Thursday, February 15, 2018

Proposal to Reduce the Number of Deaths and Injuries from Mass Casualty Incidents


It's the same cycle.

1. Innocent people die in a mass casualty incident.
2. Politicians send their thoughts and prayers.
3. The news media shows horrific video from the scene of the crime.
4. People express their outrage through social media posts.
5. Advocates for common sense gun control and advocates for gun rights get into
heated debate.
6. A couple weeks go by, people go back to their routine.
7. No action is taken.
8. All too soon, it happens again, and the cycle is repeated.

In the meantime, nothing is done to stop the senseless injury and death of countless innocent people.

I repeat. NOTHING IS DONE!

Through my proposal, I hope to change apathy into action by recommending we finally do something about the epidemic of mass casualty incidents in the United States. And, my recommendations do not call for a ban against guns.

Discover common ground
The first proposed step is to bring people on both sides of the gun debate together who have one thing in common, none of them want to see innocent people die from a gunshot wound.


1. Implement a Mass Casualty Incident Task Force made up of the following:

  • Federal, state, and local legislators representing republicans, democrats, and independents
  • Gun rights advocates, including thos who sell guns
  • Advocates for commone sense gun control
  • Law enforcement officials at the federal, state, and local level
  • Mental health professionals
  • Physicians and nurses specializing in emergency medicine
  • First responders
  • Educators
  • Domestic violence prevention experts
  • IT professionals
  • Marketing professionals
  • Representatives from Facebook, Twitter, and other social media companies
2. Commision a non-partisan, objective study of mass casualty incidents 
    over the past 10 years, identifying common themes, including:

  • Demographics of the offenders and victims (age, gender, race, religion, etc)
  • Type of weapons used (guns, knives, bomb, vehicle)
  • Location of the incident (school, business, mall, park, concert, movie theater, church)
  • Past history of violence and/or criminal activity among the offenders
  • Warning signs, such as threats made against family members, neighbors, or employers; social media posts; or stock piling of weapons
  • Motive for the offense, such as anger at a romantic partner, a former employer, or school; hatred against a specific demographic; or terrorism
3. Commission a non-partisan, objective study to determine if there is a correlation between the incidence of injury and death due to gunshot wounds and state laws on gun purchases.

4. Create a task force of law enforcement professionals at the local, state, and federal level to implement strategies to deal with illegal gun trafficking.

5. Create a toll-free, anonymous hotline to encourage people to report potential threats of violence. Similar to the "If you see something say something" campaign. For example, if someone hears a friend, neighbor, or coworker talk about shooting someone or blowng up a building, take it seriously and anonymously report it. Or, if someone receives personal threats to their safety from someone they know, take it seriously and report it.

6. Respond to these reports by monitoring the potential offender's actions; obtaining a warrant to search the offenders home, vehicle, emails, and social media posts; and alerting the offender's family, friends, and coworkers.

7. Create a public safety campaign to promote the hotline using TV, radio, print, and social media.

8. Implement and enforce laws that make it a felony to threaten someone with violence.

9. Develop training tools to teach people how to respond if they are involved in a mass casualty incident. (hide, flight, or flee)

10. Develop a gun safety curriculum to be used in high schools and colleges to teach students how to safely handle a gun.

11. Conduct a non-partisan, objective study of the current crimnal background check system in place to prevent certain people from purchasing a weapon. Is the system outdated? Does it provide accurate data? Are there system breakdowns due to computer or human error?

12. Work with the military to ensure all offenses committed by members of the military are included in the national background check database.

13. Enact a federal law preventing those who have been convicted of domestic violence from owning a gun. (Federal law already prevents them from purchasing a gun, if they are convicted of domestic violence they should be forced to surrender guns they already own.)

14. Work with domestic violence prevention and mental health professionals to identify warning sign behaviors that could lead someone to cause a mass casualty incident.

15. Implement a public safety campaign to educate people about these warning signs.

16. Work with law enforcement, mental health professionals, and legislators to determine a way to monitor and/or prevent gun purchases made by those who are in menta health treatment due to threats of harm against themselves or others.

17. Require social media companies such as Facebook and Twitter to monitor social media posts of their users and report posts that contain threats against others.

