Just because it’s legal doesn’t mean it’s right.

The few dogged supporters remaining for the corrupted and embattled Progressive Conservative Party of Alberta are chirping on social media in a lame defense of their party having gotten nearly 1/3 of their entire election contributions from one source. That the donor (Katz) is also seeking a $100,000,000 cheque from the provincial government in return is apparently either lost on the Progressive Conservative crowd or they are perfectly alright with this blatant purchase of their party’s favor.

Yes, this will likely be legal though the Chief Electoral Officer (appointed by the government) may take a moment to have a look at things. Yes the ethics commissioner (appointed by the government) likely and predictably would see nothing wrong with this.

It is the judgement of the electorate that the Redford regime needs to face the wrath of. In her first few days of the legislature’s first real session, we have seen the PCs push for and then back off from a reprehensible gouge and increase in their severance packages and RRSP contributions and now making excuses for stretching the electoral laws to the maximum by happily taking hundreds of thousands from a man with interests in getting government money. I fear to think what this corrupted regime will accomplish in the next 3.5 years.

Hey Redford, just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

We blew it as Albertans in the last election. The campaign to fix that error needs to begin now. The entrenched and corrupted PC regime has been in power for 41 years. Like a tick that has dug in deeply, it will be tough to get it out but it will be worth it.

Graham Thomson covers the whole mess excellently here.

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A picture does indeed say a thousand words.

In this case the picture is a cartoon. My better-half posted this on my facebook page and in one image the point of many of my long-winded postings has been encapsulated.

 

Now I have a page that I can link to every time I hear somebody on social media going on about the ills of vaccination, modern medicine, industrialization, non-organic food, energy, pesticide, fertilization, radio communication, trade or just progress in general.

Thanks Jane. 🙂

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A Record Month for Calgary City Council.

It has been some time since I have seen our intrusive city council get on such a roll of covering so many self-important, expensive and intrusive initiatives that we really don’t need and that really don’t fall within what I see as their mandate as a city council.

Below is a clip from the Alberta Municipal Government Act mandating what the role of a municipality should be:

Municipal purposes
3 The purposes of a municipality are:

(a) to provide good government,

(b) to provide services, facilities or other things that, in the
opinion of council, are necessary or desirable for all or a
part of the municipality, and

(c) to develop and maintain safe and viable communities.

Now the above statement is pretty broad and yes leaves a great deal open to interpretation. It greatly empowers council in that it allows things to be done “in the opinion” of council which pretty much lets them judge themselves empowered to do damn near anything (and it shows in their actions).

What is outstanding in the document is also that the mandate is simple. The complexities in city governance are grown and created by busybody city councils that feel that they should be mandating, regulating and banning whatever practices among Calgarians they please.

Personal special interest mandates are showing clearly as city councilors waste their tax funded time on petty issues while major issues languish by the sidelines.

Council extremist Brian Pincott is a specialist in pushing these foolish, narrow initiatives. Pincott wants the law to tell you how many lights you can have turned on and at what time. Pincott wants to ban your right to use fire pits on your own property and perhaps even ban your wood burning fireplace. Brian Pincott wants ban cutting of trees on your own property and now Pincott feels it is his right and obligation to tell you what you are legally allowed to eat! 

Yes, I do understand that the practice of shark finning is repellent and inhumane. That being said, is it the role of a municipal council to ban the consumption of a legal product? Where do we stop? Veal? Foie Gras? Meat altogether? Non-organic foods? Non free range eggs? The list is endless and the precedent has been set. Sorry, I am grown to the point where I no longer will even let my mother tell me what I can or can’t eat, I sure as hell will not let a gang of busybody clowns in city hall tell me what to eat.

Despite a lack of need or demand, city hall will be spending a fortune closing even more lanes downtown for bikes and has set a timeline to pursue the expensive and proven loser called “bike sharing” that has proven to be a catastrophe around the world. 

Now in a stroke of genius despite the City of Calgary’s $3 billion debt and constant tax increases, Nenshi and city council have happily decided to pour tax dollars into golf courses to subsidize green fees. Hey, I like golfing but I don’t expect taxpayers to keep the cost of my game down. Is golf a need? How many Calgarians are served in this move? Is there a giant hidden surplus out there?

