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George Curry

The Legacy of Jesse Jackson

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(NNPA) Al Sharpton has patterned his career so closely after the Jesse Jackson model that he could be justifiably charged with identity theft. Like Jackson, he began wearing a Martin Luther King medallion around his neck. Like Jackson, he started his own civil rights organization. Like Jackson, he ran for president of the United States. Like Jackson, he now has his own radio and television shows. And like Jackson, he has become a confidante of the man who occupies the White House.

At a ceremony last week at Georgetown University to celebrate Jesse Jackson’s 70th birthday and a half century in the civil rights movement, Sharpton proved that he not only had studied Jesse Jackson, but the civil rights movement just as carefully.

“We try to go from ’68 to ’08 – like we leapfrogged from Dr. King to the president of the United States, Barack Obama,” Sharpton explained. Much of the progress in Black economic and political development between the time Dr. King was assassinated in Memphis and the election of Obama in 2008 should be largely attributed to Jackson, Sharpton suggested.

Jesse Jackson was among the handful of top aides to Dr. King. When King was killed in Memphis, Ralph Abernathy succeeded King as president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, but it was Jackson who assumed the mantle as Black America’s top civil rights leader.

Jackson, who was selected by King to head Operation Breadbasket in Chicago, challenged major corporations to not only hire more Blacks, but to expand opportunities for African-Americans to own automobile dealerships, fast food franchises and provide goods and services to Fortune 500 companies.

Sharpton listed Richard Parsons, former CEO of Time Warner, and American Express CEO Ken Chenault as beneficiaries of Jackson’s early work.

“There would not have been anybody in the corporate elite had it not been a movement led by Jackson to say you can’t put a glass ceiling on how far we can go,” Sharpton explained. “It wasn’t that Blacks weren’t qualified to be chairman of major corporations until the ‘80s. There was no movement that had broken the ceiling.”

Lifting the ceiling from national politics was also part of the Jesse Jackson legacy. Although other African-Americans had run for president – including Frederick Douglass, Shirley Chisholm and Dick Gregory – none were as successful as Jackson in 1984 and 1988.

Georgetown University Professor Michael Eric Dyson, who organized the appreciation event with his wife, Marcia Dyson, who served as Operation PUSH Trade Bureau’s first chief of staff, said what many in the audience were thinking: “Without Jesse Jackson, there would be no Barack Obama.”

The Jackson-Obama relationship turned sour after Jackson was recorded saying that the then-presidential candidate talks down to African-Americans and he would like to dismember a certain part of Obama’s body. While that crude comment hurt Jackson’s standing among African-Americans excited about the prospect of electing the nation’s first Black president, it does not alter the fact that Obama would not be in the White House without Jackson’s presidential campaigns.

Sharpton was uncharacteristically diplomatic in how he addressed the relationship between Obama and Jackson, noting that after Dr. King had helped Carl Stokes become the first Black mayor of Cleveland, he was excluded from the victory celebration.

“The misnomer is that students watching think because you weren’t at the party that you had nothing to do with the achievement,” Sharpton said. “Don’t get confused by the invitation list to the party with those who created what you are celebrating.”

At the tribute to Jackson, he was celebrated for developing a long list of leaders, including Sharpton, Former Secretary of Labor Alexis Herman, political strategist Donna Brazile, activist Marcia Dyson, Assistant Agriculture Secretary Joseph Leonard, Black Leadership Forum Executive Director Gary Flowers, ACLU Washington Director Laura W. Murphy and Lezli Baskerville, president of the National Association For Equal Opportunity (NAFEO).

Rev. Freddie Haynes of Dallas, in what he called an oratorical thank-you note to Rev. Jesse Jackson, spoke about the impact of Jackson’s presidential campaigns.

