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GOP senators block ‘Don’t Ask’ repeal

Ark. Dems join Republican caucus in opposing cloture

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The U.S. Senate dashed the hopes of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal supporters on Tuesday when a vote to proceed on major defense legislation containing repeal language failed, 56-43.

A unified GOP caucus — in addition to Democratic Arkansas Sens. Mark Pryor and Blanche Lincoln — comprised the “no” votes that defeated a cloture vote on the fiscal year 2011 defense authorization bill.

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) changed his vote to “no” in a procedural move so he could bring the bill up at a later time.

The votes of 60 senators were necessary to end Sen. John McCain’s (R-Ariz.) filibuster and move forward with the legislation.

Advocacy groups working on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” repeal bemoaned the failure of reaching cloture in statements following the vote.

Alex Nicholson, executive director of Servicemembers United, said the inability to invoke cloture is “a failure of leadership on the part of those who have been duly elected to serve this nation and to put the best interests of the country ahead of partisan politics.”

“The Senate could learn a good lesson from those who serve in uniform and who stand to benefit from proceeding to debate on this bill — serving this country means putting politics aside and getting the job done,” he said. “It is simply inexcusable that this vote failed today.”

Aubrey Sarvis, executive director of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network, said the vote was “a frustrating blow to repeal this horrible law.”

“We lost because of the political maneuvering dictated by the mid-term elections,” Sarvis said. “Let’s be clear: Opponents to repealing ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ did not have the votes to strike those provisions from the bill. Instead, they had the votes for delay.”

Sarvis called on the Senate to take up the defense authorization bill again in December when he said “cooler heads and common sense are more likely to prevail.”

Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, called on the U.S. Justice Department not to appeal a recent California federal court decision against “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” in the wake of the vote.

“We still have a fighting chance to repeal [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] through congressional action but in the meantime, the best interests of our men and women in uniform — as well as the country — are served by doing everything we can do to get rid of this discriminatory law,” Solmonese said. “We expect the Justice Department to recognize the overwhelming evidence that proves [‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’] is unconstitutional.”

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11 Comments

11 Comments

  1. Peter the saint

    September 21, 2010 at 8:46 pm

    But oBOMBa – that constitutional lawyer guy – said that it is much much better for us as a nation if we have the repeal happen by way of the congress, who enacted the bill in the first place… in other words, the president of the united states believes that our judges and court system is no place to have issues of law and constitutionality decided or debated. So yes, of course his administration will defend the government’s gay discrimination. “Kick ’em out, hurry up – faster!” This is called POLITICS corrupting an otherwise clear head, maybe??? And F^@& the people – let them eat cake.

  2. Tim

    September 21, 2010 at 10:21 pm

    I really think all of the gay & lesbian service members should come out publicly and get kicked out. Screw the homophobes in this country, they aren’t worth the life of one LGBT service member anyway. And as for ALL of the Republicans and the two “Blue Dog” Democrat traitors (Lincoln & Pryor of Arkansas) who voted to continue discrimination in the military against gay & lesbian service members, I say cut them off and vote them out! This is just one more reason why Progressives ran a progressive Democrat against that old traitor Blanche Lincoln, and why we should run another Progressive against Pryor when he comes up for re-election. Socially Conservative Dems are just as rotten as Republicans and none of them should be re-elected. As for “Our Fierce Advocate” Obama, I think its time for us to seriously court New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg and convince him to run for President as an independent in the 2012 election against Obama and whatever clown the Republicans nominate. The LGBT community should limit its support to gay & lesbian people who are running for office and those straight candidates who are solidly behind us, and ditch the Republicans and conservative Democrats.

  3. Peter the saint

    September 21, 2010 at 10:43 pm

    I agree – leave the military as soon as you can. Come out in military school and then quit. Let Arkansas defend itself. You have a better future potential in private life and business anyway. Heck, get hired by der Homeland Security. Better yet, run for political office.

