South Lake Tahoe failing residents, visitors who play tennis

South Tahoe Middle School tennis courts are in horrible condition. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

It is nearly impossible for the public to play tennis in South Lake Tahoe because the four courts that are available are dangerous.

I did not feel comfortable last month running on the courts at South Tahoe Middle School. While the nets are better than the last time I played there, the surface is horrific. Large cracks are a broken ankle waiting to happen.

These courts in the center of town were once in great condition. In fact, Lake Tahoe Community College used to use them for its tennis classes.

It’s unfortunate the college several years ago removed covered tennis courts from its master plan. Equally sad is how when the city of South Lake Tahoe was putting its recreation plan together a few years back tennis was not part of the equation.

What’s probably even worse is Lake Tahoe Unified School District’s approach to the sport. LTUSD owns the 10 public courts in the city. There are the four dilapidated ones at the middle school and six playable ones at South Tahoe High School.

The problem with those six taxpayer-funded courts is they can only be used by non-taxpayers—students and their opponents. At all other times the courts are locked.

Tennis courts at STMS are in lousy condition. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I grew up playing on public courts in the Bay Area; the same courts where I eventually would play four years of varsity high school tennis. I play on public courts now in Chico, which are in even better condition than the private club in town. South Lake Tahoe is a big enough city that is should have decent courts open to the public.

When those courts at STHS were first resurfaced they were supposed to be open to everyone.

A Sept. 2, 2010, article in Lake Tahoe News quotes then LTUSD Superintendent Jim Tarwater saying, “Those will be open to the public, just like at the middle school. Tennis is big in South Lake Tahoe. I could see tournaments coming up here. My dream would be to cover the six at the high school.”

His other dream that never came to fruition was partnering with the city and LTCC to build two more courts at STMS.

The courts cost about $350,000 to overhaul in fall 2010. From that same LTN story, “While the project wasn’t originally part of the Measure G facilities bond, a line in the contractors’ contract made it logical to repave the courts. The contract said if the workers could not park at STHS, they would be paid an additional 15 minutes at the start and end of their day to compensate for the time to get to the work site. This was going to add about $400,000 to the nearly $25 million project going on at that time. The district decided it would be more prudent in terms of time and money to have the workers use the tennis courts as a staging area, lose access to them for a season and then have them rebuilt.”

South Tahoe High’s courts have never been open to the public and that’s a shame. Tennis is such a wonderful sport for all ages. I can’t even imagine if I had not had the opportunity to play on public courts way back when and even today.

Come on South Lake Tahoe and Lake Tahoe Unified, you both can do better when it comes to providing residents and visitors an opportunity to play tennis.

Everyone should watch Jan. 6 congressional hearings

The Jan. 6 hearings are definitely must-see TV.

Everyone should be watching them. It doesn’t matter one’s party or lack of one, if you consider yourself political or not, or who you voted for in the past or expect to vote for in the future.

This is about understanding what happens when there is not the peaceful transfer of power in the United States. This is about one man going rogue and what those around him did. It’s about one man having control over people in a cult-like following.

Bottom line—it’s about the future of democracy in the United States.

The testimony from people is astonishing. So much is coming out that has not been made public until now. During the last hearing we were told how Secret Service agents protecting the vice president that day feared for their lives so they called loved ones to say goodbye.

This mob was sent to the Capitol by the president. The president didn’t care the rioters were chanting, “Hang Mike Pence.” The president’s lack of action that day spurred the insurrectionists. That, too, has been well documented during the hearings.

If you missed the hearings, they can be found online and they will resume in September. According to Nielsen ratings, at least 20 million people watched the first prime-time hearing of the House Select Committee’s hearings. More than 23 million in the U.S. watched when Cassidy Hutchinson, former aide to White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, testified. During last week’s hearing more than 17.7 million people tuned in. These are the kind of numbers that major NFL match ups get.

Will Donald Trump and Mike Pence testify? Those are questions still to be answered. Will an indictment or charges be leveled against Trump? Again, time will tell.

No matter the answer to the above questions it is important for the public to understand what happened on Jan. 6, 2021, and for voters in November to mark ballots for people who believe in and will uphold the U.S. Constitution.

