Were You Prepared For The Arctic Blast?

Welcome to this week’s newsletter, brought to you by the SURVIVE IN PLACE Urban Survival Course.  The first, and still best, guide to get you prepared to survive short and medium term disasters in your current home, whether it’s because of a terrorist attack, natural disaster like a blizzard , or pandemic.  To learn more, go >HERE< now.

It’s being called a polar vortex and the warnings that went out on November 7th were not an exaggeration.  Fueled by the remnants of Typhoon Nuri, the arctic blast began to push frigid air across the U.S., delivering a cold snap in November that is typically expected in January.

Dr. Ryan Maue from WeatherBELL November 18 article Record Breaking Cold Blankets United States — Coldest November Morning Since 1976 summed up the deep freeze most of the United States were confronted with. Excerpt below:

Tuesday morning, America ‘as a whole’ awoke to the coldest it has been in November since 1976 — 38 years ago. The Lower-48 or CONUS spatially average temperature plummeted overnight to only 19.4°F typical of mid-winter not November 18th!

An astounding 226-million Americans will experience at or below freezing temperatures (32°F) on Tuesday as well — if you venture outdoors. More than 85% of the surface area of the Lower-48 reached or fell below freezing Tuesday morning. All 50-states saw at or below freezing temperatures on Tuesday.

Record lows from Idaho to Nebraska and Iowa south to Texas and east through the Great Lakes, the eastern 2/3 of the US will shatter decades-long and in some cases, century-long records. Temperatures east of the Rockies will be 20-40°F below climate normals.

Compared to normal, temperatures over the past several days have dropped off a cliff — to 10°C below climate normal — more anomalous than even during the polarvortex of early January. November is shaping up to be a colder-than-normal month by a lot.

The Sun Herald ran a November 19 Associated Press piece, by Carolyn Thompson;  Snow blankets parts of New York: US feels chill. The following is an excerpt:

BUFFALO, N.Y. — A ferocious storm dumped massive piles of snow on parts of upstate New York, trapping residents in their homes and stranding motorists on roadways, as temperatures in all 50 states fell to freezing or below.

Even hardened Buffalo residents were caught off-guard Tuesday as more than 5 feet fell in parts of the city by early Wednesday.

The snow shifted slightly into Buffalo’s northern suburbs Wednesday morning, giving the hardest hits areas a reprieve, but forecasters said a second round of lake-effect snow could deliver an additional 2 feet into Thursday.

Cold weather enveloped the entire country Tuesday, leading to record-low temperatures more familiar to January than November. Racing winds and icy roads caused accidents, school closings and delays in municipal operations from the Midwest to the South even where snowfall was low or mercifully absent.

Erie County officials said a 46-year-old man was discovered early Wednesday in his car, which was in a ditch and buried in snow in the town of Alden, 24 miles east of Buffalo. It was unclear how he died.

On Tuesday, county officials said four people had died, including three from heart attacks and one who was pinned beneath a car he was trying to free from the snow. Two of the heart attack victims were believed to be stricken while shoveling snow.

Two other deaths were reported in New Hampshire and Michigan.

“We have tried to get out of our house, and we are lucky to be able to shovel so we can open the door,” said Linda Oakley of Buffalo. “We’re just thinking that in case of an emergency we can at least get out the door. We can’t go any further.”

The snowstorm forced motorists in 150 vehicles, including a women’s basketball team, to ride out the onslaught in their vehicles. They waited for hours to be freed, with some waiting more than a day. New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo deployed 150 members of the National Guard to help clear snow-clogged roads and remove abandoned vehicles.

By early Wednesday, a Thruway official said most but not all passenger vehicles had been cleared.

Members of the Niagara University’s women’s basketball team were among the lucky ones. Stranded since 1 a.m. Tuesday, team members tweeted photos of a plow starting to clear the road. A few hours later, state troopers picked them up and brought them to a nearby police station where another bus was waiting to take them back to campus, Niagara guard Tiffany Corselli said.

“It seemed like a nightmare. It just didn’t feel like it was going to end,” Bryce Foreback, 23, of Shicora, Pennsylvania, told The Associated Press by cellphone 20 hours into his wait for help. “I haven’t slept in like 30 hours and I’m just waiting to get out of here.”

