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Workforce Impact At-a-Glance

Having a hard time making your picks? We've got you covered. Here's some information to help you decide which Workforce Impact topics should go on to the next round.

March 12, 2012
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Internet: Twenty years ago the word was rarely mentioned, but in the 21st Century, the Internet is as pervasive as radio was in the 1930s and television in the 1950s. Public access to the World Wide Web for news, sports and gossip has severely cut into the circulation of newspapers and magazines, resulting in massive staff cuts at publications nationwide. For companies, hosting a website that provides information to the public, and often an intranet that shares information internally with workers, has been a must for more than a decade. The Internet also gives employees access to an enormous amount of information that past generations just didn't have available at their fingertips.

Region: Midwest


Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VII): Landmark legislation signed into law by President Lyndon Johnson outlawed discrimination based on sex or race in the workplace, schools and public accommodations such as restaurants and restrooms. Women and racial minorities gradually began filling positions at businesses large and small, eventually reaching positions of leadership, although not at the rate equal to their percentage in the workplace.

Region: West


Health Care Reform: Generic term used to define improvements in the health care system. The 2010 Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act signed into law by President Barack Obama provided for the phased introduction over four years of a comprehensive system of mandated health insurance with reforms designed to eliminate "some of the worst practices of the insurance companies"—pre-condition screening and premium loadings, policy rescinds on technicalities when illness seems imminent, lifetime and annual coverage caps. The Supreme Court is scheduled to rule on the constitutionality of the law's individual mandate to have insurance this year.

Region: East


Personal Computers: Originally developed in the 1970s, the personal computer has gone from 48,000 being shipped in 1977 to more than 125 million shipped by the turn of the century. A device that allows employees to do work at home, on vacation or while on business trips—but you already know that since you're probably using one to read this summary—there were an estimated 1 billion PCs in use worldwide by 2008.

Region: South


Affirmative Action: The set of public policies and initiatives designed to help eliminate past and present discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex or national origin was first described as "affirmative action" in Executive Order 10925 issued by President John F. Kennedy in 1961. In recent decades the policy has been criticized as fostering "reverse discrimination" and "preferential treatment." Affirmative action often is justified as countering the effects of a history or culture of discrimination.

Region: Midwest


Great Depression: Severe worldwide economic calamity that was triggered by the stock market crash of October 1929 and spanned throughout the 1930s. Personal income tax revenue, profits and prices dropped, while international trade plunged by more than 50 percent. Unemployment in the U.S. rose to 25 percent and in some countries rose as high as 33 percent. Construction was virtually halted in many countries. Farming and rural areas suffered as crop prices fell by approximately 60 percent.

Region: West


Women in the Workforce: There has been a huge growth from 1870 when only 15 percent of women worked (2 out of 3 were teachers) to today when nearly half of all employees are women. In the 1940s, women took over many of the jobs that men left behind when they went to fight in World War II. In the 1970s, women started to go to college and graduate school en masse and planned to stay in the workforce longer than previous generations. However, even today women's percentage in decision-making positions continues to be much smaller than men's. And equal compensation is still an issue.

Region: East


Health Care Costs: Since 2001, employer-sponsored health coverage for family premiums have increased by 113 percent, placing increasing cost burdens on employers and workers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation and Health Research & Educational Trust.

Region: South


Equal Employment Opportunity Commission: The federal agency was formed in 1965 to enforce laws against workplace discrimination. The EEOC's mandate grew from Title VII of the landmark 1964 Civil Rights Act, and its first chairman was Franklin Delano Roosevelt Jr. The EEOC has taken on cases involving discrimination based on race, color, national origin, religion, sex, age and disability.

Region: Midwest


Social Security Act of 1935: Landmark legislation signed into law by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt on Aug. 14, 1935, provided benefits to retirees and the unemployed. The act attempted to limit the damages caused by old age, illness, poverty, unemployment and the burdens of widows and fatherless children. Payments to current retirees are financed by a payroll tax on current workers' wages, half directly as a payroll tax and half paid by the employer.