18. Allow law enforcements officials to obtain a warrant to search a potential offender's home based on threats made on social media.

19. Educate first responders and emergency room physicians and nurses on responding to a mass casualty incident.

20. Determine the feasibility and effectiveness of specific ideas by gathering data from smaller pilot studies conducted at the state and local level (instead of rejecting ideas out of fear, emotion, or intuition)



All ideas are appreciated. Please share your feedback in the comments section below, and please feel free to share this post with others who want to save innocent lives.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

When Your Husband Attempts Vehicular Homicide

My home state of New Jersey is known for its famous seashore, as well as dozens of historic villages that boast tree-lined main streets and small town charm. While state residents flock to the beach during the summer months, it is the autumn season where these quaint small towns come to life. Such was the case when my husband Bob and I took my parents to the northern New Jersey town of Chester, with our two-year old daughter Melissa (now 20) in tow.

We enjoyed a sun-drenched October day exploring Chester's quaint business district, and after a delicious lunch topped off with the requisite scoop of ice cream, we were ready to head back home. Bob took his rightful place behind the wheel, while my father accompanied him in the front passenger seat. I placed our purchases in the trunk, secured Melissa in her car seat, then wedged myself into the middle of the back seat to make room for my mother.

That's when Bob tried to get away with vehicular homicide.

Allow me to explain. As my poor mother attempted to get into the car, Bob attempted to drive away. Seems that he had incorrectly assumed that all members of his cargo were safely seated and secured. Alas, t'was not the case, as Bob soon found out, thanks to the combined ear piercing screams of my mother, father, and me.

He slammed his foot on the brake, and my mother, although a bit shaken, safely climbed into the back seat. As we went on our way, he sheepishly promised to never, ever attempt vehicular homicide again. A promise he kept for 18 years.

Until last month.

Bob, Melissa, and I were heading south on the New Jersey Turnpike, enroute home after a pleasant afternoon with my sister-in-law Kristie and niece Kaeli. As is typically the case with the Weinsteins, we needed to "take care of business" -  so Bob dutifully made a pit stop at one of the Turnpike's crowded rest stops. Only problem, we were held hostage by bone chilling, single digit cold and wind that had gripped the state, and most of the country for that matter, for days.

Bob parked as close as possible, we wrapped ourselves in hats, scarves, and gloves, then braved the elements so we could complete our quest. After we had "taken care of business", my sweet husband wanted to spare his wife and daughter the weather's fury by offering to pull the car up to the front door for us.

Before getting in, Melissa and I decided to switch seats. For the remainder of the journey, she'd take the front passenger side, while I'd settle into the back.

As promised, Bob faithfully positioned our chariot within a stone's throw of where we stood. Melissa jumped into the front as I opened the door to get into the back. But before sitting down, I had to over come one small problem. You see, because of some long-standing medical issues, I use a seat cushion during long car drives. But to my horror, my precious seat cushion still remained in the front.

At this point in my story I should remind you of the bone chilling cold and wind. I should also remind you of the crowds that decided to stop at the rest stop at the exact same time, crowds that were now in their cars, impatiently lined up behind my hubby, waiting for him to drive away.

In his desire to get us out of this predicament as soon as possible, Bob grabbed my cushion and threw it to me. Only problem.....he threw it to the other side of the back seat.

Now imagine if you will, the following scene.

The car door remained open. I still had both feet on the ground as I leaned over to reach across the back seat for my cushion. In the meantime, those impatient drivers began maneuvering their way around our car.

That's when Bob attempted to drive away.

Yes, that's right. While I had half my body in, and half my body out of the car, that's when Bob attempted to drive away.

Seems that he had, once again, incorrectly assumed that all members of his cargo were safely seated and secured.

In the next fraction of a second, I mentally gauged my options:
1. Say nothing, and allow the vehicle's forward momentum to force me to tumble onto the hard asphault of the rest stop parking lot, where I would, undoubtedly, be run over by one or all of the impatient drivers lined up behind us.
2. Dive head first into the car.
3. Scream for Bob to stop as if my life depended on it - because it did!

I chose option 3.

The sound that erupted from my mouth could be heard across the parking lot, into surrounding counties, and throughout the state of New Jersey. Heck, my gutteral scream for mercy could be heard by the astronaunts orbiting the Earth on the international space station.

