Archive for February 18th, 2014

AG Mills on LePage EBT Fraud Claims: Put Issue In Perspective, Go After “Big Fish” Too

Posted on February 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , |

Justin Alfond, Mark EvesIn early January, Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves sent a letter requesting that Maine’s Attorney General Janet Mills and her office look into the allegations of widespread EBT fraud put forth by Governor Paul LePage. In the letter, they requested that the Attorney General review, and if necessary prosecute, the governors allegations of fraud and abuse in Maine’s anti-poverty programs.

In a press release to media, Democrats stated their position clearly:

    Maine Democrats are committed to ensuring that all public dollars are used effectively, efficiently and for the purposes for which they are intended. This is especially true with respect to anti-poverty programs designed to help struggling families get back on their feet again. Abuse of the system, whether perpetrated by recipients, businesses or health care providers that receive these dollars, cannot be tolerated and must be stopped.

    Democrats believe fraud should be prosecuted not politicized. We must focus on real solutions to the serious problem of poverty and unemployment in our state.

On Monday, Mills sent a letter back to the Democratic leaders and minced no words in how she views the Governor’s recent tirades against EBT fraudulent users, which his own released data showed to have a scant 0.2% fraud rate– ignoring the fact that the remaining 99.8% rate of usage is completely legitimate- as agreeing with the Democrats’ previous assertion that the Governor’s focus on such a small percentage of possible fraud could be politically motivated.

Here is AG Janet Mills’ letter sent to Senate President Justin Alfond and Speaker of the House Mark Eves:

Mills discusses not just the 0.2% of purported fraud claimed to have been discovered by LePage’s office, but the fact that only the location of the ATM transactions is known- what the monies withdrawn were spent upon is anyone’s guess:

    “Whether anybody has ever used EBT funds withdrawn from an ATM in any bank, store or other facility to purchase a pint of coffee brandy is beyond my direct knowledge, although I would not be surprised if this has occurred. Such behavior, of course, is socially unacceptable and fiscally irresponsible. However, there are other antisocial behaviors involving the misuse of public funds which cause me equal or greater concern.”

What has yet to be considered by any public officials yet are such reasonable and legitimate possibilities as employees on assistance might be withdrawing cash at their place of employment to pay for gasoline to get back and forth to work. It is not unreasonable to consider that employees at “strip clubs, bars and smoke shops” are making minimum or lower wages than most workers.

DA Maeghan Maloney, AG Janet Mills and Sec. of State Matt Dunlap at EmergeMaine's 2013 naming of Mills as Woman of the Year.

DA Maeghan Maloney, AG Janet Mills and Sec. of State Matt Dunlap at EmergeMaine’s 2013 naming of Mills as Woman of the Year.

As for the Governor’s “46 states” statistic… has anyone considered that maybe those are some of Maine’s currently enlisted military families, stationed elsewhere? Last year, it was reported that military families nationwide redeemed $100 million in SNAP benefits- yet that part of the discussion has yet to be had locally or looked into as an explanation of why Maine EBT cards have been used in almost every state, yet been part of such a tiny overall number.

Mills informed the leaders that her office was very much focused on all sorts of fraud, including that by providers stealing millions from the state:

    “While we are taking action against eligibility and recipient fraud which is more visible to the public and more talked about, provider fraud is also a very high priority for us. These providers steal millions of dollars from the public purse and seriously undermine the public trust in our MaineCare program.”

In her conclusion, Mills advised that focal balance be a part of eliminating fraud:

    “There is a great deal of talk this election year about welfare fraud. I hope that we put this issue in perspective, and make sure we apply the rule of law fairly and uniformly, that we go after the big fish as well as the small, and that we not elevate one over the other.”
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Maine Legislature Overrides LePage Veto of LD 1353, “An Act To Further Reduce Student Hunger”

Posted on February 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Last week, both chambers of the Maine Legislature took up and voted to override Governor LePage’s veto of LD 1353, “An Act To Further Reduce Student Hunger”. The Senate first took up the veto, sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond.

