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US Congress Tries To Cut Body Scanner Funding 241

Posted by Soulskill
from the bin-laden-is-dead-so-terrorism-is-over-right dept.
OverTheGeicoE writes "The Electronic Privacy Information Center reports that the US House of Representatives is trying to cut funding for new airport body scanners from next year's budget. This would prevent the TSA from installing 275 new scanners in airports in FY 2012, at a cost of $76 million."
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US Congress Tries To Cut Body Scanner Funding

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  • Excellent (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Igorod (807462) <mikebolger@@@gmail...com> on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:43PM (#36143328) Homepage
    I'm contacting my representatives offices tonight to ask that they support this. If you can't beat them with logic and reason, beat them with funding.
    • Re:Excellent (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Tasha26 (1613349) on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:13PM (#36143730) Homepage
      Was there even an open bid process for body-scanner manufacturers or was it that one for-profit company who shoved the idea down TSA's throat and the govt was forced to go with it? I think the whole story about the current supplier is quite murky.
      • Re:Excellent (Score:5, Informative)

        by dkleinsc (563838) on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:53PM (#36144606) Homepage

        There was 1 for-profit company, who just so happened to have financial ties to then-DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff, who shoved the idea down the TSA's throat. These guys aren't even trying to hide the corruption anymore.

      • by StikyPad (445176)

        Open bids can be skipped when there's a sole source justification. Whether the justification holds up or not is a matter of opinion, but when there's only one provider, it's usually not much of a debate.

    • by corbettw (214229)

      I thought it was "if you can't beat them with logic and reason, beat them with a stick"? But hey, this works, too.

    • by mldi (1598123)
      OK, at first glance I thought "Sweet! Less chance of a nudie scan!". Not that I'm so much personally impacted by it, but it's the principle as well as recognizing other peoples' wants of privacy. However, all this means is that there'll be more invasive groping since there'll be a lack of invasive body scanners. I'm not sure this is a great thing. I'd be all for it if nixing the scanners also meant nixing the invasive groping, but until that happens.... I would still like the option to choose how to be pers
  • Prevent the TSA? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:45PM (#36143356)

    Why don't they do the RIGHT thing and DISMANTLE the god damn TSA?

    • by mungtor (306258) on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:52PM (#36143440)

      Why don't they do the RIGHT thing and DISMANTLE the god damn TSA?

      I'm not saying that it is, but it could be the beginning. Cutting funding is a way of stopping something when you have to save face for the people who support it. Then you can say "it was a good idea, but too expensive" and they can say "it was a good idea, but they were too cheap" and everybody walks away with their precious egos mostly intact.

      • Re:Prevent the TSA? (Score:5, Informative)

        by houghi (78078) on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:30PM (#36144106)

        The beginning? This is not even the end. The moment Bin Laden was killed, it was told that retaliations were to be expected and things will get worse.

        Remember: this is not about fighting some enemy, this is about controlling you. If this "enemy" is gone, another will be invented.

        Once communism was the worst that could happen. The war on that was won and did it bring peace? Not, just the next "enemy".

        • by StikyPad (445176)

          I agree that there will always be a new enemy, but I think it's less inherently about control and more about perception. When there's another superpower, that superpower is the greatest threat. But when that's gone, gradually the previously lesser threat is (rightly) perceived as the greatest threat. Its absolute magnitude hasn't necessarily changed significantly, but its relative magnitude certainly has. People don't think in absolutes very well. Their perceptions, and thus their responses, are almost

      • by Blakey Rat (99501)

        The bill in Texas is also doing its damnedest. You can kill a program (or make it toothless) with a thousand papercuts, it just takes longer.

    • It would be bad for the unemployment statistics. What industry would take all those unemployables?

    • by Rolgar (556636)

      This is one of the problems we have with spending in this country. Once a program is in place, it almost never gets cut, unless something even worse is put in it's place. To actually cut the TSA, you have to pass an entire bill through the House, Senate, and then get the signature of the President or an override majority from Congress.

