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Skepticism might be warranted for a Fox News exclusive, especially when it's accompanied by a Republican threatening tar and pitchforks over a non-event.  Last Thursday the vulpine network hyperventilated when it obtained a leaked memo: Obama Eyes Western Land for National Monuments, Angering Some, claiming that

Presidential use of the Antiquities Act is highly controversial because the White House, with the stroke of a pen, can lock up thousands of square miles of federal lands used for timber, ranching, mining and energy development without local input or congressional approval. The Act is generally interpreted to commemorate or protect a specific historical landmark, not prohibit development or deprive local communities of jobs and tax revenues.

Welcome to the Republican outrage machine, working hand in paw with Fox to hurt Western state Democrats.

Every viewer of Ken Burns' documentary knows that the Antiquities Act of 1906 might have originally been written to protect Anazasi ruins from pot hunters, but thanks to language permitting a President to declare objects of "scientific interest," was almost immediately was used by President Theodore Roosevelt chafing at Congressional dawdling to declare large swaths of land off limits to development.  Arches (UT), Grand Canyon (AZ), Grand Teton (WY), and Katmai (AK), among others, all began as national monuments before becoming national parks.  However, there's more to this tale than just inflammatory and misleading writing.

 title=Fox's ire centers on a Department of the Interior memo, headed "internal draft -- not for release," obtained by Rob Bishop (R-UT) and now available on a House Republican website (pdf).  

The memo lists 13 areas in the West, beginning with the San Rafael Swell in Utah, worthy of further evaluation:

Located in South-Central Utah, the San Rafael Swell is a 75 by 40 mile giant dome made of sandstone, shale and limestone -- one of the most spectacular displays of geology in the country. The Swell is surrounded by canyons, gorges, mesas and buttes and is home to eight rare plant species, desert big horns, coyotes, bobcats, cottontail rabbits, badgers, gray and kit fox, and the golden eagle. Visitors to the area can find ancient Indian rock art and explore a landscape with geographic features resembling those found on Mars.

The Bureau of Land Management already manages much of the San Rafael Swell,  in which geology has folded, twisted, and contorted the land.  Miles of waterless slot canyons can be reached only by four wheel drive or very prepared hikers.  No humans live in such inhospitable terrain.  For the practical among us, the San Rafael Swell is bisected by I-70 between its western terminus at Salina and Green River, nearly 100 miles of seductive, steep, sinuous curves, no radio reception, and no motorist services.  (Map, below, credit: San Rafael Swell) The Mars Society, an organization devoted to exploring the Red Planet, selected the Swell to best simulate Mars in setting up a Mars Desert Research Station.  Former Utah governor Mike Leavitt, a Republican, advocated a San Rafael National Monument in 2002, echoing a similar push in the 1930s.  The Swell is also part of a proposed America's Red Rock Wilderness Act.

Bishop, the national parks' worst enemy in Congress, obtained the memo from a mole trusted source and ran to Fox, yelling:

We are taking this seriously. The tar is warming up. The pitchforks are ready.

 title=The Fox story goes on to compare Obama's "land grab" to Clinton's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which infuriated residents, at least until they began to see opportunities for tourism.  

And the Fox story underlines perceived political peril for President Obama, courtesy of a Bush-era source:

The list contains a number of political land mines for the president, according to a former Bush Interior Department appointee familiar with the document who asked to remain anonymous.

"Right now a number of senior officials are going over the report," he told Fox News. "When Clinton did it, most of the West was red states and he didn't have any blowback. Obama has to ask himself, if he chooses a Nevada location, will it hurt (Senator Harry) Reid's re-election. The same is true in almost every (Western) state where Democrats have made serious inroads."

So how far along is the secret land grab?  