Across the country people were caught unprepared for the brutal cold, and in many cases, even when aware of what was heading their way, there was little they could do as power lines snapped in various  locations throughout the US.  Approximately 2.1% of households heat with wood–which reflects a 34% increase from 2000 to 2010, which left many Americans without power shivering in the cold when power lines snap.

If you’re not set up for alternate heat, this latest cold snap may be the nudge to get you there.  However there is an article you really need to read from Newsmax titled  EPA’s Wood-Burning Stove Ban Deals Blow to Rural Homes written by Cheryl K. Chumly on February 18, 2014.  

The Environmental Protection Agency recently imposed restrictions on wood-burning stoves that will deal a blow to rural Americans who rely on wood to heat their homes.

The EPA tightened restrictions in January on the level of fine airborne particulate emissions that wood-burning stoves can emit, from 15 micrograms per cubic meter to a maximum of 12 micrograms.

The EPA restrictions would ban the production and sale of the kinds of wood-burning stoves that compose 80 percent of those currently in use in the United States, Forbes reported.

“Although this is an ancient technology, it can provide a solution for high heating costs in many parts of the country,” Laura Huggins, a research fellow for both the Hoover Institution and the Property and Environmental Research Center, told Newsmax.

“With up to one-third of this country’s energy consumption used for heating, policymakers would be wise to consider the benefits of wood as a heat source,” Huggins said.

No matter if you are interested in a wood heat stove, a wood cook stove or a fireplace insert, David and I  covered it in a January, 2013 article, titled Surviving Winter: Wood Heat & Cook Stoves. The post also details different methods to collect firewood, efficient burning of firewood, and a bit about cooking with Dutch ovens.

If you’re ever caught without heat, the following is an out-of-the-box emergency solution that was included in a January 9, 2014 article, 200 Million Plus Impacted By Arctic Cold: How You Can Survive a Deep-Freeze On Any Budget.

Alaskan’s sometimes double-tent for emergency situations, both indoors or out, when caught unprepared in freezing cold temperatures. Simply put a smaller tent inside a larger tent (or in a room of your house). This strategy better insulates you from bitter cold.  Candles are used for added heat, but for safety, look into a candle lantern. Amazon carries UCO single candle lanterns made to hold 9-hour emergency candles for $12 and a 4-candle model for $35.00.  Amazon also sells Coleman single candle lanterns for $15.88.  If you aren’t interested in making your own long-burning candles (refer to lighting below), you can buy grosses of long-burning emergency candles while you’re on the site.

Even with a candle lantern, be VERY careful of both the fact that your tent may be flammable and that combustion produces carbon monoxide that can kill or cause brain damage before you realize it when using it in a small, enclosed space with limited air exchange.  In short, you MUST have air exchange to safely use a candle or candle lantern in a tent.

Another solution to combat freezing temperatures is to pour boiling water to the brim of a Nalgene bottle (they cost between $6.00 – $8.00)–air in the bottle can reduce the heating value– and twist the top tight, then place it at the end of a sleeping bag or layered bedding. It will keep you warm overnight! The same principle applies with rubber hot water bottles that were widely used generations ago.

The following are additional tips that will make this current cold snap a little more bearable:

  • We’ll start with the obvious; you should have extra food and water storage set aside for emergencies, as well as an emergency radio, extra battery’s  and alternate lighting like emergency candles or oil lamps or lanterns.

  • Keep your gas tank topped off to avoid being stranded in freezing temperatures.  If you’ve overlooked this cardinal rule, travel should be curtailed.  It’s a given there will be gridlocked roads and accidents on icy roads. . . why risk it?  Many Alaskans travel in winter with an “emergency kit”, which can include sub-zero sleeping bags, flashlights, extra battery’s, flares, and high energy foods like energy bars and trail mix and water (never filled to the brim due to the expansion of water when it freezes).

  • As long as there is power, you can help to avoid pipes from freezing by letting a small stream of water flow from faucets.

  • If the power goes down, avoid opening and closing the refrigerator or freezer compartments more than is absolutely necessary.  Plan what you need beforehand, and get in and out as quickly as possible to conserve the cold.  Consume perishables like ice cream first.  If you have empty plastic containers available, and the outdoor temperatures are at freezing or below, fill them with water storage and set them outdoors to freeze.  Placing them in the refrigerator and freezer compartments will keep the contents colder and once it’s melted, the water can be consumed. 

