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Richard Stallman Collapses At Barcelona Conference (publico.es)
275 points by nutmeg on May 10, 2012 | hide | past | web | favorite | 230 comments

Hi, I am from Barcelona, and I was there. Stallman is a great man. I dont know what happened at the end, but when we were in the talk the organizers told us that the talk is suspended because Stallman was not well. The medical service arrive 20 minutes after Stallman ask for attention. This delay was used by him to say: "Son los recortes, Rajoy nos quiere matar a todos", meaning: The delay is because of the cuts in the spanish health systems, Rajoy (the president) want to kill us". :-).

Wow, if only he were in the United States where you don't have to rely on the Government for medical care...

I came here expecting a troll :) in Europe you don't have to rely on Government for health care: you have an array of options in the private sector, which are usually much better (in my experience) than the US private hospitals since they have to compete with a free and good-enough option.

Most of the population prefer to use the free, government subsidized health system though.

The health system is not free nor is it government subsidised. It is paid for from taxes, which people pay according to their income. There is no additional charge to then use the system other than paying taxes. (IMHO this is a good thing and it is fair.)

In the US it is a complete mess. Half of all healthcare spending is done by the government anyway (Medicare, Medicaid, government employees, army/veterans etc) and hence paid for by tax payers according to their income but not available to most taxpayers. The other half is paid for by charities, individuals, companies and by taxpayers (the government chooses not to collect tax on premiums paid by companies). Add in "insurance" companies which act as middle men between the payments and the healthcare delivery, plus a lot of regulation, and a large number of people whose jobs are to try and increase or decrease payments from the other groups and the whole thing is an unholy mess.

What is the difference between "subsidized by the government" and "paid for from taxes"? Maybe you could draw a distinction if a specific segment of taxes went to healthcare and nothing else, but that seems a thin semantic distinction at best.

The OP wording implied that the healthcare was free and the costs were mostly borne by "them" (the government). Although it is technically correct that the government is the people/tax payers, voter turnout has (mostly) been steadily decreasing. For non-voters the government is "them", not "us".

Don't you mean "for non-tax-payers?"

Everyone is a tax payer. Based on income the amount you may end up paying on your tax return is zero. Of course no one actually ends up paying zero. There are usually sales or value added taxes. Even if those direct taxes do not exist, you'll still pay indirect taxes. When you buy a product or consume a service the amount that goes back to the producer includes money that they then use to pay taxes.

It's not the same in all European countries. I think in the UK it is like you describe. I was quite shocked, however, when I heard about the typical wait times for things like broken teeth or bones (weeks - that was 18 years ago, though, don't know the current state). In Germany there are specific health insurances you have to pick. However it has become mandatory to have health insurance a couple of years ago, and the public insurers may not reject you.

No the UK does not make you wait weeks for broken bones. That would never make sense, because the bone would have healed in that time in the incorrect position, and then require expensive surgery to re-set it. It's so obviously nonsense.

Maybe not habitually, but it's not unheard of.


Circumstances seem to be debatable, though.

In the UK for serious broken bones is about half an hour to an hour, in my experience. Broken wrist, ribs, elbow, skull, pelvis and ankle, so far. I'd be broke or dead in many other countries by now. The inpatient care can be a bit hit and miss, but A&E is generally awesome.

Either you're seriously clumsy or you just have a really big portion of bad luck!

More an ability to be exceptionally stupid when drunk.

No offense, but wouldn't that imply that you are stupid when not drunk, as you consciously decide to get drunk?

I can be amazingly stupid when sober, this is true, especially for the first 30 minutes after waking up. But to really screw things up there is normally booze involved.

As for consciously deciding to get drunk when sober, I normally decide to get tipsy. It is when I am tipsy that I decide to get absolutely hammered.

But then again according to statistics, drinkers live longer, have more sex and have higher IQs than teetotallers, plus for most of human history it was one of the few sources of clean water, so is not an entirely stupid activity.

Now THAT explanation made me smile. I drink to that.

Are the health insurance plans means tested? ie does a millionaire pay the same as someone who is unemployed? Does the government also contribute some money behind the scenes?

In the UK dentistry is not covered by the National Health Service. (More accurately it can be but the vast majority of dentists opt out.)

As for waiting lists the UK did significantly increase spending in order to reduce them. (The UK also had one of the lowest per capita spending rates in the EU.)

However every health system anywhere has to do some form of rationing. There aren't an infinite number of beds, doctors, machines, or money for that matter. When there is some waiting then whatever is being waited on can achieve 100% utilization although queues can easily get out of hand. How to do the rationing is very tricky. Ultimately some value has to be put on human life. Spending $5000 on a course of treatment instead of $100,000 where the latter has 5% better outcomes needs to be decided.

> In the UK dentistry is not covered by the National Health Service. (More accurately it can be but the vast majority of dentists opt out.)

I don't know about the whole country, but in the cities I've lived in recently it's been no problem to get NHS dental care, at least for the basics. I guess I can't fault your words technically, but I think "In the UK dentistry is covered by the National Health Service" would be at least as accurate as your version.

In the cities I lived in in the UK (west London, Cambridge) it was impossible to get NHS dentists and there were very few of them. They even had waiting lists to join. Admittedly this was over a decade ago. Perhaps the intervening years of increased spending has had an effect. Or maybe it is correlated with the cost of living - more expensive areas mean dentists want the higher private income?

The public insurance companies basically all offer the same coverage (defined by laws) for the same price. They used to differ slightly in price but the government made that illegal. Now they try to differentiate on little things, like paying for Yoga classes. Dentistry can get expensive, as only amalgam fillings are covered by insurance. If you want other fillings (without quicksilver) you have to pay extra.

Europe doesn't have one health care system. There is a large variety in approaches. Most debates regarding reforms seem to quickly deteriorate into FUD about "americanization" rather than meaningful comparisons with other European countries.

By free, you mean that we prefer to use the system we're already paying anyway ;-) (when we can afford the wait).

If you can't afford the wait (if it's an actual emergency) they'll take it in account.

I'm nervous about moving to the states because of just that. Here in New Zealand it's easy because we're all guaranteed access to a great public health system, no matter what. You can buy private insurance and expedite certain things if you want, but the public system is always there and available to everyone. Moving to the US and having to deal with health insurance makes me nervous.

> Moving to the US and having to deal with health insurance makes me nervous.

