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      This is your public service 1-stop-shop for Alaskan and Canadian Arctic energy commentary, news, history, projects and people. We update it daily for you. It is the most timely and complete northern energy archive anywhere — used by media, academia, government and industry officials throughout the world. Northern Gas Pipelines may be the oldest Alaska blog; we invite readers to name others existing before 2001.  -dh



27 January 2016 8:36am

Reasons for oil states and provinces to be as competitive as possible.  (Statistics today from our Aussie O&G energy analyst friend)

  • Late last week US independent Southwestern Energy laid off 1,100 staff members - or an incredible 40% of its staff

  • A similar story is being played out with Canadian focused Husky Energy, who is said to be planning a 30% staff reduction in the next few weeks.

  • Oil services giant Schlumberger announced a 15,000 personnel reduction last week.  

  • Also as we noted last week, Shell is to reduce its staff (post the BG acquisition) by 10,000.

  • Anecdotally, the total work-force reduction in the Canadian province of Alberta is said to be touching 100,000.

  • And very anecdotally - my Aberdeen based and/or trained Facebook friends are much more nervous about job cuts in 2016 than they were in 2015.

  • As we have stated before, we think the World is effectively placing an awful lot of faith in the increasingly fewer remaining members of the oil and gas industry to deliver new supply once the tiny (in our view) current spare capacity is eroded by demand gains and depletion.


1) The last thing lawmakers should do in a low price environment is raise taxes and regulatory costs of exploration, production, transportation and refining activities; and, 2) when price recovery occurs, activity will logically begin to grow first in low cost/high return areas.  -dh​


1-26-16 Alaska's Fiscal Crisis Takes Center Stage, Spotlights Blazing, Audience Cheers and Jeers!

26 January 2016 12:42pm

Alaska's Fiscal Crisis Takes Center Stage

See Alaska Headlamp today for more on government spending....

Juneau Empire by James Brooks.  John Tichotsky, chief economist for the Tax Division of the Alaska Department of Revenue, told legislators that global oil production outpaced demand by almost 2 million barrels per day in 2015....


Dave Harbour

​(Note to readers: Please help us assure the accuracy of these archives.  Let us know of any factual additions/corrections needed in any of our news or editorial material and we will initiate immediate changes!)

The Prince, Romeo and Juliet, Center Stage, Dave HarbourYes, we know what center stage is.  For an actor, it is the coveted place of maximum visibility.  It is the forefront, the center of the audience's attention.  

We can approach a real stage in a theater--like the character in the photo.  Or, we can appear in virtual center stages of life: on a basket ball court, in a pulpit, before a political body or in our daily jobs and personal lives.

Today, we think of the virtual stage upon which our political decision makers now begin the 2016 legislative performance.  We particularly focus on the fiscal challenge they face.  Like theater critics, the voting audience analyzes how they have acted and how they are now performing in the bright spotlight of Alaska's center stage.

Yogi Berra"It's tough to make predictions, especially about the future."  From our Aussie Blogger Friend....

CBC.  Montreal Mayor Denis Coderre dialed back the rhetoric on the Energy East pipeline project Tuesday, coming out of a meeting with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.​

Harbour's Sidebar:

