TIME health

NCAA Proposes $70M Concussion Fund To Settle Lawsuit

NCAA President Mark Emmert News Conference
NCAA President Mark Emmert speaks to the media during a press conference at AT&T Stadium on April 6, 2014 in Arlington, Texas. Jamie Squire—Getty Images

The settlement includes funding for testing current and former college athletes

The National Collegiate Athletic Association will pay $70 million for concussion testing as part of a proposed settlement over an ongoing head-injury lawsuit, the organization announced Tuesday. The money would pay for symptom identification for current and former college athletes.

If accepted, the proposed deal, which would also offer $5 million for concussion research, would put an end to an ongoing class-action lawsuit facing the NCAA in federal court. According to the plaintiffs in that case, a 2010 NCAA internal study showed that almost half of college trainers put athletes with signs of concussions back on the field. The suit has been riding a wave of accusations that the NCAA and college teams across the country have put players at risk of brain injuries.

“Student-athletes — not just football players — have dropped out of school and suffered huge long-term symptoms because of brain injuries,” the lead plaintiff’s lawyer, Steve Berman, told The New York Times. “Anything we can do to enhance concussion management is a very important day for student-athletes.”

The settlement would affect men and women across all NCAA divisions. In addition to football, ice hockey and soccer squads, the settlement also affects basketball, wrestling, field hockey and lacrosse teams. All current and former athletes in the NCAA would be eligible for concussion screening and possible damage claims under the proposal.

As part of the deal, college athletes will be required to take a baseline neurological test at the beginning of each year, which will help doctors monitor the effects of potential concussions during the season. Concussion education will also be required for coaches and athletes.

“We have been and will continue to be committed to student-athlete safety, which is one of the NCAA’s foundational principles,” said NCAA Chief Medical Officer Brian Hainline in a statement. “Medical knowledge of concussions will continue to grow, and consensus about diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions by the medical community will continue to evolve. This agreement’s proactive measures will ensure student-athletes have access to high quality medical care by physicians with experience in the diagnosis, treatment and management of concussions.”

TIME Research

The Link Between 9/11 and Cancer Still Isn’t Entirely Clear

National 9/11 Memorial Museum
People visit the National 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York City on May 25, 2014. Cem Ozdel—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images

A number of complicating factors and delayed data make conclusions difficult to draw

The New York Post reported Sunday that the number of cancer cases among 9/11 first respondents had more than doubled in the past year, from 1,140 to over 2,500. However, to scientists who specialize in analyzing such data, the number of cases cannot ever tell the full story.

Dr. Roberto Lucchini is an epidemiologist and director of the World Trade Center Health Program Data Center at Mount Sinai Hospital, which treats and researches the police officers, construction workers, sanitation workers and iron workers who were among the first respondents on 9/11. To Lucchini, the number of observed cancer cases among these patients cannot be significant until compared to the number of expected cancer cases.

“I don’t think there’s a double of cases one year to the other,” Lucchini told TIME. “When you compare one year to the other, you have to be careful and try to understand what you are comparing. If you don’t compare correctly, you can come up with information that is not exactly true.”

“I don’t think they compared like-with-like which is what you normally do in epidemiology,” adds Dr. Billy Holden, a deputy director of the data center. “I don’t know how they came to the conclusion that there was a doubling.”

Mount Sinai has a record of 1,646 confirmed cancers from 2002 to present-day among the over 30,000 first respondents that they oversee. The hospital’s cases are reviewed and certified by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH). Meanwhile, the public registry—which also collects data on these cases—has confirmed 1,172 cancers among Mount Sinai patients, but the registry’s number only represents data through the year 2010, which may account for the difference.

“That’s the latest that we have in reliable data that we can use,” Holden says. “The delay is coming from the registries themselves. It takes them a long time to get the data.”

According to a press release from Mount Sinai, “analysis of available data through 2010 shows that there is an approximately 20% increase in cancer incidence in 9/11 rescue and recovery workers compared to the general population, with a particular increase in thyroid cancer, prostate cancer, myeloma, and leukemia.”

This elevated incidence rate could result from the high exposure to carcinogens that many first respondents endured. However, even this number is subject to question due to a number of complicating factors, including over-diagnosis of certain cancers—such as thyroid and prostate—and questionably reliable data for the general population.

