Liz Benjamin

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Posts by Liz Benjamin

MoveOn Polls Members On Alternative To Cuomo

The New York arm of is polling its members to determine if they want to see a “progressive challenger” run against Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo this fall.

The left leaning organization sent out an email earlier today that cited a recent New York Times story laying out the unrest Cuomo is experiencing on his left and his efforts to mend fences with liberals ahead of the Working Families Party convention this coming weekend.

“We want to know where New York MoveOn members stand,” the email states. “This isn’t a formal endorsement vote – just a statewide membership survey to get a sense of what New York MoveOn members are thinking as a potential race shapes up.”

“…After we tally the responses, we’ll report back to MoveOn members across the state and share them with the media – so they know what progressives are thinking as the gubernatorial election gets under way.”

MoveOn, as you’ll recall, has been playing an outsized role in former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell’s primary challenge to IDC Leader Jeff Klein, running an on-line petition calling on Koppell to get into the race, and then helping him raise campaign cash after he decided to go forward with a challenge.

As Capital NY reported this morning, Cuomo has made progress re-establishing his ties with the leaders of several of the unions that are key members of the Working Families Party, but it looks like many of the rank-and-file, with whom the endorsement decision ultimately rests, are less pragmatic and harder to convince.

Here and Now (Updated)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s press office has not yet released his public schedule, but he’s expected to be in the Capital Region at some point today. (See below). The Assembly is in session at 2 p.m., the Senate returns to Albany tomorrow.

At 10 a.m., Cuomo will attend the exhibit opening for CNN’s “A Look into the Sixties,” at Grand Central Terminal, Vanderbilt Hall, 89 E. 42nd St., Manhattan. (NOTE: CNN is the home of Cuomo’s TV anchor brother, Chris).

At 10 a.m., the state Gaming Commission meets, ESDC offices, 633 Third Ave., Manhattan.

At 11:05 a.m., NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio tours a pre-K classroom at the Brooklyn Chinese American Association’s Early Childhood Education Center, 871 50th St., Manhattan. (A press conference will follow at 11:30 a.m.)

At 11 a.m., AG Eric Schneiderman will make a “public safety announcement,” 120 Broadway, 25th Floor, Manhattan.

From 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Senate Joint Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction will be holding a forum, Valley Cottage Library, 110 New York 303, Valley Cottage.

At 11:30 a.m., state Comptroller Tom DiNapoli releases a report on the status and growth of Brooklyn’s economy, the Brooklyn Brewery, 79 North 11th St., Brooklyn.

At noon, the Assembly Ethics and Guidance Committee meets, Room 714, Legislative Office Building, Albany.

At 1 p.m., community activists hold a press conference to continue pushing for the Ark Community Charter School to remain open, the school’s gymnasium, 762 River St., Troy.

At 1:30 p.m., musician Wynton Marsalis and US Sen. Claire McCaskill participate in Hunter College’s 2014 spring commencement ceremonies, 260 Ave. of the Americas, Manhattan.

At 2 p.m., Rep. Hakeem Jeffries will be joined by the Drug Policy Alliance and community advocates, One Police Plaza, (between Park Row and Pearl Street), Manhattan.

At 5:30 p.m., the Center of Gravity in Troy holds a ribbon-cutting ceremony on a 46,000-square-foot business incubator facility that will house companies taking part in START-UP NY, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and Cuomo are expected to attend., 35 4th St, Troy. UPDATE: As of noon, Cuomo was not confirmed to attend this event, but ESDC Commissioner and CEO Ken Adams is expected to be there.

At 6 p.m., Many candidates and elected officials, including GOP AG hopeful John Cahill, and gubernatorial hopeful Rob Astorino will attend the Agudath 92 Anniversary Israel of America Dinner, New York Hilton, 1335 Ave. of the Americas, Manhattan. Also: de Blasio will speak.

At 7:30 p.m., IDC Leader Jeff Klein attends a screening on the opening day of the “Bronx Jewish Film Festival,” featuring screenings of six films scheduled in five locations to mark the May observance of Jewish American Heritage Month, Seton Park, Independence Avenue and 235th Street, the Bronx.