Was it Albert Einstein who defined insanity as 

"doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?"
Please review our 49North "Fiscal Crisis" column written in 2002; believe me, it is well worth reviewing now!  Here are a few quotes:
  • Over ten years ago, business and academic leaders repeatedly warned the state government that Prudhoe Bay's expected production decline would produce a financial crisis by now.  
  • Warnings were ignored, spending skipped on uninterrupted and prediction has become reality.
  • The state, about 80 percent dependent on oil and gas revenue, has half the oil production it did in the 1970s.  It is spending about $1 billion / year more than it takes in and its savings accounts to fund the shortfalls will be depleted in two years. 
  • The size and cost of ...state government have grown steadily with few cuts.
  • Citizens unfamiliar with economic reality have pressured their elected leaders into exacerbating oil dependency ...  
  • The list of state-funded largess is lengthy....
Observation.  Many of our readers care about common sense and history, and wisdom.  Many of our fellow citizens might wish to apply historical lessons to Alaska's circumstances.  For those who do, examples are both well known and numerous.  
We think that philosopher George Santayana was the first to observe that those who ignore history are condemned to repeat it, but other great leaders have used variations of the term again and again.  
Alaska's leaders -- decade after decade -- have ignored their own state history as, year-by-year, the state economy becomes less sustainable.  
In recent years, knowing what lies ahead, Alaskan citizens have continued to move, lemming-like, toward a fiscal cliff that the Institute of Social and Economic Research has clearly described for two decades.
More recently, the late, great Yogi Berra might agree with Einstein's definition of insanity and suggest Alaska must live in a world of, Déjà vu all over again."
But we do sympathize with leaders.  It is hard to be diplomatic, great, and independent thinking, and analytical and persuasive and wise and popular all at once -- especially when one has to choose between reelection and, in this case, creating a sustainable budget that involves many kinds of sacrifice.
Yes, we empathize with the Governor and Legislators.  But with that courtesy out of the way, we expect action that produces a sustainable economy, "sooner".
For "later," only means kicking the can further down a more unsustainable path. Another delay, another repetition of history, can only exacerbate the inevitable result of inaction: bankruptcy of the State of Alaska and a return to wardship of the federal government.  
We hope that this sobering thought is sufficient to provide motivation as has never before been seen among Alaska's decision makers.
Alaska's fiscal crisis is that critical, isn't it?

Late last year, Alaskan leaders gathered in the spotlight of a legislative special session.

With best intentions, they fiddled with spending money they don't really have on equity (i.e. risk) ownership of an unproven gas pipeline/LNG concept that could not come to their financial rescue for ten years, if then.  

For the past three years, they fiddled with the idea of using precious, public funds to bring expensive North Slope or Cook Inlet gas/LNG to Fairbanks when consumer interest in converting from fuel oil in our current low oil-cost environment, is low.  (i.e. the Interior Energy Project, IEP)

Meanwhile, center stage, the fiscal future of the state is in flames while political actors fiddle back stage with issues that are virtually unimportant compared to the conflagration poised to consume them and their constituents: an unsustainable state budget.

The truth hurts us all, but recognizing truth is the first step toward recovery and future success.  The truth is that Alaskans have done a poor job of converting the incredible wealth allotted to them by virtue of their geographical location--into sustainable prosperity.

Imagine this situation.  

Say it is 1977.  The 800 mile Trans Alaska Pipeline System has just begun transporting Alaska's black gold to market.  The state operating budget, compared to today's nearly $5 billion, is about $350 million. (Fiscal Crisis References Here

You are in charge of managing Alaska's projected wealth calculated to be in the scores if not hundreds of billions of dollars.

Some are calling for restraint because, after all, force majure, the end or beginning of an oil embargo and a thousand other factors could affect that single, monopolizing, undiversified income stream of life-sustaining oil.  

Others are crying for you to "Spend it while we have it" (Note).

What are you going to do?

You poll your constituents:

Question One: Check One Option.

  • __"Should we continue to operate a moderate government to serve our existing citizens, and save the overwhelming majority of income for later ... and reasonably tax industry solely for the reasonable needs of the state?"
  • "Or, __ should we continue to raise taxes until Big Oil cries "Uncle!", and spend it while we've got it?"

Question Two: Check One Option.

  • __ "Should we create a modest budget designed to primarily benefit Alaska's current citizens and their offspring -- that generally increases no faster than population and inflation?"
  • Or, ___ "Should we continue to raise industry taxes and spend as much as possible on grants, infrastructure, education, subsidies and programs that also has the effect of attracting waves of new immigrants seeking the benefits of the wealth?"

Question Three: Check One Option

  • ___ "Should Alaska's operating budget (i.e. and municipal and education budgets), on a per capita basis, be generally in the median of per capita Lower 48 spending -- perhaps with an adjustment for higher Alaska transportation and wage costs?"
  • Or, ___ "Should Alaska develop its budget with more regard to funds available than with regard to the level of per capita spending?"

Question Four: Check One Option

  • Should Alaska have a competitive oil tax system -- not higher than the median oil and gas tax level paid in other oil producing states and democracies -- that remains generally constant with a bias toward providing increased tax revenue as our stable tax environment attracts more investment and production?"
  • Or, ___ "Should Alaska disregard its competitive position with respect to other oil producing states, neighboring provinces, other world democracies and investor interests and tax as much as we can to fund the needs solely as defined by annual gatherings of legislators?"

