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Tag Archives: United States

The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 5/5

I’m impressed when a reporter does his or her job properly and balances the news instead of feeding the mob that bellies up to the slop-trough of Yellow Journalism, which is based on sensationalism and crude exaggeration.

Don Thompson’s misleading AP piece, Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny did not impress me.

However, Kevin G. Hall did.  Hall writes for the The McClatchy Company, the third-largest newspaper publisher in the United States with 31 daily newspapers in 15 states. Hall provided a more realistic, honest balance of Why employee pensions aren’t bankrupting states.

In his piece, Hall wrote, “From state legislatures to Congress to tea party rallies, a vocal backlash is rising against what are perceived as too-generous retirement benefits for state and local government workers. However, that widespread perception doesn’t match reality.”

According the Hall, “Pension contributions from state and local employers aren’t blowing up budgets.” They amount to just 2.9 – 3.8 percent of state spending, on average.

In addition, Hall says, “Nor are state and local government pension funds broke. They’re underfunded…”

With those facts, we should ask what is the real reason to turn on public-worker sector pension plans.

The answer may be Wall Street and US bank private-sector greed, the same greed that caused the 2008 global economic crises.

According The Council on State Governments, in 2006 before the crash, the total amount of money held by these federal, state and local public-pension plans was almost $6 trillion dollars, and greed, it seems, has no limits.

If you do not believe me, ask people such as Bernard Madoff [$50 billion], Scott Rothstein [$1.2 billion], Tom Petters [$3.7 billion], Allen Stanford [$8 billion], March Dreier [$400 million], Lou Pearlman [$500 million], Michael Kelly [$428 million], the Greater Ministries International church [$500 million], Scientology minister Reed Slatkin [more than $600 million], and Nicholas Cosmo [$370 million].

Return to The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 4 or start with Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

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The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 3/5

Another example of how misleading Don Thompson’s AP piece, Public retirement ages come under greater scrutiny, was: “With Americans increasingly likely to live well into their 80s, critics question whether paying lifetime pensions to retirees from age 55 or 60 is financially sustainable. An Associated Press survey earlier this year found the 50 states have a combined $690 billion in unfunded pension liabilities and $418 billion in retiree health care obligations.”

What Thompson doesn’t mention is that some states managed their pension funds better than others did.

A March 2011 report on the Best and Worst State Funded Pensions by Adam Corey Ross of The Fiscal Times offers a more balanced picture.

Ross writes, “State pension programs across the country have undergone a major transformation, as more and more of them are cutting back the amount of money they set aside for retired workers, gambling that they can meet their obligations through investments instead of savings…”

In fact, Ross lists the best fully-funded state pensions, which are: New York, Wisconsin, Delaware, North Carolina, Washington, South Dakota, Tennessee, Wyoming, Florida and Georgia. He also lists the worst state pensions where the gamble did not pay off.

California falls between the two lists and is struggling to fill the funding gap. The following video explains why.

In addition, nowhere does Ross or Thompson mention that California has two state pension plans.  There is CalPERS and then there is CalSTRS.

The California State Teachers’ Retirement System [CalSTRS], with a portfolio valued at $148.2 billion as of October 31, 2011, is the largest teacher pension fund and second largest public pension fund in the United States. CalSTRS administers a hybrid retirement system, consisting of a traditional defined benefit, cash balance and defined contribution plan, as well as disability and survivor benefits. CalSTRS serves California’s 852,000 public school educators and their families from the state’s 1,600 school districts, county offices of education and community college districts.

How well funded is CalSTRS to meet its future obligations?

CalSTRS makes it clear that “It’s important to understand that the risk of facing depleted assets exists approximately 30 years from now versus actually facing insolvency today.”

Note: Due to losses from investments during the 2008 global financial crises, the CalSTRS retirement “fund took an enormous hit to its stock portfolio when the market plunged during the heart of the recession, losing nearly $43 billion — roughly 25 percent of its value — from June 2008 to June 2009.”

Continued on December 18, 2011 in The Private-Sector, Jealousy-Misery Media Factor – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column.

