USC AND HOLLYWOOD LEAD THE SCANDAL DU JOUR

The college admissions fraud scandal that erupted last week captivated the country—given how it hit straight at the heart of intersecting debates about class, wealth and privilege, and how thoroughly it seemed to lay waste to myths about American academia.
Dozens of people were charged in a scheme that involved wealthy parents paying bribes to get their children into elite universities, like Wake Forest, Yale, Stanford, USC and UCLA.

Also accused were top coaches and university sports officials whom federal prosecutors said accepted millions of dollars in exchange for help getting the students “recruited” as athletes, even if they didn’t play sports.

The actresses Felicity Huffman and Lori Loughlin, as well as Ms. Loughlin’s husband, designer Mossimo Giannulli, were among the 32 parents accused. So were financiers from ritzy Bay Area suburbs, a vineyard, owner from San Francisco and executives from coastal Orange County.

And the man at the center of it all, William “Rick” Singer, ran his entrepreneurial business from Newport Beach, after working as a basketball coach and college counselor in Sacramento.

So what is it about the Golden State that allegedly fueled this kind of scheme?

Jerome Karabel, a UC Berkeley sociologist who has written extensively about college admissions, said: “On a broader level, the case reveals a fundamental ‘crisis’ in American society.

“As America has become more and more unequal, affluent parents have become increasingly desperate to pass on their advantages to their children and to avoid downward mobility at all costs. Elite colleges are seen as insurance against downward mobility.

“California is an epicenter of enormous wealth; and, basically, where you have major concentrations of wealth, you have the possibility of corruption.”

Mr. Karabel said that the alleged scheme appeared to stem less from the parents’ desire to make sure their children learn than from “parental anxiety” in a society where being rich is the best way to stay rich; and if you fail, there’s less of a safety net.

The parents of affluent children commonly hire private college admissions counselors who sometimes edit or rewrite—or even write—student essays for them and coach them intensively through the process. These techniques are not illegal. In 2016, Jia Tolentino wrote about her years supporting herself by charging wealthy families $150 an hour to write or rewrite their teens’ essays. In a more extreme example, the counseling company Ivy Coach charged one woman $1.5 million to smooth her daughter’s path to an Ivy League college.

The admissions advantage given to athletes also helps rich kids nab coveted spots at elite schools. “The popular notion that recruited athletes tend to come from minority and indigent families turns out to be just false; at least among the highly selective institutions, the vast bulk of recruited athletes are in sports that are rarely available to low-income, particularly urban applicants.” Football and basketball players are far outnumbered by those in sports that aren’t found in most urban public schools; fencing, crew, equestrian events and the like. Once admitted, the report said, these students underperform.

Wealthier parents have also gamed the part of the college application in which students show that they have engaged in meaningful community service, often by sending their children on high-priced trips to villages in developing countries, where they help build playgrounds or coach kids’ soccer in between their recreational tourist activities. At the more ambitious end, Richard Weissbourd, lead author of a Harvard University report on problematic college-admissions policies, said he knows of wealthy parents who shelled out money to start a nonprofit school in Botswana just so their daughter could claim on her college application that she had created it; another family did the same with a clinic in Bali.

But colleges cannot claim to be the hapless victims of parental manipulation of the admissions process. Despite their supposed belief in a system of merit-based admissions, the reality is that they have created and tolerated a lopsided system that, despite some efforts to the contrary, continues to benefit the rich over potentially more deserving students with lesser means.

Colleges could start fixing this by eliminating the admissions preference for children of alumni, by demanding strong academic performance from all applicants, including athletes, and by forbidding students to use paid professional help to complete their applications. Students in better-funded schools would still have advantages, but not by as much as they do when they hire private outside counselors. Applicants should have to sign a statement that their essays represent solely their work and that they understand their admission will be revoked it it’s found otherwise. Applicants would still lie here and there, and it is not clear what meaningful enforcement there could be. But at least students—and their desperate parents—might hesitate if they knew they’d be committing fraud.

The most interesting facts in this fiasco to me is that since 1988, when the college population crossed the 10 million mark, college attendance has risen about 40%–about the same increase as college applicant have risen.

