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George Curry

The Frivolous Attacks on Obama and Common

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(NNPA) If you thought nothing could be more frivolous than conservatives questioning whether the President was born in the United States, think again. The recent criticism of Obama’s decisions to worship Easter Sunday at Shiloh Baptist Church in Washington, D.C. and invite poet/rapper Common to participate in a White House celebration of poetry illustrates how far his critics will stoop to manufacture a controversy.

Fox News was hysterical over the Obamas’ decision to worship at the predominantly Black church founded in the 1800s by former slaves. Sean Hannity, co-host of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, aired a clip from the speech Rev. Wallace Smith, the pastor of Shiloh, had given at Eastern University, in Davids, Pa.

“It may not be Jim Crow anymore,” said Rev. Smith. “Now, Jim Crow wears blue pinstripes, goes to law school and carries fancy briefs in cases. And now, Jim Crow has become James Crow, esquire. And, he doesn’t have to wear white robes anymore because now he can wear the protective cover of talk radio or can get a regular news program on Fox.”

After the clip aired as part of Hannity’s criticism of the president, Rev. Smith said his church received more than 100 threats via telephone and e-mail.

“We received a fax that had the image of a monkey with a target across its face,” he told the Washington Post. “My secretary has received telephone calls that have been so vulgar until she had to hang up.”

On his show, Fox host Bill O’Reilly tried to dismiss Rev. Smith as a “racial activist” and kept objecting to Smith’s observation on Easter that the original U.S. Constitution was a flawed document that did not count African descendants as full human beings.

O’Reilly made the mistake of inviting Rev. Amos Brown, pastor of Third Baptist Church, in San Francisco and president of the local NAACP chapter, to discuss the Obama decision to worship at Shiloh. Rev. Brown noted that Ronald Reagan, George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton had attended the same church as president without being criticized.

When O’Reilly said they attended under different circumstances, Rev. Brown corrected him: “It was the same church with the same pastor with the same views.”

After Rev. Brown refused to back down, O’Reilly quickly ended the interview. But, Fox did not end its assault on President Obama and his wife, Michelle.

The first lady hosted an event at the White House to celebrate American poetry and prose. Among the performers invited was Lonnie Rashid Lynn, the poet/rapper better known as Common.

Various Fox News personalities criticized Common for his work titled, A Song for Assata written in honor of Assata Shakur, the Black Panther Party member who was convicted of the 1973 murder of New Jersey State Trooper Werner Foerster. The trooper was shot twice in the head with his own gun. Black Panther Party member Zayd Malik Shakur was also killed in the New Jersey Turnpike shootout. Both Assata Shakur and another state trooper, James Harper, were injured in the exchange of gunfire. Assata Shakur escaped from prison in 1979 and has been living in Cuba in political asylum since 1984.

In his tribute, Common wrote: “Assata had been convicted of a murder she couldna done. Medical evidence shown she couldna shot the gun.” Although Fox led the recent campaign against Common, the network’s Jason Robinson told Common last year: “Your music is very positive. And you’re known as the conscious rapper.”

Fox also sent out birthday greetings to rapper Ice-T whose song, Body Count, celebrated the murder of police officers. And, it never criticized Sarah Palin, who sees nothing wrong with placing shooting targets around photos of liberal Democrats.

On the Aug. 24, 2007 edition of Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity introduced video of Ted Nugent, a musician and right-wing activist, calling President Obama “a piece of s---“ and referring to Hillary Clinton as a “worthless b----.”

When Bob Beckel, a guest on the program, challenged Hannity to disavow Nugent, he declined, saying: “No, I like Ted Nugent. He’s a friend of mine.”

It is unfair to hold Obama responsible for the lyrics of Common and not apply the same standard to other presidents.

Daily Show comedian Jon Stewart drove home that point when he cited the lyrics of Johnny Cash: “Early one mornin’ while makin’ the rounds/I took a shot of cocaine and I shot my woman down.” Cash was invited to the White House by presidents Nixon, Carter, Reagan, and Clinton.

