Michelle Obama advised people to "be persistent" and "start the conversation early" about bringing up political talking points during Thanksgiving conversations

As if it wasn't bad enough that Michael Bloomberg was advising people to talk about gun control during their Thanksgiving dinners, Michelle Obama has made a similar request about 14 different issues.  From the Washington Times:
“As you spend time with loved ones this holiday season, be sure to talk with them about what health care reform can mean to them,” she said, in the email that contained 14 talking points that could be raised. Among [Michelle Obama] touted topics, The Post reported: Talk about the need to sign up for Obamacare. And, ask guests to bring W2 tax forms, or pay stubs, in order to verify income levels. 
Mrs. Obama’s tips are posted on an Internet site operated by Organizingfor Action, called “Health Care for the Holidays.” The goal of the tips, the site says, is to “get the ball rolling” on widespread Obamacare enrollment — a much-needed scenario, given the floundering and failings the government HealthCare.gov site has suffered since it’s October kick-off. 
Some other words of wisdom on the website, The Post reported: “Don’t wait until the last minute — be sure to start the conversation early!” And “Integrate the talk into family time — take advantage of downtime after meals or between holiday activities to start your talk.” And one more: “Find a quiet place to shop” for a new health care policy. And don’t leave out the blunt approach; the site suggests asking family and guests: “When do you plan on signing up?” 
Moreover, the Obamacare push shouldn’t end just because the holiday wraps, the site advises. 
“Don’t forget to follow up,” is one final tip, The Post reported. . . .
The Washington Examiner has the 14 talking points, including "be persistent."
-- Start early: Don’t wait until the last minute—be sure to start the conversation early!
-- Integrate the talk into family time: Take advantage of downtime after meals or between holiday activities to start your talk.
-- Make it personal: Be honest about your feelings and why this is important to you.
-- Be persistent, but keep it positive: Tell them you care about their health, and focus on the benefits that come from knowing that you have health insurance.
-- Get creative: Think about what matters to your family member. Make it memorable!
-- Find a Quiet Place to Shop: You can start your conversation anywhere, but to shop for health coverage, you will want a more quiet, private place to make a phone call or use the internet.
-- Start by asking: “Have you thought about signing up for health insurance on the new marketplace?”
-- Offer to walk them through it: “Would you like to take some time with me to sign up right now?”
-- Ask them to make a plan, and commit to it: “When do you plan on signing up?”
-- Don’t forget to follow up: “Have you signed up yet?”
-- Being covered helps you stay healthy and protects you in an emergency.
-- You can find a plan that fits your budget—financial assistance is available for those who qualify.
-- You get to choose the plan that’s right for you.
-- All the health insurance plans on the new marketplace provide free preventive care—including routine checkups, vaccinations and screenings. 

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American workers have unprecedented "anxiety" about jobs and economy and their fear is justified

The polls are showing what the job numbers have been showing for some time.  Quits are supposed to fall during recessions and rise during recoveries (data from the JOLTS file at the BLS).  The explanation is simple: during recessions people are afraid to quit their jobs.  The longer the recession the greater the increase in quits as there is a pent up demand for people switching jobs.  Not so during this recovery.  Quits fells amazingly fell even further.  Only now during the most recent three months is the quit rate back to the level during the recession.  

Unbelievably, monthly job hires are now only slightly greater than they were during the recession.  They are still 13% below the level prior to the recession and just 4% above the level during the recession.

From the Washington Post (click to make screen shot larger):


