GENE LOGSDON: I Live In A FarmUNtopia

 
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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

A great article in the May, 2015 Smithsonian magazine, “Welcome To Farmtopia” by Franz Lidz, gives yet another example of the legitimacy of the local food, backyard farm movement. I should be overjoyed since this sort of thing is what I’ve preached and predicted for 50 years. Farmtopia in this article features Serenbe, Georgia, one of the new homesite developments in the U.S. clustered around a farm instead of a golf course. The people who live in the houses volunteer to help with the farm work in return for sharing the food produced. So far, so good and I wish the project and others like it well. But I am not overwhelmed with optimism by this kind of farmtopia because I have lived too long and seen too many similar attempts fail. They mostly do not endure because they start with what I call “farming from on high.” Someone, usually rich and with great good intentions, sort of imposes or provides his or her idea of farming on a group of people. Projects like this tend to confuse someone’s idealism about farming with its realism. Developers of farmtopias first of all want to make money selling real estate. If they can do it by appealing to the latest trends, why not? But how often in my life have I watched publicly-inspired gardens laid out and planted with great fanfare in the spring turn into a jungle of weeds by fall.

If the new notion of local farming and food production is to endure, it must start with determined individuals willing to go through the hellfire of unpleasant physical work and low financial returns. The successful farmers and market gardeners I know would not believe they could afford to live in Serenbe, let alone want to farm there. Daron “Farmer D” Joffe, who calls himself an entremanure, was the first farm manager at Serenbe but has gone on to other things, as they say. He says in the article what I think: “A farmer wants to have equity and something to call his own.” Garden farming at best is not too profitable. You hang in there for other reasons. You are out there enduring low income and heat and bugs and bad weather because you want to have your own place in this crazy world and not have to be forced to listen to someone’s else’s music.

Reaganism: A Failure From Kansas to Greece…

  

From THOM HARTMANN
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Jesus and Mo…

 
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Tired of Domination by the Bushes and Clintons?

 
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July 4th is approaching — a great time to declare independence from the Bushes and Clintons who have dominated our country’s politics for decades.

Click here to declare independence from Jeb Bush, Hillary Clinton and these two almost-dynastic families.

And please share this message WIDELY.

Our country was born in revulsion to hereditary family rule. Yet we’re supposed to accept that 2016 will be the 8th presidential election out of 10 since 1980 with a Bush and/or a Clinton on a major party presidential ticket.

Click here to join thousands of others in saying you’ve had it with the Bushes and Clintons, and you’re seeking a new direction for our country.

Both the Bushes and the Clintons — sometimes with different approaches and rhetoric — have presided over national decline, especially the corporatization and militarization of our society. In the decades of domination by these two families and their corporate friends, our country has experienced:

  • middle-class decline
  • ever-increasing corporate control of politics and economics
  • “free trade” pacts like the TPP that hurt workers and the environment
  • near-constant war and erosion of civil liberties
  • government bailouts for Wall Street but not homeowners
  • structural poverty and a racially-biased “drug war”
  • ever-rising costs of a college education

If you believe our country needs a total change of direction — not just rejecting the Bushes and the Clintons, but any candidates who propose to continue their corporatist policies — please click on the following. . .

Yes, I want a major change in our country’s politics — an end to stale Bush/Clinton-like policies.

The reality is that corporate elites can’t lose with another Bush or Clinton. In a Politico article revealing Hillary Clinton’s support among Republican financiers, a “top Republican-leaning Wall Street lawyer” said the following: “If it turns out to be Jeb versus Hillary we would love that and either outcome would be fine.”

Good news is that Hillary Clinton faces growing progressive opposition in the Democratic race.

Please spread this message to friends and relatives who are fed up with the status quo.

This work is only possible with your financial support. Please chip in $3 now.