In 1991, President George H.W. Bush invited rapper Easy-E to the White House. His group, NWA, released a song titled, F--- tha Police. Among its lyrics:

A young nigga on a warpath
And when I’m finished, it’s gonna be a bloodbath
Of cops, dyin in LA
…Taking out a police would make my day

Where was the outrage from conservatives then?

Again, there was no public outrage.

By today’s standard, Common’s lyrics are mild. So mild that The Gap featured him in an ad for its 2006 fall collection. He has also appeared in such movies as American Gangster, Terminator Salvation, and Date Night, featuring Tina Fey and Steve Carell.

Lost in the controversy over Common was the purpose of the White House event, which was to honor poetry. As President Obama said at the event, “The power of poetry is everybody experiences it differently. There are no rules on what makes a great poem. Instead, a great poem is one that resonates with us and challenges us and teaches us something about ourselves.”

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, http://www.georgecurry.com/ You can also follow him atwww.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Donald Trump is a Celebrity Racist

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(NNPA) There is one area in which Donald Trump is no celebrity apprentice – racism.

After being exposed as a publicity-loving idiot after he questioned the authenticity of President Obama’s birth records, Trump quickly shifted away from the discredited birther attack and began raising wild and unsubstantiated charges about Obama’s academic achievement, a record that includes the future president finishing in the top 10 percent of his class at Harvard Law School and being elected president of the prestigious Harvard Law Review.

Although journalistic lapdogs are willing to parrot Trump’s ridiculous and increasingly outlandish charges about President Obama, few have chronicled his racist behavior and comments.

Trump may have escaped scrutiny partly because he donated free office space to Jesse Jackson once upon a time and frequently makes the rounds with Snoop Dogg and P. Diddy. In one of the few times he has been confronted about his racism, Trump told TMZ.com, “I am the last person that such a thing should be said about.”

No, Donald, you should be one of the first. And, I will tell you why.

One would never know that Trump ever hung out with African-Americans, judging by his language.

In a radio interview with Fred Dicker on Talk 1300 in New York, Trump complained about the difficulty Hillary Clinton had winning over Black voters.

“You’ll hear a political reporter go on and say it had nothing to do with race. But how come she had such a tiny piece of the vote? And you know, it’s a very sad thing,” Trump said. “I have a great relationship with the Blacks. I’ve always had a great relationship with the Blacks. But unfortunately, it seems that, you know, the numbers you cite are very, very frightening numbers.”

The Blacks? Who uses that kind of language? And Trump didn’t just say it once – he said it twice.

Well, let’s see how Trump treated the Blacks that he claims to have such a great relationship with.

In 1973, the United States Justice Department sued Trump Management Corp. for violating the Fair Housing Act by refusing to rent to some potential tenants because of their “race or color.” Trump, who had taken over as president of the family business by then, reacted in typical Donald Trump fashion – he sued the government for $100 million, claiming the family business had been defamed. The judge dismissed the suit, saying Trump and his lawyer, Roy Cohn, former chief counsel to Senator Joseph McCarthy, were “wasting time and paper.”

Trump signed a settlement requiring that vacancies in the 15,000 apartment complex, which was approximately 95 percent White, must first be offered to people of color. He agreed not to engage in further racial discrimination. In a precursor of what was to come after Obama released his long-form birth certificate, Trump described his defeat as a victory and bragged that he was not required to “accept persons on welfare as tenants unless they qualified as any other tenant.”

Three years later, the Justice Department hauled Trump back into court for violating the settlement by telling the Blacks they had no vacancies when, in fact, there were openings.

After a group of four African-Americans and one Latino, aged 14 to 16 years old, were arrested in 1989 for allegedly raping a White female jogger in Central Park, Trump took out a full-page ad in the New York Times calling for the death penalty. That would have been a terrible mistake – all five teenagers were later exonerated.