      I wish we had a provision that a simple no vote by the House of Representatives could cut bad programs. (Laws would have to be written to not only get past the current House,

      • Re:Prevent the TSA? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Normal Dan (1053064) on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:13PM (#36143720)
        I've aways felt laws, government programs and things of this sort should all have a time limit associated with them. Once they expire, they have to be debated and voted in again as if they never existed in the first place. This will also keep congress from passing too many pointless new laws, as they will be too busy maintaining the old ones.
        • by gman003 (1693318)
          Well, then you run into the problem the PATRIOT Act did - it will just get silently voted into effect again and again, until most people are shocked to learn that it actually was supposed to be temporary. Hell, the Roman Empire made such temporary laws last for decades, even centuries.
          • by dgatwood (11270)

            Sure, as long as one law is written that way. Ideally, all laws should have to be written that way, which would effectively bound the total size of the body of law, thus forcing lawmakers to choose which laws to keep based on their actual importance.

        • by Blakey Rat (99501)

          The Bush tax cuts (penned in a very very different financial climate) were supposed to expire in 2010. They were renewed.

          Even when it takes effort to renew a law, it still happens 100% of the time.

      • by cdrguru (88047)

        Right. Any attempt to reduce the size or scope of the TSA will be met with PSAs showing happy families with their children at play ... and then a scene showing empty playgrounds, empty homes with foot-high grass and a line of people outside a shelter in February in Chicago. See what happens if we put these nice people out of work?

        The total staff for TSA is pretty large - I'm sure it is in the tens of thousands when you add up all of the people in Washington DC, all the airports and all of the off-airport

      • by tepples (727027)

        I wish we had a provision that a simple no vote by the House of Representatives could cut bad programs.

        We have that. It's called a government shutdown when the House fails to pass a budget.

      • by s73v3r (963317)

        I don't see how that's any better. Why shouldn't a change in the law have to go through the same process as a law does?

    • Because that would come awfully close to admitting they were wrong.

      As geeks, we sometimes admit we were wrong, and try to learn better. Politicians cannot, it seems, get away with that. They at least seem to think it's vital for their continuing careers that they were never actually wrong, or else their hypertrophied egos (and you really can't hit high office without one of those) don't stand for it.

      If Congress voted to cut the TSA back to what it should be (administering pre-2001 security), that wou

    • by Darinbob (1142669)

      Because then we'll go from having overbearing and often ineffective security into having absolutely zero security. There should be a middle ground in there somewhere.

  • by Mashiki (184564) <mashiki@gmailCURIE.com minus physicist> on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:46PM (#36143358) Homepage

    I see no problem with this. Then again I always believed that behavior profiling is a better method of screening anyway. It's very hard to train yourself to not set off behavioral queues for evasion, and so on, unless you've had a head injury that screws everything up.

    • It's very hard to train yourself to not set off behavioral queues for evasion, and so on...

      ...which is why militaries and paramilitaries offer hard training for the sort of people who need to evade behavioural queues (sic, intentional? because that's all they're going to create).

      • by Mashiki (184564)

        Uh-huh. I'm guessing you know how many years it takes to do something like that right? It's not exactly a crash course. You're not going to dispose of someone who's had training for that long, on being a splody-dope, etc.

        • by Dahamma (304068)

          Yeah, but the same can be true for training people to spot behavioral cues. And I'm pretty sure it's easier to find and train a few motivated terrorists than 100,000+ competent TSA agents.

    • But behavior profiling gets you sued here in America for violating civil liberties. It also gets you the label of racist. That's why the government is willing to do much more invasive things that are much less effective. It's not politically correct to perform behavioral profiles because you start the profiles based on what people look like and then all the sudden you are discriminating. Behavior profiling transcends race but for airport screening, race is one of the most helpful places to start, unfortunat
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mashiki (184564)

        I've always thought of political correctness as just another form of racism, with a dash of sexism, and bigotry all mixed into one happy basket. And I say that as someone who's half-japanese. But otherwise you're spot on.

      • Re:Hrm... (Score:5, Informative)

        by Anonymous Coward on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:00PM (#36143552)

        Actually we can't do behavioral profiling because idiots like you don't understand that it's not the same thing as racial profiling.

        Racial profiling: "That guy is black but he's driving an expensive car. He probably stole the car."

