Oldest Kids In Class Do Better, Even Through College

Study authors found that, on average, demographically similar September-born children performed better than younger August-born students, all through their academic careers.

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Children who start school at an older age do better than their younger classmates and have better odds of attending college and graduating from an elite institution. That’s according to a new study from the National Bureau of Economic Affairs.

Many parents already delay enrolling their children in school, believing they’ll do better if they’re a bit older. It’s sort of “academic red-shirting”, says one of the study’s authors, David Figlio, an economist at Northwestern University, using a term that originated in college athletics where recruits are often held out of games for a year.

The study focused on differences between Florida children born just before and after the September 1st cut-off date for starting kindergarten. That means the youngest children in any class were born in August and the oldest in September of the previous year. Figlio and his co-authors found that, on average, demographically similar September-born children performed better than their younger August-born classmates, all through their academic careers.

Previous studies have also concluded that older children do better in school but there were still questions about whether the advantage continued beyond a few years. This new research found the advantage extends through college. In an interview with NPR, Figlio said that if you look at test scores, the achievement gap could be equivalent to about 40 points on the 1600 point SAT.

The age a child starts school could also affect college attendance and graduation rates. Among families in the middle socio-economic group, the older September-born kids were 2.6% more likely to attend college, and 2.6% more likely to graduate from an elite university. On the downside, August-born children were 1% more likely to be incarcerated for juvenile crime. Figlio acknowledges these are not “massive differences,” but he says, they are “meaningful.”

Figlio said the study’s most surprising finding was that the gap between August and September-born children occurs at all socio-economic levels and is not easily closed, even in high income families. The Florida birth and education data allowed the researchers to compare the performance of August- and September-born children in the same families. Even in high income families, says Figlio, there was a gap in achievement between children who started school at a young age and siblings who started when they were older.

Figlio says that surprised him because he thought high income families would have the resources needed to close the gap between siblings.

There’s no clear remedy to the problem, he says. But, he believes educators and officials should look for solutions. Figlio says one possibility may be grouping same age students in separate classes, rather than having classes where some children can be nearly a year younger than their oldest peers. He says that in the early primary years, the cognitive and social differences between children who are nearly a year apart can be very dramatic, and teaching for each group could be tailored to their development levels.

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Charities Cancel Fundraisers Planned for Trump's Mar-A-Lago

Charities are cancelling plans for fundraising events at President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club. The cancellations come in the wake of his controversial comments about the events in Charlottesville.

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On Friday, three well-known charities — the American Red Cross, the Salvation Army and Susan G. Komen — announced they are cancelling plans for fundraising events at President Trump’s Palm Beach country club, Mar-a-Lago.

The three joined a growing list of non-profits that now have severed ties with the exclusive, Trump-owned resort, including Cleveland Clinic and the American Cancer Society.

The cancellations come in the wake of Trump’s controversial comments made earlier this week when he said that “both sides were to blame” for last weekend’s deadly violence involving white supremacists in Charlottesville, VA.

Trump has been under heavy criticism all week for his remarks, which prompted many corporate leaders to bail out of White House advisory boards. So many CEOs resigned that the president responded by disbanding three committees, one focused on shaping business strategy, another on boosting manufacturing and third on improving infrastructure.

After the CEOs started refusing to work with the president, pressure increased on charities to give up their annual trips to Mar-A-Lago for galas.

For example, Cleveland Clinic CEO Toby Cosgrove had served on one of the disbanded business councils. And a day after that dismantling happened, the hospital announced that “after careful consideration,” Cleveland Clinic would not hold its 2018 event at Mar-a-Lago.

Earlier this year, despite a petition drive by doctors and medical students, the hospital had refused to cancel its fundraiser there. When medical students and other groups renewed the push recently, Cleveland Clinic remained firm, saying Mar-A-Lago is located in the heart of one of the nation’s most affluent communities, and met its needs.

Now, it does not.

The American Red Cross said in its statement that it must provide “assistance without discrimination to all people in need, regardless of nationality, race, religious beliefs, or political opinions.”

