Monday, October 30, 2023

United Auto Workers union hails strike-ending deals with automakers that would raise top assembly-plant hourly pay to more than $40 as ‘record contracts’

 Marick Masters, Wayne State University

The United Auto Workers union agreed on a tentative new contract with General Motors on Oct. 30, 2023, days after landing similar deals with Ford Motor Co. on Oct. 25 and Stellantis, the global automaker that makes Chrysler, Dodge and Ram vehicles in North America, on Oct. 28. The pending agreements have halted the industry’s longest strike in 25 years. It began on Sept. 15, when the UAW’s prior contracts with all three automakers expired, and lasted more than six weeks. After gradually ramping up, the strike eventually included about 46,000 workers – roughly one-third of the union’s 146,000 members at the three companies.

Ford released a statement in which it said it was “pleased” to have reached a deal and “focused on restarting Kentucky Truck Plant, Michigan Assembly Plant and Chicago Assembly Plant.” Stellantis, likewise, looks forward to “resuming operations,” as one of its executives said in a statement. General Motors initially made no public statements.

The Conversation asked Marick Masters, a Wayne State University scholar of labor and business issues, to explain what’s in these contracts and their significance.

What are the terms of the contract?

According to several media reports and the union’s own announcements, Ford’s tentative labor agreement includes a 25% wage increase over the next 4½ years, as well as the restoration of a cost-of-living allowance the UAW lost in 2009.

In addition, the tentative agreements also will convert many temporary workers to full-time status, higher pay for temps, the right to go on strike over plant closures and significant increases in contributions to retirement plans.

By the end of the period covered by the Ford, GM and Stellantis contracts, the top worker wage at assembly plants will be more than US$40 an hour. All three contracts will expire on April 30, 2028.

The Stellantis deal, according to UAW officials, is similar to the one reached with Ford in other ways – as, reportedly, is the one that the UAW agreed upon with GM.

The Stellantis agreement also has provisions regarding specific North American plants, including the plant Stellantis had idled earlier in 2023 in Belvidere, Illinois, the UAW said. Stellantis has promised to add 5,000 new jobs at Belvidere and other factories over the next four years, in stark contrast to its previous intention to cut that many jobs during the same period, UAW President Shawn Fain said on Oct. 28.

The Ford contract, likewise, calls for more than $8 billion in investments in factories and other facilities, according to the UAW.

Why did workers feel the strike was necessary, and did they achieve their aims?

The workers knew that the companies had enjoyed big profits over the past several years. GM, for example, earned $10 billion in profits in 2021 and $14.5 billion in 2022.

After having made major economic concessions to help the companies survive the Great Recession, stiff international competition and the 2009 bankruptcies of GM and Chrysler – before the latter became a division of Stellantis – UAW members believed they deserved what they’re calling a “record contract” for having contributed to “record profits.”

“The days of low-wage, unstable jobs at the Big Three are coming to an end,” Fain said on Oct. 28. “The days of the Big Three walking away from the American working class, destroying our communities, are coming to an end.”

To forge its militant strategy, the union tore a page from the playbook of labor leader Walter Reuther, who led the UAW from 1946 until his death in 1970. Reuther believed that workers deserved a fair share of corporate abundance – just like shareholders and customers.

What happens next?

The UAW released the full details of the Ford contract to all of its members who are Ford workers on Oct. 29, after its leaders had signed off on it. Rank-and-file members now have to ratify the deal for it to go into effect.

The same process will happen with Stellantis on Nov. 2. The separate deal the UAW negotiated with GM will also require ratification.

In the meantime, the autoworkers who went on strike will be returning to their jobs.

How will this affect the automakers’ bottom line?

Some analysts have estimated that Ford’s contract, if ratified, would add $1.5 billion to the company’s annual labor costs. Ford itself estimated that this could add up to $900 in labor costs to each vehicle rolling off its assembly lines. Ford has also estimated that the strike cost it about $1.3 billion in pretax profits.

To put these numbers into perspective, Ford generated slightly more than $130 billion in revenue in the first three quarters of 2023, and almost $5 billion in profits.

Stellantis has not yet made public what it believes the strike has cost the company.