 

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America’s Lost Work Ethic and the Future Fate of the United States – Part 1/5

Unless many Americans change their attitudes toward parenting, education and work, the United States will cease to be a super power.

With about 14 million Americans unemployed, millions of illegal aliens still find work in the US.

In February 2011, the New York Times reported, “Despite continuing high unemployment among American workers, record deportations by the Obama administration and expanding efforts by states to crack down, the number of unauthorized immigrants in the work force — about eight million — was also unchanged, the Pew report found. Those workers were about 5 percent of the American work force.”

Then on November 4, 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported, “Both the number of unemployed persons (13.9 million) and the unemployment rate (9.0 percent) changed little over the month. The unemployment rate has remained in a narrow range from 9.0 to 9.2 percent since April.”


Unskilled immigrants are competing with unskilled Americans–mostly high school dropouts.

Imagine, if the government told unemployed Americans, “Work or starve! If you need a job, we will educate you and/or transport you to where that job is even if it is a job that only illegal immigrants have worked before.” If that happened, the unemployment rate in the US would drop from 13.9 million to less than six million and hover around 4%.

If these shunned jobs were the only choice after the standard unemployed “benefit year” [which is 52 weeks] ran out and the benefit checks stopped coming, the choice would be to go back to school and then work where there is a job, any job, anywhere or become homeless unless a friend or family member is willing to support you.

However, taking jobs away from illegal immigrants and giving them to unemployed American citizens is not why I’m writing this series. I wanted to know why Americans spurn jobs millions of illegal immigrants are paid to work at in the US.

Continued on November 18, 2011 in America’s Lost Work Ethic and the Future Fate of the United States – Part 2

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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The US Federal Government — How BIG is “big”? – Part 3/4

Another sore point among conservatives is entitlement programs such as food stamps and any form of welfare or unemployment benefits.

Many conservatives also see Social Security [SS] as an entitlement program, but Social Security by law [like the US Postal Service] must not be supported by federal taxes collected by the IRS.

Social Security must support itself with funds collected from employees and employers as part of the SS program and regardless of the popular conservative politically correct opinion that Social Security is broke, SS has more than $2.6 trillion in its trust fund as of December 2010 and collected $781.1 billion in 2010 while paying out only $712.5 billion. Source: Social Security Online – Trust Fund Data


Kids to be denied Health Care

Is it the fault of Social Security that both houses of Congress borrowed all that money that was meant by law to fund the SS Trust Fund and spent it? The facts are that the US Government owes SS and better pay up or risk millions of wrinkled, gray haired seniors limping to Washington D.C. to mob both houses of Congress.

Another federal agency that handles so-called entitlement programs is the Department of Health and Human Services [HHS] , which is the principal federal agency charged with protecting the health of all Americans and providing essential human services. The Federal Budget includes $81.3 billion to support HHS’s mission.

However, the Department of Education, with its 4,000 federal employees, has a total authorized budget for 2011 of less than $50 billion — less than one-tenth the budget for the Department of Defense, which is $548.0 billion.  Source: Budget of the U.S. Government – Fiscal Year 2011

Another comparison that directly affects Americans and includes more of those evil entitlement programs (according to most conservatives) is the The Department of Labor’s 16,000 federally paid employees that enforce laws guaranteeing fair pay, workplace safety, and equal job opportunity, administers unemployment insurance (UI) to State UI agencies, regulates pension funds; and collects and analyzes economic data. The budget for this department is $14 billion, which is 2.5% (two “point” five percent) of the budget for the Department of Defense.

Continued on November 10, 2011 in The US Federal Government – How BIG is “big”? – Part 4 or return to Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column.

 

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The US Federal Government — How BIG is “big”? – Part 2/4

In September 2011, the conservative newsletter of Hillsdale College, Imprimis, pointed out that it isn’t the number of employees that count or the amount of money spent that defines “BIG” government.

