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EDITORIAL: State going too far with secrecy

2013-02-23T21:59:00Z 2013-02-25T14:24:24Z EDITORIAL: State going too far with secrecy Glens Falls Post-Star
February 23, 2013 9:59 pm

Talk to the press if you work for the state and you could get fired.

Protest your poor treatment, and the Cuomo administration will ransack your files for any black marks and try to wreck your life.

That is what happened to Mike Fayette, a Transportation Department engineer for Essex County, who made the mistake last summer of praising to a reporter the department’s response to Hurricane Irene.

The problem, according to a “notice of discipline” letter Fayette received, was the department’s commissioner, Joan McDonald, had wanted to do the interview herself.

Fayette explained he talked to the press because reporters had been trying for days to get comments from McDonald or other Transportation Department officials, with no luck. Fayette didn’t want the department to look bad, so when a reporter called with questions, he answered them.

It is right for public employees, paid by our tax dollars, to provide information to the public by answering questions from reporters. State employees can be held accountable and state operations opened to public scrutiny through the medium of the press.

Abuses flourish in a secretive environment, but that is unfortunately what the Cuomo administration is creating in Albany.

The state has long made it a practice to hire overpaid, uninformed public information officers to stand between state employees and the press. These mouthpieces are merely messengers; they do not know anything themselves. So reporters must engage in a game of telephone in their dealings with the state, asking questions of an information officer, then waiting for a return call while the information officer asks someone who knows.

Past administrations have left some flexibility in the system — places where trickles of truth could leak out. But the Cuomo administration is working to keep the public as ignorant about state operations as its own information officers are.

After Mr. Fayette talked to the press, he was told he was being demoted and would have to relocate to Albany. He retired instead.

Then, he committed the sin of talking to the press again, explaining to reporters why he was disciplined. In response, Cuomo consigliere Howard Glaser dug up an old disciplinary matter from Fayette’s file and set about destroying his reputation.

Mr. Fayette was disciplined previously for having an affair with a subordinate and using work email and telephones to communicate with her. That case was over, he was punished for it, and it had no connection to the discipline he received for talking to the press.

The details of Mr. Fayette’s earlier disciplinary case are the sort of private personnel information state officials would be unlikely to reveal, even if asked.

In this case, Mr. Glaser was not asked. He volunteered the information to besmirch and punish Mr. Fayette.

The paranoid persecution of Mr. Fayette, with the childish insistence by the commissioner she should have been the one who got to talk to the press, would be amusing if it weren’t so destructive. But this case demonstrates a penchant for secrecy and willingness to abuse power that has become a pattern with the Cuomo administration.

One manifestation of this pattern has been the governor’s reliance on messages of necessity to rush bills through the Legislature without giving political representatives or the public time to consider them.

One of those bills, NY Safe Act, included a provision that limits access to public records, in this case, handgun registrations.

Similarly, a recent court ruling limited public access to teachers’ pension records, which have for years been available on websites, such as Empire Center’s SeeThroughNY.

That court ruling grew out of an earlier, equally misguided one denying access to the names of New York City Police Pension Fund recipients. The public has an unequivocal right to know who is receiving public money, and how much they are getting. The Cuomo administration should be acting to reverse the effect of these court rulings, but unfortunately, the governor has instead been turning away from the traditions of open government.

The way to deal with a bully is to stand up to him, preferably with a crowd of allies behind you. We need to stand beside Mike Fayette now, before the bullying from the governor goes any further, and demand he get his job back, and an apology from Andrew Cuomo to go with it.

Local editorials represent the opinion of The Post-Star editorial board, which consists of Publisher Rick Emanuel, Editor Ken Tingley, Projects Editor Will Doolittle and citizen representative Robert Sledd.

Copyright 2015 Glens Falls Post-Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(38) Comments

    Report Abuse
    IWILLNOTCOMPLY - March 06, 2013 7:05 pm
    Maybe the press should expose Obama for all the lies of the last 4 years and the big lie sequester and lets not forget the 4 people who died last Sept. because Obama needed his beauty sleep for his big fun raiser. How about the one where he said he would cut the debt by half.
    Now you truly are desperate boat, whats a matter running out of fairy tales or mad no one will meet for coffee?
  2. Report Abuse
    - March 06, 2013 5:49 pm
    What a tragedy the media didn't do a better job of exposing the facts re: the run up to Iraq War.