Question 5: Check All Preferred Options

  • ___ Forty Years from now, in 2017, Alaska should have ... the highest per capita state spending in the nation; and
  • ___ Alaska should have the highest per capita debt of all states; and
  • ___ Alaska should create the highest number of partly government supported non-profit organizations in the United States; and
  • ___ Alaska should have one of the highest oil and gas tax structures in the free world; and
  • ___ Alaska's oil tax history should have been highlighted with exorbitant tax hikes and even with retroactive taxation; and
  • ___ Alaska's PERS/TERS unfunded liability should be about 20 or 30 times more than our WHOLE 1977 budget; and
  • ___ We should be incurring a 2017 budget​ deficit ten times the size of our complete 1977 budget at a time when the Trans Alaska Pipeline System (TAPS) produces 85% of the operating budget, is 3/4 empty and oil prices are 3/4 lower than they were when the 2015-16 budget was created?
  • ___ We should continue funding state, municipal and education budgets -- with relatively minor cuts -- after virtually doubling them over the last decade. (i.e. because while everyone knows you can spend yourself into prosperity, you cannot possibly cut yourself into sustainability.)

Well, that is all water under the bridge, though it is useful to review past decision making.  

We can agree some degree of government operating and capital spending was undoubtedly good over the years.

But, if past decisions did not lead to good solutions, in general, they should not be repeated.  If past decisions resulted in economic strength and a sustainable way of life, perhaps those principles could be revisited.

Today, no one believes that the past tax and spend decisions have led to an overall favorable outlook, today.

If that be true, perhaps a different approach, different values, different decisions are in order.  (See definition of 'insanity', above, right column.)

If the actors at Alaska's center stage will in the current legislative session produce decisions leading to a sustainable economy, perhaps a grateful audience of constituents will rise in ovation, inviting the players to provide an encore.  

At least, Alaskans can work and pray toward such an outcome.

*     *     *


Let us state very clearly here and now: "Raising natural resource taxes will not help sustain Alaska's economy.  It may help to temporarily "balance" a failing budget for a year or two but, in fact, increasing industry costs will excite the decline of investment, further endangering economic sustainability."


Alaska's Fiscal Crisis References


Alaska's Future

2002 fiscal crisis predictions 

Institute of Social and Economic Research

Alaska Citizen’s Guide to the Budget (ISER)

Commonwealth North

Alaska Common Ground

Institute of the North

Anchorage Economic Development Corporation

Fairbanks Chamber of Commerce

Our Alaska

Alaskanomics (Northrim Bank)

Three-Legged Stool (First National Bank of Alaska)

Alaska Oil and Gas Association

Alaska State Chamber of Commerce

Alaskans for a Sustainable Budget


Note: over the years, Alaskans developed a fairly provincial, myopic way of looking at world competition.  Instead of positioning themselves for a day in which production might be lower or the value of production lower, they instead argued for maximum industry taxation and a robust spending program.  During these years, it was sometimes difficult to distinguish liberal from conservative lawmakers.  Because there was so much taxation and so many dollars, it was hard for members of either party to say "no" to members of the other party.  Gridlock was avoided, basically, by unanimous agreement to spend every available dollar on a mind boggling array of programs and projects.  In order to justify the high level of industry taxation and spending over the years, advocates of these policies accrued public support by demonizing the oil industry and appealing to the greed of citizen beneficiaries of programs and projects.  Following are some of the rather silly, anti-investor slogans and themes we have observed over the last 4-5 Its our oildecades on the Alaska political stage:

"It's our oil!"

"Canada's Gas, My Ass"

"My Way Is The Highway"



1-25-16 Alaska Legislative Report On Week 1 - Today Begins Week Two

25 January 2016 7:59am


Here's a chance for our readers to comment on Alaska's Fiscal Crisis, an invitation from Senate President, Kevin Meyer (NGP Photo).  We've commented and hope you will, too!  -dh

Kevin Meyer, Alaska State Senate President, fiscal crisis, poll, Photo by Dave HarbourAs Alaska faces an unprecedented budget challenge this year, the Senate Majority
would appreciate your feedback in our annual start-of-session survey here:


Your opinions are important to us as we deliberate the issues facing our state.  Thank you 
for taking the time to provide your input.    We look forward to hearing your thoughts.

