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188 of 198 people found the following review helpful
on September 29, 2003
I picked up a copy of "The Fourth Turning" because to refresh myself on the generational differences of donors. I was hoping to help a colleague wrestle with how to apply fundraising techniques with attention to these cohorts. Having read the authors' 13th Gen a few years ago, I knew this would be an erudite review. I got what I was looking for and much more! "The Fourth Turning" is actually a compelling look at human history, especially Western history since the middle of the fifteenth century!
Howe and Strauss have amazingly taken the most recent 20th century generations (GI, Silent, Boomer, Xer, and Millennial) and found corresponding generations for the last few hundred years. From this, they've developed a convincing rubric of generational archetypes-GIs and Millennials are the "Hero," Silents are the "Artist," Boomers are the "Prophet," and Xers are the "Nomad." Moreover, they've revisited the millennia old theory that time moves through seasons in a cyclical pattern, one that corresponds with the seasons of the year. The post-WWII era was our "High" or spring; the Consciousness Revolution was our "Awakening" or summer; the 80's and 90's was our "Unraveling" or fall; and we're currently headed for our "Crisis" or winter. They chose to label the seasons "turnings" and the time encompassing the four turnings as the "saecula," a label used by the ancients that roughly corresponds to a century.
With an amazing attention to detail, a scholarly eye to history, and a wonderfully readable writing style, Howe and Strauss show the interplay of the generational archetypes and the turnings. For example, they point to the similarities of the spiritual emphasis of the 1960s and 1970s with the Transcendentalists of the 1800s, the Great Awakening of the 1700s, and the Puritan Awakening of the 1600s, and the Protestant Reformation of the 1500s!
"The Fourth Turning" will definitely affect the way you view history as well as the events of today. Though written in 1997, they illustrate "highly unlikely" scenarios that might precipitate the coming Crisis such as: "A global terrorist group blows up an aircraft and announces it possesses portable nuclear weapons. The United States and its allies launch a preemptive strike. The terrorists threaten to retaliate against an American city..."!
While I don't know if we're currently into the Crisis or not, I do know that "The Fourth Turning" is a must read for anyone trying to raise money in today's economic environment. Not only will the savvy fundraiser ferret out ways to frame their case for the different generations, she will also see how different turnings may affect fundraising efforts. If we are indeed heading for a fourth turning, and Howe and Strauss make that highly believable, I think we in the nonprofit world are uniquely situated to help our cultures ride out this winter and successfully enter the spring.
Although full of grim warnings, "The Fourth Turning" is a hope-filled book well worth reading.
1. Winter Comes Again
PART I: Seasons
2. Seasons of Time
3. Seasons of Life
4. Cycles of History
5. Gray Champions
PART II: Turnings
6. The First Turning: American High (1946-1964)
7. The Second Turning: Consciousness Revolution (1964-1984)
8. The Third Turning: Culture Wars (1984-2005?)
9. Fourth Turnings in History
10. A Fourth Turning Prophecy
PART III: Preparations
11. Preparing for the Fourth Turning
12. The Eternal Return
Index of Names
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204 of 224 people found the following review helpful
on February 20, 2002
The book _The Fourth Turning_ is a history combined with prophecy written by generational sociologists William Strauss and Neil Howe. This book is inspiring and provides interesting explanations for why things are the way they turned out to be, but it still doesn't have all the answers.
The theory is basically that history goes through four types of turnings: a conservative High, in which institutions are stable after the success of a major war (the Era of Good Feelings, the Victorian Era, the '50s), a spiritual Awakening in which young people scrap convention for religious discovery (Ben Franklin's Great Awakening, the Transcendental Awakening, the turn-of-the-century Muckrake reform era, the '60s), a wild Unravelling (the colorful Gold Rush, the roaring twenties, and the current era that began about 1984), and a fourth turning -- or Crisis (the Revolutionary War, the Civil War and the Great Depression and World War II were the last three examples). A catalyst will spark the Fourth Turning that will become around 2005. These turnings change when each generation enters a new phase of life.
After you read this book, it's one of those books that completely transforms your mode of thinking. Both the present and the prophesied future are explained by means of generations -- fit into four different types ("archetypes") that shift along with the turnings. The authors identify the Lost Generation (born 1883-1900), the G.I. Generation (born 1901-1924), the Silent Generation (born 1925-1942), the Baby Boomers (born 1943-1960), the 13th Generation (born 1961-1981) and the Millennial Generation (born since 1982). They explain how these generations relate to those throughout history, and date the historical generations born all the way back to 1433. Generation X, for instance, which corresponds roughly with what they identify as the 13th Generation, is similar to the freewheeling Lost Generation of the Roaring '20s, their flouting of the Drug War brings to mind the Lost Generation during the Prohibition Era. Once you read this book, you start to think of everyone generationally, all your family and friends, people you know, celebrities, people you read about in the news, historical figures, the characters on TV shows and the ages of people in TV commercials. Your mind accepts a completely new paradigm -- and a classification of people that works, as the authors state, much more reliably than gender, ethnicity, or even region of the U.S.
Not to say that there aren't problems with this book. They broke off the 13th Generation from the Millennial Generation at 1981/1982 in their earlier work _Generations_, written in 1991, and have continued to keep this boundary and their early descriptions for the Millennials in this book. The kids born in 1982, whom they place as the first Millennials, were just entering high school when this book was written and were predicted to become known as a conventional, traditional and "Scout-like" generation, keeping a reputation as little angels. Unfortunately, none of the 1982, 1983, 1984... kids I know have this personality...their breakoff may have come a little too early I fear. Not all their predictions from this or earlier books have succeeded, but that's all right, because future or no future, the pattern works remarkably well as a mnemonic device for remembering and understanding history perfectly well, making the order in which historical figures came along much more memorable. I wish I'd had this way of studying history when I was in high school!
