Billy Graham and the Gospel of Fear

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Billy Graham was a preacher man equally intent on saving souls and soliciting financial support for his ministry. His success at the former is not subject to proof and his success at the latter is unrivaled. He preached to millions on every ice-free continent and led many to his chosen messiah.

Graham also left behind a United States government in which religion plays a far greater role than before he intruded into politics in the 1950s. The shift from secular governance to “In God We Trust” can be laid squarely at this minister’s feet.

Graham’s message was principally one of fear…fear of a wrathful god…

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Conservatives Just Don’t Understand That Racism Runs Deep in American Education Behind the push to roll back school discipline protections lies a dangerous dismissal of bias in classrooms.

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Betsy DeVos and company are at it again. The DeVos-led Department of Education is currently cooking up ways to get rid of the 2014 Obama-era guidelines for K-12 public school discipline, which was aimed at ameliorating discrepancies based on race, class and disability when it comes to how students are punished in school.
In November, conservative think tanks Center of the American Experiment and the Fordham Institute helped coordinate a meeting at the Department of Educationwherein teachers critical of the 2014 guidelines testified about their experiences with violent students in their schools. Such testimony is being collected by conservatives to argue that the guidelines represent not only a sort of governmental “PC police” but that they are also actively making U.S. schools more unsafe by muzzling how teachers are able to discipline their students.
“For a time, education reform used to be a bipartisan or nonpartisan enterprise for improving student achievement,” writeRobert Pondiscio and Max Eden of the Fordham and Manhattan Institutes, respectively, in an op-ed for the New York Daily News. “But much of the movement has morphed into an arm of the social-justice industrial complex, dedicated to causes du jour from the travel ban to transgender bathrooms.”
In addition to disparaging the humanity of immigrant families and transgender people as if their lives are no more than a liberal fad, Pondiscio and Eden go on to reference the school-to-prison pipelinein scare quotes, arguing that education reform activists’ concern about racism in schools is a “refus[al] to admit the possibility that differences in poverty and family structure play a role.” This type of argument is a shorthand for the “culture of poverty” argument expounded in the infamous Moynihan Report during the 1960s, which controversially explained black poverty and family instability as in large part a cultural defect of the black family structure, found in the figure of the overbearing black mother in particular.
Conservatives’ latching onto such an explanation allows them to gloss over black oppression as the logical historical outcome of being enslaved, denied intergenerational wealth-building opportunities through that enslavement (and on the contrary, growing the wealth of white families through forced and unpaid labor), disenfranchised from jobs and housing, and exposed to manifold other forms of violent anti-black terrorismthat have punctuated black life in America since black people were brought to this nation’s shores against their wills.
Pitting education reformers against teachers, Pondiscio and Eden claim in a false dichotomy that “[s]ocial justice reformers … limi[t] teachers’ subjective disciplinary judgment … blind[ing] themselves to reality as a school spirals dangerously out of control.”
In contrast, Dan Losen, director of the Center for Civil Rights Remedies at UCLA and a former teacher for a decade, tells AlterNet that the 2014 guidelines are crucial for addressing the implicit bias that exists in schools, even among well-meaning teachers, just as such bias exists throughout society.
“Stereotypes are in the air we breathe,” says Losen. “Not because we want [them] to [be], but because in every depiction [in media], we have not escaped the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, and after that, the criminalization of black youth and the negative characterization of black males.
“What we find from research is that these negative stereotypes permeate our thinking in ways we’re just not aware of. And that’s not to blame teachers or slander them… it’s to acknowledge that the playing field is not level.”
Derek Black, professor of law at the University of South Carolina, voices a similar position, saying, “School suspension rates have skyrocketed over the past four decades and the lion’s share of the increase has been on the backs of poor and minority children.
“In most districts across the nation,” explains Black, “African American students are suspended and expelled at anywhere from two to six times the rate of white students. And it is not because they misbehave so much more. Studies consistently show that even when engaging in the exact same type of misbehavior, minorities are more likely to punished, and punished more severely, than white students.”
These types of inequalities are what the Obama-era guidelines sought to remedy as a response to the reality of systemic racism, classism, and ableism, systems of oppression that conservative ideologues attempt to downplay or outright attack in their arguments against the guidelines.
Addressing the conservative claim that investigating the disproportionate punishment of students with disabilities and students of color will turn schools into dens of violence, Curtis L. Decker, executive director of the National Disability Rights Network, wrote recently, “[T]he [Obama-era] guidance … does not inform school districts that they must refrain from suspending students who behave in a dangerous manner toward students, staff, or themselves.” According to Decker, “It does not dictate to states or schools how they should structure their programming. Schools may choose to implement the recommendations found in the guidance or not.”

