Archive for the 'Barack Obama' Category

Council Calls for President Obama to Raise LGBT Issues at Africa Summit

White HouseIn August, President Obama will host the first-ever U.S.- Africa Summit.  The theme, “Investing in the Next Generation,” raises the hope that the next generation of LGBT Africans will have an equal opportunity to participate, as equal citizens, in the future of the continent.

To promote an LGBT perspective, the Council wrote to President Obama to ask that the official program include LGBT individuals, organizations and experiences to enrich both the Summit and the generational advance to which it aspires.  The letter also highlights opportunities to make the business case for inclusion during business and trade forums at the Summit.

See a copy of the letter here.

Supporting LGBT Workplace Equality is Good For Business

President ObamaThe Council for Global Equality welcomes the President’s leadership in signing a new Executive Order to protect LGBT workers in the United States.  Now it’s time to apply those same principles to U.S. government contractors and grantees operating overseas to ensure that U.S. government funds are never used to finance discrimination anywhere in the world.

Learn more about the Executive Order.

FACT SHEET: Taking Action to Support LGBT Workplace Equality is Good For Business

America is built on the fundamental promise that if you work hard, and play by the rules, you can get ahead. But today, millions of Americans in most states in the country go to work every day fearing that they could lose their jobs simply because of who they are or who they love. No current federal law adequately protects lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) workers from employment discrimination. This is completely contrary to our values as Americans – and it’s also bad for business.

President Obama declared 2014 a year of action – working with Congress where they’re willing, but acting where he can when they refuse to take action. As part of this commitment to expanding opportunity for hardworking Americans, today, the President will sign an Executive Order prohibiting federal contractors from discriminating against LGBT employees and prohibiting discrimination based on gender identity in federal employment.

At a critical time for our nation’s economy, we need all of our workers to be focused on making the most of their talent, skill, and ingenuity, rather than worrying about losing their job due to discrimination. The economy functions best when workers are matched to the jobs with the best fit, maximizing their productivity, increasing wages and helping the bottom line for businesses. Discrimination is not just wrong, it also can keep qualified workers from maximizing their potential to contribute to the strengthening of our economy. For decades, companies have found that benefits and inclusive, flexible, and supportive workplace policies make it easier and more cost effective to recruit, retain, and motivate employees. The same logic applies to extending these basic protections and policies to LGBT workers.

American workers should be judged by one thing only: their ability to get the job done. That’s why the President has long supported federal legislation to explicitly prohibit employers across the country from discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. For forty years, Congress has considered various pieces of legislation meant to address LGBT workplace equality. Last November, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) with strong bipartisan support. However, the House has failed to act.

Today’s action is consistent with the President’s commitment to advancing equality for the LGBT community, as well as his commitment to expanding opportunity for American workers and strengthening American business. And it is consistent with actions being taken by employers, including many federal contractors, across the country to support workplace equality, because they recognize it improves productivity, reduces turnover and supports their bottom line.

