Kerry Washington: “Nothing Offensive” About Gay Rumors

Kerry Washington, who’ll be guest hosting Saturday Night Live tomorrow, is a smart, warm, and wise woman who understands the media and gossip rags as well as, if not better than, her character on Scandal, spin doctor Olivia Pope.  In an interview with the Advocate, Washington spoke about her commitment to equality and civil rights, and addressed the rumors circulating about her:

It’s interesting how much people long to fill in the gaps when someone in the public eye doesn’t share their personal life. I understand their frustration. I like how people will post pictures of me with other women that I adore, hugging on red carpets, and say, “See?” Are we so uncomfortable with love between two people of the same gender that we immediately label it as sexual? But I’ve never been bothered by the lesbian rumor. There’s nothing offensive about it, so there’s no reason to be offended.

Washington, who announced Wednesday that she’s expecting her first child with husband, San Francisco 49ers’ cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha, has played lesbian and trangendered characters in films, and has a strong following in the LGBT and ally community.  At 13, Washington was involved with the LGBT community and  HIV/AIDS peer education through NiteStar, a theater education program in New York City, and her commitment to equality across the board continues, something that shines in Scandal‘s plot lines:

For our show in particular, because it represents such diversity on so many levels, sexual orientation included, it means a lot. I always want to be a part of work that speaks to people across the lines that divide us…But because it has such an amazing following that crosses age, race, gender, and sexual orientation, Scandal has changed the game completely…

in fact, something that brings me great joy is knowing what Scandal’s audience looks like in terms of African-American households and knowing that so many African-American people and families are being introduced to our characters James and Cyrus. It’s really exciting that millions of viewers each week are living life with this amazing, complex couple, stepping into their gay marriage and adoption experience, which is such a vital storyline in our show….

With over 1.2 million Twitter followers, Washington has made it known that her support of LGBT right extends beyond the US, tweeting her disappointment over Russia’s anti-LGBT laws, as well as her support of equal rights around the world. She told the Advocate:

When there are crimes against humanity being committed in the world, we are all so vulnerable. We have to look out for and protect each other.

Elton John to Play Moscow: “I’m Doing It for Gay Russians”

Oh Elton, Elton.  I am so confused, but I just can’t quit you. Remember when his remark about being very happy with civil unions became a rallying cry for Prop 8 and anti-equality forces? Once there was a hue and cry about his naivety ignorance of basic facts, he came around and ended up playing an amazing concert as a fundraiser for AFER and becoming a spokesperson for marriage equality. Then he played Rush Limbaugh’s wedding for  huge fee. (I’d like to hope that he donated that fee to pro-equality groups as a puckish fuck you to the forces at the EIB, but I guess I’ll never know).

Elton John played Sun City  in South Africa during apartheid, and yes that was 30 years ago. He played Tel Aviv just three years ago saying:

Musicians spread love and peace, and bring people together. That’s what we do. We don’t cherry-pick our conscience.


Then Sir Elton thumbed his nose at China’s cultural politics by publicly dedicating his 2012 concert in Beijing to  to “the spirit and talent” of dissident artist Ai Weiwei,  prompting the Chinese culture minister, Cai Wu, to demand that only stars with university degrees be allowed to play in China. Sir Elton told the Guardian:

“Ten thousand people went ‘Eugh!’, but how could you not?. He’s become a friend, and what he’s suffered as an artist is unbelievable. During and after the show, my tour manager was interrogated for three hours, and what he said to them was true: I bought a beautiful Ai Weiwei piece, I was grateful and we’ve become friends. I didn’t feel in any danger.

Sir Elton adds a new item to his wish list: He’d like to go back to China and talk to the government about AIDS. According to the performer:

the country’s leading AIDS activist has claimed that the government’s estimate of 650,000 HIV cases is barely a 10th of the real figure.

Elton John wanted to play in front of the Pyramids of Giza, but claims be was banned because he is gay. And his very public gayness has ruffled feathers in other locales, the Guardian reports:

a church in Tobago organised a protest against his appearance there, while he received threats from an Islamic group when he played in Morocco.

So what about his proposed December concert date in Moscow?