“What it does do,” argues Decker, “is support schools in their efforts to create and maintain safe and orderly educational environments that allow all our nation’s students to learn and thrive.”
Losen has come to a similar conclusion, saying that in Los Angeles, “teachers were not complaining [about] the change in policy; they were complaining that they weren’t getting enough training in restorative justice. They wanted more of the change, not less of the change.”
Such teachers, according to Losen, are more interested in shifting existing school resources, especially those related to professional development and classroom management.
Many conservative researchers’ refusal to recognize the reality of the unequal playing field for students of color, says Losen, “informs their take on any kind of research,” with the result being that they often rely on cherry-picked evidence to support their claims. The Obama-era guidelines are in fact supported by major research studies, such as a 2016 Yale study that found that black male children are more likely, as early as preschool, to be closely observed by teachers in the expectation they will misbehave.
Such constant and disproportionate monitoring from the beginning of one’s life, Losen says, “can erode trust in the institution if you’re a black male and you start to pick up on the fact that you’re being watched all the time and being profiled all the time.
“Eventually as you become a young adult you’ll become more aware [of the discrimination], and that will breed resentment and mistrust.”
The notion that schools are “spiraling out of control” due to dangerous students too often functions as part of the assumption of black male criminality, a pattern that has been documented in the field of education. Ann Arnett Ferguson, in her 2001 book Bad Boys: Public Schools in the Making of Black Masculinity, refers to this process as “adultification,” whereby “black children’s … transgressions are made to take on a sinister, intentional, fully conscious tone that is stripped of any element of childish naïveté.
“The discourse of childhood as an unfolding developmental stage in the life cycle is displaced in this mode of framing school trouble,” Ferguson writes. In other words, young black students, especially boys, are seen as being on the same level as adult criminals. Ferguson gives as an example a white teacher who—shortly after the 1992 LA riots in response to the acquittal of the four LAPD officers who beat Rodney King—called black students “looters” after they failed to return books she loaned them and described the situation as “just like the looting in Los Angeles.”
History has shown time and time again, from Emmett Till to Tamir Rice, that this adultification of black boys can have fatal consequences. Yet black children—including girls, who, according to a 2017 study by Georgetown Law’s Center on Poverty, are perceived by adults as “less innocent and more adult-like” than white girls starting at age 5—deserve to learn, feel safe and thrive in educational environments where they won’t be punished at higher rates than their white peers due to racist assumptions about their lack of innocence and predilections for criminality.
At the core of conservative attacks on the 2014 guidelines is an attack on the reality of the implicit bias that continues to permeate classrooms across the country, and it must be vociferously challenged at every turn.
In the end, says Losen, “If you know there’s a better way to do something, and you know what you’re doing is fundamentally unsound, it behooves the district to change those policies.
“Anything else is immoral.”

By Shannon Weber/AlterNet

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Reason as racism: An immigration debate gets derailed

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someone sounds like an “apologist” for theirs or others wrongdoing or wrong language…just saying

Calling someone a racist is the new McCarthyism. The charge is pernicious. The accuser doesn’t need to prove it. It simply hangs over the accused like a great human stain.

It has become not a descriptive term for a person who believes in the superiority of one race over another, but a term of malice and libel — almost beyond refutation, as the words “communist” or “communist sympathizer” were in the 1950s.

Moreover, the accuser somehow covers himself in an immunity of superiority. If I call you a racist, I probably will not be called one. And, finally, having chosen the ultimate epithet, I have dodged the obligation to converse or build.

