Of Mice and Men -- does Sarasota know the difference?

No one wants mice in their homes.

The thought is disgusting; they’re so dirty. The idea of them infesting our space -- living in the walls, chewing into our food and spoiling it, having their pink, naked, grotesque litters of young anywhere and everywhere, leaving behind all those seed like droppings in our drawers and cupboards, urinating in our air vents, perfuming the whole house with that ‘mousy’ smell – is enough to turn our stomachs.

They carry disease and parasites.

Their darting little shadows give us the creeps.

The skittering, scratching sound of them behind the walls and in the ceilings robs us of sleep at night.

They are vermin. They are not to be tolerated. We must rid ourselves of their presence by any means possible.

So we set out traps baited with peanut butter, and catch one or two. We sprinkle warfarin pellets under the sink, and around the garbage areas, and soon ask ourselves, “What is that smell?” as their little dead bodies rot in places we can’t reach. It’s an ongoing war, and as quickly as we can kill them, they reproduce twice as fast.

That’s the thing about mice; see one and you know there are a hundred more you haven’t seen.

Oh, what to do?

Enter the supersonic mouse repeller.

This gizmo promises to rid our personal space of these pests by means of ultra-high frequency sound waves, so unpleasant to the mouse population that they’ll pack up and leave.

Here is a clipping from the ad-copy for the thing:

“The Ultrasonic Rodent Repeller, broadcasts a highly complex intense sound in the ultrasonic range. The intensity for a rodent is analogous to a jackhammer next to our ears. The intense sound creates stress for the rodent. In the animal kingdom, a stressed rodent is vulnerable. Avoiding stressful environments increases the chance for survival and is within the rodent's biological survival strategy. The Rodent Repeller creates a hostile environment so rodents naturally will try to avoid it and avoid taking up residency and nesting in the space.”

The City of Sarasota, Florida thinks this is a good idea

In a news story broadcast on the local SNN, an all news station, the City of Sarasota announces a plan to broadcast opera music into the public parks to discourage the homeless from congregating there.

Is this not a brilliant plan?

After all, if sound waves can deter mice from taking up residence in our nice, clean houses, does it not stand to reason the same theory will apply to those humans we’d rather not see? Certainly, many of us feel the same way toward the homeless.

The thought of sharing our beautiful parks with them is disgusting; they’re so dirty.

They pee in the bushes and leave their droppings behind.

Their flotsam of personal possessions is unsightly.

They go through the garbage looking for edibles, or recyclables.

They pester us with requests for loose change.

Surely, they carry disease. They must. After all, it’s a sure bet they have no access to medical insurance and care. Even the hospitals don’t want to see them, and when they do, they rid themselves of them at the first available opportunity.

The sight of them, sleeping on the benches, whiling away the hours of their empty days out in the fresh air and sunshine gives us the creeps.

They are all drug addicts or the insane, and not to be tolerated. They have no right to spend time in these beautiful public places and must be driven back to the dark and hidden corners where they belong. After all, what would the tourists think?

Are they not to blame for their own plight? They must be. This is the land of rugged self-sufficiency, where everyone has an equal opportunity to pursue success, riches and acclaim. Anyone who does not is lazy, incompetent or undeserving. Certainly not my problem, we think. And definitely, we don’t want to look at them.

So let’s use sound waves to drive them away from the pleasant places of our cities. It works on mice, doesn’t it?

One in every one-hundred Americans will experience homelessness this year

Not I, we say, and many of us believe it. We must believe it, for surely, the thought of joining the shadow world of the homeless will rob us of sleep, and we will toss and turn in our comfortable beds, gripped in a nightmarish scene: in need, unnoticed, spurned, treated as vermin, driven from place to place by the playing of opera music. What hell that will be!

Well, it could happen. Statistically speaking, one per cent of us will face homelessness this year. Let’s see, there are 307,973,000 people living in the United States according to the U.S. Population Clock’s estimate for October of 2009. That will mean 3,079,730 homeless by the end of the year. Chances are, at least one of you reading this article will face the nightmare.

