Family Money: Selecting a Financial Advisor
Managing director of Westminster Portfolio Services (Thailand) Ltd.
There are a huge number of investment options available
offshore, encompassing offshore funds and insurance based investments. You
should ask the basis on which the adviser’s range of options is
It may surprise you to find that the choice offered by
many brokerages is restricted, in some cases to funds or unit-linked
insurance vehicles from only one or two providers. This indicates your
brokerage is not a truly independent advisor, but either a tied or
semi-tied agent. (It may be an independently-owned firm, but which has
elected to represent or was able to obtain terms-of-business agreements
with only one or two providers, as opposed to a wide range of options for
its clients). It is therefore perfectly proper to ask how many firms your
prospective adviser deals with. (Less than five will restrict the choices
he can make, and thus the degree of ‘best advice’ he can offer you).
As you would expect, some investment companies have a
strong record of performance in some markets, but not in others; whilst
others are recognised for their specialisation in one type of investment
solution or another. It’s hard to argue against the merits of choosing
an advisory brokerage that offers at least a high degree of independence
and a wide – if not comprehensive – selection of investment vehicles.
While access to a full range of investment options is
an important factor, an adviser still needs to be able to accurately
assess your personal needs to provide the best options for you. Just like
a pharmacy may have a huge stock of pills and potions to cure a wide range
of ailments, from which you can select those you think might cure you, a
doctor will rely on his professional expertise to prescribe those most
appropriate to curing your particular illness. Similarly, a responsible
financial adviser, before making any recommendations, should fully
understand your circumstances and financial objectives through a detailed
and thorough fact find.
This may mean you need to answer a number of probing
questions about your circumstances and your financial objectives, but this
is a small price to pay to ensure that the adviser’s recommended
solution is the most appropriate for you. Of course, you aren’t obliged
to subject yourself to such an assessment, but it makes sense to do so.
– just like a check-up at the doctors.
A reputable independent financial adviser’s job boils
down to finding the best offshore products out there and helping you
select those that best match your needs, both now and in the future. Armed
with the appropriate information about your particular needs and
circumstances, he can also avoid recommendations that may not have the
risk profile or future flexibility that you need. He should, in fact, be
able to provide an almost perfect match of investment vehicles to each
client’s particular needs and circumstances.
It sounds an obvious approach to take and it is. But as
with many things, a lot of work goes on behind the scenes in order to
fulfil such a simple philosophy.
Determining ‘best’ in itself is quite a challenging
task. New investment products come onto the market all the time, and last
year’s ‘best’ may not necessarily be this year’s. Again, having
selected the most appropriate vehicle, the ‘engine’ that drives it –
the underlying portfolio – will, just like a car engine, need servicing
and tuning up every so often. A good financial advisor should therefore
arrange regular review meetings with you – at the very least twice a
year – to review both your investment strategy and whether there have
been any changes in your own circumstances. He should also make
recommendations as to any ‘switching’ that may be appropriate both to
changing market conditions and your changing needs.
One of the critical aspects of financial planning with
an international outlook is to ensure that you maximise the opportunities
for tax efficiency. Whilst it is always recommended that you seek advice
from your own specialist tax adviser, your financial adviser ought to have
a good understanding of the tax implications of any recommendations he may
make, and ensure that both your current and likely future tax status is
taken into account.
Last but not least is the way your adviser will earn
his money. Many investors don’t like the idea that their investments
will incur charges. But like any other professional, your financial
adviser or broker is entitled to earn money for his services. After all,
do you work for free? The traditional method has been for the institution
to pay the broker a commission for business placed with them. The
accusation has often been made that the broker will always recommend the
vehicle that pays the most commission. Sadly, in some cases this is true
and this has – rightly, in my view – become a thorny subject
throughout the financial services industry.
But financial service has become a highly-competitive
industry, and the rates paid to brokerages nowadays are very similar from
one provider to another. If the recommended vehicle matches your stated
needs and circumstances, and it carries with it the various bells &
whistles you may have stipulated – or were identified in the course of a
fact-finding discussion – then it is probably the appropriate vehicle
for you, and your adviser will have fulfilled his function of providing
you with ‘best advice’. The amount his firm and he as an individual
earns from providing that advice then becomes very much a secondary
Some brokerages have moved to charging a fee for their
services, and foregoing the commissions to the benefit of the client.