  • Workplace Inequality Still Impacts Millions of LGBT Workers. Today, only 18 states and the District of Columbia have laws explicitly protecting LGBT workers from being fired because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, and no federal law adequately protects LGBT workers from being fired because of who they are or who they love. According to surveys and studies, more than four in ten lesbian, gay, and bisexual people have experienced some form of employment discrimination based on their sexual orientation at some point in their lives, and 90% of transgender employees have experienced harassment, mistreatment or discrimination on the job.
  • Employers Are Taking Action on Their Own to Support Workplace Equality – Because They Recognize It Is In Their Interest: According to an analysis of 36 research studies by the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law, “LGBT-supportive policies and workplace climates are linked to greater job commitment, improved workplace relationships, increased job satisfaction, and improved health outcomes among LGBT employees.”
  • Fortune 500 Companies Support LGBT Workplace Equality. Most of America’s major companies know that workplace equality is important to staying competitive and retaining their best talent, and as a result, nondiscrimination policies are good for business. 91% of Fortune 500 companies already prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation; and 61% already prohibit discrimination based on gender identity.
  • Small Businesses Support LGBT Workplace Equality. According to research conducted by Small Business Majority, six in ten small business owners believe that employment nondiscrimination laws improve their bottom line by helping employers attract the best and brightest employees. And of small business owners who have adopted nondiscrimination policies to protect LGBT workers, 86% report that nondiscrimination policies cost them “nothing or next to nothing,” 2% said such policies had a small but significant cost, and none said they had a substantial cost.
  • Many Federal Contractors Already Have Policies on LGBT Workplace Equality. Of the largest 50 federal contractors, which represent nearly half of all federal contracting dollars, 86% prohibit sexual orientation discrimination and 61% prohibit discrimination based on gender identity. In addition, the five top federal contractors, which receive nearly a quarter of all federal contracting dollars, already bar discrimination based on both sexual orientation and gender identity.
  • The American Public Supports LGBT Workplace Equality. A recent national survey of 1,200 registered voters found that 63% of those surveyed favor a federal law that protects LGBT people from employment discrimination. When asked specifically about LGBT nondiscrimination in federal contracting, another poll found that 73% of those surveyed favor such policies.
  • States and Local Jurisdictions Support LGBT Workplace Equality. Over the last several years, there has been significant progress in moving LGBT inclusive non-discrimination laws through statehouses and city halls across the nation. Since 2011, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Nevada have added gender identity to their existing employment non-discrimination laws. Today, 18 states and the District of Columbia have inclusive non-discrimination laws, and over 200 cities and counties – from small towns like Bozeman, Montana and Vicco, Kentucky to large cities like Houston, Texas and Atlanta, Georgia – prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Nine of the ten most populous cities in the country already have these protections in place.
  • Diverse Faith Communities Support LGBT Workplace Equality. A diverse range of religious communities  and organizations support workplace protections, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.); United Methodist Church, General Board of Church and Society; The Episcopal Church, the United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries; and the Union of Reform Judaism. Majorities of Christian denominations polled support workplace protections, including 76% of Catholics, 75% of white mainline Protestants, 61% of minority Protestants, and 59% of white evangelical Protestants. Another poll shows that 74% of born-again Christians favor LGBT workplace protections.

Additional Information about President Obama’s Executive Order

Executive Order 11246, issued by President Lyndon B. Johnson, prohibits federal contractors from discriminating “against any employee or applicant for employment because of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin.” President Obama’s Executive Order will add sexual orientation and gender identity to the list of protected categories.

President Obama’s Executive Order does not allow for any exemption beyond the one added by Executive Order 13279, issued by President George W. Bush, which permits religiously affiliated contractors to favor individuals of a particular religion when making employment decisions, by specifying that Executive Order 11246, “shall not apply to a Government contractor or subcontractor that is a religious corporation, association, educational institution, or society, with respect to the employment of individuals of a particular religion to perform work connected with the carrying on by such corporation, association, educational institution, or society of its activities. Such contractors and subcontractors are not exempted or excused from complying with the other requirements contained in this Order.” In addition, under the First Amendment, religious entities are permitted to make employment decisions about their ministers as they see fit.

Executive Order 11246 governs only federal contractors and federally-assisted construction contractors and subcontractors who do over $10,000 in Government business in one year. It does not affect grants and President Obama’s Executive Order does not impact the administration of federal grants. The Order is administered and enforced by the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Federal Contract Compliance Programs (OFCCP). As part of these duties, OFCCP conducts compliance reviews, receives complaints from individuals who believe they have been discriminated against, and provides technical assistance to contractors regarding their contractual obligations. More information can be found at www.dol.gov/ofccp.

Executive Order 11478, issued by President Nixon, bars discrimination against federal employees on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and age, and was amended by Executive Order 13087, issued by President Clinton, to include sexual orientation.

President Obama’s Executive Order will add gender identity to the list of protected categories.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission and other federal agencies already apply Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to protect federal employees from discrimination on the basis of gender identity as a form of sex discrimination. The President believes it is important to explicitly prohibit – in both Executive Action and in legislation – discrimination on the basis of gender identity.

