More on Thomas Jefferson

On Sunday, April 13, 2014, Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman published a column entitled, “Money, Ads, and Candidates.”  My remarks, below, were written on Bookman’s “MyAJC” blog in response to his column.  Here is the link to Jay Bookman’s column:   http://www.myajc.com/news/news/opinion/moneyads-andcandidates/nfXfZ/?icmp=ajc_internallink_invitationbox_apr2013_ajcstub1  Another, more effective link to Bookman’s column can be found here: http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/jay-bookman/2014/apr/14/money-isnt-speech-its-power/

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Another Poster’s Response: 

“I admire Jefferson as much as anyone. He was one of our greatest presidents, but I would not support him for saint hood. One other big reason that he died penniless (among several others) is that he loved fine wines, especially fine wines imported from France. One of several expensive tastes that he indulged. And philosophically/politically, the man as got to be rolling in his grave watching the forceful intrusion of the federal government into every aspect of American life. He ‘turned against government’ once, and worked hard to turn other English citizens against their government. Hence, the American Revolution. My strong guess would be that he would not be an advocate for this every growing and ever more powerful, and ever more expensive, debt ridden, debt dependent, and increasingly unaccountable federal government that Americans are now living under.”

 
Mary Elizabeth:

“Check out Jefferson’s chosen action when the Treaty of Paris (which officially ended the Revolutionary War) was nearly not ratified in time because too few delegates, from the various colonies, had not shown up in Philadelphia to vote for its ratification. Without a plurality of signatures ratifying that document, the newly formed United States of America would have appeared a weak nation, without internal cohesion, to most European powers, who would have, then, foreseen an easy victory in war against a divided, weak America, especially in regard to the control of the Western territories. (In fact, one of of the primary reasons Jefferson purchased the Louisiana Purchase from Napoleon when he did was that Jefferson was aware that the strong centralized governments in Europe might wish to challenge America for the Western territories. Jefferson had even written to Dr. Clark, well before the Louisiana Purchase had become a ‘fait accompli,’ to entreaty Clark to consider exploring the territory, which would become the Louisiana Purchase, in behalf of the United States.)

Jefferson understood the importance of the young America’s appearing to European powers, immediately after the Revolutionary War, as a cohesive nation in which all states recognized the importance of a centralized government of the United States to speak in behalf of all of the states, in unison with one another. Yet, Jefferson also knew the real danger of his appearing to be coercive to the individual states by demanding their delegates’ immediate signatures ratifying the Treaty of Paris on time. Thus, Thomas Jefferson, in wisely recognizing the grave necessity of the United States’ being perceived abroad as having a strong central government through its securing the ratification of the Treaty of Paris, decided to pen by himself alone, a kind of legal ratification to the Treaty of Paris, using a previously cast plurality of votes by the colonies’ delegates to a similar, earlier document which approved similar ends as the Treaty of Paris. Jefferson reasoned that his penned document would serve legally as a quasi-ratification to the Treaty of Paris until the United Stated had time to secure a plurality of delegates’ signatures approving of the the actual Treaty of Paris. (Jefferson had been unable to sleep and was becoming more sickly until he realized that he could, himself, devise this creative legal ratification of the tenets of Treaty of Paris through the power of his pen in conjunction with the votes of this previously ratified document.) Jefferson, alone, then, was willing to use his pen to make these states appear to overseas powers as unified and cohesive power, with a strong central authority, instead of as a weak coalition of states which fought endlessly with one another, without central control. Jefferson recognized that if European nations had heard that the Treaty of Paris had not been signed by enough of the states’ delegates to be ratified, then European nations would have laughed at the United States’ in its folly of thinking that because it had won the Revolutionary War that it was a strong nation. These dominant European nations would have, then, surmised that the United States was weak enough that it could be defeated in another war especially for controlling rights to Western territories. Jefferson’s creative, and risky, idea of how he could write a manipulated legal ratification was not needed, however, because enough delegates finally showed up to ratify the Treaty of Paris in time for their signatures to be sent overseas to Paris within the six months’ time period allowed. Obviously, Jefferson knew the value of central authority to the welfare of this nation although he supported states’ rights, also, so that the people’s interests would be served in a balanced way.

The states’ rights secessionist groups, of today, are not of Jefferson’s intellectual understanding of states’ rights. These ultraconservative, states rights’ advocates are denying American citizens’ rights, instead of expanding their rights, through diminishing voters’ rights in Republican-dominated states, diminishing medical care and medical insurance through not expanding the ACA in Republican-dominated states, diminishing women’s legally won rights of equality in pay and in the privacy of their bodies of the last half century, and in diminishing workers’ humane rights, obtained in the past century. It was Thomas Jefferson who had insisted that a Bill of Rights be included in the U. S. Constitution. (Check the facts regarding Jefferson’s strong role in making certain that the Treaty of Paris was ratified on time, in order to declare that America was a free and independent nation in the eyes of the world’s powers, in Jon Meacham’s recently published book entitled, ‘Thomas Jefferson: The Art of Power.’

