Day: September 9, 2019

Juneau Man Solves Mystery Of Governors Mansion Photo

first_imgThe mystery of a picture found in the attic of the Alaska Governor’s Mansion has been solved, thanks to a Juneau resident.Terry VanLeuven owns the original black and white picture of the late President John F. Kennedy shaking hands with a smartly dressed little boy.Gov. Parnell and Terry VanLeuven with Kennedy picture. (Governor’s office photo)Gov. Sean Parnell’s office last week asked the public if anyone could identify the child, thinking he was an Alaskan. During the 1960 presidential election, JFK made a campaign stop in Alaska.When VanLeuven saw the picture in the Juneau Empire last week, he called the governor’s office and KTOO. He met with Parnell on Monday to tell him the story.VanLeuven’s late wife took the picture when Kennedy was in Oregon, probably during a 1960 campaign stop. The boy in the picture is Brian Kennedy, who was 8-years-old at the time and the son of a Myrtle Point, Ore. logging family.VanLeuven moved from Oregon to Alaska 33 years ago, and brought the picture with him. It still hangs in his home.In 1986, he gave a framed copy to newly elected Gov. Steve Cowper. He had his 21-year-old daughter Tracy present it to Cowper at the annual Christmas open house at the governor’s mansion.Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow says the picture will go to the Alaska State Museum and be included in the Cowper collection.VanLeuven, who will be 76 in August, says he was really happy to hear that during his meeting Monday with Gov. Parnell. “Almost made me cry. I have no idea how that picture stayed with me 50 years in all the places I’ve been all over Alaska and some of the stuff I left behind, but I had that picture,” he says. “I guess that picture meant a lot to me or something, because I never lost it, you know.”VanLeuven says the original picture was taken at the community building in Coquille, Ore.Kennedy was the 35th U.S. president, elected in November 1960.  He was assassinated on Nov. 22, 1963 in Dallas, Texas.last_img read more

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Seafood Plants Offset Wage Hike Through Room Board

first_imgA machine slices Pacific cod at Alyeska Seafoods while processors create fillets. (Annie Ropeik/KUCB)In the next few weeks, thousands of seafood processors will return to Unalaska for pollock B season. They’ll be earning more money, thanks to the state’s minimum wage hike — but they’ll also be paying more to live.Added room & board costs are just one way processing plants are hoping to offset the wage increase.Alyeska and Westward Seafoods have never charged for room & board. But on June 1, president Mark Johanson says that’ll change.“This has been a very, very hard, soul-searching decision for us,” he says. “We’ve been trying to buck the trend, and make it a reasonable and a good place for people to work. The work is hard and challenging, and we understand that … but because of global competition and pressures, we have had to unfortunately make that decision.”They’re implementing the state’s maximum room & board charge of $15 a day at their shoreside plants in Unalaska. Johanson says it comes out to about a dollar of every hour’s wages, including overtime. Since the minimum wage also went up a dollar this year, he says the changes are a wash, for now.“And then, of course, as of Jan. 1, [2016], the minimum wage will increase again by a dollar,” he says “So there is no remedy on room & board — we’ll just need to either eat that cost or find other ways to become more efficient in our operation.”Johanson’s also worried about the $1 to $4 million cost of adding employee health coverage under the Affordable Care Act. So in the long term, he’s hoping to pare down, and automate more of their processing lines.That’s going to happen at UniSea, too. Unalaska’s biggest seafood processor has plans to shrink its pollock operations back into one factory in the next few years.They’re also upping their room & board charge. It’s started at $10 a day for the past couple of years, decreasing the more a processor works. But this spring, facing a $3 million cost bump from minimum wage, president Tom Enlow says they’ve gone to the upper limit, too.“We’re not really in a position to just take that cost — any cost increase, for that matter — and pass it onto our customers,” he says.That’s because they’re working with set market prices for seafood, where costs are shared between the harvesters and the processors. Since the wage hike impacts the processors, Enlow says they may want to renegotiate those price formulas down the line.But for now, room & board is their first line of defense, along with some cuts to staffing. That’s come through the natural attrition Enlow says they see at the start of every season.“There’s always going to be a certain amount of workers that come up and say ‘Oh, I had no idea I was going to have to work all day,’ and they end up leaving,” he says.This year, UniSea wanted to see how low they could go. They didn’t rehire for those empty jobs, and went through A season about 80 people short.“Our crab and cod throughput always suffers when our headcount is down below a certain number, and we certainly saw that take place this year,” he says. “But it’s just all in an effort to try to hold those costs down.”In pollock B season — which covers 60 percent of the year’s huge quota — they’ll move staff around and focus on producing surimi. Right now, there’s a better market for the imitation crab product than there is for fillets.Over at Alyeska and Westward, president Mark Johanson says they’re keeping their headcount the same for now. In fact, they’ve had to work harder than normal to recruit to fill those jobs.With higher wages up against room & board costs, and an improving job market down south, Johanson says it’s not as easy as it once was lure new processors up to Alaska.last_img read more

