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August 15, 2010

Marriage Counseling

Dear Counselees:

You’ve been going to marriage counseling with your spouse for months, and all along your spouse has been saying, “Of course I make all the decisions unilaterally, but that’s only because I always know best, and if I had to discuss my decisions with you I couldn’t be as quick and decisive as I want to be. You should stop asking me about how I conduct our family business; you should know that I’m the authority, and you don’t need to know anything about my private information. And, by the way, I’m going to continue running and hanging with my old friends, no matter what you think about them, and I’m going to keep giving our money to them whenever they ask. I don’t care whether you think they’re a bad influence on me or not.” After months of counseling, your spouse belatedly learns that you have gone to a divorce attorney, so after speaking with some image consultants about what to say, at the next counseling session says, attempting to make a breakthrough concession: “I’m going to change; I really am. In the future, I’m going to do my best to pretend that I actually listen to your stupid ideas before I ignore them. Now will you stop whining?” Can this marriage be saved? Should it? (,,


In the last issue, I asked what you saw in and what you thought was missing from Fenty’s and Gray’s latest campaign finance reports. Nobody sent any tips, so I’ll recommend Martin Austermuhle’s quick analysis of Fenty’s campaign expenses, There are a few points that I would add to Martin’s piece. First, Fenty’s report has a long list of people, paid in increments of fifty dollars, who do street canvassing and attend straw polls. Many of them don’t report a street address or zip code in Washington, though the finance report claims they are in Washington. Dorothy has talked with a random sampling of canvassers; all of them claim to live in Washington, but they don’t seem to know the city or be able to name the neighborhood they live in. How many of the reported addresses that are in Washington are accurate? Second, the large companies that are behind campaign strategy, the ones that get the big payments, are LSG Strategies Services Corp.,, led by longtime Washington campaign strategist Tom Lindenfeld; Greenberg Quinlan Rosner Research,, which was paid $30,000 on June 14, probably to do a poll whose results I’d love to see; and North Woods Advertising, Inc.,, and Chase Creek Media,, who are both producing ads and buying ad time. What I didn’t find is any payment for the fleet of rental cars that the canvassers use or any payment for campaign office rent, and payments for office supplies seems to be low-balled. Come on, insiders, tell us about what you know about the campaign operations.

Gary Imhoff


Fenty Condones Corrupt Election Practices
Dorothy Brizill,

At the urging of Ron Moten, Mayor Fenty has vetoed the Corrupt Election Practices Amendment Act of 2010, Bill 18-956, which the council had overwhelmingly approved at its last legislative session prior to its summer recess on July 13 (ten councilmembers voted in favor; two abstained and one was absent). The act amended the District’s Election Code to prohibit corrupt election practices, making it an offense to “(A) Pay, offer to pay, or accept payment of any consideration, compensation, gratuity, reward, or thing of value either for registration to vote or for voting; (B) Give false information as to his name, address, or period of residence for the purpose of establishing his eligibility to register or vote, that is known by the person to be false; (C) Procure or submit voter registration applications that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent; (D) Procure, cast, or tabulate ballots that are known by the person to be materially false, fictitious, or fraudulent; or (E) Conspire with another individual to do any of the above.”


Voter Registration Application
Willie Schatz,

Opening the envelope (without a return address; did the sender wish to remain anonymous?), I was shocked to see the “Voter Registration Application” form. “Use this form to register to vote in the District of Columbia, to let us know that your name or address has changed, to register with a political party, or to change your party registration.” I have been in the first category since 1980. The other categories do not apply to me. I admit to having been being nonplused enough to check my status on, which confirmed that I had not been purged from the rolls. Now aware of my precarious status, I printed the status report and will bring it with me to my polling place to confirm that I have not departed the planet. So why did I receive this form? You tell me, because I certainly don’t know. Aren’t you glad that such a competent watchdog is protecting your right to vote?

But that ain’t all, folks. Tucked inside the application was a promotion for Fenty. Herewith the final paragraph: “To vote for Adrian Fenty in the September 14th primary, you must be a registered Democrat by August 16th. You can use the voter registration form included with this letter to update your registration. Please mail it back today (note double emphasis) and vote Fenty on September 14th to keep our city moving forward.” I quote the bottom of the card (in the smallest readable font): “Paid for Fenty 2010, PO Box12110, Washington, DC 20005. Ben Soto, Treasurer. A copy of our report is filed with the Director of Campaign Finance.”