General Motors has said that the strike is costing the company more than $800 million.

This article was updated on Oct. 30, after GM and the UAW reached a tentative agreement on a new labor contract.The Conversation

Originally published on October 30th, 2023, in The Conversation.  

Related Posts

'This Is Our Defining Moment': UAW Launches Historic Strikes Against Big Three Automakers, Common Dreams

In two days, 144,000 US autoworkers workers are set to strike, Peoples Dispatch

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Saturday, October 28, 2023

Reports Expose US Billionaires and Corporate Profiteers Enabling Israel's War on Gaza

"As the Biden administration attempts to deny the death toll of Israel's campaign of mass murder in Gaza and sell genocide as a stimulus for the U.S. economy, these are the death merchants profiting from the war machine."

With more than 7,300 Palestinians killed so far in Israel's three-week bombardment of Gaza, a series of reports this week have exposed how U.S. weapon-makers and billionaire donors are enabling what legal scholars say could amount to genocide.

After Israel declared war in response to Hamas killing over 1,400 Israelis and taking around 200 hostages, the stocks of major American and European war profiteers soared. A Thursday report from Eyes on the Ties—the news site of LittleSis and Public Accountability Initiative—targets five U.S. firms with a record of providing weaponry to Israel.

The outlet stressed that while announcing a supplemental funding request that includes $14.3 billion for Israel, U.S. President Joe Biden last week "invoked 'patriotic American workers' who are 'building the arsenal of democracy and serving the cause of freedom,' but it's the defense company CEOs who rake in tens of millions a year, and Wall Street shareholders, who are the real beneficiaries of warmongering."

The five targeted industry giants collectively recorded $196.5 billion in military-related revenue last year, Eyes on the Tiesreported. They are Boeing ($30.8 billion), General Dynamics ($30.4 billion), Lockheed Martin ($63.3 billion), Northrop Grumman ($32.4 billion), and RTX, formerly Raytheon ($39.6 billion).

"The top shareholders in these five defense companies largely consist of big asset managers, or big banks with asset management wings, that include BlackRock, Vanguard, State Street, Fidelity, Capital Group, Wellington, JPMorgan ChaseMorgan Stanley, Newport Trust Company, Longview Asset Management, Massachusetts Financial Services Company, Geode Capital, and Bank of America," the news outlet noted.

Eyes on the Ties also highlighted how chief executives are handsomely compensated—and the CEOs' ties to Big Pharma, the fossil fuel industry, Wall Street, and foreign policy think tanks such as the Council on Foreign Relations and Center for Strategic and International Studies.

According to the report:

  • Boeing CEO David Calhoun took in over $64 million in total compensation from 2020-22 and as of February held 193,247 shares;
  • General Dynamics CEO Phebe N. Novakovic took in over $64 million in total compensation from 202-22 and as of March held 1,616,279 shares;
  • Lockheed Martin CEO Jim Taiclet took in over $66 million in total compensation from 2020-22 and as of February held 56,054 shares;
  • Northrop Grumman CEO Kathy J. Warden took in over $61 million in total compensation from 2020-22 and as of March held 161,231 shares; and
  • RTX CEO Gregory J. Hayes took in over $63 million in total compensation from 2020-22 and as of February held 801,339 shares.

Other reporting this week has taken aim at those CEOs for their suggestions that Israel's assault on Gaza is good for business.

During Lockheed Martin's latest earnings call, Taiclet correctly predicted Biden's request last week, saying that "there continues to be the option... for supplemental requests related to support Ukraine, Israel, and potentially Taiwan."

In addition to the request for Israel—which already gets nearly $4 billion in annual U.S. military aid—Biden asked for $4 billion to counter Chinese influence in the Indo-Pacific region and $61.4 billion more for Ukraine, which is battling a Russian invasion.

"We are all witnessing significant geopolitical tensions across the globe, including the ongoing war in Ukraine and the horrific attacks in Israel," Warden said during Northrop Grumman's Thursday earnings call, according toVICE. "As we saw last week, the [Biden] administration continues to make supplemental requests for urgent needs, including those in Ukraine and Israel, to include investments in weapons systems and defense industrial base readiness."