Region: West


Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945): The nation's 32nd president was regarded as a champion of the working man. His New Deal helped put millions of unemployed people back to work on a wide range of government construction projects including airports, bridges, roads and dams. He helped pass landmark legislation such as the National Labor Relations Act and Social Security Act in 1935 and the Fair Employment Act of 1941. His support for labor led to a huge increase in union membership.

Region: East


Social Media (Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter): Internet-based applications have changed the ways that communities, businesses and employees communicate. The growth in social network patent applications has grown from barely a dozen in 2003 to about 1,200 in 2010. LinkedIn is considered a valuable business tool for contacting fellow professionals in a particular field, and more and more businesses use Facebook and Twitter—in 140 characters or less, of course—to connect with customers, promote good and services, and recruit potential employees .

Region: South


Fair Labor Standard Act of 1938: Landmark legislation established a 44-hour workweek, banned most forms of child labor and set the minimum wage at 25 cents per hour. The law also sanctioned time-and–a-half overtime payments for certain jobs. Business leaders howled, but President Franklin Delano Roosevelt told a radio audience during one of his "fireside chats," "Do not let any calamity-howling executive with an income of $1,000 a day ... tell you ... that a wage of $11 a week is going to have a disastrous effect on all American industry."

Region: Midwest


The Rev. Jesse Jackson (1941-): Jackson, an African-American civil rights leader and former presidential candidate, has been a friend of labor since his early days working with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Jackson's Chicago-based Operation Breadbasket tried to pressure white businesses to hire black employees and purchase goods from black suppliers. His two presidential campaigns in 1984 and 1988 called for a program modeled on Franklin Delano Roosevelt's Works Progress Administration to rebuild the nation's infrastructure and provide jobs for all Americans. Today Jackson fronts the Rainbow PUSH Coalition.

Region: West


AFL-CIO Teamsters: A worsening corruption scandal caused the AFL-CIO to eject the Teamsters union on Dec. 6, 1957, but the Teamsters remain one of the world's largest unions (1.4 million members as of 2008) and are the 11th largest contributor to political campaigns. Originally a steady backer of GOP candidates, the Teamsters have gone Democratic in recent elections and backed Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama in 2008.

Region: East


Mobile Technology: Collective term used to describe various types of cellular communication technologies. Since the start of the millennium, a standard mobile device has gone from being no more than a simple two-way pager to being a mobile phone, GPS navigation tool, an embedded Web browser, instant messaging device and a hand-held game console. Workers no longer need to find that fast-vanishing location known as a phone booth to place calls or look for a TV or radio to check on the news.

Region: South


Cesar Chavez (1927-1993): The charismatic leader of the United Farm Workers, who started out as a picker of fruits and vegetables, Chavez fought tirelessly for a better standard of living for farm workers—many of them migrants. The Salad Bowl strike of the early 1970s was the largest farm workers strike in history and led to higher wages for the pickers of grapes and lettuce.

Region: Midwest


Baby Boomers in the Workforce: The largest generation on record, those Americans born between 1946 and 1964 entered a workplace that was starting to become more diverse in terms of gender and race. With the generation's most senior members having turned 65 in 2011, Boomers may decide that the combination of a weak economy and shrinking individual retirement accounts means putting retirement off for at least a few more years. Will their continued presence in the workforce take away spots from millennials (born between 1981 and 2000) who are graduating college?

Region: West


Health Care, Employer Provided: Employer-sponsored health insurance plans began to grow because of wage controls during World War II. Between 1940 and 1950, the total number of people enrolled in health insurance plans grew from 20.7 million to 142.3 million and by 1958, 75 percent of Americans had some form of health coverage. Employer-sponsored health insurance is paid for by businesses on behalf of their employees as part of an employee benefit package. Most private (nongovernment) health coverage in the U.S. is employment-based. Nearly all large employers in America offer group health insurance to their employees.

Region: East


Gloria Steinem (1934-): Journalist, lecturer and one of the central leaders of the feminist movement in the 1960s and '70s, Steinem backed the Equal Rights Amendment and argued that women should receive equal opportunities in the workplace and the political arena. She also co-founded Ms. Magazine. When the first issue of Ms. hit newsstands in July 1972, its 300,000 issues sold out in three days and generated 26,000 orders for subscriptions.

