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Scott Powers

John Newstreet raises $30,000 in early days of HD 44 special election race

Republican candidate John Newstreet‘s campaign is reporting that it has raised more than $30,000 in the first 11 days since he announced his run for the open seat in Florida House District 44.

Newstreet is reporting a total of $30,576 through the end of May in a news release, though neither he nor the other candidates in that race have to file anything with the state until July 6, more than a week after ballots are sent to military and overseas voters, because of the timetables assigned to the special election.

The Republican primary is set for August 15 to fill the seat vacated by Eric Eisnaugle. Newstreet, an executive with the Kissimmee chamber of commerce, will face former Winter Garden Commissioner Bobby Olszewski, businessman Bruno Portigliatti, and Dr. Usha Jain. There is one Democrat running, businessman Paul Chandler.

“I’m honored and humbled by the support I have received since announcing my candidacy,” Newstreet stated in the release. “As a first-time candidate, it is encouraging to know so many neighbors, friends, and leaders in District 44 are excited to support me to represent our community.”

Newstreet declared he finds it “unacceptable” that the state is not requiring financial reports until after the first absentee ballots go out. He said he is releasing his May numbers to remain transparent to voters, and he challenged his other opponents to do likewise.

“The legislature was very clear when they passed strict reporting dates in 2013 to provide transparency in elections,” Newstreet stated. “While not required, I believe we have a solemn duty to follow the intent of the law, even if it is not required.

“Any honorable candidate should release their May campaign reports as well,” he added. “We cannot keep voters in the dark in this election.”

Did Republican state and national leaders mail in their Pulse appearances?

In one of the more biting moments in the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting,” mathematician Gerald Lambeau, played by Stellan Skarsgård, apologizes to his old friend, psychologist Sean Maguire, played by Robin Williams, for having missed the funeral of Sean’s wife.

“I got your card,” Sean snapped, not at all disguising his anger.

Did we just see state and national Republicans mail in [or tweet in] their condolences and best wishes for Orlando’s one-year observation of the Pulse mass-murder that killed 49 and tore out the heart of a community?

Orlando is increasingly becoming a Democratic stronghold, but plenty of Republicans still thrive in Central Florida, and plenty get elected, and the area is worth fighting for. The local GOP contingent was well represented, by Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, several county and city commissioners, several state lawmakers and others. But, except for Democrats U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson, and U.S. Reps. Stephanie Murphy, Val Demings and Darren Soto, who all spoke at one event or another event, none of the state and national political leaders made much of an appearance at Orlando’s Pulse activities.

There’s a real chance state and national Republican leaders weren’t asked to come, discouraged to come, or just knew that their appearances would be, at best, awkward. There has been widespread criticism that too many of them just never fully acknowledged the pain in Orlando was both about a terrorist attack and about the biggest hate crime against gays in American history.

And Monday’s commemorations all were intimate, mostly involving only those public figures who had been there with Orlando throughout.

Some Republicans tried to do something.

Gov. Rick Scott was the lone state or national leader who came to Orlando, but it was a stealth appearance, not announced in advance, and apparently without any remarks. He stopped for a private breakfast at the Orlando Police Department headquarters, and then for an unannounced brief visit to the Pulse nightclub Monday morning, essentially a photo-op. He did not attend any of the major events, and he did not let anyone know he was stopping by Pulse, not even Pulse owner Barbara Poma.

Marco Rubio took to the floor of the Senate Monday evening and made an emotional Pulse speech, full of very personal observations, and acknowledgment that, whatever else the tragedy was, it also was an attack on Orlando’s gay community.

“Obviously the attack was personal for the 49 families with stories of their own and of course the countless others who were injured. I know it was personal to the LGBT community in Central Florida,” Rubio said on the Senate floor. “As I said Pulse was a well-known cornerstone of the community, particularly for younger people. And as I said earlier This was deeply personal for Floridians and the people of central Florida, and I’ll get to that in a moment because I’m extraordinarily proud of that community.”

And he and Nelson introduced a resolution Monday in the Senate to commemorate Pulse.

Murphy, Demings, and Soto also introduced a Pulse remembrance resolution in the House of Representatives, and also spoke on the floor Monday. And all three found time to speak in Orlando, to Orlandoans, first.