The competition is focused on the elite schools. In our generation, almost any school was acceptable and provided a decent education.

The second fact, and the irony of it, is the comment by David Marcus, a Pulitzer Prize education writer, who said, “The CEOs of Fortune 500 companies come mostly from state universities, not the so-called ‘elite’ schools.”

Morality is in alarming decline everywhere.

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THE STATE OF MY STATE

OMG! I work up Monday morning and found out I’m 88 years old. That’s a big number! I don’t know how it happened or what to do about it.

As was my usual bent in my school years, I must have skipped the class on how to be 88. With no training, I guess I’ll just have to keep shuffling along.

I have a degree from the University of Connecticut. Not sure how I got that either because I spent more time trying to espouse my liberal ideas to solve the problems of the world, railing against the unjust civil rights in the South and playing pick-up basketball.

Today, I have no political party to represent me. I’m a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. I don’t like either party and they don’t like me. At the same time, I can’t remember when I liked a sitting president.

• I’m in general good health, except for my back, which makes walking difficult and keeps me uncomfortable—and now a neck ache.

• Experimenting with pot at my age has been a real trip (pardon the pun) but hopefully I can find the right dosage to alleviate the back discomfort.

• I go to the gym four times a week for an hour or so and it makes me feel alternately good and exhausted.

• I miss traveling and friends who left along the way.

• I sleep okay. I just wish it was more at night and less during the day.

• I yearn for the good ol’ days—no passwords, no tech devices continually breaking down and spending hours with tech support people to remedy.

• Each year has been harder for me to deal with the California cold.

• Sorry I never learned to type.

• I’m starting to have dropsy, physically and mentally, too.

• Today they call me Scooter Man, because I stopped driving last August.

• If only it had a heater and a radio, in addition to the four wheels, I’d be all set.

• I was a teenage socialist concerned about civil rights and the inequality of wealth.

• Today, I’m still concerned about those two issues, but I’m convinced:

o Capitalism is the best and only economic system that works.

o Socialism is the enemy of the achievers and the motivated.

o The only way to alleviate the wealth inequality is to bring the bottom up, not the top down.

o I do not believe climate control will kill you, but we’re the only one’s trying to fix it.

I preceded ET and made my escape into the wild blue yonder, leaving the spaces outside of NYC. All in all, getting old hasn’t been easy, but neither was growing up.

Life has been an interesting adventure and I’m glad I had the chance to live it. Although not quite done, I’d like to do more, write more blogs and enjoy the passing scene.

Better quit here before I forget what I was writing about.

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MY PERSONAL ADVENTURE IN THE POT BIZ

As most of you know, I’ve had back problems for several years. After two surgeries and more than half a dozen epidurals, I have kept searching for products to relieve the discomfort in my back and help my walking.

As I approach my 88th birthday, I have decided I can’t do any more surgeries or even epidurals. The relief from either procedure is only short-lived so I have to find another way to treat the problem.

The over-the-counter anti-inflammatories and so-called pain killers have been ineffective. I tried an opioid called Tranadol, which has helped more than anything, but a couple of my doctors have said there may be a potential problem using Tranadol and the interaction with one of my other meds.

So I said, “Me, time to try marijuana.”

Before I relate my experience with trying to find a pot solution to overcome my back pain, I have to give you a brief, simplistic intro into the cannabis world.

There are two main elements in all marijuana. THC is the psycho-active part. The CBD is the curative part. There are all kinds of products and combinations of THC and CBD available. The retail dispensaries are very friendly and helpful but, frankly, limited in their knowledge of what to prescribe and how to effectively use the product.

It’s all quite confusing—you have to expect a lot of trial and error.

First, I tried the oil 1-to-1. Difficult to open the bottle. Not sure how much of the dropper to fill. Trying to hold the liquid under my tongue for 30 seconds to one minute was very hard. No one indicated how often in a day to repeat usage.

Next, I was recommended to a supplier who had no storefront but came to your house. He told me all about cannabis, creams, oils, edibles, and vaping. He also was insistent that my problem would be better served, contrary to most opinions, with higher doses of THC.