— The RootsAction.org Team

P.S. RootsAction is an independent online force endorsed by Jim Hightower, Barbara Ehrenreich, Cornel West, Daniel Ellsberg, Glenn Greenwald, Naomi Klein, Bill Fletcher Jr., Laura Flanders, former U.S. Senator James Abourezk, Coleen Rowley, Frances Fox Piven, Lila Garrett, Phil Donahue, Sonali Kolhatkar, and many others.
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God is not on our side: Inventing a Christian America — The Myth of the Religious Founding…

 
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From Salon

Reagan and others pushed the idea that we’re a Christian nation chosen by divine providence. That’s not the case…

One of the more popular and enduring accounts of America’s past is that of its religious founding. Belief that the British-American colonies were settled largely by religiously devout people in search of spiritual freedom, that the United States government was founded in part on religious principles, that the Founders intended to create a “Christian nation,” and that America is a specially chosen nation whose success has been directed by divine providence has resonated in the national psyche for generations. Versions of this account have existed since the founding era and have persisted through times of national distress, trial, and triumph. They represent a leading theme in our nation’s historical narrative, frequently intertwined with expressions of patriotism and American exceptionalism.

Opinion polls indicate that many Americans hold vague, if not explicit, ideas about the nation’s religious foundings. According to a 2008 study by the First Amendment Center, over 50 percent of Americans believe that the U.S Constitution created a Christian nation, notwithstanding its express prohibitions on religious establishments and religious tests for public office holding. A similar study conducted by the Pew Forum on Religion in Public Life revealed even higher numbers, noting that “Americans overwhelmingly consider the U.S. a Christian nation: Two-in-three (67%) characterize the nation this way.” Other studies indicate that a majority of Americans believe that the nation’s political life should be based on “Judeo-Christian principles,” if the nation’s founding principles are not already.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Leviticus and Homophobics

 
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From WILLIAM EDELEN (2002)
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

Don’t you just love the homophobics, the bigots and clowns of the Christian Coalition and fundamentalists? “The bible is God’s word,” they yell at us… “the bible is true… every word… and by God himself… and we live by that book… and what it says… we do. And it says right there in Leviticus 18:22 that you shall not lie with a male as with a woman; it is an abomination.”

Now, if we live by that archaic, ignorant and superstitious book, just look who else is going to hell. Ah, what fun. Practically all the political leaders in Washington, that’s who. “And God said you shall not marry a woman divorced from her husband.” (21:7). How I love that bible. There went Reagan… Dole… Gingrich… Buchanan and all those other big shot Republicans and Democrats who have broken God’s law and married divorced women.

Last Battles

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From The New Yorker
Thanks to Janie

CHARLESTON, SOUTH CAROLINA
In some future footnote or parenthetical aside, it may be observed that although General Robert E. Lee surrendered in 1865, the Confederacy’s final retreat did not occur until a century and a half later. The rearguard movement of Republicans in the aftermath of the slaughter in Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church marked the relinquishing of the Confederacy’s best-fortified positions: the cultural ones. We have for decades willfully coexisted with a translucent lie about the bloodiest conflict in American history and the moral questions at its center. Amid the calls last week to lower the Confederate battle flag at the state capitol, the defenders of the flag averred that it represents “heritage, not hate.” The great sleight of hand is the notion that these things were mutually exclusive.

Americans, both in the South and beyond, attach a particular brand of exceptionalism to the region. This is the reason that there is a Southern Historical Association but not a Northern one; a genre known as Southern literature but no Northern corollary; and a concept of Southern politics as something distinct from the national variety. The notion of the Confederate flag as a benign tribute to that exceptionalism rests upon another premise that illustrated, long before our present concerns with climate change and vaccination did, the political usefulness of denial: the idea that the Civil War was not fought over slavery—a claim that would have bewildered those who served in it—allowed Southerners to memorialize the leaders of an armed insurrection without the sticky moral baggage of bondage attached.