The author of the Imprimis piece, Edward J. Erler, Professor of Political Science, California State University, San Bernardino, says, “The task today is not to weaken the power of government — it is to confine the government to the exercise of its delegated powers [according to the Constitution] and to restore to its full vigor the partly national, partly federal form of government that was the legacy of the Founders.”

I recommend clicking on the above link to Imprimis and read Erler’s essay for a better understanding of what he means — it’s educational and may open your eyes to another truth and another reality than what is currently politically correct thinking among many Americans.


Response to Entitlement Programs – Michele Bachmann

As for the actual number of people that work for the federal government and are paid by the taxpayers [The US Postal Service does not count, as it must pay for itself (according to the law) through postal fees such as first class stamps or bulk mail for advertisers], according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), that number is two million.

Since the US population is about 312 million, that means 0.64% of the population is paid by taxpayers to work for the federal government.

In addition, on November 4, 2011, according to the BLS, The employed civilian labor force numbers 139,960,000, which does not include the 14,876,000 that are unemployed. Even if we subtract two million from the total number employed, we are left with about 138 million people or 58.3% of the population — a far cry from that 0.64% [“point” six four] that works for the federal, so-called “big” government.

In fact, of the 2 million federal employees paid out of taxpayer dollars, the often-maligned Department of Education (DOE) has about 4,000 employees, while the Department of Defense has 652,000, Veterans Affairs 280,000, the Department of Homeland Security 171,000 and the Department of Justice 108,000 — the rest have less than 100,000 employees with the DOE one of the smallest.

Continued on November 9, 2011 in The US Federal Government – How BIG is “big”? – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column.

 

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The US Federal Government — How BIG is “big”? – Part 1/4

It is a conservative battle cry that the Federal Government is too big and must be smaller. Another battle cry to solve America’s budget crises is to abolish or cut what is known as entitlement programs.

One example could be the National School Lunch Program, an entitlement program that supports student nutrition in over 101,000 schools and residential facilities. It provides free and reduced priced meals to low-income children before school, during school, after school, and over the summer.

In fiscal year 2009, federal school nutrition programs underwrote more than five billion meals served to over 31 million students. Total funding for all nutrition programs adds up to about $12 billion in both cash and commodity payments. School nutrition programs are one of the largest federal funding streams to schools. Source: New America Foundation


The TEA BAG Party’s spin on what is wrong with America

In fact, in an October Jobs Report, Daniel Gross reported, “Since May 2010, government has cut one million jobs (under President Obama — the so-called flaming liberal that wants to grow the federal government according to the scare tactics and Yellow Journalism of conservative pundits and talk radio) while the private sector added 2.28 million positions.”

I’m sure members of the far-right conservative “Tea Party” will jump to their feet and cheer believing they are the cause of government job losses.

However, just how large is the US Federal government?

What I discovered might surprise you — about one-half of one percent of the total population of the United States works as an employee of the federal government paid for by taxpayer dollars.

Continued on November 8, 2011 in The US Federal Government – How BIG is “big”? – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column.

 

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Blind, Deaf, and Dumber to the facts and doomed to fail — Part 1/4

There are at least three ‘false’ truths in America. There is the liberal/progressive truth, the conservative truth, and a moderate truth and then there are the politically incorrect but true facts many ignore for fear of being criticized by one or more of the politically correct mobs.

To define these mobs, we pin them with terms such as liberal/progressive or conservative and even these terms may be broken into smaller mobs such as hard-core liberals and conservatives. As for moderates, they seem to be spread all over the political spectrum.

For example, in August 2011, Gallup reported, “41% of Americans interviewed in national Gallup Poll surveys describe their political views as conservative, 36% as moderate, and 21% as liberal.”

In addition, hard-right Republicans outnumbered hard-left Democrats two to one.

If you are curious which way the majority leans on a number of hot-button issues such as abortion, Gallup reported May 2011 that 49% of Americans are “pro-choice” while 45% are “pro-life”.

However, “pro-life” is politically correct to conservatives while “pro-choice” is politically correct to liberals but only 21% of Americans are considered liberal.

