From the monthly archives: "September 2012"

Difficult people…we all have to deal with them, right? Wrong. I am certain there is no such thing. Our approach to dealing with others is usually a direct reflection of our perspective, one that, for many, is based on a misunderstanding, or an incomplete awareness, of human behavior: People do not create problems because they have nothing better to do; they direct their lives according to their needs, wants, and desires—their internal drives—which are dictated by their value system.

We only perceive people as being difficult when they challenge our values. When they give us what we want, they’re smart, good peeps, going places. Some say it’s best to “remove toxic people from your life,” but I’ve got to tell you, everybody is toxic when they aren’t giving us what we want. Our minds do that: respond to unfulfilled desires by making out the denier to be public enemy number one—a human obstacle, a force to be resisted, maybe even conquered. And while there is no doubt that different degrees of toxicity reside within the human perceptual spectrum, usually the more somebody challenges our values, the more toxic they become. But this is a severe misunderstanding of human nature. People are not out to make our lives difficult. In fact, most people aren’t even thinking about our lives at all—they are simply thinking about what they want.

Everybody has things they are trying to achieve or accomplish, the things they desire; and these correlate with each individual’s unique value system, a person’s intrinsic drivers. Understanding this first principle of human behavior is crucial to having good interactions with others: Everyone wants what will move them closer to fulfilling their values. Being aware of this can help you build a strategy of interaction that, hopefully, serves everybody involved.

The first step in interacting with a challenging person, then, is to stop thinking of them as difficult; they want something, simple as that. Your task is to find out what that something is—what does that person value? Now, sometimes, you can tell just by looking at a person—first appearances are known to shape our overall impressions—but, very often, you have to do a bit of homework to get a feel for what that person really wants.

But the easiest approach is to just ask what the person is looking for, or what they wish to accomplish. I assure you that asking is a lot more practical than guessing and then dealing with potential consequences later. Ignoring the other person’s drives altogether or, worse, just focusing on what you want, is the quickest way to failure, misunderstanding, or maybe even the cause of some bad blood between you.

Now, if you can find out what another person wants, you’ve increased your chances of having a successful interaction exponentially; and in personal or business relationships, this is crucial. Just remember that all people operate off their drives, and whether that something is concrete, like a business transaction, or more ethereal, like recognition, praise or a sense of value, it’s people’s drives that move them to interact with you or anybody else.

This is also true for you. You want things, have desires, and are trying to fulfill your highest values, as well; and these, of course, come into play anytime you interact with others. So the next step is to find a way to frame what you want in terms of what the other person wants. A true win-win situation: How to get what you value by helping someone else get what they value. Poetry in motion.

But what some people want is not always congruent with what you want, and compromising your values is not a wise option. Doing so will most certainly lead to resentment, which can be an insidious obstacle to your peace of mind, or to future relations. If you determine that what you and the other person wants is incompatible, then nothing says you need to continue the interaction or the relationship. The sooner you are able to recognize this, the better it will be for the both of you.

I really believe there are no difficult people, just people wanting to fulfill their values. Consciously and subconsciously, people move toward fulfilling what they want in life. So you can let go of toxic people all you want to—you’ll merely meet others that don’t want exactly what you want. Isn’t it worthwhile to find out what the other person wants and then try to make it work for the both of you? Think about how this applies to business, diplomacy and your day-to-day family dynamics. We get what we want easier when we help others get what they want—something we should all remember when dealing with people.

Listen up parents, particularly parents of preemies: if you’ve been giving your infant Simply Thick to help with swallowing, be warned that the product could increase their risk of developing a life-threatening illness. The FDA has issued a warning that 22 infants developed necrotizing enterocolitis (NEC) after being fed baby formula or breast milk mixed with Simply Thick. Seven of them died.

The product is used for children that have difficulty swallowing (dysphagia), and although a direct link to NEC has not been yet confirmed, authorities do want to put parents, caregivers and healthcare practitioners on high-alert.

NEC is generally seen in premature infants where portions of the intestinal tissue goes through necrosis or tissue death. The FDA, however, has extended the warnings to all infants being fed the formula thickener. And parents should be on the lookout for NEC symptoms, which include a bloated stomach, greenish vomit, bloody stools and lack of interest in feeding.