    Of course they were deliberately handicapped by the neocon Bush II administration. The price continues to rise & will do so for decades.
  3. Philip Mann Jr
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    Philip Mann Jr - March 05, 2013 1:03 pm
    Kinda of funny which amendments to the Constitution the Post Star likes and doesn't like. If certain money's should be shown they all should be shown. I do believe all the pensioners paid taxes the whole time they were working just like you Will. So maybe your salary should be shown since the reading public does pay for your salary. How about all the money you receive in political advertisments. Welfare money should be shown. Public assistance should be shown. Make a list of everyone who is on unemployment for the week. I bet some neighbors would be surprised who is on the list. Show all the money that is wasted on laws like the SAFE act that were passed for purely political reasons. Like I said kinda of funny which amendments you like and which ones don't.
  4. hdekhtereva
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    hdekhtereva - March 02, 2013 6:20 pm
    @ Bob, to your reply to me.
    Ok, IF that is correct, so what. The point is that it was a historical moment that gets 4 sentences. So your point is that things like tables in the park are more news worthy, for some, probably true; but in general, for most? Your opinion that you have a right to, mine greatly differs. For many, history in the making is much more interesting.

    And to your reply to IWILLNOT,
    Also, the Saratoga Co. Board did nothing embarrassing in my opinion. If memory serves, they did not intend to discuss that matter and one person mentioned it and they went on to discuss it and vote. It happened honestly and spontaneously, nothing shady about it; I'm proud of them, and happy to have them in my company.
  5. The Bleeb
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    The Bleeb - March 02, 2013 1:45 pm
    How about this guy - Colorado Sen. John Morse, talking about modern sporting rifles - "The reality is, these folks don’t have a Second Amendment right to buy these guns ... I’m granting them the right ..." What is so dangerous about this person is that he actually thinks he can dispense rights. For the life of me, I cannot fathom how any person could agree with, or vote for, people like this who believe they are superior to others. That superiority frame of mind is easily apparent by the Gov and his administration's control over information, in that some do not have the rights to it. Irony or no irony, you all should feel insulted, and angry. Citizens are the sovereign in this State and Union.
  6. Bob1234
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    Bob1234 - March 02, 2013 1:43 pm
    @IWILLNOT: You can spin it any way you want, but the Sararoga Co. Board shot itself in its collective foot with how it passed the anti-NYS SAFE Act resolution. It's embarrassing for the board and its supporters.

    @hdekhtereva: Most observers give little chance to the protests actually prompting state lawmakers to rescind the NY SAFE Act, given the overwhelming votes in favor of the law in both the NYS Assembly and Senate. It will be far more interesting to follow the results of the several lawsuits as they wend their way through the courts. Not being an attorney familiar with NYS and federal constitutional law, I'll make no predictions on the outcome.
  7. The Bleeb
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    The Bleeb - March 02, 2013 1:23 pm
    The resolution was short. I read and comprehended it in a matter of seconds. The SAFE Act, on the other hand, is sill trying to be deciphered, and its ramifications understood. More importantly, the County resolution is not a law that targets the natural, civil rights of individuals, punishing them with criminal charges. Apples and oranges, but good try.
  8. hdekhtereva
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    hdekhtereva - March 02, 2013 12:01 am
    I know. . . . There's some irony without integrrity for ya, hey?
  9. Report Abuse
    - March 01, 2013 11:17 pm
    In the interest of open books fine, publish pub sector workers data. Much there is NOW in the public domain, where disingenuous "taxpayer saviors," Doug B's & Joe 6-pks complain about abuse & greed by those whose compensation's near median household income (50ish K).