Jefferson felt so strongly against rulers of nations, i.e. kings and lords, controlling the lives of ordinary citizens that he penned the Declaration of Independence against that injustice being perpetuated further in the course of human history. Thomas Jefferson would never have supported the ruling-class oligarchy which is being created in America today, made up of (1) some of America’s billionaires who are also powerful business owners and CEOs and (2) self-interested politicians, who, working together, are seeking to create an America in which the wealthy and powerful will rule the masses of citizens of this nation. Jefferson, and our Founding Fathers, endorsed, with their signatures, these closing words of the Declaration of Independence: ‘. . .we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes and our sacred Honor’ so that that type of oligarchical governance would never, again, occur to equally created human beings, who are citizens of the United States of America.

It is a travesty of justice that many ultraconservatives within today’s Republican Party have deliberately tried to abscond with Jefferson’s brilliant mind by speaking self-righteously for Jefferson, himself, in order to serve their own more limited visions and self-serving interests.

Nevertheless, Jefferson’s actual words still resonate – through the centuries – with much more impact and power than these smaller minds envision. Jefferson speaks for himself, and for our other Founding Fathers, when he penned, within the Declaration of Independence, these words which will live forever in the world’s history:

‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’ (and NOT deriving their just powers from the plutocrats of power and wealth who wish to control the lives and destinies of the masses of the people of this great nation)”

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Embracing a More Expansive (Liberal) Vision in the South

Below is my response to Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jim Galloway’s words in his article on his blog, “Insider Edition,” on February 27, 2014.  Readers of “Mary Elizabeth Sings” can find Galloway’s article at the following link: http://politics.blog.ajc.com/2014/02/27/jack-kingston-hits-the-airwaves-but-stays-away-from-the-c-word/

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“For as far back as I can remember, the political word of self-identification, ‘conservative,’ has been much revered in Georgia. And, for as far back as I can remember, for a Georgia politician to have self-identified with the word, ‘liberal,’ was to have committed immediate political suicide. I was born in 1942. 

If perceptions of blacks in the South have been changed since the decade of my birth, in large part through federal laws which enforced a more expansive (liberal) vision of human beings, and if sexual orientation is now being seen as a natural variation from the sexual norm, with no longer a need for human beings to hide their individual sexual orientation, then I am more confident than ever that Georgia, and Georgians, will soon expand their visions to see that a liberal mind is more to be embraced than a conservative one, although we each judiciously contain elements of both in our thinking.  

Let each person of Georgia now feel free to soar, openly, into whatever his or her unique, innate potential was meant to be. And, let each person of Georgia feel free to embrace a liberal worldview which will transcend one’s race, religious preference, sexual orientation, gender identification, and even nationality. When that change of consciousness happens in the spirits and minds of Georgians, then, finally, politicians in Georgia who will choose to proclaim themselves as liberals, as did John F. Kennedy in New York in 1960, will win elections in Georgia. I have seen the handwriting on the wall of Georgia’s progressive movement toward equal rights for blacks and gays within my lifetime. And, I know that, one day soon, my birth state will embrace the liberal, progressive vision without being held back by the shackles of Georgia’s tragic past.”

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Establishing Sound Educational Policy for Future Generations

I also posted, on February 11, 2014, another response to an article written by Professor Peter Smagorinsky, on Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Maureen Downey’s “Get Schooled” blog.  Below are my words of response.  The article by Professor Peter Smagorinsky can be read through the following link: http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2014/feb/11/reduction-people-data-and-its-dehumanizing-effects/ .

“Last evening from 7 – 7:30 p.m. I watched public television’s broadcast entitled, “On the Story,” which highlights significant legislation that Georgia’s legislators are considering while they are in legislative session this year.  Last evening one of Georgia’s legislators, as well as an educational researcher who had earned a Ph.D, and an elementary teacher discussed the pros and cons of the Common Core Curriculum, with moderator Bobbie Battista.

One of the panelists (not the elementary teacher) quoted data which stated that today in Georgia, 40% of Georgians must hold a college degree in order to obtain most available jobs in Georgia, but that in a few decades, 80% of Georgians must hold a college degree in order to qualify to hold most of the jobs that will be available in the state at that time. The implication was that legislators and educators must prepare 80% of Georgia’s elementary and secondary students to be college ready when they graduate from high school, especially in the coming years.