While this moves towards greater transparency and does eliminate the cost
of ‘lost’ time when a prospective client does not take up the
adviser’s recommendations, in some cases it could end up costing the
client more money than if the brokerage earned only commission.
To ask your prospective adviser how he gets paid
(salary, fees, or commission) is nonetheless a perfectly reasonable
question, in my view. And if he receives commission, ask whether this will
be paid at the beginning of the relationship, or on an ongoing basis over
time. This will tend to indicate whether he works for you and your best
interests, or him and his firm’s best interests; and how interested he
will be in looking after you, not just now, but for many years to come.
Personal Directions: Using mind and inner life to release the infinite potentials of life
By Christina Dodd,
founder and managing director of Asia Training Associates
Lately I have been quite involved in developing and
delivering sessions on self-affirmation and auto-suggestion. I don’t know
whether you agree with me or not on this subject, but I believe that the power
of these techniques, if applied in the correct way, can bring great and
astounding reward to the individual, so much so that lives can be changed
dramatically and for the better.
I feel that one of the greatest discoveries of modern times
lies in the statement, “What the human mind can conceive and believe, it can
achieve.” Read this over to yourself and the mammoth energy and truth in
these words will reveal themselves to you.
Take things one step further and consider that all things
we are and achieve are centred around a mixture of belief and faith. Wrap this
with desire to inspire thought. The thoughts we have, combined with a balance
of emotions and feelings will create imagination and energy. In turn they will
create vibrations, ideas and actions which will create results and the reality
of our lives.
Having said that, take a look at this article I would like
to share with you. I don’t know the author - Sri Aurobindo - but the message
contained certainly is in tune with the infinite power of the human mind.
“Most of us live our days habitually; repeating the same
routines over and over without much change. There is little freshness and
dynamism in those acts. However, if we wish to overcome the dullness of
habitual repetition, to consciously bring new freshness into our daily
routines, we can do so by organizing ourselves to a higher level of
functioning. We can do that my using the higher mental capacity of conceptual
thinking. By utilizing this capacity of mind we can consciously conceive of
new approaches and strategies to make the day more dynamic. By utilizing the
power of thought to conceive new possibilities and approaches we can make our
daily existence more alive, fresher, more dynamic, more effective.
For example, we can begin by thinking about such things as
“how can I make the day better;” or “what can I do to improve my life,
myself, to make things better around me.” Then through this conceptual power
of mind to self-conceive new possibilities for ourselves, we can devise
creative strategies to do the same things in a new way, bringing in new energy
and freshness, enabling new possibilities to burst forth from life. We can
also use this “self-concepting” power of mind to further our long term
direction in our lives, by developing a vision of what we want in life,
establishing our priorities and goals, and then carrying them out through well
thought out strategies. In all these cases we are self-conceiving that which
we wish to be by using this dynamic power of self-conception of the mind.
We can even go further. There are also levels of
consciousness that we can reach that may require us to use powers of mind that
are even higher than this conceptual power of mind. We can learn to tap into a
wider consciousness, enabling us to tap into the infinite possibilities and
potentials of life; where we can gain knowledge and understanding directly and
intuitively. To do this we must go beyond even the conceptual and logical
powers of mind, and come in contact with greater powers of mind that border on
For example, one can learn to move away from living on the
surface of life, and instead learn to live in the depths of our being, where
we encounter a wider consciousness that provides us greater insight,
knowledge, and possibility for accomplishment. When one moves from the surface
to the depths, from the outer life to an inner life, one moves away from a
mere mental existence that is tied to the input of the senses, where we live a
reflexive and impulsive type existence, where we are centred in our limiting
habits, opinions, and attitudes, at the level of the pushing and pulling of
As we learn to live in the depths, we experience a wider
calm; our consciousness expands, as we perceive a wider reality around us, as
we discover greater possibilities of choice, greater insight, knowledge and
comprehension in every act and situation. We feel one with others, with the
environment, with the unfolding of events and circumstances.
This is true because when we go within we move away form
our ego-sense; the sense that separates ourselves from others and the
environment; a status that tends to reduce our field of awareness, of what is
As we move into the inner being we move away from the ego
that hardens us to our own opinions and attitudes, to our limited perceptions
and our limited claims to the truth.