Unlike Nelson, Murphy, Soto or Demings, Rubio was nowhere to be seen in Orlando during the observations that began at 1 a.m. and ended at midnight Monday.

Others in state and national GOP mailed or tweeted it in, and continued to miss the point that Orlando sees the tragedy both as a terrorist attack AND a hate crime against gays.

President Donald Trump did not come, nor did he send any White House or Cabinet delegates or surrogates to Orlando. He did not make any proclamations, though he did tweet, including a picture montage of the 49 murder victims.

“We will NEVER FORGET the victims who lost their lives one year ago today in the horrific #PulseNightClub shooting. #OrlandoUnitedDay.” Trump announced on Twitter Monday.

Rubio also sent his tweets — three of them.

“One year later, we honor 49 of our fellow Americans of @pulseorlando and continue to pray for their families.” Rubio tweeted, and “The #PulseNightClub tragedy was rooted in a hateful ideology that has no place in our world. #OrlandoStrong,” and The #PulseShooting was an attack on the LGBT community, Florida, America, and our very way of life. #OrlandoUnitedDay”

U.S. Reps. Ron DeSantis, Bill Posey and Daniel Webster, who each have districts that are not quite Orlando but close enough to include Orlando suburbs and many who were deeply affected by Pulse, did not make any Orlando appearances.

DeSantis put out a statement, and Webster mentioned Pulse in a Facebook post. Both focused on terrorism, a true angle to the tragedy, but one that continues to divide along partisan lines, as neither made any mention of the attack being on Orlando gays.

“The massacre at the Pulse nightclub represented the face of evil in the modern world. Fueled by a putrid ideology, the terrorist indiscriminately killed dozens of innocent people, forever devastating their families and loved ones. Orlando rallied in response to the attack in a remarkable fashion. It is incumbent on our society to root out radical Islamic terrorism from within our midst,” DeSantis wrote.

“Today, we remember the 49 innocent lives tragically lost due to a horrific act of terror in Orlando one year ago. Our prayers continue to be with the surviving victims, loved ones and all those affected,” Webster wrote on Facebook.

Scott also signed a proclamation on Friday, declaring Monday as Pulse Remembrance Day, surprising some in Orlando with his clear acknowledgment — lacking in some previous statements — that Orlando’s LGBTQ community had suffered mightily and needed acceptance.

Other Republicans followed the same pattern of DeSantis and Webster, ignoring the LGBTQ hate crime angle.

Attorney General Pam Bondi tweeted, but did not come to Orlando.

“Today we honor those lost in the #Pulse attack & the citizens & first responders who ran toward danger to save lives.” Bondi tweeted.

Agricultural Commissioner and gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam both put out a statement, and tweeted, but did not come to Orlando.

“On the anniversary of the Pulse attack, we pause to remember the 49 victims who were suddenly and senselessly taken, their loved ones who continue to mourn and heal, and the first responders who put themselves in harm’s way for their fellow Floridians without hesitation,” Putnam wrote. “We also remember how Orlando, the Central Florida community and the entire state came together amidst such tragedy. People stood in lines for hours to donate blood, generously gave their time and money to total strangers and worked together to meet the needs of all those impacted. This anniversary is not just a solemn milestone to remember those we tragically lost, but it’s also a reminder of the strength, courage and compassion of the people of Florida.

“My prayers to all family, friends & loved ones of the 49 victims who were suddenly and senselessly taken one year ago today,” Putnam tweeted. And then, “And to the 1st responders in Orlando who put their own lives in danger to help others in need, TY for your strength, courage & compassion.”

Orlando Love: In a community-wide painful remembrance, celebration breaks out

With tens of thousands of people packing Lake Eola Park and countless more watching remotely, Orlando gathered Monday night for a somber remembrance the 49 people murdered at Pulse one year ago, and a celebration of love and unity emerged.

This was largely Orlando’s LGBTQ community’s opportunity to come together in a mass remembrance and a look back on the year since the nation’s worst mass shooting occurred at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub. Joined by families of the victims and thousands of straight allies – many of whom might not have identified as allies a year ago – the night turned into the city’s statement to the world.

“We are one big family,” declared Pulse owner Barbara Poma.

