Bill Nelson Archives - Page 7 of 33 - Florida Politics

PROMESA task force seeking to rescue Puerto Rico, but pain will come too, Bill Nelson says

Meeting with a bipartisan roundtable of Puerto Rican leaders in Kissimmee Tuesday, Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson expressed both hope that current Puerto Rico “rescue” plans being developed will help, and concern that not all the details they want can be delivered.

Nelson, Congressman-elect Darren Soto and Osceola County Commission Chairwoman Viviana Janer met with 15 Orlando- and Kissimmee-area Puerto Ricans to hash out what they hope for through Congress and the Puerto Rico Oversight Board the lawmakers created last summer with the PROMESA Act.

The island territory is wracked in debt; a downward-spiraling economy; an exodus of people, particularly doctors, lawyers, and other professionals; and a double-whammy health care crisis combining lack of health care money and the rise of the Zika virus. Schools and hospitals are closing. Fire and police departments are cutting back. Business and jobs are draining away.

“Needless to say, they are suffering,” Nelson said.

But in speaking to the press earlier, Nelson cautioned, “The austerity measures are indeed hurting folks. But there has to be austerity measures because you can’t spend money that you don’t have, and that’s what’s been going on for the last several years.”

Janer brought it home.

“Osceola County is more than 50 percent Hispanic with most of them being Puerto Rican. I myself, I was born on the island and still have close family ties there. And I think that’s what this is all about. All of us in one way, shape or form is connected to the island of Puerto Rico,” she said. “When Puerto Rico is doing poorly, we’re doing poorly. When they succeed, we will succeed. We care what happens.”

The oversight board is a new federal authority charged with pushing through tough-love economic measures, many of which Congress will have to adopt. And while Nelson made it clear to the gathering the board will administer the economic rescue, he cautioned that many of the hopes of the people there, and their friends and relatives in Florida, will have to accept that bipartisan disagreements will lead to difficult compromises.

A bipartisan, bicameral task force in Congress, which includes both Nelson and Florida’s Republican U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, is overseeing the oversight board, and will recommend reforms to Congress. The task force must report by Dec. 31. Rubio held a similar roundtable in Orlando in October.

“What we are trying to do is a rescue package, and we, the task force, were given the task of coming up with the recommendations,” Nelson said.

Nelson said he hopes to see the first important reforms, “relative relief, uncontroversial measures,” passed in this Congress, through the budget bill. He said he expects it to only be a three-month continuing continuing resolution, but cited it as the best shot.

Among the key points Nelson and Soto said they expect will pass: some sort of increase in Medicaid funding for island residents, seeking to bring them into parity with stateside Medicaid recipients; childcare tax credits for Puerto Ricans; some sort of small business loan program to help entrepreneurs; and some way to address the Zika virus, which now has affected an estimated 20,000 island residents, including 2,500 pregnant women.

Other key issues, including how the territorial government will address $69 billion in debt to bondholders and a huge shortfall in its $43 billion pension system, remain uncertain challenges, and still others drew debate even among the roundtable panelists.

Some in the roundtable called for the need to protect corporate investors so they will feel comfortable investing in Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican business ventures in the future. Others insisted the territory must get the chance to refinance its debts. The Jones Act — the 96-year-old maritime law — was cited as costing the island and its residents enormous amounts of money. The corporate tax exemptions in Puerto Rico were debated. The prospect of a minimum-wage cut for islanders looms, under PROMESA.

“We are here simply because our brothers and sisters on the island of Puerto Rico need our help,” said Soto, the first Puerto Rican elected to Congress from Florida. His district includes all of Osceola County. “While we face recession, they face a catastrophe of monumental economic depression.”

Phillip Arroyo, a Democrat active in politics, decried what he said has been longstanding corporate exploitation on the island.

“If Congress, if this nation, bailed out Wall Street, I think Puerto Rico should be bailed out as well,” he said.

Anthony Suarez, a Republican active in politics, noted that Puerto Rico Gov. Alejandro Garcia Padilla refused to enact austerity measures ordered by the oversight board, saying he is posturing, trying to make the board look like “the bad guy.”

All of it underscored Nelson’s and Soto’s warnings that the answers will require tough compromises that will hurt as they help.