From this they prophesy the future -- that America is poised to enter a Crisis Era shortly around 2005, just when the generations are ripe. This era will see a national mood of extreme urgency, sweeping changes made in national policy, and a change across the generations to a much more traditional lifestyle and set of values, as Strauss and Howe predict. This book is a thought-provoking read, but if you're looking for something to explain 9-11 as so many of us were, don't look here. _The Fourth Turning_ was written about a "catalyst" for a Crisis that will change the direction of institutions in the year 2005, or if not in 2005, shortly before or after. All everyday interests in entertainment are supposed to disappear, and the change will be caused by something that wouldn't have brought about a drastic change in mood 10 years ago. It will be caused by the alignment of generations around 2005, when the Boomers are ready to enter elderhood (turn 65) and the Silent Generation is going to be into its eighties and start disappearing from the scene. It was NOT written about catastrophes like 9-11 or similar events. We get these extreme drastic events from time to time that shock people temporarily, as 9-11 did, just because of their intensity and death toll, wherever they occur. Look around 2003-2008 for the "Catalyst" Strauss and Howe have identified to pop up and permanently change the public mood. It will be something that will change the era and bring America to crisis because all the generations are poised and ready to enter their new stage of life.
In addition to its imperfections, the book has a heavily conservative bent sticking out, no doubt reflecting some of the attitudes and wishes of the authors. I cannot forgive the book's forceful attitude, pushing us all to get back to trust in public institutions and in the government. Strauss and Howe call for conservative restrictions on behavior to get the next turning pushing along. For instance, they advise the reader in getting ready for the next Crisis to give up any eccentric behavioral habits he or she may have. They tell the reader to put "duties over rights" and to conform to the standards of decency of his community. Even before the Fourth Turning, there is no doubt a single agenda they push without compromise, in what one would think would be a totally neutral book in the values regime department.
All in all, read this book if you're interested in history and generations (but take the generational boundaries and collective personalities with a grain of salt), and don't look for ALL your answers here.
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127 of 143 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon February 23, 2003
Member of the 13th Generation? Millenial Generation? The Boomers? Care to track your own development through the maze of historical events to find out where you've been, and more importantly, where you are going? Where our country is going? Then pick this book up immediately. Simply put, the "Fourth Turning" is THE most important book written in the last twenty years, and a book that should be required reading.
Strauss and Howe apparently have devoted their lives to the study of history and the development of generations in societies. The book is loaded, and I mean, loaded with historical references, some of which I wasn't familiar with until now. By looking at these events, and more importantly, looking at the people that went along with those events, Strauss and Howe noticed some recurring patterns in generations over the centuries. Apply this pattern to our country, and to our future, they have correctly predicted that we are headed for a "Fourth Turning", a time of great criss and peril.
Normally, I shun books that people claim to have "visions of the future" involved with them. They are frequently erroneous and based on the whims of the author. However, "The Fourth Turning" is different. By basing their theories of the future on past events, they offer support and credence to their thoughts. The effect is both enlightening and chilling, but it is one that we simply cannot ignore.
I found every single page of their book fascinating as a study or recent history and future history. Also, I personally found self-enlightenment in reading about the generation in which I belong, the long lost "Gen X" crowd, or the title they label it, "13th". It explains a lot about the world in which I was raised, and the world we live in today.
One chilling fact: this book was written in 1997, and the authors predicts a calamatous and unimaginable event in the early part of the 2000s that would signify the start of the Fourth Turning. Who can read this book and not think of September 11th?
Don't delay. Read this book. We are entering a winter in our times, and those people prepared with that knowledge certainly will have a more steady base in the fourth turning to come.
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31 of 33 people found the following review helpful
on August 7, 2002
Any book which tries to tackle 500+ years of history and do it a readable style is going to have its flaws, and the Fourth Turning is certainly no exception. The paradigm that the book puts forth is bold and wide: that Anglo-American history goes in 80-100 year cycles that repeat through 4 stages based on generational maturation. There is a strong ring of truth to their thesis as they compare characteristics of generations 100 years apart. It is a welcome tonic to most of the commentary about our times in their hopelessness and gloom about the future. Many pundits look at GenX and see an unredeemable, historically unique beast of selfishness, hopelessness, and moral depravity. Strauss and Howe counter this shortsightedness with historical comparisons which put the negative trends of our time in perspective.
As good as that thesis is, you can pretty much just read the first 50 pages or so and get all the information you need. The book begins with a bang as they lay out their theory, but then they spend the rest of the 250+ pages rehashing the same idea with the same examples. Some of the rehashing is interesting, as you get many of their GenX ideas in their explanation of the third turning. But you get the feeling that they have used up their best shot already. I think a good editor would have pared this book down to half its size, but then they would run the risk at 150 pages that noone would take them seriously.
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20 of 20 people found the following review helpful
on December 28, 2008
Ancient Romans knew of the cyclical nature of advanced human societies. The word "cycle" is associated with the word saeculum, which is the length of a long human life, or the time it takes for all of society to renew itself - and forget what happened before, forget history.

