Weppner Campaign Seeking “Not So Nice”, Incidental Blight Photos

Blight. It’s a problem throughout Buffalo, WNY, and much of upstate and the rust belt. You can literally go anywhere in North America and encounter some abandoned buildings, ugly graffiti, vacant properties, and blight. 

But now a woman running for Congress against Brian Higgins wants to turn blight into a campaign issue. 

On Wednesday, Laura Yingling, the tea party “activist” and Glenn Beck “9-12” acolyte running Kathy Weppner’s campaign sent out a mass email to her entire list, entitled “Brian Higgins the Waterfront Czar”: 

That’s literally only about half of the “to” list. 

Here is the body of the email: 

Interesting, right? It’s a great way for Weppner to stoke class and racial fear and hatred. Also, it ignores and exploits the fact that Higgins now happens to represent the cities of Buffalo and Niagara Falls – places that have more than their fair share of blight. Hell, even Grand Island has that dilapidated and creepy old Dunlop office building near the north bridge. 

The current NY-27 couldn’t be more different from what it looked like before 2013, when it had a much larger suburban and rural component. Indeed, I’m willing to bet that the picture that Yingling sent around was not part of NY-27 before 2013. 

The current boundaries are also +13 Democrat, so you know, good luck. 

This is dumb politics and dumb campaigning. Showing off blight resulting from decades of regional economic failure isn’t relevant to Higgins’ time in office.  But dumb campaigns play to dumb people and know only the lowest common denominator. 

You get the idea. This parody account on Twitter captures the dumb beautifully. 

I’ll issue a challenge to all outlets in WNY: Every single time Weppner tries to get you out to an event for free media, ask her why she scrubbed her entire web and radio history from the internet, and when we can expect to see it back online

Kathy Weppner: Solving All the Problems

Below is a speech that was given by an ostensibly serious candidate for Congress. She jolts between a plethora of issues, and puffs herself as having a “really good reputation” and that she’s “reading everything”. Her selling point is that Buffalo needs a “loud” and “strong” voice in Washington. 

She also hits Congressman Higgins for not being in Buffalo enough. (What?!) 

Brian Higgins’ power is not here in Buffalo. He should be here listening to us; no town hall meetings on any issues, he doesn’t want to hear from us. And then he goes there and comes back as fast as possible, and then doesn’t listen to us at all. He should be staying in Washington and getting things done for us. That’s where his power is. And that is what I’ll do. 

I quite literally don’t get the logic. She complains that Higgins isn’t here enough, and in literally the next sentence complains that he should stay in Washington. 

Of course, Higgins holds “Congress on your Corner” events all the time, and has a district office and even a phone number and email address for anyone who wants to voice their opinion

Maybe he’s not listening to shrill tea party types because their ideas are shit. 

Check out this read, as Kathy Weppner records a campaign message, but posts it to her husband’s YouTube account, and omits the federally mandated campaign disclaimer. Watch as she starts out by honoring our fallen soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, but then uses their sacrifice for electioneering purposes. 

 That’s ok, I guess. 

On Memorial Day, she was literally campaigning on the graves of the fallen. 

Eddie Egriu: Ordinary Guy, Extraordinary Problems

Last week, walking, talking chain e-mail Kathy Weppner decided that she was throwing her hat in the ring to challenge Democratic incumbent Brian Higgins for the congressional seat in the 26th district. Weppner is a stereotypical low-information WBEN caller, and she somehow managed to parlay “Kathy from Williamsville” into an actual, paying radio gig. You should note that Weppner has gone back and scrubbed her webpage of the especially racist and vile things that used to be there. 

That’s ok. The Google cache and waybackmachine will help us to revisit the ideas that were convenient when she was a WBEN personality, but somehow inconvenient now. 

But from the left (ostensibly) we have another challenger – Emin “Eddie” Egriu. Egriu is set to announce that he is running in a Democratic primary against Higgins. Egriu is something of a perennial candidate – think “Kosovar Rus Thompson” – and used to pay Illuzzi and Gramigna off to get articles written about him. Both individuals are now deceased. 

Egriu is something of a character, but the problem is that he’s been lax about his duties as a citizen. Here’s what we know: 

1. The federal government filed liens against Egriu for unpaid taxes, most recently in November 2013 for $90,225.69. He evidently failed to pay his 2005 and 2006 income taxes. In 2009, a federal lien for almost $7,000 was filed, and in 2008 there was one for almost $8,000. 