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Report Polar bears fate tied to reversing global warming

first_imgIf humans don’t reverse global warming and stop the loss of sea ice, it’s unlikely polar bears will continue as a species.That’s the blunt assessment in the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s draft recovery plan for polar bears filed Thursday. The agency listed the animals as threatened in 2008.Greenhouse gas emissions contribute to global warming, which is reducing the amount of summer sea ice in the Arctic. Polar bears use sea ice for feeding, mating and giving birth.The plan says the first and foremost action for polar bear recovery is to stop Arctic warming. It says accomplishing that will require global action.The estimated worldwide population of polar bears is about 20,000 to 25,000. The only U.S. state with the iconic animals is Alaska, and government scientists say those bears could be among the first to see global warming’s ill effects.last_img read more

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Substance abuse lack of treatment a top MatSu health concern

first_imgThe rise in drug use in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough is prompting community action against addiction, and local health officials say that counteracting the spread of drug use is everybody’s business.Download AudioImage by Eric Molina via Wikimedia CommonsMat-Su Health Foundation sponsored a community discussion Monday evening, centered on the problems of drug and alcohol addiction.A panel of medical, law enforcement and behavioral health experts gathered to answer questions from a live audience on how communities can address the growing rate of addiction.The personal devastation of heroin use was illustrated poignantly through voices on a video prepared by the Health Foundation:“Substance abuse has affected my life since I was a child”, one woman said. “It caused me to get a 20-year prison sentence.”Other voices chimed in “… not knowing where my son is, whether he is alive or dead” … “well my brother is also an addict, his children’s mother is an addict, so we are raising our nieces and nephews as well”…. “I have no words, I can’t explain the feeling, the hopelessness” …” I can remember a friend telling me the first time I tried oxycodone, ‘don’t do it, because you will never go back to anything else.’ When the pills ran out, I turned to heroin…” Heroin in the Mat-Su-HD from matsuhealthfoundation on Vimeo.According to a Health Foundation survey, Mat-Su heroin use is about twice the national average — 0.4 percent of residents use heroin. Alaska State Trooper Joe Minor, who works graveyard shift along with a K-9 partner, says 70 percent of his law enforcement activity is linked to drug abuse.“Any night of the week, right now, within seven to ten traffic stops, I can find heroin.”Although heroin is cheaper than oxycodone, Minor says current street prices for a tenth of an ounce of the drug actually make heroin more expensive than gold.“I’ve never found a burglary that wasn’t linked to drugs, I’ve never found a robbery that wasn’t linked to addiction of some sort.”Dr. Jay Butler, the state’s chief medical officer, told the audience that inappropriate use of opiate pain killers, and use of heroin, has doubled in the past decade nationally, and that Alaska is not immune to the epidemic. And, Butler says, opiate addiction is viewed now as a public health problem, where as earlier it was labeled a behavioral health problem.Dr. Melissa Kemberling, director of programs at the Health Foundation,  and a trained epidemiologist, says the role of alcohol abuse should not be overlooked in heroin addiction.“Alcohol is the drug that wreaks the most havoc in our community. And we don’t have adequate treatment for alcohol abuse and treatment, as well as the other drugs.”“Of the 14 overdose deaths that have occurred from 2008 to 2015 in Mat-Su, about half of them had alcohol involved.” Kemberling says.She says about 6,200 adults in Mat Su are either in drug abuse treatment, or should be. And more than 700 youth are at risk for becoming addicted to drugs.But are there enough treatment facilities in the Mat-Su? Kemberling says no.“We have no detox in the Valley. We have 14 beds in Anchorage, and that is not adequate for the whole Southcentral population.”Those beds are at the Ernie Turner Center, which is operated by Cook Inlet Tribal Council.  Rebecca Ling with CITC says it costs about $500 a day for one detox bed, and funding cuts have reduced the availability of those beds.Alcohol detox is a life-threatening process, and must be medically monitored, but heroin detox is not life threatening. Kemberling says many heroin addicts can be treated as outpatients, but as it is, the response to Mat-Su drug users in crisis is provided by non-profits, which receive state grant funding.“The services exist or not, depending on whether or not they get funded, not on the needs of our residents.”Bradley Grigg, a treatment and recovery manager with the state’s division of behavioral health, says that state grants fund opioid treatment services and detox beds. He says of the $65 million in statewide treatment and recovery grants spent this year, $28 million went to substance abuse services.  And he says his department’s budget has diminished by $9 million since 2008.Access to residential treatment for recovering addicts is limited in Mat Su as well. One facility, Nugen’s Ranch, has 26 beds for recovering addicts, but none for those needing to detoxify before entering treatment.Kemberling says the various threads of response to addiction don’t always weave together. She says the Health Foundation can work as a coordinator of the complex network of crisis response, medical treatment and behavioral therapy necessary to help an addict recover.The Health Foundation has published two reports assessing Borough health needs pointing to substance abuse as the number one target. Kemblering says a third report will address prevention.“Nobody focused upstream on prevention, and that is where we think we can come in as well, to make sure they don’t develop these addictions. A lot of our work is to try to address child maltreatment, which can lead to substance abuse later in life.”Addiction is how many people deal with pain, and the childhood trauma that causes it. She says, “We have to start dealing with the pain.”last_img read more

