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May 2, 2012


Labor's 'trial run' in Pennsylvania
CHARLES MAHTESIAN | 5/2/12 8:22 AM EDT, Politico

One of the big winners in Pennsylvania last week was organized labor, which played a critical role in lifting Rep. Mark Critz to victory over Rep. Jason Altmire in the 12th District Democratic primary. …. It's hard to extrapolate from a single race --  especially from a Democratic primary with some unique characteristics -- what the super PAC's Pennsylvania success means for November. But if nothing else, it provides an idea to wayward Democrats of what the House of Labor can accomplish now that some of the old constraints have been removed.

AFSCME Urges Shareholders to Remedy Excess Pay at Dean Foods / Recommends Vote Against Executive Compensation
AFSCME news release, MAY 01, 2012

AFSCME is recommending that shareholders of Dean Foods (DF) vote against the ratification of executive compensation at the company’s annual meeting on May 16, 2012. “Greg Engles is living high on the hog but shareholders have been left with scraps,” said President Gerald W. McEntee, whose 1.6 million members participate in public pension funds with combined assets worth over $1.7 trillion.

Obama Stands Up for Workers’ Rights in Powerful Speech
BY CLYDE WEISS | MAY 01, 2012, AFSCME blog

Pres. Barack Obama yesterday reiterated his support for collective bargaining during a speech to the AFL-CIO, referring to legislation that weakens it as ‘right-to-work-for-less laws.’ …. The President’s remarks come at a time when those rights are threatened by corporate-backed lawmakers nationwide. AFSCME’s International Executive Board voted to endorse President Obama’s re-election.

AFL-CIO Vows 400,000 Volunteers for Obama Election, Trumka Says
By William McQuillen on May 01, 2012  Bloomberg

The AFL-CIO, the nation’s largest labor federation, may deploy as many as 400,000 volunteers this year in its effort to re-elect Barack Obama, who President Richard Trumka said helped save tens of thousands of U.S. jobs. The volunteers, accounting for about 3 percent of the 12 million members in AFL-CIO affiliates, will talk to friends, neighbors and co-workers in a get-out-the-vote effort, Trumka said today at a meeting of the Building and Construction Trades Department in Washington. Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney, a former Massachusetts governor, wouldn’t look out for workers’ interest and is beholden to wealthy donors, Trumka said.

BCTD Endorses Obama
05/01/2012Mike Hall, AFL-CIO Now

President Obama had a question for the delegates to the AFL-CIO Building and Construction Trades Department’s (BCTD) annual legislative conference in Washington, D.C.

Award winners save federal government billions
By Joe Davidson, Washington Post: May 1

With so much news about federal employees on the wild at a casino hotel outside Las Vegas and with prostitutes in Colombia, it’s a pleasure to learn about public servants who are more reflective of the whole. The Senior Executives Association honored 54 recipients of the 2011 Presidential Distinguished Rank Awards with a formal banquet at the State Department last week. It was the 27th annual affair. … The awards, the highest government honor in the federal service, are limited to just 1 percent of those in senior level positions.

Public Pensions Returns Rise 7.5% for Best Quarter Since 2010
By Martin Z. Braun on May 02, 2012  Bloomberg

U.S. public pensions ended the first quarter with a median gain of 7.5 percent, the best performance since 2010, as stocks and real estate boosted returns, Wilshire Associates said. The retirement plans have recorded a median investment gain of 16.1 percent since the stock indexes reached recession lows in March 2009, the company said in a report today. The median annualized return for the past 10 years was 6.03 percent, according to the survey. The returns don’t include fees. ….The median public pension had 58.3 percent of its holdings in stocks, 25.2 percent in bonds, 2.6 percent in real estate and 5.1 percent in alternative investments such as leveraged-buyout or distressed-bond funds. About 2.7 percent was held in cash.

May Day Commemoration Calls Attention to Workers’ Rights and Economic Justice

It’s May Day and working people and supporters all over the world are today recognizing the contributions public service employees make to economic justice. They’re honoring the day by raising public awareness about attacks on workers’ rights by corporate-backed politicians.