  • Unplug electronics like a computer, TV and appliances during a power outage to avoid a power surge destroying them.

  • Have an old-school clip-in land-line available– provided you have a land-line, that is.  They will work even during a power outage, where portable, hand-held land-line phones are completely dependent upon power to be operational.  If you depend solely upon a cell phone, make sure that you keep a car charger handy.  

And, as promised, here’s the handheld solution that will help you maintain core temperature down to -10F from David & Ox:

In the picture below, I show a shelter system I use that has worked very well for me down to as low as -10 degrees and Ox down to -10 with only pants and a T-shirt on.

Display Images To See The Picture

Figure 10 – Left: SOL emergency bivvy from Adventure Medical Kits; Middle: Bag Liner; Right: GI Poncho;

On the left we have the SOL emergency bivvy from Adventure Medical Kits.  Many 72 hour kits come with Mylar bags, but Mylar tends to crinkle and tear.  I oftentimes wonder how many people selling 72 hour kits with traditional mylar blankets have actually spent a night outside using one to keep warm.  Over the years, I’ve gone from being mildly annoyed with these cheap sheets of mylar to *almost* getting to the point where I think it’s criminal negligence to include them in entry level kits.  Why?

Normal mylar emergency blankets, in a word, “suck.”  Of those who have and made it through the night using one, I wonder how many had a blanket that was still holding together enough to use for a second night.  If you doubt my assessment of traditional mylar, pull out one of your mylar blankets/bags and see how it performs.  And if you really want to test it, let it ride around in a backpack or in your car for a few months and see how well it holds up.  I would bet you that if you’ve got a traditional thin mylar blanket for more than a year and try to use it, it will fail immediately at the fold edges or corners.

They ARE functional, WAY better than nothing, and provide more heat retention per ounce/dollar than almost anything else you can buy, but they do have serious shortcomings.  If you know them and are comfortable with them, you won’t be disappointed by them in a survival situation, but if you naively expect them to be more than they are, you’ll be disappointed.

The SOL bivvies that I show above are flexible, don’t tear, cost less than $20 and they still reflect about the same amount of heat as Mylar. They are great tools.  In addition, they’re a lot quieter than Mylar.  If you’re a light sleeper, like I am, this makes a huge difference in your quality of sleep.

The middle bag in the picture is a Sea To Summit / Thermolite bag liner. A bag liner like this one will add 10 or 20 more degrees of temperature rating to your sleeping bag, regardless of whether it’s a bivvy or a full fledged sleeping bag. These will allow you to use the same 30 or 40-degree sleeping bag year round by letting you simply add a liner for three and four season camping.  The one I use (+15 degree bag liner) adds 15 degrees to ANY sleeping bag.  They also make a +25 degree bag liner.

A big reason to use bag liners is that if you’ve ever backpacked for a week or two, your bag can get to smelling pretty funky. A bag liner allows you to take the bag liner out and rinse it off in a stream every day, giving you a much-much cleaner smelling sleeping bag.

When combined with the SOL bivvy, it gives you a little more insulation and warmth in a small, lightweight package.

Another practical use for these is to carry them while traveling to avoid bed bugs in hotels.

In any case, what I do is use the bag liner close to my body, and the bivvy outside of that, and the reason I do that is for flexibility. On a very warm evening I can just use the bag liner or nothing at all, but I like the bag liner because it gives some instant protection, and on a little bit cooler evening, I can use just the bivvy or a combination of the two.

I’ve used this combination successfully down to -10 degrees, outside, on the ground, with no supplemental heat or cover.

If you start out cold or can’t get warm, this setup has the added benefit of reflecting the majority of the heat put out by chemical hand and body warming packets.

One thing that you’ll learn, and you’ll learn it faster the colder it is, is that you’ll lose a lot, if not most of your heat to the ground in this setup.  To combat this, you want to insulate yourself from the ground.  If you don’t have a camp pad, pile at least 6 inches of leaves, pine needles, or other debris that is “cushy” and traps plenty of air.

