Archive for the ‘Letters to the Editor’ Category

School Board Trustee applauds restoring music programs

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

Dear Editor:

We all know what road is said to be paved with good intentions. In the frenzied rush of squeezing the budget while doubling-down on core subjects, music and the arts got short shrift. What was lost in the deal of drill and kill on reading and math was the heart and soul that brings satisfaction to the daily grind, remember, many kids are disenfranchised and starving for even one passion, one single connection, one driving engagement to keep them from truancy.

It is not only about restoring motivation, though. Music can be academic brain food well as well. In teaching to the test and glorifying the fill-in-the-bubble multiple choice, we, inadvertently dumbed down. Coming full circle, we now see that learning music is not a frill luxury but, actually, a foundation in facilitating the learning of other subjects.

Poll any group of physicians and you will be amazed at how many took music.This should come as no surprise as music is really, in a sense, pure math. Research studies confirm that music students enjoy distinct advantages in spatial- temporal skills, associated with math comprehension.

Language development benefits, too. Musical training physically develops the left side of the brain, the part known to be involved in the learning of language. Vocabulary acquisition is enriched and cognitive thinking sharpened.

That’s not all. Music student attendance is cumulatively higher, grades better and discipline less. Music employs multiple skill sets, exercises eyes and ears and both larger and small muscles. In the process, students increase attention span and learn poise, teamwork and how to think on their feet.

Some research even indicates higher I.Q. of musical students. A 2007 study by Christopher Johnson of the University of Texas showed that students in elementarry schools having superior musical programs scored 22% higher on English and 20% higher on math standardized tests.

With this all in mind, good news for Antioch. As part of the holistic emphasis of the newly mandated Local Control Accountability Plan, (LCAP) the Antioch School Board just approved greatly expanded arts and music inititiatives. This includes bringing elementary band back and newly invigorated middle school programs. These are essential as the lower grades are, obviously, the high school feeders.

Kudos to the Board for a shared vision in adopting this measure and to those who did the tireless leg work to get this into the budget. Thanks go to Superintendent Dr. Donald Gill, LCAP Director Cheryl Domenichelli, and to Associate Superintendent Stephanie Anello for their enlightened perspective and for executing the logistics in pushing this forward.

Special gratitude goes to all the local long-term music educators, led by Sharon Vela, and the likes of Ken Bergmann, Romano Marchetti, Paul Rataczak, Damien Ting and Larry Widener, who carried the torch these lean years. They championed philosopher Frederick Nietzsche’s charge, that “without music life would be a mistake.”

Welcome back the spiritual soundtrack of our lives. Our kids, our hometown civic culture, and our collective humanity can celebrate.

It’s music to many of our ears.

Walter Ruehlig

A.U.S.D. School Board Trustee

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Realtors support expansion of housing opportunities in Antioch, East County

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

Hello. My name is James Britto.

I am a third generation Antiochan.

I am a homeowner, Mello Roos taxpayer, small business owner, and I am also President of the Delta Association of REALTORS® for 2015.

Antioch and the entire East Contra Costa region have experienced a great recovery of value in our properties. This has tremendously impacted many owners, positively. With a recovery of equity, they can refinance to improve their properties, put more money into our local economy, or sell their property. All of these create jobs and revenue and are good for our economy.

Inventory is still low in our area for the amount of demand there is for housing. This has contributed to the prices rising steadily, combined with a favorable mortgage market.

What we are coming to see more and more, are individuals and families coming from 30, 50, 70, 90 miles away or more to seek affordable housing here, yet their jobs are elsewhere, often Oakland, San Francisco, Silicon Valley, Sacramento, Modesto… you name it, we have people who work there…. Spending two to three hours a day, often each way, to find what they need… good jobs and affordable housing.

The Delta Association of REALTORS® strongly supports the expansion of housing opportunities and programs that support average to median income earners being able to afford to buy and occupy homes and work where they live. It’s better for families, cities, the environment, and the economy. Commuters spend money elsewhere since they are not local a majority of their time.

