Commencement and the ‘Pseudo Elites’

The other day, Purdue’s president, Mitch Daniels gave a noteworthy commencement address, which came to me via Emily Jashinsky at The Federalist. Let’s check it out but do read it all.

Purdue celebrated its own landmark this year, our 150th anniversary. Since it coincided with the 50th anniversary of the moon landing by our most famous alumnus, Neil Armstrong stories were abundant. My favorite claims that, later in life, Commander Armstrong took to telling corny, lame jokes about the moon, and when nobody laughed he would say, “Well, I guess you had to be there.”

A year or so ago, a major national journalist visited our campus and later wrote a gracious, complimentary article about what he saw here. While I enjoyed his accounts of the progress and successful results he thought he had witnessed, my favorite part of the column was a single phrase, basically a throwaway line. He described Purdue as “a happy place.”

That got me wondering how many college campuses these days would strike a visitor quite that way. I hope it’s been that kind of place for you.

That strikes me. Most of you know that while I am a Purdue Alum, I didn’t graduate. Mot Purdue’s fault other duties just intruded more than was compatible, but for all that, while I never considered going back, it does remain a happy memory for me. Like so many of us, it was my first chance to live on my own, and I loved it. A happy place indeed, even while the Vietnam war was disrupting so many campuses.

But one thing I never expected to worry about, but now do a little, is your being lonely. I have known you and met thousands of you personally in an environment that, despite our size, does a pretty good job of getting people together, creating bonds among them. A thousand clubs. Dozens of faith-based organizations. Our Greek system and, maybe our best examples of true communities, our co-op residential houses, where students not only live but cook, clean and do repairs together. And, most recently, the “learning communities,” where thousands of Boilermakers live in mutual support with others who are studying the same subject matter.

But elsewhere, the academic journals and lay periodicals are now filled with research about the “epidemic of loneliness” in our society. Surveys report record numbers of Americans living alone and suffering from strong feelings of isolation. Many view it as a new public health crisis, linked to rising rates of depression, anxiety, even suicide. A lack of strong social relationships has been found to raise the risk of premature death by 50%.

Obviously, the last few months have really made this worse, and while the liberty-loving people of America are fighting for the right to again associate with others, we have not got it done yet. But it is a real problem, too many of us live our lives staring at our screens. I know I do. But right now, as Audre alluded to yesterday, it is a lifeline, the ability to associate with others like ourselves pretty much anywhere in the world. But I, and I suspect a lot of you, miss the touch, feel, the smell of others, let alone a smile of welcome at our arrival. Soon, I hope.

One of the things Mitch is warning against here is something that  J.B. Shurk wrote about in American Thinker the other day …

When Governor Gretchen Whitmer or J.B. Pritzker or Jay Inslee or Gavin Newsom opens his mouth or any of the exhausting municipal Marxists like Bill de Blasio and Lori Lightfoot starts barking orders, more and more Americans only hear “womp, womp, womp.” That’s a good thing. When elected representatives confuse their “public service” with titles of nobility giving them license to make demands beyond their delegated authority, Americans have a duty to just “walk away.” America is a “safe place” from entrenched aristocracy. We rule ourselves here; elected “servants of the people” are meant to take care of the public chores we’re too busy to perform ourselves. We pay them for this. In America, we’re our own feudal lords and ladies.

For all their talk of the “little guy,” the left sure does gravitate toward nobility and special classes with extra-special privileges. It’s not just their obvious devotion before the altar of celebrity or fashionable “groupthink” causes. They are transfixed by titles of any kind. Because we kicked all the dukes and duchesses, barons and baronesses, earls and countesses back to the other side of the pond, the left confuses education with the “right to rule.” Affixing “Dr.” before their names has become the only opportunity for them to separate themselves from a sea of commoners. And after having spent decades trying to wean society from signaling simple respect by addressing each other as Mr., Mrs., Miss, or Ms., they are now often the only ones who demand verbal recognition of their special status. We have become a nation flooded with so many meaningless and laughable Ph.D.s, it seems, [interestingly at Purdue in my day, it was averred that Ph.D stands for  ‘Piled high and Deep’, something I still believe almost always] not because their holders consider education a path toward greater enlightenment, but so that they can become new members of a noble peerage class entitled to demand newfound privilege and respect nowhere else due.

