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October 24, 2014 / 30 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘House’

Honoring Rep. Ros-Lehtinen

Friday, July 8th, 2011

Members of the Los Angeles Jewish community attended a recent breakfast for Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), hosted by Esther and Rafi Katz. Ros-Lehtinen, her state’s first Republican female elected to the House of Representatives, currently chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

 

Following Stanley Treitel’s introduction of Ros-Lehtinen and Robert Rechnitz’s presentation to her, the congresswoman said, “As chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I continue to support Israel in its struggle to combat violent extremism in the Middle East and isolation in the international arena.” Responding to the State Department’s negative comments regarding Israeli settlements, Ros-Lehtinen demanded that the Obama administration halt its “condemnations” of “an indispensable ally and friend of the United States.”

 


(L-R) Rafi and Esther Katz with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen

Photo credit: Arye D. Gordon

What The President Got Wrong

Wednesday, May 25th, 2011

When President Obama spoke last week of the opportunities presented by the Arab Spring, he got a lot right. His calling out of the Arab states was long overdue and dead on.

But he got some big things wrong.

Why the 1967 borders didn’t work in 1967: When the president said Israel should withdraw to the 1967 lines with mutually agreed upon swaps, he missed an opportunity to put the issue of borders in an important historical context for the world.

The borders of Israel changed because then, like today, the Jewish state came under attack from all sides.

The Arabs rejected the 1967 borders with Israel by waging war. Egypt cut off Israel’s only supply route to Asia and amassed troops on its borders with the Sinai. Syria attacked from the Golan Heights. Jordan started shelling Jerusalem. Before the outbreak of war, Arab terrorism had grown more frequent, with 37 attacks in just the first four months of 1967.

For anyone to discuss the ’67 borders without mentioning this is like discussing our war with Japan without mentioning Pearl Harbor.

A U.S. “plan” becomes a Palestinian demand: We saw how the ill-fated U.S. demand for a total “settlement” freeze wound up grinding peace talks to a halt when the Palestinians then demanded nothing less before they would even sit at the bargaining table.

The call for a 100 percent stop to all building activity did not take into account ongoing construction of buildings in naturally growing areas, as well as several areas like Gilo that are certainly not “settlements.” Soon even Israel’s capital was called a “settlement.”

The administration eventually withdrew this condition, but not before the damage was done. The Palestinians have refused to even start talking unless this impossible and unreasonable condition is met. The president has now repeated the mistake by giving the Palestinians yet another American-created precondition: 1967 borders.

We will now certainly hear a new refrain from them – that they won’t talk about any “swaps” until the ’67 borders are returned.

Negotiated settlement? OK, but with whom? The president expressed many important sentiments in the speech that reflect our values as a nation. For example, he rightly called Hamas a terrorist organization. But how is that fact compatible with the demand that Israel make concessions?

The sad truth is that it is no longer possible to pretend that there is a “good” and “bad” Palestinian entity. As Hamas and Fatah move closer to formalizing their reconciliation through a power-sharing agreement, the more moderate elements in Fatah are being pushed out.

Further, Hamas has yet to make any progress in moving away from its militant stand against Israel. Even the European Union calls Hamas a terrorist entity, and United States law makes this clear. The merger of Hamas and Fatah must put an end to the myth that the Palestinian Authority seeks peace in the region.

A “negotiated settlement” is what we all want, but it’s unrealistic and unfair to demand it of Israel until Hamas is gone.

I honor the president for his desire for peace. The Israelis have demonstrated they share the same aspiration. But taking a correct approach to history and being realistic in our description of today’s realities are vital to that goal.

Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, represents New York’s 9thCongressional district (parts of South Brooklyn and South Central Queens) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Texas Brouhaha Seen As Jewish ‘Test Case’ For Tea Party Movement

Wednesday, December 22nd, 2010


WASHINGTON – In Texas, the Tea Party passed its first Jewish test even before its legislators had been sworn in.


Deeply conservative forces in the Lone Star State firmly repudiated the effort by evangelical Christians to unseat the powerful Jewish speaker of the Texas House of Representatives because he wasn’t a “true Christian conservative.”


