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Syria sarin capitalism and war

Written By: - Date published: 10:34 am, April 9th, 2017 - 60 comments
Categories: capitalism, Syria, war - Tags: , ,

The dirty truth behind many of the wars that our political / media world gets itself so excited about is that they wouldn’t be happening without the arms that we (the “western” world) sell so copiously. Amnesty International has a page, appropriately titled Killer Facts, on the extent of the arms trade:

Killer Facts: The scale of the global arms trade

The top 10 exporters of conventional arms (excluding small arms/ light weapons – SALW) 2010-15

USA US$55.006 billion
Russia US$42.404 billion
China US$9.943 billion
Germany US$ 9.467 billion
France US$ 8.932 billion
UK US$ 7.627 billion
Spain US$ 5.310 billion
Italy US$ 4.360 billion
Ukraine US$ 4.156 billion
Israel US$ 3.280 billion

Total arms sales from the top 100 arms-producing and military services companies in the world (excluding China) rose by 104% from 2002-2013 and in 2013 stood at US$401 billion. …

War is great for business. Case in point, the brutal sarin attack in Syria, The Guardian asks an uncomfortable question:

Could Britain have sold sarin chemicals to Assad’s regime?

Evidence that the sarin nerve agent was used in the chemical attack that killed more than 80 and injured hundreds of others in Syria’s northern province of Idlib last week has triggered awkward questions for the government over the part played by the UK in the Assad regime’s development of a chemical weapons programme.

Human rights groups and arms control campaigners have highlighted the government’s own admission that in the 80s the UK exported the chemicals necessary to make sarin to the Syrian regime. The UK also sold specialist equipment after the millennium which it now appears was diverted to the chemical weapons programme.

Export data collected by Campaign Against the Arms Trade, which dates back to 2008, provides no evidence that any chemicals were supplied to Syria in the last nine years.

However, in July 2014 the then foreign secretary, William Hague, confirmed to parliament that the UK had indeed exported chemicals that “were likely to have been diverted for use in the Syrian programme”.

Hague revealed that the exports included several hundred tonnes of the chemical dimethyl phosphite (DMP) in 1983 and a further export of several hundred tonnes in 1985; several hundred tonnes of trimethyl phosphite (TMP) in 1986; and a quantity of hydrogen fluoride (HF) in 1986 through a third country.

Hague told parliament: “All these chemicals have legitimate uses, for example in the manufacture of plastics and pharmaceuticals. However, they can also be used in the production of sarin. DMP and TMP can also be used for the production of the nerve agent VX. That is why the export of such goods is strictly prohibited under the UK export regime introduced since the 1980s and progressively strengthened.”

He added: “From the information we hold, we judge it likely that these chemical exports by UK companies were subsequently used by Syria in their programmes to produce nerve agents, including sarin.” …

Outrage over the attack is perfectly appropriate. So is outrage over the obscene profits that business makes from selling dangerous materials and weapons.

60 comments on “Syria sarin capitalism and war”

  1. One Anonymous Bloke 1

    The World Bank estimated NZ’s arms exports (measured in 1990 US$) at $75M in 2012.

    That’s $16 per head. Twice as much as China.

    Lots of potential for these figures to be skewed, but still.

  2. Andre 2

    Mention arms sales in connection with Middle East wars and the thought always occurs to me: if we weren’t so dependent on oil then we would find it a lot easier to ignore what happens in the Middle East, just as we ignore nasty shit happening in Africa.

    Without the money to buy the fancy toys and weird substances, I suspect the wars would still happen. They just wouldn’t be quite as big and sophisticated, and wouldn’t get as much publicity.

    • Pretty much. But I dont know why the MSM and western govts are leaping to the conclusion it was Assad after all. It may just turn out it was Saudi Arabian supplied gas to the rebels so negotiations would be derailed.

      I think we are being given the mushroom treatment here.

      • Red 2.1.1

        Need to get some of Those mushrooms your on WK

      • One Anonymous Bloke 2.1.2

        You have blinkers on. It’s been explained several times why a ground-based stockpile can be discounted. You just aren’t prepared to listen.

        • WILD KATIPO

          How many times do people have to be extricated from the gullible and naive. ?

          Lets go back to Middle eastern religious motives and USA oil / energy reserves, shall we?