Soto cautioned that there are those who want the relief to be distributed to the top and trickle down, and said, “I’m hopeful that economic relief will go directly to the people of the island.”

Bill Nelson speaks highly of Attorney General prospect Jeff Sessions

Florida’s Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson spoke highly Tuesday of Alabama’s Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions as a possible U.S. attorney general in Donald Trump‘s administration.

During a stop in Kissimmee Tuesday, Nelson described Sessions as a colleague, friend, and fellow senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and as someone he can work with. Nelson, however, stopped short of declaring his support for Sessions, President-elect Trump’s pick to run the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sessions has many Democrats worried because of hard-line stances he has taken in issues involving abortion, gay marriage, and health care, among others. But Nelson said he’s seen his colleague as someone willing to reach across the aisle to seek bipartisan consensus.

“Jeff Sessions is my friend. I, of course, will listen to all the testimony and make a decision as to whether or not he is responsible and ready to be attorney general. I reserve judgment as I would on anybody,” Nelson said. “But I can tell you I’ve worked with Jeff Sessions on a number of pieces of legislation … and we always got along. And we worked out, in a bipartisan way, whatever the issues were at the time.

“I think he’s a reasonable person,” Nelson added.


Mitch Perry Report for 11.20.16 — Bill de Blasio’s big moment?

In New York City today, Mayor Bill de Blasio is expected to give a “major speech” on the presidential election’s impact on the city. De Blasio wants help from the feds to pay for the additional security costs in dealing with the fact that the president-elect’s home is literally in the heart of Midtown Manhattan.

The NYPD has already put about an additional 50 officers on each shift during daytime hours to manage the flow of traffic in the immediate area of Trump Tower, de Blasio said Friday, and he wants Washington to help pay for overtime costs.

Although being mayor of New York already presents a huge national platform, de Blasio’s profile could grow larger as a dominant liberal voice in opposition to the new Donald Trump administration, along with the usual suspects (Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, Chuck Schumer, Nancy Pelosi, etc.)

“The mayor has an enormous opportunity to stand up on behalf of New Yorkers and our values. Lots of New Yorkers are afraid of Trump and the mayor can be their voice,” political consultant Howard Wolfson, who advised Michael Bloomberg and served on Hillary Clinton’s 2008 campaign team, told the NY Post on Sunday.

It also may help him as he begins his quest to be re-elected in 2017.

If you’ve followed de Blasio’s tenure to date so far, you know it’s been somewhat checkered, to say the least, following 12 years under Bloomberg. Scorned by conservatives, he hasn’t exactly fired up his own liberal base, and his poll numbers have been pretty average throughout his first three years.

A Quinnipiac poll released last week shows the populace split in half as he received a 47/47 percent approval rating. However, that was his BEST rating since January and up from a negative 42/51 percent approval rating in August.

However, that same poll shows that by a  49-39 percent margin, NYC voters say they don’t support his re-election. To date, no major players have surfaced to challenge the mayor, but there’s still nearly a year for a serious opponent to surface.

Another big mayoral election will take place a year from now in St. Petersburg, where Rick Kriseman’s poll numbers have been solid, though he could be vulnerable if a strong challenger emerges.

In other news …

Local reporters/pundits discussed the 2016 presidential election at the Tampa Tiger Bay Club on Friday.

Donald Trump has been busy nominating men for his Cabinet, including Alabama Sen. Jeff Sessions for attorney general. Bill Nelson says he’s withholding judgement on his Senate colleague.

Eckerd College president Donald Eastman is one of 110 college presidents to pen a letter to president-elect Trump on the need to speak out against violence being committed in his name.

House chairman: Donald Trump favors privatizing air traffic control

A House committee chairman says President-elect Donald Trump likes the idea of spinning off air traffic control operations from the government and placing them under the control of a private, non-profit corporation chartered by Congress.

Rep. Bill Shuster, head of the House transportation committee, told The Associated Press that he spoke to Trump about the idea several times both before and during the presidential election.

He said he believes the president-elect would be supportive, although details would have to be worked out.

