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April 17, 2005

The Big Question

Dear Questioners:

On Saturday, Colbert King demonstrated once again that he’s one of the most perceptive observers of DC politics (“The Right Tony Williams Question,” King gives Williams more credit than I would for the relatively good economic times that Washington has experienced over the past several years. In free market economies like that of the United States politicians have relatively little control over economic trends, especially in the short term and on the local level. Nevertheless, the public gives politicians the credit for good times and the blame for bad times, and Williams is benefiting from the luck of his timing.

But King rightly implies that Williams would stand a good chance of reelection if he were to run against the field of potential candidates who have announced their availability so far. King’s brief, one-paragraph takedowns of Brown, Bolden, Orange, and Evans are devastating, and his assessment of the uphill job Fenty would face in a one-on-one race against Williams is accurate. Both Williams and Jack Evans would have a much better chance, of course, if they could get any votes from the suburbanite sports fans whose support they have basked in at Nationals baseball events this past week. But, to their misfortune, their constituents are not the suburbanites who enjoy the newly acquired team cost free, but the Washingtonians who are stuck with the bill for their massive giveaway to Major League Baseball.

However, King doesn’t mention at least two potential candidates who stand the best chance of unseating Williams, even should he decide to run again. Both David Catania and Linda Cropp have widespread support throughout the city and loyal constituencies that Williams either has never had or has alienated and driven away. Neither Catania nor Cropp has seen the need to enter the race at this early date, but, absent that unknown, unnamed dark horse candidate whom Washingtonians always speculate about, either one could turn out to be the Bigfoot who sweeps the field.

Gary Imhoff


How Long Does Pepco Really Take to Respond?
Larry Seftor, larry underscore seftor .the757 at

When the power goes out, it is impossible to tell whether Pepco is doing what it needs to do to respond. For example, a thunderstorm may cause damage across the area, and my wait for power might be caused by the fact that crews are working elsewhere. However, tonight I have evidence that proves Pepco’s tardy responsiveness. The power at my house and a number of neighboring houses was out because a squirrel shorted out a line. I discovered the power outage when I returned home at 6:30 p.m. I called Pepco immediately and made the notification. My neighbors may well have called earlier. We finally saw the Pepco truck drive up about 8:40, and the power was on ten minutes later. In other words, in ideal conditions, Pepco takes well over two hours to respond to a call, despite the lack of other problems.


May I Recommend a Book?
Star Lawrence,

I liked George Pelecanos’ latest, Drama City. DC — get it? Think Animal Cops crossed with “The Wire.”


Stadium Naming Rights
Mary C. Williams,

Have we no shame in the District? Where is the outrage over the very idea that the military would even consider spending $6 million to have the National Guard’s name on a baseball stadium? It was only a few weeks ago that many former Guards injured in Iraq had to fight the military when their families’ medical benefits were cut off even though they needed continuing medical care. Couldn’t this $6 million be put to better use on health benefits for those who have made the sacrifice? This city apparently is suffering from some new but crippling disease known as baseball fever. This fever appears to attack the brain cells of our top leaders, causing them to lose all perspective. Can we justify using more tax dollars to finance a ballpark for billionaire Major League Baseball owners with money from our military budgets when those on the battle front are in dire need of adequate equipment and supplies?

This leads me to think that the Mayor must be extremely desperate to meet the financial obligations of this baseball boondoggle to even consider this deal. So what’s next in this moneymaking scheme? Slots and gambling inside the baseball park? Possibly auctioning off the government? More to the point, surely no government public relations hack would even suggest that droves of young adults coming to RFK will be overcome by the new sign and rush right over to the Armory to enlist in a very public war that has already claimed thousands of their friends and relatives. We all know that those who can afford to attend baseball games today generally don’t view the military as a career option. And, parents, after shelling out hundreds of dollars to take your kids to the Great American Pastime, do you expect that they will aspire to go to war or the major leagues? So while baseball and war may well be competing for our attention in the Nation’s Capitol these days, the two play to vastly different audiences and they are not likely to converge at the ballpark. Shame on us for wasting more money.