          Try a little Saudi Arabia being Sunni majority and backing ISIS, ( who are also Sunni ) throw in a little bit of Clinton Foundation channeling Saudi Arabian , Qatar, and Bahrainian cash for ISIS.

          Try a little Russian support for a secular Syria and support for Shiite Muslim Iraq ,…

          Throw in a little of Trumps need to seem ‘ tough’ with China and the South China seas and how that relates to North Korea…

          Perhaps a little bit of seeming to act tough with Putin to deflect domestic criticism of Russia interfering with the USA elections… handy stuff even though they had agreed to move both Syrian and Russian troops out of harms way before the attacks …just leave a few jet fighters there for a cinematic effect…

          But still ,… the plebs wont know that… they will just follow the MSM private media scam… all good. Get em all riled up and wanting to go serve King and country and spill their guts for some rich fat bastard.

          Yeah right , ya fucker.

          Or we could even talk about royalty’s from a Russian oil pipeline through Syria. That’d more than pay for a cheap bombed out Airfield in Syria… Assad would be in clover…all for the price of a few old jet fighters subsidized from the USA in the first place.

          Cheap PR , if ever there was…

          Maybe we could even surmise Israel feeling good about bombs going off in Syria… that’d make sure the Israeli population feels good.. and Trump as well…he gets to ingratiate himself with the bible belt and Israel at the same time- ‘ God bless America and the whole world’…

          Yet as we all know – or like to think we know… Obama didn’t attack ISIS because they were backed by Saudi Arabia, so Obama just did the drone strikes. Far less agressive looking than bad ass troops on the ground…

          Obama didn’t want to upset the Clinton Foundation because it brought in shit loads for the USA military / industrial complex. All that shit load of cash from those middle eastern outfits… and good cash donations to the Democrats.

          Whats a few beheading’s between friends?

          What does it take to convince those of the Left – or even those closet right wingers pretending to be of the Left …

          OF THE FUCKING FACTS ?!!?




          USE YOUR BRAINS !!!!

          • WILD KATIPO

            Matter of fact…

            Screw you , ‘ Red’… your a fake… like a lot on this site.

            There’s a lot of ‘ wannabe’s I’m discovering who want to wear the ‘Left ‘ label.

            They really want the title without the substance Im discovering. And that’s disgusting. They are no more better in principle than the so called right wing against which they rail. Hypocrites.

            So here’s something to focus you back on yourself. I hope it sets you back to an earlier age of being a free human being.

            George Harrison- “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (live recording …
            Video for while my guitar gently weeps george harrison▶ 5:29

          • One Anonymous Bloke


          • Psycho Milt

            Well, that was certainly a lot of words. However, “It’s been explained several times why a ground-based stockpile can be discounted.” Did you miss that bit?

        • Reenmac

          Then how come the US military said they deliberately didn’t target the building they said housed sarin when they deployed cruise missiles on the Syrian airfield “because they could have facilitated the release of stored sarin gas and killed civilians”
          What a load of hogwash
          So the “rebels” can’t store sarin but the SAA can?
          In 2013 a UN report confirmed that the “rebels” were in possession of and had used sarin on Syrian soldiers and civilians,,,and of course while the Syrian govt was compelled to give up its CW, it was impossible to compel the “rebels”

          • Psycho Milt

            Multiple citations needed.

            • Puddleglum

              Here’s one at least:

              Attacking one airfield — at least one of the two runways were still in use Friday — hardly diminishes President Bashar Assad’s military capability. And whatever cache of poison gas or other chemical agents the Syrian government has remains intact, including one at the air base that the Pentagon deliberately didn’t target for fear of spreading a toxic cloud.

              And these comments from Carla del Ponte may be what Reenmac was referring to about the 2013 UN ‘report’:

              “According to the testimonies we have gathered, the rebels have used chemical weapons, making use of sarin gas,” del Ponte, a former war crimes prosecutor, said in an interview with Swiss radio late on Sunday.

              “We still have to deepen our investigation, verify and confirm (the findings) through new witness testimony, but according to what we have established so far, it is at the moment opponents of the regime who are using sarin gas,” she added.

              • A link to a second person making the same assertion isn’t really a “citation,” but I’ll assume Los Angeles Times reporters wouldn’t be asserting it in an opinion piece if they didn’t have a citation for it.