Here is the floor speech he delivered to his colleagues, urging they join him in voting against the Governor:

    When I was 9 years old and living in Dexter, Tom was my classmate. We were friends and he liked to play sports. Back then, and through my 9-year old eyes, I remember he was “that kid” who got called down to the principal’s office. He was “that kid” who stayed in during recess. He was also “that kid” who missed a lot of school. What I realized later, with my adult eyes, is that Tom was “that kid” whose family–although they worked hard–didn’t have enough money to make sure Tom got enough food. He was hungry. I am sure that we all knew or know a Tom? Maybe there are a few of us in this room that was Tom?

    justin alfondAs a past member of the education committee, I now know that hunger is one of the most severe roadblocks to learning. A child who doesn’t have enough to eat, won’t do as well in school. They’re more likely to get sick more often—and, less likely to finish high school. Tom was “that kid”.

    That was more than 25 years ago.

  • Today, there are 84,000 students who qualify for free or reduced lunch.
  • Today, twenty percent of Maine kids are food insecure–that’s nearly one in five.
  • Today, the state of Maine ranks third–only two other states in America have more children in hunger.

    That’s a list that we shouldn’t be on. In fact, that’s a ranking we should be ashamed of.

    Sometimes, the best solutions are the simplest. This bill is one small step–one common sense step toward making sure a hungry kid in Maine has the opportunity to get one meal a day during the summer-vacation months.

    Feeding hungry students is nothing new. We already have a program in place for making sure hungry students get fed during the school year. It’s a federal program, that Maine schools take part in. It’s called the National School Lunch Program.

    And feeding students during the summer is nothing new. In fact, the first summer food program began in 1968.

    Government–and our society–has long seen the need, and accepted the responsibility, to help provide nutrition to our neediest children.

    Today, if you all join me in supporting this bill (again), we can make a difference to 84,000 Maine kids who currently qualify for free or reduced lunch. Today, all we are asking–and expecting–is for the adults to have a conversation about the hungry children at their school, in their community. Today, we are asking schools who already offer summer programming like a rec program, to consider whether a summer food program is right for them.

    The food costs are paid for. The federal Summer Food Program picks up the food costs.

    The bill even allows schools to partner with churches or nonprofits or other community and civic organizations. In my home town of Portland, there’s a summer food program in the park—at Deering Oaks. The goal is to go to where the kids are and make it as easy as possible.

    But even still, if a school doesn’t want to participate, they can opt out. Ultimately, it’s a local decision.

    Some may ask, “Why is this necessary if schools already can ‘opt-in’ to a summer food program?”. The answer is simple: because there are still 70,000 kids across our state, in each of our districts, who are not getting fed in the summer. They are hungry.

    The question I ask each of you is, “Why wouldn’t we do this now?”

    Again I will ask you: “Why wouldn’t we do this now when food insecurity for Mainers is increasing?”

    This bill is more than just a bill, it’s a pledge, it’s a commitment by all of us that we need to change course; we need to build momentum to help our most precious assets, the children of our state.

    Today, you have a second chance to help feed our state’s hungry children so that we can make sure all of our kids, even the hungry, have the basic building blocks to go toe to toe with their classmates or in fact with anyone, anywhere.

    I hope you will join me.

Senator Colleen Lachowicz added: “At a time when more families are struggling to make ends meet and more children are hungry, it is irresponsible and unconscionable of us not to do everything we can to reduce student hunger.”

The Senate voted 25-10 in support of the override; it then next went to the House. Some quick notes taken during the resulting floor debate:

    Reps Ben Chipman, Tori Kornville rose in support; now Jeff McCabe. Peter Johnson (r-Greenville) spoke in opposition, saying that it should be left to local communities.

    Now Corey Wilson, (R-Augusta). He tells the chamber again of how he was one of these children and urges support in overriding the veto.

    Rep. Helen Rankin (D-Hiram) speaks to address her colleagues in the House (2013).

    Rep. Helen Rankin (D-Hiram) speaks to address her colleagues in the House (2013).

    Bruce Macdonald, one of the committee chairs, spoke and now Karen Kusiak.

    GOP Rep. McClellan of Raymond opposes on funding concerns later on. He also opposes it as a mandate. Unhappy that schools are giving medical care, etc and not simply teaching (paraphrase).