Obama's regulatory push is really being unleashed

Americans have seen Obama's regulations end internship programs, declare war on piano teachers,  and make life very difficult for makers of guitars.  In the past even the liberals on the Supreme Court have found some of Obama's regulations going much too far (e.g., striking down Obama's attempt to impose Federal discrimination rules on who religious organizations can have as their religious leaders).  But now with the Democrats' court packing scheme for the DC Circuit, radical Democrats are going to be controlling regulatory decisions for decades.  From The Hill newspaper:
. . . Three of the judicial vacancies are at the powerful D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. The court is charged with ruling on challenges to rules imposed by federal agencies, often making it ground zero for battles over Obama’s regulatory agenda. 
The court’s bench is currently split evenly between judges nominated by Democratic and Republican presidents. But five of six semi-retired “senior judges” who help with the court’s workload were installed during Republican administrations. 
In recent years, the court has dealt a series of blows to the Obama administration’s agenda by striking down regulations on numerous fronts.  
The change in the Senate’s rules come at a time when judges are expected to decide major disputes over provisions in the Dodd-Frank financial reform law, ObamaCare and the president's push on climate change, several observers of the court said. 
“It removes one set of barriers to having regulations in place,” Donner said. 
Beyond blocking regulatory initiatives, the court has had a chilling effect on agencies that regulate the financial sector, advocate groups say. . . .

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Democrats saying that the "nuclear option" really isn't that bad because other options are available for blocking nominations

From the New York Times:
The decision by Senate Democrats to eliminate filibusters for most judicial nominations only marginally enhanced President Obama’s power to reshape the judiciary, according to court watchers from across the political spectrum, because Republican senators can still veto his nominees to most currently vacant appeals court seats. 
The new Senate rule clears the way for eight appeals court nominees who have already had confirmation hearings to win approval with simple majority votes, including three on the powerful Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, which reviews federal policies and regulations. But it left unchanged the Senate’s “blue slip” custom, which allows senators to block nominees to judgeships associated with their states. 
“It is hard to overstate the change’s importance for the D.C. Circuit, which has a disproportionate impact on the world, but it won’t have overwhelming impact elsewhere,” Kathryn Ruemmler, the White House counsel, said in an interview. “The blue slip rule for judges has been more problematic than the filibuster, in part because it is a silent, unaccountable veto.” . . .  
After the vote to change the filibuster rule, Mr. Leahy reiterated his support for the blue slip rule. Still, he also said he could change his mind if it were abused — without defining “abuse.” . . . 
“Some Democratic appointees may be more attracted to retiring in this window because they have more confidence that Obama will be able to appoint a young successor,” he said. . . .
The "blue slip" rule won't help stop nonjudicial nominations.  I should also note that the "blue slip" rule has been changed in the past.  Sometimes it has required that both Senators from a state use their "blue slip," but at other times it has only required one Senator doing it.

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NBC report on states allowing adults to carry guns onto school grounds

This list misses out on Michigan, which allows open carry by a permit holder on school property.  Ohio also has at least one school district that is allowing staff and teachers to carry concealed handguns.  Whether these restrictions are "minor" seems at least debatable.  Also note that this list is somewhat outdated.  From NBC News earlier this year:
    The Gun-Free School Zones Act of 1990 prohibits anyone from having a firearm in a school zone. But that law includes the same exception recognized by the states identified in NBC News' survey: It doesn't apply if the weapons are "approved by a school in the school zone."
    And in any event, Reps. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., and Steve Stockman, R-Texas, have introduced measures in the new Congress that would repeal the federal law altogether.
    Here are the 18 states that allow adults to carry loaded weapons onto school grounds with few or minor conditions:

    • Alabama (which bans possessing a weapon on school grounds only if the carrier has "intent to do bodily harm")
    • California (with approval of the superintendent)
    • Idaho (with school trustees' approval)
    • Iowa (with "authorization")
    • Kentucky (with school board approval)
    • Massachusetts (with approval of the school board or principal)
    • Montana (with school trustees' permission)
    • New Jersey (with approval from the school's "governing officer")
    • New York (with the school's approval)
    • Oregon (with school board approval)
    • Texas (with the school's permission)
    • Utah (with approval of the "responsible school administrator")
    • Wyoming (as long as it's not concealed)

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    Spanish-language version of the ObamaCare website will not be ready by the end of the month

    From The Hill newspaper:
    The Spanish-language version of the ObamaCare website will not be ready by the end of the month, despite administration assurances that it would be.
    Health and Human Services spokeswoman Joanne Peters told The Associated Press that the administration will launch the Spanish-language version in early December. . . .
    The administration now says it will hold off promoting the Spanish language site until later in the year, saying it wants to gather feedback from advocacy groups after the site launches.
    “We think it's important to engage with key stakeholders and organizations in this process and get their feedback,” Peters told the AP.
    Millions of Latinos remain without health insurance, and their enrollment is considered central to the broader success of the Affordable Care Act. Around three in 10 Latinos are uninsured — more than any other ethnic group.
    In the interim, the administration has said that Spanish-speaking consumers can call the bilingual ObamaCare hotline. . . .