If Donald Trump is called a racist for saying some nations are “shithole countries,” does that help pass a “Dreamers” bill to keep gifted young people in this nation — people who have something to give the United States and are undocumented only because they were brought here by their parents illegally?

That’s the goal, is it not? To save the Dreamers? That’s what the White House meeting last week was about. It’s what the whole week was about, until we went down the “racist” rabbit hole.

We were having an immigration debate. To the president, it is a reasonable goal, and one that most Americans would agree upon, to want to naturalize more people based on “merit.” We want more people who can contribute to our culture and economy, and they tend to come from stable nations.

If the president had used the world “hellhole” instead, would that have been racist?

If he had used the word “failed states,” would that have been racist?

But there are nations that are hellholes in this world. And there are failed states. It is not racist to say that this country cannot take only the worst people from the worst places and that we want some of the best people from the best places, many of which are inhabited by people of color. That’s not racism, it is reason.

Yes, we should take in unskilled refugees. We also want more Indian Ph.D.s and engineers.

If Sen. Dick Durbin wants to disagree about placing merit at the center of our immigration policies, if he wants to take an unlimited number of unemployed and unemployable people because, after all, that’s what most Poles and Irish were called in the 1900s, let him say that. And let Mr. Durbin and the president debate two concepts of American immigration policy honorably and finally find a middle ground where there is agreement and common purpose.

But, when we have a chance to reform the immigration system, and save the Dreamers, and find common ground, let us not get distracted by another cudgel to use against the president. Calling the president a racist helps no one — it is simply another way (the Russia and instability cards having been played unsuccessfully) to attempt to delegitimize a legitimately elected president.

Did the president use a crudity in a private meeting? He says he did not. No one who was there has said he did on the record. But if he did, so what? So what? America today is a sadly crass place where many of us use vulgar, corrosive language we ought not use in private and work conversations. How many of us would like to see and share a transcript of everything we have said in private conversations or at work?

And how many presidents have said crass things in the Oval Office in private meetings? Think of Kennedy, Clinton and Nixon, to name three.

If the president is wrong on immigration — on merit, on finding a balance between skilled and unskilled immigrants, on chain migration, on the lottery — let his opponents defeat him on these points, and not by calling him a racist. If he is to be removed from office, let the voters do it based on his total performance — temperament as well as accomplishment — in 2020. Simply calling him an agent of the Russians, a nutcase or a racist is a cowardly way to fight.

We need to confine the word “racist” to people like Bull Connor and Dylann Roof. For if every person who speaks inelegantly, or from a position of privilege, or ignorance, or expresses an idea we dislike, or happens to be a white male, is a racist, the term is devoid of meaning.

We have to stop calling each other names in this country and battle each other with ideas and issues, not slanders.

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Is the Women’s March more inclusive this year?

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This weekend is an important horizon on the U.S. landscape of women’s history: People across the nation will mark the anniversary of the historic Women’s March on Washington. But for some women, the anniversary is another reminder of the shortcomings of the 2017 Women’s March.

Critics said the march centered on cis white women at the expense of women of color and trans women, both groups who many felt had more to lose under a new administration many saw as hostile to human rights. At the start, organizers of the women’s march were almost all white, though they quickly course-corrected by bringing on Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Linda Sarsour.

But some underrepresented women felt their issues — such as racism, discrimination, police brutality, LGBTQ inclusivity, and immigration — were relegated in favor of issues that matter most to straight, white, middle-class women.

“We have to decide: Do we want equality and justice for a select group, or do we want it for everyone, and we know all these issues are tied together,” said Ruth Hopkins, a Native American writer and activist. “Gender justice is related to economic justice and racial justice and we have to think about all these things.”

As the 2018 Women’s March and sister marches converge on Saturday and Sunday across the country, many women are asking: Has anything changed?

Women of color have a complicated history with feminism

Feminism’s long history of perceived racism, combined with what some women saw as a lack of intersectionality at last year’s march, resulted in many black women and women of color refusing to attend.

