Disorientation Week — Your student guide to housing, transit, surfing and weed

by and


Everyone’s so cool, and one dude’s brought his drum and they’re all just layin’ around in this way cool grove in the forest. Ferns are tickling, the sun’s out — what rain? — like some kind of benevolent blanket of warm glowing pizza dough just soft all over everything, and the grass ... the grass. It’s so fluffy. And tall. And the trees — they’re Ents, man, they gotta be Ents. And the big sad hollow stumps — can’t believe somebody would cut down such a huge, beautiful tree. Oughta be a protest. Later.

Hmm. Maybe they could live in one those hollow stumps if that Eureka apartment doesn’t work out. Could walk to campus that way, too. Or get a Jackpass if the apartment does work out. Man, this is the life. Here, try this — you won’t even care about that stupid apartment after a couple hits of this. Sleep in that stump, that’s what they’re gonna do — nice and quiet, pretty, green, birds, nature. Rig a tarp. Smoke some weed. Read some Nietzsche, some Bukowski. Not gonna pay rent or buy a bus pass. Forget that shit, that hypercorporate controlmylife shit. No way. They’re at Humboldt now. Drive on Humboldt, on down the floor; Drive on Humboldt, show them the door! Ha ha.

What? Oh, right. Yes, to the point: This, new and returning members of the Humboldt State University student body, is your back-to-school guide. Sort of. At least, it’s your introduction to some apparently marvelous things, such as the man who created and keeps updated the marijuana connoisseur’s essential encyclopedia, The Cannabible , and the woman who could not get that apartment (oh, she rants fine), and where to scam a disco bus pass, or one of those new Jackpasses, or some kind of pass for riding the bus — just read the story. And remember, just say no to drugs, yes to nature, no to corporate thugs, yes to whatever it is that will make getting to campus easier and cheapest, no to shifty landlords, yes to vegetables.

-- Heidi Walters


The mad doctors of pot In the country’s cannabis capital, it’s all about hybridization

By Bob Doran

Right: A budding Sour Diesel plant. Photo by Jason King from The Cannabible Collection.

Sour Diesel, The Purple, Purple Urkle, Granddaddy Purple, Deep Purple, The Lavender, Skunk, Kush, Master Kush, OG Kush, Bubba Kush, Lemon Kush, Snocap, White Widow, The Hawaiian, Headband. The list goes on and on. To the uninitiated it’s nonsense, but the cognoscenti know these are the names of strains of marijuana grown out in the hills, in backyards in town, in garages, closets or in the extra room in a student apartment.

The days when potheads simply rolled a joint with some decent weed are gone. Today you have smokers doing bowls of high-end bud, blazing carefully manicured sinsemilla (seedless) flowers from plants that have been genetically engineered by the mad scientists of marijuana — the breeders. Growers have learned to control flower color, flavor and, perhaps even more important to the new wave of smokers, the type of high produced. The age of the cannabis connoisseur has arrived.

The heartland of this new wave of sinsemilla ganja is California. The advance guard is in the infamous Emerald Triangle, Mendocino and Trinity counties, but most of all Humboldt, a word that speaks volumes in the world of modern marijuana. Welcome to the epicenter.

The cannabis king

“California has always led the way. There’s no doubt about it — with genetics, growing techniques, all of it,” says Jason King, author of a multi-volume survey of marijuana strains he calls The Cannabible . “Since the late ’70s and until now, most of the high quality herb consumed in America is grown in California, mostly in Mendo and Humboldt.”

The 36-year-old King, who says he has been smoking “the herb” since he was 16, has made the study of the history and use of cannabis his lifework.

He’s up to No. 3 in his Cannabible series, which was recently repackaged as a boxed set. The books mix detailed photographic close-ups of an A-Z of marijuana plants and buds — pot porn, if you will — with particulars on genetics, tasting notes akin to something you’d hear from wine connoisseurs, and assessments on the types of high provided by an international array of cannabis strains from Afghani and AK-47 to Warlock and White Widow.

No, this ain’t the reefer your dad used to smoke.

Says King, “Sometimes you hear from old timers, ‘All the herb today sucks. There’s nothing as good as the greats from the ’70s: Acapulco Gold, Oaxacan, Jamaican, stuff like that.’”

