Mike Coffman and the Aurora VA Hospital: Coffman’s Part of the Problem

(Right back at ya – Promoted by Colorado Pols)

As Rep. Mike Coffman appeared in Aurora today to grandstand at a U.S. Senate Veterans Affairs Committee field hearing about the troubled VA Hospital project in Aurora, ProgressNow Colorado, the state’s largest online progressive advocacy organization, released a new report documenting Coffman’s own oversight responsibility over the project, and failure to take action for years despite knowing that massive cost overruns were occurring.

“We all know the situation with the VA hospital in Aurora,” said ProgressNow Colorado executive director Amy Runyon-Harms, “a project that will drag on for years beyond its target completion date and is currently estimated to be a billion dollars over budget. But there are some key facts in this situation that have been conveniently overlooked.”

“Representative Mike Coffman, who represents district where the hospital is being built, has recently become very outspoken about this issue,” said Runyon-Harms. “Coffman can be outraged. He can be frustrated. But he cannot be shocked or surprised when as Chair of the Oversight Committee, he had known this information for years–and until recently has done almost nothing to fix the problem.”

In a report summarizing Rep. Coffman’s statements and actions in response to the Aurora VA Hospital’s cost overruns, ProgressNow Colorado finds that Coffman knew that the price of the new hospital would exceed a billion dollars, hundreds of millions over its original budget, since at least 2013. Coffman participated in the drafting of legislation to address problems identified in early 2013 by the General Accounting Office, but admitted delaying the bill for 16 more months.

Read the report in full here.

“As chair of the Veterans’ Affairs Oversight Committee, it has always been Coffman’s responsibility to do something about the problems at the Aurora VA Hospital project,” said Runyon-Harms. “But up until this point, all we’ve gotten is finger pointing, grandstanding, and even attempting to fundraise off of this catastrophe for his re-election. There is plenty of blame to go around for this budget-busting debacle, but Mike Coffman has spent over 5 years on the Armed Services Committee, and over 2 years as the Chair of the VA Oversight Subcommittee. So instead of political grandstands, we call on Coffman to take some responsibility for this problem, and offer real solutions instead of slogans to get it fixed.”

“Coffman is fond of the words ‘lead, follow, or get out of the way,'” said Runyon-Harms. “It’s time for Coffman to take his own advice.”

The Office of Consumer Counsel: Sonnenberg’s Faustian Bargain

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg.

The Denver Post’s Joey Bunch reports on a deal in the works with Colorado Senate Republicans to prevent the Office of Consumer Counsel from sunsetting–an office important to consumer advocates to represent utility customers in rate hike proceedings.

As Bunch reports, Republicans are seeking a pound of flesh in exchange:

Consumer groups have been fretting the fate of the Office of Consumer Counsel, whose experts have helped convince the Colorado Public Utilities Commission that some of the rate increases requested by gas, power or phone providers are either more than necessary or not necessary at all.

The agency will reach its sunset on July 1, unless the legislature passes Senate Bill 271 or tries to revive the agency early in next year’s session. There’s a provision that allows the office to “wind down” for one year, but a delay would deal it a crippling blow, supporters say.

Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, is sponsoring the bill and will argue its merits before the Senate Business, Labor and Technology Committee next week. The bill could be heard and moved to the full Senate as early as Tuesday or as late as Thursday, though it’s not on the committee agenda for either day as of Thursday evening. Despite the late hour of the legislative session, Sonnenberg is confident the reauthorization will face few roadblocks on its way to the governor.

“I don’t see there’ll be much opposition,” he said. “I do understand there’s a little bit of heartburn about taking out the telecom.” [Pols emphasis]

That’s right–the “deal” being offered by GOP Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg would reauthorize the OCC for the purpose of negotiating electrical and gas service rates, but would strip the office’s authority where it concerns telecommunications services. Bunch quotes the director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group warning that “now’s not the time to bench Colorado’s consumer advocate on telephone issues.” So why is this happening, you ask?