We want to be a partner with the City of Antioch, as well as other local municipalities, to work together on options and opportunities to expand options for people with good jobs, good credit, and a desire to live in a home and work near home. The opportunities for Antioch and all of East County are improving, especially with the eventual arrival of eBART, but we have to expedite our work with attracting employers and job opportunities, now, not in 10 years, and finding ways to assist individuals who meet the criteria, to buy and occupy a home of their own in our terrific Delta region.

Thank you.

James Britto, President, Delta Association of REALTORS®


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Jordan offers one more response to Watchdog over Charter City proposal

Tuesday, June 16th, 2015

Dear Editor,

Here is my response to Ms. Zivica’s column published on the Herald website, June 15, 2015.

Barbara, you begin by quoting Sir Francis Bacon. I’m not going to quote some obscure Sixteenth Century Philosopher. But I will quote the Eagles from 1974.

Just remember this, my girl, when you look up in the sky You can see the stars and still not see the light.”

So, let us begin. Again Ms. Zivica offers no solution or suggestions as to how we should all address the unfunded retirement liability for the City of Antioch. This should not be about pointing fingers, laying blame or frightening the citizens. We are where we are with this problem. Problems need solutions and Ms. Zivica offers none. But she is not alone. Neither does the City Manager or the current Council Members. Silence is not golden in finance.

Yes, Barbara, Charter Cities have a much greater degree of latitude in how they address issues or seat Council Members. That does not mean that an approved Charter has to largely move away from our current General Law governing outline. It simply can allow a funding mechanism for the approximate amount due of $150,000,000.00.

Barbara, where do you suggest we generate the necessary amount? If we don’t get very serious about this matter quickly, within five years it is possible that we will have funds for about fifty police officers and nothing else. No finance department, no building department, no code enforcement, no animal services, nothing. A major amount of funds will be mandated to pay for employees’ current and retired financial obligation.

I am not suggesting that the funds charged in transfer fees created by a Charter City be delivered to the General Fund. That would be a mistake because it would rely on the staff and Council to promise they would only use the money to pay off the debt. Obviously we have seen too many promises made and not kept in this town. Additionally, we could, as part of the Charter, sunset the transfer fee implemented upon the full payment of the unfunded CalPERS amount, if it was the will of the majority.

All said, the complete terms and conditions of the city Charter can be clearly stated and defined before the approval of the citizens. What is wrong in presenting the matter to the voters? Let democracy work.

Barbara, you mention that the citizens are over taxed and over burdened.

Measure C was sold to the citizens by the Mayor and Council to hire additional police officers. I believe the number was twenty two more. Effectively we have almost a zero net gain. Here you are correct. It was a General Fund measure and, well, the money isn’t really being used for what it was intended; additional police. Another broken promise by the Council and Administrative Staff. Most likely there will be no extension of this additional sales tax. I know I won’t vote for it again. Will you?

Measure O is different. Here you misstate the facts. Measure O is not a burden to most of the citizens of Antioch. And, of no burden to you since, you don’t own residential rental property. I supported and voted for the ballot measure and pay the fee, multiple times over. Not because I like taxes but because most of the rental property in Antioch is owned by non-resident landlords who don’t care about our city and who pay almost nothing to improve the quality of life here in town. They needed to begin paying their fair share. Period.

You also mention schools. School bonds are generally for students and schools. Should we stop educating our children? Should we let Antioch High fall in on the classrooms? Really? Are you really that short sighted? I attended Antioch public schools and graduated from Antioch High and UC Davis. Both of my daughters attended Antioch public schools and one graduated from Antioch High and the other from Deer Valley. One is a graduate of UC Santa Cruz and the other is attending UC Davis in the fall. I can only say to the faculty and staff; job well done. Thank you.

You also state Barbara, that it is the State of California’s fault that the retirement accounts at CalPERS were underfunded. The City was just following the lead of the State. Really? So if the City Manager leads the City off a bridge and you follow then it is really his fault you are dead? You’re not smart enough to know falling off a bridge isn’t a very good idea?

Look, the CalPERS “pay as you go” plan was not and is not a good system and it has created a monster of a problem not just for Antioch but all cities who participated and made minimum payments. But, when your City Council tells you they have hired the best in staff; educated in government accounting and finance, and you get to a point of no return, then it is time to take responsibility for your mistakes, as a city. Blaming someone or something else, the State of California, is no solution.