According to Dr. Ari Brown, a pediatrician Austin, Texas, and co-author of Baby 411, if reflux and spitting up continues to be an issue, parents do have other options. “They can try doing smaller, more frequent feedings; keeping infants upright for at least 20 minutes after eating; and placing them at a 30 percent incline for sleeping,” she said. “In severe cases, your pediatrician may prescribe medication to help treat.”

And to ease some worries, Dr. Brown adds, “If you’ve already stopped using the product for a while and your baby seems fine, there’s no need to worry.”

Just some food for thought here, but Formula feeding increases the risk of NEC by tenfold compared to infants who are fed breastmilk alone. Breast milk protects the premature infant not only by its antiinfective effect and its immunoglobulin agents but also from its rapid digestion. For women that do not produce breastmilk, human milk from a milk bank or donor can be used. I am a big proponent of using human milk over formula, and this latest news is just another reason why. Am I implicating Simply Thick before all the information is in? No, just stating my belief that the human body knows better than man’s educated, and often arrogant mind. Again, just food for thought. Be safe.


Life is an interesting phenomenon if you actually take the time to think about it. Every one of us has taken life for granted at one time or another, but when one really contemplates life’s nuances, the seemingly paradoxical chaos and order inherent in the universe can be a rather perplexing notion.

Take synchronicity for example: “Synchronicity is the experience of two or more events that are apparently unrelated or unlikely to occur together by chance, but that are observed to occur together in a meaningful manner. This concept was first described by the Swiss psychologist Carl Gustav Jung.”

Those lines come from a book I have just recently finished called Counterpoint to Reality by Stephen John O’Conner; and my reading it has been just as much a result of synchronicity as the various stories O’Connor uses to illustrate the concept in his book. He and I actually met serendipitously on Twitter, which I am sure is no surprise to anybody who knows me, as it’s a dimension I am prone to frequent. But what is interesting—as Counterpoint does so well to point out—is that in life there are simply no mistakes. This also happens to be my philosophy; so it appears, then, that I was destined to read this work, and also to share it with you.

Let me be upfront and say that I really didn’t think I was going to like this book at first. As I began reading, some of my own views became challenged. For example, many of O’Connor’s stories are of the “spooky forces” type, which are not really my cup of tea. It’s not that I would describe myself as the staunch materialist by any means, but I am wary of any Light Force/Dark Force interplay. But wait! Don’t let that discourage you because, much to my surprise, Counterpoint went way beyond that. What really made the book worthwhile in the end was the beauty in which the author lays out a universal philosophy. He did as good a job as I’ve come across to explain some of the bigger questions that every human being ponders at one time or another: who we are, where we come from, and why we are here…you know, fundamental life stuff.

If I were to describe my life’s philosophy, I would describe it as a sort of vitalistic existentialism; or in plain English: we are more than just material beings operating through neurochemical processes. We are a part of an energetic matrix, and as such, we vibrate rhythmically at varying frequencies, which act to guide us through life—a quantum physical homing mechanism, if you will. We have a certain amount of control over these vibrations, which, in turn, helps us to attract various things into our lives, like people, situations and experiences. And, ultimately, our lives come down to how we perceive the universe, and life itself.

Saying that, I was amazed at how much I resonated with the overall message and philosophy of Counterpoint. Not that I don’t expect others to share in my view—on the contrary, I am certain that people do, as I know many personally—but that it would be expressed so eloquently by someone who has had such a dramatically different life experience than me was really a pleasant surprise.

O’Connor’s life story, as it turns out, is anything but boring; so Counterpoint is worth reading, if even just to enjoy a fascinating ride through one man’s life lived through a quest to find meaning. From a professional music career, to cavorting with American expat dregs, to participating in several psychedelic mind-expanding Ayahuasca ceremonies, O’Connor thrills us at every turn with tales of his spiritual journey.

But, again, it was the wisdom, and philosophy, inherent in his story that held the most intrigue for me. Consider his description of The Path, as the life journey has been called by so many spiritual disciplines:

There is a Path. It’s not outside of us. There is no one who can truly guide us into that Path or help us along its way. There’s also no time limit for making the journey and there’s no one to blame for not finding and walking this Path. After all, we are seemingly alone, not physically, but spiritually. Each of our individual journeys is unique. We travel the Path in silence and with the help only from our inner guides and guardians. There are, however, helpful road signs everywhere. There are tools being made available to us constantly if only we can become aware of them. Often, when we least expect it, a phrase or comment is made that awakens us and stirs a level of consciousness that was unavailable only moments before. Books, movies and magazine articles are seemingly filled with gems of wisdom hidden stories that begin to raise feelings not normally within our patterning. On this journey, there is help and guidance waiting for us.