Fortunately, I chose the correct option. Bob stopped the car, saving me from my perceived horrible fate. As we continued on our journey, my "sympathetic" husband and daughter struggled to repress their laughter....as I struggled to repress my sobs.

Gradually, my tears gave way to uncontrollable giggles, as I had to admit that I might have over-reacted just a wee bit.

In the meantime, my husband sheepishly promised, once more,  to never, ever attempt vehicular homicide again.

We'll see how long he keeps his promise this time.

If you like my blog, please tell me in the comments section below
If you live in Israel, please email me at prleebee@gmail.com to tell me how you heard about my blog.

Monday, January 1, 2018

Watching Movies with Melissa

I snuggled in my warm bed, my daughter Melissa by my side, as layer upon layer of blankets kept the cold at bay. We turned our focus to the TV, where images of Austria's glorious mountains came slowly into view, and a young Julie Andrews sang out those lyrics made famous in the 5 plus decades since its first airing.

"The hills are alive, with the sound of music".

My husband Bob, given the choice of watching football or the Von Trapp Family's frolicks  for the 574th time, shockingly chose the ball game. But that was fine for my daughter and me! We were comfy, we were cozy, we were singing along.

Life was good.

It would be the first of many movies we would enjoy together during her all too short winter break. The fall semester of her sophomore year at American University had ended, the spring  semester would start soon enough. But during her break, as New Jersey (and most of the country) was caught in the grip of unprecedented cold, we stayed home, snuggled, and turned on the tube.

Most of the movies we had seen before.

Many many times before.

Yet watching them with Melissa felt like welcoming in old friends.

Some, like Frozen were Disney classics, while others, like Will Ferrell's Elf, were a holiday tradition. Some, like Pitch Perfect, I enjoyed for the first time. While others, like Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, I have watched every time it airs, since it feeds my obsession with the boy wizard.

Watching movies with my girl seemed the perfect way to end what I describe as a year of count downs. You see, throughout 2017, I spent the months, weeks, days, and hours counting down the months, weeks, days, and hours until I would see her again.

It began in January with counting down the months, weeks, days, and hours until Melissa came home for spring break.

Next came the count down until my birthday in April when we visited Washington, DC to see Melissa, our daughter Jessica, son-in-law Brian, and grandson Miles.

Then I started the count down until spring semester ended in May.

Then came summer, and the count downs came to a welcome halt.

But time sure didn't.

Those warm, humid evenings taking neighborhood walks with my girl soon gave way to our new normal with Melissa back in her college dorm.

And the count downs started again.

Count downs until our October visit.

Count downs until Thanksgiving.

Count downs until the end of the fall semester.

Then my baby came home....and the count downs once again, came to a welcome halt.

But once again, time sure didn't.

I don't want to count down the five days until we pack up the car with what will seem like all of her worldly possessions.

I don't want to count down the five days until we leave her at her college dorm.

I don't want to count down the five days until we return to our new normal. Where Bob watches sports and I cuddle in my bed watching movies.  Without my girl.

But nevertheless, here I go again. Two months, one week, 23 hours until spring break.....when the count downs come to a welcome stop, once again.

If you like my blog, please let me know if the comments section below.

PS - if you live in Israel, please email me at prleebee@gmail.com and tell me how you heard about my blog.



Sunday, December 3, 2017

The Quilt

My high school drama teacher must have liked me.

That's the only reason I can explain why she cast me in the ensemble of our school show, an obscure little musical called "The Boyfriend." After all,  I couldn't sing on key, and my dancing skills were negligible. The perfect, peppy, pretty cheerleaders who also auditioned earned the majority of the stage time, while the choreographer positioned me way in the back, where the audience might not see me turn right while my fellow dancers turned left.

But still. I had fulfilled a childhood dream.

I became an actress in a musical!

The experience introduced me to the castmate camaraderie that comes with being a part of a show. Those perfect, peppy cheerleaders, girls I had viewed (I hate to admit) with envy,  became my friends. What's more, I discovered a newfound sense of self-esteem that would stay with me throughout senior year, through college, and beyond.

That's why, in the spring of 2011, when my 7th grade daughter Melissa told me she wanted to attend summer drama camp, I could barely contain my excitement. As she prepared to audition for the camp show, The Music Man, I knew that my cherub had one advantage over the high school version of her mom....the girl could sing.

