When a child shows or feels gratitude, how does it affect other areas of his or her life over time? How best could we bring this practice into schools? What techniques in which settings produce the best results? Inspired by an act of kindness received while recovering from a childhood illness, Giacomo Bono has been studying the answers to these questions and more, adding to a growing body of research on the science of gratitude. While they're a few years away from definitive conclusions, one study linked expressions of gratitude with an increase in prosocial behavior, satisfaction with life, hope, and search for purpose, and less antisocial behavior and depression. Another study suggested gratitude was responsible for an increase in achievement, grit, positive social conduct, relationships with peers and teachers, and school satisfaction. In this interesting article, a closer look at the studies so far.
This is a long read, but here is a preview. Click on the headline for the the whole article!
You can think of human psychology as a series of overlapping mental programs. One program identifies faces as individuals we recognize.
Another is working memory, which allows us to make quick calculations in our heads. These programs were coded by evolution and help us survive every day; they are the sources of our ingenuity and our compassion. They are everything we are.
These mental programs — etched in all of us — are also the sources of horror and pain. Nour Kteily is a psychologist at Northwestern University whose research is about understanding one of the darkest, most ancient, and most disturbing mental programs encoded into our minds: dehumanization, the ability to see fellow men and women as less than human.
Psychologists are no strangers to this subject. But the prevailing wisdom has been that most people are not willing to admit to having prejudice against others. Kteily suspected otherwise. And so he and his colleagues created a new way to measure people’s levels of blatant dehumanization of other groups. It’s not subtle.
Jim Manske's insight:
NVC offers powerful tools for transforming the enemy images resulting from dehumanization and thus contribute to safety and well-being for all of us.
First, one notices the presence of an enemy image, a sense of separateness, an urge to punish or harm.
Next, get empathy for your pain! The accompaniment of a friend as you explore your inner landscape of suffering, fear, and anger helps to soothe the nervous system and make way for new learning.
Then, one can begin to empathize with "the other", transforming the image of "them" into "us". We do this by connecting to the good reasons people act in the way they do. We do NOT have to condone nor agree with their behaviors. Instead, we can understand the motivation at the level of universal human needs.
That allows a collaborative, cooperative space to open. What can we do to support our mutual well-being in less costly ways to our safety and well being?
You might wonder, at some point today, what's going on in another person's mind. You may compliment someone's great mind, or say they are out of their mind. You may even try to expand or free your own mind. But what is a mind? Defining the concept is a surprisingly slippery task. The mind is the seat of consciousness, the essence of your being. Without a mind, you cannot be considered meaningfully alive.
So what exactly, and where precisely, is it? Traditionally, scientists have tried to define the mind as the product of brain activity: The brain is the physical substance, and the mind is the conscious product of those firing neurons, according to the classic argument.
But growing evidence shows that the mind goes far beyond the physical workings of your brain. No doubt, the brain plays an incredibly important role. But our mind cannot be confined to what’s inside our skull, or even our body, according to a definition first put forward by Dan Siegel, a professor of psychiatry at UCLA School of Medicine and the author of a recently published book, Mind: A Journey to the Heart of Being Human.
He first came up with the definition more than two decades ago, at a meeting of 40 scientists across disciplines, including neuroscientists, physicists, sociologists, and anthropologists. The aim was to come to an understanding of the mind that would appeal to common ground and satisfy those wrestling with the question across these fields. After much discussion, they decided that a key component of the mind is: “the emergent self-organizing process, both embodied and relational, that regulates energy and information flow within and among us.”
It’s not catchy. But it is interesting, and with meaningful implications. The most immediately shocking element of this definition is that our mind extends beyond our physical selves. In other words, our mind is not simply our perception of experiences, but those experiences themselves. Siegel argues that it’s impossible to completely disentangle our subjective view of the world from our interactions. “I realized if someone asked me to define the shoreline but insisted, is it the water or the sand, I would have to say the shore is both sand and sea,” says Siegel. “You can’t limit our understanding of the coastline to insist it’s one or the other. I started thinking, maybe the mind is like the coastline—some inner and inter process. Mental life for an anthropologist or sociologist is profoundly social. Your thoughts, feelings, memories, attention, what you experience in this subjective world is part of mind.”
