Guest Author – Florida Politics

Guest Author

Manuel Orosa: Miami is ready for a strong mayor

Manuel Orosa

During my 35 years of service to the city of Miami, I have come to realize that the current system of government is dysfunctional.

I support the mayor’s attempt to modernize the antiquated city manager system to that of a strong mayor.

I have many reasons for this support; here are just a few.

Now, no city leader is ever held accountable for their actions when things go wrong. There are too many politicians in charge.

Hubris takes over and finger-pointing at the others, including the manager, is the norm.

Eventually, a confused electorate has no clue of who is to blame. Thus, no one is ever held accountable.

In a strong mayor system, the mayor gets the praise or the fault, and is clearly held accountable.

Secondly, a strong mayor system eliminates the political influence on employees.

Usually, politicians befriend certain employees who can assist them in getting things done in their districts.

These friendships lead to favors between both, such as a good word for promotion/better job, even if the employee is undeserving. These friendships also create difficulties for the manager when attempting to corral an incompetent or insubordinate employee.

If the case goes to a commission hearing, the employee’s conduct becomes inconsequential.

To make matters worse, the seven city officials in charge are usually at odds over issues and at times personally. During their discourse, sometimes amicable and sometimes not, employees are left to wonder who is really in charge.

The mayor has no vote or real power. A strong mayor is in charge and responsible for the city and everyone knows it.

In discussions with many of my colleagues, we all came to the same conclusion: Miami is not only ready but really needs a strong mayor form of government.

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Manuel Orosa is a former Miami Police Chief.

Lauren Book: Controversial ‘Show Dogs’ sends disturbing message to kids — skip this at the box office

Recent controversy surrounding the soon-to-be-released movie “Show Dogs” makes it clear that sexualized content — made worse under the guise of humor — has no place in children’s movies.

I am extremely alarmed by reports that a character in the movie was instructed to essentially tolerate having their private parts touched, sending a disturbing message to young moviegoers.

Bloggers who attended an advance screening rightly called out Hollywood for the inappropriate content in a movie targeting children.

Show Dogs is about a police dog who goes undercover in a dog show to find a missing panda. Variety describes it as “’Miss Congeniality’ for dogs,” where the hero prepares to compete in a dog show by learning how to prance, show, and even stay completely still while his private parts are being inspected and touched — something he is alarmed about and does not wish to do.

The trainer explains this a natural part of showing dogs (and it is) and to go against his instincts by finding a “Zen place” as a distraction from the groping.

This has no place in a movie for children and parents should avoid taking their child to see it unless the scene is removed before its Friday release.

As parents, we know the influence media has on children. Our kids pick up behaviors and understandings from movies, YouTube videos and TV shows. Their minds constantly absorb the content with little to no understanding of the context.

In this case, it’s OK if someone touches your private parts because it’s part of the “show” and it’s just silly fun.

But it’s actually called grooming and is a frequent tactic used by predators to keep victims quiet, questioning their fear.

Child sexual abuse is a trauma experienced by an estimated 42 million people in the U.S. and the number grows daily.

One in three girls and one in five boys will be sexually abused before the age of 18, and 90 percent of these cases will be committed by a person the child — and their parents — know, love and trust.

Bravo to these self-described mama bear bloggers for sounding the alarm. From one mama to another, thank you.

I myself have not seen Show Dogs, but have read multiple reviews that clearly state this content in the movie.

Show Dogs releases Friday — don’t go.

If you were thinking about it, wait for additional information after opening weekend and make an educated decision about what is best for your children and family to help them stay safe. And if you do choose to take your children, use the opportunity to have a real and important conversation about listening to your guiding voice and speaking up when a touch or situation doesn’t feel right.

Reinforce that it’s ALWAYS OK to tell and seek help from a trusted adult.

Your kids have a voice — teach them to use it.

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State Sen. Lauren Book, a Plantation Democrat, is founder and CEO of Lauren’s Kids.

Eric Silagy: Global trade equals greater opportunity

Global trade in Florida means high wage jobs and greater opportunity for economic development.