“Over-diagnosis means you’re just screening for cancers, and you pick up cancers that in the normal course of things would never cause symptoms and would never cause death,” Holden says. “The screening for thyroid and prostate cancer is picking up these really non-malignant cancers that don’t do anything.”

Another complicating factor is the continued aging of the first respondents. Epidemiologists would expect the number of observed cancer cases among this population to increase over the coming years regardless because everyone’s risk of cancer rises with time. “Numbers are interesting, but they’re not revealing because we have to look at the rates,” Holden says. “Looking at numbers themselves doesn’t mean anything. You have to put them in a certain context.”

The search for a similar context alone can result in frustration for researchers. As so many residents of New York need not be reminded, 9/11 is an event that stands alone in our history.

“There’s nothing like this in the whole history of the world,” Lucchini says. “We can think about Chernobyl or Fukushima, but this is a totally different situation here… So for us to compare this to other studies and other experiences is quite difficult.”

Lucchini adds, “We are doing as much as we can.”

When it comes to the men and women who first responded on that fateful day, the question remains of how much can ever be enough.

TIME Transportation

The TSA Will Give You $15,000 If You Can Make the Lines Faster

TSA Introduces Pre-Screening Pilot Program For Some Passenger Groups
A TSA agent waits for passengers to use the TSA PreCheck lane at Miami International Airport on October 4, 2011. Joe Raedle—Getty Images

Talk about low-hanging fruit

The Transportation Security Administration has offered rewards of up to $15,000 to any inventor who can design the “next generation checkpoint queue,” which hopefully will send the current generation of lines to an early and unmarked grave.

TSA placed an open call for submission on the crowdsourcing site, Innocentive, for anyone who can “apply a scientific and simulation modeling approach to meet queue design and configuration needs of the dynamic security screening environment.” Translation: Get the lines moving.

Submissions must take into account flight schedules, peak travel hours and TSA staff schedules. Reward amounts range from $2,500 for runners-up and at least $5,000 and up to $15,000 for the best ideas — not to mention an ocean of gratitude from millions of flyers.

TIME justice

Louisiana Warden May Release Inmate From 28 Straight Years in Solitary

"When I can conclude he's not gonna cause me the blues, then he can come out of the cell"

A prisoner who has spent 28 straight years in solitary confinement may be released into the general prison population, according to the Louisiana warden who has allegedly kept him confined in a 6 by 9 foot cell for 23 hours a day.

Burl Cain, the warden of the Louisiana State Penitentiary, told reporters for Northwestern University’s Medill Justice Project that he would be ready to transfer the prisoner, Kenny “Zulu” Whitmore, in a “matter of months,” once he has determined that Whitmore no longer poses a threat to other prisoners.

“We’d rather him out, I need his cell,” Cain said in an interview with Medill Justice Project, an investigative journalism project that exposes wrongful convictions. “I’ve got some young people, predators, that need to be in that cell. When I can conclude he’s not gonna cause me the blues, then he can come out of the cell.”

A total of 35 years of solitary confinement, including 28 consecutive years, has taken a toll on Whitmore’s physical and mental health, the prisoner told reporters. His vision has deteriorated and he has developed a case of hypertension. He has filed suit against the warden and other prison officials, claiming his spell in solitary—the longest known case in U.S. history—constituted cruel and unusual punishment and violated his free speech rights.

Whitmore was sentenced to life in prison in 1977 for second-degree murder. Since then, the warden maintains that Whitmore, as a supporter of the Black Panther Party, has espoused beliefs that could provoke other inmates to commit violent attacks.

“The Black Panther Party advocates violence and racism,” Cain said. “I’m not going to let anybody walk around advocating violence and racism.”

Whitmore’s lawyer, Michelle Rutherford, said in a statement that Cain’s comments about the Black Panther Party proved the prisoner’s constitutional rights had been breached.

“Warden Cain’s statement confirms the allegations Mr. Whitmore makes in his civil rights suit: he has been held in a 9′ by 6′ cell for over 35 years because of his political beliefs, not because of any demonstrated violent or disruptive behavior.”