The definition has since been supported by research across the sciences, but much of the original idea came from mathematics. Siegel realized the mind meets the mathematical definition of a complex system in that it’s open (can influence things outside itself), chaos capable (which simply means it’s roughly randomly distributed), and non-linear (which means a small input leads to large and difficult to predict result).
In math, complex systems are self-organizing, and Siegel believes this idea is the foundation to mental health. Again borrowing from the mathematics, optimal self-organization is: flexible, adaptive, coherent, energized, and stable. This means that without optimal self-organization, you arrive at either chaos or rigidity—a notion that, Siegel says, fits the range of symptoms of mental health disorders.
Finally, self-organization demands linking together differentiated ideas or, essentially, integration. And Siegel says integration—whether that’s within the brain or within society—is the foundation of a healthy mind. Siegel says he wrote his book now because he sees so much misery in society, and he believes this is partly shaped by how we perceive our own minds. He talks of doing research in Namibia, where people he spoke to attributed their happiness to a sense of belonging.
When Siegel was asked in return whether he belonged in America, his answer was less upbeat: “I thought how isolated we all are and how disconnected we feel,” he says. “In our modern society we have this belief that mind is brain activity and this means the self, which comes from the mind, is separate and we don’t really belong. But we’re all part of each others’ lives. The mind is not just brain activity. When we realize it’s this relational process, there’s this huge shift in this sense of belonging.” In other words, even perceiving our mind as simply a product of our brain, rather than relations, can make us feel more isolated. And to appreciate the benefits of interrelations, you simply have to open your mind.
“If it bleeds, it leads” isn’t a phrase coined by some cut-throat tabloid editor. It’s a potent truth that lies at the heart of the modern day media machine. It’s time for some balance. That’s why our team at Future Crunch spent the year gathering good news stories you probably didn’t hear about, and sent them out in our fortnightly newsletter. Follow the link for the full list for 2016…
While many employers avoid hiring those who were formerly incarcerated, one Pennsylvania company actively seeks them out. Lancaster Food Company makes a point of finding and hiring people who need help getting back on their feet. According to founder Mike Miles, it's a segment of the population that needs jobs just like anyone else, and should not be denied the chance to live healthy and productive lives.
While he had already started successful technology companies, Miles realized that with a food company he could create opportunities for a real and neglected section of society. Lancaster Food Company is rapidly expanding, and not one employee has quit. Miles is hoping his success will inspire companies to "rethink their current practices and ignite conversations around minimum wage and employment opportunities for everyone, including ex-offenders."
How, how do you exercise empathy in the classroom? Try these tips:
Role play– Choose a problem that the whole class has to solve. After dividing the class into two groups, assign each group a role (for example, the problem might be earning money for a class trip, and students may be assigned the role of the school principal or the bus driver). After 10 minutes of discussion in each group, have groups switch roles to build empathy for the other side.
Modeling – When facing a student who is upset about something, ask open-ended questions like “Right now you might be feeling X–is that right?” Or, offer a drop-down menu (“Are you really angry, fearful, or just tired?”) By modeling an empathetic attitude, you can help students own their feelings while showing them what empathy looks like. And above all–try not to fix. Just listen.
Understanding – As shown in the above video, understanding lies at the core of all empathy. To understand another, you acknowledge what they’re feeling (“I get it–and I’d probably react the same way you’re reacting now”).
Mindfulness – Consider ngaging in 5-minute meditations, guided by you or a mindfulness practitioner. If you choose to do these every day, students will learn how to accept their feelings, including the negative ones, without reinforcing undesirable behaviors.
No-Bullying – Let class members come up with ideas for a non-bullying classroom and school. What does this safe space look like? Let students role-play (see above) to better understand what’s behind bullying behavior. Then, incorporate their insights into a non-bullying policy.
The Standing Rock Sioux and their allies have struggled for months to peacefully stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline. Our friends and CNVC colleagues Catherine Cadden and Jesse Wiens and our son Jiva have recently been at Standing Rock in solidarity with the Native American people gathered to protected the Earth and Water. Jesse made this short film about a forgiveness walk involving the tribes and the police.
Click through for a long and worthwhile read from author Charles Eisentein.
