Sunday, February 28, 2010

Local Residents, Adirondack Council Interns, Olympians

For the interest of our readers, here is a note from the Adirondack Council about the their connection to the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. Two former Council interns, Lowell Bailey and Haley Johnson, both from Lake Placid, competed in the biathlon. The Council’s note to the media is presented here in it’s entirety:

Two former Adirondack Council Clarence Petty Interns are competing on the US Biathlon Team at the 2010 games. Lowell Bailey and Haley Johnson, both of Lake Placid, both successfully completed their internships — earning college credit while working in the field of conservation and while training for this Olympics. » Continue Reading.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

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Saturday, February 27, 2010

Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee Wraps Up

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee recently held its annual wrap-up meeting on this year’s “Adirondack Cowboys” Carnival, held Feb. 5-14, and began planning for the 114th Winter Carnival by discussing themes for 2011.

The Feb. 17 meeting at the North Country Community College Board Room began with a presentation of “Don’s Memorial Slide Show,” a digital slide show produced by Carnival photographer Mark Kurtz featuring photos of past Committee Chairman Don Duso, who died Jan. 10 at the age of 78.

There were images of Duso cutting ice blocks for the Ice Palace, as Carnival king, and as chairman, a post he held from 1986 to 2009. Singer/songwriter Roy Hurd provided the program’s music bed with a song called “Wild Mountain Cowboys,” which he wrote specifically for this year’s event. The slide show was first presented during the Feb. 9 Grand Marshal Dinner; Duso was named grand marshal for the 2010 Winter Carnival.

Current Committee Chairman Jeff Dickson announced that photos from the 2010 Winter Carnival, taken by Mark Kurtz Photography, can now be purchased online through a Shutterfly account (saranaclakewintercarnival.shutterfly.com). People can also have their choice of photo put on a variety of objects, such as mugs, puzzles, magnets and mouse pads. All proceeds will benefit the Winter Carnival Committee. Photos uploaded to the web site will include dozens of images that never made it to the Winter Carnival Slide Show, and some of the 2009 photos are available.

Members of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee expressed their sadness that King Frank Camelo injured his ankle during the first weekend and was unable to attend many of the Carnival functions, including the Gala Parade. They also commended Queen Carol Reyell for toting around a “King on a Stick” (a wooden stick with a life-sized photograph of King Frank attached to the top) during the events he missed.

The Committee was particularly pleased by the community’s reception to the new web site, which was continually updated during the Carnival; the opening of the Winter Carnival Museum, temporarily located next to Lakeview Deli; the live broadcast (and rebroadcast) of the parade on Time Warner Cable Channel 2; the Ice Palace web cam, launched on Tim Baker’s web site (www.adksearch.com); and the fact that Carnival, once again, brought needed tourism dollars into Saranac Lake.

“Thanks for the No Vacancy,” said Edie Stanish, Committee member and owner/operator of Amanda’s Village Motel.

Several themes were suggested for 2011 and more will be considered. The public is invited to make their suggestions by contacting a committee member or submitting their thoughts through the contact mechanism on the web site. As was done last year, the committee will make a first cut and submit several options to the public in an informal survey through the Adirondack Daily Enterprise.

The next meeting of the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee will be at 6 p.m. Wednesday, March 10 at the NCCC Board Room.

The Saranac Lake Winter Carnival Committee, Inc. is a not-for-profit group of volunteers dedicated to organizing an annual mid-winter festival during the first two weeks of February. This 10-day, communitywide event traces its roots to a one-day Carnival held in 1897 by the Pontiac Club. The Carnival honors its heritage every year by building an Ice Palace from blocks of ice harvested from Lake Flower’s Pontiac Bay, where Carnival events have been traditionally held for generations. For more information, visit the Saranac Lake Winter Carnival web site at www.saranaclakewintercarnival.com.


Saturday, February 27, 2010

Adirondack Winter: Musings on Snow

By the time you read this post, you may be getting sick of snow. We shouldn’t really complain too much, though, for up until this week, we have had very little snowfall in 2010. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I had to shovel my driveway before this week. February has been downright dry and snowless, so the windfall of white stuff this week has brought should be a welcome sight, even if we don’t appreciate it until summer, when hot dry days take their toll on available surface and ground water. » Continue Reading.