Beginning with the Procession of Angels into the park’s amphitheater – 49 people dressed in white angel sheets who had protected the victims’ funerals and become the living symbols of Pulse – through words from Poma, Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer, Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, Orlando City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, through numerous musical and dance tributes, and ending with the readings of the names of 49 victims, to the toll of a bell, “Orlando Love: Remembering Our Angels” brought tears, hope and joy.

While sorrow sometimes took stage, including occasional cries of heartbreak from family members as names were called, much of the night called upon the world to look at Orlando as the light of acceptance and unity.

“One year ago tonight our lives in Orlando changed forever. From the families of the 49 beautiful, innocent, young people, lesbian, gay, transgender, bisexual, Hispanic, African American, and straight allies, all killed for being accepting and loving of one another. Sixty-eight were wounded, hundreds were traumatized,” Sheehan reminded everyone.

“Orlando came together as never before to show we are a community united in love,” she continued. “Pulse taught our community to open their hearts and minds to foster inclusiveness, acceptance, understanding, and compassion. To the families I say, we can never say we can replace your beloved children, parents ,and spouses. But we can honor their enduring legacy with love, the greatest and most powerful force in heaven and on Earth.”

Officials said 1,350 Pulse survivors and families of Pulse victims asked to attend the event, and were given priority seating in the rainbow-colored Walt Disney World Amphitheatre. The night was for them.

“I believe the Pulse story is not so much about the vicious act of hatred and terror by a deranged killer,” Dyer said. “I believe it’s a story about triumph, triumph of courage over fear, triumph of understanding over intolerance. And a triumph of love over hate.”

It’s a theme that came up time and again all day as Orlando marked the year since the massacre.

“Out of the darkness, Orlando rose as a beacon of light,” Jacobs said.

Three Orlando members in Congress to tell Pulse victims’ stories, introduce resolution

Democratic U.S. Reps. Darren Soto and Val Demings of Orlando and Stephanie Murphy of Winter Park intend to cosponsor a resolution in Congress Monday night and spend about an hour on the House of Representatives floor paying tribute to the 49 people murdered at Pulse last year.

The trio attended the Pulse one-year memorial events in Orlando Monday and spoke at the ceremony at the Pulse nightclub, and then intended to fly back to Washington to take the city’s messages of remembrance, sorrow and unity to Congress.

They are expected to appear on the floor around 7 p.m., around the same time as the city-wide vigil scheduled at Orlando’s Lake Eola Park. It will be broadcast on C-SPAN 3.

“It’s in remembrance of the 49 victims we lost here in Orlando, and reinforcing the notion that we need to have acceptance of the LGBTQ community, as well as the amazing unity that our community has shown after this tragedy,” Soto said while appearing at the Sea-to-Sea Flag unfurling at the Orange County Administration Building.

“We’ll be doing an hour-long ‘Special Order’ on the House floor where we’ll be reading many of the stories of victims into the record,” Soto said.

In a press release, Demings added, “We will not forget the 49 men and women who were killed on June 12, 2016,” said Representative Val Demings, whose district includes the Pulse nightclub.

“Our community is still healing, family and friends are still mourning the lives of their loved ones, and survivors are still recovering from tragedy,” Demings added.

History Center exhibit catches love, creativity, faith outpourings following Pulse

There are boxes atop tissues on every display case at the Pulse One Orlando Exhibit that opened Monday at the Orange County Regional History Center, and they are being used.

From now through Saturday the center is displaying 200-300 items that were offered in the past year at various make-shift shrines throughout Orlando, items curated to express the community’s sorrow over the 49 people murdered, but also the love, creativity and faith that people left behind in the open, the rain and the heat, from personal notes to a love seat, from rosaries to the 49 memorial crosses carved and donated by an Indiana artist.

These are among the more than 5,000 items that Orlando, Orange County and the history center have gathered – and are still gathering – and cleaning, restoring, and archiving to preserve forever the material expressions of a city trying so hard to draw love an unity from tragedy and mourning. Eventually a permanent display will be developed, in part from input from the families of the 49 murdered on June 12, 2016, at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub Pulse, on Latino night.

