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“All Rifles Welcome, Especially The Evil Black Ones”: Just A Small Reminder Of The Revolution To Come

While Adam Kokesh’s much-discussed July 4 march on Washington by gun-toting sons of liberty got called off (perhaps because of Kokesh’s frequent incarcerations), the spirit lives on in Colorado, as reported by TPM’s Tony Kludt:

A tea party group’s vow to march with guns in a Fourth of July parade has caused panic in a small Colorado town.

The Southern Colorado Patriots Club announced that its members would march with guns in the annual Independence Day parade in Westcliffe, Colo. to “make a statement that we still believe in our Constitution” to protest new gun control laws in the state, the Denver Post reported. A flier distributed by the group urged members to come to the parade with unarmed rifles.

“All rifles welcome especially the evil black ones,” the flier read.

The announcement prompted the Custer County Chamber of Commerce, the event’s sponsor, to cancel the parade as nervous citizens circulated a petition to stop the club. Donna Hood, president of the chamber, abstained from the vote to cancel the parade but told the Post that the matter has “polarized this community in a week.” The parade was ultimately saved when the Town of Westcliffe agreed to pick up the sponsorship tab.

And get this:

Although the group has marched with guns in the past, the passage of new statewide gun measures has heightened public sensitivity to the action. The state’s new 15-round limit on gun magazines is slated to take effect next week.

I’m guessing the “sensitivity” was mostly raised among second amendment absolutists, who want to remind their fellow citizens that if their “liberties” are further trifled with, they’ll feel free to respond with revolutionary violence, though they tend to call it “resistance to tyranny” or even “self-defense.”

At some point, it would be nice if regular old conservatives would denounce this sort of nonsense, not because it’s embarrassing, but because it reflects the “constitutional conservative” belief that the public policy preferences of self-styled right-wing “patriots” cannot be overridden by democratic majorities operating according to the rule of law. The thinly-disguised motive for these armed demonstrations is to remind the rest of us that we can have our Obamacare or our legalized abortion or our gun safety regulations only so long as the real Americans choose to let us by leaving the ammo at home.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Editor, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 28, 2013

July 1, 2013 Posted by | Fouth of July, Gun Violence | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Escaping A Rising Tide”: Beyond Black And White, New Force Reshapes The South

The Deep South was, quite literally, a black and white world in 1965, when Congress approved the Voting Rights Act, sweeping away barriers that kept African-Americans from the polls.

And the Supreme Court decision on Tuesday, which struck down a key part of the law, is certain to set off a series of skirmishes over voting regulations between the white Republicans who control Southern state legislatures and civil rights groups seeking to maximize black voter clout.

But those who have studied the region closely say that a more unstoppable force is approaching that will alter the power structure throughout the South and upend the understanding of politics there: demographic change.

The states with the highest growth in the Latino population over the last decade are in the South, which is also absorbing an influx of people of all races moving in from other parts of the country.

While most experts expect battles over voting restrictions in the coming years, they say that ultimately those efforts cannot hold back the wave of change that will bring about a multiethnic South.

“All the voter suppression measures in the world aren’t going to be enough to eventually stem this rising tide,” said Representative David E. Price, a veteran North Carolina Democrat and a political scientist by training.

As the region continues to change, Republicans who control legislatures in the South will confront a basic question: how to retain political power when the demographics are no longer on your side.

The temptation in the short term, now that the Supreme Court has significantly relaxed federal oversight, may be to pass laws and gerrymander districts to protect Republican political power and limit the influence of the new more diverse population.

But that could be devastating to the party’s long-term prospects, especially if it is seen as discriminating against the groups that will make up an ever larger share of the future electorate.

The law guaranteeing political equality for blacks was passed nearly a half-century ago, in the wake of the startling images of violence in Selma, Ala. The nationally televised coverage shook America’s conscience and marked what President Lyndon B. Johnson would say in a speech to Congress was a moment where “history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom.”

The act eventually imposed federal oversight over nine states and other jurisdictions — among them, Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — requiring them to seek preapproval for election laws, like voter identification measures, redistricting maps and rules related to the mechanics of elections, like polling hours.

