Archive for January 20th, 2009

Barack Obama ushers in new era

| 20/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): "What the cynics fail to understand is that the ground has shifted beneath them – that the stale political arguments that have consumed us for so long no longer apply," President Barack Obama told the world, standing before a crowd of millions in the US capital, who travelled from all parts of the US and all parts of the world to witness first hand the inauguration of the first African American president. As Cayman heads towards its own election season, when voters will have to chose leaders to guide the country through tough economic times, Obama called for government accountability in the US.

"The question we ask today is not whether our government is too big or too small, but whether it works – whether it helps families find jobs at a decent wage, care they can afford, a retirement that is dignified. Where the answer is yes, we intend to move forward. Where the answer is no, programs will end. And those of us who manage the public’s dollars will be held to account – to spend wisely, reform bad habits, and do our business in the light of day – because only then can we restore the vital trust between a people and their government."

President Obama also called for tolerance and celebrated the diversity of America: "For we know that our patchwork heritage is a strength, not a weakness. We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus – and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolve; that as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace."

Read the full inaugural speech here

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Our community’s values

| 20/01/2009 | 3 Comments

It’s three years ago this month since the high-profile deportation of six Latino construction workers for the crime of protesting against their employer’s treatment of them.

It’s three years, too, since a Cayman Islands Police boat rammed a ramshackle craft filled with Cuban refugees in order to prevent them landing on the Brac. I’m not sure what their crime was, but the ramming of their boat was reckoned to be a pretty harsh extra-judicial punishment.

Both incidents are long forgotten, although at the time they received several days’ front-page coverage in the Net News. No official investigations were made. The construction workers were hustled off the Island so that they could not give testimony against their employer. The refugees were denied food, water, medicine and repairs in the hope (presumably) that they would die on their way to Honduras. The international law of the sea, that had benefited so many Caymanian seafarers throughout our history, was also denied them.

No Cayman government unit or agency came out of the incidents with any glory. Quite the contrary. The Immigration authorities, the Labour Office, the Police Force… none of them was well respected before by the victims’ sympathisers, and respect is just as absent today. The Attorney-General’s Office ignored its duty to see that justice was done, and indeed it must have connived at the deportation. The Pensions Office and Insurance Office failed to protect the migrants from their employers’ alleged theft of their payroll deductions.

As for the refugees, well, no official who has ever dealt with boat-people could give a tinker’s damn what happens to them, as long as it doesn’t happen on Cayman soil. Even then, sometimes…

Not a squeak from any of our MLAs, or government’s Human Rights Committee, or the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. (I was on the Human Rights Committee at the time, and you have never seen such fierce determination not to confront the authorities. It’s why I have no respect for the HRC to this day.) Very few squeaks from private citizens, either, or the Churches.

How could the ordinary men and women of Cayman be so callous?

Ah, well, it’s three years ago, and there’s no profit in agonising over old crimes – except, nothing has changed since then. Those same things are happening today. For all the preaching and praying and praising God that goes on, there has been no genuine progress towards spiritual enlightenment.
Low-paid workers are still being exploited and stolen from. The Contractors Association has sorted out its act a bit, reportedly, but there are other employer-groups that haven’t. Many individual householders are still ripping off their helpers without compunction.

And every time a migrant is deported in order to save his or her employer from prosecution, a new Work Permit is issued to the same employer by some corrupt crony.

The Attorney-General’s Office almost never intervenes to defend the rule of law in these cases. And even when it does, the courts’ rules allow for unlimited deferrals, so that off-Island witnesses aren’t available. It’s a blatantly wicked system, that allows poor migrants to be victimised. (Our court system is quick enough to prosecute migrants for theft, even on dubious evidence. They are detained in Cayman until they run out of money and are forced to confess just to get back home. The judges know this, the police know this, the immigration authorities know this, the Prosecution Service knows this – and, knowing this, all of those agencies snigger up their sleeves at the plight of the victims.)

