longtime leader

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Opinion | Cheer up, Democrats!
Better to win or to lose?

This piece nicely represents literally everything wrong with the Democrats right now:

I cannot comprehend anything less productive for Democrats than lashing out at their longtime leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), as if she is to blame for not winning a deep-red congressional seat in a special election. (Do they have any evidence for such a connection? Do they not think any replacement would be just as demonized by the GOP?) Frankly, if Republicans did this, Democrats would go after them for misogyny. Democrats were given a gift — if they care to accept it — on Thursday when Republicans helped them turn the page to health care.

Democrats can have a field day pointing to Republicans’ proposed cuts to health care for the poor and tax breaks to the richest Americans. They can remind voters that millions who earned coverage when Democrats were in charge now will lose it. In search of a “message,” they can come back to the tried and true: Republicans are for the rich, we’re for the working and middle class.

Just so much bad here.

Yeah, fuck the people who will actually die from this, because then we can run milquetoast centrists who finger point at how gosh-darn BAD the GOP is! That works out SUPER well. I hope Pelosi can treat us with another congratulatory song. 

And while we’re at it, let’s keep repeating that GA-06 was “deep red” despite Trump only winning it by 1.5%. It makes ourselves feel good at least! Why look inward? We’re not those terrible Republicans, which means 2018 will be handed to us on a silver platter ((:

Gather ‘round, kids, today we’re going to look at one of my favourite topics in German history: The Stasi, the East German Secret Police. We’re going to learn how they rose from humble beginnings as a little sister of the KGB, to becoming the most sophisticated surveillance organization in the world.

They did this, of course, with dildos.

Under longtime leader Markus Wolf, the Stasi grew in size, complexity, and ferocity. Between 1950 and 1989, over 279,000 individuals were employed by them, working in ten different administrative divisions, including tapping telephones and mail, secret informants around the world, an entire guards regiment, and there was even a division responsible for digging through the damn garbage.

That is where I can be found.

Any and every aspect of East German life could (and often would) be recorded, spied, or somehow otherwise noted. Stasi spies were nurses, trolley conductors, teachers, doctors - there was a designated spy in every apartment complex, and it was not uncommon to have holes drilled into walls or telephone lines monitored.

An estimated 1 out of every 63 East Germans regularly collaborated with the Stasi, or 1 for every 7 citizen including casual informants, making it the most extensive and comprehensive surveillance state in the world at the time, surpassing the Gestapo (1:2,000) and the KGB (1:5,800)

But it wasn’t the fact that they were fucking everywhere, literally, all the time, that gave the Stasi it’s reputation. It was their preferred method of “making themselves known”, called Zersetzung. And it sometimes involved Dildos.

Pictured: Stasi officer at work.

Around 1971, the Stasi realized that the whole, “making people disappear and/or imprisoning them” wasn’t doing a very good job. After all, like, people still thought that East Germany was a shithole! What was up with that?

“Zersetzung” roughly translates to “decomposition”, a term used in biology, which refers to when something rots away. That’s what they wanted their dissidents - to rot away. It was a form of psychological oppression, with the intention being to cripple a person’s self-esteem and self-worth

The idea was simple: If you think you’re shit (instead of THE shit), you’ll be less likely to cause a ruckus. You think Ghengis Khan invaded Mongolia worrying about how many hits his blog was getting every day, or that a new pimple had broken out on his face? Hell no! The Stasi didn’t think so, either.

Next time, just blame the Stasi on your shitty anon hate.

So when someone was trying to shake things up, or leaning a little bit more to the west than they liked, they wanted to drive them insane or paralyze their life. Random phone calls. Staking out their house. Order a pizza? You did now, bitch! Poor work review? But you’ve been working so hard! Too bad, slut, you suck! Taking, and altering compromising photographs. Crippling marriages - they sent dildos to people’s wives to instill a sense of doubt, distrust, and crippling self worth. Why worry about your shitty government when you’re apparently JUST AS SHITTY in bed? And work? And you’re poor, because someone keeps sending you these pizzas to your house, but it isn’t you! But maybe it is you? Maybe you can’t remember? Where’s the phone? Wasn’t it always over there, why isn’t it there now??

