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Mendocino County Today: Monday, Feb. 27, 2023

Next Storm | Snowscape | Roads Report | Boonville Sinkhole | School Buses | Snowfall | Awad Case | Purim Party | Cannabis Items | Reporter Reith | Two Men | Celtic Harpist | Weed Mess | Skyhawk Journal | Napkin Art | Ukiah Sculpture | Replacement Food | Yesterday's Catch | Play Gun | Yorkville Caboose | Three Lives | Mendocino Spirits | Vacuum Cleaner | The Sea | Kitchen Cat | Jump | Sex Currency | Shooting Balloons | Fake News | Russian Writers | Ishmael Birthday | What Happened | Cigar Lector | Lab Leak | Charades | Warmonger Hartmann | Smoke Tyson | Ukraine | Homecoming Soldier | Anti-War | Snow Cat

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HEAVY SNOW is expected in the mountains today through Tuesday, occasionally reaching interior valley locations. The heaviest snow is expected during this morning with showers then persisting through Tuesday night. Additionally, isolated thunderstorms with small hail are likely along the coast. Drier conditions will return on Wednesday with cold overnight low temperatures later this week. (NWS)

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HIGHWAY 128 REMAINS CLOSED, as does Mountainview Road. Much of Yorkville has been out of power since Thursday, 8pm. PG&E promises restoration by 10pm tonight (Sunday). 

SOUTH COAST FIRE PROTECTION DISTRICT reports: In conjunction with the Mendocino County Road crews, we were able to clear Fish Rock Road East today (Sunday, 2/26/23). County Roads started from the Boonville side as we worked towards them from the West, eventually meeting in the middle. Approximately 543 trees had fallen onto the road from where we left off yesterday at MP 8 to MP 13.8. Fish Rock is open and passable, but we strongly suggest an alternate route due to the amount of snow and tree debris still present. Only try this route if you have a 4-wheel drive vehicle. Chains advised with the potential for more snow in these higher elevations in the next few days.

AS OF 7:00 A.M. THIS MORNING, both directions of Highway 101 between Willits and Redwood Valley are closed due to heavy snow.

CALTRANS IS REPORTING HIGHWAY 253 CLOSED "from the jct of SR 128 to the jct of US 101 (Mendocino Co) - due to a traffic collision - motorists are advised to use an alternate route."

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BETH SWEHLA: If you are driving by the high school you will see some yellow tape up near the bridge. I found a sink hole this morning. Mrs. Simson contacted the fire department to check on it. The opening is about 1 foot wide. Below ground there is an opening that is at least 2 x 4 feet. 

There has been a large sink hole in this area in the past. Please be careful.

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Dear Anderson Valley Community,

School is open Monday. The Navarro bus run is unchanged. The last stop on the Yorkville bus run is Hutsell Road. We appreciate your understanding. We thank CalTrans, the County Departments, and the AV Fire Department for their on-going partnerships.

Take care,

Louise Simson, Superintendent, Anderson Valley Unified School District

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‘I KNEW IT FELT WRONG’: A Woman’s Account of Fired Fort Bragg Police Sergeant Chris Awad Using Her Arrest as a Pick-Up Strategy

Former Fort Bragg Police Sergeant Christopher Awad was fired in 2020 after a DUI stop led to flirtatious texting and eventually consensual sexual activity. The Mendocino County District Attorney’s Office would contend Awad’s unprofessional demeanor during the DUI suspect’s criminal trial was the result of his relationship with her, which Awad failed to disclose to his superiors and prosecutors.…

Background on the Awad case:

Former Fort Bragg Police Officer Decertified Under New Law

A new state law that disqualifies former law enforcement officers from working in the field again for violence or dishonesty has resulted in the decertification of only one former officer so far…

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Unfortunately I made an error in my agenda item for Monday but want to talk about that at the Town Hall tomorrow as well as the possibility of an amnesty for interest and penalties as well as whether or not a payment plan will assist farmers be able to be deprioritized. 

The Board did not approve a 50% tax reduction on 4/19/22 they asked that the budget implications be brought back to the Board. Which to my knowledge has not occurred. Because of the short timeline that I put this together (less than 24hrs) and because cannabis items needs to be heard by GGC before they can go to the full board I am looking for the item to be approved in concept so I can get it on the 3/14/23 Board agenda otherwise it will have to wait for the March GGC meeting and then the next open date for the Board in April or May. I regret any confusion this might have caused. I am posting the original item here for our discussion on Zoom tomorrow. Also I recognize this will affect multiple department’s so I need to have buy in from GGC to get some more work done on it beyond what I’ve already had which is a very brief conversation with the Auditor Treasurer Tax Collectors office 

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Summary of the request: 

Due to meeting timing, and urgent action being needed, Supervisor Mulheren is requesting that a discussion regarding a Cannabis Business Tax Penalty and Interest Amnesty Program (Amnesty Program) and Prior Year Payment Plan (Payment Plan) be heard briefly by the General Government Committee and that a more robust agenda item with applicant data and back tax estimates will come to the full Board on March 14, 2023.

Per the discussion at the Board’s April 19, 2022 meeting, cannabis cultivators are struggling with both market conditions and the cost of local and state regulations. In an effort to reduce this strain, and allow a larger number of cultivators to enter the regulated market through the local permit program, Supervisor Mulheren is requesting a recommendation from the Committee to bring an item to the full Board on March 14, 2023, that would include direction to the Treasurer-Tax Collector and Mendocino Cannabis Department to notify Cannabis Program applicants of the previously approved 50% reduction in Cannabis Business Tax for years 2022-23 and 2023-24. 