The Council for Global Equality Welcomes the White House Efforts to Protect Human Rights in Uganda

The_White_House,_WashingtonThe Council for Global Equality welcomes today’s White House announcement of new, concrete steps in our country’s bilateral relationship with Uganda in response to President Museveni’s decision to sign into law the Anti-Homosexuality Act earlier this year.  These steps reaffirm the importance the U.S. attaches to a foreign policy that prioritizes respect for the human rights of all people, including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender – an important legacy of this Administration.

We take note in particular the announcement of new visa restrictions aimed at restricting entry to those deemed responsible for human rights abuses, including those enabled by this heinous law, and other corrupt practices.  In taking this action, the Administration has placed responsibility where it should lie – with those individuals who have enacted the new law, not the broader Ugandan people.  We urge that a speedy review of visa eligibility be the template for prospective U.S. responses whenever human rights are abridged, or corrupt practices undertaken, in any country.

The Administration’s new steps place appropriate emphasis on anti-LGBT police actions, our bilateral security relationship, and the broad areas in which the U.S. engages with Uganda on sound health policy.  We urge a continued dialogue in each of these areas aimed at ensuring the effective use of U.S. taxpayer funding in each of these areas, and particularly to ensuring that the health needs of men who have sex with men continue to be met.  We further urge that the Administration ensure that no organization charged with providing PEPFAR-funded services is allowed to take steps that deliberately undercut the effectiveness of those services, as was the case with actions taken by the Inter-Religious Council of Uganda in supporting enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act.

Finally, we note that Uganda is not the only government that has taken, in recent months, steps to further criminalize homosexual relations and relationships.  We have been proud to applaud the Administration’s policy of standing for LGBT human and civil rights abroad.  However, a global policy requires a globally consistent response, which to date has not been the case.  We ask that the Administration review, in equal measure, how to respond to similar anti-democratic actions in Nigeria, Russia, and other countries where government officials have put LGBT people at increased risk of abuse.

For more information on the steps the White House is taking click here.

Statement by NSC Spokesperson Caitlin Hayden on the Response to Uganda’s Enactment of the Anti-Homosexuality Act

Further U.S. Efforts to Protect Human Rights in Uganda

Statement from The White House
Written by Grant Harris and Stephen Pomper

Our hopes for a more peaceful and just world depend on respect for the rights and dignity of all people. It is for this reason that our foreign policy champions human rights and opposes violence and discrimination that targets people because of who they are and whom they love. President Obama’s groundbreaking Presidential Memorandum of December 6, 2011 reflected this commitment by directing the federal government to ensure that U.S. diplomacy and foreign assistance promote and protect the human rights of LGBT people abroad.

We have seen extraordinary advances for LGBT rights in the United States and in many countries around the world. But some governments have challenged this progress, with results that not only endanger local LGBT communities, but also pose a setback for all those around the world who share a commitment to freedom, justice, and equal rights.

The Government of Uganda’s enactment of the “Anti-Homosexuality Act” is precisely such a step in the wrong direction. As President Obama made clear in February, the enactment of the AHA is more than an affront to the LGBT community in Uganda — it calls into question the Government of Uganda’s commitment to protecting the human rights of all its people, and complicates our bilateral relationship.

After thorough consideration, the U.S. government is taking a number of actions to underscore the critical importance we place on human rights and fighting against discrimination, protecting vulnerable populations, respecting freedom of expression and association, and advancing inclusive governance. In particular:

  • Restricting entry to the United States. We want human rights abusers, worldwide, to know their misdeeds are not unnoticed and would-be human rights abusers to understand that there are consequences for engaging in such actions. The State Department is therefore taking steps consistent with its current authorities (including Presidential Proclamation 8697) to restrict the entry into the United States of specific Ugandan individuals involved in serious violations or abuses of human rights, including those determined to have committed such violations or abuses against LGBT individuals. While we will not identify the individuals whom we have watch-listed in line with confidentiality requirements, this step makes clear our commitment to sanctioning individuals determined to have perpetrated human rights abuses or who are responsible for such acts in the future. In addition, the United States will also take steps consistent with current authorities to restrict entry into the United States by Ugandans who are found responsible for significant public corruption.
  • Ceasing support for Uganda’s community policing program. We are very concerned about the extent to which the Ugandan police may be involved in abusive activities undertaken in the name of implementing the AHA. These concerns relate to the April 3 raid on a U.S.-funded public health program at Makerere University, as well as credible reports of individuals detained and abused while in police custody. Therefore, even as we continue to press the police at every level to fulfill their responsibility to protect all Ugandans, we will also be discontinuing a $2.4 million program in support for the Uganda Police Force community-policing program.
  • Redirecting certain financial support for the Ministry of Health (MOH) to other partners. We remain steadfast in our commitment to supporting the health needs of the Ugandan people, but we seek to invest in partners and programs that share our commitment to equal access and our evidence-based approach to medicine and science. We are accordingly shifting a portion of our financial support for MOH salaries, travel expenses, and other items to health-related activities being undertaken by non-governmental partners in Uganda. These modifications will focus on MOH central headquarters staff in order to avoid negatively affecting health care workers and direct service providers in Uganda.
  • Relocating funds for a planned public health institute and other measures relating to health programming. For similar reasons, we are relocating to another African country the planned establishment of a National Public Health Institute, for which we would have provided approximately $3 million in funding. We have also relocated a National Institutes of Health genomics meeting from Uganda to South Africa.
  • Cancelling a military aviation exercise. We have also cancelled plans to conduct the Department of Defense’s Africa Partnership Flight exercise in Uganda. This was intended to be a United States African Command (AFRICOM)-sponsored aviation exercise with other East African partners.

These steps are in addition to the measures that we announced in March. Among other things, we took steps at that time to redirect funding away from program implementers whose actions called into question their willingness to serve all people in need, to shift certain military and intelligence engagements to other locations, and to suspend certain near-term invitational travel for Ugandan military and police officials.

In taking the measures that we have described, the U.S. government is mindful of the wide range of issues encompassed by our relationship with Uganda — including our development and humanitarian support for the Ugandan people, our efforts to counter the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army, and a partnership that advances our security interests in the region. We will seek to advance these interests while also working with both governmental and non-governmental partners to end discrimination against LGBT people in Uganda and around the world — a struggle central to the United States’ commitment to promoting human rights.

Grant Harris currently serves as Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for African Affairs on the National Security Council. Stephen Pomper is the Senior Director for Multilateral Affairs and Human Rights on the National Security Council.

Attorney General Eric Holder Delivers Remarks at the Parliament of Sweden

Attorney General Eric HolderAttorney General Eric Holder addressed the Swedish Parliament today and pledged continued support by the U.S. Government to advance the equality of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender people. Mr. Holder commended Sweden on being a champion of human rights including LGBT rights and quoted from President Obama’s second Inaugural address,

“Our journey is not complete until our gay brothers and sisters are treated like anyone else under the law – for if we are truly created equal, then surely the love that we commit to one another must be equal as well.”

He went on to say,

“I believe one of these struggles is the fight for equality for our lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender – or LGBT – citizens.  And that is why my colleagues and I are working alongside leaders like you and people around the world to make a positive difference.”

The Attorney General is visiting Sweden as part of a European trip to attend a G6 ministerial conference in Poland.

You can read the full speech here.

President Obama Announces Presidential Delegations to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games

President Barack Obama today announced the designation of Presidential Delegations to the Opening and Closing Ceremonies of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation.

Presidential Delegation to the Opening Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

The Opening Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation will be held on February 7, 2014. The delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the Opening Ceremony.

The Honorable Janet A. Napolitano, President of the University of California, will lead the delegation.

The Honorable Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

The Honorable Robert L. Nabors, Assistant to the President and Deputy Chief of Staff for Policy.

The Honorable Billie Jean King, Member of the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition, Member of the International Tennis Hall of Fame, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Mr. Brian A. Boitano, Olympic gold medalist, figure skating.