“I have spoken to him on a number of occasions and he generally likes the idea,” Shuster said. “We do need to sit down and put meat on the bones … I think in general he sees it as something that’s positive and we need to work on it.”

The Republican lawmaker endorsed Trump early on and campaigned twice with him in his Pennsylvania congressional district. He also campaigned twice with Vice President-elect Mike Pence.

Since the election, Shuster has met with Shirley Ybarra, a former Virginia transportation secretary who is working with the Trump transition team on transportation matters.

Ybarra and the Trump transition team didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment.

Shuster and most of the airline industry have been pressing for air traffic control privatization. They say the Federal Aviation Administration is moving too slowly to adopt new technology and that airlines haven’t seen the benefits they expected from the agency’s air traffic control modernization program, which has been in the works for more than a decade.

Earlier this year, Shuster included a plan to privatize air traffic control in a bill to extend the FAA’s operating authority. The bill was approved by the transportation committee, but Shuster was unable to get it to the House floor after several influential lawmakers, including the Ways and Means Committee chairman and the House and Senate Appropriations Committee chairmen, raised objections. Democrats, some segments of the aviation industry and some FAA unions also oppose the plan, although the National Air Traffic Controllers Association endorsed the bill.

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., the Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee chairman and Shuster’s Senate counterpart, hasn’t taken a position on the issue. He said Friday that the FAA hasn’t been successful in bringing fundamental change to how air traffic is managed despite spending billions of dollars.

“Congress has different options, and we will continue to explore them, but the case for changing the FAA’s approach to air traffic control modernization has become stronger,” Thune told the AP.

Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., the senior Democrat on the House transportation committee, cautioned earlier this week that any proposal to overhaul the existing air traffic system “must be thoroughly vetted, not rushed through Congress just because the political landscape makes it easier.”

Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., raised objections Friday to what he described as an attempt by House proponents of air traffic control privatization to include language in a defense policy bill that would effectively squelch military objections to the plan. Nelson described his concerns in a letter Friday to Senate Armed Committee Chairman John McCain, R-Ariz., and Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the committee’s senior Democrat.

Republished with permission of the Associated Press.

Bill Nelson wants probe into Florida’s use of driver records

Sen. Bill Nelson wants a federal investigation of how Florida uses the personal information of its 15 million licensed drivers.

The Florida Democrat wrote U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch on Friday asking her to probe whether the state is selling information for marketing purposes without the drivers’ consent in violation of federal law.

Nelson made the request after WTVT-TV reported that 75 companies are getting information in bulk from the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, and that the agency is not doing anything to ensure the information is used properly.

“In this new era, when identity thieves are causing real damage to millions of hardworking families, the fact that the state is making a profit by selling Floridians’ personal information on the open market is simply unconscionable,” Nelson’s letter says. “I ask that your agency investigate whether the State of Florida is fully adhering to the intent of the law, as any deviation could be severely harmful to the millions of people who trusted the state.”

The agency has collected $150 million in the last two fiscal years from companies requesting driving records. Its executive director, Terry Rhodes, said in a statement that the agency “does not sell driver or motor vehicle information” and that the driving records were handed over as required under federal laws and the state’s public records laws.

Beth Frady, a spokeswoman for Rhodes, added that the money collected from companies was based on fees that were set by the Florida Legislature.

Rhodes and her agency report to Gov. Rick Scott and the three elected members of the Florida Cabinet.

Scott’s office and Attorney General Pam Bondi did not comment on Nelson’s letter and instead referred all questions to the agency. Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam said Friday in a statement that he has requested the agency to “provide me with a full update regarding this important consumer and personal privacy matter.”

WTVT reported that some of the companies obtaining driver records had no websites or storefronts, and were not registered to do business in Florida. One operates out of a condominium near Fort Lauderdale, but did not respond to the station’s requests for comment.

WTVT said it began investigating after noticing that Florida residents doing transactions with the agency would then receive direct marketing ads.

Bill Nelson will “reserve judgment” regarding Jeff Sessions nomination as Attorney General

If Bill Nelson is concerned about the fact that his party appears to be in tatters following last week’s election, he wasn’t letting on while addressing reporters in Tampa on Friday afternoon. Nelson will be one of 25 Democratic Senators up for re-election in a map that already looked foreboding for the Democrats before Hillary Clinton lost in the electoral college to Donald Trump in the race for the White House next week.