President Barack Obama will be in New York for the third time this month when he gives the commencement address at the graduation ceremony tomorrow at the U.S. Military Academy.

Though he has made progress in recent weeks with union leaders, it remains an open question whether the labor-backed Working Families Party’s rank-and-file members can see their way clear to endorsing Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

Former Assemblyman Richard Brodsky says a “real” gubernatorial campaign about economic development and income inequality will only happen if the WFP “forces” the debate.

There are hints about the Cuomo administration’s vision for a new Bills stadium in the recent contract between the state and the LA firm hired to work on the project.

Stadium site selection experts over the past few days have scouted land around the Central Terminal, downtown Buffalo sites and the outer harbor. New talk centers on the Riverbend industrial complex, while some continue to concentrate on Niagara Falls.

Police officers across New York City will soon carry medications to reverse the effects of an overdose from heroin or opioid prescription pills, expanding from a successful program on Staten Island to all precincts citywide.

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The Holiday Weekend That Was

Hillary Clinton and Westchester County Executive/GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino marched in the New Castle Memorial Day Parade.

Astorino tweeted a photo of himself chatting with the former secretary of state.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo skipped his local parade this year to attend ceremonies in Queens and Staten Island.

Ken Auletta took a very close look at Clinton’s complicated relationship with the right-wing media. Mediaite has some takeaways.

More than anyone else, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand has positioned herself to be both a booster and beneficiary of the excitement among women for a Clinton campaign for the White House.

In a day of honoring the fallen, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio focused on veterans, noting in two emotional speeches that through their stories and tributes they kept alive the memories of those who died at war.

Sen. Charles Schumer said he will ask for an additional $100 million in federal funds to help shut off a heroin pipeline from Mexico that has sparked a surge in the drug’s popularity across New York City and Long Island.

New York and New Jersey will receive about $2.5 billion of the remaining $3.6 billion of federal rebuilding funds after superstorm Sandy – less than what local officials say is needed to finish repairing homes and building major infrastructure projects.

Cuomo will reportedly work to toss the Senate Republicans from power by reuniting the chamber’s fractured Democrats if the GOP does not agree to create a statewide public financing system for campaigns.

With less than two weeks before the secret ballots are counted, many NYC teachers are still debating whether to ratify the agreement that their union, the UFT, reached with the de Blasio administration.

Rep. Charlie Rangel has spent more than $200,000 to date in an attempt to get his congressional censure overturned, and has been filing legal papers through a lawyer who was disqualified from the case.

De Blasio took in a total $10.6 million in donations, and so-called independent spending groups shelled out even more to bash his opponents or to support his effort. But are these donors getting what they paid for? Not in every case – so far.

UPKNYC, which championed de Blasio’s universal pre-K quest, plans to continue its work, using a different name – Campaign for One New York – to promote the new mayor’s policy agenda on a broad range of issues.

Cuomo and his new running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, had a behind-the-scenes disagreement over redistricting, which cost her her House seat. But his selection of her to run for LG fits her political narrative.

Albany Mayor Kathy Sheehan reaffirmed her support for Hochul as LG.

Hochul is “99 percent certain” to be challenged in the Democratic primary by Bill Samuels – a prominent anti-Cuomo “progressive” with millions to spend.

The number of state workers earning more than $100,000 in 2013 increased 7 percent compared to 2012, state records show.

Office of Medicaid Inspector General Senior Manager Joseph J. “Jeff” Flora was forced to become a pensioner, and ended his 31-year career for having job discussions with a company whose $120 million contract with OMIG he managed.

GOP state Attorney General candidate John Cahill has hired a longtime Mitt Romney adviser, Beth Myers, as a campaign consultant.

Rep. Michael Grimm’s campaign manager, Bill Cortese, has reportedly quit because the indicted pol can’t pay him. Fundraising appears to have dried up since Grimm’s indictment.

Former President Clinton said he believed that NYU and the Abu Dhabi government would conduct a thorough investigation into worker rights abuses at the university’s new campus here in the country’s capital.

