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Nederlog

March 24, 2018

Crisis: Bernie Sanders, Bolton, ¨Democracy¨, Psychographics, Facebook+Hartmann


Sections
Introduction

1. Summary
2.
Crisis Files
     A. Selections from March 24, 2018
Introduction:

This is a Nederlog of Saturday, March 24, 2018.

1. Summary

This is a
crisis log but it is a bit different from how it was the last five years:

I have been writing about the crisis since September 1, 2008 (in Dutch, but since 2010 in English) and about the enormous dangers of surveillance (by secret services and by many rich commercial entities) since June 10, 2013, and I will continue with it.

On the moment and since more than two years (!!!!) I have problems with the company that is supposed to take care that my site is visible [1] and with my health, but I am still writing a Nederlog every day and I shall continue.

Section 2. Crisis Files

These are five crisis files that are all well worth reading:

A. Selections from March 24, 2018
1. Deconstructed Podcast: We Need to Talk About Inequality (With Bernie
     Sanders)

2. Bolton Was Early Beneficiary of Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook Data
3. How Democracy Can Survive Big Data
4. Meet the American Professor Suing Cambridge Analytica for His
     Psychographic Profile

5. Facebook Turned Our Economy Into a Spying Operation
The items 1 - 5 are today's selections from the 35 sites that I look at every morning. The indented text under each link is quoted from the link that starts the item. Unindented text is by me:

1. Deconstructed Podcast: We Need to Talk About Inequality (With Bernie Sanders)

This article is by Mehdi Hasan on The Intercept. It starts as follows:

On the first episode of his new podcast “Deconstructed,” The Intercept’s Mehdi Hasan sits down with former presidential candidate and independent Sen. Bernie Sanders to talk poverty, inequality, media bias, and the 2020 presidential election.

Sanders is fresh off a Facebook town hall with Sen. Elizabeth Warren and filmmaker Michael Moore that was viewed live by nearly 2 million people. He and Mehdi dig into the challenges facing the Democratic Party, how the left can connect with Trump voters, and whether Trump firing Mueller would be an impeachable offense (Bernie’s answer? Yes).
I should start this review by saying that this is indeed the first episode (and I do not watch anything if I can read the text, for that is a lot faster for me than listening), but I did notice two infelicities that should have been avoided: First, several contributors cannot be identified (only two or three letters are given), and second, it seems as if several quotes are mixed into the text, but they cannot be identified as quotes (in the text, at least).

Anyway... here is Bernie Sanders:

Senator Bernie Sanders: Today there are thousands of people this country who can’t afford to go to a doctor. Today there’s a mom waking up who can’t afford affordable childcare for her little one. There are senior citizens a mile away from here who are trying to survive on $12,000 a year, social security. Does anyone give a shit about them? Does anyone cover them? The answer is no.
Well...I agree with Bernie Sanders, but would like to add that my minimized pension (in Holland) is about $12,000 a year, and I did not earn anything more (in fact considerably less) in each and all of the last 50 years...

And besides, the terrorists who ruled the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam let me - intentionally and fully on purpose, because I headed the only party in the ¨University Parliament¨ that was against them - me and my ex be terrorized for three years by a complete, utter and very dangerous madman, while the City of Amsterdam, a few years later, let me be gassed, terrorized and threatened with murder by the illegal drugsdealers whom the City of Amsterdam chose to protect over the legal rights of persons like me. And at the same time the ¨University¨ of Amsterdam illegally and extremely sadistically denied me my legal right to take an M.A. in philosophy, because they screamed at me that I was ¨a fascist, a fascist, a fascist¨ and ¨a terrorist, a terrorist, a terrorist¨ all because I had honestly said I was not a Marxist, and I had opposed the terrorists who led the ¨university¨ politically, who now abused me politically and destroyed 20 years of studying philosophy.

Anyway... more about this later, now I have been declared - after my ex and myself have been  styled for the last 39 1/4 years ¨psychosomatizers¨ - as having ¨a serious chronic disease¨, for yes: I am extremely angry after 40 years of intentional abuse, discrimination, murder threats, and degeneracies in Holland.