Yet every criticism of the injustices is met with some anti-immigrant insult. There is no remorse for the exploitation and theft, no regret, no shame. Only a tribal solidarity defending the God-given right of employers to cheat their migrant employees if they want to. There is a callous disregard not only for the victims and the concept of impartial justice, but for plain decency as well. No wonder there exists a chasm of mistrust between the authorities and all the immigrant communities. No wonder, an absence of goodwill towards government agencies.

The number of native Caymanians who despise migrants and their values is relatively small. They certainly don’t comprise a majority in their own community. Yet they are allowed to shout their hatred from the rooftops, and their compatriots are not brave enough to tell them to shut up.
We all know about the three monkeys of the fable who see no evil, hear no evil and speak no evil. They are depicted with hands over their eyes, ears and mouth, respectively. In Cayman there is a fourth monkey. His hands cover his groin, protecting himself from the attacks of evil-doers. What a sad commentary on our social values, that fourth monkey is.

Sometimes, when it threatens our social fabric, we have to be brave enough to face down evil – even when it is our friends and relatives. In a tribal community, each member owes loyalty to his tribal brothers, not to strangers. Each member is his brothers’ keeper, not any strangers’ keeper. But he owes loyalty, too, to his brothers’ values. He has a moral duty not to turn a blind eye when any of his brothers cheat and steal.

Tribal Caymanians reject “human rights” in favour of civil rights for themselves alone. Well, fair enough. But with rights comes a duty of responsibility. There is no virtue in being mean to outsiders, just because they don’t share one’s own birthright.

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Accused burglar faces court for East End crimes

| 20/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Police said this morning that a 29-year-old man has been charged with burglary following two East End break-ins which happened in December. James Romano Whittaker will appear in court this morning (Tuesday, 20 January) accused of two counts of burglary. Whittaker was arrested by Bodden Town Detectives who were investigating two break-ins which occurred in the district on 26 and 31 December, said police.

Speaking about burglary in the area last month Inspector Ian Yearwood, second in charge of the Eastern Districts, said officers had been working hard with the community to tackle offences of burglary. “Aside from issuing burglary packs and spreading crime prevention messages, detectives have been diligently working on cases to identify those responsible and bring them to justice.”

Anyone with information about crime taking place in the Cayman Islands should contact their local police station or Crime Stoppers on 800-8477 (TIPS). All persons calling Crime Stoppers remain anonymous, and are eligible for a reward of up to $1000, should their information lead to an arrest or recovery of property/drugs.

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Costs rise on judge’s tribunal

| 20/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Although Governor Stuart Jack made a commitment last year to keep the public informed regarding the progress of Justice Priya Levers’ tribunal, CNS has learned that the hearing has been postponed once again though no official announcement has been made. Cost are also now said to be increasing on earlier estimates following the decision by the tribunal chairman, Sir Andrew Leggatt, to award Justice Levers all of her legal funds to defend the misbehaviour accusations.

The last official statement made regarding the tribunal was on 16 October when the Governor’s Office stated that the hearing dates had been changed and would begin on Monday 23 February 2009. The hearing is now, however, scheduled for May. The tribunal was announced by the governor on 16 September, when he stated the process was expected to take around three months. Estimated costs at the time, as reported to Cabinet, were said to be around $1 million. However, sources close to the situation have suggested that it will now be far more.

With costs resulting from the unlawful arrest of Justice Alex Henderson already estimated to be more than $3 million, depending on the outcome of Justice Levers’ tribunal, the Caymanian public could be looking at another hefty bill as a result of decisions made by the governor.

At the moment Justice Levers is suspended from the bench but is receiving full pay and 75% of her legal costs, which includes a UK based senior QC as well as a local team, which will now be paid on a monthly basis in accordance with the tribunal ruling. The other 25% is held until the case is over, at which point, should Justice Levers successfully demonstrate her innocence, she will receive those funds. CNS has learned that the justice will at that point also be seeking compensation for the damage to her reputation.