Don't worry, your nervousness will be replaced by anger soon enough.

That's hardly fair. You might feel anger, or you might feel despair. If you're a misanthrope, you'll feel pleasure in watching who can't afford their medical bills fall into complete financial ruin.

Or you might get a health plan that you're perfectly satisfied with, as many people do, and not think about it very much.

You're totally right. I forgot the solipsists. But I don't feel too bad, because they always forget about me, too.

I live in Boston, Massachusetts, where we have universal health care and some of the best doctors and hospitals in the world. They don't have to be mutually exclusive.

I live in Boston too, and I have to say the system does seem pretty good for American citizens and foreigners who are permanent residents; but it's not so hot for foreign families on student visas who are poor by US standards. Schools give health insurance to the student and offer the option of buying very expensive health insurance for the rest of the family, other private health insurance companies won't take the rest of the family without the student signing up as well but the student's school doesn't usually let him or her opt-out of the school's insurance, the goverment run health insurance programs don't take the family because being here for 5 years on a student visa makes them "visitors" and thus ineligible. One affordable but risky option for a healthy family seems to be to not have health insurance and pay for all medical care directly, plus pay the fine for not having the mandatory health insurance --it is a small fraction of the cost of the health insurance.

Why doesn't the rest of the US use Boston's approach?

Massachusetts, not Boston. The way the US is setup each state is different - if you want that kind of health care, you move to Massachusetts. If you want fierce independence there are states that do that, there are states that heavily promote gun ownership, and those that discourage it. Some places have high income taxes, some property taxes, some no taxes, etc.

You can pick where you want to live based on what you like. A state in the US is almost as big as many countries, so you can think of the US as a conglomerate of many countries.

However Massachusetts is having some adverse selection going on as people who otherwise could not afford health care are going there and putting a drain on the system. They are also having a shortage of family doctors.

What is making the states very upset at the current federal plan is that they loose the opportunity to decide for themself how they want the state to run.

Thanks for the clarification. From the outside (I'm from the Netherlands) it is easy to forget the US is made up of many states which still have at least some sort of independence.

Same goes for Europe and its member states I guess.

Or better yet, where if you don't have a job with a group plan you just might find it impossible to get insurance at any cost, and if you pay the medical system directly you'll pay 3 times what the insurance companies pay, and 10 times what you would pay in the second most expensive country in the world.

Yes, but in US you have to have a lot of money for receiving a very basic and fundamental human right: medical care...

I wasn't going to respond to this to avoid prolonging this burgeoning off-topic health care flamewar, but I figured that in the name of cross-cultural understanding, I'd correct you:

Hospitals in the US are obligated to treat any emergency patient regardless of whether they can pay.

The problem with that is that emergency care is absurdly expensive. I was in an accident last year that put me in hospital for one night for observation, and I was billed almost $20k. Where illness rather than accident is the problem, people postpone going to a doctor or hospital until they are really ill, even though it would be much cheaper to address a minor illness before it becomes a medical emergency - a stitch in time saves nine, and all that. But people without insurance find access to non-emergency care difficult because of cost, and so the emergency spend half their resources dealing with completely avoidable medical problems.

And even if you do have insurance or the ability to pay, or (AFAIK) if a hospital waives payment for someone indigent, there's still a metric ton of paperwork to be filled out, which makes doing my taxes seem simple and fun by comparison. Don't even get me started on the catastrophically bad state of medical record-keeping.

They then charge those people least able to pay a higher rate, add interest, and turn it over to a collection agency.



[somehow Democracy Now seems appropriate for a Stallman discussion]

This isn't entirely true and varies from state to state and hospital to hospital. We had a trip to the hospital last year (non-ambulance, but was an actual emergency). Prior to checking out, we refused to sign anything from the hospital itself until checkout time. (quick sidebar, I've never seen anything as sleazy as an administrator trying to get someone who's heavily sedated and mediated but hasn't been fully diagnosed yet (triage and stabilization only) to sign paperwork related to billing and insurance, and then to authorize a room change to long term and the to an overnight room...all before they even knew what was going on). At checkout time, they had no insurance info...if we had no insurance, they would consolidate the fees from all groups (contracted doctors, anasthesiologists, equipment use, medications, etc.) and waive 2/3 of it and set up a payment plan (non-loan style, so no interest, or fees). This total was lower than if we used insurance and paid what was remaining on the deductible for the year and happened late enough that we wouldn't have benefited from using the insurance. I have no idea if it was attitude, handling it like business, persistence or just how they do business, but it greatly impressed me.

Medical Care != ER

It's coming. The law is a mess, and phasing in slowly. But it passed, and it's real. It will no doubt have to be fixed over the coming decades, but universal health care in the USA is a reality.

But the "lot of money" thing is just reality: health care costs a lot of money, period. And it must be paid. Coming up with a regime to do so without leaving people out or inappropriately burdening them is a hard problem, and frankly no entity, government or private, can claim to have solved it "well".

In the US the "lot of money" is somehow a lot more than in every other state, even though most western states have better quality care than the US.

Inflammatory statement, and not true. I happen to know doctors in the US who do not refuse care for those who cannot pay.

I happen to know doctors in the US who would refuse to take care for those who cannot pay.

As I mentioned here (https://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3955537), living in Boston, Massachusetts, we have the best of both worlds when it comes to access to health care at some of the best healthcare organizations in the world.

I should also add that even if you don't have money, you still have access. I was seen at a clinic at Mass General (http://www.massgeneral.org) recently by making an optional $2 donation.

Why is medical care a fundamental right?

It can't be, because if it's a fundamental right (read: entitlement) then someone else is obligated to provide that care. So, in a hypothetical world where no one chooses to go into the medical profession, we'd have to put guns to people's heads and force them to become doctors, because, after all, medical care is a "fundamental right." There's an obvious paradox in that.

Medical care is a "right" in the sense that it's something you shouldn't have to ask for permission to seek, but we aren't entitled to it. It's a service that can be provided and bought on the free market like all other services.

That argument is perfect in a theoretical world where no one choose to go into the medical profession. Back in real life, that doesn't happen. At most, you have to hire foreign doctors. So yes, it's a right, which like any other right, it's subject to the constraints of reality.

Real world / hypothetical world / thought-experiment aside, the point stands: treating a service as an entitlement entails imposing an obligation on somebody else to provide that service, OR to pay for that service, etc.