Not happening at all, says absolutely everyone not named Bishop.  Utah's governor Gary Herbert met with Ken Salazar to be assured that nothing is being fast-tracked in clandestine meetings. The New York Times reports that the memo was simply a brainstorming session, not a secret at all.  Even the Fox story is honest enough, at its very end, to check with an Interior Department spokesperson, who says (contrary to Bishop): the memo "reflects some brainstorming discussions within [the Bureau of Land Management], but no decisions have been made about which areas, if any, might merit more serious review and consideration."  Just to score cheap political points, Senators Bennett (R-UT) and Hatch (R-UT) and Representative Bishop have introduced a bill requiring Congressional consent before any national monuments are declared in Utah.

All that outrage, all that tar stirred, all those pitchforks collected, for a chimera!  Leaving several interesting if self-evident questions:

How are preliminary brainstorming session memos being leaked to Republicans in Congress known to hate national lands?

Why is Fox aiding Bishop in inflating a brainstorming memo into a secret land grab?

Has this draft internal memo been blown up into an "exclusive" for any purpose other than the purpose of undermining support for Democrats in Western states?

Am I the only one bothered by the threat by a member of Congress to tar and pitchfork a President?

And why on earth shouldn't the San Rafael Swell be a national monument anyway?

Originally posted to RLMiller on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 04:58 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tip canteen? (55+ / 0-)

    Welcome to Hike On!, my weekly series devoted to national parks, outdoor adventures, and politics of same.  Pull up a camp chair, toast a s'more, post photos, whether of Utah's gorgeous red rocks or otherwise, and share stories.  

    I've never claimed to be a leader of the DK eco community

    by RLMiller on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 04:56:28 PM PST

  •  great diary, RL (14+ / 0-)

    What can we do?

    save our democracy!

    by thoughtful3 on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 05:02:03 PM PST

  •  Why not, indeed. (13+ / 0-)

    And why on earth shouldn't the San Rafael Swell be a national monument anyway?

    Thanks for this diary and for your series.  Good work.

    Just when you thought there wasn't a dime's worth of difference between the two parties, the Republicans go and prove you're wrong. Molly Ivins

    by maggiejean on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 05:02:43 PM PST

  •  Understatement of the year. (6+ / 0-)

    Skepticism might be warranted for a Fox News exclusive

    " It's shocking what Republicans will do to avoid being the 2012 presidential nominee."

    by jwinIL14 on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 05:08:31 PM PST

  •  The ancient, the unique, the wild (8+ / 0-)

    deserve protection from the present, the mundane, the tame.

    How to do that is a question -- but do it we must. Otherwise, the stupid, mundane present will find an excuse to turn anything into chum for munching.

    Consumer culture has been demonstrated to be unsustainable. What lessons have we learned?

    Not much funny -- not feeling amusing tonight.

    Humoring the horror of environmental collapse: Now with a free funny/scary book!

    by mwmwm on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 05:08:36 PM PST

  •  That area (18+ / 0-)

    is lovely. I've spent a lot of time there, but not nearly enough.

    Makes for some great photos too.


    The best way to save the planet is to keep laughing!

    by LaughingPlanet on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 05:19:08 PM PST

  •  Is this not the area that Bush (5+ / 0-)

    tried to sell off to miners before he left office? I can only suspect the reason for seeking some type of protection is that some corporation wants to destroy it.

    •  I believe that the area in controversy (7+ / 0-)

      the subject of the midnight leases is closer to Arches and Canyonlands -- unless you're thinking of something else?

      As it turns out, some of the clowns legislators particularly unfamiliar with the concept of federalism want the state to take back the land under Grand Staircase-Escalante because it has rich coal deposits.  A teabaggers' state's rights rally today attracted 250 people.  Ugh.

      I've never claimed to be a leader of the DK eco community

      by RLMiller on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 05:32:09 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  nope, you got what I was thinking of! (6+ / 0-)

        Thanks for the SLT link too! I thought it was interesting at how they were rationalizing raping the land for education and they were going to rape the eduction fund to pay for the lawsuit for getting the land back to rape...Not to mention that the comments didn't seem very supportive of the measure. It appears that the legislature has attempted a land-grab themselves a few times before. Always interesting that it boils down to a shadowy corporation looking to destory a wildlife area and some bought off politicans willing to go along with it. I'm getting so cynical!