The tribunal was convened to hear reported allegations against Justice Levers that her conduct, manner and behaviour towards witnesses, attorneys, court staff and judges officiating in the Cayman Islands was such that, when taken together, amount to misbehaviour, as set out in section 49J (2) of the Cayman Islands (Constitution) Amendment Order 1993, according to the tribunal terms of reference.

Although the details of those accusations have yet to be made public, sources close to event suggest much of the evidence is based on rumour and hearsay and that Justice Levers enjoys wide support from the legal community she has allegedly misbehaved towards.

Justice Levers has vigorously denied the allegations from the beginning and stated through her local legal representative, Anthony Akiwumi, Head of Litigation at Stuarts Walker Hersant, in the wake of the announcement that she welcomed the inquiry and denied any of the misbehavior alleged. She said that, with the assistance of her experienced legal team, she would defend all the allegations made against her to the fullest extent permissible by the law.

Since then, it has also been revealed that very personal and private documentation belonging to Justice Levers regarding her last requests in the event of her death had turned up in the evidence against her, which sources said was deeply disturbing to her.

According to the terms of reference of the tribunal, it will carry out a “factual investigation and report to the Governor whether the conduct of Madam Justice Levers taken as a whole has fallen below the standard reasonably to be expected of a holder of the office of Judge of the Grand Court so as to warrant proceedings for her removal.” The other two judges sitting on the tribunal with Sir Andrew Leggatt include Sir Philip Otton and Sir David Simmons.

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Election season underway

| 20/01/2009 | 2 Comments

(CNS): Although only a handful of candidates have officially declared themselves to be standing in this year’s General Election, the election season was officially opened yesterday when Governor Stuart Jack issued writs to the six returning officers in the electoral districts who will supervise the proceedings, the count and declare the winners. With more than 14,000 voters currently registered, the elections office says it will be making a final push to attract any remaining eligible voters before registration closes on the night of 1 February.

In an official ceremony in the courts on the morning of Monday, 19 January, the governor in the presence of the senior staff from the Elections Office, issued the official writs to Delano Oliver Solomon for the district of West Bay, Philip Antonio Barnes for George Town, Lee Frederick Ramoon for Bodden Town, Jennifer Louise Kaufman for North Side, Dale Morrison Banks for East End and Dave Talbert Tatum for the Sister Islands.

The General Election will be held this year on 20 May, and the returning officers are not only responsible for supervising their district polling stations, proceedings and ballot boxes on the day, they will also supervise the count and make the official announcements, declaring which candidates have been elected to the seats made vacant by the dissolution of the Legislative Assembly by the governor on 24 March. The returning officers also supervise the nomination procedure for candidates who have declared themselves to be standing in the elections. This year nominations will take place in each of the electoral districts between 8:00am and 3:00pm on 25 March.

This year the Elections Office, which is the overall supervisor body for the entire process, may also have to deal with a referendum on the country’s proposed new constitution on the same day, which will require an entirely separate team of returning officers, election staff and polling booths and will in effect run as a separate but parallel operation.

“There will be a separate exercise to launch the referendum,” explained Colford Scott, one of the two deputy supervisors of elections. “There would be separate persons employed in each of the electoral districts to conduct the referendum process, which is conducted under a similar but different law.”

Kearney Gomez, Supervisor of Elections, said that the Elections Office is now focusing on two primary issues — the first is the drive to recruit the staff required to conduct both the General Election and the National Referendum. Gomez said the office will need double the usual amount of people, which means he will need to recruit and train as many as 600 volunteers before Election Day.

“We already have a pool of people but this year we need double the usual number and we are approaching the private sector for volunteers,” he said, explaining that anyone who would like to participate does not have to be Caymanian but merely have lived on the island for more than four years.

The second major drive is to focus on ensuring that all remaining eligible voters have signed on the electoral roll before the register closes on the night of 1 February. Staff from the Elections Office will be hosting mobile registration booths this week and next on Tuesday and Thursday evenings in all six districts. Voters can also register at the Smith Road Professional Centre, 154 Smith Road, on Saturdays.