Back to the interview. Here is Mehdi Hasan:

MH: Previous presidents declared war on poverty. These days, though, presidents both Republican and Democrat prefer to declare war on the poor. And they’re able to do it because the U.S. media gives them a free pass — it doesn’t cover this stuff.

For example, how many of you are aware of the fact that 41 million Americans live in poverty? 41 million. That nine million Americans have zero cash income? That a million and a half families in America — in America, the richest country in the history of the world — live on less than $2 a day.

But why would you know any of that? It’s not as if the media is telling you, informing you, reminding you of these facts. Not in an age of Russiagate or Trump tweets or Stormy Daniels. Who wants to talk about poverty and inequality when you could talk about porn star suing the president?
I think that is a correct summary (i) of what is really happening in the present USA, and also (ii) of the enormous lies and/or ommissions of important facts by the mainstream media.

And here is Bernie Sanders on poverty (and I think but do not know this is in fact a quote):

BS: How often have you guys seen on television any discussion of poverty in America. You ever see it?

Woman: No!

BS: Virtually not at all. 40 million people struggling. And, what I would say to our friends in the corporate media, start paying attention to the reality of how many people in our country are struggling economically every single day. And talk about that.

Well... yes and no. I agree with Sanders on the facts, but the mainstream media simply will not do as you ask them to do if you cannot also reward them financially. And ordinary people do not have billions, or millions, or tenthousands to do so. And therefore they are systematically neglected by the media, in fact for a long time now as well.

Here is another bit on what the mainstream media do deliver:

MH: One statistic I came across recently made my head spin, the Tyndall Report looked at nightly news broadcasts in 2016, election year, they found a mere 32 minutes was devoted over 2016 to substantive policy issues, most of those minutes were on foreign policy and terrorism, zero minutes on poverty, zero on inequality, zero on infrastructure, zero on climate change. Isn’t that a disgrace?

BS: Unbelievable. It’s unbelievable. And unless we understand that, you can’t understand why Donald Trump is president of the United States, you can’t understand why most people in America are giving up on the political process, we have the lowest voter turnout of any major country on Earth, so we have got to raise political consciousness in a way that the corporate media has never gone near.

Again I say: yes and no. That is, I agree with Sanders on the facts, but his stated remedy ¨we have got to raise political consciousness in a way that the corporate media has never gone near¨ seems to me - well: very unlikely to succeed without a lot of money.

Here is the last bit that I quote from this article:

BS: If there is anything that we have learned from Trump is that a president and congressional leadership can be really bold. And you’ve got to give this to the Republicans. They have the courage to do what nobody in America wants except their billionaire campaign contributors.

I mean to come forward with a proposal that there were 32 million people off the health insurance — my god! Or to come up with a tax proposal with 83 percent of the benefits are to the top one percent at the end the 10 years? That’s incredible. What you need is an equal level of boldness on the part of Democratic leadership, except that boldness works for the working class, for the middle class, not just the one percent.

I say yes again on the facts, but I fail to see how this can succeed without paying the mainstream media lots of money. This is a recommended article.


2. Bolton Was Early Beneficiary of Cambridge Analytica’s Facebook Data

This article is by Matthew Rosenberg on The New York Times. It starts as follows:
The political action committee founded by John R. Bolton, President Trump’s incoming national security adviser, was one of the earliest customers of Cambridge Analytica, which it hired specifically to develop psychological profiles of voters with data harvested from tens of millions of Facebook profiles, according to former Cambridge employees and company documents.

Mr. Bolton’s political committee, known as The John Bolton Super PAC, first hired Cambridge in August 2014, months after the political data firm was founded and while it was still harvesting the Facebook data.

In the two years that followed, Mr. Bolton’s super PAC spent nearly $1.2 million primarily for “survey research,” which is a term that campaigns use for polling, according to campaign finance records.

I say, which I do because I did not know that Bolton was also helped by Cambridge Analytica + Facebook: interesting.

Here is more:

To do that work, Cambridge used Facebook data, according to the documents and two former employees familiar with the work.

“The data and modeling Bolton’s PAC received was derived from the Facebook data,” said Christopher Wylie, a data expert who was part of the team that founded Cambridge Analytica. “We definitely told them about how we were doing it. We talked about it in conference calls, in meetings.”

That is to say (I think) that Bolton´s supported committee did know that the data they got were derived from Facebook. This is also interesting.