Research shows that one out of five jobs in Florida is tied to international trade. We must continue to have important conversations on ways to secure Florida’s future and position Florida as a leader in international trade.

The Florida Chamber of Commerce has been a long-standing advocate of free trade, and together we will continue to support expanding international trade and investment opportunities for Florida businesses, advocating for fair and equitable market access for Florida-origin exports abroad and eliminating barriers that are harmful to Florida’s competitiveness.

A delegation of business leaders joined the Florida Chamber of Commerce recently in Washington, D.C. encouraging Florida’s Congressional Delegation to support Florida’s job creators and to work to ensure that trade continues to benefit the U.S. and Floridians.

As the Trump administration considers the future of trade, it’s important now more than ever, that Florida’s business community unites in support of private-sector job creation, regulatory reform and creation of opportunities for economic prosperity, through strong global ties.

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Eric Silagy is president & CEO of Florida Power & Light and a member of the Florida Chamber of Commerce board of directors.

Kara Irby: Religious involvement deters marijuana use

Although marijuana use for medical and recreational purposes is at an all-time high in the United States, a team of researchers led by a Florida State University professor has found those who hold strong religious beliefs are choosing to stay away from cannabis.

FSU Associate Professor Amy Burdette and her team found that individuals who regularly attend church and report that religion is very important in their daily decision making are less likely to use marijuana recreationally and medically. The study was recently published in the Journal of Drug Issues.

“Our study confirms previous studies of recreational marijuana use,” Burdette said. “However, I believe ours is the first to examine the association between religiosity and medical marijuana use.”

The study used data from 2016 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, a random sample of the U.S. adult population. Although many studies have focused on the association between religion and substance use in adolescence and young adulthood, few studies have focused on marijuana use in adulthood.

“We know various forms of substance use have increased among older adults as well, Burdette said. “So, we need to know what’s going on among people in their 30s, 40s and 50s in terms of their substance use.”

In the study, researchers examined three focal variables — religious salience, religious service attendance and self-rated health.

Levels of religious attendance ranged from never attending services to attending more than once a week. Researchers found with every level of increased attendance the odds of being a recreational marijuana user reduced by 13 percent. The study found the likelihood of recreational marijuana use decreased by 20 percent as religious salience levels increased.

Researchers also examined the association between religious involvement and marijuana use of adults in poor health. They found that religious involvement was less effective in deterring marijuana use among sickly adults whether recreational or medically prescribed.

“You have two big institutions coming against each other when you’re suffering and in poor health,” Burdette said. “You might have your pastor highly stigmatizing its use, saying ‘it’s bad, it’s a drug, you shouldn’t do this,’ while your doctor says, ‘try this, it could help your pain and suffering.’”

With the impact of religion in society starting to decline, Burdette said perhaps more people are deferring to a medical authority.

Researchers said further study could include personality types and the religious affiliation of individuals. They also noted that the data is based on self-reports and people were potentially more likely to avoid reporting socially undesirable behaviors.

Co-authors include FSU doctoral candidate Noah Webb; and associate professors Jason A. Ford, University of Central Florida; Stacy Hoskins Haynes, Mississippi State University; and Terrence D. Hill, University of Arizona.

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Kara Irby is a news and copywriting specialist at Florida State University.

Rebecca McLaughlin: What Publix can learn from Chick-Fil-A about handling political activists

Publix is currently facing an issue that is increasingly prevalent in American corporations: political activism.

As the left has become more radicalized with their demands for political conformity in the public space, the presence of activist-driven campaigns has increased and become more effective. Progressive activists understand that most American corporations are meek in the face of controversy and often mistake political activism as another type of customer complaint.

The result is that American corporations are easy targets for outrage campaigns spearheaded by mostly progressive activists on a range of environmental, social and economic issues.

Last week, Publix faced criticism on social media for its support of gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam, a natural fit given that Putnam is a native of Polk County and champion of Florida business.

Part of the Publix culture is putting customers first and responding quickly to complaints about shopper experience.  Publix’s customer-driven approach is part of the magic that allows the company to be a place “where shopping is a pleasure.”

