Manitoba Tory backbencher holds another fundraiser at men-only squash club

A Manitoba government backbencher is once again holding a fundraising event at a squash club that doesn’t allow women to become members.

The constituency association for Scott Johnston, a Progressive Conservative, is planning an evening of “whiskey, wine and ale-tasting” next week at the Winnipeg Squash Racquet Club.

The event itself is open to men and women, but the Opposition New Democrats say it’s wrong for the Tories to support a club that only allows men to become members.

New Democrat legislature member Nahanni Fontaine says it’s the second year in a row the Tories have rented the venue, and they should be able to find one that is open to everyone.

The squash club’s board of directors has said that while there are some coed tournaments and special events that include women, the club lacks the space required to be fully coed.

The chief executive officer of the Progressive Conservative party, Keith Stewart, says the rental follows the party’s rules.

“The P.C. Party of Manitoba gives constituency associations the freedom to rent venues based on the suitability of the facility for the event,” Stewart said in a written statement.

“Once the facility is rented, our rules apply. The St. James event is of course open to women and we would not support any party function that was not open to all.”

Johnston’s fundraiser at the same venue last year stirred up controversy.

Susan Thompson, Winnipeg’s mayor from 1992 to 1998, said last year she remembered not being able to join during her tenure and said the decision to not allow women members is wrong.

The club has promoted itself as an athletic facility that also helps people make business connections.

The club sits in the Fort Rouge constituency south of Winnipeg’s downtown, not in Johnston’s St. James constituency, which is further west.

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Trump to nominate handbag designer as new South African ambassador

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) – U.S. President Donald Trump intends to nominate luxury handbag designer Lana Marks as the new ambassador to South Africa, the White House said, almost two years after the last ambassador left under Barack Obama.

The nomination comes at a time of frayed relations between the two countries after a tweet in August in which Trump asked his secretary of state to study South African “land and farm seizures”.

South Africa accused Trump of stoking racial divisions with the comments, which it called “misinformed”.

African politicians also labeled Trump a racist in January after he was reported to have described some immigrants from Africa and Haiti as coming from “shithole” countries.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa told reporters this month that he had met Trump since the tweets on “farm seizures” but that the U.S. president mainly talked to him about golf.

Ramaphosa has said repeatedly that plans to accelerate the pace of land reform to address racial disparities in land ownership will follow a parliamentary process and that “land grabs” will not be tolerated.

“President Donald J. Trump announced his intent to nominate … Lana J. Marks of Florida, to be Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the United States of America to South Africa,” the White House said in a statement on Wednesday.

The United States has not had an ambassador in South Africa since Patrick Gaspard vacated his post in December 2016, with its mission being overseen by a chargé d’affaires.

The Trump administration has dedicated relatively little attention to ties with African countries, focusing its foreign policy instead on issues like North Korea.

Incoming Ambassador Marks was born in South Africa and attended Johannesburg’s University of the Witwatersrand. She speaks Afrikaans and Xhosa, the White House said. She is now based in Florida.

The website for her premium handbag firm, Lana Marks, offers handbags selling for as much as $20,000 and says they have become favorites for celebrities including Oprah Winfrey, Kate Winslet and Madonna.

Her biography did not mention any previous diplomatic postings.

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Millennials, businesses lament ridesharing delays at Vancouver forum

The wheels may be slowly grinding into motion when it comes to ridesharing in B.C., but it won’t be fast enough for millennials who are growing frustrated at the delay.

That’s according to the Greater Vancouver Board of Trade (GVBoT), which hosted a forum on the future of ridesharing in partnership with a coalition of groups advocating for the service on Wednesday night.

Pressure from the group’s millennial members was the driving force behind the forum, GVBoT president and CEO Iain Black said.

“This matters to them. This was an interesting opportunity to allow a demographic to engage in a public policy conversation that matters to them… and actually talk about how the lack of this service impacts their lives, as a generation who frankly don’t own cars,” said Black, who described the tone of the meeting as a “respectful frustration.”

