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March 8, 2006

Bloom Is Off the Rose

Dear Roses:

Okay, nobody wrote about the blooming trees, so here’s my short list of obvious spots off the Mall: the US National Arboretum (, the US Botanic Garden (, Dumbarton Oaks (, Hillwood Museum (, and Meridian Hill Park (Malcolm X Park) (

So here’s your second chance to inform the rest of us. When we pack our box lunches on a warm, sunny day in a few weeks, where should we go to sit under a flowering canopy? Does anyone know where there are any good groves of blooming trees in Rock Creek Park ( What about smaller parks, city parks, college campuses?

Here’s a legal question for any informed lawyers out there. Since the city council pretends that the $611 million ceiling it mandated on city expenses for the baseball stadium is real and has the force of law, who has the legal standing to sue when the city inevitably spends over that ceiling? They’ll hide many expenses in other budgets, and pretend that many expenses for the stadium aren’t stadium-related, but they won’t be able to hide and deny all of them. When even the city’s acknowledged costs exceed the ceiling, who will have the power to enforce it? The city council won’t do anything, but if we pull councilmembers into court, they’ll be forced to support what they claim is the intent of their own law.

Gary Imhoff


Shall We All Predict What the Stadium Will Really Cost?
Debby and John Hanrahan,

Now that the DC council has given its final approval for construction of a publicly financed baseball stadium at South Capitol Street, why don’t we all make informed predictions as to what the ultimate price of this boondoggle to benefit Major League Baseball will be? Mayor Williams, the Sports and Entertainment Commission, and the nine councilmembers who voted for this project on Tuesday say it will not go one penny over $611 million, and that Major League Baseball has agreed to what the Council majority says is a rock-solid cap on costs. What MLB did not agree to was to pay for any cost overruns. MLB, in effect, said go ahead, have your cap, but don’t you dare skimp on amenities; and if you exceed that cap don’t come to us. That piece of information has been largely missing from local daily news media reports, even though it was raised time and again during Tuesday’s council “debate” by the four Councilmembers who had actually studied the language in the stadium legislation — David Catania, Phil Mendelson, Adrian Fenty, and Jim Graham. Catania, particularly, shredded the stadium advocates’ arguments and laid out all of the ways the fantasy cap will be exceeded. The four "no" voters pointed out repeatedly that it is the city — and not MLB, or the team’s eventual owners, or the federal government, or private developers — that will pay for any overruns. And remember, this was purported to be a $435 million project just seventeen months ago, then went to $535 million in December 2004, and then subsequently to $589 million, and now $611 million Although some of us cynics put the ultimate cost of this project at $1 billion, we’ll adopt the Pollyanna posture of the nine councilmembers who voted for this and lowball our prediction at $775 million.


“Emergency No Parking” Abuse
Jack McKay,

The abuse of “Emergency No Parking” posters by District contractors continues. Half of my block was marked No Parking on both sides for the entire week. There’s no indication on the posters of which contractor is doing the posting, which District agency is responsible for the work, what work is intended to be done, or whom to contact to find out anything. Of course, no work crews showed up and no work was done. The absence of any visible work being done didn’t stop an ambitious Parking Enforcement aide from handing out $50 tickets to folks who hadn’t noticed the posters.

Yesterday a contractor’s crew showed up, not to do any work, but to cross out the dates on the posters, re-marking them for all of next week, not this week. Oops, so sorry, all a mistake. Of course, this is no help to the residents with $50 fines.


Vanity Press
Dorothy Brizill,

This week at-large Councilmember Kwame Brown released and personally distributed a twenty-page publication, printed on glossy letter-sized paper and filled with color photographs, entitled “2005: A Foundation for Accountability.” It offers Brown’s own version of his first year in office. It contains a section entitled “Promises Kept,” which references commitments and campaign pledges that Brown made to voters when he ran for office in 2004. A glaring omission is any reference to Brown’s breaking his most prominent campaign promise, to oppose public financing for the baseball stadium.

The photographs, even more than the text, characterize the publication as a vanity piece. Out of the forty-four photographs, thirty-seven of them are of the councilmember. The publication was written and edited by Brown’s council staff on public time, and the councilmember’s office budget paid for publishing five thousand copies at a dollar apiece. Request yours from the councilmember’s office now, before the first printing is exhausted and it has to go into a second edition.


