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The Changing Nature of UK Divorce Law

Mon, 08/05/2019 - 2:36pm

The following is a guest post by Kathryn McNickle, a foreign law intern working with Clare Feikert-Ahalt in the Global Legal Research DirectorateLaw Library of Congress.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill has begun to make its way through the House of Commons, where it enjoys cross-party support. If passed, it will make it much quicker for couples in England and Wales to have “no-fault divorces”, by removing required separation periods of at least two years, as well as removing the possibility of one partner challenging the decision to divorce. The bill will also introduce a minimum time frame of six months for the divorce process. The hope is that these measures will remove some of the conflict from the procedure. It is expected the changes will also apply to civil partnerships. The bill marks the latest in a progression of changes making separating easier for both parties.

Divorce law has evolved over the past three hundred years. Before 1700, there was virtually no means of divorcing in England; despite the reputation of much married Henry VIII, England remained the only Protestant country in Europe not to allow divorce (terminating a marriage to allow remarriage within the lifetime of the other spouse). The Church of England did allow separations a mensa et thoro, but these did not allow remarriage and were only granted in cases of adultery.

Parliament decided that the dissolution of existing marriage came under its remit in 1700. However, divorces were only granted in cases where the woman had committed adultery, unless the husband’s adulterous actions were “compounded by life-threatening cruelty,” such as incest. Between 1700 and 1749, only fourteen divorces were granted, which gradually increased, with 193 divorces obtained between 1800 and 1857. It was very expensive to get a divorce through Parliament and, as such, was generally an option only for the wealthy.

Houses of Parliament, London, England. [Between 1890 and 1900] [Photograph] Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division,

Following extensive Parliamentary debate and a Royal Commission, the Matrimonial Causes Act was passed in 1857. It created a court to grant divorces under similar circumstances as Parliament; a husband had to prove the wife’s adultery, while a wife could only obtain divorce if there was adultery alongside another offense, such as cruelty or desertion. This “double standard” was justified by fears that a child borne through adultery could inherit the husband’s property and by claims that women were naturally less lustful and therefore any adultery was more “sinful.”

Even after moving the power to the courts, rather than Parliament, access remained restricted to the wealthy, and England’s divorce rate remained very low compared to countries like the US. However, the Matrimonial Cause Act of 1878 enabled women to get protection from physically abusive husbands, although this was a judicial separation, not a divorce.

Dissatisfaction with the 1857 Act was soon apparent, but it was not until after World War I that the Matrimonial Causes Act 1923 made adultery by either party the sole ground for divorce. This was not just due to women’s increasing emancipation, but it was seen as a leveling-up of morals and aimed to prevent sinfulness amongst men. The bill was hotly debated, with arguments made that it would lead to a state of “camouflaged polygamy and polyandry.” Regardless, the bill passed, removing the double standard of previous legislation.

The Matrimonial Causes Act 1937 was a Private Member’s Bill put forward by satirist and MP, A. P. Herbert. As marriage began to be seen as a partnership of equals, the Act widened the grounds for divorce to include unlawful desertion for three or more years, cruelty, and incurable insanity. However, concessions were made to traditionalist pressures, such as an outlawing of divorce in the first three years of marriage, with some judicial discretion. Although divorces remained expensive, they rose significantly in number following the passing of the Act, although this was also associated with the effects of World War II.

The Divorce Reform Act 1969 made the sole ground for a petition of divorce, presented by either party, that the marriage has broken down irretrievably. This could be shown by one or more of four “facts”, adultery by either party; behavior from the respondent such that the petitioner could not reasonably be expected to live with them; desertion for two years; and separation for either two or five years, depending on whether both parties consent to the divorce. This bill was also subject to heated debate, labelled “Casanova’s Charter” by detractors who argued it would allow men to marry and leave an “innocent” wife in a perilous financial situation every five years. The Act passed, despite the controversy surrounding it, and again the number of divorces rose following the changes, with adultery and unreasonable behavior particularly being used to show an irretrievable breakdown of the marriage.

The Civil Partnership Act of 2004 allowed same-sex couples many of the same rights as married couples. The grounds to dissolve a civil partnership were largely similar to the grounds recognized in the Divorce Reform Act 1969. However, adultery was not one of the facts that could be used to show irretrievable breakdown, as adultery is defined as sexual intercourse between partners of the opposite sex. More recently, marriage has been opened up to partners of the same sex, while heterosexual couples will be able to obtain civil partnerships.

The Divorce, Dissolution and Separation Bill was introduced by the Government on June 13, 2019, following the Owens v. Owens case last year, in which the Supreme Court refused a divorce to a woman because her husband opposed it. Debates on the Bill have already raised concerns from some MPs that it will make getting a divorce too easy. The Justice Minister has admitted he expects to see a short-term spike in divorces but argues the reforms will make divorce law fit for the 21st century by removing the requirements to blame one party or wait up to five years.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Egyptian Gazette – Pic of the Week

Fri, 08/02/2019 - 8:39am

al-Jarīdah al-rasmīyah, v. 61, no. 51, Suppl. (23, December 2018). Photo by Betty Lupinacci

Random page from al-Jarīdah al-rasmīyah, v. 61, no. 51, Suppl. (23, December 2018). Photo by Betty Lupinacci














Today’s Pic of the Week is a resolution, contained in a special supplement to the official gazette of Egypt, that can be roughly translated as a resolution from the Prime Minister, “Issuing the Administrative Regulations for the Law Concerning Persons with Disabilities.”  There’s something different about this document, however — it is an Arabic legal document printed in braille.

This is the first time any of us in the Collection Services Division recalls seeing an official foreign government document printed in braille.  And so it sparked a lot of curiosity among staff.

As the Egyptian gazette is a title that currently gets preserved overseas on microfilm, we will have to arrange for alternative housing for this document to maintain its legibility for future patrons.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Developments in the Regulation of Cryptoassets

Thu, 08/01/2019 - 2:57pm

In April 2019, the Law Library’s foreign law specialists completed a new multinational report titled Regulatory Approaches to Cryptoassets. This was our fourth major report on cryptocurrencies and other assets that utilize distributed ledger technology, such as blockchain. We first wrote in 2014 about what forty governments were saying and doing in relation to the emergence of “bitcoin.” In 2018, we wrote about multiple additional countries – 130 in total — showing the progress of the issues and discussions. Accompanying the 2018 report was another one that looked at fourteen jurisdictions where regulatory frameworks for cryptocurrencies were at a relatively advanced stage.