King does not agree, mainly because of the way pot was treated in the past. “Even though some of it might have been genetically good, it was pressed, seedy, twiggy garbage compared to the great stuff that we get today,” he says. “They dried it in giant piles, smashed it down into bricks, wrapped it and smashed it more, put it with a bunch of frozen peas or whatever they used when they smuggled it. If you did that to any herb it would be crap by the time it reached the smoker.”

Modern marijuana growers and processors treat buds more like a peach grower treats his fruit.

“The flowers are so delicate and fragile,” says King. “When you smash them like that all the resins explode, all the terpenes are released, the flavor is gone, the THC starts oxidizing, it becomes crap almost immediately.”

Instead, your 21st century weed is typically from a carefully bred sinsemilla plant (always female) that produces resinous, crystalline flowers. The buds are trimmed into nuggets (aka “nugs”) by trained manicurists and sold for anywhere from $2,500 to $5,000 a pound depending on the rarity of the strain and how far away you get from where it was grown.

Where did the varieties come from? “Strains from all around the world came to California, Oregon and Washington and [growers] selected the best parents, then did competent breeding work,” King says. “What came out of that was all the amazing strains we have today.”

The mad horticulturists in the Northwestern hills crossed the best pot out of Mexico, Cannabis sativa , with plants grown from seed out of Asia, Cannabis indica . In King’s view the coming of indica was not exactly a positive thing, since pure sativa strains are now hard to find.

“Sativas had these great soaring, clear, cerebral highs and took you on amazing psychedelic journeys, whereas the indicas produce stupefying, heavy lethargic highs that knock you on your ass and make you want to eat a box of cookies and go to sleep.”

But King says there were other aspects that interested growers in indica: “They finished [blooming] earlier. They were denser. They were smaller, so you couldn’t spot them from outer space. They had a lot of appeal to the growers, so they were crossed into just about everything, never to be removed. I like an occasional indica, but I smoke pure sativa if I can. It’s hard to do because indica is in everything. It’s regrettable.”

Buddy from Arcata

How does this new era of cannabis play out locally? We asked a smoker/grower we’ll call Buddy. He’s a former student who lives in one of many student apartment complexes in Arcata. He’s had a 215 medical marijuana card for seven years, so the pot grow concealed behind Indian tapestries in the apartment’s second bedroom is technically legal. He’s still a bit nervous about it, however, and tries to keep a relatively low profile. His landlord doesn’t know about the grow room, and he fears it might not go over well. For that reason he’s asked to remain anonymous.

Buddy is a friendly sort. He dresses casually — usually in hip-hop style, with over-sized tees, baggy pants, baseball caps, some of them emblazoned with sport team logos, some with the word “Humboldt” or with names of pot strains like The Purple.

Buddy is not from here. He settled in Arcata partly for the big trees and beaches, partly because of the college, but also because of the town’s laissez faire attitude. “When I walk into a store here and I’m stoned, it’s not a big deal,” he says. “If I were in some other state, I’d be pulling out the Visine so nobody can tell, maybe putting on different clothes that don’t have the smell. The fact is, it’s just not a big thing here.”

The same goes with growing. In the post-215 era, there’s a free exchange of knowledge on technique. Clones of popular strains can be purchased at your local dispensary and, says Buddy, you can go to the local hardware store without fear and tell them what you need for your operation.

“We may not say the word ‘marijuana,’ but I don’t have to pretend I’m growing tomatoes,” Buddy says. “They know what’s going on.”

He grows a selection of high-end strains. On a visit to his apartment, he arranged a collection of Mason jars on the kitchen counter, each holding a different brand of weed. There are two jars of the popular Sour Diesel — one earth-grown, the other hydroponic — and a Purple variation called The Lavender. Another jar holds The Hawaiian, which he explains came from a plant from the Islands, crossed with a strain known simply as P-91. Then there’s his prize strain, The Lemon Kush, which he says is rare, intentionally so.

“It won’t be found in a lot of circles,” he says. “We’re trying not to let the genetics get out (through live plants that could become clone stock) because of what’s going on at the market level. Rare bud is just more valuable.”

Who develops the new strains? Not necessarily the old-timers. “At this point a lot of them are younger than 40,” says Buddy. “They’re smart people who took botany and horticulture at HSU or CR and applied the techniques they learned to growing herb.”