Curators set out for this exhibit, to mark the one-year anniversary, to offer “a little taste of this, a little taste of that,” from among the mementoes, but through that clear patterns began to emerge, including a lot of art, and a lot of faith-based items, said History Center Executive Director Michael Perkins.

“The collection in toto is very heavy with art. We realized after a while that, while 9/11 is more for first responders, firefighters, with the badges and helmets and things like that, this collection is filled with art, of the folks we lost, and given the fact that Orlando is a pretty artistic community,” Perkins said.

Like much of what is being observed in Orlando Monday, Perkins said he hoped people get a sense of the community’s, and the nation’s and world’s responses of love and support.

“We think that’s what the collection shows the story of,” Perkins said.

That message shows up in numerous items, along with drawings and paintings of each of the 49 victims. There is a couch placed at the Dr. Phillips Center for the Performing Arts by Ikea, which was then signed with messages by thousands of people. There are signed flags left by visitors from other states and countries. There are displays dedicated to the police, deputy sheriffs, firefighters, paramedics, doctors and nurses who performed to the apex of their calls of duty.

Perkins said he was most affected by the the items, particularly personal notes, left by children.

“Those have a particular meaning to me, to just get a sense of how a child could possibly process something that is just unimaginable. They’re very simple messages from, ‘I hope you’re happy in heaven,’ to ‘I hope you all feel better soon.’ Just simple, innocent messages just written on a little piece of paper, of which we found so many,” Perkins said.

Many of the items also are on display over the internet, along with images of hundreds of other items, at the One Orlando Collection Digital Gallery.

Teresa Jacobs, Buddy Dyer, Patty Sheehan: Rainbow flag symbolizes Orlando’s values

As Orange County once again unfurled a piece of the Sea-to-Sea Rainbow Flag in downtown Orlando, city and county leaders insisted its values of acceptance, understanding, diversity and inclusion shall forever define Orlando.

The anniversary of the catastrophic mass murder at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub Pulse on Latino night, June 12, 2016, began largely in celebration of what this community found within itself in the hours, days, months and now the first year since.

City Commissioner Patty Sheehan, introduced at the ceremony as the heart of Orlando, collapsed into the arms of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer as Section 93 of the miles-long Sea-to-Sea Flag, symbolizing the spirit of hope and love, was stretched into position on the Orange County Administration Building. Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs, other city commissioners, county commissioners, U.S. Rep. Darren Soto, Pulse nightclub owner Barbara Poma, and others all seemed ready to join in the hug.

The flag, Sheehan said, had long ago become ” symbol for LGBTQ unity in a time when we needed a way to symbolize the LGBTQ community.”

“We have responded to that with love and kindness and decency. We’ve responded to hatred with love,” Sheehan said. “That’s just who my community is, and I’m so proud of my community.”

Dyer called the day a year ago “the darkest day, by far, in our city’s history.”

“And since that morning we’ve come together in so many different ways, to support the survivors, the victim’s families, the first responders,” Dyer said. “In the face of terror, this community showed the world what the best of humanity looks like.

“But even in a place as welcoming as Orlando there is still much to do, to honor the legacy of 49 beautiful souls we can’t simply be bystanders,” Dyer continued.

“Here in Orlando and Orange County our compassion and our culture of inclusion and acceptance have shined brightly over the past year. And it is so important that we continue to embrace the values of the Rainbow Flag,” Jacobs said. “It is those values that have made our community what it is. It is the values of acceptance, of understating and of inclusion. Together we must continue to erase those lines that separate us.

“We must continue on the charge that we were given on June 12, 2016, when 49 members of our community became our 49 Pulse angels,” Jacobs continued. “We have a moral obligation here on Earth to do our part to make sure their loss is never forgotten, and the change they wanted to see is the change that we insist happen in our time, in our lifetime, here in this community and across the world.”

Although Dyer noted that many of the values of inclusion already were in place in Orlando, this is a city changed. Jacobs was part of that change, as Sheehan said she had observed Jacobs have “an honest epiphany of understanding of the LGBTQ community” last year, becoming a heartfelt ally of Orlando’s LBGTQ community. The first time the flag was unfurled there, late last June, much of the city felt the same way.