If granting one person a "right" means violating someone else's rights (that is, their right to choose how to direct their energy and the fruits of their labor) then it's unjust.

I don't think it's unjust to make people contribute to society through taxes if they want to live in it. They're free to opt-out from that implicit contract by going to live elsewhere. There's plenty of inhabited places on Earth still.

In any case, rights can and are sometimes eclipsed by others. The idea of natural, absolute rights is just ridiculous.

"They're free to opt-out from that implicit contract by going to live elsewhere."

Is it your position that everything can be justified by a persons ability to get up and move?

No, just some.

I respectfully disagree, but this really isn't the forum for this discussion, so I'll bow out here.

Yeah, I think me_myselft meant rights in terms of social justice, and not "fundamental rights" in the sense of abstract political philosophy. So many arguments get caught up over semantics and not what people are trying to say.

> It's a service that can be provided and bought on the free market like all other services.

Maybe in a hypothetical world where you can find this hypothetical free market. In the real world, health care can be treated as a fundamental right because there are enough doctors available.

Try making those doctors work for free, and see how long there are "enough doctors available."

And we would do that... why?

Either the doctors will have to work for free, or the rest of us will, to pay for others' health care.

We pay for lots of services that only other people end up using. It's part of being in a society.

When something is reasonably considered optional, ideally and hopefully you aren't forced to pay for other people's partaking of that optional service.

Healthcare is not one of those things. It's optional in the sense that everyone has the option of refusing medical care, even if sometimes that means dying, but it's not optional in that almost every sane person with more than a minor cut or sniffles or food poisoning opts for medical care if it is available rather than the alternative.

Other mandatory goods and services, like food, clothing, housing, city utilities (water/electricity), even internet access, work better in a mostly private model for a couple major reasons. First, the price variance for the necessary part of those goods and services is very low compared to variance for the medical costs someone might incur. Second, a lot of people can afford and want more than the bare necessities. Not so with medical care, where few people can afford major surgery or routine treatments for some major chronic conditions.

Another aspect of medical care is that we benefit even if we're never treated. Do you know anyone who has ever needed significant medical care at a hospital? I doubt your relationship with those people means nothing to you.

We don't work for free, we work in exchange for the privilege of living in society.

Thinking that way, btw, is bound to make you feel bitter. Why should you pay for other people?

Why not think of it as insurance instead (social security)? Less desperate people means less muggers on the street. Less sick people means less risk to get infected yourself. Plus, should you ever happen to fall on hard times yourself (god forbid), you would be provided for.

I believe in selfishness as the best basis for a society, and I still think it is in favor of social security and public health care.

Discussing fundamental rights is bound to be bullshit. The only right that exists is the right of the stronger party (established by guns, majority votes etc). If the stronger party believes x is a right, it is a right. So if a majority of voters in a democracy is convinced x is a right (perhaps because the better smooth talker convinced them), it can become a right. That is all there is to it. Philosophy is irrelevant.

Is living a fundamental right?

...can't rely on the government for healthcare...

As much as I appreciate all that Stallman's done over the years (though I don't always agree with him), that just strikes me as a remarkably dickish comment to make.

To my mind, 20 minutes is hardly an unreasonable delay when you're not an emergency. To make a snide remark about it when you're a guest in the country and getting the advantages of their free health services is just poor taste and bad manners.

It's also considered polite to cut people waiting for an ambulance to arrive to take them to the hospital a little slack.

Yep, nobody ever is rational when they feel they might die.

It was obviously a joke and I seriously doubt anyone would be offended by that. I know I'm not and I'm relatively understanding about the austerity measures.

You'd have to point me at something that would suggest it was said in jest then, since I don't see anything that would support that assertion.

Frankly, there's a reason why I used the word 'appreciate' rather than 'respect' and that's because while RMS has done much good for the world, he's also an extremist and a fundamentalist who's publicly held convictions in some areas indirectly damage the cause he's fighting for.

Actually, the OP's original article in Spanish states that he said it ironically and that everyone in the room laughed. See the before-last paragraph.

Actually, if you know anything about Richard Stallman, he was probably dead serious.

I've been following Stallman since forever. Even in the article it states that it was said in jest.

Spanish speaker here. That's a joke, like, 100% a joke, I can imagine the situation, everyone worried and complaining about the ambulance delay. He wanted to calm everyone down.

To be honest, I think it's a joke on us spaniards. I mean Stallman could have said it jokingly, but the damned cuts are actually killing people.

Jeez, calm down. It was a joke.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't Stallman well-regarded for his incredibly tactless, dickish and knuckleheaded assertions?

His comments on Steve Jobs spring to mind.

Thanks for letting us know. I really like rms, even if I don't agree with his every position. Here's to hoping he gets into good health soon.

RMS is controversial, extreme, and perhaps even crazy.

But it's scary to imagine a world without the counterpoint that RMS singularly embodies.

In a way, he evokes images of the Dalai Lama: In (metaphorical) exile, regarded as a heretic from many, and revered as a guiding beacon by others.

One step ahead of the curve and you're a genius. Two steps and you're crazy. Three and you're dangerous. RMS#2

Actually, I believe he's behind the curve.

There was a time when some of the things he talks about mattered (1980s), and that time has long gone.

The general public don't buy "computers" to tinker with any more. They buy them just like they buy a toaster. As an appliance to use. The software or hardware it runs is irrelevant. All that matters is the user experience, and if it fulfils the purpose - does it make good toast.

I find it ironic how vocal the anti-RMS contingent is being in the same week that Microsoft is locking Firefox out of one of their Windows 8 lines, while we live in a world where Apple rigidly controls what you do with everything not-Mac and continue making strides towards locking down the Macs as well, where consumer electronics like eBook readers are rapidly displacing computers, and where Google's dedication to openness seems to come and go and is held hostage by hostile phone carriers and indifferent-at-best hardware manufacturers. Let us not forget Microsoft's ongoing efforts to ensure BIOSes can only boot approved (read: Microsoft) OSes. I can barely even remember all the ways in which almost every tech company under the sun right now is trying to lock us in a box.

The Open Web Honeymoon is rapidly coming to an end and our ability to ignore his ideas is also rapidly coming to end. His ideas are regaining their importance fast, because the victories circa 2000 that allowed us to pretend he was crazy because our world was comfortable are being walked back. The classic Right to Read [1] is no longer a far-out vision but very nearly a matter of some switches being flipped in existing software and hardware. I see a developing consensus group on HN that we can ignore RMS as a loon, but now's a terrible time for that to take root. We're going to get stomped in the next several years if that happens. The fight for the openness of the next hardware generation has started and we're barely showing up.

