Paul R. Lehman, No justice from ‘A jury of one’s peers’ in U. S. court system

July 14, 2017 at 11:33 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, amygdala, Bigotry in America, blacks, criminal activity, Department of Justice, discrimination, equality, Ethnicity in America, European Americans, fairness, grand jury, justice, justice system, law, law enforcement agencies, Media and Race, minority, Oklahoma, police force, Prejudice, Race in America, racism, respect, social conditioning, social justice system, The U.S. Constitution, Tulsa, white supremacy, whites | 3 Comments
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Recently in Tulsa, Oklahoma, a judge declared a mistrial, for the third time, in a case involving a European American former police office, Shannon Kepler. The officer acknowledged shooting Jeremey Lake, a 19-year-old African American male who had been dating Keller’s daughter, Lisa. While Kepler claimed that he was defending himself when he shot Lake, no weapon was found on Lake or anywhere near the scene. An article on abcnews.go.com provided the following information: “Kepler, who retired from the force after he was charged, was a 24-year-police veteran who said he was trying to protect his daughter, who had run away from home and was living in a crime-ridden neighborhood.”

Americans in general and African Americans in particular, should not be surprised at the mistrial or even a not guilty decision from this trail and the many others involving African American men and police officers. We should realize by now that the criminal justice system, especially the courts were not meant to serve justice to people of color. We must be constantly reminded of the fact that American is a biased society and that people of color are viewed as objects that cause fear and anxiety to European Americans. Many of our laws, regardless of what they might intend, are meant to keep the concept of two different groups of people separated. That separation is underscored in the court system and especially the jury system in America.

For African Americans as well most Americans in general, the phrase “A jury of one’s peers,” is meaningless, and because it is meaningless, few people ever experience having a member of his or their jury a peer. In an article by Eric Peters (3/23/2012), “A Jury of One’s Peers,” he notes that while this phrase is not found in our Constitution, the concept comes from English Common Law from which our Constitution was based. The phrase was intended to describe a situation where “The men of a community would gather to weigh evidence presented against someone—someone they knew. Unfortunately, what we have today is an altogether different animal. You may find yourself tried in front of a jury—but they will not be your peers.”

Today, in Oklahoma, anyone 18-years-old and older with a valid driver’s license can be randomly selected to serve on a jury. The individuals are not selected from a particular community, but usually from the county in which they live. If members of a jury were selected from specific communities where people of similar social, religious, economic, political, and education tend to live, then individuals facing charges from those communities would have a reasonable chance of being judged by a peer. Unfortunately, that is not the way things work.

In America, three things work against African Americans when they involve European American police officers, and juries—a lack of people of color on the jury, law enforcement bigotry, and systemic cultural bigotry. Most juries will consist of few people of color for any number of reasons, first of which is availability. Fewer people of color are chosen (at random) for jury duty and few are chosen to serve on a jury once reporting for jury duty. The lack of representation of people of color on the jury for an African American can make a difference in the jury’s final decision. Also, the presence of one or two persons of color serving on a jury of predominately European Americans can be intimidating and stressful to them.

In his recently published book (2017), CHOKEHOLD, Paul Butler, a former prosecutor and law professor at Georgetown University, stated that “Cops routinely hurt and humiliate black people because that is what they are paid to do. Virtually every objective investigation of a U.S. law enforcement agency finds that the police, as policy, treat African Americans with contempt.” He further stated that “The most problematic practices of American criminal justice—excessive force by police, harsh sentencing, the erosion of civil liberties, widespread government surveillance, and mass incarceration—are best understood as measures originally intended for African American men.” The many jury verdicts involving the shooting by law enforcement agents have demonstrated that the repercussions for a European American or an officer killing a person of color are little and none, which underscores Butler’s point. The fact that European American law enforcement agents use the aspect of fear in their defense of their actions is one that does not differ from the fear that European Americans experience generally when coming into contact with an African American male.