        Behavioral profiling: "That guy is driving conspicuously slow and it's 2:00am on a Saturday night, there's a good chance he's drunk."

        • I wasn't arguing for racial profiling, I was simply stating that race has to factor in to behavioral profiling at airports when we are trying to prevent terrorist attacks similar to what Al Qaida and similar groups pulled off and is trying to pull off.

          Racial profiling is wrong. What I said was, in effect, if you have a 25 year old man who appears to be from the Middle East who is acting suspiciously in an airport, and you have a 25 year old Caucasian who appears to be from the Northeast (let's say he's we
      • Re:Hrm... (Score:4, Insightful)

        by guspasho (941623) on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:12PM (#36143698)

        Behavior profiling is not racial profiling, nor does it even require racial profiling. The simple solution to not getting labeled racist is don't be a fucking racist. Don't racially profile. Starting with race, yeah, that makes you a racist, and it's completely irrelevant to the job.

        People want to blame this whole fiasco on the oppressive, all-powerful, "political correctness" but that's a bullshit strawman. Liberals had now power when the TSA was enacted, it was an entirely Republican invention, created at the height of Bush's popularity, and Democrats cheered it along with nary a complaint. The TSA doesn't want to hire well-trained employees and would rather have McGuards in front of expensive scanners bought through cozy no-bid contracts with companies that are paying off the TSA chiefs.

        • You're mostly correct, it isn't, necessarily. However, under the auspices of fighting terrorism of the 9/11 / Al Qaida sort, race has to factor in to behavioral profiling. I say race but really mean demographics (which usually includes race). We know that people who are more likely to perform the type of terrorist attacks that we are supposedly trying to prevent are most likely from a particular region of the world. That does not mean you ignore other people at all but to not try and filter your behavioral
      • by metlin (258108)

        You think it's not racist now?

        I fly several times a week, and except for those times I've opted out, I can remember two distinct times when the agent said I could go through the metal detector instead of the body scanner. It's funny, I see caucasian men being let through, and they notice me, and they make a couple of the men ahead of me go through the scanner as well, and then me, and the ones after me are all back to being happy campers.

        Of course, in some places, they subject everyone from a 4 year old to

    • I see no problem with this. Then again I always believed that behavior profiling is a better method of screening anyway. It's very hard to train yourself to not set off behavioral queues for evasion, and so on, unless you've had a head injury that screws everything up.

      What "behavior(s)" are you profiling for, and how will it detect whatever it is you want to detect?

  • The US *cutting* the budget of fear & safety stuff? The scanner manufacturer company must have done something to seriously piss off the US government...

    Either that or they're getting ready to upgrade to the new tech that can detect explosives hidden inside body cavities, the APM X-RIBS (Anal Probe Mounted X-Ray Internal Body Scanner)

    • There's only so much pork you can throw to your buddies before you derail the budget completely. They are greedy, but not suicidal.

  • The Wallet (Score:2, Insightful)

    by DaMattster (977781)
    Hit the TSA where it counts, the wallet. Face it, the body scanners aren't really doing anything anyway. In fact, security screening measures should be privatized again. There is no concrete evidence to suggest TSA is doing anything to thwart terrorism. Rather, they seem to enjoy groping people.
    • Hey! If it wasn't for that, I wouldn't have any sex life!

      (but refrain from telling them, they don't seem to enjoy hearing about it... believe me that!)

    • Re:The Wallet (Score:4, Interesting)

      by mini me (132455) on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:03PM (#36143582)

      The market really should decide. Some people want to feel safe, so if people are willing to pay to board a flight that has been screened, then the service should be available. But if people want to board a plane with no screening, that should also be available to them.

      • Re:The Wallet (Score:4, Interesting)

        by robot256 (1635039) on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:07PM (#36143640)
        That is the best idea I've heard in a long time. Plus, you can make the screened flight cost extra! Just how much is "safety" worth to those people?
        • by nebaz (453974)

          The obvious counterargument to this is that even "unsafe" planes can be made to fly into buildings, and I'm not even a big fan of a lot of these TSA measures.

