Body Health, Mental Health, Politics

THE SENATE RELEASES THEIR HEALTHCARE BILL

Read my articles about the CBO analysis for the House bill here and the March AHCA bill here

In other news, before we get started—President Trump took to Twitter today to confirm that there were no tape-recordings of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey; tapes he insinuated weeks ago he had.


Written when I was going to write about using self-tanner in preparation for New York Pride, and the realization that the healthy, sun-kissed glow I actually needed was for my soul—but more pressing matters have arisen.

This morning—Thursday June 22, 2017—the new healthcare plan was released after a cloud of mystery while it was being written in private by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a small group of colleagues. The bill’s mystery was protested by Democrats and Republicans alike, who feared that this bill would be introduced and forced into a hasty vote before anyone had a chance to read it. according to CNN, the bill will have a one-week-turnaround, meaning that McConnell hopes to get it voted on within a week.

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Politics

CB-OH NO: The Latest on the AHCA

The Congressional Budget Office releases its estimates on the new AHCA bill.


On May 24, 2017, the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) released new scoring for the latest iteration of the American Health Care Act. In their findings, the CBO and the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT) estimated that over the next decade, the federal deficits would be reduced by $119 billion and that by 2026 23 million more people would be uninsured compared to the current law. Most of that 23 million would occur within the first year, with the CBO estimating that in 2018, 14 million people would be uninsured under the new bill (H.R. 1628).

The bill was passed in the House on May 4, 217 to 213 with 20 Republicans voting against and no Democrats voting for. The first attempt to pass the AHCA ended with Speaker of the House Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) pulling the bill hours before it was about to be voted on because it lacked the numbers to pass.

The new version passed without an official CBO score, having had mostly cosmetic tweaks to garner more support. According to The Atlantic, the AHCA stops states from “enrolling new people under Medicaid expansion” and it “incentivized states to drop the expansion altogether.” The new bill would also introduce per-capita caps on federal spending, reducing the number of people covered and their benefits. The AHCA also removes the employer mandate, which forces employers to provide affordable health insurance to 95% of their full-time employees and children up to the age of 26.

The bill also removes the individual mandate, which penalizes people who don’t sign up for health insurance. What this does, essentially, is take the burden off of healthy people who might not necessarily need insurance. But without those people paying into the system, the onus is on the sicker, older people to pick up the deficit.

The new bill also introduces a set of waivers: one that would allow states to “modify the requirements governing essential health benefits” (Remember that from last time?) and one that would allow insurers to “set premiums on the basis of an individual’s health status.” Roughly 1/6 of the population resides in areas where states would utilize those waivers and the result would be increasing difficulty for less healthy people to purchase insurance on account of rising premiums.

The waivers were the result of an amendment from Representative Tom MacArthur. Business Insider reported that it was the MacArthur amendment that gathered the support of 20 members of the Freedom Caucus, the conservation caucus that largely withheld support for the first AHCA on account of it being too lenient.

A CNBC article quoted Dr. Andrew Gurman, president of the American Medical Association, as saying, “Today’s estimates from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office show that last-minute changes to the AHCA made by the House offered no real improvements.”

The bill will now go to the Senate, where it requires at least 50 votes for it, thus leading to Vice President Mike Pence acting as a tiebreaker. Even with majorities in both chambers of Congress, and a 52-percent majority in the Senate, there is still the likelihood that the AHCA will not pass. Or that if it does, it will have to be severely rewritten to get any support.

Bottom line, even after months of rewriting, the AHCA bill has barely improved and, if anything, has gotten crueler by allowing states waivers on essential health benefits. Older, sicker Americans will see increased premiums and restricted care, and younger, healthier Americans won’t see any incentive to buy insurance. The GOP was more concerned with cosmetic Band-Aids to get conservative support than they were with crafting a bill that would benefit their constituents.

There is one bright side to the AHCA passing: this is probably the first time in months that Paul Ryan hasn’t had violent diarrhea from Congressional stress. Unfortunately, Congress-related diarrhea is no longer covered under the new plan.

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Body Health

“CAN YOU SPOT ME?”