[1]: http://www.gnu.org/philosophy/right-to-read.html

The sky is not falling. In fact, if you look at the situation now, with real browser choice, IE declining market share, and with Android, then the situation is better than it has ever been. Most games consoles have opportunities to write software for them. Something you could only dream about in the 90s.

The market decides these things extremely well. We don't need people shouting and taking extremist positions.

The only thing that matters is "Does this device solve a problem I have, and satisfy my needs?". If the answer to that is yes, then I don't care how open/closed/walled garden it is.

Yes. We have real browser choice on our conventional computers and Android. Less on iPhone, none on Windows 8 for ARM. Game consoles are walled gardens and I'm not sure what you mean by "most" because I'm pretty sure it's only the XBox 360 that is open to all, and that a hugely restricted sandbox as well.

So, your bright spots are a fading category under active attack (web browser choice), a dubious walled garden (XBox 360) from the same company working to kill our browser choice, and a phone platform which as I've said goes back and forth between open and not depending on the who, what, and when, with basically a single project standing between us and the whole platform being effectively closed (CyanogenMod). (I'm assuming you're not claiming the PS3 as open after the openness was retroactively removed by Sony. There is nothing stopping Microsoft from doing that either.)

This isn't extremism to be ringing the bell, our insertion into the trunk is nearly a fait accompli, and again, we're barely showing up to the fight.

> There was a time when some of the things he talks about mattered (1980s), and that time has long gone.

On the contrary. RMS's extreme views on software freedom are more relevant than ever before.

In the 2000's we have seen computers turn from general purpose programmable machines into walled gardens where you need a permission from the manufacturer to write and sell programs that run on them. That's pretty much the opposite of free software.

Software. Hardware. The difference is not relevant.

I also can't easily modify my toaster to fry sausages, because of the toaster company not releasing the design schematics and moulds. It's not free hardware!

The toaster lets you open it, the toaster lets you modify it, it has standard screws and doesn't explicitly lock you out. It gives you no help in modifying it, but you are permitted to do so, and there are no mechanisms in place to stop you from doing it. If someone were to make a tool that lets you modify the toaster, that would not be illegal, and I highly doubt the toaster company would take issue with it.

> The general public don't buy "computers" to tinker with any more. They buy them just like they buy a toaster.

You say that like it's at all relevant to the problem.

RMS isn't about helping people "tinker" with computers. He's about something much bigger than that. Freedom from monopoly business models.

Monopoly business models are only bad, if the monopoly is abused, or if the user is getting a bad deal.

Google has an absolute monopoly on search, but it's still providing the best search out there, so I use it.

You seem to have chosen your example to prove your point and also misunderstood the meaning of "monopoly business models."

I refer to business models that seek out monopoly status through techniques such as vendor lock in. Not just businesses that find themselves in a position of monopoly.

Monopolies never work. Check out 'The Master Switch: The Rise and Fall of Information Empires' by Tim Wu http://amzn.to/JGc0zv History will only repeat itself, but with greater and more severe repercussions for our apathy and ignorance.

And who's going to make that toaster?

Hint: You can't make it on another toaster.

The point he makes is that in the long term, getting locked into a single vendor isn't worth a slightly better user experience.

The big problem with software embedded in hardware is accountability. Today, if your car crash, it could be human error, or a software error. Yet, accountability has not moved with the times, and only the human error is looked at. Fix accountability for the software and I for one will treat it as the same as the hardware.

Someone else already said this, but thanks for the news.

I just wanted to add that at no point does the article mentions that he collapsed. Looks like he suffered an increase in blood pressure and decided to call it of. A doctor was contacted and he was able to walk away by his own means.

Google's translation made the article a bit more amusing: "The president of the Free Software Foundation has begun to feel ill, apparently due to a power surge"

He needs better line filtering I'd guess!

that's how i read it too, but there's a photo of him on a stretcher being carried to an ambulance. i think maybe the article is wrong?

Ironic that the only way I was able to read that article was through non-free software (Google Translate). Hope he's OK.

Nope. You could learn Spanish and understand it. It is not like the content is encoded in a proprietary or patent encumbered format.


Kindly funded by the Spanish government :)

Spanish has its specification open :)

I was surprised at how much of it I understood...a foundation in Latin, and years of watching soccer on Spanish networks I guess.

Here, there is a picture when he was in the ambulance: https://p.twimg.com/AsjR-wCCEAEVxLa.jpg

Here's my original post of the picture from Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/Cribstopper/status/200641059389313024...

Shit. I hope he's okay, it's difficult to tell what happened through the lens of Google Translate. Anyone have more information?

My Spanish is rusty, but the article says that:

- Stallman felt ill halfway through a lecture he was offering in Barcelona, probably due to a blood pressure spike;

- he asked the staff for medical assistance;

- meanwhile, he continued the lecture with some difficulty, but in a good mood;

- the lecture was suspended when the ambulance arrived, and was eventually cancelled;

- after being attended by the medical staff, he was well enough to walk out of the building;

- no further details on his health.

Of course, the big question is whether the firmware in the EKG machine was open or not.

I seriously wonder if medical care done by proprietary devices with proprietary software is something that he would object to!

Your Spanish is not so rusty after all :-)

Glad he's okay.

Let's hope the hospital doesn't offer him breakfast.

matt from the fsf here -- i spoke to the person with him at the hospital, he's fine. they're doing some routine tests now.

At least he probably doesn't need to worry about the hospital buying him a parrot.

If the server feels unhappy with the extra https traffic, the http://www.fsf.org/news/richard-stallman-speech-in-barcelona... link works OK.

My Spanish is equally rusty, but this (English language) article seems to have conveyed the main points:


What's ambiguous about him falling ill due to a "power surge"?

One of these days it's going to be for real and I wonder how many of his fans will be enraged when someone says something like "I'm not glad he's dead, but I'm glad he's gone".

Why would people even hate Richard Stallman, anyway?