Some see the influence of Cardinal Timothy Dolan, once considered a possible candidate for pope himself, waning in the era of the new pontiff.

When the U.S. Senate gets around to picking Buffalo’s next federal judge, the new jurist will join a bench that is all-male and largely white, which could influence the selection.

Individual donors now have carte blanche from New York State to contribute more than $150,000 a year to fund as many candidates and political groups as they choose, just in time for this year’s high stakes statewide elections.

While saying he’d also want private contributions, Cuomo said he’d be willing to have the state help foot the bill for a new stadium for the Buffalo Bills.

Fueled by the freeing of a prison inmate who claimed a detective framed him in a 1990 murder, the Brooklyn DA’s office has undertaken one of the nation’s most ambitious efforts to revisit cases of people put behind bars decades ago to determine whether they were wrongly convicted.

Martin Tankleff, the Long Island man who spent 17 years in prison after being wrongfully convicted of killing his parents, has earned a law degree.

A Wayne County landfill is poised to begin accepting trash by rail from New York City.

RIP Fantasia.

Happy Memorial Day Weekend!

I hope everyone is enjoying the beautiful weather. Just a bit of a programming note here:

The weekend headline round-up won’t appear until tomorrow night – we’re all taking a bit of a break after two sleep deprived convention weeks. There will be no morning “Here and Now” tomorrow, and no memo. Both will return Tuesday morning.

Barring significant breaking news, I won’t be here with you again until “The Weekend That Was.” Also, if you’re a Capital Tonight viewer, there will be no show tomorrow night. We’ll return to our regular schedule – 8 p.m. and 11:30 p.m. – Tuesday evening.

Enjoy, and please take a moment to remember those who have served, are serving and made the ultimate sacrifice to keep us all free.

- L


Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s book deal with HarperCollins is worth at least $700,000, according to a disclosure form the governor filed last week.

Cuomo and LG candidate Kathy Hochul dined on beef on weck with Rep. Brian Higgins and Erie County Comptroller Mark Ploncarz.

“We’re going to kick butt in a way that people have never seen before.”

Green Party gubernatorial candidate Howie Hawkins is pressuring Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk to change her position on the Farmworkers Fair Labor Practices Act.

Former NYC Comptroller and newly minted state Senate candidate John Liu thinks Cuomo “should play a big role” in helping the Democrats re-take the majority.

Liu rolled out a campaign endorsement from the New York City Coalition of Operating Engineers.

Politics will be front and center in the waning days of the legislative session.

If confirmed as HUD secretary, San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, 39, will be the youngest member of Obama’s cabinet.

One of Sen. Greg Ball’s final legislative priorities is to make sure unmanned drones are friendly players in New York’s airspace.

Opponents to the NY Safe Act, a set of stricter gun laws enacted last year, are appealing a lawsuit challenging the law’s constitutionality to the state’s highest court.

The Ben Franklin Reform Democratic Club in the Bronx voted to endorse IDC Leader Jeff Klein over his primary challenger, former NYC Councilman Oliver Koppell.

NYC First Lady Chirlane McCray thanked her supporters today in a gushing public  letter following tabloid covers that knocked her mothering skills.

ABC’s Diane Sawyer will get the first one-on-one TV interview with Hillary Clinton surrounding the June release of the former secretary of state’s new book, “Hard Choices.”

The Cuomo administration has sent disaster assistance teams to help victims of recent flash flooding in Yates County in the Finger Lakes region.

The NYC school administrators’ union backed Rep. Charlie Rangel, putting the principals at odds with the rank-and-file teachers who are backing his primary rival Sen. Adriano Espaillat.

New York again led the nation in per pupil school spending, up 2.4 percent between 2011 and 2012, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

Advocates for low-income Long Islanders rallied today in support of a measure that would allow cities and counties to supplement the state minimum wage.

Sen. Kirstsen Gillibrand is pushing for a quick upgrade of the cargo planes flown out of the Niagara Falls Air Reserve Station.

Hochul Supports the DREAM Act

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s selection of ex-Rep. Kathy Hochul raised eyebrows in part due to her past conservative stancse on some key issues – including immigration.