What can we look forward to in the next month as these nuts work to control more aspects of our personal lives on private property?

It is past time to clean house on Calgary city council. The next election is a year away. I do hope that a good fresh slate of people come forward as we really can’t afford these fools much longer.

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Where are all these bikes hiding?

Well, it has been over a year since the city of Calgary really ramped up their rather aggressive policy of dropping bike-lanes on us in areas with little demand and with little warning. The city almost always calls these “pilot-projects” yet when these projects fail they still never seem to go away. The miniscule but profoundly vocal bike lobby in Calgary has been more shrill than usual lately and it appears to be paying off as City Council has just approved making “bike-tracks” on 6th and 7th street in downtown Calgary. Depending on the design, these “tracks” will cost potentially as many as 120 parking spaces downtown and will cause some new snow removal challenges. Downtown business associations raised concerns but they were shrugged off as they languish in an increasingly inaccessible city core with parking costs second only to New York City in all of North America.

The number cooking, hyperbole and outright misinformation from the bike crowd has been striking. One of the most fluid anecdotal numbers being tossed all over the place is the estimated number of bikes that commute daily into our city core. I have seen numbers from 6000-12000 tossed out there.

The only measure that I can find is here where it is estimated that bikes make up between one and two percent of downtown commuter traffic. That is a 100% margin of error so it leaves more than a little room for interpretation here. The bottom line is that nobody really accurately knows how many bikes actually commute downtown daily.

Another number tossed out there is that while bikes make up potentially as much as 2% of the traffic out there, they are being ripped off as only .05% of infrastructure is directly dedicated to them. That number is sheer bunk when it is considered that bikes utilize nearly every road in the city, alleys, parks and sidewalks at time. Cars are 100% limited to driving on automotive infrastructure.

Some other justification for bike lanes/tracks has been pointing out how much cheaper they are than automotive lanes being only$25,000 to $100,000 km to make as opposed to upwards of millions per km for road lanes. Again that is simply bunk. The bike lanes are being built on top of automotive lanes that taxpayers already paid to build! That is not a savings in any way. This is extra expenditure.

I even heard Mayor Nenshi making the case that every extra bike put on the road helps ease traffic for us all. As these extra bikes come at a cost to many lanes of formerly drivable roads, it will take thousands of extra bike riders to make up for the lost roadways. That simply is not happening. Bike ridership has remained static in Calgary for over  21 years. It simply is not growing no matter how hard city hall tries to choke traffic to encourage it.

Yesterday I had to travel down South to run some errands. My wife Jane constantly has railed about the bike lanes that were created on 11 st SE at the expense of two driving lanes despite rarely ever seeing a bike using the bike lanes. With all the disparate numbers out there I figured I would check things out for myself. I went to Staples and purchased a little handheld counter for accuracy’s sake and parked myself on 11 St. SE between 4pm and 5pm to count the number of bikes in rush hour as pictured below.

 

Well it turns out that I didn’t really need that spiffy tally tool. The grand total of bikes using the bike lanes on 11 St SE during rush hour was:

That is correct. The number was two! I did not forget a couple zeros. I did not nod off and have 500 bikes sneak by me. On a busy Thursday rush hour only 2 bikes used the bike lanes during peak hours.

Lets assume that perhaps 12 bikes per day use those lanes (that will drop in winter). For these bikes, we have given up two entire automotive lanes and made a double-wide and useless turning lane in the middle of 11 St SE to complement the unused bike lanes on each side of the road. This street is now a priority one road for plowing as well as the needs of 12 bikers are more important to the city during snowstorms than streets with firehalls or school zones.

I should give some benefit of the doubt here. Perhaps the city planners ate the brown acid that day and this was a one off. Other bike lanes have been well worth it right?

Well, typically I spend the early morning drinking a coffee and reading the news. Today I thought I would pop down to 10 St NW by SAIT to count the bikes there. That street was a pilot project turned permanent that was dumped on us over a year ago despite great objection from citizens.

Now last year a ballpark estimate was given that perhaps 600 bikes per day use 10th St NW to commute downtown (while 15,000 cars do). Those 15,000 cars have been jammed into one lane rather than two now and the congestion is brutal. Still the upswing in bike ridership should compensate for that no?