I twist around on the bench, pulling the earbuds—playing Lana Del Rey’s “LOVE”—from my ears. “What?”

“Could you spot me?” he asks again. Grey t-shirt, short, brawny, dark wiry hair and bristly stubble.

I blank for a second, and then nod hastily. “Yeah, yeah!” I hop up and follow him to his own bench press. “I’m doing sets of four,” he tells me before he dips underneath the bar. I hover in the negative space between the prongs the bar rests on. His hands reach up, pinkies first, and find their places on the grooved metal.

He hulks the bar out of its resting position and does one rep. His face purples with the effort of raising the bar off his straining chest. On the second one, the bar stays static an inch above his chest. Panicking, I hook my hands underneath the bar and lift it up from his chest. “Let me struggle,” he tells me—an admonishment to my ears but probably nothing to him.

“Oh, okay,” I nervously laugh.

The idea of “spotting” entails a weirdly personal moment. As I spot this guy, my feet are squared below his shoulders, my groin hovering somewhere above and behind his forehead. Essentially, I’m the only one responsible for making sure the barbell doesn’t pin him to the bench. Without me, he would have 150 pounds on top of his chest, making ribs creak and internal organs bruise.

Once, I tried to bench press without a spotter. I made it through twelve reps of a first set, and on the first rep of the second set, my arms gave out and the bar jolted back onto me. Gravity, weight and my own weakness led to me being pinned like a bug under glass. Groaning, I slowly rolled the barbell down the length of my body, flattening my own ribs and vital organs, resting heavily against my legs until it was far enough down for me to sit up and lift it off me. With the memory of my own primal fear—fox in a bear-trap—in the back of my mind, I stood as his spotter.

But by being his spotter, I was engaging in the bizarre intimacy of the gym. With my headphones in, and eyes narrowly locked on my own reflection as I lift weights, the gym is an insular experience. But outside the Panasonic earbuds, everyone complies to the gym code. If you’re taking too long on a machine, someone will come up and ask to “work in” with you. And so you’ll take turns, watching over them as muscles pull and strain and sweat glosses reddening skin.

You might ask someone wordlessly—both of you speaking through various decibels of music—if they’re done working on a certain machine, or done using that weight you’ve been waiting for. They nod and smile, and you slip in and slide an antiseptic wipe across the imitation-leather to remove any residue they might’ve left behind.

When you pull off a mat and plop it down onto the floor, you’re often working it in—Tetris-style—amongst other mats, going horizontal and vertical across the gym floor. You set yourself down amidst a rippling mass of elbows and knees as other people hold minutes-long planks, bob up and down in a series of unending crunches. Everything is constantly encroaching onto each other’s space, bony extremities popping into each other’s bubbles, sweat flying off in a thousand directions.

And beyond all that, there’s the fact that you’re a group of strangers choosing to be in pain in front of each other. You would never willingly choose to embarrass yourself—over and over—in front of people, but you do for these people. They witness you fling weights to the ground and curl over yourself as the last set pulls all remaining energy from your body. They see you sweat like a maniac, darkening the joints of your t-shirt as you cycle endlessly to an episode of The Office.

Once you get past the initial embarrassment of being vulnerable in a public space, the gym becomes an incredibly therapeutic experience. Because everyone there—the muscle jocks jotting down their gains in small notepads, the people who brings laptops and set them up like projection screens on the ellipticals, or the people edging in for the first time—is focused on getting healthy. They’re focused on making themselves better.

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Politics

THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT GOES TO VOTE TODAY, FRIDAY MARCH 24

Update 3/25: the American Health Care Act was pulled from the floor and did not go through the voting process. Speaker Ryan has stated that the Affordable Care Act will be the law for the “foreseeable future.” President Trump has since stated that he will wait for the ACA to “explode” and then create a “greater healthcare plan.”

Today, Friday, March 24, 2017, the House of Representatives will vote on the Affordable Care Act replacement bill—the American Health Care Act—with significant changes having been made last night and without the Congressional Budget Office analyzing those changes. Previously the CBO offered projections of, despite a decrease of ~$337 billion in the deficit, roughly 24 million people without coverage by 2026. Even by just repealing the ACA leaves 18 million people uninsured.