As The Leverreported:

"The Israel situation obviously is a terrible one, frankly, and one that's just evolving as we speak," said Jason Aiken, chief financial officer and executive vice president at General Dynamics, on Wednesday. "But I think if you look at the incremental demand potential coming out of that, the biggest one to highlight and that really sticks out is probably on the artillery side."

He continued: "Obviously that's been a big pressure point up to now with Ukraine, one that we've been doing everything we can to support our Army customer. We've gone from 14,000 rounds per month to 20,000 very quickly. We're working ahead of schedule to accelerate that production capacity up to 85,000, even as high as 100,000 rounds per month, and I think the Israel situation is only going to put upward pressure on that demand."

Last week, roughly 100 activists gathered outside of General Dynamics' weapons plant in Pittsfield, Massachusetts, to protest the Israeli war, holding signs with slogans like, "Genocide: Brought To You By General Dynamics."

Both The Lever and VICE also pointed out that during RTX's Tuesday call, Hayes started by "acknowledging the tragic situation playing out in Israel" before turning to "an update on our end markets."

If Congress approves Biden's request for Israel, VICE explained, "some of the money would be used to restock Israel's Iron Dome rocket defense system, which RTX manufactured." Hayes said: "I think really across the entire Raytheon portfolio, you're going to see a benefit of this restocking. On top of what we think is going to be an increase in [U.S. Department of Defense] top line."

It's not just defense executives enabling Israel's mass slaughter of civilians in Gaza. As Eyes on the Ties reported, "Lobbying groups including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) and Democratic Majority for Israel have been active in Washington, calling on lawmakers to send money and weapons to Israel."

The report names some billionaire donors to the lobbying groups, including New England Patriots and the Kraft Group CEO Robert Kraft, private equity investor Marc Rowan, venture capitalist Gary Lauder, hedge fund managers Daniel Loeb and Paul Singer, and Home Depot co-founder Bernard Marcus, who is also the founding president of the Israel Democracy Institute.

U.S. Rep. Summer Lee (D-Pa.) said Wednesday that Americans "know that funneling billions more dollars into arms dealers' pockets won't keep our children safe from weapons of war at home or across the world. It won't keep our loved ones safe from toxins in our air and drinking water. They know that lining the pockets of weapons manufacturers won't help families struggling to afford housing, medicine, or grocery costs. They know defense contractors won't safeguard Medicare and Social Security or shield our communities against the climate crisis."

Unlike the CEOs of firms like Lockheed Martin and RTX, "moms who can't afford childcare, young folks who can't pay off their debt, veterans who can't keep up with housing costs, and children who go to school hungry don't have million-dollar lobbying budgets," added Lee, one of the few members of Congress pushing for a cease-fire in Gaza. "So it's up to us to stand up for their needs."

This article originally appeared in Common Dreams on October 27th, 2023.  

Related Posts

University students across the US walk out of classes for Gaza, Peoples' Dispatch

Group of FL Republicans want D.C. mayor to remove Black Lives Matter mural, Florida Phoenix

While Israeli Media Examine Government Failure, US Papers Push ‘National Unity’ , FAIR

Palestinian resistance in Gaza launches historic surprise attack against Israel, Peoples' Dispatch

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Friday, October 27, 2023

Who is Mike Johnson? New U.S. House speaker belongs to GOP’s religious conservative wing


Before a relatively short time in elected office, new U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson of Louisiana was a constitutional lawyer deeply involved in religious causes.

Prior to a short stint in the Louisiana Legislature, Johnson spent two decades as a public interest lawyer mainly representing clients in so-called religious liberty litigation, he said in an interview with C-SPAN shortly after joining Congress in 2017. He worked in private practice for the Kitchens Law Firm in North Louisiana, and also did work for the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, according to a 2015 article in the New Orleans Time-Picayune.

He also “litigated high profile constitutional law cases” defending Second Amendment rights, free speech and free market principles, according to his campaign website.

House Republicans’ choice of Johnson addressed two faults some members of the conference found with a previous speaker-designee who dropped out on Tuesday, Minnesota’s Tom Emmer.