Precisely. As O’Connor explains toward the end of the book there is no “one way.” Everybody has to find their own, and many Paths can actually be taken. It certainly says a lot about the senselessness of religious conflict, and the often fervent drive to prove one way to be better than all others. And it gives the reader hope; hope that as he or she tunes-in to the universal matrix, guide-posts can and will be uncovered along the way. This has certainly been my experience, and in-line with the concept that inspiration is sometimes transmitted to us from sources we’d never expect. That is tapping into the Matrix.

He discusses universalism—our unity with all things—a concept taught by various philosophers and eastern religions throughout the ages. And he makes the connection to the power we all have within us to be the creators of our own destiny, which is something I so adamantly push in my own writings. Says O’Conner:

We can all reconnect with the deep source of everything. There is hope that we can reconnect and then be a conscious part of creation; that we can be creators of a mind-conscious world filled with real peace and real love.

He also discusses karmic debt, as well as the concept that our souls make prearrangements with other souls to interact and evolve in a parallel fashion. Captivating stuff!

And to my intellectual delight, he discusses the source where inspiration comes from: an information pool that permeates the universe, and from which individuals who have tapped-into this universal resource can download, if you will. He calls this information matrix the akashic records, a theosophical concept denoting a “compendium of mystical knowledge encoded in a non-physical plane of existence,” (from Wikipedia) not unlike the Noosphere, as proposed by Vernadsky and Teilhard de Chardin, the realm of all human thought. Anyone who has ever contemplated where creative genius comes from will find this information fascinating.

But best of all for me, I think, and I am certain you will agree, is O’Connor’s description of what occurs during meditation. I really couldn’t have asked for a better explanation, as to not only how one may shut off the incessant mind-chatter that every novice meditator struggles with, but also as to what one may expect when entering the Void—that abstract realm of nowhere-ness and everywhere-ness, where the ME of the ego discovers the I of actuality.

I loved O’Connor’s ability to vividly describe this realm, the “other” aspect of human consciousness that has led humans to conceptualize a something-more-than-just-physical reality:

After 45 minutes, I was instantaneously projected to a place I can only describe as being in the Void. There was total silence and peace. A magnificent emptiness enveloped me, if I can even say there was a me to be enveloped. I was nowhere and everywhere at once. I experienced the feeling that there was no time.

Finally, and the real reason I connected with O’Connor and agreed to read Counterpoint (or so I thought), was his account of attending numerous Ayahuasca ceremonies. I will admit that I have had an overwhelming curiosity to experience this sacred South American psychedelic substance (although O’Connor does not describe it that way, at least not in terms of what we generally associate with psychedelics, like LSD or psilocybin/magic mushrooms). Used by indigenous people of the Amazon for divinatory and healing purposes, Ayahuasca contains the psychoactive substance dimethyltryptamine (DMT), and a monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI), that work synergistically to give the psychedelic, or shall we say, mind-expanding experience.

I chuckle to myself as I explain my so-called rationale behind reading this book, because, again, as O’Connor points out, rarely is the connection of souls along the Matrix a random event. He even remarked to me on one of our first exchanges that, “There’s more to the book than just Ayahuasca.” But in truth, that’s what I really went in wanting to explore.

I was delighted, then, to find both a serious and modern philosophical manuscript in Counterpoint to Reality. Although I have described some of my favorite points of the book, I have really only touched on a small portion of what you’ll find inside. I thus highly recommend picking up Stephen John O’Connor’s first literary gem, Counterpoint to Reality, as I am certain you will find it as enjoyable and enlightening as I have.