RFK Nationals’ Seating
Doug Neumann,

The Washington Post article cited by Gary [themail, April 7;] notes that Jack Evans used his influence with the Sports and Entertainment Commission for better seats at Nationals games at RFK stadium. I doubt that if Evans were not on the City Council, and have been such a cheerleader for Major League Baseball, that the Commission would have given him preferred seating. Should elected officials be using their positions in this fashion? Does the DC Council have a code of ethics that addresses such matters? At the least, this lack of ethical judgment should demonstrate Evans’ unfitness to be Mayor.


Herb Miller Resurfaces in the Ballpark Scheme
Ed Delaney,

Boy, Herb Miller wants in, and he wants in bad! Is it that there’s just too much money for Miller to be making to be kept out of the boondoggle, or is it that Miller just wants to help out the city so much on the costs that he keeps selflessly coming up with proposals to assist the city and its financial burden? You decide.

“DC Council Chairman Linda W. Cropp (D-At Large) and member Jack Evans (D-Ward 2) said they like aspects of the Deutsche Bank plan. But they said they also are considering a new proposal from developer Herbert S. Miller” ( Uh, didn’t Miller have his chance like everyone else to submit a proposal under a specific timetable for private financing? How many bites at the apple is he going to get to get preferred developing rights of parts of the ballpark project/ waterfront renovation? I hope he brought another $10,000 to the table to cover the costs of reexamining a plan, especially since his last plan was rejected as inadequate.

“All of it is intriguing,” Evans said. It sure, Evans, especially since the Banneker Overlook scheme was concocted by Miller and introduced to you privately even after the second site evaluation study had been done eliminating that site for size and cost problems. Let’s also remember Evans’ plan last June to spring a last-second amendment to legislation creating the controlling entity for the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative that would’ve allowed for construction of the ballpark to start at Banneker Overlook, and also remember that said amendment was drafted by attorneys for Herb Miller, according to the Washington Post. How the local media could let this ongoing public-private love fest between a council member and a private developer concerning a sweetheart ballpark and major redevelopment deal go without comment is completely unprofessional and troubling.


Patterson on Whitehurst Freeway
Ben Slade, Cleveland Park,

Kudos to Councilmember Patterson for her statement on the proposed demolition of the Whitehurst Freeway, saying that its uses as a “vital cross-town artery” must be considered. See for details of her statement and,a,1252,q,625306,ddotNav_GID,1610.asp for info on future DDOT meetings on the subject.

From “For many years, the Whitehurst Freeway has served as a vital cross-town artery, a key access for District residents to quickly and easily reach the downtown area, and a daily route for commuters to bypass residential neighborhoods. It is critical that these uses be considered as part of the current Department of Transportation study on the feasibility of taking down the Whitehurst Freeway.”


DC School Teacher Inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame
Phil Shapiro,

On Tuesday, April 12, John Mahoney, a math teacher at Banneker Academic High School in DC, was chosen as one of five teachers nationwide to be inducted into the National Teachers Hall of Fame. ( Among other things, Mahoney is one of the leaders of the school’s FIRST robotics competition team ( He has written several scholarly articles about the mathematics of Benjamin Banneker. He is adored by his students and admired by his fellow teachers. He gives one-on-one math tutoring to students after hours and welcomes students from outside of his classes to come for this assistance. In a statement to the Washington Post, Mahoney blasted city and Federal officials on poor funding of DC schools. “Fifty years after Brown vs. Board of Education, we still have separate and unequal schools.” So true. Unconscionable.

A web site built by Banneker students and adult volunteers involved in this year’s FIRST robotics can be found at This web site includes a narrated Flash slideshow created with the free version of a program named Powerbullet Presenter ( Volunteers from the Capital PC User Group ( are the largest supporters of Banneker robotics team. Several of volunteers from this club have given several hundred hours of volunteer time to the school. You might choose to support their volunteer efforts by joining CPCUG as a member. Annual dues of $42 support club activities.