Poker chips with cryptocurrency coins. Photo by Flickr user Marco Verch Professional Photographer and Speaker, Feb. 12, 2019. Original photo at Used under Creative Commons License,

The April report primarily focuses on the treatment of cryptoassets under regulatory systems for financial products, markets, and services, such as those used to regulate the trading of shares or securities, and on the development of separate systems specifically for cryptoassets. It covers 46 jurisdictions that have indicated particular policy approaches or enacted laws in this area. The report also provides updates on other areas of regulation, including taxation and anti-money laundering rules applicable to cryptoassets.

The report shows that around a dozen countries have recently enacted new laws that specifically regulate aspects of cryptoasset markets, including exchanges, brokers, and wallets. There has been a particular focus in some countries on initial coin offerings (ICOs), with several financial regulatory agencies providing detailed guidance on how such offerings might be regulated (or not) in the absence of specific rules (see, e.g., the Security and Exchange Commission’s webpage on ICOs). In addition, many regulatory agencies around the world continue to provide warnings to the public with respect to investing in cryptocurrencies.

There are ongoing developments in this area — both in terms of the technology and the regulatory approaches — and a number of countries covered in the report have announced plans for new laws and regulations. The report is therefore a kind of “snapshot” of the current situation around the world with respect to regulating cryptoassets. It seems very likely that we will be looking at this topic again in the future. You can also find information on some new regulatory developments on cryptocurrency in our Global Legal Monitor publication.

To receive alerts when new Law Library reports are published, you can subscribe to email updates and the RSS feed for Law Library Reports (click the “subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website).

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Kathryn McNickle, Foreign Law Intern

Wed, 07/31/2019 - 1:43pm

Today’s interview is with Kathryn McNickle, a foreign law intern working with Clare Feikert-Ahalt at the Global Legal Research DirectorateLaw Library of Congress.

Kathryn McNickle is an intern at the Law Library of Congress. Photo by Kelly McKenna.

Describe your background

I am from Bangor, a town near Belfast, in Northern Ireland. I am part of the Washington Ireland Program Class of 2019, which brings 30 students to the United States for eight weeks. The program, focusing on service and leadership, is celebrating its 25th year and takes a wide variety of students from all over the island of Ireland to learn from each other and from the experiences we have in the U.S. All of us complete an internship in either Washington, D.C., or New York, and I was lucky enough to get the Law Library!

What is your academic/professional history?

I received a B.A. (Hons) in politics and modern history from the University of Manchester, in England, and am currently completing a LL.M in human rights law at Queen’s University Belfast. I am particularly interested in socioeconomic issues and women’s rights,  and these are the subjects my Master’s dissertation focuses on. I have worked for several nonprofit organizations during my studies.

How would you describe your job to other people?

Very varied! I work in the Global Legal Research Directorate, under the supervision of Clare Feikert-Ahalt. I have located and researched legislation from the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Caribbean and written reports on subjects as wide ranging as campaign finance laws, misinformation on social media, and Brexit. As well as helping Clare respond to requests from Congress and international organisations, I have submitted blog posts for In Custodia Legis and articles for the Global Legal Monitor on legal issues from home, which has been very interesting!

Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?

I wanted to build my research skills, particularly in legal research, and there seemed no better place than somewhere holding over 2.9 million items! I also wanted to get more experience in writing outside of an academic setting, so writing a mixture of reports, blogs, and articles has been really useful. It is amazing to get such great opportunities in such a prestigious establishment!

What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?

The sheer scale of the collection is incredible; I felt so overwhelmed by the size of the basement stacks the first time I went by myself! I also have to say, the architecture of the Jefferson Building amazed me, it is such a beautiful building!

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I did Irish dancing for about eight years when I was younger – I was never competitive, but loved it!

Categories: Research & Litigation New, Tip, and Top for July, Part 2

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 2:49pm

Earlier this month, Margaret highlighted the new addition to the Committee Schedule, which shows, under Supporting Documentation, any related metadata, links to legislation, treaties, or nominations. Today’s release continues to refine the Committee Schedule.

Enhancements for July 2019, Part 1

Enhancement – Committee Schedule – Weekly View

  • Committee Schedule weekly view includes a calendar-based date picker for navigating to different weekly schedules.

    Select a Date on the Committee Schedule Weekly View

Search Tip

Today’s search tip is from Claudia and is on the Upcoming Committee Meetings:

On the homepage, Upcoming House and Senate Committee Meetings displays the next three scheduled committee hearings or meetings along with the date, time, and committee name. Each listing also includes a link to the meeting detail page.

Click more to see the full committee schedule.

Upcoming Committee Meetings

If you like this tip and would like to receive new ones when published, subscribe via email.

Most-Viewed Bills

Below are the most-viewed bills on for the week of June 21, 2019.

1. H.R.1044 [116th] Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 2. H.Res.489 [116th] Condemning President Trump’s racist comments directed at Members of Congress. 3. S.386 [116th] Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 4. H.R.2500 [116th] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 5. H.R.582 [116th] Raise the Wage Act 6. H.R.1327 [116th] Never Forget the Heroes: James Zadroga, Ray Pfeifer, and Luis Alvarez Permanent Authorization of the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund Act 7. H.Res.496 [116th] Affirming that all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. 8. H.R.748 [116th] Middle Class Health Benefits Tax Repeal Act of 2019 9. H.R.5 [116th] Equality Act 10. H.R.5428 [115th] Stand with UK against Russia Violations Act

What would you like to see on Please share below or submit feedback on

Categories: Research & Litigation

Law Library Reports Address Foreign Initiatives to Counter “Fake News”

Mon, 07/29/2019 - 7:10am

The dissemination of disinformation or “fake news” is not a new phenomenon, as it apparently existed even before the invention of the printing press. However, the availability of cyber technology in modern times may facilitate much larger-scale manipulation of political processes by both private individuals and foreign powers.