I could not help but remember the bell curve of IQ among all people that I was taught when I was in grad school, and also remember the range of students and their individual intellectual abilities during my 35 years of teaching. To try to force 80% of all high school students (including those who will have dropped out of school because the curriculum taught was too difficult for them to master) is educationally unrealistic, in my opinion. We would serve our students, and our state more effectively, in the future, if we educate each student to his or her optimum capacity to learn relevant curriculum, and that we also make a concentrated effort to provide the types of jobs, including service jobs to others, as a part of our future investment in the state.  We should also be aware that presently only about half of those students (50%) who enter college will actually earn a college degree.

This type of hasty educational decision making, i.e. 80% of students in the future must have college degrees to have a job, which is based on limited data and limited experience with students, is what can happen to educational policy passed by Georgia’s legislature when educational leaders, who have worked directly with students for decades, are not afforded the voices which they deserve at the table of determining educational policy for future generations of the masses of students in Georgia.”

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Additional relevant comments on Ms. Downey’s “Get Schooled” blog on Feb. 11, 2014:

Another poster:
(To) MaryElizabethSings:

“I did not see that panel discussion, but ‘college’ now includes Tech school – were they including Tech schools in that 80%. If so, that’s a reasonable goal. If not, well, you’re right. That’s crazy talk!”

Mary Elizabeth Sings’ response to that poster:

“No mention was made of tech schools, only of college degrees. The definition of a college degree was not discussed. However, as you and class80olddog have pointed out, including tech school would make more sense with 80% criteria.”
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An additional poster’s comments:

“. . .Data is important but not more important than the human aspects of students. We cannot forget the needs of each individual child. We do need more individuals at the county level to crunch the data and take this job away from the teachers. Let us teach and then provide us the data we need to analyze to improve instruction. There needs to be more county tests on units that are taken on computers, IPADS, etc. so we can do our job as teachers. We are now expected to do too much while the administrators at the county level just dictate more and more requirements to us. They need to be more involved in the data collection process and they need to be spending less time dictating and more time analyzing.”

Mary Elizabeth Sings’ response to the additional poster’s comments:

“Excellent, well thought through points, above, with obvious practical experiences in the classroom to back up your astute analysis.

Moreover, you have grasped the wave of the future in that you have placed the gathering of needed data in its proper place and perspective. Data must become streamlined to be available to teachers with instantaneous speed through computers in order to help teachers do what they do best – reach each student’s emotional and academic needs.”

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Posted by MaryElizabethSings:

“Thank you for your excellent article, above, Dr. Smagorinsky, and thank you, also, to Maureen Downey for publishing it on her blog.”

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Posted by MaryElizabethSings:

“‘Again, that is a leadership decision. Its not inherent in standardized tests.’
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More deeply, the pendulum push toward more and more standardized testing is the result of political pressure placed upon educational leaders to adopt a business model instead of an educational model within public schools. It is the direct after effect of the political movement, of several decades running, to privatize as many public service areas as is possible. We see that trend most recently in the movement to privatize the U.S. Postal Service when the U.S. Congress having passed a law in 2006 in which the U. S. Postal Service must – within the next decade – produce the funds to sustain the full benefits to its employees for the next 75 years. No other public service area has been penalized to that degree and that is the reason – the only reason – that the U. S. Postal Service is in debt.

Standardized, and end-of-level testing, of students’ skills, achieved, should be used only as an instructional aid to accurately diagnose where each student is functioning to facilitate the correct instruction delivered to each student. Every student can achieve mastery if instruction is delivered where each student is functioning at point in time, irrespective of grade level demarcations. Students will always learn at differing rates because their ability levels differ.

Testing should not be used for a job threat to teachers or for the purposed of extending increased salary as an incentive, as is done in a business model. There are too many variables within each student’s development history which standardized testing cannot uncover for these test results to be used, with accuracy and with validity, in determining who is a poor teacher and who is an excellent teacher. Education is a humanistic profession, and teachers must be assessed through humanistic analyses, mainly.”

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Valuing the Arts, Literature, and History. . . .

On February 11, 2014, I responded to an article written by a college professor on Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Maureen Downey’s blog.  Below are my words of response.  The article by Professor Peter Smagorinsky can be read through the following link: http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/get-schooled/2014/feb/11/reduction-people-data-and-its-dehumanizing-effects/ .