Friday, February 26, 2010

This Week’s Adirondack Web Highlights


Friday, February 26, 2010

A Lake George Subdivision Without the McMansions

It’s so conservative it appears radical (at least for Lake George): small houses on small lots. According to Mary Alice Leary, that’s her family’s vision for the 14 acre parcel at the mouth of English Brook that will be divided into 13 lots.

The sweeping lawn, tennis courts, lake front and clusters of towering trees, already mature when Albany lawyer Edward S. Rooney purchased the estate in the 1940s, will remain common areas owned by a homeowners’ association, which has yet to be created.

Five of the lots will become the properties of Rooney’s children – Leary and her four siblings; the majority of the remaining lots will probably be sold to members of the next generation.

For months, rumors have circulated around Lake George about plans to subdivide the estate, which surrounded a mansion built by E.M. Shepard in 1911 and demolished in 1961.

It was generally assumed that as many McMansions as possible would be wedged into the grounds.

To be sure, the proposal has been in front of the planning and zoning boards of Lake George Village and the Town of Lake George for months.

And at one of those meetings, Mary Alice Leary’s sister, Ellen Breslin, explained that the subdivision was conceived so that the property could remain within the family for future generations.

Nevertheless, said Leary, her family was reluctant to discuss the subdivision until all the necessary permits had been awarded.

Not all permits have been granted, but one major hurdle, a permit from the Lake George Park Commission to build docks large enough to accommodate 13 boat slips, was surmounted last fall.

In a prepared statement to the Commission, Ellen Breslin said, “The slips will not all be constructed at once. They will be built in phases as lots are sold and houses are built. It could be several years before the entire dock structure is built.”

There are no immediate plans to build the additional eight houses, Leary explained, because, as of now, only one of Edward S. Rooney’s grandchildren has expressed an interest in purchasing a lot.

But that grandchild’s interest sparked the family’s discussions about how best to protect the property, said Leary.

“You can only subdivide once, so rather than creating and selling one lot to one member of the third generation, we decided we would complete the subdivision now and sell the lots over time,” said Leary.

The property is currently owned jointly by Rooney’s children through Lochlea, LLC. (Lochlea was the name given the mansion by John English, who bought the property from Shepard’s family.)

“We currently hold the property as tenants in common, sharing expenses, and, by mutual agreement, each one of the five family members occupies a specific cabin that is considered their cabin,” the Lake George Park Commission was told by Ellen Breslin, who is the wife of State Senator Neil Breslin.

All but one of those residences – the estate’s gate house – are log cabins. One of them once served as the estate’s bath house.
Under the terms of the subdivision, each of the five families will become the sole owners of their homes, two of which are occupied year-round.

The houses will also serve as the models for any new homes that are built, said Mary Alice Leary.

“We’re envisioning Adirondack-style houses tucked into the woods with views of Lake George and English Brook,” said Leary.
Leary said the family had rejected proposals from commercial developers interested in acquiring the estate, at least in part, from a concern for Lake George.

That concern is a long-standing one, Ellen Breslin told the Park Commission, and guided the design of the subdivision.

“We have always been good stewards of the land and have done what we can to protect the waters of the lake. There has been little or no change to the property in the 60 years we have lived here. No old growth trees have ever been taken down and no fertilizers have been used on any of the lawns. Maintaining the water quality of Lake George is our highest priority. Our family expects to be in residence on the property, swimming in and enjoying Lake George, for many years to come,” said Breslin.

Lake George Mirror photo by Clea G. Hall

For more news from Lake George, subscribe to the Lake George Mirror


Friday, February 26, 2010

Billy Demong – 2010 Olympics Cartoon Update

This cartoon really only works with more than one medal. Thanks, Bill. Thanks, PhotoShop!


Friday, February 26, 2010

This Week’s Top Adirondack News Stories


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Adirondack Music Scene:Open Mic, Fiddle and Guitar Tunes, Thumping Bass Lines

I wouldn’t miss the Open Minded Mic Night at BluSeed Studios tonight. Always an interesting and fun night out. The performances are kept to a two-song or seven-minute maximum so the night moves along at a comfortable pace. It’s a great way to support local musicians and poets, and this one has the lovely Celia Evans hosting.