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    NFL runs gun control ads for last two years but refuses to run Super Bowl commercial on "personal protection and fundamental rights"

    But during the 2012 and 2013 Super Bowls, the NFL allowed these gun control ads by Mayor Bloomberg's gun control organization.



    Not only did the gun control group get the ads on TV, but they also got a lot of very friendly news coverage from those ads being on TV (e.g., here, here, and here).

    Here are the NFL rules on "prohibited advertising categories"

    5. Firearms, ammunition or other weapons are prohibited; however, stores that sell firearms and ammunitions (e.g., outdoor stores and camping stores) will be permitted, provided they sell other products and the ads do not mention firearms, ammunition or other weapons.
    But the first ad that the NFL is banning never mentions selling firearms or ammunition.  At the very end of the ad it mentions the name of the company (Daniel Defense) and shows the company logo (a picture of a gun), and Daniel Defense does in fact sell a few products other than guns (apparel and training videos).


    CBS News has a devastating discussion on small businesses dropping insurance because of how Obamacare is increasing insurance prices

    In this piece Sharyl Attkisson notes how the Obama administration knew that small business employees would lose their health insurance because of Obamacare (of course, many large businesses will also be dropping coverage).  Obviously a lot more than the 5 million the administration has recently conceded would be effected.  In 2010, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services estimated Obamacare would "collectively reduce the number of people with employer-sponsored health coverage by about 14 million." Most devastatingly, CBS News reports on two small business owners who are cancelling their worker's insurance because they say they can no longer afford it.

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    Some information on the death penalty

    Here is a summary of research on the deterrence effect of the death penalty from my book Freedomnomics (2007).  The book has a detailed discussion of these papers for those who would like to learn more about this issue.

    Click on the figure to make it larger.


    University of California at Berkeley math instructor dares to cross union picket line to teach class

    From Inside Education:
    What could make a professor more popular than calling off class to support a social movement? At the University of California at Berkeley, an instructor has seen his email message to students about not canceling class go viral -- with largely positive reactions and some criticism as well. 
    Alexander Coward, a lecturer in mathematics, emailed his freshman calculus class last week to confirm that class would not be canceled -- despite a union protest that drew the support of many professors and graduate student instructors who did call off class. 
    "Whatever the alleged injustices are that are being protested about tomorrow, it is clear that you are not responsible for those things, whatever they are, and I do not think you should be denied an education because of someone else’s fight that you are not responsible for,” he wrote in the email. 
    Members of the university’s largest employee union, which represents the university's service, skilled craft and patient care workers, were joined by some faculty members, students and staff in protesting what they consider to be unsafe staffing levels at the University of California’s hospitals and campuses’ health care clinics, said Todd Stenhouse, a spokesman for the union, AFSCME 3299. . . .

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    A copy of the Connecticut Report on shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School

    The report is available here.  Fox News has a discussion here.  The WSJ has its discussion here.  To me the most obvious problem with this report is it seems to downplay how much time and effort the killer put into studying what he needed to do for the attack.