In addition to this notification of the Board’s prior action, Supervisor Mulheren is suggesting an Amnesty Program for penalties and interest from years 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022. Finally, Supervisor Mulheren is recommending establishment of a Prior Year Cannabis Business Tax Payment Plan for payment of all back taxes from years 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022. The Payment Plan is intended to allow applicants to stay in the Program and catch up on their deferred taxes over three years, while keeping current with new taxes as they are due. Supervisor Mulheren’s proposal for this Payment Plan is:

1. 25% of Cannabis Business Taxes due, for prior years 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, by May 31, 2023

2. 50% of Cannabis Business Taxes due, for prior years 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, by June 30, 2024

3. 25% of Cannabis Business Taxes due, for prior years 2019, 2020, 2021, 2022, by June 30, 2025

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Sarah Reith

VAL MUCHOWSKI: Sarah Reith was born into a circus family in San Francisco and ran away to join the army as soon as she turned 18. She was a parachute rigger at the jump school in Fort Benning, Georgia, where one of her incidental duties was jumping out of an airplane ahead of a class of airborne students so the instructors could check the wind conditions. She used her GI Bill to earn a BA in creative writing at Mills College for Women. 

Her worklife included being a bike messenger and a barista before going back to school in Germany, where she earned her MA in German Literature in the shadow of a medieval castle. She is currently working as a reporter in Mendocino County and writing her second novel.

Reith joined KZYX as a community news reporter in 2017. In 2018-2019, she worked with local theater maven, Kate Magruder and reporter, Laura Hamburg on “Promise of Paradise: Back to the Land Oral Histories of Mendocino County.” The half-hour programs aired weekly on KZYX for a year. 

You can find Sarah Reith’s byline at KZYX, KMED, Redheaded Blackbelt, and Mendo-Fever. She covers local politics, the environment, law enforcement, and the arts in Mendocino and Humboldt Counties

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INTERESTING MENDO FACTOID: Of the 33 local attorneys who comprise the Mendocino County Women’s Bar Association, two of them are men: Robert Boyd and Phil Vanucci. We have no idea how or why Mssrs Boyd and Vanucci convinced the esquired women to include them, but we’d guess it probably has something to do with dues.

(Mark Scaramella)

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Make us one of your stops this Friday, March 3, from 5:00 to 8:00 PM, as part of your Ukiah First Friday Art Walk. We’ll be joined by local Celtic harpist Suni Robin who will be providing live music. She is well known for performing as a therapeutic musician at Adventist Hospital and their Infusion Center, as well as at various First Friday venues. You’ll also want to check out our newest exhibition, "The Curious World of Seaweed," organized by photographer and author Josie Iselin and Exhibit Envoy, with additions from the collections of the Grace Hudson Museum. Learn about the remarkable but threatened ecosystems right off our California coast while seeing extraordinary colorful images of nori, giant kelp, bull kelp, surfgrass, plus Pomo seaweed gathering baskets, and a few other surprises. Many thanks to exhibition sponsor Oco Time Restaurant, as well as for the ongoing support of the Sun House Guild and Museum members. Also, discover or get reacquainted with our core galleries and Wild Gardens. Admission is free for all visitors on First Friday. #ocotimesushi #josieiselin #exhibitenvoy

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by Tommy Wayne Kramer

Mendocino County’s marijuana industry was started by curious hippies, all with a tinge of the outlaw, and grew and flourished through the years despite the real possibility of arrest, imprisonment, ripoffs, crop failures and more. 

Mendo weed thrives as no other marijuana “brand” in the United States. It’s the benchmark, the best and most famous product of its kind. Comparing it to the finest champagnes from the most prestigious French vineyards is not unreasonable. 

Tales are told of growers without formal education but willing to work hard hours and face daunting risks enroute to becoming millionaires. 

They paid no taxes on profits from their crops, yet the flood of money generated by illegal pot propped up county and regional economies for many years. Growers drove expensive vehicles, vacationed in Hawaii and bought second homes anywhere they wanted. 

Times were good, if you didn’t get caught. 

But all along they (mostly) argued and lobbied for legalization. So did a sizable percentage of the rest of us if only for the amount of money marijuana would fetch when taxed. 

“Same as cigarettes and booze,” ran the standard phrase, and everyone would nod in agreement. Let the government take over, then stand back as the money rolled in and the county got rich. What could go wrong? 

Everything, as it turns out. Everything the bozos in charge of Mendocino County did was wrong, stupid, expensive and counterproductive. The most valuable commodity of its kind was gift-wrapped and handed over to county supervisors, who then bungled their prize recklessly, repeatedly, and maybe irretrievably. 

A story by Lester Black on a recent SFGate online news site reveals disturbing, hard-to-believe facts: 

1) Six years after marijuana was legalized, barely 1% of Mendocino County pot growers (12 out of 832 applicants) have been granted permits to cultivate marijuana. Humboldt County’s rate is 63%. 

2) The California Department of Cannabis Control says our approval rate is among the very lowest in the state, and the county’s marijuana industry “is on the brink of irreversible failure” due to negligence by county government. 

3) A local Cannabis Alliance of weed growers says Mendocino County is a “roadblock” rather than a partner in the legalization process. 

4) The director of our county Cannabis Department, Kristen Nevedal, offers the precise remedy we’d expect from a government bureaucrat. She’ll be hiring “at least 16 new employees,” then offered an unsolicited endorsement of herself and the fine job she’s doing by stating “I do not believe (my) department is mismanaged.” She says she has “an amazing and dedicated staff,” leaving us to wonder if she’d recognize a useless, incompetent staff. 

It’s hard to overstate what a colossal mess the county has made of things. 

They’ve taken the finest product in the land and made it unavailable to consumers. 

They’ve alienated our best marijuana cultivators, thrown them out of work, and those growers are now broke and moving to Humboldt County. 

They’ve cheated the taxpayers by spending millions and millions of dollars on highly paid administrators and their costly consultants and assistants without returning a nickel’s profit to the treasury. 

That’s what citizens have gotten from extremely well-compensated county administrators and department heads and from elected officials who confidently tell voters at election time they’ll work hard to solve problems, make the tough decisions and lead the way forward. 