    Would you be willing to do the same for ALL workers, including those in the pvt. sector. Or are they to be exempted, privileged because they don't directly get taxpayer funding - well the shareholders/CEO'S, etc., DO GRAB huge taxpayer money from lucrative gov't contracts, while workers DO get shafted. The data proves that most suffer declining incomes & higher TOT taxes. "Most," does include PVT. & PUB sector WORKERS, UNION & NON!

    The keys to winners & losers in this horrid $ corrupted system are how much income & wealth, to whom & who suffers & is REALLY PAYING TAXES.

    Doug has solid points, but his COURSE for a floundering ship heads most (who're unable to see it) further into a hurricane of greater disparity.
    Report Abuse
    IWILLNOTCOMPLY - March 01, 2013 7:41 pm
    I'm sorry bob did I ruin your day, you thought you had me. Nice try!
    There were more then just that one man, too bad you only get your news from progressive news sites and don't see the real news. Or maybe you should listen to that great source of ignorance VP Biden. He tells women to get a double barrel shotgun and go out side and shoot in the air, or now he say's shoot thru the door. You liberals must be so proud of that dimwit.There also was the college that told women to soil them self's or vomit to stop a rape.
    Yea just 1 simple case, right bob. I would go on but it would not register with you, your too stuck on your ideological bias and not interested in the truth.
    The hypocrite is Prince Cuomo.
  11. Bob1234
    Report Abuse
    Bob1234 - March 01, 2013 3:39 pm
    Oh, I get it. If some knucklehead in Colorado says something, it give the right for folks around here to be hypocrites?

    I don't think so.
  12. hdekhtereva
    Report Abuse
    hdekhtereva - March 01, 2013 3:20 pm
    The Largest Peaceful Political Gathering in Capitol History gets 4 sentences in TPS.

    A Historic event takes place and it gets 4 sentences. Even though I believe in Freedom & Liberty more than most it is hard to support the media when days after plastering multiple stories about the "Silence" in Gov and how it violates their rights, they turn around and do something like this. There were more words written about if the city park should have tables or not. Shame on you Post Star!

    All I can say is “Wow guys, you're making it hard to be supportive with your agenda so crystal clear”. Does nonbiased news exist? It should.
    Report Abuse
    IWILLNOTCOMPLY - March 01, 2013 2:29 pm
    Bob- put your listening ears on. I did not say that it was in these posts. This is what the LIB/PROGRESSIVE/SOCIALIST politicians are saying. Read the one in Colorado.
    (While trying to explain why women in college don’t need firearms for self-defense on campus, Colorado state Rep. Joe Salazar said even if women feel like they might be raped, their suspected attacker might not actually have intent to rape. So please, put the guns away ladies.

    “It’s why we have call boxes, it’s why we have safe zones, it’s why we have the whistles. Because you just don’t know who you’re gonna be shooting at,” he said during a legislative hearing. “And you don’t know if you feel like you’re gonna be raped, or if you feel like someone’s been following you around or if you feel like you’re in trouble and when you may actually not be, that
    Usually do as I say democrat, yep really giving those women a right to protect their bodies?
  14. Bob1234
    Report Abuse
    Bob1234 - March 01, 2013 1:14 pm
    @IWILLNOT: Really? I don't recall seeing in these Post-Star comments where a 'LIB'MARIX/SOCIALIST', as you so elegantly phrase it, has said that if women "choose to own a weapon to protect their body's from rape or murder then that's not allowed." If I'm mistaken, then please cite the comment.
    Report Abuse
    IWILLNOTCOMPLY - March 01, 2013 10:56 am
    HDE- Notice the double standard of the LIB'MARIX/SOCIALIST. They think its OK for a woman to have a right to choose abortion because its their body but if they choose to own a weapon to protect their body's from rape or murder then that's not allowed.
    Look up hypocrite in the dictionary and its spelled LIBERAL.
  16. hdekhtereva
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    hdekhtereva - March 01, 2013 10:40 am
    Bill . . . What???

    The framers knew what they were doing, unlike people now; they didn't need spell-check. Interesting post anyways. . . . You've a right to your opinion, just as "we" have a right to ours.

    As for the vitriol, most on the Freedom side are civil, informed, and not here to be entertained by arguing. The same can not be said for the Control side unfortunately.