In fact Roman historians noticed a strong correlation between good times, decadence, war, and rebirth and these cycles, which had a period of approximately 80 to 100 years. They also recognized that not every cycle had the same intensity, and same period, or frequency.

The Fourth Turning is brilliant, from the standpoint that these guys are insightful enough to go against mainstream thought, and expose the wisdom of the ages. Understanding universal laws that humans have known for probably thousands of years, only to be lost, and then found again.

Forget about Bush and Obama, they are merely reflections of society. To play political football and argue politics is for the fool. Reality is absolute, Natural Law governs the universe, Strauss and Howe have found and outlined one of the great aspects of complicated human systems - cycles, either accept reality, or get run over.

The last Saeculum: The great depression, winter from 1929 to 1945, American high, spring from 1945 to 1965, the "summer of love" awakening, summer from 1965 to 1983, culture wars, autumn from 1985 to 2005, collapse, winter from 2005 to 2025.

Each cycle contains a crisis (winter), collectivism and conformance(spring), awakening, like the 60's movement, complacency begins to set in, people take success of society for granted, looting of society (autumn), and nothing left to loot (winter) period.

During winter people will not be able to depend upon the government, it will be broke. Those of the mind that have real skills and proper values will rebuild society from the ground up, and the cycle will begin again.

We are entering winter, who can disagree? America has been completely looted; this happened due to complacency, then decadence, looting then follows.

