Monthly Archives: April 2010


The righteousness He requires


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An April 1928 mug shot of Benjamin 'Bugsy' Siegel.

Yesterday I stood with other believers and sang It Is Well With My Soul. We were doing the version with the updated chorus:
It is well; it is well. Through the storm I am held. It is well, it is well with my soul.

We arrived at one of the later verses and sang:

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought; my sin, not in part, but the whole is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more. Praise the Lord! Praise the Lord, oh my soul!

As we sang this, I began to think about the absence of bliss at this thought.

It seems we often do not praise because we really do not think that our sin is so bad after all. We are moral, we vote “right,” involve our kids in sports leagues, join some community group to pick up roadway trash and go to church regularly. We live perfectly according to the righteousness that we have determined, but not always according to the righteousness that God’s character reveals.

If God’s righteousness is the standard, my righteousness will never be enough. Jesus taught as much when he instructed us to “Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 5). Paul affirmed it in a personal way, writing, “not having a righteousness of my own” (Philippians 3). In spite of this instruction and warning my tendency is to look at the righteous standard I have erected, compare it to my life and say, “It is very good.” Then, quite inadvertently, my desire to praise God fades; after all, I’m measuring up, my life is where it needs to be.

Which is all well and good, except that my standard is all wrong.

Praise fades when I forget how great God is and it is easy to forget how great God is when I forget how evil my sin is before God. If I’m reaching the attainable goal of my righteous standard, my tendency will be toward the self-satisfaction of a job well done, but if I’m pressing toward the goal of God’s righteousness, then my satisfaction is in his job well done, a righteousness I could never attain but can always enjoy since God has bestowed it upon me in Christ.

The resultant situation then is in singing, “My sin, not in part but the whole, is nailed to the cross and I bear it no more,” I will only find bliss and glory if there is some understanding of the benefit I am experiencing because all my sin has been nailed to the cross in Christ. If my own righteousness is the standard, then I cannot help but miss the bliss since I do not see my sin as the affront to God’s standard that it actually is.

After all, I’m not as bad as Bugsy Siegel.

When my righteous standard is how I measure my behavior, it also becomes the platform for self-promotion, even if only internally. When God’s standard is how I measure my behavior, it becomes the motivation for self-denial. I cannot simultaneously promote and deny my own righteousness, nor can I simultaneously seek and ignore the righteousness of God.

Years ago a start up company called Living Epistles shook the Christian world by emblazoning T-shirts with bold and, occasionally, theologically profound messages. One of them read,

The righteousness He requires is the righteousness His righteousness requires Him to require.

This is true and, since it is, there literally is no room for a righteousness of my own. And I am filled with bliss at this glorious thought.


Jennifer Knapp on Larry King live (video)


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Last night on Larry King Live, recording artist Jennifer Knapp discussed her recent coming out as a lesbian. This likely would have made about as big a splash as Wanda Sykes recent announcement, which is to say almost none, except that Knapp was for several years, before taking a five year hiatus, an artist in the Christian music industry. The above clip was the longest that could be found this soon and, apparently, is well short of the entire interview which also featured former pastor Ted Haggard. The three, including King, teamed up on San Diego pastor, Bob Botsford, of Horizon Christian Fellowship, who ostensibly was there to question or challenge Knapp.

What makes Knapp’s announcement, which was also featured in Christianity Today, newsworthy for Christians is that she, like Ray Boltz, is holding to her “faith” rather than renouncing Christianity altogether. She does not claim to justify sin, but that her lesbianism is part of her faith. Consider this from the CT interview:

CT: What about what Scripture says on the topic?

Knapp: The Bible has literally saved my life. I find myself between a rock and a hard place—between the conservative evangelical who uses what most people refer to as the ‘clobber verses’ to refer to this loving relationship as an abomination, while they’re eating shellfish and wearing clothes of five different fabrics, and various other Scriptures we could argue about. I’m not capable of getting into the theological argument as to whether or not we should or shouldn’t allow homosexuals within our church. There’s a spirit that overrides that for me, and what I’ve been gravitating to in Christ and why I became a Christian in the first place.