Intersectionality, coined by law professor Kimberlé Crenshaw in 1989, is the recognition of how different backgrounds and the racism, sexism and classism that come with those identities overlap and impact the ways people experience oppression and discrimination.

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Martin Luther King’s Revolutionary Dream Deferred

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We are now experiencing the coming to the surface of a triple prong sickness … [that] has been lurking within our body politic from its very beginning … the sickness of racism, excessive materialism and militarism. … the plague of western civilization.
—Martin Luther King, Aug. 31, 1967

We kill the most beautiful among us—anyone, it seems, who reveals the nastier, brutish elements of American society and has the audacity to imagine, demand even, a better path: peace, unity and tolerance. Abraham Lincoln, Bobby Kennedy, Martin Luther King and so many others.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of King’s tragic assassination, and though countless publications will brim with commemorations and retrospectives of this misunderstood icon, most will miss the mark. Long ago co-opted and sanitized by mainstream political figures, the King of memory bears little resemblance to the radical, complex man himself.

He’s remembered by Democrats and Republicans alike as the “good,” “peaceful” civil rights leader—a useful foil for the “bad” activists of the black power movement, the Stokely Carmichaels, Malcolm Xs and Huey Newtons of the world. In reality, the categories were never so neat, the commonalities staggering.

In a sense, we all—white and black, liberal and conservative—have our own King. My King is the provocative King, the critic of bigotry but also of capitalism and the Vietnam War. The King, in truth, who has been willfully concealed from view.

When I arrived at the American history department at West Point in 2014, I—a white, heterosexual, military man—was handed the portfolio and teaching load on civil rights. Everyone else, it seemed, studied the American Revolution or the Civil War, and, well, I came across as vaguely progressive and willing, at least compared with my peers. A former student of counterinsurgency operations in Northern Ireland, I decided to ditch the old scholarship and embrace my new role. I’ve never looked back. I taught classes and led an annual summer excursion for cadets to visit with movement veterans across the South. I, along with two academy law professors, faced an immediate challenge: the cadets’—and most Americans’—utter misunderstanding of the civil rights movement and Martin Luther King himself.

After 50 years, with the United States again locked in racial conflict, culture wars, gaping inequality and perpetual global war, now seems as good a time as any to take stock of the state of King’s “three evils”: racism, materialism and militarism.

America’s Original Sin: Race and Privilege

The cry of “Black Power” is, at bottom, a reaction to the reluctance of white power to make the kind of changes necessary to make justice a reality for the Negro. I think that we’ve got to see that a riot is the language of the unheard. And what is it that America has failed to hear? It has failed to hear … the economic plight of the Negro poor.
—MLK, 1966

They are all linked, by the way. To treat each challenge as discrete is to rob them of their intertwined, inescapable power. Racism is a no-brainer. We’ve not come as far as we like to believe. Sure, there’s been the Brown v. Board ruling, Civil and Voting Rights Acts, even a black president. Nevertheless, each of these historic victories is being rolled back before our eyes. Schools are again as segregated as they’ve been in two generations. Conservative courts have dismantled key provisions of the Voting Rights Act. Heck, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions—a man too racist to serve as a federal district judge in the 1980s—heads the Justice Department.

Race and empire are intimately connected. Look only to the unprecedented militarization of the nation’s police—decked out in camo fatigues and sporting the same armored vehicles we drove in Baghdad—and the never-ending catalog of racially charged brutality cases nationwide for evidence. America resembles two armed camps, physically and intellectually isolated from each other. Five decades into an unwinnable and racially biased war on drugs, black men still fill the prisons in this nation—which has by far the highest rate of incarceration worldwide. In 2018 in the U.S., a black male is nine times as likely to serve time as a citizen of the next worst country: Cuba. We’ve got a long way to go.

The Unspoken King: Anti-Capitalism and Counter-Materialism

The problems of racial injustice and economic injustice cannot be solved without a radical redistribution of political and economic power.

