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COMMENTARY: Remembering the Silver Linings of 2020

NNPA NEWSWIRE — So, as the calendar turns to 2021, and many wish friends, family and associates, “Happy New Year!” we’ll place an overwhelming emphasis on the “New Year” portion of the sentiment.

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While some might argue that detecting a silver lining over the past 365 days is difficult, there was good news. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)
While some might argue that detecting a silver lining over the past 365 days is difficult, there was good news. (Photo: iStockphoto / NNPA)

By Stacy M. Brown, NNPA Newswire Senior National Correspondent
@StacyBrownMedia

There was little to celebrate or be happy about in 2020, particularly for Black America. So, as the calendar turns to 2021, and many wish friends, family and associates, “Happy New Year!” we’ll place an overwhelming emphasis on the “New Year” portion of the sentiment.

The year began with devastating news as the world learned that a helicopter carrying NBA legend Kobe Bryant and his daughter Gigi, had crashed into a mountainside just outside of Los Angeles. Bryant, his young daughter, the pilot and six other passengers were all killed in the accident.

In unfortunate, but anticipated news, 2020 headlines continued to report on two areas of disproportionate death tolls for Blacks: Police killings of unarmed African Americans, and the novel coronavirus pandemic, or COVID-19, which disproportionately affected communities of color.

While some might argue that detecting a silver lining over the past 365 days is difficult, there was good news.

The outgoing year saw many firsts and accomplishments for African Americans, including many from the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA), representing the Black Press of America.

Presidential candidates Joe Biden, Tom Steyer, and Michael Bloomberg all sat for interviews with NNPA President and CEO Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Jr.

Chavis, a civil rights icon, also helped raise the profile of the Black Press when he launched The Chavis Chronicles, a national television show with American Public Television.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation continued a campaign with the NNPA to raise awareness about education barriers for students of color and bridging the learning gap for minorities. That partnership has proven even more vital during the pandemic.

The United States, and much of the world, underwent an awakened awareness that Black Lives Matter now more than ever in 2020.

Following the murders of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, and others, major sports leagues, corporations, and others began acknowledging their responsibility in the fight for social justice and civil rights.

Led by LeBron James of the Los Angeles Lakers, NBA players exerted their popularity and authority by successfully demanding that the league honor the Black Lives Matter Movement.

Because of the players’ actions, the NBA opened its arenas to use as polling places, and the league agreed to promote social justice and civic engagement.

Major League Baseball and the National Football League also instituted initiatives with promises to do more for minorities at all levels.

The Google News Initiative (GNI) Innovation Challenge awarded Black Voice News (BVN) $300,000 in support of “Save the Black Press,” a bold call to action to innovate revenue and sustainability solutions at Black news organizations through the creation of the Data Access and Content Discovery Hub (DACDH).

Comcast Chairman and CEO Brian Roberts announced that Comcast would fight injustice and inequality against race, ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, or ability. With that, Roberts committed $100 million to a three-year plan to advance social justice and equality. The initiative includes a $75 million cash commitment and $25 million in media.

Facebook announced that 15 member publishers of the NNPA would receive $1.288 million in grants through the Facebook Journalism Project’s relief fund for local news.

The social media giant said more than 200 news organizations would receive nearly $16 million in grants, which stem from $25 million in local news relief funding announced in March as part of Facebook’s $100 million global investment in the news.

MSNBC named Rashida Jones the first Black person and Black woman president of the network. Jones, who quickly becomes the most prominent woman in cable news, is scheduled to step into the top role on Feb. 1, Black History Month, replacing Phil Griffin, who had been at the cable news channel for more than 25 years.

Mellody Hobson, a Princeton graduate who, in 2019, earned the Woodrow Wilson Award, the university’s highest honor, was named Chairwoman of the Board of Starbucks.

With the promotion, Hobson became the only African American woman to chair a Fortune 500 company.