It’s simple: CenturyLink and the rest of Colorado’s telecom players have really good lobbyists. There’s nothing about stripping the OCC of its authority in telecom utility service negotiations that helps consumers, but with the legislative session winding down and Republicans in control of the Senate by one seat, this is in all likelihood the best deal consumers are going to get. And if you don’t like it, your alternative is to lose all of your representation before the Public Utilities Commission on rate hikes.

Such a deal, Sen. Sonnenberg.

Get More Smarter on Friday (April 24)

Today is not the anniversary of anything particularly important, as far as we can tell. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► The U.S. Senate is coming to Colorado…some of them, anyway. Members of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee will be in Aurora today for a field hearing regarding the ongoing problems with construction at the Aurora VA Hospital.

► The State Senate gave preliminary approval on Thursday to legislation intended to reduce student testing requirements in Colorado. The State House is scheduled to discuss a similar bill today.

► Republicans are going to have a tough time continuing to pretend that so-called fetal homicide Personhood legislation is anything but a purely political attempt to restrict abortions in Colorado; some of the language used in SB-268 is exactly the same as wording used in model legislation proposed by the group Americans United for Life.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Friday Open Thread

“I do not like broccoli. And I haven’t liked it since I was a little kid and my mother made me eat it. And I’m President of the United States and I’m not going to eat any more broccoli.”

–President George H. W. Bush

By Hook or by Crook: Colorado GOP’s Attempt to “Seize” U.S. Public Lands

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Old Fuss and Feathers defeated the Mexican general Santa Anna leading to the acquisition by the United States of lands in Western Colorado.

The story in my family is that General Winfield Scott is a grandfather.  My own connection, I suppose, and not yet seven generations removed, to the tragedy of ‘Manifest Destiny.’

Scott was a colonel when he marched the Cherokee to Oklahoma on the Trail of Tears.  And he was a general when he took Mexico City, and the United States took half of Mexico in what has long been considered an unprovoked and unjust war.

Where I sit today, along the arroyos that sweep down from the flanks of the Grand Mesa, maybe right atop where Friar Dominguez stood to look at the plain of the North Fork of the Gunnison 80 years before my forebear marched against Santa Anna, and when the valley was still claimed by Spain; this was all part of  Mexico, and ceded at the point of a bayonet in the treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1848.

Of course the land only ‘belonged’ to Spain and then Mexico in the sense that they claimed it, their explorers and traders and trappers passed through most certainly on occasion, as had the Spanish friars in 1776, not too far from what became one leg of the Old Spanish Trail

And other people already lived here too.  The Spaniards did not discover it. Indeed in western Colorado, and right here in the North Fork, people have made their home for 12,000 years or more.  

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Hypoglycemia Pushes “Dr. Chaps” To Run For SD-12?

The Colorado Springs Gazette’s Kassondra Cloos reports:

What was billed as a town hall meeting turned into a half-hour tease for Rep. Gordon Klingenschmitt’s announcement that he plans to run for a state Senate seat.

Klingenschmitt, R-Colorado Springs, went through a list of his accomplishments in the state Legislature Wednesday at the Airplane Restaurant. He also discussed his attempts to “fight for Republican principles” that didn’t make it through the Democrat-controlled House. He took a small handful of questions limited to constituents in House District 15, teasing his “plans for 2016″ along the way, before announcing he plans to run for Senate District 12…

Colorado Senate District 12 is currently represented by Senate President Bill Cadman, who is term-limited. Cloos reports (as our readers already know) that former Rep. Bob Gardner is planning a run for this seat, and there are rumors that former House Minority Leader Mark Waller could also throw his hat in the ring. Under ordinary circumstances, we’d say either of those experienced lawmakers should be more than a match for Rep. Gordon “Dr. Chaps” Klingenschmitt, for whom the controversies have flowed fast and furious since his inauguration in January. But Klingenschmitt has surprised us before, winning the seat to begin with despite a long history of over-the-top on-camera craziness as part of his “Pray in Jesus’ Name” Youtube ministry.

If this does turn out to be a career-ending misstep for Rep. Klingenschmitt, he may be able to attribute it to a 72-hour fast he claims to have engaged in before making the decision. We don’t know about you, but after 72 hours without food we’d be in no condition to make any kind of responsible decision.