  4. EL Dorado

    September 21, 2010 at 11:09 pm

    See what a waste of time it was to put lifting DADT over ENDA?! Now we squandered are chance to get any important Pro-gay legislation passed. It would take too much time to get ENDA voted on in both chambers of the Congress before the Mid-Term elections after which the GOP will prevent any pro-gay legislation from being voted without a filibuster!

    ENDA would have benefitted more of us than lifting DADT. I am really pissed off at Pelosi for putting this up for a vote first. The damn Pentagon Study on lifting the ban gave on-the-fence GOP members an excuse to vote against the measure! They would have had a lot tougher time with ENDA doing that!

  5. Jim Billingsley

    September 21, 2010 at 11:29 pm

    rexreddy wrote:

    “Let them in!
    Send them to the Navy.
    Assign them as lookouts on the outboard sides of lowered flight deck elevators at sea in the North Atlantic.
    High sea state.
    All ahead Flank II! Hard to Starboard!
    Problem solved.

    It wouldn’t be the first time.”

    My response,

    This is bs. The Navy wouldn’t lower the flight deck elevators in a high sea state, let alone post lookouts there. The hanger deck elevator doors would be closed and the flight deck elevators at deck level. I worked on the deck for several years and experienced high sea state conditons several times at sea. The flight deck elevators are never left at the hangar deck level, even in good weather. The only time they are at the hangar deck level on the ship is when they are moving aircraft from the deck to hangar deck or from the hangar deck to the flight deck. When not in use, they are at the flight deck because they are part of the flight deck during flight ops.

    BTW, I am gay and was very good at my job. Glad I didn’t stay in because I could have spent 19 years 364 days of my life committed to a career and DADT could have ruined my pension and career if I were caught in a gay bar 1 day before retirement. I have 27 years good service with the company I work for in the civilian sector, make more than a Lt. Commander and get 6 weeks off a year. I am also protected against discrimination because of my sexual orientation (because I am a civilian) because the laws are there to protect me as a civilian. If I were active duty I would be fired.

    DADT vs. Hate Crimes, where do we as a nation draw the line? And, is civilian justice versus military justice an “OK” to enforce this on the military side but a “no-way” on the civilian side?

    Constitution… All men are created equal?

    The only positive result of today’s vote is that I can ask another country for asylum as a result of discrimination.

    The only good side to this is it shows the idiotic mindset that is running this country

  6. El Dorado

    September 22, 2010 at 2:07 am

    On second thought, Now that the DADT vote is over we still have a very small window of opportunity to get a vote on ENDA. If damn Pelosi and the Dems can schedule a vote on it within the next week then maybe we still have time to pass it and get it voted on in the Senate before the Congress changes hands. Let’s give it every effort. If the Dems fail us again on this and stonewall then we know we can’t count on them to deliver more than lies.

  7. Sleeping Giant

    September 22, 2010 at 2:15 am

    When I served I could’ve cared less if someone snitched on me. My first mission to a gay bar in downtown Frankfurt, W. Germany I found several of my battalion buddies dancing and having a blast. I sort of tried to be discreet but being there I was already indiscreet and I was in an infantry unit not admin. So there I was with these guys knowing about me. It was a relief but it ultimately the demise of my military aspirations. I enjoyed my time served but I know my unit was not ready for openly gay members at the time. Homophobia was rampant although I could tell there were family members in the closet. Under DADT I would have felt strange not talking about the elephant in the room. DADT was a bad idea from it’s inception and repealing it immediately is necessary for the health of the gay and straight members of all military units. It’s time to face the truth and deal with it. No more government sanctioned discrimination. Ironically we have gay and lesbian service members risking their lives under extremely discriminatory conditions that wouldn’t dare be instituted outside of the military. So why is this double standard accepted when every service member may be asked to pay the ultimate price? It doesn’t make sense. The republicans live by double standards. We’ve seen them get caught dabbling in gay affairs only to deny their gay. What? Denial seems to run deep with the conservatives. But the truth is the truth no matter how many times one denies it. Fight repealing DADT and the gays won’t exist in the military? Is that what their logic is? There is once again no logic to the bigoted logic behind the actions of the GOP. They fought segregation with the same fear mongering back in the 40’s and 50’s and today they would be flush with embarrassment if confronted by their own rhetoric as it seems so out of this century’s values now. When the tea party weighs in on this( Christine O’Donnell is horribly homophobic) it will be just as bad or worse. More hate is brewing within the ranks of the republican tea party as each day passes as they regress towards the bronze age. Never again will America be more ashamed as it is today. Republicans and Tea party members taking us all back, but how far out of hand can this get before they realize the true damage they’re doing to the country they proclaim to love?