People need to understand this isn’t merely about your guy or gal winning or losing. This is well beyond Democrat v Republican. This is about the future of the United States.

Watch the hearings and tell me this was not an insurrection led by Donald Trump.

Appreciating friendships made at a young age at the workplace

There is something extra special about friendships made at your first job or jobs in your 20s.

I’m a firm believer your 20s are some of the most critically formative years, even though at the time I thought I was fully formed, so to speak.

How can there be office romances in your 20s (or any age) if there is no office to go to? Kae Reed interning at the Bend Bulletin in Oregon in 1987.

The friends I made working during college and after I graduated were more than my work family. These people helped create the foundation of my adulthood. They were instrumental in putting me on the path to who I am today. Because of all of this there is a bond we have that I won’t have with others.

I have friends from various time periods of my life—from childhood to today, where I’m still making friends. I don’t want to disparage the friendships I have made post age 30 or pre-20 because so many of those are just as special.

In my 20s I still had a lot of growing up to do, a lot of boundaries to figure out, and a lot of fun to share with these people.

Today I wonder if those freshly out of college will create a similar bond to the ones I have with Kele, Penny, Patty, Stephanie and others. How can they when they are working remotely? How do you make friendships when you only know someone as a face on a computer screen?

You can fake it on a Zoom call if you are tired, frustrated, angry, even excited, or happy. You can hide your emotions and just get through the call. In the office, though, it’s near impossible to be even keeled for eight or more hours. This is when people get to know you—when you allow them to share your highs and lows.

It’s about going out to lunch and for drinks at the end of the day; seeing people outside of work and talking about something other than the job.

It’s about learning how to socialize, how to interact with people of dissimilar backgrounds, various ages, and different skill levels. It can take some time to get used to people essentially being in your space 40 hours a week or more. These are important aspects of adulting.

I can’t imagine starting my career being isolated; or having any part of my education being virtual.

Don’t get me wrong, I love not working in an office. I was doing it long before the pandemic hit. I can’t imagine ever working in an office again; nor do I intend to.

But if I were to ask my twentysomething self: Hey, do you want to work at home your entire career and not have the friends you will have in your 50s? I would tell her: Go to the office. There is so much to learn besides how to do your job. There is so much more to work than work. There are so many experiences at the office and outside of it that will help make you be you. You will create so many life-long memories that you won’t have if you stay at your home office. Most important, the friends you make will be some of the most special people for your entire life.

It makes me sad to think the young remote workers of today won’t forge the lifelong bonds with colleagues like I did.

Lawns a legacy of wasteful water use

How anyone can justify having a lawn is beyond me. It’s a pleasure that is hurting the masses. Why? Because water is a precious resource.

Anyone living in California, the desert or another similar climate knows those grassy areas are a waste of water.

Lawns are helping to deplete water resources in California. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“Lawns are estimated to use about 40 percent to 60 percent of landscape irrigation in California. Overall, landscape irrigation is estimated to account for about 50 percent of annual residential water consumption statewide,” according to the U.C. Division of Agriculture and Natural Resources.

When I lived in South Lake Tahoe I participated in the local water district’s turf buyback program. Out went the grass and in went plants native to the area that were fed water via a drip line.

No grass in my yard in Chico. Plants are all watered via a drip line.

I understand the attraction to grass. It’s pretty. It’s soft. It’s fun to play on.

It’s also selfish and wasteful to keep watering it. There are plenty of alternative landscaping solutions that looks great, use less water, and are more practical.

Let’s start with California (and other states) banning grass from all new residential and commercial construction. Then we can work on getting rid of existing front yards and back yards, and commercial strips.

Even better would be to do the right thing before government issues a mandate.

American Canyon in Napa County is being proactive by delivering recycled water to residents and using that same reusable water on vegetation throughout the city. Residents can fill up containers with non-potable water to use for landscaping or flushing toilets. The program has existed since the early 2000s.

The city’s philosophy is “the right water for the right use.”

In 2020, the city delivered 2,900 acre-feet of potable water and 800 acre-feet of recycled water to residential and commercial customers. (An acre-foot equals 325,851 gallons.) New multi-family residences come with two water lines. The purple pipes are non-potable water that goes into toilets.

In Todos Santos, Mexico, many homes have gray water pipes going from the inside to the outside for irrigation.