European Americans are socially conditioned to view African Americans with fear and dismay unless the African Americans are known to the European Americans. This conditioning is a natural and a normal part of everyday life and not viewed as a bias towards people of color. Butler referenced  in his book a study entitled “Transforming Perceptions: Black Men and Boys,” by the American Values Institute (3/2013), that noted the following: “When people [European Americans] see black men they don’t know, they have a physical response that is different from their response to other people. Their blood pressure goes up and they sweat more.” He also noted another study that stated: “When a white person sees an unfamiliar black male face, the amygdala, the part of the brain that processes fear, activates.” So, the reference to the fear experienced by European Americans law enforcement as noted is part of the American experience for them and bad news for African Americans. The challenge for all Americans is to replace that fear with reason and understanding, knowing that we all belong to the same family of mankind. We must all work to replace the present criminal justice system or continue to be victims of it.

Consequently, we need to practice justice and respect towards one another because we realize as Peters noted: “Court proceedings should, of course, be impartial—but not to the extent of being obtuse. And obtuse—even evil—is precisely what we have today. Mindless worship of statutes as opposed to the spirit animating them. No harm done (or intended) no longer matters. Just ‘the law’—as interpreted by twelve random strangers.” While we can no longer practice the concept of “a jury of one’s peers,” we can certainly underscore the humanity we all possess. We must be the change we need.

Paul R. Lehman, Terrence Crutcher and the Tulsa jury,another instance of injustice by reason of being African American

May 19, 2017 at 12:29 pm | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, blacks, democracy, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, justice, justice system, Killings in Tulsa, Prejudice, Race in America, social justice system, The Oklahoman, tolerance, Tulsa, white supremacy, whites | 1 Comment
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The jury in Tulsa found Betty Shelby not guilty and in doing so told the world that African Americans and other people of color have no rights that a police officer need to respect. Once an African American is stopped by a police officer, his or her life is forfeited to that officer. Facts and evidence play no part in the reason for killing an African American by a police officer if we follow the accounts of the shooting of Terrence Crutcher.

Once police officers stop African Americans, the African Americans lose the right to speak because anything they say can be interpreted by the officers as disrespectful or threatening, whichever they choose. The African Americans lose the right to move because any movement might be seen as a threat to the officer’s life. So, what can the African Americans do when stopped by a police officer? A frequently used bit of advice is to comply with the officer’s command. The problem with that is if the African American starts the compliance too slowly then the officer is forced to take action. That action might involve the use of a taser. When someone is shot with a taser, he must remain perfectly still or his movement will be seen as resisting arrest and not complying with the officer’s command. In other words, the African Americans are damned by whatever they say or do as far as the police are concerned.

Some people will say that no one loses his or her rights when stopped by a police officer. If that is not the case, then why are the victims of a fatal police shooting always viewed as guilty of a crime when they never had an opportunity to present their side of the event that led to the shooting? The victim’s side is always challenged even with clear and concise video shows what happened. The problem is with the justice system and the non-thinking jury that fails to use common sense or follow facts and evidence in order to clear an officer of any wrongdoing. Shelby’s reason for shooting Crutcher indicates that she is a danger to the public or the African American public. She stated: “…she fired her weapon out of fear because she said he didn’t obey her command to lie on the ground…”One has to wonder as to what caused her fear. The video showed Crutcher walking a distance in front of her with both hands in the air. If this posture created fear in her, then the entire public is suspect. What was she afraid of that caused her to shoot?  She said that it was when he “appeared to reach inside his SUV for what she thought was a gun.” The report noted that Crutcher was unarmed, the window as up, and no weapon was found in his SUV.

In the article, “Jury finds Tulsa officer not guilty,” (The Oklahoman 5/18/2017) stated the following: “Prosecutors told jurors that Shelby overreacted. They noted Crutcher had his hands in the air and wasn’t combative—part of which was confirmed by police video taken from a dashboard camera and helicopter that showed Crutcher walking away from Shelby, hands held above his head.” We should note that Shelby was not alone on the scene; she had a fellow police officer near to her. One wonders what caused the jury to rule the way they did in view of all the visual information available to them.

In addition to being afraid, we learn that “Shelby also said she feared the influence of PCP, a powerful hallucinogenic known as Angel Dust that makes users erratic, unpredictable and combative.” However, as stated earlier, Crutcher manifested none of those characteristics.” After an autopsy was performed, PCP was found in his system and also in his SUV. That information was discovered after the shooting, not before. One concern about this incident is why was Crutcher stopped? Could a force less lethal have been employed to effect Shelby’s purpose? What kind of instructions was the jury given in their deliberation in this case?