Rather than creating revenue they’ve gone the opposite direction. They’ve saddled us with six years of costly, inept administrators thwarting the applicants they’re hired to help. 

They’ve piled idiotic, ever-changing regulations on top of demands variously interpreted by a revolving merry-go-round of workers and administrators in a bureaucratic mess that has, statistically, rewarded zero applicants. If they’d locked the doors and turned out the lights six years ago it would not have gone worse. 

What’s funny ha ha is that instead of doing conscientious work and performing their jobs well, our bumbling, incompetent, carefree county employees are the ones driving expensive vehicles, vacationing in Hawaii and, with their outlandish lifetime pensions, retiring wherever the hell they want. 

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CHRIS SKYHAWK: Good morning - this post is only relevant to my own personal process; My ex and daughters are moving to Mendocino, thus putting a bookend to a 30-plus year relationship I’ve had with Albion, Ca. Thus I’m going through a lot of old stuff that had been stored away for a long time; this is a pic of a journal that I kept for a long time; Like a lot of young people I had a lot of adventures, even more angst - some incredible and even prophetic dreams, but I’ve decided I’m not going to read anymore, the stories of my “1st” life - I can see how they shaped me; but its almost like it was another person; so I am just going to bless the journal; put it in my altar next to some sage; thank it, and keep moving fw. 2nd life: here I come!

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Kelley House Napkin Art Show

The Kelly House will be showing Sea Gull Cellar Bar Napkin Art from March 9th through May 29th. There will be an event with some of the napkin artists on April 15th. Please get the word out and drop by. If you have contacts for any of the artists, please let them know and invite them.

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A UKIAH READER WRITES: Yes, someone actually carved this and left it on Standley Street. What a classy town. 

ED NOTE: Better make sure the City of Ukiah didn't commission it before we get all indignant.

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HOUSEHOLDS that have experienced a loss of food purchased with CalFresh dollars due to natural disasters such as the extended power outages may be able to get replacement CalFresh funds. Social Services offices can issue replacement benefits on an individual basis to participating CalFresh households, upon request.

Full Press Release:

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CATCH OF THE DAY, Sunday, February 26, 2023

Delgardo, Eaglesmith, Owens, Waldron

CARMELO DELGADO, Covelo. Ammo possession by prohibited person, probation revocation.

JEVON EAGLESMITH, Nice/Ukiah. Child cruelty, protective order violation.

WILLIAM OWENS, Ukiah. Vandalism, parole violation.

NEIL WALDRON, Ukiah. Disorderly conduct-loitering, parole violation, resisting.

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On Front Street in Forestville, I drove past a boy of around 13 carrying a black oblong bag. When he saw me, he lifted it, swung it back and forth like it was a rifle, pointed it at me, swung it again and then aimed for me and looked like he was shooting. He then swung it again with a satisfied look on his face and kept walking. I kept driving, too shocked and scared to stop and tell him off. I called the local school and they’re notifying the local school districts. Video games? TV shows? All the school and other massacres? What exactly was he acting out, and where and how will this end?

Margo Perin

Santa Rosa

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Yorkville, Sunday, 26th February (photo by Kris Marcott)

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by W.E. Reinka 

In early 1950s television, Richard Carlson starred in “I Led Three Lives.” Each episode started with a dramatic voiceover: “This is the fantastically true story of the Herbert A. Philbrick, who for nine frightening years did lead three lives—average citizen, member of the Communist Party and counterspy for the FBI.”

I always thought if we could count “average citizen” as one of our lives, we all could claim at least two—average citizen and housewife, or average citizen and pipe fitter, for instance.

It may be a stretch to call celebrities average citizens, but if we do, several from past and present have led three lives, just like Herbert A. Philbrick. Take Dorothy Rodgers, wife of composer Richard Rodgers, who always fought being summarized as “wife and mother.” She wrote books on home decorating and invented a toilet cleaning “jonny mop,” which she sold to Johnson and Johnson. Jamie Leigh Curtis, daughter of Janet Leigh and Tony Curtis, and a movie star in her own right, holds the patent on a disposable diaper that comes with a moistened baby wipe attached. New Yorker writer Ian Frazier often writes about fishing but his patent is for a different kind of pole—one that removes debris stuck in trees.

Ever yearn to write, but say you haven’t the time? Draw inspiration from Edward Streeter. Streeter retired from his 37-year banking career in 1956, a couple of years after his novel, Mr. Hobbs’ Vacation, hit the bookstores. Later it was transformed into a hit movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Maureen O’Hara.

But Streeter already knew about Hollywood. You see, back in the 40s, he wrote Father of the Bride, despite his daily commute to New York’s Fifth Avenue Bank.

Anyone with more LPs than CDs remembers the choral harmony of Fred Waring and His Pennsylvanians. Waring played in orchestras to put himself through Penn State where he studied architectural engineering, not music. His engineering knowledge stood him in good stead as he helped work out the kinks in another inventor’s basic blender design. Voila! The Waring Blender was born. 

Hedy Lamarr shocked European movie-goers by skinny dipping in the 1933 Austrian-Czech film, Ecstasy. In Hollywood she is remembered as much for turning down what became Ingrid Bergman roles in Gaslight and Casablanca as she is for starring in such pictures as Samson and Delilah and The Strange Woman.

But the woman Louis B. Mayer once called “the most beautiful girl in the world” was not just another pretty face.

Back in 1942, Lamarr shared a patent for a “secret communication system” that was designed as a guidance device for US torpedoes. The invention, based on “frequency hopping” was so far ahead of its time, that the military couldn’t use it until the 1960s. In today’s digital age, it helps keep cellphone calls secure.

Even ardent baseball fans may have trouble recalling journeyman catcher Moe Berg. A defensive specialist, Berg got in just 662 big league games during 15 seasons in the 1920s and 30s. Berg’s I.Q. might have been higher than his batting average. He graduated from Princeton with honors, then earned a law degree from Columbia while playing big league ball.