    Colorado Democratic state Sen. Evie Hudak resigns rather than face recall vote

    Resigning the day before Thanksgiving was apparently an attempt at minimizing the negative publicity for the Democratic party, but, more importantly, her resignation allows Democrats to keep her seat without a new election and a committee of county Democrats to appoint her successor.  From the Denver Post:
    Her announcement comes as proponents of the recall were wrapping up a petition drive in which they needed to submit about 18,900 valid signatures to the secretary of state's office. If enough signatures had been ruled valid, Hudak would have been the third Colorado lawmaker to face a recall election this year because of her support for tougher gun laws. . . . 
    Hudak won a tough re-election bid in 2012, winning her northern Jefferson County seat by fewer than 600 votes over Republican Lang Sias. Conventional wisdom said she wouldn't survive a recall if it were put to a vote.
    If that happened, Democrats would lose control of the Colorado Senate; with Morse and Giron gone and Republicans taking their seats, Democrats now only have an 18-17 edge.  . . .
    Gun-rights activists in Colorado and nationally ripped Hudak for her inartful questioning of a rape victim during a hearing in March on a bill to ban weapons on campus. The woman told lawmakers that had she been permitted to use her concealed-carry permit and carry her gun on campus, the e incident may have ended differently.  . . . 


    More fallout from NSAgate, spying risks $35 billion in US Technology Sales, may help totalitarian countries

    Business lost is just a part of the problem.  One of the fallouts from the NSA scandal is that China and Russia may get more support for their control of the internet.  The losers will be the citizens of those countries who will be less able to collect news from outside their countries.  From Bloomberg:
    News about U.S. surveillance disclosed by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden has “the great potential for doing serious damage to the competitiveness” of U.S. companies such as Cupertino, California-based Apple, Facebook Inc., and Microsoft Corp., Richard Salgado, Google’s director for law enforcement and information security, told a U.S. Senate panel Nov. 13. “The trust that’s threatened is essential to these businesses.” 
    The spying revelations have led governments around the world to consider “proposals that would limit the free flow of information,” Salgado said. “This could have severe unintended consequences, such as a reduction in data security, increased cost, decreased competitiveness, and harm to consumers.”  
    Countries such as China and Russia that are seeking to impose more national controls on the Internet are finding their views gaining ground. Rising economic powers, including India, Mexico and South Korea, are weighing further limits. Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff, a target of NSA surveillance, is calling for a new conversation about Internet governance with support from Germany, whose chancellor, Angela Merkel, also was an NSA target.. . .


    NSA spys on internet porn viewing of a Muslim American who was never accused of unlawful activity

    Great, we have a government that is tracking an American's internet porn habits.  No evidence that the person was engaged in any illegal activity.  From the New York Post:
    . . . The top-secret papers  – leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden – show that the NSA monitored porn proclivities of six targets that the NSA claimed are “exemplars” of how “personal vulnerabilities” can be learned through electronic surveillance, and then exploited to undermine the target’s credibility and reputation, according to the Huffington Post, which obtained the documents. 
    None of the six Muslims are accused of being involved in terror plots, and one is described as a “US person,” suggesting the target is a US citizen or legal resident. . . . 
    It is not known if NSA went through with its plans to discredit the Muslims, either publicly or privately.


    More lawlessness: Obama delays another part of Obamacare for a year, Online SHOP

    No discussion about going back to congress to rewrite the law.  Just make up the rules as you go along.  From Politico:
    The Obama administration today announced a year-long delay of online enrollment for small businesses looking to purchase health coverage through federal-run exchanges, another setback for HealthCare.gov. 
    The delay, first reported by POLITICO, comes just weeks after Obama administration officials said the online enrollment for small businesses would be ready by the end of November. The announcement also comes just three days before the White House promises HealthCare.gov will provide a smoother enrollment experience for most users trying to purchase individual and family coverage. Fixing the problems with the individual market has been the White House priority. 
    Small businesses, which have been able to apply for exchange coverage by paper application since Oct. 1, will have alternative sign-up methods, HHS announced Wednesday. Those looking to enroll through small business exchanges, known as SHOP, can sign up through an agent or broker or directly through an insurer. . . .