The Supreme Court on Tuesday essentially struck down those preapproval requirements, which had deterred states and localities from passing legislation that they knew would meet with resistance from civil rights advocates and result in protracted fights.

Alabama, for example, passed a law in 2011 requiring that voters show photo identification at the polls. The state put off submitting the legislation to the Department of Justice, however — a delay some Democrats attribute to the state’s Republicans waiting for the Supreme Court decision.

But the most meaningful impact of the ruling may be seen in the decade to come, when Southern states — freed from federal preclearance requirements — take up the redrawing of Congressional and legislative seats amid much more complex racial politics than in the days of Jim Crow.

As the white share of the population shrinks, Republican leaders are going to grapple with the same problem their Democratic counterparts faced as whites drifted from their ancestral party in the 1980s and 1990s.

“The South is going to start looking more like California eventually,” said Arturo Vargas, executive director of the National Association of Latino Elected and Appointed Officials.

For years, black and white legislators in the South have agreed to district lines that, thanks to racial packing, create safe seats for both black Democrats and white Republicans. The Obama administration’s Department of Justice approved nearly every Southern redistricting map, written by Republicans, after the 2010 census.

The one exception, Texas, offers a window into what the future may look like in a multiracial South. With almost 90 percent of its growth owing to a mix of new Hispanic, Asian and black voters, Republican legislators in Texas drew new districts in 2011 that were rejected by a federal court as discriminatory because they didn’t sufficiently recognize the political power of the new demographics.

Just as Texas is now, Georgia will, thanks to polyglot Atlanta, eventually become a state where it will be difficult for Republicans to produce a redistricting map that protects their majority in perpetuity without drawing legal challenges.

Georgia’s Hispanic population nearly doubled between 2000 and 2010, according to federal census data. In suburban Atlanta’s Gwinnett County, the most heavily Hispanic locality in the state, the Latino population rose to 162,035 from 64,137.

“The growing nonwhite share of the electorate in Georgia and other Southern states represents a threat to the continued domination of the current majority party, which means that it is in the political interest of the majority party to do whatever it can, whether through control of redistricting or through the enactment of restrictive voter ID laws, to limit the impact of these trends,” said Alan I. Abramowitz, an Emory University political scientist.

State Representative Stacey Abrams of Georgia, the Democratic leader, said such efforts would trigger a backlash.

“They’re going to be tempted to try to take advantage of this, but they risk permanently alienating a population that will eventually be able to take its revenge,” Ms. Abrams said. “Given how quickly our Asian and Latino populations are growing and how much of the electorate they’re going to represent, to constrain their voting power would be a recipe for disaster.”

Ms. Abrams’s Republican counterpart, the House speaker, David Ralston, said the Voting Rights Act decision was an affirmation that his native region “has changed, has matured,” and that his party would demonstrate that by appealing to Georgia’s changing face.

“If we’re going to govern responsibly and lead,” Mr. Ralston said, “then we have to recognize that Georgia is a big state, it’s a diverse state, and it’s a state that’s changing.”

By: Jonathan Martin, The New York Times, June 25, 2013

July 1, 2013 Posted by | Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Remember The Minutemen”: The Movement Collapsed But Its Legacy Lives On With “Secure The Border” Fantasists

When people hear House Republicans ranting ad nauseam about “border security” – as will everyone for the next several weeks as a comprehensive immigration-reform measure works its way through Congress – they should remember the Minutemen.

You remember the Minutemen, right? Those noble citizen border watchers, out there braving the desert heat to try to stop brown people from crossing the desert illegally, who were the media darlings of 2005 but who seemed to drop off the radar afterward. The Minutemen changed the national conversation about immigration away from a debate about the state of immigration laws and trade policies and into a laser focus on those lawbreakers coming over our borders in large numbers.

They made “border security” the top priority for every politician in the country (including, it should be noted, President Obama, who has deported more immigrants found to be here illegally than any president in history). When you hear them debate immigration, inevitably you will hear some version of the following: “We need to secure the border first before we can pass comprehensive immigration reform.”

That’s the Minutemen’s legacy speaking. This mindset played a large role in shaping the immigration-reform bill that just passed the U.S. Senate, and it may prove decisive in attempts to pass it through the House. A key provision of the Senate bill, for instance, requires certain border-security benchmarks be met before the government may begin permitting undocumented immigrants to become citizens.