Considering that existing shelters and help programs will cover only 23% of this number, leaving the rest to the tender mercies of the street, you’d better develop a taste for opera.

Who are the homeless?

Accurate statistics on homelessness are difficult, if not impossible to ascertain. Those figures available are from shelters, where head counts and surveys are possible, and as only an estimated 20-30% of the homeless are in shelters, the rest is pure guess work. Here are the best figures to be found:

In general:

The homeless population is about 50 % African-American, 35% White, 12% Hispanic, 2% Native American and 1% Asian.

Children under 18 make up 39% of the homeless population; People between the ages of 30 and 50 makeup 51% of the homeless population; people between the ages of 55and 60 account for 2.5%

Single adults who are homeless are most likely to be men -- 45%; single women make up 14%

Families with children are now the fastest growing group of the homeless population, they account for about 40% of the people who become homeless each year. 38% of the people already homeless are families with children.

Families 41% of the homeless

Families constitute around 41 percent of America's homeless.

65% of these families are headed by females and of those, 50 percent report fleeing domestic abuse. Most battered women and children have nowhere to go, so they reside in the streets. There are not enough shelters for homeless families in general, nor room for all the victims of domestic violence in those specialized shelters. There are waiting lists but they are much too long, and people are difficult to contact when there is space if they live in the street.

The main cause of these homeless families is the lack of affordable housing.

Homelessness among families upsets nearly every part of the family’s life. It disrupts children’s education and development. It also affects much of the emotional and physical health of the family. A family’s homelessness often causes the members to separate.

They are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population.

Children - 39% of the homeless

Children under the age of 18, represent 39 percent of the homeless. 42% of these children are under five years of age. Imagine yourself as one of these children, at best, living in a shelter, at worst, living on the street.

Many teachers, at schools in places with a high rate of homeless, are used to seeing children falling asleep at their desks. These children may not be able to sleep because they are in a room with seven or eight people, and some could be infants. They may have woken up to a baby screaming at four a.m. in the morning. In the cafeteria, when the kids eat like they’re starving, or ask for seconds and thirds, maybe it’s because they didn’t eat dinner last night -- or maybe they didn’t eat all day. They live with the constant threat of violence, and in fear of losing what little possessions they own, including books, to theft.

These children could be in their third or fourth school that year. They suffer from chronic fatigue, malnourishment, nervous disorder and the stigma of being a ‘homeless kid.’

Veterans 23-40% of all homeless

Veterans comprise between 23 to 40 percent. 40% of all homeless men have served in the armed forces. Comparative statistics are not available for the female population.

According to one study, 47% of these veterans served in the Vietnam war, and many are double counted in these statistics, included again in the group with mental health issues. One study shows that veterans who served later, though they did not witness the same degree of combat or go without treatment for PTSD; they are highly represented in the homeless rates. This is attributed, in that study, to modern day recruiting techniques, which target the lower economic strata of the population.

The elderly

The elderly made up 6 percent. However, this is expected to increase as 43% of the elderly live at or close to the poverty level. In the next decade we will witness the after effects of today’s financial disaster. Those now approaching their retirement years will do so with fewer resources than the previous two generations.

Most of the elderly living in America today are dependent on pension and social security checks. Neither of these are able to provide a very comfortable lifestyle, never mind a luxurious one. Although most of the elderly have some source of income and a roof over their head, nearly 4 million do not. Many live with children or grandchildren, or other relatives. Many live in substandard housing, with detrimental effects to their health.

For elderly people actually facing the streets, shelters are not a suitable solution. This is because shelters are designed to provide short term accommodations, in hopes that job training programs and other forms of assistance will help people move up and out of their homeless situation.

Most of the old, homeless people in America are overlooked by the American public. The elderly homeless population is often held responsible for their homelessness.

The mentally ill -- between 16 and 26% of the homeless

The mentally ill, contrary to popular myth, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless,  comprise only 16 percent of the total homeless. Another study suggests 26 percent.

Without access to affordable health care or a fixed address, they can’t get treatment, which automatically precludes finding or keeping a job. Most of the mentally ill homeless can live on their own with community based treatment services. These people are willing to get help, but not enough of these programs exist. Without treatment, their conditions deteriorate. They are also among the most vulnerable to predators out on the street.