That interpretation held that the war was sparked by a conflict over tariffs that penalized Southern agriculture to the benefit of Northern industry. Or, more vaguely, that the war was fought over “states’ rights.” This evasion proved amazingly effective. Monuments to the valor of the Confederate ideal dot the South like matériel left on a battlefield. But none of these arguments bear scrutiny. Were the Southerners who erected those monuments concerned primarily about the valor of men, there would be many more dedicated to the former slaves who fought for the Union and risked death or, arguably worse, reënslavement. Were the war mainly about tariffs, we would be left to think that these fugitives fled farms and plantations to join the Union Army because of their abiding belief in trade protectionism. Or that the nearly forty thousand of them who died did so defending their views on Federalism. The Confederates themselves did not believe this. Here is the South Carolina convention in 1860, explaining the rationale for secession:

Meet The Middle East’s Atheist Preacher…

 
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From The Daily Beast

In a region increasingly defined by its Islamic fundamentalism, Ismail Mohammed is vocal about his belief that there is no God. And he’s discovering that he’s not alone.

Ismail Mohammed is a YouTube preacher who’s trying to turn Middle Easterners into believers–in atheism.

Mohammed, 30, left Islam three years ago but he has become evangelical about his new faith. He created his YouTube channel, Black Ducks, in his Cairo home with no more than a computer, speakers and a simple 8 ½  by 11 piece of paper displaying the show’s logo. For an hour, Muslims across the region spend an hour with Mohammed describing why they left Islam and how the navigate a region where religion is seeped in every pore.

The videos’ production levels are shoddy but the implications are revolutionary in a region in which some countries, like Saudi Arabia, consider atheism a form of terrorism. Many believe leaving Islam should be met with death. Questioning faith, for some, is a form of insulting faith.

“There are people who believe I left Islam so I must be killed. But maybe if more and more atheists speak up, there will be less pressure and threats,” Mohammed told The Daily Beast.

Mohammed’s show is part of a proliferation of pro-atheist channels, magazines and blogs across the Middle East is arguably the latest iteration of Arab Spring. When Arab youth once sought to overthrow regimes, they now are embracing small, more tangible gains like freedom of expression.

͏͏͏God will get over gay marriage just like he got over slavery…


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WILL PARRISH: California’s Cap-and-Trade Program

 
carbon-offset-credits

From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

California has arguably taken stronger legislative steps to address climate change than any state in the union. Assembly Bill 32 mandates that the state reduce carbon dioxide emissions to 1990 levels by 2020. An executive order by Gov. Jerry Brown mandates an 80 percent reduction by 2050. California is also the first state to inaugurate a cap-and-trade program, which allows polluters to cancel out their emissions by buying carbon emission reductions somewhere else on a commodities exchange. A portion of those credits, or offsets, comes from carbon sequestration in forests.

In Nov. 2013, California issued its first cap-and-trade credits under its so-called Forest Offset Protocol. Its stated purpose is to provide a financial incentive for landowners not to cut down trees. State-certified auditors measure the carbon in the forest, and this sum is verified by third-party verification companies such as SCS Global Services of Emeryville.

The cap-and-trade program is fraught with problems, some of the most glaring of which are its provisions concerning forests. For example, cap and trade currently allows timber operators to generate carbon credits even when they clear-cut a forest, so long as the cut is no larger than forty acres. And it allows up to 40 percent of the forest to be made up of trees less than 20 years old. The program is also flawed at a more fundamental level in the view of yours truly, being that it is promotes commodification of a fundamental requirement of life: the air we breathe.

TODD WALTON: Trust

 

Question & ReplyQuestion & Reply painting by Nolan Winkler

From TODD WALTON
Under The Table Books
Mendocino

“You must trust and believe in people or life becomes impossible.” Anton Chekhov

Trust is a tricky thing. Long ago, I held writing workshops for groups of eight people meeting for two hours once a week in my living room, each course lasting eight weeks. At the outset, I would reiterate what I had explained to prospective participants when they called to sign up for the process: we would be doing my original writing exercises and there would be no lecturing or criticism or analysis of anything we wrote, by me or anyone in the group, and no one had to read aloud anything he or she wrote unless he or she wanted to.