Here is one of the parts I found supportive:
"We are entering a space between stories. After various retrograde versions of a new story rise and fall and we enter a period of true unknowing, an authentic next story will emerge. What would it take for it to embody love, compassion, and interbeing? I see its lineaments in those marginal structures and practices that we call holistic, alternative, regenerative, and restorative. All of them source from empathy, the result of the compassionate inquiry: What is it like to be you?"
There has never been a better time to be alive, and yet in the richest countries, In many ways, there has never been a better time to be alive. Violence plagues some corners of the world, and too many still live under the grip of tyrannical regimes.
And although all the world’s major faiths teach love, compassion and tolerance, unthinkable violence is being perpetrated in the name of religion. And yet, fewer among us are poor, fewer are hungry, fewer children are dying, and more men and women can read than ever before. In many countries, recognition of women’s and minority rights is now the norm. There is still much work to do, of course, but there is hope and there is progress.
How strange, then, to see such anger and great discontent in some of the world’s richest nations. In the United States, Britain and across the European Continent, people are convulsed with political frustration and anxiety about the future. Refugees and migrants clamor for the chance to live in these safe, prosperous countries, but those who already live in those promised lands report great uneasiness about their own futures that seems to border on hopelessness.
A small hint comes from interesting research about how people thrive. In one shocking experiment, researchers found that senior citizens who didn’t feel useful to others were nearly three times as likely to die prematurely as those who did feel useful. This speaks to a broader human truth: We all need to be needed.
Being “needed” does not entail selfish pride or unhealthy attachment to the worldly esteem of others. Rather, it consists of a natural human hunger to serve our fellow men and women. As the 13th-century Buddhist sages taught, “If one lights a fire for others, it will also brighten one’s own way.”
Virtually all the world’s major religions teach that diligent work in the service of others is our highest nature and thus lies at the center of a happy life. Scientific surveys and studies confirm shared tenets of our faiths. Americans who prioritize doing good for others are almost twice as likely to say they are very happy about their lives. In Germany, people who seek to serve society are five times likelier to say they are very happy than those who do not view service as important. Selflessness and joy are intertwined. The more we are one with the rest of humanity, the better we feel.
This helps explain why pain and indignation are sweeping through prosperous countries. The problem is not a lack of material riches. It is the growing number of people who feel they are no longer useful, no longer needed, no longer one with their societies.
In America today, compared with 50 years ago, three times as many working-age men are completely outside the work force. This pattern is occurring throughout the developed world — and the consequences are not merely economic. Feeling superfluous is a blow to the human spirit. It leads to social isolation and emotional pain, and creates the conditions for negative emotions to take root. What can we do to help? The first answer is not systematic. It is personal. Everyone has something valuable to share. We should start each day by consciously asking ourselves,
“What can I do today to appreciate the gifts that others offer me?” We need to make sure that global brotherhood and oneness with others are not just abstract ideas that we profess, but personal commitments that we mindfully put into practice.
Each of us has the responsibility to make this a habit. But those in positions of responsibility have a special opportunity to expand inclusion and build societies that truly need everyone.
Leaders need to recognize that a compassionate society must create a wealth of opportunities for meaningful work, so that everyone who is capable of contributing can do so. A compassionate society must provide children with education and training that enriches their lives, both with greater ethical understanding and with practical skills that can lead to economic security and inner peace. A compassionate society must protect the vulnerable while ensuring that these policies do not trap people in misery and dependence.
Building such a society is no easy task. No ideology or political party holds all the answers. Misguided thinking from all sides contributes to social exclusion, so overcoming it will take innovative solutions from all sides. Indeed, what unites the two of us in friendship and collaboration is not shared politics or the same religion. It is something simpler: a shared belief in compassion, in human dignity, in the intrinsic usefulness of every person to contribute positively for a better and more meaningful world. The problems we face cut across conventional categories; so must our dialogue, and our friendships.
Many are confused and frightened to see anger and frustration sweeping like wildfire across societies that enjoy historic safety and prosperity. But their refusal to be content with physical and material security actually reveals something beautiful: a universal human hunger to be needed. Let us work together to build a society that feeds this hunger. is a growing sense of unease and helplessness because people no longer feel useful.
The 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the spiritual leader of Tibet and a Nobel laureate for peace. Arthur C. Brooks is president of the American Enterprise Institute and a contributing opinion writer.