Region: South


H-1B Visa: A nonimmigrant visa permits U.S. employers to temporarily employ foreign workers in specialty occupations. These specialties include engineering, architecture, mathematics and the physical sciences. A major complaint against the H-1B visa is that the foreign workers often are paid considerably less than their U.S. counterparts.

Region: Midwest


Email: Be it interoffice gossip, job applications or simply notes to long-ago high school friends, electronic mail has replaced the telephone as the communication medium of choice and sent the U.S. Postal Service even deeper into debt. Intra-office email often takes the place of your superior dropping by your desk and saying, "We need to talk," in full view of the entire office.

Region: West


Defined contribution plans: A retirement plan in which the amount of the employer's annual contribution is specified. Only employer contributions to the account are guaranteed. Common plans in the U.S. are Individual Retirement Accounts and 401(k)s. In such plans, the employee is responsible for selecting the investments toward which the funds in the retirement plan are allocated. This may range from a small number of predetermined mutual funds to selecting individual stocks or securities.

Region: East


HIPAA: The two main sections of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act passed in 1996 protects health insurance for individuals and their families when workers change or lose their jobs, and it requires national standards for electronic health care transactions and national identifiers for providers, health insurance plans and employers.

Region: South


Rosie the Riveter: Rosie is the iconic image of the American woman called to work in factories and on construction sites during World War II. Many of the women worked in munitions plants, replacing the men who had left for wartime military service. There were also women in nonfactory jobs in every sector of the economy. The number of working women in the U.S. soared from an estimated 12 million in 1940 to 20 million by 1944.

Region: Midwest


Hawthorne Productivity Studies: Named for the work by Harvard University researchers at the Hawthorne Works Plant of Western Electric between 1924 and 1932. The researchers found that an increase in worker productivity was based on attention from the research team and not from variables such as how much light was in the room. Thus the term "Hawthorne effect" is used to identify any type of short-lived increase in productivity.

Region: West


Defined Benefit Plans (Pensions): A specified monthly benefit plan based on a formula determined by an employee's earnings history, tenure of service and age rather than on investment returns. In the private sector, employer contributions typically fund defined benefit plans. Today, few companies offer pension plans to new employees.

Region: East


Sexual Harassment: The type of behavior that was once considered "boys being boys" in the Madmen era of business is no longer proper these days. In fact, in many cases it's illegal. Any action involving intimidation, bullying, coercion of a sexual nature or inappropriate promises of rewards for sexual favors is, in most cases, now punishable by law. Both victim and the harasser can be either a woman or a man, and the victim and harasser can be the same sex. Sexual harassment cases have resulted in demotions, dismissals and, when involving large companies, heavy fines.

Region: South


Deng Xiaoping (1904-1997): Perhaps China's most important postwar leader other than Mao Zedong, Deng helped introduce economic reforms that transformed China from an agricultural-based nation to one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Deng opened China to foreign investment and global markets and is credited with raising the standard of living for millions of Chinese.

Region: Midwest


General Electric Co. Under Jack Welch (1935-): Welch was the chairman and CEO of GE between 1981 and 2001. His policies of streamlining and cost cutting raised the company's value 4,000 percent during his tenure. However, there was a huge drop in jobs as GE payrolls plunged from 411,000 in late 1980 to 299,000 by 1985. He has called criticism of exorbitant salaries for chief executives "outrageous." In 1999, Fortune magazine named Welch Manager of the Century.

Region: West


Fair Employment Act of 1941: Also known as Executive Order 8802, the Fair Employment Act prohibits racial discrimination in the nation's defense industries. Signed by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, it was the first federal action in U.S. history to promote equal opportunity and prohibit employment discrimination.

Region: East


Peter Drucker: (1909-2005): One of the most influential writers on management theory, Drucker's writings predicted major developments, including privatization and decentralization; the rise of Japan to an economic world power; the decisive importance of marketing; and the emergence of the information society with its necessity of lifelong learning. He was famous for such quotes as "Business? That's easily defined. It's other people's money." And "Efficiency is doing things right; effectiveness is doing the right things."