He makes a lot of sense to me, so I think you should read it all.

And so, Hail Purdue, and our new Alums, and Liberate America.

The Strong Horse, errr Locomotive

Mitch Daniels popped up on many of our radars when he was George W Bush’s chief of the OMB, we should have paid better attention perhaps when he was Chief Political Advisor to President Reagan. He really got my attention when he was Governor of Indiana. A couple of old blogfriends, The Chicks on the Right (and yes, I still read them occasionally) were pushing him pretty hard to run for President in 2012. As you likely know, he refused. I think he did the right thing when he took on the presidency of Purdue University.

He added another reason to all the others, this week, as Joy Pullman of The Federalist tells us.

While other education leaders are waiting for politicians to release their students from the lockdowns suspending their futures, former Indiana governor Mitch Daniels, now head of Purdue University, is making plans to reopen his campus for fall.

“We have every intention of being on campus this fall,” he told the faculty senate on April 20, according to USA Today. “We are sober about the challenges that will bring. We believe in the value of the on-campus experience, and we’re determined, if we’re permitted to do so by the public authorities and medical circumstances. If at all possible, we intend to be open and operating.”

Daniels was appointed president of the highly ranked public research university in 2012 after a cost-cutting, no-nonsense governorship that sparked fruitless attempts to get him to run for president. As president of the Indiana university, he has frozen tuition, deployed innovative online programs, and increased enrollment by about 6,000 students to nearly 45,000. During that timeframe, college enrollment nationwide declined 11 percent.

On April 21, Daniels issued a publc letter detailing the university’s initial plans for reopening campus after Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb in March banned in-person education due to coronavirus fright.

Purdue, also under Daniel’s leadership, was the first, within days, to endorse the University of Chicago’s extraordinarily explicit letter supporting free speech in the nation’s universities. We’ve talked about this before of course, here, here, and here.

All of that matters, and matters a lot. Joy writes:

He’s making Purdue the place to be for smart students who want as few education disruptions as possible and will select his high-quality university, instead of their competing options, to get it. This will attract smart kids who are comfortable facing controlled risk — precisely the kind of graduates who will go on to make Purdue proud and burnish its reputation in the years to come.

As Daniels wrote, teaching the world and especially the young people under his leadership what it means to be a Boilermaker, “a return-to-operations strategy is undergirded by a fundamental conviction that even a phenomenon as menacing as COVID-19 is one of the inevitable risks of life.”

Inevitable risks of life, you know like Gus Grissom on Apollo 1, Niel Armstrong on Apollo 11, Sully landing in the Hudson, even the 4th president, Winthrop E. Stone, killed while mountain climbing in Canada in 1921, or one of the former Deans of Women, Amelia Earhart, in her plane bought by the Purdue Foundation. Not very many snowflakes amongst the Purdue Alumni, as the huge bronze plaques in Memorial Union of Purdue’s war dead indicate. More Air Force officers come from Purdue than any place other than the Academy. The right of the line, the air force says. Joy is right, risk is part of life, my dad used to say that only the dead have no risk, he too was right.

The wake of our coronavirus panic is likely to erase countless institutions in the long-term, regardless of whether Congress prints them stacks of cash like it is every other interest under the sun. Purdue was already less likely to be one of these lost universities, given its strength going into the crisis, and Daniels’ clear, bold, and anxiety-assuaging leadership during this crisis is keeping it that way.

It’s an absolute win for Purdue to present itself in uncertain times as the strong horse for smart and gutsy young Americans.

I think she is spot on. But I would, wouldn’t I?

Boiler Up

Boiler Up

Well, that was fun, woke up this morning and could only go to Google, amazing what a broken firewall can do for you. Seems to be working now, though. Yay! So an easy one for today, since I’m already a few hours late with my schedule. 😦

From DC Whispers.

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees has had one of the longest and most productive NFL careers ever. He’s a devoted family man who donates both considerable time and his own money to a multitude of community causes that benefit people of all races and socio-economic backgrounds.

He’s also a Christian and for that, he’s now being targeted by the radical fringe left who want him run out of the NFL for advocating that kids take their Bibles to school with them.

Yes, you read that right. This is the thinking of some in America who are totally devoted to a totalitarian, far-left group-think mentality that wants to destroy anything different than themselves.