Election Registration schedule

All Districts: Saturday 24 & 31 January: Smith Road Professional Centre 154 Smith Rd  10am-4pm

West Bay: John Gray Memorial Hall – 26 West Church Street & John A. Cumber Primary School Hall – 44 Fountain Road Tuesday 20 & 27 January    6-8pm Thursday 22 & 29 January  6-8pm

George Town: Ground Floor, Kirk House, 22 Albert Panton Street Tuesday 20 & 27 January 6:00–8:00pm. Thursday 22 & 29 January 6:00 – 8:00 pm Elections Office Monday – Friday 8:30 am – 8:00 pm

Bodden Town: Foster’s Country Side Shopping Village, 33F Hirst Road, Webster Memorial United Church Hall, 266 Bodden Town Rd, Tuesday 20&27 January 6:00–8:00pm Thursday 22&29 January 6:00-8:00pm

North Side: North Side Civic Centre, 923 North Side Road, Tuesday 20 & 27 January  6:00 – 8:00 pm Thursday 22nd & 29th January                6:00 – 8:00 pm.

 East End: United Church Community Hall EE,  2479 Sea View Road  Tuesday 20&27 January 6-8:00pm Thursday 22 & 29 January 6-8:00pm                                                           

 Cayman Brac & Little Cayman: Cayman Brac Museum, 279 Stake Bay Rd Tuesday 20&27 January                6:- 8:00pm. Thursday 22 & 29 January 6-8pm

Nominations Schedule:

West Bay :  John Gray Memorial Church                  26 West Church Street

George Town:  Church of God Chapel Family Life Centre  48BAcademy Way (off Walker’s Road)

Bodden Town:  James M. Bodden Civic Centre   445C Bodden Town Road

North Side: Craddock Ebanks Civic Centre  923 North Side Road

East End: William Allen McLaughlin Civic Centre  80 John McLean Drive

Cayman Brac &  Little Cayman: District Administration Building 2nd Flr 19 Kirkconnell Street

Nominations will be received between the hours of 8:00 am and 3:00 pm in the afternoon. Nomination forms may be collected any weekday between the hours of 8:30 am -6:00pm

For more details visit the Elections Office website







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Employers warned over invalid work permits

| 20/01/2009 | 3 Comments

(CNS): Employers who fail to cancel the work permits of employees that no longer work for them are breaking the law, the Immigration Department said yesterday in a bid to remind employers of their obligations following a number of cases that have come to the department’s attention, where work permits have continued to be active despite an employee’s departure.

Chief Immigration Officer Franz Manderson said that employers are legally obliged to cancel the permits of workers who are no longer employed by them, and the department has had to deal with several cases recently where peoplr no longer have the jobs for which work permits were granted, yet they remain on-island.   

Noting that failure to inform Immigration of the changed job status of an employee is illegal under Immigration Regulations (2007 Revision), Manderson added that the employer can be fined for such an offence. The employee can also be fined and removed from the Islands if found to have remained without the specific permission of the Immigration Department after his or her employment has been terminated.

The laws states: Where a person whose employment in the Islands is authorized under a work permit, the grant of which is conditional upon his remaining in the employment of a particular employer, ceases to be employed by that employer then the work permit ceases to be valid; and the employer shall forthwith give written notice of the termination of the employment to the Chief Immigration Officer, and if he fails to do so is guilty of an offence and is liable on conviction to a fine of five thousand dollars.

Deputy Chief Immigration Officer Bruce Smith noted that the department would be stepping up efforts to investigate and prosecute such offences. “Department of Immigration’s Enforcement and Intelligence Office will deploy all resources available in an effort to identify and vigorously pursue all persons and / or companies choosing to abuse the law,” Smith said, adding that anyone found in breach should expect to be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.  

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Grocer to shakedown customers for charity

| 20/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): Local supermarket Hurley’s, in Grand Harbour has launched its “Top Up for Charity” programme which is designed to encourage customers to contribute to local charities while shopping for their groceries. According to the firm the donations will go to charities, non-profits, schools, or specific projects that Hurley’s supports. The first beneficiaries it said will be the Lighthouse School, Cayman Islands Humane Society, Cayman Islands Cancer Society, and Cayman Islands Little League.