Region: South


Manmohan Singh (1932-): The first non-Hindu to serve as India's prime minister, Singh, who currently holds that position, is an advocate of globalization. He believes India's vast population (second in the world) can deliver Indian products worldwide and help alleviate his nation's grinding poverty.

Region: Midwest


Telecommuting: Work arrangement that allows employees greater flexibility in working hours and location of work. Instead of commuting to a central place of work, employees might work out of their homes or commute to a smaller office closer to where they live. The terms "telecommuting" and "telework" were coined by Jack Nilles in 1973. Estimates suggest that 50 million workers, or close to 40 percent of the U.S. workforce, could work at home at least part of the time, but as recently as 2008, only 2.5 million workers used their homes as their primary place of business.

Region: West


Air Traffic Control Strike 1981: The August 1981 strike by the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, or PATCO, resulted in the firing of 11,345 air controllers by President Ronald Reagan after they ignored his order to return to work. Reagan cited the 1947 Taft-Hartley Act prohibiting strikes by federal works as the basis for his action. PATCO was decertified, and the failed strike is regarded as a turning point in labor-government relations.

Region: East


Ethical Practices: At one time, the term "business ethics" could be viewed as the ultimate oxymoron. It was not even a common term in the 1970s, but by the mid-1980s, at least 500 courses in business ethics had been taught to more than 40,000 students. The Society for Business Ethics was started in 1980. But for some critics there is a fine line between criticizing questionable business practices and infringing on the "freedom" of entrepreneurs." However, the savings and loan crisis in the 1980s and '90s and the questionable behavior of mortgage lenders that helped precipitate the Great Recession shows that ethical behavior can still go missing in boardrooms.

Region: South


Postal Worker Strike of 1970: The first of its kind two-week strike by U.S. postal workers in March 1970 forced President Richard Nixon to call out the National Guard to get the mail delivered. The strike resulted in passage of the Postal Reorganization Act of 1970, which modernized the U.S. Postal Service and sanctioned collective bargaining for postal workers.

Region: Midwest


Performance Appraisals: Also known as performance or employee review, it is the method by which an employee's work is rated, usually by a supervisor. Good reviews tend to lead to better raises and promotions while bad reviews can result in demotions or even dismissals. The reviews also let an employee know what areas he or she needs to improve upon.

Region: West


Griggs v. Duke Power: Unanimous Supreme Court ruling holds that the North Carolina power company's policies of promotion discriminated against black people by including a high school diploma and an IQ test as part of its rationale rather than basing promotions on a candidate's ability to do the job. The high court said Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibited tests for job promotion that are not a "reasonable measure of job performance."

Region: East


Immigrant Labor: An element of U.S. labor dating back to the Chinese immigrants who helped build the transcontinental railroad in the 1860s, foreign-born labor has steadily increased in the U.S., with 49.9 percent of immigrant labor being Latino in 2010 and 21.8 percent Asian, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics' Current Population Survey. Foreign-born workers were more likely than native-born workers to be employed in service occupations; production, transportation, and material moving occupations; and natural resources, construction, and maintenance occupations, according to the survey. Immigrant laborers traditionally have toiled for lower wages than domestic workers and have often faced exploitation.

Region: South


Flextime: A variable work schedule that permits employees to perform their duties outside of the traditional workday hours. Flextime policies allow workers to determine when they will work; "flex-place" policies determine where the work is to be done. Flextime workers in the U.S. are exempted from overtime provisions and given broad discretion in setting their work schedules. The concept was developed by the German entrepreneur Wilhelm Haller in the late 1960s.

Region: Midwest


Online Job Boards: Remember those old classified ads in newspapers that went on page after page? Whatever became of them? Online job boards. Employees seeking work or a new job no longer need to thumb through newspapers or call companies individually. A few clicks of your mouse are all that's required to learn about vacancies in a particular field or a specific company.

Region: West


Martin Luther King Jr. (1929-68): Civil rights leader and winner of the 1964 Nobel Peace Prize who described himself as a "drum major" for racial and social justice. Fought to end racial discrimination in the workplace and was assassinated in Memphis in 1968 where he was lending support to striking sanitation workers.