Speaker Joe Straus still faces opposition from his right flank because of his relatively moderate views, but his opponents have made clear that Straus’s Judaism is not a factor in the Jan. 11 race to be speaker.


“There is absolutely no place for religious bigotry in the race for Texas speaker, and I categorically condemn such action,” Rep. Ken Paxton, one of Straus’s two challengers in the race, said in a statement to the Houston-area Jewish Herald Voice. “Furthermore, it is just as shameful for anyone to imply that I would ever condone this type of behavior.”


State Rep. Warren Chisum, Straus’s other challenger, wrote him directly.


“I assure you that those sorts of attacks on a man’s religion have absolutely no place in the race for speaker,” he said. “I absolutely reject all such attacks or insinuations.”


The controversy in Texas was important because many Jews nationally had been watching it as a test case to see whether the Tea Party’s deeply conservative base was receptive to anti-Jewish ferment. The considerable Christian rhetoric in the Tea Party movement has stoked some concern among Jews, particularly as candidates from the movement cited Scripture in explaining their opposition to abortion, church-state separation and the teaching of evolution.


As it turned out, the strong response against statements singling out Straus for being Jewish was a relief, said Fred Zeidman, the most prominent Jewish Republican in Texas after Straus. Straus had turned to Zeidman to manage the crisis as soon as it emerged in e-mails from a small cadre of grass-roots conservatives.


“The big fear was, what are the elected guys going to do knowing this is their base,” said Zeidman. “But they didn’t take the bait – everybody either spoke up or stood down. Nobody followed the lead of this guy in Lumberton.”


“This guy in Lumberton,” a small town in east Texas, was Peter Morrison, who in a newsletter that reaches much of the state’s GOP leadership noted that Chisum and Paxton “are Christians and true conservatives.”


Morrison wasn’t the only Straus opponent calling attention to his religion.


“Straus is going down in Jesus’s name,” the Dallas Morning News quoted one Republican e-mailer as saying.


Ken Myers, the chairman of the Tea Party in Kaufman County, in sending a mass e-mail in support of a prominent state House critic of Straus, Rep. Bryan Hughes, wrote that “We finally found a Christian conservative who decided not to be pushed around by the Joe Straus thugs.”


Kaufman County, in suburban Dallas, coincidentally is named for David Kaufman, the first Jewish speaker of the Texas House – in the 1840s, when it was a republic.


On Nov. 30, The Texas Observer published an e-mail exchange among members of the state’s Republican Executive Committee in which committee member John Cook launched  a salvo against Straus’s faith.


“We elected a House with Christian, conservative values,” he wrote, referring to the supermajority that Tea Party conservatives had helped win for Republicans in the state House. “We now want a true Christian conservative running it.”


But other executive committee members repudiated Cook, and Straus now claims the support of 79 Republican members of the 150-member House, as well as 49 Democrats.


Some Tea Party members said the issue wasn’t that Straus was Jewish, but that the term Christian was being misapplied or misunderstood.


“I think people have been intellectually lazy in using ‘Christian’ and ‘conservative’ interchangeably,” Felicia Cravens, a Houston Tea Party founder, told Fox News. “And there’s a lot of that in Texas.”


Straus, whose wife and children are Christian but who is active in San Antonio’s Jewish community, seemed unfazed by the flare-up.


“Our country was founded on the rock of religious freedom and the Judeo-Christian values of the dignity and worth of every individual,” he told the Jewish Herald-Voice. “At its core, America believes in the freedom of every individual to worship as his or her conscience dictates, and it would be most unfortunate for anyone to suggest someone is more or less qualified for public office based on his or her faith.”


Straus faces a strong challenge from his right flank precisely because he has proven able to work with Democrats. The House was almost evenly divided in 2009 when he was elected speaker – the second most powerful position in the state because of the power to shape the legislative agenda. Straus angered conservatives with his successful challenge of longtime speaker Tom Craddick.


Straus’s moderation – and the challenge he is brooking from his right flank – reflects the other challenge facing the Jewish community as Tea Party conservatives assert their strength both in state Legislatures and in Congress. Straus has voted against restricting late-term abortions or gay adoption rights.


