University of Alabama

#BamaSits: Alabama Students Sit During Protest Of National Anthem

At least a few dozen University of Alabama students sat during the playing of the national anthem before the kickoff of the Alabama-Texas A&M game Saturday afternoon.

Some of the students participating in the #BamaSits protest held signs calling for racial justice in the United States.

Other students tried to block the #BamaSits protest by standing in front of the seated demonstrators.

Some students, including UA students expressed support for the protest on social media.

But not everyone was happy with the protest.

Share how you feel about the protest in the comments below. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: Kyle Burger/ Twitter (Screengrab)

Alabama Student Wears “F#@* Donald” Shirt On Campus And Some People Got Pretty Mad

K. Alex Lane is a student at the University of Alabama and she is making some waves due to a certain wardrobe choice she made on Monday.

Lane wore a black t-shirt bearing the words “Fuck Donald” above an American flag.

The Donald in question obviously being Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump.

On Facebook, Lane explained the reason she wore the provocative shirt:

“[I] walked around The University of Alabama’s campus with this shirt on cus it was only right after last night’s debate.”

The University of Alabama campus has been rocked in recent weeks by racially charged comments posted to social media by students.

Lane claims that some students called her racially charged names on campus Monday.

“[I] got called the n-word by a white male and a “stupid bitch” by a white female. couldn’t help by laugh right in their faces.”

Read More: Alabama Students Are Much Better Than The Racist Rhetoric Online

RISE NEWS is not able to independently confirm Lane’s claims. We will update this story when she responds to questions we sent her. 

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RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Alabama Students Are Much Better Than The Racist Rhetoric Online

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court of the United States issued their historic decision in the case of Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas. In it, the court ruled that segregation of public schools in the United States was unconstitutional.

Despite this, numerous schools in the American South fought to keep segregation alive.

My own university, the University of Alabama, was one of them.

In 1956, Autherine Juanita Lucy, became the first African-American student to enroll at the University of Alabama but her enrollment was rescinded after it was discovered that she was African-American.

With the aid of the NAACP, Lucy sued the University of Alabama for racial discrimination and three years later, Alabama allowed Lucy to re-enroll.

Lucy’s enrollment resulted in riots and threats to her safety and prompted her eventual suspension, purportedly for her own protection.

In addition to Lucy’s fight to attend the University of Alabama, efforts to continue segregation at the school led to Alabama Governor George Wallace’s infamous Stand in the Schoolhouse Door outside of Foster Auditorium.

Read More: University Of Alabama Student Suspended After Sending Racially Charged Threats

On June 11, 1963, Vivian Malone and James Hood, African-American students who had been admitted to the University of Alabama, arrived to register for classes, but were met by Wallace and other Alabamians who supported the continued segregation of public schools. However, despite a well-received speech on state’s rights, Malone and Hood were permitted into Foster Auditorium to register for classes.

Over 50 years later, the University of Alabama is one of the largest and most successful universities in the United States; both academically and athletically.

Today, Foster Auditorium still stands with the addition of a plaza and clock tower named after Autherine Lucy, Vivian Malone, and James Hood.

Students walk past the very spot George Wallace stood to prevent two eager students from enrolling in classes, simply because of the color of their skin.

Students have entered Foster Auditorium to cheer for Alabama’s volleyball team, women’s basketball team, and wheelchair basketball teams.

Wallace’s Stand in the Schoolhouse Door and the days of overt racism and prejudice may seem like they are merely memories of the distant past, but that is not the reality for students of color at the University of Alabama.

Within the last few years, the University of Alabama has come under national scrutiny for maintaining de facto segregation in its sororities, a secret society of Greek students (as in fraternity and sorority members) who mainly control the Student Government Association at UA (and is known as “the Machine”) blackmailed sororities into supporting their chosen homecoming queen candidate over one who was African-American, and the resultant backlash from the Machine when the first African-American SGA President was elected in 40 years.

Read More: University Of Alabama Must Expel Student Who Used Racist Threats

Sadly, these are just a few of the incidents that have made national news, and this racism on campus is becoming more and more overt, especially on social media.