Admittedly, I am a heterosexual male and, admittedly, don’t share the feelings of any woman, whether heterosexual or gay. So if we were merely talking about feelings or loving relationships, then I would just go cut grass or eat some Corn Flakes and not be writing this article.

The issue that puzzles me in this is that, though Knapp makes clear that she cannot argue the theology surrounding her decision, she continues to do just that. In the Larry King Live clip, she badgers Botsford (who is totally overmatched) with questions like, “What separates that particular sin [homosexuality] out from the fact that I’m angry or mad at someone or that I cheat, or maybe, uhm…What separates that out as so grievous to you that we have to sit here and have this type of conversation?” She goes on to ask Botsford, who agreed that “sin is sin,” this question:

Then why aren’t I in that seat and you’re in the other seat condemning you on national television?

Knapp’s erroneous conclusion is that if homosexuality is sin and all sins are equal, then Botsford has no business questioning her life unless he would subject her to the same scrutiny over anger, greed, hate, etc.

Unfortunately, at least from this clip, Botsford missed the easy answer. If I announced on public television that I was a professional thief and a Christian, or that I lived a life of unabashed greed and a Christian, or that I had a sexual partner on the side and enjoyed prolific adultery as Christian, then anyone would have every right to challenge both my accuracy and my understanding of Christ, the Bible and righteousness. I have not burned my Jennifer Knapp cd’s, in fact, I wish Kansas didn’t have scratches on it. But that is a far cry from saying, “Aww, she finally got up the nerve to come out.”

Knapp’s muddled attempt to justify homosexuality (since no one keeps the laws about shellfish or mixed fabric clothing) are only further evidence of a Bible that might have “saved [her] life” but has not helped her thinking. If the only verses that had to do with homosexual behavior were in Moses’ law, then she might have a point. As it is, however, the whole of scripture points toward heterosexual relationships as ordained by God. The creation of Adam and Eve did not primarily set a pattern of relationships, it reflected the pattern of relationships set in eternity past with God’s plan for His Son to have a bride. If Knapp wants to live her life in a “loving relationship” with another woman, I’m not going to stand in her way, but to accuse some conservatives of using “clobbering verses” while appealing to an overriding spirit to reject a primary biblical theme does not demonstrate either spiritual growth or biblical fidelity.

I do agree with Jennifer Knapp that Pastor Botsford is not a spiritual leader in her life and, realistically, she should not give him any more time of day than I would Joel Osteen were he to call and castigate me for having bad neckties and yellow teeth. For her, though, I am troubled that those she calls her spiritual authorities seem to have given her a green light for her lifestyle in spite of the scriptural admonition against calling evil good and good evil.

Knapp also refers to “what she has been gravitating to in Christ” as part of her decision. This is a most puzzling statement to me; simply because someone makes an assertion and assigns it to Christ or believes their assertion about Christ to be accurate does not make it so. Jesus warned against “false Christs” and it seems likely that a “Christ” who affirms what the Bible rejects would probably, if not certainly, fall into the realm of the false.

I am not condemning Knapp or any person who is trying to seek Jesus and, simultaneously, working through issues of their own sexuality, especially in the time in which we live when many lines are less defined than in the past. What I do condemn is the idea that each of us can invent, create or imagine our own theology, call it Christian and expect other Christians to accept it uncritically. Some lines are blurred, but there still are lines and we do ourselves nor our culture any good by trying to move them or obliterate them altogether.


Republicans and Democrats: Not enough difference

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For as long as any current voter has been alive, United States politics has been dominated by a two-party system, Democrat and Republican. Very occasionally this cycle is broken by someone like Joe Lieberman the former Democrat re-elected as an Independent. At the state level there is precious little more variety, with the odd Reform/Independence Party candidate like Jesse Ventura being elected governor of Minnesota in 1999. In 2003 the Libertarian Party could boast 600 members serving in offices nationwide, though most of these were city and county positions.

It remains at the national level a place of 2-party dominance with machines so finely greased, well tuned and deeply financed that meaningful challenges are difficult to mount. If Ross Perot’s billions have only the effect of siphoning votes rather than winning the campaign, how much more difficult for a senator or representative to make it with less resources to battle the entrenched larger parties?