Republicans proposed a number of draconian border-security measures as amendments to the Senate bill, but these were mostly rejected, leading to grousing by House members that the bill coming out of the Senate will have a difficult time passing the House.

“Let them secure the border and we will have an agreement within a month that will be in law, but he [President Obama] has to do the job of making sure that we’re secure in our persons and in our homes,” announced Rep. Louis Gohmert of Texas. “He’s going to need to make sure that people that come in, come in legally. Until he starts actually doing his job, there should be no discussion about doing anything with people who are here illegally.”

This is, however, a classic instance of putting the cart before the horse. Because we will never be able to secure our borders until we fix the broken system that made them insecure in the first place.

“Securing the border” will always remain illusory as long as Americans insist on operating an antiquated immigration system that remains mired in its xenophobic origins, instead of replacing it with an efficient, modern 21st-century system designed to keep the United States competitive in a global economy by providing its economy with the workers it needs in a rational and lawful program, and which eliminates the endless red tape that typifies the current immigrant experience.

We should recall how we got here in the first place: After the North American Free Trade Agreement was ratified in 1994 by the United States, Mexico, and Canada, the Clinton administration began a series of crackdown operations at key ports of entry along the Mexico border. The treaty, which in creating a trilateral trade bloc opened up the ability of investment capital to cross borders freely, was sold to the American public as, among other things, an essential component in controlling immigration.

The Clinton border operations were apparently intended to ensure that, even if capital could now cross the borders freely, labor could not. The first of these was called “Operation Hold the Line”, begun in late 1993, and its focus was to clamp down on the steady flow of illegal immigrants who came to the United States through the border cities of Ciudad Juarez in Mexico and El Paso, Texas. By adding manpower and enhancing patrols in weakly secure areas where people traditionally walked across the border, the Border Patrol was able to effectively close off one of the major ports through which people usually crossed on their way north to work. This was followed shortly, in October 1994, by “Operation Gatekeeper” at the San Diego/Tijuana crossing corridor in California.

At first, the Border Patrol boasted of the marvelous success of these operations: Apprehensions dropped precipitously in the months after they were initiated, indicating, according to analysts, “better deterrence”: that is, it was believed the programs effectively discouraged people from trying to cross the border. “We can control the border, in fact,” boasted Mark Krikorian of the nativist Center for Immigration Studies, which eagerly supported the operations. “But there is more to be done.”

In reality, these operations not only eventually proved the futility of an enforcement-heavy approach to securing the border, but they became a human disaster – precisely because immigrants were no longer crossing at El Paso or San Diego. Instead, they were now fanning out into the countryside, attempting life-threatening border crossings in the middle of the desert. Like a river when a boulder falls into its path, the immigrants simply flowed out into the outlying areas.

The numbers kept growing because the tide of immigrants had swollen to a tsunami – in large part because of NAFTA and its effects on the Mexican and American economies. When Mexico approved NAFTA in 1992, President Salinas abolished a provision in the Mexican constitution that protected the traditional small Mexican farmers from competition with corporate agribusiness, particularly American corporations. Cheap American corn put over a million Mexican farmers out of business, and that was just the beginning. With the economy collapsing around them, scores of manufacturers who specialized in clothing, toys, footwear and leather goods all went out of business. The only upside to NAFTA for Mexico – the arrival of new manufacturing jobs, including auto-building plants, as they departed the United States for cheaper shores, and of a fresh wave of maquiladora, the plants where various manufacturers would outsource their labor to Mexico – proved illusory: by 2000, many of those jobs had been taken to even cheaper labor sources in Asia, and the bleeding only grew worse from there.

In the meantime, the American economy – riding along first on a technology bubble, and then on a housing bubble – was bustling, creating in the process in excess of 500,000 unskilled-labor jobs every year, the vast majority of which American workers either would not or could not perform. Yet the antiquated American immigration system only issued 5,000 green cards annually to cover them.

The result was a massive demand for immigrant labor in the United States, and an eager supply in Mexico seeking work – but at the border where a rational transaction should have been taking place, there was instead a xenophobic crackdown aimed at keeping Mexican labor in Mexico, with predictably limited success.