Looking at Jackson, he recalled: “After your speech I was in the barber shop – and you know how we kick it in the barber shop in the ‘hood – and some brothers were talking about, ‘Did you hear Jesse?’ Jesse. Jesse. Jesse. And I wasn’t feeling them disrespecting Rev. Jesse Jackson like that. So I said, ‘Do you know Rev. Jesse Jackson?’ And the brother jumped right back at me and said, ‘I don’t know Jesse, but Jesse knows me.’”

Sharpton said Jesse Jackson led the way in urging children to spend less time in front of TV, curbing violence in the Black community and getting youth to believe that “I Am Somebody.”

Sharpton stated, “In many ways, I would say that from the economic fights from the end of the decade he started in the ‘70s to the political empowerment that resulted in the first Black attorney general and the first Black president to the whole concept of coalition building, he has defined the last part of the 20th century and the first part of the 21st century.”

Michael Eric Dyson put it this way: “Like Muhammad Ali, he shook up the world.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Pat Buchanan: An Unrepentant Racist

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(NNPA) Pat Buchanan’s latest book, Suicide of a Superpower, is a continuation his long-running racist, sexist, anti-immigrant and anti-Semitic rants that should have disqualified him long ago from masquerading as a respectable paid political pundit on MSNBC.

ColorOfChange.org, a group dedicated to Black political and social change, is circulating a petition asking MSNBC to immediately fire Buchanan. In a memo to its members, dated Oct. 31, it said: “If Buchanan didn’t have a powerful media platform, he’d be just another person with outdated, extremist ideas. But it’s irresponsible and dangerous for MSNBC to promote his hateful views to an audience of millions.”

In his latest book, Buchanan writes in a chapter titled, The End of White America: “Those who believe the rise to power of an Obama rainbow coalition of peoples of color means the whites who helped engineer it will steer it are deluding themselves. The whites may discover what it is like in the back of the bus.”

He also defends New York taxi drivers who refuse to pick up African-American males.

“If [conservative political commentator Heather] MacDonald’s statistics are accurate, 49 of every 50 muggings and murders in New York are the work of minorities. That might explain why black folks have trouble getting a cab. Every New York cabby must know the odds should he pick up a man of color at night.”

Unfortunately, that kind of talk – based on non-existent “facts” – is nothing new for Buchanan, a former editorial writer for the right-wing St. Louis Globe-Democrat who later served in the Nixon White House and ran unsuccessfully for president.

Buchanan’s extremist views have been subject of reports published by media watchdog groups Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) and Media Matters as well as the Anti-Defamation League (ADL).

Below are Buchanan’s own words:

· “First, America has been the best country on earth for black folks. It was here that 600,000 black people, brought from Africa in slave ships, grew into a community of 40 million, were introduced to Christian salvation, and reached the greatest levels of freedom and prosperity blacks have ever known…Second, no people anywhere has done more to lift up blacks than white Americans…Where is the gratitude?” [Syndicated column, “A Brief for Whitey,” March 21, 2008]

· “This has been a country built, basically, by white folks in this country who were 90 percent of the entire nation in 1960 when I was growing up, Rachel, and the other 10 percent of the entire nation were African-Americans who had been discriminated against.” [The Rachel Maddow Show, MSNBC, July 16, 2009]

· “In the late 1940’s and 1950’s…race was never a preoccupation with us, we rarely thought about it…There were no politics to polarize us then, to magnify every slight. The ‘Negroes’ of Washington had their public schools, restaurants, movie houses, playgrounds and churches; and we had ours.” [Buchanan’s autobiography, Right From the Beginning, 1990]

· “Even Richard Nixon found the views of his former speech writer, Buchanan, too extreme on the segregation issue. According to a John Ehrlichman memo referenced in Nicholas Lemann’s The Promised Land, Nixon characterized Buchanan’s views as ‘segregation forever.’ After Nixon was reelected, Buchanan warned his boss not to ‘fritter away his present high support in the nation for an ill-advised governmental effort to forcibly integrate races.’” [Salon, Sept. 4, 1999]

· “Near the end, Buchanan added angrily: ‘Conservatives are the niggers of the Nixon administration.’ The political right, Buchanan thought, was getting nothing but rhetoric.” [Richard Reeves, President Nixon: Alone in the White House, Page 295.]