“Okay,” I said, “let’s try the oil for starters.” The dropper would only hold half so I took two half droppers. An hour later, I was feeling some relief but was higher than a kite. I couldn’t finish a sentence I started and couldn’t follow my trainer’s instruction at the gym because I couldn’t remember what he said.

I felt out of control, and I didn’t like it. My supplier said I’d get used to it after a few weeks. Gabriele is still laughing about that day. Didn’t think I wanted to stay high for three or four weeks.

Next stop—a local retail dispensary. They said a cream is the only way to go. Pretty even amounts of THC and CBD. Worked okay but you needed someone else to rub in on your back. I couldn’t reach.

Gabriele uses it on her arthritic hand and it works quite well for that.

As my search continued, I visited my local health food store, where they sell CBD products made from hemp and have no THC in them. Friendly people but pretty much the same confusion about what to buy and how to use it.

Everything I learned was still somewhat confusing; too many diverse opinions, no clear facts.

Somewhat exhausted with all the mixed information, I sought out an MD whose specialty was cannabis. He didn’t take Medicare; and after a long tutorial on what’s in cannabis and all the ills it treats, we finally got to my question: What should I take and how?

His recommendations:

A. 1-to-1 THC/CBD oil from a specific manufacturer
B. Swish around mouth before swallowing
C. 3 to 4x a day
D. Will make your sleepy (does it ever)
E. Will encourage more snacking and gaining weight
F. Over next 2 to 3 months, he will monitor all and adjust the dosage.
G. Okay to use Tranadol occasionally—I didn’t care if I got addicted.
H. Hemp products are inferior to plant products.

Here I am, four weeks into the new round. Having some relief but constant back pain, napping too much and feeling a bit foggy most of the time.

Coach/trainer Julie suggested I take a break from the gym for two weeks and try taking the pot at night.

So, I’m taking the pot at night and the Tranadol during the day. It’s working pretty well on my lower back, but now I have a new problem in the neck, so we’ll have to see where we go from here.

It’s an adventure and takes a lot of patience!

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CANNABIS, OH CANNABIS, WHERE ARE YOU GOING?

Marijuana’s new crop of consumers has been less than anticipated. Nobody said it’d be easy, but nobody anticipated it’d be quite this hard to get Californians to buy legal weed. That’s been the dominant takeaway from the Golden State’s first year of legalized recreational marijuana sales.

The N.Y. Times recently reported on how the promised flourishing cannabis economy and corresponding tax windfall haven’t materialized.

Actually, sales fell! About $2.5 billion of legal cannabis was sold in California in 2018, which was half a billion dollars less than the year before, when just medical marijuana was legal, the sales tracking firm GreenEdge found.

A report from Areview Market Research and BDS Analytics recently estimated that spending growth on legal cannabis will speed up this year, hitting almost $17 billion worldwide, and ballooning to $31.3 billion in 2022.

In its annual State of Cannabis report, the cannabis delivery platform Eaze highlighted that the market is rapidly expanding beyond young men—even if, as Peter Gigante, the company’s head of policy research, noted, one in five people surveyed admitted to buying from an unlicensed source in the last three months.

“I think there’s a lot of focus on getting consumers into the legal market,” he said.

Part of that will certainly involve tailoring products especially to new consumers, who may not have been willing to try out cannabis when it wasn’t legal. So who are those new consumers? Here are some of the stats from Eaze’s report, which was based on data from 450,000 buyers and about 4,000 survey respondents.

25 percent

That’s how much the number of baby boomer—or age 50 or older—consumers grew last year, making them one of the fastest growing demographics for cannabis use.

$95.04

That’s how much baby boomers spent each month, on average—the most of any age demographic. (By comparison: Generation X-ers spent $89.24, millennials spent $72.94 and members of Generation Z spent $62.35.) Millennials are still the biggest group of Eaze customers, though.

38 percent

That’s the percentage of cannabis consumers who are women. Mr. Gigante predicted that by 2022 it’d be 50-50.

Female and baby boomer cannabis consumers, the report found, are driving a surge in CBD oils and more wellness-oriented products.