In a rain situation, it’s hard to beat a GI Poncho like the one shown on the right (photo), and specifically a poncho with grommets on the corners so you can make it into a tent. The “tent” doesn’t have a bottom, it doesn’t have walls.  All it has is an A-frame roof, but with the combination of these three items you can have shelter in most situations.

As a note, if you like this type of material, it’s a tiny component of the Fastest Way To Prepare course.  To learn more and get access, go >HERE<

How have you weathered this cold snap?  Have you discovered any holes in your preparedness plan, or experienced a power outage in your area? Please sound off by commenting below.

God bless and stay safe,

David Morris and Survival Diva

Grid-Down Now Has A Whole New Meaning

Welcome to this week’s newsletter, brought to you by the SURVIVE IN PLACE Urban Survival Course.  The first, and still best, guide to get you prepared to survive short and medium term disasters in your current home, whether it’s because of a terrorist attack, natural disaster, or pandemic.  To learn more, go >HERE< now.

I have to admit that until David included the FYI in last week’s post that Russia has held an “off switch” to America’s  power transmission grids, water distribution and filtration systems, oil and gas pipelines, wind turbines and some nuclear plants, I was clueless.  And most American’s will never know because the media appears to have developed sudden-onset amnesia on the matter.

(David’s note:  This is exactly the kind of behavior that is highlighted throughout the book “Election” by Former Force Recon Marine, Chris Graham.  In short, the grid and the economic warfare discussed are just the tip of the iceberg that Graham dives into in the book.  To learn more now, get it on Amazon by going >HERE<

On November 6, 2014 ABC News Radio blew the whistle with the article, ‘Trojan Horse’ Bug Lurking In Vital US Computers Since 2011.   Here is the article in its entirety:

(WASHINGTON) — A destructive “Trojan Horse” malware program has penetrated the software that runs much of the nation’s critical infrastructure and is poised to cause an economic catastrophe, according to the Department of Homeland Security.

National Security sources told ABC News there is evidence that the malware was inserted by hackers believed to be sponsored by the Russian government, and is a very serious threat.

The hacked software is used to control complex industrial operations like oil and gas pipelines, power transmission grids, water distribution and filtration systems, wind turbines and even some nuclear plants. Shutting down or damaging any of these vital public utilities could severely impact hundreds of thousands of Americans.

DHS said in a bulletin that the hacking campaign has been ongoing since 2011, but no attempt has been made to activate the malware to “damage, modify, or otherwise disrupt” the industrial control process. So while U.S. officials recently became aware the penetration, they don’t know where or when it may be unleashed.

DHS sources told ABC News they think this is no random attack and they fear that the Russians have torn a page from the old, Cold War playbook, and have placed the malware in key U.S. systems as a threat, and/or as a deterrent to a U.S. cyber-attack on Russian systems — mutually assured destruction.

The hack became known to insiders last week when a DHS alert bulletin was issued by the agency’s Industrial Control Systems Cyber Emergency Response Team to its industry members. The bulletin said the “BlackEnergy” penetration recently had been detected by several companies.

DHS said “BlackEnergy” is the same malware that was used by a Russian cyber-espionage group dubbed “Sandworm” to target NATO and some energy and telecommunications companies in Europe earlier this year.

Analysis of the technical findings in the two reports shows linkages in the shared command and control infrastructure between the campaigns, suggesting both are part of a broader campaign by the same threat actor,” the DHS bulletin said.

The hacked software is very advanced. It allows designated workers to control various industrial processes through the computer, an iPad or a smart phone, sources said. The software allows information sharing and collaborative control.

*  *  *

We May Not Be Able To Avert A Cyber Attack, But We Can Prepare For It!

It’s possible that we won’t be confronted with a meltdown of the nation’s infrastructure in the foreseeable future.  The U.S. has substantial resources and it doesn’t seem like a stretch to believe we’d be ready, willing and able to return the favor of a cyber attack, maybe volleying back with a few twists and jabs just to turn the screw a little tighter.  It’s possible that’s why life as we know it has continued for the past three years.

However, we Preppers aren’t known for waiting until after a problem pops up before we prepare for it, and the potential for life as we know it to disappear without a “Dear John” letter fits the realm of possibility and certainly qualifies as a reason to prepare.