Presidential Delegation to the Closing Ceremony of the Sochi 2014 Olympic Winter Games

The Closing Ceremony of the 2014 Olympic Winter Games in Sochi, Russian Federation will be held on February 23, 2014. The delegation will attend athletic events, meet with U.S. athletes, and attend the Closing Ceremony.

The Honorable William J. Burns, Deputy Secretary of State, will lead the delegation.

The Honorable Michael A. McFaul, United States Ambassador to the Russian Federation.

Ms. Bonnie Blair, five-time Olympic gold medalist and one-time bronze medalist, speed skating.

Ms. Caitlin Cahow, Olympic silver medalist and bronze medalist, women’s ice hockey.

Dr. Eric Heiden, five-time Olympic gold medalist, speed skating.

Human Rights: Advancing American Interests and Values

National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice addressed the participants of the Human Rights First 2013 Summit in Washington DC yesterday, in her speech Amb. Rice stressed that advancing democracy and respect for human rights is central to this administrations foreign policy. In her remarks Rice noted that LGBT human rights is an important component in advancing this agenda. Amb. Rice noted,

No one–no one–should face discrimination because of who they are or whom they love.  So, we are working to lead internationally, as we have domestically, on LGBT issues. This summer, President Obama championed equal treatment for LGBT persons while standing next to the President of Senegal, a country that is making progress on democratic reforms, but like too many nations, still places criminal restrictions on homosexuality.  President Obama met with LGBT and other civil society activists in St. Petersburg, Russia to discuss the restrictions they face in Russia.  At the UN Human Rights Council and in regional organizations, such as the Organization of American States and the Pan American Health Organization, the United States has fought for and won support for resolutions that recognize the rights and protect the safety and dignity of LGBT persons.  We created the Global Equality Fund to protect LGBT rights and those who defend them.

After the speech, Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First, said in a statement,

Today’s speech was a welcome affirmation of the Obama Administration’s commitment to protecting human rights at home and abroad. Ambassador Rice made a compelling case for why this effort is squarely in the national interest, arguing that short term trade-offs cannot alter our foundational values, and that respect for human rights is essential to our security.

Following her speech, Ambassador Rice met with human rights defenders from Bahrain, Egypt, Zimbabwe, and the international LGBT community.

Read the full speech here.

 

What We Need From the Next Head of PEPFAR

President’s Emergency Plan on AIDS ReliefDr. Eric Goosby stepped down from his role as U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator this month. As the White House and the State Department consider Dr. Goosby’s replacement, the Council believes there are some qualities that are essential in his successor.

The Council and its member organizations strongly support the President’s Emergency Plan on AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) – not only for health policy reasons, but for the broader reflection of fundamental U.S. values that PEPFAR offers. In that respect, we believe it crucial that PEPFAR programs be fully inclusive of most-at-risk populations, including men who have sex with men (MSM). We are grateful that  the Obama Administration has embraced that principle by expanding PEPFAR programming to include MSM – a legacy that, in turn, is elevating the importance of enabling legal environments for MSM prevention and treatment programs.

The nominee for Dr. Goosby’s replacement obviously must reflect experience in, and knowledge of, HIV/AIDS policy. Given the cross-agency nature of our tools to fight HIV/AIDS, however, we believe it critically important that he or she also demonstrate proven abilities to lead a complex and multi-tiered interagency health policy team.

Moreover, the new Coordinator will carry important leadership responsibilities in ensuring the consistency and integrity of PEPFAR programs. This must include clear commitment to meeting the needs of most-at-risk populations, including LGBT individuals, in each country served by PEPFAR. It equally must include persistence in seeking host country understanding of, and shared commitment to, this goal.

The Council remains concerned at indications that some PEPFAR implementers may have inappropriately blurred the distinction between their personal views on homosexuality and their responsibility, as an implementing organization of U.S. policy, not to undercut broad U.S. government policy goals that support both sound HIV/AIDS prevention and LGBT rights. We wish to see a Coordinator who will prioritize the integrity and effectiveness of our programs in this respect, even while respecting First Amendment rights. We, in turn, will join in holding the new Coordinator publicly accountable for effective oversight in investigating and responding to any alleged abuse.