How Phil Mendelson Raised Your Property Taxes Last Year
Matt Forman,

Last year, the Council debated reducing the real property cap. At the time, it was 25 percent, which meant that your property taxes had been increasing up to 25 percent per year. Jack Evans proposed reducing the annual increase to a more reasonable 10 percent. Phil Mendelson and the DC Fiscal Policy Institute convinced about half the council that increasing everyone’s taxes 10 percent per year would unfairly benefit the wealthier homeowners. Huh? Now a tax increase is unfair to the rich? Don’t ask. So Phil instead proposed that taxes should increase 20 percent with a homestead exemption increase from $30,000 to $50,000. Yeah, that’s right, he wanted to increase your taxes 20 percent a year! Phil even told the citizens testifying in favor of the cap that they would do better under his plan. Of course, a little later in the hearing, he had to ask the CFO staff exactly how tax bills are calculated, but that’s another story. The Council compromised by lowering the cap to 12 percent and raising the homestead exemption to $38,000. Well it turns out Phil really didn’t know how tax bills were calculated after all. Almost everyone would have actually done better under Jack’s plan, as Jack’s staff and I tried to tell him. Why? Because the increased homestead exemption doesn’t kick in until you’ve exhausted your cap. As proof, just look at your 2004 tax bill. In most cases, it went up exactly 12 percent, with no deduction for the increased homestead exemption. The Mayor’s budget office confirmed this last week as well. So, thanks to Phil’s miscalculations, we got a 12 percent increase instead of a 10 percent increase.

Now Jack is again proposing to lower the cap to 5 percent. Again Phil is opposing it, still proposing the sham increase in the homestead exemption, this time to $60,000. He says he wants to provide "broader relief." I guess he means a broader "increase."

[The Washington Post business section today describes its quote of the week as, “Mayor Anthony A. Williams, explaining that his tax proposal, which will result in increased tax bills for some DC homeowners next year, should be thought of as tax relief.” Here’s the quote: “It is tax relief from what they otherwise would be paying. . . . So that’s tax relief, yes. I’m not trying to be disingenuous.” — Gary Imhoff]


Progressive Property Tax Relief
Ed Lazere, DC Fiscal Policy Institute,

Matt Forman would like us to believe that a 5 percent cap on property tax increases would be a progressive tax policy -- providing more relief to owners of lower-value home. In reality, it would not. It is true that the existing 12 percent cap has helped homeowners at all levels because home values are rising citywide. And it is true that our property tax remains progressive under the cap, mostly because of the Homestead Deduction. But this does not mean that adopting a 5 percent cap would make taxes more progressive. Consider this: some 39 percent of the benefits of a 5 percent cap would go to the 13 percent of homes worth $750,000 or more. DCFPI’s research shows the cap would provide the most relief as a percent of home value to the highest- value homes.

Most homeowners would be better served by an increase in the Homestead Deduction. Raising the deduction to $60,000, as proposed in the mayor’s budget, would provide more relief than the cap to homes worth under $750,000. For example, the 5 percent would save homes worth $250,000 to $500,000 only $98 on average, while the Homestead Deduction would reduce their taxes by $211. Only homes assessed above $750,000 would do better under a 5 percent cap than the Homestead Increase. I also want to point out that neither the 5 percent cap or the Homestead Deduction would do anything to help renters, who pay property taxes indirectly and who are suffering from huge rent increases. According to a Fannie Mae Foundation report, the median asking rent for a two-bedroom apartment rose 84 percent in the past two years.

That’s why property tax relief should be extended to the 60 percent of DC households that rent. There is a credit for low-income owners and renters, but the maximum credit and the income limit have not been raised since 1979. Modernizing this credit to reflect inflation and other factors would make a big difference for a lot of renters. A bill introduced by Council Member Phil Mendelson would adopt a recommendation of the DC Tax Revision Commission to enhance this credit. Now that’s progressive property tax relief.


Has Mayor Williams’s Support Eroded?
Bryce A. Suderow,

I remember two years ago, Gary Imhoff and others got attacked here and in other forums for having the temerity to criticize the morally dubious practices of Mayor Anthony Williams. I remarked to numerous friends at the time that many white people were as blindly supportive of Williams as many black people had been of Marion Barry.

I wonder if readers of themail feel that Anthony Williams has less support among voters than he did two years ago. Are there still die hard Williams fans out there?


Stellar Documentary Videos on
Phil Shapiro,

You might not know that the produces topnotch videos for its web site. Producer Travis Fox and others have been creating spellbinding video stories in the past few years. The latest video on the site lives up to these high standards. See

When accepts videos and multimedia slide shows made by citizen journalists, we’ll be one step closer to where we need to be. It’s looking more likely that this might happen.