“This exists in every major city in North America and it doesn’t exist here. We pride ourselves on being a technology city and we don’t have Uber or Lyft or the other ridesharing options… there’s no reason for this to wait until fall of next year, five months from beginning to end is more than enough time.”

B.C.’s NDP government has pledged to unveil legislation to enable ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft before the end of the month.

However, it remains unlikely that the province will see those companies operating before the fall of 2019.

Damon Holowchack, director of brand and marketing for the Donnelly Group — one of the members of the “Ridesharing Now for BC Coalition” — said the business community remains hopeful, but admitted it is growing tired of the wait.

“It’s not just been this year, or the year before or the government previous to this. It’s been a long time since this has been proposed, this has been moving through government,” he said.

“It has been six-plus years since this launched in North America. We have said it’s about time more than once. We’re pretty optimistic about the fact that legislation is going to happen, but we don’t know really or realistically if this is something that’s going to affect us… any time in the near future.”

While ridesharing options won’t be on the road in 2018, the NDP government said it is moving to increase the number of operating taxis.

The province is looking to boost the number of cabs in service in B.C. by 500.

The NDP campaigned in the 2017 election to have ridesharing in place by Christmas of that year, but later pushed that deadline back until fall 2019.

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White House says it had right to revoke ‘grandstanding’ Jim Acosta’s press pass

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump‘s administration is trying to fend off a legal challenge from CNN and other outlets over the revocation of journalist Jim Acosta‘s White House “hard pass.”

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Kelly heard arguments Wednesday afternoon from lawyers representing CNN and the Justice Department. The news network is seeking an immediate restraining order that would force the White House to return Acosta’s press credentials – which grant reporters as-needed access to the 18-acre complex.

Kelly said he would announce his decision Thursday afternoon.

Acosta has repeatedly clashed with Trump and press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders in briefings over the last two years. But the dynamic devolved into a near-shouting match during a combative press conference last week following midterm elections in which Republicans lost control of the House of Representatives.

Acosta refused to give up a microphone when the president said he didn’t want to hear anything more from him. Trump called Acosta a “rude, terrible person.”

The White House quickly announced that Acosta’s White House access would be revoked.

The CNN lawsuit calls the revocation “an unabashed attempt to censor the press and exclude reporters from the White House who challenge and dispute the President’s point of view.”

On Wednesday, Justice Department lawyer James Burnham argued that Acosta was guilty of “inappropriate grandstanding” and deserved to lose his access over “his refusal to comply with the general standards of a press conference.”

Burnham also pointed out that CNN has dozens of other staffers with White House credentials, so excluding Acosta would not harm the network’s coverage.

The network’s lawyer, Theodore Boutrous, contended that Acosta was being singled out for his body of work, not his alleged rudeness during a press conference.

“The White House has made very clear that they don’t like the content of the reporting by CNN and Jim Acosta,” Boutrous said. “Rudeness really is a code word for ‘I don’t like you being an aggressive reporter.”‘

Prior to Wednesday’s hearing, the White House had maintained that it has “broad discretion” to regulate press access to the White House.

A pre-hearing legal filing argued, “The President and his designees in the White House Press Office have exercised their discretion not to engage with him and, by extension, to no longer grant him on-demand access to the White House complex so that he can attempt to interact with the President or White House officials.”

Trump himself, in an interview published Wednesday, was uncertain how the court fight would end, saying: “We’ll see how the court rules. Is it freedom of the press when somebody comes in and starts screaming questions and won’t sit down?”

Trump told The Daily Caller that “guys like Acosta” were “bad for the country. … He’s just an average guy who’s a grandstander who’s got the guts to stand up and shout.”

The White House’s explanations for why it seized Acosta’s credentials have shifted over the last week. Sanders initially explained the decision by accusing Acosta of making improper physical contact with the intern seeking to grab the microphone. But that rationale disappeared after witnesses backed Acosta’s account that he was just trying to keep the mic, and Sanders distributed a doctored video that made it appear Acosta was more aggressive than he actually was.

On Tuesday, Sanders accused Acosta of being unprofessional by trying to dominate the questioning at the news conference.