2. New York filed warrants against him for failure to pay unemployment insurance premiums (under his bizarre dba, “Violation Enterprise”) in 2006 and 2007. He also failed to obtain necessary worker’s compensation insurance, and a judgment was filed against him for $3,000.

3. Egriu is late on his 2013 and 2014 Erie County property taxes. It’s not a lot – less than $200, but then again it’s not a lot – less than $200. 

4. In 1998, he lost two properties to foreclosure for unwillingness or inability to pay his bills. 

5. Since 1995, over $32,000 in civil judgments have been filed arising out of lawsuits against him. 

 Egriu says this in a press release this morning: 

He will make his announcement at the corner of Pulman Place and Shepard Street, near Broadway and Bailey avenues, in the heart of Higgins’ decaying district.

 It’s Pullman Place, and that part of town was decaying long before Mr. Higgins went to Washington. 

Eddie is a liberal anti-war populist challenging Higgins, a right-of-center neo-conservative, in the Democratic Primary.

  • Eddie supports universal single payer healthcare and will fight to eliminate the profit seeking industry that has been leeching the life out of our healthcare system. Higgins voted for Mitt Romney’s plan. 

Higgins voted for Obama’s plan. In 2012 Mitt Romney ran – and lost – opposing Obamacare. 

  • Eddie is anti-war. Higgins is a neo-con who sits on the Foreign Affairs Committee and the Homeland Security Committee.

It’s easy to be anti-war when you’re, at best, a local housing activist. 

  • Eddie opposes the bank bailouts. Higgins voted for them. 

Yes, but is Higgins in favor of the needed Egriu bailout? 

  • Eddie supports the legalization of marijuana for adults. Higgins does not.

Pandering. 

Mr. Egriu’s heart may be in the right place, but his track record reveals a fundamental inability to be taken seriously, and to pay the taxes and fees we all pay to maintain a civilized society. 

Congressional Races of 2014

It’s shaping up to be an interesting Congressional election season. 

Republican incumbent Chris Collins will likely cruise to re-election in the sprawling 27th. He has name recognition, bases his every word and deed on Obama-hatred, and a bottomless pit of money with which to purchase perpetual re-election. 

Democrats endorsed a young police officer and attorney, Jim O’Donnell (no relation), to run against Collins. In addition to his J.D., O’Donnell has a Master’s in Economics, which would certainly come in handy against the throwback voodoo economics that Collins espouses. O’Donnell is running because of Congressional dysfunction

My dream is the same dream that people across the district share for their children. The problem is that Congress lately has been doing a better job of getting in the way of that dream than helping it come true. As a Congressman, I would work every single day to make sure that those very simple dreams, those simple ideals, become a reality.

Hopefully, Collins’ childishly nonsensical  “I was against the federal shutdown that I voted fornihilism will take center stage.  O’Donnell’s Facebook page is here

In the 26th, incumbent Democrat Brian Higgins is likely to coast to re-election, as well. This is especially true thanks to the fact that his opponent is not only going to be a tea partier, but is – quite literally – a low-information WBEN caller. “Kathy from Williamsville” is going to take her fact-free jingoism on the campaign trail. She is a walking, talking anti-Obama chain email, and anyone reporting on her should be sure to have Snopes queued up on their mobile browsers. Seriously – there will be no point covering her campaign if you’re not able immediately to vet her pronouncements and cross-examine her on the inevitable fabrications and fantasies she’ll discuss. After all, she has a list of known communists, doesn’t seem to be ready or willing to represent Muslim residents of the 26th (hint: it’s the primitive blood lust), has declared “white guilt” to be “dead”, warned against a hyperinflation that never came, and – like Ronald Reagan – opposes Medicare

That one will be fun. 