Kathy Patterson’s Campaign Kickoff and Office Opening
Eric Marshall,

Please join Kathy Patterson as she opens her campaign office and kicks off her campaign for chairman of the DC council on Saturday, March 18, at 2:00 p.m. at 1101 Pennsylvania Avenue, SE, Suite 200. It will be a fun, casual event and provide a great chance to chat with Kathy and find out why she will make a great chairman. Kathy ran for the council in 1994 as a parent concerned about public education in the District. On the council, Kathy quickly earned a reputation as a tough-minded, independent legislator advocating fiscal responsibility, stronger public schools, and accountability from District government officials. As chairman she will work hard to make the District government work for everybody.

For more information, please visit RSVP to or 903-0956.


An Alternative to NCMC
Frank Zampatori,

After reading Dorothy Brizill’s item in the March 5 issue of themail concerning Mayor Williams’s and Councilmember David Catania’s visit to the INOVA Healthplex in Springfield, Virginia, it is worth revisiting a proposal first offered by Councilmember Catania in April 2005 as a possible alternative to the National Capital Medical Center (NCMC). Councilmember Catania’s original proposal called for the construction of two buildings at the site on Reservation 13 in Ward 6, where NCMC is proposed.

The first building is modeled after the highly successful INOVA Healthplex in northern Virginia. The first two floors include a 24-hour emergency room that can handle all emergencies except Level 1 Trauma and provides ambulatory surgical services. Patients do not stay longer than twelve hours; those in need of more comprehensive care, are first stabilized and then are transported to a more acute comprehensive facility. The third and fourth floors would house the District’s TB, STD, and HIV clinics and, space permitting, a detoxification unit. According to Ms. Brizill’s article, the INOVA complex was constructed at a cost of $34 million; in 2005 it treated 30,000 emergency room patients at a cost of $12 million; and treated another 30,000 ambulatory surgery patients for $10 million. (As an aside, Mayor Williams should also honor his commitment made in 2001 and again in 2002 to support and fund a Level 1 Trauma Center at Greater Southeast, a commitment he has not yet kept.)

The second building would include a comprehensive primary care clinic and a dental clinic on the first two floors. Two floors would also be devoted to medical specialists. The building would also house aspects of the District’s Primary Care and Prevention Administration which includes a public education component dealing with cancer awareness, diabetes, sickle cell, nutrition, vision, hearing and cardiovascular treatment programs. The development plan for Reservation 13 always envisioned some form of a medical facility on four acres of land. We need to ensure that what is constructed there serves the actual medical needs of the DC community. This is one alternative the city should seriously explore before it commits itself to a 250-bed hospital costing between $424 million and $500 million, a project that the DC medical community believes is not needed and the supporters of NCMC have failed to show serves a medical need.


National Capital Medical Center: Through the Looking Glass
Eric Rosenthal,

With a nod to Lewis Carroll and extensive use of alliteration, a writer in the last issue of themail [March 5] ominously accused Councilmember Sharon Ambrose of causing a “deep darkness [to descend] on public discussion and dialogue” by refusing to hold a hearing on the proposed medical center. That might be interesting if it were true. However, the public record and a check with Ambrose’s office show that she wants more public dialogue, not less. Contrary to the writer’s main assertion, Ambrose hosted a public meeting and plans to hold an oversight hearing. What she rightfully insists on is a certificate of need review to determine whether the medical center is needed. Responsible councilmembers and citizens should applaud her because the review would be our only opportunity to learn what the mayor actually plans before the critical details are final.

The mayor’s legislation for the National Capital Medical Center contains no plan at all. Instead, it would confer upon him carte blanche to negotiate the details of medical services, budget, governance, billing, and other issues with no meaningful review by the council or public. The certificate of need process is the District’s normal prerequisite for health care facilities. It would require evidence that the proposed medical center meet the health care needs of DC citizens. No one should settle for any less before we allocate hundreds of millions of public dollars, especially when the issue at hand is health.

Meanwhile, a council hearing on Monday will examine legislation to finance construction of the proposed center with funds from the tobacco litigation settlement. Citizens for the National Capital Medical Center, an organization founded by the Williams administration, Councilmember Vince Gray, the Walker Marchant Group public relations firm, and others, is busily organizing. Its web site ( encourages people to turn out in big numbers and for churches to bus congregants and supporters to lobby the council. What they have yet to do is demonstrate that the National Capital Medical Center is needed.