The Story Behind the #CorporateGreed Hashtag Campaign on Twitter
Tom Watson, Forbes blogs, 5/01/2012 @ 12:09PM |327 views

Take a space reserved for brands to sell their wares on Twitter. Toss in a long-running battle between organized labor and a major telecommunications giant. And sprinkle the social media magic all over the May Day feeds of thousands of social activists primed for the return of Occupy Wall Street in more than 100 cities nationally … and you’ve got today’s eye-catching #CorporateGreed campaign on Twitter. The tag is actually the brainchild of the media team at the Communications Workers of America, the largest communications and media sector union in the United States with a member of more than half a million members. The CWA is using the tag to call attention to telecom giant Verizon’s $30 upgrade fee on cell phones and the compensation of CEO Lowell McAdam. The focus was closely tied to the annual Verizon annual shareholders meeting on May 3 in Alabama.

13 Workers Killed Each Day on the Job in 2010
AFL-CIO NOW, 05/02/2012 Tula Connell

Each day in 2010, 13 workers on average were killed on the job—some 4,690 workers—and an estimated 50,000 died from occupational diseases, according to the AFL-CIO's annual report, “Death on the Job: The Toll of Neglect.

ADP Says Companies Add Fewest U.S. Workers in Seven Months
By Shobhana Chandra - May 2, 2012 8:46 AM ET, Bloomberg

Companies added the fewest number of U.S. workers in seven months in April, a reminder the job market will take time to strengthen, a private report based on payrolls showed today. Employment increased by 119,000 following a revised 201,000 gain the prior month, according to figures from Roseland, New Jersey-based ADP Employer Services. The median forecast of economists surveyed by Bloomberg News called for a 170,000 advance.

GOP group pushes to shield donors
By: Kenneth P. Vogel, Politico, May 1, 2012 02:47 PM EDT

In a move designed to shield the identities of anonymous donors and possibly set the stage for a court fight over disclosure, one of the deepest-pocketed Republican outside groups is unveiling eight proposed ads attacking President Barack Obama and defending Mitt Romney — including an ad that touts “Romneycare.” American Future Fund — which has already spent $7.5 million on hard-hitting anti-Obama ads in the 2012 cycle — revealed details of the ads in a request for a ruling released Tuesday by the Federal Election Commission.

Vilsack: House GOP food stamp cuts top obstacle to passage of 2012 farm bill
By Erik Wasson, The Hill,  05/02/12 05:00 AM ET

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, in an interview with The Hill this week, said demands by the House GOP for deep cuts especially for food stamps now constitute the top obstacle for passage of a 2012 farm bill by September when current farm programs expire. …. The House-passed 2013 budget authored by Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) calls for the food stamp program to be block granted to the states, resulting in massive spending cuts. Vilsack said these cuts would not only harm the poor who use food stamps, but farmers could lose $20 billion in direct income from cuts to the program as well.

Coburn: Apple tax dodge is rotten
By: Darius Dixon, Politico, May 1, 2012 08:59 AM EDT

Sen. Tom Coburn said Tuesday that he was “livid” about a New York Times report that described how tech giant Apple has legally evaded billions of dollars in corporate taxes each year. “Absolutely, I’m livid about that,” the Oklahoma Republican said of his frustration with Apple on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.” …. Coburn also said that he will work with Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), a senior member of the Small Business and Entrepreneurship Committee, to study tax havens.

Amazon cuts sales tax deals
By: Michelle Quinn, Politico, May 1, 2012 10:58 PM EDT

Amazon may have just upended Congress — to the chagrin of those pushing for a federal online sales tax bill. The online retail company last week inked deals with Texas and Nevada to begin collecting sales taxes on purchases. The company has brokered seven such agreements in recent months while bills to standardize collection of Internet sales taxes nationwide are mired in politics on Capitol Hill.