Kevin Meyer
Alaska Senate President

The Alaska Legislature is back in session this week and all eyes are on the budget. In two separate meetings on Wednesday, presentations were given by David Teal, the Legislature’s Chief Fiscal Analyst, and Diane Kaplan, President of the Rasmuson Foundation. Both discussed the current situation and the need for action from the legislature. Teal noted that the Governor’s plan to fix the $3.8 billion budget gap was a step in the right direction. He also stated that using the earnings from the Permanent Fund “is the most painless and sustainable way to fill deficits.” Things have to change in order to balance the budget.

Diane Kaplan, President of the Rasmuson Foundation, presented the findings from the Foundation’s recent poll of Alaskans. The complete presentation is located at http://www.rasmuson.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/01/RAS-Juneau-Presentation-Final-Edits.pdf






Energy Consumer Perspectives in an Age of American Energy Abundance and Regulatory Expansion - How will today's energy policies impact American competitiveness? "

Presented by Michael Zehr, Federal Policy Adviser, Consumer Energy Alliance

REGISTER.  February 2, 2016, Anchorage Sheraton.

The survey, conducted between January 3 and 10, 2016, showed that there is increasing concern regarding the fiscal crisis. It also showed that Alaskans prefer to see the fiscal gap filled by both cuts and new revenue. Legislators should have a clear message from the survey. Seventy-five percent of respondents said that they were more likely to support or no difference in their vote if their legislator voted for a combination of cuts and new revenue. Respondents were split on how their support would change or not when it came to including taxes and a reduction in the Dividend. Eighty-three percent would be less likely to support a legislator that took no action to address the budget shortfall.

There is support for the Governor’s New Sustainable Alaska Plan. Among those who have heard of the plan, fifty-five percent support the plan where only thirty-two percent oppose the plan. The survey also asked what components of the plan were acceptable to help fix the problem. Results are listed below.

*from Plan4Alaska.com and presentation by Rasmuson Foundation 1/20/16

The survey continues with a breakdown of responses by political party, region of the state, and household income.

Legislators have a lot of difficult work ahead of them this session, but they also have the support of many throughout the state who understand the delicate situation that Alaska is facing. Individuals and businesses understand that inaction is unacceptable for this situation and compromise will be the way to bridge the budget gap. Alaskanomics will continue to follow the session closely and share with our subscribers.


1-24-16 Pacific Legal Foundation Update

24 January 2016 7:40am

Pacific Legal Foundation Communication, Current Cases:

Thanks Dave. I enjoy reading your NGP alerts and all of us here think about the major issues there.  Thanks for providing a great service!

You may have seen that we have two cases accepted at the Supreme Court, including a Clean Water Act challenge.  I know several years ago we had a case in Fairbanks (permafrost = wetlands) against the Corps of Engineers.  In Corps of Engineers v. Hawkes, we represent a Minnesota peat mining business that has been raked over the coals by the Corps.  The feds issued a jurisdictional determination that they control the property. The legal issue in play for justices --- whether a property owner can directly challenge government in court when regulators label property as wetlands, subject to federal oversight.

Here’s our news release….





Robert L. Krauter

Chief Communications Officer

Pacific Legal Foundation

930 G Street

Sacramento, CA 95814

(916) 503-9032


1-23-16 Lisa Murkowski On Energy Policy - Sarah Palin On The Donald - DiCaprio And Trudeau

23 January 2016 9:38am

Robert Dillon, Senate Energy Committee, Communications Director, Photo by Dave HarbourYesterday was Robert Dillon's (NGP Photo) last day of service to Senator Lisa Murkowski's Senate Energy Committee.  He was thoughtful enough to share his news with regular correspondents and we pass it on, here, for some of you who know Robert well and wish to remain in touch with him.  (Other Murkowski staff changes noted here at APM.)  -dh

Senator Lisa Murkowski, Radio address, Photo by Dave HarbourWASHINGTON, D.C.In the Weekly Republican Address, Sen. Lisa Murkowski (NGP Photo), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, discusses the Energy Policy Modernization Act, the first broad bipartisan energy legislation to be considered by the Senate since 2007

Trudeau, DiCaprio face-off over energy industry comments.  Calgary Herald.
Trudeau has promised significant action to reduce greenhouse gas ... the environmental efforts will break down resistance to new pipeline projects, ...
Sarah Palin, Copyright Dave Harbour 2008, Permission - 907-227-7110, Donald TrumpAn Alaskan's View of Palin's Trump Endorsement.  I was moderately surprised that Sarah Palin made an endorsement at all, but not ... way he was dealing with the oil companies and the proposed gas pipeline. ... As for the income tax, Alaska's state government is mostly funded by oil ... Not in any way Sarah Palin's fault, but her response was to blame PTSD ...

