Letters are posted as we receive them during the week, and before they are printed in the paper, so check back frequently to see new letters. If you'd like to send a letter to the editor, use this postmarks submission form, or email your letter directly to Thanks for your patience.
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Time for a Truce in the 'Culture Wars'

RECEIVED Wed., Nov. 17, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Although I sometimes find myself in agreement with Bill Maher, his comments in last week’s Chronicle highlight something that I think is truly disappointing about the state of tolerance in our current political climate ["The Bad American," Arts, Nov. 12]. Maher points out that the main obstacle to our country’s intellectual enlightenment is our national inclination toward religion, which he claims is a product of America being "young" and "dumb." I find this analysis to be both incredibly egotistical and prejudicial, but I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he was speaking out of frustration over the presidential election.
   What is most important to note here is the intolerance and bigotry that Maher’s comments betray, a narrow-mindedness that is equally present on both sides of the, for lack of a better word, "culture war." Does the fierce antagonism between the religious right and the secular left wing really boil down to each side fearing the other’s evil plot to make decisions based on their own personal beliefs? Perhaps each faction thinks that the other will disappear once they have been properly condemned. Having an outspoken intellectual class, as we do, poses no clear threat to religion that I can see. Likewise, it’s hard for me to comprehend exactly how having a practicing religious population stands in the way of intellectual progress. The true problem, in fact, lies in the government’s unchecked power to prohibit any form of progress it chooses, a tool that will be monopolized by whichever faction is at the helm in Washington.
   The question that I find truly disturbing here is: Will either side of the "culture war" stop campaigning in their own self-interest long enough to realize that they’re destroying our civil liberties?
Josh Loposer

Follow Our Lead

RECEIVED Wed., Nov. 17, 2004

Dear Chronicle,
   As much as it pains me to write a letter critical of so faithfully a liberal publication as yourself, I cannot help but take issue with your disappointing attempt at "coverage" of the protests in Austin, which took place on Nov. 3, the day after Bush's (s)election part II.
   It was not 60, but at least six times that number that gathered in front of the Capitol on this day, in order to make visible their opposition to Bush and his agenda.
   Demonstrating a far greater sense of civic duty and proactivity than a lone individual holding an ominous "Dark Days" placard, more than 300 people took Congress Avenue (Austin American-Statesman, Nov. 4) in direct defiance of an intimidating police presence – not to mention a media-seduced culture – which seemed all-too-eager to ensure that "business as usual" continue uninterrupted no matter what the cost.
   Of course, it should have been 300,000, rather than a mere 300, who took Congress that evening – that is, had all of those who felt rage in their hearts been clearly aware of the "avenue" of expression available to them. But that is the work for us to do. All we ask of you, the Chronicle, is that you be out in the streets with us long enough to get a full ac-count of the events that transpire – now, in the next four years, and beyond.
Aaron J. Lozier
   [News Editor Michael King responds: At the time Chronicle photographer Jana Birchum took the photograph, there were about 60 protesters present; subsequently the crowd grew, but according to others present, Aaron Lozier's estimate is generous.]

'Chronicle' Music Coverage Sucks

RECEIVED Wed., Nov. 17, 2004

Dear folks at the Chronicle,
   Well, I finally had to write and bitch after all these years of sitting by and watching your mag slowly become nothing more than a springboard for whatever new record Willie Nelson, Jimmie Vaughan, or Los Lonely Boys decide to fart out. The glaring omission of last Friday’s (Nov. 12) show at Emo’s by the group the Sun City Girls was the straw that broke the camel's back. I used to feel that when you left something out it was because the venue ran no ad; no ad – no mention. And I guess I could live with that, times being what they are. But when I noticed that Emo’s, who run an ad every single issue received no mention of this very important show, I realized that you guys really don't have a clue, or have become too lazy to stay up past 10 and check out what's really going down these days in the underground of your very own city. I can remember a time when in the Chronicle’s salad days, no punk rock act was deemed too obscure to rate a mention, if not a two-page spread with photos. Now, right under your dumb noses, on any given night, whether it's at the Church of the Friendly Ghost, Ceremony Hall, Ballet Austin (or any of the few alternative venues left in the city that the economy hasn't managed to kill yet), 200 people might line up to see a world-class sax player from Germany do a solo set, or listen to a visiting Japanese musician playing electronic music that changes the very fabric of space and time. And, to be fair, you usually give some touring and local acts the polite nod and wink, but you never make like you enjoy it, understand it, or find it the least bit interesting. But, let some white girl with an acoustic guitar play Flipnotics to 20 people and your crack team of reporters is all over it like stink in a boot. Emo’s was packed to the rafters by the way without your help, with lovers of experimental mayhem from all parts of our fair country, not just the same 50 local people. So job well done, Chronicle! Go on back to sleep and dream of the next Jerry Jeff reunion, I guess the Austin experimental scene doesn't really need you anyway. But it would be nice to share this adventure together.
Rick Reed