In all seriousness, though, while it’s true that Klingenschmitt has placed himself in the line of fire against two experienced and theoretically more credible politicians, we can’t ignore the potential positive effect of the large amount of press “Chaps” has garnered in recent months. Klingenschmitt believes that Obama is possessed by demons and that gay people should not have civil rights, and the voters of House District 15 didn’t care in the least–electing him by a wide margin anyway. How many conservatives in SD-12 might actually agree with Klingenschmitt, as disgusting as it may sound, that Michelle Wilkins was punished by God for America’s sin of abortion?

For this reason and others that are similar, we’d be fools to count him out.

There’s just gotta be better ways to advance the conservative agenda on talk radio than holding the hand of Lisa Pinto

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Former Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

Former Colorado GOP chairman Ryan Call, Jefferson County Schools Communications Officer Lisa Pinto.

One wonders if the GOP’s Leadership of the Rockies Program, which schooled GOP operative Lisa Pinto, needs to add a class on how to gracefully ignore anonymous tweets.

In her job as Chief Communications Officer for the Jefferson Country  School District, Pinto has massively more important problems on her plate than complaining about tweets directed at her. Yet, she’s wasting time on conservative talk radio whining about her tweets.

You’d any right-leaning talk radio program, normally home base for the get-over-it approach to personal problems, would boot her off the show, but KNUS host Krista Kafer wrapped Pinto in a warm blanket, introducing a April 3 segment on the tweets:

Kafer: “So there are these people out there. I don’t know. Do they not work? Do they not have a hobby? Do they not garden? I don’t know, but apparently they have a lot of extra time just to be mean. I guess being mean is a hobby.”

This opened the floodgates from Pinto, who emphasized that she took time on vacation to discuss the tweets on KNUS 710 AM, not on the taxpayer dime. (Listen below.)

“Thanks for taking up this really important topic,” Pinto told Kafer. “It’s really crazy that this is going on in this day an age in Colorado.”

Really important? Crazy in this day and age?  She’s a communications pro? Maybe she’s under the spell of the Independence Institute, which found recent tweets about Jeffco-School topics so important that it established a website, MeanGirlz.org, to promote them. Read more about this in Westword.

Anyway, Pinto went on for the next 20 minutes or so, making me wonder if she knew anything at all about the content of Twitter.

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“Fetal Homicide” Bill Uses Anti-Abortion Group’s Model Language

UPDATE: Credit where due–in a report broadcast today, Colorado Public Radio’s Megan Verlee becomes the first local reporter to correctly identify the origin of the language in Senate President Bill Cadman’s “fetal homicide” bill–a national anti-abortion group.

University of Colorado law professor Jennifer Hendricks testified that similar laws in other states have led to pregnant women being prosecuted for having miscarriages or taking drugs, in spite of similar protections.

“My concern that it will be interpreted much more broadly is not hypothetical. It is exactly how an Alabama Supreme Court interpreted a similar law,” Hendricks said.

Abortion rights supporters say a fetal homicide law could also have a chilling effect on access to abortion. The bill was modeled after legislation written by an anti-abortion group, [Pols emphasis] although the organization says it is not attempting to limit the procedure with this policy.

As we detail below, Americans United for Life most certainly is attempting to limit abortions as part of this legislative strategy–just a little over the horizon. Original post follows.

—–

Senate President Bill Cadman.

Senate President Bill Cadman.

As the Durango Herald’s Peter Marcus reports, Senate Bill 15-268, the so-called “fetal homicide” bill introduced by GOP Senate President Bill Cadman last week as a “response” to the horrific attack on a pregnant Longmont women last month, passed its first hearing in the GOP-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee:

After a nearly five-hour hearing, the Republican-controlled Senate Judiciary Committee backed the bill on a 3-2 party-line vote, with support from Sen. Ellen Roberts of Durango.

“This bill, I don’t see it about abortion,” Roberts said. “I see it as criminal justice.”