          • by mixmatch (957776)
            Not if it's impossible to enter the pilot compartment from the passenger compartment.
            • by Dahamma (304068)

              Of course it is - it's just less accurate when you crash the plane with a bomb instead of the flight controls.

      • by skids (119237)

        Great! How much do the people on the unscreened flight have to pay me to make my building airplane-collision proof?

        • by mixmatch (957776)
          You do realize we were screening for all the things that would have prevented "building airplane-collision" before 2001, don't you?
          • by skids (119237)

            You do realize we haven't NOT been screening for the duration, so you have no clue what the rate of incidents without screening might be. The GP wants to make all screening measures optional. I have no doubt lots of customers would take that deal. I say let them as long as their ticket also pays for the hefty insurance premium needed to pay renters and investors in damaged buildings.

      • by Palal (836081)
        How about "Some people want to feel safe, so if people are willing to pay to get screened before boarding a flight, then the service should be available.". For the rest of us I don't mind a basic metal detector + bag scan without all the shoe and liquid nonsense.
      • by s73v3r (963317)

        Terrible idea. Where do you think all of the hijackers, terrorists, etc, will go?

        There needs to be a baseline of security on every flight. It just doesn't need to involve seeing me naked, or groping my balls.

  • I hope this passes (Score:5, Interesting)

    by yog (19073) * on Monday May 16, 2011 @03:53PM (#36143466) Homepage Journal

    I hate those machines. I travel a lot, and I'm worried that (1) the radiation levels are higher than the manufacturer claims, and (2) it does nothing to protect us from terrorism.

    Machines can only go so far. You have to have intelligent, well trained and highly motivated people on the scene.

    A friend who was traveling in China recently told me that when he went through airport security there, it felt like he was in a modern, free country. Then when he came back to American airports, it felt like he was in a backward dictatorship.

    The fact that they won't let us bring a 4 oz. or 6oz. yogurt, or a bottle of pure water, or a tube of what is obviously toothpaste, does not make us safer. It inconveniences us. I love yogurt and it's ridiculous that it can't be carried through security. Go ahead, open it, sniff it. It's milk, not nitroglycerine, or a binary explosive. Water is water. Toothpaste is toothpaste.

    I also miss traveling with my little flat Swiss card which contains a one inch knife and a scissors and a tweezers. It was so convenient and I used it all the time. They confiscated the knife twice, because I forgot to remove it from my backpack before traveling. So I just stopped carrying it at all.

    They blanket ban these things because they don't trust their employees to be intelligent enough to recognize the difference between a dangerous weapon and a bottle of shampoo or Coke. We're not safer, we're just angrier and hungrier as a result.

    Ok I'm getting off my soap box now :(

    • by swanzilla (1458281) on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:01PM (#36143568) Homepage

      The fact that they won't let us bring a 4 oz. or 6oz. yogurt, or a bottle of pure water, or a tube of what is obviously toothpaste, does not make us safer. It inconveniences us. I love yogurt and it's ridiculous that it can't be carried through security. Go ahead, open it, sniff it. It's milk, not nitroglycerine, or a binary explosive.

      I can't help but make a connection between this odd rant and your username.

    • by i.r.id10t (595143)

      They blanket ban these things because they don't trust their employees to be intelligent enough to recognize the difference between a dangerous weapon and a bottle of shampoo or Coke.

      Actually, either could make a handy weapon ...

      • by guruevi (827432)

        Anything can really. I can (and have) disassembled parts of my seat (or the one in front of me) and they are much more dangerous (size of a club) as a weapon. Much of the cheaper airlines have been cutting cost on maintenance to the absolute bare minimum and as a result the interiors are literally falling apart. Most of them have loose components on or around the chairs which can easily be bent off or loosened by hand, one of them I traveled in had duct-taped one of those plastic divider walls because it ha

    • by DinDaddy (1168147)

      I hate those machines. I travel a lot, and I'm worried that (1) the radiation levels are higher than the manufacturer claims, and (2) it does nothing to protect us from terrorism.

      If I were you, I'd stop worrying. I'd bet pretty heavily those are both facts.