Gentrification in Columbia Heights
Victoria McKernan,

I’d like to offer a different perspective on the issue of gentrification in Columbia Heights. When I bought my condo here eighteen years ago, I knew the metro was coming and that the proximity to downtown and adjoining popular neighborhoods would probably insure an eventual turnaround of a blighted area. Why didn’t any of the churches, community groups or housing assistance agencies realize this back then? I had no real-estate savvy, my family never even owned a home. I wasn’t looking to flip for a profit, I was a struggling writer, looking to eliminate the possibility of some day winding up a homeless old bag-lady from the artistic equation. I packed in the roommates and ate ramen noodles for twelve years. Many other families made similar efforts, squeezing aunts and cousins and friends in to defray the mortgage.

There were three apartments in the building that had never been completed that eventually went up for tax sale. When I discovered this, I wrote stacks of letters to the DC government and every housing and social service organization there was, pleading for someone to buy them. When no one would, I bought them myself, using credit card advances and balance transfer juggling for 0 percent interest. Over the next few years as other owners became frustrated with the delays in development, more units went up for sale. These were two and three bedroom apartments at prices, that were, up until 2003, less than $60,000.00. Among the agencies I contacted, and who turned down the opportunity were Manna, Muscle, Ontario Housing Counseling Services, Habitat for Humanity, Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness, Casa de Pueblo, House of Ruth, and Woodley House (who did already own three apartments here.) Three times I arranged lease-option plans to my low-income tenants to help them buy the apartments; none ever pursued the purchase. Exactly one year ago, I again made the rounds of all the agencies, trying to sell all three apartments (two and three bedrooms) in a package deal for $500,000. I even offered to hold a mortgage. No one was interested. So I sold to a developer who recently flipped the first of the trio for $298,000.00.

The issue of vanishing rental apartments is a separate one, but as far as home ownership opportunities, I have to say I can’t get too worked up. The chance was here for eighteen years. While I’m dismayed to see my neighborhood looking more and more like an Old Navy commercial, when my current residence goes on the market next week, and one of them whips a big fat yuppie checkbook out of his cargo shorts, I’ll have no qualms about accepting it.


April 2005 InTowner
Peter Wolff,

This is to advise that the April 2005 on-line edition has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news items and crime reports, editorials (including prior months’ archived), restaurant reviews (prior months’ also archived), and the text from the ever-popular "Scenes from the Past" feature. Also included are all current classified ads. The complete issue (along with prior issues back to March 2002) also is available in PDF file format directly from our home page at no charge simply by clicking the link provided. Here you will be able to view the entire issue as it appears in print, including all photos and advertisements.

The next issue will publish on May 13 (the 2nd Friday of the month, as always). The complete PDF version will be posted by the preceding night or early that Friday morning at the latest, following which the text of the lead stories, community news, and selected features will be uploaded shortly thereafter.

To read this month’s lead stories, simply click the link on the home page to the following headlines: 1) “Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Shaw, Dupont and Citywide Tenants May Be Near Regaining Rights”; “Ultra-Modern Canopy Coming to Dupont South Metro Station”; “Harris Teeter Project Gets Extensive Input by Neighbors at ANC Forum — Questions Remain But Much Support Also Revealed at ANC Forum”; “DC, Baltimore Realty Boom Reveals Huge Disparity in What Sale Price Gets What.”


Guide to Elected and Appointed Officials in DC
Susie Cambria,

The new “accessing officials” guide is now available from DC ACT. The guide includes information about elected and appointed officials — ANCs, the mayor, city council, school board, and more! For a copy, call Alexis at 234-9404 or E-mail


DC Budget Toolkit
Ann Pierre,

The DC Fiscal Policy Institute has designed an online tool to help residents and others understand the DC budget process and to follow the FY 2006 budget as it is developed. The DC Budget Toolkit tracks the budget as it moves from beginning to end, from the release of the Mayor’s budget request to the final submission to Congress. Toolkit users can find out how much is being spent in different areas, compare spending to previous years and find out how to get involved in the budget process. The Toolkit provides information on the budget as a whole and summaries of some key issues that specifically concern low- and moderate-income DC residents such as child care, employment/training, homeless services and housing. It also contains Excel spreadsheets that show the change in spending by appropriation title and by agency. Toolkit users can download the summaries to use as a reference, use the spreadsheets to do their own analyses, and download relevant reports by DCFPI for more in-depth analyses of the budget.