If our mayor wants to encourage voter registration, more power to him. But do so ethically and legally. I will bet my kids and my pets that Fenty ran this by Nickles and Pete said, sure, no problem, as he always does. But even if this tactic is legal, that does not mean it is ethical. If you want do discuss my registration, call me. Do not mail me a BOEE registration form implying that I have not registered. A campaign poster accompanying a official Voter Registration Form? That strikes me as surely unethical (not that that matters in this city) and probably illegal. But the BOEE and our mayor’s campaign office obviously don’t think so. I guess it was just another day at the offices.


MPD and Coolidge High School Miss an Opportunity
Barbara Patterson,

Last Spring, a Coolidge student “clowned” in the path of oncoming traffic on Missouri Avenue. I stopped my car, called the youngster over, and proceeded to chide him. He felt emboldened (in the presence of his buddies) to open my car door (as a threatening gesture?), and concluded his “act” by rolling over the hood of my car. I later saw him in the halls at school (I’m a substitute teacher). After several attempts for a face-to-face with the student, his guardian, and either or both a Coolidge Administrator and the Metropolitan Police Department, the latter said that no crime was committed so MPD had no jurisdiction; the school reached the same conclusion, since the incident happened at 8th and Missouri Avenue.

Both authorities missed an opportunity for true community engagement to reinforce expectations for the student: 1) reminding him that adults in the community care about him, notice his behavior, and will report it; and 2) characterizing good citizenship (i.e., what characterizes self-respect). I’m disappointed but not surprised in both authorities. One has given us lip service for decades about their desire to work with the community. Throughout this process, MPD failed to follow its own procedures (and MPD admitted that); yet, it gave me no assurances that it would address the breaches. Coolidge says that it will focus more closely on character-building this year; last year, as first-year DCPS administrators, Coolidge/Bedford concentrated on righting the academic neglect that has accrued over the past ten years, a result of academic neglect under its past four administrations.

It’s election year — I hope upstarts beat incumbents and the voice of the people matter for a change.


Seven Keys to Mayoral Success
Alvin C. Frost, Alvin

It is the responsibility of DC voters to determine what the most important issues are, and who appears to be better qualified to deal with those issues, problems and concerns. To be successful, our next mayor will have to: 1) improve the way that every agency and department performs its responsibilities; 2) wring every ounce of fat out of every operation; 3) provide improved services to every sector of the city, especially for citizens and neighborhoods that are in greatest need, and; 4) protect and preserve the District‘s budget and fund balance from unreasonable spending decisions, especially in the current economy. Good schools, affordable housing, accessible jobs with salaries that support stable families and communities, and community based-policing allow people to live their lives relatively free of the fear of violence. If citizens aren’t safe and economically secure, then they won’t be able to benefit from city improvements, whether in the schools, parks and playgrounds, or from office, commercial and residential building.

I am suggesting seven keys to mayoral success that should help the next mayor to accomplish all of the important things that the people of Washington, DC, need done. The seven keys are: 1) planning and managing operations are both full-time jobs. Your most critical decision will be how you use your time and control access to yourself. The state of the District, and many of its citizens, is extremely fragile. You can provide the vision, the leadership, the guidance and the comfort that is needed by many. You have the task of having to be both extremely stingy with your time, and freely available, where needed. How you balance these opposing pressures will go far in calming a restive electorate. 2) You’ll have to institutionalize the idea and the management of change. You must quickly create an organization that improves services that the citizens desperately need and increasingly demand. I suggest that you create a cabinet level position that’s responsible for: a) establishing performance measures for every agency and department; b) researching best practices of organizations; c) developing methods to tie performance operating statistics with financial results to determine the true cost of providing services; d) creating tools and techniques, tailored to each agency and department to plan, implement and execute change; and e) identifying, calculating and assessing all of the risks associated with making necessary changes.