Listen, I went to Russia in 1979 and I knew we were being watched all the time: I had an interpreter that they’d clearly set up. Actually, I ended up having sex with him on the roof of my hotel.  I’m supposed to be going to Moscow in December. I’ve got to go. And I’ve got to think about what I’m going to say very carefully. There’s two avenues of thought: do you stop everyone going, ban all the artists coming in from Russia? But then you’re really leaving the men and women who are gay and suffering under the anti-gay laws in an isolated situation. As a gay man, I can’t leave those people on their own without going over there and supporting them. I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’ve got to go.

Elton John certainly flies in the face of Putin’s  ban on homosexual propaganda. He and longtime partner David Furnish united in a civil union ceremony in 2005, one of the first in Britain, and are planning weddings in Britain and in California now that it is legal to do so– and the couple has two children Zachary  and Elijah. In 2009 the Ukrainian government block Sir Elton’s adoption of an HIV+ baby, citing his age and single status; the Ukraine does not recognize same-sex unions.  Adoption officials had another point of view:

Albert Pavlov, head of the Happy Child foundation for orphaned and sick children in Zaporizhia, said he opposed adoption by gays, but called for removing age and marriage restrictions for adopters.

How will Putin and Russian government deal with Elton John, a venerable and flamboyant, visibly gay figure in pop music who refers to himself as the Queen Mother? Madonna and Lady Gaga  played St Petersburg and spoke out from the stage, violating, according to the Russian government, the terms of their visas.  Lawmakers tried unsuccessfully to ban fans under 18 years old from Gaga’s concerts. Madonna and Gaga are post-modern hetero-normative, basically straight ladies who like teh gheys, have a platform to speak out, and do. Elton John is waaay more risky–he’s clearly queer and the very act of playing in Russia is pretty subversive/transgressive, especially given his outspokeness on  stage and off.

In July, 2103 Elton John was scheduled to play a concert in Krasnodar, Russia which caused great consternation.

Local party leader Mikhail Abramyan recommended that Elton don a knee-length kaftan, knee-high leather boots, and a fur hat for the July 14th gig.

He said: ‘It would be more respectable.  We have suggested it to the promoters and we hope he’ll wear it.’, according to Russian news agency Ria Novosti.

Despite calls from Krasnodar clergy to ban Sir Elton’s July 14th concert because the singer represents homosexual propaganda, no ban was issued. Rather the concert was postponed, then cancelled due to the singer’s illness.

Somehow I think, and maybe I am just an optimist, that Elton John playing Moscow is his attempt at activism, and is motivated by the desire to make a positive change, rather than to line his pockets. It will be interesting to see what bombshells, like that in China, he drops from the stage–maybe playing “All the Young Girls Love Alice”? And I wonder if Edward Snowden will be backstage! Now that would be a Facebook photo op!

HT: Back2Stonewall

Sacha Baron Cohen: Ixnay on Freddie Mercury Bio Pic

Sacha Baron Cohen has withdrawn from the upcoming Queen bio-pic. The chameleon/actor was to play Freddie Mercury, the band’s coloratura singer, who died in 1991 of HIV/AIDS. According to Deadline, Cohen disagreed with the  direction the band wanted to take the film:

[T]he band wanted to make more of a PG movie about Queen while Cohen was counting on a gritty R-rated tell-all centered around the gifted gay singer.

Mercury played coy with his sexuality for decades, though seriously, the band’s name was Queen, and it was clear to me, even as a teen fan that Freddie was more like Elton John and David Bowie than Bruce Springsteen. According to his many biographers, Mercury had  had a long-term relationship with Mary Austin, which ended when the singer became involved with a (male) executive at Elektra Records. (Elektra Records eventually signed Queen). Mercury and Austin remained close  for the next twenty years, until the singer’s death; she is on the board of the Mercury Phoenix Trust, the posthumous charity foundation which raises funds for HIV/AIDS awareness. Mercury bequeathed his home in London to Austin and was godfather to her son. In the mid-80s Mercury had a brief relationship with an actress, Barbara Valentin, but the last six years of his life were spent living with hairdresser Jim Hutton, who died in 2010.

The surviving members of Queen have final script and director approval on the bio-pic.   It would be hard to imagine anyone but Baron Cohen in the role–he not only bears a strong physical resemblance to the late singer, but has also proven himself to be more than able to carry a tune.

#TestMe Reaches 1.5 Million People!