Emmer voted to certify the 2020 presidential election, putting him at odds with former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 presidential nomination, and for a bill codifying same-sex and interracial marriage. Johnson was on the other side of both votes.

The Louisianan was a strong backer of Trump’s claims that his reelection loss in 2020 was illegitimate. He led 126 House Republicans in an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in a case seeking to overturn Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in that election. And Johnson voted to object to the 2020 election results from Arizona and Pennsylvania, even after a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol.

In Congress, Johnson has maintained a reputation as an opponent of abortion rights and same-sex marriage. He has an ‘A+’ rating from the anti-abortion Susan B. Anthony List in the last two sessions of Congress and a 100% rating for the current year from FRC Action, the legislative arm of the influential evangelical group Family Research Council.

New House Speaker Mike Johnson was picked over previous speaker-designee Tom Emmer of Minnesota, who voted to certify the 2020 presidential election, putting him at odds with former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 presidential nomination, and for a bill codifying same-sex and interracial marriage. Johnson was on the other side of both votes. 

The League of Conservation Voters, an environmental advocacy group, has given him a 2% lifetime rating, lower than all but 24 current House members, all Republicans.

He’s received $338,000 in campaign contributions to his personal campaign and leadership committee since 2015 from oil and gas interests influential in Louisiana — the most of any industry, according to Open Secrets, a nonprofit campaign finance tracking organization. He’s also maintained ties to religious conservatives after coming to Washington.

He taught online college courses at Liberty University, a conservative Christian school in Virginia, earning him just less than $30,000 in 2022, according to his most recent personal financial disclosure, required for members of Congress.

His wife earned income in 2022 from Onward Christian Education Services Inc. and Louisiana Right to Life Educational Committee Inc., according to his financial disclosure.

Johnson’s voting record is strongly conservative, and he has little record of working across the aisle. He voted against high-profile bipartisan laws, including the $1.2 trillion infrastructure law, a gun safety law and a reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act.

Fundraising gap

Johnson’s campaign fundraising operation has increased by small margins in each cycle since his first House run in 2016. He raised $1.1 million for his first run and over $1.3 million for his most recent reelection, according to Open Secrets. The numbers include money raised for Johnson’s leadership political action committees.

Part of a speaker’s role in modern times has been as a fundraising force for rank-and-file members. Johnson will have to expand his fundraising to replace the prolific Kevin McCarthy, whom eight GOP members ousted three weeks ago.

McCarthy, of California, has raised more than $15 million so far this cycle for his own campaign and his leadership committee. Emmer, the No. 3 House Republican, has raised $3.7 million. Johnson has raised just less than $600,000.

The largest single contributor to Johnson and his leadership PACs over his five campaigns has been Willis-Knighton Health System, a hospital system based in Shreveport whose employees have given $91,000 to Johnson’s campaigns.

House Freedom Fund, the political action committee associated with the far-right House Freedom Caucus, is his second-largest contributor. It has sent $58,000 to Johnson since the 2016 cycle.

A spokesperson for his House office did not respond to an inquiry about whom Johnson represented as an attorney.

Johnson’s legal work does not appear to have been overly profitable. He claimed no assets in his most recent financial disclosure, which is unusual.

House members are required to report any assets worth more than $1,000. Those assets can include real estate, retirement accounts, investment portfolios or simple savings accounts. Many members report millions of dollars in such assets.

Johnson listed between $280,000 and $600,000 in liabilities, most of which was from a home mortgage of between $250,000 and $500,000. The rest of his debt was split between a personal loan taken out in July 2016 and a home equity line of credit taken out in February 2019.

–Ariana Figueroa and Ashley Murray contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared in The Louisiana Illuminator on October 26th, 2023.  

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Thursday, October 26, 2023

University students across the US walk out of classes for Gaza

Students at dozens of campuses across North America staged walkouts demanding an end to Israel’s siege against Gaza

by Natalia Marques

On Wednesday, October 25, students across dozens of campuses in North America staged walkouts in protest of Israel’s genocidal war against Gaza. The walkout, taking place at university campuses in the United States and Canada, was organized by the Palestinian Youth Movement, Dissenters, and Students for Justice in Palestine. The students demand an end to Israel’s siege on Gaza, an end to US funding of Israel, and that their universities divest from weapons corporations which supply the Israeli occupation. 