The city and the bike lobby has always claimed the old “if you build it, they will come” sort of attitude. If 10th St NW had apparently 600 bikes per day using it before the bike lanes were created, that street should be a veritable Tour De France by now right?

Well between 7am and 8am I counted a grand total of  52 bikes using the lanes in either direction! That works out to even less than the use claimed before the lanes were built!

Yes while cars lined up and passed by the thousands, a mere 52 bikes used the lanes that were built at the expense of a very busy artery into our city core.

One thing I did note though is there is a terrible bottleneck at the pedestrian crossing as many bike riders play the game of suddenly becoming pedestrians and hitting the light to cross as seen in the video below.

So it is safely determined that these thousands of bikes are not coming into downtown from the 10 St NW bike lanes despite them apparently being ideally placed for Northwest Calgary traffic. Where then are these bikes sneaking in?

I decided to head down to one of our better travelled bike paths to see if the bikes were indeed packed fender to fender there in agony trying to get to work but stalled due to our critical lack of bike infrastructure. To be fair here, I am strongly supportive of bike paths such as the one on the Bow as they do encourage and enable more bike and pedestrian traffic and they do it without impacting existing vehicular lanes!

My count in 1/2 an hour was 41 bikes.

While that is certainly a better number than 10 St NW was, it still does not account for these thousands of missing bikes that apparently head downtown daily. Some are claiming that 5% of downtown traffic is bike traffic. Anybody driving downtown on a regular basis knows that this is utter hogwash. There simply is no congestion or shortage of bike infrastructure and choking vehicular traffic is not causing increased bike ridership.

The lanes are failing all over. The 10th Avenue lane is proving to be a failure and again no flood of bikes or drop in traffic have resulted.

How many more vehicular lanes will be wiped out by a bike obsessed city hall despite a lack of need? How many parking spaces gone despite a gross shortage of them? How much longer will city hall ignore Calgary citizens as they move along on this bike crusade?

That is up to us folks. It is a year to election time. I strongly suggest that we wake up and clean house in city hall. It is simply getting nuts down there.

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Fighting reality and pushing growth out.

Well Calgary City Hall has been on quite the roll this week in demonstrating their almost religious-like obsession with urban density planning despite an utter lack of demand for such by the majority of the population of the city.

One of the main strategies over the years has been to strangle automotive access to our city core through choking parking availability and ignoring demand through spending our limited infrastructure funds on pedestrian bridges and bike lanes despite minuscule demand for these things. Hell, cutting vehicular lanes out alone and making those un-utilized bike lanes a priority-one for plowing was not enough, yesterday our luminaries at City Hall decided to sacrifice yet more parking spaces and more vehicular space by stuffing in bike “tracks” at quadruple the cost of bike lanes with plans to greatly expand that traffic and parking throttling next year.

City hall has purposely been refusing to allow developers to plan for adequate parking in our core for years in hopes of reducing automotive traffic for years. All this has done is given Calgary the dubious honor of being the second most expensive place to park in North America. People are still driving, but they are spending a great deal more to do it.

“Bike sharing” has proven to be a catostrophic and expensive failure around the world. Despite this reality, yesterday city hall set a timeline of 2015 to get a bike sharing program going. They claim it will not happen unless a private business steps up to do it, but rest assured that will change as the city chooses to subsidize a semi-private disaster like Bixi that Montreal sunk over $108 million into.

Now despite years of this effort in social engineering, Calgary’s growth has still been outward due to consumer demand. Business is retreating to the suburbs and even out of the city altogether in pursuit of our citizens who are moving ever farther from Calgary’s expensive and congested core.

Consumer choice will always win in the end but how much will the City of Calgary blow in fighting this reality?

It appears that our zealous city planners have realized that their density plan has been failing but instead of facing that reality and opening up our core again, they are fighting consumer demand and the free-market by stopping legitimate developments on the edges of our city! 

Look at the precedent that will be set if the commission (populated by extremists like Druh Farrel) decides to refuse to allow development in East Hills as recommended by our idealists in city planning. The site was zoned for this development years ago and investors have spent two years planning in good faith. If our idiots in city hall shut this project down it will demonstrate that Calgary is a terrible place to do business in!