Where To Start

To get a grasp of what it would mean if the nation was rudely unplugged from the grid is best done by living it, to take it for a test run so to speak.  No cheating.  No turning on a faucet or using the toilet or surfing the web or sneaking a peek at texts. . . just bare bones, grid down survival for a week or a weekend.  Maybe some of you have already pulled the plug on electricity, running water, electronics, natural gas and communications.  There is an increasing number of folks who have gone off grid.   If that’s you, I hope you’ll share your experiences, so the rest of us currently addicted to modern conveniences can learn.

(David’s note:  I’d easily estimate that 100,000+ families have gone through this exercise since I first started encouraging people to do so in the SurviveInPlace Urban Survival Course.  If you have done it, please share your experiences below.  If you haven’t done it, please go >HERE< to get the course and go through the exercise ASAP.

Living grid-down, if only for a short while, will accomplish two things; it will prepare you for the real deal, where there is no going back, and it will unearth any holes in your preparedness plan while there is still time to come up for air and make the necessary improvements.

So, What Could Go Wrong During A Grid-Down Test Run?


You may discover that your water storage won’t get you by.  If you have the problem of limited storage space, it is especially important to have already located a water source and have the means to transport it (water containers and a hand cart if you must transport water for a long distance–it’s heavy!), and to have the ability to purify water through a quality water purifier, or by boiling, or purification tablets, or iodine, or sunlight.  However you choose to purify water, it should always be assumed that open water sources during grid-down is tainted and must be purified.  Not everyone will practice common sense.  Some idiots may even decide to use waterways as a refuse dump.


Have you stored a sufficient amount of emergency candles, oil for oil lamps, propane or kerosene for lanterns, and do you have solar lighting in place for long term grid-down that exhausts your fuel supply?  Even a short weekend spent pulled from the plug will reveal just how important it is to have redundant backups for critical goods!

And don’t forget to take an inventory of what flashlights and rechargeable batteries you have on hand, and if you have a solar battery charger, it’s a good time to take it for a test run to verify it still works.  Don’t have any of these?  It may be time to add them to your prep list.

Even when you have lighting needs covered, there remains the issue of making sure that you don’t advertise your preparedness unless you want to host a block party with all your neighbors who may or may not want to leave.   Do you have blackout fabric or dark lawn and leaf trash bags to cover the windows of living spaces?  What about duct tape to secure it?  You’ll need plenty, and when you feel you have enough. . . buy more!

And , there is always a need for matches and lighters to get those lanterns and candles lit.  Do you have a good supply?


If you live in a cold climate zone and don’t have a wood-burning stove and a storage of seasoned firewood, practicing a grid-down drill won’t be possible now that most northern zones have seen the mercury drop like a led balloon.  Here in North Idaho, we’re seeing overnight temperatures in the teens and Wednesday night, a bone-chilling, take-no-prisoners 8 degrees.   If you haven’t gotten around to installing a wood stove, you really should.  Craigslist is a good place to start if you are on a budget.  Just remember to figure in the cost of installation, stovepipe and a roof kit.  If you plan on installing a wood-burning device yourself, make sure to follow code, which includes the type of wood-burning stove that is allowed in your state.

(David’s note:  It’s harder, but you CAN do a modified grid-down drill, no matter what the temperature is.  I’d suggest it, in fact.  Last year, we lost power several times, but they all happened when the temperature was well below freezing.  You can either drain your pipes for a realistic experience or set your furnace to the lowest possible setting to keep the house above freezing, but no more.  The second method will be more comfortable, but the first method will expose problems now…when you can actually do something about them…rather than later when you can’t.  The Survive In Place course also goes into detail on how to create warm micro-climates in your house, regardless of how big and cold it might be.)

Food & Alternative Cooking

A grid-down practice run is an excellent time to make sure that you have at least a two to three week food supply easily available.  It’s true that for just a weekend or even a week-long practice run, organizing a two to three weeks food supply is overkill, but this exercise is meant to add a measure of safety for later, that should a nuclear event or heavy looting occur, you can remain in your home for an extended period of time.  (If you’ve got questions on this, the FastestWayToPrepare.com course walks people through the process of getting 6 weeks of survival food that you’ll actually want to eat for less than $2 per person per day…and a 6 week supply for 2 people will fit in 3 small stackable plastic bins.  To learn more, go >HERE<)

Practice cooking on the alternative cooking device you’ve chosen and keep track of the amount of fuel that is uses.  You may discover that you consume more fuel than you anticipated, and that’s okay.  It’s a heads-up that is much better to discover during a practice run than later when fuel may be difficult or impossible to find.