Read the Fourth Turning, the observations are obvious once it is explained.

Good luck!
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28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on October 17, 2001
Some people have claimed reading this book is a waste of time and have compared the Strauss and Howe theory to "a very flaky, new-agey" prophecy. But since September 11th, this book has been in a heap of debate over whether it really gives an accurate theory. As a member of the Millennial generation, I have found the book to be the single-most original and insightful commentary on history and society.
Some people think the theory makes false generational characterizations and charge the authors with not providing evidence to make such generalizations. First off, theories are designed to make sense of the world. They are based on historical trends, statistics, and years of intellectual discussion. This theory does not directly dictate how a teenager in Illinois may live her life, but it does provide a much more credible account of things to come in her life than she could have possibly imagined herself.
It is insensitive and politically incorrect to suggest that the events of September 11th were "predictable." I do not think that the theory makes any indication that it was predictable; however, the way people are reacting to those events DOES support the theory. The thing that makes this occasion unique compared to major tragic events of the eighties or nineties is that the mood of the nation has changed. That mood, as the theory suggests, is propelled by the alignment of generations right now. As the generations move closer towards this alignment, more characteristics that Strauss and Howe have established will become more visible, and we will begin to see the impending crisis. What we are seeing right now is that 92% of Americans are in support of war and in support of the Bush administration. Nothing like that would have ever happened during the eighties or nineties.
As far as my generation goes, I'm sure there are trends that have happened that the authors didn't consider or that were unpredictable. But figures such as the media really have made us everything we think we aren't. Even MTV, the network of "individualism," has been our prime influence of conformity in the music scene. Media has, directly or indirectly, encouraged us to be cooperative, dutiful, and optimistic. This form of passive commercialism has been shoved down our throats, and the fact that we don't even notice it demonstrates how conditioned we've become to accept what we are told.
Since 1991, Strauss and Howe have accurately predicted the mood of the nation. Their theory is also supported by 400 years of American history. I would highly suggest this book to anyone, even skeptics, as an invaluable analysis of the American landscape.
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25 of 27 people found the following review helpful
When I first started using The Fourth Turning by Strauss and Howe as a text, we lived in a pre-9/11 world. Frankly, most students seemed to read it like fantasy or fiction: an interesting concept, worth considering, but far from real. The younger the students, the more they usually focused on the personality-type sections of the book. And the older readers, if they were old enough to have lived through the Great Depression and World War II, talked a lot about the chapters on the Fourth Turning (crisis) and the next first turning (a new founding).

It was the middle generations, the Boomers and Generation X students (born between 1944 and 1985), who surprised me the most, however. They read it cynically, some believing intellectually that a fourth turning might be possible, but without expressing much emotion on the topic, while most were downright skeptical. They seemed to believe that the future will be like the past with little deviation, and by "past" they meant their own life experience of the last twenty to fifty years. Several got angry that I would assign such a book, "as if it has any validity in the real world!"

Ironically, this is just how the book predicts that these generations will act. But now it has all changed. Have anyone read the chapter on the crisis period, called "The Winter," and they'll likely be shocked by how prophetic this book has turned out to be. Funny, the subtitle actually proclaims that the work is a "prophecy". But the last few chapters of the book are now a manual on what's happening and what's likely ahead. I think almost everyone should read it closely. If you've already read it, I recommend a re-read!

For those still skeptical that 9/11 and the recession are just blips in history and who feel that we'll soon be back to booming business as usual, or who think that a new Presidential administration has brought lasting change that will spread and quickly solve our largest problems, I know exactly how you feel. Back in the nineties I read everything I could get my hands on that predicted a coming crash. Works like The Great Reckoning, The Great Depression of 1990, Bankruptcy 1995 and others convinced me that the nineties would be a decade of crash followed by another "Great Depression." Then a friend introduced me to Harry S. Dent's The Great Boom Ahead. It was written in 1992, and forecasted that a great boom was ahead and would be followed by a downturn and depression starting in 2008. Another 1992 book, Generations by William Strauss and Neil Howe, supported this concept. I discounted them in favor of the Great Depression in the 90's theory.