The bill underwent multiple changes after receiving severe blowback from all Democrats and several factions of Republicans. GOP moderates felt that the plan was too ill-thought and would leave too many people uninsured. GOP conservatives felt the bill did not go far enough, and dubbed it “Obamacare-Lite.” Those divides postponed the vote, which was supposed to take place yesterday. Ryan and other proponents of the bill did not want to go forward without the votes.

 

The new bill would defund Planned Parenthood. The rationale for this is restriction of abortions. However, Planned Parenthood puts no federal funding towards abortions. They do put federal funding towards reimbursement for services like birth control, contraception, and cancer screenings. Patients use public health programs, like Medicaid and Title X, go to places like Planned Parenthood that take that coverage. They use the programs, Planned Parenthood sends the claim to Medicaid (for example), which reimburses them, and then Medicaid sends the bill to the federal government. Abortions, which account for roughly 3 percent of all PP services, do not get reimbursed.

So when the GOP says that they will defund Planned Parenthood, they are doing it out of spite, because what they’re actually doing is stopping people from being able to use Medicaid for non-abortion services.

Vice President Mike Pence, formerly the Governor of Indiana, recently posted a photo of himself and the President meeting with the Freedom Caucus. The Freedom Caucus is made up of the GOP conservatives who are dragging their feet about the bill.

To get them on the side of voting yes, those in charge of the bill—House Speaker Paul Ryan, VP Pence, and even Trump—have struck a deal with the Freedom Caucus. If the Caucus agrees to the bill, the Essential Health Benefits list will be removed from the bill.

What’s the Essential Health Benefits?

It’s a holdover from the Affordable Care Act. It requires insurances to cover—at the bare minimum—the following 10 items:

  • Emergency Services
  • Hospitalization
  • Ambulatory patient services
  • Maternity and newborn care
  • Mental health and substance use disorder services
  • Prescription drugs
  • Rehabilitative and habilitative services
  • Laboratory services
  • Preventive and wellness services
  • Pediatric services

There has been no analysis on the future consequences on striking off the Essential Health Benefits because the CBO has not been given enough time to conduct research.

Trump has put pressure on the GOP to push this bill through. It would solidify his stance as a deal-maker—something he ran on during the campaign—and would show his control over the rapidly dividing Republican party. He has also threatened that the Republicans will lose their majority if the bill does not pass. That pressure has forced massive overhauls to the bill. House Republicans and Democrats are set to vote on a bill that they haven’t read in full, or had sufficient or significant research on.

But perhaps the scariest part of this whole thing is that photo that VP Pence Tweeted out. Him and the President meeting with the Freedom Caucus. With the strength of the Freedom Caucus, the American Health Care Act is that much closer to being passed.

A circle of wealthy, privileged, heterosexual cisgender white men, deciding the fate of women, minorities, cancer patients, those with mental illness, and the vulnerable. We might not have seen the finished bill, but we have seen enough of the consequences. The AHCA would mostly affect the elderly and sick—premiums would rise due to declining assistance—while the young, healthy and wealthy would see tax benefits. In addition, according to Forbes, over the next decade, the plan outlines an $880 billion tax cut, with $274 billion going directly to the richest 2%.

If the AHCA, the new healthcare plan, only benefits the young, healthy and wealthy, while leaving premiums rising, care decreasing, targeting the elderly and the sick, and ~24 million uninsured—then it’s possible that this isn’t the best plan.

But this is the world we live in—the decision of this small cluster of white men, for whom this healthcare plan will only benefit, will impact the rest of us.

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Body Health, Things Happening RN

CALORIE-COGNIZANT: THE TRI-ET

I feel like I’m constantly shaking things. Shaking a leaky red water bottle wrapped in paper towel like maracas to blend a protein shake (chocolate). Shaking a full carton of orange juice after taking the plastic tab—something that fills me with a nameless childhood anxiety—out of the spout. A plastic tub of unsalted cashews into my palm and popping them in my mouth as I look at myself in the mirror before class.

Side bar—Theory: hipsters couldn’t exist before blenders because the only way to make a green juice sans Magic Bullet is with literal magic. Mull that over with your friends the next time you’re lost for conversation.