  8. Pete Giaquinto

    September 22, 2010 at 1:32 pm

    F U Obama, Reid and Pelosi. You have done NOTHING for the LBGT community in two years. The gop will take over both houses of congress in November and you will be kicked out on your worthless no account sorry asses. I hope you all burn in hell.

  9. Peter Rosenstein

    September 22, 2010 at 6:25 pm

    Well the people of Ariansas will take of Blance Lincoln on their own. We can only hope that after she loses the election and there is a lame duck session of the Congress that she will show some form of decency and vote to repeal DADT.

  10. nate92

    September 23, 2010 at 8:24 pm

    wtf, this is such a ploy from the democrats, it was a no win situation for the GOP, i’m indepentednt, but all i see is a party that wants to push this forward early for some very well times publicity, think about it, if the democrats wait until it comes up when it was going to, (December?) it won’t help them at all, but if they push for it and win, then they get to say “hey look what we just did!” “vote for us!” and if they failed like they just did, they get to say “look at those asshole GOP, blocking their homophobes!, and fat, and old, and ugly!”

    seriously i live in Massachusetts, and most of my friends are Democrats and this is exactly what they’re saying already, especially the fat and ugly part, along with some “go f***ing die” and so on. i feel bad for the GOP, they can’t pass anything with out getting shot down, they can barley filibuster anything the democrats try to push, and they get labeled as bigots, i don’t see bigotry here, i see a very calculated strike by democrats and a very nasty future for republicans.

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Utah

VIDEO: Utah deal promoted as national model for LGBTQ rights, religious liberty

Data finds state has 2nd highest support for LGBTQ rights

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(Screen capture via YouTube)

A new video from the premier LGBTQ group in Utah, challenging the idea LGBTQ rights must be at odds with religious liberty, promotes an agreement reached in the state as a potential model to achieve a long sought-after update to civil rights law at the federal level.

The video, published Friday by Equality Utah, focuses on a 2015 agreement in Utah between the supporters of LGBTQ rights and the Mormon Church to enact a compromise acceptable to both sides. The agreement by those two sides led to an LGBTQ civil rights law in the state, which has Republican control of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion.

Troy Williams, executive director of Equality Utah, says in the video dialogue is key to achieving meaningful success, whether its among the people of Utah, a state legislature or lawmakers in Congress.

“When you are working with LGBT rights in a state like Utah, and you want to advance legal equality, you can’t do it without working with Republicans, with conservative, with people of faith,” Williams says.

Williams, speaking with the Washington Blade over a Zoom call, said the main audience for the video is people on “the center right and the center left” willing to listen to other side when it comes to LGBTQ rights and religious liberty.

“People that have the courage to reach out to each other, and sit down across from each other and say, ‘Hey look, let’s hammer this out,” Williams said. “That’s who my audience is.”

Not only did Utah enact non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people, but the state under a Republican governor administratively banned widely discredited conversion therapy for youth. When lawmakers proposed legislation that would ban transgender youth from competing in school sports, the proposal was scuttled when Gov. Spencer Cox (whom Williams called a “super Mormon”) said he’d veto it after it came to his desk.

Marina Gomberg, a former board for Equality Utah, is another voice in the video seeking dispel the narrative religious liberty and LGBTQ rights are in conflict.

“in order to protect LGBTQ people, we don have to deny religious liberty, and in order to provide protections for religious liberties, we don’t have to deny LGBTQ people,” Gomberg says. “The idea that we do is a fallacy that Utah has dismantled.”

