Thursday, June 8, 2017  SUBSCRIBE   
MDOT Commissioner Mike Tagert gives update on Highway 12 project
MDOT Northern District Transportation Commissioner Mike Tagert spoke to local business leaders on Wednesday at a lunch event sponsored by the Greater Starkville Development Partnership. The event was part of the GSDP's Blue Ribbon Business Resources lunch series held at the Mill Conference Center. Tagert provided those in attendance with updates concerning one of the most contentious highway projects in the state: the safety upgrades being implemented along the Highway 12 corridor. The first phase of the safety upgrade project began in February and Tagert said MDOT expects this portion of the project to be finished by October. Construction on the second phase is scheduled for early 2018. Bids for the second phase will be taken in November. Growth ultimately became the underlying reason for the improvements, with the number of cars on Highway 12 being higher than any other road in the Golden Triangle.
Starkville aldermen agree to amend TIF for Mark Nicholas hotel
A tone of both optimism and stern warning fueled Vice Mayor Roy A. Perkins' support Tuesday for a measure to amend the city of Starkville's tax-increment financing agreement with the Cotton Mill Hotel Group. Moments before the unanimous vote to adjust the agreement, Perkins pushed developer Mark Nicholas for guarantees he would hold up to his end of the bargain or else the board would not be bound to the new terms. Chiefly, Nicholas must present aldermen written, signed proof he agrees to the terms by 5 p.m. July 7. "You're going to do that right? You're not going to let the vice mayor and the city of Starkville down, right?" asked Perkins, who represents Ward 6. "If you do not do these things, this (resolution) would have no force or effect on the city of Starkville. In other words, if you don't do what we're requiring you to do, this motion thereby shall be rescinded with no force and effect and with no further action by the board."
MSU-Meridian School Administration Master's Class
Photo: The following students are enrolled in the master of science degree in school administration at MSU-Meridian and desire to become visionary leaders for 21st century schools: front row, from left, Brandi Sumrall, MSU-Meridian instructor; Johanna Littleton, T.J Harris Lower Elementary/Meridian Public School District; and Voncille Anderson, Pelahatchie High School/Rankin County Schools. Back row, from left, Debbie Fant, Clarkdale Attendance Center/Lauderdale County School District; Brent Pouncey, Northeast Elementary/Lauderdale County School District; Constance Watts, Clarkdale Attendance Center/Lauderdale County School District; and Brittani Jones Brittani Jones, Crestview Elementary/Meridian Public School District.
DMR expects better season as shrimpers hit the water
The 2017 brown shrimp season opened 6 a.m. Wednesday and Mississippi Department of Marine Resources officials are hoping the season will be bountiful for recreational and commercial shrimpers in South Mississippi. DMR public affairs director Melissa Scallan said the season opened with almost 700 permits issued. "This includes licenses for both recreational and commercial fishermen," Scallan said. "The season pretty much runs until April 30, 2018." Scallan said there were about 250 boats in the water on Wednesday and most were between Gulfport and Biloxi. And with boats on the water and nets in the Mississippi Sound north of the barrier islands, Scallan said DMR scientists have seen some descent-sized shrimp in the Gulf.
Private equity firm to acquire Pontotoc-based Southern Motion Inc.
Gainline Capital Partners LP, a New York-based private equity firm, announced that funds it manages have entered into an agreement to acquire Pontotoc-based Southern Motion Inc. Financial terms of the deal were not disclosed. Southern Motion, an upholstered furniture company founded in 1996, will retain its current senior management team, led by President and CEO Roger Bland. In addition, they will "maintain a significant stake in the business," according to a press release. Southern Motion is one of the largest furniture employers in Northeast Mississippi, with more than 1,500 workers at its factories in Pontotoc and Baldwyn.
Special session misses major concerns of credit rating agencies
Some legislators question whether Gov. Phil Bryant's FORTIFY Act, passed during Monday's special legislative session, addresses the major concerns of the powerful credit rating agencies about the state's financial health. "One of their primary concerns is the long-term impact of tax cuts passed by the Republican leadership making it hard for the state to meet basic services and grow the economy," said Sen. David Blount, D-Jackson. During Monday's special session, Senate Appropriations Chair Buck Clarke, R-Hollandale, acknowledged that the FORTIFY Act will not address many of the rating agencies' concerns. All three credit rating agencies cite the state's slow economic growth and tax cuts, resulting in a slowdown in the state's revenue stream, as major reasons for their actions.
