Best of the Week
of April 5, 1998


Here are the most intriguing cross-cultural exchanges either begun or advanced during the week of April 5, 1998, as selected by Y? These postings also can be found in their respective archives, which we invite you to browse. There, you will find questions that have received answers, as well as questions still awaiting responses. We encourage you to answer any questions relevant to your demographic background, as well as to ask any provocative question you desire. Answers posted are not necessarily meant to represent the views of an entire demographic group, but can provide a window into the insights of an individual from that group.

First-time users should first make a quick stop at our guidelines pages for asking and answering questions.

 

THE QUESTION:
D6: I am curious about what people who have been blind from birth "see" in their dreams. Could a respondent with a blind family member or friend ask them about this for me? Thanks.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
David L., 13, Portland, OR
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THE QUESTION:
RE29: Could someone explain more clearly why Muslims and Christians/Catholics can pray in synogogues, but Jews shouldn't pray in churches?

POSTED APRIL 8, 1998
Caroline L., 22, Jewish <
Leest@arlington.net>
Arlington, TX

ANSWER 1:
I think this is just a tradition based upon past persecution. In many cases, Christian clergymen were focal points for the persecution of Jews, including forced conversions. Also, for a Jew to show up in a church would in many cases either be a provocative act or taken as a sign of conversion. By the way, in my memory, Catholics had to get permission from a priest to visit a synagogue.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
Jerry S., 49, Jewish <
jerryschwartz@comfortable.com>
New Britain, CT
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THE QUESTION:
R119: As a white male living in the South, the often-times ugly racial history of my region is constantly brought up. I honestly feel that relations between blacks and whites are better in this part of the country than anywhere else. I hope this is because the races have had to work and coexist together here longer - even though not always in the right way. What do black Southerners think who have traveled around, and what do other folks from other parts of the country think?
POSTED MARCH 31, 1998
Wallace, Southern-American
Atlanta, GA

ANSWER 1:
I am originally from the North, but have lived in the South nearly 10 years. I think the way things are in the South, it is easy to fool yourself into thinking race relations are good. They may be a little better, but good they are not. In the South, blacks have to stay within a certain range for whites to accept them, unless they are very educated. Then they have a better range. It seems as though there is an invisible line separating communities by race. More blacks and whites where I am from in Ohio live in the same neighborhoods, there are more interracial couples and I had more white friends there than I do here. I met more whites there, too. Don't get me wrong: The South is great, and I like it here, but race is still a very real issue. Until you are suffering from the conditions of race, it is hard to understand the issue. It is somewhat like men and women not understanding each other, only it is more than that.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
Carmela <
pecola@hotmail.com>
Atlanta, GA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I lived in the South for 30 of my 38 years, and felt similar to the way you (Wallace above) feel for much of that time. However, after moving out of the South to California and having traveled throughout the United States on business in the last few years, I have changed my opinion. It seems to me that many individuals in the South may feel as you do, but that the overwhelming culture and history of the South makes for a rather distinct yet subtle form of racial separation. Noticing color is a constant thing, and you are always aware of what you can and cannot not say to whom, especially when speaking to other white people, especially older ones. "Not being racist" seems to require a "stand" or commitment in the South, and when living there, that seems normal, yet it's particulary ... relaxing.

After moving away, I've found that this previously "normal" need to be consistently aware of the potential (probable?) racial bias of a given person has disappeared. The races mix much more transparently and comfortably, and I don't see nearly the stratification of social and work-related groups. Color? It never comes up, and I never think about it anymore. I treat everyone the same now out of habit and out of comfort, where before it was something I had to remind myself about, as I was bucking hundreds of years of history, and many people in the South worked very hard to make sure I didn't forget it.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
Craig, white, Foster City, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I disagree with these two answers. I think it's better in the South. I'm in an interracial relationship, and here in the South, most people don't look twice. I lived in California (Fremont) for 10 years, and was subject to much more overt prejudice. For example, I would go into a store with my young son, and the clerk would look at me, look at my son, look back at me, look back at my son, at which point I would say something like "I know what you're thinking" and they'd get all embarrassed. I had police stop me on the street several times to see if my son was actually mine, despite him riding on my shoulders having a good time! Here in Georgia, nobody says anything about it - they understand what the deal is, and pretty much could care less.
POSTED APRIL 10, 1998
Alex, 39, white <
aleavens@mindspring.com>
Lawrenceville, GA
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THE QUESTION:
D5: Why do adults often label HIV-positive children and teenagers drug users, crack babies or whores? As a teen with AIDS, I'd really like to know.
POSTED APRIL 8, 1998
Aliston L., 15 <
alisunshine@hotmail.com>
Brisbane, Queensland, Australia