Players used to joke, “Moe Berg can speak seven languages but he can’t hit in any of them.” One of those languages was Japanese, which might explain how a ballplayer who hit only three homeruns in his first ten seasons got selected, along with bona fide stars like Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig, for a 1934 traveling all-star team that visited Japan. Berg charmed his hosts into letting him take home movies from the top of Tokyo’s tallest building, movies some say were used to plan Jimmy Doolittle’s Tokyo bombing raid.

Once America entered World War II, Berg’s fluent German led to missions for the Office of Strategic Services, predecessor to today’s CIA. One of his greatest spy triumphs was discovering that Nazi Germany’s nuclear research lagged behind the American atomic efforts. 

In any language Moe Berg would have made Herbert A. Philbrick proud.

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I remember Reader’s Digest asked an old woman what her favorite thing was about electricity.

She said “The vacuum cleaner”.

The vacuum cleaner? What about lights, radio, TV, cooking?

Well, I took her word for it. She lived most of her life without electricity, she gets to pick what she likes best.

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FOR ALL THAT HAS BEEN SAID of the love that certain natures (on shore) have professed to feel for it, for all the celebrations it has been the object of in prose and song, the sea has never been friendly to man. At most it has been the accomplice of human restlessness, and playing the part of dangerous abettor of world-wide ambitions. Faithful to no race after the manner of the kindly earth, receiving no impress from valor and toil and self-sacrifice, recognizing no finality of dominion, the sea has never adopted the cause of its masters like those lands where the victorious nations of mankind have taken root, rocking their cradles and setting up their gravestones. He ‘man or people’ who, putting his trust in the friendship of the sea, neglects the strength and cunning of his right hand, is a fool! 

—Joseph Conrad, 1906; from ‘The Mirror of the Sea’ 

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I get up and nothin' gets me down
You got it tough, I've seen the toughest around
And I know, baby, just how you feel
You got to roll with the punches and get to what's real

Ah, can't you see me standin' here
I got my back against the record machine
I ain't the worst that you've seen
Ah, can't you see what I mean?

Ah, might as well jump (jump)
Might as well jump
Go ahead and jump (jump)
Go ahead and jump
Ow, oh, hey, you
Who said that?
Baby, how you been?
You say you don't know
You won't know until you begin

So can't ya see me standing here
I got my back against the record machine
I ain't the worst that you've seen
Ah, can't you see what I mean?

Ah, might as well jump (jump)
Go ahead and jump
Might as well jump (jump)
Go ahead and jump

Might as well jump (jump)
Go ahead and jump
Get it in, jump (jump)
Go ahead and jump

— Van Halen (1983)

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HER HIGHEST CURRENCY WAS SEX. The years of abuse and the years of fame and power had taught her that her sexual attraction and her sexual favors were all that mattered. Every day with Marilyn was a classroom in which she sought to be educated, trained, improved, and this was valiant, and she was smart, but she only knew how to repay kindness or generosity with sex, and so everything was geared toward what came to be known as ‘the act.’ Her beauty and her vulnerability left her perpetually open to abuse. The patterns from the foster homes remained imprinted in her daily life.

— Elia Kazan on Marilyn Monroe/Interview with James Grissom, 1993.

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SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN: Did the Pentagon Shoot Down a Harmless Ham Radio Balloon?

Surging numbers of small research balloons increase the odds of airborne mistaken identity—and harsher regulations

The Great UFO Turkey Shoot of 2023 began with a bang—several, in fact. U.S. fighter jets shot down a Chinese spy balloon off the coast of South Carolina in early February. In subsequent days, three more unidentified flying objects were shot down over Alaska, the Yukon and Lake Huron. But late last week the situation apparently ended with a whimper when U.S. and Canadian officials suspended efforts to recover and study debris from those latter three objects after U.S. president Joe Biden said they weren’t thought to be part of China’s extensive airborne surveillance efforts.…

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“To have come on all this new world of writing, with time to read in a city like Paris where there was a way of living well and working, no matter how poor you were, was like having a great treasure with you when you traveled too, and in the mountains where we lived in Switzerland and Italy, until we found Schruns in the high valley in the Voralberg in Austria, there were always the books, so that you lived in the new world you had found, the snow and the forests and the glaciers and their winter problems and your high shelter in the Hotel Taube in the village in the day time, and at night you could live in the other wonderful world of the Russian writers were giving you. At first, there were the Russians; then there were all the others. But for a long time there were the Russians."

— A Moveable Feast by Ernest Hemingway 

And no wonder Ernest already read Turgenev, Tolstoy and Dostoevsky, criticize them, analyze them yet they Inspired him! 

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Ishmael Reed

HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO ISHMAEL REED (1938), American author of poetry, essays, novels, and plays who is perhaps best known for his fictional works, which are marked by surrealism, satire, and political commentary. 

“No one says a novel has to be one thing. It can be anything it wants to be, a vaudeville show, the six o’clock news, the mumblings of wild men saddled by demons.”

“I had no systematic way of learning but proceeded like a quilt maker, a patch of knowledge here a patch there but lovingly knitted. I would hungrily devour the intellectual scraps and leftovers of the learned.”

“All art must be for the end of liberating the masses.”

“Democracy and freedom began bouncing all over the world like bad checks.”

“Time is a pendulum. Not a river. More akin to what goes around comes around.”

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It used to be Andy & Barney Fife
Now its Howard Stern and the brothel life
Too much crap can drive the world insane
Everybody's singing the jailhouse blues
Don't believe a word of the evening news

Truth that stood for years is down the drain
Trailer parks with a building code
Cul-de-sacs and the country road
High tech bars with that karoke sound

Uncle Sam gets your money spent
Pay your tithes you can't pay your rent
Foreign cars selling big in American town

What happened
Does anybody know
What happened
Where did America go?
Everything Walmart all the time
No more mom & pop five and dime
What happened
Where did America go?
Where did America go?