                The thing is, the reasons “why a ground-based stockpile can be discounted” don’t involve any claim that blowing up a gas storage facility wouldn’t release a gas cloud – of course it would. It was discounted for several reasons:

                1. The gas at Khan Sheikhun was distributed over a wide area, not centred on a single building.

                2. A lot of nerve agent would be needed to cover such a wide area. Destruction of a storage facility with high explosive would destroy much of the nerve agent in the facility, and it’s unlikely rebels would have much to start with.

                3. Nerve agents are stored in their component parts until needed. Only a storage facility that was readying sarin for imminent use would have sarin in it – that applies to the air base store for obvious reasons, but not to any fictional store at Khan Sheikhun.

                4. The Guardian sent a reporter to Khan Sheikhun and there is no destroyed chemical storage facility there.

                Those are pretty good reasons, none of which either Wild Katipo or Reemac have argued against.

              • Re the UN report, it’s clear that both sides have used chemical warfare. That tells us nothing about this latest attack.

    • One Anonymous Bloke 2.2

      The problem with oil is that whoever has the most has a massive conventional warfare advantage: tanks on the ground, planes in the air.

      When you consider the people who will be looking for more tanks on the ground and planes in the air, it’s clear that ignoring oil is problematic.

      • Andre 2.2.1

        Imagine an alternate reality where, say, Jimmy Carter had won in ’80 and pushed hard for de-oiling the US with support from Congress. Imagine that by now most ground-based energy users are electrified. In that fantasy, the US has plenty of it’s own oil for aviation, shipping, and military adventures. Add in Mexican and Canadian reserves, and there would definitely be no reason to be empowering the Middle East with oil money.

        Sadly, our reality is that even if we all got serious right now about getting off fossil fuels, that kind of scenario is at least twenty years away.

        • McFlock

          But then how would they stop someone else getting the ME oil?

          Geopolitics is kindy rules: it’s not what you got so much as what someone else has

          • Andre

            If there’s viable alternatives for energy, then the oil isn’t anywhere near as valuable. Then nobody would care if someone else got the Middle East oil.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              Yes, we would, because that person would have more tanks on the ground and planes in the air.

        • rocco siffred

          “Sadly, our reality is that even if we all got serious right now about getting off fossil fuels, that kind of scenario is at least twenty years away.”

          The US is just about a net exporter of energy right now. Why do you think the oil price has tanked?

          • Andre

            How much lower do you think oil prices would be right now if the only users were the plastics/chemicals industry and those that desperately needed the energy density of liquid fuels and didn’t have an alternative. Setting aside cost and looking purely at technological feasibility, long haul aviation is about the only large-scale application I can think of that strictly requires liquid fuel’s energy density.

            • One Anonymous Bloke

              the energy density of liquid fuels

              Equals [insert your favourite dictator] with more tanks and planes than you.

              • McFlock

                especially as aircraft engines make fine tank engines

                • Draco T Bastard

                  No they don’t.

                  Many of the M1’s reliability failures can be traced to its turbine engine.

                  That’s from 1990 but I doubt if it’s changed much. Turbines are great for aircraft but not so great for ground vehicles where there’s a lot more dust getting in.

                  • McFlock

                    Yes they fucking do.

                    Even ignoring the fact that the gas turbine is still the engine of choice to move that behemoth around, there’s the Rolls Royce Meteor engine (derived from the merlin), nuffield liberty (derived from the liberty L12), and the Wright R975 were all derived from aircraft engines. And that was from a single google search (although I already knew the merlin one)

                    The reason is pretty obvious: although they generally need a cooling system added to compensate for lack of airflow, aircraft engines emphasise power to weight and rpm/torque. These are things you also want in a tank, moreso than reliability or even fuel efficiency, depending on your logistics situation. The yanks use a gas turbine because they have fuel to burn. Others go for diesel because of their reliability and fuel efficiency.

                    • exkiwiforces

                      Sorry McFlock, Draco is right aircraft engines are shit when they are fitted inside tanks.

                      Yanks fitted Gas turbine engines to their M1’s the idea behind was to go to a single type of fuel to reduce cost’s and more importantly a reduce logistic tail which has a Holy Gail for most post WW2 Armies.
                      The yanks case fuel consumption went through the roof, as did maintenance cost and so call reduce logistic tail didn’t really produce any real savings. In fact the Australia M1’s performs a lot better than its America counter part both in Oz and State side.