Unfortunately, the Publix approach does not work when the complaints come not from shoppers, but from political activists. The key difference is this: the customer wants a company to make good on its stated goals. An activist wants a company to change it goals.

For the purposes of this article, an “activist” is someone engaging in a political mindset as opposed to a consumer mindset. The idea that a customer can move between being a consumer and an activist is vexing for companies, but is a reality of our increasingly politically infected culture.

Back to the Publix example.

Take a look at the Twitter response that drew the attention of the media last week.

The Publix response, while genuine and true to company culture, violates the three rules every company should follow if subjected to a campaign by political activists.

First, never apologize for your political position. The best corporate example here is Chick-Fil-A. Progressive activists disdain the company for its conservative, Christian values. Chick-Fil-A, however, just keeps growing, even in places such as liberal Manhattan, because Chick-Fil-A doesn’t apologize for its views. Apologies for intentional political stances only draw media attention, attract more activists, and make companies appear less authentic.

Second, never say what your company did NOT do. In the @Publix tweets, Publix clarifies they do not support the National Rifle Association (NRA). By attempting to be unambiguous Publix actually reinforced the idea of a link between themselves and the NRA.  The resulting headline the next day in the Tampa Bay Times actually read “Publix Clarifies: We Support Adam Putnam, Not The NRA.”

By saying what the company doesn’t support, Publix issued a denial and in politics, denials look like guilt.

Third, don’t respond to activists unless the media is directly asking for a response regarding the issue. The criticism of Publix could have been limited to a fringe social media campaign had Publix opted not to respond. By issuing a response, however, Publix created a mainstream media story that probably would have otherwise gone unnoticed.

The Publix story, however, has another layer.

The @PublixHelps Twitter handle also issued a response but one that followed the rules above. Here it is below.

The @PublixHelps tweet was a great response. The tweet simply states why the company supports Putnam without a denouncement of the NRA, mention of gun violence, or denial of any kind.

Simple. Direct. Perfect.

The rise of political outrage culture will continue to create headaches for every American company engaged in any public policy issue. The political minefield can be navigated, but only if corporate marketers are able to understand the differences between the political mind and consumer mind of their customers and obey the three simple rules above.

Remember, progressives still eat at Chick-fil-A and conservatives still buy coffee at Starbucks. If your product is good, even consumers who disagree with you politically can become loyal, lifelong customers.

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Rebecca McLaughlin is the VP of Client Relations at Strategic Digital Services where she spearheads digital strategy for an array of political and corporate clients around Florida.

Logan McFaddin: Summer is near, hurricane readiness begins now

Logan McFaddin

An uptick in the frequency of severe weather is a sure sign that summer is near. And for the southeast, that means hurricane season is quickly approaching.

Last year, three major hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — caused an estimated $67 billion in damage in a 28-day window. Forecasters are again calling for an above-average hurricane season in 2018.

Hurricane season begins June 1 and extends through Nov. 30. But named storms can form even in May. Four of the last six years we saw hurricanes form before the official season even began, according to the Weather Channel.

Unfortunately, too many residents in the region still do not give the beginning of hurricane season enough thought — or take action to prepare their homes or their finances.

Floridians can take a few important steps now, to give yourself peace of mind and the confidence that you’re prepared financially for a major storm or emergency event.

Start with checking in with your insurance agent or company regarding the amount of insurance coverage you have. For example, determine if your policy provides for replacement costs or actual cash value of your belongings. If your home is insured at its assessed value, ask if that will be enough to rebuild in the case of a major catastrophe.

Don’t forget to consider additional coverage options such as flood insurance, as most homeowners’ policies do not cover flooding. Flood insurance must be purchased as a separate policy, and it takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to go into effect. Remember that floods can devastate communities anywhere. Floods are not isolated to coastal areas or flood zones.

After a disaster strikes, it can be tough to remember everything that was in your home. Homeowners and renters should make a home inventory every year. Use your smartphone to video the inside of your home and its contents. Include images of receipts for large items too. Back up the video on a cloud device, in case your computer or phone are damaged. Ask your insurer if they have an app where you can upload the inventory too.