The charity’s connection with the president’s club “has increasingly become a source of controversy and pain for many of our volunteers, employees and supporters,” it said.

The Salvation Army issued a similar statement, saying its event at Mar-a-Lago helped raise money for disaster victims and the homeless. “Because the conversation has shifted away from the purpose of this event,” the group says, “we will not host it at Mar-a-Lago.”

Susan G. Komen, a charity that invests in breast cancer research, confirmed it is also withdrawing from Mar-a-Lago and is seeking a new venue for its fund raising event.

The rash of high-profile cancellations has created something of a scramble in Palm Beach as charities look for other suitable venues. The Palm Beach Post says other nearby hotels and the Palm Beach County Convention Center are hearing from interested groups.

For Trump, the cancellations will mean a significant loss of income, unless the staff at Mar-a-Lago finds new customers who want to book a 20,000 square foot ballroom, embellished with 24-karat gold leafing, modelled, as Trump told “Florida Design” magazine, after Versailles.

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Gun-Carrying Protesters Create 'Tricky' Question For ACLU

A protester wears a pistol in Charlottesville, Va., on Saturday. The ACLU says it will consider the potential for violence when evaluating whether to represent potential clients.

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After representing the organizer of a far-right rally that became a brutal melee, the ACLU says it will consider the potential for violence when evaluating potential clients — including whether protesters plan to carry guns.

“The events of Charlottesville require any judge, any police chief and any legal group to look at the facts of any white-supremacy protests with a much finer comb,” ACLU executive director Anthony Romero toldThe Wall Street Journal. “If a protest group insists, ‘No, we want to be able to carry loaded firearms,’ well, we don’t have to represent them. They can find someone else.”

The ACLU says this isn’t a change in policy. “[W]e don’t feel we have to represent any group – including white supremacists – seeking to demonstrate with firearms,” ACLU spokeswoman Stacy Sullivan wrote in an email to NPR. “We examine these situations on a case-by-case basis, recognizing that the presence of firearms may suppress speech by others in the public space.”

ACLU’s board policy since October 2015 has been to support “reasonable” firearms regulation, Sullivan says.

“The tricky part here is that 46 states allow some form of open carry of firearms,” she explains. “We are now looking at the question of whether government can regulate the First Amendment rights of demonstrators who insist on being armed during public protests.”

The ACLU’s legal representation of white supremacist groups has been under scrutiny this week, after it represented the organizer of the “Unite the Right” rally in his fight to keep the group’s permit to protest at Emancipation Park in downtown Charlottesville. A participant in the far-right rally plowed his car into pedestrians, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe mentioned the ACLU by name on NPR’s Morning Edition on Monday, lamenting the city’s foiled attempt to move the protest.

“The city of Charlottesville asked for that to be moved out of downtown Charlottesville to a park about a mile and a half away, a lot of open fields,” McAuliffe said. “That was the place it should have been, we were unfortunately sued by the ACLU and the judge ruled against us. “

The ACLU of Virginia responded that it had “asked the city to adhere to the U.S. Constitution and ensure people’s safety at the protest. It failed to do so. In our system, the city makes the rules and the courts enforce them. Our role is to ensure that the system works the same for everyone.”

But not everyone found that stance satisfying. A member of the ACLU of Virginia’s board, Waldo Jaquith, tweeted Saturday that he was quitting his post. “What’s legal and what’s right are sometimes different. I won’t be a fig leaf for Nazis.”

“We need the ACLU,” he added. “We need it *so much*. But we also need it to change, just a tiny bit: don’t defend Nazis to allow them to kill people.”

Donations to the ACLU skyrocketed after Donald Trump was elected president. The group raised more than $80 million between November 2016 and March 2017, and the group’s website currently features of a photo of Trump, with the words “The fight is on. Donate monthly.”

But new donors don’t necessarily understand that the group’s causes are not always aligned with the political left, and that it has for decades represented hate groups in civil liberties cases.