The evils of capitalism are as real as the evils of militarism and evils of racism.
—MLK, 1967

We inhabit a peculiar moment, when most Americans hardly look up from their smartphones long enough to realize they’re missing “Real Housewives.” The vacuous world of celebrity worship and material preoccupation does not lend itself to the impassioned activism King demanded. Unfettered, free-market capitalism—enabled by neoliberal Democrats like the Clintons—has gutted the American dream and rendered it an unattainable nightmare for many. The empirical evidence is staggering.

Income inequality in the (ostensibly) egalitarian United States has reached its worst levels since the Gilded Age. Wages for the working class have been stagnant for 40 years, while the superrich bask in an embarrassment of riches. The federal minimum wage is worth less in real dollars than it was 50 years ago.

Yet it’s all so much worse than that. Obsessive materialism and big money (think pharma, oil, fracking) in politics have set American culture in the express lane to existential disaster. Most of us live a delusion, wishing away the gathering storm of global warming while chasing immediate gratification from social media clicks. Soon after President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, Syria finally joined up, making America the true, lone international pariah. Really doubling down, Trump’s recently released National Security Strategy completely removed climate change from the Pentagon’s list of threats. I’m sure King would approve.

The Greatest Purveyor of Violence: U.S. Militarism, 50 Years On

A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.
—MLK, 1967

One could plausibly argue that the United States remains a prominent purveyor of death, or at least chaos, across much of the planet today. It is this—the third of King’s evils—with which I am myself most familiar. Alas, in 2018, American militarism is alive and well, ranging from the symbolic martial pageantry pervading the National Football League to an ongoing, expanding and genuinely global war. Thanks to painstaking research at Brown University, we now know the U.S. military is conducting counterterror operations—all undeclared wars—in 76 countries. The bill so far? Some 7,000 dead American soldiers (eight of my own), 1.3 million war-related Arab/Muslim deaths, 10 million refugees and $5.6 trillion dollars. For this, we’ve gotten 30 times more worldwide terror attacks than occurred in 2001. What a steal.

Taking further stock of the state of U.S. militarism requires a macabre tour of direct and sponsored operations across the greater Middle East. In Yemen, the United States is complicit in Saudi terror bombing—providing munitions and in-flight refueling—that is causing famine and a world-record cholera epidemic in the Arab world’s poorest nation. In Syria and Iraq, the (perhaps justifiable) campaign against Islamic State resulted in far more civilian deaths than originally reported. Ceaseless backing of the far-right Israeli government has helped facilitate an incessant state of siege of Palestinians in the Gaza Strip. The U.S. also backs dictators, kings or strongmen with abhorrent human rights records far and wide across the region, from Egypt to Saudi Arabia. Sure, they’re crooks, sure, they gun down protesters, sure they behead women for “sorcery,” but hey, at least they’re our crooks.

The point is as simple as it is disturbing: While there are many “purveyors of violence” in the world today, the United States is far from innocent. Militarism is alive, well and growing in our increasingly martial culture. In King’s time, young Vietnamese girls burned in napalm strikes signified this mindset. Today, perhaps the consummate image is a starving Yemeni child.

Appropriating the Dead: Willfully Misremembering King

In America, in the fifties and sixties, one of the important crises we faced was racial discrimination. The man whose words and deeds in that crisis stirred our nation to the very depths of its soul was Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
—President Ronald Reagan, 1983

When a Hollywood performer [Reagan], lacking distinction even as an actor can become a leading war hawk candidate for the presidency, only the irrationalities induced by a war psychosis can explain such a melancholy turn of events.
—MLK, 1968

That neoliberal and neoconservative voices—along with mainstream figures in both parties—annually pay dutiful homage to King, without uttering a word about materialism or militarism, is a national disgrace. That former President Reagan, hero of the contemporary right, would publicly praise him, borders on the absurd. Lest we forget, Reagan, after all, made the first stop on his general election campaign in Neshoba County, Miss.—praising “states’ rights” in the city where three civil rights workers were famously murdered in 1964. He also initially opposed the bill officially designating Martin Luther King Day. Refusing to deny that King was a “communist,” Reagan would only say, “We’ll only know in about 35 years, won’t we?” And by the way, there are still four sitting (Republican) senators who voted against the MLK holiday: Richard Shelby of Alabama (no surprise there), Chuck Grassley of Iowa, Orrin (There’s No Blacks in Utah) Hatch and (disturbingly) John McCain of Arizona.