· “Buchanan’s memo, written April 1, 1969, said Nixon should observe the first anniversary of the civil rights leader’s death by doing no more than issuing a statement. ‘There is no long-run gains, and considerable long-run risks in making a public visit to Widow King,’ Buchanan wrote. He characterized King as ‘one of the most divisive men in contemporary history’ and: ‘Initially, the visit would get an excellent press but…it would outrage many people who believe Dr. King was a fraud and a demagogue, and perhaps worse,’ the memo said. ‘It does not seem to be in there interests of national unity for the president to lend his national prestige to the argument that this divisive figure is a modern saint.’” [Associated Press, December 12, 1986]

· “…Both the GOP establishment and conservatives should study how and why white voters, who delivered Louisiana to Reagan and Bush three times, moved in such numbers to [White supremacist David] Duke – and devise a strategic plan to win them back.” [Syndicated column, December 23, 1991]

· “George Bush should have told the [NAACP convention] that black America has grown up; that the NAACP should close up shop, that its members should go home and reflect on JFK’s admonition: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’” [Syndicated column, July 26, 1988]

Buchanan, appearing on Al Sharpton’s “PoliticsNation” program in August on MSNBC, referred to President Obama as “your boy.” More recently he agreed with Herman Cain’s assertion that Blacks have been brainwashed into supporting Democrats over Republicans. In an interview on CNN, Buchanan said, “I think what he’s saying is they bought a lot of liberal propaganda on the liberal plantation and I think he’s right.”

Color of Change is right for seeking Buchanan’s dismissal. In 2008, the National Association of Black Journalists gave Buchanan its “Thumbs Down Award” that goes to an individual or news organization for especially insensitive, racist or stereotypical reporting or commentary. It is time for MSNBC to give Buchanan the boot.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Media Treats Obama Much Worse than GOP Challengers

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(NNPA) News media coverage of President Obama is much more negative than stories about each of his Republican challengers, netting him almost four negative stories for every positive one.

That’s the conclusion of an extensive study by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism. According to the report, titled “The Media Primary,” Texas Gov. Rick Perry received the most coverage and was subject to the most favorable coverage until several weeks ago, when he was overtaken in that category by Herman Cain.

“One man running for president has suffered the most unrelenting negative treatment of all, the study found: Barack Obama. Though covered largely as president rather than a candidate, negative assessments of Obama have outweighed positive by a ratio of almost 4-1,” the report stated. “Those assessments of the president have also been substantially more negative than positive every one of the 23 weeks studied. And in no week during those five months was more than 10% of the coverage about the president positive in tone.”

The analysis of coverage in 11,500 news media outlets was conducted from May 2-October 9. While 57 percent of Obama’s coverage was considered neutral, 9 percent was positive and 34 percent was negative. At the other end of the spectrum, 32 percent of Rick Perry’s coverage was rated positive and 20 percent considered negative.

Every Republican candidate still in the race except Newt Gingrich had favorable coverage at least double that of President Obama. In the cases of Michele Bachman and Herman Cain, it was triple the positive coverage of Obama and nearly triple for Republican front-runner Mitt Romney.

Only Gingrich had a higher percentage of negative coverage than Obama with 35 percent, just one percentage point higher than the president. However, Gingrich’s favorable coverage stood at 15 percent, six points higher than Obama’s.

Interestingly, although Perry did not enter the race until August – three months after the study began – he received more coverage than any other candidate. Moreover, even after poor performances in the Republican presidential debates, he received the most flattering coverage over the period studied – 32 percent positive, 20 percent negative and the remainder neutral.

Coverage of Cain was 28 percent positive – two points higher than Romney – and 23 percent negative, which was four points lower than Romney’s negative coverage. Cain’s recent coverage has more positive than his overall numbers reflect because prior to his winning the Florida straw poll, he was largely ignored and received more negative coverage than in recent weeks.