Evidently, while the questions posed are important for the victim’s family, they are seemingly meaningless to the jury when a police officer is involved. Our criminal justice system must be changed to one that acknowledges and respect the rights of all citizens, regardless of what they look like. The system also needs to reflect the fact that all police officers are not perfect and that they should experience repercussions for their misdeeds.  As it stands today, an African American’s words have no value against that of a police officer. He is always presumed guilty until proven innocent. The reason for that presumption is due to the system of European American supremacy and African American inferiority, the social conditioning European Americans receive in America from birth—African Americans and people of color are to be feared; they are viewed as dangerous and to be suspect. When a European American becomes a police officer, that social conditioning does not change. So, when Shelby said she was afraid of Crutcher, she was not lying, and the members of the jury identified with her and that fear. So, if that is the case, then where is the justice for the African Americans?

When the statement was made earlier that African Americans lose all their rights when stopped by a police officer was made, it was not based on conjecture, but facts and evidence. All one has to do is look at the litany of cases where an unarmed African American or person of color has been shot and killed when alternative uses of force were available. The fact that the Tulsa jury overlooked justice in this case underscores the need to replace the criminal justice system in America. People need to join in with groups who are working to change the system and do whatever is necessary (protest, petition, run for office, support organizations) to help effect change.

Fear is not a monopoly of European American police officers, because communities, family, friends of African Americans and other people of color experience it also, every time they are stopped by a police officer. Fear should never be the reality because the responsibility of all Americans is to ensure life, liberty, and justice for all. We have a lot of work to do; let us get to it.

 

Paul R. Lehman, Removal of symbols of ethnic bias show signs of social change

May 24, 2016 at 3:53 am | Posted in African American, American Bigotry, American history, American Racism, Bigotry in America, blacks, democracy, discrimination, education, equality, Ethnicity in America, European American, fairness, justice, justice system, law, Media and Race, minority, Oklahoma, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, skin color, social justice system, textbooks, The Oklahoman, Tulsa, Tulsa Riot 1921, whites | 1 Comment
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One of the general misconceptions many Americans have today is that ethnic prejudice is a thing of the past and only vestiges of it remain. For evidence of this social change some point to the removable of the Confederate flag from some Southern state flags as well as a number of statues and monuments that underscore the hatred and bigotry felt by many European Americans for African Americans during and after slavery. Another sign of attempts to remove symbols of ethnic bigotry on many college and university campuses is the removing of names of known bigots from buildings and other structures on the campus. For many institutions, this act of name removable represents a great and serious undertaking because many of those names belong to people who were considered deserving of the honor of recognition at the time they were displayed. What has changed to cause the removable of many of theses former honored contributors from their place of recognition?

One answer can be found in history, but not necessarily the history written in school books; school book history was tailor-made to support the ethnic bigotry of the day. Much of the actual history resides in the old newspapers and journals of early America. What that history tells us is that ethnic bigotry was considered normal; to not be a bigot was considered not normal if one happened to be a European American (white). So, when people of the early American past were given honors via placing their names on buildings and other edifices, little attention was paid to or reference made to their ethnic bigotry. Such was apparently the case with the University of Tulsa naming one of its structures after John Rogers.

In an article in the Oklahoman (5/20/2016) “Building controversy provide cautionary tale,” on the “Opinion” page, the writer tells about the removal of Roger’s name from a TU building, not just any building: “University of Tulsa officials recently decided to remove John Roger’s name from TU’s college of law, which he helped found, because of his 1920s association with the Ku Klux Klan.”The fact that the building was the college of law which Roger helped to found gives us some additional insight as to the mindset of the people of Oklahoma during this time. The article underscores the fact that “racists views of the Klan were not out of line with the thinking of many respectable people, across the nation, during Oklahoma’s early decades.” Few European Americans gave notice to the abuse, violence and death the Klan visited on African Americans. Since many of the up-standing, civic-minded, Christian, European American citizens were also Klan members, not many Oklahomans were told about the destruction and death caused by many of the good citizens of Tulsa in 1921 when the Greenwood area was demolished. The Klan has always stood for European American (white) supremacy and the inferiority of African Americans.