Isn’t that special? Increasingly that is the world today, it will change but when is hard to tell, and it may get worse before it gets better. But it’s not everyone. Brees is one of my fellow Boilers, and even before we became the Cradle of Astronauts we were the Cradle of Quarterbacks if you’re my age you might remember Len Dawson or Bob Griese.

But Purdue has always been about more than football (or basketball) and while Drew Brees may be one of the immortal quarterbacks (he is), three Purdue QBs are playing in the NFL. This is from Purdue.

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — Every Boilermaker is aware of the prowess Drew Brees possesses on the football field. Now, the Purdue graduate is being honored for his activities away from football.

Brees is one of 33 business school graduates honored by AACSB International – the world’s largest business education alliance — as the 2019 Class of Influential Leaders. The annual challenge recognizes notable alumni from AACSB-accredited schools whose inspiring work serves as a model for the next generation of business leaders.

Brees is a 2001 graduate of Purdue University’s Krannert School of Management. In addition to setting NFL records with the New Orleans Saints, he founded the Brees Dream Foundation, which has contributed almost $25 million to improve the quality of life for people around the world since its inception in 2003.

One example of Brees’ efforts to help his community is his support of the Team Gleason House in New Orleans, named for Steve Gleason, a former Saints teammate who was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS). The house is equipped with the latest computer-operated technologies to allow individuals with ALS the highest independence possible. Brees’ foundation also helped fund improvements to Joe Brown Park, transforming it into a world-class regional park to enable children and families to be healthy and active.

Brees’ reach extends beyond New Orleans. In 2011, he was appointed an ambassador for the World Food Programme, a United Nations branch and the world’s largest humanitarian organization to fight against hunger. He supports high schools around the nation through the Drew Brees Passing Academy and 7-on-7 Tournament, and his work with Convoy of Hope has helped support families that were adversely affected by Hurricane Sandy.

Brees was named the Sports Illustrated Sportsman of the Year in 2010 and was described as “an athlete as adored and appreciate as any in an American city today.” He also has become a successful entrepreneur; in 2018, he came in at No. 17 in the Forbes list of the world’s highest-paid athletes.

“AACSB is honored to recognize Drew Brees and congratulates Purdue University for its role in preparing alumni who are leading examples of business education as a force for good in the world,” said Thomas R. Robinson, president and CEO of AACSB. “The diversity of backgrounds, industries and career paths of the 2019 Class of Influential Leaders demonstrates that AACSB-accredited schools are preparing graduates to succeed wherever their passions may take them.”

Now in its fourth year, the Influential Leaders challenge has recognized almost 200 business school graduates for creating lasting impact in business and society. All honorees have earned an undergraduate, graduate or doctoral degree from one of the more than 800 AACSB-accredited business schools worldwide. Brees is the fourth Krannert graduate to be recognized, joining Beth Brooke-Marciniak (2015), Carolyn Woo (2015) and Shawn Taylor (2016).

Can’t speak for you, but I’m quite happy to be associated even in this distant way to Drew Brees, and Grubb and his ilk, need a football where the sun don’t shine – sideways.

And about the Purdue Vanderbilt game today, I have a prediction – The Gold and Black will win. I just don’t know which shade. 🙂

American Historic Moments; Then and Now

Don Troiani- “The Last Salute” HAP

Our friend, Practically Historical, reminds us that 154 years ago today General John B Gordon (seven times wounded, including 5 Minnie balls at Antietam) by order of General Robert E. Lee, surrendered the Army of Northern Virginia, to General Joshua L. Chamberlain (won the Medal of Honor at Little Round Top at Gettysburg, wounded six times, nearly mortally at Petersburg, and cited 4 times for bravery) of the Army of the Potomac.

As the Army of Northern Virginia marched past the Army of the Potomac, Chamberlain ordered the Army to “Carry Arms” (the marching salute) in respect, and at Gordon’s order, the Confederates responded. Chamberlain described the scene:

At the sound of that machine like snap of arms, however, General Gordon started, caught in a moment its significance, and instantly assumed the finest attitude of a soldier. He wheeled his horse facing me, touching him gently with the spur, so that the animal slightly reared, and as he wheeled, horse and rider made one motion, the horse’s head swung down with a graceful bow, and General Gordon dropped his sword point to his toe in salutation.”    Gordon truly understood the significance of the gesture, “Chamberlain called his men into line and as the Confederate soldiers marched in front of them, the veterans in blue gave a soldierly salute to those vanquished heroes—a token of respect from Americans to Americans.”