Being on a diet seems to carry with it a lot of shaking—possibly purposefully to incur extra exercise. I take stairs two at a time more when I’m actively working out and with each stretch clench my butt. In general, when I’m on a consistent workout plan, I treat my body with more respect. I eat healthier, I drink more water. When I’m not on a consistent plan, I treat my body like the rest of the world treats Anne Hathaway—like, you know she’s important but you kind of enjoy shitting on her for no reason anyway.

In my post from the 16th (a pre-Trump presidency, what a world) “Healthy, Wealthy or Wise”, I mentioned that I was recently on a new workout plan. Now it’s 10 days later, and I’m 10 days more annoying about mentioning my workouts.

This isn’t new information, but treating your body right is hard. It’s not so much the workout-side of it all—I really enjoy (no sarcasm) having a new workout plan. As a scattered person, having something rigid to strive towards is extremely helpful. It stops me from phoning it in at the gym (although my phone-improv has everyone at the gym laughing).

The hard part comes after, when I trying to make food. On one hand, it’s relatively easy—I try not to buy unhealthy things and stick to roasting veggies and chicken. And there’s there’s not even an other hand because my “other hand” is elbow-deep in a bag of tortilla chips. So what I’m saying is that it’s hard for me to always stick to eating healthy. It’s also hard to account for all the “fun eats”—with friends, or by myself at Starbucks—to factor in.

And I know that while my body is getting very strong, my willpower is still relatively weak. So instead of adhering to a “diet” I’m doing more of a “triet” where I try to be cognizant of how many calories I’m consuming and deciding if something’s worth it. So maybe I won’t get sweetener in my coffee. Or maybe I’ll get soup with a friend rather than Panda Express—which saves my wallet, my stomach, and my butthole.

I like saying “calorie-cognizant” for two reasons. One, it reminds people that I know how to properly use the word “cognizant” and reinforces that I might be pretty, but I’m also wicked smart. But two, it doesn’t carry the shackles of “calorie-counting.” It doesn’t make me a calorie-counter. It keeps me, at least in theory, from becoming obsessive with calories. Which, if you’ve ever seen me talk about the Kardashians, you know how easily I can get obsessed. I once binged four seasons of Snooki & JWoww.

For someone with body image issues and an anxiety disorder, monitoring food can easily veer into an ugly place. Sure, I may have thoughts like, “Wouldn’t it be great if you never had to eat so all the hard work you did at the gym wouldn’t be diminished?” (it would be) or praised the time I got a stomach flu and was “so thin” (it was amazing). But I don’t have a full-fledged eating disorder, and I would very much like to keep it that way. So the cognizant part works on two levels: yes, it’s a way for me to make smarter choices. But it’s also for me to realize that I’m going to fuck up at some points, and it’s okay if I sometimes shove fistfuls of tortilla chips into my mouth at 11:43 p.m.

Yesterday I got drinks with a friend of mine at the university pub. The conversation veered in a lot of directions—jobs, family, transportation systems, boyz—but we talked about “glowing up” (is that even the right way to use that?) and us in high school versus us now.

I take a firm stance that I got hot maybe within the last two years. This is by no means me fishing for compliments—if you know me on any level, you know I’m not subtle enough to fish for compliments—but just what I see as a fact. In high school, I was a lanky, acne-ridden twink who obsessed over plucking his eyebrows. I dressed in too-tight chino pants—the buttons of which I had resewn with pink thread—too-small cardigans and crinkly neoprene-y ties. But I thought I was literally so hot. Like, I really did. And so it goes to prove that delusion is a very real factor.

Since those Dark Times™, I’ve started an exercise regimen, and left my eyebrows (for the most part) alone and also stopped buying pants that I can’t sit down in. I’ve become wise. I don’t know why I included this part, but I feel like it connects in my head to eating healthy. Because while I’d rather just burn all pictures of me from high school—along with that horrid leopard-print belt I would wear TO MY ALL-BOYS PREP SCHOOL—I would love to have the blind body confidence of that little freaky gay-boy who, at his core, was just as delusional as a Real Housewife.