Carl the RINO and Donny’s Shovel

1. Tea Party Champion Carl Paladino: 

Who better to lead a protest than a perpetually incensed, elderly millionaire? What better thing to protest than “socializing” America? Who better to “send a message that RINO’s [sic] who support an elected Democrat…have no place in the…Republican Party”? How about the developer millionaire who was a registered Democrat for 31 years, until 2005, and who donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to convenient Democrats who were positioned to help his business goals? He attended a Democrat’s fundraiser just this year. Oh, and this from the Buffalo News

Speaking of Paladino, several of the 2010 Republican candidate for governor’s companies recently dropped $9,000 on Erie County Democratic Chairman Jeremy Zellner’s housekeeping account, according to campaign finance records. This occurs even after Zellner moved Democratic Headquarters out of Paladino’s Ellicott Square.

“I’m supportive of Jeremy’s efforts,” Paladino said last week. “When it comes to good government, it’s what we do. We support both parties’ central operations to do the right thing.”

Who better to lecture Patrick Lee and Anthony Gioia on who is and isn’t a “RINO” than a self-anointed tea party hero who has given thousands of dollars to Democrats in just the past year? 

2. Buffalo News Columnist Donn Esmonde: 

It’s called “objectophilia“. 

As I grasped your handle and cupped your lean, strong shaft of a body in my left hand, I silently celebrated all of the times, over all of the years, we had done this together.

Donn Esmonde, to his snow shovel. I think the shovel swore out an order of protection. 

3. Bonus thing to Read

From the Harvard Business Review, “It’s Not OK That Your Employees Can’t Afford to Eat“. 

It wasn’t that long ago that in most companies, especially large ones, a fair amount of time was spent worrying about whether the company’s practices towards employees were fair. One of the functions of human resource departments was to advocate for the interests of employees.

The motivation wasn’t entirely altruistic. Since WWI, employers figured they could keep unions out by giving employees virtually all of the wage and benefits they would have gotten from joining unions. Even without that concern, though, the leadership of the company considered it part of their job to strike a balance between the other demands on the business and the needs of employees.  They were one of the important stakeholders in the business, along with customers, shareholders, and the community around them…

…A family of four with one breadwinner is eligible for food stamps if they earn less than $2500 per month. That is the equivalent of a $15 per hour job and a 40 hour work week.  The government has determined that full-time workers earning less than that do not have enough money to feed their families on their own. If that breadwinner earns less than $16 per hour, they are also eligible for Medicaid assistance to provide healthcare. Depending on where they live, that breadwinner is also eligible for subsidies to help pay for housing.

Pre-haunting Scrooge is no way to go through life, and no way to run a country. 

Donny Kissinger

Only the severely deluded would agree that it’s a good idea for Buffalo and New York to enlist Donn Esmonde to mediate a high-stakes dispute between the State of New York and the governments of Canada and Ontario. What would we do without his measured tone and earnest concern? For starters, we’d probably have a bridge by now. After advocating for a signature crossing 13 years ago, Esmonde has spent his time since then criticizing everything about Peace Bridge expansion.

Peace Bridge Night -  Old Lights

Actually, today’s column is one, long concern troll.

Esmonde assigns every stitch of blame for the current fight over the bureaucracy and management of the bridge to Governor Cuomo and the American members. As if it doesn’t take two sides to maintain an unreasonable squabble, and as if the Canadians hadn’t had their share of bad behavior – including One saying sexist things against a female American bridge official.

Back in 2000, Esmonde was on the side of the New Millenium Group and the people in Buffalo who demanded not a twin span, but a signature bridge – a bridge that would stand out and be not only functional, but beautiful. The Buffalo and Fort Erie Public Bridge Authority (PBA) had decided in 1994 that it would build a companion span. Twenty years later, there is still the one steel bridge, and the American plaza still looks like an unwelcoming toll plaza. I wonder how Esmonde feels, writing about the same topic he did in 1997? Yet after pimping the signature span in 2000, he went to denigrating waterfront champion Congressman Brian Higgins in 2008.

When a bridge fell into Lake Champlain, Albany undertook an audit and review of other bridges. It deemed the steel Peace Bridge structure unsafe.

Why did Donn Esmonde support the lawsuit to bring about a “signature bridge”, and now supports people threatening lawsuits to block construction of the signature bridge?

Which is it, Donn? “Better bridge” or no bridge?

Well, it’s “no bridge“. Esmonde has spent the last decade lauding anyone with a white beard and a lawyer. We don’t need any peace bridge expansion, he now says.

After 20 years of plans, a new Peace Bridge will remain unbuilt — pragmatically, I think, in light of declining traffic and questionable economic boost.