Portland, Maine resident Ella Mock said she had been making monthly donations to the ACLU, but she told Maine Public Radio that in the wake of Charlottesville, she would end her membership .

“[T]o know that I have funded in part this activity is pretty terrifying honestly,” said Mock. “I have many many friends whose lives and well being I fear for due to this action.”

In 1978, the group defended neo-Nazis who wanted to march through Skokie, Ill., where many Holocaust survivors lived. The ACLU won its case, but lost 30,000 members — though the Nazis opted to rally in downtown Chicago instead. The following year, the group faced a $500,000 budget deficit.

So while it’s not new for the ACLU to represent clients unpopular among its membership, the presence of armed protesters – like those who showed up in Charlottesville — has pushed the group into new territory.

“We’ve had people with odious views, all manner of bigots,” Sullivan told the Associated Press. “But not people who want to carry weapons and are intent on committing violence.”

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Be Smart: A Partial Eclipse Can Fry Your Naked Eyes

Left: A partial solar eclipse, as viewed from the Cotswolds, United Kingdom, March 2015. Right: A total solar eclipse, as viewed from Longyearbyen, Norway, March 2015.

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The day of the long-awaited coast-to-coast solar eclipse has all but arrived — and if history is any guide, it’s likely that somebody’s eyes are going to get hurt.

“The ones we’re really concerned about are the people who have never seen an eclipse before — or just decided that, you know, ‘Today is a nice day to go take a look at a solar eclipse’ — and, ‘Oh, I probably don’t need to do very much to get ready to do that.’ Then I get worried,” says Ralph Chou, an optometrist and vision scientist at the University of Waterloo in Canada. He’s seen 18 total solar eclipses.

You really can get blurred vision or blind spots after watching partial eclipses without protection, says Chou, even if there’s just a tiny little crescent of sun left in the sky.

“I’ve seen a couple of patients over the years where, you know, you’ve got very distinct crescent-shaped scars from looking at a solar eclipse,” says Chou.

It is never safe to look directly at a partial eclipse without special eclipse glasses or filters — and most of the country will only see a partial eclipse.

The risk of injury to the eye’s retina is even greater if you if you look at a partial eclipse without protection through a telescope or binoculars, Chou warns.

“The damage,” he says, “can happen extremely quickly.”

Binoculars and telescopes need special filters — it is not safe to look through them while just wearing regular old eclipse glasses. It is safe, however, to put eclipse glasses over your everyday prescription eyewear.

And if you never got around to buying the right sort of protective eclipse glasses, you can still safely “watch” the event projected on a wall or the ground, NASA reminds us, with the help of an index card, a bit of aluminum foil and some tape.


Because of the way the light exposure damages cells of the retina, says Chou, a person who has suffered eye damage typically does not realize that there’s any problem for hours after the eclipse.

Experience from past eclipses suggests that it’s been younger people who seem more likely to ignore safety warnings, says Chou.

“It does tend to be young males,” he says. “Teens to early 20s — the ones who don’t think about any protection for a number of different circumstances.”

But don’t be so stressed out about eye safety that you miss the dramatic event known as totality. If you’re lucky enough to be in the thin stretch of land across the country that’s going to see a total solar eclipse, it’s absolutely OK to look up with your naked eyes during the couple of minutes or so when the moon is completely covering the sun. In fact, it’s more than OK.

“It is spectacularly beautiful and there’s nothing else like it,” says Rick Fienberg, press officer for the American Astronomical Society, who has seen a dozen total solar eclipses. “It’s kind of like falling in love. You can’t describe what that is unless you’ve experienced it.”

When the sun completely blinks out, the safety glasses can come off so that you can enjoy the view of the sun’s otherworldly corona and the eerie daytime darkness. But the instant a sliver of sun starts to re-emerge, he says, those glasses need to go back on if you want to keep watching.

“Going through life without seeing a total eclipse of the sun would be like going through life without ever falling in love,” says Fienberg. “It would be a terrible shame not to have that fundamental, wonderful experience.”