Those with substance abuse problems -- anywhere from 30 to 65% of the homeless

Those with substance abuse problems make up 63 per cent of the homeless population, according to one study of those in shelters,  However, it is not known how homelessness has affected that ratio – one study suggests substance abuse declined with homelessness; another states that 38% self-medicate in order to deal with the stress of homelessness. The authors of the first study expressed surprise that substance abuse might decline with homelessness, and wondered why that may be. Apparently, it doesn’t occur to them that substances are difficult to obtain without money.

Others report a greater dependence on alcohol following homelessness.

The homeless of Sarasota

Here are some statistics for Sarasota county, and please note, these only reflect those homeless who applied for and received assistance in 2008:

"Over 18,000 people were served by our homeless service providers in 2008.

This is a slight decrease from 2007, primarily due to decreases in funding * (emphasis the author’s. Note: those in need did not decline – only the number the agency could afford to help).

Of the clients served, 18% or 3,482 were children."

Here is one day:

498 Children... 1,381 family members… 150 Seniors… 192 Veterans… received supportive services in Sarasota county.

One of Sarasota's lovely parks. The homeless are not welcome. But for all the rest of you, come on in, so long as you like opera.
One of Sarasota's lovely parks. The homeless are not welcome. But for all the rest of you, come on in, so long as you like opera.

Conclusion

There is no reason to believe the homeless population of Sarasota differs greatly from the national average, so the breakdown given here can also be assumed to be the population Sarasota intends to harass from the parks with this dubious campaign – mostly families with children who can’t afford to pay rent, veterans who have served their nation and been abandoned in return, those with mental health issues and yes, one or two winos and junkies.

They are not welcome to enjoy the sun and fresh air of Sarasota's parks

Has it not occurred to honored city counselors, there is nothing different about the homeless to ensure they are the only ones driven to seek shelter from non-stop opera music? What about those tax-paying citizens? Apparently, city officials believe that ownership of homes automatically elevates one to an appreciation of the opera. They will enjoy. The homeless will flee.

Uh-huh.

Oh, by the way – that ultrasonic mouse repeller? Well, studies show that it doesn’t work, though it does appear to drive cats up the wall. It seems the mice grow used to the sound and ignore it.

One ad copy I saw countered this claim with the following instructions:

“The ultra-sonic rodent repeller is not designed to work alone. Rodenticides and traps should be used in conjunction. The device can then be used to herd rodents into that area so equipped.”

Let’s hope the city counsel of Sarasota doesn’t read this one. It may give them ideas.


For more information on the situation of the homeless in Sarasota, please go to my hub --

Meet Marta and Chuck -- without a home on the meanest streets in the U.S. -- an interview

link here: http://hubpages.com/_1z82ueimymwla/hub/Meet-Marta-and-Chuck-life-without-a-home-in-the-meanest-city-in-America-an-interview?

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Comments 29 comments

lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

If any of you are tempted to add up all these percentages and figures offered here, don't bother. I can't make sense of them either, but those are exactly what I found in trying to research this difficult subject. There are many studies, but they are contradictory. The main thing is: there are a lot of homeless, and the majority of those in shelters are women with children, and the majority of those on the streets are single males.


Nan 7 years ago

I believe all of the people living on the streets that are homeless, are mentally ill. If they weren't ill they would end up ill having to live like animals. This is the ugly picture of life that most of us don't want to know about. In the greater LAX area, the rich said that if you can't take care of yourself, you can die.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks for reading Nan. I should have known this subject would draw you; you care so much for the underprivileged. I can believe that comment -- those in dire straits are often blamed for their own troubles in this unforgiving society. Shame on them. What a barbaric thing to say!

The evolution of a society is not judged by its accomplishments, but by its care for the weak of their number.


papajack 7 years ago

I'm not religious but this seems appropriate.

"What you do to the least of these you do also unto me" Just plug yourself into the me slot.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

A very apt quote. How about 'do unto others as you would have others do unto you.' We never know when we may find ourselves in their position.