Region: East


Offshoring: The movement of U.S. jobs overseas is only expected to accelerate in coming years. Investors.com in 2010 predicted that by 2014, another 1.3 million Western jobs "will vanish due to the accelerated movement of work to India and other off-shore locations." Technology services and telecommunications companies set the pace with more than 40 percent of their labor force working overseas.

Region: South


Outsourcing: The practice of assigning work or a business function to an entity or person outside a company is expected to increase in the coming years. Outsourcing has drawn heavy fire from U.S. workers and labor unions concerned about the movement of work to overseas locations.

Region: Midwest


Southwest Airlines Under Herb Kelleher (1931-): Who says airlines have to be dull? During his tenure as CEO of Southwest (1971 to 2008), Kelleher promoted an innovative workplace culture where employees took their work seriously but not themselves. Flight attendants were known for singing in-flight announcements to the tunes of popular songs. In its early years, Southwest air "hostesses" would wear hot pants and "go-go" boots. A ticket purchase brought with it a free bottle of alcohol. Southwest has never had an in-flight fatality and has ranked highly on Forbes' list of most admired corporations.

Region: West


SHRM: Founded in 1948, the Society for Human Resource Management represents more than 250,000 members in more than 140 countries. It is the world's largest association devoted to human resources management.

Region: East


Background Checks: It is no longer enough to be offered a job because of where you went to school, who your parents are or whom you know in human resources. Any major discretion involving criminal activity, a poor work record or financial problems are likely to be divulged during a company's background check. The higher the position, the more thorough the search through an applicant's past. Background checks are often requested by employers on candidates seeking a position that requires high security or a position of trust such as in a school, hospital, financial institution, airport and government. These checks are traditionally administered by a government agency for a nominal fee, but can also be administered by private companies.

Region: South


Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993: Federal statute requires covered employers to provide employees job-protected unpaid leave for qualified family and medical emergencies, such as family illness, military service, pregnancy, adoption or foster-care placement of a child. The measure, signed into law by President Bill Clinton on Feb. 5, 1993, recognizes the need to balance family, work and personal obligations. Prior to the law, such matters had been left to the discretion of individual companies and businesses.

Region: Midwest


Talent Management Systems: The Financial Times defines TMS as an integrated software suite that addresses the "four pillars" of talent management: recruitment; performance management; learning and development; and compensation management. Total Resource Management, a consulting and technology company, considers "talent" or human capital a key to accomplishing long-term business goals. The competition to acquire workforce talent in future years is expected to rely more and more on specific systems such as TMS.

Region: West


Workers' Compensation: The form of insurance providing wage replacement and medical benefits to employees injured in the course of employment in exchange for mandatory relinquishment of employees' right to sue their employers for negligence. In the United States, the first state workers' compensation law was passed in Maryland in 1902, and the first law covering federal employees was passed in 1906. By 1949, all states had enacted some kind of workers' compensation.

Region: East


Clarence Thomas vs. Anita Hill: The 1991 Senate Judiciary Committee confirmation hearing for Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas turned into a national debate on sexual harassment. Hill, who used to work with Thomas, said the high court nominee sexually harassed her when she was an employee for the U.S. Education Department and the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission. According to Hill, during her two years as Thomas' assistant, Thomas had asked her out socially many times, and after she refused, he used work situations to discuss sexual subjects. She said on several occasions Thomas graphically described "his own sexual prowess." Thomas decried what he called a "high-tech lynching" and was ultimately confirmed by a 52-48 vote, the closest for a Supreme Court nominee since the 19th Century. Many women wondered why the Senate Judiciary Committee panel was made up only of men.

Region: South


COBRA: The Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act of 1986 gives working Americans who lose their employer-sponsored group health insurance the right to continue that coverage for a temporary period of time. COBRA also is referred to as "continuation health coverage." By law, COBRA coverage must provide the exact same benefits as the old group plan, and any pre-existing health conditions will be covered without waiting periods.

Region: Midwest


Commercial Flights: From Tony Jannus' first 23-minute flight on Jan. 1, 1914, between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida, through the growth of commercial airlines to today's international carriers, air travel has drastically cut the time needed for businesses to reach out-of-the-way customers and promote their brand both nationally and around the world. The increase of air travel no longer limited workers to searching for a job in one particular geographic area.