In an attempt to turn away from polarization and politics, a group of Jews, Muslims, and Christians will be setting up a joint house of worship in Jerusalem. The prayer hall will be open to the public between September 5th to the 11th.
Jim Manske's insight:
I feel inspired by the courage of these folks who are walking the talk of unity and brotherhood/sisterhood!
If you believe effective communication is an important leadership skill, you surely can’t ignore empathy. That’s because empathy is a precursor to being an effective communicator. How? Empathy is about understanding or being aware of other people’s feelings even when you don’t agree or relate to them. This awareness helps to understand other people’s perception. And when you are in know of other’s perception, you can choose to ‘act’ rather than ‘react’ to situations.
So when a high performing employee starts slacking off, a non-empathetic leader will probably react by doubting the employee’s ability. But an empathetic leader will give the benefit of doubt and ask, “Is everything ok? Is something bothering you?”
Teachers and administrators at a Vermont pre-K-5th grade school decided to stop giving homework this school year.
No Homework Policy Orchard School Homework Information Student’s Daily Home Assignment
1. Read just-right books every night — (and have your parents read to you too).
2. Get outside and play — that does not mean more screen time.
3. Eat dinner with your family — and help out with setting and cleaning up.
4. Get a good night’s sleep.
Six months into the experiment, Trifilio says it has been a big success: Students have not fallen back academically and may be doing better, and now they have “time to be creative thinkers at home and follow their passions.”
The physician empathy training, which could be employed at other institutions, centers on these main strategies:
taking the position of the other person;staying out of judgment;recognizing the emotion a patient may be feeling; andreflecting what the patient is saying back to them.
"We feel those are the four components that are critical to developing a relationship," Dr Awdish said. "Empathy allows you to transform these encounters into relationships, and that is truly what will impact the patient experience."
There seems to be no way around it: In the aftermath of a contentious US presidential election, conversations between voters all along the political spectrum either devolve into shouting matches and insults, or irreconcilable platitudes. If they occur at all. But we’ve been here before, according to the late psychologist Marshall Rosenberg.
As a communications coach and mediator for civil rights and student activists during the US civil rights era, Rosenberg developed a practical strategy for peaceful conflict resolution called non-violent communication. By focusing on language and process, the theory goes, injured parties can shift the tone of their communication and spur collaboration.
Rosenberg’s method, now used by companies, conflict negotiators, and personal therapists, is rooted in the belief that all humans share the same universal needs, including the sense that they’re being heard, understood, valued, and respected. Conflicts arise when words are perceived as threats, which devolve into power struggles. The goal of Rosenberg’s four-step approach to meaningful conversations is to connect about everyone’s needs, not to “win.”
Dian Killian, a certified trainer in Rosenberg’s method and collaborative communications consultant, breaks down the four steps. Click through to read the rest of the article.
Why It takes heart to live in even ordinary times. By "taking heart," I mean several related things:
Sensing your heart and chest finding encouragement in what is good both around you and inside you
Resting in your own warmth, compassion, and kindness; resting in the caring for you from others; love flowing in and love flowing out
Being courageous, whole-hearted and strong-hearted - going forward wisely even when anxious, knowing your own truth and as you can speaking it
When you take heart, you're more able to deal with challenges like aging, illness, trauma, or conflicts with others. You're also more able to take advantage of opportunities with confidence and grit. Additionally, it takes heart to live in, live with, and live beyond times that are really hard.
Your personal hard time might be bad news about your health, the death of a parent, or betrayal by others. Or it could be related to changes in your country and world, and your concerns about their effects on others and yourself; I've written about the importance of finding and facing facts at the level of society.
There are so many examples of honorable people facing great difficulty with dignity, principle, and courage. They did it. We can, too.
Start by riding out the storm. When big things happen at any scale - in your child's schoolyard or in a refugee camp on the other side of the world - it is completely natural and normal to be shocked and disturbed by them. As best you can, stay with the raw experience, the body sensations, the deep feelings, the stirred up fears and anger and perhaps paralysis.
Whatever it is, it is your experience; some may be upset about a big event while others may be glad about it; I am definitely not trying to talk you out of your experience. Be mindful of whatever is passing through the big open space of awareness, observing it without being flooded by it. Painful and counter-intuitive as it may be, this is the foundation of releasing really hard experiences and replacing them gradually and authentically with thoughts and feelings that are helpful, wholesome, wise, and even happy.