[Medill Justice Project]

TIME Disaster

Rapid Wildfire Threatens Yosemite National Park

A long exposure image shows the El Portal Fire burning near Yosemite National Park, Calif., on July 27, 2014.
A long exposure image shows the El Portal Fire burning near Yosemite National Park, Calif., on July 27, 2014. Stuart Palley—EPA

El Portal blaze was at just 5% containment late Monday

A fast-moving wildfire in Yosemite National Park was threatening to spiral out of control early Tuesday.

While firefighters made progress battling a larger wildfire in northern California’s vineyard country, the El Portal wildfire burning across four square miles of Yosemite and the neighboring Stanislaus National Forest was at just 5% containment late Monday.

Three campsites and several roads were closed and around 100 homes were at risk, despite what the National Park Service said was “incredible firefighting work.”

Read more from our partners at NBC News

TIME States

Family of Georgia Teen Found Dead at School Files New Lawsuit

Kendrick Johnson rally in Atlanta, Georgia
Jacquelyn Johnson, center, and her husband Kenneth, right, speak at a rally on behalf of their dead son Kendrick Johnson at the Georgia State Capitol in Atlanta on Dec. 11, 2013 Erik S. Lesser—EPA

They insist that the death of 17-year-old Kendrick Johnson was murder, and that its aftermath has been a comprehensive cover-up

The family of a Georgia teenager found dead in his high school gymnasium last year has sued school officials, accusing them of ignoring patterns of harassment that some believe culminated in his murder.

On Jan. 11, 2013, a group of students at Lowndes High School in the south Georgia town of Valdosta discovered the body of Kendrick Johnson rolled up in an exercise mat in the school gymnasium. His death, local police investigators determined, was an accident — he had climbed into the center of the mat to fetch a shoe and got stuck — but his parents, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson, were not convinced.

They have filed two lawsuits against the school system in the past three months, CNN reports, both claiming that the relevant authorities willfully ignored a string of incidents in which white students antagonized Kendrick, who was black. The most recent, filed this week, points directly at Lowndes High School’s principal, Jay Floyd, as well as Lowndes County’s Board of Education and its superintendent.

Because of their indifference, the suit says, Kendrick was “violently assaulted, severely injured, suffered great physical pain and mental anguish, and subjected to insult and loss of life.”

His parents insist that his death was a homicide, and its aftermath a conspiratorial cover-up. After local authorities officially dismissed this claim, Kenneth and Jacquelyn Johnson solicited the services of an independent pathologist, who identified “unexplained apparent nonaccidental blunt force trauma” to their son’s neck. When that pathologist, Dr. Bill Anderson, opened up Kendrick’s body for a second autopsy, he discovered its organs were missing, and it had been stuffed with newspaper.

Coroners typically remove organs during the initial autopsy but are expected to replace them; Kendrick’s parents complained they were not consulted.

Federal agencies launched an official investigation last fall, but the process of justice has been torpid. An anonymous email sent in January listing four students responsible for Kendrick’s death is not credible, authorities say.

[CNN]

TIME Gun Control

Judge Strikes Down D.C. Handgun Ban

The ban on carrying handguns outside the home is unconstitutional, he says

The District of Columbia’s ban on carrying guns outside of one’s home is unconstitutional and violates the Second Amendment, a federal judge has ruled.

In a decision shared Saturday, U.S. District Judge Frederick J. Scullin said the D.C.’s ban violated citizens’ right to self-defense, the Associated Press reports.

“There is no longer any basis on which this court can conclude that the District of Columbia’s total ban on the public carrying of ready-to-use handguns outside the home is constitutional under any level of scrutiny,” Scullin wrote.

After a 2008 U.S. Supreme Court decision ended the city’s long-standing handgun ban, D.C. created new laws that required gun owners to, among other precautions, keep the weapons only inside their homes and register them again every three years. A federal judge upheld the controversial restrictions in a May ruling.

Explaining his decision, Scullin cited the 2008 opinion as well as a 2010 ruling regarding a ban on handguns in Chicago.

A spokesperson for the D.C.’s Office of the Attorney General said the district was “studying the opinion” but declined to “comment on its substance.” The AP also cited an unnamed city official who said the city would ask for a stay and was considering an appeal.

[AP]

 

 

 

 

TIME Foreign Policy

White House: EU, US to Impose New Russia Sanctions

(WASHINGTON) — The United States and European Union plan to impose new sanctions against Russia this week, including penalties targeting key sectors of the Russian economy, the White House said Monday.