It's perfectly OK to attack his ideologies but I don't see why you'd hate him personally as if he's some villain that is hurting people in some way or another. The guy is merely advocating his ideals. He's not enforcing them. He's not dominating any markets and enforcing his ideologies on people. He's not profiting of his ideologies. He doesn't even enjoy any power. If you don't like him, you can easily ignore him. You won't be affected.

He influences others with his (IMHO poisonous ideology). For some bizarre reason, some people listen to his mad rhetoric. That's why others dislike him.

IMHO, he hurts several things. He hurts free software, and he hurts the software industry as a whole.

I have never considered your point of view and I am curious about it. Can you explain why you think his ideology is poisonous? Also how can it be possible that he's hurting the free software movement, when I thought he CREATED the free software movement.

He created the free software movement in the same way that Douglas Crockford created JSON. eg he didn't.

If someone's able to make a decent case as to why rms being out of the picture makes the world a better place, they should totally be able to say that if it's their opinion. If they're just being a dick then yes, that will be annoying.

Consider the possibility there may be an afterlife and they both will have to endure each other for eternity.

I'd die just to watch it.

Not that many, he doesn't have a marketing department.

Is that the sound of Dave Winer deleting the comments?

All of them. It's been my experience that Stallman fans refuse to deal with even fair criticism of him. That aside, I hope no one says that about him or anyone else ever. I have a lot of problems with Stallman and his ideology but when he dies I hope we can all take the high road. We may think it's the man we don't like but it's really his actions and beliefs we have a problem with and when a well respected public figure like him dies it's just common decency not spit on his grave like that. When someone dies you should get past all the negativity you hold for a person and remember their humanity. To some he may have been an asshole in life but in death we're reminded that the deceased had family they loved, hopes and dreams, and changed people's lives in a small way just by having lived and interacted with others. I was one of the people who was outraged by what he said when Steve Jobs died but I'll forgive it when Stallmam goes because of what I just said earlier. Let's hope he's alright and take the high road.

By the way, "he did not, for example, have a heart attack". Really? There are no confirmed details but he definitely didn't have a heart attack? Well are there confirmed details or not? If he didn't have a heart attack then there's at least one confirmed detail, right? Why the need to clarify that one point? I'm not saying its a lie but whenever someone tells me "I don't know what happened but I know this one thing didnt happen" they're either guessing or hiding something.

It amazes me that Stallman is viewed in this way. Steve Jobs was undeniably an asshole to many .. and Steve Jobs' fans refuse to deal with even fair criticism of him.

There's a strange warped perspective at play.

You're missing the point and rushing to defend someone I'm not trying to insult. I never said or implied Jobs fans aren't the same. The point is that when someone dies or has something bad happen to them saying something like "I'm not glad he's dead but I'm glad he's gone" is like spitting on their grave and in such times we should remember that they were human like you or me and forget our petty grievances out of respect. When someone like Stallman dies it reminds us of our own mortality as would anyone's death. I'd hope no one was a dick about it "because Stallman said this and that about Jobs after he died" or "because he promoted some awful ideology" or something like that. I don't even like Stallman but when someone has a health crisis or dies you don't celebrate it no matter who they are. It's just common decency. Don't make this a Stallmam V. Whoever comparison.

I find the way many people talk about Stallman to be patronising and bitter. I believe this is partly just because he's fighting against the current, whereas a person like Jobs oiled the wheels of capitalism. Stallman has a huge positive effect on the world, it's a shame any recognition will need to be balanced against so much negativity.

That's not a detail. And that's not confirmed, that's denied.

We may think it's the man we don't like but it's really his actions and beliefs

(Shrug) I am my actions and beliefs. There's nothing else to me. I don't know about Stallman, though.

Come on man. You know what I mean. What we know about Stallman isn't all he was. If you judge him by his work with the FSF alone then you're not even close to being able to judge who he was as a person and that's what I'm getting at. Don't be pedantic.

What's strange is Wikipedia shows him as deceased. First sentence says: Richard Matthew Stallman (16 March 1953 – 10 May 2012), often shortened to rms,[1] was an American software freedom activist and computer programmer.

Social/Moral question: Is it acceptable to wish Mr. Stallman well in light of allegations that he has advocated for truly awful practices?

e.g. Dutch pedophiles have formed a political party to campaign for legalization. I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children.


There, you're doing it.

It is all right for someone to be skeptical about any commonly held view, except when it's about sex with minors.

In any discussion about any kind of sex with anyone under 18 whatsoever, if you're not 100% fully completely convincedly against it, then you're a bad person!!1

Why can't we just discuss this? Like we can discuss anything else? Especially in the US, where the norm appears to be that the KKK people and the Westboro Baptist nutcases are insane, but they should still be allowed to say what they think? Why is that ok with nazis and homo haters, but not for people who are merely skeptical about the current social norm wrt sex with minors?

It's this same attitude that allows governments to block half the internet, it's to seek out the child pornographers! What, you're against my law? Hey guys, this one here is in favour of child pornography!

Note: I completely share the common opinion that sex with minors is bad and that there are only very few edge cases to be found where it isn't (e.g. a sexually active couple, both 17 years old, one turns 18 and is now a peadophile? surely not). I just think that, like everything else in the world, if we're civilized, we'll allow the discussion.

Well actually, I haven’t expressed an opinion about whether his words are acceptable or whether he’s a bad person, whatever that means. I have heard more than a few people taking me to task for wishing him good health on account of his words, and one of the reasons I posted this was to hear from people like you.

You have, actually. Your statement can't even be charitably called 'loaded' - you explicitly state "he has advocated for truly awful practices?". Just throwing in the word 'allegations' doesn't mean that you're presenting a neutral point of view, as all shock jockeys are fully aware.

Genuinely curious, because I don't think I understood this: what do you mean with "people like me"?

HN readers, especially those who might contruute another perspective. e.g.

reg: Stallman is an important voice.

detractor: He’s also advocating pedo.

reg: He’s still an important voice.

HN reader: Actually, he isn’t advocating pedo. <- new perspective

ah right! thanks for elaborating. in fact, i'm flattered! :-)

also, my compliments for not turning this into a flamewar. in retrospect, it would seem that i was about to.

ps. I really don't understand why people downvoted your comment.

"HackerNews isn't Reddit", until it is.

Thanks. That's useful context.

I don't know if RMS said it in this sense, but pedophilia is actually the sexual attraction to prepubescent children.

Attraction to 17 year olds is ephebophilia.

> I just think that, like everything else in the world, if we're civilized, we'll allow the discussion.