The most recent event to occur at the University of Alabama was a series of comments made regarding Black Lives Matter and the Bama Sits protest.

In 2015,Brendesha M. Tynes, conducted a study analyzing online discrimination and recorded that the participants in the study reported six primary forms of racial discrimination: (1) racial epithets, (2) inaccurate racial stereotypes and statements, (3) racist jokes, (4) symbols of hate (i.e. the Confederate flag), (5) threats of physical harm and/or death threats, and (6) graphic representations/images of dead black bodies.

Aside from the graphic images of dead bodies, the other five forms of online discrimination have flooded the Alabama Student Ticket Exchange group on Facebook and the Bama sits hashtag as well.

Personally, I have witnessed comments where a student used the term “the colored people,” another student told African-American students to “get a f**king white mask and where [sic] it around,” Alabama fans referring to students protesting as “bastards,” an Alabama fan referring to Black Lives Matter as a disease, and students making violent threats towards students participating in the Bama Sits protests and African-American students.

Within the past week, one student, Ryan Parish, has been suspended for threatening to kill a student and referring to them as a ni**er and two others, one student and one non-student, are being investigated for threats they posted on social media as well.

This poses the question, why are these people so comfortable with posting such racist comments publicly on social media?

I know that I have been warned to be cautious with what I post on social media since it can impact employment and educational opportunities, but why does this not deter other people from making offensive comments on race and other matters?

To answer this question, we have to look at what social media offers.

In certain forums (i.e. Reddit, and to some extent Facebook and Twitter) the ability to comment and share your opinions while keeping your identity anonymous provides the perfect environment to spread hateful rhetoric without facing any consequences.

However, the Alabama students and fans posting these comments did not seem concerned with keeping their identities anonymous.

Perhaps the concept of group polarization provides a better explanation of these brassy comments with their racist rhetoric.

Group polarization occurs when a group of people who share the same beliefs and opinions become even more extreme in their opinions after they have discussed it with each other

Business Insider reporter Tony Manfred tried to explain that the internet is racist due to a number of reasons, including the idea that the brief “fame” or popularity that comes with posting such an unpopular and hateful opinion also encourages the public to overt racism.

These theories are certainly plausible, and I believe, in addition to these theories, that the platform that social media gives a person to easily share their opinions along with the systematic racism that still runs rampant in our country breed the perfect hostile environment for racism and threats.

I have spent almost seven years of my life, working on my undergraduate and graduate degrees at the University of Alabama.

It is no secret that I love my alma mater and the role it has played in molding a very crucial brick in the foundation of who I am.

However, I am embarrassed by the racism, especially the blatant racism, which is harbored and promoted by my fellow Alabama students and fans.

However, the disappointment that I have in my fellow Alabama students is much greater. When we enroll at the University of Alabama, we agree to live by the Capstone Creed: “As a member of the University of Alabama community, I will pursue knowledge, act with fairness, integrity and respect; promote equity and inclusion; foster individual and civic responsibility; and strive for excellence in all I do.”

We are better than this, my fellow Alabama students. Let us rise above the prejudice and hate and no longer tolerate it. Let us be great on levels.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in the world. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: University of Alabama/ Facebook

Report: Confirmed Case Of Zika Virus At University Of Alabama

A student at the University of Alabama who had recently returned from studying abroad has tested positive for the Zika virus.

“Federal privacy laws prevent us from commenting on the student’s condition; however, in the majority of Zika cases, individuals make a full recovery within a week,” University of Alabama spokesperson Chris Bryant said in an email to AL.com.

It is not yet known which country the student contracted the disease in.

However Bryant told AL.com that students that are concerned about their health should visit the on campus student health service.

According to campus newspaper, the Crimson Whitestudents involved in study abroad programs in Mexico, the Caribbean, Central America and South America were informed about the situation in a email on June 10.

Stay with RISE NEWS as we update this developing story. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: coniferconifer/ Flickr (CC By 2.0)

The University Of Alabama Needs To Have A Commencement Speaker Again

By Mike Smith

When I was a senior in high school, I only cared about one thing: giving the commencement speech at my graduation.