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Venezuela's Pro-Maduro Assembly Seizes Congressional Powers

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro addresses the constituent assembly earlier this month. The group, which Maduro called for and which enjoys wide-ranging powers, granted itself the ability to pass laws.

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The Venezuelan Constituent Assembly, an extremely powerful group called into existence by President Nicolas Maduro, just granted itself another power — one that was once the exclusive province of the country’s elected congress: The 2-week-old assembly packed with Maduro supporters decreed Friday it has the power to pass laws.

While the move does not officially dissolve the Venezuelan legislature, it effectively renders the body of lawmakers moot by appropriating its principle responsibility. The Venezuelan congress, which has been filled with opposition politicians since their big wins in 2015 elections, has long been a thorn in the side of a president who has been tightening his hold on power.

As NPR’s Philip Reeves notes, the assembly’s maneuver Friday marks “another milestone in a rapid journey toward dictatorship.”

As the pro-Maduro legislative superbody accumulates powers, the Venezuelan president and his Socialist Party now enjoy wide-ranging influence over every branch of government — including the Supreme Court, whose abortive attempt to nullify the country’s opposition-controlled congress at the end of March helped set off months of violent unrest.

Earlier this year, amid the rampant protests against his administration, Maduro called for the election of the Constituent Assembly to rewrite the country’s 18-year-old constitution. He did not allow voters a say in whether they wanted such a group — only in which pro-Maduro politicians they wanted as its members.

Since the controversial vote was held, many international observers — including the U.S. — have censured Maduro’s government for what they called a “sham election.” In the process, Maduro became only the fourth sitting head of state to be sanctioned by the U.S. government.

Still, Maduro allies deride the outside criticism as overblown and driven by foreign powers seeking to undermine his government.

“Those lazy bums have to work,” Delcy Rodriguez, president of the assembly, said Friday of the opposition lawmakers, according to Reuters. She says the move does not amount to a power grab. Rather, she said, “What we are doing is telling them ‘Gentlemen, we are not going to let you take a holiday.’ “

The wire service notes the congressional lawmakers rejected the assembly’s invitation to attend the session, saying the group “was fraudulently created and usurped their powers.”

“The Constituent Assembly is null, and its acts are illegal and unconstitutional,” the opposition tweeted, as translated by The Washington Post. “The National Assembly [Venezuela’s congress], the international community and the people will not abide by the annulment decision.”

For now, though, the opposition faces diminishing options in its struggle against Maduro, who — after months of protests, the deaths of more than 120 people in the unrest, and thousands more arbitrary detentions — now appears to have a stronger hold on power than ever before.

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Trump's Evangelical Advisers Stand By Their Man

Liberty University Presidnet Jerry Falwell, Jr., right, praised President Trump for his “bold truthful statement” about Charlottesville.

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President Trump’s belated and half-hearted denunciation of the hate groups that marched in Charlottesville has cost him the support of numerous business leaders and fellow Republicans and prompted at least a half dozen nonprofit organizations to cancel planned fundraising events at his Mar-a-Lago resort.

But Trump’s religious advisers, who might be expected to offer moral guidance, have been almost entirely silent. None of the 25 members of his “Evangelical Advisory Board” has resigned in protest or even offered public criticism of Trump’s Charlottesvile comments.

The evangelicals’ failure to take a stronger stand has exposed them to some withering rebukes. A tweet from Matthew Dowd, chief strategist for the George W. Bush’s 2004 re-election campaign, that “corporate America has a greater moral compass” was retweeted nearly 50,000 times.

Not a single member of Trump’s Evangelical Council has resigned. We have learned corporate America has a greater moral compass. So so sad.

— Matthew Dowd (@matthewjdowd) August 16, 2017

Such criticism has put Trump’s evangelical advisers on the defensive.

“We believe it would be immoral to resign,” says Johnnie Moore, a lay evangelical leader who has advised public figures on outreach to Christian communities. “As faith leaders, we have been given an opportunity to speak directly to various members of the administration, to provide not just policy counsel but personal counsel. We’re personally involved in the lives of all these people, praying for all these people, and answering their questions.”