Senate Bill 268 was introduced by Republican leaders in the waning days of the legislative session in reaction to a recent horrific event in Longmont in which a woman suffered as her 7-month-old fetus was cut from her womb by another woman. The fetus died.

The issue is mired in controversy, as pro-choice advocates say that the legislation would create so-called “personhood” in the state, which they fear would lead to arresting and charging women for murder simply for having an abortion…

“I support a woman’s right to choose, and for nine years in this building, my voting record shows that,” Roberts said. “It does not create personhood, and I’m very disappointed in those who have perpetuated that myth.”

Although the legislation contains vaguely-worded exemptions for “medical procedures” and acts “performed by the mother of her unborn child,” the fact remains that the bill grants legal rights to fetuses “at every stage of gestation from conception until live birth.” That provision, say opponents, is functionally identical to the Personhood ballot measures, and sets a dangerous precedent that could be used to undermine abortion rights in the future.

And there’s another problem that was pointed out in debate over this legislation yesterday by Democratic Sen. Andy Kerr: despite insistence from Cadman and other GOP supporters that this legislation is not meant to undermine abortion rights, Senate Bill 15-268 in fact uses verbatim model language supplied by Americans United for Life–one of the nation’s foremost anti-abortion advocacy groups. Here’s the model language from AUL in its entirety. And here’s the part that matters:

aulmodel

Compared to the relevant portion of Colorado Senate Bill 15-268:

sb268

For their part, Americans United for Life proudly noted in a press release yesterday that Senate Bill 15-268 is “based on AUL model legislation.” So it’s not like they’re being secretive about this. Despite that, we have yet to see any of the extensive press this issue is receiving note that Cadman’s bill is cribbed directly from “the nation’s premier pro-life legal team.” That’s how AUL describes themselves on their About Us page:

At the state, federal and international levels, AUL works to advance life issues through the law and does so through measures that can withstand judicial obstacles so that pro-life laws will be enforced. AUL knows that reversing Roe v. Wade can be accomplished through deliberate, legal strategies that accumulate victories, build momentum, and restore a culture of life. [Pols emphasis]

But AUL’s distinction extends beyond federal measures. AUL works at the state level to craft tailored strategies and legislative tools that will assist state and local officials as they defend and protect life…

[AUL] has been unparalleled in pointing the way to protecting women now, to limiting the abortion license created by the Supreme Court, and to preparing the ground to overturn Roe. [Pols emphasis]

This legislation is, by the explicit admission of its true authors, part of a much broader strategy to chip away at Roe v. Wade. What happens when the rights this legislation confers on unborn fetuses today are interpreted tomorrow to be “unjust” since they contain exemptions? Once you legitimize these legal rights from the moment of conception, you’ve set down exactly the path AUL wants you to be on as part of their long-term objective of overturning Roe v. Wade–and curtailing or eliminating abortion rights nationwide.

Bottom line: if you’re wondering why pro-choice advocates and their Democratic allies are suspicious of ulterior motives at work here, you can stop wondering. Beneath the veneer of a “response” to last month’s horrific crime, a longstanding agenda to attack abortion rights is what this whole debate is about.

Get More Smarter on Thursday (April 23)

By the end of the week, the black market for carnitas will be booming. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► After five months of waiting, the U.S. Senate is finally on the cusp of confirming President Obama’s nomination of Loretta Lynch as Attorney General. Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner announced this morning that he planned to vote NO on Lynch’s confirmation. Seriously.

► There is a concerted effort underway in Jefferson County to “destroy” the teacher’s union, as Colorado Pols reported late yesterday. Jon Caldara and the Independence Institute may need to work fast — Julie Williams and the right-wing Jeffco School Board might just “destroy” the entire school district first.

 

Get even more smarter after the jump…

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Senator Gardner’s flip-flop on state control raises questions about his conservation credentials

(Promoted by Colorado Pols)

Colorado Senator Cory Gardner’s first month in the Senate was marked by some encouraging decisions for Westerners who value a balanced approach to natural resource management, including his opposition to extreme plans to transfer control of national public lands to the states.