Staying inside the park Saturday night, I’d see Lissa Scheckenburger and Bethany Waickman, also at BluSeed. I know Bethany. She plays the guitar the way I’d like to.

Even though it’s a drive, if I were in the mood to really move my body (and because I missed the 20 Main gig) I’d check out Capital Zen in Saratoga Springs. The energy that comes through on their recorded stuff must be even better live — I love a hot bass line.

Thursday, February 25th:

In Saranac Lake, Open Minded Mic Night at BluSeed Studios. Sign up at 7 pm and the show starts at 7 :30 pm. Celia Evans is hosting.

In Ellenburg Depot, ALASH, Throat Singers from Tuva will be giving a performance at The Northern Adirondack High School Auditorium. This is located at 5572 Route 11. The doors open at 6:30 pm and he show goes from 7 – 9 pm.

In Saratoga Springs, Roots of Creation will be playing at the Putnam Den starting at 9 pm.

Friday, February 26th:

In Plattsburgh, Viennese Romance , Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival will be held at 7:30 pm at SUNY.
For more information call: (802) 846-217 or email: [email protected]

In Canton, Urban Verbs: Where Hip Hop Meets Life will be performed at St. Lawrence University. Held from 7:30 – 9:30 pm this show explores the blur between music, poetry and daily life. For more information call: (315) 229-5659.

In Saratoga Springs, Hot Day at the Zoo will be playing at Putnam Den starting at 9 pm.

In Peru, Seussical, The Musical will be performed at the Peru Central School at 7:30 pm. For more information call: 518-572-2020.

Saturday, February 27th:

In Saranac Lake, Lissa Scheckenburger and Bethany Waickman will be performing at BluSeed Studios. This concert of traditional ballads and fiddle tunes will held 7:30 – 10 pm.

In Queensbury, a Coffee House and Open Mic is held on the last Saturday of every month. It goes from 7:30 – 10 pm and is held at the UU’s church. For more information call: (518) 793-1468.

In Saratoga Springs, Capital Zen at the Putnam Den starting at 9 pm.

In Peru, Seussical, The Musical will be held at The Peru Central School at 7:30 pm. For more Information call:518-572-2020.

Sunday, February 28th:

In Saranac Lake, Bill Smith and Don Woodcock present, “Rosen and Rhyme”. This is to be held at Will Rogers at 2 pm. For more information call: (518) 352-7311.

In Potsdam, The Metropolitan Opera Live in HD, Encore of “Carmen” will be held from 1 – 5 pm at the Roxy Theater. For more information call: (315) 267-2277.

In Peru, Seussical, The Musical last chance to see it at the Peru Central School at 7:30 pm. For more information call: 518-572-2020.

Photo: Capital Zen


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Bird Cams To Calm Our Local Weather Woes

Well, Punxsutawny Phil got it right again this year. We’ll see another 6 weeks of winter, but those of us living here in the Adirondacks already knew that. In fact we can look forward to another 6 to 8 weeks of snow, slush, and the occasional deep freeze. March and April’s weather can be very finicky. Take comfort in knowing that the birds are getting restless down there in their tropical locales. They want to start flying north as soon as they can. However their arrival is still some ways off. So to placate our wishes for green grass, warmer temps and sunny skies, I give you several offerings.

Cams, or remote video cameras placed near a bird nest, have thrilled millions of birders and non-birders alike. This Eagle cam from Virginia is a very well-known cam that shows the daily nesting habits and egg-rearing behavior of two adult bald eagles in Norfolk, VA.

Another popular video is this cam from Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge in Maryland.

Are you California dreaming? Here’s a cam from the far western state’s Channel Islands.

Maybe you’re interested in Osprey nests? This one in Hilton Head, South Carolina looks active.

When the weather is not an issue, nesting can begin in earnest for these predators well before our Adirondack eagles and ospreys.

How about red-tailed hawks in Philadelphia? You got it! Here’s a cam on The Franklin Institute building.

Or maybe you’re interested in backyard birdfeeders in Georgia?

This will definitely take your mind of the chills of March. Or this?

Photo: Birders on Lake Champlain, courtesy Brian McAllister.