But still, as one of the youngest members of the cast who had no prior experience - like the high school version of her mom - my baby took her rightful spot way in the back.

But still,  it didn't matter!

Even though my offspring's stage debut found her hidden behind the other 3,492 drama campers who belt out The Music Man's signature showstopper, "76 Trombones", my husband Bob and I still attended every single performance.

As a thank you for her participation in the show, (and as part of the summer drama camp fee) my little actress received a t-shirt to commemorate the experience.

Unbeknownst to me, she actually saved that Music Man t-shirt, along with t-shirts from school shows to follow:


  • Annie (8th grade)
  • Footloose (9th grade)
  • Les Miserable (10th grade)
  • Oklahoma (11th grade)
  • Peter Pan (12th grade)

She also saved t-shirts from:

  • Her 5th grade elementary school picnic
  • The day camp where she (begrudgingly) spent every summer from 1st to 6th grade
  • Her middle school graduation
  • Her brief foray into the world of athletics when she played defense on the youth association soccer club team
  • The 9th grade color war competition
  • Her high school senior class trip to Disney World
  • Her high school graduation
  • Her college orientation at American University, where she is now in her sophomore year
The moments of her life.

Moments I treasured.

Moments that, like her first school show. I embraced with the unbridled enthusiasm that comes with being a mom, watching from the sidelines as she celebrated the milestones of her life.

Moments that, all too soon, seemed to slip away.

Or so I thought.

A few months ago, again unbeknowst to me, Melissa (with Bob's help) packed up all of her old t-shirts and shipped them off to North Carolina. Those t-shirts landed in the skilled hands of my niece Amanda, who, with help from my nephew Nick's fiance Kimmie, worked magic with a sewing machine.

The result? 

A quilt.

But not just any quilt.

A quilt made up of every one of those t-shirts. A quilt that captures my daughter's journey from a shy elementary school student to the talented, confident young woman she has become today.

When I wrap that quilt around me, I capture all of those moments that seemed to have slipped away. I capture Melissa' passion. I capture her spirit. 

When I wrap that quilt around me - a gift given from daughter to mother with love - I capture my baby's heart and keep it close to mine.

Always.

This quilt, a gift to my from my daughter Melissa, captures the moments of her life


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Sunday, November 26, 2017

Thanksgiving Without Bob

I sat across from my daughter Melissa in a booth inside a small, Mediterranean-style restaurant, eating a falafel and enjoying our conversation.

Yet, something didn't feel quite right.

While Black Friday crowds filled shopping centers and malls across the nation, the stores and restaurants  that usually enjoyed a lively Friday night business in this Washington, DC neighborhood were virtually deserted. The business district had all but closed up shop as its steady stream of customers, courtesy of nearby American University, had returned home for Thanksgiving weekend.

Except for this small, Mediterranean-style restaurant.

The few people that did venture into the eatery were, no doubt like my daughter, fellow American University students.

I savored my meal as much as the company, yet, still, something didn't feel quite right. Fellow moms, or fellow adults for that matter, were non-existent.

I felt strange. Out of place.

Two days earlier, my husband Bob and I were packing for our Thanskgiving journey to North Carolina to visit his family. We were going to leave Wednesday afternoon and drive straight through, with plans to check into our Raleigh hotel around 10 pm. However, our plans were thwarted when Bob woke up with a headache, chest congestion, runny nose, fever, and unrelenting weakness that rendered him barely able to walk across the room, let alone drive eight hours to North Carolina.

We were forced to choose between two options:

1. Both of us would stay home
2. Bob would stay home while I joined his family in North Carolina

I didn't want to leave him alone, especially during Thanksgiving. But Bob knew how much I had been looking forward to seeing the family. He also knew that if I stayed home, I'd spend my days alone in the house, my only company a contagious husband who would while away the hours fast asleep on the couch.

He forced me to go.

But driving eight hours all alone seemed like a daunting task. Fortunately, my elder daughter Jessica and her husband Brian, who live in the Virginia suburbs of Washington, DC,  had room in their car. Following an uneventful three-hour drive to their house, I took my rightful place in the back seat next to the cutest toddler alive (my grandson Miles). We picked up Melissa at American, and hit the road.