Solutions exist if we are willing to change our ways.

Finding a reason to celebrate Fourth of July

Independence Day is going to take on a new meaning this year for so many people.

Some will find there is less to celebrate with all of the recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions. It was not just the reversal of Roe v. Wade that was so damning. I feel less safe with the jurists giving more gun rights to people. And it appears the separation of church and state has ended.

While SCOTUS frightens me, I have not given up hope.

Watch the Jan. 6 congressional hearings. There will be more in July. Hopefully, they will restore your belief in democracy, that our country really does want to get to the root of the insurrection, and hopefully when it’s all over there will be a clear understanding of what went on behind the scenes that led to the insurrection as well as what was taking place in the White House that day.

The only way to restore the cracks in our democracy is hold people accountable for their actions, or in actions as the case may be.

Some of the testimony is so incriminating. I applaud those who have testified when it would be easier to take the Fifth, to ignore a subpoena, to say you don’t remember. At the June 28 hearing the committee pointed out what appeared to be witness tampering from the ex-president. That’s just one of many crimes the cult leader is likely to have committed.

I have said it before and believe it still that anyone who is a Trump supporter is in a cult.  Anyone who believes Joe Biden did not win the election is delusional, has been misled, and is probably a member of the cult.

There is a lot wrong with the United States right now, but there is also so much that is right. On this Fourth of July that is what I will be celebrating—the good, and all the good that can happen if the people have the will to fight for democracy. At the end of the day it does not matter what your political party is or if, like me, you don’t have one. What matters is that you vote for people who believe in the Constitution and in democracy. Plenty of people in both parties still do. Get the imposters out of city hall, out of board of supervisors seats, out of legislatures and most definitely out of Congress.

Scattering AJ’s ashes in a favorite place in Todos Santos

AJ enjoys La Poza lagoon in Todos Santos in 2019. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Even though AJ was not a big water dog, she will forever be swimming in La Poza lagoon in Todos Santos. At least that’s how I like to think of it.

I spread some of her ashes in that body of fresh water this month when I was in Mexico.

On that foggy morning I walked purposefully toward the lagoon, but couldn’t get too close. I was pushed back. A strong force said not now. This doesn’t happen to me very often, or maybe I don’t listen or feel as well as I should. This time I did.

OK, AJ, I thought. Let’s just sit and talk. And that’s what we did for well more than an hour. She had always been my confidante. I’d been missing that these last four months. Friends told me she would still listen if I tried to talk to her. I just couldn’t. I was weighed down with a grief I hadn’t felt before, which was only compounded by other things going on in my life.

This particular day, though, was different. While I was in an incredibly sad state of mind, I was also willing to listen to what she had to say. Our talk was long enough for the fog to dissipate and the sun to brighten the day. It was the perfect transformation.

I still cried on the way back to my friends’, but I also felt a shift. Thank you, AJ.

This is about as close as AJ ever wanted to get to the ocean in Mexico. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Going to the lagoon was our go-to walk for the first two winters we spent south of the border. We’d drive to the beach, then head south to the lagoon. It was the only fresh water for her to wade in and drink in the area.

Most days it was just us on the beach. Often we would sit and stare at the ocean after she had her romp in the calm lagoon. There’s something about a large body of water that grounds me. It took AJ to remind me to seek out what I need to feel balanced.

AJ’s happy place was a trail—the forest or the desert.

You knew she wasn’t a native of Baja because she would not take a swig of ocean water. In fact, she stayed as far from it as possible. In California she had tasted the salt water of the Pacific and never needed to try it again.

Waves were also never her thing. Another reason to stay out of the ocean. She wouldn’t even go near Lake Tahoe when the water was rough.

I wonder what she would have been like had she come to Baja in her prime, when she was faster, full of energy and feistier. Would she have made friends with the street dogs? She was their size after all.

While the worst experience I ever had with her was in Todos Santos—when we were attacked by another dog—Baja was special for both of us and continues to be for me. She made the trip with me in the Jeep each of the three times I drove to Baja and back to California. It’s hard to imagine making that drive without her, and, yet, I can see myself on another extended stay in the distant future.

While she obviously won’t be on that next road trip, it is comforting to know she will always be part of Todos Santos.