And, so in conclusion let me end with effectively the same question. What is your solution Barbara?

Mark Jordan, Antioch

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Writer responds to Antioch School Board Trustee’s comment on Friday night incident at Safeway

Monday, June 15th, 2015

Dear Editor:

A message to bleeding hearts justifying acts of vandalism or violence in Antioch.

Lack of planning plus lack of imagination equals boredom. Own up. Pick up a book or pick up a ball. Libraries and parks are free. The world is not responsible for your action or your entertainment.

Cynthia Ruehlig, Antioch

NOTE: This was written and submitted in response to a comment about the incident posted on Facebook by Antioch School Board Trustee Debra Vinson, who wrote “Terrible! Boredom is always bad!”

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Writer explains need for Charter City as solution to Antioch’s financial challenges, unfunded liabilities

Thursday, June 11th, 2015

Editor’s Note: The following was received via email on May 5 but not published, until now. I apologize for the oversight and delay. Allen Payton, Publisher & Editor

Dear Editor:

It is the process in today’s internet driven world that everyone should and seems to express their opinion. Criticism, finger pointing and blame are the actions of the day. Solutions seem few and far between. This is the case with the article written by Ms. Barbara Zivica aka Watchdog.

Alarmed? You should be alarmed Barbara. The City of Antioch is moving quickly to massively reduced services and possible bankruptcy in about five years. The necessary reductions in service and staff at the City will make the Great Recession look like a walk in the park. Why? Because this Council and recent previous Councils simply want to keep kicking the financial responsibility can down the road.

I know of no business including my own that runs in such a manner. At least not for very long.

What is your solution, Barbara?

This problem cannot be budgeted away with savings. Go back and look at the Finance Director’s General Fund projections for 2017 to 2023. Don’t look at the power point presentation for 2015-2016 which is on line. That is just fluff for today. The projected negative numbers are massive; and rises quickly to a negative $28,000,000.00 for a budget projected at $65,000,000.00 in 2020.

CalPERS [the California Public Employee Retirement System] calls the retirement program a “Golden Handshake”. Sounds similar to “Golden Parachute” doesn’t it? Just who’s gold are we dealing with here anyway and can we just walk away from the commitments we have made to past and current employees? Well; legally no we cannot; and morally it would be fundamentally wrong.

What we can do is close our participation in the current CalPers system, grandfather existing employees, and move all future employees to a City “Defined Retirement Contribution” system. Or, close all participation and move all current and future employees to a new system, vesting current employees to the date of termination of CalPers participation in the old system and paying our unfunded obligation.

And, the City must take a position that the full retirement contribution henceforth must be paid in the year it is earned in any new retirement system. This is called fiscal responsibility.

What I proposed as a possible solution is an income generation from transfer fees applied to real property transfers with the entire amount collected on an annual basis going to pay the unfunded retirement obligation the City is facing as noted in the Annual Valuation Report from CalPers. Nothing else to be funded by this income stream until the CalPers unfunded obligation is paid in full. No option by this or future Councils or staff for any other use of these funds.

Coming to a real number owed to CalPers is not easy to calculate. It appears to be somewhere between $35,000,000.00 and $133,000,000.00 for safety employees and for all other employees it is between $43,000,000.00 and $123,000,000.00.

A solid unfunded number to work from would be an average of the best and worst numbers stated by CalPers. Meaning the most likely liability by the City of Antioch for all employees would be approximately; $164,000,000.00.

Why is the range so large? Because based on the numbers provided by CalPers the only way one can truly come to some understanding of what is being processed is to look at the projected number if you continue in the plan infinite or if you terminate participation. There is no projection if you grandfather current employees and move future employees to a new system.

In simple terms CalPers projects for 2015 a return of 18%. Unrealistic nonsense. Also, what is very clear is that CalPers uses funds deposited this year and every year by participant Cities to pay retired employees if the return on investment does not meet the projection. We all call that in the real world a Ponzi scheme.

But wait there is more. Because it is a Defined Benefit Program, when it really gets economically bad, CalPers can just send the City a subsequent bill for the additional funds that are needed to pay the Benefits. Or the City’s unfunded liability goes up. There is no limit, ever.