I am so excited and happy and grateful!  Ten days ago, at Netroots Nation 13′s LGBT Connect pre-conference, a few of us sat down to discuss HIV. Todd Heywood writes:

I joined with Teddy Partridge of to conduct a conversation about HIV. The title of the group discussion was “AIDS is not Over.” Curiously, we started with no one at our table. Then had Gregory Varnum from Equality Michigan and WikiQueer join followed by Lisa Derrick, Felipe Sousa-Rodriguez and Eyad “Eddie” Alkurabi. The conversation was wide ranging and focused.

And during the conversation we realized that we needed to do something to encourage HIV testing. June 27 is National HIV Testing Day (technically it is National Gay Men’s Testing Day, but who’s counting at this point?) and we decided it would be incredibly helpful to encourage folks to get tested for HIV. But not just get tested – to tweet, Facebook or blog about their test with a picture or two with the hashtag #TestMe.

The response was immediate and positive. We were lucky to be at NN13 (Todd buttonholed Gov. Howard Dean on the patio and the governor said yes!), lucky to be involved with a pre-conference of engaged organizations and individuals, lucky that we have the contacts we do! And I would like to thank SCOTUS for delivering their DOMA and Prop 8 decisions on Wednesday! By the end of NN13 we had GLAAD, PFLAG National, GetEQUAL, Equality Michigan,  and dozens of bloggers on board. More and more groups and individuals signed on, and then on Thursday morning I opened my email to see that (RED) would tweet about National HIV Testing Day #testme to their 1 million+ followers. Wow!

Checking out #testme on Twitter, I saw Planned Parenthood, Campus Pride, Michigan Health, The Director of the Office of Public Engagement at the White House, and Naturally Gay Man (he has 46,600 followers!), scores of local advocacy groups, individual bloggers, and  media outlets. We added up the number of tweets to followers our tweeters sent out and they equaled just over 1.5 million people!  With only nine days of organization! And some really important LGBT news stories really owning the ground (as they should!) YAY DOMA ENDED!! YAY!! WEDDINGS IN CA!!!

The CDC estimates that 1.1 million people in the US are HIV+ and 20% of those are unaware of their status. Early detection and early treatment lowers the rate of transmission.  Even though National HIV Testing Day has passed,  if you are sexually active, get tested every three months, or when you end a relationship – before beginning another. Ask your partner their status and suggest getting tested together. Play safe and stay safe!


Priests: Santeria is Rx to Heal Hugo Chavez

Santeria is pretty awesome. Santeria and other West Africa Diasporic Religions, also called ATR (African Traditional Religion), are fluid, adaptable, and from my perspective, effective, so Hugo Chavez might do well to heed the words of the Cuban babalawo (priests) who in their annual New Year “Letter of the Year” recommended that the Venezuelan President seek them out. Lazaro Cuesta, one of the babalawo said their priests are willing:

Whichever house he knocks upon, I expect he will receive the help he requires.

From the perspective of Santeria, Cuesta was referring not only to physical domiciles of the priests, but also to the casas (houses or worship) of the orisha, the Afro-Cuban gods, and the various lineages within each orisha’s worship, with their own initiated priest.

Chavez is currently in Cuba recovering from surgery for cancer; the type of cancer has not been reported. The babalawo will not perform a healing ritual for Chavez unless they are asked. Technically, someone aside from Chavez could ask for his healing, in the same way that Masses can be offered for someone by another.

Eleggua is the road opener and the messenger of the gods, and is syncreticized with Jesus, especially in the aspect of  the Infant of Atocha, and thus his altars often are decorated with toys and games, as well as the traditional rum and cigars. San Lazaro/St. Lazarus represents Babalú-Ayé, the orisha in charge of health and disease, especially epidemics, cancer, HIV/AIDS.

Conservatives Finally Realize Straight People Fuck. A Lot.


Pam Spaulding over at Pam’s House Blend brought up a discussion worth having:

While it’s about time that conservatives like Mary Matalin feel they can safely (as in, don’t feel intimidated about pissing off Rush) take marriage equality out of the sure-fire rallying cry, it’s interesting how easily she shifts blame for the ills of society on all of you heterosexuals out there fornicating and procreating out of wedlock.