He's not discussing it. He's just expressing an opinion. It's an opinion which appears to be based in ignorance. Without any reference to evidence it's just an opinion, and it's unfortunately close to the opinions given by paedophiles.

People have spent many years trying to get the harm done by paedophiles taken seriously. It's frustrating when someone with a large audience blurts out the same ignorant nonsense that victims have been fighting for years.

So, feel free to say that sexual abuse with children is not harmful - just make sure to read some of the extensive evidence before you do.

Actually in New Hampshire you can get married at age 14 (with parental consent) and up here I don't think it's illegal to have sex with anyone under 18 as long as you are within 1 or 2 years of them in age. I've heard in Florida it can be suddenly illegal though, birthdays must be awkward...

You can be skeptical about paedophilia just like you can be skeptical about evolution. The thing is that there is a lot of science and solid arguments why voluntary paedophilia is a bad idea.

You can get married at 16 in the UK (and most of europe) but if you took a picture of your wife giving birth you would be an evil child pornographer.

Another data point: Sex at age 14 is legal in Germany (as long as both parties consent, and it does not involve a position of power - such as a teacher). Even sex at younger ages is not illegal per se, but parents can choose press civil charges (which they rarely do).

Stating a fact, and being skeptical of the claims is not the same as advocating for.

If advocating for better understanding of something and simply not buying into the "think of the children" argument can be called advocating for something, well no. That's dishonest and disheartening, and reeks of a vendetta, or at the very least, a petty mind.

It's one thing to support something. It's another thing to be skeptical.

You'd have to have something more than just conjecture from RMS. Nothing I've read or found suggests he is an advocate.

And yes, I realize you are just asking this question.

Asking such a loaded question when RMS can't even defend himself is just incredible cheap. If you had genuine interest in knowing whether these allegations are true, you could have asked differently (and on a different occasion). No, that's not a "Social/Moral" question, that's just a statement. I would down-vote you, if I could.

its not an allegation when you link to richardstallman.org. What he said was

"Dutch pedophiles have formed a political party to campaign for legalization.

I am skeptical of the claim that voluntarily pedophilia harms children. The arguments that it causes harm seem to be based on cases which aren't voluntary, which are then stretched by parents who are horrified by the idea that their little baby is maturing."

The quote doesn't make it an allegation, that's right. The other parts do ("[...] that he has advocated for truly awful practices"). That "fact" is not part of the question and as such can only be refuted by invalidating the whole comment, not by answering the question (I hope that makes sense). A real (fair) question would have been something like "Here's a quote - what do you think about it?". Besides, again, it's not the right occasion.

Yes. He's a human being, with the same right to hold opinions different from mine or yours and to defend those opinions as we do. He didn't defend pedophiles - he stated a fact (that they were organizing a party) and an opinion (that he has doubts about the harm it does).

He's probably wrong about the harm, but even being wrong doesn't void his right to free speech, or to life.

He's not advocating...

The question (which is unethical to research) is "does voluntary pedophilia harm children?"

In all honestly, the answer is "probably most of the time". Right now, we can't say with absolute certainty that the answer is "probably most of the time". However, the cost of finding out the answer is via a controlled experiment too great, and given the ethics of science today, it definitely shouldn't be researched. We have a lot of reason to believe that children aren't mature enough to handle the consequences, and there are very common negative consequences associated with pedophilia that have been noted for decades. This evidence strongly points to the idea that it is bad, but it isn't proof any more than an apple falling is proof of gravity (it's a case for, but not a proof of). Our society saying "it's bad" isn't proof either.

What Stallman is writing is that he is skeptical of the claim that it is bad. That is a belief, and as already mentioned, testing it would be incredibly unethical. That doesn't make you a bad person for saying that without proof, you refuse to accept a claim.

While what he says may seem heretical, to burn him as a heretic is wrong. Until he says "we should test this" or "I support this group and/or changes of current laws", he hasn't suggested anything that would endanger/harm anyone. The proper response isn't "HERETIC", it is facts that we do know that suggest that this belief is likely (even if not proven in a formal study to be) wrong. For example, bed wetting, PTSD, sexual repression, hypersexualized behavior, extreme depression are symptoms experienced later in life. I don't know what the voluntary/involuntary ratio is, but this suggests that there are serious psychological consequences. Experts in the field would know more. The point being that in an open society, we discuss and counter, not silence and shut down.

Many people believe P = NP despite the years of no solution and a general consensus that researching a polynomial time algorithm is a waste of time. We don't have a proof that P =/= NP, so we can't counter, so we can't counter those who believe it, even if we regard their beliefs to be misinformed or likely to be wrong.

Being skeptical of a claim isn't the same as advocacy.

I agree with that, but I also know that we all make choices about which things we defend either directly or indirectly. Lawyers defend clients regardless of the repugnance of the allegations because it serves the greater good. Those of us who are not lawyers have the luxury of picking and choosing our battles.

I can’t read the man’s mind, but I do know that he has made a choice to discuss the subject and a choice to poke holes in an argument made by one side of the subject, and the choice to leave that comment right there without any attempt at balance or qualification.

> Those of us who are not lawyers have the luxury of picking and choosing our battles.

Sadly, no.

I wish we could just relax and have faith on the preservation of such basic rights as free speech, but, unfortunately, this is not the case. It's all too easy to condemn someone for having an opinion we consider dangerous and to suppress their right to state it. We all must learn to live in a world where some people disagree with us in very fundamental ways, because, if we don't, we'll end up living in a world we'd rather not.

Am I the only person to notice the word "voluntarily" (sic) ? Presumably he meant willingness of both sides. I haven't given the subject much thought, but it's certainly not in the same league as someone joining you in your bathtub against your will.

Legally, minors are considered "incompetent", the idea being that they wouldn't know if something would be harmful to them in the long run. Additionally, the level of wisdom/intelligence is just too different -- children are extremely easy to manipulate compared to adults, especially since adults are almost unanimously regarded as "authority figures", doubly so if a family member. Voluntary means little if you can't reason at the level of an adult. I don't think we can honestly say that a 7 - 10 year old child has the same reasoning and experience to make good choices.

beyond that, children really don't have a sexuality until at least puberty. There is no such thing as "voluntary" pedophilia.

Perhaps rms was talking about the legal definition (18) and not the clinical

> Is it acceptable to wish Mr. Stallman well in light of allegations that he has advocated for truly awful practices?