The bottom line, said Marlene Gorin, director of the Dallas-area Jewish Community Relations Council, was that the outbursts of anti-Semitism disappeared as suddenly as they had appeared.

 

“It came out of the blue – we have excellent relationships with all the legislators,” she said.  “Even to bring it up was disgusting, but I think now it is behind us.”

(JTA)

Stopping The Bin Laden Of The Internet

Wednesday, November 24th, 2010

The time has come for us to take the new technology available to terrorists seriously. The United States recently crowned Anwar al-Awlaki the newest “most dangerous terrorist in the world.” And yet an American company, YouTube, has been giving al-Awlaki open access to the world’s largest bully pulpit.

In response to this outrageous turn of events, I have begun the battle to remove this man from our airwaves and end his reign of E-terror.

Al-Awlaki had been dubbed “the bin-Laden of the Internet.” I call him the “YouTube Terrorist” for his dangerous and extremist sermons that are broadcast over the web via YouTube. My staff began an exhaustive search of the website and we found over 700 videos of this man preaching his hateful and dangerous message, with more than three and a half million views.

The threat al-Awlaki represents is not just a hypothetical one. His fingerprints have been on many of the recent terrorist attacks on American soil, resulting in the shedding of innocent blood on more than one occasion.

Three of the 9/11 hijackers were documented as attending al-Awlaki’s sermons, and there are reports that two of them even met with him privately.

Major Nidal Malik Hasan, the accused shooter at the U.S. Army base in Ft. Hood, was also a devotee of al-Awlaki’s. U.S. intelligence investigating the attack has intercepted at least 18 e-mails between Hasan and al-Awlaki. In one of these correspondences, Hasan wrote: “I can’t wait to join you in the afterlife.”

The “Christmas Day Bomber,” Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, also had a relationship with al-Awlaki, having met with him and also having admitted that al-Awlaki participated in the training leading up to the execution of his terrorist plot.

In one of his most recent videos, posted just this month, al-Awlaki declares that “Americans are from the party of devils, and no special permission is needed to kill them.”

The obvious question is: If al-Awlaki is so dangerous and has been shown to recruit terrorists and plan their attacks, why is he given free rein on the world’s largest digital platform to carry out his evil work?

It takes YouTube mere minutes to remove videos that infringe on the copyrights of private companies or that contain unauthorized audio tracks. I found it particularly disturbing that YouTube has the apparatus in place to remove videos and yet still has not taken down all those that have been posted by Anwar al-Awlaki.

I have no problem with YouTube. It is a profitable American company that creates jobs for New York, and it acts as a clearinghouse for ideas and stories that reach millions around the globe. But with great power comes great responsibility. In this case, its behavior has been inexcusable.

Last month I wrote to the CEO of YouTube and demanded al-Awlaki be taken off the website. At first, YouTube and its parent company, Google, hemmed and hawed that their policy already included taking down violent and objectionable videos in a timely fashion. I was, however, ultimately able to demonstrate to them that their existing “policy” was failing miserably.

The company has since taken down many of al-Awlaki’s videos and has even created a new system on its website in which viewers can flag videos for YouTube’s attention as being terrorist-related, just as they can flag videos for being inappropriate or infringing on copyrights.

It is, however, too early to claim victory. My office staff has been able to spot new videos from al-Awlaki on YouTube. Al-Awlaki is a vigorous and persistent enemy, perhaps blessed – to our misfortune – with American ingenuity, as he was born here. The fact that he speaks fluent English is one of the things that make him so dangerous.

I will remain watchful over YouTube’s parent company, Google. New media is good for business and the sharing of ideas. However, it opens up a whole new front in the war on terror – one that can be fought inexpensively but requires that we pay close attention.

Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, represents New York’s 9th Congressional district (parts of South Brooklyn and South Central Queens) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Failing To Recognize Jerusalem

Wednesday, October 27th, 2010

In what country were you born?

If you are a U.S. citizen born in Jerusalem, you’d better not look for the answer on your passport. That line is always left blank.

On every other passport there is always a line listing a person’s city and country of birth. But as a boy named Menachem Zivitofsky learned, this isn’t the case for people born in Jerusalem. Because of U.S. policy, the State Department declines to record their place of birth as Israel, leaving passports to read simply “Jerusalem.”