What we refer to today as a bigot was not considered bad or evil or even unpatriotic for early European Americans; as a mater of fact, the Klan for many European Americans was seen as an anti-crime, civic-minded, “temperance organization.” Many of its members included bankers, businessmen, lawyers, educators, and even clergy. Helping to promote and maintain the Klan’s views while passing them on to the children, were the text books. The article cited this reference: “Consider the 1914 biology textbook at the center of the famed Scopes ‘monkey’ trial in Tennessee. Based on evolutionary theory, that book matter-of-factly declared there were ‘five races or varieties of man,… ‘“The article continued by listing the Ethiopian or Negro, the Malay or brown people, the American Indian, the Mongolians and finally, “the Caucasians represented by civilized white inhabitants of Europe and America.”

The article underscored the importance of the text book: “That children’s text book advocated eugenic, and said of supposedly inferior people, ‘If such people were lower animals, we would probably kill them off to prevent them from spreading.” Such was the mindset of many of the European American Oklahomans in the early 1920s according to the article. However, in another article in the Oklahoman (5/6/2016) ‘These were everywhere,’ tells of the many Klan klaverns in Oklahoma before and during the 1940s. This article tells some of the Klan’s activities as in the following reference: “A story in the Nov. 21, 1920, edition of The Daily Oklahoman describes Klansmen terrorizing residents in Guthrie, threatening farmers, business owners and residents in the city’s black quarter with death.” Also it included: “According to the story, the Klan forbid cotton growers from paying pickers more than $1.25 per hundred pounds picked, and blacks were threatened with death and burning if they asked for a higher wage.”

The Klan article showed a map of Klan chapters in Oklahoma in the early 1940—it was home to 102 chapters. The article concluded with the findings that “The Southern Poverty Law Center recognized 10 Klan-affiliated groups last year in Oklahoma.” Although laws have changed over the years, many attitudes and minds still embrace the once normal bigoted psyche. The lingering hate and fear of African Americans in some Oklahomans might easily be assumed from the fact that all seventy-seven counties voted against Barack Obama two times—2008 and 2012. Obama was not liked by many European Americans before he had a chance to assume his office; the reason given for his unpopularity was not his skin color but his political party.

We can certainly applaud the efforts of the University Tulsa to remove symbolic references to our biased past and support them in their actions. We can also applaud the efforts of the Oklahoman’s article discussing the removal of John Roger’s name from TU’s law college and shedding some light on why the removal is important. One of the most challenging aspects of American society today is to understand that because the normal mindset of European Americans is biased towards African Americans and other people of color, “basic morality and common sense” must be redefined without the bias. For us to assume that ethnic bigotry simply fades away into the woodwork over time would be wrong; removing it takes great effort mainly because many people do not realize they are biased.