Paying for Hearing Aids in DC
Norman Metzger,

Maryland, like a growing number of other states, now requires private insurers to cover a significant part of the cost of hearing aides. The District does not. The District at the very least should follow the example of Maryland’s law, on the books since 2001 — $1,400 in aid every three years for those 18 and younger. The impact on premium costs in Maryland has been trivial, about 30 to 50 cents. Yet mandating hearing aid coverage by private insurers could help hundreds of DC kids who have serious hearing problems, but whose parents don’t qualify for Medicaid and also can’t afford the thousand dollars plus for a decent aid. The consequences for a kid can be severe — poor language acquisition, learning difficulties, and social isolation. It is time for DC to move on this virtually cost-free gain in the lives of a significant number of our kids. For more on this issue, see my web site,


DC Needs an Animal
Andy Catanzaro,

The Penguins of Silver Spring are back. Does anyone know if DC has an official animal mascot? A mascot even? I think we should get one. Let’s start a drive for one! Register your vote for at the Stamp Act Congress’ blog by going to

[DC does have an official dinosaur, bird, tree, and flower, and last month there was a schoolchild led campaign to name an official fruit. But I haven’t been able to find any sign of an official animal. Any nominations, either serious or humorous? — Gary Imhoff]


Steal My Milk Money, Too
Victoria McKernan,

The DC council’s approval of a bill that would require certain businesses to pay a “living wage” of $11.75 an hour has got me thinking. When a business pays less than a living wage, isn’t it, in effect receiving a government subsidy? If Fred has a business where he pays his full-time employee Mary only $8.00 an hour, requiring her to receive government support in the form of housing assistance, food stamps, and medical care, isn’t that just like the government reaching deep into my pocket and handing over a bunch of my money to Fred?

I’m all in favor of my tax money going to help the huddled masses, wretched refuse, and homeless tempest-tossed. It is the moral thing to do. But shouldn’t we all be shocked at this weird reverse communism? Fred knows the government can’t let Mary, (well, too many Marys, anyway) be homeless and hungry when she has a full-time job. So why should he pay her more when he can get the taxpayers to do it? It’s like the school bully’s stealing my sandwich then having the playground monitor hit me up for my milk money too. (Yes, yes, I know a thousand people will respond that many business owners are just getting by — but getting by on even $40,000 is way different from getting by at $16,000.)

This limited wage increase is a nice little start, but I wish the council would show some real guts. Either require all business to pay an honest living wage, or bill them for the expense of the subsidies we are currently paying their employees.


A Trend in AU Park?
Ed T. Barron, edtb1@macdotcom

I have walked past or visited Turtle Park about a hundred times a year, mostly in the spring through fall. I started by taking my grandgals there for seven years until they moved to the other Washington. Always lots of tikes in the sandbox. Yesterday afternoon I saw something I had not seen in midweek for a long time. There were about twenty kids in the sandbox ranging in age from two through four. This time, instead of all the nannies supervising the kids, there was a group of real mommies of those kids. In fact there was only one obvious nanny in the whole group. Is this a trend? Are more mommies staying home with the kids?


The Common Denominator Has Relocated
Kathy Sinzinger,

The Common Denominator, DC’s hometown newspaper, has relocated its office to what many consider to be the District’s main street, Georgia Avenue. We are now located at 3609 Georgia Avenue, NW, Suite 100 (zip code for mailing is 20010) — on street level for the first time, two blocks south of the Petworth Metro Station. Street parking is available.

Please note that our main telephone and fax numbers have changed, though we are forwarding calls to our old numbers for a while. Our new phone number is 722-6397 (722-NEWS) and our fax is 722-6335.

Our E-mail addresses remain the same, and we also may be contacted through our web site at


Denise Wiktor,

My assessment went up 18 percent this year, for an over 100 percent increase in the four and a half years I have owned my home. Whether or not my tax bill will go up I don’t know. What I do know is that in Mt. Pleasant if you are assessed by my assessor your assessment is at “market rate.” However, if you have the luck to be assessed by Suzanne Ross your assessment runs about half of your identical next door neighbor. I have real problems with having the same assessment as a four-story multiunit apartment building; or with two row houses side by side, both having been restored, and one’s assessment is half of the other’s. I have raised this issue with the Office of Tax and Revenue with no results. I should, in all fairness, disclose that there is no other house comparable to mine in the area, as it is one of the few wooden ones left. I think the fact that I have a nine-story next-door neighbor should be taken into consideration, though.