The sour economy and Republican attacks are responsible for much of President Obama’s negative coverage, according to the study.

“In many stories, Obama was the target of not only the whole roster of GOP presidential contenders. He was also being criticized in often harsh terms by Republicans in Congress,” the study found. “Added to that, members of his own party began criticizing him on both policy and strategy grounds, particularly as his poll numbers fell. And for much of this period, the president’s coverage reflected the biggest problem on his watch – a continual flow of bad news about the U.S. economy.”

Even the killing of Osama bin Laden did not reverse the president’s poll numbers.

“One reason is that many of the references to his [Obama’s] role in the hunt for bin Laden were matched by skepticism that he would receive any long term political benefit from it. Another was than bin Laden news was tempered with news about the nation’s economy.”

And that is the problem. While journalists are compelled to cover stories about political warfare and the economy, they should not attack Obama or anyone else in news stories under the guise of providing context for readers and viewers.

An Associated Press story on May 2 is a textbook example of this problem:

“A nation surly over rising gas prices, stubbornly high unemployment and nasty partisan politics poured into the streets to wildly cheer President Barack Obama’s announcement that Osama bin Laden, the world’s most wanted man, had been killed by U.S. forces after a decade long manhunt. The outcome could not have come at a better time for Obama, sagging in the poll as he embarks on his re-election campaign.”

The news of bin Laden’s death was almost buried.

The story could have also been presented this way:

“Despite former President George W. Bush’s promise to capture Osama bin Laden ‘dead or alive,’ it was his successor who delivered on that promise in grand fashion, prompting thousands of U.S. citizens to take to the streets in noisy celebration.”

Another option: “President Obama, who had his foreign policy credentials questioned repeatedly during the 2008 presidential campaign, delivered on a campaign pledge to kill Osama bin Laden if ever presented the opportunity, a surprise action that led to impromptu celebrations across the United States.”

Either approach would have provided more relevant context than AP wrapping its story in the highly-charged language of his Republican challengers.

President Obama knew he would be double-teamed by GOP congressional leaders and Republican candidates hoping to unseat him. But he probably didn’t expect the stealth attacks from major media outlets.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

The Plot to Dilute the Black Vote

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(NNPA) After decades of trying to ease voting restrictions that suppress voter turnout in the U.S., already among the lowest among industrialized nations, Republican-led state legislators and GOP governors have quickly implemented or proposed a series of changes aimed at reducing Black political clout.

Among the recent developments to limit Black voter participation:

· At least 34 states have introduced legislation that would require voters to show photo identification in order to vote;

· At least 12 states have introduced bills that would require proof of citizenship, such as a birth certificate, to register or vote;

· At least 13 states have introduced legislation to end popular Election Day and same-day voter registration;

· At least nine states have introduced bills to reduce their early voting periods and

· Two states – Florida and Iowa – have reversed prior executive orders making it easier for ex-felons to vote.

These voter suppression efforts are detailed in a recent report by the Brennan Center at New York University’s School of Law titled, Voting Law Changes in 2012.

“The general thrust of the law over the past few decades has been to ease registration requirements to make it easier for eligible citizens to get on the voter rolls,” the report stated. “The most significant advance was the National Voter Registration Act of 1993, also known as the ‘Motor Voter’ law, which made voter registration opportunities widely available across the country. More recently, states have taken the lead in modernizing their voter registration systems so that more voters are getting on the rolls and the rolls are getting more accurate.”

However, that’s no longer the case.

“This year, the tide reversed,” the report observed. “Instead of efforts to increase voter registration, this year new registration requirements have been instated that will make it more challenging for eligible voters to ensure that they are registered to vote on Election Day. Voter registration regulations range from restrictions on individuals and groups who help register voters, to efforts to scale back Election Day and same-day registration, to new rules making it harder for voters to stay registered after they move.”