      In the case of 1, I am of the oipinion that the dose is probably still safe, at least compared to in flight radiation, but I am reasonably sure their BS handwaving arguments understate the effective dose at skin level, and that at risk people should be exempted from it (as should everyone else for your second point).

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      They have had security checkpoints in my country for way longer than I can remember. I used to love the US airports because you got to stay with your loved ones until you boarded the plane. Now, you just see them embarrassingly getting rid of their shoes, belts, x-rayed while saying good bye.... how lovely.
    • A friend who was traveling in China recently told me that when he went through airport security there, it felt like he was in a modern, free country. Then when he came back to American airports, it felt like he was in a backward dictatorship.

      I went to Canada a few years ago. The Canadian customs officer I spoke to on the way in was friendly, polite, and asked me a few intelligent questions about my business there, and then waved me through. Coming back I was greeted by a squad of armed surly guards tha
    • by pz (113803)

      They blanket ban these things because they don't trust their employees to be intelligent enough to recognize the difference between a dangerous weapon and a bottle of shampoo or Coke.

      Yes, and we see the same thing with the incremental proof of age at bars. First, it was left up to the judgement of the bartender. Then, policies were enacted that anyone who looked under 30 were blanket carded. Then 40. Now, at the airport bar at IAD owned by a large chain brewery, I happened to visit last week, they proudly announce that they require proof from everyone.

      I am at present old enough that a hypothetical offspring of mine, born when I first became eligible to legally consume alcohol in the

      • by PCM2 (4486)

        Actually, I think you fail to grasp the reason for the "incremental proof of age." If you selectively decide whom you are going to card, you run the risk of a discrimination lawsuit. You didn't card me because you thought I was underage, you carded me because I was black. You carded me because I was a woman and you wanted to find out my address to stalk me. You turned me away because I didn't have an ID even though I was obviously over 21, and that's age discrimination. Eventually the only option is to just

        • by pz (113803)

          Interesting idea that by providing a cutoff of any kind that involves subjective judgement, you're enabling unwarranted discrimination. We actually do want a certain kind of discimination here, so that those under the legal age are not served alcohol, but, if I understand the argument, you're suggesting that because the person behind the bar must decide on subjective grounds whom to ask for identification, there's potential for abuse. Perhaps valid, but I don't think it explains the incrementalism that's

    • Scissors are not banned [tsa.gov], so instead of bringing one knife, you just need to bring two of knives that combine into a pair of scissors.

      One knife: banned. Two knives joined by a pivot: not banned.

  • Just for show (Score:4, Interesting)

    by elrous0 (869638) * on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:01PM (#36143566)

    A few Congressmen will make get a lot of press for this--defending our rights, standing up against the TSA for the common man, etc. Then at the end of the day, they'll back down and nothing will ever come of it. It's just to get themselves some positive press. They have no intention of really accomplishing anything.

    • Do you even know how federal legislation works? Why would the people who proposed this decide against it?
      • by elrous0 (869638) *

        The decide against it by proposing it without the votes to pass it. It dies, they get the good press, and nothing comes of it. It's just for show.

  • House Republicans are doing this to save money. They don't give a damn about privacy or the Fourth Amendment, the porn scanners are bad because they cost money.

    • by cobrausn (1915176)

      ...the porn scanners are bad because they waste money.

      Now I agree.

    • by yurtinus (1590157)
      Hey, I'll still take it!
    • by Shotgun (30919) on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:23PM (#36143884)

      Yes? Do you have a point that everyone doesn't know already? We also know that the scanners are useless. Being expensive and useless, is it wrong to try to save money?

    • by sribe (304414)

      ouse Republicans are doing this to save money. They don't give a damn about privacy or the Fourth Amendment, the porn scanners are bad because they cost money.

      You've got half the answer: they're bad because they cost money and they do not contribute to safety. If there were any evidence at all, or even particularly reasonable assumptions, that these things are an important improvement in safety, these Republicans would certainly not be spending their time, effort & political capital trying to shut them down.

    • If they're trying to save money, they're looking in the wrong place. $76 million is a pittance. It's 1% of TSA's budget and .002% of the overall budget.