The show of Western solidarity comes as the U.S. accuses Russia of ramping up its troop presence on its border with Ukraine and shipping more heavy weaponry to pro-Moscow separatists in eastern Ukrainian cities.

President Barack Obama and the leaders of Britain, Germany, France and Italy discussed the crisis during a rare joint video teleconference on Monday. The discussion follows days of bilateral talks on how to implement tougher sanctions after the downing of a passenger jet in eastern Ukraine, an attack the U.S. says was carried out by the separatists.

The U.S. and European sanctions are likely to target Russia’s energy, arms and financial sectors. The EU is also weighing the prospect of levying penalties on individuals close to Russian President Vladimir Putin, who appears to only be deepening Russia’s role in destabilizing Ukraine.

“It’s precisely because we’ve not yet seen a strategic turn from Putin that we believe it’s absolutely essential to take additional measures, and that’s what the Europeans and the United States intend to do this week,” said Tony Blinken, Obama’s deputy national security adviser.

Europe, which has a stronger trade relationship with Russia than the U.S., has lagged behind Washington with its earlier sanctions package, in part out of concern from leaders that the penalties could have a negative impact on their own economies. But a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said following Monday’s call that the West agreed that the EU should move a “strong package of sectoral sanctions as swiftly as possible.”

French President Francois Hollande said in a statement that the Western leaders “regretted Russia has not effectively pressured separatists to bring them to negotiate nor taken expected concrete measures to assure control of the Russian-Ukrainian border.”

The U.S. penalties are expected to be imposed after Europe finalizes its next moves. Neither set of penalties is expected to fully cut off Russian economic sectors from the West, an options U.S. officials have said they’re holding in reserve in case Russia launches a full-on military incursion in Ukraine or takes a similarly provocative step.

As the West presses ahead with new sanctions, U.S. officials say Russia is getting more directly involved in the clash between separatists and the Ukrainian government. Blinken said Russia appeared to be using the international attention focused on the downed Malaysia Airlines plane as “cover and distraction” while it moves more heavy weaponry over its border and into Ukraine.

“We’ve seen a significant re-buildup of Russian forces along the border, potentially positioning Russia for a so-called humanitarian or peace-keeping intervention in Ukraine,” Blinken said. “So there’s urgency to arresting this.”

Nearly 300 people were killed when the Malaysian plane was shot down by a missile on July 17. The West blames the separatists for the missile attack and Russia for supplying the rebels with equipment that can take down a plane.

Other leaders participating in Monday’s call were German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi. The White House said the leaders also discussed the stalled efforts to achieve a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, the need for Iraq to form a more inclusive government and the uptick in security threats in Libya.

TIME Transportation

FAA Proposes $12M Fine Against Southwest Over Repair Allegations

Southwest Airlines Reveals New Destinations For Dallas Travelers
A Southwest Airlines Boeing 737-7H4 plane sits at a gate at Dallas Love Field Airport in Dallas on Feb. 3, 2014 Bloomberg/Getty Images

The proposed fine is the second largest in FAA history

The Federal Aviation Administration proposed a $12 million fine against Southwest Airlines for allegedly not complying with safety regulations during Boeing 737 jetliner repairs.

The proposed fine is the second largest in FAA history, the Associated Press reports. In 2010, the FAA proposed a $24.2 million fine against American Airlines, which later settled for $24.9 million.

The agency says that Southwest’s contractor, under Southwest supervision, did not properly fasten aircraft skins and replace fuselages, among other violations, while updating 44 planes in 2006 to prevent cracking on the aluminum exteriors. The agency also claims the Dallas-based air carrier flew those planes in 2009 despite notice from the FAA about the lack of safety compliance.

A spokesperson for Southwest said the company would respond to the agency’s claims in accordance with FAA procedure guidelines. The airline also said it “fully resolved the repair issues some time ago” and that “none of the items raised in the FAA letter affect” planes currently in operation.