What followed was two days of being pampered and fed by Bob's parents, and his sister Stacy and her husband Greg, who opened their home and their hearts.

On Friday morning as we packed up the car for the return trip to the Washington, DC area, I had an idea. I thought it might be nice to stay an extra day in DC and spend some mommy-daughter time with Melissa. I could take her shopping, or we could do some sightseeing...or both. Plus I thought it would be fun to live like a college student and bunk with Melissa in her dorm.

Bob encouraged the idea, assuring me he didn't mind if I spent time with the baby girl I so rarely get to see.

Melissa also welcomed the idea, especially since I volunteered to take her to Target, where she loaded the cart with clothes, shoes, and, of course, plenty of food.

But as we sat in the small, Mediterranean-style restaurant, discussing the next day's sightseeing plans, I looked around at all of the students and suddenly realized that the prospect of a 52-year old woman spending a night in a college dorm didn't seem quite as inviting.

What's more, I missed Bob terribly.

I just wanted to go home.

Melissa understood. For her, dorm living was the norm. She was in her element. With her peers. She was home, where she belonged.

For me, home was where I collapsed three hours later, into Bob's welcoming, loving arms.

Thanksgiving just wasn't the same without my husband Bob.


Monday, November 20, 2017

The Monster MRI Machine

"You'll need an MRI," said my doctor in the most nonchalant voice imaginable.

"NO, THAT'S NOT POSSIBLE!" came my panicked reply.

To him, an MRI is no big deal. I'm sure he sends hundreds of patients to their doom to the imaging center for this valuable diagnostic test each year.

But for me, it is a big deal. It's a HUGE deal.

An MRI to me is akin to being buried alive. Trapped forever in an enclosed tunnel with no escape in sight. No, there had to be another way to diagnose the nerve pain that has plagued me on and off for the past decade.

But wait, I've read about these new fangled Open MRI machines that don't require your body to be forced inside a tunnel just big enough for a Barbie doll to lie comfortably. An Open MRI would be so much easier because, well, it's OPEN.

"No dice," came my doctor's firm response. "Open MRIs don't produce good enough scans."

Seriously?

If the  Open MRI means I won't have to suffer through crippling, anxiety-induced claustrophobia, then who cares if the scan does something as insignificant as produce an accurate report?

In fact, who cares if I get diagnosed at all. Sorry to have wasted your time doc. I don't need any tests.

I'll live with the pain.

But then.......... the doctor uttered those magical three words.

"I'll prescribe valium."

Valium, you say? Well perhaps I can consent to forcing my body into a vaccum tube if I can take valium.

Reluctantly, I scheduled the MRI.

On the day of reckoning I enlisted the support of my loving and patient husband Bob to take me to the imaging center, knowing that the valium would render me incapable of driving home

I swallowed the magic pill about 30 minutes prior to the test....and the effects were nearly instantaneous. A warm, comforting wave of oblivion made it's way through my body, settling into the part of the brain that controls claustrophobia (as well as the ability to function - which really didn't matter.)

I handed my insurance card to the friendly lady at the registration desk (or it might have been my credit card, or my library card, or a photo of my daughter - I'm honestly not sure). Then I handed my valuables to Bob and followed the technician  to the back where I entered the.....

(cue Twilight Zone Music)

Chamber of Horrors!

The MRI sat there, looking innocent enough. But I knew that its wide, open mouth was just waiting to swallow me alive.

But thanks to the valium, being swallowed alive didn't seem to be such a terrible fate anymore.

The technician had seen cases like mine before. Seems that crippling claustrophobia is not a unique problem.

She placed a blindfold over my eyes, shielding my view of the belly of the beast. In addition, ear plugs helped drown out the sound of the machine's terrifying knocks and booms as it digested its latest prey.

Thanks to the valium, the blindfold, and the ear plugs, the 15 minute test seemed to last a mere 30 seconds. When the technician entered the room and pulled me out of the belly of the beast, my foggy brain soon came to the realization.

I had survived!

I bid farewell to the kind technician, then allowed Bob to guide me to the car, drive me home, and put me to bed so that I could sleep off the effects of the valium.