“This is a great opportunity to make charities easier to donate to,” said a spokesperson for the company. “The Top Up programme has had an impact in other markets and we are confident it will here too in Cayman. Imagine the difference we can make if everyone donated just one dollar every time they shopped.”

No matter the size of the donation Hurley’s said the amounts will added up. To participate and contribute, customers just need to tell the cashier they would like to top up their transaction and say how much money they want to add to their total purchase. Customers can round up their transaction to the nearest dollar or contribute as much as they wish, and customers can request that their donation go to any one of the organizations that Hurley’s is supporting. Customers’ receipts will reflect the organization that they have chosen to make a donation to.

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Political leaders face-off

| 20/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): With the election season officially underway, both the leader of the opposition and the leader of government business will be presenting their view of the country’s business outlook at Cayman’s leading business conference this week. McKeeva Bush has  been invited to speak alongside Kurt Tibbetts on how Cayman can reposition itself to thrive in the new global financial landscape at this year’s Cayman Business Outlook.

Delegates will be given an opportunity to interact with both government leaders through a Q&A session at the conclusion of the debate, moderated by Gary Linford, a former head of the Investment & Securities Division of CIMA.  

This year’s conference theme, “Global Crisis: From Disaster to Painful Recovery”,  was a natural given the current situation, organizers said, adding that there was no shortage of top presenters ready to address the CBO delegates on matters pertinent to the crisis.

Presenters will speak to the new Obama administration in the US, the plummeting of global stock markets, collapsed commodity prices, and the economic domino effect of an adjusted consumer mindset. 

This year’s keynote speaker is Charles W. Calomiris, who will address the conference theme and ask what steps the US needs to take to gain control and traction in a slippery economy. Calomiris is the Henry Kaufman Professor of Financial Institutions at the Columbia University Graduate School of Business and a Professor at Columbia’s School of International and Public Affairs. He also serves as the Academic Director of the Chazen Institute of International Business, and of the Center for International Business Economics and Research, at Columbia. Professor Calomiris co-directs the Project on Financial Deregulation at the American Enterprise Institute and is the Arthur Burns Scholar in International Economics at AEI. 

Thomas Mann, the W. Averell Harriman Chair and Senior Fellow in Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, is a frequent lecturer on American politics and public policy. A regular contributor to newspaper stories, television and radio programs on politics and governance, Mann is a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. “Grappling with Recession, Financial Meltdown, and an Ambitious Campaign Agenda: How Will President Obama and the new Democratic Congress Govern?” will be the title of his presentation.

Also speaking at the conference is Todd Buchholz, former Director of Economic Policy at the White House, a managing director of the $15 billion Tiger Hedge Fund, and an award-winning economics teacher at Harvard, will give the presentation:  “Will the Crisis Change US Consumer Behaviour? What are the Implications to the Global Economy?” Buchholz accurately forecasted the 2001 slowdown in the U.S. and has authored numerous books, including Market Shock: 9 Economic and Social Upheavals that Will Shake Our Financial Future, which warned of the quicksand facing the stock market and was raved about by BusinessWeek. 

Barry Ritholtz is the author of the highly anticipated book, Bailout Nation:  How Easy Money Corrupted Wall Street and Shook the World Economy, which is due to be released in January.  Ritholtz is the CEO and Director of Equity Research at FuisonIQ, an online quantitative research firm. 

Local businessman, Scott Elphinstone will address “The New Investment Paradigm – Resetting Value.” He is the co-founding partner of Five Continents Financial Limited, a Cayman Islands based professional services firm.  Elphinstone manages in excess of US$500 million in assets for institutional and private clients.  He has over 19 years experience as a director of listed, regulated and charitable entities, including banks & trust companies, hedge and mutual funds and insurance companies. 