[AP]

TIME Newsmaker

TIME Newsmaker Interview: Spelman President on Small College Success, the Flawed Fed Ranking Plan and How to Meet Smart Spelman Women

The Atlantic Presents:"The Shriver Report Live"
Beverly Daniel Tatum attends the Atlantic Presents:"The Shriver Report Live" at The Newseum on January 15, 2014 in Washington, DC. Kris Connor—Getty Images

During an hour long interview with TIME, retiring Spelman College President Dr. Beverly Tatum spoke about race, Historically Black Colleges, and her plans after she steps down next June.

In June 2015, Dr. Beverly Tatum will retire after 13 years as the ninth President of Spelman College. During her leadership of the historically black women’s college in Atlanta, Tatum, 59, raised annual alumni giving to 41%—one of the highest among historically black institutions. Tatum will leave the school having led a 10-year campaign that raised $157.8 million and garnered the support of 71% of the school nearly 17,000 alumnae.

Spelman is an exceptional school in more ways than one: it’s one of the oldest Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) in the U.S., and it has an endowment of $357 million—the average private HBCU endowment is around $38 million. In 2014, Spelman ranked number 65 on U.S. News and World Report’s annual list of the nation’s top liberal arts colleges, the next highest ranked HBCU—Morehouse College—comes in at number 126.

But because Spelman is an HBCU, it’s often mentioned in discussions about the overall fate of black institutions, which face dire financial situations, declining enrollment and questions about their relevance in the 21st century. Tatum says the comparisons aren’t always fair. “Just as we as individuals tend to be stereotyped, lumped together as a group, in the same way the institutions that are serving African Americans are lumped together and are stereotyped as a group. We have to work very hard to penetrate that bias,” Tatum tells TIME.

In an hour-long wide-ranging interview, Tatum spoke about why we should not consider HBCU’s as a monolith, the problems with the Department of Education’s plan to marry financial aid and graduation rates, and what’s next for her post-retirement. The following interview has been condensed and edited for space.

 

You’re retiring in June of next year. Why now?

In the life of a college president 12, what will be 13 years is a long time. The average span of a college president is about 6 or 7 years. It’s a very demanding job—I’m just ready for a new chapter. But I think it’s also a great time to pass the baton. If you think about being a president as like running a relay race, you get the baton from one person and when you get it you run as fast as you can to make as much progress and then you have to pass it to somebody else. I wanted to pass it while there was a lot of momentum.

Your 10-year fundraising campaign raised $157.8 million, with contributions from 71% of alumnae. Forty-one percent of your alumnae give annually. Can Spelman be a model for other small liberal arts colleges and other HBCUs, specifically?

When I started in 2002 [annual giving] was about 13%. I knew that the future of the college really depended on strong alumni support on an annual basis because when you go to foundations, corporations, and other donors outside the alumnae community one of the first questions they’ll ask you is, “what is the level of support from your graduates?” If your graduates aren’t supporting you, why should anybody else? But, I do know that it’s very labor intensive. When you think about a donor who hasn’t been regularly giving to the college and you call her on the phone or you meet with her in person, the first gift she makes might be a small gift. Maybe $25, $50, or $100, but it’s not necessarily going to be a big check. And you spend a lot of time and energy just to get her to write that first check. There are schools that will likely say it’s not worth my time to focus on that little gift, I need to focus on those big gifts that are going to really help sustain me. What we did, which I think was really helpful, was we got one of our trustees to essentially match the gifts that we got from small donors over a period of time so that we knew we’d be able to build up the level of giving, knowing that there was a safety net, so to speak, of this other donors’ match. I think every school has a trustee who would, if you ask them to, help grow alumni giving by matching.

What does the future of Spelman look like?

I think the future of Spelman is bright. Strong philanthropic support, great students, a wonderful tradition of excellence that I’m sure will continue into the future. But I think the next President will certainly need to be thinking a lot about the impact of technology in terms of this rapidly changing world we live in. There are lots of conversations in higher education right now that any new president should be thinking about. I often say when I’m asked what the characteristics of that new president should be—and obviously it’s the board’s decision to choose— but it should be someone who can be a really fast runner; someone who can take that baton and just go with it.

What’s next for you?

It has been tremendous honor to serve as the President of Spelman College. It’s been a high point of my career and I’m looking forward to this coming year. Before I became the President of Spelman I was a professor, but I was also a writer. I want to return to writing. So my first project will be to work on my next book. One of the books I want to revisit is “Why are all the black kids sitting together in the cafeteria?” which was written in 1996. I want to reflect on the last 20 years and figure out what I will say differently, but I don’t know the answer to that question yet.