The People Speak, Fake news
Rick’s visuals from Talkaoke at White Heat, part of Brighton Science Festival. 17th Feb 2018, Used under Creative Commons License,

Potential methods for countering the spread of disinformation in cyberspace, however, may pose challenges to basic principles in democratic societies, including the right to freedom of expression, and the right to privacy, as well as rules regarding transparency and oversight of government actions, among others.

Two recent Law Library of Congress reports examine the legal approaches adopted by a number of countries to address the spread of disinformation using mass and social media, especially in the context of political processes and elections.

Initiatives to Counter Fake News in Selected Countries (April 2019) consists of 15 individual country surveys and a comparative summary. The report highlights legislation in a number of countries that imposes sanctions on social media networks and/or individuals that spread false news, usually imposing fines and ordering the removal of information identified as false. Another approach reflected in the country surveys is to engage election authorities and digital platforms to help ensure a well-informed electorate, either by identifying and blocking fake news, providing fact-checking resources for the general public, or through the mass publication of “real” news during election season and beyond. Some of the countries are also addressing the issue in a more general way by educating citizens about the dangers of fake news.

Limits on Freedom of Expression (June 2019) examines the scope of protection extended to freedom of speech in 13 selected countries. In particular, the report focuses on the limits on such protection that may apply to the right to interrupt, or affect in any other way, public speech that may contain false information by any means of communication, including in cyberspace. The report also addresses the availability of mechanisms to control foreign broadcasters working on behalf of foreign governments.

We invite you to review the information provided in these reports. You can search the Current Legal Topics or Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports for additional reports from the Law Library. To receive alerts when new reports are published, you can subscribe to email updates and the RSS feed for Law Library Reports (click the “subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website).


Categories: Research & Litigation

A Interview with Claudia Guidi, Legislative Data Analyst

Thu, 07/25/2019 - 3:22pm

Today’s interview is with Claudia Guidi.  Claudia is a legislative data analyst in the Congressional Research Service (CRS) of the Library of Congress.

Describe your background.

I completed my Master of Science in Library and Information Science at the Catholic University of America in 2016. At that time I was already working as a User Support Specialist at the CRS, a position that I started in July of 2013. While school gave me the theoretical foundation on digital libraries, information architecture, and web design, working at CRS allowed me to experience first-hand how patrons access and use technology and digital information on a day to day basis.

I grew up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, where I studied classical languages and linguistics at the University of Buenos Aires. I came to the United States in 2002 as a Spanish instructor and later completed a PhD in linguistics at Georgetown University in 2009. My love for languages, learning, and technology stemmed from these formative experiences as an instructor and graduate student. Many of the subjects that I was exposed to back then, including semantics, natural language processing, statistics, cognitive psychology, and instructional design, are still relevant to my work for the team at CRS today.

Claudia Guidi / Photo by Crystal Maitland

How would you describe your job to other people?

To give context to what I do, it is important to understand the CRS unique, statutory mission to serve the information, research, and analysis needs of the U.S. Congress. Regardless of role or rank, I think that all of us at CRS see our work as a collaborative effort toward a common goal: To fulfill the CRS mission to meet Congress’s information needs throughout the legislative process while adhering to our core values of confidentiality, objectivity, non-partisanship, authoritativeness, and timeliness. I think that everyone at CRS puts forward their best effort to do this efficiently and effectively, every day.

One of our core values, timeliness, is especially relevant to my work as a subject matter expert for As the official website for U.S. federal legislative information, is a complex project in part due to the multiple and sometimes disparate data sources and inherent immediacy of legislative information. Providing timely data quality reviews on a daily basis is an important part of my job.

In my job, I am also proactively involved with our outreach program because I recognize that training and client engagement is of utmost importance to the success of the project and our strategic goal of building and enhancing relationships with our clients. In coordination with the House and Senate, we have provided hundreds of training sessions for users, including webinars.

What is your role in the development of

I see my role as that of a liaison, as someone who, through collaboration with programmers, web application developers, UX experts, IT professionals, project managers, and other Library of Congress staff, helps to develop and optimize for users.

I feel proud to be part of a team of subject matter experts that contribute to the project by gathering, articulating, and documenting user requirements. I also feel grateful to be actively involved in every aspect of the project, from development of specifications for our content management system, to front-end user interface design, to feature enhancement, and user acceptance testing.

What is your favorite feature of

I love the personalized experience that the website provides through its saved searches and alerts features. As a user, I want to be able to track different aspects of legislation. Alerts make it very easy to track, for example, when a Member sponsors or cosponsors a bill. Or I can conduct a search, save it, and create an alert in order to receive emails whenever there is a change on any parameter of my choice including actions, amendments, summaries, text versions, or cosponsors, just to name a few options.

I love how easy it is to create an account on and start taking advantage of the personalization features.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the legislative process while working on

I am fascinated by the complexity not only of the legislative process per se but also by what it takes to build an information retrieval system with the level of specificity and granularity required for users to be able to access, browse, search, track, and use legislative information from several different collections.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I love cycling and swimming. My lifetime dream is to swim across a large body of water like the American distance swimmer Diana Nyad did.

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Anne-Cathérine Stolz, Foreign Law Intern

Tue, 07/23/2019 - 10:20am

Today’s interview is with Anne-Cathérine Stolz, a foreign law intern working with Jenny Gesley at the Global Legal Research Directorate, Law Library of Congress.

Describe your background.

I grew up in Wallbach, a very small town in Switzerland close to the German border. I got to see a lot of different sides of Switzerland as school and work took me to five different cantons (they are similar to states). I moved to Geneva in 2017 for my graduate degree and spent a semester in Washington, D.C., in the fall of 2018.

Anne-Cathérine Stolz. Photo by Kelly McKenna.

What is your academic/professional history?

I earned a bachelor’s degree in political science and history of the new ages from the University of Zurich in 2017. I am currently finishing my graduate degree in international affairs with a concentration in global security from the Graduate Institute in Geneva. Last fall, I had the privilege of spending a semester at American University in Washington, D.C., where I took classes in the Peace and Conflict Resolution program.