While this outrage eventually led to Congressional action, it also points to a larger problem – the failure of the State Department to recognize Jerusalem as the undisputed capital of Israel.

In 2002, Congress passed the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, part of which declared Jerusalem the capital of Israel and ordered then-President George W. Bush to move the U.S. Embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, since our embassies around the world operate out of foreign countries’ capital cities.

Part of the law we passed specifically spells out that if a United States citizen is born in Jerusalem, the “Secretary of State shall, upon the request of the citizen or the citizen’s legal guardian, record the place of birth as Israel.”

But the White House issued a signing statement saying it considered these parts of the law non-binding and that the administration would not implement them. President Bush said that Congress was trying to dictate foreign policy to the Executive branch, and that the president alone has the power to recognize foreign states.

In December of the same year the bill passed, Menachem Zivitofsky’s parents, who are American citizens (Menachem’s mother gave birth to him in Jerusalem), plunged into this debate between the White House and Congress and asked the State Department to issue Menachem a U.S. passport that listed his place of birth as Jerusalem, Israel. The State Department said no, listing his place of birth simply as “Jerusalem”.

A court ruled that our Congressional call for Jerusalem to be part of Israel intruded on the power of the president to recognize all foreign regimes. It also ruled that the court couldn’t enforce the law with the State Department since it involved “an inherently political” question.

This is wrong; of course Congress has the ability to legislate with regard to foreign affairs. For example, we recognized the PLO as a terrorist organization and made it illegal for anyone to accept anything of value from the PLO. Not only did Congress make these laws with regard to a foreign entity, the president used this law in an effort to close the PLO’s mission to the United Nations.

The idea that the president, not Congress, has the right to determine what a U.S. passport names as a place of birth for a U.S. citizen is wrong. Congress regulates passports all the time. The fact that the State Department can even issue passports at all is because of an act of Congress. For example, courts have upheld Congress’s right to require an oath of allegiance for people to obtain a passport and Congress’s right to deny a passport to anyone owing more than $5,000 in child support.

Adding insult to injury, the Foreign Affairs Manual of the State Department instructs its employees to allow Arabs born in areas of Israel that are uncontroversial and incontrovertibly part of Israel, like Tel Aviv or Haifa, to request that their passport not say Israel if they object to Israel being shown as sovereign.

If Arab Israelis can take Israel off their passports, how can the State Department not allow a Jewish Israeli to put it on?

This is simply beyond the pale, which is why I and several other members of Congress filed an Amicus brief on behalf of Menachem Zivitofsky, trying to relay to the court our displeasure with how our legislation is being ignored. The court did not decide in our favor, but I look forward to re-doubling our effort when the appeal comes before a court again.

This struggle is not just some “insider” bureaucratic dispute in Washington. Acceptance of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel is crucial. The “international community” wants Jerusalem to be considered outside the control of Israel, probably in preparation of exerting pressure on the Israeli government to give parts of it away.

Obama Is Wrong To Sell Arms To The Saudis

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

The decision by President Obama to sell weapons to Saudi Arabia is wrong.

It was leaked last week that the Obama administration was preparing to notify Congress of its intent to sell $60 billion in high tech arms, including F-15′s and military helicopters, to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

I am calling on my colleagues, Democrat and Republican, to stop this deal.

Arming the Saudis with this state-of-the-art weaponry is bad for the region and potentially disastrous for Israel’s military edge in the Middle East.

The list of reasons why selling these arms to Saudi Arabia is a terrible idea is as robust as the day is long, and that is why I wrote a letter to President Obama explaining why my colleagues and I will oppose this deal when it comes before Congress for approval.

Saudi Arabia Is An Exporter of Terrorism: To begin with, Saudi Arabia exports terrorism around the world, financing and training extremism. Year after year, the Treasury Department’s Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligencecalls attention to wealthy Saudi donors bankrolling extremism through charitable contributions. Remember that 15 of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were Saudi citizens. Advertisement

Saudi Arabia Is a Bastion of Anti-Semitism and Anti-Christian Hate: The Saudis claim their official policy is to guarantee freedom of religion, but I have yet to meet the Jew or Christian who practices openly on the streets of Riyadh. Saudi schools still teach intolerance, hate and violence toward Jews, Christians and other non-Muslims, and their public school textbooks accuse the Jews of attempting to take over the world and demand that those who turn away from Islam be killed.