Region: West


A. Phillip Randolph (1889-1979): Randolph, an African-American civil rights leader, organized and led the sleeping car porters, the first predominantly black union. His support for a proposed March on Washington in 1941 helped persuade President Franklin Delano Roosevelt to issue Executive Order 8802, which banned discrimination in the munitions industry. He later helped persuade President Harry Truman to end discrimination in the armed services in 1947. He joined Bayard Rustin and Martin Luther King Jr. in organizing the 1963 March of Washington.

Region: East


ERISA: The Employment Retirement Security Act of 1974 established minimum standards for pension plans in private industry and provided for extensive rules on the federal income tax effects of transactions associated with employee benefit plans. The movement for pension reform gained momentum when the automaker Studebaker Corp. closed its plant in 1963, but its pension plan was so poorly funded that Studebaker could not afford to provide all employees with their pensions.

Region: South


OSHA: The Occupational Safety & Health Administration, which was formed in 1971, is the main federal agency charged with enforcing health and safety regulations in the workplace. OSHA regulations oversee limits to chemical exposure, employee access to information, requirements for the use of personal protective equipment, and requirements for safety procedures. OSHA critics have questioned if the cost of enforcing regulations actually benefits worker safety and whether the agency's penalties are stringent enough.

Region: Midwest


Douglas McGregor (1906-64): Management professor at MIT's Sloan School of Management and president of Antioch College. His book, The Human Side of Enterprise, identified an approach of creating an environment within which employees are motivated via authoritative direction and control, which he called "Theory X," or integration and self-control, which he called "Theory Y." With Theory X, which has been proven counter-effective in most modern practices, management assumes employees are inherently lazy and that they inherently dislike work. Thus, management thinks workers must be closely supervised, and comprehensive systems of controls must be developed. Theory Y finds many employees can be self-starters and creative, and allows for more employee initiative.

Region: West


Disaster Planning: The 9/11 attacks awakened the government, companies and individuals to the need to plan for "worst-case" scenarios. Many businesses have instituted safety drills and issued safety manuals to help workers better cope with the unexpected—be it a manmade terrorist attack or a natural disaster such as an earthquake or hurricane. Some companies also have instituted chain-of-command contingencies should company leaders be killed or incapacitated by such an event.

Region: East


IRS Section 125 Cafeteria Plans: These plans were established to allow employees to contribute a portion of their salary each month, income tax free to them and salary tax free to their employer. Qualified benefits are paid for with pretax dollars that would otherwise be paid for with after-tax dollars. The name "Cafeteria" refers to the fact that there are three different benefits that can be chosen to be included in an employer's plan. The three benefits include a 125 Premium Only Plan, Flexible Spending Account and Dependent Day Care benefit.

Region: South


CEO pay/bonuses: Being a boss had always had its perks, but the past three decades have been particularly kind to America's business masters. In 1980, CEO pay was about 40 times the pay of an average blue-collar worker, according to the AFL-CIO. By 2010 that number had soared to 343 times the median pay of workers. According to a 2009 report from the Institute for Policy Studies, U.S. taxpayers subsidize excessive executive compensation by more than $20 billion per year via a variety of tax and accounting loopholes.

Region: Midwest


Great Recession: Worldwide economic collapse that started in late 2007, accelerated throughout 2008 and 2009 and ultimately led to the loss of 8.5 million jobs in the U.S., according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Region: West


Michael Losey (1938-): Retired president and CEO of the Society for Human Resource Management, or SHRM. The Michael R. Losey Human Resource Research Award is the "premier source of funding for significant past and continuing contributions that impact the human resource management field," according to SHRM. The annual award is worth $50,000.

Region: East


Cubicles: The partially enclosed workspace that was drawn often in the cartoon strip Dilbert and given prominence in the TV comedy series The Office. Cubicles provide privacy for workers and isolate them from the sights and sounds of a busy office, theoretically providing a better working environment. The cubicle was created by designer Robert Propst for Herman Miller Inc. and released in 1967 under the name "Action Office II."

Region: South


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