Between finishing my bachelor’s degree and starting my graduate degree, I had the opportunity to intern with the European Union (EU) Delegation for Switzerland and Liechtenstein in Bern, where I was responsible for compiling the daily press review and managing the social media accounts. During my time in Geneva, I interned with NGO Advisor, an organization that evaluates NGOs’ performance based on criteria such as financial transparency.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I am an intern for the Global Legal Research Directorate and work under the supervision of Jenny Gesley, foreign law specialist for German-speaking jurisdictions (Germany, Switzerland, Austria, and Liechtenstein) and the European Union. I conduct research for requests that we receive from the U.S. Congress, executive agencies, the federal judiciary, as well as from the public. I am also writing articles for the Global Legal Monitor and the blog of the Law Library, In Custodia Legis.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?

I wanted to work for the Law Library of Congress because institutions like the Law Library of Congress and the Library of Congress in general provide an invaluable service to society by supplying reliable information on a wide variety of topics. In a time when it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between sources that can be trusted and verified and those that cannot, the work of the library facilitates the navigation of this environment for the general public and decision-makers alike. Furthermore, although I am not a lawyer, I am fascinated by legal documents as they represent a more or less unintentional window into societies and what they value.

What is the most interesting fact you have learned about the Law Library of Congress?

I had no idea how many people it takes to keep the Law Library running and how many different fields of employment there are. Many of the staff work behind the scenes and I think it is a pity that the general public never realizes all the work that goes into their experience with the Library. It is really impressive how well the staff knows the Library’s vast collection and the librarians can be of assistance in finding almost anything.

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I love horses. I have been taking horseback riding lessons since my ninth birthday and I had begged my parents long before that to buy me a pony. Now that I have been moving around a lot, it would be very impractical to get a horse anytime soon. However, there is still no better way to explore nature than from the back of a horse.

Categories: Research & Litigation

FALQs: The Rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 2:00pm

Photo by Flickr user EU2019FI (European Commission visiting Finland 4.-5.7.2019), July 5, 2019. Used under Creative Commons License,

On July 1, 2019, Finland  took over the Presidency of the Council of the European Union (not to be confused with the Council of Europe or the European Council). Yesterday, July 17, 2019, the Finnish President presented the priorities of the Finnish EU Presidency to the European Parliament. So, what is the Council of the European Union, and what does its rotating presidency do?

1. What is the Council of the European Union?

The Council of the European Union is one of the three main European Union (EU) institutions–the others being the European Parliament and European Commission. Together with the Parliament, it is part of the legislative branch (see Question 3 below).  It can be described as similar to the United States Senate.

The Council of the European Union is different from the European Council, although both are sometimes referred to as the Council. Throughout this blog post any reference to the Council is to the Council of the European Union.

The Council is made up of government ministers from each EU member state and thus represents the executive governments of the EU member states.

2. How is the Council configured? 

The Council meets in 10 different sub-councils (also referred to as “councils”). Each sub-council is typically made up of the responsible minister for the relevant policy area. For example, the ministers for environment of each European member state meet in the Environment Council. Thus, each council meeting has different configurations depending on the topic being discussed. Councils include:

  • Agriculture and Fisheries,
  • Competitiveness,
  • Economic and Financial Affairs,
  • Environment,
  • Employment, Social Policy, Health, and Consumer affairs,
  • Education, Youth, Culture and Sport,
  • Foreign Affairs,
  • General Affairs,
  • Justice and Home Affairs, and
  • Transport, Telecommunications and Energy.

In these different councils, the ministers agree on policy and amend legislative proposals. Voting is based on qualified majority.

As Finland now holds the presidency of this body, it will chair the meetings of these groups, except for the Foreign Affairs Council, which is always headed by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy. Note also that countries may have opted out of some areas of EU cooperation; for instance Denmark has opted-out of the EU cooperation on Justice and Home Affairs, and the Common Security and Defense Policy, and is therefore not represented in council meetings where these areas are discussed.

3. What is its role and its relationship with the European Parliament & European Commission?

The Council exercises the powers conferred on it under article 16 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU)  and articles 237 to 243 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU). Thus, the Council negotiates and adopts EU legislation together with the Parliament. It also coordinates EU-wide policies, and the foreign and security policy is based on European Council guidelines. Together with the Parliament, it also adopts the EU budget (TFEU art. 314 ). The Council can also request that the Commission undertake studies that are of interest to the Council (TFEU art. 241).

4. How is EU legislation passed?

In an ordinary legislative procedure, the Commission proposes legislation, which is then adopted by the European Parliament together with the Council. This means that the European Parliament and the Council must both agree on the text of the proposed legislation. Most of the legislation is passed on the first reading of the text, but if the Parliament and the Council do not agree on the text there is a second reading. If they still cannot agree, it goes to a conciliation committee.

A special legislative procedure is used for legislation pertaining to certain policy areas such as, competition law. In these cases, the Council is, in practice, the sole legislator. It must still seek consent from or consult with the Parliament.

4 . What is the Council of EU Leadership?

In addition to the rotating Presidency, the Council is supported by the General Secretariat of the Council. As mentioned above, the country holding the EU presidency chairs the council groups, except for Foreign Affairs. The General Affairs Council consists of the Permanent Representatives to the EU, i.e., the EU member countries’ ambassadors to the EU.

5. What is the rotating presidency of the Council of the Europe Union?

The rotating presidency is a way for EU member countries to hold chairmanship every six months. It was first introduced as part of a rotating presidency for the Special Council of Ministers of the European Coal and Steel Community. The first nation to hold the Presidency was Belgium in 1958. (Treaty Establishing the European Coal and Steel Community (1951) art. 27.)

Today the legal framework of the Presidency of the Council of the European Union is set forth in the European Council Decision of 1 December 2009 on the exercise of the Presidency of the Council (2009 O.J. L315/50). It establishes that:

“1. The Presidency of the Council, with the exception of the Foreign Affairs configuration, shall be held by pre-established groups of three Member States for a period of 18 months. The groups shall be made up on a basis of equal rotation among the Member States, taking into account their diversity and geographical balance within the Union. 2.   Each member of the group shall in turn chair for a six-month period all configurations of the Council, with the exception of the Foreign Affairs configuration. The other members of the group shall assist the Chair in all its responsibilities on the basis of a common progra[m]. Members of the team may decide alternative arrangements among themselves.”