  •  We misunderstand (9+ / 0-)

    It's only a "land grab" when a Democrat tries to preserve land, wildlife, or sacred sites.

    When it's sold off to the highest bidder for development or extraction, it's a "national emergency" requiring "privatization in order to maximize an area's full potential", or other such hogwash.

  •  How can it be a land grab (11+ / 0-)

    When it already is public land?

    That's something I never understood about these "rugged individualists" taking advantage of a socialized resource at cut-rate prices.

    50 states, 210 media market, 435 Congressional Districts, 3080 counties, 192,480 precincts

    by TarheelDem on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 05:58:38 PM PST

    •  These "rugged individuals" are afraid... (6+ / 0-)

      that they will lose their "rights".

      I read about this issue yesterday. I followed a link from another blog that took me to an ATV/Off-Roader website that was attempting to rally it's readers about this threat to their right to tear up the back country with their obnoxious machines.

      They were also attempting to alert other "sportsmen" like hunters, snowmobilers, etc. about this alleged threat.

      This crap goes viral pretty quickly.

      "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

      by RonV on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 06:06:48 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Again - (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:

    You have a rather glib way of glossing over local opposition to national monument designation in southern Utah.

    The Fox story goes on to compare Obama's "land grab" to Clinton's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which infuriated residents, at least until they began to see opportunities for tourism.

    Certainly, one can find websites that promote Grand Staircase Escalante N.M. - as your link to the website for the village of Boulder does.

    But you seem to have missed the profound and continuing opposition of Kane County to the monument and its regulations - especially regarding access. Kane County continues to pursue a federal court case for access and has filed suit for road ownership.

    Now, one does not necessarily have to agree with the actions taken by Kane County to recognize the extreme hostility to Grand Staircase Escalante N.M still evident 14 years after its designation.

    The problem is not protection of important public lands, but the manner in which it is done. The reason that the Red Desert in Wyoming cannot be designated a national monument is because of the massive blowback that happened when FDR designated the Jackson Hole National Monument in 1943. Opinion has, of course, changed on that designation - but the monument designation process now has a permanent exclusion for Wyoming because of the process.

    Furthermore, tourism jobs cannot compete with extractive jobs. Tourism jobs are usually seasonal, low-paying, and lacking benefits - while extractive jobs are some of the highest-paying, benefitted jobs in the rural West.  Not to mention the significant royalty monies that go to rural counties.

    For better or worse, and most here would say for better, national monument designation eliminates additional extractive uses and gradually closes out those that exist at the time of designation. Given that many of these counties in the West are some of the poorest counties in their respective state - it is a question that should be addressed.

    Median household income, 2008
    Utah - $56,820
    Kane County - $45,337
    Nevada - $56,432
    Nye County - $43,463

    Addressed in greater detail than an offhand remark.

    •  not pissing on your comment (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RonV, RunawayRose, RLMiller

      but the median household income in Kane County IL (collar county of Chicago) in 2008 was $66,638. I can almost guarentee that the rate of living is quite a bit higher than Utah, Nevada, New Mexico, and Wyoming and I know our taxes are higher (IL has the highest tax code in the country). So, while I appreciate the lack of decent employment, I do not think those numbers listed bear out "poor" counties in the sense of what I would consider poor (the entire state of Alabama had a median income in 2008 of $42,666; Mississippi, $37,790, the entire state...).

    •  You're welcome to write a diary on those (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RonV, RunawayRose, MKSinSA, Ebby, yawnimawke

      subjects.  My diary is about Rob Bishop's and Fox News' tactics in manufacturing outrage.

      I've never claimed to be a leader of the DK eco community

      by RLMiller on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 06:37:28 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  No - - (0+ / 0-)

        A diary posted on Daily Kos is subject to discussion of the underlying assumptions and any errors in fact.  Diarists do not exert editorial control.