All that really happened as a result of the various border crackdowns was that increasingly desperate people were being forced into longer and more death-defying treks across the desert, and there were more and more of them coming.

So when the wave of immigrants began filtering out into the desert, soon enough, people began dying in large numbers. The chief causes of death, unsurprisingly, were dehydration, sunstroke, hyperthermia and exposure (coming in fifth was drowning: people often died crossing the Rio Grande in Texas). Mind you, immigrant border crossers had been dying on the U.S.-Mexico border for years; the previous peak year was 1988, when 355 people perished while attempting desert crossings or the currents of the Rio Grande. It had declined to as few as 180 in 1994 when, suddenly, it began to rise again beginning in 1995, breaking the old record in 2000 when 370 people died. In 2004, some 460 migrants died, and by 2005, more than 500 people were perishing in the desert.

Those numbers have receded dramatically since 2008 because the Great Recession knocked the legs out from under the U.S. economy, ending a substantial portion of the demand for unskilled labor; at the same time, the economy in Mexico has made a significant recovery, so both the “push” and “pull” components of our most recent immigration wave have all but subsided. In certain sectors of the economy – particularly in agriculture – the demand for unskilled labor remains largely unabated, nonetheless.

On the other hand, a national fetish about “border security” – which seems to entail building a massive fence that has “gigantic construction boondoggle” written over it, and a functional militarization of the border with one of our closest trading partners – will do nothing to address the real issues driving the immigration debate, and in fact will only put that secondary cart before the horse. The people who want “border security” will find it an endless mirage until they fix their messed-up immigration system.

They’re still living out the nativist legacy of the Minutemen. And so it ought to be worthwhile for Americans to remember, or at least be made aware of, just what exactly became of those noble citizen vigilantes.

The Minuteman movement, in fact, crumpled into a heap after 2009, when a leading Minuteman figure named Shawna Forde committed a horrifying home-invasion robbery at the residence of a small-time pot smuggler in Arivaca, Ariz., and shot and killed the man and his 9-year-old daughter and wounded the man’s wife. Forde and her Minuteman cohort are now on Death Row in Arizona, and her former close associates in the movement all denied any association with her – a line largely swallowed by media reporting on the case.

But as I lay bare in my book “And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border,” not only was Forde closely associated with leading Minuteman figures right up to the day of her arrest, she was amply reflective of the kind of people the movement attracted and who rose to leadership positions within it. (This was borne out again by co-founder Chris Simcox’s arrest last week for three counts of molesting children under 10.) Yes, she was psychopathic, but then, this was a movement whose appeals were virtually tailored to attract dysfunctional and disturbed personalities (which it did in large numbers): profoundly unempathetic, predicated around scapegoating an easily identifiable Other, and inclined to anger and paranoia and ultimately violence.

That is the path down which the Minutemen wanted to lead the country, the well-worn path of nativism, which has a long legacy of misery, suffering and death in this country. When we make a fetish out of “border security” at the expense of rationally fixing our immigration mess, that’s the road down which we’re headed. At some point, we need to get off.


By: David Neiwert, Salon, June 29, 2013

July 1, 2013 Posted by | Immigration Reform | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Party Isn’t White Enough”: Get Ready For More Republican Party Race Baiting

You, unsuspecting citizen, probably take the view that the Republican Party is too white. It’s the conventional wisdom, after all, and last year’s election results would seem to have proven the point resoundingly. But you’re obviously not up with the newest thinking in some conservative quarters, which is that the party isn’t white enough, and that the true and only path to victory in the future is to get whiter still. Some disagree, which gives us the makings of a highly entertaining intra-GOP race war playing out as we head into 2016. But given this mad party’s recent history, which side would you bet on winning?

The situation is this. The immigration reform bill passed the Senate yesterday. It will now go to the House. A few weeks ago, as I read things, there were occasional and tepid signals that the House would not take up the Senate bill. Now, by contrast, those signals are frequent and full-throated. For example, yesterday Peter Roskam, a deputy GOP whip in the House, said this: “It is a pipe dream to think that [the Senate] bill is going to go to the floor and be voted on. The House is going to move through in a more deliberative process.”