How has the overall college landscape changed during your time as the leader at Spelman?

I think the concern about cost and affordability has really gotten more intense. How can we provide [an education] in a cost effective way so that students can afford to come—whether that’s providing more financial aid or figuring out a way to offer it less expensively. Because we know that everyone needs an education, but a lot of today’s students can’t afford it. And I think that that conversation has really gotten more significant for everyone, not just at HBCUs, in part because the vast majority of today’s high school students are coming out of low to moderate income families and are often first generation college students. It’s not just an HBCU question. Everybody has to figure out, how do we make this more affordable?

I know that’s something First Lady Michelle Obama has been focusing on, increasing access to higher education, particularly among African American students. But at the same time the Obama Administration is working to distribute funding based on graduation rates, which have long been a problem for HBCUs. What do you make of that?

There’s an irony there. When you are serving low-income students there are many barriers to their completion, some of which have nothing to do with the school. There are all kinds of circumstantial situations that make it hard for students to persist. If you are providing services to students who are coming from high-risk backgrounds, the odds of their completion are going to be lower. One of the things we take great pride in at Spelman is our ability to graduate students at a high rate, but even at Spelman we have found since the Great Recession it’s become more difficult for us to maintain that graduation rate. More and more students are having to step out because of financial concern. I think when the Department of Education says to an institution that we’re going to judge you by your graduation rate— I hope that they will compare apples-to-apples. If you’re a well resourced institution serving a high-income student body, that graduation rate better be high. You have no reason for it not to be. But if you are looking at the performance of schools that are serving the most underserved student population, you should compare apples to apples to make sure that you are holding all of those variables constant.

Do you think that proposal will have an adverse impact on HBCUs in particular?

HBCUs have historically served those students who are most at-risk. Every HBCU is different. If you’re a school that has more open enrollment, more selective and students who are financially challenged you are hopefully going to transform their lives through the education you provide but your graduation rate is not going to be as high as someone who is dealing with a different socio-economic demographic. Graduation rates of institutions serving high percentages of under-served students should be evaluated in relationship to predicted retention rates for low income first generation students.

In previous interviews you have said people often talk about HBCUs as if they’re monolithic, as if they’re the same school. Where do you think the disconnect is in understanding HBCUs and addressing issues that face them?

That really has to do with understanding African Americans in general. Just as we as individuals tend to be stereotyped, lumped together as a group, in the same way the institutions that are serving African Americans are lumped together and are stereotyped as a group. We have to work very hard to penetrate that bias. You don’t regularly read articles about predominately white institutions are in trouble. You know what I mean? You don’t. So why is that when an HBCU closes its doors because of a loss of enrollment or loss of accreditation we read articles in which all of us get mentioned? That is, I think, just consistent with the stereotypes that have permeated our culture about people of color and the institutions of color.

What about the question of HBCU’s relevancy? Is that the same issue?

It’s a very interesting question. Why do people ask this question? We know that the history of HBCUs is that they were created at a time when there was no opportunity because of segregation, at a time when there was no educational access for African Americans. When Spelman was founded in 1881 in the city of Atlanta, there was no other opportunity for black women to get an education. So people will say, well now those majority institutions are available so why do we need those other institutions? But that fails to acknowledge the other purposes of HBCUs. An HBCU not only provides an educational opportunity for those who have been underserved, but it does so in a context in which the culture from which they come, the history that they’ve experienced is affirmed and acknowledged in a way that’s very empowering. And so the need for empowerment is always relevant.

I had a really interesting conversation with a white male educator and he asked me about the relevance. He went to an Ivy League school and said he would have really benefitted from having women like the women who choose Spelman at my college. He said that would have really benefitted his education. I understood what he was saying, but he failed to realize the privilege in his statement. The parent who writes that check for their daughter to go to college is not thinking, “she’s going to help someone else get a good education.” They’re writing that check because this is the best possible experience for their daughter. And one of the benefits for American higher education is that there are a lot of different schools to choose from. If that guy really wanted access to smart, Spelman women he could have enrolled at Morehouse. [laughs].

 

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