4) It’s time to intelligently and aggressively campaign to gain complete control of the District’s budget and operations, full voting representation, and a fairer share of the resources generated within Washington, DC, The District has the responsibilities of a state and local government, without a state to fund statewide responsibilities. The citizens of Washington, DC, are forced to bear an enormous tax burden to support the presence of the federal government, and the many non-residents who earn their livings within Washington, DC. I recommend that you aggressively lobby each of the fifty state congressional delegations. 4) I urge you to pledge to District Government employees that you will do everything in your power to protect good employees and to severely punish wrongdoing by any employee that results in fraud, waste, and abuse. If you are going to be successful in doing your job, you are going to have to make sure that good employees are allowed to do their jobs, free from fear or favor, threats, intimidation, or retaliation, so that they can support your efforts. 5) The District has three primary sources of funds to pay for its ongoing operations and investments for the future: a) annual revenues, taxes, user fees, grants, etc.; b) debt that is borrowed to pay for capital projects; and c) use of the District’s fund balance. As the District reaches the limits of what we can achieve by using debt or fund balance, increasing revenues is the District’s only alternative to continuing the District’s recent growth. The most realistic way to achieve this will be to address the structural imbalance that has been created by the US Constitution and the US Congress, which allows approximately 53 percent of land within the city to be nontaxable and 66 percent of the income earned within the city to escape taxation. The District is approaching the point where even best management practices and operations will not be capable of overcoming this final barrier to success. This is why you will have to educate every member of the Congress, just to give the District the opportunity to achieve lasting success.

6) The District government remains broken. Greater resources have allowed the District to undertake an aggressive development plan for retail, commercial, office and residential. The people now want you to: a) fix learning in the classrooms; b) fix the family and the neighborhoods; c) fix government performance and reduce the cost of government; and d) fix the budget by increasing the revenue base and more effectively collecting monies owed to the District. This will likely take at least ten years. 7) Can the people, in critical need of services now, wait that long? Will you have enough time to do all that you have promised? Will you be able to explain why things are still broken, and, that you are doing the best job possible, and then have District residents remain both hopeful and patient?

Of course there are more detailed issues that need to be dealt with, in addition to these seven keys, but I believe that they would be a very good start toward organizing your approach toward resolving critical issues and problems, as opposed to leaving them for the next administration to deal with. It will take a strong mayor to know when to use tough love, and to also have the ability and willingness to listen and work well with others, especially when they do not necessarily agree with you. The community is fractured, racially, economically, and politically, and success requires a mayor who is a healer, in addition to being both an experienced manager and a leader.


Discrimination Against Minority Customers
Katrina M. Taylor Hankins,

[An open letter to Mayor Fenty] I have noticed a pattern of discriminatory practices at the CHA Corporation’s Lobby Mart Convenience Store, located at 3rd and E Streets, NW. On numerous occasions, the store has left customers (mostly black) on the street side waiting fifteen to twenty minutes for entry and service. During this long wait time, other customers (mostly white) are entering the store from the commercial office door and making purchases. Those of us left outside are watching others receive entry and service while we have no access.

I have attempted to rationalize these actions as not being racially based, but as a lack of management skills in a small “Mom and Pop” run business. But what I (and others) are experiencing is beyond small business problems. It is an outright neglect — denial of the same service to others, during posted business hours. If you can, please confer with the DC Office of Regulatory Affairs and DC Small Business Administration to follow up with the management of this business, named CHA Corporation.


Youth Violence at Gallery Place
Bryce A. Suderow,

I want to comment on a letter that appeared a couple of issues ago in themail. This letter briefly discussed a brawl involving seventy kids that occurred at a Metro stop last week. For the past two years, scores of teenagers from the ghetto have congregated around the Gallery Place Metro stops near Chinatown and have threatened tourists and other pedestrians and gotten into fights with each other on a regular basis. Because of the violence, the bus stop at 7th and H Streets, NE, is known as 7th and Hell.

The effects of the teen gatherings is purely negative. Tourists are afraid to enter the area. Businesses are hurt because they have fewer customers, and all the PSAs in District 1 have been stripped of their officers to deal with the teen violence, leaving neighborhoods vulnerable to criminals.

The mayor and city council need to deal with this problem before someone gets murdered.


Disappearing Republicans
Paul D. Craney,

themail’s last two articles that mention the DC Republican Committee are very embellished and do not represent the truth. themail accused the DCGOP of working in coordination with the mayor’s office to support the nomination of Mital Gandhi to the DCBOEE; that is completely false. The last issue of themail is nothing more than a hit job on Republicans. The reality that is that there are four Republican candidates running for each Ward seat (1, 3, 5, and 6). These candidates have web sites and are door knocking. They are in their communities talking to voters. The DCGOP took a very deliberate approach to this election cycle. We are only running candidates that have a chance at winning.