So, let me ask you one more time, Barbara. What is your solution?

Mark Jordan, Antioch

Jordan is a Real Estate Broker in and resident of Antioch.

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Writer asks Is anyone paying attention?

Saturday, June 6th, 2015

Dear Editor:

Have you noticed anything lately?

“Believe we’re gliding down the highway

When in fact we’re slip slidin’ away

Slip slidin’ away

Slip slidin’ away

You know the nearer your destination

The more you’re slip slidin’ away…”

Paul Simon, Slip Slidin’ Away lyrics

courtesy of

courtesy of

It has been the progressive spirit of the age wearing down the true masculine and feminine roles in family and society. But no one seems to care. We’re all just “slip slidin’ away.”

Today, decades of progressivism has paved the way for breakneck speeds down the slippery slopes of immorality and relativism (relativism: the doctrine that knowledge, truth, and morality exist in relation to culture, society, or historical context, and are not absolute). Politics are so filled with lies and compromise that true Statesmen, whether black, white or Hispanic are assassinated by innuendos and miss-characterizations and boldface lies.

The foundation of civilization, which is the family unit, has been dismantled, reinvented and co-opted (co-opt: to divert to or use in a role different from the usual or original one) that marriage to anything or anyone will constitute a legitimate family. The word love has lost its meaning and significance, and Christianity is just as guilty with the abuse of the word “love” and its true and authentic meaning.

God has been relegated (relegated: consign or dismiss to an inferior rank or position), to the single attribute of love. God, has been singularly redefined or overly stated as “love,” which diminishes his Holiness, his Justice, his Righteousness and Wrath.

If God is singularly loving, then there is no need for a Savior and there is no difference between sin and holiness. For why would you need to be saved from a loving God? Christ became our substitute sacrifice, thus taking upon himself all of God’s wrath. Therefore, without belief and obedience in Christ, people remain under the wrath of God. True compassion is to warn people about God’s wrath and not to cheapen God’s holiness, and justice by offering God’s love apart from Christ’s sacrifice!

Mainstream Christianity has been infiltrated with the progressive spirit of the age. We have forgotten Jesus’ warning about the leaven of the Pharisee and especially the leaven of Herod. Both the religious and political spirits of our time has seized control and influence of many pulpits, church boards and Christian colleges.

Our families, marriages, children, police forces, law and order; our educational systems, transportation, freedom of speech and the right to self-protection are under tremendous stress and attack. Even the bees are under attack!

The CDC and the world’s scientists have a name for what’s been happening to the global bee population, it’s called “CCD,” or “Colony Collapse Disorder.” Wow, how ironic! Even more so is the cause for the colony collapse. 1. The lack of adult bees in the hive, which protects the hive from invaders. 2. The nonexistence of the Queen bee. 3. Insufficient workforce to maintain the brood that is present. 4. The workforce is made up of too many young adult bees. 5. The colony members are reluctant to consume feed, such as sugar syrup and protein supplements.

courtesy of Wikipedia

courtesy of Wikipedia

This is no joke folks. This bee phenomena is much like our own cities, communities and neighborhoods and very similar to the breakup and breakdown of many families. Think about it! Check out the link to the Wikipedia article about Colony Collapse Disorder and read for yourselves:

Even nature is trying to warn us that our human colony may also soon collapse!  Did you know that without the bee crops, plants and trees will suffer? Bees are a $200 billion dollar per year global business! Did you know that beekeepers rent out their bees to farmers and nurseries?

It has recently been reported that a deadly avian flu virus has infected more than 33 million turkeys, chickens and ducks in more than a dozen states since December of 2014. And this epidemic is still spreading from state to state. Price of eggs? How about the price of chicken and turkeys?

courtesy of

courtesy of

Oh, and how about the apocalyptic drought in the Western United States? It is reported that some neighbors are actually stealing water from one another! Worried about your lawn? How about agriculture and the price of groceries? Maybe the up and coming summer blockbuster Mad Max Fury Road is more prophetic than action-packed entertainment.

Yet, as long as we have our goodies and gadgets, we will sell our liberty and freedoms for comfort and convenience. The world and nature is going to hell in a hand basket and we’re more concerned whether to buy an Apple or Samsung smart phone. God help us!