Campuses participating in the walkout included Brown University, several City College of New York campuses, Florida State University, Howard University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, McGill University, Stanford University, and the University of Chicago.

Students at the historically Black Howard University, located in Washington, DC, staged a walkout. As one student stated at the demonstration, “Our message to Joe Biden is that Howard University students, HBCU students, do not support the drastic and violent escalations that are happening now in Gaza. We want Biden to implement an immediate ceasefire, and we want Biden to stop giving unconditional military aid to apartheid Israel every year.”

At the Columbia campus in upper Manhattan, at least 500 students walked out of classes at 1 pm in a walkout organized by Columbia Students for Justice in Palestine alongside Jewish Voice for Peace, despite the intimidation tactics of zionists. Earlier in the day, a TV truck paid for by the far-right wing group Accuracy in Media circled the campus, broadcasting the names of students who have stood up against Israel’s siege on Gaza in some capacity with the label “Columbia’s Leading Antisemites”. Accuracy in Media is the same group that circulated a similar truck around Harvard’s campus, also doxxing pro-Palestine students.

Speaking from where students had gathered at the heart of the campus, a Palestinian student organizer with Columbia SJP said, “We’ve been getting death threats. There has been a truck going around with students’ faces and names, and people have been facing doxxing simply for speaking out in support of Palestinian rights. So that’s why I’m fully covered from head to toe.”

Earlier in the month, a self-identified Columbia University officer of administration had said about students protesting in solidarity with Palestine, “I hope every one of these people die.” 

“We have yet to hear any concrete action about this, any statements [from Columbia],” said the Palestinian student, who wished to remain anonymous. “No concrete action has been taken to protect students. So until that happens, we have to keep covering ourselves.”

“I was too scared to come to class last week. People have been taking pictures of me,” said the student.

Assistant Columbia Professor Shai Davidai went viral for claims that pro-Palestinian student groups were threatening the safety of Jewish people on campus. After giving a tearful speech at a pro-Israel vigil on campus, Davidai took to X, claiming that, “I pleaded with my employer to help me protect the lives of thousands of Jewish students from pro-terror student organizations who openly laud Hamas—an internationally recognized terrorist organization.”

“There are student organizations on my own campus who see my beautiful children as legitimate targets,” he continued.

Brooklyn College students also staged a walkout. “[Israel claims that] bombing hospitals and destroying mosques on the holiest days in Islam, killing little kids and maintaining an open air concentration camp is somehow keeping Jewish people safe,” said a student speaker and self-identifying anti-Zionist Jew at the demonstration, in front of dozens of students.

“British colonialists created the apartheid state to keep Jews as far away from them as possible,” he continued. “American imperialists send billions of bombs per year for the same reason. Do we really think these countries give a sh-t about Jewish people? The United States has never cared about the Jewish people. They sent ships full of Jewish refugees back to Germany during the Holocaust. Netanyahu shakes hands with neo-Nazis like Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell.”

This article originally appeared at on October 26th, 2023.  

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Tuesday, October 24, 2023

Feds to probe Trenton police for ‘problematic’ use of force and illegal stops


The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a civil rights investigation into Trenton and its police department, citing concerns that officers use excessive force and routinely, illegally stop and search pedestrians and motorists without reason or warrants.

Investigators will probe “problematic” uses of force against people stopped for minor traffic offenses and those who were cooperating or already restrained, said Kristen Clarke, assistant attorney general for the department’s civil rights division.

They’ll also investigate allegations that officers have used force to punish people observing or questioning their actions and that officers have escalated tensions with residents, injuring people in mental health crises, Clarke said in announcing the probe Tuesday.

“These allegations are serious and credible, and our investigation will seek to establish whether these allegations are true,” Clarke said. “Effective policing requires public trust. When law enforcement officers violate the Constitution and federal law, it erodes trust and undermines public safety efforts.”

U.S. Attorney Philip R. Sellinger said investigators will try to determine if the department has an unconstitutional, systemic “pattern or practice” of police misbehavior. The investigation is expected to take up to a year. A similar probe against Newark police a decade ago resulted in a 2014 consent decree that required the department to adopt reforms.