If you sustain storm damage, call your insurer as soon as possible to start the claims process. Your home inventory will expedite the claims process. Beware of signing any documents from contractors before you talk to your insurer.

Assignment of benefit (AOB) abuse is rampant in Florida today. Third-party groups have perfected a too-good-to-be-true scheme that convinces homeowners and motorists to sign over their insurance benefits in exchange for quick repairs. The most common examples are roofing contractors walking door to door in neighborhoods and car window repair shops approaching motorists in parking lots. These third-parties offer seemingly great deals, but the unknowing home or car owner is being tricked into a lawsuit that could end up increasing their insurance costs over the long term.

Don’t wait until a major hurricane is lingering off the coast before you take action. Prepare your family and your finances early with a few easy steps that can go a long way in storm recovery.

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Logan McFaddin is a regional manager for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).

Mark Fontaine: DOC makes unwise cuts to substance abuse treatment programs

The Florida Department of Corrections (DOC) is dismantling successful substance abuse and re-entry treatment programs to fix a $28 million shortfall. The shortsighted action will adversely affect communities, offenders and businesses: an action that is totally unacceptable.

DOC Secretary Julie Jones recently announced that 33 community and in-prison substance abuse treatment and housing providers will have their contracts slashed or totally canceled. The total substance abuse reductions are over $22 million with community providers receiving a 43 percent cut and contracted in-prison programs a 48 percent cut.

The loss of substance abuse inmate programs means a greater likelihood of drug and alcohol relapse and a greater chance for repeat criminal offenders. The loss of therapeutic beds means no more graduated re-entry into society and offenders going back into their communities without critical substance abuse treatment. These programs are integral to rehabilitation; these offenders obtain jobs, pay restitution, child support and fines.

The DOC cuts also affect drug courts. Judges’ options to choose a substance abuse diversionary program over a prison sentence will be greatly diminished, thus continuing to crowd Florida’s prison system, and denying treatment to offenders in the community. Inmates currently in diversionary and re-entry programs receiving the cuts will need to be re-sentenced and re-assigned.

The DOC cuts affect every single contracted facility that offers substance abuse treatment and re-entry programs. The providers will lay off more than 600 full-time employees. The promise by the FDC to re-establish programs once money is somehow back in the budget rings hollow with no plan in place to secure funding being lost. Treatment centers have spent years to launch and refine substance abuse treatment programs; they can’t easily be re-established.

Interestingly, the money earmarked for substance abuse treatment before, during, and after incarceration is already in the legislatively approved budget, but the DOC wants to move the approved funds somewhere else. The DOC cites constitutional mandates to provide health care for inmates. The problem is, substance abuse treatment is health care and needs to be considered such by our top leaders.

Financial considerations are also paramount. The cost to house an offender for nine months in a community substance abuse treatment bed is far less than the average 3-year sentence for a drug offender in prison. A community-based approach can easily save the state $30,000 per inmate over the course of a drug-offender sentence.

The loss caused by this action to communities, individuals and businesses is staggering. The Florida Department of Correction cuts to Substance Abuse Treatment Programs (representing just 1.5 percent of the entire FDC’s $2.4 billion budget) should not be happening at all, let alone in the middle of the opioid crisis and the worst drug epidemic the state has ever experienced. Governor Scott and our state leaders need to fix this problem before it’s too late to turn back.

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Mark Fontaine is executive director of the Florida Alcohol & Drug Abuse Association.

Jack Cory: It is time to do away with the Constitutional Revision Commission

In 1968 the voters of Florida adopted a new state Constitution.

The new Constitution provided for three ways to change the document in the future — by an initiative process, by a joint resolution of the Legislature, and by revision through an appointed Constitutional Revision Commission (CRC).

At the time — no other state used a CRC to change its foundational document. That remains true today.

When the voters passed the new Constitution, it made perfect sense to have a CRC look over the Constitution after the passage of time. The primary purpose of the CRC was simply to make sure there was a way to “tweak” the new Constitution after it was in place.

It was never contemplated that the CRC would be used to fundamentally change the Constitution by adding new provisions with amendments. It was assumed such amendments would either come from the Legislature or the people — not the CRC.