“The thing is, not to sound cheesy, but it’s a beautiful herb and a beautiful flower. People get excited about it the same way others get excited about growing roses.”

Buddy sees another advantage in the fact that lots of local college students smoke weed: strength in numbers.

“What I found is, instead of, like, being the stoner at your high school, where you were looked down upon, you’re just like everybody else,” he says. “So you can excel at whatever it is you’re trying to study — biology, botany, whatever. I have plenty of friends who get straight A’s and they smoke plenty of weed.”

Admitting it might sound trite, Buddy offers some advice for students: “Stay in school. Don’t drop out just to grow weed. A lot of my friends came here for school, then after their sophomore or junior year, they’d take a semester off, then that ends up being a year off, or two. Once they’re out of the inertia of being in school, it’s hard to go back. So even if it sounds like that anti-drug ad, I say, ‘Be cool, stay in school.’ And don’t grow pot in your college dorm room. You’ll get caught for sure.”

The Stats

A 2006 report titled “Marijuana Production in the United States” by Jon Gettman of the marijuana advocacy group estimates that “American marijuana farmers grew 22.3 million pounds of marijuana in 2006 with a value of $35.8 billion.” Which would make pot the nation’s biggest cash crop, even outstripping corn.

According to the California Department of Justice, last year’s Campaign Against Marijuana Planting (CAMP) took in more plants than ever, with 1,675,681 plants seized during the eradication season. The DOJ estimates the seized 2006 crop as having a street value of more than $6.7 billion.

Gettman’s extrapolation on the law enforcement data suggests that California is the nation’s major pot producer, with an estimated 17.4 million plants cultivated outdoors and 4.2 million grown indoors. According to a National Survey on Drug Use and Health, 13.25 percent of the nation’s pot smokers are Californians, but we produce 38.68 percent of the marijuana used in the United States, making pot a major export crop.

How does Humboldt rank in all this? While the county was once near the top of the CAMP seizure chart, last year we fell to No. 9, outstripped by our Emerald Triangle neighbors Mendocino (No. 3) and Trinity (No. 8), but especially by Lake and Shasta counties, whose combined total, 542,091, makes Humboldt’s 59,616 seem piddling.

In part, the high numbers elsewhere came from massive operations on public lands that the cops believe are farmed by a new crop of growers out of Mexico. A full 80 percent of CAMP seizures in 2006 were from public lands.

But wait — there may be hope for Humboldt for 2007. A Friday press release from Sheriff Gary Philp notes that a raid last week in the Bear Creek drainage (34 miles south of Berry Summit) resulted in the eradication of the largest marijuana garden in the history of Humboldt County.

Garden sites located on U.S. Forest Service property and on timberlands owned by Green Diamond Timber Company yielded 134,082 marijuana plants that are believed to be linked to a Mexican drug trafficking organization. According to the sheriff, “At harvest time these marijuana plants would have a street value of approximately $469 million.” Wahoo!

On the bus Will the Jackpass help or hinder Humboldt’s frustrating transit system?

By Matt Jackson

Right: A Redwood Transit Bus rolls into HSU’s library circle. Photo by David Lawlor.

I ’ll never forget my first time, sitting there on the corner of Fifth and D in Eureka — it must have been about 9 a.m. — when a man with shaky hands and a dirty overcoat came walking up. He eyed me over at first to make sure I was the kind of person he was looking for and after a few awkward minutes he finally worked up the courage to ask, “hey kid.” He motioned nervously at his front coat pocket and stuttered, “y-y-you wanna buy a bus ticket? A buck a piece.”

That was it. From then on I was hooked on black-market bus tickets. If I couldn’t find a hook-up in Old Town it was a pretty sure bet that the Arcata Transit Center would have a few people roaming around offering cut-rate fares like scalpers at an Iron Maiden concert. I wasn’t completely sure where the tickets were coming from but I clearly understood how much not taking my car to and from school was costing me. In the end I found myself faced with a question — what did it say about our county transit system that our bus tickets had a street value? Understand, I’m not trying to inspire anyone to go out soliciting people hanging around bus stops wearing dirty overcoats. That would be leading us into all sorts of future problems. But this was a phenomenon that I had never experienced in my years riding the bus, and I was left with a whole bag full of questions.