Both Sanders and Trump are named as defendants in the CNN suit, along with Chief of Staff John Kelly and Randolph Alles, director of the Secret Service.

The Associated Press joined with a group of 12 other news organizations, including Fox News, in filing an amicus brief Wednesday in support of CNN.

“Secret Service passes for working White House journalists should never be weaponized,” said a statement by Fox News President Jay Wallace. “While we don’t condone the growing antagonistic tone by both the President and the press at recent media avails, we do support a free press, access and open exchanges for the American people.”

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Amazon’s New York Home Qualifies as ‘Distressed’ Under Federal Tax Law

There are wine bars and a cycling studio along the riverfront in Long Island City, among gleaming high-rise apartment buildings with views of Midtown Manhattan. The soon-to-open library branch is a modern art cube of concrete, the median income is $138,000 a year, and America’s hottest online retailer is about to move in.

In the eyes of the federal government, the census tract that will house Amazon’s new headquarters in New York is an “opportunity zone,” eligible for tax credits meant to spur investment in low-income communities.

The retail giant said Tuesday that it had selected this upscale slice of Long Island City to house one of two new secondary headquarters. The decision was based on a host of factors, including state tax incentives and, in Amazon’s words, the ability to attract top talent. But the choice could give eager developers — who almost certainly would have flocked to the area anyway — a tax benefit conveyed by a provision in the $1.5 trillion tax overhaul that President Trump signed last year.

That tax break was pitched as a benefit for distressed communities. But critics fear it could primarily help wealthy investors and speed gentrification in parts of the United States that were already likely to draw investment.

Opportunity zones have been championed for several years by Republicans and Democrats in Congress, and they were added to the tax law by Senator Tim Scott, a South Carolina Republican. The zones allow investors who comply with regulations still being worked out by the Treasury Department to reduce their tax burden with preferential treatment of capital gains.

Investors who pour unrealized capital gains into funds that invest in real estate or other assets that qualify for opportunity zone status can essentially avoid as much as 15 percent of the taxes they would have owed on their investment gains. If they hold an investment in an opportunity zone for more than a decade, they avoid all taxes on any gains that the investment produces.

Amazon itself could benefit from the designation: It could start an opportunity fund to buy real estate in the zones surrounding the office, for example. But experts say the bigger windfall will flow to the people who already own land in the zone or other zones nearby, and to the investors who will race in to build and open businesses in the area. There are already signs of a mad dash for land in the area.

New York gave Amazon up to $1.7 billion in state economic incentives to help secure its location in Queens. The agreement between the company and city and state officials does not mention the opportunity zone designation. Spokesmen for Amazon and the State of New York, which designated the waterfront tract of Long Island City as an opportunity zone this year, did not respond to requests for comment about the designation and how or whether it might have been a factor in the company’s decision about where to locate.

The vast majority of opportunity zones nationwide sit in areas of high poverty and low income, in struggling cities like Stockton, Calif. Other impoverished corners of Long Island City were also selected for zone status, including the census tract that is home to Queensbridge Houses, the nation’s largest public housing project, where the poverty rate is near 50 percent and the median income below $20,000 a year.

The waterfront Long Island City zone, in contrast, embodies what critics have worried might happen when place-based tax benefits extend to investment in areas that most Americans would not consider impoverished.

“The opportunity zone program is not very targeted to deeply distressed areas,” the Brookings Institution researchers Hilary Gelfond and Adam Looney wrote in a recent study. “States had too much flexibility and their incentives were not aligned with Congress’s goals for the program.”

The program’s architects say that there are few tracts nationwide like the ones surrounding Amazon’s new home, and that Long Island City will not divert investment from more distressed areas that lack a new high-tech tenant.

“It’s not just that the Long Island City tract is an outlier,” said John Lettieri, president of the Economic Innovation Group, a Washington think tank that helped advocate the creation of opportunity zones. “It’s the fact that Amazon, and this HQ2 thing, is an outlier. I don’t think those are the cases that are going to define the national experience for opportunity zones.”