In fact, the Constitution says the CRC can only revise the Constitution — it makes no reference to the CRC making wholesale amendments and adding new sections to the Constitution.

The CRC has now been convened three times — with the last CRC officially completing its work this week. They submitted their Final Report to the Secretary of State which contained eight proposed Constitutional Amendments. Most of the proposed amendments contain more than one idea or concept — the CRC called this “grouping.” In the legal arena, this is called logrolling — which is generally prohibited in the lawmaking process.

The CRC announced that logrolling was entirely permissible — basically because they said so. We heard a lot about “precedent”— but the only precedent was the process used the prior two times we convened a CRC.

If you look closer at the case law on the subject logrolling, Courts have said that it could be permissible as it relates to amendments to the Constitution proposed by the CRC because there is an opportunity for public input. Unfortunately, all of the public hearings around the state held by the CRC took place before they decided to lump proposals together. Thus, the public really had no opportunity to voice opposition to grouping vaping and offshore drilling, as an example, in the same amendment.

It was clear from the beginning that some members of the CRC believed deeply that their jobs were to protect the Constitution and only propose amendments that belonged in the Constitution. At the same time, there were other CRC members who appeared to believe they were a “Super-Legislature” and wanted to put things in the Constitution because the idea was unsuccessful in the legislative process (sometimes for many years).

What we are left with as voters are eight Constitutional Amendments proposed by the CRC which consist of ideas that either do not belong in the Constitution — or as a result of grouping do not provide the voters with a clear choice of what they are voting on. As a result — the blow back against the CRC has been almost universal. Newspaper editorial boards all over Florida are recommending that voters reject all of the CRC proposals and many are suggesting that we do away with the CRC altogether.

Many of the members of the CRC took their job very seriously and had the best of intentions. However, our Constitution, among other things, needs to provide stability for our law and system of government. The final action of the current CRC jeopardizes that stability. It is time to take back our Constitution by voting down all of the CRC proposed Constitutional amendments and taking the necessary steps to eliminate the CRC. For the sake of good government, we should limit the ability to amend the Constitution to the voters and their elected representatives.

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Jack Cory is with Public Affairs Consultants Inc. in Tallahassee. He and his wife Keyna are the human care givers to 2 Dogs Rusty and Bear. They are the foster parents for Florida Pets Alive, a No Kill Rescue, to 3 Dogs Zeke, Scarlet and Lady.

Ken Hagan: Selfless act by teen to help save lives

As a county commissioner, I’m fortunate to see the great work local residents are doing each and every day to improve outcomes for our community.

But when one of our local youths selflessly takes action to help save lives, it’s something truly to be recognized and commended.

Recently, Katherine Newcomb, a senior at Riverview High School, was honored by the Tampa Bay Lightning as its 31st Lightning Community Hero for her extensive community service and commitment to the Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center’s (BSAC) Learn-to-Swim Program. As part of her recognition, Katherine received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program.

In-between working toward her goal to attend Florida State University to double major in business management and political science and donating more than 200 hours of her time to community service, she’s also changing — and helping to save — lives. Instead of using the donated dollars tied to her Community Hero recognition for something else entirely, Katherine selflessly donated half of the funds to BSAC and earmarked the other half for a scholarship for her own education.

At that age, I don’t know if I would have had the forethought to drive social change, but Katherine’s not just any high school student. She has seen firsthand the important work BSAC is doing to prevent youth drowning and these dollars will ensure the organization is able to further implement its Learn-to-Swim initiative to address and combat the issue of drowning on a local scale by teaching at-risk and disadvantaged youth how to swim.

The Tampa Bay Lightning honors Katherine Newcomb as the 31st Lightning Community Hero. (Image via NHL.com)

Participating children in the program come by way of local Boys and Girls Clubs. To date, the program is well on its way to meeting its goal of providing more than 400 free swim lessons to children ages three to 13 and equipping them with basic water safety skills. BSAC is also expected to surpass its group lesson goal of 1,525, ensuring that even more individuals in Hillsborough County understand water safety procedures to prevent youth drowning.