How did we ever go so wrong
Did we get too high
Did we sleep too long
Why did we raise the price of gasoline

I remember the morning the towers fell
I fell back asleep and dreamed of hell
I guess I thought it was all part of my dream

Where'd it go boys?
Hey, hey
I'm gonna preach
I miss America

— Merle Haggard (2007)

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A lector reads a newspaper to workers in a cigar factory, 1900s.

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by Julian E. Barnes

The conclusion, which was made with “low confidence,” came as America’s intelligence agencies remained divided over the origins of the coronavirus.

New intelligence has prompted the Energy Department to conclude that an accidental laboratory leak in China most likely caused the coronavirus pandemic, though U.S. spy agencies remain divided over the origins of the virus, American officials said on Sunday.

The conclusion was a change from the department’s earlier position that it was undecided on how the virus emerged.

Some officials briefed on the intelligence said that it was relatively weak and that the Energy Department’s conclusion was made with “moderate confidence,” suggesting its level of certainty was not high. While the department shared the information with other agencies, none of them changed their conclusions, officials said.

Officials would not disclose what the intelligence was. But many of the Energy Department’s insights come from the network of national laboratories it oversees, rather than more traditional forms of intelligence like spy networks or communications intercepts.

Intelligence officials believe the scrutiny of the pandemic’s beginnings could be important to improving global response to future health crises, though they caution that finding an answer about the source of the virus may be difficult or even impossible given Chinese opposition to further research. Scientists say there is a responsibility to explain how a pandemic that has killed almost seven million people started, and learning more about its origins could help researchers understand what poses the biggest threats of future outbreaks.

The new intelligence and the shift in the department’s view was first reported by The Wall Street Journal on Sunday.

Jake Sullivan, the national security adviser, declined to confirm the intelligence. But he said President Biden had ordered that the national labs be brought into the effort to determine the origins of the outbreak so that the government was using “every tool” it had.

In addition to the Energy Department, the F.B.I. has also concluded, with moderate confidence, that the virus first emerged accidentally from the Wuhan Institute of Virology, a Chinese lab that worked on coronaviruses. Four other intelligence agencies and the National Intelligence Council have concluded, with low confidence, that the virus most likely emerged through natural transmission, the director of national intelligence’s office announced in October 2021.

Mr. Sullivan said those divisions remain.

“There is a variety of views in the intelligence community,” he said on CNN’s “State of the Union” on Sunday. “Some elements of the intelligence community have reached conclusions on one side, some on the other. A number of them have said they just don’t have enough information to be sure.”

Mr. Sullivan said if more information was learned, the administration would report it to Congress and the public. “But right now, there is not a definitive answer that has emerged from the intelligence community on this question,” he said.

Some scientists believe that the current evidence, including virus genes, points to a large food and live animal market in Wuhan as the most likely place the coronavirus emerged.

Leaders of the intelligence community are set to brief Congress on March 8 and 9 as part of annual hearings on global threats. Avril D. Haines, the director of national intelligence, and other senior officials would most likely be asked about the continuing inquiry into the virus’s origins.

How the pandemic began has become a divisive line of intelligence reporting, and recent congressional reports have not been bipartisan.

Many Democrats have not been persuaded by the lab leak hypothesis, with some saying they believe the natural causes explanation and others saying they are not certain that enough intelligence will emerge to draw a conclusion.

But many Republicans on Capitol Hill have said they believe the virus could have come from one of China’s research labs in Wuhan. A congressional subcommittee, created when Republicans took over the House in January, has made examining the lab leak theory a central focus of its work. It is expected to convene the first of a series of hearings in March.

“Evidence has been piling up for over a year in favor of the lab leak hypothesis,” said Representative Mike Gallagher, a Wisconsin Republican who sits on the House Intelligence Committee and leads a new House committee on China. “I am glad some of our agencies are starting to listen to common sense and change their assessment.”

n Tuesday, Mr. Gallagher will hold the new committee’s first hearing, looking at the threat the Chinese Communist Party poses to the United States. Future hearings, Mr. Gallagher said, will look at biosecurity and China’s efforts to influence international organizations like the World Health Organization.

“Where our committee can have a role is teasing out what this communicates about the DNA of the Chinese Communist Party, an organization that was willing to cover up the origins of the pandemic and thereby cost us critical days, months and weeks and millions of lives in the process,” Mr. Gallagher said in an interview on Sunday.

Chinese officials have repeatedly called the lab leak hypothesis a lie that has no basis in science and is politically motivated.

Early in the Biden administration, the president ordered the intelligence agencies to investigate the pandemic’s origins, after criticism of a W.H.O. report on the matter. While there was material that had not been thoroughly examined by intelligence officials, the review ultimately did not yield any new consensus inside the agencies.

The March 2021 report by the W.H.O. said it was “extremely unlikely” that the virus emerged accidentally from a lab. But China appointed half the scientists who wrote the report and exerted major control over it. American officials have been largely dismissive of that work.

The intelligence agencies have said they do not believe there is any evidence that the coronavirus that causes Covid-19 was created deliberately as a biological weapon. But they have said that whether it emerged naturally, perhaps from a market in Wuhan, or escaped accidentally from a lab is the subject of legitimate debate.

Anthony Ruggiero, a scholar at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a former National Security Council staff member focusing on biodefense issues during the Trump administration, said he believed China is still “hiding crucial information” about how the virus emerged. He said the lab leak theory should not be dismissed.

“The lab leak origin for the Covid-19 pandemic is not, and was not, a conspiracy theory,” he said.

(New York Times)

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February 23 at 5:34 PM…

Yesterday, Jeffrey Sachs and Ray McGovern addressed the UN General Assembly in support of Seymour Hersh's expose of the US role in blowing up the Nordstream 2 pipeline, speaking against UNGA resolution condemning Russia for the war in Ukraine. In keeping with the respect the US media has for the 1st Amendment, their presentations merited nary a word in today's press which has treated Hersh's expose of the US role in bombing the pipeline with the same disregard.