 

“Absences are absences; there is no need to understand why children in poverty are undernourished, have transportation problems, are not socialized from birth to view school as a vehicle for upward mobility, or otherwise might not make it to school or class. They are simply absent, and that absence has meaning on the spreadsheet, if not in the real life of the child.”
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That statement, above, represents an entire worldview. On a surface level, it is about students’ absences, but the statement is actually symbolic of how we should view humanity. As teachers, we must insist that the instructional process of delving deeper into forces which affect human beings, both internal and external, should never be disregarded. In the present, evolving, technological age, valuing looking deeply into the forces which shape the lives of individuals is going to become harder to sustain as a necessity of the curriculum. As teachers, we must continue to insist that there is great value in teaching students to perceive all human beings with depth and not simply as convenient generic labels. Human beings can easily fall into hating others whom they perceive as labels (such as “enemy”), but when a student is taught to see another human being with a depth that transcends generic labels, then rarely will that student’s newly refined sensibility allow him or her to hate another. Martin Luther King, Jr. understood this. Educational leaders must always value the arts, literature, and history as much as they presently value science, mathematics, and data (which are aligned with the technological age) because those more introspective academic disciplines teach humanity how to love – not with sentimentality but with genuine compassion. If we, as a human race, cannot experience compassion for one another, then what is the point of existence, itself?

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Today’s Conservatives Do Not Understand Our Founding Fathers’ Vision for America

Below are my words which were written in response to a post written by AJC columnist, Jay Bookman, on February 4, 2014.  The link to Bookman’s post is here: http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/jay-bookman/2014/feb/04/ben-franklin-tea-party-they-mistake-point/

My response follows:                            

“. . .talking about how taxation is theft, and it’s OUR money not THEIR money. . .” ==========================================
And, Thomas Jefferson advocated for at least 3 years of public education – paid for by public taxes. Unfortunately, Virginia’s legislature at that time in the late 1700s, who were part of the aristocratic class, resented “footing the bill” for the education of the children of poorer citizens, so Jefferson’s dream regarding public education for all citizens did not materialize until after his death in 1826. Our Founding Fathers were gifted men who, each, had a far-reaching intelligence and generosity-of-spirit that was missing in some of their lesser compatriots and is certainly missing in Americans of all classes and status today.

A wise old teacher once said to me in a private conversation that so many students have no idea of the forces in society – for generations – which have made them what they are and which have given impetus to what drives them today.  In other words, most students are unconscious human beings as adolescents.

Likewise, many adults today have no idea what forces in society in the past 40 years have driven them to be so narrow and selfish in their private visions. They cannot be authentically at peace containing that much selfishness. This selfishness is what JFK opposed when he said in his Inaugural Address, “And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.  My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.” JFK’s words have been misinterpreted over the years.  JFK, like America’s Founding Fathers, had a ready intelligence, an expansive vision for America, and a generosity-of-spirit.

The Libertarian ideologues, of 40 years of propelling their ideological agenda upon our nation, have not only been successful in having made the top 1% of our citizens selfish, but their philosophy of has filtered down to the most common American to be much too self-serving.
I refuse to let the ultraconservatives claim exclusive understanding of our Founders’ far-reaching visions for our nation.  The ultraconservatives of today have, unwittingly, perverted our Founders’ expansive visions for America to one of narrow interests and self-serving pettiness, imo.

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Poverty

Below are my words, written on January 25, 2014, on the Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s blog “Get Schooled,” regarding how to improve public schools:

“If you want to improve public schools, then work for government programs that will help to eliminate poverty and work for government programs that will improve the present income inequality in our society-at-large.

The War on Poverty was begun by LBJ 50 years ago, and in the first decade of the implementation of that War on Poverty very significant gains were made, but that war was over as soon as Republican conservatives regained national leadership, and it was especially over once Ronald Reagan became President, and priorities were changed from the War on Poverty. We need a renewed national focus on, and commitment to, battling poverty today, so that the lower classes will have a real chance at upward mobility. Renewing government programs to help eliminate poverty will improve our public schools more than any other factor.”

 

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The Social/Economic System in America Must Change to Keep Our Democratic Republic Viable

From the Atlanta Journal-Constitution columnist Jay Bookman’s blog and column, published on Sunday, January 19, 2014, are my words as response, reposted below:

“From a Brookings Institute study on economic activity, published in the Spring of 2013:

‘More recent studies. . . .conclude that consumption inequality has increased by a similar magnitude as income inequality. . . .borne out by the most recent evidence based on consumption data. . . .We use 23-year panel of income data from tax returns spanning the period from 1987 – 2009.’

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My post yesterday (see below) cited information from the Brookings study which revealed that income inequality is becoming permanent rather than transitory (in part because of firms’ compensation practices). It follows, then, that consumption of goods in our society would, also, become unequal (and permanent).