In fact, the report found, the share of consumers who primarily use CBD products are baby boomer women: 21 percent.

Although no actual numbers were apparently available, the expected tax revenues were off substantially. That is one of the primary reasons so much cannabis is purchased on the black market. There are no 25% taxes.
There may be other reasons as well. Next week I’ll tell you about my personal experience with the cannabis community.

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IS THIS AN EMERGENCY?

President Trump declared a state of emergency regarding illegal immigration across our southern border. I’m not at all sure if a “national emergency” was ever really defined except to give that power to our presidents.

To my way of thinking, an emergency is when our nation is attacked, or when I accidentally cut myself and might bleed enough to pass out, or when someone tells me in the car that they must go now and there’s no bathroom in sight.

Emergencies are not usually long-term, well-known situations that, while thorny, are well understood. Which brings us back to President Trump and the budget deal that didn’t give him the cash he wanted for the border wall.

Is the emergency that several hundred thousand illegal immigrants cross the land border with Mexico, or that Congress didn’t provide the money that the president wanted to build more wall?

I’ve got an answer: Neither! These aren’t emergencies, they’re failures…of Congress.

As I recall, illegal immigration has been a point of contention for at least thirty years and resulted in the McClellan Act in the 1980s that granted amnesty and was supposed to fund border security that would end illegal immigration. Amnesty we got; border structures to stop illegal immigration, not much.

By the time we got to the end of the 1990s, we had up to a million immigrants a year jumping the border. We started building more wall and fence in the mid-2000s, and it does work.

But the real thing that dropped illegal immigration to “just” a few hundred thousand people a year was the financial crisis. When the opportunity faded, so did the desire to go through the hassle of entering the country illegally.

None of this falls under the strict definition of an emergency, except for the creation of caravans of thousands of illegals funded by wigged-out, open-border liberals.

Immigration is important, no doubt, and should be dealt with. That’s the job of Congress. Or rather, it was. Now the job is to posture until the next election while banking pay that puts them in the top 10% of wage earners and building up a pension. Awesome!

This covers both sides of the aisle.

You might not know it, but we have 31 other states of emergency already in place. They cover everything from an emergency declared on September 14, 2001 by reason of certain terrorist attacks, to Blocking Property of Certain Persons Contributing to the Situation in Burundi, which was declared in 2015.

In fact, many of our current states of emergency have to do with blocking property transfers of people we don’t like in places like South Sudan, Venezuela, Libya, Somalia, and, of course, North Korea.

We even have a declared emergency against transactions with terrorists that interfere with the Middle East Peace Process. Hmm! Does that include sending aid to Hamas, the terrorist group that runs the Gaza Strip?

Again, these efforts might be important, but that hardly makes them an emergency. Just as with the border wall funding, presidents declare most of these things as emergencies because they can’t get them passed in Congress.

I feel the pain of the presidents. We can’t get much of anything passed in Congress, and they should all be fired for it. But that doesn’t mean that we should allow any one or any group to bypass the legislature and take unilateral action. That will end badly, to say the least. We definitely have a crisis, whether it’s an emergency or not is maybe somewhat academic.

Something needs to be done to start dealing with the situation. If the president can get enough barriers built to control all the illegal entries, maybe we (Congress) can start to deal realistically with the rest of the illegal immigration problem.

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KNOWLEDGE OF PRESIDENTS AND AMERICA

As we approach President’s Day, it’s interesting to note how and why so many Americans know so little about their country. Later we’ll give you some interesting facts about our presidents.

A recent study by “Newsweek” asked 1,000 U.S. citizens to take the same test that is given to foreigners who want to become American citizens. By the way, about 92 percent of citizenship applicants passed that test so immigrants do well. But we, the people, do not.

Among U.S. citizens, 29 percent could not name Vice President Mike Pence; 43 percent were unable to define the Bill of Rights; 40 percent do not know America fought Japan and Germany in World War II; 73 percent do not know communism was the main concern of the Cold War; and 67 percent of American citizens do not know that our economic system is capitalism. That’s a disaster!

So what’s going on? First, it’s quite clear that the public school system is a main culprit. It’s no longer teaching history, geography or civics in an effective way. I’m generalizing; I know there are some good schools but most public schools could not care less about instructing young Americans how their country works.