“I only know one way to run, and that’s to run as hard as I can as if there’s no tomorrow,” he said, adding that whether it was Governor Rick Scott or another Republican challenging his bid for a fourth term in the Senate representing Florida, he’ll continue to run in that mode.

“I always say that I run scared, and that’s the way to win,” when asked about the fact that Scott spent more than $75 million to capture the governor’s mansion in 2010, and this time will have the power of the White House behind him in Trump.

The President-elect made more news on Friday by naming Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions and former Defense Intelligence Agency head Michael Flynn to his administration

Some Democrats have reacted with alarm to the naming of Sessions to be the next Attorney General, who in 1986 became only the second federal judicial nominee in 50 years to be rejected by the Senate Judiciary Committee for his comments in part regarding his remarks on civil rights. 

Nelson said little about how he might vote on Sessions when he comes up for a confirmation vote next year. “I will certainly reserve judgment if he is the nominee until we go through the hearings and it comes to the full Senate for a vote,” he said at a news conference at his downtown Tampa district office. “I can tell you that Jeff Sessions and I have worked on a number of pieces of legislation together in a bipartisan way and I’ve always had a very good working relationship with him.”

Last year the two worked on a bill that would reduce the number of H-1B visas from 85,000 to 70,000 a year. The filing of that bill came following reports Disney and other companies are using the visas to cut costs at the expense of American workers.

Nelson said he was briefed a few years ago by Flynn regarding an issue in the Intelligence Committee, but said he didn’t know him personally, and because he wasn’t subject to confirmation in the Senate, he had nothing else to say about him.

Regarding concerns from Latinos and Muslims about a Trump presidency after his harsh rhetoric in the campaign about those groups, Nelson took a relatively laid-back approach, saying there was no reason why anyone needed to be fearful of a Trump presidency. “Look at the Constitution,” he said. “It’s always worked for almost two-and-a-half centuries now. So I want the American people to stop worrying.”

The Florida Senator was not so benign when discussing Steve Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News who was named last Sunday by Trump to serve as his chief strategist. Critics have said he holds racist and anti-Semitic views based on some of the provocative reporting that’s gone on the Breitbart News website led by Bannon.

“If all these things are true about him and if he holds those views that have been articulated, if not by him by the organization he heads, then I think that is quite problematic, but again, the Senate has no role in that because the President ought to be able to have who he wants surrounding him, and in that case it is not subject to Senate confirmation,” he said.

The Democratic Party as a whole appears to be just beginning a period of soul-searching after the election. That includes an upcoming election to choose a new leader of the Democratic National Committee, as well as a challenge now to House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi’s reign.

Regarding the DNC, Nelson told this reporter that “we obviously need somebody really good, and I think that person should be a full-time DNC Chairman. Beyond that, I have not made any judgments. “

By saying that, however, he’s effectively icing out Keith Ellison, the Minnesota congressman and favorite of the progressive wing who of course, already has a full-time job serving in the House.

And of the challenge to Pelosi, the 76-year-old San Francisco Representative who’s led the House Democrats for 14 years now and seen dozens of seats go from blue to red in recent election cycles?

“That’s in the bosom in the House,” Nelson declared. “I wouldn’t dare to speak for the House.”

Nelson said if Trump is sincere about seriously investing in the country’s crumbling infrastructure, he’d have a willing partner in himself. “We’ll just have to take it issue by issue.”

Bob Buckhorn says it’s a time for soul searching in the Democratic Party

Lifelong Democrat Bob Buckhorn admits it’s been rough adapting to a world where Hillary Clinton won’t be the next president. The Tampa mayor went all-out for the party’s presidential nominee, including a weekend winter trip to New Hampshire just days before the first primary in the nation last February. And while Clinton did take Hillsborough County (along with the other major metropolitan areas of Florida), she lost the exurban and rural areas big time in ultimately losing to Donald Trump by just 1.2 percent in the Sunshine State last week.

Both the national and state Democratic party are in crisis, with the Democratic National Committee and Florida Democratic Party to decide on new leadership in the coming months. Like so many other Florida Democrats, Buckhorn has been here before.