They would break into homes and subtly change things, or plant spies into the target’s life to make them believe (or disbelieve) a certain idea. People literally went insane and/or were driven to suicide by the Stasi’s subtle fucking-up of their lives - in which case, they would then monitor the people around the target (or former target) to make sure that nobody figured out that it was their own government.

Pictured: Another Stasi officer, hard at work.

In 1989, during the Peaceful Revolution which led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall, demonstrations outside of the Stasi headquarters in Leipzig (totalling over 300,000 at one point) caused the Stasi to begin to sense what was up and started to destroy documents - over one billion pieces of paper, which totalled only 5% of their total inventory. The Stasi headquarters was stormed in December of 1989, and the organization was dissolved along with the rest of GDR in 1990.

Even if you were only a goddamn zygote in East Germany, the Stasi still probably had a file on you, documenting that time you cursed when you spilled coffee on your hand, or picked your nose when your crush looked away for like, a minute. Fortunately, you can find out for sure, and read all the boring details about your life by sending a request to the Stasi Records Agency in Berlin.

In the photo above, East Germans sort through records in the Stasi headquarters after it has been stormed by civilians on 4 December 1989. Photo: DPA

I did want to bring up one passage that bothered me. Rev. Jim Wallis, a longtime Religious Left leader, said this about how Democrats have failed in their outreach to his tribe.

‘The fact that one party has strategically used and abused religion, while the other has had a habitually allergic and negative response to religion per se, puts our side in a more difficult position in regard to political influence,’ said the Rev. Jim Wallis, the evangelical social justice advocate who founded the Sojourners community and magazine in 1971.

‘Most progressive religious leaders I talk to, almost all of them, feel dissed by the left,’ he said. ‘The left is really controlled by a lot of secular fundamentalists.’

What. The. Hell.

If the left is ‘controlled by a lot of secular fundamentalists,’ it’s news to me since the Democratic Party is full of people who parade their faith. If Democrats are allergic to religion, they must get a full-blown viral outbreak when it comes to atheism.

Our last President was a man who referenced his Christianity in pretty much every major speech. Our nominee in 2016 was a woman who once taught Sunday school and whose running mate was a former missionary. If those are secular fundamentalists, they’re doing it wrong. (Remember: We have zero members of Congress right now who are openly atheist.)

Furthermore, that phrase ‘secular fundamentalists’ is just plain offensive, as if atheists are demanding that the government force people not to believe in God. There’s a difference between calling for religious neutrality from Washington and changing the Pledge of Allegiance so it says we’re ‘one nation, under no God.’

A ‘secular fundamentalist’ is really just someone who challenges religious beliefs and promotion of God by the government. That’s it. A religious fundamentalist, on the other hand, has very different intentions.

—  Hemant Mehta, “A Powerful Religious Left is Emerging, But They’ll Fail Without Secular Support” (The Friendly Atheist)

ROMANIA. Bucharest. 1989. In an example of acute historical irony, this anticommunist civilian uses an AK-47 to hunt down secret police during the overthrow of Nicolae Ceausescu, Romania’s oppressive communist dictator.

The Romanian Revolution was a period of violent civil unrest in December 1989 and part of the Revolutions of 1989 that occurred in several countries. The Romanian Revolution started in the city of Timișoara and soon spread throughout the country, ultimately culminating in the show trial and execution of longtime Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu, and the end of 42 years of Communist rule in Romania. It was also the last removal of a Communist regime in a Warsaw Pact country during the events of 1989, and the only one that violently overthrew a country’s government and executed its leader.

Photograph: Christophe Simon/AFP/Getty

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In Venezuela, Protest Ranks Grow Broader

By WILLIAM NEUMANFEB. Feb. 24, 2014 (The New York Times)

Photos by Meridith Kohut for The New York Times


SAN CRISTÓBAL, Venezuela — As dawn broke, the residents of a quiet neighborhood here readied for battle. Some piled rocks to be used as projectiles. Others built barricades. A pair of teenagers made firebombs as the adults looked on.