I had been on the speech team for four years and qualified to Nationals two years in a row. I thought I had the nomination in the bag.

I got so ahead of myself that I even wrote the speech itself three months in advance. But then something unpredicted happened.

I lost.

Got second place in my class behind a cross-country runner who was hit by a car.

Flustered but obviously unable to show it, I went to my graduation disheartened, angry, and downright disappointed. I held my head down during the ceremonies, ignoring both the pomp and the circumstance.

Yet, just when I was about to tune out, the graduation speaker stood up and tapped the microphone. I looked up and, out of jealousy, waited for him to make a mistake just so I could be hyper-critical. But he didn’t.

He started with a light joke about the accident, cutting some of the heavy tension in the room.

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He went on to detail the obstacles that came from his incident, the challenges he faced in returning to normal life, and, despite all of this, how he didn’t want our pity. At that moment, I realized how privileged I was.

I was in perfect health. I was moving on to the greatest university in the world (Roll Tide).

I was lucky enough to graduate.

I went in to that ceremony defiant and angry, but I left with a lesson. No one owes you anything. I tell this story not to rehash high school memories, but to emphasize the importance that a commencement address can bring to graduates.

Graduation speeches allow for a moment of reflection.

They act as a celebration of what you and your peers have accomplished and the support you have gotten along the way.

Graduation speeches also grant the opportunity for well-experienced members of society to give some parting advice for those moving on to bigger and better things.

Just this past year alone, Rutgers University heard President Obama recount his past fighting for justice, the University of Pennsylvania saw Lin Manuel Miranda explain the struggle of long-distance relationships, and Berkeley witnessed Sheryl Sandburg’s story of coping with the loss her husband.

The advice offered by these great speakers may not resonate with every single graduate, but it can mean a world of difference to those in similar situations.

The author on the University of Alabama campus. Photo Credit: Mike Smith.

The author on the University of Alabama campus. Photo Credit: Mike Smith.

Graduation speeches can humanize what might feel like a rather methodical ceremony.

This is why I am disappointed that the University of Alabama does not have commencement speakers at most of their graduation ceremonies.

Instead of being an inspirational function, these events treat students like products being churned out of the factory. Thus, the graduations are rather dry, dispassionate, and robotic.

Additionally, the administration has given no legitimate reason not to have them. There is no unique tradition of the Capstone that effectively “bans” commencement addresses, like sitting during football games or walking across The Mound.

In fact, the administration just recently got rid of them, most likely because a speaker in 2007 made some controversial comments about the war in Iraq.

Unfortunately, they canceled speeches for a single year, yet never changed it back.

All of this is why I, as a member of the Capstone Coalition (a student block of aligned independents), am introducing a resolution to the SGA Senate this fall to encourage the University to reinstate graduation speeches.

I urge you to contact your college’s SGA Senator and lobby them to support this proposal. The only way that the administration will change is if we collectively demand action.

Looking back, while it didn’t go as I imagined, my high school graduation was pretty remarkable.

I learned from one of my peers an important lesson that prepared me for my transition to college.

I hope that when I leave the Capstone, I can get one more piece of advice just like that.

Mike Smith is a student at the University of Alabama and a member of student government there. The University of Alabama is one of the few colleges that does not currently have a commencement speaker. 

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. You can write for us.

Cover Photo Credit: The University of Alabama/ Facebook

Here’s Why The Current State Of Student Government Elections Are Killing American Democracy

Last December, Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump called for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States while we figure out what the hell is going on.”

At the time, I considered that to be the straw that broke the camel’s back for Trump’s candidacy, metaphorically speaking. To me, it was the latest in a long string of outlandish, extreme, hateful statements made by that particular candidate, and I made my sentiments on the subject known publicly.

Since then, however, I’ve found myself asking that question repeatedly. Not with respect to terrorism or immigration, but rather, with respect to democracy in the United States. What the hell is going on with America’s voters?

I could go on here about the immense anger in the American electorate that seems to be playing itself out through our electoral process, or about the so-called “low information voters” that some academics and several prominent political pundits have spent the better part of eight years excoriating.