“Obviously anytime you have a loss like this, there’s going to be a lot of teeth gnashing and soul searching,” the mayor said Tuesday.

“There will be a debate at the national level as to whether or not you move to a more progressive agenda, with people like Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders; or do you try to come back to the center a la Bill Clinton in 1991 and 1992 to drive a message that the middle class mattered, that those rural white working class folks that he could talk to so well have got to be included in the discussion, that it’s not just driving up minority participation but have a message that resonates with everybody.”

Although he didn’t tip his hand as to where he comes down to the different approaches that will no doubt be debated by Democrats going into the holiday season, the mayor historically has come down on the centrist side, and has previously argued that is the only way to win statewide in Florida.

Buckhorn says the conversation needs to begins now among party members in Florida if they’re going to successfully defend Bill Nelson’s Senate seat (Rick Scott admitted on Wednesday what everyone has assumed is a given — he’s looking at running for Nelson’s seat). There’s also the potential to pick up a cabinet seat (or more) with with all four state office positions — governor, attorney general, chief financial officer, and agriculture commissioner — all open seats in 2018. “We need a message that resonates, not just in the cities, but everywhere in the state of Florida,” he said.

Inevitably, any conversation with Buckhorn about politics leads to his own potential participation for one of those seats in 2018 — specifically governor.

Although one-term Congresswoman Gwen Graham has virtually declared her candidacy and there’s a movement afoot to draft Orlando attorney and Democratic fundraiser John Morgan, Buckhorn isn’t showing his cards just yet, but admits he’ll need to decide by early 2017.

“Like a lot of people who are contemplating the future, you have to sort of sift through the carnage of last Tuesday and see what the landscape is, see whether or not there’s a path for victory for Democrats there, whether I’m the guy that can carry that torch, that I can inspire people to follow my lead,” he said, adding, “ultimately it’s gotta come down to whether in my gut whether this is something that I want to do.

“I’m lucky that I’ve got a job that I love coming to work everyday, and if I choose not to do this, I’m going to be perfectly happy, because I get to finish out an opportunity here as mayor that I have worked for my entire life. It’s a good position for me to be in. I do think the state needs new leadership, I think we need a regime change in Tallahassee. And I think that the Tampa renaissance is going to be a pretty compelling story to tell.”

Rick Scott considering bid for US Senate in 2018

Florida Gov. Rick Scott, who challenged the Republican establishment six years ago and stormed his way into the governor’s mansion, now says he is considering running for the U.S. Senate.

During a wide-range interview with reporters on Tuesday, Scott conceded that “an option I have” is to run for the seat held by Sen. Bill Nelson in 2018. Nelson, the only statewide elected Democrat in Florida, has already said he plans to run for a fourth term.

Scott, who has already said he’s not interested in a potential job in the administration of President-elect Donald Trump, didn’t lay out any kind of time table for a decision and instead said that he would continue to focus on his current post.

Scott said that in business he figured out that “if I do well every day in my job there would be a next opportunity.”

Scott was re-elected in 2014, but is limited by law from seeking another term.

Scott spoke of his intentions while attending the Republican Governors Association annual conference in Orlando where he said he was “excited” about Trump’s victory because he now had someone he could call on for help. Scott said that he had already talked to Trump three times since the election.

“I now have a president I can talk to,” said Scott, who repeatedly criticized the administration of President Barack Obama on a myriad of issues.

Scott’s bid for future office could be helped out by Trump, who Scott called a friend and said he’s someone he has known for 20 years. Scott endorsed Trump right after he won the Florida primary and stood by even as Trump came under fire for some of his comments during the campaign. He also was a chairman of a super PAC that raised $20 million that was used on ads in battleground states that were won by Trump.

Scott has compared his upstart victory in 2010 to Trump’s since the former health care executive ran against GOP favorite and then-Attorney General Bill McCollum. He noted that Republicans ran attack ads against him during the heated campaign.

During his remarks with reporters, Scott said it was time for Republicans who offered lukewarm support for Trump to now “embrace him.” He predicted that Trump could help the state on everything from flood insurance rates to securing federal funding for Everglades restoration and repairing the aging Lake Okeechobee dike.