I’d like to treat my body like the world treated Anne Hathway just post-Princess Diaries but pre-Princess Diaries 2 and I’d like to have the confidence of a Nene Leakes from Real Housewives of Atlanta. This is now the second post in a row where I’ve discussed Real Housewives.

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Life, Things Happening RN

HEALTHY, WEALTHY, OR WISE (FIGURE OUT WHICH ONE I AM)

Guess who has two thumbs, a conspiracy that all birds are CGI, and is going to write/brag about me going to the gym?

THIS ME.

After 10 days in Italy, drinking wine, eating pasta, having desserts every single day, I waddled back onto the plane feeling a little squished. Not just because I was going to be sitting in essentially a toddler’s high-chair for eight hours, but because I had been, as Dove commercials say, indulging.

So to get back to my optimal weight—which is “Not hating myself”—I decided to hit the gym, hard. And that bitch hit back—harder.

When I was just a doughy 18-year-old (hard to believe that was six months ago…just kidding, I’m fifty if I’m a day), I was double-fisting a burrito and a bowl of nachos in the dining hall when my friend mentioned going to the gym.

I looked up dully, eyes glazed over from ground “beef,” and asked what she was talking about. Apparently college tuition includes access to a “gym.” It does not, by the way, include guaranteed job security or a comprehensive academic counseling system, but that’s neither here nor there. No, literally, it’s not here or there.

Anywayanyway, my friend eventually brought me to the gym and introduced me to her workout plan, which was found online at a bodybuilding website. She showed me certain exercises, made me comfortable around the gym, and eventually I started going by myself. It was a 12-week plan, so I did the 12-weeks, then I did the 12-weeks over again. And again.

I’ve never been, like, ripped, but I’ve generally hovered between “acceptable” and “passably fit (if you squint)”. When I was wildly depressed and going to the gym every single day when I was 19, I was so fit. But when I went on medication, stabilized my mood and developed a healthy lifestyle attitude, I gained back some weight and took a more relaxed attitude towards working out.

I haven’t used a workout plan really since sophomore year, because I didn’t really need to to keep my motivation, but at the end of last semester, I was really slacking—mind, body and spirit. Sorry, spirits. So I’ve decided to get back on a workout plan (eight-weeks because I’m in the middle of convincing myself that I have ADD and ADme can’t commit to anything longer than eight weeks) to kick myself back into gear.

Gear is an acronym for “Getting everyone angry (at my) raging (body).” Not an exact acronym, I’ll admit.

I’m actually excited to get back into working out. I mean, I’ve been working out pretty consistently this entire holiday, but I’m excited to get back into a workout plan. There’s something about having a plan that’s thrilling.

The part that’s not thrilling is eating healthy. I have this cute little habit called “night eats.” It’s where it’s 1 a.m. and I make a grilled cheese and eat it while watching luxury hauls on YouTube. Luckily so far while I’ve been home, I’ve been doing pretty well. My sister is eating healthy too, and she cooks, so I’ve been able to resist standing in our pantry—shoving pretzels in my pockets to take upstairs for shame-eating. And also, once I get back to school, it shouldn’t be too hard. I buy my own groceries, and as long as I don’t cave and splurge on eight boxes of chocolate straws or multiple bags of mandarin chicken, I should be able to keep my healthy kick going.

If you see me eating a slice of pizza—hit me in the face. Do not accept any explanation I give you. Unless I look really happy, you guy—NO. I MUST BE STRONG. STRIKE ME ACROSS THE JAW.

Also I spent a good hour yesterday googling the least-horrifying alcoholic drinks. Luckily for me, I like gin and tonics. Could you imagine if I were a slut for margaritas? I WOULD BE DEAD ON THE FLOOR. DEAD. ON. THE FLOOR.

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Life, Mental Health, Rambles

RUNNING AND SPILLING THAT ANXIE-TEA

Written on a Sunday evening, laptop on chest. 

I’ve had one of those weekends where I realize everything that’s ever been wrong/will be wrong/is wrong with my life. And I think it’s something only a rising college senior could experience, the compounded emotions of living life in your childhood home while simultaneously expected to grapple with the upcoming reality of post-graduate world. So that’s fun.