Hochul gained statewide recognition in 2007 when, as Erie County clerk, she very publicly opposed then-Gov. Eliot Spitzer’s proposal to allow undocumented immigrants get a driver’s license This dust-up occurred shortly after Spitzer appointed Hochul to fill the clerk’s post, (a vacancy created when he appointed her predecessor, David J. Swarts, to be DMV commissioner), and she was running in a special election to keep the job.

At the time, Hochul pledged that anyone seeking a license office with a foreign passport that lacked a valid visa stamp, would have their named passed on by her office to the county sheriff as a possible violator of immigration law. She called the issue “a centerpiece” of her race for clerk – a race she handily won. She also highlighted her role in the driver’s license debate during her successful 2011 special election campaign for the seat vacated by former GOP Rep. Chris Lee.

Now, of course, Hochul is running to represent the entire state – including liberal New York City, where immigration is a major concern to key Democratic constituencies – and not one of the state’s most conservative counties (or congressional districts).

NYC Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, who is one of the most outspoken supporters of NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan to grant municipal identification cards to immigrants, nominated Hochul at the Democratic convention on Long Island yesterday. The speaker said she had discussed immigration policy with Hochul prior to her speech at the Long Island Hilton, and expressed hope that the former congresswoman would follow the lead of another conservative congresswoman who “evolved” on key issues – from immigration to gun control – after being thrust unexpectedly into a statwide role.

She was speaking, of course, of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Apparently, Hochul is already taking Mark-Viverito’s words to heart.

During a campaign stop in Amherst today, the governor and Hochul were asked for their respective positions on the DREAM Act, which would help the children of undocumented immigrants access state funding for college. Cuomo, who has been criticized by some DREAM Act advocates for failing to push hard enough on this issue (which has passed the Assembly, but died on the Senate floor in March), reiterated his support for the measure. And Hochul echoed that sentiment, saying:

“I also support the DREAM Act because I think there’s no way we should be penalizing children who have been in our grade schools, our high schools, and now we want to make sure they have an education so they can become productive taxpaying members of the state of New York and that’s a very good outcome.”

Watch Here >> (TWC ID required)

Here and Now

Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s office has not yet released his public schedule. But according to an email sent last night by Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz, the governor and his new running mate, ex-Rep. Kathy Hochul, will be in WNY today.

“How fitting it is that the official campaign kick-off event for Cuomo-Hochul 2014 will be taking place right in our own back yard, tomorrow afternoon in Williamsville,” Poloncarz wrote.

“I invite you to join me at UAW Region 9 Headquarters located at 35 George Karl Blvd. at 12:45PM to cheer on Governor Cuomo and Kathy Hochul as they officially begin their campaign to continue making New York the home of economic promise, fairness, and opportunity.”

Cuomo – and now Hochul – are determined to do everything possible to a void a repeat of 2010 when then-state AG Cuomo lost eight WNY counties in 2010 to his GOP opponent, Buffalo businessman Carl Paladino.

In his acceptance speech at the convention, Cuomo vowed to “double down” on his investment upstate, a region he has consistently said has been too often overlooked by state government.

Interestingly, Cuomo’s Republican challenger this year, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, is in WNY today, too. He has been trying to rally disgruntled upstaters – especially the anti-SAFE Act set – and convince them that the governor doesn’t really have their best interests at heart.

Happening today…

At 9:05 a.m., Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino will be a guest on WHAM Rochester with host Bob Lonsberry

At 9:30 a.m., Sen. Marty Golden hosts his annual Memorial Day Breakfast and Awards Celebration, Bay Ridge Manor, 476-76 St., Brooklyn.

Also at 9:30 a.m., Astorino meets with the Buffalo Niagara Partnership, 665 Main St., Suite 200, Buffalo.

At 10 a.m., the state Senate holds public forum on heroin and opioid abuse, Second Floor Board Room, Batavia City Hall, 1 Batavia Center, Batavia.

At 10:35 a.m., new state Democratic Party Chairman David Paterson appears on 770 WABC’s Geraldo Rivera Show. You can listen here. (He’ll be followed by former NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani).