    The thing about all of this is that “they” . . . the Liberals, Marxists, what ever they are, believe that everyone should live as they want to live, and will not stop.

    “We”. . . . the Freedoms people just want to be let to live as we choose, we don’t care how others choose to live as that is their free will, so we stop fighting when there is no perceivable threat to freedoms.
  17. Bob1234
    Report Abuse
    Bob1234 - March 01, 2013 10:17 am
    "One manifestation of this pattern has been the governor’s reliance on messages of necessity to rush bills through the Legislature without giving political representatives or the public time to consider them."

    I know it's a bit painful and embarrassing when presented with examples of hypocrisy -- such as the Saratoga County Board of Supervisor's truncated process in passing its anti-gun control resolution. The honorable course of action here is for those folks who criticized Gov. Cuomo and the Legislature for quickly passing the NY SAFE Act to also criticize Sararoga County for the method used to pass its resolution.

    Such an action would not a sign of weakeness, but rather, a sign of strength. Failure to show such integrity only weakens your case.

    Unfortunately, there's no shortage of irony here. Just a shortage of integrity.
    Report Abuse
    IWILLNOTCOMPLY - March 01, 2013 8:29 am
    I applaud them for their actions. Yea old Bob wants them to send it to committee and study it for 2 months bring in people to talk about it run it up the flag pole a couple of times and then finally come to the conclusion they can't decide. That's how government works. What did they do say that Prince Cuomo overstepped the constitution for his political future. Cuomo pushed this thru because if the people knew they would have pushed back and it would not look good for his 16 pres. run.
    Bob if your so stuck in your little political class war fare and cant' see what Cuomo did undermines our freedoms and constitution, then no amount of discussion will change that. Your on an agenda and don't let the truth get in the way. Sad.
  19. Douglas Be
    Report Abuse
    Douglas Be - March 01, 2013 7:27 am
    To FEFAN,
    I applaude your openess and straight forward talk to Bob old Bob. Fainess and openness is what this is all about. This hiding is an insult to every private as well as public employee.

    Any and all public servants, and let me repeat that PUBLIC servants should have no problem with their incomes being an open book. It is very CLEAR when ones becomes a "PUBLIC SERVANT" and is paid by the taxpayers any and ALL funding information should be open for the very people who are paying the salries and benefits.

    We now have a government that is screaming to take away the very core of freedoms which include openess to the people and hide and run.
    This again screams injustice to the taxpayers PAYING the BILLS.

    N.Y.s. is second in the country for PEOPLE MOVING OUT of their state. Being the TAX king in the country wonder why???

    Again thank you FEFAN for your honest approach to the subject matter.

    Doug Be
    I strongly Bob has what it takes to comment and be open about who he is.
  20. FEFAN
    Report Abuse
    FEFAN - March 01, 2013 1:43 am
    For all you gun guys out there, the right to "bear arms" was a typographical error. The quill pens they used when they wrote the Amendments To The Constitution did not have spell-check. The Framers meant to say "Bare Arms" ...cut-off sleeves. Target your vitriol to William "Spanky" Collier, Fort Edward, Your names are encouraged.
  21. FEFAN
    Report Abuse
    FEFAN - February 28, 2013 7:52 pm
    BOB1234, you seem to want to redirect the argument. Reading between the lines, I get the feeling that you might just be a retired public pensioner, as am I. I am not worried about who might see my taxpayer supported retirement benefit. Are you? My name is William Collier. What's yours?
  22. Bob1234
    Report Abuse
    Bob1234 - February 28, 2013 3:46 pm
    Perhaps your editorial should be expanded to include county governments, as well.

    Tuesday evening the Saratoga Co. Board of Supervisors passed a resolution opposing the NY SAFE Act. Part of the Board's criticism of the Act was its quick passage using a message of necessity and no public comment period.