But actually that’s just me being hyperbolic because I realized that this weekend, and possibly the last week, I’ve been in the middle of a depressive slump. Being medicated while depressed is a weird thing because mentally you assume that the little blue pills you swallow every morning—I can swallow dry, tell your friends—will cure you. But really, they just help you manage the depression. I, and probably a lot of other depressed people, then operate under the assumption that we’re “better” or “normal.” This is confusing because when you go into depressive slumps, which is natural for anyone and extremely natural for someone with depression, you almost don’t realize what’s happening until you’re already chest-deep in emotion.

And the “you” in this situation is “me.” Or “I”?

I used to have these wild mood swings where for two weeks, I would be deeply depressed, then I wouldn’t be, and that joy would elevate into this kind of superior fervor because I wasn’t depressed at the moment, and then it would gradually swing back. Medication restricted that vast pendulum swing, and so my moods travel back into the regular range. And on one hand, that’s awesome because blah blah blah we get why that’s awesome. But on the other hand, I A) became addicted to the feelings of high and almost reveled in the lows, and B) was able to realize when I was in a slump because it was so obvious.

When you have a regular human range of emotions, mixed with the (wrong) belief that you’re cured of depression, those slumps can really sneak up on you, and BOI did they sneak up on me.

One way to realize that you’re in a slump is that things begin to resonate harder with you. Before I was on medication, I described it as if I were a well. Anything could happen and it would ping down into my well and reverberate deeply inside. When you’re on medication, the well seems shallower, so the things don’t vibrate as deeply or for as long. But in this slump, a lot of little things—the usual bunch of body image, boy weirdness, friend weirdness and job anxiety—compounded and suddenly became so overwhelming that I did something I never do anymore.

I ran outside.

Basically from ages fourteen to eighteen, I was constantly running. After I got into college, I dropped that like a hot stone and recently I’ve picked it up slightly in the form of highly regulated, 12-minute sprints on the treadmill. I hate going on runs. But I was so amped up and anxious and I had no car to go to the gym to burn away my emotions that I just started running in my neighborhood. I only ran three miles—okay ran/walked/stood and tweeted three miles—and it really helped to cleanse me.

I power-sprinted to Meghan Trainor, I walked to Matt Nathanson, and I boiled down some concrete things I could do. A lot of what’s been stressing me out has its claws in social media, and I took some action to alleviate some of that anxiety. One of it was unfollowing someone because following them only confuses me romantically and indulges my tendency to fixate and obsess. And even though I still meander over to them in my mind, I don’t have that digital bee-sting when I scroll past their stuff. And so that’s something that I could do to make myself feel better and did.

I think a lot of dealing with your emotions, whether or not you suffer from depression, is about taking distance. When I was in the full flush of all these emotions, I had to step back, recognize the slump for what it was, and realize that that was enhancing my anxiety. Not that these things wouldn’t have stressed me out on a good day, but they wouldn’t have made me as emotional. And having space from the things that are causing you to be stressed also allows you to evaluate them. Like, I’m an obsessive person sometimes, so I’ve been fixating on this one person and thinking that I like them when really maybe I do like them but I’m also looking for someone to fixate on and someone to rationalize current other emotions. Sounds complicated, right?

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Source: Pajiba/Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the show I’m currently watching. V good, v good.

I’m rambling, but I wanted to write it out and idk get this thought out there? I reached out to people when I was feeling really spiral-y—Marco, Nina—and having their friendship and listening ears really helped me out. So I think putting stuff like this out there, that being medicated doesn’t mean cured and that’s not a bad thing, and it’s okay to get overemotional and stressed and anxious, validates a lot of feelings I think we all have. And that’s important—the validation of our feelings.

Anyway, anyway, anyway. I wrote an article responding to the Dallas shooting on The Odyssey Online, so if it’s up by the time this gets published, I’ll link it HERE (DON’T FORGET DANNY). I don’t want it to look like I’m ignoring last week’s events.

I LOVE YOU GUYS. Even you. Yes, you! I like that top. Most people would’ve be that brave to pull off something like that. No that’s not shade. OMG IT’S NOT SHA—

Byeee!

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