Returning to the skies after 2+ year hiatus

People are not letting the ongoing pandemic stop them from traveling by plane. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

For as long as I can remember I’ve enjoyed flying. It means I’m going on a trip. It also means eventually I’m going home, which I’m usually ready to do at the end of vacation.

While others used the pandemic as a reason not to fly, my primary reason was my dog. I no longer wanted to be gone from her for an extended time, nor did I want to leave her with a dog sitter in her final years. I really didn’t want her to die while I was traveling.

With AJ’s death in February, it meant my excuse not to fly was gone. So, would the pandemic be a reason not to take to the air? Would the mask mandate on planes being quashed keep me grounded?

No. I love to travel and explore. I want to be with friends who are more than a day’s drive away. This means getting on a plane.

This month was my first time to be on a plane in about 2½ years. It was just like I remembered.

The tennis bag gets a special screening because a cork screw was in it. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

I resumed my preflight ritual of having a bloody Mary at the airport bar. This happens no matter the hour of the day.

I still had to take my shoes off. Everyone between 13 and 74 has to. Apparently those that fall outside that age range are not likely to have a bomb in their shoe. It still amazes how one person with a bomb in their shoe led to the creation of shoes off for airport screenings, yet we can’t come up with gun control laws after countless people have been slaughtered by AR-15s. But I digress.

I wore a mask on the plane and the whole time I was in the airports. I wasn’t alone. But I sure was the minority on the aircraft.

I didn’t even take it off to have a sip of water, though I would have if I had felt parched.

After we landed at our foreign destination the flight attendant said masks were required in the airport. An audible groan filled the cabin. The woman across the aisle didn’t have one. Her husband, though, had a supply for the whole family.

In this day and age, it seems absurd not to travel with a mask. You don’t know when the rules will change or what the regulations will be outside your home town.

I’m guessing I may always fly wearing a mask. I know I’ve gotten a cold after being on a plane; all of those germs spread through coughs, hacks and wheezing. I want to avoid routine colds as well as deadly viruses. While a mask is a nasty four-letter word for many people, to me it represents a real four-letter word—life.

It feels good to fly again, but damn, I sure miss AJ.

Watergate Reporters Relive 50-Year-Old Story, Compare It To Today

June 17 marked the 50th anniversary of the Watergate break-in, which eventually led to the impeachment and resignation of President Richard Nixon more than two years later on Aug. 9, 1974.

Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, reporters for the Washington Post, broke the story and continue to be part of it this many years later. For those who have no idea who these men are or what Watergate is I suggest reading All the President’s Men or watching the movie by the same name.

On the anniversary the two men were part of a Washington Post Live segment—talking about how they got the story, the challenges, and compared that moment in history to the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection and President Donald Trump’s role in it.

As a journalist, I was interested in how the two reporters worked together, with their editors and sources. Bernstein talked about how he learned at a previous paper that knocking on doors at night is most productive. People don’t want to talk at work. But they will at home or somewhere else. Too many eyes and ears at work. And there just might not be the time to talk to a reporter; especially when it is a controversial topic.

“One of the most important things a reporter or editor decides is what is news. That is a question we asked each other every day,” Bernstein said.

I loved the story of how a subpoena server was downstairs attempting to get their notes. The guard was told to keep him there and not let him into the newsroom. Word came back from Publisher Katharine Graham that the notes belonged to her and that if anyone was going to go to jail it would be her.

Graham was a force to be reckoned with. No subpoena was issued for “her notes.”

Nixon won re-election in 1972 by a landslide. The public didn’t understand the significance of Watergate at the time. All the pieces had not come to light yet.

From Nixon’s tapes six weeks after that November victory he said this according to Woodward, “‘Remember, we’re going to be around to outlive our enemies. And also, never forget the press is the enemy, the press is the enemy, the press is the enemy, the establishment is the enemy, the professors are the enemy, the professors are the enemy, write that on a blackboard 100 times and never forget it.’

“That’s somebody who can’t let go of his grievances.”

Bernstein said the real heroes of Watergate were the Republicans who held Nixon accountable.

There were televised congressional hearings then much like there are ones going on now regarding last year’s attempted coup.