More Police in Residential Neighborhoods?
Matt Forman,

Bill Maguire in his posting last week [themail, March 1] states his plans to request more police for residential neighborhoods when he testifies before the Judiciary Committee. I think some analysis is in order. The District already has by far the highest number of officers per capita and spends the most dollars per capita on policing of any major city in the United States. (This is MPD only, and doesn’t include the various federal forces — Park Police, Secret Service, Capitol Police, etc.) Even with the most officers per capita, the Council authorized the hiring of two hundred more officers several years back, which the Chief was unable to accomplish, year after year. Only this year has he finally been able to do it, I hear. Why is this scandalously high number of officers not already in the neighborhoods? It isn’t from the few days a year that there’s a World Bank protest or inaugural event. It’s because Chief Ramsey simply won’t deploy them there. As I recall, the council almost voted a few years back to require the chief to deploy the officers to the neighborhoods by a certain deadline, but the chief talked them out of it, promising to do it on his own. He never did, and the council did nothing.

Keep all this in mind when you go to the polls this fall. When asked on the recent Channel 9 televised mayoral candidate debates what they would do about crime and the police chief, only Adrian Fenty said the chief’s job would be conditioned on getting police into the neighborhoods. So you can testify that you want more and more of our ever-increasing tax dollars to hire additional officers, but make sure you also ask for specific language requiring the Chief to actually deploy them to the neighborhoods, with a penalty if he doesn’t. Otherwise, it’s just business as usual. Phil Mendelson, head of the committee, is up for reelection as well. Let’s see what legislation he introduces in response to your testimony.


More Zipcar and Flexcar
Harold Goldstein,

Alan Kimber is absolutely correct [themail, March 5] in pointing out that dedicated parking spaces to Zipcar and Flexcar is no different than many other uses of public road space — taxi cab stands, entrances to hotels and some other businesses. When buses were privately owned they, too, were accorded stopping areas that removed parking spaces from the available pool because it was more beneficial, in the long run, to do so.

Taxis are for profit, hotels are for profit; why is there no outrage at their use of public parking areas. Why no outrage when private homeowners create a garage with no parking in front of it? Should it be harder to do that? That essentially removes two spaces so that one car can have its own home.

It remains to be seen if this concept will prove viable in our car-loving society (it has been alive in Europe for over forty years), but it is a great concept that needs to be given a chance.


David Sobelsohn,

Thanks for your kind wishes [themail, March 5]. A badly swollen eye and possible brain damage are making typing difficult, so please forgive any errors in this message. I am home from the hospital and trying to recuperate. Visitors are welcome.



DC Public Library Events, March 11, 14, 16, 18
Debra Truhart, 

Saturdays, March 11 and 18, 2:00 p.m., Francis A. Gregory Neighborhood Library, 3660 Alabama Avenue, S.E. African American History and Culture Series will present lectures and films by C.R. Gibbs, noted author, scholar and historian. March 11: Africa’s Gift to America; March 18: The Story of Black Georgetown. Public contact: 645-4297.

Tuesday, March 14, 7:00 p.m., Takoma Park Neighborhood Library, 416 Cedar Street, NW. Lonnae O’ Parker, author and writer for the Washington Post, will discuss and sign her book, I’m Every Woman: Remixed Stories of Marriage, Motherhood and Work. Public contact: 576-7252.

Thursday, March 16, 10:30 a.m., Martin Luther King, Jr., Memorial Library, 901 G Street, NW, Room 200. Fourteenth annual environmental film festival: animated environmental films, Stars! Stars! Stars!, Waiting for Wings, In the Small, Small Pond, and Diary of a Worm, bring favorite children’ picture books to life on screen through Weston Woods Studios’ faithful adaptations. Grades Pre-K - 3. Limited seating due to school participation. Public contact: 727-1248.