    The way the Board passed this resolution, however, hinged on a Herculean feat of irony. According to the Saratogian:

    Ballston Supervisor Patti Southworth pointed out that she had only received the resolution she was asked to vote on a few hours before the actual vote. Normally, the county urges resolutions be passed by county committees before moving on to a formal vote by the board. The process is in place to give time to amend the resolution, study it and allow constituents to do the same. “I think on some level, we’re doing the exact same thing that we are concerned that the governor did,” Southworth said.

    There's no shortage of irony here.
  23. Bob1234
    Report Abuse
    Bob1234 - February 28, 2013 9:51 am
    Folks make the argument that that the public has the right to know how government money is spent, as use that argument as a rationale for publicizing the names, salaries, and pensions of public employees. But as soon as one makes the logical extension to other government money, such as Social Security benefits, to some folks that argument no longer applies. Arguments that attempt to exempt government money such as Social Security and Medicare from public access simply ring hollow and reveal folks' hypocrisy ('Privacy rights do not apply to you but they do apply to me'.)

    The shoe pinches when it's on the other foot, now doesn't it?

  24. 789household
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    789household - February 28, 2013 8:31 am
    I fully agree that the secrecy in government is a most dangerous trend, and needs to be addressed by citizens. I support full disclosure by all government, because I - and all of us as "The People " - are in charge. The various governments are here to serve us, not we to serve them. I do however, wish to make a distinction when it comes to Social Security. That federal program was established as a "government Trust," using contributions from those who participate, to pay benefits from the trust on retirement. That the "Trust" is no longer a Trust is due to the fact that our elected representatives have violated their trusteeship over the years, and plundered the principal to the point where they cannot ever re-fund the trust accounts. To the comment that we receive more than we pay in, I respond that after paying in for 40 years, had I been allowed to put those funds into other investments, I would now have far more than I will ever receive from Social Security in benefits.
  25. Bob1234
    Report Abuse
    Bob1234 - February 27, 2013 7:47 pm
    Yes, I agree it's clear that the editorial is referring to public access to state and local public employee pensions. But if one argues that we have an unequivocal right to know who is receiving public employee pensions because it's government money, then doesn't the same reasoning apply to Social Security benefits? As I mentioned, many, if not most, Social Security beneficiaries receive more in benefits than what they contribute.
  26. Will Doolittle Staff
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    Will Doolittle - February 26, 2013 9:04 am
    You're right, of course, the names of those receiving Social Security are not public information, and never have been. From the context, which was about the lawsuits over pensions, I think it's clear the editorial was referring to public salaries and pensions.
  27. hdekhtereva
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    hdekhtereva - February 25, 2013 6:08 pm
    Well, it looks like the media has some support, now what? We just gonna gripe about things and kick some sand with our heads hung low? Where do we go to sign your petitions or what ever? Who would you like us to call/ contact? Let's do something here already. . . . every time they step over the line they should get a SWIFT stomp on the foot so as to halt the constant testing of the Constitution and The People. . . . . Let's Roll !!!
  28. rickster
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    rickster - February 25, 2013 5:50 pm
    first it was the second amendment attacked by Cuomo, now it is free speech and freedom of the press, what is next religion?///search and seizure??? that he has already suggested
    all for Cuomo to run the country. when we have no recourse will he declare himself King Andrew the first of America.......if he can deny our rights one at a time, where will it stop????
  29. Douglas Be
    Report Abuse
    Douglas Be - February 25, 2013 11:39 am
    To ALL,

    Teachers union is SUING EVERY RESDIENT of N.Y.S. to repeal the 2% tax levy cap. WHY so districts can FAR EXCEED the cap without a super majority. SICK Remeber only 9% of voters vote on school budgets and they plan on exploiting that.

    WHAT is the highest peice of your tax bill??? SCHOOL taxes which account for around 75% of your taxes.

    So the teachers union want ALL TAXPAYERS to be able to be taxed EVEN higher than the 2% cap currently in place.

    WHY so their continued abuse of taxpayers can continue. Rememeber EVERY YEAR they recieve RAISES and benefits packages that are UNSUSTAINABLE. The amount that taxpayers have to put into the pension plans is an INSULT to every hard working citizen in N.Y.