Finally, the person selected as Coordinator has an essential role in communicating to foreign leaders, and indeed to American and foreign publics, the critical importance of PEPFAR’s life-saving programs, and the need for those programs to embrace all populations.

The new Global AIDS Coordinator can anchor a strong legacy not only of humanitarian attention to a critical health challenge, but also to insistence that our global health policies be fully inclusive, in reflection of American values. The Council for Global Equality is hopeful that there will be a speedy announcement of Dr. Goosby’s replacement, and that that announcement will reflect these inclusive values that are critical to the direction in which our PEPFAR programs must go.

Remarks by President Obama in Roundtable with Russian Civil Society Leaders

President Barack Obama met with civil society advocates in St. Petersburg today to hear their concerns and to assure them that his administration will continue to press the Russian government to respect human rights. The group of advocates at the roundtable included members of the LGBT community.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:  I just want to say thank you to all the participants in this roundtable.  This is an incredible and very diverse group of civil society leaders.  And this is something that I really enjoy doing at every country that I visit because it is my firm belief that a country’s strength ultimately comes from its people and that as important as government is — and laws — what makes a country democratic and effective in delivering prosperity and security and hope to people is when they’ve got an active, thriving civil society.

And all of these leaders, ranging from business leaders to youth leaders to environmental leaders, those who are advocating on behalf of a free press, the rule of law, all of them contribute in one way or another to continuing to strengthen Russian society and helping to make progress on behalf of all people.

And the same is true in the United States.  I’m now in government, but I got my start as a community organizer, somebody who was working in what would be called an NGO in the international community.  And the work I was doing was helping poor communities have a voice in what was happening in their lives.  And I got elected as President by engaging people at a grassroots level.

So the kinds of activities that are represented here are critically important to Russia’s development, and I’m very proud of their work.  And I think it is important for us to remember that in every country — here in Russia, in the United States, around the globe — that part of good government is making sure that we’re creating a space for civil society to function effectively:  freedom of the press, freedom of assembly, making sure that people can join together and make common cause around the issues that they care deeply about.

So I appreciate you taking the time.  I’m not going to do all the talking here.  I want to spend most of my time listening. But I want to thank you again and I hope all of you continue the good work.

High Hopes as Obama Prepares to Meet with Russian Gay Activists

President Obama is set to meet with a group of human rights advocates in Russia

Photo: Michael Kay, Washington Blade

Repost from the Washington Blade

President Obama is set to meet with a group of human rights advocates in Russia on Friday, including representatives of LGBT rights groups and many observers are hopeful that he will take the opportunity to express continued opposition to the country’s controversial anti-gay propaganda law.

During a stopover in Stockholm on Wednesday, Obama expressed solidarity with Sweden during opening remarks at a news conference by saying both the Nordic country and the United States have a shared belief in equality under the law, including for gay citizens.

“We share a belief in the dignity and equality of every human being; that our daughters deserve the same opportunities as our sons; that our gay and lesbian brothers and sisters must be treated equally under the law; that our societies are strengthened and not weakened by diversity,” Obama said.

Obama restated his support for LGBT equality as he prepared to meet with Russian human rights groups and LGBT groups during his visit to St. Petersburg for the annual G-20 summit.

A White House official told the Washington Blade that Obama intends to meet with “civil society representatives” during his trip on Friday and LGBT groups were invited to the meeting.

“The president will meet with Russian civil society leaders to discuss the important role civil society plays in promoting human rights and tolerance,” the official said. “Invited are representatives from groups supporting human rights, the environment, free media, and LGBT rights, among others.”

Obama meets with these activists — as well as leaders from G-20 countries — at a time when he’s pushing for military engagement in Syria over the use of the chemical weapons in the country. That issue will likely play a large role in the discussions — at least with leaders from G-20 nations.

But LGBT advocates who work on international issues told the Washington Blade the meeting with human rights activists provides a stage to draw attention to the condition of human rights in Russia, including the situation for LGBT people. Continue Reading


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