In addition, the “[m]ember States holding the Presidency shall take all necessary measures for the organi[z]ation and smooth operation of the Council’s work, with the assistance of the General Secretariat of the Council.”

Historically, the Presidency of the Council of the European Union had more power to influence negotiations and initiatives. The adoption of the Lisbon Treaty changed the autonomy of the presidency and the influence the President country has in setting the agenda. As of 2007, countries that hold the presidency close to each other are grouped in ‘trios.’ Finland is part of the Romania-Finland-Croatia trio. Finland took over the Presidency from Romania, which held the Romanian Presidency from January 1 to June 30, 2019. Croatia will take over the presidency on January 1, 2020. The next trio after that is Germany-Portugal-Slovenia. A full list of presidency until 2030 is available on the Council’s website.

With the adoption of the Lisbon Treaty, the European Union got a permanent president as well as a High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy , meaning the High Representative heads the meetings in the Foreign Affairs Council (FAC), regardless of what country holds the rotating presidency. In addition, the agenda of the Economic and Financial Affairs Council (ECOFIN) is typically largely influenced by the Eurozone group (Eurogroup). In addition, a representative from the president nation also represents the Council in the plenaries.

The Presidency has been criticized as an “EU relic” and a “key target for corporate lobbies,” but others argue that it still matters, especially in brokering legislation.

6. What are Finland’s priorities for its EU presidency?

The presidency may set certain priorities for its tenure, as outlined in the Council of the European Union Handbook for the EU Presidency.

Finland has specifically, set the following ““top priorities:”

  •    to strengthen common values and the rule of law
  •    to make the EU more competitive and socially inclusive
  •    to strengthen the EU’s position as a global leader in climate action
  •    to protect the security of citizens comprehensively

It has also published a program for its presidency, where it expands on these goals.  Its program is developed in light of the 18-month program of the trio-group presidency.

7. What has been Finland’s historic relationship with the EU ?


  • Member of European Union (1995)
    Finland, together with the Åland territories became members of the European Union in 1995. Åland is exempt from certain taxes and excise duties (Article 2 of Protocol 2  -on the Åland Islands of the Finnish accession treaty (OJ C 241, 29.08.1994) & article 6 of Council Directive 2006/112/EC of 28 November 2006 (as amended) on the common system of value added tax (49 OJ L 347, 1)), meaning that goods can be sold tax free on vessels to and from Åland and another EU member country (including Finland).
  • Adopted Euro (1999)
    Finland adopted the Euro on January 1, 1999, together with the other Euro countries.
    The Finnish Markka was no longer legal tender after February 28, 2002. The Finnish National Bank continued to accept Finnish Markka notes until 2012 (the fixed conversion rate was €1 = 5.94573 FIM).
  • Schengen area member (2001)

8. Where can I find additional research resources?

Categories: Research & Litigation

Death of Retired Associate Justice John Paul Stevens

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 4:58pm

The following is a guest post by Elizabeth Osborne, legal reference librarian. Elizabeth wrote last year on the occasion of the retirement of Associate Justice Anthony Kennedy.

Justice John Paul Stevens gives the keynote speech at the 2011 Wickersham Awards ceremony at the Library of Congress. Photo by Abby Brock.

Retired Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens died on Tuesday at the age of 99. When he retired in 2010, he had served for over 34 years and was the third-longest serving justice on the Supreme Court.

Justice Stevens was born in Chicago in 1920, the youngest of four boys. He received his undergraduate degree from the University of Chicago in 1941.  During college, Stevens trained in cryptology and served as a codebreaker in the United States Navy from 1942 to 1945 during World War II. He later received a Juris Doctor from Northwestern University School of Law in 1947 and clerked for Associate Justice Wiley B. Rutledge during the 1947-1948 term. After his clerkship, he primarily practiced antitrust law in Chicago until 1970. In 1951, Stevens served as Associate Counsel to the Subcommittee on the Study of Monopoly Power, a subcommittee of the House of Representatives Committee on the Judiciary. He also taught at the law schools at Northwestern and University of Chicago.

In 1970, President Richard M. Nixon appointed Justice Stevens to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals.  In November 1975, Associate Justice William O. Douglas retired, giving President Ford an opportunity to fill a vacancy.  Justice Stevens was put forward as a moderate conservative whose opinions from the Seventh Circuit reflected discipline and restraint.  On November 28, 1975, President Ford announced his decision to nominate Justice Stevens. The Senate’s unanimous vote for confirmation occurred quickly, and on December 19, 1975, Justice Stevens was sworn in as an Associate Justice to the Supreme Court, at age 56.

In his early years on the Supreme Court, Justice Stevens was considered an independent voice who authored both liberal- and conservative-leaning opinions (Barnhart & Schlickman, pp. 200-201). As his tenure on the court continued, Justice Stevens came to be generally regarded as a justice on the Court’s liberal side (Barnhart & Schlickman, p. 21). Justice Stevens’ views on judicial restraint and impartiality were reflected in some of his opinions. In writing the 1984 majority opinion in Chevron USA v. National Resources Defense Council, Justice Stevens emphasized that, while judges must sometimes resolve competing political interests, they are not part of the political branches of government and must not make decisions based on their own policy preferences.  Sixteen years later, in his dissent in Bush v. Gore, Justice Stevens wrote that that the clearest loser in the 2000 presidential election was the “Nation’s confidence in the judge as the impartial guardian of the rule of law.”

Justice Stevens’ insightfulness, pragmatism, modesty, and grace were highlighted in remarks by President Barack Obama in awarding Justice Stevens with the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2012:  “Even in his final days on the bench, Justice Stevens insisted he was still ‘learning on the job.’ But in the end, we are the ones who have learned from him.”