John R. O’Donnell, former president of Trump Plaza Hotel & Casino, cited racist and anti-Semitic remarks made by his former boss. In his book, Trumped, the former company official said Trump disparaged a Black accountant at Trump Plaza by asserting “laziness is a trait in blacks.” According to O’Donnell’s book, Trump also said, “Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day.”

In an interview with Playboy magazine in 1999, Trump tried to dismiss O’Donnell as a loser, but acknowledged, “The stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”

Evidently not content stereotyping of Blacks and Jews who worked for him, Trump was inclined to reduce the president to being a Black athlete.

“If you look at what he’s doing in Libya, which is a total disaster, nobody even knows what’s going on in Libya,” Trump asserted. “If you look at what’s happening with gasoline prices where he said he has no control over prices, which he does. If he gets on the phone or gets off his basketball court or whatever he is doing at the time.”

It turns out that while Trump was attacking Obama on Libya, for playing basketball, and raising false charges about Obama’s birth certificate, the president was thoroughly engaged in planning a top-secret operation that would lead to the killing of Osama bin Laden. It was Trump who didn’t know what was going on.

In view of Trump’s record, it is difficult to believe him when he says if he could do it all over, he would come back as an African-American.

He told Bryant Gumble as part of a two-hour television special on race: “If I was starting off today, I would love to be a well-educated Black because I really do believe they have the actual advantage today.”

Not as much of the advantage enjoyed by a run-of-the-mill White male who inherited his wealth from his father. By the way, Donald, there is a well-educated African-American in the White House. And, look how you and those of your ilk are treating him.

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 atwww.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Donald Trump's Baseless Challenge to Obama's U.S. Citizenship

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(NNPA) Donald Trump, who is again flirting with the possibility of running for president on the Republican ticket, has garnered widespread publicity by repeating thoroughly discredited claims that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States and therefore is ineligible to be president of the United States. He has hired private investigators to look into whether Obama was born in Hawaii.

Trump should save his money. There is no doubt that Obama was born in the United States. The only people who refuse to accept this truth are ignorant, brain dead or decline to let facts get in way of their right-wing politics. In this case, Donald Trump might fit all three categories.

In a letter to the New York Times, Trump wrote, “There is a very large segment of our society who believe [sic] that Barack Obama, indeed, was not born in the United States.”

For the record, Barack Hussein Obama was born at 7:24 p.m. on August 4, 1961 in Honolulu. His parents were Stanley Ann Dunham and Barack Hussein Obama, Sr.

What is the source of this information?

Obama’s official birth certificate that was issued by Hawaii’s Department of Health. The birth was registered August 8, 1961 and the “Certification of Live Birth” notes that Obama’s mother was Caucasian and his father was African.

In addition to the official birth document, Obama’s entrance into the world was recorded in both local newspapaers, the August 13 Honolulu Advertiser and the August 14 Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

On MSNBC’s Morning Joe, Trump said on April 7: “Well, guess what? His grandparents probably put in a thing because everybody wanted to become a United States citizen, more so than today to be honest with you, because they were more proud in those days. But for purposes of hospitalization and welfare, you want to become an American citizen. So, the grandparents living in Honolulu, living in Hawaii, probably put it in. It’s a very simple explanation.”

It may be a simple explanation, but it is a wrong one.

The Honolulu Advertiser noted, “In November 2008, the Advertiser reported that the first mention of the future president appeared in a Sunday Advertiser birth announcement that ran on Aug. 13, 1961:

‘Mr. and Mrs. Barack H. Obama, 6085 Kalanianaole Hgy., son, Aug.4.’

“The identical announcement ran the following day in the Honolulu Star-Bulletin.

“Birthers wave off those birth announcements, saying that Obama family members 48 years ago could have phoned in false information to both newspapers.

“Such vital statistics, however, were not sent to the newspaper by the general public but by the Health Department, which received the information directly from hospitals, [Health Department spokeswoman Janice] Okubo said.”

Trump was also wrong about relatives on the father’s side.