I was wrong. I learned a lot in these studies, including that I'm not good at predicting economics or elections (the only one I got right in twenty years was the 2008 election). The most important thing I learned was which models work best, the top three being Dent, Strauss and Howe, and the Shell Global Scenarios. The journal Foreign Affairs predicts less, but is highly accurate like these other three. Later in the 90s Dent wrote The Roaring 2000s and Strauss and Howe published The Fourth Turning. Both gave clear predictions which have turned out to be amazingly accurate. Read today as history, their forecasting ability is shocking. But the real meat is found in their predictions of post-2008.

In conclusion, my thoughts now are turned mostly to the future of education. As I've assigned The Fourth Turning to students and professional seminar participants and then discussed it with them in small and large group settings, I often asked the group what kind of education would prepare a student or professional for the career market ahead in crisis periods of 20-25 years followed by a rebuilding season of 20-25 years. Sadly, few, especially the Baby Boom and X generations, could envision anything different than job training as done in the 1980s and 1990s.

But if we actually are moving toward a depressionary era, that type of education will be obsolete--or already is. Maybe Toffler said it best when he counseled schools to stop teaching rote memorization, standardization and obsolete job skills and to start teaching things students can actually use in the new market reality: individual creativity, independent thinking, and "self-starting entrepreneurialism."

Unfortunately, many will probably try to stay stuck in the past, where high school was about extracurricular activities and getting into college and college was about career training. But a recessionary environment demands an entirely new and different skill set--one learned best by a quality leadership education: thinking, initiative, ingenuity, tenacity, inner drive, and a host of like lessons. It is almost too late for three generations to get to work, finally, on earning the kind of education that will actually succeed in the new economy. Maybe depressionary forecasts are still wrong and job training will still work in the next twenty years. If not, the new education, as outlined in A Thomas Jefferson Education, will be as surprising and necessary to most Boomers and Xers as the new economy.

Recommended Readings

The Fourth Turning, by Strauss and Howe

The Great Depression Ahead: How to Prosper in the Debt Crisis of 2010 - 2012, by Dent

Shell Global Scenarios to 2025


The Roaring 2000s: Building The Wealth And Lifestyle You Desire In The Greatest Boom In History, by Dent

Generations: The History of America's Future, 1584 to 2069, by Strauss and Howe

The Millennials Rising: The Next Great Generation

Future Shock, by Toffler

The Third Wave, by Toffler

Revolutionary Wealth, by Toffler

Megatrends, by Naisbitt

Megatrends 2000, by Naisbitt

Mindset, by Naisbitt

A Whole New Mind, by Pink

Foreign Affairs (periodical)

And for those who want solutions, the following by this author:

A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the Twenty-first Century
Leadership Education: The Phases of Learning (with Rachel DeMille)
A Thomas Jefferson Education Home Companion (with Rachel DeMille and Diann Jeppson)
Thomas Jefferson Education for Teens
The Coming Aristocracy: Education and the Future of Freedom
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20 of 21 people found the following review helpful
on January 28, 2006
I have always believed history was linear, and that we were progressing somehow as a species, until I read this book.

Like many other unenlightened, I saw history in short segments, comparing today to the 50s, or to the 60s, and I saw linearities that I could then extrapolate from.

Since reading The Fourth Turning, I realize how history is cyclical, and where we are now, we have been before, in a sense. When you hearken back to the 50s, and how "good" it was, you don't need to despair, but instead realize that those times will come back. (Personally, the 50s sound awful to me.)

The Fourth Turning has profoundly reshaped my view of the world, history and my place in it. Rather than fighting history as it is being made, I recognize now that the wheel is turning, and I cannot stop it. I realize now, it is wiser to understand where we are going as a society, and to make rational preparations instead.

I recommend any thoughtful person to read this book. You will never think the same. In a way, you will pity those who do not see history as cyclical, as they are fooled at every turn.