Even if common sense prevails and the city maintains the go-ahead on this project, just the fact that they were so strongly considering shutting this down has shaken any considering investing in Calgary.

The idiocy knows no bounds though. The zoning demanded “big-box” style development so that small business on “International Avenue” may be protected. Considering that most of the business along 17th Avenue SE consists of pawn-shops, massage parlours and liquor stores, I don’t think there was much risk that a new development wanted to tap into those markets anyway.

Either way, through following zoning guidelines, the development now clashes with the pie-in-the-sky “Plan-it” framework that demands upward, high-density development. We should find out soon which ideal will win here.

The winners out of all of this idiocy will be landowners outside of the City of Calgary including our satellite communities such as Okotoks, Cochrane, Airdrie and Strathmore. Calgarians are never going to en-masse give up their backyards, sell their cars, move into downtown condos and ride bikes to work no matter how much pressure the zealots in City Hall try to force them to do so.

What really is happening is that citizens are retreating from the core. Now we are seeing head-offices and retail services following them out. We had better learn to plan for this reality or our development as a city will become more stunted than ever.

Shutting down a Wal-Mart on the East side of the city will not make the residents of Forest Lawn suddenly decide to go to Inglewood to buy a small handcrafted bookshelf for a few hundred dollars for their kid’s bedroom. The shoppers will simply commute farther in search of economical big-box purchases.

Calgary’s downtown will not become “vibrant” through this idealistic efforts. Small business in the core has already been heavily damaged by insanely high parking rates and inaccessibility. Further pushing up costs and access will not suddenly make consumers flock to the core to eat and shop. This again will simply push demand and development out. We will have a downtown deadzone populated by offices, some coffee shops and un-utilized bike share stations, This simple notion is apparently utterly lost on our current city council.

We are one year from the next civic election. I do hope that enough Calgarians wake up and vote for some realists on city council before we waste even more precious tax-dollars and mess up our city development. Vote carefully.

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We want your money! Not your voice!

 Well today I was happy to look in my mailbox to see a fat envelope from the Wildrose Party. I had assumed that the party had finally gotten around to mailing out notice of our upcoming Annual General Meeting in Edmonton and the constitutionally required report from the nominating committee that we all sort of expected to come in a few weeks ago.

Alas, I was disapointed to find that the letter was simply a four-page mailout with a return envelope taking shots at PC expenses and asking for more of my money as pictured below.

 Sadly this is indicative of where the attitude is with the Wildrose Party administration these days. The party is beginning to operate solely on the preservation of itself as a party while concepts of grassroots participation and communication with the membership for any purpose aside from asking for more money is falling far to the backburner.

How hard would a small insert giving details on the Annual General Meeting have been to add to that bloated envelope? It can only be assumed that the omission was purposeful.

This year’s Annual General Meeting has been a poorly communicated and bungled mess right from the very beginning as I have documented on this site in the last few months. It took repeated efforts of public pressure to get the party to simply publicly announce that there was indeed an AGM happening this year and an attempt to severely (and unconstitutionally) hinder the Executive Committee election was headed off shortly before the deadline to apply for Executive Nominations.

I have been with the Wildrose Party since it’s founding and the Alberta Alliance Party that it sprouted from and in many roles. I do understand that mailouts to the membership are expensive and resource intensive. I spent many a night volunteering as we stuffed envelopes to keep members informed of party activities and to ask for donations. When we got large enough that we had to outsource mailers, we still carefully ensured that we kept a balance between fundraising and general member communications. That balance has been totally lost.

To any members of the Wildrose Party reading this right now I ask this; when is the last time you got anything in the mail from the Wildrose Party informing of anything aside from why they need more of your money? One year? Two? I honestly can’t remember one. The party took such pride in raising nearly $3 million in 2011 yet can’t even bother to send us a newsletter or notice of something so important as an AGM?