“I can tell you candidly that ten years ago that we would never have been able to fly this flag, or that we could do so without an outpouring of outrage and objections,” Jacobs said. “I can also tell you we received one, single comment of disagreement, in a county 1.3 million large.”

A year later, Orlando looks at Pulse and people still ask ‘Why?’

The shock, horror, and a community’s pain have not eased in the year since Orlando’s Pulse massacre and people still come, still in total disbelief, asking, “Why?”

The trauma of the nation’s worst-ever mass shooting, on Latino night at Orlando’s popular gay nightclub, is blood-deep among the survivors, and the families and friends of the 49 who were murdered and 53 who were left for dead yet survived, in the early morning hours of June 12, 2016; and for the police, deputies, firefighters, paramedics, doctors, nurses and all others who lived that day, and every day, since inside the calamity.

On Monday bells will toll. At 1 a.m., Pulse owner Barbara Poma will lead a private memorial at the club to the 49 killed. At 10 a.m. Orange County will unfurl the Sea-to-Sea Rainbow Flag section, and the Orange County Regional History Center will open its One Orlando exhibit of Pulse memorabilia. From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. a large memorial service will be held at the Pulse nightclub. At 7 p.m. the whole community is invited to a remembrance ceremony at Lake Eola Park. At 10 p.m. a final private memorial will be held at Pulse.

For most of the rest of Central Florida, and by extension countless of people throughout the country, the world, the Pulse massacre remains the cold, hard slap that changed consciousness. You didn’t have to be there, you didn’t have to know someone who was, to be part of what has become OrlandoUnited.

Many still stop by the club to wander among its makeshift memorials. For them, too, the specter of abomination still haunts in Orlando.


“Why?” asked Joseph Moore, visiting Pulse during an Orlando vacation from Nashville.

The question has officially been answered. Shooter Omar Mateen, apparently suffering from mental illness, harboring a great hatred of gays, and, at least in the end, professing loyalty to ISIS, bought guns, went to Pulse and killed, wounded, and brought down more anguish than anyone could imagine. But that doesn’t answer the broader question that still haunts. Why is this even possible?

“It was shocking, to know that something like this could happen so close to your house,” said Jose Torres of Orlando. “In my wildest dream I could never imagine that something like this could happen here in Orlando.

“There’s a lot of hatred, not only of the gay community but through everybody, we have hatred of race, of religion,” Torres said. So, I mean it’s scary that the United States that we have such diverse culture, that in 2017 we’re still living with this type of hatred for each other.”

“It’s just an unthinkable thing, to have that kind thing happen here,” said Matthew Garnetti of Orlando.

“I just don’t know how people can do that to other people,” said Sal Alvarez of Los Angeles, who was in Orlando with his family for a vacation, took the family first to Pulse. “We all have different beliefs and lifestyles. I think we can all learn something, to not judge, to accept people for who they are, no matter what they believe in, or their lifestyle.”

“Sadness. It makes me cry. I’m crying. It just hurts to know that this happened,” said another out-of-town visitor, Kaytiame Rottler of Lafayette, Ind., “It raises questions: Why people do what they do, and what possesses them? Everyone is human, no matter what they look like or who they love.”

Arnsley Cortes‘s brother was at Pulse the night of June 11, 2016, but left before the shooting started. She paid her respects to Pulse late last week.

“When I see it, it feels like all the people that are so mean to one another, with everything going on,” she said. “For some reason they find a way to hurt others. And it’s not right.”

Medical marijuana research, 16 other higher-ed programs restored in budget deal

The budget package deal that gave Gov. Rick Scott the $85 million he wants for a Florida Job Growth Grant Fund also restored cut funding sought by Florida colleges and universities for 17 different projects, including funding for medical marijuana research.

The research money, $1.69 million will go to the University of Florida Health Center for the College of Cannabis Research in Gainesville. UF also is getting $5.9 million for its Music Building.

Florida State University was a big winner from the special session, getting four projects totaling more than $12 million restored. FSU will get $6.8 for its Interdisciplinary Research Commercialization Building, $4.2 million for its STEM Teaching Lab, $846,000 for faculty and a scholarship program for FSU College of Law, and $515,000 for its Florida Campus Compact.

Another big winner was Florida International University in Miami, which is getting $12.7 million for its School of International and Public Affairs.