Let the MetroAccess Riders Speak, March 13
Dennis Jaffe, DennisJaffe @ Gmail . com

A public forum for MetroAccess riders will be held on Monday, March 13, with the aim of finding solutions for MetroAccess customers’ needs. Mary Williams, chairwoman of the new Metro Riders’ Advisory Council MetroAccess Committee, and I, as chairman of the RAC, have been planning the event. It will be held from 3-5 p.m. and also from 7-9 p.m. on Metro Headquarters Lobby Level at 600 Fifth Street, NW. In each session, folks will be able to speak in a public forum so your concerns about service will be heard. We’ll discuss solutions with staff from the Metro agency and MV Transportation, the service provider. Metro’s Board of Directors has also been invited to participate. Between 5-7 p.m., staff from Metro and from MV Transportation, the service provider, will be on hand to meet one-on-one with MetroAccess riders to listen and respond to individual concerns. I also will be seeking to collect riders’ contact information to follow up, to ask if responses from staff are satisfactory.

MetroAccess is the curb-to-curb service run by Metro for people with disabilities for whom Metrorail and Metrobus is inaccessible. Complaints about quality of service have gone on for years. Mary Williams has depended on MetroAccess for eleven years and lives in the District of Columbia. She knows firsthand what MetroAccess riders face in seeking to get from home to work, the doctor, or grocery store. Through Mary and other people with disabilities, I have been learning the heart-wrenching accounts of what it’s like to depend on MetroAccess. Metro can and must do better. Some things I hear are just unconscionable.

So many of the problems are a matter of getting Metro to set up new communication mechanisms that would better inform the agency of customers’ needs. The agency has been terribly resistant to change. My hope is that by the new Riders’ Advisory Council, working with the Board of Directors and with new Interim General Manager Dan Tangherlini, we can change this "culture of unresponsiveness." The forum is being cosponsored by the Metro Elderly & Disabled Advisory Committee, chaired by Patrick Sheehan. What comes out of the forum will go right to the Ad Hoc MetroAccess Committee, charged with providing a report to the Board. Your voice is important now. Interpreters will be available from 3 to 9 p.m. For details, call 962-1034 (TTY 962-2033) or E-mail To get to Metro headquarters by Metrorail go to the Judiciary Square or Gallery Place-Chinatown station; by Metrobus take D1, D3, D6, P6, 70, 71, 80 or X2.


L’Enfant’s Plan, March 14
Lauren Searl, 

Tuesday, March 14, 6:30-8:00 p.m., architect and architectural historian Don Alexander Hawkins will present a fresh thesis about the origins of Pierre L’Enfant’s plan for the capital city of the new American federal republic. He will demonstrate that L’Enfant did not imitate Baroque gardens and city plans such as those at Versailles, London, Paris, and Madrid, but instead conceived of an entirely original plan inspired by Alexander Hamilton’s ideas about the relationship between American government and commerce. Hawkins will also discuss the surveyors’ sequential laying out of the plan on the site. This lecture complements the exhibition Washington: Symbol and City, which will be open for viewing and for which Hawkins was the guest curator. $10 members of the Museum and the Latrobe Chapter of the Society of Architectural Historians and students; $15 nonmembers. Registration required. At the National Building Museum, 401 F Street, NW, Judiciary Square stop, Metro Red Line. Register for events at


Resource Exchange III, March 15
Mark Ouellette,

Resource Exchange III is an all-new opportunity to meet and mingle with great resource organizations for those of us in the Out-of-School Time and Parent Center programming field. Wednesday, March 15, from 10:00 a.m. to noon. Hosted in their fourth floor gymnasium by the Friendship Public Charter School (Woodson campus) on 4095 Minnesota Avenue, NE, right across from the Minnesota Avenue Metro stop.

The exhibitors include A Fair Chance, the Alexandria Seaport Foundation, the Arena Stage, the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, CHIME (Community Help in Music Education), Covenant House Artisan’s Program, DC Alliance of Youth Advocates (DCAYA), DC Public Libraries, DCTV, DC United Soccer, DC Writers Corps, the Department of Health Addiction Prevention and Recovery Administration, the Discovery Creek Children’s Museum, the Experience Corps, Facilitating Leadership in Youth (FLY), the Foundation Center, Junior Achievement, Keys to Canaan, Live It — Learn It, the Mayor’s Office of Partnerships and Grants Development, Metro TeenAIDS, NASA Goddard Space Center, National Capitol Parks East, the National Maritime Heritage Foundation, the National Organization of Concerned Black Men, the National Science and Technology Education Partnership, Serve DC, the Shakespeare Theater Company, the Smithsonian Center for Education and Museum Studies, the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts, the White House Historical Association, the Youth Peacemakers Program, and Young Playwright’s Theater.