    ALL we seek is FAIRNESS and the union leadership not only sticks up their noses at the taxpayer but now use the very money we pay them to sue us. What could be sicker?

    This is becoming sicking as to the extent of their arrogance..

    Doug BE
  30. tweiner81
    Report Abuse
    tweiner81 - February 25, 2013 10:08 am
    I think the point that we are the New York State Hiring manager is very good. We forget that We are responsible for who is in there. We hire these dishonest fools and then every few years re-up their contract. We are also the hiring manager for the United States, its time we acted that way. Pay attention and don’t reelect fools! Lets get term limits soon!
    Report Abuse
    IWILLNOTCOMPLY - February 25, 2013 9:55 am
    hdekhtereva- Amen to what you said!
  32. Bingo
    Report Abuse
    Bingo - February 24, 2013 11:01 pm
    Cuomo thought Hurricane Sandy proved global warming was a serious problem. He's not the sharpest tool in the shed.
  33. hdekhtereva
    Report Abuse
    hdekhtereva - February 24, 2013 8:14 pm
    I'm with you Oak, hope the people wake up before it's too late. . . .

  34. hdekhtereva
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    hdekhtereva - February 24, 2013 8:09 pm
    Well said IWILLNOT,
    I love the saying at the end. . . . I'm going to remember that one. I would say that we (from the gun debate thread) are from the Freedom Community. We love our freedoms, our liberties whatever they be, and because of this we should do the honorable thing and stand with those whom would leave our sides when they mistakenly think a particular freedom we are fighting for does not directly affect them. They like some freedoms but not others. I feel it is my duty as a TRUE lover of freedom to support them no matter if there is reciprocation or not. The government is testing the Constitution and testing us along with it. The gun thing- 2nd A didn't go over so well, so they are trying the 1st A now. When one falls they all fall, they must be fought for. We can't divide, we have to unite.
    Report Abuse
    IWILLNOTCOMPLY - February 24, 2013 2:47 pm
    I hate to say it but now you know how those of us in the gun community feel when you decided more gun control was good. We tried to say this was an infringement on our liberties and did you take the side of the constitution? NO you called us extreme paranoid for saying that Prince Cuomo was going after our rights. Now you want us to stand with you on this matter of the 1st amendment being infringed? Maybe you will not be so quick to dismiss us 2nd amendment people next time.
    Yes what Prince Cuomo is doing is wrong and goes against our values and constitution and if he is allowed to continue he will feel he can do what ever he wants and if he runs for president it could lead to even bigger trouble for the country.
    Remember the old saying- first they came for him and i did nothing and finally they came for me and there was no one to help me!
  36. Jonny
    Report Abuse
    Jonny - February 24, 2013 11:28 am
    Any state/government information can be gained through FOIL, the state has no requirement to make available to the press all employees. It is only trying to make ACCURATE information available, so the press does not stretch the truth in what is reported. I find it somewhat humorous that the editor finds fault with the state for its actions regarding information from the state, but stands behind the same administration for the SAFE act. It's been said time and again, it starts with collecting of the guns, the next step is limiting information, speech and the press.... We only get upset when it involves something we hold dear. As the PS backed the governor on the SAFE act, I'll stand behind the governor on this
  37. loneoak
    Report Abuse
    loneoak - February 24, 2013 8:38 am
    I hope and pray, but do not expect, that all the citizens of the State of NY will realize and remember that these incompitant fools work for us in the next election. We pay their salaries and it is time that they are held accountable for their actions or lack of. Every day they erode our freedom, the right to know is one of them and they dont give a rats butt. It is time for the sheep (voters) to become wolves and serve notice the state and public employees. Exercise your rights and take back our country before it is too late.
  38. Bob1234
    Report Abuse
    Bob1234 - February 23, 2013 10:49 pm
    "The public has an unequivocal right to know who is receiving public money, and how much they are getting."

    Then the Post-Star Editorial Board would support making public the names of those receiving Social Security benefits, along with the amounts received. As the Post-Star says, we have the unequivocal right to know who receives government money and how much. (In addition, remember that many, if not most, beneficiaries receive more in benefits than what they contribute.)


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