“For when they say, “Peace and safety!” then sudden destruction comes upon them, as labor pains upon a pregnant woman. And they shall not escape.” – 1 Thessalonians 5:3 (NKJV)

It’s not the fault of unbelievers, nor the fault of secularist for the condition of our Nation, but the fault of every believer who has sold their birthright as a Light Bearer and Salt Preserver for the warm stew of carnality.

Nothing short of the Church repenting and turning back to God and away from worldliness will this Nation’s disaster be averted. God has removed his blessing of this Great Nation because His people have removed God and His whole counsel from their homes, churches and businesses.

It is not because the unrighteous practice unrighteousness, but because the righteous practice sin that God’s judgment is upon us!

Inasmuch as the “race card” is ruining race relations, so also is the “love card,” ruining the image of the One True and Living God and the impact of His eternal Truth and Salvation. The “love card” depicts a benevolent god that requires no urgency to obey and no consequence for sin. This trend is synonymous with the Nicolaitans of the early Church.

The Nicolaitans were one of the heretical sects that plagued the churches at Ephesus and at Pergamum, according to Revelation 2:6, 15. The Nicolaitans taught that God is permissive, merciful, or tolerant of sin. As people subscribed to their teaching, they became subdued and conquered by this double standard lifestyle.

The first part of the name “Nicos” in Greek, means to conquer or to subdue, and the second part of this name “laitans” in Greek, means laos, or people. This heretical group’s teachings were conquering and subduing God’s people away from His Truth and making a mockery of His Grace. The love card has created a similar environment as the teachings of the Nicolaitans, and so many people have been duped into living double lives of sin for grace, and then falling into the loving arms of a “love god.” Is God love? Absolutely! But God’s love does not trump or nullify his other attributes, and this is where a great deal of Christianity has fallen into error.

The influence of Christianity has not been stolen, but given away. Its message has been diluted and cultural influence weakened. We have exchanged our place of an expanding Kingdom with the Gospel Mandate for a 501-(3) (C) status, and so the Church has become an apologist for Statism and has abrogated its moral authority to bureaucrats! (Statism: the belief in the primacy of the State over the rights of the individual).

Pay attention and check your oil, as the days are growing darker, and if you have no oil in your lamps, its total darkness forever!

Read Matthew 25: 1-13 for more important details.

Thomas Koester

Copperopolis, CA

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Diversity vs. Equality – letter writer questions 8th grade African-American promotion ceremony in Antioch

Friday, June 5th, 2015

Dear Editor:

Pastor/minister Dr. Lamont A. Francies, also Counselor for Antioch Unified School District currently at Black Diamond Middle School campus, is the subject of community outcry this week as word of his “Antioch Unified School District 8th Grade African American Promotion Ceremony” began to spread on blogs and social media.

Starting with a column by Barbara Zivica in the online version of the Antioch Herald, entitled “Watchdog – Black only graduation ceremony in Antioch violates Supreme Court decision” published Sunday, May 31st, 2015 at 12:43 a.m.Barbara Zivica provides as support for her piece a photo image of a flier for the event and of an wmail containing it. The email was from an ASUD email address and addressed to other ASUD email addresses and included the text of the flyer as well as contact Information for Dr. Francies at his AUSD email and phone number. The flyer, clearly stating that it was an “Antioch Unified School District 8th Grade African-American Promotion Ceremony” also, like the email, includes Dr. Francies as the contact at his AUSD Email and Phone Number.

A subsequent article in the Antioch Herald by John Crowder entitled “African-American 8th grade promotion ceremony in Antioch raises concerns, organizer explains” on Tuesday, June 2nd, 2015 at 5:33 p.m., related information from interviews and comments from various ASUD officials and Dr. Francies, indicating that the event was not intentionally sanctioned as an official ASUD sponsored event. Some even defending the event as appropriate, but not as an AUSD sponsored event. It was also noted that similar promotion celebration events have been held at Holy Rosary church.