In July, new polling demonstrated the surprisingly the Utah, despite being a conservative state, has the second highest percentage of state population in support for non-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. The data Public Religion Research Institute from 77 percent of Utah residents support LGBTQ people, which is just behind New Hampshire at 81 percent.

Tyler Deaton, senior adviser for the pro-LGBTQ American Unity Fund, said the Utah agreement demonstrates the possibility of reaching an agreement at the federal level once “second order” issues are put into perspective.

“The first order question has to be how are we winning the culture,” Deaton said. “Do people even want to pass the bill? And if they do, you then figure out the details.”

The American Unity Fund has helped promote as a path forward for LGBTQ non-discrimination at the federal level the Fairness for For All Act, legislation seeking to reach a middle ground on LGBTQ rights and religious freedom. Polling earlier this year found 57 percent of the American public back a bipartisan solution in Congress to advance LGBTQ civil rights.

Supporters of the Equality Act, the more established vehicle for LGBTQ rights before Congress, say the Fairness for For All Act would give too many carve-out for LGBTQ rights in the name of religious freedom. The Equality Act, however, is all but dead in Congress and has shown no movement in the U.S. Senate.

Skeptics of the Utah law would point out the law doesn’t address public accommodations, one of the more challenging aspects in the fight for LGBTQ rights and one or remaining gaps in civil rights protections for LGBTQ people in the aftermath of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision last year in Bostock v. Clayton County. As a result, it’s perfectly legal in Utah for a business owner to discriminate against LGBTQ coming as patrons.

Williams, however, shrugged off the idea the lack of public accommodations protections in Utah make the agreement in the state makes it any less of a model, making the case the spirit behind the deal is what matters.

“I think copying and pasting Utah’s law doesn’t work for lots of reasons,” Wililams said. “What’s most important is a model of collaboration because when you are sitting around the table with each other — Democrats and Republicans, LGBTQ people and people of faith — that’s when the transformation happens. That is when the mutual respect is really forged.”

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Venezuelan man with AIDS dies in ICE custody

Pablo Sánchez Gotopo passed away at Miss. hospital on Oct. 1

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Pablo Sanchez Gotopo, who was living with HIV/AIDS, died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody in Mississippi on Oct. 1, 2021. (Courtesy photo)

A Venezuelan man with AIDS died in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody on Oct. 1.

An ICE press release notes Pablo Sánchez Gotopo, 40, died at Merit Health River Oaks in Flowood, Miss., which is a suburb of Jackson, the state capital. The press release notes the “preliminary cause of death was from complications with acute respiratory failure, Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), pneumonia, acute kidney failure, anemia and COVID-19.”

ICE said U.S. Border Patrol took Sánchez into custody near Del Rio, Texas, on May 17. He arrived at the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss., four days later.

“Upon arrival to an ICE facility, all detainees are medically screened and administered a COVID-19 test by ICE Health Service Corps (IHSC) personnel,” said ICE in its press release. “Sánchez’s test results came back negative.”

The press release notes Sánchez on July 28 received another COVID-19 test after he “began showing symptoms of COVID-19.” ICE said he tested negative, but Adams County Detention Center personnel transferred him to a Natchez hospital “for additional advanced medical care.”

ICE Enforcement and Removal Operations staff in its New Orleans Field Office, according to the press release, “coordinated with hospital staff to arrange family visitation” after Sánchez’s “health condition deteriorated.” Sánchez was transferred to Merit Health River Oaks on Sept. 25.

“ICE is firmly committed to the health and welfare of all those in its custody and is undertaking a comprehensive agency-wide review of this incident, as it does in all such cases,” says the press release.

Venezuela’s political and economic crises have prompted more than 10,000 people with HIV to leave the country, according to the New York-based Aid for AIDS International.