Rightwing ALEC Puts Wisconsin Anti-Labor Laws On May Agenda
May 1, 2012  |    AlterNet

With the recent publication of additional American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) documents, new questions are being raised about the source of certain provisions in Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker's controversial collective bargaining legislation. Some of those provisions may be adopted by ALEC for introduction in other states. ….. This radical departure from longstanding labor traditions -- the American Federation of State, City and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) formed in 1932 in Madison, Wisconsin, and in 1959 the state was the first to codify public sector collective bargaining rights -- felt to many like it was imposed upon them, rather than being a Wisconsin response to Wisconsin issues.  …. According to the newly exposed agenda for ALEC's upcoming Commerce, Insurance, and Economic Development Task Force meeting on May 11, 2012, Mackinac Center's Director of Labor Policy, Paul Kersey, will propose “The Election Accountability for Municipal Employees Act” for adoption as a model ALEC bill. Like Act 10, Kersey's bill would require unions to re-certify every few years (with legislators filling-in-the-blank about the exact number of years), with an absolute majority of all eligible members, rather than a majority of those voting.

Under the influence: Special interests and behind-the-scenes policy making
Tuesday, May 1, 2012 Kevin Clarke, US Catholic

…. ALEC’s corporate and legislative members meet annually to hash out legislative agendas far from the prying eyes and interests of the general public, a singularly undemocratic exercise in a nation that presumes a role for all citizens in defining and promoting the common good. Despite its presumed philosophical affinity for limitations on power, ALEC has become an overbearing authority in its own right—not participating in a public dialogue but circumventing and dictating it.

Ravitch: A primer on the group driving school reform
Washington Post, 06:00 AM ET, 05/02/2012

This was written by education historian Diane Ravitch: …… This outburst of anti-public school, anti-teacher legislation is no accident. It is the work of a shadowy group called the American Legislative Exchange Council, or ALEC. Founded in 1973, ALEC is an organization of nearly 2,000 conservative state legislators. Its hallmark is promotion of privatization and corporate interests in every sphere, not only education, but healthcare, the environment, the economy, voting laws, public safety, etc. …. The campaign to privatize the schools and to dismantle the teaching profession is in full swing. Where is the leadership to oppose it?

Editorial - The Boss and Everyone Else
New York Times, May 1, 2012

One lesson of the financial crisis is that excessive pay led to excessive risk-taking. To help curb exorbitant pay, the Dodd-Frank reform law included a so-called say-on-pay provision, which requires companies to put their pay practices to a shareholder vote at least every three years. … Nearly two years after the passage of Dodd Frank, say-on-pay is slowly emboldening investors to question executive pay, most prominently this year at Citigroup, where shareholders recently rejected a $15 million pay package for the bank’s chief executive, Vikram Pandit. But the pay-gap provision has not yet gone into effect. The delay is disturbing.

Pressure Mounts on JP Morgan to Split Top Role
aiCIO, May 01, 2012 8:20:22 AM

Proxy voting advisors have joined pension funds in calling on banking giant JP Morgan to split its Chief Executive and Chairman role, currently held by Jamie Dimon, over corporate governance concerns.  The proposal, initially filed by the pension plan of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has been supported by proxy firms Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) and Glass Lewis, Dow Jones reported.

Walmart scandal has pension funds on alert
Andrew S. Ross, Chronicle, Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The California Public Employees' Retirement System has approximately $540 million invested in Walmart stock. The California State Teachers' Retirement System has about $325 million invested. Both are big on corporate governance these days, and both are watching the bribery and cover-up scandal surrounding the world's biggest retailer very carefully. … New York City's public pension funds aren't waiting around to find out. The funds' trustee announced Monday he'll be voting against all five Walmart directors standing for re-election next month.

Wal-Mart to pay $4.8 million in back wages
By Ylan Q. Mui, Washington Post: May 1

The Labor Department on Tuesday orderedWal-Mart to pay $4.8 million in back wages and damages to thousands of employees who were denied overtime charges, the latest in a string of embarrassments for the company over its business practices. The department said its decision affects roughly 4,500 vision-center managers and asset-protection coordinators who worked at Wal-Mart between 2004 and 2007. Wal-Mart had considered those employees exempt from federal regulations requiring overtime pay but reclassified them in 2007. The government and the retailer have been negotiating the amount owed since then.