But to do so, in my opinion, would be to provide an analysis which lacks depth; if there’s one criticism I have of pundits, it’s that they tend to focus on what’s right in front of their face, and don’t spend much time digging into the underlying issues behind the latest political trends. Besides, plenty of elaboration has already been offered on that in various elements of the media, as is.

Instead, I think it would be better to focus on the endemic problem in American elections today: the loss of the vote’s value as a real expression of political principle to a significant portion of the American electorate.

In my opinion, this isn’t the result of the “dumbing down of America” or any such nebulous conceptual trend, as many pundits and talking heads would suggest. At least, it’s not that, exactly. Instead, I think this is the result of a special brand of apathy by which the average American voter has convinced himself that their vote just doesn’t matter.

Think about it. Surely, you’ve heard someone say that before. I’ve heard it multiple times, myself, from multiple people. And I’ve heard it more from members of my generation than members of others.

To a significant number of Americans, voting is no longer seen as a sacred right or even a civic duty.

It’s seen as a burden and a waste of time. And, as a result, many Americans do just enough to get by when selecting a candidate to vote for.

This is perhaps the biggest difference between modern times and years past with respect to American politics. There was once a time when Americans put serious effort into determining who to vote for – the traditional approach of researching issues, policy positions and records, and selecting a candidate based on some set of criteria.

To each of these voters, the exact criteria were often different – my father often talks about my paternal grandfather, a yellow dog, card-carrying-union-member Democrat from the era of a blue Texas, “voting his pocket-book,” or rather, for the candidate whose economic policies he felt would most benefit himself and his family, whereas my maternal grandmother, a lifelong Republican also from Texas, was always more concerned about electing men and women of strong moral character to office. But, nonetheless, both had a standardized approach that took into account discrete factors in an attempt to produce an objective result.

Those days are long gone.

In their place is an age in which many voters look for the candidate not that they can connect with intellectually or principally, but emotionally. Instead of the candidate that shares their views, they want the candidate that they can grab a beer with.

Instead of the candidate they believe is most qualified for the position, they want the candidate that they feel cares about them the most.

Instead of looking for even temperament in a candidate to take charge of the world’s most powerful military and second largest nuclear arsenal, much of the electorate looks for the candidate that shares a deeply seeded anger that has festered for years while the opposing party has controlled the White House.

Relatability has now replaced capability and suitability as the chief characteristic of electoral viability.

Peculiar though this new paradigm may be, it gives way to an even worse mindset among some younger voters, to many of whom the vote matters so little that even basic ethical constraints don’t apply.

Take, for example, student government elections at The University of Alabama, where I attended undergrad.

If you’re familiar with the politics of secret societies in the United States, you’ve undoubtedly heard of the Machine, UA’s underground coalition of fraternities and sororities that has controlled student elections for just over a century, using the flagship university of the state of Alabama’s quaint student government framework as a springboard with which it propels its alumni into some of the state’s most powerful positions.

In the past, the Machine has done some incredibly insidious things. Members of the organization have burned crosses on campus in protest of the election of a black SGA president over the Machine-backed candidate, tapped another non-Machine presidential candidate’s phone lines, beaten up and stabbed non-Machine candidates and campaign staffers, broken into SGA offices in the middle of the night and defamed applications for appointed positions from black and non-Greek applicants with racial slurs and other injustices, stolen both banners supporting non-Machine candidates and stole thousands of copies of the school newspaper containing scathing exposés about the Machine, coerced fraternity and sorority members to vote a particular way through illicit means, and ordered members of Machine houses to boycott Tuscaloosa businesses owned and operated by the families of non-Machine candidates at threat of severe penalty.

As of late, the Machine’s chicanery has taken up a less violent, but no less insidious and certainly no less disappointing, theme.

After losing the SGA presidency in 2015, my senior year at Alabama, for the first time in three decades, the Machine went on a recruiting spree that would make the average SEC booster blush.

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Lillian Roth (C), a sophomore and Machine backed candidate won over 50% of the vote in the campus wide election, defeating two “Independent” candidates to become SGA President.