As we touch the inner being, even down to the very essence
and soul of our being, we open ourselves to the great expanse, where
everything is possible, where life cooperates, where knowledge and
understanding seems to descend into our being in our silence, as light of
vision, as intuition. Stationed in the inner being, we open the floodgates to
the potentials of infinite accomplishment, success, and joy in life. We stand
at the threshold of our higher nature.
In summary, the logical and conceptive aspect of mind can
be used to conceive our world anew, to break old habits, and enable new ways
of living our lives. This is the organizing and conceptual power of mind to
help us grow and develop. At a further point mind can be withdrawn by moving
into the depths of our being to enable deeper, wider comprehension,
possibilities, truths, to fill up our moment to moment existence. This is the
connection to spiritual mind above the normal functionings of mind. Here we
touch the infinite powers of creation, and thus the infinite possibilities in
If you wish to talk further on matters of personal and self
development, or on matters that concern your business, the effectiveness and
needs of your staff, then please contact me directly at Asia Training
Associates - email: christina.dodd@asiatrainin gassociates.com
For details on our programs and Asia Training Associates,
please visit our website: www. asiatrainingassociates .com.
Until next time ... have a great week!
The Doctor's Consultation:
Some amazing medical facts!
by Dr. Iain Corness
When you research Evidence Based Medicine as I do (EBM for
short, as we medico’s love acronyms), you have to deal with many statistics,
that great pseudo-science where you can “prove” so much by use of applied
mathematics. For example, did you know that every child is born within six
months of its mother’s birthday? Or even more fantastic, the date of your
death will be within six months of your own birthday! That has to be another
good reason to stop having birthdays after the age of 50!
Now while that sounds interesting, if you look a little
harder you will see that this is just a mathematical ‘truism’ and nothing
to do with biology or astrology. If you take any reference birth date, let’s
use June 30th for example, then any child born between Jan 1st to June 29th is
within six months of its mother’s birthday, as are any children born between
July 1st to December 31st. In one case it is looking forwards, and in the
other it is looking backwards.
If you think that is an abuse of mathematical science, then
what about the fact that 99% of all people who died traumatic deaths in London
last year were all wearing shoes. Does this prove that shoes are the greatest
killers of mankind? An absurdity - of course not! Again, this is ‘bending’
the parameters of science. Since about 99% of all people in London wear shoes,
you can safely predict that 99% of those who get skittled on the roads will
still be wearing their footwear.
Getting closer to home, I read just the other day of a
study in Thailand on varicose veins, and how tight underpants were dangerous
(as opposed to boxer shorts, I presume) because this study showed that
something like 30% of varicose vein sufferers were wearing jockey underdaks.
What was not stated in the report (in the popular press, so it may have been
selectively reported) was the choice of underpants of those who did not have
varicose veins, nor what percentage of men wearing jockeys did not get
varicose veins. Without these other figures, the rest is hocus-pocus.
Pseudo-science also works the other way too. Classic
examples of this are when people will pronounce, with great authority, that
cigarette smoking does not bring about your early demise. The ‘proof’ of
this is their great uncle Edward who lived to be 112 and smoked two packs of
cigarettes every day for 85 years. All that this shows is that great uncle
Edward had a wonderful constitution. Nothing else, sorry.
If three of the four people in your office get the flu,
this does not mean that 75% of the city is in the grip of an epidemic. All
that can be assumed is that 75% of your office has a problem. Nothing else.
There is a branch of medical science called Epidemiology,
which is a study of the incidence of diseases, and epidemiological research
requires the researcher to look at thousands of cases, before coming to
conclusions. Great uncle Edward alone is not enough. The data we get from
thousands upon thousands of cases, looking at smokers and non-smokers, is now
enough for us to say, quite categorically, that smoking does put you at a very
much greater risk of dying from cancer - that is ALL cancers, by the way, not
just lung cancer.
Forget the great uncle, give up now, before you too are a
Are these letters you get from somebody called Mistersingha real? I am
sick of reading about Wee Nit and her elocution lessons. I get that
steamed up about it that it stops me reading the rest of the column. If
there really is someone called Wee Nit, then he should do something about
teaching her English himself, or send her to someone who can. Tell him to
get back into his bottle, he’s getting far too frothy.