And here is more:

Cambridge’s so-called psychographic modeling techniques, which were built in part with the data harvested from Facebook, underpinned its work for Mr. Trump’s campaign in 2016, setting off a furious — and still unsettled — debate about whether the firm’s technology worked. The same techniques were also the focus of its work for Mr. Bolton’s super PAC.

I am sorry, but the furious — and still unsettled — debate seems total rot to me: Facebook is busy since 2004; its owner earned $70 billion; and it is ¨a debate¨ whether Facebook works?!?!
Either that is obvious bullshit or the above paragraph is ill written.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

Cambridge Analytica, which grew out of the London-based SCL Group, was founded in 2014 with a $15 million investment from Mr. Mercer, whose daughter Rebekah sits on the firm’s board of directors. Stephen K. Bannon was also a co-founder.

At the same time, Mr. Mercer was financially supporting Mr. Bolton’s PAC, donating $5 million between April 2014 and September 2016, according to Federal Election Commission filings. The Mercers also backed Mr. Trump in the presidential election.

Yes, this seems all correct - and it lays a pattern for how Trump may have won the elections: By 50 million sets of private data on Americans, that were gathered in secret. This is a recommended article.

3. How Democracy Can Survive Big Data

This article is by Colin Koopman on The New York Times. This is by an assistant professor in philosophy, whose Dutch family name means ¨businessman¨. He writes trash like this, for this is the opening of his article:
Only a few years ago, the idea that for-profit companies and foreign agents could use powerful data technologies to disrupt American democracy would have seemed laughable to most, a plotline from a Cold War espionage movie.
How many years ago is ¨a few years ago¨? I´d say two, three or maximally four years ago. So Mr. Koopman doesn´t seem to have the least idea that ¨for-profit companies and foreign agents¨ -¨The Russians! The Russians! The Russians!¨ - ¨could use powerful data technologies to disrupt American democracy¨ before about 2014.

So until about 2014 Mr. Koopman did not know a thing about spying and stealing, I take it.

Well.... here is Mr. Brzezinski writing in 1967 (!!!!), a mere 51 years ago, in ¨New Republic¨ of December 13, 1967:

Our society is leaving the phase of spontaneity and is entering a more self-conscious state; ceasing to be an industrial society, its is being shaped to an ever-increasing extent by technology and electronics, and thus becoming the first technotronic society. This is at least in part the cause for much of the current tensions and violence, and largely the reason why events in America today do not fit established categories of analysis.

Mr Brzezinski realises that the technotronic society fills some people with uneasiness people with uneasiness (in this respect the reactionaries and the revolutionaries are as one).(...)

However Mr Brezezinski does not expect that the Luddite lovers of freedom and anarchy will seriously obstruct the new order. For one thing,
'it will soon be possible to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-date, complete files, containing even personal information about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen, in addition to the more customary data.'
Moreover it will be possible to anticipate and plan to meet any uprisings in the future. The police will even be able to forecast crises before the rioters themselves are conscious of wanting them.
I read that quotation more than ¨a few years ago¨, namely in 2012 (and before that in the 1970ies, but then I did not recognize what Brzezinski did say in 1967:

He said that he was designing a fully neofascist system of spying on absolutely everyone that would make it possible (for secret spies from the NSA, presumably):
¨to assert almost continuous surveillance over every citizen and maintain  up-to-date, complete files, containing even personal information about the health and personal behaviour of the citizen¨
That was in 1967 and Mr. Brzezinski was fully served by 1992, when the DARPA opened the internet that was planned to do as Mr. Brzezinksi said it would do 25 years earlier (which means thay he either is a most extra-ordinary genius who could see 25 years in the future, or else that he had been planning what he or his mates received in 1992 - and no: Mr. Brzezinski undoubtedly was fairly smart, but he was no extra-ordinary genius).

My own conclusion is that the internet was developed by DARPA to spy on absolutely everyone who used a computer connected to the internet, and indeed that is precisely what DARPA produced.

We go back to Mr. Koopman
:
And the idea that the American system would be compromised enough to allow outside meddling with the most basic of its democratic functions — the election of its leaders — would have seemed even more absurd.