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Iditarod Committee Beals will not compete in 2017 race following domestic violence

first_imgThe Iditarod Trail Committee Board released a statement today regarding rules related to musher conduct. Recent reports of domestic violence charges against musher Travis Beals have prompted Iditarod officials to disallow any 2017 application from Beals.Download AudioThe statement says Beals will be out of the Iditarod for 2017 and for an ‘indefinite period of time thereafter saying the duration will be dependent on successful completion of court ordered rehabilitation.24 year old Beals was in court in Palmer on Tuesday for a domestic violence charge that was filed before the 2016 Iditarod race. In an earlier, May 2015 domestic violence assault charge, he pleading guilty to a lesser offense.last_img read more

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Anchorage voters opt for bonds more liberal Assembly

first_imgChristopher Constant on a victory lap at Election Central in Anchorage’s Denai’ina Center (Photo – Zachariah Hughes)In Anchorage’s municipal elections Tuesday, liberals gained an edge in the Assembly, and residents supported all but one bond measure put forward passed. Voters also opted to shake up the taxi industry. Amid low turnout, it was candidates and causes aligned with the current administration that won the day.Listen nowAt Election Central Tuesday night, inside a conference room on the second floor of the Downtown Anchorage’s Denai’ina Convention Center, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz watched results scroll past on a projector screen.“I’m looking at numbers,” Berkowitz explained. “Right now, I’m looking to see which precincts have come in to get a sense of how much change you expect to see.”It was still early in the night, with just under half the votes counted, but the results looked good for Berkowitz’s administration. At stake in the Assembly elections was the kind of relationship the representative body will have with the mayor’s office. But Berkowitz was paying just as much attention to the ballot initiatives, projected on a second nearby screen. Voters appeared to be on track to pass almost all of the bonds put forward by the administration, more than $100 million for schools, infrastructure, park upkeep and public safety facilities.“I think the fact that the bonds are in strong position is a good indication the people of Anchorage feel confident about the direction of the economy,” Berkowitz said.There were few surprises in the six Assembly races, with incumbents Tim Steele and Pete Petersen holding seats in West and East Anchorage (respectively), and former lawmaker Fred Dyson winning an open seat in the Eagle River/Chugiak district.But progressive candidates won by large margins in the downtown and midtown races. As results poured in, so did supporters from victorious campaigns, giving brief cheers and waving signs before milling around tables.In somewhat of an upset, a liberal-leaning political newcomer, Suzanne LaFrance, narrowly won the South Anchorage seat that’s traditionally been held by conservative representatives. LaFrance was a bit surprised by the results, but thinks the positive tone in her campaign and a well-spring of late support the last few weeks helped efforts.“We had a lot of folks who definitely hit the ground, door-to-door and lit dropping, getting the word out on social media and word of mouth,” LaFrance said during a brief interview, flanked by two of her three children. “If you look at the folks who contributed financially to the campaign it’s a very broad-based group.”The results nudge the 11-member body slightly more to the left of where it currently sits.The Assembly will also see its first two openly gay members, Felix Rivera in the midtown district and Christopher Constant downtown.“We’ve seen a sea-change in the last four years in this town,” Constant said. “It’s time. There’s a saying in the LGBT political community, it’s ‘If you don’t have a seat at the table, you’re probably being served.’ It’s long past the time when we were being served.”At just under 20 percent, turnout across the municipality was low, even by the standards of municipal elections. In the downtown and Eagle River districts, less than 16 percent of eligible voters showed up. The south Anchorage race, however, was up around 25 percent turnout.Even though Assembly races are technically non-partisan, political groups from both sides put resources behind candidates. The Alaska Young Democrats aimed efforts at door-knocking and phone-banking for progressive candidates in every district, according to Joshua Spring, who is in charge of organizing volunteers. He was quick to caution that the victories were not from enormous volunteer or voter mobilizations. Involvement, like turnout, was hardly massive.“I’ve made probably about 250 volunteer request calls this cycle, and the main thing that I think I heard was people feeling burnt out after the last cycle in November,” Spring said. “But the people that are here and are involved are hyper-involved.”Progressive candidates for one of the two school board seats split the vote, and former Republican state senator Dave Donley won by a large margin. In the second race, Andy Holleman is up by just 58 votes over Kay Schuster with one precinct not yet counted, making results too close to call.One bright spot for conservatives was the failure of ballot measure 2, which had to do with attaching 14 staff positions to the operations of two new ambulances, a provision that would have cost $23 million over ten years.“That’s extreme,” former mayor Dan Sullivan said. He was part of a campaign effort to defeat the proposition. “I think that was a mistake by the administration to put that out there like that. If you think that these ambulances are something that’s that vital, they could have rolled it into the regular budget.”In a proposition about the future of the taxi industry, voters rejected a move to keep the current system, and opted to open up the permitting process. The move will put more cabs on the road in the next few years.last_img read more

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Alaska tribes health organizations join opioid suit