I will allow the author to sum up what I found to be the main theme of the book, which he explains so eloquently:

I find it interesting that the Path, or should I say the Path of No Paths is already in play when we are born. The moment we step upon the stage of a new life we enter the Path. Every step we take, every action we perform changes and molds the Path bringing more opportunities to grow toward the Light. Although one can read and research the Masters who have gone before and gain wisdom from their experiences, it’s up to each of us to walk the Path of our own very special journey back to Light. You are on it right now! You have always been on it. Turn it into something that brings joy and love instead of pain and suffering. Use your ability to choose, your ability to create your destiny to shape the path into a positive and healthy form.

Yes, bravo! There are truly no mistakes within the Matrix. And so I resonated with that concept as I took to reading this thoughtful, and often hysterical, account of O’Connor’s journey. I know now, with no doubt whatsoever, that I was destined to read this book; and I am grateful that I can recommend it with five stars to anybody ready to take the plunge into a pool of universal wisdom. Thank you, Mr. O’Connor, for the Path your Soul chose to follow. Through it all you uncovered much wisdom regarding life and the magnificence of the universal Matrix, and your readers can now benefit from your journey by gaining a little insight into their own.

They are like dreams or flowers in air:  foolish to try to grasp them.

Gain and loss, right and wrong:  such thoughts must finally be abolished at once.

~ Hsin Hsin Ming (606AD)

Two years ago I was embroiled in a vicious lawsuit that started to turn me sour. I was freaked out by the majority of it, but particularly by the financials, as the costs really began to soar. The amount of time and work I had invested had become overwhelming. It involved another professional, someone with whom I had a history, and not a particularly good one, either. Obvious or not, we were in a lawsuit against each other, and so the bad blood was flowing.

This piece is about a universal truth—that there is no gain or loss in the universe. As an ancient principle, understood by the Zen masters, it is backed today by the known physical laws. The first law of thermodynamics states that energy in a closed system (the universe) can neither be created nor destroyed—it can only transform. It is called a conservation law, because along with mass, momentum, angular momentum and charge, we recognize that certain properties of the universe remain invariable.

Another physical principle relevant to our discussion today is mass-energy equivalence. Made famous by the equation E=mc2, it states that mass and energy are interchangeable—each one a property of the other. In other words, all things that have mass also contain energy, and all things energetic have a particle equivalent. These two principles are at the root of what I wish to convey: You can never lose a thing. All mass and energy are conserved in the universe—therefore, loss is an illusion.

Seeing the Other Side

When we perceive that we have lost something, we are simply not seeing the other side. We become blind—or ignorant—to the gain portion of the equation; in other words, we don’t see where we are gaining. This ignorance actually keeps us down—it keeps us stagnant. If we were to just look hard enough, bearing in mind the law of conservation, and thus, that the other side must exist—we would eventually find it. And as a result, we would grow. The Ancient Chinese called it Tao or “The Way”…and within it lay the understanding that gain and loss are just illusions.

Most of us come to the realization, over time, that “all was not lost.” For some of us, we have to stretch the imagination to pretend like we haven’t lost that much, yet I would argue that this approach is still operating within the perspective of gain-and-loss. The real power comes from seeing the two sides present in the moment, during the chaos and the uncertainty. If successful, the end-result is expansion—of our character, of our mind, and of our spirit. Believe me, it’s worth the effort to look.

During my own dilemma, I was stressed out because I believed that I was losing a load of money (the bills were in the tens of thousands). Also, things were getting down and dirty—I saw more of the dark side of the legal world than had I ever imagined, or cared to, and was resentful because it was a lesson that I wasn’t actively seeking.

And the time! I had invested long hours compiling paperwork and helping put together the details of the case; it was not insignificant, especially since I had a thriving chiropractic practice to run, and my business was getting busier by the day.

The Balance

Then it hit me—my business is getting busier every day. Wait…I knew the principle…I just wasn’t applying it. No gain, no loss…where was the transformation? Well, my practice had picked up massively since the start of the case, and I was earning far more than the lawsuit was costing (I paid the difference in pain, if you’re wondering about the balance).

I kept looking. Oh yes, I was also experiencing far fewer problems with insurance companies, dissatisfied clients or staff; in fact, life at the office was unusually smooth. I kept looking: My home life had become rather tame too—no drama from mama or the girls—shoot, I couldn’t complain about any of that!

I kept looking. Well, the education I was receiving about life, about the law, and about a reality that we all have to face at one time or another—that people have conflict, and the legal system is the customary route for solving disputes (well, better than a duel, anyway), and therefore, nearly impossible to avoid—it was probably more than I could ever pick up in a book or classroom.