    Jeff Timberlake (R-Turner) asks questions re: whether or not this is allowed in school; Seth Berry answering.

    Anne Graham speaking in support, tells how health and nutrition work together.

    Diane Russell (D-Portland) rises to ask “how did we get to a place where we are debating whether or not to reduce student hunger”?

    Jennifer DeChant (D-Bath) discusses her work in 1992 with national campaign to end hunger.

    Dennis Keschl (R-Belgrade) asks question re: better to educate schools on the program.

    Gay Grant (D-Gardiner) gives personal story of how the reduced lunches helped.

    Elizabeth Dickerson (D-Rockland) next, telling of her communities’ 40% lower income poverty that kids in her school live in, every day. That she has taught algebra and discovered that some kids have not eaten all day- she and other teachers routinely keep snacks in their desks for these students.

    Jeff McCabe )D-Skowhegan) answers the earlier Keschl question; now Brian Jones… Strong statement regarding body’s charge if taking care of common welfare of Maine citizens.

    Matthea Daughtry (D-Brunswick) next, another committee member.

    Scott Hamann (D- South Portland) talking about going to a school pantry in Biddeford yesterday and Hannaford’s helping.

    Terry Hayes speaks of how she just came from an ethical meeting. “We continue to add to what schools need to do”… Will vote to override, but understands the GOP argument.

    Paul McGowan of York also answers Keschl.

    Now Ray Wallace (R-Dexter) asks what folks had for breakfast or lunch when they were kids- grew up in family of 8 kids and single mom, no help. Did not suffer and was able to learn. Let the parent raise the child. They get food stamps; are they spending it on food… Or something else? Let the parent feed them!! If they aren’t gonna feed them, cut the welfare!

    Rep Soctomah next, was raised on state reservation. Speaks of her own background, very emotional issue for her.

    Rep. Helen Rankin addresses House; urges support of override.

Bangor Daily News reported the following quotes from legislators:

Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta) interviewed by WCSH in 2013.

Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta) interviewed by WCSH in 2013.

Rep. Victoria Kornfield (D-Bangor): “Vetoing this bill did not save the state funds. Instead, it left federal funding on the table. … Frankly, I am surprised that the chief executive vetoed this bill because the summer program is exactly the compassion he talked about in his State of the State speech.”

Rep. Peter Johnson (R-Greenville): “The fact that we have to pass a law to have adults have a conversation says something about this bill. I think we should have the confidence in our citizenship to allow them to do that without passing another mandate.”

Rep. Michael McClellan (R-Raymond): “If we don’t look at issues like this and come up with the root of the problem and why it’s happening, then it’s a Band-Aid and we’ll be here again in a year or two to deal with it again. I don’t think it’s just or fair to keep burdening our schools with these things.”

Rep. Corey Wilson (R-Augusta): “I grew up quite poor and relied on food from the food pantry. I also did receive free breakfasts and free lunches from the school and I’m thankful for that. I rise in support of overriding the veto. It’s just the right thing to do. We have an opportunity here to feed children and I feel that if we ever have that opportunity, we should go for it. … I want to see the children in my community have the ability to simply be fed.”

Rep. Karen Kusiak shared her floor speech:

    Thank you Mr. Speaker, Women and Men of the House:

    I rise to speak in support of the motion before us; we must override the unfortunate veto of LD 1353, and Act to Further Reduce Student Hunger.

    Rep. Karen Kusiak of Fairfield

    Rep. Karen Kusiak of Fairfield

    One of the school districts I represent, MSAD 49 – where I served on the school board – has cooperatively participated in the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP) for a number of years. We serve children and youth who attend a community supported summer recreation program and children who attend a summer school program.

    (It may be that other school districts in my legislative district have summer food service programs, I don’t know for sure.) But I do know that my county, Somerset, has over 55% of our students qualifying for the federal lunch program. Our county, like other poor counties in the state, have children who rely on the school lunch programs for their basic nutrition. Children and youth up through the age of 18 who live within the geographic boundary of a school district with such a high participation in the school lunch program can participate in the Summer Food Service Program.