In fairness, comparing the responses to Trump from business and religious leaders may obscure some key differences between the two groups. Trump’s evangelical advisers were with him through much of his presidential campaign and supported him politically. Few of the business leaders who advised Trump had those ties, so it may have been easier to break with him.

Business and religious leaders may also see their responsibilities differently. Corporate officers are especially sensitive to public pressure, because they have to worry about alienating their customers or angering their stockholders. The haste with which many U.S. corporations respond to consumer boycotts is an indication of their sensitivity to public sensibilities.

Religious leaders, meanwhile, may be more likely to see their role in private terms.

“Most evangelical leaders, including those who advise the White House, have been focused on ministry in recent days,” says Moore. “Politics has been the last thing on our brain. We’ve been reaching out, doing what the Bible calls us to do as ambassadors of reconciliation, reaching across the aisle, [and] reaching out to other ministers.”

Many conservative evangelicals, however, did not hesitate to criticize Barack Obama or Bill Clinton when they objected to their policies or felt their presidencies were somehow tainted, so the reluctance of Trump’s advisers to address his comments has been noteworthy. Some have had nothing at all to say, either about the Charlottesville rally or Trump’s response to it, while several others rushed to the president’s defense.

Jerry Falwell, Jr., president of Liberty University, praised the president for his “bold truthful statement” about Charlottesville. Mark Burns, pastor of Harvest Praise and Worship Center in South Carolina, retweeted a link to a television interview in which he declared his support for Trump and criticized the counter-protestors. Robert Jeffress, pastor of First Baptist Church of Dallas, blamed the news media for misrepresenting Trump’s comments.

Other members of the president’s advisory board limited their critical comments to the neo-Nazis and other racists in Charlottesville. Ronnie Floyd, a past president of the Southern Baptist Convention, issued a statement saying that “white nationalism and white supremacism are anathema to the teachings of Christ. … As Christians,” Floyd said, “we do not tolerate or condone these protests.”

Johnnie Moore, who has served as an informal spokesman for the White House evangelical advisory group, has been equally forceful. “I totally abhor white nationalism, white supremacy, anti-Semitism, and racism in all forms,” he told NPR.

Such comments go well beyond President Trump’s assertion that there were “many sides” were responsible for the violence in Charlottesville and that the torch-carrying marchers included some “very fine people,” but the evangelical leaders have been reluctant to challenge Trump directly.

“I certainly believe the president was insensitive in his comments,” Moore says, but he would go no further, and no other member of the advisory board even went that far.

An original member of Trump’s evangelical advisory body, James MacDonald, pastor of Harvest Bible Chapel in suburban Chicago, resigned from the group last October, and in the months since he has been outspoken about the Charlottesville rally and Trump’s comments on it.

Preaching about the events last Sunday, MacDonald said he didn’t want “to call people out by name,” but he left no doubt he was referring to Trump. “The greater your influence,” he wrote in a Facebook post, “the greater your complicity if you don’t call the Charlottesville attack what it really was: a heinous act of domestic terrorism entirely rooted in racial hatred.”

“It’s the height of hypocrisy,” MacDonald told his parishioners, “to demand that people use the term ‘Islamic terrorism’ and then turn around and refuse to use similarly candid terms when referring to racial hate crimes.”

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Week In Politics: Steve Bannon's Removal From The White House And Trump's Reponse To Charlottesville

NPR’s Robert Siegel speaks with political commentators, E.J. Dionne of The Washington Post and The Brookings Institution and Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for The National Review, and columnist for Bloomberg View about President Trump’s decision to remove Steve Bannon as a chief strategist and the president’s suggestion that “both sides” share the blame for violence that erupted in Charlottesville, Va., last weekend.

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Trump Administration Reverses Bottled Water Ban In National Parks

Bike patrol volunteers give directions to visitors at Acadia National Park. The Trump administration has rolled back an Obama-era policy put in place to encourage national parks to end the sale of bottled water.