first_imgEmergency services respond to a call in downtown Juneau in winter of 2016. There have been nearly 70 fatal opioid overdoses in Alaska over a recent 12-month period. (File photo by David Purdy/KTOO)Alaska Native tribes and tribal health organizations have joined a federal lawsuit against the prescription drug industry over the opioid crisis.Listen nowAlaska Natives and Native Americans as a whole are fatally overdosing at a higher rate than the rest of the U.S. population. That’s according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.Rob Sanderson, Jr. is a leader on the executive committee of Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska. He said addiction often starts on prescription drugs. When the supply of prescription pills runs out they turn to the street.“You see people that you would never have thought would get addicted to heroin,” Sanderson said. “It’s everywhere. You see it with the rich, the poor – the in-between – you see everybody.”Nearly 450 tribes have filed briefs in support of the plaintiffs in a lawsuit against the opioid industry.“This is an epidemic and a crisis that is devastating Indian Country proportionally, to a much a greater degree than the crisis is having an impact in other parts of the country,” said Geoffrey Strommer, a Portland, Oregon-based attorney helping direct the tribes’ efforts.Legal experts say the federal multi-district litigation filed in Ohio involves more than a dozen states and thousands of municipalities – and now hundreds of tribes.“And that’s different from some of the other large-scale litigations that people have compared this case to, most notably tobacco litigation,” said Adam Zimmerman, a law professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles. He said that 1998 settlement ordered the tobacco industry to pay states more than $200 billion over 25 years.But much of that settlement went to state coffers.Alaska’s Attorney General’s office filed its own lawsuit after Gov. Bill Walker declared a public health emergency over opioids last year.Zimmerman says it’s clear tribal councils don’t want to leave it up to the states if and when it comes time to share any global settlement.“They note how tribal sovereignty is very, very, very different,” Zimmerman said, “than the kind of relationships between a city and a state government or the state and the federal government and how important it is that they have a seat at the table.”Tribal health organizations in Alaska have also filed suit.The Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium – known as SEARHC – operates clinics in at least 20 communities down Alaska’s panhandle. It was among several tribal health organizations in Alaska that joined last month as a plaintiff.Strommer said tribal health organizations are on the front lines.“SEARHC, just like other health providers in the state, has seen an increase in resource allocation focused on addressing the impacts of the opioid crisis,” Strommer said.The increasingly complex opioid lawsuit is in the hands of a federal judge in Cleveland.With the list of plaintiffs growing by the week, it could even surpass the 1998 tobacco settlement to become the largest lawsuit in U.S. history.last_img read more

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Fish and Game seeks to understand genetic differences between pink salmon populations