When then President George W. Bush pushed for the passage of the $700B bailout package, the congress passed it over the loud and angry objections of the people who had sent them to Washington. More recently the Democratic dominated house and senate passed, over the loud and angry objections of most Americans, the Health Care Reform bill that President Obama subsequently signed. With Republicans in control at the passage of “Bail-Out” backlash saw Democrats sweep into power. With Democrats in control now, the G.O.P is hoping for a major reversal in November riding on the wave of voter disgust.

It really does not seem that either party understands how deep the displeasure running through the length and breadth of the country. If not past time, it is at least time for the two party dominant system in U. S. national politics to be broken with a move to a valid multi-party system.

The Washington Post had an insightful article recently regarding the lack of oversight at the expenditures of both national parties. It portrays parties that are rotten at the core and helps shed light on why neither party seems incapable of governing with anything resembling character or integrity. A couple of excerpts:

Both the national Democratic and Republican party committees spend about two-thirds of the money they take in on the care and comfort of committee staffs and on efforts to raise more funds, with lavish spending on limousines, expensive hotels, meals and tips, an analysis of the latest financial disclosure data shows.


The nonprofit Center for Responsive Politics, in an analysis done at the request of The Post, calculated, however, that administrative and fundraising expenses consumed about $60 million of Democratic revenue in this cycle through the end of February, or 59 percent of total revenue that exceeded $100 million. For Republicans, the amount exceeded $74 million, or 68 percent of $109 million in revenue.


Ken Berger, who runs Charity Navigator, a New Jersey group that monitors nonprofits across the country, said that “the most critical measure is effectiveness.” He said his advice for prospective donors to any nonprofit group that spends as much as 60 to 70 percent of revenue on overhead, including fundraising, would be to “run away.”


Including rooms at the Four Seasons Resort, which promotes itself as offering “pampered adventures,” the [Republican] event appears to have soaked up more than $170,000 from party coffers, the data show.

The Democratic Party racked up a similar bill — $176,000 — to cover 14 months of catering at events at the Washington Hilton.

Last month, the RNC spent $260,476 on a single meeting in Hawaii and $14,937 on Dallas Cowboys football tickets, according to its report Tuesday. It also paid hefty cancellation fees to Ritz Carlton and Four Seasons hotels.

The entire article is at

Don’t forget, if you are in Georgia’s 9th district, there is a meeting with GOOOH tonight at the Spout Springs branch of the Hall County Library. It is from 7:00-8:00pm.


GOOOH Georgia 9th District meeting announced

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Thursday evening, April 22, 2010, the 9th Georgia congressional district meeting of GOOOH (Get Out Of Our House) will be held at the Spout Springs branch of the Hall County Library. GOOOH is a citizens organization looking for ways to replace the current congress leaders who know how to lead and make decisions as to what is best for the country.

Here’s a chance to demonstrate that “we the people” are willing to do more than complain about the system being willing to participate in it. So far, GOOOH meetings in Georgia as tracked on have been less than well attended; it will prove difficult to change the congress if only handfuls of people will vote differently than they have in the past.

The meeting will last from 7:00-8:00 pm. Refreshments will not be provided, but there is a cafe in the library for interested persons.


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The end is near? President Obama extends gay rights to hospital visitation


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From The Washington Post:

President Obama mandated Thursday that nearly all hospitals extend visitation rights to the partners of gay men and lesbians and respect patients’ choices about who may make critical health-care decisions for them, perhaps the most significant step so far in his efforts to expand the rights of gay Americans.

From The Los Angeles Times:

In a memo to his Health and Human Services agency, Obama ordered the secretary to ensure that all hospitals getting Medicare and Medicaid money honor all patients’ advance directives, including those designating who gets family visitation privileges.

The order also requires that documents granting power of attorney and healthcare proxies be honored, regardless of sexual orientation. The language could apply to unmarried heterosexual couples too.