Reprinted with the permission of the Associated Press

Joe Henderson: Looks like Donald Trump insider Pam Bondi is movin’ on up

It great to have choices, especially the kind in Pam Bondi’s world these days.

If there was any doubt about her clout with President-elect Donald Trump, that was put to rest when she was named to his transition team executive committee late last week.

This is as close to being brought into the official Trump family as one can get without bloodlines. It’s a team of power figures that includes Trump’s children, several important lawmakers, and key insiders whose work helped him win the election.

Trump clearly believes Bondi deserves “insider” status.

“I’m honored to serve President-elect Donald J. Trump in making this historic transition and assisting in finding the best individuals to bring change to Washington on Day 1, grow our economy, protect our children and families, and be unafraid to stand up for Americans,” Bondi said in a statement.

No one will be surprised if Florida is looking for a new attorney general soon. I don’t think Trump brought Bondi in this close to merely shake her hand when the transition is done and say, “Hey, thanks. Appreciate it. See you in four years.”

And Bondi, who is nothing if not ambitious, must know this is the time to jump. It won’t be long until the wrestling match for slots in the 2018 statewide and U.S. Senate races begin in Florida (I know, I know … sorry) and Bondi doesn’t seem to have a natural fit anywhere.

She hasn’t been mentioned in any serious chatter about running for governor. Her current boss, Gov. Rick Scott, seems to have his eye on Bill Nelson’s Senate seat. Bondi’s best bet might be to get what she can now with Trump and see where that takes her.

If she does join the administration, there are a lot of people who will consider it a quid-pro-quo for Bondi’s look-the-other-way performance on questions about consumer rip-offs in Florida by Trump University. The $25,000 campaign check Trump wrote for Bondi’s 2014 race might come up a time or two — or several thousand.

It sure has the look of something cozy.

That’s the thing about her, though.

That ambition-driven interior is covered by a Teflon exterior. Nothing seems to stick to her. Don’t forget, Bondi originally backed Jeb Bush for president, only to swear allegiance to the candidate who insulted and trashed him.

Trump won Florida by 1.3 percent, or about 120,000 votes out of about 9.3 million cast. Did Bondi’s support help swing the necessary votes his way? I doubt it. I think Trump voters chose him for reasons that had nothing to do with Bondi’s endorsement.

Once she was on Trump’s team, though, she was all in — and the incoming president didn’t forget that. Now that the race is over, she has moved to the head of the line for whatever awaits. I suppose it’s possible she could come back to finish her remaining two years as attorney general.

At this point, though, it seems a lot more likely that she is headed uptown.

John Mica adds $160K, pulls far ahead of Stephanie Murphy in CD 7

Incumbent Republican Rep. John Mica added another $160,000 to his campaign account, according to a pair of notices filed with the Federal Election Commission last week.

Mica filed the notices on Oct. 26 and Oct 28, showing a combined 76 contributions totaling $158,500 for his campaign.

Among the donors were fellow Republican representatives Vicky Hatzler of Missouri, Garrett Graves of Louisiana, Tom Cole of Oklahoma, and Brett Guthrie of Kentucky.

Mica’s supporters also included dozens of political committees, such as the American Airlines PAC, Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers, the New York Life PAC, and SunTrust BankPAC, among many others.

Democrat Stephanie Murphy, Mica’s opponent in the Congressional District 7 race, added $36,000 to her campaign account, according to a pair of FEC filings her campaign made Oct. 28.

Like Mica, Murphy received a good deal of support from other congressional campaigns, including Reps. Paul Tonko and Hakeem Jeffries of New York, Julia Brownley and Mark Takano of California, and Bill Foster of Illinois.

Mica is far ahead of Murphy in total fundraising. Through the candidates’ last full campaign finance reports, Mica had raised more than $1.2 million with $167,000 cash-on-hand compared to about $777,000 for Murphy, who had about $174,000 on hand.

CD 7 covers Seminole County and part of Orange County and is shaping up to be very competitive. Republicans slightly outnumber Democrats in the district, though President Barack Obama and Democratic U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson both carried the district four years ago.

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