Katherine should serve as an inspiration for not only teens, but adults, alike, looking to give back and make a difference. No matter the cause, we all have a role to play when it comes to protecting our vulnerable populations. Kudos to Katherine for leading by example as she helps to save young lives and in turn, makes our community a better place.

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Hillsborough Commissioner Ken Hagan is an advocate for youth drowning prevention in the county and Florida. He established a countywide swimmer safety pilot program to bring awareness to youth drowning and was recently honored with the dedication of Brandon Sports and Aquatic Center’s ‘Ken Hagan Learn-to-Swim’ Community Pool for his efforts. He was first elected as a County Commissioner in 2002 and re-elected subsequently.

Chris Hudson: Tampa airport ignores ride-sharing trend, taxpayers beware

Several months behind schedule and more than $1 billion later, the shiny new rental car facility at Tampa International Airport opened earlier this year to decidedly mixed reviews.

For the amount of money taxpayers have ponied up, I think we’re all hoping the experience is better than what we’ve gotten on our taxpayer-subsidized sports stadiums.

The rental car terminal is just the first phase of a $2 billion three-phase airport expansion and its completion gives Floridians a chance to see how our tax dollars have been spent so far. There is cause for concern.

An audit released quietly just a few days after Christmas contains some troubling findings. It revealed that the Hillsborough County Aviation Authority: established a $3.5 million art program that it “did not demonstrate the legal authority for, or necessity of”; failed to openly discuss or provide justification for hefty pay raises bestowed upon executive staff; and on more than one occasion, did not award contracts to the highest-scoring bidder.

These are all questionable practices that hint at poor stewardship of taxpayer money or favoritism.

The Auditor General also criticized the Aviation Authority for failing to properly include balances from previous fiscal years in its final budgets as required by law, noting this “does not provide for transparency” and diminishes the budget’s usefulness as a financial planning tool.

When it comes to financial planning, the Aviation Authority needs all the help it can get.

Tampa Airport has financed its expansion with a $195 million grant from the state and nearly $800 million in new bond debt that is supposed to be funded through existing sources of revenue, like airline ticket fees, as well as parking rate hikes and new rental car fees.

Not a problem in 2011. In 2018 however, when ridesharing services are taking over the market, this plan has holes.

Nationally, Uber and Lyft now account for nearly 70 percent of ground transportation. Taxi cabs have fallen below 10 percent and rental cars are also on the decline. None of this is surprising to American consumers who have been opting for these ridesharing services for several years, but airport planners were caught flat-footed by the trend.

The crux of their expansion plans to reduce congestion around the airport and provide passengers with more choices was a rental car facility and people mover, altogether ignoring ridesharing, passengers’ number one choice. And they thought they’d pay for it with rental car and parking fees.

But for the past several years, their revenue projections have completely overshot actual collections, even as the number of passengers traveling in and out of Tampa has shattered records.

In 2015, the airport projected a customer facility charge revenue of more than $37 million. The actual amount collected: roughly $30 million — a 21 percent difference. The next year, the airport predicted close to $45 million but again fell short, bringing in less than $39 million. And the pattern continued last year. Projections totaled $45.8 million; actual revenue was $35.9 million.

When asked about ridesharing’s impact last April, airport executives said they had simply “pulled the numbers down a little bit.” A little bit? They missed parking revenues by a cool $3 million.

Since then, the Airport Authority has proposed higher passenger pick-up fees for taxis, limos, Uber, and Lyft — passing the cost of poor planning to Florida travelers and visitors.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell: Taxpayers were tapped to pay for the new rental terminal and SkyConnect train, but the airport isn’t bringing in as much money as it shortsightedly expected from rental cars and parking fees. So, now taxpayers will be hit up a second time on their ride to or from the airport.

You might say taxpayers get it coming and going.

Could it be that Tampa Airport, among the nation’s most popular because of its convenience and futuristic flair, is renovating for the past and losing its edge? Maybe. Which is why we need to keep a closer eye on what is happening with our money. Taxpayer flyers beware.

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Chris Hudson is the Florida state director of Americans for Prosperity.

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