                      The other 3 engines you mention are petrol engines really not that good if your tank gets hit. The Germans during the WW2 used to the America and British tanks the “Tommy Cooker”. The fitting of the Meteor to the Centurion Tank has been describe a failure in some quarters because of its high fuel consumption, low power to weight ratio, the type of fuel used and the meteor was a right pig to work. Centurion really came of age when Israeli Armoured Corp re-engine the Cent with deasil engine and re-gun it with the L7 105mm.

                      In the 1960’s the Pom’s look at Multi fuel engine for its Chieftain Tank needless to it didn’t really work because of its high fuel consumption, low power to weight ratio and low speed.

                    • McFlock

                      Well, I reckon you’re overstating it a bit, but I also think “fine” was a bit much from my end.

                      It depends on the design priorities, and they’re a valid choice depending on requirements.

                    • exkiwiforces

                      In during WW2 aircrafts engines were the only thing going at time for tank production. One old tankie told me the wrong type of engine is better than no engine in a Sherman, but having wrong type of gun on your tank is!

                    • McFlock

                      fair call
                      I’ll have a think. 🙂

                    • Halfcrown

                      “Rolls Royce Meteor engine (derived from the merlin),”

                      With respect McFlock I think you will find those are Petrol combustion engines not gas turbines I think I am right as those engines were fitted in the Centurion tanks we had when I was in the army. If my memory serves me right it was a dog.

                      I have just noticed exkiwi has more or less said the same thing.

              • Andre

                If the US decouples itself from fossil fuels for domestic civilian uses, their own domestic reserves will be more than plentiful for all the military adventures the likes of Rumsfeld, Cheney, Clinton, Trump et al could ever dream up. Without even starting to consider biofuels. Europe may or may not be the same, depending on how fast the North Sea reserves are being extracted.

                • McFlock

                  And the first adventure would still be to stop anyone else getting ME oil, and a couple of decent wars in the area will keep the uncooperative in the area from getting too strong.

                • exkiwiforces

                  Unless you are Norway with their sovereign wealth fund, there’s a smart country.

            • exkiwiforces

              The Poms during the 50′ and 60’s when they were looking into Hypersonic, Ramjets and Missiles looked at alternative fuels for some of their Hypersonic research aircraft such as Cryogenics and Exotic Fuels such as Shelldyne type fuels.

              Ref: British Secret Projects, Hypersonic, Ramjets and Missiles
              Chapter 11, Page 141-143.

              The reason why some these types of fuel isn’t commonplace within the aviation sector is some of these Aircraft would big and the penalty big aircraft is drag. To overcome drag you need a bigger engine which means you need bigger aircraft which equals more weight and more drag, As can you can see it starts to get out of hand very quickly as the poms found out.

              Anyway the book is a very good read if you are into that stuff.

    • McFlock 2.3

      Not as sophisticated, maybe.
      In Rwanda they killed 800,000 in a few weeks, mostly by hand.

      But then race has a lot to do with the news’ ability to ignore events, too.

    • rocco siffred 2.4

      “They just wouldn’t be quite as big and sophisticated, and wouldn’t get as much publicity.”

      Wars in Africa are plenty big, 5m dead in Congo, a couple more in Sudan, it’s no one really gives a damn. Millions dead from Ak-47’s, starvation, and machetes does not make much of a headline.

  3. Heather Grimwood 3

    I visited an elderly distant relative in Oxfordshire in 1993, not long after protesting in Auckland the Gulf war. This definitely reactionary gent was surprisingly ferocious about UK’s supplying of arms to the area and to the Balkans, as lived in flight path of nearby military airbase, and certainly knew the manufacturing companies….longterm establishments I guess.

  4. reason 4

    …… and the tax haven / secrecy jurisdictions network goes hand in hand with the weapons trade and conflict …..


  5. Penny Bright 5

    Petraeus Working Behind the Scenes With McMaster to Put Troops on the Ground in Syria

    “The McMaster-Petraeus plan calls for 150,000 American ground troops in Syria.”