Of the hundreds of writers who participated in these workshops over the years, nearly all believed there would be lecturing and analysis and criticism and judgment of their writing, despite my proclamations to the contrary. And almost all believed if they did not read aloud what they wrote, they would be made to feel stupid and ashamed.

By the end of the first session, there were usually two or three participants trusting they would not be criticized or shamed when they read or did not read aloud what they had written. But there were always people who needed three or four sessions to fully trust they would simply be listened to when they read what they wrote, and so they had to wait a long time to find out that being listened to by a group of non-critical people can be a deeply illuminating and inspiring experience.

Why I Left The Scientology Cult…

 

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From Gawker

I was a Scientologist for eight years. Although I identified as one I didn’t really understand what actually being a Scientologist fully entailed until after a couple of years of being heavily indoctrinated. The reality of Scientology is deceptively hidden and cleverly disguised. When I look at Scientology today, I have to forgive myself for not seeing through the manipulation sooner. I’ve spent the last 13 years keeping Scientology out of my life. It hasn’t been easy, but I’ve realized that the religion is built on a foundation of violence. I’m proud to add my voice to the many who, despite fear of retribution and humiliation, have come forward to tell of our experiences. This is my story.

The day I was taken to The Celebrity Centre in Los Angeles for the first time, I had no idea how much the visit would change and shape me into the person I am today. Or what I’d be like if the fates had something different in mind for me.

I bought a one-way ticket from Georgia to California when I was 19. My dream was to be an actor. Four months after arriving, I met the person who would introduce me to the organization around which my life would soon begin to revolve. Jason Lee, the actor best known for My Name is Earl, and I were introduced at an action sports trade show in San Diego where I was working as a model for an indie clothing label. Jason was at the height of his pro-skateboard success. We got married in 1995 after being together for one year. 

Good News for Bernie Sanders? Poll Shows 47% of Americans Would Vote for a Socialist…

 
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From In These Times

A sizeable chunk of Americans say they’d consider voting to send a socialist to the Oval Office.

A new Gallup poll shows that 47 percent of Americans would consider voting for a socialist candidate. Gallup has been polling Americans on their voting preferences for candidates of different backgrounds since 1937, but this year was the first time they inquired about socialism.

When broken down on party lines, a socialist candidate would earn the consideration of 59 percent of Democrats, 49 percent of Independents, and only 26 percent of Republicans. Overall, socialism charted the lowest of all the backgrounds referenced in the poll. Atheist and Muslim candidates ranked second- and third-lowest among the American populace, at 58 and 60 percent respectively.

This poll comes less than two months after Bernie Sanders announced his candidacy, becoming the first self-described socialist (with at least a decent chance of winning) to do so in more than a decade.

GENE LOGSDON: Farming Starts In Cities

 

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From GENE LOGSDON
The Contrary Farmer

Farm commentators are remarking somewhat in surprise that the new move towards local food production and backyard farming are much more in evidence in and around cities than out where the big tractors lumber over the landscape. But, as most historians and economists have attested, this has always been true. Odd as it seems, agricultural innovation usually begins in cities. My favorite mind-stretcher book, The Economy of Cities by Jane Jacobs (1969) reviews the historical evidence in favor of this conclusion and it is almost impossible to dispute her, though at first I tried. I didn’t like the idea of those city slickers being agricultural pioneers. But it was all too painfully the truth. “New kinds of farming come out of cities,” Jacobs writes. “The growing of hybrid corn… was not developed on corn farms by farmers but by scientists in plant laboratories, promoted and publicized by plant scientists and editors of agricultural papers, and they had a hard time persuading farmers to try the unprepossessing-looking hybrid seeds.”  In another instance she points out that when the wheat farmers of New York realized they could no longer compete with western wheat growers, or thought they couldn’t, and switched to fruit farming, “the change was primarily… by the proprietors of a nursery that first supplied the city people with fruit trees, grape vines and berry bushes and then showed farmers of the Genesee Valley… that orchards and vineyards were economical alternatives.”  Likewise, “the fruit and vegetable industries of California did not ‘evolve’ from that state’s older wheat fields and animal pastures. Rather it was organized in San Francisco for supplying fruits to preserving plants and later to vegetable canneries.”