AL: Jefferson County Readies for Austerity With No State Help
By Margaret Newkirk on May 01, 2012 , Bloomberg

Officials in bankrupt Jefferson County are considering closing courts one day a week, stopping meal delivery for the elderly poor and eliminating building inspections in anticipation of the Alabama Legislature ending its 2012 session without letting it raise taxes. Even cut to the bone, it may be impossible for Alabama’s most populous county, with 660,000 residents, to emerge from the biggest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history without more revenue, Commissioner Jimmie Stephens said in a phone interview.

AZ: Phoenix may delay reform of pensions
by Lynh Bui. May. 01, 2012, Arizona Republic News

Plans to reform the Phoenix pension system could be delayed while city officials wait to see how an overhaul of the state employee system plays out. The pension systems for Phoenix and Arizona employees are unrelated, but some reforms the city is considering are similar to state proposals that a judge recently ruled unconstitutional.

CA: San Jose council deadlocks on lowering pensions
By John Woolfolk,,   05/01/2012 08:02:03 PM PDT

San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed lost a bid Tuesday to reduce retirement benefits for future San Jose city workers -- something voters endorsed in 2010 -- when the City Council deadlocked on a split vote. …..   Employee unions said they weren't opposed to pension changes but that Tuesday's proposal went too far.

California controller's office 'very close' to finalizing furlough back pay
Sacramento Bee, May 1, 2012

The State Controller's Office is "very close" to settling all the thorny issues connected with issuing furlough back pay to hundreds of current and former state workers, but some questions still need to be answered before the checks will be cut, according to a letter provided to The Bee that went out Friday to the affected departments. …. The controller's office also will withhold garnishments and union dues or fair share fees from the checks.

CT: West Haven library workers OK 1st pact
Tuesday, May 01, 2012 By Susan Misur, Register

The recently formed library workers union has finalized its first contract, and while not all demands were satisfied, members secured raises and gained a voice at work, the union’s leader said. “I think for our first contract, it went pretty well. We all got some things we wanted, and we all didn’t get some things we wanted, but that’s to be expected,” said union President Colleen Bailie, who heads technical services for the West Haven Public Library. ..... The pact took effect in April, Larry Dorman, Council 4 AFSCME spokesman, said. The board and union unanimously approved the agreement.

D.C. council deadlocks on amendment to budget (includes photo of American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Executive Director Geo T. Johnson) By Tom Howell Jr.-The Washington Times Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The D.C. Council on Tuesday failed to pass a midyear spending plan that would have compensated city workers for four furlough days in 2011 after it deadlocked on a patchwork of funding priorities and whether it made sense to put the District’s payroll over its other responsibilities.

FL: Protesters denounce layoffs at Jackson Memorial Hospital

Dozens of protesters gathered outside Jackson Memorial Hospital Tuesday to denounce recent layoffs, chanting “No more cuts, no more cuts.” Jackson Health System laid off 922 people last month in an effort to reduce costs at the financially strapped public hospitals. Among the concerns of the protesters is that staff cuts will reduce services available to the community, especially the poor and uninsured. …. Tuesday’s protest was the beginning of what has been dubbed “a super movement” by Our Jackson, a community group that organized the protest and opposes the recent cuts.

FL: Appeals court sides with union over Hialeah in ‘unfair practices’ dispute

Hialeah’s appeal of a ruling that it committed an unfair labor practice while voting to impose a harsh contract on union employees was denied Monday by the Florida Third District Court of Appeal. While union members say the decision could ultimately cost the city millions, city attorney William Grodnick has steadfastly disagreed. In any case, the issue will be postponed for at least 30 days while the city mulls whether to appeal the latest decision to the Florida Supreme Court, Grodnick said. The case involves Hialeah’s largest union, the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

IL: Legislative commission votes against closing many facilities proposed by Quinn
KURT ERICKSON - H&R, May 2, 2012

A panel of state lawmakers rejected Gov. Pat Quinn’s plan to close a number of state facilities Tuesday, saying he needs to do a better job explaining the long-term effects of his proposal. ….. American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union chief Henry Bayer said the commission’s vote preserved more than 2,000 state jobs. “The governor’s push to force individuals with disabilities out of their homes, reduce mental health treatment, jeopardize prison safety and re-entry programs and put thousands of public servants out of work are the wrong priorities for Illinois,” Bayer said.