Justice Stevens had four children with his first wife, Elizabeth Sheeren. The marriage ended in divorce, and Elizabeth died in 1985.  He was married to his second wife, Maryan Mullholland Simon, for thirty-seven years before she died in 2015.  Two of Justice Stevens’ children predeceased him.  Justice Stevens leaves behind two children, nine grandchildren, and thirteen great-grandchildren.

On June 13, 2011, the Law Library of Congress presented Justice Stevens with the Wickersham Award, given for exceptional public service and dedication to the legal profession. The video from the event is available in the Library of Congress online film and video collections.

Three of Justice Stevens’ books in the Library’s collection are:

Categories: Research & Litigation

The Experimental Browser Extension Can Now Search the Compilation of Presidential Documents

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 11:57am

This latest update to the experimental Google Chrome browser extension that is hosted by LC Labs adds the ability to highlight text on a page and search for it in the Compilation of Presidential Documents on govinfo. The compilation includes executive orders and executive proclamations issued after 1992. The new version of the extension can also search Congressional Research Service Reports, the United States Code, and the eCFR. After you have installed the browser extension, just highlight text on a page, click on the dome icon, and use the drop-down menu to select a collection to search.

The experimental Google Chrome browser extension.

To see a list of the features added in previous releases, please click here.

The goal of this project is to increase convenient access to primary sources, such as collections, when you are on a third-party site. We need your feedback. If you have bug reports or enhancement requests related to this project, please send them to

Categories: Research & Litigation New, Tip and Top for July, Part 1

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 12:52pm

Last month Robert provided information about the June update to,which provided an enhancement for the display of errata associated with committee reports.

This month’s first release includes an enhancement to the Committee Schedule detail pages display, providing supporting documentation when available.


Supporting documentation now displayed on committee pages as available.

Enhancements for July 2019, Part 1

This release also includes page navigation, which is available at the top of each search results page to make it easier to move through large sets of results.

Search Tip

The Search Tip for this first release in July relates to data bulk downloads of bills.

Bill Status Data Bulk Download

Want to import bill status data into a spreadsheet or database? Bulk download for bill status data is available at

Find more information at About XML Bulk Data.

Most- Viewed Bills

Below are the most-viewed bills on for the week of July 7, 2019

1. H.R.1044 [116th] Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 2. S.386 [116th] Fairness for High-Skilled Immigrants Act of 2019 3. H.R.3151 [116th] Taxpayer First Act 4. H.R.3401 [116th] Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance and Security at the Southern Border Act, 2019 5. H.R.5428 [115th] Stand with UK against Russia Violations Act 6. H.R.3564 [116th] To amend the Immigration and Nationality Act to eliminate the Optional Practical Training Program, and for other purposes. 7. S.1790 [116th] National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 8. H.R.6 [116th] American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 9. H.R.5 [116th] Equality Act 10. H.R.2527 [116th] Vaccinate All Children Act of 2019


Categories: Research & Litigation

15th Anniversary of the European Defence Agency

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 10:00am

On July 12, 2004—15 years ago today—the European Union’s (EU) Council Joint Action 2004/551/CFSP created the European Defence Agency (EDA). In 2011, the Joint Action was replaced by Council Decision 2011/411/CFSP, which was revised in 2015 by Council Decision (CFSP) 2015/1835.  These legislative acts implement the requirements of article 42 of the Treaty on European Union (TEU), which, among other things, sets out the EDA’s tasks.

The EDA is an intergovernmental agency in the “field of defence capabilities development, research, acquisition, and armaments.” (Joint Action, art. 1.) Its mission is “to support the Council [of the European Union] and the Member States in their effort to improve the EU’s defence capabilities in the field of crisis management and to sustain the ESDP [European Security and Defence Policy] as it stands now and develops in the future.” (Id. art. 2, para. 1.)

EDA 15 Years Anniversary Ceremony. Photo by Flickr user European Defence Agency. June 25, 2019. Copyright @European Defence Agency, 2019. Used with permission of the EDA.

Historical Development

The idea of a common European Defence Agency is not new. As early as 1952, after the European Coal and Steel Community was created, plans for a European Defence Community (EDC) accompanied by a European Political Community (EPC) were discussed. The French National Assembly, however, was opposed to the establishment of an EDC, in particular to a German remilitarization, and rejected the treaty in August 1954. As the EPC was supposed to be the institutional corollary to the EDC (EDC Treaty, art. 38), both plans were abandoned. It was therefore decided in 1954 to instead invite Germany and Italy to join the Western European Union (WEU), an international organization founded in 1948 with the goal to “collaborat[e] in economic, social and cultural matters and for collective self-defence.”

In February 1976, the thirteen European members of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) founded the Independent European Program Group (IEPG) to foster cooperation on armaments procurement. On December 10, 1991, the WEU ministers at a meeting in Maastricht called for ”enhanced cooperation in the fields of armaments with the aim of creating a European armaments agency.” In December 1992, the defense ministers of the IEPG countries decided to transfer the functions of the IEPG to the WEU and agreed on the following main principles for the transfer:

  • All 13 nations should be entitled to participate fully and with the same rights and responsibilities, in any European armaments cooperation forum.
  • There should be a single European armaments cooperation forum.
  • Armaments cooperation in Europe should be managed by the National Armaments Directors of all the 13 nations, who will be accountable to the Ministers of Defense of those governments.
  • The existing links with NATO and EDIG [European Defence Industries Group] should be maintained.

In May 1993, the WEU Council of Ministers reaffirmed the key principles on which armaments cooperation should be based, and created the Western European Armaments Group (WEAG). In March 1993, the WEAG set up an ad hoc study group “to examine all matters related to the possible creation of a European Armaments Agency (EAA).” It concluded that the conditions for the creation of such an agency did not exist at the time. However, the work of the ad hoc study group contributed to the establishment of the Western European Armaments Organisation as a WEU subsidiary body in November 1996. In 1998, the WEAG ministers agreed upon a ”Masterplan for the the European Armaments Agency” to develop the rules and regulations as well as the structure and working procedures for an EAA.