You will understand that the current cultural war has happened before. Can you remember, progressives vs. christian teetotallers in the teens and twenties. Can you remember the, uh, abolitionists versus the pro-slavery crowd in the 1840s? The revolutionaries vs. the pro-British in the 1760s. We have been at each others throats again and again. Cyclical, hmmm.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on July 31, 2000
When I picked up The Fourth Turning, I half expected a vacuous trot through highlights of history and an attempt to winnow some small number of intriguing but inexplicable cycles out of the noise. The reason I would read such a thing? Because it claims to be "An American Prophesy." Sounded like fun.
I was not expecting what is probably the most notable work on historiology at least since Toffler's The Third Wave. And in many ways Howe and Neil's fresh theories on the eb and flow of generational history may outlive and transcend Toffler's ideas about the macrotrends of civilization. Their theory is simple and elegant, and based on units we all instinctively understand anyway: generations and life phases.
Best of all, they make a convincing case that their theory describes Anglo-American history at least from the 1500's until now, with only one exception in the Civil War that happens to prove the rule. Also moving is the fact that many historians who berated Howe and Niel's first book (Generations, 1991) are quieter now that predictions for the 1990s turned out to be strikingly accurate.
Probably the most immediately important thing to take from this book is the prediction that sometime within a few years of 2005 our culture may face another crisis the likes of which seem to arrive on schedule every 80-90 years. This great test will go down in history books with the American Revolution, the Civil War, and World War II. And it will be brought on by the alignment of the four generational types currently alive.
Read this book and find out where you and your generational cohorts fit into the grand cycle of history, and what you can do to prepare. The veracity of this theory will very likely be settled by the carnage of the next 25 years.
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35 of 40 people found the following review helpful
on June 4, 2000
This is one of the most important books about history that was ever written. This introduces an ancient concept of cyclic time, and makes it new again. The sub-title "An American Prophecy" might be a little misleading when you read the book, but that's only because of reader's expectations. Many people are expecting a Nostradamus type prediction of the future piece by piece. That's not what this book is about, and they clearly state it in the book. This book is about the cycles of time, and how they have affected past events, and what they tell us about the future. One reviewer on this website has called this work "New Age Astrology." That reviewer is very closed-minded. He makes prejudical statements about the book, and one wonders if he read the whole thing. This book is FAR from astrology because astrology depends upon blind faith to succeed. This book succeeds not because of blind faith in some New Age religion, but because of its nearly perfect track record. The authors of these books have realized that American society goes through cycles of time. These cycles have been nearly precise, and are subject to anonalies, but this book succeeds because history shows that many of the events in America happen over and over again. Also the events that happened between 1946 and today are shown to have a historical precedence, and this is made clear. The proof is in our history. If you want proof, ask people in society, and consult historical sources, and you will come to the same conclusion. So far, when talking to many people in society, this book has not failed me once. This is proof enough about the authenticity of this book. The same review said that this book disregards all of the scientific, technological, and intellectual advancements. I my analysis of this book the author misses many of these developments because they are unnecessary. The book shows that no matter what comes along, they, too, are subject to the cycles of time, and a historical analysis of technologies such as cars, radios, television, and of social movements such as feminism, civil rights, and new age religions prove this very point. The authors merely say that circular and linear time are equally important, and that they actually help the other. I recommend this book to anyone who cares about the future, and of this nation. The historical events have repeated themselves throughout history, and why should today be any different? We are not more special than the other generations who had to go through the seasons of time. Each time I read the book, it gets better because I get more and more from it, and therefore, am able to fit the theory into actual and historic life. If you doubt this book, go seek info from primary sources, be they your children, friends, peers, parents, grand-parents, or grand-children, and you will see how right this book is. I will reiterate that the point of this book is not predicting the EXACT future, but the RELATIVE future, which will be enough to get us through the Fourth Turning successfully. Anyone who is familiar with Chaos Theory know that predicting the exact future is impossible, because the individual parts in continous flux, but the the relative future can be foretold because the behavior of the whole is predictable. If you use this book correctly and wisely, you will gain an amazing amount of insight about the past generations, the future generations, and your place in ths history of this nation. If you use this piece of work incorrectly, you will not gain from this. Plus knowing that a crisis is coming, and trying to figure out what it will be is much more fun and intriguing than if you already knew exactly the details of the next crisis, don't you think?
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