I take it Mr. Koopman believed this until ca. 2014 (and note ¨outside meddling¨: It is ¨The Russians! The Russians! The Russians!¨ who did it, and of course not Facebook, not Cambridge Analytica, not Stephen Bannon, not Mark Zuckerberg, and not Robert Mercer).

And while I agree I am interpreting Koopman´s text a little bit, I think I am being fair, for he writes in the NYT and the NYT is spinning the story that ¨The Russians!¨ did it.

Here is more by Mr. Koopmans:

“Data drives all that we do.” That is the motto emblazoned on the website of Cambridge Analytica, the consulting firm that was employed by the Trump campaign to influence voters and that is now under scrutiny for its unauthorized harvesting of data from at least 50 million social media users.

The heart of Cambridge Analytica’s power is an enormous information warehouse — as many as 5,000 data points on each of more than 230 million Americans, according to recent reporting, a fact the company proudly confirms on its website. Its promise of elections driven by data ultimately implies a vision of government steered not by people but by algorithms, and by an expanding data-mining culture operating without restrictions.

I think this is about the maximum of sensibility that Mr. Koopman - an assistant professor of philosophy - is capable of.

It is - I am at least a bit amazed - mostly sensible, but (1) he should have said ¨at least at least 50 million American social media users¨ but left out ¨American¨, while (2) his assertion that this ¨ultimately implies a vision of government steered not by people but by algorithms¨ is of an utter blindness that seems only possible to academic philosophers and to mainstream journalists:

The ¨algorithms¨ (programs - MM) are all written by people working for billionaires or the secret services, and it is these - extremely few - people who have nearly all the power and also the money to steal the private data of hundreds of millions of naive users.

But Mr. Koopman is not as far as seeing that ¨algorithms¨ may be paid for.

Here is more of his - quite sick and certainly sickening (to me) - prose:

That such threats to democracy are now possible is due in part to the fact that our society lacks an information ethics adequate to its deepening dependence on data. Where politics is driven by data, we need a set of ethics to guide that data. But in our rush to deliver on the promises of Big Data, we have not sought one.

In the first place: ¨our society¨ may ¨lack an¨ adequate ¨information ethics" (?!?!) but it certainly had some good rules like the Fourth Amendment, and also some laws beside it. And the problem is less the lack of an ¨information ethics" (?!?!), but the facts that (i) everybody who is swiping up the private data of everyone simply wipe their asses with the Fourth Amendment, while (ii) almost no one seems to care or - if they are Senators or Congressmen - seek to further weaken the existing laws that protect(ed) the ordinary computer users.

Also, the Stephen Bannons etc. etc. never seem to do anything whatsoever: What happens is not their fault, or Facebook´s fault, or Cambridge Analytica´s fault: It is ¨our¨ fault, for ¨we¨ - you, I and the more than 2 billion ¨dumb fucks¨ (Zuckerberg´s words) on Facebook - did not seek an ¨information ethics" (?!?!).

According to Mr. Koopman, to be sure. Here is his idea again:

What we need is for an ethics of data to be engineered right into the information skyscrapers being built today. We need data ethics by design.

First, there is the law. It is logically possible that Mr Koopmans does not know about the law and a ¨data ethics¨ (?!?!) seems to be philosophy rather than law (though I do not know what an ethics for ¨data¨ or ¨information¨ is supposed to be).

And second, one important problem is that the existing laws simply are not maintained, while another important problem is that many of the existing problems could be partially fixed if only the vast majority encrypted things.

Then there is this thorough cleansing of Mr. Zuckerberg:

It is not Mr. Zuckerberg’s fault that our society has given him a free pass (and a net worth of $67 billion) for inventing his platform first and asking only later what its social consequences might be. It is all of our faults.

You see: Mr. Zuckerberg - who deceived over 2 billion ¨dumb fucks¨ in Zuckerberg´s own words, ¨to trust him¨, again in Zuckerberg´s own words, after which he stole their private data (¨as many as 5,000 data points on each of more than 230 million Americans¨) to do with them as he pleased and to sell them (in secret) to whom he pleased - is totally innocent in Mr. Koopman´s enlightened philosophical mind: ¨It is all of our faults¨, dixit Koopman.