He never actually advocated pedophilia, so what awful practices are you saying that he advocates?

Wow, I had no idea.

That's repugnant. Why do people still invite him to conferences? Surely there's less-objectionable representatives of his views on software.

Free speech also includes speech you disagree with and the exercise of democracy implies the need to discuss things that are repugnant to you.

I do not agree with them, but I defend their (both Dutch pedophiles and RMS) right to state their opinions. Even if I strongly disagree with both.

We completely agree. RMS has the right to make excuses for pedophiles all day every day, if he's so inclined.

That said, conference speakers are there at the discretion of the organizers. Not being able to speak is a rights violation; not being able to speak at a conference is not.

I'd assume RMS has more productive ways to spend his time than playing games of logic that induce people into misrepresenting his position ("I'm not sure about the harm" vs. "it's harmless").

I'm glad you didn't say something to the effect of "Not being able to speak is a rights violation; not being able to publish it on the web is not." but you can clearly see it's a small leap from one to the other. After all, the servers, routers and wires always belong to someone.

Um, because he's never stood up and advocated legalization of pedophilia at a conference? (Or even actually advocated legalization of pedophilia at all, but that's a separate issue.)

And this is why raganwald's flamebait is indeed flamebait; gyardley decided to run with someone else's opinion/third-hand information without researching whether or not it was true, or even in context.

Which is pretty much what raganwald wanted to happen: fear, uncertainty, and doubt have been successfully seeded.

Well, considering he considers the practice of having children 'menacing' (his words, not mine), even when it is the children of contributors to his own projects, I don't find myself really surprised.


Bold comment. Privately, I was disappointed that he was fine after reading the news; I suspect that you're not alone in your views based on that and I had a similar moral debate internally.

I'm proud of you for lending your username on HN to remind everybody how truly awful of a person he can be, but I fear that even your clout cannot save this comment from people that love him.

Silencing dialogue, no matter how repulsive it may seem to you, is never the answer, especially in a "free" and "open" society.

Do you oppose automated hell-banning here?

It has lead to people being hell-banned for inoffensive things, the worst I've seen is someone hell-banned because their double post got such a large amount of down-votes.

HN is owned privately and everyone's ability to use it is at pg's discretion. pg has no duty, implied or otherwise, to provide a platform on which the principles of free speech hold. This is not true of society at large. You seem to be conflating the two.

Nearly every website is owned privately. That doesn't mean we still shouldn't seek free speech as a moral goal. What if Google censored your Gmail messages? You're using it at their discretion, right?

Actually, my comment on the situation was "My thoughts are with RMS, an important voice and pioneer:”


I got an earful about him from other people both publicly and privately, and I also recall a thread right here on HN a while back where there were allegations of (and spirited discussion about) his interest in getting young men into his hotel room at conferences.

I’m definitely not criticizing anyone who wishes him well, wishes poorly of him, or just wishes he would step out of the limelight (there seem to be more than a few people who consider him an liability to the open source movement at the moment regardless of past contributions). I was just trying to stick my finger in the wind and ask other people how they feel, not suggest how people are supposed to feel.

Bringing up a comment he made on pedophilia and some vague allegations about him inviting young guys into his room is certainly sticking your finger somewhere.

But oh, right, other people said those things, not you. You're just reporting, in a comment thread about the man's uncertain physical health, asking if it's "acceptable" to wish him well.

Do you have a link for those spirited discussions about getting young men into his hotel room?

After a cursory search, the only such discussion I could find was about John Draper, not Stallman. http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=1914498

From what I understand, Stallman doesn't even stay in hotel rooms.

True enough. I have less of a problem with him than I do those who consider him infallible. They're already at work in this thread; your comment was gray when I replied to it, and the same fate is befalling those who reply to you.

Let us be generous and consider the possibility that downvotes reflect the opinion that my question is off-topic in a thread about his health rather than agreement or disagreement.

I am downvoting you because I think it's repugnant to wish someone ill health because of what they said, especially if you're pretending you're being neutral/'fair' about it.

That it was said six years ago and you dredge it up in an entirely unrelated topic shows that you are more interested in grinding an axe than discussing the matter at hand.

"Stallman, conocido por sus excentricidades..."

The wonderful thing about having a smattering of French and Latin is that I can recognise "damned with faint praise" even in a language I don't know.

(Hint for the mono-lingual: http://translate.google.com/#auto|en|Stallman%2C%20conocido%...)

I'm really beginning to worry about rms's health. I recently saw a tv interview of him on russia today where he seemed to have put on a lot of weight.

I hope he doesn't overexert himself.

Get well soon,RMS.

i don't like all he's promoting, but hope he will get well soon. Bless!

This presents an interesting situation. Is Stallman okay with being hooked up to medical computers even though they may not be running free software? What about the privacy issues involved in being checked into a hospital?

I'm not rms, and I don't speak for him, but his opposition to non-free software is predicated upon the claim that it harms the user. As death is arguably a greater harm than any non-free software could inflict, I suspect he would say that it is not wrong to use non-free software to save a life if no free alternative is readily available.

You can ask him yourself, if you want: rms@fsf.org

He replies to almost all emails within a couple of days.

EDIT: He actually answered a very similar question in his reddit AMA [1]:

22. two_front_teeth: Suppose your doctor told you that you needed a medical procedure to survive but that the procedure would require inserting a device inside of your body which ran proprietary software. Would you be willing to have the procedure done to save your life?

RMS: The only way I could justify this is if I began developing a free replacement for that very program. It is ok to use a nonfree program for the purpose of developing its free replacement.

[1] http://blog.reddit.com/2010/07/rms-ama.html

To continue with the above comment, I'd like to point out that RMS has valid concerns regarding non-free software running inside your body.

You don't want to have a buggy pacemaker with unencrypted unprotected wireless access.



Moreover I don't feel comfortable using a technology that is owned, developed and maintained exclusively by one company.

As if free software cannot be buggy and with lousy security. I am so tired of this "open and free makes everything perfect by magic" thinking.

It's not about it being more secure. It's that at least when it's suffering from malfunction, you got shitloads of eyeballs on the thing to make it work and work well. Why do you think all the OpenBSD tools are so ubiquitous?