These new restrictions could have a significant impact on the outcome of the 2012 presidential election. The states that have already placed further restrictions on voting will provide 171 electoral votes in 2012 – 63 percent of the 270 needed to win the presidency. Of the 12 battleground states, five have already cut back on voting rights and two more are considering following their lead.

Most of the public attention on voter disenfranchisement has centered on voter identification laws. Prior to 2006, no state required its voters to show government-issued ID, according to the study. In 2006, Indiana became the first state to require voters to show a government-issued photo ID. This year, 34 states introduced similar legislation. Of those, seven have been enacted so far: Alabama, Kansas, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Wisconsin. The type of government ID accepted is also an issue. Texas, for example, will recognize permits to carry concealed weapons, but not student IDs from state universities.

The partial or full elimination of early voting on Sundays will certainly reduce the Black vote. Ohio has eliminated all in-person early voting on Sundays. Florida has eliminated it for the last Sunday before Election Day. And North Carolina is considering eliminating all in-person voting on Sundays.

The Sunday restrictions target “Souls to the Polls” campaign popular in African-American churches. Forbidding early voting on the last Sunday before an election hurts Blacks. Florida is a perfect example. In the 2008 general election, 32.2 percent of those who voted early on the last Sunday were Black and 23.6 percent were Latino (Blacks represent 13.4 percent of all early voters in the state and Latinos 11.6 percent).

The movement to restore the rights of the formerly incarcerated has also hit a roadblock.

Since 1997, according to the report, 23 states have either restored voting rights for the formerly incarcerated or eased the restoration process.

“By executive action, Governors Terry Branstad of Iowa and Rick Scott of Florida, both Republicans, returned their state policies to de facto permanent disenfranchisement,” the report said. Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval, also a Republican, vetoed a bill with bipartisan support that would have automatically restored voting rights to anyone who honorably completed a felony sentence and probation or parole.

One of most serious threats to Black voting is the curbs being placed on community groups that assist in voter registration, such as the National Coalition on Black Voter Participation.

Texas is considering a proposal that would require anyone who registers voters to first be deputized and attend mandatory training that ends with an exam. On May 19, Florida Gov. Rick Scott signed a new law that requires voter registration groups to pre-register with the state before engaging in voter registration activity and mandates that every voter registration form collected be presented to county officials within 48 hours of signature. Those who don’t comply face civil penalties. In addition, the group conducting the voter registration must place their state-issued ID code on each form collected from a voter.

The net results of these new laws could mean the disenfranchisement of at least 5 million voters, the Brennan Center report noted. Republicans have made it clear that their primary goal is to defeat President Obama in 2012. What they are not saying is that they hope to do that by suppressing the Black vote.

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Civil Rights Warrior Fred Shuttlesworth Wasn't Afraid of Death

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(NNPA) Fred Shuttlesworth, who recently died in his native Alabama at the age of 89, has been widely acknowledged as the Civil Rights Movement’s most courageous warrior. He was so hell-bent on shattering the walls of segregation in Birmingham and throughout the South that he wanted to die for the freedom of African-Americans.

That exceptional insight into the man who led the campaign to desegregate Birmingham long before Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. arrived on the scene was chronicled by Joe Davidson, his former son-in-law, in an article published in the September 1998 edition of Emerge magazine and reprinted in a book I edited, The Best of Emerge Magazine.

“I tried to get killed in Birmingham,” he told Davidson. “I tried to widow my wife and my children for God’s sake, because I literally believed that scripture that says ‘…whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.’ I had no fear, you understand.”

There were more than enough volunteers eager to grant Shuttlesworth his death wish.

“In the 15-year period beginning in 1950, there were so many bombings by White supremacists that Birmingham was dubbed ‘Bombingham,’” Davidson wrote. “A city library list compiled from police surveillance files documents 61 bombings during those years, including 45 racially related ones. Two of those were meant for Shuttlesworth.”