I think you are taking everything far too seriously. If Wee Nit makes you
throw a wobbly, then you are losing the plot I fear. “Jai yen yen” -
take it as it comes. Mistersingha is harmless. However, he did promise me
a Mars bar which is still not forthcoming. On second thoughts, you may
just be right. Maybe I’ll not publish any more of his letters until the
Mars bar comes. After all, this month we are the closest to Mars that we
have ever been they tell me! Perhaps we should all duck? By the way, it
would probably also be better if you don’t read any further! He’s
In response to your query (6.9.03) I would suggest that you check out the
website of the lady in question (Janet Reger). There you will find
displayed a tantalisingly tasty, though inedible, collection of lingerie,
which even the dreaded batter-pudding hurler of Bexhill-on-Sea might have
been distracted by. Both Nit and Ying (les adorables) look most delightful
in their matching sets, especially when tittupping. Have you been known to
tittup, Hillary, or is it beyond your ken?
Please don’t think I have forgiven the lack of chocolate offerings, just
because I have published your letter. I have merely done so because I had
space to fill, so don’t get swollen headed. Now then, about this strange
British practice of titupping and somebody called Ken. I’m sorry, Petal,
I don’t know any Ken’s and I’ve never gone titupping, which my UK
friends assure me is a winter sport to do with turning blue tit’s nests
upside down to get at the eggs. However, I am glad to see that the dreaded
batter-pudding hurler of Bexhill-on-Sea is still alive and well. God bless
Sir Neddy Seagoon and all who sailed in her.
Like so many “elder statesmen” from the UK I have settled down here in
Pattaya with a Thai lady many years my junior. Our association has been
mutually beneficial, with me enjoying her company and the attentiveness
for which Thai women are so famous, while I have helped her family out,
including educating her two children from a previous marriage. We have
been together four years now, but the requests for assistance have been
getting more and more every month. It appears that every cousin, sister,
brother are putting demands on my lady, and she just hands over what ever
they ask for. I give her a monthly allowance, but that is gone in a few
days as she gives it away to the “needy” relatives. If I had a huge
bank account I would not mind so much, but I am living (and supporting
people) on a UK pension in addition to the interest from my meagre savings
account. I do know that the Thai people value the family ties much more
than we do, but surely there has to be a line drawn somewhere, Hillary.
What do you say? Should I put my foot down and say no more? You will
understand my position here.
Generous George, you are such a good man. I do understand your predicament
and I applaud your taking the education of your lady’s children as being
your responsibility. All very noble. You are also correct when you say
that Thai families do look after the members in it, but the correct
direction is upwards, towards the parents and grandparents, not sideways
or downwards. Most Thais will send money “home” every month to help
support those left “at home”. Now George, in all associations there
has to be a degree of give and take - and that’s not you give all and
they take all. Having been with your lady for four years you should be
able to sit down and discuss this problem with her. If there are language
barriers towards understanding of finer details, get someone in who is
really bi-lingual. Explain that things are different in the UK, and she
has to see your side too, after all you have been seeing life from her
side of the fence all this time. Only by talking will you get over this
hurdle, and it can be a bit of a high jump for someone like you who is
obviously thought of as the family “cash cow” my Petal. My suggestion
would be to arrange regular payment each month to the parents and
everything else be subject to discussion between the pair of you before
any money leaves your account. When it becomes a little more difficult to
milk the cow, the buffalo will come to look after itself!
Camera Class: What do you really need to get into photography
by Harry Flashman
the range of cameras available these days from budget film box with lens,
through to thousands of dollars worth of digital equipment, it can be confusing
for someone who is just starting. This article is a guide as to what I think you
should have, and keeps an eye to the future, so that you are not left in the
position of replacing gear with more expensive gear.
Firstly, you need a good camera - an SLR (single lens
reflex). The first pointer is to select a good brand. There are many to choose
from, but if you look at the pro’s who are out every day shooting oodles of
feet of film you will find the same names on the camera cases. I make no secret
of the fact that I use Nikon - bulletproof and quality lenses. Others such as
Canon and Olympus etc are also excellent brands, all of which have
interchangeable lenses too, so your basic system can be enlarged upon over a
period of time, and your original lenses will still be good. An important
The SLR is the centre of your equipment. It is this camera
that will allow you to be creative in your shots. It is this camera that will
win you awards and recognition. It will be expensive, so choose wisely. For my
money, the ideal “starter” SLR would be a Nikon FM2n. A mechanical camera
that allows you to make all the decisions. Yes, I do have one. No, it is not for
Now you look at lenses. The “standard” lens that will
come with your SLR will most likely be a 50 mm. Buy firstly a wide angle lens.