        Most of your diaries are emotional appeals - and quite effective.  

        We are taking this seriously.
        The tar is warming up.
        The pitchforks are ready.

        But in making the claims that you do - in this case new national monument designations - you are avoiding many salient issues - political, cultural, and economic - that are essential to an understanding of the issue.

        You simply cannot sweep them away with a wave of the wand -
        Here on DKos or in the larger political discussion.

        •  You think your points are relevant to some (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RonV, RunawayRose, Ebby

          story (about Kane County economics?) in your mind.  Please write that diary.  I don't think your points are relevant to my diary about Bishop and Fox News.  You can bring them up in the comments and be accused of threadjacking, or you can write your own diary.

          I will also note that this is the second national parks diary of mine in two weeks in which you've posted tangential points, made derogatory comments  ("glib") and offbase accusations, and generally been disruptive.  Your comments in my diary about Yellowstone wolves clearly showed that you bore a grudge arising out of an exchange of comments on an entirely unrelated matter, i.e., the difference between climate skeptics and climate deniers -- you even linked to the comment.  I will repeat the offer made in the Yellowstone wolves diary: I welcome constructive comments on the topic at hand.

          I've never claimed to be a leader of the DK eco community

          by RLMiller on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:15:24 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  I suspect that he either .... (2+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            RunawayRose, RLMiller

            has a reading comprehension disorder, or he has some need to visit your posts with the express intent of hijacking them in order to demonstrate his mastery of the James Watt philosophy of land "management".

            Either way, the question becomes whether to ignore him or engage in his little games.

            "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

            by RonV on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:24:08 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

            •  Pardon - (0+ / 0-)

              But I got an 800 on my language section of the GREs.
              So you can stuff your snark, thank you very much.

              Did the diarist include the following?

              The Fox story goes on to compare Obama's "land grab" to Clinton's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which infuriated residents, at least until they began to see opportunities for tourism.


              One of the most infuriating things for people who are opposed to something is for others to dismiss their objections out of hand.  That is what the diarist did with regards to the people of southern Utah - imply by one measly web link that they are now converted to the idea of Grand Staircase Escalante.

              It is a practice that she uses in many diaries - dismissing, out of hand, the concerns of local people.

              And, yes,
              IT IS RELEVANT.

              PS - I really get tired of the nastiness of many commenters. I have done doctoral work under one of the leading environmental historians and have worked consistently for environmental responsibility.

              Unlike many of the posters here, I actually live in the rural West and have studied these communities intensely.

              But as is so often the case - facts on the ground, the concerns of those directly impacted, a nuanced understanding  - mean nothing to many people here who prefer to address this complex issue with simplistic put downs.

              •  johnnygunn's points are valid (2+ / 0-)
                Recommended by:
                RunawayRose, johnnygunn

                Like it or not this issue is white hot here in the west. Clinton's designation of the Grand Staircase (something that I'm happy to have, BTW) sealed the deal for Republican rule in Utah for years.

                Clinton had his famous photo-op in Arizona, not Utah. He didn't even get close to the Monument he just created, nor did he even give a head's up to Bill Orton the lone Dem congressman here. Orton was swept away in a landslide in the next election.

                Utah is a hard case, but the best way to get land saved is to get the locals on board. During the Clinton admin. people in Emery County worked to put a plan together that combined wilderness, protected access, and industry in the San Rafael Area. Local enviromentalists fought for more land and tied it up for the duration of Clinton's term. Guess what happened next?

                Utah's politicians are way out there, beyond even the people and that's saying something. They want the National Parks back for gawd's sake!

                If you deal with the local issues and talk with the locals you find that many of them want to protect the land that they love, but they need something to live on, too.