It’s unfortunate themail is going out of its way to embellish and exaggerate stories. themail wants you to believe there is a massive cover up with the DCGOP and the mayor’s office. If you remember, the DCGOP has a long history trying to keep the mayor (and the council) accountable. Examples would be the mayor’s Fleet First ad campaign, the mayor’s lack of funding for charter schools and MPD, the mayor’s taxpayer funded trips to campaign for President Obama, and the mayor’s raising taxes while refusing to take a pay cut. The DCGOP challenged the mayor on the Kojo show to “lead by example” and take a pay cut when he was proposing tax increases. The DCGOP found that Mayor Fenty makes more money than 49 governors. The DCGOP has recently targeted Vince Gray, but it’s for no other reason than to keep our elected officials accountable. If Vince Gray feels confident there is nothing wrong with using his council office to raise campaign contributions for the DC Democratic Party or have campaign ads and invites that do not state who paid for them, then let him defend his actions.

You don’t get the full story from themail. What you hear are exaggerations and half truths that do not tell the full story, and that’s sad.


Disappearing Republicans
Ann Loikow,

I would like to suggest two other reasons for this [themail, August 11] the closed primary system and our lack of statehood. The first, the closed primary system, means that in many cases if a voter wants to have a choice on who will win important local offices, such as the mayor or council positions, he or she must be able to vote in the Democratic primary. This is because the District’s overwhelming Democratic registration means the Democratic nominee is likely to win. To vote in the Democratic primary, one must be registered as a Democrat, regardless of whether on a more general basis one would rather register as an independent, or member of the Republican, Statehood Green, or some other party.

Secondly, since we are not a state and are basically disenfranchised nationally, and also as regards to control over many state and local functions, many DC residents, and I think in particular a good number of Republicans, register somewhere else. This may be where they have a second home or where they grew up or whatever. A good example of this is Ralph Nader, who has lived in DC for decades but votes in Connecticut where he grew up, because, as he once told me, “I don’t want to be disenfranchised.” The bottom line is that for a vigorous two or multiparty system, we need statehood. Nothing else gives us our full democratic rights and vigorous political system.

One must remember that colonial political systems are not necessarily reflective of what a truly free and democratic political system would be. Although as a diverse urban area, DC will probably always be relatively progressive; if we were a state, we probably would not be so overwhelming Democratic. There would also be many incentives for would-be politicians to live here, rather than leave here, as it is now. Just remember Alaska and Hawaii. When they became states, Alaska was very Democratic and Hawaii was very Republican.


Local Coverage
Peter Orvetti,

For the past three months, I have been writing daily commentary items and news features for a local web site ( I am always looking for stories and information, and I welcome readers of themail to reach me via or


InTowner August Issue Now Available Online
P.L. Wolff,

This is to advise that the August 2010 online content, along with the complete issue PDF, has been uploaded and may be accessed at Included are the lead stories, community news and ABC Board rulings, editorials (including prior months’ archived), restaurant and food columns (prior months’ also archived), and the text from the ever-popular “Scenes from the Past” feature (the accompanying images can be seen in the issue PDF).

To read the current lead stories (“Opening of State of the Art New Branch Library in Shaw Acclaimed for its Design and Collections,” “Annual Adams Morgan Day Festival Plans Complete; Set for September 12,” “U Street’s Revitalization Finally Extending East to 9th Street as Area Grows”) in this month’s PDF, simply click the following link: The next issue PDF will be uploaded on September 10 (the second Friday of the month, as is customary).


Suburban Solutions for Fundamentally Urban Questions
Richard Layman,

While I agree with Len Sullivan [themail, August 11] that DC needs to exhibit more regional leadership, especially in terms of transportation policy, and maybe this is an issue more on the part of elected officials rather than appointed officials, his prescriptions for inner city success are seriously at odds with those center city revitalization strategies that have proven to be successful and sustainable over the long term.