The zones are meant to draw investment to economically struggling areas that lack access to capital. Wealthy investors are rushing to set up funds to plow money into those areas, in order to take advantage of incentives that include potentially large reductions in capital gains taxes for investments that are held in a zone for a decade or more.

State governors selected the zones from a list of eligible census tracts, based on a formula used to calculate eligibility for another federal effort to aid struggling areas, the longstanding New Markets Tax Credit. Governors were allowed to designate one-quarter of eligible areas as opportunity zones. Their designations were approved by the Treasury Department.

Most of the zones are in areas that have fallen behind economically, despite robust growth across the American economy. Ms. Gelfond and Mr. Looney calculated that the average poverty rate in a designated zone was 29 percent in 2016, nearly twice the national average. The zones are more heavily disadvantaged than the eligible areas that governors did not select, they found, and generally target areas where economic mobility is low. In other words, states did largely select areas that were truly in need of investment and economic help.

But the relatively broad criteria allowed governors to choose some low-poverty, higher-income, rapidly developing areas adjacent to low-income zones. They constitute about 200 of the nearly 8,800 zones that Treasury approved, including the waterfront area that Amazon has chosen in Long Island City.

Brookings estimated that 11 percent of the final opportunity zones have lower poverty rates than the national average. A third of the zones in Washington, D.C., for instance, are already gentrifying quickly, according to estimates by the Urban Institute. Among the states, New York has the highest share of gentrifying areas, with 13 percent of its zones in areas that are beginning to prosper.

Areas like Long Island City “are already getting a lot of capital,” said Brett Theodos, a principal research associate in the Metropolitan Housing and Communities Policy Center at the Urban Institute. “This use case was allowed from the beginning. Whether that’s a good use of public subsidies is another question.”

After Mr. Trump’s tax cut passed, Mr. Theodos developed a ranking system of sorts to help states steer their designations toward areas that most needed the help. The system assigns each eligible tract in every state an “investment score,” which measures commercial, small-business and housing lending activity on a scale of 1 to 10 based on the need for investment. It also attaches “socioeconomic change flags” to areas that appear to be gentrifying, based on recent upswings in median income, housing costs and the share of residents who have college degrees or are white.

The riverfront tract in Long Island City scored a 9 on that investment scale, and was flagged for gentrification.

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From behind bars, an ex-Republican state senator volunteers to build Trump’s border wall

A group of prisoners that includes a jailed ex-Republican state senator in Arkansas has sent a letter to U.S. President Donald Trump offering “volunteer labour” to build the wall proposed for the border between America and Mexico.

Jon Woods is one of six names attached to a letter that was dated Nov. 8 and sent to the White House.

The letter, signed by six inmates, implores Trump to consider prisoner labour, as they represent a “willing and untapped work force.”

They noted that the Federal Bureau of Prisons “already implements mobile work cadres of prisoners who perform construction projects in the community throughout the state of Texas.”

Coverage of Donald Trump’s proposed border wall on

“We are a diverse group of federal prisoners who appreciate the current White House positions and recognize the positive things that they have brought America,” they wrote.

“We have come together because we understand the benefit that a border wall will bring the country.”

The letter carries the names of the prisoners as well as their ethnicities. One writer identified as African American, another as Mexican American, while two others said they came from the Navajo and Cheyenne Nations.

Woods was identified as a “European American.”

The prisoners went on to say that the logistics of using them as labour for the border wall would be “minimal.”

They said “mobile housing or FEMA trailers” would serve as “adequate living conditions.”

Birds fly over a section of the recently renovated U.S.-Mexico border wall, in Calexico, Calif., on Oct. 26, 2018.

Woods is a former state senator who was sentenced to over 18 years in prison earlier this year because of his role leading a bribery operation that saw taxpayer money diverted to Ecclesia College, a state institution, in order to obtain kickbacks, 5News reported.

He was convicted on 15 of 17 charges relating to offences such as money laundering, wire fraud and mail fraud; one consultant was found guilty alongside him and two other people pleaded guilty before the trial started.

Before he went to prison, however, Woods was a staunch Trump supporter who jumped behind the president even as other politicians in Arkansas didn’t, State Rep. Janna Della Rosa told 5News.