James Comey Will Tell Congress President Trump Asked Him to Drop Michael Flynn Probe
Former FBI Director James B. Comey will testify that he believed President Donald Trump asked him to drop a probe of potential obstruction of justice by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn. The Senate Intelligence Committee posted Comey's statement Wednesday, following an open hearing on reauthorization of surveillance authorities that ended up being largely about actions by Trump in connection with the FBI probe of Russian meddling in the 2016 election. Comey, known for writing detailed memos about his meetings, said the president said during a Feb. 14 meeting in the Oval Office that, "I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go. He is a good guy. I hope you can let this go."
Senators Challenge Trump Plan to Privatize Air Traffic Control
The United States' top transportation official on Wednesday promoted the Trump administration's proposed privatization of the air traffic control system in the face of criticism from Democratic lawmakers and some Republicans. President Donald Trump on Monday unveiled the plan to modernize air traffic control and lower flying costs. Under the proposal, air traffic control would be spun off from the Federal Aviation Administration and put under the aegis of a nonprofit entity. Critics say the plan would hand control of a key asset to special interests and big airlines. Senator Roger Wicker, a Mississippi Republican, said on Wednesday that small airports in his state oppose the plan. He said that after air traffic privatization in the United Kingdom airline passenger fees rose 30 percent. "This is a tough sell," Wicker said.
Lawmakers Decry Trump's Proposed Cuts in Homeland Spending
Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly defended President Donald Trump's proposed budget cuts for his department, even as he told Congress that the United States "cannot invest too much in security" after recent terrorist attacks in Europe. Trump proposed a budget last month that would cut nearly $700 million from grant programs for local first responders. Overall, Homeland Security would face a reduction of 3.2 percent for a budget that would total more than $49 billion. Rep. Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the Homeland Security Committee, said local communities in his home state of Mississippi say they're not sure they'll be able to keep residents safe if the cuts go through. Citing proposed spending on a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border, Thompson said the president's budget pays for programs that score political points with his base, but do little to address real security challenges facing the nation.
It's the end of the road for the GOP's big tax experiment in Kansas
The grand economic experiment on the prairie has ended. Kansas' Republican-held Legislature delivered a stunning defeat to Republican Gov. Sam Brownback on Tuesday, voting to demolish his massive tax cut that led to massive budget shortfalls and sent Kansas into a political tailspin. It was a Waterloo moment for the conservative second-term governor, who refused to back down from the tea-party-inspired plan he signed in 2012 to promote business growth in the state. After the Legislature passed a bill Tuesday morning, just after midnight, to roll back most of Brownback's tax agenda, the governor exercised his veto power to kill it. But a coalition of Republicans and Democrats united Tuesday night to override the veto with a two-third's majority in both chambers.
America's Hidden H.I.V. Epidemic
Rarly on a balmy morning last October, Cedric Sturdevant began his rounds along the bumpy streets and back roads of Jackson, Miss. Sturdevant, 52, has racked up nearly 300,000 miles driving in loops and widening circles around Jackson in his improvised role of visiting nurse, motivational coach and father figure to a growing number of young gay men and transgender women suffering from H.I.V. and AIDS. Sturdevant is a project coordinator at My Brother's Keeper, a local social-services nonprofit. If he doesn't make these rounds, he has learned, many of these patients will not get to the doctor's appointments, pharmacies, food banks and counseling sessions that can make the difference between life and death. These patients of Sturdevant's are the faces of one of America's most troubling public-health crises.
Spies In The Field: As Farming Goes High-Tech, Espionage Threat Grows
As a group of visiting scientists prepared to board a plane in Hawaii that would take them back home to China, U.S. customs agents found rice seeds in their luggage. Those seeds are likely to land at least one scientist in federal prison. Agriculture today is a high-tech business, but as that technology has developed, so has the temptation to take shortcuts and steal trade secrets that could unlock huge profits. The FBI calls agricultural economic espionage "a growing threat" and some are worried that biotech piracy can spell big trouble for a dynamic and growing U.S. industry. Theft of intellectual property costs the U.S. economy hundreds of billions each year, according to a recent report from the Commission on the Theft of American Intellectual Property, a Washington D.C.-based ad-hoc panel formed to study intellectual property theft. China, the authors say, is the biggest offender.