Throughout the school year, I’ve been kept apprised as numerous Greek houses that previously took strong stances against the Machine were lured down into “the basement,” as the Machine is often referred to due to its members’ subterranean choice of meeting place, by promises of rewards – date parties with the most prestigious fraternities for the sororities, appointments from within their membership to prominent SGA positions for fraternities, and full backing, with all of the Machine Greek votes that come with it, for individual members of non-Machine fraternities seeking elected office.

On the night of the 2016 elections held just last Tuesday, I received text messages from friends at Alabama about frat guys being promised a case of beer for every vote cast for the Machine nominee for the presidency, and screenshots from a conversation between a sorority executive officer and a rank and file member in which a free manicure was offered as an incentive for voting – all of which not only explicitly violates UA election rules, but is also patently unethical.

And yet, among the broad majority of my former peers at UA, this behavior is not only found palatable, but acceptable and even standard.

Imagine that for a minute. To some of the brightest millennials in the country – UA is one of the nation’s top 50 public universities and ranks among the best in the nation for national merit attendance – a vote isn’t the righteous expression of the voter’s political willpower as the American ethos might demand, but instead a commodity ready to be bartered for material gain as menial as beer and manicures.

Among the quite literally hundreds, if not thousands, of UA students who take that approach to selecting a candidate for whom to cast their vote, there isn’t so much as an afterthought about the moral or philosophical implications of such a decision.

Read More: The Machine Is Back At Alabama After Winning A Highly Contested Student Election

A little alcohol and some fresh nail polish is all it takes to wash away any objections which might exist over voting for the candidates nominated by a racist, underground organization with a history of violence, corruption and intimidation spanning a century.

You might say to yourself that this is believable, or perhaps even to be expected, in a state like Alabama, where just last week a sitting United States Senator endorsed a presidential candidate on the same day that same presidential candidate tacitly accepted an endorsement from the Ku Klux Klan.

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Sabrina Philipp, a senior at the University of Florida was featured in a video detailing her experiences as a leading member of the “system”, a secret organization that helps Greek affiliated students move up in student government and influences actions taken by it.

And you would have a point; if there’s any state where this kind of nefariousness is the norm, it would be Alabama. But consider this: The University of Alabama isn’t the only place where things like this are happening.

Just last month, a whistleblower at The University of Florida came forward in a tell-all video to discuss the System, an underground organization bent on student election domination at UF eerily similar to the Machine in both design and methodology.

And Yale, of course, is home to the infamous Skull & Bones.

Numerous other universities foster student governments dominated by their Greek systems, though, to be fair, with far less violence and blatantly corrupt activity.

Nonetheless, it seems the very kind of backroom dealings we so despise Washington for have their roots in America’s college campuses.

You might also say that student government elections are trivial things in and of themselves, and that it’s laughable to say that students should be expected to take them as seriously as “real” elections.

To that, I point out that student government and student elections are universally considered to be educational experiences for candidates, elected officials, appointees and voters alike by university administrations; indeed, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals explicitly held exactly that in reference to The University of Alabama’s Student Government Association in 1989.

Humans are creatures of habit, and voting patterns are at their core habits themselves. The habits these students form in college don’t simply end at the graduation stage. Indeed, Cleo Thomas, who became the first black SGA President at UA in 1976 and is one of only nine UA students to ever beat the Machine in a presidential bid, called campus politics at the Capstone “the training ground” for “how [elected officials] govern Alabama” in a 2015 interview.

Where politicians are concerned, Thomas’s words sum up the political history of Alabama over the last century; senior US Senator from Alabama Richard Shelby is a Machine alumnus, as are two of his predecessors in Alabama’s Senate delegation and a long list of Alabama governors and congressmen.

“What Starts Here Changes the World,” the motto of The University of Texas, could be adapted to fit The University of Alabama as, “What Starts Here Runs the State.”

But the “training ground” statement rings true for voters as well, and is demonstrated by another illustrative example from my time at UA. In 2013, amid an entirely separate segregation scandal in UA sororities, several hundred UA students filed to vote in local school board and city council elections, electing two former Machine-backed SGA presidents to the two separate governing bodies respectively, and ousting a highly respected school board incumbent in the process.