This year ushers in the age of the Jackpass, and with it, I and many of my fellow students breathe a sigh of relief at never having to search for that bus pass again, nor having to score sketchy tickets on the street. Since moving to Humboldt County in 1999, I’ve commuted from Arcata to College of the Redwoods, to Humboldt State from Eureka and generally depended on the buses as a main way of getting around, all the while riding with a bittersweet affection for the tired faces, incoherent ramblings and unexpected morning jogs that come with riding public transportation. So for those of you new to the area wondering what your new $15 per semester Jackpass fee is buying, as well as all my fellow riders sitting in your seats wondering where your $1.95 is going, this one’s for you.

First, an old-timer’s guide to how things used to be. Previously, HSU students paid around 80 cents a ride by taking advantage of monthly passes and CR students who demonstrated financial need could apply for bus vouchers. But forgetting your pass or your voucher meant that you were subject to the standard $1.95-per-way fee. Once arriving at your new destination, you’d be surprised to find that the fare, often paid a mere eight miles back, didn’t qualify you for a free ride on the city bus — that’s extra.

This is one of the paramount complaints I’ve heard over the years from fellow riders, students and non-students alike, and when given this opportunity one of my first questions was why we can’t offer our bus riders a free transfer? According to the Humboldt Transit Authority, the problem lies in the way the bus systems are divided up. Cities such as Eureka or Arcata retain control over their own bus systems, but the county runs the intercity Redwood Transit service. So while your switch from the Southbound HTA to Arcata’s Gold Route may have taken less than 12 miles, you’ve actually traveled through two completely different bus systems to get there and, consequently, two completely different budgets.

That’s the other problem. A rider may not know it, but it’s the issuing bus line that bears the financial burden of issuing a transfer. In other words, if someone receives a free transfer from the HTA to a Eureka city bus, the county will pay the price of that rider’s transfer. None of the three major bus systems can afford that kind of cash.

“Why is this so expensive?” is perhaps one of the most common questions anyone selling something is bound to hear. This is another of the questions raised around the bus stop. But is our bus system really expensive or are we getting a deal? As the Transit Authority explains it, the cost of operating the county bus system averages out to about $5.85 per rider. That means the $1.95 we plunk in each day actually covers about one-third of the overall costs of riding the bus. The other two-thirds are supplied by both city and county funds, and that often means keeping to a pretty strict budget. Recently, the county purchased some buses that produce cleaner emissions, and this trend could lead to a possible hike in fees as we roll toward a bigger and better transit system.

So how do we offset the costs of this, you may ask? (I know I did.) Certain ideas have been brought forth to set up a half-penny sales tax to add to transportation coffers but as of now they’re just that — ideas. Cities as close as Napa have already implemented this kind of tax.

And although the new Jackpass allows students to take advantage of free transportation on most county buses — Redwood Transit and the Eureka and Arcata buses — there’s still a price tag. While the new $15 per student fee may seem like a lot of cash when you start adding it up, there are a few not-so obvious costs. HTA will keep track of Jackpass usage, and will charge $1.40 against the funds collected from student Jackpass fees each time someone hops on the bus. If ridership exceeds the fees collected, the excess gets charged directly to HSU. If the Jackpass is overly successful, the university will probably be forced to draw money from its alternative transportation fund to pay the rest of the tab. This fund currently pays for free bus rides within Arcata, as well as bike racks and any other expenses having to do with encouraging students to leave their cars at home.

However, the catch-22 is that the alternative transportation fund’s main financial contributors are parking tickets issued by HSU. Yes, it seems that every time you or I get a ticket we’re actually paying for the free rides we take on the Gold Route bus. According to Steve Sullivan, head of parking at HSU, while the funds from HSU parking permits are allocated to pay for salaries, upkeep of parking lots and future projects, the funds from parking tickets are treated as separate, and can only be used for either alternative transportation or processing fees.

So is the Jackpass an answer for the struggling student with up to $3.90 a day commuter fee? Or is it an effort to take the pressure off of parking issues? Students are warned that even if they do plunk down $270 per year for an on-campus parking pass, they’re not guaranteed a spot.