Do things that help you come back to center and find your footing. Personally, I prioritize exercise, sleep, and meditation; I try to feel the truth of being basically alright right now, in this moment, moment after moment (alongside and deeper than pain or sorrow); I do the dishes and make the bed. Walk the dog, call a friend, eat something, look at trees and sky, get a cup of tea and stare into space. Take good care of your body. Guard and guide your attention. It's one thing to find facts and form the best plans you can. It's another thing to get distracted or upset by news or other people that do not add any useful value.
Take heart in the good that is real. Outside you, there is the kindness in others, the beauty of a single leaf, the stars that still shine no matter what hides them. Right now as you read, all over the world children are laughing in delight, families are sitting down to a meal, babies are being born, and loving arms are holding people who are dying. Inside you, there is your compassion, sincere efforts, sweet memories, capabilities - and much more.
Take heart with others, sharing worries, support, and friendship. Do the things you can. The more that events are turbulent, alarming, and beyond your influence, the more important it is to grow stability, safety, and agency inside you and around you. Have courage. At all human scales, strong forces have always tried to confuse and frighten others. Whatever outward action is necessary, you can preserve an inner freedom, never cowed or bowed in your core.
Last, I've found it really helps to have perspective. Without minimizing one bit of whatever is awful, it is also true that humans like you and I have been walking this earth for nearly 200,000 years. I see the trees, the land, the ocean - all of it here before me and lasting long after me. Empires rise and fall. Sometimes the center does not hold - in a body, marriage, or nation - and still. And still people love each other, go out of their way for a stranger, and marvel at a rainbow. Nothing, nothing at all can change this. We keep putting one foot in front of the other one, lifting each other up along the way.
Jim Manske's insight:
This our chance to practice resilience and healing. First, self-care! Then, we need to listen to one another, and from that deep listening take steps that acknowledge everyone's needs, and begin compassionately addressing them with whole-heartedness. What can you do, right now, to take care of yourself? Is reading social media and the news supporting your well-being, right now? If so, yay! If not, make a new choice!
The tensions between the Cambodian People’s Party and the Cambodia National Rescue Party in the run up to the 2017 and 2018 elections are reason to consider all available violence prevention strategies, including those besides law and order.
“Since wars begin in the minds of men, it is in the minds of men that the defenses of peace must be constructed,” states the preamble of the constitution of Unesco. How can you and I build such defenses of peace?
One way is to learn the language of humanization. The psychologist Zimbardo observed that the process of dehumanization is central to the transformation of ordinary people into indifferent, even cruel perpetrators of violence.
Dehumanization is the reduction of the full humanity of a person or a people to one or few single traits, which makes them appear less human and hence unworthy of equal treatment. While all the causes of violence remain to be conclusively defined, most scientists agree that dehumanization is a precursor.
Humans do not persecute humans whom they believe to be similar to themselves. According to Genocide Watch, dehumanization is the third stage of the genocide process, following the stages of classification and symbolization and preceding organization, polarization, preparation, extermination and denial.
Our language matters in that it may become a vehicle of dehumanization, legitimizing and promoting violent actions; a phenomenon called “cultural violence” in peacebuilding. The violent conflict strategies of politicians, militaries and militias typically contain dehumanizing language, because it lowers our resistance to hurting another human being. Khmer Rouge guards replaced the names of Tuol Sleng prisoners with numbers. The Hutu government referred to Tutsis as traitors in the run-up to the genocide in Rwanda. The US military continues to describe its enemies as targets.
Much of the language we use in our day-to-day life too is dehumanizing and therefore puts us at risk of becoming violent. Consider the following interpersonal, community and political examples. Our children are arguing over a toy. When we respond with “bad kids,” we pave the way for disconnection and acts of violence justified as punishment.
Now imagine Vietnamese come to settle in our village. In conversations with other community members, we might say “all Vietnamese are criminals,” thus making their eventual expulsion more likely.
Finally, suppose our political leaders are in disagreement, so by extension so are we. Calling Prime Minister Hun Sen a “dictator” or opposition leader Sam Rainsy a “traitor” in political debate will harden the enemy images that fuel violent protests and repression.