Signatories to the letter also included Andrew Spengler, a white ex-Milwaukee police officer who in 2007 was convicted of beating a biracial man at a housewarming party three years prior, CBS News reported.

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Lac La Ronge Indian Band Chief Tammy Cook-Searson eyes run at federal politics

A long-serving member of a Saskatchewan First Nation is looking to enter federal politics.

Tammy Cook-Searson announced Tuesday she is seeking the Liberal nomination in the riding of Desnethé—Missinippi—Churchill for the 2019 federal election.


Recount confirms federal NDP win in northern Saskatchewan

Cook-Searson said her 20 years of leadership at the band level, and as president of a successful Indigenous business, has given her the necessary experience to serve in Ottawa.

“I have been honoured to serve in many capacities, raising issues through countless discussions and negotiations with the provincial and federal government, as well as the resource industries, on issues that matter the most to northerners,” Cook-Searson said in a Facebook post.

“I am a strong believer in the importance of economic development that is balanced with social development. Northerners need jobs, contracts and access to health and education. For sustainable development we need the highest standards of environmental protection”

Cook-Searson is currently chief of the Lac La Ronge Indian Band and previously was a band councillor.

A nomination meeting date has not been set.

The riding is currently held by Georgina Jolibois of the NDP.

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CNN sues White House over revoked credentials of correspondent

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – CNN filed a lawsuit on Tuesday against the Trump administration over the revocation of press credentials for White House correspondent Jim Acosta, a frequent target of President Donald Trump.

The cable network demanded the return of Acosta’s credentials in the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in Washington. It said the White House violated the First Amendment right to free speech as well as the due process clause of the Constitution providing fair treatment through judicial process.

Sarah Sanders, the White House press secretary, dismissed the action as “just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against this lawsuit.”

The White House revoked Acosta’s credentials last week in an escalation of the Republican president’s attacks on the news media, which he has dubbed the “enemy of the people.”

Trump has steadily intensified his criticism of the reporters who cover him, lashing out with personal jabs in response to questions he does not like, including those about Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s probe of whether his campaign worked with Russia to sway the 2016 presidential election.

CNN, and Acosta in particular, have been regular targets of Trump.

The day after the Nov. 6 congressional election, Trump erupted into anger during a news conference when Acosta questioned him about the Russia probe and a so-called migrant caravan traveling through Mexico.

“That’s enough, that’s enough,” Trump told Acosta last Wednesday, as a White House intern attempted to take the microphone away from Acosta. “You are a rude, terrible person.”

The White House suspended his credentials later that day, with Sanders alleging that Acosta had put his hands on the intern who was trying to take the microphone from him. However, videos of the encounter show Acosta pulling back as the intern moved to take the microphone.

“While the suit is specific to CNN and Acosta, this could have happened to anyone,” CNN said. “If left unchallenged, the actions of the White House would create a dangerous chilling effect for any journalist who covers our elected officials.”

The lawsuit noted that Trump told reporters at the White House on Friday there “could be others also.”

Theodore Boutrous, a lawyer for CNN and Acosta, said the White House was punishing Acosta for the contents of his reporting.

The White House Correspondents Association said revoking Acosta’s credentials was a disproportionate reaction to what happened at the news conference.

“The President of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him,” it said.

U.S. Representative Jerrold Nadler, who is likely to become the Democratic chairman of the House Judiciary Committee in January, supported the CNN lawsuit.

“@CNN is right to fight back against the cynical, unfair, and authoritarian treatment of @Acosta for doing his job,” he said in a Twitter post.

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Democrat Kyrsten Sinema wins race to replace Arizona Republican Jeff Flake in U.S. Senate

PHOENIX – Democrat Kyrsten Sinema won Arizona’s open U.S. Senate seat Monday in a race that was among the most closely watched in the nation, beating Republican Rep. Martha McSally in the battle to replace GOP Sen. Jeff Flake.

The three-term congresswoman won after a slow vote count that dragged on for nearly a week after voters went to the polls on Nov. 6. She becomes Arizona’s first Democratic U.S. senator since 1994. Her win cemented Arizona as a swing state after years of Republican dominance.