Thursday, February 25, 2010

Commentary: Betty Little’s McCarthyism

Olmstedville (that’s in Minerva, Essex County) boat builder and businessman Peter Hornbeck has made it through the NYS Senate’s Environmental Conservation Committee, the first hoop in his nomination by Governor David Paterson to serve on the Adirondack Park Agency board of commissioners (APA). The vote was a smack-down of sorts for local Republican Senator Betty Little who sits on the committee and has opposed Hornbeck’s nomination from the start. What Little doesn’t like about Hornbeck, she told North County Radio, was “his association as chairman of the Residents Committee to Protect the Adirondacks.”

Little’s spokesman Dan Mac Entee, claiming to represent “dozens” of local officials, told the Plattsburgh Press Republican: “They feel his affiliation with environmental groups suggests he is going to bring an environmental agenda to APA, not an economic-development agenda, which we feel is critically important now.” Little wants Lake Placid resort owner Arthur Lussi, whose term is expiring, to remain in his seat. “We feel he has a balanced approach to economic development in the park,” Mac Entee said. [BTW, the Minerva Town Board disagrees; it voted to send a letter in support of the Hornbeck nomination to both the Governor and the Environmental Conservation Committee.]

What Little says she really wants is to require all five of the in-park APA Commissioners to be chosen by her pet group, the Adirondack Association of Towns and Villages, who is supported by a gaggle of attorneys, engineers, and development interests. NCPR’s Brian Mann asked the Senator: “Wouldn’t that kind of a measure basically preclude anyone with an environmentalist background being chosen?”

“Not necessarily,” Little responded. “I think that they understand that there is a balance and most likely would know that they would have to have some people on that list who were maybe active environmentalists.” She kind of mumbled that “maybe” so I don’t fault Brian Mann for not following-up with the question, “Maybe Yes or Maybe No?”

Anyone who looks at Betty Little’s record of opposing the APA and the concept of a Forest Preserve can see what she’s really after: a purge of those she labels “environmentalists” from all decision-making related to the Adirondacks. Pete Hornbeck, who employs five people in good-paying manufacturing jobs at Hornbeck Boats, has made a crucial error in Little’s mind, in that he has associated with the wrong people.

“I have here in my hand a list of two hundred and five [people] that were known . . . as being environmentalists and who nevertheless are still working and shaping the policy of the APA,” Little said.

Just kidding – that was a quote from Joseph McCarthy; just replace environmentalists with Communist Party, and APA with State Department.

McCarthy saw enemies everywhere, including really evil places like the National Lawyers Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union. Little has her own enemies list that includes not just local conservation organizations, but apparently their supporters and members as well.

I’d like to ask her that famous question from the McCarthy hearings: “At long last, have you left no sense of decency?” But I already know the answer, Little showed her sense of decency when she opposed the rights of gay people to be married, when she said that the Republican coup attempt that brought the state legislature to a standstill last year was a good idea, when she toyed with closing North Country Community College, and when she got a little too close to the criminal conspiracy of her leader Joe Bruno.

For background, the APA Board includes five representatives of local interests from inside the Park, three representing the rest of the state, and the state’s Commissioner of the Department of Economic Development, the Secretary of State, and the Commissioner of Environmental Conservation (Pete Grannis). These last three appoint others to represent the interests of their agencies. Regional Director for DEC Region 5 Betsey Lowe (former Executive Director of Wild Center) is Grannis’s substitute on the board; Region 5 includes three-quarters of the Adirondack Park. Lowe recently joined local members in opposing a wilderness classification for Low’s Lake. Fred Monroe of the Local Government Review Board has a non-voting seat on the APA Board.

Six of the eleven voting members (plus Monroe) of the current APA Board are full-time residents of the Adirondack Park. Three members of the APA Board—Curt Stiles, Cecil Wray, and Dick Booth—previously served on the board of the Adirondack Council. How many APA Commissioners are members of a Chamber of Commerce is anyone’s guess. The status of their connections to the Communist Party are also unknown.

Hornbeck’s appointment will need to pass the Senate Finance Committee before a full Senate vote.