    The SFSP is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and run by the Maine Department of Education. The Maine DOE already encourages school districts to participate in the program. Look at their child nutrition programs page – there is plenty of information about getting a SFSP started and suggestions for making the reporting and paperwork relatively easy.

    From the DOE Website: “The Summer Food Service Program provides meal reimbursement to eligible summer programs. Communities throughout Maine have opened the door to the SFSP and helped close the door on summer hunger. Sponsors include schools, community recreation programs, nonprofit organizations and camps. Maine has over 87 sponsors with an estimated 254 sites for children to have a summer meal at no cost. Almost 481,000 meals and snacks were served in 2012.”

    Yet, even with the 87 sponsors and 254 sites, still the Maine Center for Economic Policy calculated in 2011 that Maine was using only about 10% of federal USDA funds that we are eligible to receive for Summer Food Service Programs (SFSP.) That means that children and youth in Maine who are eligible for the program are not able to participate, and are likely going hungry or not eating balanced meals.

    More Maine children and youth can be served through SFSP. Holding more school districts responsible for SFSP is the right thing to do.

    Opting out is permitted – a school board need only publicize that it will be conducting a public hearing on opting in or out of the program and vote on the question in a public meeting. A School Board may opt out, for example, after noting and telling the community that a local recreation program offers the SFSP for children and youth in their community. However, where no such program is provided, this bill will encourage local school districts to participate in the program or provide an opportunity for local residents to urge – through the public meeting – that schools participate in the program.

    It is very simple. Overriding this bill is the right thing to do for hungry, developing (growing) children who need good nutrition, and it provides support for poor and working class families.

Here is the floor speech of Rep. Scott Hamann:

    Thank you Mr Speaker. Mr Speaker, Men and Women of the House.

    Yesterday I visited a food pantry at an elementary school in Biddeford. I saw wonderful families file through, gratefully gathering their groceries. Volunteers greeting them at the door, and offering their help. Hannaford was there. They had a nutrition specialist ready to answer questions and offer recipe suggestions specific to the types of food that was being distributed by the school pantry. Some girl scouts set up a table and were giving out free books.

    This is where community happens. In our schools. Our community activities and activity centers. That’s why it’s the perfect place to implement and optimize an available federal resource – the Summer Food Service Program – to address child hunger…something that no reasonable person would consider anything other than a dire concern.

    Rep. Scott Hamann (D- South Portland) speaks at a press conference is support of raising minimum wages.

    Rep. Scott Hamann (D- South Portland) speaks at a press conference is support of raising minimum wages.

    Hunger…doesn’t happen just 9 months out of the year. The hunger pains don’t go away just because a child finishes second grade and begins their summer vacation. They have three months to wait to start third grade, get back to school, and get back to more predictable nutrition. That’s not right. That student doesn’t come back in September equally as prepared as a student who spent their summer knowing where their next meal was coming from. That’s not fair. And that is what the Summer Food Service Program is designed to address, and why this food is fully funded by the federal government.

    We talk about opportunity, self reliance, education, an educated workforce. The building blocks of all those things is food security in childhood. If we want a world class labor force, we need to make sure that kids’ stomachs are full and their developing brains are getting the nutrients they need.

    In that respect, the Chief Executive’s veto of LD1353 is shortsighted. Why would we ever want to handicap our next generation’s workforce? Why wouldn’t we do everything in our power to ensure that we are delivering Maine’s business community the best employees possible? A generation raised free from food insecurity. This bill is a step in that direction.

    At a time when pantry lines… are almost longer than the list of excuses why we can’t rise to the challenge of addressing child hunger… hopefully this vote is unanimous to reflect how both parties unequivocally support the morally right and responsible effort to address child hunger. Hopefully both sides of the aisle can work together in the future as well to take further steps to address what ought to be one of the most bipartisan…nonpartisan issues in the state house – protecting a child’s next meal.

Ultimately the House also voted to override the veto by a 2 vote margin, 92-45. Only four GOP members joined Democrats in overriding the veto: Rep. Corey Wilson, Rep. Joyce Maker (R-Calais), Rep. Matthew Pouliot (R-Augusta) and Rep. Ellen Winchenbach (R-Waldoboro).