Activists and health care service providers in Venezuela with whom the Washington Blade has spoken in recent years have said people with HIV/AIDS in the country have died because of a lack of antiretroviral drugs. Andrés Cardona, director of Fundación Ancla, a group in the Colombian city of Medellín that works with migrants and other vulnerable groups, told the Blade last month that many Venezuelans with HIV would have died if they hadn’t come to Colombia.

The Blade has not been able to verify a Venezuelan activist’s claim that Sánchez was gay. It is also not known why Sánchez decided to leave Venezuela and travel to the U.S.

ICE detainee with HIV described Miss. detention center as ‘not safe’

Activists and members of Congress continue to demand ICE release people with HIV/AIDS in their custody amid reports they don’t have adequate access to medications and other necessary medical treatment.

Two trans women with HIV—Victoria Arellano from Mexico and Roxsana Hernández from Honduras—died in ICE custody in 2007 and 2018 respectively. Johana “Joa” Medina Leon, a trans woman with HIV who fled El Salvador, died in 2019, three days after ICE released her from a privately-run detention center.

The Blade in July 2020 interviewed a person with HIV who was in ICE custody at the Adams County Detention Center. The detainee said there was no social distancing at the privately-run facility and personnel were not doing enough to prevent COVID-19 from spreading.

“It’s not safe,” they told the Blade.

The entrance to the Adams County Detention Center in Natchez, Miss. (Washington Blade photo by Michael K. Lavers)

Elisabeth Grant-Gibson, a Natchez resident who supports ICE detainees and their families, on Wednesday told the Blade that she was able to visit the Adams County Detention Center and other ICE facilities in the Miss Lou Region of Mississippi and Louisiana from November 2019 until the suspension of in-person visitation in March 2020 because of the pandemic.

“Medical neglect and refusal of medical care has always been an issue in the detention center at Adams County,” said Grant-Gibson. “After the facilities were closed to public visitation, those problems increased.”

Grant-Gibson told the Blade she “worked with a number of families and received phone calls from a number of detainees, and I was told again and again that detainees were being refused the opportunity to visit the infirmary.”

“When they did visit the infirmary, they were given virtually no treatment for the issues they were presenting with,” said Grant-Gibson.

ICE in its press release that announced Sánchez’s death said fatalities among its detainees, “statistically, are exceedingly rare and occur at a fraction of the national average for the U.S. detained population.” ICE also noted it spends more than $315 million a year “on the spectrum of healthcare services provided to detainees.”

“ICE’s Health Service Corps (IHSC) ensures the provision of necessary medical care services as required by ICE Performance-Based National Detention Standards and based on the medical needs of the detainee,” notes the ICE press release. “Comprehensive medical care is provided from the moment detainees arrive and throughout the entirety of their stay. All ICE detainees receive medical, dental, and mental health intake screening within 12 hours of arriving at each detention facility, a full health assessment within 14 days of entering ICE custody or arrival at a facility, and access to daily sick call and 24-hour emergency care.”

An ICE spokesperson on Wednesday pointed the Blade to its Performance-Based Detention Standards from 2011, which includes policies for the treatment of detainees with HIV/AIDS.

A detainee “may request HIV testing at any time during detention” and ICE detention centers “shall develop a written plan to ensure the highest degree of confidentiality regarding HIV status and medical condition.” The policy also states that “staff training must emphasize the need for confidentiality, and procedures must be in place to limit access to health records to only authorized individuals and only when necessary.”

“The accurate diagnosis and medical management of HIV infection among detainees shall be promoted,” reads the policy. “An HIV diagnosis may be made only by a licensed health care provider, based on a medical history, current clinical evaluation of signs and symptoms and laboratory studies.”

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Rachel Levine on becoming four-star admiral: ‘It comes from my desire to serve’

Trans official sworn-in to U.S. Public Health Service

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For Rachel Levine, the appointment to her new role as a four-star admiral complementing her existing duties as assistant secretary for health is another way for the first openly transgender Senate-confirmed presidential appointee to serve.

“I think that this just really comes from my desire to serve in all capacities,” Levine said in an interview Tuesday with the Washington Blade. “To serve the first day in my field of academic medicine and pediatrics, but then in Pennsylvania and now in the federal government, and it furthers my ability to do that.”