Paul R. Lehman, Slavery’s legacy of privilege, for some, is still alive and well

February 26, 2014 at 7:36 pm | Posted in African American, blacks, democracy, discrimination, Disrespect, DNA, equality, European American, George Will, identity, justice, Michigan, Oklahoma, Prejudice, skin complexion, Slavery, The Oklahoman, Tulsa | Leave a comment
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Any more, when the subjects of discrimination, prejudice, and bigotry come up in whatever venue, someone, usually European American, will always use the excuse that whatever happened in the past was not his or her fault. He or she do not have slaves or discriminate against minorities. The responses of such people reflect the ignorance of not only themselves, but also of American history. Why do they believe they have to defend the status quo? One reason is that they do not realize their desire to protect a mindset that was conditioned by ethnic prejudice. Chances are they do not realize the privileges they presently enjoy by virtue of their identity as European Americans (white or Caucasian). Although they accept the identity of white, they either do not know that it’s a myth, or refuse to believe it. However, a number of ways European Americans receive privileges can be seen every day.
European Americans see themselves and are seen as “normal” human beings. What that means is for them no race is necessary for their identity because they believe they represent the model of the human race. This myth was told them early in our country’s history and is still believed and promoted today. For example, when we read a newspaper article about some crime having been committed, if the article does not mention the ethnicity and/or skin complexion of the people in question, the reader automatically knows that the people in question are European Americans. Why? Because, if the people were other than European American, the writer of the article would have told us. The reason for the article not identifying the ethnicity of the people in the article is because they are considered normal. Let us take a look at two examples to underscore our point:
MUSKOGEE—Muskogee police are investigating after a patrol officer shot a man Thursday afternoon during a traffic stop.
Muskogee Police Cpl. Michael Mahan said officers stopped a stolen vehicle about 12:15 p.m. near the intersection of Fourth and Elgin streets.
When police attempted to take a male passenger into custody, a struggle ensued and the man was shot by a second officer when he attempted to grab the arresting officer’s gun, Mahan said.
A medical helicopter flew the wounded suspect to a Tulsa hospital. He was conscious at the time he was being flown, Mahan said. The names of the involved parties have not been released.
The car’s other occupants, the man who was driving and a female passenger, still were being questioned late Thursday afternoon but had not been arrested.
No officers were injured during the incident.
(Kendrick Marshall and Amanda Blanc, Tulsa World Staff Writers 1/3/14)
Notice carefully that no mention of color or ethnicity was mentioned in that news report, so the obvious conclusion the readers must come to is that the people involved in the incident are all European Americans. Now examine this next news report:
Police investigate shooting in NW Oklahoma City
Authorities were investigating a shooting Thursday near Northwest Expressway and Rockwell Avenue, police said.
Officers were searching for two black men and a black woman after a reported shooting about 2:10 p.m. Thursday. A male victim in serious condition was taken to OU Medical Center.
It wasn’t immediately clear what led to the shooting, said Jennifer Wardlow, a spokeswoman for the Oklahoma City Police Department.
The shooting and investigation created traffic delays at the intersection. (The Oklahoman, Staff Writers, 1/3/14)
In this news story the skin complexion of two men and a woman was mentioned, but not a full description relative to size, weight, height, clothes etc. The skin complexion of the victim was not mentioned, so we can assume that he was European American. If a full description of the two men and one woman was not given as a lead relative to pursuing them, why was their skin complexion given, and why was the victim’s not given? The answer points to privilege given European Americans being seen as “normal” people, while anyone different is seen as not normal. Unfortunately, this practice is so common that most European Americans do not recognize it as being a privilege.
One example of special privilege occurred in Michigan in 2/20/13 as the headline notes: “ A Michigan hospital is under fire after a lawsuit claims it fulfilled a father’s request to have no black nurses look after his baby in the neonatal intensive care unit last fall.” If the man did not believe that he could be successful in getting his request, chances are he would not have made it. What motivated him to make the request? The point of interest in this incident is not whether or not the man’s request was honored, but the fact that it was even entertained. He, evidently, believed that as a European Americans he had the right to request and received this privilege from the hospital. He along with many other European Americans believe that American society belongs to them and they alone have the rights and privileges to receive special treatment.
As a society we have not done and still are not doing a service to ourselves and our future generations by debunking the concept of races. Like any myth, as long as we can view it objectively, we can deal with it logically, but when we make it subjective, then we have a different experience and expectation because it no longer becomes logical. Far too many people have not come to the acceptance of all human beings as one big family. George Will commented in an article, “For these we give our thanks” (Washington Post (11/28/13) that
“The story of human evolution may have been simplified by conclusions reached this year about a 1.8 million-year old skull found in the Caucasus in 2005. The earliest human remain found outside of Africa indicates that our ancestors emerged from Africa as a single species, not several species. Its brain was about one-third the size of today’s human brains.”
Some people do not want to accept the fact that as Americans, our society has changed; either we are all special with privileges and rights or something is amiss.

Paul R. Lehman, Opinion writer’s points fail to discredit President Obama

June 3, 2012 at 6:35 pm | Posted in American Bigotry, American Racism, blacks, Congress, Disrespect, equality, Ethnicity in America, fairness, justice, Oklahoma education, Prejudice, President Obama, Race in America, Tulsa, whites | 2 Comments
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In a recent article on the “Opinion” page of the Oklahoman (5/26/12) entitled “If only Obama were white,” tries to use as argument proof, the old “if only” technique. In other words, something would not be the way it is “if only” for reasons other than what has been offered. For example, the beauty queen would be perfect if only she didn’t have that mole on her cheek. The point of the article is to label President Obama as unfit to be President for a variety of reasons, except for the reason he is African American, which point actually underlies the argument. Let us take a look at what was said.