    Cristina Laila Apr 8th, 2017 11:41 pm 247 Comments

    According to a report by independent journalist, Mike Cernovich, current National Security Advisor, H.R. McMaster is manipulating intelligence reports given to President Trump regarding Syria.

    Via Mike Cernovich:

    McMaster is plotting how to sell a massive ground war in Syria to President Trump with the help of disgraced former CIA director and convicted criminal David Petraeus, who mishandled classified information by sharing documents with his mistress.

    As NSA, McMaster’s job is to synthesize intellience reports from all other agencies. President Trump is being given an inncurate picture of the situation in Syria, as McMaster is seeking to involve the U.S. in a full scale war in Syria.

    The McMaster-Petraeus plan calls for 150,000 American ground troops in Syria.


    • So, if I understand this correctly, according to someone, someone else is supposedly suggesting something really stupid, which will totally happen as long as other people accept a plan to do something really stupid. Fuck me, better start digging that fallout shelter just as soon as I can be arsed doing it.

    • Wayne 5.2

      First, I am skeptical about the truth of this report, or at least that McMaster is serious about it.

      Second, neither Trump or Congress will buy it. There is no real reason for the US to do this.

      What happened this week is no precursor. Bombing an isolated airfield is far removed from a full on ground invasion of Syria. It had no risk of US casualties, in fact it appear the whole operation was designed to minimise Syrian casualties as well. But an invasion is likely to result in several thousand US casualties and many more Syrian casualties including civilians.

      But the real question is what would the US gain? Another dysfunctional state like Iraq. I don’t think the US would see that as much of a reward.

      Any such invasion would also have to leave the Russian bases, and their surrounding territory, intact. Effectively they would become a statelet within a state.

      One of the outcomes would be Russia annexing the Donbass region of the Ukraine. Mind you that might at least might finish that war.

      • Andre 5.2.1

        On one hand, the report comes from Mike Cernovich. If that name doesn’t immediately ring “fake news” alarm bells, look him up.

        On the other hand, the final decision maker is Trump. So any kind of rational analysis or cost-benefit assessment seems to be moot.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    You know what really pisses me off about reports like this?

    It’s that it’s implied that a massive amount of high tech stuff is needed to produce these chemicals and guns.

    Guns have been around for centuries. All that’s needed to produce one is some basic engineering and access to iron.

    Chemicals are actually easier once you get to 19th century level tech. Once you got the ability to refine elements and compounds reasonably reliably all you have to do is mix and match and you’ll be developing poisons left, right and centre. Sarin was first developed in 1938 while looking for better pesticides.

    The high tech that everyone assumes is needed simply isn’t.

    • McFlock 6.1

      yes dear.

      You might be able to cook it up in your back shed, yet when most try to do it, they seem to fuck it up. Even when they get it good enough to work, it never works as well as advertised.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.1.1

        But if a nation gets something that works then they can a) use it and b) refine it. They’ve got the resources to do that.

    • exkiwiforces 6.2

      What most people don’t know or don’t think about it? Is that they are conducting chemical warfare in their houses every time they use a can of Fly spray etc and if they use to much of the stuff in confined space you will feel the effects of the spray. Those effects from the spray is what you would feel if someone attacked you with a nerve agent.

      • Macro 6.2.1

        Which is why I would rather smack an errant fly with a fly smacker than use fly spray! The pour on “drench” for cattle is also closely related to nerve gas. Trouble is it remains in the cow shit and the biological agents which traditionally broke the shit down are killed by the drench so the shit remains on the paddock. Worm counts in organic farms are way higher than “conventionally” farmed pastures. (One of the reasons our water ways are becoming so contaminated). Its raw shit that is being washed in folks. Also farmers are not supposed to sell cattle recently drenched for slaughter for similar reasons.

        Click to access esi-cattle.pdf

        • exkiwiforces

          Yes, all insecticides do have very small traces of some sort of nerve agent and yes they do build up in the ground and eventually leach into the ground hence there are strict protocols in handing, spraying regimes in place, regular testing of products prior to it being slaughter or prior picking and from memory there were 3 testings regimes that had be carry out by law.

          As a worker driving the spray units we were had to have blood tests prior to the start of spraying season, during and at the end of spraying season for build up of insecticides in our blood steam.