This bill ‘will help America produce more energy,’ Senator Murkowski says, ‘It will help Americans pay less for energy. And it will firmly establish America as a global energy superpower.’The Weekly Republican Address is available in both audio and video format and is embargoed until 6:00 a.m. ET, Saturday, January 23. The audio of the address is available here, the video will beavailable here and you may download the addresshere. A full transcript of the address follows: 


“Hi, I’m Lisa Murkowski. 


“I’m proud to represent the great state of Alaska in the U.S. Senate, where I serve as Chairman of the Energy and Natural Resources Committee.


“And I’m pleased that just days from now, the Senate will consider broad energy legislation. 


“Following the passage of a highway bill, education reform, and many others, the energy bill promises to be our next bipartisan accomplishment on behalf of the American people. 


“It will also be the first major energy legislation considered on the Senate floor since 2007.


“It’s been over eight years, folks.


“Back then, we were living in an era of energy scarcity, with many afraid that America was running out of resources. 


“But since then, an energy revolution has occurred in our country.


“Newer technologies have allowed oil and natural gas production to soar on state and private lands, creating hundreds of thousands of jobs.   


“On top of that, the cost of many other technologies – from solar panels to batteries for electric vehicles – has declined dramatically. 


“Unfortunately, the passage of time has also brought new challenges. 


“Our infrastructure continues to age. 


“Access restrictions, permitting delays, and other bureaucratic hurdles are sapping the competitiveness of our energy sector.  


“And President Obama has ignored the good work going on in Congress as he attempts to unilaterally recast our nation’s energy policy.      


“His gauntlet of burdensome regulations, many just beginning to take effect, threatens the affordability and reliability of our energy. 


“His policies are shutting down energy-rich states like Alaska.


“He rejected the Keystone XL pipeline on political grounds. 


“And then his administration imposed a moratorium on federal coal leasing. 


“Decisions like those cost us jobs.  They weaken our growth.  And they strengthen some of the world’s worst actors, at the expense of hard-working Americans. 


“There is a better path for our energy policy.  And under Republican leadership, Congress is taking it.


“While the President lifted sanctions on Iran, letting the regime sell its oil into global markets, we ensured American producers can do the same by repealing an outdated export ban that applied to the United States.


“Instead of standing in the way of new infrastructure, members of both parties have supported it. 


“And instead of relying on burdensome mandates and regulations, many of us have chosen to promote innovation.   


“But our work is hardly finished.  In order to truly protect our nation, we must do more to update our energy policies.


“That’s why I worked with my colleagues on the Energy Committee to develop a broad, bipartisan bill.


“It will help America produce more energy.  It will help Americans pay less for energy.  And it will firmly establish America as a global energy superpower.    


“We agreed to expedite liquefied natural gas exports to boost our economy and the security of our allies.


“We agreed to bolster our mineral security so that we don’t have to rely on foreign countries for the raw materials needed for everything from smart phones to military assets.


“We agreed to promote hydropower – not to mention geothermal and other clean, renewable resources.  


“We focused on innovation and efficiency – both of which lead us to a brighter energy future.


“We started to tackle permitting reform. 


“And we agreed to increase government accountability, and took steps to prevent another Solyndra.


“We did this by working together.  And our bill – the Energy Policy Modernization Act – passed our committee with strong bipartisan support. 


“It is our latest contribution to a better energy policy for the United States.  It is our latest effort to restore regular order.  And it will be on the floor, on the Senate floor, starting this week. 


“Thank you for listening.”