Esmonde calls for the PBA to fix itself, and fast – to de-escalate the fight. But why do we need a separate authority for the Peace Bridge, on the one hand; and the Niagara County crossings on the other? Couldn’t the entire thing be made “lighter, quicker, cheaper” if we only had one authority for all the crossings? Is there something special about the Peace Bridge? Is there something inadequate about the Niagara Falls Bridge Commission that it couldn’t expand and change its name to “Niagara Frontier Bridge Commission” or something?

Donn Esmonde usually becomes verbally turgid over the phrase emphasized in the preceding paragraph. But after almost 20 years of waiting for increased Peace Bridge capacity, Esmonde says we shouldn’t rush these things. What?

And our own little Kissinger – how diplomatic has been towards the Canadians? How about this column he wrote just 2 years ago, expressing how “disillusioned” he was by Canadians down here for a hockey tournament, (what else?), and some drunken brawls (of course).

Whatever happened to the polite, humble, rule-respecting folks we thought we knew? Where were the civic-minded citizens who dutifully wait at the street corner when the traffic light is red, even when no cars are coming? Wherever you are, we want you back…

…I talked to workers at a downtown bar/restaurant that will remain nameless, to protect the place’s cross-border business. By tournament’s end, they had disdain for all things emblazoned with a Maple Leaf. The main complaint, and this is not new, is a lot of Canadian hockey fans are awful tippers.

“They would have a few beers and leave like a quarter or 50 cents,” said one bartender, who for job security reasons asked that his name not be used. “Servers said they were getting two-dollar tips on a $25 check.”

OK, chronically bad tipping is not cause for a diplomatic crisis. But multiply it by a few thousand visitors, and you leave behind a lot of irritation.

Donn Esmonde as diplomat. I’ve honestly never heard anything so ridiculous.

This is part of an ongoing AV Daily series, “Donn Esmonde is an Ass

 

Paladino, Higgins, and McCarthy

In an article that appeared in Sunday’s Buffalo News, Congressman Brian Higgins and his cousin-by-marriage Carl Paladino exchanged metaphorical f*ck yous. Frankly, it’s hardly news that a Democratic politician is at odds with opportunistic tea party figurehead Carl Paladino. 

But in Bob McCarthy’s article, it was revealed that the rift became irreparable after Chris Smith, Marc Odien, and I reported on Paladino’s happy forwarding of ugly racist and pornographic text and images to political figures and developers around the region

Release of the emails

Paladino’s 2010 gubernatorial campaign seemed doomed after a Buffalo website revealed his practice of emailing racist and pornographic jokes to friends.

At the time, Caputo (who has since broken with Paladino) told reporters he had been approached by a Higgins “emissary” who promised “everything would come out” if Paladino ran for governor.

Though he sent jokes to many friends on his email list, Paladino then and now blames Higgins’ staff for the leak.

“That was the end,” Paladino says now. “I knew he did it. And it only caused more anguish in the family than we already had.”

Typical narcissistic tween stuff, that. Paladino doesn’t blame himself for sending out images using the word “nigger” or showing the President of the United States and his wife as a pimp and whore – it’s someone else’s fault that he got found out, causing “anguish” to his family.  Had he kept his racism and pornography to himself, Mr. Paladino could have saved his own family all that “anguish”. 

[Rus] Thompson said the Paladino campaign engaged investigators to track the email trail.

“So we know where it came from,” he said.

I publicly challenge Rus Thompson – Paladino’s driver and errand-boy – to release the “investigation” that “tracked” the email trail. I would like to see proof in some form to back up what he’s talking about. Does Rus really think, for instance, that if he forwards one particular chain e-mail that Microsoft and Bill Gates will pay him money

Higgins denies that he or his staff leaked the emails, pointing out that Paladino’s email list included dozens of people who could have released the jokes.

Here’s a question – at any point do you think that the Buffalo News’ Bob McCarthy contacted Chris Smith, Marc Odien, or me to ask us to confirm or deny whether we received the Paladino emails from Brian Higgins or his people? Do you think that the author of this article made the effort to take to Facebook, Twitter, this blog, Artvoice, WNYMedia.net, or asked one of his colleagues for our numbers to see what we had to say about this particular matter? 