On ABC This Week, Mary Matalin, the Republican strategist, had this to say:

People who live in the real world, say, the greater threat to the civil order are the heterosexuals who don’t get married and are making babies. That’s an epidemic in crisis proportions. That is irrefutably more problematic for our culture than homosexuals getting married. I find this important dancing on the head of a pin argument, but in real life, looking down 30 years from now, real people understand the consequences of so many babies being born out of wedlock to the economy and to the morality of the country.

Yeehah! The great state of Texas is certainly anticipating the birth pains of that epidemic moral and financial crisis.  By blocking $73 million from from family planning services, Texas made sure Planned Parenthood didn’t get any funding. (Because you know, along with providing general health care, men and women’s sexual health care,  STD testing, LGBTQ counseling, cancer screening, prenatal care, and birth control–Planned Parenthood also provides abortions, though the Planned Parenthood clinics in Texas receiving state funding did not provide abortions.  But Planned Parent still lost their Texas funding.) The thing is, with a population of 26 million, Texas has a lot straight people. And not all those straight people are married. And while some of those unmarried, straight people may be celibate and/or not of reproductive age, a whole lot of of them will be doing what Mary Matalin says:

Making babies.

Making babies out of wedlock and contributing to the economic and moral downfall of Texas! Millions of  straight Texans are going be having sex without birth control, lots more sex without birth control, because they now have lots fewer places to get birth control, because you, oh great state of Texas, cut off your noses to spite your faces and threw out the baby with the bath water.

Except that bathwater splashed back into your conservative laps,  and each little droplet is making another baby, and your noses are growing back longer and longer because you, oh legislators and people of Texas, are lying to yourselves when you think that denying access to birth control–be it condoms, pills, IUDS, morning-after pills–is gonna keep people from fucking. People fuck. It’s a fact of life (and let’s not forget that all that fucking without condoms can spread sexually transmitted diseases, ones like syphilis, gonorrhea, and chlamydia that have gotten so bacterially buff that they are harder and harder to cure, and require way more expensive antibiotics. Plus herpes, genital warts/HPV, Hepatitis C, and HIV/AIDS; the latter two are illness which can require escalating and expensive levels of care and medication, plus HPV can led to cervical, anal, and penile cancer. Yes, oh great men of Texas, PENIS CANCER. Because you banned Planned Parenthood.)

Here’s another lifetime issue that’s also expensive which comes from fucking: BABIES.

The latest Health and Human Services Commission projections being circulated among Texas lawmakers indicate that during the 2014-15 biennium, poor women will deliver an estimated 23,760 more babies than they would have, as a result of their reduced access to state-subsidized birth control. The additional cost to taxpayers is expected to be as much as $273 million — $103 million to $108 million to the state’s general revenue budget alone — and the bulk of it is the cost of caring for those infants under Medicaid.

Math is hard, but basically, by cutting $73 million to Planned Parenthood, Texas will now have to spend an additional $200 million underwriting the cost of caring for almost 24,000 unplanned babies. And then there’s the cost of medications for sexually transmitted diseases–Texas has the highest rate of uninsured Americans in the United States (and a woefully weak Medicaid system facing a shortfall), so really what will happen then? Will Texas celebrate the arrival The Great Satan in the form of Obamacare? Oh, the bitter irony….

Texas Democrat, Representative Donna Howard politely refrained from calling her more conservative colleagues dumb-asses:

I know some of my colleagues felt like in retrospect they did not fully grasp the implications of what was done last session. I think there is some effort, they’ll be willing to make to restore whatever we can.

Any restoration of funding to family planning would exclude Planned Parenthood, because even though they don’t provide abortions in Texas, they do elsewhere, and gol-dag-nabbit, Texas isn’t gonna help abortionists, even if they ain’t doin’ abortions in their state. Since a lot of politicians–or their constituents–seem to lump birth control, like condoms and pills in with abortion, it’s hard to say if any funding for family planning/birth control can be put back into the budget. Especially because, as Republican Senator Bob Deuel points out, Texas has a certain attitude:

I’ve debated this in Republican clubs with people — people who say it’s not the government’s role to provide family planning. Ultimately, they’re right. But you have to look at what happens if we don’t.

Babies happen. STDs happen. Penis cancer happens. Deuel should know–he’s a family physician. And just one more reminder, Texas: Straight people fuck. A lot. And that makes babies. Babies being born out of wedlock which will carry, per Matalin, consequences to the economy and to the morality of the country.