ANSWER 1:
Ignorance. And a psychological mindset that insists that bad things must happen only to bad people - which, if you think about it, is an understandable, if hurtful, mindset, because the alternative, that such things can happen to anyone (good as well as bad) is simply too unbearable for most people to think about. All the same, I wince at such characterizations. I'll never forget my mother, saying of Ryan White, "He didn't get AIDS from reading his Bible!"; I was appalled. She regretted her statement afterwards, but there it was. On behalf of us all, I wish to apologize for our being still so stereotypical and for not understanding. And I hope and pray that God blesses you and your family, and gives you strength to endure your condition. As hard as it may be to believe sometimes, there are people who really care.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
Glenn P., 39, <
C128User@GTI.Net>
Washington, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE:
I believe adults label HIV-positive children and teenagers because they think the mother (parent) was a drug user, crack cocaine addict or whore. That is because a person can contract AIDS through sharing the same needles and through sexual intercourse. Therefore, the assumption is that the child contracted AIDS in the mother's womb.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
L.S., 50, white female, Ann Arbor, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I don't believe children/teenagers with HIV are subjected to disparaging remarks any more or less than adults with HIV, with this exception: Because HIV is transmitted through such specific modes (sex, drug use, the womb, etc.) older people may not tend to relate contraction of the disease in a younger person to modes other than drug use, the womb, etc. Example: Someone who is, say 50, may not consider that a nine-year-old with HIV got it from anywhere other than their mother. Things like the hemophilia drugs that weren't purified weren't and aren't really talked about often enough in the media, but mothers using crack and having babies with HIV is very prominent in the media.
POSTED APRIL 10, 1998
S.C., Cordova, TN
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THE QUESTION:
R121: I'm a black woman, and I have always wondered: Why is it that every time a black person walks by a person of a different race who is inside a car, the person quickly locks the doors? Is it that they think we are going to rob them or do some type of harm to them?
POSTED MARCH 31, 1998
Velma E., Mt. Clemens, MI

ANSWER 1:
I'm afraid that's exactly it. And I'm horrified that I sometimes do it, too. I find two parts to my fear: One, of course, is simple stereotyping (e.g., "blacks are violent"). Despite years of work, I cannot claim to be free of it. (Better, but not free). The second, for me at least, is my own imagining of what it would be like to grow up black in America. I grew up white - thus with privilege. When I try to imagine growing up on the wrong end of racism, I think I would want to savage every white person I saw. The fact that this is clearly not true of all black people takes my breath away. And I almost can't believe it -so in the back of my mind, I wonder if that black man or woman walking past my car will be the one who wants a payback. Sad, no?
POSTED APRIL 4, 1998
Will H., 48, white, Dallas, TX

FURTHER NOTICE:
According to best-selling author Andrew Hacker ("Black and White"), Will H. is right on the money with his "revenge fear" assessment. He did a study in which he asked a number of Euro-Americans whether they would rather be robbed of $500 by someone of their own race or of $5 by a black person. Every single one picked the former, for the very reason Will H. mentioned.
POSTED APRIL 6, 1998
B.T.M., black male, Detroit, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
That is amazing to me that white people in America feel such mixed emotions about blacks. I always thought whites were acting ridiculous when they locked their door when someone black walked by them. It is interesting to know that they fear dealing with the pain of racism felt by blacks than they do of actual harm being done to them. It is not exactly heart-warming, but it is honest. I appreciate that.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
Carmela, black female, 29 <
pecola@hotmail.com>
Atlanta, Ga