Why are so many failing the Mississippi Bar?
The legal profession has been a career that many aspire to obtain, but becoming an attorney in Mississippi is proving more difficult in recent years. The passage rate for the Mississippi bar exam to become a licensed attorney in the state has dropped from about 80 percent passing to about a third passing on the most recent exam. On the most recent bar exam in February, 87 individuals took the exam, and only 27 passed, meaning less than a third of those who took it passed. The next exam is in late July. Ole Miss Law School Interim Dean Deborah Bell refutes that notion. "First, the University of Mississippi School of Law has not lowered its admissions standards," Bell said. "Our median LSAT and median undergraduate GPA remain the same as they have for many years. Second, it is important to focus on the measure that is historically used to test a law school's success on the bar -- the number of first time takers who passed," she said.
Kids learn to be chefs during summer Culinary Camp at MUW
Dozens of children are getting hands-on experience preparing food in the kitchen this summer. This is the 18th year for the four-week summer culinary camp at the Mississippi University for Women. They are learning culinary basics including knife skills and then they'll move on to some more complex techniques. Wednesday was pasta day which is a favorite for the kids. Chef Vicki Leach was a student at The W when it started in 1999 and enjoys coming back every summer for the camp. Leach says it's important to have this because people don't cook in their own kitchens like they did years ago and it's best to get them interested in cooking at a young age. Leach says they have a waiting list every year and they'll have different age groups throughout the summer.
Jackson State University's Madison site in limbo, classes canceled for now
Don't expect the annual fanfare touting an increase in student enrollment at Jackson State University's Madison campus this September. The auxiliary site once praised as "phenomenal" for its "unprecedented growth" by former president Carolyn Meyers was not spared the university's latest round of belt-tightening measures, prompted by a precipitous drop -- a reduction of 89 percent over a five-year period -- in JSU's cash reserves during her service. Classes will not be held at the university's Galleria site, located roughly 18 miles from the heart of JSU's main campus, for the Fall 2017 semester, confirmed university spokesperson Danny Blanton. "The Galleria location was part of the reduction in force; some personnel are being reassigned," Blanton said. He declined to go into further specifics.
William Carey University still recovering after tornado
William Carey's physical therapy program and two of its summer camps are back on the school's grounds this week. The university was hit by EF-3 tornadoes in January. Immediately after the tornadoes hit, construction began. Currently, dorms are being renovated for the fall trimester, the gym and alumni house will be up and running by July and the anatomy lab will have its doors opened by August. The historic Tatum building will now be located at the center of campus, facing the street. "Everyday I see something new," said Assistant Vice Principal for University Enhancement Lynne Houston. "I'm just so grateful and so thankful."
25-year-old U. of Alabama grad's memory will live on through first-generation scholarship
Taylor Stinson knew early on she wanted to help people for the rest of her life. Thanks to that giving spirit, her devoted family and beloved alma mater will seek to honor her life's work by giving others the opportunity to go to college. The 25-year-old Elba native passed away at UAB hospital on June 1. She died unexpectedly due to liver failure resulting from a reaction to an antibiotic. Taylor graduated in 2014 from the University of Alabama as a first-generation college student and later went on to physical therapy assistant school inspired to work in this field because of her close relationship with her cousin, who has a disability and was helped immensely through physical therapy. In lieu of flowers at her funeral, Taylor's parents chose to set up a scholarship fund for other first-generation college students at Alabama.
Hotel at Auburn opens renovated entrance
Guests at The Hotel at Auburn University and Dixon Conference Center will now be able unload their bags shielded from the weather elements with the addition of a porte cochere at the front entrance. Barriers, fences and construction equipment were gone on Wednesday morning in time for a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the new glass and steel awning after about five months of construction. "We've always been called the front door to Auburn and the front door to Auburn University, not by ourselves, but by our community and by (Auburn University President) Dr. (Jay) Gogue from the moment he arrived here 10 years ago," said Hans van der Reijden, managing director of the hotel. Work to expand the hotel's main ballroom and add a functionality to connect both ballrooms remains underway.