When you fire up your alternative cooking device to cook indoors, you may discover that the ventilation situation leaves a lot to be desired.  If so, skip cooking and go directly to MRE’s and canned food, which can be eaten directly from the can if need be.  Just remember to check seals and look for bulging tops and bottoms on the cans, and when in doubt, toss it!

If you haven’t put aside battery-run carbon monoxide detectors and fire alarms, why not get a few before a grid-down practice run? You now you need them. . .


Do you have an emergency radio?  If not, spending a few days without contact with the outside world will make it abundantly clear why having the means to know what’s going on locally and across the nation during a crisis is critical information.

And when nature calls, and thoughts of societal breakdown makes venturing outdoors a whole lot more interesting, the need for two-way radios and the batteries they require may suddenly become a top priority.


Speaking of making a nature call, the need for a simple $20.00 camp toilet will suddenly become clear if you stick to a grid down scenario!  They are a necessity for those middle-of-the-night nature calls, especially when children are involved.  While you make this grid-down practice run, another item that may need to be added to your prep list is a shovel, either a folding shovel, or regular shovel will do, but the folding style is user-friendly if your plans involve bugging out should your vicinity experience out of control looting and violence.

Laundry will need to be hand washed and hung dry.  Do you have a laundry tub, a hand agitator, clothesline and clothespins?  If not, the need for them will soon become clear as dirty laundry piles up and the washing machine and dryer is temporarily out of commission.

Depending upon your capacity for water storage and procurement, it may become clear that sponge baths may need to replace bathing for the most part, but even then, body soap, toothpaste, a toothbrush, dental floss, shampoo, razors, shave cream and feminine products will be needed.  Do you have enough put aside for protracted grid-down?

Check Life Blessons for a simple, inexpensive recipe to make your own shampoo from baking soda, water, and if you like, rosemary.  It will save on storage space, and with a sufficient supply of baking soda, you’re good to go!

Body soap doesn’t require a lot of space to store and it’s cheap, but if you’re interested in making your own with pure Castile bar soap, water and glycerin, go to Tried & True for instructions to make a natural Homemade Body Wash.

Toothpaste can be replaced with baking soda, and there are some interesting alternatives to the high cost and storage demands of feminine products.  Read about one solution at The JB Bardot Archives.

Medical Supplies

Hopefully, you will not have to dig into medical supplies during a grid-down practice drill, but you might as well take an inventory to be sure you have the basics covered, which should include a thorough emergency medical reference book.  Down time may be a reminder about CPR and medical training courses that have been put off that need to be kicked into gear!


A grid down practice run will definitely be a reminder of the need for self-defense.  There will be no avoiding the need to patrol property during a societal meltdown.  Now is a good time to have a conversation amongst adult family members or members of a group on how intruders will be treated provided you haven’t already.  It must be a plan that everyone agrees with. . . debating the issue while a looter is approaching your door can cost lives!  Take inventory of the weapons you have and make a list of what can be improved upon.


We don’t live life in a bubble, and although a real-life crisis will require a heavier workload than most of us are used to, there will be occasional down time.  When you unplug from the grid, even for a short time, it will become crystal clear that when the TV, Internet, play stations, texting and phone conversations aren’t available to fill down time, we’ll need something to replace these popular American pastimes.  In fact, you’re likely to find yourself spending family time together! A practice grid-down drill will offer time to discuss what entertainment alternatives might be on peoples wish list, and I’ll bet that books, board games, crafting, and outdoor activities will be a few of the favorites.

Have you done a grid-down practice run yet?  If so, did it reveal any necessary improvements that needed to be made?  Please sound off by commenting below!

God bless and stay safe,

David Morris and Survival Diva







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“Entitlement” and Ebola: A Deadly Mix

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It’s Getting Real: What To Advise Family & Friends

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Ebola & Other Infectious Disease

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Food Security and Other Fairy Tales

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