Photo: Peter Hornbeck from the Hornbeck Boats website.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Demong’s Olympic Silver, Final Competitions, Local Parades

More Olympic metal is heading for the Adirondacks. Silver this time, with an American second place finish in the Nordic Combined 4 X 5K relay yesterday, anchored by Vermontville’s Bill Demong. Added to Lake Placid’s Andrew Weibrecht’s bronze performance in the Men’s Super-G last week, Demong’s silver brings the Adirondacks even with Slovenia, Croatia, and Belarus (and surpassing Great Britain) in the medal count.

Demong competes again Thursday in Nordic combined long hill/10k (1 p.m. Eastern time competition round and 4 p.m. final). Tim Burke of Paul Smiths and Lowell Bailey of Lake Placid compete in a 4 x 7.5k Relay at 2:30 (Eastern time) Friday.

Lake Placid is holding a welcome home parade for Super G bronze medalist Andrew Weibrecht at 4 p.m. Friday. Saranac Lake will hold a parade for its Olympians at 1:30 p.m. Saturday March 13. Demong, who will still be competing in Europe, will be honored in absentia.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Adirondack Amphibians: The American Toad

Every fall when I lead groups of students through the woods on a biodiversity investigation, we always have to be careful not to step on toads. It’s a challenge, for once we are off the trails, the forest floor is one big closet, full of hiding places that small animals, like toads, can use, and which we, with our clumsy feet and our eyes towering four to six feet above the ground, never see. More than once we have stumbled upon wee tiny toads and great giant monster toads. Size not withstanding, they are all one species: the American toad (Bufo americanus).

Throughout history, toads have gotten a bad rap. For some reason, reptiles and amphibians in general have been relegated to the realm of “evil” animals. European sensibilities, especially during the Middle Ages, are largely responsible for this. Fortunately, some cultures, primarily Asian, took a more enlightened view of frogs and toads. Still, what we need to remember is that concepts like “good” and “evil” are strictly human. Animals are neither good nor evil, for that implies intent. No, animals are just animals, going about their daily lives doing what they must in order to survive.

That said, the toad has some pretty nifty ways of taking care of itself. Contrary to popular belief, one cannot get warts from a toad. Sure, they are covered with warts, but these aren’t the same as the warts people get. Human warts are caused by a virus. The “warts” on a toad are actually poison and mucus glands, the former containing a milky substance that is chock full of chemicals that can irritate the mucus membranes of other animals. This is a great defensive mechanism. The two biggest poison glands are on the back of the toad right behind its head, the exact location where a predator (say a coyote) might chomp down in an attempt to grab a potential food item. The predator’s teeth puncture these glands and the animal gets a mouthful of poison. The poison will likely make the animal sick, and could potentially kill it. Hopefully the toad lives to see another day.

Here’s another defensive mechanism of the toad: bloat. Let’s say you are a toad and you are hunkered down in your daytime den – a nice cool, damp hole in the ground. A nosy predator comes along and grabs hold of your head and tries to pull you out of your home. What do you do? You gulp down a lot of air and swell up – hopefully increasing your girth enough that the predator cannot pull you out. Or maybe a snake caught you unaware from behind. There you are, your backside partway down the snake’s gullet, so you puff up, hopefully making yourself too big to swallow. This is a great strategy…unless the snake is a hognose, which has teeth in the back of its mouth that are just perfect for puncturing inflated toads, in which case there’s not much you can do.

Toads are pretty ubiquitous – you can find them just about anywhere: in the woods, in your back yard, along a stream. They aren’t too fussy about habitat as long as there is a semi-permanent body of water in which they can lay eggs, and some dense patches of vegetation for shelter and hunting. This is one reason why toads readily adapt to living in our gardens. All they need is a shady toad abode (could be an overturned pot) and they will happily patrol your garden for pesky pests like slugs.

When spring arrives, the air soon fills with toad song. The sound is often mistaken for an insect by those who are not nature savvy. It’s a trilling sort of sound, which can last sometimes 30 seconds or more. I read that you can imitate this sound if you whistle and hum at the same time. I tried it last night and I think it is safe to say I won’t be calling in any toads any time soon. Anyway, when you hear the toads trilling, it is time to stake out your neighborhood pond and see if you can see any action. Males, recognized by their smaller size and dark throats, will group together, trilling their hearts out, waiting for a receptive female to come along. When she does, the males all jockey for position, the hopefuls trying to latch on to her back and become fathers.