Texas A&M workshop offers students, researchers training with new technology
For years, genome sequencing has been a practice that's largely isolated to large research groups with the resources to bear the lofty cost of the necessary equipment. Today, however, rapid advances in the technology behind the science is quickly finding its way out of the laboratory and into the lives of everyday people. The Texas A&M AgriLife Research Genomics and Bioinformatics Service is hosting a training this week where 38 Texas A&M students and other researchers from around North America are getting hands-on experience with the Oxford Nanopore Technology MinION -- a genome sequencing system not much larger than a USB flashdrive, which officials said is rapidly expanding accessibility and possibilities of the field. Charles Johnson, director of genomics and bioinformatics and executive director of the Center for Bioinformatics and Genomic Systems Engineering at the service, said the five-day training workshop -- part of the PoreCamp series that began in 2015 -- features five scientists considered leading experts in the field. The workshop is notable as the first of its kind in the U.S.
U. of Missouri laid-off IT workers locked out of human resources info
University of Missouri System and University of Missouri information technology employees who were laid off due to budget cuts were locked out of the myHR website, which houses information about all their paid-leave balances, payroll and compensation, retirement and benefit information, and links to information about other jobs in the UM System. Christian Basi of the MU News Bureau said human resources officials and Division of IT supervisors made a joint decision to lock out the employees "due to the sensitive nature of the information they had access to previously." Employees can get their information or perform other tasks normally accomplished through myHR by contacting human resources or their former supervisors to do it for them, Basi said. Brennan Hobart, a graphic designer who was laid off from a job in IT, said he has no former supervisor to contact because the entire marketing/communications department has been dissolved.
Trump Will Push Apprenticeships, Using Accreditation and Student Aid
President Trump plans to rework college-accreditation and student-aid policies in a bid to encourage greater use of apprenticeship training in higher education, a White House official said on Wednesday. Mr. Trump, who promoted the value of apprenticeship training throughout his presidential campaign, will outline the strategy next week at a meeting with the nation's governors. The announcement will include both "very strong administrative steps" that the White House is taking on its own as well as suggestions for further congressional action, said Reed S. Cordish, assistant to the president for intragovernmental and technology initiatives. Addressing a conference on work-force training in Washington hosted by the Business Roundtable, Mr. Cordish said the president's plan involves expanding both accreditation and student aid "so that it can be applied to vocational education and apprenticeship education without too much regulation stopping it from doing so."
Study of faculty members with mental health issues finds mix of attitudes
Margaret Price, associate professor of English and disability studies at Ohio State University, taught for years before one conversation with the right person got her a crucial accommodation for her cognitive processing and memory issues. "I thought I just had to tough it out. ... Getting an accommodation for my particular mental issues had literally not occurred to me," Price said of the time before her campus coordinator for the Americans With Disabilities Act arranged for a communication assistant to sit in on her classes and help. Price's experience is somewhat representative of those of other faculty members struggling with mental illness, according to a new study she co-authored.
U. of Michigan Can Ban Handguns, Appeals Court Rules
A state appellate court ruled Tuesday that the University of Michigan at Ann Arbor can maintain a campuswide ban on guns. The 2-to-1 decision permits the university to regulate the possession of firearms, and said the University of Michigan's campuses are not affected by a state law that prevents local units of government from limiting gun ownership and carrying. Joshua Wade, an Ann Arbor resident, was denied permission to openly carry a handgun on campus and challenged the ban on Second Amendment grounds, first in the Michigan Court of Claims and recently in the state Court of Appeals. Mr. Wade argued that the University of Michigan was not a school in the traditional sense, but a community where people live and work, the Detroit Free Press reported.

Konnor Pilkington to get Game 1 start for Bulldogs
Andy Cannizaro certainly knows what his Mississippi State team is walking into this weekend, and his team understands it as well. The Bulldogs will take on an LSU club that earned a sweep in Starkville three weeks ago to win the SEC West and a share of the overall conference crown. This time the stakes in the Baton Rouge Super Regional will be a trip to the College World Series. The Tigers took the series with 3-1, 11-5 and 11-7 victories from May 18-20. "We got in the middle of the ring with them and figured out after the third day that those guys are pretty dang good in the other dugout," Cannizaro said. "We played two extremely close ballgames with those guys a couple of weeks ago but we didn't play the brand of baseball that we needed to for those three days to beat one of the best teams in the country." MSU will send sophomore southpaw Konnor Pilkington to start Game 1 on the mound Saturday at 8 p.m.