There is a lesson there for those who would destroy the heritage of the Confederacy. At least 300,000  Americans died upon those fields to (amongst their reasons) to destroy chattel slavery in America. At the end of it, they respected their opponents enough to salute them in honor, and the Confederates enough to return the salute. Without a worthy enemy, there is no honor, and so far no more worthy enemy for American arms has ever appeared than American arms. Both sides fighting for freedom, even if their definitions differed. When you denigrate the Confederates, you also denigrate the forces that fought them and freed the slaves.

And so with salutes and honors, and with terms that meant no proscription lists and no hangings, America’s hardest war ended.


Then there is this:

That is the first ever photograph of a Black Hole, something so dense that even light cannot escape. So how can we take its picture? It’s complicated. Here’s part of the explanation.

And this:

Both of those are some seriously good explaining of a subject that is quite hard to understand.

But how did this happen? A badass stem professor, of course. In fact, a Cal Tech professor with a doctorate from MIT, who graduated from West Lafayette High School. And back in the day when she was in high school used to work with her dad’s colleagues, professors at Purdue. Professor Dr. Katie Bouman. Her dad is Charles Bouman, a professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering and Biomedical Engineering at Purdue. Wonder what dinner conversation was like in their house.

She explained in a TED talk what she was trying to do a couple years ago as well.

And it worked, as the picture above indicates. Pretty cool, essentially turning the entire Earth into a camera.

This is a very big deal, confirming relativity amongst other things, and another major major accomplishment for American science. I’m not a huge fan of government subsidizing stuff, but I’m not sure that any corporation would really see the point of this research, although I’ll bet there will be commercial benefits derived from it. Most corporations these days are insanely short-sighted about research. Hammer and Rails reminds us:

The combined budgets of NASA, the National Science Foundation (NSF), and the National Institute of Health (NIH) are just over $63 billion for FY 2019. That may sound like a lot, but when you consider that the US’s 2019 federal budget is $4.746 trillion, the three major scientific foundations and government institutions that allow for such ground breaking scientific research account for just under 1.5% of the federal budget.

For just 1.5% of our budget, we’re able to fund the great work of Dr. Bouman, along with other great scientists at Purdue, the Big Ten, and beyond. While Dr. Bouman didn’t go to Purdue (I guess I can’t blame her for going to MIT instead), her connections to the university allowed her to cultivate her passion in the STEM fields, and it shows that the impact of Purdue continue into interstellar space.

Congrats to Dr. Bouman, former President Córdova, and all the researchers involved in the Event Horizon Telescope.

Yep, and MIT had a couple things to say, as well. First, they noted how important women in Stem are to our success in space.

As noted in the comments to the Tweet above, all these women, and all of us men, as well, follow in the footsteps of Ada Lovelace, the daughter of Lord Byron who wrote the first algorithm. And this:

Assaulting the Golden Goose

Photo: Jacquelyn Martin, AP

Hunt Lawrence and Daniel J. Flynn, writing in The American Spectator make some interesting points on how they think Big Business gaming the Tax Code parallels Hollywood stars bribing their kids into elite colleges. Let’s take a look.

In the wake of Lori Loughlin, Felicity Huffman, and other parents allegedly using the foul means of their considerable means to gain admittance for their children to elite schools, Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) wants to end deductions for parents who donate to schools their children attend. Wyden cites deductions for the naming of campus buildings and scholarships, and for sports tickets, as of particular concern.

This is, apparently, not Ted Kennedy’s Democratic Party.

“[H]eadlines about the wealthiest Americans buying access to our elite colleges and universities is just a new version of an old story,” he explained after the scandal broke. “While the prosecutor attempted to distinguish these crimes from payoffs in the form of buildings or stadiums to secure access for the undeserving, it is all part of the same corrupt system.”

Is it? I’m not sure. Bribing your kids into a school is certainly wrong, no question at all, and it hurts the kids that might otherwise have been admitted, they are the victim here.