Late Night FDL: Wayne Martin Belger’s HIV+ Photoshoot


So I was in a bit of a quandary: A few months ago I wrote about a photographer, Wayne Martin Belger, whose work really moved me. In the course of my writing about him, we became pals since we are both LA natives, punk rock changed our lives, and we both practice “Afro-Caribbean Orthodox Christianity,” more commonly known as African Diasporic religions: Santeria, Voudon/Voodoo, Hoodoo, Espiritismo.

When Belger said he wanted to come to LA and shoot for his series on HIV+ people, I offered to help find models. I also volunteered to organize four other shoots for him of rabbis, priests and imams with another camera. (I’d told him, “I’ll do anything to help you, except book your girlfriend’s travel–that’s up to you!” and so I wrote and sent out press releases, confirmed models, set up craft service at the shoot, etc.) It kind of put me in a weird place, because I felt that since I was working with him I couldn’t really write about him. But then I saw this video from Sunday’s shoot with HIV positive models, and nearly cried. And I wanted to share it with you.

As a model wrangler, I’d contacted a dear friend who works with the Los Angeles County HIV Drug and Alcohol Task Force and Transgender Outreach. She’d put the word out and some really wonderful people contacted us and agreed to pose, including vivacious and charming 73 year-old Thelma James who is on the LA County Commission for HIV and her friend, the very lovely Sandrine Lewis, whose son Will came along, gamely humping gear upstairs and helping Belger to load film. Thelma arranged for super-fox David L. Kelly, who had modeled on an AIDS Healthcare Foundation billboard, to pose for Belger. The goal was to show that HIV/AIDS isn’t a Cute Guy disease. In fact the Los Angeles County Commission on HIV/AIDS states:

Communities of color and women–constituting more than half of the LA County population–continue to be the special populations most disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS. Currently, AIDS is the leading cause of death among African American men and the second leading cause of death among African American women between the ages of 25 and 44. In Los Angeles County, for the first time this past year, numerically, Latinos/as with HIV/AIDS now outnumber every other population locally.

I also called on friends of mine who were out about their HIV status, and they all said yes: We had a physical trainer/activist, an artist/activist, a writer/editor/activist, a scholar/activist, and an actor/activist. (Do you see a theme here?)

And then I screwed up my courage and asked Harriet, a profoundly beautiful friend of mine, if she would like to participate. She said yes, and that her daughter Isabella who is also HIV+ wanted to do the shoot, too. Isabella, who set a goal for herself to shoot 90 videos in 90 days, made this mini-documentary/montage of her experience.

The shoot was amazingly moving, so many emotions. Sam Page, the physical trainer who I’d met during the El Coyote/Prop 8 community meeting, began to cry. He wrote later:

I had to stand still for about two minutes for each shot (he took four) because of the exposure time of the lens. While standing there, I stared into the wood floor — and somehow, made out the reflection of my mom’s face looking back at me. Tears began to stream as I thought about all of those who have died—and how important these images will be in telling our stories about the stigma that still exists between the HIV negative and the HIV positive gays. It was truly one of the most moving experiences of my life, when time literally stood still, and I cried, seemingly on cue.

The strength and beauty and love of life each of these models expressed during their time with us was beyond inspirational, as was their commitment to spreading the word that HIV can happen to anyone no matter what their age, race, socio-economic class, education, sexual orientation or any other demographic.

Macy’s Glamorama Raises Funds, Awarness While Celebrating Fashion

Founded by Elizabeth Taylor in response to the HIV/AIDS crisis, Macy’s Glamorama is now in its 29th year, and has raised over $29 million for charities. This year the event, Macy’s Passport Presents Glamorama 2011 – ARTrageous at the Orpheum Theatre, themed around great works of art–fitting for the impending Pacific Standard Time exhibits opening in October that celebrate California art–featured the designs of Tracy Reese, Armani Jeans, Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole, Tommy Girl by Tommy Hilfiger, Papi, Rachel Rachel Roy and Macy’s own Impulse label, with guest performances by Far East Movement and Cee Lo Green (who sang the radio friendly version of “Forget You”–the original featured a different verb beginning with F!).