“We’re selling permission to park on campus,” said Sullivan. “We’re not selling the space.” Last year, HSU sold 326 more parking permits than the total number of parking spaces at HSU, and this year promises to be no different. It could mean more than the occasional long walk to campus. Despite the Jackpass possibly lowering revenues for his office, Sullivan is a full-on supporter of alternative methods to on-campus parking. “If you build more spaces we’ll still be having this discussion because it encourages more cars,” he said. “You keep building them, they’ll keep bringing cars. Let’s think green.”

So with more and more students forced to seek housing outside of Arcata, it is hoped that the Jackpass will ease the pain of these forlorn commuters. But if it is successful, are there plans in the works to expand the bus schedule? Currently the last three southbound HTA buses leave Arcata at 6:04 p.m., 6:49 p.m. and 8:58 p.m., leaving those forced to take night classes, as well as those working late, rushing to make it home. When asked if the HTA bus system might continue service until 10 p.m., like Arcata’s Red and Gold lines have done this semester, Neleen Fregoso at the HTA said: “We’re already planning on increasing the buses at first, because we don’t know what to expect. One thing I’m worried about is capacity. Right now an evening bus isn’t feasible, [but] if the money is there and the service is needed then that’s our job.”

With all this swarming about, what is the general mindframe of the HTA as it gears up for this momentous change? There have been no prior experiments like this one and the special nature of this new undertaking comes with a chilling lack of precedent. Questions like “Will buses swell to overflowing with morning students heading to class?” or “Will the current amount of bike racks per bus be able to deal with the crowds?” just don’t have any answers.

“I just hope everyone is patient with us as we learn how to run this thing,” Fregoso said. “There’s no demographic or numbers to tell us how to do this but we’ll figure it out.”

Matt Jackson is a local musician (formerly of The Lowlights) who this year is finishing up his writing degree at HSU.

Humboldt housing hell
One woman’s warning — know your rights

By Julie Woldow

I have become a case study. The case in point: housing discrimination, of the kind young people endure seeking simply to rent shelter in Humboldt County, live a responsible life and not get the shit hassled out of them. I write to inform you — my fellow Gen Y’ers and anyone else who cares about our rights as consumers and people — that a lot of us regularly run the risk of getting truly screwed out of our basic rights to shelter by hardened screwers who assume that we, the screwees, are too stupid to realize we’re being screwed, and too passive or ignorant to do anything about it. Hear my tale and cringe. Then fight back.

My profile: 25 years old. Recent college graduate. Embarking on serious post-college life and career. Potential solid citizen. No felony convictions (or misdemeanors, for that matter). No time spent in the Big House. Do not regard myself as sucker-bait. Five-year history of paying my rent religiously in Los Angeles. Armed with a list of rental references befitting five moves to various parts of L.A.: Eastside, Westside, South Central and a few corners only the locals know. So this house-search up in Humboldt County is not my first rodeo — I’m an all-around apartment rental cowgirl, and I didn’t come up with yesterday’s grass.

Yet none of my hard-won L.A. experience has prepared me for the bias, discrimination and shifty moves of two local property managers. We’ll call them Timothy and Crystal. Timothy, Crystal: You stand accused . And that goes for any other of your kind who think it’s okay to rip young people off

The true facts: I see an apartment Timothy and Crystal manage listed on Craigslist, which is how I found my previous places in L.A. I show up early on the day of the showing, and I am the only person to request an application.

I fill out the app, cringing at its amateurishness. “This housing application was created by idiots!” I say to myself, as I skip the section called “Bank Account Information.” Do they honestly think I’m going to provide my account numbers? As if! But yes, I provide the name of my last landlord in the City of Angels and fill in the rest of the application. I drive the application to the managers’ house, turning it in within two hours of receiving it, complete with my $20 check to pay for a credit report.

I’m feelin’ hopeful: Timothy and Crystal tell me there was only one other applicant, who still has not returned his form. “Score!” I think as I drive home, imagining how I will arrange the furniture in my new space.

A few hours later at the supermarket my cell phone alerts me to a missed call. I see the number is the managers’ home number. I call back. “Hi,” Crystal says, pleasantly enough. Then she commences an interrogation worthy of an FBI agent at Guantanamo. Crystal covers the usual ground, but keeps coming back to the issue of personal relationships. Over and again, she asks about whether I’m in a romantic relationship, and about my boyfriend (who had viewed the property with me). She insists he’s going to move in with me. I tell her that he’s got his own place — that I really, really, really will be the sole tenant. Just like it says on my application, where my signature bears the risk of perjury.