Meanwhile, the liberals' darling, the toxic Democrat Party shill and uncompromising war monger (when it comes to Ukraine) Thom Hartmann gave his full support to the statements of four Republican congressional hawks who followed Biden to Ukraine and announced support for the US to provide Ukraine with F-16s, presumably, so they can attack Russia. Hartmann is proudly and unequivocally against any negotiations with Russia to end the war.

Anyone who calls into his widely seen THREE hour daily program (M-F) who dares to question Hartmann's position and support negotiations to end the war, Hartmann dismisses as a Putin puppet and cuts the caller off.

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Russian President Vladimir Putin is not a "sentimentalist" when it comes to the massive loss of life his troops are facing in Ukraine and believes he can exhaust Ukraine and the West and ultimately win the war, CIA Director Bill Burns said Sunday.

Burns, speaking on CBS "Face the Nation," said the United States must provide full material and intelligence support in coming months to "puncture that hubris on Putin's part" and regain momentum on the battlefield. 

He said Putin is convinced he "can't afford to lose" so he will attempt to drag out the war.

"Putin's view of Americans, of us, has been that we have attention deficit disorder, and we'll move on to some other issue eventually," he said. "So instead of looking for ways to either back down or find a famous off ramp, you know, what Putin has done is double down," Burns said.

Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked the anniversary of Russia's occupation of Ukraine's Crimea, tweeting: "9 years ago, Russian aggression began in Crimea. By returning Crimea, we will restore peace. This is our land. Our people. Our history. We will return the Ukrainian flag to every corner of Ukraine."

National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan, appearing on NBC's “Meet the Press” and other Sunday news shows, said the United States is providing parts for Ukraine's fleet of Soviet-era jets, but that supplying F-16s “is really a question for another day, for another phase” of the war.

The West wants to eliminate Russia, and ethnic Russians may not survive as a distinct people if the West succeeds, Putin said in an interview Sunday on state-owned TV. Putin accused the United States and its allies of having "one goal: to disband the former Soviet Union and its fundamental part — the Russian Federation."

(USA Today)

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A homecoming soldier, Vienna, Austria, ca. 1945. (photo by Ernst Haas)

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by Caitlin Johnstone

Things are escalating more and more rapidly between the US-centralized power structure and the few remaining nations with the will and the means to stand against its demands for total obedience, namely China, Russia, and Iran. The world is becoming increasingly split between two groups of governments who are becoming increasingly hostile toward each other, and you don’t have to be a historian to know it’s probably a bad sign when that happens. Especially in the age of nuclear weapons.

The US State Department’s Victoria Nuland is now saying that the US is supporting Ukrainian strikes on Crimea, drawing sharp rebukes from Moscow with a stern reminder that the peninsula is a “red line” for the Kremlin which will result in escalations in the conflict if crossed. On Friday, Ukraine’s President Zelensky told the press that Kyiv is preparing a large offensive for the “de-occupation” of Crimea, which Moscow has considered a part of the Russian Federation since its annexation in 2014.

As Anatol Lieven explained for Jacobin earlier this month, this exact scenario is currently the one most likely to lead to a sequence of escalations ending in nuclear war. In light of the aforementioned recent revelations, the opening paragraph of Lieven’s article is even more chilling to read now than it was when it came out a couple of weeks ago:

The greatest threat of nuclear catastrophe that humanity has ever faced is now centered on the Crimean peninsula. In recent months, the Ukrainian government and army have repeatedly vowed to reconquer this territory, which Russia seized and annexed in 2014. The Russian establishment, and most ordinary Russians, for their part believe that holding Crimea is vital to Russian identity and Russia’s position as a great power. As a Russian liberal acquaintance (and no admirer of Putin) told me, “In the last resort, America would use nuclear weapons to save Hawaii and Pearl Harbor, and if we have to, we should use them to save Crimea.”

And that’s just Russia. The war in Ukraine is being used to escalate against all powers not aligned with the US-centralized alliance, with recent developments including drone attacks on an Iranian weapons factory which reportedly arms Russian soldiers in Ukraine, and Chinese companies being sanctioned for “backfill activities in support of Russia’s defence sector” following US accusations that the Chinese government is preparing to arm Russia in the war.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reportedly been holding multiple meetings with top military officials regarding potential future attacks on Iran to neutralize the alleged threat of Iran developing a nuclear arsenal, a “threat” that Netanyahu has personally been lying about for years.

If you’ve been reading (and if you care about this stuff you probably should be), you’ve been seeing new articles about the latest imperial escalations against China on a near-daily basis now. Sometimes they come out multiple times per day; this past Thursday Dave DeCamp put out two completely separate news stories titled “US Plans to Expand Military Presence in Taiwan, a Move That Risks Provoking China” and “Philippines in Talks With US, Australia on Joint South China Sea Patrols“. Taiwan and the South China Sea are two powderkeg flashpoints where war could quickly erupt at any time in a number of different ways.

If you know where to look for good updates on the behavior of the US-centralized empire and you follow them from day to day, it’s clear that things are accelerating toward a global conflict of unimaginable horror. As bad as things look right now, the future our current trajectory has us pointed toward is much, much, much worse.

Empire apologists will frame this trajectory toward global disaster as an entirely one-sided affair, with bloody-fanged tyrants trying to take over the world because they are evil and hate freedom, and the US-centralized alliance either cast in the role of poor widdle victim or heroic defender of the weak and helpless depending on which generates more sympathy on that day.

These people are lying. Any intellectually honest research into the west’s aggressions and provocations against both Russia and China will show you that Russia and China are reacting defensively to the empire’s campaign to secure US unipolar planetary hegemony; you might not agree with those reactions, but you cannot deny that they are reactions to a clear and deliberate aggressor.