Midshipman First Class Sydney Barber, a mechanical engineering major from Illinois, was named Brigade Commander for the spring semester at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland. Barber, a track star with a stated desire to work as a Marine Corps ground officer, becomes the first Black woman to lead the Naval Academy’s student body.

The Brigade Commander heads the Academy’s day-to-day activities and trains the class of approximately 4,500 midshipmen. Barber becomes the 16th woman to serve in that role.

There were significant changes in the world of entertainment as Valeisha Butterfield Jones, a leader, global influencer, and culture shifter, who co-founded the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WENN) and served as the National Youth Vote Director for President Barack Obama’s 2012 reelection campaign, was named the Recording Academy’s first Chief Diversity & Inclusion Officer.

While the traditional annual festival which hosts more than 350,000 people on Los Angeles’ Crenshaw Boulevard wasn’t in the cards because of the pandemic, Bakewell Media and the Los Angeles Sentinel found a new way to bring even more people together. The 15th annual Taste of Soul, the largest one-day street festival in Southern California, took place virtually in October.

Carol H. Williams received Ad Age’s Vanguard Award during this year’s Women to Watch Awards event. Williams, the CEO of Carol H. Williams Advertising, was honored for a lifetime of significant achievements, including being named to the AAF Advertising Hall of Fame.

2020 also answered the question, “What do Dr. Benjamin F. Chavis, Delores Tucker, Roland Martin, Gayle King, and Brent Staples have in common?” Each has made the Ebony Power 100 List, which annually recognizes leaders in their respective fields whom the iconic publication’s editors say have, “positively impacted the African American community.”

Retired NBA Star Junior Bridgeman announced the purchase of Ebony for $14 million. Ebony’s archives were previously sold for more than $30 million.

With death and hospitalizations piling up from the pandemic, a Black woman, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett, was at the forefront of a National Institutes of Health’s team that worked with Moderna on its coronavirus vaccine.

Corbett, an expert on the front lines of the global race for a SARS-CoV-2 vaccine, will go down in history as one of the key players in developing the science that could end the pandemic.

Many others on the front lines of the fight to educate and advocate for African Americans are also celebrated. African American physicians at the University of Virginia, including Drs. Ebony Hilton, Leigh-Ann Webb, Taison Bell, Rochanda Mitchell and Cameron Webb all proved to be trusted and vital sources of objective information throughout the pandemic.

Critical care nurse Sandra Lindsay, an African American in New York, became the first person in the country to receive Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine.

In November, the ticket of Joe Biden and Sen. Kamala Harris earned 306 electoral college votes and recorded more than 81 million popular votes to defeat President Donald Trump and Vice President Mike Pence.

Harris will become the nation’s first African American and first woman vice president.

In December, L+M Development Partners formally announced financing for a $349 million development project on the Bronx Harlem River waterfront in New York, including the Universal Hip Hop Museum. Construction is scheduled to commence in January.

The NNPA embraced online video and went “viral.”

With the goal of presenting each of the NNPA member media companies via an online panel format, the NNPA entered into online streaming aggressively under the theme, “Save Local Journalism.” Each of the streams featured up to four publishers who were able to share valuable insights, creativity, challenges and solutions.

Live audience interaction, in the form of questions and comments from those viewing the streams verified that the series of NNPA livestreams with African American newspaper publishers were an instant hit.

Other livestreams included interviews with superstars and legends like Ice Cube, Stephanie Mills, Ziggy Marley, Sugar Ray Leonard, Isiah Thomas, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, and LL Cool J.

Because of the livestreams, the NNPA gained new followers on all of its social media platforms and a dramatic increase in visitation to the BlackPressUSA.com website.

The 2020 Virtual NNPA Annual Convention — a first completely online event for the NNPA — proved wildly successful with several hundred thousand attendees viewing the event live and over the days that followed.

NNPA Livestream guests included a host of Congress members, including Congressional Black Caucus Chair Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Rep. Yvette Clarke (D-NY), and many others.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams, former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Regina Benjamin, and Meharry Medical College President and CEO Dr. James Hildreth also appeared on livestreams with the NNPA.