So even though I ended up losing the case, my business grew and so did my income; I was wiser, and thus, that much more influential, and I expanded in character and awareness—that was worth it to me, and I wouldn’t trade it for a thing. I got to see the law of conservation up close and personal, and I am convinced of its universality.

One can even change one’s awareness with regard to the perceived loss of people—but that is for another piece altogether. Just know that the first law of thermodynamics always applies—that energy can neither be created nor destroyed; no gain, no loss—and so our loved ones are all around us, all the time. It’s simply our illusions that keep us from seeing so.

Listen up Italian food lovers–federal health officials say ricotta cheese tainted with listeria bacteria has been linked to 14 illnesses including at least one death. Eleven states are reporting illnesses linked to imported Italian ricotta salata cheese distributed by Forever Cheese, Inc., of New York. Forever Cheese has issued a recall of one lot—800 wheels of ricotta salata, or roughly 4,800 pounds—on Monday.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the cheese was distributed to retail stores in California, Colorado, District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Indiana, Massachusetts, Maryland, Maine, Montana, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Virginia and Washington between June 20 and August 9.

Listeria is rare but deadlier than well-known pathogens such as salmonella and E. coli. It is most dangerous to pregnant women, the elderly and others with compromised immune systems. It causes listeriosis, which can cause sepsis or meningitis. The overt form has a mortality rate of about 20%. It can be treated with antibiotics, however. The deaths linked to this outbreak were in New York, Nebraska and possibly Minnesota, although it is uncertain if the latter two were actually caused by the listeria.

Although the tainted cheese is a ricotta, it is not the same as soft ricotta used in lasagna. The CDC says the ricotta can have up to a four-month shelf life, so some consumers may still have it in their homes. To be on the safe side, anyone having ricotta cheese lying around and of which they are unsure of its origins, it would be best to just throw it out.

Do you have free will? How often do you exercise it throughout your day? If you really stop and think about it, you may realize that much of what you do is habitual—that is, a large portion of your time is spent doing routine activities. Habits are things we do regularly and often, to the point that we no longer need to think about them; they have their foundations in neurology, and specifically, within our memory.

Procedural memory is the neurological process involved in doing things. Different from declarative memory, which is knowing things—facts, figures, and trivia, for example—procedural memory works at the level of the unconscious mind. In other words, we don’t have to think too much about the processes being carried out—they become part of our neurological wiring.

Not every procedural memory process is habit, as many are simply needed for normal functioning like walking, washing or cleaning oneself, or finding and preparing food. In the modern world, it would also include things like operating machinery—cell phones, computers, cars, or for some, even flying airplanes. We learn them, and then they become a natural part of our everyday lives.

What are Habits?

Habits, however, are a subset of procedural processes, such that whatever we do often enough (not necessarily a function or common to all people) becomes lodged into our procedural memory. Consider what it was like when you first started wearing a wrist watch or a wedding ring—probably unusual at first, but then it just became habit.

And, of course, there are the obvious ‘bad’ habits, like smoking or nail biting, ones which we work so hard to break; but what we often don’t realize is that some of the ways in which we spend our time can also act as bad habits. These distractors, or ‘time killers’, actually prevent us from starting or carrying out what we would really love in life. So, if not careful, we may find ourselves living in habitual low priorities instead of within our inspired purpose.

How much of your day is spent taking part in low priority habits?

Television watching, social media, marathon texting—while each one of these may be entertaining, and maybe even serve a useful function for some, for most people, they are just distractors.

Okay, so we have all succumbed to low priority actions at one time or another—we don’t have to beat ourselves up about it. But as I asked earlier, do you think you have free will? In the sense that you have the capacity to consciously change any pattern in your life, then yes you do. Compulsive overeating, drug abuse, giving in to victim mentality—all of these are habits—and you have a choice to create different ones in your life (especially your thinking).

Creating New Habits

Creating new habits—ones aligned with your greater purpose—starts with knowing your values. If you fail to identify, and align with, your highest values, you will never connect to your life’s purpose. Without knowing what you would love in life, it’s pretty hard to establish which habits are best to serve you; so I encourage you to get in-touch with what you love the most—and don’t stress about it, because you know; just listen to your heart.