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In 2011, the National Park Service put in place a policy to encourage national parks to end the sale of bottled water. The aim was to cut back on plastic litter.

It was not actually an outright ban – but 23 out of 417 national parks, including Grand Canyon National Park and Zion National Park, implemented restrictions on bottled water sales. The parks encourage visitors to use tap water and refillable bottles instead.

Now, The Trump administration has reversed this Obama-era policy.

“While we will continue to encourage the use of free water bottle filling stations as appropriate, ultimately it should be up to our visitors to decide how best to keep themselves and their families hydrated during a visit to a national park,” said Acting National Park Service Director Michael T. Reynolds in a statement.

The National Park Service says the so-called “bottled water ban” policy in effect removed the healthiest beverage option, but still allowed sales of bottles of sweetened drinks. The International Bottled Water Association applauds the decision. “The rescinded policy was seriously flawed,” says Jill Culora, the trade group’s vice president of communications, in a statement.

Culora says the policy was established to reduce waste, “but people coming to the parks that banned the sale of bottled water were still allowed to buy other less healthy beverages – including carbonated soft drinks, sports drinks, teas, milk, beer and wine – that are packaged in much heavier plastic, glass, cans and cardboard containers.”

Culora says the industry will continue to work with the National Park Service on recycling programs to “comprehensively address the waste issues within the national parks.”

From a public health perspective, the decision to allow the sale of bottled water on federal parkland could nudge park visitors to buy fewer sugary drinks. And, certainly, there’s been a push to encourage more water consumption.

Beverage companies sell more than $11 billion of bottled water in the U.S. each year. And Americans now buy more bottled water than soda, according to a Beverage Digest analysis.

But, bottled water isn’t the only way to encourage more consumption. There are drinking fountains, of course. And as we’ve reported, there are newer initiatives, too. For instance, a company called GlobalTap is installing a new generation of taps in public spaces. Instead of leaning over to take a sip, the idea is more of a filling station for your water bottle.

The National Park Service says it’s discontinuing its “water bottle ban” policy in order to expand hydration options for park visitors.”The change in policy comes after a review of the policy’s aims and impact in close consultation with Department of the Interior leadership,” explains a National Park Service statement about the decision.

But critics see the reversal of the policy as another effort by the Trump administration to roll back Obama-era environmental regulations.

In a statement, the Sierra Club’s public lands policy director, Athan Manuel, said “actions that roll back protections on our National Parks and public lands only move our country backward — putting the importance of local economies, wildlife and communities on the back burner.” The Sierra Club points out that the ban on water bottles in National Parks was an effort to increase sustainability and reduce carbon emissions.

The nonprofit group Corporate Accountability International weighed in, too.

“The [bottled-water] industry has lobbied Congress to block this policy for years,” says Jesse Bragg, spokesperson for Corporate Accountability International, in a statement. The group points out that the bottled water industry has also directly lobbied the Interior Department, which manages the National Park Service.

CAI points out that the Trump administration recently appointed a deputy secretary at the Department of the Interior who previously worked for a law firm that has represented one of the large companies that sells bottled water.

CAI’s Bragg says this is an “example of the industry pulling the strings behind the scenes to protect its profits.”

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Episode 789: Robocall Invasion

When a robot calls.

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Renee Klahr/NPR

Warning: This episode contains some explicit language.

There are now a billion robocalls going to cellphones and landlines every month. Many of them look like they’re from your neighbor.

It’s not really your neighbor, of course. It’s neighbor spoofing—which means using the internet to make it look like a scammer (who could be anywhere in the world) is calling from your area.When we asked our listeners if it’s been happening to them… right away, we got about a thousand responses.

We know the basics: Scammers are impersonating nearby numbers. But why is it suddenly so popular? Who is on the other end of the line? And can they be stopped?

We talk to anti-spam specialists, the head of the FCC, and, scariest of all, we pick up the phone and talk back to the scammers.

Music: “Get It Get It” and “Wildoff.” Find us: Twitter/ Facebook.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts or PocketCast.

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