The Deep History of Atheism And Why It Matters…

 

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From Tim Whitmarsh

There has never been a more important time to be a humanist; to make our voices heard. The standoff between secularism and religion is becoming increasingly entrenched – and thanks in large part to the echo-chamber of social media, increasingly reduced to facile but powerful identity politics. Political parties in Europe, Turkey, Australia and the Americas risk the secular foundations of modern politics when they play the demographic game and go off in search of the religious vote.

But for all its urgency now, there is a long story to tell about atheism too. I’m a historian of Greco-Roman antiquity, of a polytheistic culture that was squashed in the fifth century AD (or CE, as many of us prefer to say) when the Roman Empire adopted Christianity and forcibly outlawed its alternatives. Today I want to convince you that it matters – and in particular it matters now – to think about the deeper history of secular ideals.

All of the arguments used today against the existence of gods were first raised by the philosophers of ancient Greece. All of them: from the problem of evil (how can a just god permit suffering?) through the omnipotence paradox (could an all-powerful god create an unliftable stone?) to the idea of religion as a human social construct designed to repress dissent. They had some wackier arguments too, which I’ll save for discussion at the bar this evening. But the crucial point is this. Our modern word ‘atheist’ comes from the Greek atheos, meaning ‘without god’; and with the word comes our entire sense of what it is to be independently-minded, critical, questioning of religious dogma. Take, for example, the most famous Greek philosopher of all, Socrates, who was executed in 399 BCE for ‘not believing in the gods of the city’ and ‘corrupting the young’. His motto was that ‘the unexamined life is not worth living’, and he insisted that all society’s values, ideologies and beliefs had to be justified rationally; if they couldn’t be, then they weren’t worth following.

What This Cruel War Was Over…

 

cThe Confederate Monument at Arlington National Cemetery

From The Atlantic

The meaning of the Confederate flag is best discerned in the words of those who bore it.

This afternoon, in announcing her support for removing the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley asserted that killer Dylann Roof had a “a sick and twisted view of the flag” which did not reflect “the  people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it.” If the governor meant that very few of the flag’s supporters believe in mass murder, she is surely right. But on the question of whose view of the Confederate Flag is more twisted, she is almost certainly wrong.

Roof’s belief that black life had no purpose beyond subjugation is “sick and twisted” in the exact same manner as the beliefs of those who created the Confederate flag were “sick and twisted.” The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause, and the Confederate cause was white supremacy. This claim is not the result of revisionism. It does not require reading between the lines. It is the plain meaning of the words of those who bore the Confederate flag across history. These words must never be forgotten. Over the next few months the word “heritage” will be repeatedly invoked. It would be derelict to not examine the exact contents of that heritage.

Why the Saudis Are Going Solar…

 

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From The Atlantic

The fate of one of the biggest fossil-fuel producers may now depend on its investment in renewable energy.

Prince Turki bin Saud bin Mohammad Al Saud belongs to the family that rules Saudi Arabia. He wears a white thawb and ghutra, the traditional robe and headdress of Arab men, and he has a cavernous office hung with portraits of three Saudi royals. When I visited him in Riyadh this spring, a waiter poured tea and subordinates took notes as Turki spoke. Everything about the man seemed to suggest Western notions of a complacent functionary in a complacent, oil-rich kingdom.

But Turki doesn’t fit the stereotype, and neither does his country. Quietly, the prince is helping Saudi Arabia—the quintessential petrostate—prepare to make what could be one of the world’s biggest investments in solar power.Near Riyadh, the government is preparing to build a commercial-scale solar-panel factory. On the Persian Gulf coast, another factory is about to begin producing large quantities of polysilicon, a material used to make solar cells. And next year, the two state-owned companies that control the energy sector—Saudi Aramco, the world’s biggest oil company, and the Saudi Electricity Company, the kingdom’s main power producer—plan to jointly break ground on about 10 solar projects around the country.