Live broadcasts also included several from the 2020 Afro-Comic Con, including a special broadcast featuring comedian Sinbad. The NNPA’s Dr. Nsenga Burton hosted a series of livestreams on the future of higher learning post COVID featuring the presidents of America’s Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). America was also introduced to the NNPA’s newest livestream series: “Ask Alma,” an interactive advice show.

The NNPA plans to broadcast even more live events in 2021.

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PRESS ROOM: New AARP Pennsylvania Poll: Black Voters 50+ Say Social Security, Inflation, and Medicare Will Influence 2024 Vote

NNPA NEWSWIRE — “With inflation and the rising costs of living squeezing all Pennsylvania households, Black voters 50+ are clearly looking for leaders with a plan,” said Bill Johnston-Walsh, AARP Pennsylvania State Director.  “Candidates would be wise to listen to their opinions and concerns if they want to win in November.”
The post PRESS ROOM: New AARP Pennsylvania Poll: Black Voters 50+ Say Social Security, Inflation, and Medicare Will Influence 2024 Vote first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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AARP Pennsylvania’s first 2024 election survey shows that candidates should pay close attention to Pennsylvanian voters ages 50 and older and highlights the priorities and concerns of Black voters ages 50 and older that will likely influence the outcome of the 2024 elections. Seventy-nine percent of Black voters in Pennsylvania are extremely motivated to vote this year. When asked about the issues that are important as they decide whom to vote for this November, older Black voters cited Social Security (92% say extremely or very important), Medicare (89%), policies to help seniors live independently at home as they age (87%), the cost of prescription drugs (86%) as key issues. Social Security and Medicare emerged as their top priority issue in their vote for Senate this year, with nearly twice as many Black voters 50+ choosing Social Security and Medicare as any of the other dozen issues tested.

“With inflation and the rising costs of living squeezing all Pennsylvania households, Black voters 50+ are looking for leaders with a plan,” said Bill Johnston-Walsh, AARP Pennsylvania State Director.  “Candidates would be wise to listen to their opinions and concerns if they want to win in November.” Among Black voters 50+, President Joe Biden (D) leads former President Donald Trump (R) by a large margin: 84% to 8%. In the race for U.S. Senate, Senator Bob Casey (D) leads Dave McCormick 87% to 7%.

Other key takeaways include:

  • 96% of Black voters 50+ say they are more likely to vote for a candidate for the U.S. Senate who advocated making sure workers get the Social Security they paid for through a lifetime of hard work.
  • Four of the five issues measured as cost concerns are important to many Black voters 50+: health care/prescription drugs, utilities, food, and housing; and
  • 58% of Black voters 50+ are worried about their financial situation including 63% of women. Health care/prescription drugs and housing are the biggest cost concerns.
  • 66% of Black voters 50+ and 73% of Black voters 65+ say Social Security is or will be a major source of their income.

AARP commissioned the bipartisan polling team of Fabrizio Ward & Impact Research to conduct a survey. The firms interviewed 1,398 likely Pennsylvania voters, which includes a statewide representative sample of 600 likely voters, with an oversample of 470 likely voters aged 50 and older and an additional oversample of 328 Black likely voters aged 50 and older, between April 24-30, 2024. The interviews were conducted via landline, cellphone, and SMS-to-web. The margin of sampling error for the 600 statewide samples is ±4.0%; for the 800 total sample of voters 50+ is ±3.5%; for the 400 total sample of Black voters 50+ is ±4.9%.

View the full survey results at aarp.org/PApolling.

For more information on how, when, and where to vote in Pennsylvania, visit aarp.org/PAVotes.