I'm Leaving the Country

RECEIVED Wed., Nov. 17, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The letters columns are filled with anguished Democrats vowing to fight on. They are free to carry on this rear-guard action, but I've found a great personal release from these anxieties. I'm leaving the country.
   Conscious Americans must realize that they are citizens of an aggressive empire in decline. All previous empires have fallen. One remains. Kerry would have prolonged the decline. Bush will hasten it.
   The USA is militarily strong, economically weakening, and already politically weak due to its shattered credibility. Its only allies are bought or coerced. World public opinion is united as never before in opposition. Latin America is moving steadily out of U.S. control. The USA only gets grudging cooperation because it has the world's largest economy, in which the whole world's capitalist class is financially involved. But try to name any country that would make a significant military contribution to a U.S.-led coalition attacking Iran. In addition to lacking allies, the U.S. military is already overextended with no change in sight short of a draft, which would trigger massive resistance. A deeply divided U.S. electorate further weakens Bush's position.
   Besides white racism, Americans voted for Bush because they are, on a very basic level, aware of their privileged status in the world and want a tough guy to help them keep it. Those beliefs will ultimately lead to an insoluble crisis, and Republicans, Democrats, Greens, et al, will go down on the same ship.
Bon voyage,
David Hamilton

This May Sound Melodramatic but ...

RECEIVED Wed., Nov. 17, 2004

Dear Editor,
    While our heads are in our video games and elsewhere, our country is moving steadily toward a police state. This sounds melodramatic but it’s a logical extension of what we see happening around us. The forces that be – global corporations and religious fundamentalists – are systematically assembling their Reich before our eyes. These forces have commandeered the Republican Party, which used to be a serious and responsible body, and are well on their way to controlling the Democratic Party. By vilifying their political opposition, a tactic that wins elections, these forces are casting us as bad guys in the minds of those who blindly follow the leader. As their legislative majorities, judicial appointments, and executive presumptions grow, our civil rights shrivel. The climate of fear in which we now live is more than a seasonal storm.
    Americans I encounter are decent and honest, regardless of the political affiliation they profess. We want jobs, health care, education, comfort for our aged, and the respect of the world community. But we have been divided – not united – turned against each other by the politics of fear. Emboldened by the "mandates" Republicans received in the election, they can now endeavor to frighten you further so you will sit down, shut up, pay taxes, and consume. The U.S. government will continue to "save the world from the heathen Arab hordes" while big corporations (at least the CEOs) enjoy obscene profits from the business of war. George Bush may not be the Antichrist, but he is acting just as I would expect the Antichrist to act. Killing innocent people is wrong, whether it is done by terrorists or the U.S. As a bumper sticker declares, "I love my country but I fear its government."
    It’s not over. There will be other elections, unless martial law is declared to control "domestic terrorists." (OK, maybe that is paranoia, but you’re thinking that it’s possible, aren’t you.) Meanwhile, if we the people have the guts to lean on our elected representatives, George Bush can be impeached and convicted. There is ample justification based on his conduct of the Iraqi war, with charges far more serious that any made against previous presidents. We can do better, and we will.
Phil Eagleton

Empathy Shows Us the Path

RECEIVED Tue., Nov. 16, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Michael Ventura's article "Dancing in the Dark" ["Letters @ 3am," Nov. 12] is the most astute analysis I have read of the election. My contempt for Bush voters is gone; I now have empathy. I will read the article often to make sure I stay on the right path. It is my compass. Thank you.
Arlene Joyce
El Cerrito, Calif.