                "Take it back, take it back. Oh no you can't say that. All of my friends are not dead or in jail." John Prine

                by high uintas on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 09:23:20 PM PST

                [ Parent ]

                •  No argument with any of this.... (2+ / 0-)
                  Recommended by:
                  RunawayRose, high uintas

                  The Grand Staircase-Escalante NM announcement was badly managed.  And if Obama ever gets serious about declaring NMs in Utah or elsewhere, he needs to work with the locals.  As I noted above in a comment, the ARRWA is doomed for lack of a local sponsor.  Leavitt probably had the best chance to get the San Rafael Swell named, and even then it didn't go through.  

                  I'm only taking issue with johnnygunn's confrontational approach, apparently stemming from a fixation on a comment made months ago on an unrelated subject.

                  I've never claimed to be a leader of the DK eco community

                  by RLMiller on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 10:28:31 PM PST

                  [ Parent ]

                  •  I see. I didn't understand the anger (1+ / 0-)
                    Recommended by:

                    I thought johnnygunn felt surrounded and I really did think he was making a valid point. Sorry to jump into a personal whatever.

                    I agree with you about Leavitt, but then what did he ever do right? If groups like SUWA engage with locals I do believe that a good thing could happen for the Swell. A lot of the people who worked to save Nine Mile Canyon, just north of the Swell are people from the area. They know how valuable this land is.

                    "Take it back, take it back. Oh no you can't say that. All of my friends are not dead or in jail." John Prine

                    by high uintas on Wed Feb 24, 2010 at 12:45:37 PM PST

                    [ Parent ]

        •  I don't think you read the diary. (3+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          RunawayRose, Ebby, RLMiller

          Or, perhaps you did and you still insist on trying to hijack it.

          But, then again, that's pretty much what you do in these diaries.

          "I was so easy to defeat, I was so easy to control, I didn't even know there was a war." -9.75, -8.41

          by RonV on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:15:55 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Did the Diarist Say - (0+ / 0-)

            The Fox story goes on to compare Obama's "land grab" to Clinton's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, which infuriated residents, at least until they began to see opportunities for tourism.

            And is that a broad suggestion that local people come around once they've seen the results?

            Thus, my comment is relevant - not just to the larger issue of national monument designation - but specifically to the region of southern Utah where there is ongoing and bitter opposition to Grand Staircase Escalante N.M. 14 years after designation.

            Actually, it is y'all who seek to define the terms of discussion to your liking, then put your fingers in your ears and scream "I can't hear you!"

    •  Extractive jobs (4+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      RonV, RunawayRose, Ebby, RLMiller

      are dominated by big corporations that often have to truck in skilled workers from other areas - workers that then demand rights to the land even though they are fairly recent transplants.

      I am from a highly contentious timber area and I can assure you, extractive industries are only healthy for a community when they are part of a more diverse economy. Otherwise they are always exploitive and anti-democratic in some way.

      As for those great benefits? Tell that to the employees of former Pacific Lumber company, which raided their pension funds and constantly threatened to lay them off at christmas if every last redwood wasn't cut down.

      On that same example, Rio Dell, California, had double digit unemployment all through the 80's and early 90's, when Pacific Lumber, located there, was cutting at a totally unsustainable pace. So those great "jobs" didn't really lead to anything good for the overall community.  The unemployment rate in that region actually went down when the timber harvests were cut back and final environmental agreements were signed.

      Tourism is one part of the long term picture there and has increased due to the establishment of parks.

      In the end, the assumption that we should destroy America's natural treasures to keep what in many cases amounts to no more than a few hundred people - many of them transplants - in a job in a remote place is bizarre. It is not how it has always worked.

      Near my hometown is a ghost town called Falk. That town once had 10,000 people. Then the timber ran out. And the people went away. That is how extractive industries always worked, until the "you have a right to a permanent job on this spot always" belief popped up - and it popped up as a tool of the corporations to justify total destruction of the local environment.

  •  Sounds eerily reminiscent of Hannity's foulup (7+ / 0-)

    over no longer existent water restrictions.