Around 28 or 24 mm is good, or even 20 mm for very dramatic shots, but the
distortion problem can be a little much at this wide angle. The next lens you
should buy is around the focal length of 135 mm - the ideal lens for portraits.
No zooms? No, I personally do not like zoom lenses. The
sharpness is not as good as “prime” lenses (though the manufacturers say
they are much better these days), but even more importantly, zoom lenses make
for lazy photographers. Instead of walking in to compose the subject, the
photographer zooms in. The depth of field is lost, the flash is too far away and
the chance of a perfect shot is lost. Don’t be lazy. Walk in close yourself.
You should also have a Point and Shoot compact camera. Again,
stick to the better brands if you want to get something which will last, and
even more importantly, one that will return crisp images. Olympus make some very
good small point and shooters, with excellent lenses. This camera is for those
situations where you don’t want to lug all the gear, when you need something
light and pocket portable. Get one with a 24 or 28 mm lens and built in flash
which can be turned off.
The next important piece of equipment is the bag you carry
your equipment around in. I like the soft padded camera bag with adjustable
divisions. Waterproof in tropical rainstorms is important, so get one that has
the zip fastener covered by a lip of material. Some exterior pockets to carry
batteries, a spare pair of fold-up reading glasses (if you need them) and a
pocket torch. Again, get a good one. My bag is quite battered and worn, but is
now over 20 years old and has been round the world several times. It was money
Other equipment includes filters, and I would refer you to
previous articles on this subject - but do use adaptor rings to bring all the
lenses to the same size. Again a cost saving later. And a good quality tripod.
Last but not least, always have some spare rolls of film -
there is nothing worse than running out of film just when you have just stumbled
across the shot of your life.
Dr Byte's Computer Conundrums
Q. Dear Dr Byte,
Why oh why is Thai Internet so bad the last few weeks.
Business connections, home connections, email connections, internet cafe
connections, my friends connections all seem to be plagued with problems.
Can you explain what is going on and why?
A: Thai internet continues to be both a curse when
it’s playing up as well as a blessing when things are going well. Over the
two and half years that I have had experience with Thai internet, I don’t
think anything has changed in all that time. But, sometimes it’s not Thai
internet that is to blame.
Take the last week of August for example. E-mail servers
around the world almost came to a halt as they were flooded with the fastest
growing virus ever released on an unsuspecting world. Our own server, for
example, came to a grinding halt when it was inundated with more than
500,000 emails in the space of a few hours. Normally processing 40-50,000
emails per day, it was never designed to cope with the volume created by
Sobig and Blaster.
In the same way, not all internet problems are caused by
Thai Internet or CAT. My experience over the last 2-1/2 years supports this,
although I can say that most ISP’s and the Thai Telephone organizations
are not proactive when there is a problem. It can take hours to find out
what’s wrong and even more hours to find out when it’s going to be
fixed, especially if you don’t speak fluent Thai.
That said, I have been monitoring the Internet daily from
the office and I often see the internet working well. The last couple of
weeks have been anything but and as an example, taking more than 5 hrs and
many, many attempts to upload a small file to a web site for an overseas
I notice that CAT have changed the Internet Fibre Optic
Cable connections out of Thailand and instead of 2 small footpaths and 2
country road connections to Korea, Japan etc, we now have one massive
superhighway and 1 small footpath. Having gone to the expense of setting
this all up, it’s a shame to see daily 33% up to 66% losses on this new
connection. Of course this will affect how quickly you connect to the rest
of the world and on top of the Sobig and Blaster problems, makes all our
internet connections unreliable and slow.
Have you ever wondered why in certain areas (like Bali or
some provinces in Thailand) it is almost impossible to achieve an Internet
connection beyond 38-40 Kbps and connections are prone to drop outs every 2
Your connection to the Internet is through a standard
telephone line connected to the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).
Most telephone networks are presently a mixture of analogue and digital
switching equipment dotted around the various telephone exchanges within a
country. PSTN is really designed to carry voice traffic rather than data.