However, Sen. Gardner’s plan to delay decisive action on the Greater sage-grouse listing for six years is the same kind of power grab as Sen. Murkowski’s land grab bill.

Judging by the industry groups who have lined up to support this bill, Sen. Gardner seems to be saying his position on transferring control to the states depends on who’s asking, and he certainly didn’t consult with the folks on the ground who have been working on this issue for years.

A male Greater sage-grouse.

A male Greater sage-grouse.

Sen. Gardner must have forgotten he represents the people and the business of Colorado, not just special interests. A recent Pew poll found that 80% of Coloradans believe it is important to protect the sage-grouse, and 72% percent of Coloradans support strong plans from BLM. Additionally, a report done by the Western Values Project found that over $76,700,000 is contributed to Colorado’s economy through outdoor recreation that takes place on sage-grouse land. Unfortunately, this legislation makes it seem as if Sen. Gardner is more concerned with pleasing special interests than the Coloradans he represents.

Sen. Gardner’s plan doesn’t recognize that the state-specific management he’s touting is already being done successfully through unprecedented collaborative efforts by stakeholders from all stripes in the 11 western states containing Greater sage-grouse.

The Department of Interior just announced a plan to keep sage grouse off the endangered species list, right now.  Not in six years.  That¹s the kind of action folks in Colorado and throughout the West would like to see from their leaders in Washington.

Jon Caldara Pitches “Dougco-Style” Jeffco Schools Takeover

UPDATE: Jon Caldara responds via Twitter:

And there you have it, folks…

—–

Jon Caldara.

Jon Caldara.

We were forwarded scanned copies today of a lengthy letter from the right-wing Independence Institute’s Jon Caldara, soliciting funds from members to wage war against “the teachers unions and their Leftist allies in Jefferson County.” We’ve posted all eight pages of Caldara’s letter below (click to pull up high resolution scans)–safe to say that this letter was not intended for consumption outside a very conservative audience, as the stated goals of Caldara’s campaign are distantly out of the mainstream.

For one thing, the “libertarian” Caldara launches into a defense of last year’s controversial AP History curriculum review proposal that would make Julie Williams blush:

caldarajeffcoaphis

That “the union” staged last year’s enormous student protests will come as a surprise to the students who actually organized them, and who explained to everyone who would listen that they were outraged by Williams’ AP History “review” proposal without anyone’s help. It’s worth noting that Caldara is aligned with Republican politicians who sent out mailers last year using doctored photos of student protesters to imply their support–even though the students were protesting against the GOP-dominated school board’s actions. Republican politicians who benefited from those mailers include Tim Neville, the brother-in-law of board member Julie Williams.

And again, isn’t Caldara supposed to be a “libertarian?” Don’t libertarians respect questioning authority in the classroom? We can only assume that Caldara wasn’t writing for a libertarian audience.

Here’s another tidbit that won’t sit well in swing Jefferson County. Ever since taking control of the school board in 2013, the new conservative majority has insisted that they were not modeling their agenda on Douglas County, the arch-conservative stronghold presently mired in a lawsuit over religious school vouchers, and which has seen considerable turnover of teachers and staff since a right-wing activist school board started enacting sweeping changes. Well folks, don’t tell that to Jon Caldara:

caldaradougco

caldaradougco2

We’d say their cover is pretty well blown at this point, but in case you needed more proof, here you go.

You can read Caldara’s angry screed in its entirety after the jump–click on the images to pull up full-resolution versions. And next time somebody tells you that there isn’t a right-wing ideological plot afoot to radically alter one of Colorado’s best-performing public school districts, show them this letter.

Because apparently there is.

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Doug “Mr. TABOR” Bruce Strikes Again–Literally

Doug Bruce.

Former Republican Rep. Doug Bruce, author of the 1992 Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, has been in the news a great deal lately as allegations of shady real-estate deals and unmaintained rental properties pile up around himself and his associates. Bruce’s handoff of property for which he owes the city of Colorado Springs thousands of dollars in a court judgment to city councilwoman Helen Collins has caused a significant scandal, recently compounded by revelations about blighted apartment buildings in Kansas City owned by Collins and “managed” by Bruce.