          In our first year of my cadetship it was 80% classroom base at CHCH polytec we studied the effects of soil leeching and the possible long term effects it could have on environment and why crop rotation is important especially in places with light soils eg Canterbury plans and even now I still can’t get my head around with all these dairy farms on the plains. Yes there were some dairy farms in the city fringe, but was for domestic use as the plains were always describe as mixed cropping used only not industrial size dairy farms and its no wonder the river systems are stuff. What’s going to happen CHCH’s world famous water supply in the future?

          • Incognito

            Yes, all insecticides do have very small traces of some sort of nerve agent …

            I’d like to see a citation for this one also as I believe you’re misinformed.

            • exkiwiforces

              I teach CBRND warfare, also a conduct reconnaissance surveys, agent detection surveys and between 91 and 94 worked in the Agriculture/ Horticulture sectors prior to joining NZ Army 94-98.

              All commonly available insecticides used by Agriculture/ Horticulture sectors etc attacks the insects nervous system incl your humble fly spray. What the boffins found during their reseach post WW1 that by mixing chemicals with the humble insecticide to improve the current lethalness in attacking the poor old insect so the farmer can achieve better yields. The boffins found by accident that increase the strength and modifying the insecticide they found they could attack the human nervous system which they then could weaponized it. The German companies such Bayer, BASF were main lead in this research into chemical warfare followed by the famous British company ICI and few other companies who I can’t remember. So your humble every day insecticides forms the basic compound with a heap of other nasty chemicals to form a nerve agent.

              On cse they teach the history of CBRND warfare, the theory into making CBRN weapons and its effects on humans/ the environment (Some instructors go nuts with this part with scientific formulas from a Bio agent to building Nuke), To identify signs and symptoms of CBRN attack and conduct reconnaissance surveys, agent detection surveys.
              The CBRND advisors cse is really more in depth such as running decom stations, mapping CBRN attacks and whole of other stuff.

              • Incognito

                Hi exkiwiforces,

                Thank you for your reply.

                Although you know much about this topic the average TS reader won’t.

                Indeed, the history of insecticides is colourful and checkered because it is intertwined with that of nerve agents.

                Indeed, most insecticides interfere with the nervous system of insects albeit through interaction with different components and via different mechanisms of action.

                However, the term “nerve agent” is generally used for a specific group of closely related compounds that all work through the same single specific mechanism of action; Sarin is one of those “nerve agents” and mentioned in the OP.

                As such, the typical household insecticides do not contain “nerve agents”, not even “traces”. In fact, they often contain a mixture of pyrethrins or pyrethroids that have replaced and superseded the organophosphates, which include analogues of Sarin, as safer and effective insecticides. To be clear, and to my knowledge, Sarin has never ever been used as an insecticide.

        • Incognito

          The pour on “drench” for cattle is also closely related to nerve gas.

          In what way is it closely related? Can you please back that up with a citation?

  7. New Zealanders; farmers, council staff, householders etc, regularly use chemicals to kill beings other than human; insects, mammals, trees, fungi, molluscs, you name them, we poison them. In the same way we look at children who abuse pets as potential abusers of humans when they get older, we could look at those who wage chemical war against non-human beings with concern, yes?

  8. KJT 8

    If it was Sarin, how come the ungloved and unsuited rescuers were not affected?

  9. John L 9

    “Evidence that the sarin nerve agent was used in the chemical attack”

    What evidence?

  10. exkiwiforces 10

    This was on the ABC’s 7:30 report tonight. David Kilcullen, former Australian soldier, counter-insurgency expert and has spent time on the ground throughout the Middle East Region in the 10plus years. His last book “Blood Year, Islamic state and the Failures of The War on Terror” is worth reading.


  11. Antoine 11

    Bit of a sausage fest in here

  12. exkiwiforces 12

    Found this on news.com.au

    “Samples taken from the poison gas site in Syria’s Idlib governorate tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, the British delegation at the OPCW said on Thursday.
    UK scientists have analysed samples taken from Khan Sheikhoun. These have tested positive for the nerve agent sarin, or a sarin-like substance,” the delegation said during a special session at the OPCW in The Hague.”


  13. exkiwiforces 13

    From the BBC’s, Chemical weapons specialist (Didn’t know they had one?)

    Syria ‘chemical attack’: What can forensics tell us?


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