At 11 a.m., former NYC Comptroller John Liu will official kick off his primary challenge to Sen. Tony Avella at the Long Island Rail Road station in Bayside, Queens.

At 6 p.m., Astorino will attend and deliver remarks at the Tioga County GOP Annual Spring Dinner, Owego Treadway Inn and Conference Center, 1100 State Route 17C, Owego.


Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his allies worked hard to present a united front at the Democratic convention, but the Democratic Party is not actually as united as he would like it to be.

Tom Precious outlines the fence-mending Cuomo has do to among his fellow Democrats if he wants to win by a big margin this November.

From former President Clinton to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, the convention speakers were carefully selected to shore up Cuomo’s standing with the left by claiming that he’s a “progressive” leader.

Dozens of protesters lined Route 110 outside the Democratic state convention in Melville yesterday, calling on Cuomo to act on issues including the environment and education.

The NYT’s Michael Powell: “With balloons and too much Bon Jovi, it felt just like a national convention, except not really. A few delegates snoozed like old bulldogs through the speeches, and loyalists waved Cuomo/Hochul posters more or less as long as demanded. The enthusiasm felt like it’d come off a 3D printer.”

More >


Two Sheldon Silvers?!

While in Cooperstown, President Obama got a private tour of the Baseball Hall of Fame, and touted his plan to boost international tourism.

Obama signed the Hall of Fame guestbook, writing: “Go Sox!”

NYC Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has spoken to LG candidate Kathy Hochul about the need for her to “evolve” on key points – like immigration policy – like Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Former Senator and Racing and Wagering Board Chairman John Sabini is recovering after suffering a serious stroke.

Community activists have given up their fight to keep a full-service hospital at LICH in a tentative deal that would keep a slimmed-down emergency room at the Brooklyn site.

Bob Hardt writes of the “kabuki-theater nature” of the state conventions – Democrat AND Republican.

Anti-fracking advocates demonstrated outside the Democratic convention on Long Island today.

Anti-facking and anti-SAFE Act demonstrators showed up in Cooperstown to greet Obama.

The New York State Board of Elections will no longer enforce the state’s $150,000 individual aggregate contribution limit.

Cuomo’s Common Core panel might not issue a final report.

After an election season spent walking the legal and ethical tightrope, Democratic consultant Scott Levenson appears to be losing his footing.

NYC Councilman Rory Lancman: “If Al Capone introduced Americans to the seriousness of tax evasion, then hopefully Michael Grimm’s indictment will do the same for the seriousness of wage theft.”

Hillary Clinton has reportedly earned at least $5 million in speaking fees since leaving office in 2013, much of it coming from corporate clients that could complicate her presumptive 2016 presidential bid.

Ithaca Mayor Svante Myrick is on the Washington Post’s 40-under-40 list.

Fifty US senators signed a letter urging the Redskins to change their team name.

HTC has endorsed former NYC Comptroller John Liu in his primary challenge to Sen. Tony Avella. Big focus of Liu’s campaign: Getting out the Asian vote.

Liu will officially kick off his campaign tomorrow at a Bayside, Queens Long Island Rail Road station not far from Avella’s district office.

Daredevil Nik Wallenda says the Darien Lake stunt he’ll perform this weekend has “definitely never been done before.”

Former NYC Comptroller and mayoral candidate Bill Thompson is the latest high-profile Democrat to defect from Rep. Charlie Rangel’s side to endorse Sen. Adriano Espaillat.

After a three-week review for what he deemed a “smear campaign,” Michael Treanor has returned as CEO of the Nevele casino project near Ellenville in Ulster County.

Republican Matt Doheny released the results of an internal poll on Thursday that attempted to demonstrate his strength in a general election in the 21st Congressional District.

After a ballot re-count, a Central New York school district is 2.8 votes short of an approved 2014-15 school budget. Its proposed budget exceeded the two percent property tax cap.