“Deliberative process” probably means, in this case, killing the legislation. House conservatives, National Journal reports, are increasingly bullish on the idea that they may be able to persuade John Boehner to drop the whole thing.

Last December, such an outcome was supposed to mean disaster for the Republicans. But now, some say the opposite. Phyllis Schlafly and talk-radio opponents of the bill like Laura Ingraham have been saying for a while now that the party doesn’t need Latino votes, it just needs to build up the white vote. And now, they have the social science to prove it, or the “social science” to “prove” it.

Sean Trende, the conservative movement’s heavily asterisked answer to Nate Silver (that is to say, Silver got everything right, and Trende got everything wrong), came out with an analysis this week, headlined “Does GOP Have to Pass Immigration Reform?,” showing that by golly no, it doesn’t. You can jump over there yourself and study all his charts and graphs, but the long and short of it is something like this. Black turnout and Democratic support have both been unusually high in the last two elections, which is true; Democrats have been steadily losing white voters, which is also true; if you move black turnout back down to 2004-ish levels and bump up GOP margins among whites (by what strikes me as a wildly optimistic amount), you reach White Valhalla. Somehow or another, under Trende’s “racial polarization scenario,” it’ll be 2044 before the Democrats again capture 270 electoral votes. Thus is the heat of Schlafly’s rhetoric cooled and given fresh substance via the dispassionate tools of statistics.

Karl Rove says this is bunk. He wrote in The Wall Street Journal yesterday that to win the White House without more Latino support, a Republican candidate would have to equal Ronald Reagan’s 1984 total among whites, which was 63 percent. Rove thinks this unlikely—Trende thinks it’s pessimistic—and counsels some Latino reach-out (naturally, none of them ever says anything about black reach-out). The party used to listen to Rove, but most of them have zoomed well past him to the twilight zone of the far, far right.

These Republicans and the people they represent—that is, the sliver of people they care about representing—don’t want any outreach. They almost certainly won’t let a path to citizenship get through the House. And they’ll attack minorities in other ways, too. It’s been mostly civil rights advocates who’ve denounced the Supreme Court’s Voting Rights Act decision, and one can obviously see why. But trust me, that decision, as Bloomberg’s Josh Green shrewdly noted the day it came down, is a “poisoned chalice” for the GOP.

Why? Just look at what’s already happened since the decision was announced—the party is launching voter-suppression drives in six of the nine freshly liberated states. All the states, of course, are down South. These drives might “work.” But they will attract an enormous amount of negative publicity, and they’ll probably induce massive backlashes and counter-movements. This effort will lead to even greater distrust of the GOP by people of color, and it will reinforce the captive Southern-ness of the party, making it even more Southern than it already is. And Republicans won’t stop, because they can’t stop. Race baiting is their crack pipe.

And here’s the worst part of this story. If the House Republicans kill immigration reform, and Republican parties across the South double down to keep blacks from voting, then they really will need to jack up the white vote—and especially the old white vote—in a huge way to be competitive in 2016 and beyond. Well, they’re not going to do that by mailing out Lawrence Welk CDs. They’re going to run heavily divisive and racialized campaigns, worse than we’ve ever seen out of Nixon or anyone. Their only hope of victory will be to make a prophet of Trende—that is, reduce the Democrats’ share of the white vote to something in the mid- to low-30 percent range. That probably can’t happen, but there’s only one way it might. Run the most racially inflamed campaign imaginable.

That’s the near-term future we’re staring at. We can take satisfaction in the fact that it’s bad for them, but unfortunately, it’s not so good for the country.


By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, June 28, 2013

July 1, 2013 Posted by | GOP, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Past Isn’t Dead, It Isn’t Even Past”: Can Republicans Do The Right Thing On The Voting Rights Act?

Now that the Supreme Court has severely weakened the Voting Rights Act, the president and Senate Democrats must revise it to restore its power to protect minority voters. The critical question is: What will the Republicans do?

As the Republican House leaders consider the way forward, they would do well to consider the decisions of the past two generations of top Republican legislators, without whom the Voting Rights Act would never have existed.