These were not your ordinary urban guerrillas. They included a manicurist, a medical supplies saleswoman, a schoolteacher, a businessman and a hardware store worker.

As the National Guard roared around the corner on motorcycles and in an armored riot vehicle, the people in this tightly knit middle-class neighborhood, who on any other Monday morning would have been heading to work or taking their children to school, rushed into the street, hurling rocks and shouting obscenities. The guardsmen responded with tear gas and shotgun fire, leaving a man bleeding in a doorway.

“We’re normal people, but we’re all affected by what’s happening,” said Carlos Alviarez, 39, who seemed vaguely bewildered to find himself in the middle of the street where the whiff of tear gas lingered. “Look. I’ve got a rock in my hand and I’m the distributor for Adidas eyewear in Venezuela.”

The biggest protests since the death of the longtime leader Hugo Chávez nearly a year ago are sweeping Venezuela, rapidly expanding from the student protests that began this month on a campus in this western city into a much broader array of people across the country. On Monday, residents in Caracas, the capital, and other Venezuelan cities piled furniture, tree limbs, chain-link fence, sewer grates and washing machines to block roads in a coordinated action against the government.

Behind the outpouring is more than the litany of problems that have long bedeviled Venezuela, a country with the world’s largest oil reserves but also one of the highest inflation rates. Adding to the perennial frustrations over violent crime and chronic shortages of basic goods like milk and toilet paper, the outrage is being fueled by President Nicolás Maduro’s aggressive response to public dissent, including deploying hundreds of soldiers here and sending fighter jets to make low, threatening passes over the city.

On Monday, the state governor, who belongs to Mr. Maduro’s party, broke ranks and challenged the president’s tactics, defending the right of students to protest and criticizing the flyovers, a rare dissent from within the government.

Polarization is a touchstone of Venezuelan politics, which was bitterly divided during the 14-year presidency of Mr. Chávez, Mr. Maduro’s mentor. But while Mr. Chávez would excoriate and punish opponents, he had keen political instincts and often seemed to know when to back off just enough to keep things from boiling over.

Now Mr. Maduro, his chosen successor, who is less charismatic and is struggling to contend with a deeply troubled economy, has taken a hard line on expressions of discontent, squeezing the news media, arresting a prominent opposition politician and sending the National Guard into residential areas to quash the protests.

Two people were killed on Monday, including a man here in San Cristóbal who, according to his family, fell from a roof after guardsmen shot tear gas at him. There is disagreement on whether all the deaths nationwide cited by the government are directly associated with the protests, but the death toll is probably at least a dozen.

In the neighborhood of Barrio Sucre, residents said they were outraged last week when a guardsman fired a shotgun at a woman and her adult son, sending both to the hospital with serious wounds. In response, the residents built barricades to keep the guardsmen out. On Monday, after guardsmen made an early sortie into the neighborhood, firing tear gas and buckshot at people’s homes, the inflamed and sometimes terrified residents prepared to drive them back.

Across town, Isbeth Zambrano, 39, a mother of two, still fumed about the time two days earlier when the National Guard drove onto the street, where children were playing, and fired tear gas at residents. Now she sat in front of her apartment building, casually guarding a beer crate full of firebombs.

“We want this government to go away,” she said. “We want freedom, no more crime, we want medicine.” Around her neck, like a scarf, she wore a diaper printed with small teddy bears. It was soaked in vinegar, to ward off the effects of tear gas, in case of another attack.

Unlike the protests in neighboring Brazil last year, when the government tried to defuse anger by promising to fix ailing services and make changes to the political system, Mr. Maduro says the protesters are fascists conducting a coup against his government. He has largely refused to acknowledge their complaints, focusing instead on violence linked to the unrest. Here in Táchira State, he says the protests are infiltrated by right-wing Colombian paramilitary groups, and he has threatened to arrest the mayor of San Cristóbal.