Davidson continued, “One exploded on Christmas night 1956. Earlier, Shuttlesworth had announced plans to desegregate city buses on Dec. 26. He was in his bedroom in the parsonage, adjacent to Bethel Baptist. Fifteen sticks of dynamite were placed between the church and the parsonage, about 2 feet from where Shuttlesworth was relaxing. His wife and four children also were in the house, as was a deacon and his wife. The bomb blew a hole in the floor, and its force blew Shuttlesworth into the hole. The bomb destroyed the house. Miraculously, no one was seriously injured. As Shuttlesworth walked from rubble, a police officer, whom Shuttlesworth believes was a Klansman, told him: ‘I know these people, Reverend. I didn’t know they would go this far. If I was you, I’d get out of town.’

“Shuttlesworth replied, ‘Well, you’re not me. And tell your friends God didn’t save me to run. I’m here for the duration and the war is just beginning.’”

The next day, Shuttlesworth was sitting in the front seat of city buses, defying the city’s segregation laws.

U.W. Clemon, Alabama’s first Black federal judge, said of Shuttlesworth: “He was the first Black man I knew who was totally unafraid of White folks.”

In his book, Why We Can’t Wait, Dr. King praised Shuttlesworth, who estimates he was arrested 30 to 40 times, as “one of the nation’s most courageous freedom fighters.”

Not everyone supported Shuttlesworth’s efforts.

After the NAACP was banned from operating in Alabama, Shuttlesworth announced plans to form a new group, the Alabama Christian Movement for Human Rights.

“One Black minister told Shuttlesworth the Lord wanted him to call off the meeting,” Davidson wrote. “Shuttlesworth replied, ‘When did the Lord start sending my messages through you?...The Lord told me to call it on.’”

In September 1957, three years after the Brown v. Board of Education Supreme Court decision outlawing segregated public schools, Shuttlesworth led a group that included his wife, Ruby, and their two daughters, Patricia and Ruby, to integrate Phillips High School. Shuttlesworth was savagely beaten by White segregationists wielding knives, brass knuckles, bicycle chains and baseball bats. His wife was stabbed and one of their daughters’ ankle was crushed in their car door.

When doctors at the hospital expressed surprise that Shuttlesworth hadn’t suffered a concussion or broken bones, he remarked, “The Lord knew I lived in a hard town, so he gave me a hard head.”

Hard-headed Shuttlesworth was not afraid to act.

“On the Freedom Rides in May 1961, he took action when others were stricken, immobilized by fear,” recalled John Lewis, now a member of Congress. “When Bull Connor, Commissioner of Public Safety Birmingham, put Freedom Riders out in the heart of danger near the lonely Alabama/Tennessee state line, people were afraid to help us after a bus had been burned in Anniston. It was a brave and daring Fred Shuttlesworth who did not hesitate to meet us at the Greyhound Bus station and then even entertained us at his home, along with 12 others, before we returned to the rides.”

It was the 1963 Birmingham campaign that made Shuttlesworth famous.

Grainy black and white television images of police dogs and fire hoses turned on protestors, including children, awakened the nation’s moral conscience that spring and was instrumental in President John F. Kennedy’s decision to sign the 1964 Civil Rights Act. Firemen aimed high-powered hoses at Shuttlesworth, knocking him up against a wall.

Eugene “Bull” Connor, told reporters, “I’m sorry I missed it…I wish they’d carry him away in a hearse.”

They didn’t. Shuttlesworth lived another 48 years and his name is immortalized in Birmingham. A street is named in his honor, a statue of him stands in front of the Birmingham Civil Rights Institute and three years ago, the airport was renamed the Birmingham-Shuttlesworth International Airport.

There will be three days of memorials to Shuttlesworth in Birmingham, beginning Oct. 22 and culminating with his funeral Oct. 24.

Bishop Calvin Woods, president of the Birmingham chapter of SCLC, told the Birmingham News, “He was a hard man for a hard town, who dealt with problems in a way no one else had ever dealt with them. He was a man of love, courage, faith, and he certainly was man of action. Because of his courage, he engendered courage in many of us.”

George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

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