Most students of history know that President Lyndon Johnson’s mastery of the legislative process – and his huge Democratic majorities – were key to the bill’s original passage. But few know that the final bill was written in the office of the Republican minority leader, Everett McKinley Dirksen of Illinois.

President Lyndon Johnson feared a Southern filibuster might defeat the bill. To prevent a filibuster, two-thirds of the Senate would have to move the bill to a final vote, and achieving this would require Republican votes. So Johnson turned to Dirksen. “…[ Y]ou come with me on this bill,” Johnson told him, “and two hundred years from now school children will know only two names: Abraham Lincoln and Everett Dirksen.”

At first, Dirksen was reluctant, but when peaceful demonstrators were viciously attacked by Alabama state troopers and vigilantes on what became known as Bloody Sunday, he was enraged.

Now, he told associates, he was willing to accept “revolutionary” legislation. He began to work privately with administration officials to fine tune the bill. In meetings to draft the bill, Dirksen always sat next to acting Attorney General Nicholas Katzenbach, leaving no doubt who was in charge. Later some would call the legislation the “Dirksenbach bill.” Dirksen cosponsored the bill, defended it in floor fights with Southern opponents, and delivered the Republican votes to end debate.

Similarly, when the Voting Rights Act faced procedural death in the Senate Judiciary Committee during its 1982 reauthorization, Republican Senator Bob Dole broke the logjam. “The works around here get gummed up pretty easily,” he later said. Wishing to broaden the Republican Party to include blacks and Hispanics, Dole met privately with Democratic supporters of the bill and civil rights lawyers in order to fashion a compromise, which included extending Section 5, the bill’s preclearance provision, for twenty-five years. It was signed into law by President Ronald Reagan.

It is hard to see John Boehner, the current Republican Speaker of the House, or Mitch McConnell, the Senate Republican Leader, playing similar roles. Both voted for extending the act in 2006 when it was enthusiastically signed into law by President George W. Bush, but now their party has changed.

In 2010, the Tea Party movement rose to power, sweeping away moderates and even old-school conservatives in primaries, on the way to helping Republicans win control of the House of Representatives and both legislative bodies and governorships in 26 states. Many in the Tea Party believed that President Barack Obama owed his election to massive voter fraud, despite all evidence to the contrary. Quickly, Republicans began passing a series of laws they felt would increase the integrity of elections, but that served mainly to make voting more difficult for many of President Obama’s core supporters: African Americans, Hispanics and Asian Americans; the poor; students; and the elderly or handicapped. These included the creation of voter photo-ID laws, measures restricting registration and early voting, and laws to prevent ex-felons from exercising their franchise.

It is hard to tell what impact these state laws have had so far, in part because many of the worst of them were overturned, thanks to litigation brought by the Justice Department, the NAACP and others under the Voting Rights Act. But now the act’s power has been substantially curtailed by the Supreme Court, and many Tea Party Republicans and fellow travelers are less likely to want to restore the act than to put in place more restrictions to secure the vote even if (perhaps especially if) they mean some eligible citizens will be disenfranchised.

Republican reactions to the Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act are not encouraging. House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, who attended the commemoration of Bloody Sunday in Selma last March, did call for bipartisan action to reform the act, but it appears that demography means destiny. The Republican Party now represents the white minority voter, many of whom sat out the 2012 presidential election. Reaching out to African Americans, and especially to Hispanics, is counterproductive, insists long time conservative activist, Phyllis Schafly. “There’s not the slightest bit of evidence that [Hispanics] will vote Republican,” she noted in May.”The people the Republicans should reach out to are the white voters…who did didn’t vote in the last election and there are millions of them.”

If present trends continue, a number of Republicans will obstruct any new efforts to strengthen and restore the Voting Rights Act in Congress. In doing so, they will be acting less like Dole, Dirksen, Reagan and Bush, and more, in an epic role reversal, like the Southern Democratic white hard core who opposed civil rights and voting rights in the 1950s and 1960s. Sadly, the congressional battles fought then look likely to be repeated in years to come. William Faulkner was right: “The past isn’t dead,” he once wrote. “It isn’t even past.”


By: Gary May, Salon, June 29, 2013

July 1, 2013 Posted by | Republicans, Voting Rights Act | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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