Investigators haven’t gotten specific reports of racial profiling, but 49% of the 7-square-mile capital city’s 90,000 residents are Black, while 37% are Hispanic or Latino, census figures show.

“We do not allege racial discrimination here. We are going to follow the facts and the law. We are aware, of course, that there is a sizable population of people of color within Trenton,” Clarke said.

Investigators will review use-of-force reports, court records, news media reports of police brutality and misconduct, officers’ body camera footage, officer training materials, and policies on how the department investigates citizen complaints and disciplines officers, Clarke said. They’ll also meet with police staff, observe officers on duty, and meet with the public, she added.

“As we begin this investigation, we recognize the challenges that Trenton and the Trenton Police Department face in addressing violent crime,” Clarke said. “But meeting these challenges requires confidence by the public that the police are committed to protecting them. It requires the assurance that police do not hold themselves above the law.”

Sellinger said he attended a town hall five weeks ago in Trenton where residents “raised concerns about excessive force, concerns about stops and searches done for no good reason.” Still, he and Clarke said no single incident prompted the probe.

But Trenton police have a long history of brutality and alarming encounters that have resulted in lawsuits and indictments:

  • An officer was criminally indicted last year for pepper-spraying an elderly man, Joseph Ahr, on his porch after officers went to the home to talk to his son in 2020. Ahr died three weeks later.
  • Two officers were charged in 2019 for beating a man after a routine traffic stop.
  • An officer’s 2022 shooting of an unarmed motorist, which left him paralyzed, drove the city council president to demand more transparency and ask for the police director’s resignation. The director, Steve Wilson, remains in charge, and a Mercer County grand jury deemed the shooting justified.
  • Officers made headlines in 2020 after they restrained a man in mental crisis by kneeling on him as he lay face-down in the dirt until he fell limp. He was declared dead minutes later.

In the state’s most recent report on major discipline meted out to law enforcement officers statewide, just one Trenton officer faced major discipline — for using a police department wash ticket to wash his personal vehicle. The police department has about 250 officers, and Trenton is the state’s fifth largest city.

Wilson’s office referred questions to Mayor Reed Gusciora, a Democrat who was a longtime state Assemblyman until he became Trenton mayor in 2018.

In a statement, Gusciora said he learned of the investigation Tuesday morning and has instructed all levels of city government to fully cooperate.

“My administration knows all too well the difficulty and danger police officers face on a daily basis. We thank and support the overwhelming majority of officers at the city, county, and state level who do the right things every day to keep Trentonians safe,” Gusciora said.

He credited Trenton officers for seizing drugs, more than 200 guns, and $133,722 from gun and drug traffickers in recent months.

“But we also recognize that the community’s trust in our police force is critical,” Gusciora said. “If any members of law enforcement violate the public trust or act in contravention of our state and federal laws, they should and must be held accountable.”

Patrick Colligan and Michael Cipriano, who head the state and city Policemen’s Benevolent Association, respectively, put out a joint statement that they “understand and respect the purpose” of the investigation and “remain committed to transparency, accountability, and continuous improvement.”

“However, we hope that this inquiry will also shed light on the pressing need for additional resources and support for our officers,” the statement read.

Trenton police respond to more than 100,000 calls for service a year, including 41 shootings in just the past month alone, Colligan and Cipriano said.

“Our police headquarters is in dire need of repair, and resources have been limited. The loss of 105 officers in 2012 has had a lasting impact, and we have yet to recover to a safe staffing level,” they said. “Retention of officers remains a significant concern, with the Covid-19 pandemic adding unprecedented burdens to our staffing levels.”

Sellinger said investigators’ goal is to improve policing.

“The object of a pattern and practice investigation is not to assign blame,” Sellinger said. “It’s to help fix problems that may exist. Whatever our findings may be, our ultimate goal is to ensure that the people of Trenton are served by a police force that effectively fights crime while respecting the constitutional rights of every person.”

Photo credits: New Jersey Monitor, Trenton Mayor Reed Gusciora (Edwin J. Torres Governor’s Office)

Originally published on October 24th, 2023, in the New Jersey Monitor.

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