Pelosi Phones It In For Cuomo

After considerable speculation about various high-profile Democrats who might make a surprise appearance here at the convention, with everyone from Bill and/or Hillary Clinton to First Lady Michelle Obama rumored to be on tap – the big speaker turned out to be…

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi.

The catch? Pelosi did not make an in-person appearance here in Long Island, but instead spoke over the phone to the convention delegates.

Pelosi called Gov. Andrew Cuomo a “great friend” and a “great leader.” She touted his record over the past four years, highlighting in particular his restoration of “responsible function” to state government, and passage of one of the “toughest gun violence prevention laws in the country.”

“He has placed New York State not only on the right side of history, but on the right side of the future,” Pelosi continued.

“…One more thing I know about Governor Cuomo, even with these results and more, he is never satisfied. He will not back down, and that’s why New York needs to send Governor Cuomo back to the statehouse for four more years.”

Of course, there’s considerable speculation that Cuomo won’t actually spend the entire next four years in Albany, if he’s re-elected in November. But perhaps that’s splitting hairs.

Here and Now – Dem Convention Edition, Day 2

It’s Day Two of the Democrats’ convention at the Long Hilton Hilton – Huntington, and Gov. Andrew Cuomo and his new running mate, former Rep. Kathy Hochul, are scheduled to be on hand to accept the party’s nominations to run this November.

Both Cuomo and Hochul were nominated yesterday, and since there’s almost no dissent here (other than comedian/activist Randy Credico, who is trying to primary Cuomo in September and isn’t being allowed into the convention hall), this morning’s business should be a rather quick affair.

The governor isn’t expected to linger. After all, he’s got to make it all the way to the other end of the state – Cooperstown, to be exact – where President Obama will be speaking at 4 p.m. about tourism at the Baseball Hall of Fame today.

One of the nominating speeches today will be delivered by NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio, a long-time friend of Cuomo’s, though the two of had a bit of a bumpy go of it since de Blasio took office.

Cuomo will be greeted today by protestors. Some Long Island teachers demonstrated outside the Hilton yesterday to express their upset with the Common Core.

Today, the Most Rev. William Murphy, bishop, Diocese of Rockville Centre, will join parents, students and teachers at a demonstration in favor of the education tax credit that failed to make it into the budget.

The anti-fracking set it also expected outside the Hilton today.

While Cuomo is being feted on Long Island, his GOP challenger, Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino, will be campaigning in Western New York – the very region the governor is trying so hard to woo, picking Hochul to assist him in that effort.

The schedule for non-convention happenings today appears at the end of this post.


Kathy Hochul is the first female Democratic LG candidate in two generations. Cuomo told the Buffalo news he feels “a chemistry” and “natural connection” to the ex-congresswoman, who he insists was “always on the short list.”

Cuomo seemed unconcerned by Hochul’s conservative stance on some issues – like the fact that she was endorsed by the NRA in 2012. He insisted she supports the SAFE Act, which has cost him votes upstate.

The news of Cuomo’s LG pick – made at the convention via video – overshadowed the day’s other events: The unanimous nomination for re-election of state AG Eric Schneiderman and Comptroller Tom DiNapoli.

Hochul’s presence brings both gender and geographic balance to the Democratic ticket, but – unlike the GOP slate – it’s still all-white.

There has been little mention at the convention of the Democrats’ push to take back the state Senate majority. New state Party Chairman David Paterson lowered expectations on that quest.

While Cuomo ran against Albany in 2010, promising to clean up State Street, he’s now part of the establishment there. So this year, he’s running against Washington.

Nassau County Democratic Chairman Jay Jacobs got to speak his piece in opposition to the state Independence Party on the convention floor, but his resolution calling on Cuomo to reject the party’s endorsement was tabled.

…The Daily News does not approve.

Westchester County Executive and GOP gubernatorial candidate Rob Astorino did not get a post-convention bounce, a new Q poll found. Cuomo still leads him by 30 percentage points – as long as there’s no WFP candidate in the mix.

The defunct Moreland Commission has hired Michael Koenig, a criminal defense attorney, as it faces a probe by federal prosecutors. He’s a partner at Hinckley, Allen & Snyder LLP, specializing in government investigations.

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