Sinema portrayed herself as a moderate who works across the aisle to get things done.

McSally, a former Air Force pilot who embraced President Donald Trump after opposing him during the 2016 elections, had claimed that Sinema’s anti-war protests 15 years ago disqualified her and said one protest amounted to what she called “treason.”

But during her six years in Congress, Sinema built one of most centrist records in the Democratic caucus, and she voted for bills backed by Trump more than 60 per cent of the time. She backed legislation increasing penalties against people in the country illegally who commit crimes.

McSally’s attacks on Sinema reached back more than 15 years, when Sinema was a Green Party spokeswoman and liberal activist.

McSally backed Trump’s tax cut, border security and the Affordable Care Act repeal agenda as she survived a three-way GOP primary in August, defeating two conservative challengers who claimed her support for Trump was fake. McSally also campaigned on her military record and support for the Armed Forces.

Sinema attacked McSally’s leadership of last year’s failed Affordable Care Act repeal effort as a sign that she would not protect Arizona residents with preexisting medical conditions. McSally argued that she would protect patients, despite her vote on the bill that would have removed many of those protections.

The contest drew more than $90 million in spending, including more than $58 million by outside groups, according to Federal Election Commission reports. Attack ads by both sides clogged the airwaves for months.

Sinema, 42, has a law degree, worked as a social worker and was a political activist in her 20s, running as an independent Green Party candidate for the Arizona House. She then became a Democrat and served several terms in the state Legislature. Sinema started as an overt liberal but developed a reputation for compromise among her Republican peers, laying the groundwork to tack to the centre.

When the 9th Congressional District was created after the 2010 Census, Sinema ran for the Phoenix-area seat as a centrist and won the 2012 election.

McSally, 52, was the first female Air Force pilot to fly in combat, flying A-10 attack jets. She also was the first woman to command a fighter squadron, again in A-10s.

McSally lost her first race in Arizona’s 2nd congressional district in 2012, when she was narrowly defeated by Democratic Rep. Ron Barber, who replaced Rep. Gabby Giffords after she was wounded in a 2011 assassination attempt. But McSally came back to win the 2014 election, beating Barber by a narrow margin. She was re-elected in 2016.

Flake was an outspoken critic of Trump and announced in 2017 that he would not seek re-election, acknowledging he could not win a GOP primary in the current political climate. His support of the president’s initiatives, however, was mixed. He strongly backed last year’s tax cut bill but criticized Trump’s positions on free trade.

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Too close to call: U.S. federal, state elections still in flux

(Reuters) – Democrats took control of the U.S. House of Representatives in the Nov. 6 elections and Republicans held onto a majority in the U.S. Senate, but a number of races remain undecided nearly a week later.

The outcomes of three Senate races, 13 House seats and two governorships had yet to be settled on Monday.

Arizona was counting ballots in its Senate contest, where Democratic candidate Kyrsten Sinema held a narrow lead over Republican candidate Martha McSally.

Florida ordered a recount in the race where Democratic Senator Bill Nelson trailed his Republican challenger, Florida Governor Rick Scott. Florida also ordered a recount for its gubernatorial race, while the winner of the governor’s race in Georgia remains uncertain with a December runoff still possible.

In one of Mississippi’s Senate races, Republican Senator Cindy Hyde-Smith and her Democratic challenger Mike Espy will contest a runoff on Nov. 27 after neither won a majority.

Vote tallies continue to trickle in for the 13 U.S. House races that appear too close to call, and there is no consensus among media outlets and data provider DDHQ that a victor has emerged.

Democrats held narrow leads in eight of those races, according to unfinished tallies compiled by DDHQ.

Democrats so far have gained a net 29 House seats. Even if they pick up more seats in the Senate or House, the outcomes of the undecided elections will not change the overall balance of power in either chamber.

The following are House seats where there is no consensus winner:

State District

California 10

California 39

California 45

California 48

California 49

Georgia 7

Maine 2

New Jersey 3

New Mexico 2

New York 22

New York 27

Texas 23

Utah 4

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