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
Let's not assume that every prejudice is unfounded. In this case, I would ask how many carjackers are white - and how many are black. At least, of those we hear about on the news? (I'll grant that the news may be biased, but that is a separate issue; I'm talking about the end perception.) And the various incidents of "black rage" certainly don't help matters any.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
Glenn P., white, 39, <
C128User@GTI.Net>
Washington, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
While all of these answers ring true, our society as a whole is getting more violent, so this situation will get worse before it gets better. I lock the door for all people.
POSTED APRIL 10, 1998
Cheryl C., Livonia, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 5:
I grew up in England at a time when I never met a person of another color until going to college in the 1950s. There, I met African princes with interesting facial tribal scars, melodious accents and flowing, beautiful robes. I dated a fascinating and handsome man from Pakistan who was a descendant of Mohammed, and I never felt any kind of hostility to anyone different from me. Then, in November 1969, I walked out of a Red Foxx performance in San Francisco (my companion and I were the only whites there). When Foxx made a racist remark about me as we left, I told him that that is what he was - a big mistake. I was followed home, forced into my car at knifepoint, robbed and terrorized by a black man who only stopped short of raping me and slitting my throat when I convinced him my companion was waiting for me, which he wasn't. My wallet was found in Las Vegas two days later. My Piaget watch I never saw again. It took me years to be able to even get into an elevator with a black man without that stab of fear. So now, I lock my car door whenever there is a stranger near (automatically). Their skin color is unimportant, their feelings are unimportant. Saving my life is not. Each race has its bad apples, you see.
POSTED APRIL 10, 1998
Lee, 58, white, Tampa, FL
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THE QUESTION: 
GE13: Why is it that men seem to have a tendency to take advantage of a woman's nurturing and affectionate nature?
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
C.H. <
Wisdom47@aol.com>
Dallas, TX
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THE QUESTION:
R152: I am a white, middle-class doctoral student from an all-white suburb. Can a black person provide examples of prejudice that a white person may commit without realizing it, even though he/she enjoys diversity?

POSTED APRIL 4, 1998
Pythology, 24, <
PTHOLOGY@AOL.COM>
DETROIT, MI

ANSWER 1:
Here's one: I used to buy stuff from a health food store in the suburbs - each time I wrote a check, they took it, no questions asked, no I.D. required. (I'm white). Then one day I went in with my wife (who's black), and the clerk behind the counter (the same one who'd been waiting on me each time in the past) needed to see a driver's license and a credit card. Needless to say, I don't shop there anymore.
POSTED APRIL 6, 1998
Alex, 39, white <
aleavens@mindspring.com>
Lawrenceville, GA

FURTHER NOTICE:
The worst kind of prejudice is the kind so subtle a white person may not realize they are doing it. The media usually shows blacks as athletes, musicians or someone in some sort of need. So a white person's view of a black person may be distorted. Think to yourself: What is the first impression I get when I see a black person? If your thoughts are not positive or neutral, then you have already exhibited subtle prejudices. In the school arena, the teacher who will tell you she is not prejudiced will still overlook the talent in some of her black students, which she would not have missed in a white student. Do you know how many times white people have told either my wife or myself that we are not like most black people? Or because my wife has a doctorate degree that "she must be very smart"?