The topic of European defense and cooperation in defense matters was also taken up in the European Union (EU) treaties adopted during that time. The Treaty on European Union (Maastricht Treaty), which entered into force on November 1, 1993, created the Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The CFSP was strengthened in the Treaty of Amsterdam (1997). The Treaty of Amsterdam also created the position of High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, which was to be exercised by the Secretary-General of the Council of the European Union. (Treaty of Amsterdam, art. J.8, para. 3.) The Treaty of Lisbon (2007) made the High Representative one of the Vice Presidents of the European Commission. (Treaty of Lisbon, art. 9 E, para. 2.)

On July 6, 1998, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom signed a Letter of Intent concerning “Measures to Facilitate the Restructuring of European Defence Industry.” Building on the Letter of Intent, they signed a Framework Agreement in 2000, an intergovernmental treaty outside of the framework of the EU, which was ratified in 2001. The Framework Agreement further intensified defense cooperation in the EU, in particular in the areas of restructuring of the European defense industry; security of supply; export control procedures for military goods and technologies; security of classified information; research and technology; intellectual property rights; and harmonization of military requirements of armed forces. (Framework Agreement, art. 1.)

Starting in December 1998, Member States of the EU called for the CFSP to be given the means and capabilities to respond to international crises. This culminated in the Helsinki Headline Goal in 1999, a set of military capability targets to be completed by 2003. In December 2001, the Convention on the Future of Europe was established, which presented a draft Treaty establishing a Constitution for Europe in 2003.  It contained a provision that required the establishment of an “European Defence Agency” (Draft Constitution, art. I-41). The Constitution was ultimately rejected by France and the Netherlands and did not enter into force; however, the requirement to establish an EDA was included in the Treaty of Lisbon of 2007. As mentioned, on July 12, 2004, the EDA was formally created.

Current Activities of the EDA

All EU Member States participate in the activities of the EDA, with the exception of Denmark, which has opted out of the Common Security and Defence Policy. One of the EDA’s current priorities is the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO). The PESCO is a process to deepen defense cooperation by jointly developing defense capabilities and making them available for EU military operations. It takes place on a voluntary basis. Other areas of activity in which the EDA supports the EU Member States are the development of remotely piloted aircraft systems, developing air-to-air refueling capabilities, developing a new generation of governmental satellite communications, assisting Member States in developing cyber defense capabilities, defense research and technology, data sharing solutions for European navies, exercise and training, pooled procurement, supporting the fight against improvised explosive devices, harmonizing European military regulations, the Single European Sky, and many more.

Additional Resources on the European Union

Categories: Research & Litigation

Research Guides In Focus – Compiling a Federal Legislative History: A Beginner’s Guide

Thu, 07/11/2019 - 8:30am

The following is a guest post by Anna Price, a legal reference librarian at the Law Library of Congress.

Back in May, in honor of Law Day, we introduced you to our new Research Guides service, using the LibGuides platform, where you can find research guides the Law Library has assembled on a variety of topics. Because we are frequently asked research questions related to congressional hearings, committee reports, and debates of Congress, today we are highlighting Compiling a Federal Legislative History: A Beginner’s Guide and the helpful tips and strategies found within it.

Introduction Page of Compiling a Federal Legislative History: A Beginner’s Guide,

Digging through federal laws and legislative history can be overwhelming, even for the advanced researcher. But the Law Library is here to alleviate that fear! The “Compiling a Federal Legislative History: A Beginner’s Guide” research guide walks users through the search strategies one may take, beginning with explaining how to learn if a given law has changed over time by using information in the U.S. Code to navigate public laws in the Statutes at Large.

Understanding that many researchers want to glean more information about legislative intent, the research guide also provides information about other legislative history resources, including committee reports, debates of Congress, and presidential communications, among others. Additionally, each section lists resources where documents can be accessed either for free online, or through the Law Library’s print collection or electronic subscription databases.

Please enjoy browsing through “Compiling a Federal Legislative History: A Beginner’s Guide.” We hope it helps you with your research. If you have any questions, please contact us through Ask A Librarian.

Categories: Research & Litigation

New Report on the Regulation of Artificial Intelligence

Wed, 07/10/2019 - 10:00am

Everybody seems to be talking about artificial intelligence (AI). Some people laud its possibilities, whereas others envisage nightmare scenarios where robots take over. But what is AI exactly and how are countries dealing with it?

Artificial Intelligence. Photo by Flickr user 6eo tech. Jan. 26, 2019. Used under Creative Commons license,

The Oxford Dictionary defines AI as “the theory and development of computer systems able to perform tasks normally requiring human intelligence, such as visual perception, speech recognition, decision-making, and translation between languages.” In a recently published report, ”Regulation of Artificial Intelligence,” the Law Library of Congress looks at the emerging regulatory and policy landscape surrounding AI, including guidelines, ethics codes, and actions by and statements from governments and their agencies, in jurisdictions around the world. An international part deals with approaches that United Nations agencies and regional organizations have taken towards AI. The country surveys look at various legal issues, including data protection and privacy, transparency, human oversight, surveillance, public administration and services, autonomous vehicles, and lethal autonomous weapons systems (LAWS). However, the most advanced regulations were found in the area of autonomous vehicles, in particular for the testing of such vehicles. The report includes three maps on national AI strategies, a country’s position on LAWS, and the testing of autonomous vehicles. As the regulation of AI is still in its early stages and constantly evolving, this report offers a snapshot of the legal situation at the time the report was written (January 2019). Updates will be provided on the Global Legal Monitor (GLM) website.

If you are attending the 112th Annual American Association of Law Libraries (AALL) Conference in Washington, D.C. from July 13, 2019, until July 16, 2019, and want to know more about the regulation of AI, we recommend attending our program “The Age of AI: Emerging Regulatory Landscape Around the World” on July 15. Don’t forget to also check out the other presentations by Law Library of Congress staff.

You can search the Current Legal Topics or Comprehensive Index of Legal Reports for additional reports from the Law Library. To receive alerts when new reports are published, you can subscribe to email updates and the RSS feed for Law Library Reports (click the “subscribe” button on the Law Library’s website).

Categories: Research & Litigation

New Secure Storage Facility for Law Library’s Rare Materials — Pic of the Week

Fri, 07/05/2019 - 9:00am

Jennifer Davis and Nathan Dorn contributed to this post.