Bush's Revenge Tactics

RECEIVED Tue., Nov. 16, 2004

Dear Editor,
   We did survive and are still surviving trickle-down economics brought to us by self-serving legislators and administrative cronyism.
   Porter Goss forgot to take a public-relations course along with Cheney and Rumsfeld. The CIA is going to be torn apart by Bush revenge tactics for his own pre-9/11 bloopers.
Clyde L. Harris

Doesn't Like Tolls

RECEIVED Tue., Nov. 16, 2004

Dear sir,
   I have had enough! The people in public office (both elected and appointed) who went along with state recommendations regarding the toll road plans have clearly demonstrated their incompetence, their special interests, and their disregard for the taxpayer.
   I regret that I supported Mayor Will Wynn and Gov. Rick Perry. They, their appointees, members of CAMPO, and certain City Council members have demonstrated reckless disregard for their fiduciary duties.
   Oakhill was destroyed to make way for the 290 freeway, which was then allowed to terminate into one lane for years. Businesses have been closed for years to make room for the unfinished portion at the Y. This is incredibly poor planning. Then, after creating this mess with my tax dollars, our representatives decided to force us into a tollbooth to cross the street, not only at the Y, but at William Cannon as well. The William Cannon plan is so ridiculous it is already being reconsidered, but the Y intersection is no different, and extending 290 to the airport is equally similar. Apparently our representatives thought that since we were being so inconvenienced already by the mess previously created that we would go along with a toll plan just to get the problem resolved. Well, think again!
   The taxpayers of Austin are not so stupid or so desperate as to blindly allow those representatives to push this toll plan down their throats. I applaud the reaction to these proposals, and I hope this is sufficient to see that we need to clean house of this type of politician. I have better things to do than spend my time doing their job for them, but unfortunately, I have no choice.
Allen Seale

Where Is Kerry's Leadership Now?

RECEIVED Tue., Nov. 16, 2004

Dear Chronicle Reader,
   I do not know about you, but with all the allegations of voter discrepancies and fraud, I am completely mystified (and not a little angry) as to why Sen. Kerry has not withdrawn his concession or at the very least made some comment on the issue. Why is he so silent?
   We need someone to fight for our rights, and strategically he is in a prime position to be our leader in this battle. And as much as this peace-loving person hates to admit it, we are in a battle here.
   What is he waiting for? George W. and the Republican Party to hand him the leadership of the country? It ain't gonna happen. Sen. Kerry should know he does not have to have the title of president to lead. So he needs to lead ... now.
   I am an outraged voter in Austin where my vote was cast on an electronic machine with no assurance to its being cast or counted properly. I implore Sen. Kerry to stand up for me and others like me, as we stand up for ourselves. Together we must fight for the most basic tenet of democracy – a fair election.
With urgent sincerity,
Alison Schmidt-Romano

Against Toll Roads

RECEIVED Tue., Nov. 16, 2004

Dear Editor,
   My husband and I are against the establishment of any toll roads in Travis County.
Sincerely yours,
Cheryl and John Ferguson

Captain Boycott's Thoughts

RECEIVED Tue., Nov. 16, 2004

Dear Editor,
   KVUE-TV decided to celebrate Veteran's Day by not showing Saving Private Ryan. The stated reason was fear that youngsters would hear language on TV that they typically hear on the school bus. Or maybe they'd see images that might lead them to believe that maybe war isn't such a good idea. I'm unsure which; I couldn't hear, as I was screaming obscenities and throwing things at the TV.
   Let me see if I have this right; you're concerned about what they might see on TV, but not concerned where the parents are. Who is watching these children?
   I'm sorry, now I'm being foolish. You're worried about being fined by the FCC, and nothing else.
   Don't worry about offending me again, I won't be watching.
Rob "Captain Boycott" McCarty

Making Much Out of Nothing

RECEIVED Tue., Nov. 16, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Much is made every election year about the cultural divide between Democratic voters and Republican voters. It may be true that there's a cultural divide, but the Republicans do everything they can to exacerbate it. Making much out of trivia is one of their favorite tools, and of course the media laps this sort of stuff right up.
   It's hard to know which supposed symbol of the cultural divide is the silliest. Latte vs. regular brew is certainly in the running.
   My favorite, though, is the notion that Swiss cheese is a sign of elitism. I eat a lot of Swiss cheese, and I never knew I was one of the elite before, so as you can imagine I'm feeling pretty good about myself right now. I get my Swiss cheese at a gourmet food store called HEB. It's made by a specialty foods company known as Kraft.
Margie Hammet
Dripping Springs

Stop Slinging Crap!