Mr. Maduro’s stance is mirrored by the intensity among the protesters. While he has called for a national conference on Wednesday and some opposition politicians have urged dialogue, a majority of protesters here, most of them longtime government opponents, rejected that option.

“They’ve been mocking us for 15 years, sacking the country,” said Ramón Arellano, 54, a government worker, while a burning refrigerator in the street behind him blotted out the sky with a cone of black smoke. “A dialogue from one side while the other turns a deaf ear, that’s not fair.”

Like most of the protesters here, Mr. Arellano said he wanted a change of government. Protesters say that could be achieved by having Mr. Maduro resign, or be removed through a recall election or changes to the Constitution.

Mr. Maduro says he will not leave office, and he continues to have wide support among those loyal to Mr. Chávez’s legacy.

Táchira State, and especially San Cristóbal, the state capital, are longtime opposition strongholds. The opposition presidential candidate, Henrique Capriles, received 73 percent of the vote in San Cristóbal when he ran against Mr. Maduro last April.

A city of 260,000, San Cristóbal was almost completely shut down on Monday. Residents had set up dozens of barricades all around town. In many areas, residents set out nails or drove pieces of rebar into the pavement, leaving them partly exposed, to puncture tires.

In Barrio Sucre, Escarlet Pedraza, 19, showed two motorcycles that she said had been crushed by National Guard troops, who drove armored vehicles over them. She recorded the event on her cellphone camera.

Later, residents burned tires and threw rocks at guardsmen, who advanced and entered a side street, firing tear gas and shotguns directly at the houses.

The guardsmen broke open a garage door in one house and smashed the windshield of a car inside. The house next door filled with tear gas and the family inside, including two young children, choked in the fumes. “I’m indignant,” said Victoria Pérez, the mother, weeping. “This is getting out of hand. It’s arrogance, it’s a desire for power.”

A student, his face covered with a cloth, kicked angrily at a house where a pro-government family lives, shouting at them to join the protest. Other residents rushed in to stop him.

Nearby, a neighbor, Teresa Contreras, 53, flipped through the channels on her television, showing that there was no coverage of the violence, a sign, she said, of the government control over the news media.

Earlier, Andrea Altuve, 38, a teacher, watched the preparations for the coming battle, with people adding to barricades and children pouring gasoline into beer bottles for makeshift bombs.

“It looks like a civil war,” she said. “They are sending the National Guard into the neighborhoods out of fear.”

A version of this article appears in print on February 25, 2014, on page A1 of the New York edition with the headline: In Venezuela, Protest Ranks Grow Broader.

© 2014 The New York Times Company

ROMANIA. Bucharest. 1989. Demonstrators and TAB-71 APCs on the street. Part of the photobook 1989 Libertate Roumanie by Denoel Paris and other photographers.

The Romanian Revolution was a period of violent civil unrest in December 1989 and part of the Revolutions of 1989 that occurred in several countries. The Romanian Revolution started in the city of Timișoara and soon spread throughout the country, ultimately culminating in the show trial and execution of longtime Communist leader Nicolae Ceaușescu, and the end of 42 years of Communist rule in Romania. It was also the last removal of a Communist regime in a Warsaw Pact country during the events of 1989, and the only one that violently overthrew a country’s government and executed its leader.

Photograph: Denoel Paris

time.com
See the Massive Statue of Mao Zedong Under Construction in China
The work was photographed in Tongxu County

The statue reportedly measures 120 feet (36.6 meters) in height and is located in Zhushigang village. It commemorates the Chinese Marxist who was the longtime leader of the country’s communist party, serving as chairman both of the People’s Republic of China and the Communist Party of China. Mao, who died in 1976, is already commemorated in thousands of statues around the country.

buzzfeed.com
Fidel Castro, Longtime Cuban Leader, Dead At Age 90
The former revolutionary's death was reported overnight.
By Karla Zabludovsky

Fidel Castro, the harbinger of the 20th century Latin American communist wave and leader of the Cuban revolution, died overnight Friday, the Associated Press reported. He was 90.