Freedom’s Call, March 24
Michael Andrews,

The University of the District of Columbia is proud to host a free viewing of the film, "Freedom’s Call" and panel presentation on Friday, March 24, from 6:00 and 9:00 p.m. in the University Auditorium (Building 46East). Since seating is limited, those interested in attending should E-mail Dr. Sandra Lawson of the Office of University Relations at

“Freedom’s Call” examines the turbulence of the 1960s in the Deep South and two veteran journalists who covered the important stories of the civil rights movement — Dorothy Gilliam, the first African American female reporter at the Washington Post, and renowned photographer, Ernest Withers, whose photographs appeared in the Black press, the Washington Post, and the New York Times.

The documentary takes viewers to Memphis, Little Rock, Oxford, Jackson, and the Mississippi Delta, exploring the path of the civil rights movement. Two noteworthy stops along the way are visits with Minniejean Brown Trickey, one of the Little Rock Nine; and James Meredith, the first African American student to attend the University of Mississippi. Production credits for "Freedom’s Call" include George Kilpatrick, producer, and Robert Short, Jr., executive producer.


Ward 6 Democrats Mayoral Forum, March 30
Jan Eichhorn,

Free parking will be available on Thursday, March 30, the evening of our mayoral forum at Eastern High School, in Stadium-Armory Parking Lot 3 from 6 to 10:30 p.m. This is the lot directly east of Eastern High School. Also, MPD plans to increase lighting in the area around the Stadium-Armory Metro stop and Eastern High School; a large area will be well lit. Doors will open at Eastern at 7 p.m. for a brief Ward 6 Dems meeting. The candidate forum will begin immediately at 7:30. Come early to get a good seat!

Candidates Michael Brown, Linda Cropp, Adrian Fenty, Marie Johns, and Vincent Orange have confirmed their participation on March 30. The Forums are being cohosted by the Ward 6 Democrats and The Voice of the Hill newspaper. At our executive committee meeting last Sunday, March 5, the Ward 6 Dems voted to join The Voice of the Hill in conducing a non-binding straw poll of Ward 6 voters following each of our three candidate forums. Forum cosponsors now include The Capitol Hill Restoration Society, CHAMPS, DC for Democracy, The Hill East Waterfront Action Network, the Stanton Park Neighborhood Association and the Ward 6 Mini-Commission of the Office on Aging.

Hine Junior High School has been confirmed as the site of our Tuesday, April 25 forum for Ward 6 DC Council candidates. Mark Plotkin has agreed to serve as moderator. We will hold our third forum in late May for candidates for DC Council Chair and DC Council At-Large. The Ward 6 Democrats organization cannot formally endorse candidates until candidates are certified for the ballot by the DC Board of Elections. Once that happens, in July, we will have an endorsement meeting at which Ward 6 Dems will be able to vote to determine which candidate for each office should be endorsed by our organization.


Safe Shores Race, April 15
John Olinger,

The Third Annual National Race to Stop the Silence: Stop Child Sexual Abuse will be held at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 15. The local beneficiary of this event is Safe Shores, The DC Children’s Advocacy Center (, a direct service nonprofit organization dedicated to helping child victims of sexual and physical abuse in the District of Columbia.

Through its child-friendly facility and multidisciplinary team approach, Safe Shores coordinates the work of medical and mental health providers, social services professionals, victim advocates, and law enforcement and prosecution officials to reduce trauma and promote healing for child victims of abuse. The deadline for early registration is March 15, 2006. For more information, or to register, see



Bunny Rabbit
Phil Greene,

Friends of ours live on Western Avenue in between Broad Branch and Pinehurst Circle. Their pet bunny rabbit escaped, perhaps someone “rescued” it. Of course, perhaps someone sauteed it, but I digress. If anyone knows the whereabouts of the Runaway Bunny, please let me know.


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