The female lays her eggs in double strings of sticky gel. These strands are often loosely wound around submerged aquatic vegetation. They won’t be there long, for most will hatch within a week. This is an uncertain time for toads, for life in a pond is rife with danger. The pond could dry up. Raccoons and herons are constantly looking for meals. Cannibalism lurks around every corner. What is a tadpole to do?

Fortunately, toadlets have a couple fallback positions. First, they, like their parents, have chemicals in their skin that make them less appetizing to predators. And second, they can recognize their siblings. This is pretty amazing when you consider just how many siblings they might have. A single female toad produces on average 4,000 to 12,000 eggs. Even if only a quarter of the eggs hatch, that is several hundred siblings. Knowing your siblings can save your neck, because if you hang out with your family, your back is guarded and you only have to watch out for cannibals coming at you from one side.

With all the dangers a toad faces, it’s not surprising to learn that most live only a year or two. Some robust toads might make it to ten years, and one toad lived a long life of 36 years in captivity. Even with poison glands providing protection, it’s a rough world out there. And since toads provide a great service to us by consuming pestiferous insects and slugs, I figure it’s the very least we can do to watch our steps when stomping through the woods.


Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Fiddling and Storytelling at Saranac Lake

Join storyteller Bill Smith and master fiddler Don Woodcock for a winter afternoon of stories about growing up in the North Country and lively toe-tapping music. The Adirondack Museum’s popular Cabin Fever Sunday series will return to Saranac Lake for a special program on February 28, 2010. “Rosin and Rhyme” with Bill Smith and Donny Woodcock will be held at Saranac Village at Will Rogers. The time will be 2:00 p.m.

The presentation will offered at no charge to museum members and residents of Saranac Village. The fee for non-members is $5.00. There is no charge for children of elementary school age or younger. For additional information, please call the Education Department at (518) 352-7311, ext. 128 or visit the museum’s web site at www.adirondackmuseum.org.

Master Adirondack storyteller and folksinger Bill Smith is the genuine article. He learned about the adventures of the North Country’s old woodsmen from his father. He learned the popular ballads and songs of an earlier time from his mother. To that strong foundation he has added his own years of living as a logger, trapper, hunter, fisherman, and guide.

Prepare to laugh ’til you can’t stand up at Bill’s tall tales, step back in time with his descriptions of country life in the “old days,” and feel warm and nostalgic as he picks up his autoharp for a Carter family tune.

Don Woodcock began to play the fiddle at the age of fourteen. More than forty years later, he holds the title of Grand Champion Fiddler of New York State. Woodcock’s playing is technically superb and he is recognized for having one of the largest repertoires of traditional fiddle tunes around.

Photo: Don Woodcock and Bill Smith; courtesy of Old Songs Festival press images.


Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Champlain Bridge Business Assistance Center Established

The Albany regional Small Business Development Center (SBDC), an affiliate of the University at Albany’s School of Business, is establishing the Champlain Bridge Business Assistance Center, an “emergency outreach office” to assist small businesses that have been adversely affected by the closing and demolition of the Champlain Bridge. The Center opened Feb. 18, at 3259 Broad Street in Port Henry.

The Champlain Bridge Business Assistance Center will help interested business owners plan how to transition and maintain the viability of their businesses during construction of the new bridge. The SBDC, along with strategic partners, will offer assistance to dislocated workers who cannot afford the long commute around Lake Champlain to jobs in Vermont and may be interested in starting a business. The Albany SBDC is collaborating with the North Country SBDC located at SUNY Plattsburgh to provide staff for the counseling and outreach efforts.

Services offered will include assessment of impact, identification of NYS Champlain Bridge Relief Programs, application assistance for these programs, market research, cost analysis/financial management, identifying sources of capital and business growth strategies.

The bridge, which crossed Lake Champlain between Crown Point, NY and Chimney Point, VT, was demolished in December, cutting off a vital connection. Construction of a new bridge is expected to be complete in late summer 2011.

The SBDC program is funded through the Small Business Administration, New York State, and the State University of New York.



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