At no time did McCarthy ask the people who published the emails where they came from, or whether they came from a Higgins source. Think about it – the emails were sent to a long string of people. They were not secret – many, many people knew about them and former campaign manager Michael Caputo has stated that he knew about the emails, that he knew they were an issue, and that they focus-grouped them, finding that the racist ones were particularly problematic. 

When your campaign knows that the emails are an issue, and that any one of the recipients – or the recipients’ recipients – could have leaked them to the press, pointing the finger at the local Congressman who disagrees with your conclusion that Obamacare is worse than 9/11, to maintain a feud over them is idiotic. 

In the end, Carl Paladino is unable and unwilling to acknowledge that his own behavior is his own fault. These are things that normal people learn before they enter middle school. And journalists learn to check their sources – if Paladino and Rus Thompson say they know how the emails got to Chris, Marc, and me, you should probably check with one of us. 

Demolish the Peace Bridge

Buffalo and Detroit have a lot in common. They’re both big Great Lakes cities that have become shadows of their former selves. They share similar socioeconomic problems, similar planning problems, similar fiscal issues, and both harken back to the days of America’s industrial heyday. 

But while Detroit is developing an image for being the heart of the American auto industry and making no excuses for it, Buffalo is instead relying on a more effete reliance on architecture, places that “matter”, and emotion to build its image in the 21st century.  It’s the difference between these two videos: 

 

Where one is brash and unapologetically so, the other is maudlin. While one looks forward, the other looks backwards. It is as stark a contrast between visions for rebranding similarly situated cities as you’ll find. 

It’s time to demolish the Peace Bridge. Between Detroit and Niagara County, they’ve got it all under control. 

For the “looking forward” crowd in Buffalo, one of the bigger embarrassments is the 20 year story of the Peace Bridge. Our cross-border traffic with Canada isn’t only important for importing and exporting goods, it’s somewhat important for travelers whom Buffalo is seeking to bring in from Canada to visit museums, eat at restaurants, and see architecture. The fact that – 20 years on – the Peace Bridge remains today on the American side almost exactly as it did in 1990 is a civic punch line. 

We went from twin span to signature span to signature companion span to shortened signature companion span to, “hey, maybe we can build a larger inspection plaza to get traffic moving and reduce inbound backups on the bridge.” None of these is likely to happen.  Opponents of the bridge are against expansion because several buildings – which the Peace Bridge Authority already owns – will be demolished to make way for it.  

But one of the other characteristics that Detroit shares with Buffalo is a river crossing with Canada. While Buffalo wrings its hands over a bridge expansion, Detroit just approved construction of a new bridge to Windsor – and it’s even more controversial there because in Detroit a private company runs a bridge and is vehemently opposed to the competition.  Bridging our connections to Canada – or improving the ones we have – may not be something that’s critically important now, but it’s something that would position Buffalo for future growth and expansion of cross-border trade and travel. 

Congressman Brian Higgins has been fighting for Peace Bridge expansion, and released a statement yesterday that was practically chiding Buffalo for a missed opportunity – one that Mayor Brown is abetting

Congressman Brian Higgins stood by the Peace Bridge in Buffalo and called on Western New York leaders, residents and businesses to join him in the fight against the inertia.  Higgins used Friday’s announcement of a deal for a new international border crossing between Detroit and Canada as an example of how delays and obstruction are costing this community jobs and economic opportunity. 

 “While Western New York is finding ways to block, other communities are finding ways to build,” said Congressman Higgins.  “The complacency and resistance to change that has been pervasive in Buffalo for fifty years will continue to cost us if we don’t act now.”

 In an agreement between the state of Michigan and Canada announced June 15, the two governments will move forward on construction of a New International Trade Crossing between Detroit and Windsor, Ontario.  As a part of the deal, Canada will fund Michigan’s share of the project, up to $550 million, toward the $2 billion span. 

 A study released by the Center for Automotive Research found that the Detroit project will create approximately 12,000 jobs per year during the 4-year construction phase and another 8,000 permanent jobs will be created in the vicinity of the new bridge and the greater region as a result of new economic activity. 