In my opinion, the data published by the Brookings study does not lead to a positive economic outcome unless political will is changed to reverse the current trend. When the middle and working classes have higher incomes (thereby creating more income equality throughout the nation), consumption of goods – hopefully those made in America – will also increase. This will produce more wealth and jobs within our nation as a whole because of the law of supply and demand. When more demand for consumed goods develops, more jobs will also develop to deliver those goods to Americans. Some of those jobs will be management level jobs.
Presently, our nation remains locked into an economic standstill because ideological reinforcement of income inequality is producing masses of citizens who do not have the needed extra money to buy goods. Instead, we remain locked into an ideological economic quagmire in which the underclasses have had stagnant wages for decades and they, therefore, have not have the economic means to buy additional goods, thus insuring fewer jobs needed. This has become a destructive circular economic situation of “chicken/egg” from which we must break free.

And, we can break free, if we know the root of the problem – wrong-headed political ideology. We must have a renewed growth-oriented, economic expansion in America brought about because economic focus will have been shifted to the prosperity of the middle/lower classes (who will consume more goods and, thus, create more jobs). Their benefitting economically will produce economic growth for our nation as a whole based upon middle class growth outward, rather than mainly economic prosperity or growth mainly for the top 1%, who will not consume as much as they invest. What we have now, with the focus upon the prosperity of the top echelon in society has unwittingly kept economic growth and jobs depressed in this nation. This cannot become a permanent situation. Our democratic Republic’s sustained prosperity and influence depend upon a healthier and more equitable, more democratic America.” ==================================================== ====================================================

From a study on income inequality published by the Brookings Institute in the Spring of 2013:
” ‘For example, if rising inequality reflects solely an increase in permanent inequality (which it does, according to the study), then consistent explanations would include, for example, skill-biased technical change or long-lasting changes in firms’ compensation policies.’

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Thus, the explanation of ‘long-lasting changes in firms’ compensation policies,’ is a viable reason for an increase in the permanent inequality in America. In my opinion, that is because of rigid ideological changes which have occurred in America in the past 30+ years.
It is telling that, in terms of the wealth distribution of the classes in the last 20 years, “discontent is particularly high among Democrats (75 percent) and independents (70 percent), but it is shared even by a majority of Republicans (54 percent).’ That ideological variance is reflected in those differing political percentages, also.”

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And, from AJC columnist Jim Galloway’s blog of January 23, 2014 are my words of response, reposted below:

“This column is related to the fact that the big business/corporate interests of the Republican Party are of primary interests to these politicians and not the common good, imo. Thirty-eight percent (38%) of Georgia’s legislators are ALEC members - including Rep. Sharon Cooper, who is quoted above. ALEC promotes privatizing public schools and does not support the ACA, or Obamacare, which means that they do not support expanding Medicaid (a part of the ACA), which would be entirely paid for by federal funds the first few years, and thereafter paid by federal funds by 90%. Georgians pay federal taxes, already, that would take care of expanding Medicaid. Not expanding Medicaid is a large factor in having to close hospitals in S. Georgia, imo. Georgians’ federal taxes are going to pay for Medicaid expansion in other states in the United States which do not have legislatures that are so ideologically ingrained in the Republican political agenda, via ALEC.

 

Please read my related words, below, regarding corporate interests on Wall Street, published in Jay Bookman’s blog this morning, which also expose ALEC’s infiltration into Georgia’s Republican legislature.

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” ‘They privatized the profits of their risk-taking ventures, and when those risks failed, they socialized the costs, and they did so on a grand scale.’

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Self-serving and greed in the extreme.  No consciousness of the concept of egalitarianism. No consciousness of serving the interests of the common good.  There is a real danger of our democratic Republic’s being destroyed, from within, when those CEOs who speak entirely for self-serving corporate/business interests get totally in bed with our public representatives. Then, our representatives are no longer working for the people’s interests, as a whole, but working for the wealth/power interests of corporations and big business.
Keep a close eye on Georgia’s legislation this year because 38% of our legislators are ALEC members (90 Republican legislators).  Btw, 100% of Iowa’s legislators are members of ALEC, as is now also true in other states. I have just touched the top of this undemocratic iceberg, with facts, which will inform. Be aware of how you are being manipulated in thought and in what is happening to our democracy by the top 1% of the business community. Again, the sustaining of our democracy depends upon your awareness, your aware voices, and your aware votes.
I challenge you to watch the video from the below segment of Chris Hayes’ “All In” broadcast, last evening, regarding how ALEC is taking over our state legislatures:”
http://www.msnbc.com/all-in/watch/exclusive-how-alec-serves-the-right-124968515783 

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