IL: Judge Nixes Online Taxes
Wednesday, May 2, 2012 By Yvette Shields, Bond Buyer

A circuit court judge last week declared unconstitutional a 2011 Illinois law requiring out-of-state companies to collect online sales taxes. The state adopted the Main Street Fairness Act — dubbed the Amazon tax, after online retailer Inc. — in March 2011.

Indiana: Right-to-work lawsuit can't be amended
Associated Press May 1, 2012

State attorneys asked a federal judge Tuesday to bar a union from amending its lawsuit challenging Indiana's new right-to-work law, arguing that most of the new claims are the same as those in the original complaint filed in February. Indiana Attorney General Greg Zoeller argued that the International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150's request was futile and "fails to state a claim on which relief may be granted." A message left with the union's attorney seeking comment wasn't immediately returned.

LA: Jindal retirement bill hits trouble in the House
10:04 PM, May. 1, 2012 |   By Melinda Deslatte, Associated Press

The Louisiana House upended Gov. Bobby Jindal's push to create a new retirement plan for rank-and-file workers with a sweeping change Tuesday that would put those newly hired employees into the federal Social Security program.

MI: Employee unions in Michigan target higher pay to private contractors
May 2, 2012 |   By Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press

A state government website dedicated to "transparency and accountability" could do a far better job on both counts to allow the public to track state spending with private contractors, state employee unions say. At a news conference set today at the state Capitol, union representatives say they will join with Democratic lawmakers to call for greater public access to contract information, including improvements to the website -- confident that the more the people know, the better public employees will look.

MI: Banks, state take control of Detroit?
BY DIANE BUKOWSKI Final Call, MAY 1, 2012 - 12:37:26 PM

….. The agreement busts three-year union contracts that had already been signed by the city administration and 32 city unions, which would have saved the city up to $130 million. It mandates that numerous anti-union provisions be included in imposed contracts after July 16, 2012. “AFSCME does not mean ask me and you take over our vote and our contracts,” Phyllis McMillon, president of Local 542 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME), told the council April 3. “This is nothing but high treason.”

MI: Flint emergency manager's deficit plan includes borrowing to cover $18M in old debt
Wednesday, May 02, 2012, 7:57 AM  By Kristin Longley | mlive.

Flint emergency manager Michael Brown has submitted a deficit elimination plan to the state that includes borrowing about $18 million to cover old deficits.

MT: State may steer workers to use new clinic
By MIKE DENNISON IR  Wednesday, May 2,

The state may adjust its employee health plan to create financial incentives for workers to use a proposed new health clinic in Helena, state officials said this week. But it won’t be requiring everyone who doesn’t use the clinic to pay full price for visiting other physicians, a top employee-benefits official said.

ND: Council approves lineman position
11:20 am, Tue May 1, 2012. Daily News

…. The city recently finalized its contract with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Union Local 210 for 2011-13. The contract states there will be no wage increase for 2011, a 2.5 percent increase for 2012 and a 3 percent increase in 2013. …. Teresa Joppa, staff attorney for AFSCME, said, "The union is not going to stand in the way of this. We want our people to have sufficient resources and to be safe. I work for AFSCME and we have lineman in other locations that have been electrocuted. Not a lot, thankfully, but it ends a career and sometimes ends a life."

OH: Demonstrators denounce plan to privatize parking at OSU
Encarnacion Pyle, The Columbus Dispatch Wednesday May 2, 2012 6:12 AM

Saying that costs already are too high at Ohio State, nearly three dozen students and others marched on N. High Street yesterday to oppose a proposal to lease the school’s parking operation to private investors. … The protesters marched up and down High Street in front of the Ohio Union during rush hour, holding signs that read, “Don’t sell our schools,” “No more scandals” and “Why just accept things?” As passing cars honked in support, they chanted, “We’ve got to beat back the corporate attack!” and “O-H! I-O! corporate greed has got to go!”

OH: Cleveland officials to push for their schools plan
Catherine Candisky, The Columbus Dispatch Tuesday May 1, 2012 3:46 AM

Cleveland’s mayor, schools chief and teachers union president will urge state lawmakers today to approve a compromise recently reached on an overhaul designed to improve the city’s poor-performing schools.