Here is his last bit of trash:

We have in the course of a single century built an entire society, economy and culture that runs on information. Yet we have hardly begun to engineer data ethics appropriate for our extraordinary information carnival. If we do not do so soon, data will drive democracy, and we may well lose our chance to do anything about it.

First, it is again the completely anonymous ¨we¨ (who all live at least a century) who have ¨built an entire society, economy and culture that runs on information¨. But - according to Mr. Koopman, who admitted above he can´t see much further back than 2014 - ¨we¨ must have been so enormously stupid (politicians, professors, statisticians, lawywers, and ¨we¨) that ¨we¨ - in Mr Koopman´s opinions - ¨hardly begun to engineer data ethics¨.

And second, the danger - according to Mr. Koopman - is that then ¨data will drive democracy¨ (not people, and certainly not specific people like the billionairs Mercer and Zuckerberg: These are totally innocent - either ¨we¨ or the ¨data¨ are guilty).

I predict that Mr. Koopmans may have an utterly brilliant future as a professor of philosophy in Holland.


4. Meet the American Professor Suing Cambridge Analytica for His Psychographic Profile

This article is by Amy Goodman on Democracy Now! It starts with the following introduction:
We turn now to the burgeoning scandal around voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica. Startling revelations show the company harvested the data of more than 50 million Facebook users, without their permission, in efforts to sway voters to support President Donald Trump. Cambridge Analytica was founded by billionaire Robert Mercer. Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon of Breitbart News was one of the company’s key strategists. Cambridge Analytica used the data to turn a voter-profiling company into a powerful psychological tool, which began launching targeted political ads aimed at carrying out Robert Mercer’s far-right political agenda. We speak to David Carroll, an associate professor of media design at Parsons School of Design, who has filed a claim to force Cambridge Analytica to turn over all of the data it harvested on him.
Yes indeed - and as I have said before: I do not think ¨the Russians¨ are responsible ¨in efforts to sway voters to support President Donald Trump¨ (although they probably did do a few things) but I do think that Facebook + Cambridge Analytica may well have done so (and they had ¨the data of more than 50 million Facebook users, without their permission¨).

Here is more:

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to the burgeoning scandal around voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica. Startling revelations show the company harvested the data of more than 50 million Facebook users, without their permission, in efforts to sway voters to support President Donald Trump. Cambridge Analytica was founded by billionaire Robert Mercer. Trump’s former adviser Steve Bannon of Breitbart News was one of the company’s key strategists.

The Facebook data was first obtained by a Cambridge University academic named Aleksandr Kogan, whose company Global Science Research built an app that paid Facebook users to take a personality test and agree to have their data collected. The app also collected data on these users’ friends, meaning it actually collected personal information from tens of millions of users without their knowledge. Cambridge Analytica then bought this data in order to turn a voter-profiling company into a powerful psychological tool, which began launching targeted political ads aimed at carrying out Robert Mercer’s far-right political agenda.

Yes indeed: This is a good summary. And here is David Carroll:

AMY GOODMAN: So, explain what you are demanding.

DAVID CARROLL: A full disclosure. So, where did they get our data? How did they process it? Who did they share it with? And do we have a right to opt out? So, the basic rights that I think a lot of people would like to have, and the basic questions that a lot of people are asking.

I agree with Carroll, although I do not know what his chances on success are (small, if I understand the English laws) nor what motivates him.

Here is the last bit I quote from this article:

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to an interview Mark Zuckerberg did back in 2009 with BBC.

LAURA TREVELYAN: So who is going to own the Facebook content? The person who puts it there or you?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: The person who’s putting the content on Facebook always owns the information. And that’s why this is such an important thing and why Facebook is such a special service that people feel a lot of ownership over, right? This is their information. They own it. And they—

LAURA TREVELYAN: And you won’t sell it?

MARK ZUCKERBERG: They often want to—no, of course not.

AMY GOODMAN: “This is their information. They own it.” David Carroll?

DAVID CARROLL: Well, you can try to download your data from Facebook, and you can see what they think your data is. And it is not complete and not even close to the amount of data that they have on all of us who are on Facebook. So, what Facebook would really need to do is to let us download what is known as the shadow profile, which is the profile that Facebook has assembled about us that we don’t know about.