Bernstein described the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol with the intent to alter the results of the election at Trump’s urging as “the most important story perhaps since Watergate.” He stressed how important it is for reporters to keep covering the story, even when so much of the country doesn’t believe the truth.

Recycler gives used hotel soap a second life

Hotels throughout the world are recycling guest room soap. (Image: Clean the World)

You may not be the last person to use that bar of soap you left behind in your hotel room.

That’s because lodging properties throughout the world are taking steps to turn used bars of soap into new ones, which means less waste ending up in a landfill.

“It actually costs us money, but it is just the right thing to do,” said Gary Stymus, general manager of the Best Western Corte Madera Inn in Marin County. “It’s not really anything we have advertised. It’s just part of our general recycling program. We try to divert as much as we can into different recycling streams.”

With every bar of hotel soap that doesn’t end up in the garbage, the environment and those living in impoverished areas are that much cleaner.

Stymus’ hotel works with the 13-year-old nonprofit Clean the World, which is based in Orlando, Fla. According to the nonprofit, North Bay properties have collected 17,562 pounds of soap and 12,664 pounds of plastic. The latter is from all of those little bottles of shampoo, cream rinse, body wash, and lotion. In turn, 102,637 new bars of soap have been created.

Used soap is essentially shredded after being sanitized. (Image: Clean the World)

There is so much waste because people tend not to travel with soap, as opposed to shampoo and lotion. A 2019 study by Boston University revealed the No. 1 amenity hotel guests use is that bar of soap.

Option abound for hoteliers, with the common ones being to toss used toiletries in the garbage, providing something other than single-use products, and recycling the leftovers.

Max Childs, who manages Cambria Sonoma Wine Country in Rohnert Park, is familiar with Clean the World, but isn’t a partner—yet. For now, his property uses bulk wall-mounted dispensers.

It was when he managed the Hampton Inn in Petaluma that he got acquainted with the recycler.

Chris Johansen, one of the owners of Embrace Calistoga, a five-room property in Napa County, has been working with Clean the World since opening n 2011.

“We pay the membership and we pay for the postage,” Johansen told the Business Journal. “It’s not about saving any money. But it’s better than every week putting I don’t how many plastic things in recycling, and the bar soap would go in the garbage to a landfill.”

Whether a product has obviously been used or not, each one is replaced at Embrace Calistoga.

Hotel properties in California that still use the small toiletry bottles are running out of time to come up with another alternative. Beginning Jan. 1, 2023, properties with more than 50 rooms cannot legally provide those tiny bottles of shampoo and the like. In 2024, the same law applies to all lodging establishments.

Wall dispensers will be OK, as will be bottles that are at least 6 ounces. Those tiny bottles that are the norm today usually don’t have more than 3 ounces of product.

Since starting, Clean the World has delivered 70 million bars of soap to 127 countries. That is the other side of the story. It’s not just about keeping waste out of landfills.

“When we started the business in 2009, 9,000 kids a day were dying from pneumonia and diarrheal diseases. In 2020, before COVID, that was reduced by 65 percent,” founder Shawn Seipler said.

By supplying soap to countries with hygiene issues, Clean the World is helping people live longer. While the impact is huge, Seipler is quick to point out 2 million children in the world (pre-pandemic) were dying of diseases that could be prevented with proper hygiene.

He said it’s tough to assess the needs today, especially with the war in Ukraine and the ongoing pandemic.

“I would not say need is dwindling,” Seipler said. “There is always humanitarian responses that need to happen.”

Clean the World has provided hygiene kits to those at the U.S.-Mexico border, as well as to those affected by natural disasters, including wildfire victims in California.

During the height of the pandemic Clean the World reconfigured its hygiene kit building program. Pre-COVID this was often a team building exercise or volunteer opportunity offered to corporations. The nonprofit transitioned to sending kits directly to employees.

Each one has a slew of product be put be together assembly-line style and then given to a local charity, such as a homeless shelter or women’s center. This is a way for the nonprofit to generate income, for companies to have an interactive experience, and their local charities to benefit.

When it comes to hotels, Clean the World expects it will be 18 months before its portfolio contains 9,000 properties—the number it was in 2019. It’s closer to 8,000 today.