Since this is DCFPI’s first year producing the Toolkit, we would like to hear from you. We would like to know who you are, how you use the toolkit, and how we can improve it. The DC Budget Toolkit can be found at E-mail us with your feedback at


Springtime in DC: New Beginning or Same Old Same Old
Len Sullivan,

NARPAC returns this month to the nagging problems of distressed neighborhoods and the associated plight of the “poorest of the poor,” drawn by the mayor’s latest “State of the District” address and a new book entitled The Unintended Consequences. The two Washington authors, James and Peter Banks, describe the decline and fall of public housing in the US and DC, and the need to differentiate between the working poor who can bolster each other, and the “poorest of the poor” who reinforce each other’s misfortunes. Issues include the problems of clustering and isolation, sensing deterioration before it is too late, and the need to “deconcentrate” DC’s very poor. In response, NARPAC returns to two favorite issues: the need to quantify the problem before suggesting solutions, and the fundamental companion problem of determining how to pay for real poverty relief. We conclude the authors underestimate the magnitude and cost of the solutions, and suggest that the whole region must get involved, not just a dedicated handful of community-minded DC residents. Check it out at

NARPAC then picks a few promises from the Mayor’s 2005 State of the District Address related to distressed neighborhoods and doubts that crime and poverty will be so much reduced as just shuffled around. The basic questions remain the same: are we gaining or losing on DC’s embarrassing urban indicators, generated largely by the "poorest of the poor"? NARPAC can’t tell, and nobody else is talking! Your thoughts and opinions would be welcome: it’s all about DC’s future.



John Conyers at Ward 6 Dems, April 20
Jan Eichhorn,

US Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (D-Michigan) will address the Ward 6 Democrats meeting on Wednesday, April 20, with remarks entitled “Take Back America.” As leader of the Democratic side of the House Committee on the Judiciary, he led an investigation of voting irregularities in the November 2004 Presidential election and has introduced legislation to address the findings of his committee report: “Preserving Democracy: What Went Wrong in Ohio.” Congressman Conyers is one of the thirteen founding members of the Congressional Black Caucus and is considered the dean of that group.

The Wednesday, April 20, meeting will begin at 7:30 p.m. at St. Matthews Lutheran Church, 222 M Street, SW. The church has a parking lot and additional parking and a Metro stop are a block away at the SW Waterside Mall. The meeting will also consider proposed by-law changes and resolutions on Council legislation regarding campaign exploratory committees and budget proposals. For further information, contact Jan Eichhorn, President, The Ward 6 Democrats, 547-8855 or contact


Electronics Recycling, April 23
Ben Slade,

[From the web site of the office of the Clean City Coordinator:] The Office of the Clean City, Department of Public Works Office of Recycling, The George Washington University, and several other community partners are hosting a free electronics recycling collection event for Washington, DC, residents on Saturday, April 23, at the Rock Creek Park - Carter Barron Amphitheater parking lot on 16th and Kennedy Streets, NW, from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. This e-cycling event will accept any make or model of computers and related equipment, including computers, monitors, printers, scanners, keyboards, mice, and laptops. All computer monitors and TV screens must be intact, not cracked, punctured, or shattered. In addition, residents can recycle other household items such as electronics (appliances such as stoves, refrigerators, and microwaves will not be accepted); cell phones; consumer batteries (dry cell); ink jet, laser, and copier cartridges; and white foam packaging.


Great Pyramids, Wind Chimes, and Urban Parks, April 21, 23, 25
Brie Hensold,

All events at the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line.

Thursday, April 21, 6:30-8:00 p.m. The sole surviving example of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, the Great Pyramid at Giza has always fascinated scholars, engineers, and architects. Architectural engineer Craig Smith will discuss his investigation into the design, engineering, and construction of the Great Pyramid through computer modeling and other modern tools. At a reception after the lecture, he will sign copies of his book How the Great Pyramid Was Built (Smithsonian). $10 Museum members and students; $15 nonmembers. Registration required.

