes through cyclical changes on its own, and those changes occur over millenia if not eons.

For example, measuring from 1908 to the present in geological time is like asking about temperature changes today from 12:00 p.m. to 12:01 p.m. If it gets warmer by a degree over that minute, does that mean that we caused it because we happen to have been jogging in our warmup suit and sweating at that time?

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Originally posted by redman

tex-

My points above were indeed correctly interpreted generally, not specifically. And of course the answer in all likelihood is that the earth goes through cyclical changes on its own, and those changes occur over millenia if not eons.

For example, measuring from 1908 to the present in geological time is like asking about temperature changes today from 12:00 p.m. to 12:01 p.m. If it gets warmer by a degree over that minute, does that mean that we caused it because we happen to have been jogging in our warmup suit and sweating at that time?

I agree with you for the most part redman. Doubtful we humans will know exactly what the heck is going on with the weather for at least a couple of thousand years.

Take the Montreal Protocol for example. The thinkers didn't have a clue as to whither or not curtailing CFC usage and implementing refrigerant recovery regulations would abate the rapid destruction of the ozone layer. They decided to go forward with the restrictions because it would allow them to study the effects. In essences it was just one big experiment. Funny how Dupont's refrigerant patents were expiring at approximately the same time the new restrictions were put into place creating the need for a new alternative refrigerant that Dupont just happened to have ready and waiting.

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Killer Heatwave A Sign

Of Blistering Times Ahead

The Sydney Morning Herald

8-16-03

LONDON -- Europe's worst heatwave in decades has left a trail of death, destruction and dehydration in its wake, raising urgent questions about the impact of global warming and how prepared even developed countries are to deal with extreme heat.

Climate experts say the heatwave, which eased yesterday after setting record highs in Britain, France, Germany and Italy, is one of the clearest indications that the planet is not only warming but probably at a far faster rate than previously thought.

The French Government has declared a state of emergency in Paris after health officials revealed that up to 3000 people had died in the country's three-week heatwave.

The Health Minister, Jean-Francois Mattei, has declared the deaths caused by the heatwave a "genuine epidemic" and ordered the recall of hundreds of holidaying hospital staff to cope with the flood of mostly elderly casualties.

In Britain, four of the five hottest years since daily recordkeeping started more than 300 years ago have come in the past 10 years, and climatologists believe 2003 may surpass 1998 as the hottest year. Worldwide, nine of the warmest years on record have happened in the 1990s and 2000s.

Unless humans change the way they use the planet and adapt to high-temperature living, experts fear that the fatalities, water shortages, power cuts and devastating forest fires experienced across Europe may well be the shape of things to come.

United Nations-sanctioned predictions are for an average 1.5- to 5.8-degree increase in global temperatures this century because of greenhouse emissions, with most climatologists erring on the low side. But with recent events, the higher figure looks closer to the mark.

Asher Minns, of Britain's Tyndall climate research centre, one of Europe's leading weather institutions, described the heatwave as a glimpse into the future for Europe and the rest of the world. "This is a bit of a wake-up call. It's what scientists predict is going to happen. We can't say that any one climatic event is down to global warming, but this possibly is an insight into the future."

He said the heatwave highlighted the need for people to reduce energy usage, reduce the number of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, and consider adapting homes and offices to cope with hotter summers and milder winters.

In the short-term, the advent of warmer summers may force a rethink of established social and cultural practices and force everyone to pay closer and more serious attention to forecasts.

The usual August exodus to the beach and country left Parisian hospitals woefully short-staffed to deal with an upsurge in heat-related medical conditions.

The Socialist opposition and the tabloid press have turned on the Government of the Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin, especially Mr Mattei, for failing to heed warnings and prepare for the heatwave.

A Socialist Party spokesman, Julien Dray, said: "The ministers have all left dog tired to relax on their holidays and they didn't see this coming, even though the weather bureau had warned that a heatwave was on the way."

The daily Le Parisien noted that Mr Dray himself was on holiday.

A long-term Paris resident, Australian academic David Camroux, said the heatwave had shown how poorly designed Parisian flats were to deal with hot weather.

"The buildings are designed to keep in the heat. There's been no breeze. It's almost unbearable."

Copyright © 2003. The Sydney Morning Herald.

http://www.smh.com.au/articles/2003/08/15/1060936051088.html

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