Those hotels pay to play. In the U.S. the cost is between 50 and 80 cents per room. So, a 100-room hotel would pay between $50 and $80 a month no matter occupancy. The fee includes delivery of the empty collection bins, postage to send to Clean the World, welcome materials, and training information. The price varies based on volume of rooms.

New bars of soap are given to those in need. (Image: Clean the World)

Cost is the primary reason companies do not participate, according to Seipler. With the hospitality industry having trouble hiring people in the wake of COVID, that adds another hurdle because it takes personnel resources to collect, sort and send the product.

At the recycling centers—which are in in Las Vegas, Orlando, Montreal, the Dominican Republic, Amsterdam, and Hong Kong—the used soap is sanitized, then grinded down, and made into new bars. Then they are distributed to those in need at no cost.

With the plastic that is collected, that is then turned into energy via Covanta, an East Coast firm that turns waste into power. Even product left in the tiny bottles can be absorbed into the process.

Seipler said today’s global operating budget is between $13 million and $15 million, adding that it was higher pre-COVID.

The first hotel Clean the World worked with was Hampton Inn at the Orlando International Airport in 2009. This started a long-lasting relationship between the recycler and Hilton. Today it is the nonprofit’s largest hotel partner.

“We are proud to have been the first hotel brand to make soap recycling a brand standard, and the first to set the commitment to send zero soap to landfill,” according to Hilton’s 2021 Environmental, Social and Governance Report. “We operate the largest soap recycling program in the hotel industry, with over 88 percent of our portfolio participating in soap recycling, including all hotels in the U.S. and Canada.”

Hilton operates a slew of brands. The properties participating in Clean the World recycling program include: All Waldorf Astoria Hotels & Resorts, LXR Hotels & Resorts, Conrad Hotels & Resorts, Canopy by Hilton, Signia by Hilton, Hilton Hotels & Resorts, Curio Collection by Hilton, DoubleTree by Hilton, Tapestry by Hilton, Hilton Garden Inn, Hampton by Hilton, and Homewood Suites by Hilton. The Home2 Suites by Hilton properties in the U.S., Canada and Dominican Republic also participate.

Hilton has a company-wide goal to cut its environmental footprint in half by 2030.

“In 2021, we recycled our soap into more than 1.6 million bars that have been donated to those in need, diverting over 175,000 pounds from landfills,” the report states.

Stats from the past 13 years are even more hefty. According to Clean the World, Hilton housekeepers at 5,565 hotels that service 818,047 rooms throughout the world have stopped 4.2 million pounds of waste from going to a landfill. In turn, nearly 15 million bars of soap have been created and distributed to those in need.

Note: A version of this story first appeared in the North Bay Business Journal.

Protest brings down the walls of illegal beach restaurant

(The video shows how close the build is to the Pacific Ocean.)

The power of the people helped shutter a restaurant in the Todos Santos area that popped up on the beach without permits.

“It’s a terrific reminder that when we work together, we can make a positive impact to preserve our environment and protect our beaches,” a group email from June 11 stated.

Residents first descended on the site in the Las Tunas area on June 10. A day later more than 150 people showed up in protest. Joining them were the mayor, prominent environmental justice attorney John Moreno, ZOFEMAT (the federal agency that regulates such matters), and local police.

Workers on June 11 dig up what’s left of an illegal beach restaurant in the Todos Santos area. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

“They canceled their three-day event, and packed up their tents, furniture, and sound system. Hopefully they will unbury their tinacos and septic system and move their bus too,” the email said.

According to Tribuna de la Paz, legal action and fines are possible.

Todos Santos isn’t the first place Emiliano Antunes, who founded Comunidad Tekio, has created a pop up restaurant and bar.

Tekio is featured in March 2022 in Forbes Mexico in what reads like a paid advertisement.

On June 13, a tinaco (an underground water container) is still on the site. (Image: Kathryn Reed)

Translated into English, one paragraph says, “Awareness is one of the core values at Tekio. The concept is developed exclusively in 100 percent natural places. For this reason, we seek to achieve the least possible environmental impact, adapting to what each beach proposes, using materials and construction systems that are friendly to the ecosystem, considerably reducing the environmental impact on nature and our precious planet.”

Building on a beach without permits is an interesting way to care about the environment.

One has to wonder if all the fruit on the nearby beach once belonged to the illegal restaurant

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