first_imgHomer-based Fish and Game biologists Glenn Hollowell and Ted Otis started tracking hatchery fish found in wild streams around Kachemak Bay in 2014. That was when Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association’s Tutka Bay Lagoon Hatchery reopened after several years.They wanted to examine how well the hatchery pinks homed back to the Kachemak Bay facility, but they found something strange: salmon from other hatcheries.“When we initially started doing this, we were not anticipating finding any Prince William Sound fish in our samples whatsoever. It was just not something we even considered,” Hollowell explained. ”We were very surprised to find that a number of our streams had very significant double digit numbers [of Prince William Sound hatchery fish] in 2014.”The Prince William Sound pinks keep showing up each year, and just the idea that hatchery pinks could stray so far has heated up a dispute over the potential harm on wild runs – namely whether they could alter the genetics of wild populations in a way that would threaten their survival rate.That caught the attention Fish and Game’s top salmon geneticist Chris Habicht in Anchorage. His lab has processed thousands of samples of both wild and hatchery Prince William Sound pinks through the department’s Alaska Hatchery Research Project. At a recent Alaska Board of Fisheries meeting, he told KBBI that biologists are just starting to understand pink salmon’s genetic variation.“So one of the things we’re doing in the study is trying to understand how related populations are to each other, and in particular in Prince William Sound where there’s a big hatchery program, we’re trying to identify variation among populations,” Habicht said.The hatchery-wild research project found genetic variation in Prince William Sound: that means there are distinct populations. However, it’s unclear how much hatcheries are a factor.Habicht said pinks in Kodiak and upper Cook Inlet are distinctly different from both hatchery and wild Prince William Sound pinks. He’s hoping to explore that variation in his own smaller study.“The big question is where does that break occur?” Habicht noted. “So, the first thing we need to do and collect fish from lower Cook Inlet, and what we’re interested in doing is collecting fish that span from lower Cook Inlet up into upper Cook Inlet.”Habicht said the project still lacks the necessary funding it needs to fully assess whether Prince William Sound hatchery pinks straying into lower Cook Inlet streams could alter the genetics of wild stocks.But he’s still committed to the project. He plans to walk the banks of the Anchor River this summer, picking up dead specimens for further study. A group of researchers from the Prince William Sound Science Center sample pink salmon carcasses near Cordova as part of Fish and Game’s Alaska Hatchery Research Project. (Photo by Aaron Bolton, KBBI)What happens when wild salmon interbreed with hatchery fish?A study by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game looking at chum and pink salmon runs in Southeast and Prince William Sound is expanding to help biologists understand the interplay between wild runs and hatchery strays. There is concern that hatchery fish could alter the genetics of wild populations, posing a threat to their survival.last_img read more