RECEIVED Mon., Nov. 15, 2004

Dear Editor,
   "But internationally, America's arrogance – our anti-Muslim racism matched to a self-assured and proudly disdainful ignorance ..." ["Page Two," Nov. 5].
   Louis, you want anti-Muslim racism? It happened Tuesday in the Netherlands. A Muslim school was bombed, apparently in response to last week's killing of Dutch filmmaker Theo van Gogh. We may be clumsy and inefficient, but I have yet to hear that we deliberately bomb any mosques or schools. Also, the "ignorance" of this administration has forged a path to allow women to vote in Afghanistan and for women to compose no less than one-fourth of Iraq's National Assembly in representation.
   You speak of "the extraordinary genius of the democratic process" and "the power of the people." The people exercised that very power last week, and like it or not, they wanted Bush. Does that "genius" not count when the majority disagrees with you? Do you think people who voted for Bush are dumb, as the British Daily Mirror does?
   I voted for Kerry. I was confident that he could address a lot of things that have gone wrong inside the U.S. since Bush came into office. However, I was not confident that he would be taken seriously in the Arab community, or use diplomatic means to "reason with terrorists," or that he would be able to make any more headway with Kim Jong Il than Clinton did. I was hoping Kerry could make things better. But now that it's over, perhaps Bush will right a lot of things that went wrong – perhaps not. I'll put the same amount of faith in Bush that I did for Kerry.
   The statements in your commentary don't sound like "principled disagreement." You're making incendiary statements, offering nothing practical to create dialogue with the other side.
   Enough with slinging crap. Get over it. Move on.
Serge Pontejos
   [Louis Black responds: Let's not pit international anecdotal evidence against national anecdotal evidence, but in the wake of 9/11 in this country Mosques were bombed, Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslims) were shot at, and the government rounded up hundreds of Muslims and held them without charging them, many of whom were released after months of imprisonment with no justification ever offered. I would not argue that all Americans are anti-Muslim or even that such prejudice is official state policy. Such attitudes, however, have entered into public discourse on talk radio, in speeches by certain politicians, in some publications, and on many Web sites in a way that even a half decade ago would have been unthinkable. I leave it to each of you to consider how prevalent this attidue is, especially among the most Christian-centric, some of whose leaders advocate narrowing the separation of church and state. To cite two examples of European anti-Muslim hostility as a rebuttal of my charge is, however, ridiculous. Believing in the genius of the people should not suggest that the majority are unerringly right. Finally, principled disagreement does not suggest compliance or acquiescence and does allow for outrage, passion, and intensity. As to the success of democratic involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq, I truly hope that you are absolutely right in your assessment and that skeptics such as myself are forever put in our place and deeply humiliated by future developments. But don't you think it's just a bit early to declare success?]

The Right Is Wrong, the Left Stupid, Naderites Pure and Courageous

RECEIVED Mon., Nov. 15, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Not surprisingly, G.W. Bush, an illegitimate president that should be in jail, not elected (possibly, for the first time) into the White House – has taken, not been given, a mandate to further death and destruction throughout the world.
   In this political climate we have collectively built – one where citizens vote on who has the best "morals" (but where evaluating the morality of an unjust war as well as letting people stew in hunger, disease, and poverty in ours, the wealthiest country in the world, is not acceptable); where liberals step over each other to uphold a dying party – and corrupt candidates – that have left them far behind; where we just "show up" on Election Day expecting the miracle of the voting booth to save us just as, to some, the miracle of the free market has the power to save our economy – we could not have expected anything different.
   Although I'm proud (as state coordinator of the Nader campaign) of having stood up for peace and justice and for my democratic principals despite all pressure to do otherwise, I take no heart in knowing that lessons learned by progressives, if learned at all, will soon be forgotten.
   Never more have I been convinced of the saying "The right is wrong and the left is stupid." But if we can accept our failings, we might stand a chance in building a true movement of the people; especially if we leave behind institutions that leave people behind!
With hope,
Debbie Russell
Texans for Nader