After Konnor Pilkington, who is in line to start for Mississippi State in super regional?
When asked about who will be Mississippi State's starting pitchers this weekend in Baton Rouge for a super regional against LSU, Andy Cannizaro coyly responded, "Yeah, we're going to have some starting pitching." Cannizaro's reply drew some laughs from the crowd of reporters who have grown used to the Bulldogs' season-long uncertainty when it comes to who starts games. Much of that feeling until recently was because of a lack of quality options. But now, at least comparatively speaking and from Cannizaro's view, that is no longer the case. Cannizaro did, unsurprisingly, announce ace Konnor Pilkington, who accepted an invite Wednesday to compete for the USA Baseball Collegiate National Team, will pitch the opener at 8 p.m. on Saturday. But what about the second game of the series on Sunday night? And who starts if there is a third game on Monday? The staff has yet to decide, Cannizaro said, but Sunday's starter will either be Denver McQuary, Jacob Billingsley or Cole Gordon.
Mississippi State's Andy Cannizaro: 'Let's go play; Let's go get it on; I like our chances'
Andy Cannizaro lifts himself out of his chair and walks to what appears to be a light switch on his office wall. He flicks it on. A low humming buzzes overhead. He points to a vent in the ceiling. "Ron Polk used to smoke cigars under this thing," a smiling Cannizaro said laughing. Cannizaro, as you know, occupies the office Polk once held, the same room where he puffed on those cigars, blowing the smoke into that ventilator while scheming ways to beat LSU and its legendary head baseball coach. In his eighth month as Mississippi State's baseball coach, Cannizaro is now doing the same, preparing to again face his old team and his old boss, Paul Mainieri. The Tigers, the NCAA tournament national No. 4 seed, host Mississippi State in a super regional beginning Saturday night at Alex Box Stadium. "Let's go play. Let's go get it on. I like our chances," Cannizaro later would tell a group of local reporters.
Mississippi State's Brent Rooker is on 'remarkable' run
The hero of Mississippi State's regional championship victory on Monday was no real surprise. First baseman Brent Rooker, after all, is the SEC Player of the Year, an All-American who's projected as a second-round draft pick after a sizzling redshirt junior season. He's batting .395 and leads the nation with 82 RBIs. Naturally, it's Rooker who led the Bulldogs to that 8-6 winner-take-all, rain-delayed duel with Southern Miss deep into Monday night. How he did it is the surprise. It wasn't one of his conference-leading 23 home runs or his nation-leading 30 doubles. He didn't hit a screamer into the outfield or a chopper through the left side. He hit a pop-fly to shallow right field. "Man, it doesn't matter what it looks like," Mississippi State coach and former LSU assistant Andy Cannizaro said. "In the box score it looks like a missile to right field, where he stayed on a changeup and drove it the other way. It was the biggest hit of the season so far and the biggest hit of his year, and the thing went about 115 feet down the right field line."
Consider Mississippi State a big underdog vs. LSU? Players thrive on 'doubters'
Jake Mangum isn't in the business of breaking news. He's not a journalist. He's no sports reporter or news correspondent. He's a baseball player for Mississippi State. But on the afternoon of Nov. 3, he and his teammates broke news -- to the LSU baseball team. LSU players learned of Cannizaro's stunning transition last November -- from the Tigers' hitting coach and recruiting coordinator to State's head coach -- from Cannizaro's new players. The wheels were set in motion that Thursday afternoon, when word seeped that then-coach John Cohen was to become athletic director. Mangum fired a message to his friends, the Jordan brothers -- Beau and Bryce, who play for LSU. This weekend's super regional is, yes, one that pits two of baseball's historic powers, LSU and Mississippi State, in what's expected to be one of the most intense crowds ever at Alex Box Stadium. And, yes, it's a meeting of two head coaches and former co-workers who haven't spoken to one another since Cannizaro's abrupt departure. But dig a little deeper and you'll find many more connections between the guys playing on the field.