The presence of loved ones is more important during a hospital stay than at any other time, Obama wrote in his memo. Yet widows and widowers with no children are often denied the “support and comfort of a good friend,” he said, as are members of religious orders.

From The Wall Street Journal:

It is common practice for hospitals to deny visitation to non-family members. Gay rights activists have cited these restrictions as cause for why they need the right to marry.

It was unclear how much opposition the policy would create. A spokesman for House Minority Leader John Boehner (R, Ohio) had no comment Thursday, nor did Chip Kahn, president of the Federation of American Hospitals, a trade group. that represents for-profit hospitals

Peter Sprigg, senior fellow at the socially conservative Family Research Council, said his group had no objection to allowing gay and lesbian patients to visit or make decisions for their partners. But he said the order “undermines the definition of marriage.” He also said it furthers “a big government federal takeover of even the smallest details of the nation’s health care system.”

“In its current political context, President Obama’s memorandum clearly constitutes pandering to a radical special interest group,” he said.

From The New York Times:

The memorandum is intended to “help ensure that patients will be able to face difficult times in hospitals with compassion, dignity and respect,” a White House spokesman, Shin Inouye, said Thursday night. “By taking these steps, we can better protect the interests and needs of patients that are gay or lesbian, widows and widowers with no children, members of religious orders, or others for whom their loved ones are not always immediate relatives. Because all Americans should be able to have loved ones there for them in their time of need.”

I’m certain that many will decry this as the end of civilization as we know it, but it seems this is not a matter of special rights but of civil rights. Should any American adult be allowed to choose the person to make medical decisions for them or be with them in a time of need? Yes. Why not? Should any American be able to choose who visits them in the hospital? Yes. We are allowed to deny visitation privileges to anyone we choose, why not be able to extend visitation privileges to anyone we choose?

There are some citizens of America who have been ostracized by their families, haven’t spoken to parents/siblings/children in years, who have another circle of friends with whom they spend their entire lives, yet are not married. They are called single Christians. Lacking family, shall these be denied the right to have a pastor, small group leader or mentor make medical decisions for them in the event of an emergency? As American citizens they should be allowed that right and, for those of us who are Christians, we should do unto others as we would have them do unto us.

Evangelicals and political conservatives should be careful in criticizing this move. Prohibitions against gay marriage are still in tact at the federal level and the President has maintained that position himself. To equate this as the same as gay marriage or another slip on the downward slope will not come across as against a homosexual lifestyle, but against Americans who are homosexual.

I, in fact, wonder if the push for gay marriage might have been tempered a bit if evangelicals and other followers of Christ had pushed for equal civil rights in areas like this, rather than painting so much as special rights and lining up against it. The pro-gay lobby in America now holds the ability to ratchet down the culture wars by slowing the gay marriage train enough to enjoy the tremendous blessing they’ve just been given rather than steaming up the boiler for a run in a different area. Time will tell if that caution is exercised.

A person can hold that homosexuality, like adultery and other immorality, is sin and be against gay marriage, yet believe that gay Americans have rights just like gun-toting American, hetero-sexual Americans, truck driving Americans and flower growing Americans. I’m opposed to gay marriage, but I’m not opposed to Americans who are homosexual having all the rights afforded them under the constitution, just as I am not opposed to the extension of protected rights to hetero-sexual adulterers, the prideful and the greedy.


‘Green Like God,’ book review


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The new book Green Like God: Unlocking the Divine Plan for Our Planet, by Southern Baptist leader Jonathan Merritt, is likely to ruffle more feathers and garner both more praise and more criticism than any book by any other Southern Baptist author in 2010. That’s because Merritt holds the unusual position of being Southern Baptist and environmentally friendly, or “green” to use the popular term. Southern Baptists, long suspected of being the chaplaincy arm of the Republican party, have never been mistaken for Greenpeace. Their idea of recycling tend to be making sure all the fried chicken buckets get stacked up properly so there will be room in the dumpster for the mashed potato boxes.