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Former Hallowell Mayor David Bustin To Run For State Senate District 14

Posted on February 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Via press release:


HALLOWELL, Maine – Former Hallowell Mayor David Bustin announced Monday that he will seek the Democratic nomination for State Senate District 14 (formerly 21), which includes the communities of Gardiner, Winthrop, Readfield, Manchester, Monmouth, Randolph, West Gardiner, Farmingdale, Pittston, Chelsea, and Hallowell.

Bustin B&W Headshot Original Size“My priorities include serving as a voice for working people and senior citizens under financial pressure from rising prices and stagnant incomes, standing up for our children who deserve a quality education to meet their futures, ensuring affordable health care for all, and representing the leaders of our cities and towns who struggle to govern with limited resources,” Bustin said.

Rick Dosedlo of Winthrop had the following to say about Bustin stepping up to serve, “I am excited that David is making this commitment. He is just the type of reasonable leader our region needs.”

Bustin served eight years in the Maine House of Representatives and was State Commissioner of Personnel under Governor Joseph Brennan. Now a member of the State Panel of Mediators, Bustin works on disputes in municipalities, school districts and within the agriculture industry.

“My experience as a mediator has taught me that agreements are reached by identifying common ground and shared goals. Compromise cannot be reached by shouting and name calling. Maine people expect hard work and leadership in dealing with the needs of our state,” Bustin said.

Bustin currently serves as a trustee of the Greater Augusta Utility District. His private sector experience includes serving as the Director of Labor Relations for Central Maine Power Company and he owned and operated the Kennebec Wharf in Hallowell for seven years before selling the business in 2009.

Bustin is running as a clean election candidate.

For more information visit: or on Facebook at

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Former Attorney General Michael Carpenter Announces Campaign for State Senate District 2

Posted on February 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , |

Via press release:

Former Attorney General Announces Campaign for State Senate
Mike Carpenter wants to restore integrity in Maine Government

HOULTON – Citing a desire to restore trust and transparency in state government, former Maine Attorney General Michael Carpenter of Houlton announced his candidacy for the State Senate in the new District 2. The district includes southern and central Aroostook County, including the communities of Presque Isle and Houlton, and several communities in northern Penobscot County, including Lee and Patten.

Mike-CarpenterIn his announcement, Carpenter cited two primary reasons for running: 1) restoring ethics and accountability in state government; and 2) standing up for Northern Maine’s economy and its communities.

“Our state cannot function if Mainers do not trust their government,”
said Carpenter. “I served as Attorney General when Maine last had a Republican governor, and I was proud of the work we did together to promote transparency and accountability in government. I fear that the state has moved backwards in recent years, with the recent case of document shredding at the CDC as an example. We must restore transparency to move our state forward. I have shown I can work with people of good faith, regardless of their political philosophy.”

Carpenter, who won two Bronze Stars for his U.S. Army service in Vietnam, served as Maine’s Attorney General for four years. “During that time the political climate was not good but my office moved between the factions, including Governor McKernan and the legislative Democrats without major problems. The parties have to be able to work together for the good of the State.”

Prior to that, Carpenter served in the Maine House and Senate for twelve years, including two as Assistant Senate Majority Leader.

“If elected, I will put my experience to work immediately and stand up for Northern Maine communities,”
said Carpenter. “We must maintain the revenue sharing promise we made to our towns, invest in quality jobs for Maine workers, and expand healthcare coverage to 70,000 Mainers (including 3,000 veterans).”

Carpenter continued, “Maine is at a crossroads, and citizens can no longer afford to sit on the sidelines. Northern Maine needs strong leadership in the Senate, and I believe I can.”

Carpenter is a lifelong Aroostook resident, is married to Joanne Carpenter and they have three children. In addition to his law practice, Carpenter and his family operate Carriages of Acadia, a national park concession managed by his daughter, Emily in Acadia National Park from May to October.

Carpenter is running as a Clean Elections candidate and will not accept outside money.