When you get in-touch with your values, you can determine which habits will serve you the best, whether that’s reading a new book every week, saving 10% of your income regularly, doing your daily yoga practice, or waking up at 5 am every morning. And it will require repetition: Anything that you do over and over again becomes lodged into your procedural memory and becomes habit over time.

I find that the best way to break old habits is by starting new ones. Listen, I’ve kicked cigarettes, and I’ve kicked drugs, so I know how to break habits; and at least one essential factor is to establish new patterns. But beware—if the new habit is not aligned with your highest values, then you won’t do it for very long, that I can assure you.

So you’ve got to start by knowing yourself. What are your highest values, and what inspires you? Being in-tune with these will make breaking old habits and starting new ones easier than you think.

We do have free will. And, although we don’t actually exercise it throughout much of our day, the ability to make decisions about how we want our lives to go is a power we all possess. Identify your highest values, and set your habits accordingly, and then watch your inspired life unfold. This is the true marvel of the human mind.

Don’t say I didn’t tell you, cos I remember talking about this ad infinitum over the last two years. But the medical care you knew and loved is going away. And many reading this are perfectly happy about this, but not baby-boomers retiring to rural areas. Yes, seems that primary care physicians are hard to find in many small towns, and it looks like it may worsen.

Baby-boomers, the 78 million Americans born between 1946 and 1964, could have difficulty finding doctors over the next twenty years. With Medicare cuts proposed targeted under the federal health care overhaul, the shortage is likely to get even worse, said Mark Pauly, professor of health care management at the University of Pennsylvania. Primary care physicians out in rural areas make less per procedure in the Medicare schedule than their city counterparts, and with a cut in the already small reimbursement inherent in the system, doctors are running to the city in droves. Well, no duuuuuuhhhh…….

A 2009 survey of doctors in the Oregon Medical Association showed 19.1 percent of Oregon doctors had closed their practices to Medicare, and 28.1 percent had restricted the numbers of Medicare patients.

The good news is that we knew it was coming, right? Well, there’s at least one solution–Nurse Practitioners (NP). NPs can do medical exams, prescribe some drugs, give shots, take vitals, and so forth…sort of a doctor/nurse hybrid. It’s smart, and I like it. I have worked with a few NPs, and what they  can do—their scope—along with their competency, is top-notch. It’s like an all-in-one healthcare practitioner. I have lots of respect for NPs.

Now for you boomers who have decided to retire to rural communities, you may find that you’ll need to pay some things out of pocket. Just come to terms with that: health care is changing, and there’s no need to protest by neglecting your body. I know we all want to get what has been promised to us, and you know what…we just may, in fact, get that…but if for any reason it doesn’t go back to the way it once was, you still need your health. So take care of it, both by participating in health-enhancing behaviors (like seeing a chiropractor–also a primary care doctor, but sans prescription rights), but also by seeing your NP…hey many of them make house calls.

Listen, our old institutions are changing–in some ways for the better (like you taking a proactive approach to your health), and in others for the worse (quality will ultimately suffer, in my opinion). We’ve got to have creative solutions to these new problems–the easiest is to continue taking care of your body. But creating a self-funded medical account will probably be a wise move too.

Happy to be back from a much needed hiatus. I’m hoping you have been exercising, particularly planking. Planking seems to be a new-ish craze, despite it’s ancient yogic roots; and of this I am pleased, because if there’s gonna be a craze, may as well be something as powerful for your health and body as plank pose.

So this post is to show you the next level of plank pose, which is the side-plank. Remember that plank pose is an outstanding strengthener for the abdominal core–EMG studies have shown it to be one of the strongest contractions of the rectus abdominis muscle–so if you want a strong core and cut mid-section, then definitely plank, baby.

Side plank is similar, but now the difficulty is increased by going up on one arm and balancing. The transition from plank to side plank alone is a powerful strengthener, because you are taking a static position and now adding movement. It’s what we call “functional”- ity. Along with strengthening the core,both the plank and side plank will also strengthen the shoulders. Balancing on one arm adds proprioception to the mix, and thus you get an all around great challenger for the core and shoulder girdle. Yes, this should be a craze.

Watch the video below to get a glimpse on how to transition from a plank pose to a side plank…and then plank away, baby.

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