He asserted in his letter to the New York Times, “His grandmother from Kenya stated on tape, that he was born in Kenya and she was there to watch the birth. His family is fighting over which hospital in Hawaii he was born in – they just don’t know.”

Not true, according to FactCheck.org, a project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center at the University of Pennsylvania whose goal is to “reduce the level of deception and confusion in U.S. politics.” It noted, “He [Trump] claims the president’s grandmother says Obama was born in Kenya. In fact, the recording to which he refers shows Sarah Obama repeatedly saying through a translator: ‘He was born in America.’” The site further confirmed that the future president was born in Honolulu’s Kapiolani Maternity & Gynecological Hospital.

In an April 7th interview on The Today Show, Trump charged, “He [Obama] doesn’t have a birth certificate or he hasn’t shown it. He has what’s called a certificate of live birth. That’s something easy to get…A certificate of live birth is not even signed by anybody. I saw his. I read it very carefully. It doesn’t have a serial number, doesn’t have a signature…”

Again, any apprentice should have known better.

FactCheck.org stated, “Had Trump looked at our 2008 article, he would see the signature stamp of Alvin Onaka, certifying the document is ‘a true copy or abstract of the record on file,’ issued to Obama June 7, 2007 as he was preparing to run for president. Furthermore, the serial number (actually a ‘certificate’ number) shows quite clearly in our photos. The number is 151 1961-010641, for whatever that’s worth.”

It added, “Trump is also mistaken about what legally qualifies as a ‘birth certificate,’ which is actually a broad generic term with no specific legal meaning. The U.S. Department of State uses the term ‘certified birth certificate’ to refer to exactly what Obama produced, which Hawaii calls a ‘Certification of Live Birth.’ The State Department accepts a state-certified photocopy of a hospital-generated document, as was commonly used in the past. But Hawaii, like many states, now uses computer-printed documents instead, and Hawaii’s form also meets State Department standards for establishing citizenship.”

Ironically, when pressed for a copy of his birth certificate, Trump also produced a “Certificate of Birth.” It shows that Donald John Trump was born at 10:54 a.m. on June 14, 1947 at Jamaica Hospital in Queens, N.Y.

In an interview on Good Morning America, Trump claimed, “…He [Obama] grew up and nobody knew him…Nobody ever comes forward. Nobody knows who he is until later in life. It’s very strange. The whole thing is very strange.”

What is strange is that Trump never saw the many television programs and newspaper articles about Obama’s early years in Hawaii.

For example, the Maui News published a story January 21, 2009 in which it quoted Aimee Yatsushiro, who was a student teacher in Obama’s kindergarten class. She remembered 5-year-old Obama as a “cute, likable, heavy build child.” Katherine Nakamoto, who retired as a teacher at Noelani Elementary School, said, “We called him Barack…He was very well mannered, respectful, confident and independent.”

Trump struck out at every turn.

FactCheck.org stated, “If Donald worked for us, we’d have to say: ‘Donald, you’re fired – for incompetence.’”

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.

Reverend Al Sampson: An Uncelebrated Warrior

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(NNPA) This is the first major civil rights organization of our culture that has given me an honorary opportunity with this particular gift.

The speaker was Reverend Al Sampson, a longtime civil rights activist and pastor of Fenwood United Methodist Church in Chicago. The gift he was referring to was Reverend Al Sharpton’s National Action Network’s decision to honor Rev. Sampson along with former Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) President Charles Steele, Jr.; Barbara Shaw, board chair of the National Council of Negro Women, and me with a Rev. Dr. William A. Jones Justice Award. The awards were presented by the Social Justice Initiative of NAN.

Rev. Sampson, who was ordained by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. two years prior to the civil rights leader’s assassination, was a movement stalwart. If you pick up any authoritative book on the modern civil rights movement, there will be at least one reference to Sampson, usually more.