The Monster MRI Machine put up a good fight, but was no match for "Loopy Lisa", who lived to tell the tale.

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Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Love/Hate Relationship with My Glasses

I listened in horror as the eye doctor uttered those now infamous words to my mother....

"It looks like she's going to need glasses."

NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO!

This is pretty much what my
glasses looked like!
And with those words, the eye doctor sealed the horrible fate of a shy, gawky 10-year old girl. I would forever be known as "Four Eyes" by my peers. I would forever be forced to hide my small face behind the large, thick, round, devoid-of-style frames that were so popular in the mid-70s.

At least until the eye doctor gave me the green light to switch to contact lenses at the age of 15, which might as well have been 974 years away!

I don't know why the myopia diagnosis came as a surprise. After all, both my parents wore glasses, and my younger brother Steven would soon follow suit. Only my sister Bev was spared. She wouldn't need assistance with her vision until much later in life.

It didn't matter that I suddenly had the ability to see the classroom blackboard. It didn't matter that I had stopped bumping into walls.

I felt awkward. Unappealing. Ugly.
This is how I viewed the middle school
dance when I refused to wear my glasses
.

So ugly, in fact, that I hid my glasses in my pocketbook during middle school dances. True, I couldn't see my fingers if I held them in front of my face, but without my glasses, boys wanted to talk to me. Without my glasses I felt popular. Without my glasses I felt, dare I say...a tiny bit pretty.

Finally, I turned 15 and with it shed my glasses in exchange for contact lenses, which I refused to take off.

Ever.

I wore them when I slept. I wore them when I swam. During one summer as a senior counselor at Nock-a-Mixon overnight camp I only wore the right contact because the left lens had torn in half. It didn't matter if I could only see out of one eye. The alternative  - wearing my glasses in full view of my new camp boyfriend - was not an option.

As the years wore on I reaped the benefit of disposable contacts, which allowed me to change them every few days. I also stopped wearing them to sleep, as I grew tired of waking up with my eyes glued together by the force of dried out lenses.

My eyesight, while quite horrible, remained unchanged throughout my 30s. As 40 rolled around, I received the added diagnosis of an astigmatism, which occurs when the cornea becomes irregularly shaped. It became increasingly difficult to find an effective contact lens prescription. What's more, the eye doctor suggested I switch to glasses - but not just any glasses - bifocals!

I refused to stop wearing my contacts, but agreed to at least try the bifocals after work during the short evening hours at home, prior to bed.

I couldn't do it.

While my husband Bob managed to get used to trifocals, I experienced the sensation of walking through a carnival fun house while wearing bifocals. A "normal" glasses prescription would have to suffice.

Even though I could see much better with glasses, I insisted on wearing my contacts the majority of time. True, my stylish frames were a far cry from the thick lenses of my childhood, but my vanity still got the best of me. In addition, my glasses simply were not comfortable. After an hour or two they dug into the back of my ears and irritated the bridge of my nose.

As I crossed the threshold into my 50s, my eyesight continued to worsen. Night driving became downright difficult. I had to squint to see my bedroom TV.  I changed the font size on my iPhone and computer to jumbo, but still,  I continued to wear my contacts.

Little did I know that those trusty contacts that had kept me from the petrifying fate of wearing glasses for the past four decades would soon meet their untimely demise at the hands of an unlikley enemy.

An enemy commonly known as (cue theme from Jaws)......ALLERGIES!

Nothing worked.

Allergy medication.
Over-the-counter eye drops.
Prescription eye drops.

Nothing.

As soon as I put my trusty contacts in my eyes, goops of allergy-induced gunk would stick to the lenses, making them uncomfortable, and oftentimes, even painful.

My eye doctor gave me a prescription for stronger glasses. I picked out new frames that felt much more comfortable on my nose and ears. I put on those new frames and marvelled at finally being able to see a crystal clear version of my world....and I never looked back.

Today, at age 52, the desire for clear vision far outweighs the desire to feel pretty. Although, I must admit my husband, daughters, colleauges, and friends all insist that I look really good in my new frames. So the next time you see me, there's a pretty good chance I'll be wearing glasses.

Unless, of course, I'm attending a middle school dance!


Yours truly (center) wearing glasses while I happily take a selfie with my daughters
Melissa (l) and Jessica (r).

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