Number two: The internet has created a generation of self-absorbed, addicted, distracted and ignorant people. The powerful machines, hand-held many of them, are diverting a lot of Americans away from real life. You can now create your own world on the net devoid of reality—and millions of Americans are doing that. The result is that a very few shrewd people are now wielding enormous power.

Many Americans are voting for what they can get, not for what is best for this nation—and both the Republican and Democratic parties know it.

Next we’ll turn to a little factual history about our presidents. Although this was designed as a test, most of us won’t be able to answer elementary school questions, so we’ll just give you the answers in parenthesis after each question.

Presidential Superlatives

Which president served the longest? a. George Washington, b. Franklin Roosevelt, c. Theodore Roosevelt, or d. Herbert Hoover (B)

Which president served the least time in office? a. James Garfield, b. Gerald Ford, c. William Henry Harrison, or d. Zachary Taylor (C)

Who was the youngest president to occupy the White House? a. Theodore Roosevelt, b. John Kennedy, c. Bill Clinton, or d. Ulysses Grant (A)

Who was the oldest president at the time he was first elected to office? a. Richard Nixon, b. William Henry Harrison, c. John Adams, or d. Ronald Reagan (D)

Who was the tallest president? a. Abraham Lincoln, b. Barack Obama, c. Lyndon Johnson, or d. Bill Clinton (A)

Who was the shortest president? a. John Adams, b. John Quincy Adams, c. Chester Arthur, or d. James Madison (D)

Presidential Nicknames

Match the president to the nickname: 1. John Adams (G), 2. William Henry Harrison (E), 3. Andrew Johnson (B), 4. Theodore Roosevelt (A), 5. Ronald Reagan (C), 6. James Buchanan (D), 7. John Quincy Adams (F)—A. The hero of San Juan Hill, B. The Tennessee tailor, C. Dutch, D. The bachelor president, E. Tippecanoe, F. Old man eloquent, G. His rotundity

Which president married a woman more than five years older than he? a. George Washington, b. Millard Fillmore, c. Warren Harding, or d. Richard Nixon (C)

Which president was divorced prior to being elected? a. Franklin Roosevelt, b. Gerald Ford, c. Chester Arthur, or d. Ronald Reagan (D)

Which president gave his wife 52 pairs of socks to darn upon their marriage: a. Richard Nixon, b. Herbert Hoover, c. Calvin Coolidge, or d. George Washington (C)

Family Matters

The father of which president wrote on his son’s Harvard application that the young scholar was “careless and lacks application”: a. John Quincy Adams, b. Zachary Taylor, or c. John Kennedy (C)

Which president said, after his unruly daughter interrupted a White House meeting, “I can be president of the United States or I can control [my daughter]. I cannot possibly do both”? a. Harry Truman, b. Theodore Roosevelt, c. Ronald Reagan, or d. Bill Clinton (B)

The mother of which president fretted that her son had no sense of time and would “delay and delay and delay,” frequently keeping people waiting? a. George Washington, b. Thomas Polk, c. William Henry Harrison, or d. Bill Clinton (D)

Miscellany

Which president said in an interview after leaving office: “Some of the presidents were great and some of them weren’t. I can say that because I wasn’t one of the great presidents”? a. Martin Van Buren, b. Chester Arthur, c. Harry Truman, or d. George W. Bush (C)

Which president lost the White House china in a poker game? A. Benjamin Harrison, b. Grover Cleveland, c. Chester Arthur, or d. Warren Harding (B)

Which president skinny-dipped in the Potomac? a. Abraham Lincoln, b. John Quincy Adams, c. Theodore Roosevelt, or d. Gerald Ford (B)

The younger generations must learn more about our history in order to find our values and the fabric of our economic system.

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REMEMBERING MY FAVORITE PRESIDENT

Next Tuesday will be the 210th anniversary of Abraham Lincoln’s birth. He was with us for only 56 years, but his contributions and influence have had enormous effects on our country for all the years since.