PA: Corrections officers win 3 percent raises
Public Opinion, May 1, 2012

Corrections officers at the Franklin County Jail will get three percent raises in each of the next four years. An impartial arbitrator on Friday settled contract negotiations between the union and the county. The American Federation of Federal, State, County, State and Municipal Employees represents 85 corrections officers.

PA: Union: Wash. auction shows Pa. liquor privatization unrealistic
By Tim Stuhldreher, May 01. 2012 12:00PM, Central Penn Business

The result of a liquor store license auction in Washington state undermines the rationale for privatization in Pennsylvania, according to the union representing state store employees. Washington last week announced the results of an online auction for the licenses of its 167 liquor stores. Voters last year passed a referendum privatizing the system. he auction earned $30.75 million, or $184,000 per license. Yet, privatization advocates have claimed Pennsylvania could raise nine times more per store, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1776 said in a statement.

PA: Dispute over state's reserve fund persists
May 2, 2012 5:31 am Tom Barnes / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

The size of the Legislature's so-called "slush fund" decreased slightly last year, but it is still far too high in the opinion of legislative critics, who contend the budget reserve fund shouldn't exist at all. The reserve fund, also called a legislative surplus, is used to keep legislative employees working (and paid) in case a new state budget isn't approved by July 1, the start of each new fiscal year.

RI: Ivy League School to Pay City Millions
By JENNIFER LEVITZ, Wall Street Journal, May 1, 2012, 6:44 p.m. ET

An agreement dating back to Colonial times provides that Brown University is "freed and exempted from all taxes." How times have changed. With its hometown gripped by the worst fiscal crisis in memory, the Ivy League college agreed Tuesday to voluntary payments of $31.5 million to Providence over 11 years, on top of what the school already pays in voluntary remittances and taxes on some of its properties. Brown, the Rhode Island capital's largest landowner, currently writes checks to Providence for about $4 million a year: $2.5 million in voluntary payments and $1.6 million in taxes on certain commercial and leased property. …. Providence is one of several municipalities in Rhode Island grappling with underfunded pension funds.

Tennessee lawmakers approve welfare drug testing on last day
11:39 PM, May. 1, 2012 |   The Tennessean

State lawmakers approved a bill to test welfare recipients for drugs and revamped the state’s top utility regulator, but they dropped plans to rewrite the state’s campaign finance laws on the final day of the legislative session.

Virginia considers 2 jail firms with sketchy pasts
By David Sherfinski-The Washington Times Monday, April 30, 2012

Virginia is considering privatizing its sole facility fully devoted to treating sexually violent predators, but the two companies in the running have a history of multimillion-dollar legal settlements and illicit behavior that includes a charge of “deliberate indifference” to sexual misconduct between staff and youths at a facility. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Services is evaluating proposals from private prison-operating companies GEO Care Inc. and Liberty Healthcare Corp. to take over the Virginia Center for Behavioral Rehabilitation in Burkeville because of an increase in the number of offenders and concerns about costs.

WI: Walker has fundraising advantage, superstar status
Associated Press | Tuesday, May 1, 2012 5:57 pm

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker has raised more than $25 million to defend his job, drawing heavily from prominent GOP players outside the state and dwarfing the amounts raised by his Democratic challengers. …. Labor groups including the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, the nation's largest public-employee union, have been contributing money to Greater Wisconsin. The groups say their edge is with activists on the ground who are knocking on doors and coordinating get-out-the-vote efforts. …. Likewise, AFSCME has opened 17 regional offices in Wisconsin to help organize its members.

WI: Green Bay may revisit residency rule for city workers
11:00 PM, May. 1, 2012 |   Scott Cooper Williams, Green Bay Press-Gazette

The new Green Bay City Council could be getting ready to tackle an old — and thorny — issue. Two aldermen took steps Tuesday to reopen the question of whether Green Bay should continue requiring employees to live in the city. …. Fluffy Aerts (ed note: AFSCME), president of the largest city employee union, urged aldermen to bring more consistency to the issue.

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