Earlier this month, Bruce was in court for multiple alleged probation violations stemming in part from the above-described events. “Mr. TABOR” was convicted in 2011 of felony tax evasion, and among other offenses his business dealings with Helen Collins may well constitute violations of the terms of his release. Bruce has his next court hearing in June to face those allegations.

But as the Denver Post’s Jesse Paul reports, Bruce’s court visit on April 10th has netted him fresh legal troubles of a different kind:

An arrest warrant for assault has been issued in Denver for Douglas Bruce, the author of Colorado’s Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights, after an incident following a court appearance earlier this month.

The warrant was signed by a judge and issued out of the county’s court on Sunday, records show. The court clerk’s office says the warrant is for a municipal assault offense.

Bruce is accused of assault at the Lindsey-Flanigan Courthouse on April 10 where a video shows him grabbing a cell phone out of the hands of Dede Laugesen, executive director of Colorado Springs Government Watch. Bruce was leaving the courthouse following a hearing in which prosecutors accused him of violating his probation in his 2012 tax evasion conviction.

During Bruce’s brief tenure as the representative of Colorado House District 15 back in 2008, he was given a rare censure by the House after kicking a Rocky Mountain News reporter on the opening day of the legislative session. That incident was a major factor in the later GOP primary against Bruce won by Rep. Mark Waller.

As we’ve said on a number of occasions, Doug Bruce is not a nice man.

In a perfect world, the ongoing legal problems faced by the author of the Colorado GOP’s most treasured constitutional amendment, TABOR–especially his felony conviction for the highly ironic crime of tax evasion–would be a major credibility problem for anyone tasked with defending his handiwork. TABOR’s many Byzantine government-throttling provisions, which can’t even be undone in one initiative due to the subsequent passage of the state’s “single subject” rule for ballot measures, were carefully crafted to hobble the most basic functions of government Coloradans rely on. Nobody knew in 1992 that TABOR was written by what we know now is a criminal mind–and today, no Republican can admit this either, since blind support for TABOR is an article of faith in GOP circles.

But we’ll say it again: the author of the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights is a convicted criminal. A criminal felon tax evader. A criminal slumlord. And pending how this latest assault case turns out, a criminal thug too.

We’re grateful to have no political obligation to defend this man, and we’re sorry for those who do.

Get More Smarter on Wednesday (April 22)

GetMoreSmarter-EarthHappy Earth Day! Or, if you’re into that kind of thing, Happy Administrative Professionals’ Day. It’s time to Get More Smarter with Colorado Pols. If you think we missed something important, please include the link in the comments below (here’s a good example).

 

TOP OF MIND TODAY…

► Congressman Mike Coffman (R-Angry) is the Chair of the House Veterans’ Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations. It is supposed to be his job to provide oversight for stuff like, say, a complete mess of a VA Hospital project in Aurora. Coffman may not have much in the way of solutions for the VA’s problems, but that isn’t stopping him from raising money off of the scandal. Coffman’s spokesman had a bunch of gibberish to say in response to these allegations, but the best line of the story — which was picked up nationally — comes from Lynn Bartels in “The Spot” blog:

Less than six months ago, Coffman posted on his congressional web site an opinion piece thanking him for not being one of the members of Congress using the VA problems for fundraising.

D’oh!

Fetal homicide Personhood legislation will be introduced today in the State Senate.

► Senator Cory Gardner (R-Yuma) apparently doesn’t think the Sage Grouse is so greater. As Bruce Finley of the Denver Post reports:

Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner will introduce legislation in Congress on Wednesday that would bar the federal government from listing greater sage grouse as endangered and give western states six more years to revive grouse populations on their own…

…”We have an obligation to future generations to conserve and recover this species,” [said Gardner]. “But we can do it on our terms. Let’s put Coloradans in charge, let’s put Westerners in charge of the West.”

“Let’s put Westerners in charge of the West!” Who comes up with this crap?

 
Get even more smarter after the jump…

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