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Fishing regulations on the Kuskokwim Do they restrict Yupik culture or preserve

first_img“They tell us to rely on other species of fish, but the king salmon is so much of who we are as Yup’ik people,” Smith says. “It’s them trying to assimilate us to what they think we should be.” Mayor of Akiak, Bobby Williams, reels in his net with his daughter Margaret. (Photo by Greg Kim, KYUK – Bethel) Akiak Elder, Lillian Lliaban, remembers a time sacrifice paid off: “Twenty years ago, they closed the moose down for five years and people were yapping this and that, ‘we’re gonna starve, blah blah blah.’ And the moose is everywhere now.”  “Even though we’re asked about what we want, it falls on deaf ears,” Smith says. “Our young men can’t go out and provide for their families, so they get depressed and they go out and going into addiction, drugs, alcohol, all that,” Smith says. But Born says that Akiak is just one of many villages that he needs to be listening to when deciding regulations. “One person’s voice is important, but it needs to be balanced with the needs of everyone up and down the river.” In between drifts, Akiak Mayor Bobby Williams checks on his set net with his younger daughter Margaret. There are no fish, but there is something else unexpected attached to his net. A warning from the Alaska State Troopers for improperly marking his buoy.   Born manages the Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, and he holds weekly meetings with representatives from villages along the Kuskokwim to talk about the regulations. He says that there are other forums to communicate with him, like their website, Facebook, and KYUK’s Talkline.  Kimberly Smith (left) and Katie Phillip (right) cut fish with their kids while talking about the history and future of fishing in their culture. (Photo by Greg Kim, KYUK – Bethel) The biggest complaint people have is a feeling that they’re not in control of their own lives, because fishing is such a big part of their lives. Akiak feels isolated from the regulatory process. “Fishing is who we are,” Ivan says. She is a former Tribal Police Officer and she prides herself on her toughness, but her voice breaks as she talks. “It’s what makes us Native and makes us unique. And for them to take that away from us, it’s taking away from our culture. They’re taking away who we are. It’s built into our DNA system. This is who we are, and this is who we want to be.”  The Kuskokwim River has now had three fishing openings for drift gillnets, but many people in Akiak are not happy. KYUK went fishing with the mayor of Akiak to find out more about why people’s nets aren’t as full as they want them. Williams is upset, and not just about this warning, but about the whole system of regulations governing fishing on the Kuskokwim, and the mayor is not alone. “I’m listening to them real closely,” says Ray Born, who decides the fishing regulations on the lower Kuskokwim. “They’re a part of the land, they’re the people from here who should be able to inform me.” “We have to think about the future,” Lliaban says. “You feel like a part of you is taken away when someone tells you you can’t do something you’ve been doing your whole entire life, your parents, your whole family has been doing,” Leary says. In 2013, the king salmon run crashed on the Kuskokwim with only 36,823 making it to spawning grounds. This year, federal managers and tribal representatives are trying to rebuild the run by getting 110,000 king salmon up the river to spawn. Megan Leary, from Aniak, is one of the tribal representatives advising Born every week. She says that she understands the feelings in Akiak. But Leary wants to keep fishing her whole life, and she wants her family to be able to fish. “Could you see my name, Margaret?” Williams asks his daughter. “Look, right there. Could you see it? On the buoys? Dang!” Smith says that the regulations aren’t necessarily making people go hungry, but that’s not the point. Smith works in youth suicide prevention, and she says that the fishing regulations make her job harder. “I think about my son,” Leary pauses. “And being able to bring him out and letting him do the same things my parents did with us growing up. We’re having to give up right now so that in the future our kids and people’s grandkids, they can have the same opportunities as us.” “It’s not fun,” says Williams’ older daughter, Cynthia Ivan. “You get angry. I get angry.” Lliaban used to be against the regulations, but she’s changed her tune.  She finds her cousin, Kimberly Smith, cutting fish, prepping the salmon to be hung and dried. Back on shore, Ivan walks around people’s fish camps asking if they’re happy with the size of their catch. Many say no. last_img read more

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