As long as new generations are being indoctrinated by hateful teachings that incite violence, terrorism will always have a breeding ground in Saudi Arabia. Why ship weapons there en masse?

Saudi Arabia is A “Friend” – Until We Really Need It: Saudi Arabia is a fair-weather friend that stiff-armed the United States when the price of oil spiked. As the world’s largest oil exporters, the Saudis had the ability to increase oil production to help lower prices. Instead they stood by and did nothing as the cost of gas rose and the American economy suffered.

Saudi Arabia is a Destabilizing Force: Finally, Saudi Arabia is a destabilizing force in the region; it has never risen to the challenge of assisting with the Israeli-Palestinian peace process; and it isn’t above fighting with neighbors like Yemen over border disputes. We cannot continue to arm a dangerous country under the misguided and hazardous notion that it will somehow help us achieve our foreign policy objectives.

Any one of these reasons would disqualify any nation from receiving our most potent tools of war. But together they represent an open-and-shut case against the Saudis I will be presenting to my colleagues as part of a Resolution of Disapproval.

Congress has a history of urging caution in our dealings with Saudi Arabia. In 2008 I was joined by more than 100 colleagues in introducing a Resolution of Disapproval concerning the sale of satellite-guided missiles to the Saudis. And last year I was the author of a successful amendment to ban military aid to Saudi Arabia – an amendment that unified an often-divided congress around the basic proposition that we should judge nations by how they behave, not how they talk.

Saudi Arabia is not deserving of our aid, and by arming it with advanced American weaponry we are sending the wrong message. If this deal goes through, we send the message that working against peace and exporting terror lands a country large weapons deals with the U.S.

Instead, we need to remain committed to Israel’s qualitative military edge over its rivals in the region and should cease all negotiations over new weapons sales to Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis do not act like our friends, so we should not treat them like allies.

Anthony Weiner, a Democrat, represents New York’s 9th Congressional district (parts of South Brooklyn and South Central Queens) in the U.S. House of Representatives.

What’s New with Prague’s Old-New Synagogue, And Old Jewish Cemetery?

Wednesday, April 29th, 2009

House of Life: The Old Jewish

Cemetery in Prague

A film by Allan Miller and Mark Podwal

First Run Features, 52 minutes, $24.95

www.houseoflifefilm.com/

 

Built by Angels: The Story of the

Old-New Synagogue

By Mark Podwal

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 48 pages, $16

www.houghtonmifflinbooks.com/

 

 

When on April 5th, First Lady Michelle Obama visited Prague’s Pinkas Synagogue with White House chief of staff Rahm Emanuel, and David Axelrod, a senior White House advisor, she expressed particular interest in the synagogue’s collection of drawings by children from the concentration camp of Terez?n, which they created under the tutelage of Friedl Dicker-Brandeis (1898-1944). When the group viewed the Old Jewish Cemetery, they were following in the footsteps of former President Bill Clinton, and the more than half a million tourists who come each year, according to a recent article by Mark Podwal in The Jerusalem Post.

 

Podwal should know, having visited Prague 15 times – often to spend the High Holidays and Passover at the Old-New Synagogue where he has his own seat with a Hebrew-and-English plaque bearing his name. Podwal has designed a poster celebrating 100 years of the Jewish Museum in Prague, and his Hamsa bookmarks and pins were sold in the Metropolitan Museum’s store in conjunction with its exhibit “Prague, The Crown of Bohemia, 1347-1437″ (2005-2006). More recently, he is also the author and illustrator of a new book on the synagogue, and co-producer with Allan Miller of a new documentary on Prague’s Old Jewish Cemetery, which aired on PBS earlier this month.

