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Why is `branch` needed to parse operations?

Every transaction in current and past Tezos protocols must reference a recent block (the "branch"). This acts as an informal checkpointing mechanism a replay protection mechanism an ...
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How are Tezos operations encoded?

The structure of an encoded operation group is the following: <branch : 32 bytes> <tag#0 : nat> | <content#0> ... <tag#n : nat> | <content#n> <signature (optional) : ...
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