The post PRESS ROOM: New AARP Pennsylvania Poll: Black Voters 50+ Say Social Security, Inflation, and Medicare Will Influence 2024 Vote first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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Calif. Anti-Sex Trafficking Advocates Discuss Competing Bills, Strategies

OAKLAND POST — “It is time to send a thorough message that if you seek to buy a child for sex, you will pay the highest criminal penalties in this state,” said the Rev. Shane Harris, a San Diego-based activist, former foster youth and founder of the Peoples Association of Justice Advocates, (PAJA), a national civil rights organization and policy think tank. Harris, who was speaking at a rally at the State Capitol earlier this month, was speaking in support of Senate Bill 1414, authored by Sen. Shannon Grove (D-Bakersfield), which calls for people who buy sex from minors to be punished with a felony. The punishment includes a two-year prison sentence and a $25,000 fine.
The post Calif. Anti-Sex Trafficking Advocates Discuss Competing Bills, Strategies first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Bo Tefu, California Black Media | The Oakland Post

Advocates from across California are challenging state officials and community leaders to support legislation that provides resources and services for survivors and victims of human trafficking, as well as assistance as they transition back into civil society.

Some of those advocates are also calling for more effective state policy to curtail trafficking, a crime that has an outsized impact on Black children, particularly girls.

According to the FBI, a report covering a two-year period found Black children accounted for 57% of all juvenile arrests for prostitution. In addition, 40% of sex trafficking victims were Black and 60% of those victims had been enrolled in the foster care system.

“It is time to hold the perpetrators who take advantage of our children accountable,” said the Rev. Shane Harris, a San Diego-based activist, former foster youth and founder of the Peoples Association of Justice Advocates, (PAJA), a national civil rights organization and policy think tank.

“It is time to send a thorough message that if you seek to buy a child for sex, you will pay the highest criminal penalties in this state,” added Harris who was speaking at a rally at the State Capitol earlier this month. Harris was speaking in support of Senate Bill 1414, authored by Sen. Shannon Grove (D-Bakersfield), which calls for people who buy sex from minors to be punished with a felony. The punishment includes a two-year prison sentence and a $25,000 fine.

Harris said the PAJA is the only civil rights organization in the state that supports SB 1414.

Harris urged other Black-led groups who favor anti-trafficking legislation more focused on criminal justice reforms (as opposed to stiffer penalties), to “join the movement.”

Many of those civil rights groups fear that SB 1414 could lead to the incarceration of more Black youth.

Those sentiments were echoed in a panel discussion organized by Black women advocates on April 26 to examine the cause and effects of human trafficking in California’s Black communities. The virtual event was hosted by the Forgotten Children, Inc, a faith-based nonprofit that advocates for survivors and victims of human trafficking through anti-trafficking campaigns and initiatives.

Panelists shared the psychological impact of sexual exploitation on youth and children in the long term.

Author and educator Dr. Stephany Powell shared statistics and information revealing that African American women and girls are the most trafficked nationwide.

Powell, who serves as the senior advisor on law enforcement and policy at the National Center on Sexual Exploitation said that national data indicates that sex trade survivors are disproportionately women of color. She stated that male survivors often go unnoticed because boys rarely report trafficked crimes.

Powell said that decriminalizing prostitution in California could increase human trafficking. She argued that Senate Bill 357, authored by Sen. Scott Wiener (D-San Francisco), which was signed into law in 2022 and legalized loitering for prostitution, caused a surge in street-level prostitution.

Panelist and psychologist Dr. Gloria Morrow shared opposing views on decriminalizing prostitution. She said that decriminalizing prostitution could help survivors gain access to state resources and support.

Despite opposing views, Powell and Morrow agree that the Black community needs resources and educational programs to address human trafficking.