Castro, who stepped down from power in 2008 permanently after nearly five decades as prime minister and president of the island, had made few public appearances in recent months.

Castro’s sightings were increasingly bookended by rumors of his death, which often set social media abuzz for hours. One of his last appearances was in April, meeting a group of Venezuelan visitors to Cuba, shortly before his brother, Raul, sat down with US President Obama to discuss the thawing of relations between the two countries, the first meeting of its kind since 1956.

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GWAR - West End Girls (Pet Shop Boys cover)

The mighty scumdogs of GWAR have terrified A.V. Undercover with their presence twice before—first in the tiny round room with the definitive version of Kansas’ “Carry On Wayward Son,” then in our newer space with a sideways glance at Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car.” As everyone who follows evil rock from space knows, there was a great disturbance in the GWAR universe earlier this year: Either longtime leader Oderus Urungus disappeared into space, or his earthly analog, Dave Brockie, died. (Or some combination of the two.) Whatever the case, GWAR has decided to soldier on without him, adding two players to fill the void: New singer Blóthar is a Berserker who has appeared from the distant past (he may also have been a GWAR bassist in the early years), and Vulvatron is a “cybernetic female assassin” from the future.

I really enjoy AV Club’s cover series, with GWAR’s participation being the crowning achievement. Now with their new singer, I’m glad they’re still giving it a go.

Related: Hoarr Before and After a GWAR Concert

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This is a new project I’m involved in that marries my love of graphic novels, pop culture and issues that I am passionate about. Hope you are able to check it out when it gets released early next year:

The 5 Powers, narrated by award-winning actor Orlando Jones, tells the story of three superheroes of peace: Thich Nhat Hanh, Vietnamese Zen Master nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in 1967; Sister Chân Không, Vietnamese Zen master and peace activist; and Alfred Hassler, longtime leader of F.O.R., peace activist, and creator of The Montgomery Story comic book that helped turn Dr. King into a superhero.

“The 5 Powers film is a moving fusion of documentary footage, historic montage and vivid animation that sends a powerful message of peace. Using modern technology and dramatic storytelling, the film focuses on three true heroes and their efforts to promote the non-violent resolution of conflict through a mindful, compassionate approach. It’s beautifully crafted and truly inspiring.” - Dave Gibbons (Watchmen, Green Lantern)

More info at - http://www.peaceisthewayfilms.com/mlk-montgomery-story-comic-book-origins/

huffingtonpost.com
Bernie Sanders' Campaign Just Got A Big Boost
WASHINGTON -- The longtime leader of one of the country’s most powerful labor unions is joining the Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and he says presumed frontrun

WASHINGTON – The longtime leader of one of the country’s most powerful labor unions is joining the Democratic presidential campaign of Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), and he says presumed frontrunner Hillary Clinton made it an easy call.

Larry Cohen, outgoing president of the Communications Workers of America, told The Huffington Post he will serve as an unpaid volunteer stumping for Sanders as the Vermont senator seeks the Democratic nomination. One of the main factors in his decision, Cohen said, was Clinton’s equivocation on granting President Barack Obama so-called fast-track authority on his mammoth trade deal.

“I did everything I knew how to do to get Clinton to speak out on fast track, and she wouldn’t,” said Cohen, whose 10 years leading CWA came to an end in June. “We begged her to speak out.

Isle Royale wolf dies after escaping

One of the few remaining gray wolves of Isle Royale National Park has been found dead after escaping to the mainland across a Lake Superior ice bridge, a scientist who studies the predators said Tuesday.

The 5-year-old female’s body was discovered along the shoreline on the Grand Portage Indian Reservation in northeastern Minnesota, biologist Rolf Peterson of Michigan Technological University told The Associated Press. She apparently hadn’t been shot and the cause of death could not be determined immediately. She had been severely wounded last year by other wolves.

The carcass was found Feb. 8, Isle Royale Superintendent Phyllis Green said, adding that a park service veterinarian and Peterson’s team will perform an autopsy.

The dead wolf had been fitted with a radio collar and its serial numbers confirmed her identity, Peterson said. He and other scientists who follow the island park’s wolves and moose had nicknamed her “Isabelle.”