He came from the humblest of beginnings; born in a one-room log cabin, he rose to 6’4” tall and through his career as a lawyer, debater and activist to abolish slavery, he became the 16th president of the United States.

Work colleagues and friends noted that Lincoln had a capacity to defuse tense and argumentative situations, though the use of humor and his capacity to take an optimistic view of human nature. He loved to tell stories to illustrate a serious point through the use of humor and parables, he said of himself.

“If I were two-faced, would I be wearing this one?”

His political career appeared to suffer after one term in the House of Representatives. He returned to working as a lawyer in Illinois. The slavery question re-emerged as a prominent divisive national issue.

He gave influential speeches, which drew on the Declaration of Independence to prove the Founding Fathers had intended to stop the spread of slavery. In particular, Lincoln used a novel argument that although society was a long way from equality, America should aspire towards the lofty statement in the Declaration of Independence.

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are creative equal.”

In 1858, Lincoln was nominated as Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate. He undertook a series of high-profile debates with the Democratic incumbent Stephen Douglass. Douglass was in favor of allowing the expansion of slavery—Lincoln was opposed. During this campaign, he gave one of his best-remembered speeches, which reflected on the divisive nature of America.

“A house divided against itself cannot stand. I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved—I do not expect the house to fall—but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing or all the other.”

Although he lost his Senate election, his debating skills and oratory helped him to become well known within the Republican party.

After a hard-fought, divisive campaign in 1860, Lincoln was elected the first Republican President of the United States. Lincoln’s support came entirely from the North and West of the country. The south strongly disagreed with Lincoln’s position on slavery.

The election of Lincoln as President sparked the South to secede from the Union. Southern independence sentiment had been growing for many years, and the election of a president opposed to slavery was the final straw. Lincoln resolutely opposed the breakaway of the South, and this led to the American civil war with Lincoln committed to preserving the Union.

Lincoln surprised many by including in his cabinet the main rivals from the 1860 Republican campaign. It demonstrated Lincoln’s willingness and ability to work with people of different political and personal approaches. This helped to keep the Republican party together.

The Civil War was much more costly than many people anticipated. Lincoln’s patient leadership, and willingness to work with unionist Democrats held the country together.

Initially, the war was primarily about the secession of southern states and the survival of the Union, but as the war progressed, Lincoln increasingly made the issue of ending slavery paramount.

In September 1862, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation that declared the freedom of slaves within the Confederacy.

Celebrating the victory ceremony at Gettysburg in November 1863, Lincoln declared:

“Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceive in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.

“That we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom—and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

After four years, the Federal forces secured the surrender of the defeated South. The union had been saved and the issue of slavery had been brought to a head.

In the aftermath of the civil war, Lincoln sought to reunited the country—offering a generous settlement to the South.

Assassination

Five days after the surrender of the Confederate Army, Lincoln was assassinated by John Wilkes Booth while visiting Ford’s Theater. Lincoln’s death was widely mourned across the country.

Posterity

Lincoln is widely regarded as one of America’s most influential and important presidents. As well as saving the Union and promoting Republican values, Lincoln was viewed as embodying the ideals of honesty and integrity.

You Must Visit the Lincoln Memorial

I believe it is the most impressive of all monuments in Washington, D.C. It stands beside the Potomac River in Washington, D.C. It is not only one of the nation’s most beloved monuments but also one of its most widely publicized, by virtue of the fact that it appears on the back of every penny and every five-dollar bill. The cornerstone of the majestic temple, built of white Colorado marble in the style of a flat-roofed Greek temple.

The thirty-six Doric columns surrounding the monument symbolize the thirty-six states in the Union at the time of Lincoln’s death. Inside, a colossal statue of a seated Lincoln, carved from blocks of white Georgia marble, looks east toward the Washington monument and Capitol Building. The statue by Daniel Chester French is nineteen feet high, weighing 175 tons, is the second most famous sculpture in America, after the Statue of Liberty. (Look at a penny with a magnifying glass, and you can see a tiny representation of the statue engraved.

Two of Lincoln’s most famous speeches, the Gettysburg Address and his second inaugural address, are inscribed on the memorial’s walls.

It’s a moving site.

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