Need tickets? You and everyone else as LSU, Mississippi State do battle this weekend
Expect a huge crowd. The best-of-three super regional between LSU and Mississippi State starts at 8 p.m. Saturday for the right to advance to the College World Series. So far only season ticket holders can get their hands on tickets. And so far, they're not letting them go. There are only about 100 tickets for sale on the secondary market ticket outlet StubHub. And you can't get one for any less than around $90. Those are the cheap seats. Top prices for a single ticket are hovering around $350 to $395. What tickets remaining -- likely standing room only -- go on sale to the general public at 8 a.m. Friday morning at
Mississippi State's Konnor Pilkington accepts invite to play for Team USA
Konnor Pilkington won't be returning to the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League this summer. That's because he's accepted an even greater honor. Mississippi State announced Wednesday that the former East Central standout and current Bulldog ace has accepted an invitation to join USA Baseball's Collegiate National Team this summer. "I am thrilled for the opportunity to represent Mississippi State and USA Baseball on the Collegiate National Team," Pilkington said in a release. Pilkington has helped MSU advance to this weekend's Baton Rouge (Louisiana) Super Regional under Cannizaro, a first-year head coach. The sophomore Coast native is the first MSU player named to Team USA since Adam Frazier in 2012 and eighth Bulldog overall.
Lawyer for deposed Ole Miss staffer takes issue with school's response to NCAA
In its 125-page response to the NCAA's Notice of Allegations released to the public Tuesday, Ole Miss officials went a long way to paint former staffer Barney Farrar as a rogue rules-breaker who went out of his way to cover up his misdeeds. On Wednesday, Bruse Loyd, Farrar's personal attorney, issued his own four-page "response" to the response. In the statement, Loyd wrote that Farrar is "deeply saddened" with Ole Miss' strategy, which he argued was "made to abandon and isolate one of Ole Miss' own." Farrar was Ole Miss' assistant athletic director for high school and junior college relations from 2013 until March, when the school elected not to renew his contract. He was named multiple times in the NCAA's Notice of Allegations, and has been charged with four Level I violations in the case.
Ole Miss coach Hugh Freeze comments on NCAA investigation
Ole Miss head coach Hugh Freeze participated in Wednesday's InnerWorkings Pro-Am at TPC Southwind in advance to Thursday's FedEx St. Jude Classic. With the release of Ole Miss' response to the NCAA's amended Notice of Allegations, which can be read here, Freeze met with reporters briefly before his round began with professionals Stewart Cink and Scott Brown. "Yeah, it's great," Freeze said when asked if he was happy to have the support with all that is going on. "The support's been phenomenal. I couldn't ask for any more from my people. They've witnessed me closely run a program and obviously they have confidence that we're doing it the right way. We're excited to get to the next phase of it." The next phase is now the case goes before the Committee on Infractions. The NCAA has 60 days from the time Ole Miss filed its response to build a case summary before a date is set for the hearing.
Arkansas assistant Tony Vitello named baseball coach at Tennessee
Tony Vitello, an Arkansas assistant coach, has accepted the challenge of bringing Tennessee baseball back to SEC and national relevance. UT announced Wednesday that Vitello has accepted the job that Dave Serrano left last month after six failed tries at getting the Vols to the NCAA tournament. Vitello, 38, has spent the past four seasons as assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Arkansas. In a 15-year career as an assistant overall, Vitello has worked with teams making 12 NCAA tournament appearances and been considered one of the nation's top recruiters. Athletic director John Currie will introduce Vitello at a news conference Friday at 11:05 a.m. at Lindsey Nelson Stadium. UT said Vitello agreed to a five-year contract with an average annual compensation of $493,000.
Bob Stoops, Oklahoma's Football Coach Since '99, Steps Down on a High Note
Bob Stoops is retiring as Oklahoma's football coach, the university said Wednesday in a statement. He is stepping away, less than three months before the season, from a team expected to contend for the national championship. The announcement came as a surprise: Stoops had coached Oklahoma since 1999 and, at age 56, seemed to have the support, the energy and -- perhaps most important -- the players to keep running one of the country's most storied college programs. Oklahoma is coming off back-to-back Big 12 titles; the Sooners went 11-2 last season, defeating Auburn in the Sugar Bowl and ending the season ranked No. 5, and they will have their star quarterback, Baker Mayfield, back for one more season.

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