It appears few moderates support “pro-life” but when it comes to handguns, on October 26, 2011 Gallup reported, “A record-low 26% of Americans favor a legal ban on the possession of handguns in the United States…,” which tells us that when it comes to handguns most moderates support the conservative politically correct agenda on this hot-button issue.

However, when it comes to public education, the issue gets confusing. Gallup reported in August 2010 that, “Americans continue to believe their local schools are performing well, but the nation’s schools are performing poorly. More than three-quarters of public school parents [77%, which has to include at least 20% of the conservatives] give their child’s school an “A” or “B,” while 18% of all Americans grade the nation’s public schools that well.”

In other words, almost 80% of American parents [including almost half of all conservatives] believe the public school his or her child attends performs well but all other schools in the nation suck unless you are the parent of a child at one of those other public schools.

This is the opposite of the “grass is greener on the other side of the hill” attitude and more a belief that the grass is dead and failing where I never visit.

In addition, looking closer, we discover 67% of respondents say the amount of money spent on a public school student’s education affects the quality of his or her education “a great deal” or “quite a lot”, while 34% [Note—this probably represents the audience that regularly listens to conservative talk radio] respond that to earn an “A”, the public schools have to improve the quality of teaching.

How can that be when almost 80% of parents are satisfied with the public school [which would include the teachers] his or her child attends?

Improving the quality of teachers to solve so-called public school problems tends to be a conservative politically correct belief while spending more money on public schools leans toward the liberal/progressive aisle—another switch for most moderates and some conservatives.

After learning the confusing facts of public opinion in the United States, we hear from Robert Weissberg writing for “the American Thinker”, who complains of Yet One More Doomed Education Reform, a post that smashes many politically correct toes of all types.

Continued on October 28, 2011 in Blind, Deaf and Dumber to the facts and doomed to fail – Part 2

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column.

 

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The importance of Diet, Vitamin D and a Child Ready to Learn – Part 2/3

As discovered in Part 1, the diets of most American children are horrible and this has a BIG impact on a child’s ability to function as a student.

In addition, most children do not spend enough time outside to absorb adequate Vitamin D from sunlight—no eating required and it is FREE!

Although the development of young minds and bodies requires more than one nutrient, knowing what the lack of one nutrient, such as Vitamin D, does to a child’s cognitive ability and mood is a dramatic way to discover how important a balanced diet is from breakfast to dinner.

If the lack of one vitamin from sunlight has a dramatic impact on a child’s ability to learn, imagine what happens when most of the important nutrients for cognitive and mental function are missing.

If you are a parent and you are reading this, what does your child eat, and does he or she spend about a half hour a day between 10 AM and 3 PM outside in the sunlight soaking up vitamin D with the sun’s help?

The odds are that you don’t know the answer.

A recent study published in Environmental Health Perspectives found that many American children are not getting enough vitamin D from sun exposure alone…

In fact, Essentials of Health reported about a new study in the journal of Pediatrics in August 2009, that “Over 60 percent of the children studied had vitamin D levels defined as insufficient. Outright deficiency occurred in nine percent of the subjects. If applied to the U.S. population, these percentages would be equivalent to nearly 51 million children with insufficient vitamin D levels, and 7.6 million children with vitamin D deficiency.

Curious, I wanted to know if vitamin D deficiency affected mental function.

Continued on October 13, 2011 in The importance of Diet, Vitamin D and a Child Ready to Learn – Part 3 or return to Part 1

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Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.

To subscribe to “Crazy Normal”, look for the “E-mail Subscription” link in the top-right column, click it and then follow directions.

 

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Due Process – Part 3/4

Science Blogs.com attempted to answer how many incompetent teachers there are in the US, and reported, “You don’t see many citations of useful data about how many of these school-killing teachers there really are.”

In addition, in the UK, the Guardian says that most of the 18 teachers that lost their jobs due to incompetence were struck off the last decade by the General Teaching Council (in England), which has been operating for a decade with powers to remove failing teachers from the profession.