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    Robber forces an employee to his knees and points gun at the employee's head, stopped by concealed handgun permit holder

    Amazingly, the family of the wounded robber is claiming that the customer, with the concealed handgun permit who may have saved the store employee's life, should have just walked out of the store and ignored what was happening.  From Fox 10 TV in Mobile, Alabama:
    The family of a suspected thief is lashing out after their son was shot during an armed robbery. 
    Relatives of Adric White, 18, believe the Good Samaritan who opened fire should have “just left the store.”   
    FOX10 spoke exclusively with a customer who stepped in to rescue employees held at gunpoint Tuesday, November 12. 
    The Good Samaritan, who we are not identifying, told FOX10 News he was shopping at the Family Dollar on Stanton road when he noticed a masked gunman leading one of the employees to the front of the store. 
    “He had the gun to his head. He had him on his knees,” said the man. “I drew my gun on him and I said 'Hey don't move.' At that point he swung around and before he had a chance to aim the gun at me I fired. I didn’t want to shoot him.” . . . 
    A family member who did not want to be identified said White should have never been shot to begin with. 
    “If his (the customer) life was not in danger, if no one had a gun up to him, if no one pointed a gun at him - what gives him the right to think that it's okay to just shoot someone?” said the relative. “You should have just left the store and went wherever you had to go in your car or whatever.” . . .

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    Media gets it completely wrong on how much money the Federal bailout of GM lost

    The Washington Post has a typical discussion about the costs of the bailout.
    THE OBAMA administration announced Thursday that it would sell its remaining shares in General Motors by the end of the year, heralding an end to the largest direct government bailout of a U.S. industry in modern history. The U.S. government stands to lose $10 billion on its investment, based on GM’s current stock price. Combined with the Treasury Department’s already realized loss of $1 billion on its smaller investment in Chrysler, that brings the total cost to taxpayers of rescuing two of the Detroit Three to $11 billion. 
    Was it worth it? Anyone who claims a definitive answer to that question is not being honest. The government could have spent less on the bailout if it had driven a harder bargain with the autoworkers’ union, which made only modest concessions. But taxpayers would likely have ended up on the hook for a substantial amount anyway. That cost would have to be weighed against the costs of not intervening, which might have resulted in liquidation and a cascade effect throughout the auto industry supply chain. Not even financially healthy Japanese, German and Korean factories could have escaped that unscathed, to say nothing of the surrounding cities and towns. On the other hand, resources not devoted to propping up GM and Chrysler could have found alternative productive uses, perhaps yielding more jobs and other benefits to society in the long run. . . .
    Here is the letter that I sent to the Washington Post:

    Letter 145 words
    Dear Letters Editor: 
    The Washington Post uncritically accepts the Obama administration claim that the GM bailout lost only $10 billion ("Closing the door on the GM investment," 11/23).  But that estimate depends on believing the bailout was limited to $50 billion in TARP funds. 
    The list of funds funneled to GM includes: waiving $45.4 billion in taxes on future profits, exempting all product liability on cars sold before the bailout, and $360 million in stimulus funds.  Other programs are harder to quantify but include some of the $15.2 billion that went to Cash for Clunkers and the $7,500 tax credit for those who buy the Chevy Volt. 
    Take an example.  Suppose the government had waived another $50 billion in GM's tax liabilities before selling GM's stock.  The stock price would surely rise appreciably.  But would doing that then mean the government actually profited from the original bailout?  Hardly. 
    John R. Lott, Jr., Ph.D. 

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    US Supreme Court will decide if the Obamacare contraception mandate “the least restrictive means" of obtaining goal of making contraception available?