Personal confession: Years ago I regularly harangued my mother for recycling her aluminum foil. She would wash it, dry it, fold it and put it in the laundry room to take to the recycling center with the old newspapers. Now I clean the aluminum foil, fold it and put it in a kitchen trash can to take to the recycling center with the natural plastic, the clear/green plastic, the tin cans, the clear bottles, and the brown bottles to take to the recycling center with the old newspapers.

How times have changed.

With the current emphasis on going green that emblazons the cover of many magazines, is the emphasis of many documentaries and, because of the global warming debate, maintains central focus on television talk shows it might be easy to write off Merritt’s efforts as a mere riding of a wave or jumping into the middle of an already comfortable swimming pool. You’d be mistaken.

For the Christian, Green Like God holds an important allure: It’s based on Scripture more than science. In fact, Merritt does not argue that we should be environmentally conscience because the Sierra Club demands it, but because God does. God loves planet Earth; the Discovery Channel did not create our terrestrial home, God did. The Department of the Interior did not set humanity as stewards over the planet, God did. Al Gore was not the first to address environmental issues (whatever his motive and however accurately) God did in the earliest days of humanity and as long as He spoke to His people.

Merritt does address statistics behind the polluting of the planet and quite convincingly so. He uses wide and thorough documentation to build his case, while relegating the global warming controversy to an appendix. His approach is not to convince people to be good stewards of the earth’s resources because of statistics, but because of the commands of God about this stewardship and the concerns of God about His creation.

For conservatives who really are concerned about the environment, but were afraid of being pigeonholed as “tree huggers” or “environmental wackos,” this book is, so to speak, your salvation. Armed with the theology behind the position, one might find that trees are not what the arms are wrapped around–God is.

Green Like God can be ordered through the link below. You pay the same low Amazon price and I get a small commission.


Poet Chris Tse, author of ‘I’m Sorry I’m a Christian,’ interviewed at


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Chris Tse Image:

Last week’s posting of Chris Tse’s poem, “I’m Sorry I’m a Christian,” resulted in a lively debate both here and elsewhere. “Chris Tse” was highly searched topic and this site is still getting traffic from those seeking out Chris’ poem.

Timothy Dalrymple at was able to conduct an interview with Chris recently about the poem and the massive interest that it stirrred. I’m including one question and response below, then a link to the full interview.

Some have responded to the use of curse words. Two f-bombs are dropped in the Vancouver performance. Some thought this was elevating the desire to be culturally relevant over the desire to be obedient to scripture. Why do you include the language?

Is that one of the launching pads of the controversy? It’s funny that that’s such a big thing, because that’s not actually a part of my poem. It’s not written in there to say the F-word. Once or twice or however many times I dropped the f-bomb in that Vancouver scene, it was not planned. As a poet I ad-lib. I always add things here or there. Even if it wasn’t written, I say what I’m feeling at that moment.

I haven’t watched that recording in a long time. I don’t like to watch myself. But if I did drop the F-word in there once or twice, the only reason I can tell you is that there must have been points when I was feeling a little anger or some emotion.

That’s the only explanation I have. It’s not like I put the curse words in there to endear me to the kids or give me street cred. I could care less about street cred. My poetry speaks for itself. So if there are words in there that people are not okay with, then I’m sorry. I realize there are differences of opinion. There are different means to get to the same ends. My parents are very clean-mouthed people. So I apologize if I offended anyone with my language, but I would want them to realize that I didn’t put it in there deliberately. If it’s in there, it’s because it came out of me and my emotion.

As far as the theological issue, I know that the Bible says don’t let filthy talk or malicious language come out of your mouth. But let’s be real. If we’re going to represent Christ, we need to represent him with all the authenticity of who we are. If we’re being genuine, we acknowledge we are not perfect. One of my imperfections is that I have a tendency to curse. It’s the culture I was brought up in. I’ve always been on the sports teams and everything. I’m not justifying it. I’m not. But I’m saying that if you’re going to focus in on the fact that I swore, and then deconstruct whether it takes away from the credibility of my piece, then you’re losing the whole point. If that’s what you’re focusing in on, then maybe I need to write a poem called, “I’m Sorry That I Swear.”

The entire interview can be read here.