However, if we accept the percent quoted by the flawed and biased documentary “Waiting for Superman”, the number of public school teachers that are incompetent may be 7 percent, which means 93 percent of the more than 5 million teachers in the United States are competent.

What this means is that the critics of public education want to punish more than 4.6 million innocent teachers for the few that may be incompetent by removing due process and job protection, which may explain why in recent years the number of college students planning to teach dropped more than 25%.


Teachers have been blamed for problems outside of their control.

As is, new teachers are on probation may be fired without cause during the probation period. In California and Texas, the probationary period is two years, but the normal probationary period is three years in most states.

If school district administrators are doing their jobs, then the incompetent teachers are removed before earning job protection and due process.

New Action.com says, “Although teachers are not “guaranteed a job for life,” as critics often say, it is true that, after completing a probationary period, teachers in New York State may generally not be fired except in two instances: The first is for serious cause, defined in state law, that must be substantiated by the DOE (Department of Education) in a due process hearing before an independent arbitration panel. The second has been a “reduction in force” — layoffs because positions have been eliminated, usually due to funding cuts.”

Continued on September 21, 2011 in Due Process – Part 4 or return to Part 2

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

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Due Process – Part 1/4

If you Google “the number of teachers that are incompetent“, you will discover there are more than 4 million hits on this topic but none that I checked among the first ten pages of hits offered an answer—basically what I discovered was a lot of ranting, rumor and “bull”.

In other words, a manufactured controversy with a hidden political/religious agenda behind it.

One site, having no evidence to support how many incompetent teachers there are went as far as to say “Schools Nationwide hide Teacher Misconduct and Incompetence.” Then offers no cited evidence that substantiated this claim.

“When someone commits the most heinous of crimes against our citizens, they get a fair hearing, they go through an appellate process, they go up to the Supreme Court of the United States, if that’s required,” says presidential candidate Rick Perry, the Republican governor of Texas, during the Republican press debate held at the Reagan Library early in September 2011.

What Governor Perry says is true. The legal process he mentions is what protects the citizens of the United States when accused of a crime or if one is slandered.

In fact, recently Wal-Mart was found innocent of discrimination against women and that case went to the Supreme Court where the class-action suit against Wal-Mart seeking billions of dollars on behalf of as many as 1.5 million female workers was dismissed. Source: New York Times

Why shouldn’t teachers be allowed to have the same due process of law?

As is, teachers may be tried for the same crime twice.  This means, if a state or federal judge finds a teacher innocent of a crime she has been accused of, she may be tried again for the same crime by the teacher-credentialing board and if found guilty lose the credential to teach in that state.

From what I’ve heard, teachers are the only profession that may be punished for the same crime twice even after being found innocent the first time, which means teachers have already been denied due process once.

When critics of teachers unions accuse those unions of protecting incompetent teachers, those critics are saying that teachers are not eligible for the same protection under the law.

If a school district wants to fire a teacher that has been accused of being incompetent, that teacher should have his or her day in court to prove she is innocent of the accusation.  When teachers belong to unions, legal protection is one of the benefits.

Continued on September 19, 2011 in Due Process – Part 2

_______________________

Lloyd Lofthouse is a former U.S. Marine and Vietnam Veteran,
who taught in the public schools for thirty years (1975 – 2005).

His third book is Crazy is Normal, a classroom exposé, a memoir. “Lofthouse presents us with grungy classrooms, kids who don’t want to be in school, and the consequences of growing up in a hardscrabble world. While some parents support his efforts, many sabotage them—and isolated administrators make the work of Lofthouse and his peers even more difficult.” – Bruce Reeves

lloydlofthouse_crazyisnormal_web2_5

Lofthouse’s first novel was the award winning historical fiction My Splendid Concubine [3rd edition]. His second novel was the award winning thriller Running with the Enemy. His short story A Night at the “Well of Purity” was named a finalist of the 2007 Chicago Literary Awards. His wife is Anchee Min, the international, best-selling, award winning author of Red Azalea, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year (1992).

To follow this Blog via E-mail see upper right-hand column and click on “Sign me up!”

 

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