    I think that the Obama administration will have a hard time winning the new case going to the Supreme court on contraception mandates.  Supporters of the law will focus on whether the Religious Freedom Restoration Act applies to for profit businesses.  But I would point out that the court has moved towards letting for profit businesses have free speech rights under the First Amendment (see the Citizens United case from 2010).  The Religious Freedom Restoration Act doesn't specifically exempt for profit businesses from coverage.  It talks about "persons," but why should people lose the ability to honor their religious beliefs when they operate a company?  From The Hill newspaper:
    “I think there’s a strong argument that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, in this particular case, would allow Hobby Lobby to deny certain contraception coverage without having to pay the fine that would otherwise be imposed them under the Affordable Care Act,” said Kurt Lash, a constitutional law professor at the University of Illinois.  
    The 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act prevents the government from “substantially burden[ing] a person's exercise of religion” unless it “furthers a compelling governmental interest” and “is the least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” Hobby Lobby, a Christian-owned chain of arts and craft stores, and Conestoga Wood Specialties Corp., a cabinet company owned by Mennonites, argue that the law should prevent them from having to offer their employees contraception as part of their health insurance coverage. The two companies are citing the 1993 law to back their cases.   
    Kennedy wrote the 1993 decision that allowed a Florida Santeria group that performed animal sacrifices to do so despite a local ban on the practice.  
    Under Roberts, the court unanimously ruled in 2006 that a Brazil-based religious sect could use an illegal hallucinogenic drug in their ceremonies, under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.  
    “We already know that there is a majority on the court that not only is willing to uphold and apply [the Religious Freedom Restoration Act] but who in the past has been very skeptical of the government denying claims when they’ve been giving other groups exemptions,” Lash said. It is dangerous to predict the justices' decisions, however, and both of these cases dealt with religious institutions, not for-profit businesses. . . .

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    Michael Bloomberg to spend his billions of dollars on gun control, immigration reform, and "climate change"

    I guess with $27 billion in wealth Bloomberg can afford to take on three big topics like this.  But gun control and immigration seem to be at the top of his list.  From The Hill newspaper:
    [Bloomberg] told reporters he would continue focusing on climate initiatives through his philanthropy.
    But he also held out the prospect of wading directly into congressional races next year. Bloomberg, asked about raising climate change in political contests, initially noted that there’s a “limited number” of things he can focus on, emphasizing gun control and immigration.
    But later Bloomberg added that he would do “everything I can to help those people who want to protect the health of our planet get reelected.” An aide later clarified that Bloomberg is “leaving the door open” to climate-related political work. . . .
    Bloomberg could get involved in political races through his super-PAC or individual donations. 
    He hasn’t been shy about wading into politics. He endorsed President Obama for reelection late in the 2012 campaign, largely on the basis of climate change policy. . . .

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    Obama is finally honoring his promise to bring people together: Israel and Saudi Arabia as well as Republican and Democrats in Congress

    Israel and Saudi Arabia, two long term enemies, are apparently talking to each other about working together on Iran.  Republican and Democrats in Congress are also talking about working together to stop Obama's weakening the sanctions on Iran.  The only problem is that they are coming together to oppose Obama.  This is still not exactly the way that Obama promised to do it.


    Filibusters have fallen under Obama: The media is confusing motions to file for cloture votes with successful filibusters

    Click on figures to enlarge.

    There are three stages in a filibuster fight: file a motion for cloture, a vote on cloture, and whether a cloture is invoked.  In the Senate, a motion must be filed before a cloture vote can take place.  Motions to file for cloture is the measure that the Democrats and the media want everyone to focus on, but the typical discussion averages the numbers across administrations and ignores that this soared before Obama became president.  Indeed, the important point to emphasize is that the increase in motions for cloture occurred when Democrats took control of the Senate in 2007.  What happened was that Democrats decided to file a motion for cloture whenever debates started, even if there was no threat of a filibuster.

    Motion for clotures soared from 68 in 2005-2006 (when Republicans controlled the Senate) to 139 in 2007-2008 (when Democrats controlled the Senate), and they have remained high since then as Democrats have continued to be in control.

    But a motion filed is not a vote on cloture, let alone a successful filibuster.  Indeed, the annual rate of successful filibusters under Obama (15) is actually slightly lower than it was under George W. Bush or Clinton (17 each). 

    The drop is even more pronounced when one looks at the pattern since the Democrats took control of the Senate in 2007.  In 2007-2008 under George W. Bush, there were 51 successful filibusters.  During the next to congresses under Obama those numbers were 28 and 32.  So much for the claim that Obama is being singled out for filibusters.  

    Conclusion: the changes in both motions to file and filibusters are due to the Democrats taking control of the Senate.  And it is not surprising given that Democrats are running the show, the problems were greater for George W. Bush than for Obama.

    The data for this is available here.

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