Because your connection to the Internet is through PSTN, you are naturally
prone to dropouts. Also, don’t forget that here in Thailand, the system is
quite old now (someone told me 50 years old or so). You might recall on some
occasions when you are talking to a party over the telephone, a crackle or
hissing sound suddenly appears. Sounds like these can totally corrupt data
and cause dropouts if you are connected to the Internet.
Aside from phone lines, the connection relies heavily on
modems. A modem is a device which converts signals from your telephone line
into data which your computer can understand. The process of converting this
data is complex and any interference to how the data is received or
converted may have undesirable effects such as dropouts or partially
corrupted or incomplete information. (Interesting note: Modem is geek speak
External modems are by far the most popular because of
their reliability, and they can be carried from one location to another.
Internal modems are cheaper but because they are hidden inside the box,
users won’t know what is happening with them and it’s my experience that
external modems work better than internal, especially here in Thailand. The
sad news is that the best modems were being produced by US Robotics and
these have now disappeared from the market. I have yet to identify a good
Q: Dear Dr Byte,
Last week I came across a Search Engine called Dog Pile.
Apart from the rather sick name, it seems to work quite well. However, I
notice that some returns on a search were similar to returns I saw from
Do you have any tips and tricks to help us internet
newbies? Is Google really the best Search Engine?
A: Here’s some good news. Google’s not the
only game in town, but you guessed that didn’t you. ZDNet reviewers give
high marks to AlltheWeb, which (at the time of review) had a bigger index
than Google’s. Dog Pile unfortunately isn’t what I would call a true
Search Engine because they contract with companies like Google to use the
Do you know how Google treats the search terms you enter?
Did you know you can program Google API with Perl, Java, PHP, Python, and
.Net - pretty sophisticated stuff. You can read about all this on Google of
course. Have you spotted the Googlism site yet?
What about Googlism? Have you checked this out? If not
why not? Enter a name - your own, a friend’s, your city’s, whatever -
into the Googlism’s search field, and it will tell you what Google’s
site database thinks about it. Try running it on “Bill Gates” and see
what you get. (I ran my own name and found out that some guy with a blog
really hates me. But I already knew that.)
Another application is GooglePeople and this lets you ask
questions like, “Who are the Beatles?” or “Who is Patrick Houston?”
As the book says, this may seem like a toy but it’s actually a good way to
get a quick read on someone.
Other things I learned are that repeating a search term
in the query (Microsoft Microsoft Microsoft) can get a different result than
just giving the query term once.
Above I have given away just three tips to help with
searching the Internet, and I’d feel guilty to share any more. OK, just
one. Look at the Google Pranks and Games: Yes, it really works. (Hint: You
have to type backwards - try “radar.”)
That’s it for this week. If you have any tips or tricks
that you’d like to share, or any questions about your internet or pc
experience, contact me: Dr Byte, Chiangmai Mail.
Mrs. DoLittle’s Corner: Leave nature alone!
Although most people seem to think that animals
automatically know who they are, this is far from the truth. Most mammals,
just like humans, have to be taught by their parents how to behave in the
social order and how to forage for food.
member Rex with Tom the turtle whom he rescued from certain death in the
Ping River. A new environment will be created for him at Love Animal
Sanctuary - Mae Rim.
The more intelligent the animal, the more complex it
becomes. Monkeys and gibbons for example, who have been removed from their
mothers and their natural habitat to live with humans, would never be able
to survive if released back into the jungle. Instead of looking for food,
they would look for humans who would feed them. That’s why most
rehabilitation projects have minimal success. Once a wild animal has been
given food without effort, it assumes it is the only way to survive. They
only know what they have experienced.
People who release birds, fish and turtles to ‘make
merit’, as is the practice in Thailand, are actually sending them off to
certain death. Birds navigate according to electro-magnetic grid wave
patterns radiating from the Earth. If they are unable to ‘tune into’ a
frequency signal in an unfamiliar place, they fly in circles until they
exhaust themselves and drop dead. Likewise, turtles that are set free in
rivers like the Ping, get whisked away by the current and die from shock and
Animals, just like humans, need a familiar environment
and a family or friend, in order to survive and to go on to lead a contented
life. No living being can survive on its own.
The moral of this story is: If you want to ‘do good’,
leave nature alone!
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