The article begins with the statement “Mitt Romney leads Barack Obama 62-27 percent in Oklahoma, according to Sooner Poll. Predictably, some Democrats blame race for that result.” So, what is wrong with viewing President Obama’s ethnicity as part of the reason for the pool results? To say that his ethnicity did not factor into the poll results would certainly be incorrect. The article continued by noting that “The Tulsa World quotes one poll participant as saying a ‘racial factor’ drives some opposition to Obama.” For certain, that statement would seem logical given the political history of Oklahoma.

A statement follows with “Another credits money for Republican success in Oklahoma. Of course!” This statement seems to suggest that Republican money plays no role in Oklahoma politics as if the entire concept is preposterous. In essence, the Opinion writer thinks that Obama’s ethnicity and Republican money have no bearing to the results of the poll.  A commonly used paraprosdokian makes the point that seems to fit this writer—Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.

The Opinion writer tries to justify the point of President Obama’s failings by stating that “The ram-through passages of Obamacare, projected tripling of national debt, an unemployment rate that’s been higher for longer than any time since the Great Depression—voters would think all of that was great if only Obama were white.” What an asinine statement that suggests the voters do not have the intelligence to check the fact for themselves. Again, the Opinion writer either has no grasp of reality or likes to play loose with fantasies. As citizens we are allowed our free speech, but we are not permitted to create our own facts. One fact concerning the President is that he does not work alone. America has  three parts of government—Congress had to pass the Healthcare bill before President Obama could sign it into law.

The reference to the national debt tripling is very misleading. The way it is stated suggests that the debt was zero when President Obama took office. The fact is President Obama has the lowest level of debt increase than any of the past three presidents. Check the facts. Also, the reference to the unemployment rate and its status again seems to suggest that it was low before President Obama took office. If we check the facts again, we discover that the employment rate was high and getting higher just when President Obama was elected.

The Opinion writer’s statement relating to “if only Obama were white” introduces an element of ignorance and bigotry into the article. What does a person’s skin complexion have to do with his or her intelligence? Do degrees of knowledge and wisdom come only in skin complexion? That seems to be the suggestion of the Opinion writer. If the writer is suggesting that President Obama somehow gets a pass for his so-called deficiencies just by being African American, then the writer continues to insult the American people’s intelligence. Although for many Americans, President Obama’s ethnicity did play a part in his election, the majority of Americans voted for him because of their concerns for the issues. The writer evidently introduces the element of color and so-called race to try and gain support for the illogical argument presented. For most people, including Oklahomans, that does not work. If they are bigots, nothing anyone says will change their views; if they are not bigots, they ignore the color references anyway.

The Opinion writer, not to be outdone, shifts the focus from color to party politics. The comments become more sarcastic and silly because if one wanted to build an argument with weight, then one would use empirical evidence rather than simply making cliché-like comments: “And if only Democrats weren’t forced to get by on campaign-cash scraps from their impoverished trial lawyer and Hollywood allies. Please.” What, pray tell, is the point of that statement? Money is an important element in the election, so what does the source have to do with the money? The writer mentions nothing about Republican contributors.

Finally, the Opinion writer makes the statement that “If only the Democratic Party would treat Oklahomans with respect, it might do better in elections.”When has the Democratic Party not treated Oklahomans with respect? That “if only” statement from the writer and the Republican Party goes to underscore the fact that they have been treating Oklahomans with disrespect. They show the disrespect by continually telling lies about President Obama and the government. They tell these lies in the hope that the voting public will not check the facts—just believe what they are told.

One might imagine that writing on the “opinion” page the writer would use facts to support the opinions offered. That, as we has been seen, is not necessarily the case. The readers should use more caution in accepting what is being offered and not be so trusting. Logic tells us that we can only be beaten by an attacker is if we are on the same level.  The Opinion writer should give Oklahomans some credit for knowing what level they are on.

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