In another Article on East County Today entitled “AUSD Explains ‘African American Promotion Ceremony’ flier” on June 6th, more comments as well as questions and answers from various AUSD officials were presented. The article includes an Editorial comment which expresses the opinion that the event was not endorsed or sponsored by AUSD and the district does not want to take any responsibility for it.

In further research I found an Article in the Contra Costa Times archive from 2/4/2014 by Trine Gallegos entitled “Antioch Middle School honors MLK and its top students, too,” in which were excerpts of an interview with Dr. Francies about an Antioch Middle School event honoring MLK combined with an “African-American Honor Roll Banquet”. Quoted in the article, Dr. Francies, repeated several times, the benefits to the community. He is sometimes referring to it as community and occasionally as African-American community as if they are synonymous.

It is my opinion that pastor/minister, Dr. Lamont A. Francies, who is also a counselor at Black Diamond Middle school, and as such a part of the school administrative staff for the school district, is the root of the controversy. I believe that this man is violating the trust of the community, by promoting his social and religious beliefs on the students under his and others responsibility. I believe that in his capacity as an educator, he is there to serve all students by furthering their education and achievements, regardless of their ethnicity or religious beliefs. I fear that the school district has been hijacked for one individual’s personal social and religious agendas.

The AUSD needs to take responsibility for the actions of its staff and deal with the problem by not only clarifying policy but acting on breaches of policy with expedience and authority. Dr. Francies should be fired from his position in order to bring the trust lost from all of the community back into the equation.

Lately, we hear the phrase “celebrate diversity” quite often, and I support the idea that we should celebrate the differences in us that makes us individuals. It is a very important cultural and heritage based concept. But we as a community are trying to make the celebration of diversity the evidence of equality. Diversity and equality by their standard definition are complete opposite concepts.

Dr. King was a very inspirational speaker and very significant catalyst to the creation of Civil Rights Act. His one speech, that I think is most often quoted is the “I Have a Dream” speech. In that speech he lays out what is his definition of equality. It was not treated “different.” It was not treated “better.” It was not “reparation.” It was “equality.” Equal treatment for all. I truly believe he is looking down on us now and shaking his head at what we as a community have done with his dream.

We are failing our community, children and future generations, by claiming diversity defines and demonstrates equality instead of doing the right thing inclusively by them. Civil Rights are about all of the things that we share equally and not about trying to compensate for current or historical inequities. Neither is it about celebrating diversity and emphasizing the individual or the group. It is about sharing and celebrating in equality, all of things that we have or should have in common. One nation created equal.

Doug Knowles, Antioch

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Letter writer asks Antioch residents for help on a “real” community watch program

Wednesday, June 3rd, 2015

Dear Editor:

Hi, everyone I wanted to reach out and ask y’all what you think about an idea I have. I went by the Hudsons yesterday and had a moment to chat with a young lady that was collecting signatures for the recall and speed bumps. We chatted about how there is a group on the 11th block that looks out for the neighborhood and I expressed that I also was part of a smaller group on the 13th block. This made me wonder how I can make my city better. If I may digress slightly and briefly.

I’m an engineer, Eagle Scout and former Marine. The information that is being gathered is a huge asset to our cause of making our city a safe and desirable place to live. So, when I was over seas I was involved in some of the nastiest urban combat that our forces have ever seen but we made head way and took the cities back for the people to live safely and not in fear.

We would do things like walk and talks to get to know the people and show that we were approachable. We also frequently went to gathering places of the population, such as mosque, souks and bazarres to make contact with the population and the heads of households.

So, how can this help Antioch? Well, what I want to propose is if there aren’t any objections and that it’s all legal, why can’t we use the info gathered to start a real community watch program? This is an opportunity where we can have neighborhoods, all over the city, talking to one another and could work with our community policing officer with the APD to empower the people to take back our city.

I know from experience that if you empower the people and can get them all (the good guys) communicating you will have faster and lasting results that will make their communities safer and will give the enforcement agency, in this case APD, a better means in targeting problems and problem locations. This will empower us and create better community relationships with our police department and will make our city safe.

I would want to use this info to build on what formal neighborhood watch programs we have currently and do real meetings and classes once a month with APD and different parts of town to get the intel we can gather, to the people who can do something about it. So, if this sounds enticing let me know. Thanks for your time.

Patrick Wright


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