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Cathy Breen Announces State Senate District 25 Campaign Run, Earns Early Endorsements

Posted on February 18, 2014. Filed under: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , |

From a press release:

    FALMOUTH, Maine- Cathy Breen, D-Falmouth, former two-time chairwoman of the Falmouth Town Council, recently announced she is running for the State Senate seat currently held by Dick Woodbury. Woodbury has announced he is not seeking re-election. Senate District 25 encompasses the municipalities of Gray, Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cumberland, part of Westbrook, Chebeague Island, and Long Island.

    cathy breen sd 21“It’s an exciting time to enter state government because Maine faces so many challenges and opportunities. I hope to bring my practical experience and passion for public service to Augusta. I’d be honored to represent the citizens of Senate District 25,“ said Breen in a press release.

    “Cathy is a passionate public servant who has experience advocating successfully for her community,” said Senate President Justin Alfond, D-Portland, said in a press release. “Her voice and her values would make her a welcome addition to the Maine Senate.”

    Breen was a strong proponent of controlled growth and conservation of open space on the Falmouth Town Council from 2005-2011. She shepherded the passage of the 2007 Open Space referendum, one of the most successful local land and wildlife habitat conservation efforts in Maine history. In addition, Breen consistently championed low property tax rates.

    Breen promoted improved efficiency in local and regional services during her six years as Falmouth’s representative on the Greater Portland Council of Governments. A strong advocate for public transit including Metro bus service in Falmouth, Breen participated in long-term transportation planning with the Coastal Corridor Coalition composed of Falmouth, Cumberland, Yarmouth, North Yarmouth and Freeport.

    Breen brings traditional Democratic values to the issues, supporting high quality public education, economic growth that respects Maine’s natural resources, open and efficient government, increased access to quality health care, marriage equality, and economic security for Mainers of all income levels. She supports the expansion of Medicaid to all eligible Mainers and the restoration of state revenue sharing with municipalities.

    She serves on the Board of Directors of Spurwink Services, a statewide organization that serves children and adults with behavioral and mental health needs and developmental disabilities.

    Breen has lived in Falmouth since 2000. She received a bachelor’s degree from Tufts University and a master’s of education from the University of Illinois in Chicago. She is married to attorney Jay S. Geller and has two teen-aged children.

Via Cathy Breen for State Senate Facebook page:

The Cathy Breen for State Senate Campaign was honored to earn the early endorsements of State Representatives Mark Dion, Ann Peoples, Mary Nelson and Anne Graham.


    In an unusual move in a contested Democratic primary, four state legislators have endorsed Cathy Breen for State Senate now that her candidacy is official. She filed her petitions last week.

    The legislators represent municipalities in District 25, which encompasses Falmouth, Yarmouth, Cumberland, Gray, Chebeague Island, Long Island and northern Westbrook.

    Breen was a Falmouth Town Councilor for six years, two of them as chair.

    She is opposed by Stephen Woods, who ran as an independent for U.S. Senate in 2012 and withdrew shortly before Election Day. Within a month, he announced as a Democratic candidate for governor but later pulled out when U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud entered the race.

    “I support Cathy Breen’s candidacy for the State Senate because we need someone who is smart, experienced and sensitive to the needs of Maine’s working families,” said Rep. Mark Dion, D-Portland. “Cathy will add vision, value and insight to Democratic leadership in our Statehouse.”

    “I enthusiastically endorse Cathy,” said Rep. Mary Nelson, D-Falmouth. “As a Town Councilor, she helped ensure that Falmouth has high-quality public schools and built partnerships between government, the private sector, and community organizations. I know she will listen, carefully evaluate, and work tirelessly to expand economic opportunity and make state government work for her constituents.”

    “I’m endorsing Cathy Breen because of her leadership in support of mass transit which saves energy and cuts transportation costs for riders,” said Rep. Ann Peoples, D-Westbrook, who serves on the Legislature’s Transportation Committee. “She advocated for the Metro bus in Falmouth for six years and participated in regional long-term transportation planning along the coast, from Falmouth to Freeport. We need her expertise in the Senate.”

    Rep. Anne Graham, D-North Yarmouth, also strongly supports Breen. “She will work for health care for all and particularly for families who struggle to make ends meet. Cathy will hit the ground running and will work for all the people in her district as she did when she was a Town Councilor.”

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