The post Calif. Anti-Sex Trafficking Advocates Discuss Competing Bills, Strategies first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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The TINA TURNER Musical Reveals Trials and Triumphs

THE OKLAHOMA EAGLE — The 1993 movie “What’s Love Got to Do with It” portrayed the relationship between Ike and Tina Turner as abusive before their breakup. Ike was also said to victimize Tina, as she shared in a 2018 interview with Oprah Winfrey. But Deon Releford-Lee, the actor who plays Ike in the Broadway musical, says there is more to Ike’s story than is told on screen. In preparing for the part, the Broadway actor searched for the triggers that made Ike who he was known to be.  
The post The TINA TURNER Musical Reveals Trials and Triumphs first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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By Kimberly Marsh | The Oklahoma Eagle

According to Tulsans who knew him and the actor who plays him in the musical Tina, The Tina Turner Musical, Ike Turner may have had multiple sides to his personality. However, the Ike Turner the public has seen is a violent man.

The arc of Tina Turner’s career is well-known. Although Ike’s story is lesser known, he had a powerful influence on Tina’s life and career. They had a family together, and he witnessed Tina rise to superstardom.

Naomi Rodgers performing ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?” as Tina Turner in the North American touring production of “TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL.” Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.

Naomi Rodgers performing ‘What’s Love Got to Do with It?” as Tina Turner in the North American touring production of “TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL.” Photo by Matthew Murphy for MurphyMade.

The 1993 movie, “What’s Love Got to Do with It,” portrayed the relationship between Ike and Tina Turner as abusive before their breakup. Ike was also said to victimize Tina, as she shared in a 2018 interview with Oprah Winfrey. But Deon Releford-Lee, the actor who plays Ike in the Broadway musical, says there is more to Ike’s story than is told on screen. In preparing for the part, the Broadway actor searched for the triggers that made Ike who he was known to be.

Ike is part of the musical until the breakup and the start of Tina’s solo career in the second act. Because of the problematic themes of domestic violence, the musical is recommended for ages 14 and older.

Naomi Rodgers performed “Proud Mary” as Tina Turner and the cast of the North American touring production of “TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL.” Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Naomi Rodgers performed “Proud Mary” as Tina Turner and the cast of the North American touring production of “TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL.” Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Ike Turner 

In an interview with The Oklahoma Eagle, Releford-Lee said playing Ike Turner was a healing experience for him. While “villains” have challenging roles, Releford-Lee said it is liberating in some respects, and he embraces the challenge.

“I have a wealth of knowledge of difficult things to play. My focus is to do as much…research as possible to figure out who this human was, what happened in his path, and what maybe led him to the places to do some of the horrible things he did. Not to excuse their behavior because it’s deplorable, right? We don’t just walk around hating people, throwing them around, forcing them, and manipulating them to do things,” Releford-Lee said. He described Ike’s aggressive behavior, especially with his wife.

Channeling that aggressive hyper-masculine energy takes a toll but also frees Releford-Lee to be softer, more feminine, more free, and more in touch with his emotions off-stage. Having played many villains in the past, he said he learned to become “Okay with my ugliness because that ugliness is in all of us.”

“Ike was a Black man who wrote music and was one of the fathers of Rock ‘n’ Roll but never received the credit,” Releford-Lee said. As Tina took center stage and became the superstar she was, Ike was overlooked.

Zurin Villanueva performed as Tina Turner and Garrett Turner as Ike Turner in the North American touring production of “TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL.” Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

Zurin Villanueva performed as Tina Turner and Garrett Turner as Ike Turner in the North American touring production of “TINA – THE TINA TURNER MUSICAL.” Photo by Matthew Murphy and Evan Zimmerman for MurphyMade.

“Those are the things that I focus on to help ground me in the (character) because being rejected for being Black, being talented, being othered, is something that I can connect to.”

Tulsa Connections 

In an article published in June 2023 following Tina’s death, The Oklahoma Eagle Editor Gary Lee reflected on the days when the Ike and Tina Revue came to Tulsa and performed at the Big Ten Ballroom. The Ike and Tina Revue was a Big Ten headliner several times in the 1960s, and they performed together until their 1976 divorce.

Tulsa musician and radio personality Bobby Eaton Jr. knew them both and witnessed much of what was happening around them on the road. Eaton recently held a launch party for his new band, Eaton Out.  During the performance, he recounted working with Ike and Tina Turner as the youngest guy in the band. Eaton said he appreciated Ike as a band leader, a musician/composer, and a businessman who showed him the ropes in the industry. But Eaton acknowledged that the relationship was not easy.