Thevening featured a moving tribute to the event’s founder, the (grande) Dame Elizabeth Taylor, whose grandsons were introduced by Sharon Stone. Elizabeth Taylor’s dedication to helping those with HIV/AIDS was the turning point in HIV/AIDS awareness, and her dedication to the cause lives on. Macy’s Glamorama raised $25,000 for AIDS Project Los Angeles and Project Angel Food.

In the lobby before the show, the most standout attendees were students who participated in Macy’s HIV awareness program. Many showed their budding style sense with ensembles that reflected the personal styles of Project Runway stars Mondo Guerra and Christian Siriano, while others opted for the a bohemian, 70s inspired glamor: One girl wora a long crocheted dress, while others opted for scarf hemmed skirts.

The afterparty was fittingly held at the California Market Center where sponsor Patron Tequila poured themed drinks and food stations dished out sliders, brisket and tamales.  Yes, there were cupcakes, too, along with See’s Candy and the much appreciated Don Francisco’s coffee

It was a really glamorous night, tinged with the sadness of Taylor’s passing, and the awareness that the impact she made for those with HIV/AIDS continues, and  so we must all continue the fight through education and research.

Bono, Edge, Usher, Lady Gaga Celebrate Bill Clinton

Superstars Bonon Edge, Lady Gaga and Usher will celebrate president Bill Clinton’s decade of charty work at the Hollywood Bowl on October 15. Proceeds benefit the William J. Clinton Foundation.

The Hollywood Bowl “Decade of Difference” concert will stream live on Yahoo! at 10pm Easter/7pm Pacific for free ,while tickets–ranging from $50 to $250–go on sale Monday September 19. (Yahoo!’s page says Sept 12, but Ticketaster who’s selling them sets the date for next Monday)  Unless you have an American Express card, in which case you can score the billets on Thursday the 15. The prices are very reasonable. There are also special packages ranging from $250,000 to $6,500 which include seats at Clinton’s 65th birthday party the night before. $250,000 gets you golf with Bill.

The William J Clinton Foundation focuses on treating global HIV/AIDS, creating sustainable farming in both Africa and Souht America, combatting climate change and childhood obesity, and creating  job opportunities through a series of initiatives. According to the foundation’s website, since its inception:

9,000 American schools are providing kids with healthy food choices in an effort to eradicate childhood obesity; 4,300 African farmers have imporoved their crops to feed 30,000 people; 14 cities around the world are implementing energy efficiency projects to eliminate 75,000 tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere each year; $20 million is being invested in small- and medium-sized businesses in Colombia; and 2.6 million people have benefited from lifesaving HIV/AIDS medications.


photo: creative commons  edenpictures

Mr. Bruce Goes “Freddie for a Day” to Benefit Mercury’s HIV/AIDS Charity

Mr. Bruce is a cat. A cat who loves the band Queen. Freddie Mercury, Queen’s the lead singer loved cats. Today would have been Mercury’s 65th birthday, but sadly he died of AIDS-related complications in 1991. In his memory, friends and family  immediately established the Mercury Phoenix Trust raise to money and awareness about AIDS. Since 1992 the Mercury Phoenix Trust has been responsible for donating more than $15 million in the fight against AIDS  through proceeds and royalties from the 1992 Freddie Mercury Tribute Concert for AIDS Awareness and other fund raising efforts.

Part of the MPT’s fund-raising and awareness comes from Freddie for a Day, where in people–or in this case, Mr. Bruce–dress as Freddie Mercury and ask others to sponsor them. I sponsored Mr. Bruce who already sports a fine moustache à la Mercury in his later years (and fur coat like Mercury’s early stage ensembles). He wouldn’t stand for Mercury’s yellow jacket even if it came in his size, so he decided to interpret Freddie Mercury with a flamboyant magenta ruff acquired while I was out of the house, having left him to his own devices with Burning Man webstreaming live.

In honor of Freddie Mercury, please do your part for HIV/AIDS awareness:

*Participate in Freddie for a Day and ask friends to sponsor you
*Throw an impromptu Freddie for a Day party and take donations for MTP
*Make a donation to a local HIV/AIDS charity: Food an/ord toiltries for a food bank, cash, or time.
*Make a donation an organization that provides global HIV/AIDS assistance
*And today and everyday, practice safer sex–use condoms!


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