First, this is Mark Zuckerberg lying to the ¨dumb fucks¨ (Zuckerberg´s words) ¨who trust him¨
(Zuckerberg´s words). And second, Carroll is right, but I do not see how one can move Facebook to be honest: They are based on enormous dishonesty.

This is a recommended article.


5. Facebook Turned Our Economy Into a Spying Operation

This article is by Thom Hartmann on AlterNet. It starts as follows:

George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton sold us on the idea that we no longer needed a manufacturing economy in the U.S. because the internet was coming and it would provide entirely new business models.

Now we’ve seen what that new economy looks like: spying for sale.

Facebook takes all the information you give them, which they then use to create profiles to sell advertising to people who want your money or your vote.

Your internet service provider, with former Verizon lawyer and now head of the FCC Ajit Pai having destroyed net neutrality, will soon begin (if they haven’t already started) tracking every single mouse click, reading every email, and checking out every one of your online purchases to get information they can sell for a profit.

Your “smart" TV is tracking every show you watch, when and for how long and selling that information to marketers and networks.

And even your credit card company is now selling your information—what have you bought that you’d rather not have the world know?

To paraphrase Dwight Eisenhower’s Cross of Iron speech, this is not a real economy at all, in any true sense. It’s a parody of an economy, with a small number of winners and all the rest of us as losers/suckers/“product.”

I think this is mostly correct. I will not correct a few minor mistakes, but I do add that I recall thinking myself in the early 1990ies that the society Bush Sr. and Biill Clinton wanted to have was rather incredible, precisely because it lacked a manufacturing economy (for that was replaced to the countries with very low wages, after a few deregulations made this possible).

Here is more:

We cannot trust corporations in America with our personal information, as long as that information can make them more and more money. Even your doctor or hospital will now require you sign a form allowing them to sell your information to third parties.

It’s been decades since we’ve had a conversation in America about privacy.
I don´t think Holland is quite as far (but it may be), but yes: I fully agree that ¨We cannot trust corporations in America with our personal information, as long as that information can make them more and more money¨.

Here is more:
The Facebook crisis may well provide us with a great opportunity to again discuss privacy, and what should and shouldn’t be considered “private information.”

While the Fourth Amendment protects us from snooping and spying by the government without due process, nothing in the Constitution protects us from our ISPs or Facebook or our banks or supermarkets spying on (“tracking”) us and selling our private information.

Perhaps, but I am one of the minority that did and does consider privacy, while I think the Fourth Amendment does not protect Americans especially because it is intentionally not maintained: E-mail should be as secret as paper mail, and for the same reasons (apart from the fact that snooping on e-mails gives very much more personal information than snooping on paper mails).

Here is more:

At the very least, government should mandate “transparency in spying.” When Facebook, your supermarket, or your credit card company sells information about you, they should be required to tell you exactly what information they sold, and to whom.

Well... I agree in principle, but I do not see the means by which Facebook etc. could be forced to do that. (They exist in principle in law, but that is a mere possibility.)

Here is the ending of this article:

The Founders wrote the Fourth Amendment because they were concerned about an oppressive government that couldn’t be fought or changed because it knew everything about us. They never envisioned a day when a few billionaires could do the same, even to the point of using mistruths in a data-targeted way to change an entire government.

We need a serious discussion of privacy: what it is, what the appropriate parameters of it are, and the role of government in protecting our privacy from predatory corporate actors.

And, at the very least, we need a “transparency in corporate spying” law right now.

I more or less agree although I add that I think that the Fourth Amendment does not protect Americans especially because it is intentionally not maintained.

And this is a recommended article.


Note

[1] I have now been saying since the end of 2015 that xs4all.nl is systematically ruining my site by NOT updating it within a few seconds, as it did between 1996 and 2015, but by updating it between two to seven days later, that is, if I am lucky.

They have claimed that my site was wrongly named in html: A lie. They have claimed that my operating system was out of date: A lie.


And they just don't care for my site, my interests, my values or my ideas. They have behaved now for 2 years as if they are the eagerly willing instruments of the US's secret services, which I will from now on suppose they are (for truth is dead in Holland).


The only two reasons I remain with xs4all is that my site has been there since 1996, and I have no reasons whatsoever to suppose that any other Dutch provider is any better (!!).


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