This is important to understand, because whenever you say that something must be done to try and avert an Atomic Age world war, you’ll get empire apologists saying “Well go protest in Moscow and Beijing then,” as though the US power alliance is some kind of passive witness to all this. Which is of course complete bullshit; if World War III does indeed befall us, it will be because of choices that were made by the drivers of the western empire while ignoring off-ramp after off-ramp.

This tendency to flip reality and frame the western imperial power structure as the reactive force for peace against malevolent warmongers serves to help quash the emergence of a robust anti-war movement in the west, because if your own government is virtuous and innocent in a conflict then there’s no good reason to go protesting it. But that’s exactly what urgently needs to happen, because these people are driving us to our doom.

In fact, it is fair to say that there has never in history been a time when the need to forcefully oppose the warmongering of our own western governments was more urgent. The attacks on Vietnam and Iraq were horrific atrocities which unleashed unfathomable suffering upon our world, but they did not pose any major existential threat to the world as a whole. The wars in Vietnam and Iraq killed millions; we’re talking about a conflict that can kill billions.

Each of the World Wars was in turn the worst single thing that happened to our species as a whole up until that point in history. World War I was the worst thing that ever happened until World War II happened, and if World War III happens it will almost certainly make World War II look like a schoolyard tussle. This is because all of the major players in that conflict would be armed with nuclear weapons, and at some point some of them are going to be faced with strong incentives to use them. Once that happens, Mutually Assured Destruction ceases to protect us from armageddon, and the “Mutual” and “Destruction” components come in to play.

None of this needs to happen. There is nothing written in adamantine which says the US must rule the world with an iron fist no matter the cost and no matter the risk. There is nothing inscribed upon the fabric of reality which says nations can’t simply coexist peacefully and collaborate toward the common good of all beings, can’t turn away from our primitive impulses of domination and control, can’t do anything but drift passively toward nuclear annihilation all because a few imperialists in Washington convinced everyone to buy into the doctrine of unipolarism.

But we’re not going to turn away from this trajectory unless the masses start using the power of our numbers to force a change from warmongering, militarism and continual escalation toward diplomacy, de-escalation and detente. We need to start organizing against those who would steer our species into extinction, and working to pry their hands away from the steering wheel if they refuse to turn away. We need to resist all efforts to cast inertia on this most sacred of all priorities, and we need to start moving now. We’re all on a southbound bus to oblivion, and it’s showing no signs of stopping.


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(photo by Jill Derwinski)


  1. Stephen Dunlap February 27, 2023

    why are there no protest songs like the 60’s & 70’s ?


    by Caitlin Johnstone

    • Lazarus February 27, 2023

      Completely different scenario. In the 60s/70s, the Draft was still in effect. The military was forging an active war in Viet Nam. Americans were being killed in what turned out to be a pointless war…
      And the 60s were in a renaissance. And that only happens every 400 years, or so I’ve read.
      The young were better educated, there were more of us, (Baby Boomers), and the media was becoming the message.
      Be well,

      • Paul Justison February 27, 2023

        I’d add to your comments Laz that the mass media is quite different today. During the Vietnam War, virtually all of the mainstream media was for the war, but nevertheless showed the horrors we caused – Vietnamese kids scarred by napalm, destroyed villages, assassinated prisoners, coffins returning home. Today the mainstream media is scrupulous in hiding the horrors we cause, uncritically repeats the government’s case for war, and suppresses any discussion of what might have caused the ‘enemy’ to become the ‘enemy.’

        • Marmon February 27, 2023

          That’s right, as a teenager in the 60’s I spent my time war watching on T.V. wondering if I was going to be drafted. I joined in several different protests and remember people cursing at me and even being egged by some crazy woman war lover. I got in trouble from my dad when my face, with my little brother in tow, showed up on the front page of a local newspaper. Protesting to many was seen as un-American just like it is today if you protest Biden’s war.


      • George Hollister February 27, 2023

        The fundamental difference between Vietnam, and Ukraine is Ukraines are willing to fight for freedom, Vietnam wanted the USA to do that for them.

    • Steve Heilig February 27, 2023

      There was a “rage against the war” rally just last week in DC. It drew… hundreds. Star speakers were the likes of Rand Paul and Tulsi Gabbard (astrologer C. Johnstone would have fit right in but she’s safe in Australia, preaching from afar about things she has no experience in), plus lots of so-called “leftists” – the new strange bedfellows. Lots of Russian flags and libertarian rhetoric. Lots of folk who say War is Bad but Putin’s invasion and war crimes are just fine, he’s our guy. A hypocritical clown show., and nothing any truly anti-war protester (or songwriter) would go near. And real journalists ignored them too, luckily for them.
      They “rage” online though, feeling that is actually doing something, while being too pure to actually organize or lobby or vote or anything like that, let alone donate to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Doctors Without Borders, or any other such groups strongly opposed to Putin’s terror and trying to help those suffering from it.
      Otherwise it was great!

  2. Whyte Owen February 27, 2023

    A nit to pick: would everyone here and abroad please stop using “media” as a singular? -Trouble with taking Latin in high school-

    • Eric Sunswheat February 27, 2023

      —>. February 16, 2023
      Independent media and its investigative reporting have seemingly taken a backseat to legacy media’s profit-driven clickbait journalism and access journalism, neither of which serves the public’s well-being.

      While we know what the media owes us, as members of the American public, we owe the media reciprocity as well…

      The free press is our protection against government overreach, as the U.S. Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black stated in the 1971 SCOTUS decision New York Times Co. v. United States, “The press was to serve the governed, not the governors.”

      Walter Dean of the American Press Institute stated, “The purpose of journalism is thus to provide citizens with the information they need to make the best possible decisions about their lives, their communities, their societies, and their governments.”…

      Over 1,800 local newspapers have closed in the U.S. since 2004 and 360 of those papers have closed since COVID. These local independent outlet closures have had a detrimental effect on local communities in desperate need of truthful reporting, and are now more susceptible to disinformation.