      So maybe they're managing to do the right thing for the wrong reason for the wrong reason. I think that sentences parses and is meaningful, but it makes my head hurt.

      The way I see it, they're not doing it either for the money or the privacy but because they heard a lot of people were disgruntled and they figured they could score some points. The actual r

      • If they're trying to save money, they're looking in the wrong place. $76 million is a pittance. It's 1% of TSA's budget and .002% of the overall budget..

        And, when you consider the number of terrorists they've caught with them, you can calculate the reasonable cost per terrorist caught to determine how economical these are for each terrorist captured: OK, $75,000,000 divided by 0 terrorists cost = *%^# stupid calculator must not be working right, keeps coming up with some weird error message.

  • After that article on filter bubbles yesterday, it's amusing/disconcerting to see an effort by Republicans to strip funding for these scanners characterized as "the House of Representatives" trying to strip funding.
  • Latex gloves are cheaper.

  • How can Congress be "trying?" Either only some of Congress is trying, and some is resisting, or they are doing it. Congress as a whole does as Yoda says.

  • I guess this means more groping and less radiation.

    If they were smart, they could turn it into an income source. Just hire really attractive guards, play some Barry White music, etc.

  • by DavidinAla (639952) on Monday May 16, 2011 @04:22PM (#36143870)
    The headline here was written by someone who either doesn't understand the process or was being sloppy. Congress as a whole isn't trying to cut scanner funding. Republicans in the House of Representatives -- just one house of Congress -- are trying to cut funding. Even if it passes the House, it won't pass in the Senate. And Obama wouldn't sign it if it DID pass both houses of Congress. But on the basis issue of accuracy, it's wrong. "Congress" isn't trying to do anything at this point on this issue.
  • That is all.
  • No doubt the TSA will respond with the threat of more gate-rape.

  • They actually do something that makes sense.

    Even a stopped (analog) clock is right twice a day. And boy is the GOP ever _analog_.

  • Reason - Finally! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Virtucon (127420) on Monday May 16, 2011 @05:07PM (#36144852)

    It's about time that Congress started overseeing this program. After standing in line for 50 minutes today at DFW going through security I can attest
    at what a failure this whole program has been. Huge lines, angry passengers, inappropriate touching and civil rights violations all in the vain attempt to make people feel safe.

    After I finally got past the ID/Boarding Pass Check what did they do? They deferred me through the Metal Detector instead of the Backscatter device. There were already three people in line for the Backscatter screening.

    I'm sorry, this is one program that

    a) It hasn't been proven safe. Scientists have called for an independent study and one hasn't been done. We're taking huge risks with people's health here by not doing the proper checks and analysis.
    b) It hasn't been proven to stop anything. The TSA is always looking for "the last attack." Like taking off your shoes. Humm, after Richard Reid, has anybody tried attacking us with shoes except that incident with George W. Bush in Iraq a few years ago?
    c) It delays people traveling through airports. You may as well stop everybody in line and ask them 20 questions ala the "Bridge Keeper" "What is your name? What is your Quest..."
    d) Give up already, if all you want to do is give me a weekly proctology and rectal exam, fine just make sure you check the oil at the same time and I have these corns on my feet from standing in TSA lines I'd like you to look at as well. Just do the pat downs on everybody. That way everybody gets the sensation of the back of a hand in a rubber glove.
    e) Stop with the gizmo widget fantasies. I'm sorry Secy. Napolitano was out of line for ordering these things to begin with and shame on congress for giving them the money, or were they funded out the the ARRA $787Billion?

    I travel through airports every week and the lamest thing of all? Your Congressmen and Senators don't go through any of that. They have private entrances, they get VIP treatment. They need to go through the same hassles, stand in the same lines and deal with the same rubber gloves all without their special VIP identification. I'm sure if Al Franken or Kay Bailey Hutchinson had to go through this shit there would be some changes!

    I saw people freak out today because they missed their flights, I saw airline counter agents have to work and rebook people and re-route them all in the name of making them safe when they fly. Bullshit! There's probably a higher probability that a Canadian Goose will down my plane than a terrorist.

    Congress needs to step up and do the right thing here and step in where these retards at DHS have clearly overstepped their bounds.

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