Saturday, April 23, 10:00 a.m.-1:00 p.m. Wind influences many things, from what we wear to how we fly. Wind chimes are designed to dangle in the wind and use its force to produce sound. The stronger the wind, the louder the chimes. Families create wind chimes out of hardware and decorate them with craft material. $3 per project for Museum members, $5 nonmembers. All ages. Drop-in program.

Monday, April 25, 7:00-8:30 p.m. Landscape architect Walter Hood, ASLA, transforms neglected areas of the urban environment into parks that celebrate local history and provide public gathering spaces. Principal of Hood Design in Oakland, California, he will discuss his firm’s projects, including Oakland’s Splash Pad Park and the landscape design for the M.H. de Young Memorial Museum in San Francisco. $12 Museum and ASLA members; $17 nonmembers; $10 students. Prepaid registration required.


Washington Storytellers Theater Annual Benefit, April 29
Brad Hills,

Washington Storytellers Theater proudly presents our 2005 annual benefit performance and silent auction featuring Eht-Noh-Tec’s performance of “Takashi’s Dream and Other Stories.” Eth-Noh-Tec will share with us an evening of Asian wisdom tales that will lift your heart and inspire your life with delightful and thought provoking theater. “Takashi’s Dream” is based on the inspiring life of Takashi Tanemori, atom bomb survivor from Hiroshima. Eth-Noh-Tec weaves movement, poetic voices and music to recreate a dreamlike, haunted landscape that became Takashi’s life as a victim and eventually victor over the many perils that followed his life as a survivor.

Support Washington Storytellers Theater as we celebrate our fifteenth anniversary season of bringing world-class storytellers to the greater Washington, DC, community. Experience the unique and exciting Eth-Noh-Tec and join us for an elegant reception at the enchanting Embassy of Austria and bid on a wide range of wonderful items donated especially for our Silent Auction. All Silent Auction proceeds up to $5,000 will be matched by a generous grant from the Morris and Gwendolyn Cafritz Foundation. At the Embassy of Austria, 3524 International Court, NW, Friday, April 29. Reception at 7:00 p.m., performance at 8 p.m. Ticket price $100 reserved, $65 general in advance, $75 at the door. Purchase at the door or in advance on-line or by calling 545-6840. Street parking.



Can You Paint a Pond?
Phil Carney,

Steve Aupperle and I would love to have a pond in the middle of the garden that we maintain in a triangle park east of Dupont Circle, between P Street, NW, and Massachusetts Avenue, NW. In the middle of our garden is the boarded over entrance to the old trolley car system. We have seen E-mailed photos of horizontal art that looks three dimensional.

If you have the talent and interest, please help us further beautify our Dupont Circle neighborhood. Steve teaches and I am retired, so we don’t have money. If you have the talent and interest, but need money, maybe we can work something out with the Dupont Circle Citizens Association.


Microsoft Office Instructor
Richard Jaeggi;

Howard University’s Center for Urban Progress is looking for an instructor to teach the Microsoft Office suite for a workforce development project in northwest Washington. This is a paid, part time position starting in May. Candidates should be able to demonstrate a strong knowledge of Microsoft Office 2000 and 2004 and have previous teaching experience. For more information write Ms Nnaji:



One-Bedroom on Capitol Hill Wanted
Ted Knutson,

Fiftyish, quiet, nonsmoking male and adorable cocker spaniel (both toilet trained) seek one bedroom apartment on Capitol Hill for June 1 occupancy. 547-1387 (home and office).



Dining Set
Sue Folliard,

Seven-piece antique (50 years old) dining set for sale, $599. Owner went into nursing home. Dining table, four chairs, sideboard, china cabinet with attached base. Good condition. Table (60" x 48" x 31"), sideboard (42" x 18" x 33"), top of cabinet (40" x 16" x 42"), base (72" x 23" x 27"). Online photos available. E-mail or call 338-2264. Chevy Chase, DC.



Oxygen Tanks
Sue Folliard,

Help yourself to four oxygen tanks (25 years old) and cabinet with wheels. Each tank measures approximately 18" high by 5" across. This equipment was used by my aunt in her home when she had emphysema. E-mail or call 338-2264. Chevy Chase, DC.


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