But giving scholarships and or donating building is quite a lot different, I think. Yes, a few kids might not be admitted for a (possibly) unqualified offspring of the donor to be. But data suggests that legacy admittees are well above average, so it is questionable.

What is not questionable is that the building or the scholarship, or for that matter the golf course, will benefit many other students and the local population than the donor’s descendants. I don’t think it is the same thing at all. It is an (at least) quasi-public benefit.

Remember my Alma Mater, Purdue got its starts because John Purdue a wealthy local businessman contributed $150,000 plus a hundred acres of land to another $400,000 in contributions. That gave Purdue a good start to becoming an exceptional University and greatly benefitted the Lafayette area as well. Not the same at all as buying admittance for your kid, is it? But yes, he got his name on the whole joint. Most universities have similar stories.

The authors go on to compare this with Amazon paying not taxes again this year.

Amazon, certainly as famous as Lori Loughlin, manipulated the tax code in such a way as to pay zero in corporate income taxes for the last two years.

“Amazon, the ubiquitous purveyor of two-day delivery of just about everything, nearly doubled its profits to $11.2 billion in 2018 from $5.6 billion the previous year and, once again, didn’t pay a single cent of federal income taxes,” the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy points out. The online behemoth, in fact, reported a tax rebate of $129 million for 2018. Just as YouTube celebrity Olivia Jade took a deserving kid’s spot at USC, Amazon took a tax rebate better used to fix a road, pay a soldier, or reduce the debt.

Amazon, like parents who time donations to colleges in anticipation of a child seeking admittance, does not break the law. But to most it seems like they take advantage of the existing law, which begs for reform.

Amazon, like Laughlin and Huffman, did not alone transgress decency here. They merely acted as the most famous of those who did. They used shortcuts. But they did not create these shortcuts.

In the case of Amazon, the same government deprived of revenue created the shortcuts. And despite political rhetoric decrying the Trump cut of the corporate rate, the rates do not represent the problem. The labyrinthian loopholes do.

This is simply poppycock. The politics of raw envy in action. Nobody is insinuating that Amazon even lobbied for these loopholes. They exist. I’m no great fan of Bezos but, there is no shame in paying the lowest tax that one can legally. In fact, it is immoral for a company to deprive its shareholders, whether one or millions of them, of the profits of the company, derived legally. Judge Learned Hand* said it best:

Anyone may arrange his affairs so that his taxes shall be as low as possible; he is not bound to choose that pattern which best pays the treasury. There is not even a patriotic duty to increase one’s taxes. public duty to pay more than the law demands.

The only time that would change is if Amazon (or its stockholders) bribed Congress or the President, or for that matter the IRS to put in the loopholes. That many of them are unfair is pretty much a given, but they exist, and they exist for all taxpayers that they apply to equally.

Would a very low flat tax without deductions and only on individuals be more fair? Yes, Yes, it would. But to essentially accuse Amazon of tax evasion for doing what is not only legal but their fiduciary duty is well beyond the pale.

*Judge Hand was, in fact, a Progressive, although also believed in judicial restraint to a point, although he did indulge in legislating from the bench. What many conservatives today would call a “Hack-in-Black”.

A Mild-Mannered Radical

Courtesy of Mitch Daniels’ office

In Reason’s April issue, Katherine Mangu-Ward interviewed one of my favorite people, Mitch Daniels, President Bush’s Head of the OMB, former Governor of Indiana, and since 2013, President of Purdue University.

It’s really good stuff about a guy that in a fell stroke revamped much of the public sector in Indiana, Who while building further one of America’s great world-class universities, has not increased tuition in 7 years.

Who took the initiative to adopt verbatim the University of Chicago’s Chicago letter on free speech, and earning again the green check mark from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, (FIRE). Only three schools in Indiana have, Purdue, Purdue Fort Wayne, and Purdue Northwest. That school down south has a yellow one, and Notre Dame a red one.

The best University president in America? I think he may be, but then, I would, wouldn’t I? Here’s some of the interview.

At first glance, Mitch Daniels seems rather bland. His hair is straight and tidy. His suits are understated but tasteful. He speaks slowly and in quiet tones. He gently declines to answer questions about the failings of other politicians. And he seems genuinely mortified when he accidentally refers to his interviewer as Meghan.