First, Sullivan repeats a canard that is absolutely untrue. He writes “[DC] touts local gimmicks like empty bike lanes and street-clogging trolleys, but offers no robust programs to mitigate the traffic congestion that leads to inner city stagnation and blight.” Apparently, he understands neither transportation policy nor urban revitalization. The reality is that DC streets, except for I Street, New York Avenue, and certain additional roads and choke points at certain times of the day and week (i.e., Columbia Heights on the weekend, K Street at 5 p.m.) Are primarily used by commuters, delivery vehicles, and through travelers, and don’t have traffic congestion, even during rush hours. The fact is that except for a couple locations, all of the major indicated problem areas for congestion in the region such as the Capital Beltway are not in DC.

Second, stagnation and blight can be the result of “traffic congestion,” but not in the way that Sullivan thinks. Places overflowing with vehicles, even without congestion, tend to be uncomfortable blighted places, even if they have investment. For example, would you rather walk on Rockville Pike, US 1 in Fairfax County, or Connecticut Avenue? I only go to Rockville Pike when I need to go to Microcenter; otherwise I stay away. DC’s disinvestment was not the result of traffic congestion, but of national financial and political policies that favored suburban development over urban investment, white flight, and the concomitant decline in the quality of the provision of municipal services, especially schools.

Third and most important, the reality is that DC’s competitive advantage vis-a-vis the region centers upon a mobility paradigm that is based on sustainable transportation modes — walking, biking, and transit — rather than the automobile and single occupancy vehicle trips. This means a shift in focus on the throughput of people rather than the movement of motor vehicles because the amount of space necessary to move people on foot, by bicycle, on the street in buses and streetcars, or underground by subway, is significantly less than the space required for the movement of the equivalent number of people by motor vehicles — e.g., it takes thirty cars (which would take up at least six hundred linear feet — at least two blocks) to move forty people, while a forty-foot-long bus can move fifty-five people. Regardless of how much effort is focused on parking management (and I do think DC could do a better job with parking planning, way finding, and displaying information on available spaces), the focus of transportation policy on motor vehicles (other than doing a better job of managing freight transportation and deliveries) as the primary means of mobility would be a strategy designed to serve the suburbs at the expense of DC. Remember that DC doesn’t do all the great planning that Arlington does, and we don’t have a well developed transportation demand management policy and operations like they do. But even so, DC’s mode split — the number of people getting to and from work on foot, by bike, and on transit — is 50 percent higher than Arlington’s and 100 percent higher than Portland’s, and both of those communities are touted (justifiably) as best practice examples of urban transportation policy. For this, we can thank L’Enfant and his design of the city, which provided us with a resilient and robust urban morphology that with the right type of transit (and historic residential building stock), is pretty resilient even during times of bad management.

Fourth, maintaining DC’s competitive advantages require that the city continue to invest in and extend the infrastructure for walking, biking, and transit. Focusing on sustainable transportation modes has a number of positive results: 1) car ownership is less per capita and as a result DC residents have much higher disposable incomes; 2) people spend much less time and money to get places — commute times for DC residents is at about the national average, and with the exception of Arlington, this is not true for other jurisdictions in the region — and don’t forget that it costs $7,000 minimum per year to maintain a car; 3) properties with access to high quality transit are worth more and maintain their value better even in difficult financial times (e.g., the relative stability, although off their peak, housing and commercial property prices — provided the owners have stable financing).

Fifth, DC needs to continue to focus its transportation, land use, and municipal management and operations policies around extending place qualities that support inward migration and the retention of high income residents (after all, we have to get the money to pay for schools, human services, health care, etc. from somewhere — municipal revenues don’t just fall out of the sky) and on the extension and improvement of the transit system — on the surface and underground. This means recreating a streetcar system. Here Sullivan makes the common mistake of focusing on “the age of the technology” of the streetcar — not recognizing that both cars and streetcars are in fact 19th century technologies and that the real difference between the two is not when they were first introduced but is about mass mobility versus personal mobility. Streetcar investments also have the advantage of maintaining and extending investment in urban communities and increasing property values, which is another spillover benefit of this strategy.