As though that action wasn’t audacious enough in itself, campus was soon inundated with reports that the students had not only illicitly registered to vote, but had been shuttled to the polling stations in limousines, and then taken to local bars to be served free alcohol after voting.

Just as they set aside any semblance of a moral compass to mindlessly vote for whomever they were instructed to in SGA elections, those students directly incurred in a local election to do the same in exchange for free drinks, taking the first step toward carrying the habit over into their adult lives.

The difference between student government and real government was, I suppose you could say, trivial, in their eyes.

If Donald Trump’s campaign is indicative of the state of democracy in modern day America, this is a sign of its future.

Democracy cannot continue to function in a society where America educates her best and brightest in a way that inherently objectifies and devalues it.

Mindless, coerced, bribed, group-think style voting is not what our Founding Fathers intended, nor is it what our brave men and women in uniform fought and died to protect.

This is the kind of democracy that lends itself to despotism and, eventually, societal ruin.

Ronald Reagan once famously said that freedom is never more than a generation away from extinction.

The same rings true for our system of government. The longer we allow our democracy to be turned into a reality TV show and our votes to be traded for alcohol and cosmetics, the shorter its lifespan will be.

In order to reverse this trend, it is incumbent upon you, the average American, whether you be a college student, a working adult or a retired senior citizen, to actively take responsibility for your vote.

Research the issues, discuss them civilly, but openly and vigorously, with trusted family and friends, teach your children to value their rights and to think independently, and most importantly, always take a strong, principled stance for ethics and integrity in the electoral process.

If you don’t – if we as Americans don’t become the good stewards of our system of government that our ancestors were – the day will come when you no longer can.

RISE NEWS is a grassroots journalism news organization that is working to change the way young people become informed and engaged in public affairs. Anyone can write for us as long as you are fiercely interested in making the world a better place. 

Cover Photo Credit: Lillian Roth for SGA President/ Facebook

The Machine Is Back At Alabama After Winning A Highly Contested Student Election

Updated: 11:31 PM EST

After only one year out of power at the University of Alabama, the Machine, a secretive collective of historically white fraternities and sororities were swept back into office tonight.

Lillian Roth, a sophomore and Alabama native won over 50% of the vote in the campus wide election, defeating two “Independent” candidates.

Roth’s victory comes only a year after the historic win of Elliot Spillers, who was the first African-American SGA President in over three decades at UA and one of a handful of non- Machine backed candidates to ever win the contest.

Spillers was a supporter of Caroline Morrison, who was perceived by some to be the weaker of the two non-Machine candidates.

Patrick Fitzgerald was the other non-Machine backed candidate.

Final vote tallies have not yet been released.

Voter turnout was only 38% of the entire student body- down from last year.

You Need To Watch This Video About What Being Black Is Like On A College Campus

College campuses across the country are at the center of a national conversation on race after a mass student movement forced the resignation of two top level administrators at the University of Missouri.

Read More: PEOPLE POWER- Mizzou System President Resigns After 7 Day Campus Hunger Strike, Football Team Strike

At the University of Alabama, three African-American students have come together to tell their story about what it is like being black on a college campus. The result is a powerful video that sheds insight into how life can really be for some students in America.

The video titled, “How Does it Feel to be a Problem” was published earlier today on Vimeo by the director Patrick Maddox.

“In his 1903 book, The Souls of Black Folk, W.E.B. Du Bois discusses continually being asked in indirect ways, ‘How does it feel to be a problem?’,” a description for the video reads. “Three African American seniors at the University of Alabama– AJ James, Amanda Bennett, and Elliot Spillers– came together to answer that question.”

WATCH: Powerful video explaining what life is like as a black student on the University of Alabama campus.

How Does it Feel to be a Problem from Patrick Maddox on Vimeo.

Spillers was elected student government president last year- the first black SGA president at Alabama since the mid 1970s.

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Cover Photo Credit: Patrick Maddox/ Vimeo (Screenshot)

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