Throughout his acceptance speech at the NAN convention that ended over the weekend, Sampson joked about all of the civil rights organizations that have never recognized his contributions. Beneath the laughter, however, there was deep pain. Not pain out of any need for public accolades, but pain that grew out of being ignored while others with lesser roles in the movement were allowed to take bows in public.

Jesse Jackson and I came out of North Carolina, Sampon noted. He was a transfer student [from the University of Illinois to North Carolina A&T University]. We were part of the Black State Legislature for a week. We passed a public accommodations bill. But PUSH never gave me an award.

In her book, My Life with Martin Luther King, Jr., Coretta Scott King recalled an incident in Chicago when a teenage gang member who had come to visit Dr. King complained about SCLC allowing whites to participate in the movement. She wrote, “Al told them that there were a lot of white people who were helping our Cause and that some had even died for us.”

Bearing the Cross, the Pulitzer Prize-winning book by David A. Garrow, recounted how outspoken Sampson was as a young civil rights organizer with SCLC. Writing about tension between local residents of Natchez, Miss. and SCLC organizers, Garrow wrote: “The breach had become more irreparable when SCLC’s Al Sampson ‘had denounced the local leadership in general and the NAACP by name, as unreliable, untrustworthy, and incapable’ at an October 18 mass meeting.”

Before joining SCLC, Sampson had been executive secretary of the Atlanta branch of the NAACP. “The NAACP, I’m the only person, along with Albert Dunn and Charles Wells, that got arrested in Atlanta, Ga.,” Sampson said. Constance Baker Motley [who wrote the original complaint in Brown v. Board of Education and later became the first Black woman judge appointed to the federal bench] was my attorney. Burke Marshall was the special counsel for the Justice Department and I’m the first person in America to testify for the United States Civil Rights Bill on the [segregationist restaurant owner and later Georgia governor] Lester Maddox Pickrick Restaurant case... But the NAACP ain’t never gave me no award.” Sampson did more than take on Maddox, who closed his restaurant after passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act to avoid serving African-American customers.

Taylor Branch, author of a civil rights trilogy that won a Pulitzer Prize, wrote about the imprisonment of Sampson in Mississippi’s notorious Parchman Prison Farm, 200 miles north of the Mississippi Delta. In one of his books, At Canaan’s Edge, Branch wrote, “Prisoners smuggled out word that guards were beating the known leaders including SCLC’s Rev. Al Sampson and that the 409 Natchez inmates were stripped, force-fed laxatives, and chilled by night fans.” Later in the book, Branch described how Sampson, Rev. Archie Hargraves and Bill Clark formed “a human shield around three terrified Puerto Rican men” in Chicago who had been cornered by a street gang.

In Coretta’s book – she got a book, My Life with Martin Luther King – she mentions James Orange, James Bevel and myself living with Dr. King on the West Side of Chicago, on 16th and Hamlin, Sampson said. I’m all up in the book. But they built a development for him last week and flew Marty King in – that’s alright. But I was on the property, in the building, documented by the mama but they didn’t invite me.

SNCC was formed at a meeting on the campus of Shaw University while Sampson was enrolled there. I gave SNCC the keys to Tucker Hall at Shaw University because they didn’t have no meeting place, Sampson said. I would have been a member of SNCC but I was already president of the NAACP on campus. They had a reunion last summer. They didn’t invite me and they didn’t give me no award.

Once NAN made the decision to honor Sampson, he took extra precaution.

I didn’t sleep much last night, he told the audience in New York. I’ve been behaving myself the last two days because I didn’t want Brother Richardson [Board Chairman W. Franklyn Richardson] or Al Sharpton to take my award from me.

Although Sampson kept everyone at the ceremony laughing, ignoring his role in the movement was no joke.

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 website, www.georgecurry.com. You can also follow him at www.twitter.com/currygeorge.

Thousands Being Killed in Ivory Coast as World Looks Elsewhere

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While the world’s attention is fixed primarily on turmoil in Libya, Syria, and Yemen, thousands of Ivorians are being murdered in fighting that pits supporters of Côte d’Ivoire incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo against challenger Alassane Ouattara. Both men claim to have won the disputed election in a country already torn by a nine-year civil war.

President Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and the United Nations have recognized Ouattara as the duly elected president of Côte d’Ivoire, which is French for Ivory Coast. What’s loosely referred to as the international community has accused Gbagbo of assorted human rights violations, including killing some of his political opponents.

Recently, however, the U.N. was forced to acknowledge that both sides have been guilty of killing civilians. Aid workers said that as many as 1,000 people were killed by Ouattara’s forces in Duekoue, a Gbagbo stronghold in western Côte d’Ivoire.

Amid conflicting reports coming out of Abidjan, the commercial capital of the country, it is difficult to know for certain what is going on there. Charles Steele, Jr,, former president of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC) and I visited Abidjan two months ago and were stunned to see how widespread news reports failed to mirror the reality we witnessed on the ground.

One-sided reporting is reflected in reporters, who routinely refer to Gbagbo as the nation’s “strongman” and Ouattara as the “internationally recognized” president. As I have written in this space, few reporters have read the Ivorian constitution that puts into place a two-step process that determines how national leaders are elected.

Under Article 32 and Article 94 of the Ivorian constitution, ballots are tallied and results are announced by the Independent Electoral Commission. The second and less publicized step is the final declaration of winners made by the Constitutional Council, the equivalent of the United States Supreme Court.

In the case of the disputed presidential election, Ouattara was declared the winner of a run-off on November 28, 2010 by the Independent Electoral Commission, a decision that the U.S., France, and the European Union cited as the basis of their support for the challenger.

Pierre Sane, the Paris-based former general secretary of Amnesty International, notes that the so-called Independent Electoral Commission is anything but independent. Of the 31 members, 20 are from rebel groups and their political supporters.

“One way or the other, the‘Independent Commission’ is in point of fact controlled by the opposition,” Sane wrote in an analysis. “Its chairman is a senior member of the opposition coalition, and a former PDCI minister in the Gbagbo cabinet.”

After examining challenged ballots, the Constitutional Council declared Gbagbo the winner by a margin of 51.45 percent to 48.55.

Sarkozy, among others, cried foul because of the seven justices, four are appointed by Gbagbo and three are appointed by the president of the National Assembly. Sarkozy should be one of the last people to complain because, as he knows, the Ivorian constitution is modeled after the French constitution.

In a January interview with me, Gbagbo said the Ivorian judicial system is not unlike the one in the U.S. where the president appoints Supreme Court justices, subject to Senate confirmation.

On March 9, when most of the world was looking at dramatic events in Libya, President Obama issued a three-paragraph statement deploring violence in Côte d’Ivoire that he blamed on “security forces loyal to former President Laurent Gbagbo.”

He added, “As we have said since the election results in Côte d’Ivoire were certified, the people of Côte d’Ivoire elected Alassane Ouattara as their President and Laurent Gbagbo lost the election. Former President Gbagbo’s efforts to hold on to power at the expense of his own country are an insult to the universal rights of his people, and the democracy that Côte d’Ivoire deserves… It is time for former President Gbagbo to heed the will of his people, and to complete a peaceful transition of power to President Ouattara.”

President Obama is wrong. It’s time for the United States, France, and even some African countries to stop trying to force their will on a sovereign country. Democracy can often be a messy process and the U.S. can’t intervene in every country that elects a leader it opposes. Clearly, mistakes have been made by supporters of both Gbagbo and Ouattara. Regardless of which side one favors, Ivorians followed their constitution in choosing Gbagbo over his challenger and that process should be respected.

Considering the sharp political divisions in Côte d’Ivoire, it is unlikely that either Ouattara or Gbagbo could be an effective leader under current circumstances. Therefore, the so-called international community should stop favoring one candidate over the other and instead call for an immediate halt to the killing. Once that’s accomplished, a new election should be held with each candidate obliged to honor the outcome.

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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