“Tina was there, and a lot of fights and a lot of crazy stuff went on back in those days, but at the same, I couldn’t wait to get away because they had too much drama going on.”

Singer Michelle Love, a/k/a Sweet Randi Love, became an Ikette in 1993 and knew him during the last decade of his life when he revived his career as a frontman. She joined the band despite being familiar with the tumultuous relationship Tina described.

“We were more like a family unit. When it came to work, though, he was a real hard ass. I don’t want to say it like that. But you know what I mean? He was serious when it came to work. As far as that goes, he didn’t play any games because he was like, this is me on stage, and it represents me.

“After the Tina stuff, Ike was self-conscious…about every little thing that he did because he had already gotten kind of a bad rap behind the movie. So, he was a real stickler as far as that goes,” Love said, “But when it was time for everybody to go home and we were calming down, Ike was just a big old teddy bear. Honestly, he was really. I think a lot of what he went through, you know, in the past team as well, had a lot to do with his insecurities. During the Jim Crow days, he went through quite a bit. So, there’s a lot that people don’t know about him. As far as his background story goes, I’m not trying to take away from Tina’s background story because she has a story to tell, but it might explain why he was the way he was.”

Ike was released from prison in 1991 after serving 18 months for drug offenses. Cocaine was his drug of choice, and it flowed freely, in large quantities, around him. Ike’s drug addiction relapse in 2004 led to his drug overdose in 2007.

Love has returned to Tulsa and continues to sing and perform with Sweet Randi Love and The Love Thang band.

About Deon Releford-Lee 

Releford-Lee attended Fayetteville State University in North Carolina, an HBCU. At the university, he studied dance and theater. He began working professionally when he was still not old enough to play certain roles, portraying more mature characters. Although getting attention was difficult, he worked his way from ensemble to lead roles. A move to New York City followed, leading to his current role as Ike.

Deon Releford-Lee plays Ike Turner in the TPAC production TINA: The Tina Turner Musical.

Releford-Lee plays Ike full-time every night but has two understudy actors for this incredibly physical and emotional role.  A self-described Bohemian, Releford-Lee’s personality is very different from Ike’s, and he is shocked when audience members have no idea who he is when the cast goes out to greet them.

Following a night onstage, he does breathwork to unwind and get out of character, which can take about 15 minutes to exit.

“I realized that when I’m feeling anxious, it’s mostly because physically I’m not breathing at all. I’m holding my breath, so I’m just reminding myself to breathe. I’m someone who doesn’t leave the theater right away. I just kind of sit there for a bit, take off my costume, take off my wig, put my jewelry on, put my own clothes back on, and just kind of sit and listen to music, and then move on.”

Releford-Lee said people will learn a little more through Ike’s backstory, how the industry treated him, and why he was the way he was.

“And in the same breath, you’re also seeing him being manipulative and hurtful. And the audience is kind of on his side in one second, and then the very next second, betrayed by him.

“I love the moment where Tina and Ike first meet because you see them laughing, you see them enjoying each other. It’s one of the only times of fun between them. And I think that’s beautiful. I love watching Tina discover herself in the second act.”

Celebrity Attractions describes “Tina-The Tina Turner Musical” as the inspiring journey of a woman who broke barriers and became the Queen of Rock ‘n’ Roll. “Set to the pulse-pounding soundtrack of her most beloved hits, this electrifying sensation will send you soaring to the rafters.” Tina Turner won 12 Grammy Awards and her live shows were seen by millions, with more concert tickets sold than any other solo performer in music history. Featuring her songs, “Tina–The Tina Turner Musical” is written by Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Katori Hall and directed by the internationally acclaimed Phyllida Lloyd.  

The post The TINA TURNER Musical Reveals Trials and Triumphs first appeared on BlackPressUSA.

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