The paramount event of the year where the members get to act like more than wallets for the party and participate directly in it’s direction and management is the Annual General Meeting. Despite this fact, the AGM and member input has been treated by the party administration almost as if it is a hindrance to be avoided. Minimal (and even less) required effort and resources have been dedicated to this AGM which is being almost grudgingly held. We can’t even get a simple mailed notice of it’s happening!

Yes, the party sent an email and did a robodial to announce the AGM. Now, we have thousands of members who do not have email (or did not share it with the party). Some emails go to spam boxes (not surprising considering most are asking for money). Many people do not listen to robodials and many who did likely did not write down the details of the AGM. What we can safely assume is that thousands of Wildrose Party members still do not know that we are having an AGM, where the AGM is or how to register for and attend it!

This is simply unacceptable on so many levels. People should bear in mind that a low AGM turnout strongly serves those who want to maintain the status-quo. Even a do-nothing Party President could still get elected if few people showed up for an AGM for example. Even if this keeping of the membership in the dark is not purposeful, it reflects either a terrible disrespect for the membership or it reflects utter incompetence.

This year members need to speak up. Since the party does not consider informing members to be an important thing, we will need to inform members on our own. Call your CA President and other members. Talk to people you know and encourage them to get out.

There was a great early-bird rate for AGM registration that has unfortunately passed. Another deadline is approaching and then the price goes up again. Let other members know about this and encourage them to get out.

When fundraising has so clearly surpassed the needs of the membership within the party, something has clearly gone terribly wrong in the party. We need to flush the Executive Committee and turn the Wildrose Party back into the member based populist movement that 10s of thousands of us got together to form.

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Be green and save Calgary money! Throw your glass in the garbage!

 

Yesterday while listening to the Rutherford show, I was reminded of one of our many examples of Calgary City Hall putting the cart before the horse in their pursuit of high density city where people ride bikes to work and recycle damn near everything. What I am on about today is glass.

While the city of Calgary is asking us to spend time and water washing and separating our glass products so that they can be put into our blue bins for recycling, they really have utterly no idea what to do with the glass once they get it. Glass is really a generally unrealistic product to recycle at this time. It is hard to work with and clean and there is no cost effective use for the end product. Glass is relatively cheap to produce new and used glass is simply too impure and expensive to try and form into new glass products.

While Calgarians have been diligently washing their old jam jars and setting them aside in their blue bins, unfortunately all they have been doing is participating in one of our more expensive and egregious forms of greenwashing.

Calgary’s sorted, cleaned, crushed and transported glass has been sitting in a 10,000 tonne mountain at the Spyhill landfill!.

It is one thing to make a recycled product, it is a whole other ballpark to create a demand for it.

The energy, water and labor involved in recycling our glass in Calgary brings us a near useless end product at a cost of $29 per tonne which now is languishing at the dump. A good make work project I guess but I would rather that labor had been dedicated to patching potholes.

But wait!! In a brainstorm city engineers have found a use for all this glass!! They are going to bury it!

Um, isn’t that what would have happened had we simply put the glass in the garbage in the first place? Tell me again why we are spending all this money, water and energy to clean and sort the stuff?

Yes, the city is going to use the pile of glass as aggregate for roads within the city dump (in other words, burying the glass at the dump). While they do speak of using the glass for other aggregate projects, it really means little as 10,000 tonnes is actually a relatively small volume in the aggregate world. What is not small about 10,000 tonnes of crushed and cleaned glass is the cost.

Gravel which is typically used as road base aggregate can run around $6 per tonne as compared to the $29 per tonne for cleaned crushed glass. This means our mountain of recycled glass is worth about $60,000 but came at a cost of around $290,000. That is an expenditure of $230,000 of taxpayers dollars for actions that used extra water and energy for utterly no use thus making it actually more environmentally damaging than simply tossing the glass in the trash in the first place.

It is very simple to see what is worth recycling. Just look for whatever the private market is willing to pay money for. Metals are well worth recycling thus many businesses that buy scrap metal. Bottles and cans have deposits on them that fund the recycling. Only the cans are really viable on their own. The bottles just make more crushed glass. Some paper products are worth recycling into shingles and such. Plastics are pretty much better in the landfill with the glass.

If we are truly interested in being “green” let’s start to focus on reality with what we are doing then.