She tells me she doesn’t want couples in her property. I reiterate: I ... will ... be ... the ... sole ... tenant. Crystal begins to rant: If you want to live with your partner, then I don’t want you here, then you can’t live in my property.

I come from a family that has managed self-owned real estate for four generations, so I understand managers’ needs for information about tenants-to-be. I can well believe that Timothy and Crystal have had some ugly rental experiences. Not every applicant comes with the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval. Yet as Crystal grinds on, I begin to feel I’m getting lumped with the liars and the bums, that I am not being accorded the presumption of innocence.

The “interview” ends. Crystal informs me she wants to “deal with this” rental of the property by noon or 1 p.m. the next day so that she and Timothy can go out of town for a long weekend (this is Wednesday). I spend a largely sleepless night, and wait by the phone next morning, having left Timothy and Crystal an early message that I look forward to hearing from them.

The Big Insult does not come until 4:37 that afternoon: Crystal calls to say she and Timothy have rented the place to the “first applicant” — whose application, you will recall, they received after mine. She gives no reason for rejecting my application, but assures me she has ripped up my check. I’m disappointed, perhaps a little pissed, but I still need a home. So I log back on to Craigslist and experience a real-life jaw-dropping moment. The place Crystal told me she has rented to someone else, has just been relisted as available ... one hour before I received the call saying it was taken.

How can this it be? Clearly it is Timothy and Crystal who have posted the new listing, including a cleaned-up description of the house, because the prior description had not been quite, ah, accurate.

Light dawns: Not only have I been treated shabbily ... I have been discriminated against! Laws have been broken! Despite my legal status as single, Crystal and Timothy have discriminated against me based upon Crystal’s unwarranted suspicions about my marital status, singlehood, domestic partnership relationship or whatever wages of sin she’s picturing in her own mind.

Here’s the part where I tell you all about the law . It’s dull, but it’s your hammer. According to a free pamphlet put out by the state of California — “California Tenants — A Guide To Residential Tenants’ and Landlords’ Rights and Responsibilities” — I have rights under combined federal and state law. “It is unlawful for a landlord or managing agent, real estate broker or salesperson to discriminate against a person or harass a person because of the person’s ... sex (including pregnancy, childbirth or medical conditions related to them, as well as gender and perception of gender), sexual orientation [or] marital status ...” the pamphlet says [emphasis mine].

It gets better. The head office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development tells me that California law protects one’s right — a civil right in California — to get housing regardless of marital status, which is only protected by California law. “California law also prohibits discrimination based on any of the following ... A perception of a person’s ... marital status ... or a perception that a person is associated with another person who may have any of these characteristics,” according to the California tenants’ pamphlet.

Tell me, based on these laws is it any of Crystal’s business whether I am in a relationship — of any kind? Does she have any justifiable right to quiz me repeatedly about the nature and extent of my singlehood? No way! Would she have asked those questions of an older applicant? What say you, jury of my peers? I think not!

Hold your horses, ’cause the story’s not over. According to California’s Fair Employment and Housing Act and Unruh Civil Rights Act, Timothy and Crystal also committed unlawful housing discrimination by representing to me that housing was not available for rental when in fact it was available. From my humiliated and infuriated point of view, the only thing worse than this flagrant violation of law is Timothy’s and Crystal’s lack of integrity and lack of respect for me as an intelligent, informed, conscientious citizen of Humboldt County.

Are there mitigating circumstances, you ask? Is it fair to hold Timothy and Crystal accountable for knowing all that legal verbiage? I mean, should we expect them to act like real property management professionals? Should they have to know the state laws pertaining to renting property, and that their potential renters enjoy certain civil protections? Or, that we will exercise our rights?

Here’s your punch line : This isn’t just about Timothy and Crystal. It’s about how you can defend yourself from being similarly victimized. To protect your rights, download a copy of the aforementioned “California Tenants” pamphlet. This well-organized and readable packet details the types of housing discrimination as well as the resources available to tenants for resolving such problems, notably the California Department of Fair Employment and Housing and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. Find it at the California Department of Consumer Affairs —

Julie Woldow is a freelance writer who finally found a home in Humboldt County. She’s a graduate of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Southern California.

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