Every year, we’re treated to the same hypocrisy. Mainstream figures in both parties—some who vote for massive tax breaks for the rich, nearly all who support America’s endless wars—publicly laud and then invoke the ghost of King. None lays out a 21st century plan to implement MLK’s still incomplete vision. They have no such plan. They were bought and sold by corporate elites and the military-industrial complex long ago. On the right, some even engage in the fantasy that King was actually a Republican. He wasn’t. Truth be told, King would fit into neither of the two parties today. His platform and favored issues hardly receive public airing anywhere but the fringe left. Nonetheless, both Democrats and Republicans invoke King’s ghost every January for petty political gain. It’s heinous.

Republicans especially, but also centrist liberals, want us to believe King was one thing only: a narrow, nonviolent civil rights activist. That he gave only one speech: about a dream of his black daughters attending school with young white girls. They’ve sanitized him, castrated his message, omitted (through strikingly Orwellian “new speak”) his uncomfortable quotes. They’ve done so with nefarious intentions and political agenda: convince the masses that King’s revolution is over, completed, final. Stop complaining, stay out of the streets, there’s no reason to protest. Be thankful for what you have.

Don’t fall for it. Read, study, unearth the real King, the radical King, and take up the torch of his fight—a dream deferred—against the three evils still alive and well in the United States: racism, materialism and militarism. The owners of this country are counting on your apathy. Prove them wrong.

By Maj. Danny Sjursen/truthdig

Posted by The NON-Conformist

Colin Kaepernick a finalist for ‘TIME’ Person of Year

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XXX IMG_2017_8_29_KAEPERNICK_1_1_0SJFJKT8.JPG

Image: Kelley L Cox, USA TODAY Sports

Free-agent quarterback Colin Kaepernick was announced Monday as one of 10 candidates for TIME’s Person of the Year for 2017.

Kaepernick, who last played for the San Francisco 49ers in 2016, joins President Donald Trump, special counsel Robert Mueller and the #MeToo movement, among others, on the short list for recognition. Each year, the magazine strives to identify “the person or group of people who most influenced the news during the past year, for better or for worse.”

Trump was recognized by the magazine in 2016, and German chancellor Angela Merkel was its 2015 recipient. TIME will announce its latest “Person of the Year” on Wednesday.

Kaepernick was the first NFL player to take a knee during the national anthem last year, describing it as a means of protesting police brutality and racial inequality in the United States. He became a free agent in March and has yet to sign with an NFL team this season, prompting him to file a collusion grievance against NFL owners.

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Roy Moore’s Neo-Confederate Sugar Daddy Has Deep Ties To Secessionists

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Alabama Republican Senate nominee Roy Moore’s top supporter is a hardline Confederate sympathizer with longtime ties to a secessionist group.

Image: Jeffrey Butler

Michael Anthony Peroutka  has given Moore, his foundation and his campaigns well over a half-million dollars over the past decade-plus. He’s also expressed beliefs that make even Moore’s arguably theocratic anti-gay and anti-Muslim views look mainstream by comparison. Chief among them: He’s argued that the more Christian South needs to secede and form a new Biblical nation.

The close connections raise further questions about the racial and religious views of Moore, the former Alabama supreme court chief justice and the front-runner to become Alabama’s next U.S. senator.

Peroutka, a 2004 Constitution Party presidential nominee who in 2014 won a seat as a Republican on the county commission in Anne Arundel County, Maryland, spent years on the board of the Alabama-based League of the South, a southern secessionist group which for years has called for a southern nation run by an “Anglo-Celtic” elite. The Southern Poverty Law Center designates the League of the South as a hate group (a designation Peroutka regularly jokes about). That organization, after Peroutka left, was one of the organizers of the Charlottesville protests last summer that ended in bloodshed.

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