    Broadcasting live from California's Central Valley (in September 2009), Sean Hannity continued his oft-repeated attack ... claiming the restrictions are "drying up this once fertile area" and calling on President Obama to "turn this water on now." But according to the Department of the Interior, the pumping restrictions ended on June 30 and have been returning to capacity since

    Or as financier Bernard Baruch once said, "Every man has a right to be wrong in his opinions.  But no man has a right to be wrong about his facts." FOX has manufactured its very own set of faux facts to serve up alongside its faux outrage.

    Haiti is in crisis. Have you dropped your dime yet? Text Haiti to 90999!

    by MKSinSA on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 06:31:18 PM PST

  •  nice RLMiller. another component to (6+ / 0-)

    the story was that Hatch dialed up Rahm and gave him an "earful" as well.

    White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel received an earful from Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch on Friday, one day after a leaked administration memo indicated the president was considering naming two new national monuments in the state.

    Hatch's office said the senator called Emanuel to complain about the potential unilateral action and Emanuel promised to provide an official response after consulting with Interior Secretary Ken Salazar.

    "I made very clear to him that if the Administration goes down this road, it will meet absolute outrage and opposition from across the state and from me representing Utah in the United States Senate," Hatch said in a statement.

    blah blah blah

    Johnnygunn upthread is correct about the backlash after the escalante designation. the libertarians here went batshit. I for one think the swell is better off protected. there is a lot of drilling in the area.

    In keeping with the hike on theme, here is my daughter, oh so many years ago, in her niche in the swell.
    chloe's niche

    "For the cost of deploying one soldier for one year, it is possible to build about 20 schools." N. Kristof

    by UTvoter on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 07:12:24 PM PST

  •  The Republican Party's changed... (7+ / 0-)

    ... more than a little since back in the day when Teddy Roosevelt was protecting public lands like mad by similar means.

    Grab all the joy you can. (exmearden, 8/30/09)

    by Land of Enchantment on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:26:34 PM PST

  •  The Great Basin is on my bucket list (6+ / 0-)

    Spouse keeps pointing out the Toyota, or Tie-yoda as it was pronounced today at the hearing my Michiganders, camper for sale on the way to work. Now visible again since some snow had melted.

    Desert Solitaire was my introduction to fellow Appalachian Edward Abbey's writings

    Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices -- François-Marie Arouet

    by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 08:33:04 PM PST

    •  Great Basin area is gorgeous but hard to grasp: (4+ / 0-)

      A lot of smallish ranges running north to south, managed by the BLM, and very small, poor, time-passed-by towns in between.  My kid remembers Baker, NV, at the foot of Great Basin NP, as the worst dump of a town he'd ever seen in his life.  Driving up US 93, we took over-and-under bets on how many minutes between seeing living creatures.  You have a real sense of splendid, rugged isolation.  Then the unexpected sights -- a NV state park, Great Basin NP itself -- are even more unexpected.  

      I've never claimed to be a leader of the DK eco community

      by RLMiller on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 09:38:44 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  The CA part of me (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        RunawayRose, RLMiller

        is Kern County, CA, Indian Wells Valley, second valley to the West of Death Valley, south of Dunmovin. There were sidewinder tracks on the tether ball court some mornings at elementary school.

        Anyone who has the power to make you believe absurdities has the power to make you commit injustices -- François-Marie Arouet

        by CA Berkeley WV on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 10:55:58 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

  •  Sometimes 'locals' shouldn't be the 'deciders' (3+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    RunawayRose, princesspat, RLMiller

    If locals want to allow ATVs and dirt bikes to run amok, destroying the fragile desert, or if they want big oil and gas to f*ck up OUR public lands, then maybe 'outsiders' should take charge.

    Don't like National Monument rules? Then stay the f*ck out of the monuments.

    Escalante Grand Staircase. I'm sure this would look better with dirt bikes flyin' off it.

    Along the San Rafael Swell - maybe a big gas well could go here?

    "When the well is dry, we know the worth of water." - Poor Richard's Almanac

    by desertguy on Tue Feb 23, 2010 at 09:49:45 PM PST

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