Today marks the end of my seven years serving as communications director for the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and as spokesman for Chairman Lisa Murkowski. As I make my exit – in a snowstorm, no less – I wanted to take this opportunity to simply say thank you. I can’t thank you all enough for the kindness and generosity you’ve shown me over the past seven years. I feel blessed not only to have been a member of such a dedicated and talented staff, but to also have had the opportunity to get to know so many of you. 
I am leaving you in the capable hands of Deputy Communications Director Michael Tadeo. Michael can be reached at Michael_Tadeo@energy.senate.gov or (202) 224 5810
As for me, I’m not going far so please stay in touch. I am heading over to the DC office of the public policy and communications firm Strategies 360 starting Monday– unless it’s a snow day, of course. I will be just down Pennsylvania Avenue from the Capitol so please stay in touch. My new work email is robertd@strategies360.com. My personal email is dillon@radillon.com and my mobile is (202) 288 7207
One final word of advice from an old Alaskan – Don’t fight the weather; just go out and enjoy the snow. But whatever you do – avoid the Beltway!


22 January 2016 1:52pm

Our Aussie energy consultant friend today observes that "The Economist" predictions of today match incorrect predictions of 1999.  Read here....

Our Mid Atlantic energy consultant friend today provides us with, "the best in the way of a positive note that we can come up with to clear the inbox for the weekend."

Seeking Alpha.  Ontario Premier Wynne gives tentative backing of TransCanada's (TRP +4.8%) $15.7B Energy East pipeline, offering Alberta Premier Notley some support a day after Montreal-area mayors expressed opposition to Energy East and the Alberta government’s pipeline strategy.

In a joint news conference in Toronto, Wynne praised Notley for Alberta’s climate change plan, and "appreciate(s) that there is a need for a way to get Canadian oil, that is allowed under Alberta’s new emission cap, to overseas markets."

At the news conference, Notley criticized Montreal Mayor Coderre as short-sighted and touted the pan-Canadian economic benefits of Energy East, adding that "a pipeline is the safest way, the most efficient way" to ship oil.

Seeking Alpha.  Kinder Morgan’s (KMI +10.6%) proposed Trans Mountain pipeline expansion isset to face another regulatory hurdle when Prime Minister Trudeau's government moves to strengthen environmental review laws and give new marching orders to the National Energy Board in the coming weeks.

The regulatory overhaul leaves timelines for the $5.4B project in limbo; hearings resumed for the project this week and an NEB decision is due in May under the old review system, and no one quite knows the meaning of the review process when changes are in the offing.

The plans effectively would add regulatory requirements on proposed projects already under review in Canada, such as Trans Mountain and TransCanada's (TRP +5%) Energy East pipeline, to meet an unannounced higher standard favored by Trudeau without restarting the process entirely.

An extended regulatory process would be another setback for KMI, which first proposed its pipeline expansion in 2013 and already has faced two delays.


Our Mid Atlantic, anonymous energy analyst tells us this friday that:

There is consensus among analysts that E&Ps will (finally have to) spend very close to their cash flows in 2016. But the general feeling is that this will drop capex about 35-50% from a very contracted 2015 spending level.  Attached, and summarized below, is a note this week from Raymond James indicating that this requirement to live within cash flows will drop spending by up to 70% in 2016.  Applying the old adage, “The cure for low prices is low prices”, RJR sees this spending washout as providing the platform for a better recovery in 2017 than also being posited by the analyst class.

We are not sure we buy the recovery as being as robust as they project, as we believe the cost of capital will stay absurdly low, keeping a lot of cash ready to jump in, so that any large recovery might be temporary. Also, there are too many global moving pieces to think reduced spending in North America will have that much influence on global oil prices. But we do feel their case for a steeper spending cut than has been projected in the consensus is possible.  Greater pain, greater gain and all that rot.

This is the best in the way of a positive note that we can come up with to clear the inbox for the weekend.


Today’s Blog – Friday 22nd January 2016

Please pass this blog onto others who may like to read it


Bells ring at the bottom and tops of markets only in hindsight.  Many now consider that The Economist’s call on its front page in March 1999 that the world is “Drowning in Oil” was the tolling of a bell that then set off a 15 year bull market in crude.

This week we have heard two more calls that the world is again “drowning in oil” – from the lead editorial in today’s edition of The Economist and also as we quoted from the IEA earlier in the week.

Bells ringing anyone?  Read much more here!

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