New study in ‘Pediatrics': Breastfeeding would save over 900 babies annually


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Breast, bottle or both?

CNN is reporting that breastfeeding literally saves lives; 911 children a year to be exact.
If most new moms would breastfeed their babies for the first six months of life, it would save nearly 1,000 lives and billions of dollars each year, according to a new study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

The article also states,

The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Academy of Family Physicians and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention all agree that breast milk alone is sufficient for newborns and infants until they are 6 months old.

However, a 2009 breastfeeding report card from the CDC found that only 74 percent of women start breastfeeding, only 33 percent were still exclusively breastfeeding at three months and only 14 percent were still exclusively breastfeeding at six months.

Read the entire article here.


Hank Johnson proves right: Without warning, Guam capsizes during beach party


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What started as a beach party ended in disaster when Guam capsized from being out of balance.

Georgia Representative Hank Johnson’s fear about Guam was fully realized at 2:00 pm local time yesterday, April 2, as it suddenly capsized after a beach party attracted too many residents. The shifting of weight caused the western side of the island to lift and, with the majority of the 178,000 population on the eastern side, caused a flipping over with all residents either thrown into the ocean or drowned under the upside down land mass.

Representative Hank Johnson, Democrat from Georgia’s 4th district, said, “This is exactly what I was worried about. Can you imagine how much more quickly this might have happened if 8,000 Marines and their families were on the island? We would have lost 25,000 American lives in addition to all those Guamanites who drowned.”

Johnson was mocked and condemned for a statement made on March 25, 2010, in which he told a stunned American admiral that Guam might “tip over and capsize” if the Americans were added to the population. “There was no way that Guam would tip from north to south; it’s too long. But, I knew that flipping from side-to-side was a possibility and that’s exactly what happened.”

Dr. Heinrich Stein from the Latin American Seismic Institute noted, “Well, we’ve never seen an island flip over before. Frankly, we didn’t even think that Guam could be a floater until we saw Avatar. The depictions of islands in the air got us to thinking about islands floating in water, but we didn’t get a chance to initiate our studies. Ironically, Guam was going to be where we started.”

Representative Johnson continued, “Unfortunately the video which has been seen by so many people was cut off before I finished my explanation. I warned the admiral that we already had a perfect example with the capsizing of Atlantis. He then seemed to be thinking through the idea more seriously.”

The video of “tip over and capsize” has been viewed hundreds of thousands of time, most often leading to mockery or derision of the congressman. He’s not surprised. “I’m known as a humorous person, so people thought I was just joking around about Guam. The people in my district have heard me yell “Fire” in a crowded theater more than once, then laugh it up with the patrons in the parking lot while the fire trucks were hosing down a perfectly fine building. And what about that traffic video with me streaking through a busy intersection during rush hour? They were chuckling for weeks over that. In fact, many people in Georgia say my entire time in the House has been one long joke!”

“I guess I should have been more clear that I was being serious,” Representative Johnson concluded.

It isn’t immediately certain what will happen to the surviving residents of Guam. Rescuers from the nearby Northern Mariana Islands began loading survivors onto boats within 2 hours. Incredibly Guam’s governor, Felix Perez Camacho, survived and has been safely moved to Song Song on the next closest island. There has already been some speculation that the now inverted island will be re-inhabited at some point, though the name will likely be changed to Maug, which is Guam spelled backward.

Hank Johnson is hopeful. “I’m sure they’ve learned from this event and, if they are able to move back onto the island will be more careful not to have everyone on one side. I also hope that the U. S. military will think twice before sending 25,000 Marines and their families until some island “floaties” can be installed for stability. Things would be safer in the long run.”


Sitting U. S. Representative fears Guam may ‘capsize’


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If you have not seen this, you really need to take two minutes of your life and listen closely. On March 25, 2010, Representative Hank Johnson, a sitting United States congressman from Georgia’s 4th district, states in a committee hearing that Guam might “tip over and, uh, capsize” if 8,000 United States Marines and their families are added to the current population.

This is not a late April Fools.

Wonder why Washington is in the shape it’s in? Exhibit #1,000,000 is right here.

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