Brett Hill, President and CEO of Fidelity says, “As the global crisis becomes amplified and the community wonders how to prepare for local effects, Fidelity’s organizing committee felt it was important to secure the right individuals who can help give us the management tools to deal with these timely topics.  Through the generous support of our partner sponsors we have been able to once again bring experts and intellectuals to educate, and enlighten our community.”

Cayman Business Outlook takes place on 22 January at the Ritz Carlton.


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CAL closes early check-in at cargo desk

| 20/01/2009 | 0 Comments

(CNS): The islands’ National Flag carrier Cayman Airways (CAL) has said that it now has only two ways for customers to access its early check-in service. From now on customers can either use the service at the airport ticket counter or on-line at the CAL website.

The airline announced yesterday that passengers who previously checked-in for flights at the cargo desk at CAL Headquarters canno longer do so and are requested to check in online at or at the airport from 7-9pm each evening.

Passengers using the early check-in service are reminded that they should still arrive at the airport an hour before boarding. Passengers with a printed boarding pass who have no luggage can go straight to their gate. Passengers needing to check bags must drop them off at the “Fast Bag Drop Off” section at the CAL ticket counter.

For more information visit or call 949-2311.


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GAO report fires more shots

| 20/01/2009 | 2 Comments

(CNS):  While the Cayman Islands government has said it is far from happy about the most recent report from the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), which once again places the jurisdiction in the US firing line, it is not surprised by it. This report criticizes US companies, particularly those which have received bail out cash from the government, with subsidiaries in what it describes as tax havens, such as the Citigroup which has 90 subsidiaries in Cayman.

Released on Friday 16 January by Democrat Senators Byron Dorgan and Carl Levin, the report forms part of a continued barrage of criticism in recent months which the CI government considers unfounded and misplaced.  Commenting on it, the Portfolio of Economics and Finance said that, although not surprised by it, the Cayman Islands government took the same position that the US treasury outlined in a letter submitted to the authors and found on page 59 of the full report – International Taxation: Large U.S. Corporations and Federal Contractors with Subsidiaries in Jurisdictions Listed as Tax Havens or Financial Privacy Jurisdictions

“We are in agreement with the comments made by the US treasury that the definition of ‘tax haven’ is problematic and it has listed all low or no tax jurisdictions as such which is unhelpful,” said Ted Bravakis, the Director of the Public Relations Unit. “What is interesting is that many of these corporations which have subsidiaries either here in the Cayman Islands or other offshore fFinancial service centres, many actually have their headquarters registered in Delaware in the United States.”

The US Treasury Department  submission criticizes how the GOA report has listed all low tax or no tax regimes together and notes that there is no agreed definition of a tax haven. In a letter on behalf of the department Deputy Assistant Secretary for International Tax Affairs, Michael Mundaca, explains that in try to simplify what is a very complex financial area, the GOA leaves itself open to misunderstandings and mistakes.

“The lack of a universally accepted list of ‘tax havens’ simply reflects the fact that the term does not have a universally accepted definition. That lack of consensus results from the fact that the different problems presented by the so-called tax havens often involve different groups of countries,” Mundaca wrote. He explained that the list of countries which will not agree to exchange tax information is not directly related to countries that do not have direct taxation.

Bravakis said the CI government agreed with Mundaca’s conclusion that any list of countries would be under inclusive and over inclusive depending on the issues and that such lists could be regarded as black lists, which he said, “..may inappropriately negatively affect our economic and other relations with listed countries.”

The report, however, lists the US major companies, including financial organizations, which many people in OECD countries are blaming for the current global crisis and will not easily understand how organizations like Citigroup can have 90 offshore subsidiaries in Cayman and still need government bail out funds. The report also shows Bank of America Corporation as having a total of 115 subsidiaries in various offshore centres, 59 of which are here in Cayman. General motors, one of the US car firms that went to the US government for help to rescue the industry recently, also has 113 subsidiaries, only 4 of which are in Cayman.

As a result of this list, both US senators have heavily criticized the way in which corporations use offshore centres and have vowed to introduce legislation to stop them from doing so. "I think we should take action to shut down these tax dodgers and we will be introducing legislation to do just that," Dorgan said.


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