 Congressman Higgins, a champion for the addition of new capacity at the international Peace Bridge crossing between Buffalo, New York and Fort Erie, Ontario, added,  “Incessant squabbling  only leads to inertia.  Be it the waterfront, the Peace Bridge or the Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, it is time to fight against the fight and together fight for progress and all the good that comes with it”…

…Higgins asserted, “Public infrastructure is a public responsibility. In addition to historically low rates of borrowing, the “cost acceleration” of delaying road and bridge repair increases by 500% after only two years. Put simply, a $5 million bridge repair project will cost $25 million in 2014. The time to rebuild America is now, actually right now.”

Al Coppola was once a State Senator and most recently known for threatening to move the “Pan Am House” from Delaware Avenue to a location near the Peace Bridge so as to halt any demolitions. (Then-Assemblyman Sam Hoyt had some choice words in reaction to that scheme

Coppola claims he’s now running as a Democrat to replace Mark Grisanti, and penned this article for Buffalo Rising. In short, Mr. Coppola argues not just for halting the expansion of the Peace Bridge, but for getting rid of it altogether. He also gets in a dig at the Peace Bridge Authority, arguing that they want to destroy a neighborhood to build a bigger duty free shop. It’s always best to demonize your opponent, rather than just argue your own point. 

It wasn’t the idea of anyone alive to put an international bridge crossing smack next to a residential neighborhood, but that’s what we have. To argue about noise pollution or emissions now is to argue for its removal, not for the status quo. It may be time, therefore, to demolish the Peace Bridge and dramatically expand capacity in Niagara County to connect the 405 to the I-190. 

A signature bridge is never, ever going to happen. Not in my lifetime, not in yours. Neither is an expanded plaza. Neither is the park that the New Millenium Group – which was once a big proponent of a signature span – was promoting. 

The Ambassador Bridge to Black Rock? Not going to happen. No one’s going to build a plaza and new interchange on the US side with the Scajaquada and 190 right there, particularly given the fact that the push now is to downgrade the Scajaquada to a boulevard of some sort.

While an ideal crossing would be across the river just south of Grand Island, so that it would connect up with the I-290 and I-190, that disturbs residential neighborhoods in Canada.

Instead, we should completely jettison the Peace Bridge expansion altogether and instead increase capacity at Queenston-Lewiston. That single span gets a tremendous amount of truck and vehicular traffic, and recently received an upgrade to five lanes. The Q-L bridge provides direct access on both sides of the span to a major highway; the 405 to the QEW on the Canadian side, and the I-190 on the US side.

If there was any semblance of forward-thinking on the part of the CVB, it would already have been in talks to develop and construct a gorgeous visitor’s center that is run locally – not from Albany. Lease some Thruway property from the Authority and give border crossers a reason to come to a whole host of attractions in Western New York. The fact that there is no “Welcome to New York” or “Welcome to WNY” center on this side of the border underscores just how backwards and simple our supposed tourism promoters are. They’re at Thruway rest areas, but not at the border. How patently stupid; you have to wait until you get to Pembroke or Angola – well on your way out of the metro area.

There comes a time when you just say “enough”. The Peace Bridge project has spent ten years in environmental review, design review, and negotiations over the now-dead shared border management. We can sit and wait another few years for a new administration to change its mind, but it’s been almost ten years now that nothing tangible has happened. The preservation community has drawn a line in the sand as far as the neighborhood that would be adversely affected by a new plaza on the Buffalo side, and – let’s be honest – scary Al Coppola’s scary threat to move his shack to the west side is scary persuasive. 

So screw it. Enough. Everybody wins.

Expand the Queenston-Lewiston bridge with a second, signature span across the Niagara River, right at the escarpment with a gorgeous view of the meandering river leading to Youngstown, and Lake Ontario beyond. Maybe two spans, and we demolish the Peace Bridge.  This way, Niagara County can benefit from cross-border trade and traffic, and Buffalo can figure out ways to get Canadian visitors to make their way south from the outlet mall and west from the Walden Galleria. 


//

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Oh, My God

Buffalo City Hall

Photo by Flickr user W Alex Fisher

Consider this scenario: 

Antoine Thompson returns to Albany, replacing Tim Kennedy. 

Byron Brown goes to Washington, replacing Brian Higgins. 

Tim Kennedy moves into the 2nd floor of City Hall, replacing Byron Brown. 

All of these rumors are floating around town, gaining steam. So my question is, are we living a Stephen King novel? 

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