Highvoltagewriter profile image

Highvoltagewriter 7 years ago from Savannah GA.

Great Hub...I am a person who my self was homeless for a short time and know many people that are either homeless or very close to becoming homeless. This problem will only become worse as time goes on. I am bewildered by the mentality that a lot of cities in Florida were I now live (Jacksonville) have towards the homeless. How they want to drive the homeless out or arrest them. However, there is one exception to this and that is the Sulzbacher Center,which is a homeless shelter in Jacksonville that has a health Clinic that they cater to both physical and mental illness. They of course, have been greatly affected by cut backs. I am a person who does not suffer from mental illness or addicted to drugs (including alcohol)and yet, because I got my self in debt, I became homeless for a while.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Sarasota also has services in place, but funding has been reduced, and continues to be reduced. The statistics I find show that 23-30% of the homeless will have access to these services. And you're right -- the situation will get worse. The number of people I know in the 50-65 age range facing bankruptcy right now, does bode well for the future.

You, Highvoltagewriter, are one of the one out of every hundred Americans who will face homelessness this year. How did it feel? Why not write a hub and share the experience with us? I'd be among the first to read it.


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 7 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

This situation is beyond my comprehension - how can a civilized society allow this to happen while spending billions on war and space programs? While funding continues to be cut off for services, we are failing to address the problem which is multi-faceted and needs to be addressed on many levels - why isn't there a task force and resources allocated to powerfully addressing this issue - my son lives in LA and he has said to me what Nan says, If you don't have $ you die here. Is this what people mean when they say we are a Christian nation? Thanks for bringing this into the light, lmmartin!


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Thanks for your comments Kartika. It's true this kind of plan shows in what contempt the homeless are held. The very idea of setting up "homeless person repellers" chills the blood. I find the cold-heartedness of some toward those in trouble in this society difficult to understand.


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 7 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

Well, the notion of playing opera to repel the homeless is macabre! This is beyond the pale!


Mighty Mom profile image

Mighty Mom 7 years ago from Where Left is Right, CA

Hi Immartin. The statistics didn't surprise me but this inhumane strategy shocked me. Who thinks of these things? Why not just get out there with cattle prods and electrocute them?

How about taking the money to broadcast opera music* and investing it in shelters and health services?

*Not for anything,but... has anyone thought through how they are going to blast opera music that only the homeless can hear? What about the rest of the public that might be using the public spaces/parks? Do they hear at a different frequency? And what about those homeless people who LIKE opera music?

I know a LOT of people who have been homeless in their past lives because of substance addiction. They are in recovery now and upstanding citizens. But you know what? They are still the same people!


Duchess OBlunt 7 years ago

Great Hub to draw attention to the problem. Good research on stats, but how can the public help?

Karticka asks, "How can a civilized society allow this to happen while spending billions on war and space programs?"

We allow it to happen. Too few step up to the plate to help those we know who are in need. That's how it happens. We totally ignore the rule "Do unto others as you would have them do unto you."

Your stats suggest that 1% of the homeless are Asian. Is it possible that the reason is that most Asians get help from family and friends?

Apart from pointing a finger at the appalling government funding habits, there are things that each of us as individuals can do.

Volunteer your Time

Volunteer your Talent

Donate Dollars or In-Kind Services

Get involved

A few places in Florida that a quick Google search found.

http://www.cchomelesscoalition.org/

http://www.pinellashomeless.org/


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi MightyMom, Your shocked reaction is exactly how I feel about the situation. After I wrote this article, I was doing some follow up research, thinking of doing another hub on how the homeless are treated in Florida (arrested, criminalized, harrassed by the police, driven from town) and came across an article "Sarasota takes lead as mean city." I think I'll do a follow up on the subject, so look for it in the near future.

Hi Duchess, thanks for the helpful tips. Yes, there are a number of organizations trying to help (p.s. Pinellas is a county north of here) but the bald fact remains that existing organizations can only handle less than a quarter of the homeless. About some of your questions: I don't know. I would think the strong families of Asian cultures would have something to do with the stats -- but I don't know. Stats on the homeless are difficult to get a handle on, and each study contradicts the others. I get the feeling that each starts with a preset point of view. No one knows what the situation really is -- a situation not helped by such reactions as having the police harass them from place to place.