  3. Lazarus February 27, 2023

    “The medium is the message” “is a phrase coined by the Canadian communication theorist Marshall McLuhan and the name of the first chapter in his Understanding Media: The Extensions of Man, published in 1964. Wikipedia”

    As it turned out… you can decide.
    Be well,

  4. john ignoffo February 27, 2023

    40 years old, but more relevant than ever, The Day After, a decent movie starring Jason Robards. Supposedly after a viewing Nancy convinced Ronnie to negotiate a arms reduction treaty. Don’t worry about climate chaos, nuke winter will make it a moot point.

    • Eric Sunswheat February 27, 2023

      —>. Feb 22, 2023
      Vital energy infrastructure in the Dutch sector of the North Sea, including gas pipelines and offshore wind farms, could be vulnerable to a Russian attempt at sabotage, the intelligence services of the Netherlands say.

      Russia is covertly mapping the infrastructure in the area and is carrying out activities that indicate espionage and preparations for disruption and sabotage, the Dutch intelligence agencies MIVD and AIVD said in a report this week.

      • Marmon February 27, 2023

        That’s what you get for voting for Biden.


        • George Hollister February 27, 2023

          James, keep in mind, a vote for Trump in the primary is a vote for Biden.

  5. Marmon February 27, 2023

    These bastards finally admitted Covid came from the Wuhan lab, and was funded by the left.


    • Chuck Dunbar February 27, 2023

      “These Bastards” Are Not So Dastardly

      James, try for a bit of civility. if you will. And it’s a little less definitive than “These bastards finally admitted Covid came from the Wuhan lab…” It is not “admitted” with great assurance or as the full and final truth, but with only a level of “low confidence.” Other US agencies are still studying this issue, though the FBI also leans the same way. I have to admire the Biden administration for not censoring or hiding this info from one of its agencies, as another less honest, more dastardly administration might have done. So “these bastards” are presenting the information openly–as a democratic government should do. What “left” folks are you talking about?

    • George Hollister February 27, 2023

      Elitists who claim they are science, not bastards. It’s uncertain who was funding, what. And lastly, there is still uncertainty where the virus came from, even if the lab looks like to some to be a likely place. At this point there are credibility issues with anything the government says, including about the weather.

      BTW, the much maligned Fox News is ahead of the curve on most of the issues. The NYT is a Johnny-Come-Lately.

      • Chuck Dunbar February 27, 2023

        In one stance of great import,Fox, as we now know very well due to their own statements behind the scenes, was far behind the curve on the election BS. They knew the truth but hid it, that there was no fraud, no stolen election– the bastards….

        • Chuck Dunbar February 27, 2023

          Should be “In one instance…”

        • George Hollister February 28, 2023

          I watch Bret Baier, and there was never any promotion of the stolen election narrative. There was a fair presentation of it, with counter view points. Nothing wrong with that. That is what should be presented. There are specific Fox commentary personalities who I assume presented the stolen election narrative that is referred to, but I don’t watch those programs. There is nothing wrong with that either.

          From Bret Baier the Hunter laptop story was presented with supporting information that made it seem real, which it was. The Wuhan lab story was presented as well as a really possibility. No one else would touch it. Marty Makary from Johns Hopkins was the best source of information on Covid in media. Yes, herd immunity is/was real. All this was on Fox.

          • Marmon February 28, 2023

            I turn my TV off when RINO Bret Baier comes on. Spend that hour on the Internet seeking the truth. Fox News is pushing Ron Desanctimonious down everyone’s throats. RINO’s don’t want to lead, they just want to financially benefit at any cost.


            • George Hollister February 28, 2023

              Brit Hume often does a commentary on Bret Baier, and offers, in my mind, a good assessment on these political times. Brit does a good job of separating his personal biases from the broader view that he presents. His views are conservative, but nonpartisan. The obvious media bias against Trump is stated, along with Trump’s obvious personal political shortcomings. He has also mentioned Biden’s apparent senility.

              No other cable news channel, except for maybe CNBC, manages to do this.

            • George Hollister February 28, 2023

              James, it appears you and a bunch of others here at the AVA spend a lot of time watching the same programming on Fox News. Maybe there should be a social gathering and watch these programs together. Oh yea, better call the cops first.

              • Chuck Dunbar February 28, 2023

                That’s and wise judicious plan, George. Prevention is always the best medicine.

  6. Craig Stehr February 27, 2023

    Warmest spiritual greetings, Following morning ablutions at Building Bridges Homeless Resource Center, walked south on Ukiah, California’s State Street for a free lunch at the Plowshares Peace & Justice Center. Then took a bus northward to Raley’s Supermarket for a Peet’s coffee. Bussed back southward, and am now on a public computer at RespecTech on Perkins Street. Watching the weather change in Ukiah, California is all that I am doing at this point. I am available for frontline spiritually based social revolution on the plant earth. I am ready to head out of the homeless shelter after one year of sleeping there, as of March 1st. I am accepting money at I am not identified with the body nor the mind, but only with the Immortal Self, or Pure Spirit, or whatever you define the Divine Absolute as being. I may be reached vial email at The homeless shelter receives telephone messages for me at (707) 234-3270. This sums it up for now at 4:14PM on Monday February 27th, 2023 Anno Domini.

  7. Donald Cruser February 28, 2023

    Mr. Hollister.
    Please try to find a documentary on the history of Vietnam called “In the Year of the Pig”. It will show you that the Vietnamese were more than willing to fight for their freedom and independence. In fact for many years they fought the Chinese, then the French, and then the Americans. There is something about going 7,000 miles from home to fight a war that makes us look like an invader. This is the history of my lifetime-Korea, Vietnam, Central America, Iraq, Afganistan, and now Ukraine. We don’t win any of these wars because that is not the purpose. The purpose is for some people to make a lot of money off of war, all paid for by US. After getting our butts kicked out of there we now have friendly relations with Vietnam and they are a major trading partner. This could have happened without killing more than a million Vietnamese and losing over 50,000 young Americans. And the Vietnamese are in charge of their entire country.

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