Principal Deputy Librarian of Congress Mark Sweeney (left), and Chief of Prints and Photographs Division Helena Zinkham (right) join Law Librarian of Congress Jane Sánchez as she cuts the ceremonial ribbon to open the Law Library’s new secure storage facility on June 28, 2019. Photo by Donna Sokol.

On Friday, June 28, 2019, the Law Library held a ribbon-cutting ceremony to open a new secure storage facility that will be home for much of the Law Library’s rare book collection. The Law Library currently stores some of its rare collection in a smaller vault as well as storing some of its rare materials in space borrowed from other divisions at the Library of Congress. Consolidating the collection improves collection security and access.

Helena Zinkham makes a ceremonial donation of the first book for the new vault to Nathan Dorn, the Law Library’s rare book curator. Photo by Geraldine Davila Gonzalez.

The secure storage facility differs from our existing vault in a few important ways: it has over 9,000 linear feet of shelving; it has modern compact shelving; and it has state-of-the-art cooling, humidification, fire retardation and security systems.

This new storage facility has about 4 times more shelf space than the existing vault contains. The temperature of this vault hovers between 50 to 55 degrees Fahrenheit–better than the Law Library’s current vault shelving space, which generally stays at 65 degrees. Relative humidity is very important for storing rare books in particular, and the relative humidity for this room is ideal. The Library can now store its manuscripts, incunables and other very rare and special materials in this modern facility knowing they are in the very best conditions possible. The vault has two rooms, with one room dedicated to holding Prints & Photographs Division collection items.

Thanks to the large size of the vault and the maximization of its shelving capacity, we will have space for growth as the Law Library continues to build its rare law book and manuscript collection. We are excited to consolidate collections and populate this room!

Categories: Research & Litigation

An Interview with Samantha Winslow – Library Technician

Wed, 07/03/2019 - 3:41pm

Samantha Winslow (photo by Betty Lupinacci)

Today’s interview is with Samantha Winslow, our newest technician in the Collection Services Division.  Samantha was with us previously as a contractor and she decided to join our staff when the opportunity arose.  We are certainly glad that she did!  She brings with her a whole host of library and language experience.

Describe your background.

My mother was an English teacher and a technical editor from a Jewish family in Queens, New York City, and my father was a Vermonter from the Silent Generation, a WWII veteran, and a civil engineer who studied at MIT and Berkeley. My older sister followed in his footsteps in her pursuit of science and attended MIT and GW for microbiology and forensic science.  We all love books and reading. My interests gravitate toward art and nature, as well as learning about how people live across the world and across time.

What is your academic/professional history?

After high school I attended St. John’s College in Annapolis, Maryland and studied classics. I had already studied Latin for five years, and there I studied Ancient Greek for a year. My interests are broad and the world is wide, so I decided to transfer to George Mason University and majored in sociology. I also had the opportunity to study Italian and sociology in Florence, Italy for a semester. In 2006, a high school friend contacted me and asked if I would be interested in working with her on a contract at the Library of Congress, and I jumped at the opportunity. I was hired as an inspector for the Baseline Inventory Project (editor’s note: this, as well as subsequent projects, involve inventorying volumes into the Library’s catalog). I loved working in the Jefferson Building for the architecture and seeing all sorts of unexpected old books from the General Collection. Over the years, BIP became RHIP, Retrospective Holdings Integrity Program, and I helped transfer materials to the new Ft. Meade storage facility. Meanwhile, I took courses online at FIT (Fashion Institute of Technology) in New York for fashion merchandising management, and held a variety of service and marketing jobs. After a few years away from the Library, I joined another contract on the CAMPI project (a collections processing and maintenance contract) in the Law Library, checking in new acquisitions. Then I worked on the NAP project in the Adams Building, processing books to transfer to Cabin Branch (the Library’s newest high density storage facility.) Now I’ve come back to the Law Library as a federal employee and I am working in the stacks doing collections and catalog maintenance and retrieving and delivering patron requests.

How would you describe your job to other people?

I go on daily scavenger hunts in the sub-basement of the Madison Building to find legal materials for Congressional patrons and the public. Then I help ensure they are safely stored where they can be found again.

Why did you want to work at the Law Library of Congress?

The scope of the collection is amazing. I especially like that I can “walk around the world” and access so many books from so many countries, in so many languages.

What is the most interesting fact you’ve learned about the Law Library?

There are almost 60 miles of shelves in the stacks.  Finding a book for a patron can be like searching for a needle in a haystack!

What’s something most of your co-workers do not know about you?

I attended beauty school to become certified in nail technology, and have taken yoga teacher training to maintain my health. I love to learn vocabulary from different languages. I’ve studied Spanish, Japanese, Korean, Mandarin, Dutch, German, and French. I don’t speak these languages but I like to be able to decipher them when I see them in books! My guilty pleasure is Korean pop music, particularly girl groups. My co-workers probably already know this, but I feel I should mention that I have four cats and they are great company.

Categories: Research & Litigation

Law Day 2019 Event Recap: “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society”

Tue, 07/02/2019 - 2:40pm

Law Librarian Jane Sanchez interviews American Bar Association President Bob Carlson for Law Day, May 1, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller.

On May 1, 2019, American Bar Association President, Bob Carlson, visited the Library of Congress in celebration of this year’s Law Day for an interview conducted by Law Librarian of Congress, Jane Sánchez. This year’s topic, “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society”, focused on these cornerstones of representative government and called on society to understand and protect these rights ensuring, as the U.S. Constitution proposes, “the blessings of liberty for ourselves and our posterity.”

Law Librarian Jane Sanchez interviews American Bar Association President Bob Carlson for Law Day, May 1, 2019. Photo by Shawn Miller.

In their conversation, Bob Carlson discussed on the limits of free speech in a democratic society, the value of protecting all speech, even if unpopular or hurtful, the differences between speech and the press, and what it mean to have a free society. He also dove into modern practices in free speech explaining how social media and free speech intersect and contemplated whether free media translate into a free society. Throughout the discussion, Bob Carlson also spoke about the limits of free speech and the moments where a citizen can be held accountable for their words. To watch the entire conversation, please visit the link below for a video of the event.



Categories: Research & Litigation


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