Liberals Are Moral

RECEIVED Mon., Nov. 15, 2004

Dear Editor,
   After reading this last set of "Postmarks" [Nov. 12], I have had enough. Being liberal does not exclude you from having morals. I should know, I’m a liberal and I have them! I find the attack on "liberal morals" to be unnecessary and unjustified. I don’t hate conservatives. I disagree with their political stance and because I do should I be personally vilified?
   This election was won on "moral values"? It seems to me that our entire country has skewed morals. With everything awful that is going on in the world, are America’s enemies really two people who love each other, wanting rights to visit each other in the hospital, file joint tax returns, and retain property gained together? (Wasn’t interracial marriage a threat to the fabric of the family once?) Why is it OK to reduce emissions control standards in the name of the economy when the taxpayers are the ones who are getting sick from it? Any money saved here isn’t going to their heath insurance. The "Boycott Planned Parenthood movement" - yes, they provide access to abortion – however, they also save women's lives through affordable services to detect and treat cervical cancer and STDs, information on and access to contraception, and information on how to have a healthy pregnancy and a healthy baby. Abortion is a symptom of a bigger problem. I would like to see abortion stop, but it isn't going anywhere until we educate our children about prevention of unwanted pregnancies in the first place! So, love is worse than hate, saving the planet is worse than putting out the money for enhancing technology (we’ve put a man on the moon, but we can’t get an affordable electric car?), and condemning Planned Parenthood is better than telling teenagers about contraception?
   If this radical religious movement wants to continue, I suggest re-reading your Bibles. The same books used to condemn homosexuality require animal sacrifice for pretty much everything, say having ferrets makes you "unclean" (I’m screwed), dead bodies are "unclean" (sorry funeral homes, hospitals), cursing your parents is punishable by death (sorry teens), and other things that I doubt anyone would agree to today.
   I think that my morals (love, care, respect, and honesty for/toward my fellow human beings and stewardship for the planet) are consistent with Christian values. What changed?
Zephyr Luckenbach

Let's Keep It Going

RECEIVED Mon., Nov. 15, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Hooray! I'm always so happy to hear from progressives in a place like Texas. Here in New York City we always jokingly said it felt like a different country, but now it really does, and that feels very, very bad.
   I work in a settlement house situated in a low-income Bronx neighborhood, and I have never seen as many community folks discuss and participate in voting as during this past election! I agree with Mr. Ventura ["Letters @ 3am," Nov. 12]; let's keep it going, but with humor, optimism, and fearlessness.
Paula Walzer
New York, N.Y.

Stop Hernandez

RECEIVED Fri., Nov. 12, 2004

Mr. Black:
   If the Chronicle maintains its music department, what with an inept editor and a staff of writers hell-bent on questionably clever quips as opposed to critical analysis, the answer to Darcie Stevens’ question – "Will Austin’s live music row live to tell?" – will continue to be a resounding "no" [Music, Nov. 5].
   First, Ms. Stevens uses a Tuesday night – during the World Series, no less – to evaluate the success of the Red River District, which is patently absurd.
   Second, in her coverage of 11 clubs, the only criticism offered in the article’s content is the following: Clinic’s songs sound the same (never mind the obtuse reference to NYC synth duo Suicide, which is wholly inaccurate); Doe Montoya has a voice like a foghorn; Natchet Taylor is punk rock; and Three Pot Offy sounds like Motörhead, the Reverend Horton Heat, and Nashville Pussy. When the writing’s critical, there’s no frame of reference. When the writing’s descriptive, it doesn’t inform the reader in the slightest.
   Here’s a thought … beyond the economic downturn of the last couple of years, perhaps the main reason for the music scene’s lack of growth has everything to do with the Chronicle’s seeming insistence on tunnel-vision coverage and an absence of informed, intelligent writing. And said criticism should fall directly on the shoulders of the music department’s editor, Raoul Hernandez.
   Never mind that he compared the Red Hot Chili Peppers to the legendary Miles Davis quintet of the mid to late Fifties in previous issues (especially when he’s not deaf or blind). During his tenure, he’s ignored rising-star locals, only to cover them ad nauseam after their popularity has solidified (Los Lonely Boys, Fastball). He has either encouraged and/or allowed such limited coverage that up-and-comers wonder if such coverage is possible. And last, great writers (who will remain anonymous here) have repeatedly quit out of the sheer frustration of having to work beneath him.
   To close, it is the Chronicle’s duty to inform the public of Austin’s musical goings-on in order to generate interest, and, in turn, revenue enough for the scene to sustain itself. Instead, the paper has the nerve to question its staying power, all the while continuing to employ a music editor that allows redundant coverage and terrible writing (sometimes his own, sometimes not) for over a decade.
   Mr. Black, I beg of you. Make it stop.
Chris Grady