Here is a specific example of prejudice for you: My son had taken one of his favorite toys to school. He takes it to church, in the car, everywhere he goes. It was red. A white girl lost a red toy. One of the teachers took my son's toy from him, stating that it belonged to the white girl. The white girl even stated that it wasn't her toy. The teacher held onto my son's toy, because he looked guilty and she wanted to speak to the girl's mother. Even though my son insisted it was his toy, she kept it. My son would not take a broken shoestring from anyone if it did not belong to him. He didn't tell me for about a week, until one day I asked where his favorite toy was. When I found out what happened, I called the girl's mother and she said the girl never lost her toy - it was in her backpack all the time. I almost lost it! Why did the teacher give the white girl the benefit of the doubt? The teacher was white and the girl was white and my son was black. You figure it out.
POSTED APRIL 8, 1998
Jas, black <
themoas@aol.com>
Pensacola, FL

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I think any behavior that contains an assumption that you automatically know something about the other person is prejudiced behavior. For instance, many people assume that all black people love jazz but hate opera, love chicken but don't eat steak, vote Democratic, live a party lifestyle, smoke marijuana, etc. Even a well-meaning white person might use a conversational gambit like "So, have you seen Spike Lee's new movie?" but never think to ask if they have seen John Sayles' or David Mamet's new movie.

There are also cultural differences that can be interpreted as prejudice. If you enjoy diversity, take the time to observe, ask about and understand some of these differences. For instance, some black folks may perceive you as rude or bigoted if you don't greet them (or at least nod) as you pass on the sidewalk or meet at the bus stop. Some of us might think you're racist if you plop our change down on the counter instead of handing it to us; someone might think you're hopelessly white-oriented if you don't understand why we're reluctant to seek medical care. Be proactive in finding out how others not like you feel and perceive their world. And thanks for asking!.
POSTED APRIL 8, 1998
Sara S., Oakland, CA

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
My (rather short) fiance and I decided to fly to California to visit my parents for the weekend. We flew first-class, and a bright-eyed couple behind us asked if he was a basketball star or something. When we responded no, the lady looked at us very strangely and broke off further conversation. Her response made us feel that if he was not a famous sports star, the income that provided for this trip must be illegal and we were therefore no longer desirable to speak with.
POSTED APRIL 10, 1998
Andrena B., Baltimore, MD

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
A black woman to whom I recently spoke told of attending a dinner at her Unitarian (read, traditionally liberal, largely white) Church. She had gotten up to greet a friend, and on her way back to her seat, another diner stopped her and asked her to bring some more water, despite the fact that my acquaintance was dressed for a nice church dinner. It was "obvious" to the white woman that a black woman walking through such a dining room must be a servant. And she probably didn't think of herself as a racist at all. Quite a few blacks have told me about often being misperceived as being in a servant role when they weren't.
POSTED APRIL 10, 1998
Will H., white, Dallas, TX
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THE QUESTION:
SO11: Is it true that most gay men have had sex with a woman at least once? The male population at my work is about 70 percent gay, and most say they have.
POSTED MARCH 19, 1998
Carlos V. <
cgvjelly@aol.com>
Flower Mound, TX

ANSWER 1:
While it is true that many men who are gay have had sex with a woman, it is not true for all. I am a 30-year-old gay male and have never had sex with a woman. Gay people, like all people, are curious, so it is not uncommon for one to have experimented with heterosex when they were young, just as many straight men have had homosexual experiences as young men.
POSTED MARCH 20, 1998
Jack, 30, gay male, Ann Arbor, MI

FURTHER NOTICE:
Keep in mind that there is a whole spectrum of sexual orientations. Men who are exclusively attracted to (and sexual with) other men are very numerous, but we're hardly the whole story of sexual variation. Lots of men have attractions to both sexes; some more toward the hetero end of the spectrum, some more toward the homo end. And for some men, the balance changes over time - either in how the man actually feels or just in how he behaves. Same goes for women. Me, I'm all the way over at the end of gay side - never had sex with a woman, don't expect to.
POSTED MARCH 23, 1998
Will H. 48, Dallas

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I would like to add that we're strongly socialized to be heterosexual. Everything you see around you from the time you're born is oriented toward heterosexual behavior. If you're gay, overcoming that conditioning may be very difficult. Even if you're not attracted to the opposite sex, or are less attracted than you are to the same sex, you may choose to be involved in a heterosexual relationship because it's more socially acceptable. Plus, I think sexuality is a continuum. There are people on both ends who are totally straight or totally gay, but there are a lot of people in the middle who have some degree of interest in heterosexual "and" homosexual relationships.
POSTED MARCH 23, 1998
Julie C., 30, lesbian <
nobozos@feist.com>
Wichita, KS