But Daniels’ record as governor of Indiana could best be described as radical. During his governorship, which ran from 2005 to 2013, he decertified all government employee unions on his first day in office, managed to defeat teachers unions in a pitched battle for school choice, imposed tough spending austerity and raised taxes to balance the books, and inspired the Democrats in Indiana’s legislature to walk out at the beginning of his second term over a right-to-work bill. In his previous gig as the head of George H.W. Bush’s Office of Management and Budget, his nickname was “the Blade.”

In his regular Washington Post column, Daniels seems to delight in triggering his readers. He has advocated relocating all the major federal agencies away from Washington, D.C., defended the morality of genetically modified foods, and most recently called for the abolition of the “tasteless, classless spectacle” of the State of the Union.

He also rides a motorcycle and was indicted for marijuana possession as an undergrad at Princeton.

In 2010, he told The Weekly Standard that the next president “would have to call a truce on the so-called social issues” in the face of a mounting fiscal crisis. Between the kerfuffle caused by those remarks and his desire for privacy about an unorthodox relationship history—he and his wife married each other twice, with a break in between—he ended up stepping back from politics.

Since 2013, Daniels has been running Purdue University. If you talk to one of the people on his team, they refer to him as “President Daniels.” On the phone, it’s all too easy to imagine he’s calling from an alternate dimension where he actually ran for president of the United States—as many of his associates and the national media believed he would in 2012—and won. And after a wide-ranging conversation in January, it’s hard not to think that might have been a better, freer, calmer timeline than our own.

In January, Daniels spoke with Reason‘s Katherine Mangu-Ward about free speech, the power of unions, and whether it’s already too late to avert a full-fledged American economic collapse.

Reason: These days, our national politics can sometimes feel like it’s oriented around student debt and educational availability. You’re trying some unusual solutions to these problems as president of Purdue University, including not raising tuition over the last seven years.

Daniels: The tuition freeze began as a one-year time-out, a gesture to indicate sensitivity to what was plainly—even in 2012 or ’13—a growing burden. Often when people ask for an explanation, I’ll tell them what we didn’t do. They want to know what kind of voodoo we practiced and I say: Here, let me allay all your suspicions. We didn’t cheapen the faculty. We had one of the highest ratios in the country of tenure-track faculty. We didn’t downshift to so-called contingent or temporary or part-time teaching. We didn’t get any more money from the state. In fact, slightly less. We didn’t dip into the reserves—they’ve been growing every year. We didn’t resort to a sleight of hand through other fees in lieu of tuition. There haven’t been any of those either. So the way I usually frame it is that, if a place like ours can do those things and run in the black on an operating annual basis while investing, while maintaining quality, why would you raise tuition? It ought to be the last resort, not the first instinct.

Sometimes we solve the equation for zero. Zero meaning zero increase in tuition. If you start with that premise—that’s our objective, that’s our goal—you can frequently make systems and budgets and practices adapt to that. It serves the very same purpose that a balanced budget requirement can in government or a flat topline sales number or revenue number can in business. When you have to, you do. And sometimes it’s easier than you thought it’d be.

Income share agreements (ISAs) have been somewhat controversial but also now seem to be potentially a Silicon Valley darling. These are arrangements where students sign a contract and some or all of their education is paid for. Then when they get a job, they hand over an agreed-upon percentage of their income for a fixed period of years. Purdue has been experimenting with them. How did you come across the idea?

It has been out there since Milton Friedman a half a century ago. I’d read it somewhere and knew about it. I got cornered into going down and testifying in Congress; I usually try to avoid those things. The subject wasn’t ISAs or even higher education finance—it was about innovation in education. I offered up a few thoughts about ways the federal government should get out of the way of innovation, some regulations and so forth. And almost as a throwaway example, I mentioned ISAs. If there were less ambiguity around some of the tax laws, I thought, this idea might finally take wing. I was astonished by the amount of press interest in it. I got engulfed as soon as the hearing was over, over this throwaway line.

I immediately began hearing from what turns out to be an incipient industry out there of people who like this, who want to see this idea get airborne. And I discovered that there were people hoping to operate businesses to administer these things and funds to invest in ISA contracts. So away we went.

Do keep reading, it’s a fairly long article, but a very good one.

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