This idea though -- what can I say? It's absolutely disgusting in concept and intent, and only shows how heartless a society we live in.

Thanks to all of you for taking the time to comment.


Susie Wilder 7 years ago

Lynda, Thank you for posting this ugly situation we all tend to ignore, just because it doesn't relate to us at this time. It can and most likely happen to any one of us sooner or later. WWJD. I believe He would cast out the ignorant and greedy and help the needy. We all need to ask ouselves that question. It just sickens me that we live in one of the most richest counties in the state and have the nerve to ignore one of our most pressing situations. Homeless people did not choose this way of life, it happened just like the flu. We don't choose to get it, but we do. With all the empty buildings in Sarasota, there must be some higher ups that could change these buildings into decent liver quarters for our homeless. I am at a loss of words for Why isn't something good being done to help all homeless. Play all the opera they want to try and get rid of them, and I pray to God, that the homeless will love the music. I personally don't care for opera, but if I had no choice, I would listen just to have a place to stay. This situation does not make me proud to be a Sarasotian. We must all humble ourselves to find resources to help each other. Again I say, What Would Jesus Do?.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Susie. What would Jesus do? I'd like to think He'd sit down with the homeless, enjoy the music and comfort the weak. And possibly feed the masses fish, bread, and wine that was once water, as He did on the mount. Thank you for your comment.


martyjay 7 years ago

Excellent hub. For too long the US has used jails and prison as a solution for the homeless. Now that these institutions have become over crowded, the homeless seek bridges and parks for refuge. One can only hope that city, county and State officials can provide more money to fund shelters. Perhaps they could use stimulus fund to provide jobs for people who work at these shelters. Thanks for keeping us informed.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 7 years ago from Dallas, Texas

Fascinating read. Sad to realize we're not looking after our brothers and sisters on this earth. I like your comment about WWJD. He told us what to do:

"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that you mete it shall be measured to you again." (Luke 6:38)

Thanks for a reminder of our responsibilities.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi martyjay -- interesting you should mention jails and prisons, because that is what is happening -- it is literally a crime to be impoverished. The homeless are harassed, arrested, driven out of town -- brushed out of sight.

Hi Peg, Amen.


kartika damon profile image

kartika damon 7 years ago from Fairfield, Iowa

I'm happy to see so much response to this article and am glad your going to write more on this subject! Thank you! Kartika


ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

It is the paramount law of the kapitalist paradigm; Buy or Die.

Until the usurious banking cartel is shut down and the profit motive is eliminated, this situation will continue to worsen.

As long as profit is god, the masses will suffer.


Amanda Severn profile image

Amanda Severn 7 years ago from UK

This is a truly sobering hub. We have homeless people here, too, though I do not know the statistics. I believe the vast majority find places in shelters, although there are certainly rough sleepers and people who sleep in squats but do not have an income. We sometimes pass the seafront of an evening and see quite a queue outside the soup kitchen which is set up by local charities and churches to provide at least one hot daily meal for the needy. Having said that, government schemes are in place in the UK to protect families with young children, and the elderly. Although you do sometimes see beggars in the bigger towns, I don't have the impression that the problem is anything like as big as you are describing here.

Charity begins at home, so they say. Perhaps it's time for towns and cities with large numbers of homeless citizens to re-discover the concept of community.


pgrundy 7 years ago

From what I've read, the most effective strategy is to prevent these folks from hitting the streets in the first place. Once someone is homeless, it gets more difficult to get them a leg up. We have to stop slashing social programs and holding the poor in contempt. Even those of us who are totally self-interested have to recognize that at some point allowing this to happen reduces everyone's quality of life. For instance, that blaring opera music will make the park just as unpalatable for people WITH homes. Why not just take care of people who have hit a rough patch or are permanently unable to make themselves into a Horatio Alger story? We babble on about our love for families here and then let children live on the street. It's sickening.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 7 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Hi Coldwarbaby -- Yes, society looks askance at those with no money, but I don't like to think that we require a complete financial collapse before we're willing to address our social problems. The solution is clear -- affordable quarters must be found -- whether it's one room or campgrounds.