Also winning big was Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, which is getting $12.7 million for its Integrated Watershed and Costal Studies program.

Polk State College is getting $2.5 million to expand its Art Program.

Lake Erie College is getting $2.1 million for its Osteopathic Medicine School in Bradenton.

The University of Central Florida in Orlando is getting $1.69 million for its downtown presence initiatives.

Miami-Dade College in Miami is getting $1.2 million to rem ode its gymnasium into a Justice Center.

Florida Atlantic University is getting $1 million for its Tech Runway Initiative.

The University of West Florida in Pensacola is getting $931,0000 for its Archaeology Program.

Florida Gateway College of Lake City is getting $336,000 for its Olustee Campus Public Safety Facility

Rick Scott proclaims June 12 ‘Pulse Remembrance Day’

Gov. Rick Scott has proclaimed next Monday, June 12, to be “Pulse Remembrance Day” in Florida, calling for flags to fly at half staff and for a moment of silence at 9 a.m.

In doing so, Scott also acknowledged the blows to the Hispanic and LGBTQ communities,  and does not explicitly describe the attack, which killed 49 and wounded 53, as a radical Islamic terrorist attack. That is characterization he has not always used, and for which he has received stern criticism from critics, most recently earlier this week from state Rep. Carlos Guillermo Smith, an Orlando Democrat.

“I encourage all Floridians to pause this Monday at 9 a.m. to share in a moment of silence to honor the victims of the Pulse terror attic,” Scott said in a release announcing the proclamation. “This was an attack on Orlando, our state, the Hispanic Community and on the LGBTQ community. It left a solemn impact on our state that we will carry with us for the rest of our lives.”

The proclamation begins by stating that on “June 12, 2016, a terrorist inspired by ISIS targeted the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando and took 49 innocent lives.”

It then states that “the LGBTQ and Hispanic communities were viciously attacked during this senseless tragedy.”

It goes on to praise the responses, bravery, heroism, care, compassion and love from law enforcement, first responders, medical personnel, volunteer and charitable organizations.

It also commends groups for coming together “to restore hope and pecs during Orlando’s darkest time of need,” and acknowledges the “lives of survivors, families and loved ones forever changed by this senseless and hateful act.”

“The horrific terror attack at Pulse attempted to rip at the seams of our society, strike fear in our hearts and divide us,” Scott stated in the news release. “Yet, in the face of extreme adversity and loss, Floridians showed resiliency, bravery and love. Over the past year, our state, the city of Orlando and the many Floridians affected by this tragedy have shown incredible resolve as we continue to mourn the loved and lost. As we pause to honor the 49 victims of this tragic attack this Monday, my wife and I will say a prayer for each of them and their families. We will also be reminded of all the people who helped others in need. The law enforcement officers, first responders, medical personnel, faith and spiritual leaders and Central Florida families defined what Florida is all about. We care about each other and we came together when it was needed the most.”


Andrew Gillum’s campaign touting more than 7,000 donors

Andrew Gillum is staking claim to the broadest base of campaign donors.

The Democratic gubernatorial candidate’s campaign is reporting Friday it has topped the 7,000 donor mark for $1.2 million in total contributions.

The Tallahassee mayor is running against two other major candidates for the Democratic nomination for governor in 2018.

That means Gillum’s official campaign and his unofficial political committee Forward Florida brought in about $150,000 from roughly 1,400 donors in May.

Gillum faces former Congresswoman Gwen Graham of Tallahassee and Winter Park affordable housing developer Chris King for the Democratic nomination.

The leading Republican is Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam, whose official and unofficial committees have raised far more than those three Democrats combined.

Geoff Burgan, Gillum’s communication director, said May was a big month, even as his candidate took time off as he and his wife R. Jai Gillum welcomed their third child, Davis Allen Gillum, born May 15.

“Our campaign was thrilled for the mayor’s family to welcome their third child last month, and he took some well-deserved time off the campaign trail,” Burgan said. “We’re excited to have more than 7,000 contributors, the most in the race, and we’re raising the resources to compete in all 67 counties. The Mayor doesn’t have a famous last name or personal wealth, but we’re proud to have the support of thousands of Floridians.”


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