Calgary’s (and many other cities) mountain of glass is simply an embarrassment and a testament to people in power who have let their ideals override reality.

 

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Just a quick post for twitter users who follow Canadian politics.

Twitter is a handy tool to stay on top of events and issues and a great platform for debate. Unfortunately, the urge to stifle communication and jam the lines appears to be overwhelming for some folks.

Most twitter platforms allow a form of filtering. Simply blocking the hysteric, obscene and just plain crazy tweeters does not always work. In tweetdeck for example, blocked twitter users still show up in hashtags that I am watching. When I filter for the troublesome names though, they forever remain invisible making the hastags usable again.

#cdnpoli #yyccentre and #CPC have become utterly useless due to a pile of accounts spawned by a couple people. Below I am listing the anonymous accounts & sockpuppets that amount for about 90% of the white-noise in the aforementioned hashtags.

In tweetdeck you can simply cut and paste the names into the global filter. I imagine hootsuite and other programs give similar options. I strongly urge filtering. It is really not that many accounts making so much noise. Perhaps one day we will see useful discussion on Canadian politics again on twitter someday.

 Names to filter:

tersestuff,TarSandsTwat,GerryDaGiraffe,BolloHollo,Beari8it,datatect

There are a few more names out there but just filtering those above will make a profound difference in your twitter viewing. Others will no doubt spawn as users keep creating new accounts. They are generally easy to spot. Usually the account will have tweets in the 10s of thousands but only a couple hundred followers, they will always be anonymous and they often will only deal in retweeting and obscenity.

Happy rational tweeting.

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If you plow it, they still won’t come.

 

In remaining consistent with their anti-car mandate and in ignoring the real utilization rates of roads by Calgary commuters, our wizards at city hall have hit new heights in idealistic idiocy in making all roads with bike lanes priority 1 zones for snow plowing.

We do not have the resources to keep a plow on every corner and it does not snow every day. It makes perfect sense that we prioritize which streets we plow first in order to get our main traffic arteries clear and safely moving during our frequent winter storms. Calgary has some simply formulas on estimated vehicular road use that serve well in making a snowplowing plans. All those formulas are now out the window as bike lanes now take top priority for snowplowing despite their utter lack of need or use in winter in Calgary.

At best, how many people are commuting to work on bikes in Calgary in February? Perhaps 1000 people are willing to bundle up daily and make a miserable ride to work through snow in temperatures reaching well into the -20s. Of that bunch, how many or actually using bike lane routes anyway?  Aside from those hearty masochists, we have hundreds of thousands of people who commute in vehicles in Calgary. What we have here is an element of people who make up not even a fraction of 1% of commuters who’s needs have been moved to the very top of traffic-flow priority list.

While plows are wasting hours plowing minor roadways such as Cambrian Drive NW or back industrial roads like 11 st SE (pictured here & never seen a bike using it) we can expect tens of thousands of cars to be mired that much longer on real priority streets such as Macleod Trail or Crowchild. We only have so many plows and when we divert them to relatively lightly traveled routes for these bike lanes, the traffic flow on the real arteries in the city must suffer.

Maybe this is all part of a deeper strategy. As I recently posted here, the city has even idiotically contemplated removing a lane of Macleod Trail in order to make bike lanes. Maybe a selling point for this traffic throttling plan will be to point out that Macleod will be plowed more quickly if it has bike lanes.

This almost fanatical push to socially engineer Calgary into a city of bike commuters is getting outright ridiculous. The majority of our commuters are coming from distant suburbs and they will not decide to jump on a bike and pedal two hours a day in winter in a business suit to get to work and back. Never have a seen a tail wagging the dog example better than the success of the Calgary bike cult in influencing city planning decisions. Despite a microscopic amount of real demand, a hugely disproportional amount of attention and resources are being dedicated to choking vehicular traffic and planning for a surge of bike riders that will never materialize. 

As you sit mired in unplowed snow in a traffic jam caused by an unsanded intersection this winter, you will have plenty of time on your hands. I strongly suggest that you spend some of that time thinking of who your city councilor is and whether or not they are one of those who are constantly front and center in pushing this bike garbage. Take part in the next civic election and toss these clowns out on their idealistic butts already.

 

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