Levine, 63, also recognized the importance of the appointment as a transgender person within the U.S. Public Health Service, for which she was ceremonially sworn in on Tuesday

“I think for the LGBTQ+ community, it is a further sign of progress and our president’s commitment to equity, to inclusion and diversity,” Levine said. “So I think that it is a very important milestone, and I’m pleased to serve.”

As part of her duties, Levine will lead an estimated 6,000 public health service officers serving vulnerable populations, including deployments inside and outside the country for communities beleaguered with the coronavirus, according to the Department of Health & Human Services. The role involves working closely with U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murphy, whom Levine called her “friend and colleague.”

The U.S. Public Health Service, Levine said, has deployed “many, many times,” including its greatest number ever of deployments to vulnerable populations during the coronavirus pandemic. Among the places the service has deployed, Levine said, was in her home state of Pennsylvania, where she recently served as secretary of health.

Not only is Levine the first openly transgender person to serve in the uniformed health service as a four-star general, but she’s also the first woman to serve in that capacity.

“We have 6,000 dedicated committed public servants really all focused on our nation’s health, and they serve in details to the CDC and the FDA and the NIH, but also clinically with the Indian Health Service, and the federal prison system,” Levine said. “They’re also detailed and deployed throughout the country, and they deployed like never before for COVID-19 as well as the border, as well as dealing with floods and hurricanes and tornadoes.”

Although the Public Health Service is primarily focused on addressing public health disasters within the United States, Levine said it has a record of deployments overseas, including years ago when it was deployed to Africa under the threat of Ebola.

Secretary of Health & Human Services Xavier Becerra had high praise for Levine in a statement upon news of taking on a leadership position in the service.

“This is a proud moment for us at HHS,” Becerra said. “Adm. Levine — a highly accomplished pediatrician who helps drive our agency’s agenda to boost health access and equity and to strengthen behavioral health — is a cherished and critical partner in our work to build a healthier America.”

Levine, however, was careful to draw a distinction between her appointment within the Public Health Service and being a service member within the U.S. armed forces.

“It is not a military branch, it’s not the armed forces: It’s a uniformed force, so it’s different,” Levine said. “For example, the Army, the Navy, our military, there are two other uniformed branches, and that is ours, the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps and NOAA.”

The new role, Levine said, would complement her duties as assistant secretary for health. Although not only secretaries of health have been commissioned to take the uniform, Levine said she wanted to undertake that as part of her role in the Biden administration.

The two appointments were not simultaneous, Levine said, because of a general process she undertook, which was completed just this week.

It hasn’t been an easy road for Levine. During her Senate confirmation process, when she was hounded by anti-transgender attacks in conservative media and rude, invasive questioning by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) on her gender identity.

Levine, however, said she hasn’t encountered any hostility regarding her new role (as of now) and shrugged off any potential attacks in the future and said the move is about her career “to serve and to help people.”

“I’ve continued that for our nation as the assistant secretary for health and this is just a further demonstration of my commitment to service,” Levine said. “I don’t know what others will say, but that’s the genesis of my wanting to serve in the United States Public Health Service Commissioned Corps, and to place on the uniform.”

Levine’s new appointment comes shortly after a group of Democratic senators led by Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) sent her a letter dated Sept. 30 calling on her and Miriam Delphin-Rittmon, assistant secretary for mental health and substance use, to issue new guidance for hospital or residential care on mental health needs of transgender people.

Asked about the letter, Levine said mental health issues are under the authority of Delphin-Rittmon and the two “will work together and we will respond.”

Specifically, the senators in the letter call on the Behavioral Health Coordinating Council, or BHCC, and experts in the field of adolescent trans care to offer guidance on best practices for inpatient mental health care among these youth.

Asked what the response will look like, Levine said, “We’re going to work on that.”

“We will be looking at what they’re asking for and the requirements, and we’ll talk with them and the stakeholders and we’ll look to issue appropriate guidance,” Levine said.

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