Hi Amanda, I did run across an article about the homeless in the U.K. And like you, they found reliable statistics impossible to find. All I found was a high percentage of the homeless population in Britain are youth.

Hi pgrundy, You're right and we discussed this at some length on the other hub --- Chuck and Marta. Again, all I can say is the solution requires a change in view, and bylaws, allowing those that will to build afordable quarters -- rooms equipped with the basics, known as bed-sitters in Europe, campgrounds, subsidized apartments -- all these are feasible. The only way to stop people from becoming homeless is to provide homes they can afford.


ColdWarBaby 7 years ago

I don't like to think it either Immartin but I'm left with little choice.

The machinations of those who worship wealth and power are intended to create a world in which the vast majority of people live in poverty and exist only to serve the supremacists. The plutocracy, of course, will experience no "financial collapse". All wealth, both money and resources, will be their "private property". They will live in their walled and gated oases of luxury, guarded by their private armies. The slave class, living in shanty towns, slums, barrios and ghettos, will pick through the land fills of the aristocracy hoping to find a few edible scraps. They will grovel at the gates of fortress cities, begging for an opportunity to perform any menial task for the masters in hopes of receiving a decent meal and some fresh water. They will dream of the rare opportunity, afforded to very few, to become a household servant, perhaps to be granted the occasional, unimaginable luxury of a shower or bath and clean clothing.

Such conditions already exist in third world countries that have been opened to the free market. It is the purpose of globalization to ensure that third world countries are the only kind extant. That purpose is being realized through the Bank for International Settlements, World Bank and International Monetary Fund.

The church of Mammon is busily building a third world planet. The high priests are complacently anticipating an economic theocracy. The plutocrats are dreaming of an Orwellian Utopia.


Amie Warren 6 years ago

Sarasota is horrible! I remember when they passed laws against the homeless. The rich people there try to take over everything. My step brother lives in an older section of downtown where a lot of USF and New College students live. They want to condemn it and build condos, and they were going to succeed, but the housing boom collapsed.


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

Certainly the world is filled by powerful people who see a future devoid of housing projects and poor neighborhoods -- not that we've conquered poverty though. Only that we chased it away to somewhere else. You are so right. Thanks for commenting. Lynda


IvoryMelodies profile image

IvoryMelodies 6 years ago

Sarasota's tactics remind me of the story of Vlad Dracula, or Vlad the Impaler, who eradicated poverty by inviting all the poor to a free dinner. Once everyone was inside and had feasted, he had the doors locked and the place torched. No one escaped. Vlad said he did this "in order that they represent no further burden to other men so that no one will be poor in my realm."


lmmartin profile image

lmmartin 6 years ago from Alberta and Florida Author

I'll bet his system worked, too. What a story! Thanks, IvoryMelodies for sharing this with us. I often think of Scrooge in Dickens tale who asked why he should help out his fellow man. Are there no work houses for the poor? Read, are there no homeless shelters? Thanks so much for commenting here. Lynda


Person 5 years ago

I wonder what might happen if I refuse to give the Gov my tax money; that was NOT authorized by me for then to use on wars, and instead give it to them I would use it to directly help real people to have a warm bed and food, and opportunity to redraft a new life????? Hunnnnn??? I wonder who is in large numbers? And Why do we support paying the government salaries and luxury meeting to manage our saying. Hunnnnn? We don't learn that in schools, right? Oh wait! Oh that's right the government tires what to inform and teach the children of this country. Teach peace and to work hard for the American dreammmm.... Really?! What they are really teaching is to 99%of people needs to work as slaves and happily support the luxury of the 1%. Oh also to proudly serve this same country that let the veterans and their families become homeless. And the 1% owns the 90% of the countrys' money. Did you know that??? Good luck American people that living on this fabricate dream!!! Well, you are actually lucky only if you were born on the 1%, of-course!)

(sorry the spelling. Writing from phone)

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