 

 

Allan Miller (right) and Mark Podwal

 

 

If the documentary must be summed up in one sentence, it would be Professor Vladim?r Sadek’s statement early on in the film, that Rabbi Judah Loew – the Maharal – was “traditional, ancient, and modern.” Indeed, the city that “House of Life” captures is one of juxtaposed opposites: cars, buses, and McDonalds logos, with tourist shops selling Golem dolls and candles, alternating with camera shots of synagogues and Jewish cemeteries, with stones half-blank for Holocaust victims.

 

“House of Life” is no travel agency pitch for Prague, though it is jam-packed with fascinating historical facts and beautiful landscape shots. The first time a Star of David was officially used as an emblem for the Jewish community was on the tombstone of Rabbi David Gans (1541-1613), the author of the “Tzemach David.” On the stone, a goose symbolizes the surname, while the star, allegedly the shape of King David’s shield, reflects the historian and astronomer’s first name.

 

Other decorations on tombstones include: hands arranged a la [Star Trek's] Spock (for a Cohen), a pitcher and washbasin (Levi), scissors (tailor), grapes (fertility), and various animals like lions (for those named Judah) and deer (for someone named Hirsch). There are even human figures (including nudes) on the tombstones, which may surprise some readers. But the film also has a journalistic touch when it interviews people who complain about being forced to pay to visit the cemetery. Some of the most beautiful pieces of art in the film are a series of paintings detailing the activities of the burial society, from preparing the body to the rabbi’s eulogy to washing the hands after leaving the cemetery.

 

The story also addresses the magic surrounding the Maharal, and in so doing overlaps with “Built by Angels.” Both the film and the book tell of white doves miraculously flapping their wings to extinguish fires that threatened the Altneuschul, the Old-New Synagogue. Both also tell of the synagogue’s stones, which were on loan from the Temple and which were to be returned for the next Temple, and of ghosts filling the synagogue after hours to pray when all the people had left. 

 

 

Interior of the Altneuschul

 

 

Podwal explains early on in the book that the Altneuschul, which has “as many stories as stones,” was said to have been constructed by angels, but was later forgotten. A thousand years later, the Jews came to Prague and found a beautiful city with many churches, but no place for them to pray. An angel, posing as a beggar, showed them a hill, and when they dug upon the hill, they uncovered the synagogue – “Although old, it mysteriously looked new.” As the beggar-angel prepared to leave, he told the people that the stones derived from the Temple, and they must not be moved at all, lest the entire structure fall.

 

The synagogue evoked the Temple in other ways too. On the High Holidays, when congregants were so tightly packed in that “no one could force a finger between them,” the stones expanded so there was room for everyone to bow down. This recalls a similar statement about the Temple in Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) 5:5, in which the Temple was said to, have “opened up” on certain holidays (for the “regalim,” or “feet,” when all Jews living in or near Jerusalem flocked to the Temple) so that every person had enough room to bow on the ground.

 

Podwal’s book – which includes a wide range of Jewish and mystical symbols in its drawings, including angel’s wings, Torah pointers (yads), Hebrew letters, and Kabbalistic motifs – details others sorts of miracles that graced the synagogue. Congregants had to bang on the doors in the morning to let the ghosts know it was time to leave, and a piece of matzoh (the Afikomen, in fact) hung in the building all year. With Passover immediately behind us, a year-round matzoh might not sound particularly appetizing or miraculous, but this piece had special powers to protect the Jewish community.

 

 

Praying on the High Holidays. Image from “Built by Angels”

 

 

In many ways, the book makes a good companion guide to the film. The gouache paintings of “Built by Angels” are so bold and playful that they seem to suggest a dream sequence. They are realistic, and yet they also contain abstract elements. In that sense they resemble the most prominent element of “House of Life”: the tombstones in the cemetery. Through rain and snow, light and shadows, the stones seem to be both living things and inanimate objects that only point to people who once lived.

 

 

Old Jewish Cemetery. Still photo from “House of Life”

 

 

I have never been to Prague so I cannot vouch for the authenticity of its representation in the book and in the documentary. But I am fairly certain that if I ever get the chance, I will be well prepared for both the surfaces of the landmarks I encounter, as well as the mystical and magical aspects that lurk beneath.

 

Menachem Wecker welcomes comments at mwecker@gmail.com. He is a painter and writer, residing in Washington, D.C.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/arts//2009/04/29/

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