U.S. Not Anti-Muslim

RECEIVED Thu., Nov. 11, 2004

Dear Louis Black,
   By referring to America's "anti-Muslim racism" in your editorial, you only further Osama bin Laden's propaganda ["Page Two," Nov. 5]. Clearly, America is not anti-Muslim, as shown by our defense of the Muslims in Yugoslavia, by the evidence of our Constitution's Freedom of Religion clause, by the high degree of religious tolerance in our culture, and by the statements of President Bush. Bin Laden would like the world to believe that America is waging a war against all Muslims, when in fact our disagreement is with fascists who are using a twisted version of Islam to gain power. Please don't assist Osama bin Laden in your editorials.
Ted Christopher

War by the Numbers

RECEIVED Thu., Nov. 11, 2004

I'd like to add some items to Martin Wagner's checklist for Austin Chronicle readers that also measure the impact the next four years will have on the Iraqi population [Postmarks, Nov. 5].
   Number of Iraqis killed tops 50,000
   Number of Iraqis killed tops 75,000
   Number of Iraqis killed tops 100,000
   Oh, wait …
Sharon Hernandez

Well-Put Despair

RECEIVED Thu., Nov. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   Thank you for putting the despair I was feeling into such well-chosen words ["Page Two," Nov. 5].
Mary Franklin

Continue the Progressive Fight

RECEIVED Thu., Nov. 11, 2004

Dear Mr. Black,
   I enjoyed reading your sentiments on our recent election ["Page Two," Nov. 5]. I, like you, wish the outcome had favored Kerry. Last week I had intense feelings of depression alternating with anger. That I live in Houston, the back yard of Tom DeLay & company, didn't help. Travis County, which predominantly went for Kerry, is looking to me like a better place to live and work every day. (For the record, I was not born in Houston, so if I move to Travis County, please don't hate me.) The Houston Chronicle, our so-called metropolitan daily, continues lurching toward the right (it began with their endorsement of the Bush-Cheney ticket and continues with self-congratulatory letters from conservative readers that clog their editorial pages). I sent a stinging letter to their ombudsman reminding him that about a third of voters in Harris County didn't vote for Bush and that a 15% to 30% decline in readership was possible if they alienate enough of their readers long enough.
    For this week, as an experiment of sorts, I've decided to seek out other information sources such as the Statesman. (I already "tune in" to The Austin Chronicle online and pick it up when I visit town. Your writing is so much better.) I encourage you and your paper to continue writing your "Page Two" offerings, continue to carry the wisdom of Michael Ventura (whose next column I eagerly await), and continue to provide a visible media outlet for progressive thinkers like me.
Charles Tatum II

Textbook Censorship Denies Reality

RECEIVED Thu., Nov. 11, 2004

Dear Editor,
   The recent decision by the State Board of Education to censor sex education in health texts for Texas high school students stifles objectivity among adolescents and teenagers facing the challenges of sexual development and the responsibilities of sexual activity ["Texas Remains Sexless," News, Nov. 12]. An agenda aimed at advancing morality over the factual analysis of health care, family planning, social relationships, and self-evaluation serves neither student nor society. Moreover, the burden to taxpayers remains unrelieved, as Texas leads the nation in youth pregnancy. It is alarming that board administrators would vote to intentionally omit accurate representations of the human anatomy for the purpose of student/teacher reference, in favor of abstinence-only mandates. When will our consciences get a clue? Kids are having sex. Instead of teaching them that there is no such thing as sex, we should be teaching them age-appropriate behaviors and responsibilities.
Airie Hicks
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