Her loss was a blow to an already struggling wolf population at Isle Royale, which has fallen sharply in recent years. Only eight remained in 2013, down from 24 just five years earlier. Their numbers last year were the lowest since scientists began observing the island’s wolves in the 1950s.

Three pups are believed to have been born in the past year, boosting the population to 11, although Isabelle’s death and the death of another adult on the island reduced it to nine.

The slump has touched off a debate over whether humans should bring more wolves to the island to replenish the severely inbred population. Peterson and Michigan Tech biologist John Vucetich, longtime leaders of the study, are among scientists favoring the idea. Others oppose it, saying nature should take its course.

The National Park Service is weighing its options. Green said most experts she has consulted believe the wolves will hang on for at least five years.

“So we don’t need to rush to a decision, but we need to proceed,” she said.

The park service hosted several public meetings on the issue last year and has received more than 1,000 comments, illustrating the widespread interest in the wolves’ fate, Green said.

This winter’s prolonged deep freeze has caused most of Lake Superior’s surface to freeze at times. Peterson and Vucetich had hoped that one or more wolves might use the opportunity to migrate from the mainland to the island, about 15 miles away, just as the park’s first wolves are believed to have done in the late 1940s.

None appear to have done so this year, although Green said that wouldn’t be certain until scientists conduct genetic analyses of recently collected feces samples, which would reveal if any newcomers have slipped onto the island undetected.

But the scientists had acknowledged there was also a chance that some of the Isle Royale wolves might head in the opposite direction.

“There’s a tendency for people to think an ice bridge is a one-way street and will solve everything,” Peterson said in a phone call from the island. “We’ve been telling people it’s more likely that wolves will leave Isle Royale rather than come to Isle Royale.”

Wolves are wanderers by nature and can cover many miles in a single day, he said. Despite their low numbers, their density on Isle Royale is actually high for their species.

“On the mainland their density is lower, they have a lot more directions they can disperse to,” Peterson said. “Isle Royale wolves have a lot of reasons to leave … and just one way to go.”

Peterson and Vucetich spend seven weeks at the snowbound wilderness park every winter studying the wolves and the moose on which they feed. It’s one of the world’s longest continuous studies of a predator-prey relationship in a closed ecosystem and has generated numerous discoveries.

During their frequent observational flights in a small plane, they spotted Isabelle wandering shoreline areas late last month. She was last seen Jan. 21, heading toward the pack that had assaulted her last year, Peterson said. She may have veered across the ice that night.

At age 3, she had left the pack into which she was born, which is normal behavior for a wolf, Peterson said.

“They disperse and look for vacant territory and an opportunity to mate,” he said. “But she’s been trapped on Isle Royale. She’d been traveling on her own for two years and never had pups.”

Scientists long believed it was extremely rare for wolves to cross from the mainland to the park, but evidence is mounting that it has happened more than they realized — which would explain how the population has maintained some genetic diversity despite its inbreeding, Vucetich said.

Ice bridges in western Lake Superior were more common in the 1960s and 1970, and it’s likely that wolves made the crossing back then, Peterson said. But they’ve become increasingly scarce as Great Lakes ice cover has shrunk in recent decades, contrary to the widespread cover this winter.

“That just isn’t going to work very well” as a way to build Isle Royale’s wolf numbers, he said. “Ice just is not forming the way it used to.”

Green said it was too early to give up on ice bridges as a pathway, with some scientists predicting climate change will bring more extreme weather swings.

“Nature may yet provide course corrections,” she said.

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With the death of its founder and longtime leader Fred Phelps, the Westboro Baptist Church faces the critical decision of whether to stay the course or turn its national notoriety and love of signage towards some other end. Here are some ways the church could reinvent itself going forward.

Professional Greeters

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Entourage

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Break Into Late-Night

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First Manned Mars Crew

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Matadors

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Medical Assistance

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Yogurt Snobs

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Tutoring

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Airport Valets

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Where you at, Greg.