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
I think that the word you are looking for here is "experimentation." If you're straight, "experimentation" may take the form of a homosexual act; but if you're gay, it may very well consist of trying to "make it" with a woman. Perhaps this is what you are perceiving. The other possibility is that you are listening to an old wive's tale and that the notion of most gay men having had sex with a woman is pure bunk.
POSTED APRIL 8, 1998
Glenn P., 39 <
C128User@GTI.Net>
Washington, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE 4:
It may also be a generation thing. For many of us over the age of 37, it was one of the safest ways to escape society's discrimination. Many gay men even went as far as to marry and have children. This allowed us to function within the realms of family, work and religion.
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
Steve N., 40 <
blaster7@hotmail>
Dallas, TX
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THE QUESTION:
R155: I'm a white male and have become friendly recently with a black male. When talking with him, I feel I often take on his patterns of speech. Do other blacks encounter this when talking to whites? How do you react?
POSTED APRIL 6, 1998
Ryan N. <
Ryan@TheAtlantic.com>
Boston, MA

ANSWER 1:
I find that when I talk to people of different ethnic backgrounds or even in different parts of the country, I talk with some of their inflection and local dialect. I don't try to insult or make fun of them; I just love to incorporate their patterns of speech into mine. Do you find that you take on patterns of speech of other black males with whom you are not as friendly? If not, then the patterns you take on with this friend show some sort of bonding between you two.
Jas, black <
themoas@aol.com>
Pensacola, FL
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THE QUESTION:
G5: Living in Canada, I've had a lot of American influence on my life. I know so much about American social life and history (presidents and such) simply from TV alone. My question is, do Americans know anything about Canadian history and Canadian life?
POSTED APRIL 6, 1998
Steve B., 18, Canadian <
trendybo@hotmail.com>
Niagara Falls, ONT, CAN

ANSWER 1:
Speaking for myself, an American in New Jersey, the answer is a resounding no. I know next to nothing about Canada. You got your knowledge of us from TV; unfortunately, there are almost no shows from Canada here. The exception I can think of was a children's show called "The Friendly Giant." This was not particularly informative when it came to life in Canada. I am ashamed of my lack of knowledge, and plan to do some research after I log off tonight to try to correct that a little bit
POSTED APRIL 8, 1998
Glenn P., 39 <
C128User@GTI.Net>
Washington, NJ

FURTHER NOTICE:
I consider myself rather well-read in many areas, including history and world affairs, but about all I could dredge up about Canadian history is "54-40 or fight" and the "Plains of Abraham."
POSTED APRIL 9, 1998
Jerry S., 49 <
jerryschwartz@comfortable.com>
New Britain, CT

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
I'm your neighbor to the south, in Wisconsin. When I read Canadian books or see Canadian films, they seem much more like the culture I live in than most American movies and TV shows, which mainly develop on the East and West coasts. "For Better or For Worse," a Canadian comic strip about daily life, reflects the life of people in the United States also - so much so that it is one of our country's most popular comics. I know some of your history because it's the same as our part of the North Woods - French explorers and trappers, lumberjacks, even the same Indian tribes. Everyone knows about the Yukon gold rush and the Mounties. We hear your news occasionally - like when Britain granted you independence, about the Quebec secession movement and how you keep protesting our pollution that gives you acid rain. We know that the northern part of Canada is similar to Alaska - very wild and sparsely populated. Many people probably read books by Canadian authors without even realizing it - Charlotte MacLeod is highly popular here!
POSTED APRIL 10, 1998
Colette <
inkwolf@earthlink.net>
Seymour, WI
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THE QUESTION: 
GE12: If a woman refuses to have sex with a man because he has not provided a condom, is she considered a "tease"? Shouldn't she expect him to have one?
POSTED APRIL 4, 1998
Apryl P. black <
apryl@mail-me.com>
Oak Park, MI