So should we just call everybody “sweetheart”? No. Positive labels are the other side of the same coin. They can be likewise dehumanizing.
The actual alternative is to focus on our similarities instead of our differences. The language of humanization, from the perspective of nonviolent communication as developed by Marshall Rosenberg, draws our attention to the needs that we as human beings have in common, such as food, shelter, safety, autonomy, acceptance and peace. Conflict arises when our strategies for meeting these needs clash. However, because I have the same needs as you, I can understand what drives you even if I abhor what you are saying or doing. Guessing (I cannot know for sure) what you are feeling and needing will ease my eagerness to get even with you.
For example, we are more likely to create understanding and resolve the conflict between our children, if we guess “are you feeling frustrated, because both of you would love to play with this toy?” We reduce our inclination to scapegoat the Vietnamese newcomers and increase our willingness to contribute to their well-being, as soon as we guess “are you feeling nervous and at the same time hopeful, because you would like to be accepted and access the resources you need to survive?”
We start breaking down the relational barrier between our political parties, when we guess: “Hun Sen, are you alarmed, because you want to protect the nation’s stability and economic growth, as well as your own safety by securing influence and financial resources?” And: “Sam Rainsy, are you concerned, because political participation and equality are fundamentally important to you, while you want to be able to express your views without jeopardizing your life by living in exile?”
The language of humanization increases our resistance to hurting other humans, because we come to see that they are just like us, regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, wealth, power or position.
Humanization has long been integral to the non-violent conflict strategies implemented by peace builders. International mediators advised the Colombian government on the psychological aspects of the peace negotiations with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia.
The Centre for Nonviolent Communication is teaching empathy to children in American and European schools. The Transcultural Psychosocial Organization facilitates restorative dialogues between victims and perpetrators of Khmer Rouge violence here in Cambodia.
But surely we need to protect ourselves from – how shall we put it – “crazy guys”? Trying to understand someone’s violent actions does not mean condoning them. Should there be no option for dialogue and our lives be in danger, we may resort to the protective instead of the punitive use of force. That is what Gandhi did when he led the non-cooperation movement against the British oppression of the people of India without dehumanizing his opponents.
We may not be able to influence the language used by our politicians and military, but we can influence the way we express ourselves. In the face of conflict, we can decide to humanize the people around us and in so doing, reverse the genocide process and prevent violence.
We can free up the internal resources necessary to pursue collaborative and constructive ways of meeting everyone’s needs. To teach the language of humanization to ourselves, our children, our communities and our leaders is to build defenses of peace in our minds. Jeannine Suurmond specializes in mediation, restorative justice and nonviolent communication and lives in Phnom Penh.
One minute you're holding a mini elephant in your hand; the next, you're floating about in deep space or hang gliding across the Alps. No longer the provenance of a technological elite, virtual reality (VR) has truly arrived. It promises to become the next mass medium in a way that pundits say mirrors the arrival of film at the start of the 20th century. But what if VR dared to do more, like increase empathy and change people's minds—even people in positions of power? A school of female VR filmmakers are honing in on this possibility, combining the impact of the medium with that most traditional of human endeavors: storytelling.
We believe that teaching nonviolent communication at every grade level in our schools will prevent the violent killing that is increasingly prevalent in our schools and society. We ask that our governmental leaders make this education mandatory in our nation's schools, beginning at the earliest grades and continuing through graduation from high school.
Jim Manske's insight:
As we deepen into a political season marked by the deepest polarization (at least according to the media) that I have ever experienced, I am grateful for the reminder that thousands of people support nonviolence and educating our children in Nonviolent Communication. Our friends, Genesis and Sulara, started this petition, and in light of recent events on the political scene, it seems important to re-energize our collective efforts to let those we elect know we value NVC and appreciate how it can create a better world for all of us-no matter what your political preferences may be! Would you be willing to read and sign the petition? What could you do to help this "go viral"?
Poverty is down, literacy is up, and life expectancy is rising.
Jim Manske's insight:
Don't be daunted by the negative tendencies of some folks who choose to constantly parade "facts" about how terrible things are. Of course, things are terrible for some of us! And, overall, as a species we are making some progress. Don't buy in to fear! Buy in to "Who needs what right now?" and "How can we help?". Let's keep the momentum going in our lives and continue to work together to make life more wonderful for everyone of us.
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