Bill Burr on christianity, church, religion, and god…

 


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WILL PARRISH: Mendocino Redwood Company — The First 100,000 Acres

 
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From WILL PARRISH
Ukiah
TheAVA

Mendocino Redwood Company, or MRC, is Mendocino County’s largest private landowner. No other individual or entity comes close.  The company owns 227,000 acres of redwood and mixed conifer forest in the county’s western half. Much of this veritable latifundia stretches across the vast mountainous expanses southwest of Willits to northeast of Point Arena. It also includes several other large swaths located east of Rockport, north of Willits, and south of Point Arena. In all, MRC owns roughly 10 percent of private land in our vast county. It also owns over 5,000 acres of western Sonoma County.

To say that MRC owns this vastness is to say indirectly that one of the wealthiest dynasties on the West Coast, the Fisher family of San Francisco, actually owns it. Altogether, the Fishers are worth an estimated $9 billion. One of the private equity firms of which the Fishers are majority owners, named Sansome Partners, is MRC’s parent company. The same Fisher investment vehicle also owns Humboldt Redwood Company, which encompasses over 209,000 of the neighboring county to Mendo’s north. Within the Fishers’ 440,000 acres of forestland in Humboldt, Mendocino, and Sonoma counties, the family owns more coastal redwood forest than any private entity ever has.

MRC management’s decisions about how they manage these lands have major consequences. That is particularly the case given the profound consequences of global climate change. Coast redwoods (sequoia sempervirens) store the most carbon of any living thing on Earth.  Thus, the Fishers’ North Coast properties probably have as much carbon storage potential as any land of equivalent size on the planet. MRC officials, of course, claim they are doing a marvelous job of restoring these forests.

WILLIAM EDELEN: Using The Bible To Justify Views

 

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From WILLIAM EDELEN (2002)
The Contrary Minister
[Repost]

We are always making God our accomplice so that we can legalize our own inequities. -Henri Frederic Amiel

Those adhering to a strict interpretation of the bible are most often the ones who use the Church and the bible to justify and condone their social, political and moral views. At the same time they inflict these views on others as “gospel,” the only truth.

The abortion or pro-life issue is a good example. If a person wants to simply say “I do not like abortion, I am against it,” that is fine. That is their opinion and they have a right to express it.

It is when they start using the bible and the Church to justify their pro-life position that I cringe. They apparently do not realize how inane and unhinged they appear when thy march around carrying signs quoting the commandment “Thou Shalt Not Kill,” or equally absurd signs using the Church, bible, or God for justification.

After Moses told the people that the “Thou Shalt Not Kill” order came from God, he then proceeded to give some of the most vicious commands in the history of civilization, telling the Hebrews to kill just about everything that walked or moved. Moses told them that God blessed all of this barbaric slaughter. He gave commands for genocide, to kill babies and children. Thousands were slaughtered as a result of the commands of Moses. Quite obviously the commandment not to kill was not taken seriously or literally by the man who presented it to the Jews.

Christians who try to justify the pro-life position and are breaking into clinics should read the history of their church. The church has one of the most horrible, unjust and cruel records in the history of our species, from Constantine through the Inquisition to the Salem witch horror. The torture chambers of the Christian Inquisition were filled with instruments that stagger the human mind and sensibilities: racks, thumb screws, iron maidens, knives, whips, scourges, fire, tongs and hoists. It is painful to read how these were used on innocent human beings. Those using the Church and the bible for justification of the pro-life position condemn abortion as “murder of the unborn,” while the Church itself has a 1600-year history of horrible and brutal murders of the “born.” I would suggest that those mindlessly waving banners, destroying property or calling names take time to reflect on the hypocrisy of their position. Let them simply say, “I am against abortion” and let it go at that.

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