Keeping this in the context of devices like a pacemaker, do you really believe that an open-source development model would be safer for the people who depend on it than a closed-source model? Do you expect them to flash custom ROMs to the pacemaker that keeps them alive if it turns out there may be a problem with them, instead of going to the hospital to get the thing replaced?

One of the things I've learned in life is that We're All Just Folk. There's no magical divinely-inspired programmer out there creating firmware for your pacemaker. The difference between him and me is process, and little else. If I'm given access to the same testing processes they use as part of the open source package, I see no reason to believe my code is going to be worse than anybody else's. Sure, I'd think twice before installing it, but in some sense that's irrational; I should think twice before anything like that because We're All Just Folk, and it's just some guys writing all the firmware we all depend on.

In some ways, it's best not to think too hard about this.

Whether or not a pacemaker is running free open source software is independant of whether or not a person can flash their own version of the software to it.

If it were open source you, or anyone who was fitted with the pacemaker could look at the rules that control it.

Making _anything_ visible and open to criticism instantly makes its creators more accountable and adds pressure for them to try and be responsible.

Nobody's saying they wouldn't just reflash it at the hospital. Replacing a pacemaker requires surgery, which is why they're externally programmable in the first place.

Oh come on, free software does not imply an open source development model and vice versa. You could very well have the software developed by a professional team and release it as free software.

Its not that it can't be buggy but rather that you can fix bugs once you find them. A proprietary manufacturer of a pacemaker wouldn't necessarily fix your bugs in a timely manner; you depend on his cooperation. He could be out of business, no longer support that model of pacemaker, argue that it isn't a bug or use any other reason not to fix your bug. If you have the source code, you are always free to fix the problem yourself or hire a specialist to fix the problem for you.

With enough eyes all bugs are shallow. - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Linus_Law

Free eyes have lower marginal cost to the consumer than proprietary ones.

Very similar to my concerns for running non-free software inside our democracies.

> The only way I could justify this is if I began developing a free replacement for that very program.

If the Oracle suit taught me anything, it's to be careful when using APIs.

You could do it in EU though

This Stallman quote (transcript from an interview) may be instructive here:

"And the issue doesn't really arise for software that goes in a watch or a microwave oven or an automobile ignition system. Because those are places where you don't download software to install. It's not a real computer, as far as the user is concerned. And so, it doesn't raise these issues enough for them to be ethically important."

Source: http://www.gnu.org/events/rms-nyu-2001-transcript.html

A similar argument could be made about software running on servers, and circa that same time as that quote on microwave ovens I believe Stallman in fact took the position that servers did not raise such issues either.

He's changed his mind about servers since then, so I wonder if he also has since changed his mind on devices?

IIRC he's fine with servers that are simply used to publish information but he does not use SaaS type websites unless they are free software and he has control of his data.


> However, if I am visiting somewhere and the machines available nearby happen to contain non-free software, through no doing of mine, I don't refuse to touch them. I will use them briefly for tasks such as browsing. This limited usage doesn't give my assent to the software's license, or make me responsible its being present in the computer, or make me the possessor of a copy of it, so I don't see an ethical obligation to refrain from this. Of course, I explain why they should migrate the machines to free software, but I don't push them hard, because that would be counterproductive.

Interesting. A similar thing happened to me at college: I had to sign that I would abide by a license agreement that was not actually available for me to read. I signed the paper, because it was MS software and I figured it was probably the usual EULA junk. A few weeks later, I was told that the college was possibly in violation of their agreement with MS because of my behavior! I went to the office and was scolded for buying more than one copy. I told them I had no idea, since I was never shown the agreement. They said, "Oh, we don't really show that to people. But you need to abide by it, we could be in big trouble if you don't!"

If it were anyone but Stallman, I would have thought you were being an ass about the situation. But realistically, I could see that being a concern for him and his ethics. I hope he doesn't die on principle quite yet though. There aren't too many FOSS clinics AFAIK.

I don't see how it would realistically be a concern for him. That's like saying he wouldn't be willing to get on a plane or drive a car b/c they use closed source software...

I wouldn't put it past him. A friend of mine who has worked for the FSF told me that Stallman won't even use the web. He emails his employees to look things up for him because he assumes web sites to be malicious unless he has the entirety of their source accessible.

I am pretty sure he has thought about this.

Which is what makes RMS so valuable. He does think about things others take for granted, and he raises the alarm if he feels there's something there to be concerned about.

Sure, he raises that alarm early and often (and in an annoying voice), but he's been right more than once about issues nobody else had considered before.

Medical software is something that should be more free. The software in medical equipment goes through less rigorous review than the rest of the system. There as a recent paper about the review process and closedness of medical software and there is little to no software audits required for getting approval from officials.

The first fatalities from software in medical systems were in mid-80's when an X-ray machine gave excess radiation to patients because of a programming mistake. I recall it was an integer overflow.

This issue is more serious than just making fun of RMS's extremist views.

(sorry for the lack of links to sources, I'm sure you can find them if you're interested)

I was thinking about this just the other day as I was getting a flu vaccine. As far as accepting closed source technology in your life, that seems like the vastly more salient domain.

Perhaps he would be, so long as the EKG readout was transcribed into ASCII text and emailed to the nurse, who reads it using Mutt.

> Richard Stallman: "Rajoy nos quiere matar a todos"

RMS: "Rajoy (Spain's president) wants to kill us all."

Well there you go, Richard.

For context, see the commment from me_myselft http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=3955287

That's pretty much classic RMS.

Well, at least he just has some blood pressure that needs tending to.

Even though I mostly disagree with the man's politics, I must say that it takes a smart prick to make a contextually accurate and funny joke in a foreign language at an indecisive moment like that.

President? I think you mean prime minister.

No, I did not mean prime minister.

In Spain, the head of state is the monarch and the head of the elected government is known as the "Presidente del Gobierno", or president of the government. Although a counterpart can be found in other parliamentarian systems such as the prime minister in the UK, the Spanish president of government is not primus inter pares but the undisputed head of the government.

For those not getting in which context could be a confusion between the words president and prime minister, here's a wikipedia entry[1]


Wikipedia had him as expired briefly, had to do a double take.


"Reports of my death have been greatly exaggerated"

TIL: Richard Stallman has a heart.

Maybe Microsoft tried the "Surprise! You were actually using Vista!" trick on him.

Did he choke on the toenail this time?

i will not make a parrot joke here. i will not make a parrot joke here. i will not make a parrot joke here. ..

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