ANSWER 1:
No woman should feel obligated to have sex with a man under any circumstances. However, she should also say what she means and mean what she says. If, before the kissing and petting, etc., start, she insists on the condom, she is being smart and responsible. If she waits until just before the moment of no return and then says she wants a condom, she is still being responsible and has every right of course to say "forget it, buster," but the guy will understandably feel he was teased.
POSTED APRIL 6, 1998
Bob, 23, single, white, Greenwich, CT

FURTHER NOTICE:
Yes! By all means she should insist. It's her health at stake, and she has every right to insist is safe. If a man won't use one, get rid of him. It's that simple. No exceptions. Whether he is infected or not, it shows a frightening lack of consideration for the woman. It's so sad that women are still afraid to be assertive about this. There was a case in New York last year in which a man with AIDS knowingly slept with a bunch of young girls, and no condoms were used. Do you think this guy will care when these girls get sick? Only you can protect yourself!
POSTED APRIL 6, 1998
Kelly, female, 28, Seattle, WA

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
Apryl, why do you assume it is the man's responsibility to provide the condom? A woman is responsible for, and perfectly capable of, providing her own protection. I am sure real men will not consider a woman a slut, or too forward, if she provides, and insists the man wear, a condom. It is a dangerous, erroneous assumption that a man will automaticallly have a condom with him. If you are mature enough to consider having sex with a man, be mature enough to make sure that descision won't become something that could kill you.
POSTED APRIL 6, 1998
Kristen, 25, female, Ann Arbor, MI

FURTHER NOTICE 3:
To Bob of Greenwich: Although I understand your feelings of frustration over being put off when that happens, I want you to understand that the woman will be feeling sexually frustrated, too. She might really have wanted some intimacy with you and even be feeling guilty over having to stop things and be afraid you will be angry. The truth is, one of the differences between men and women is that women don't necessarily relate what men consider foreplay to sex. Women enjoy snuggling, kissing and holding each other, which doesn't have to end up with sex to be enjoyable. Most men's point of view is that if you're not going to get anything out of it, there's no point. Consequently, she may just be enjoying the human contact and your companionship and may honestly not really think about it until the moment arrives. Also, why does the woman have to bear complete responsiblity for sexual safety? Why don't men broach the subject first sometimes? It would probably relieve a great deal of those first-time jitters when you are with someone new.
POSTED APRIL 10, 1998
S.C., 26, white female, Cordova, TN
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THE QUESTION:
R133: Why do black people like chicken so much? Is it taste, or cost, or what?
POSTED MARCH 31, 1998
Confused, Westland, MI

ANSWER 1:
Here in the South, everybody of all races eats chicken all the time. If you did a study on the eating habits of whites and blacks in this part of the country, it would be my guess you would not find a big difference in chicken consumption between the two. The assumption that only black folks like chicken and greens, cornbread and "soul food" is unfounded. My apologies to any who feel this is not the case, and please respond if you feel differently.
POSTED APRIL 1, 1998
Wallace, 23, white, Suwanee, GA

FURTHER NOTICE:
I totally agree with the response. I am a white Southern woman, and through my entire childhood I remember my mom describing her cooking as "Southern food." I grew up on chicken, greens, grits, black-eyed peas, cornbread, ham. And I still cook and love all that food today!
POSTED APRIL 3, 1998
Joan, San Francisco

FURTHER NOTICE 2:
It's totally a region thing, not a color thing. I grew up in the Northeast, and my folks had a philosophy about food: "Cook it until it begs for mercy, and then cook it some more." Spices? What're those? My wife is from the South, and her people grew up there, and what a world of difference it is! Fried chicken (good fried chicken), black-eyed peas, collards, cornbread. Yum!
POSTED APRIL 6, 1998
Alex, 39, white <
aleavens@mindspring.com>
Lawrenceville, GA
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