Sullivan lives in Montgomery County. How is DC’s investing in streetcars any different than Montgomery County’s choices to reinvest in Bethesda or Silver Spring or Wheaton? We just focus on different things. But the county’s investment in Silver Spring revitalization is far, far greater than what DC will spend on streetcars, and in contrast, investment in streetcars in DC will stoke investment and improvement throughout the city, not just in one small part of it. And Montgomery County, while having to deal with poverty issues, does not have the fraction of the high need deeply impoverished households that DC possesses. (This is a kind of subsidy that DC provides to the suburbs, since poverty programs are addressed regionally.)

This means improving the bus system. The region is focusing on bus rapid transit improvements. At the same time, DC needs to develop a system of high frequency bus priority corridors downtown — this will have more impact on surface street throughput and mobility efficiency (a.k.a. congestion) than just about any strategy Sullivan suggests — and the bus network needs to be repositioned between high frequency service and local less frequent service. This will make it more legible and comparable to how people perceive fixed rail transit (at least in the days before the crash and serious decline in the quality of WMATA service).

And this means extending the subway system. DC’s number one economic development priority (other than the continued focused on improvement the quality and efficiency of municipal services) needs to be adding capacity and redundancy to the subway system by adding more lines. The proposed separated blue line (scuttled by WMATA budget cuts in 2003), which would add a crossing from Arlington County, serving Georgetown and H Street, NE, and points in between, should be put back on the table and is far more important than DC’s seeming number one WMATA priority of moving their headquarters to Anacostia. Other line ideas (offered by local bloggers such as myself) should also be considered.

This also means extending the regional passenger railroad system. Ideally, MARC and VRE would merge into one regional authority and extend service throughout the region on a 24/7/365 basis. On this matter, I have been significantly influenced by the ideas of, which also suggests (comparable to London, Paris, and Montreal) that DC and Arlington add additional railroad stations in order to better move passengers closer to their final destinations, improving railroad operations and reducing stress on the subway system at Union Station.

Cities like DC were designed to optimize walking, biking, and transit, not movement of either individually owned carriages drawn by horses or powered by gasoline engines. Transportation, land use, and municipal policy in DC that recognizes this will be resilient and robust and successful for the decades, not just during a particular term of political office.



Department of Parks and Recreation Events, August 17, 20
John Stokes,

August 17 -19, 7:00 p.m.-11:00 p.m., Guy Mason and Randall Field, DPR Men’s City Wide Slow Pitch Softball Tournament for ages eighteen and up. End of season tournament matching the top four teams from Guy Mason and Randall Men’s Slow Pitch Leagues for the City title bragging rights. For more information, call Luna Harrison at 316-4249.

August 20, 9:30 a.m.-5:00 p.m., Six Flags Amusement Park, Largo, MD. Camp Adventure Trip to Six Flags for ages six through sixteen. Campers will celebrate the last day of camp with a fun-filled day at Six Flags Amusement Park. For more information, call Priscilla Jones at 698-1794.

August 20, 12:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m., Fort Lincoln Recreation Center, 3100 Fort Lincoln Drive, NE. Camp Spirit Camp Finally for ages six through thirteen. Campers will put on a performance for parents and friends on the last day of camp. For more information, call Rickey Davenport, site manager, at 576-6818 .


Children’s Law Center Helping Children Soar Benefit, September 21
Jeanne Ellinport,

Each year, Children’s Law Center hosts its Helping Children Soar Benefit to honor members of the community who have demonstrated their commitment to children and to raise funds that allow the organization to continue serving 1,200 low-income and at-risk children in DC each year. This year, CLC will honor Dr. Sanjay Gupta, chief medical correspondent at CNN, and the law firm Covington and Burling LLP for their dedication to improving the health and well being of children. This September, CLC will spotlight the work of one of its programs, a medical-legal partnership between lawyers at CLC and doctors at Children’s National Medical Center. Together, they address the health needs of hundreds of DC children each year by improving housing conditions, gaining access to health care and ensuring proper education for children with special needs.

The annual benefit is cochaired by May Liang, CLC board member, and Diana Goldberg, Children’s National Medical Center board member and longtime CLC supporter. Those attending the benefit will learn more about our medical-legal partnership while enjoying cocktails, hors d’oeuvres, and a silent auction featuring one-of-a-kind gifts.

The tenth annual Helping Children Soar Benefit will be held at the Kennedy Center Roof Terrace Restaurant, 2700 F Street, NW, on Tuesday, September 21, 6:00 p.m.-9:00 p.m. Business/cocktail attire.


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