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There was an interesting contrast between Donald Trump’s visits to Monroe on Nov. 4 and Bossier City 10 days later.

In Monroe, Trump endorsed challenger Robert Mills in a state senate race 100 miles to the west, as reported by, among others, THE HAYRIDE, one of the state’s principal cheerleaders for Eddie Rispone and Trump. (That was the same rally, by the way, in which Secretary of State Kyle Ardoin violated state law that prohibits the secretary of state from participating in any partisan campaign other than for his own election by ENDORSING Rispone for governor.)

Mills is seeking to unseat incumbent Ryan Gatti in Senate District 36, which encompasses all of Webster Parish and parts of Bienville, Bossier and Claiborne parishes. Both men are Republicans but Gatti has offended the Republican hierarchy with his non-partisan voting record in the House and by supporting some of the programs of Gov. John Bel Edwards, a Democrat.

Around the same time that Trump was endorsing Mills in that Monroe appearance, Monroe radio personality Moon Griffon got Gatti squarely in his crosshairs, posting on FACEBOOK a copy of an invitation issued by Gatti for a luncheon hosted at his home at which Edwards would be the “special guest.”

Griffon, falling in line with Trump, Rispone, and The Hayride, obediently LAMBASTED Gatti on his radio show (to listen, go to the 10-minute mark of the link).

So far, so good. Everyone is in lockstep. Trump, Rispone, Griffon, The Hayride, U.S. Sen. John Kennedy, U.S. Rep. Mike Johnson, LABI (Mills actually sat on the board of NORTH-PAC, one of LABI’s four directional political action committees).

Until last night, that is. When Trump appeared in Bossier Thursday night, he was smack dab in the middle of District 36 and in the perfect position to again throw his support behind Mills.

In fact, The Hayride on Monday of this week said, “It’ll get even worse when Trump repeats the (Monroe) performance in Bossier City Thursday, at which (time) the president will repeat his endorsement of Mills over Gatti inside of District 36 itself.”

Except he didn’t.

Conspicuously absent in Trump’s Bossier City rally last night was any mention of Mills.

None. Zip. Nada.

Could Ashley Madison have played a role in Trump’s decision not to call for the election of Mills?

LouisianaVoice on Oct. 31 had a STORY that Mills’s name had appeared on the Ashley Madison web page, the online dating service designed specifically for married people seeking a discreet extra-marital affair.

Oops.

So much for the presidential endorsement on the candidate’s home turf.

The absurdity of it all has prompted one lifelong Republican to observe, “This is the craziest election I’ve ever seen. Mike Johnson is behind all of it. (He’s a) fake Christian conservative hatchet man. I just voted for my first Democrat ever.”

 

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It’s been a long time since an election in Louisiana has featured the level of accusations and misleading ads.

Like four years.

It was in 2015 when then State Rep. John Bel Edwards rolled out his “Prostitutes over Patriots” ad to taint U.S. Sen. David Vitter in the latter’s attempt to succeed the controversial Bobby Jindal to the state’s governor’s mansion next to Capitol Lake.

That ad was a reminder of Vitter’s embarrassing scandal over his skipping a vote to honor 28 soldiers killed in action in favor of taking a call from a PROSTITUTES.

That ad eclipsed Vitter’s attempt to smear Edwards for his visit to a black nightclub that featured semi-nude dancers.

In an ugly sidebar, Jefferson Parish Sheriff Newell Normand, a Republican who succeeded the colorful—and controversial—Harry Lee, got involved in the race, first by endorsing Edwards and then by collaring an apparent campaign mole attempting to record a session of Edwards supporters at a coffee claque.

Ugly indeed. Worthy of Earl Long.

Fast forward to 2019 and little has changed.

Both candidates, incumbent Gov. Edwards, a Democrat, and Republican challenger Eddie Rispone have unloaded a spate of attack ads against each other that have Louisiana voters suffering severe cases of campaign fatigue. If possible, the barrage is worse even than the avalanche of lawyer ads that seem to obscure local newscasts.

Edwards convinced black leaders in New Orleans to remove an ad comparing Rispone to David Duke, prompting Rispone to accuse Edwards of playing the race card, accusing Edwards’ family of racism because his ancestors were slave owners.

Ugly.

Even Donald Trump has inserted himself into the governor’s race, appearing at rallies over the state and charging that Edwards is pro-abortion and anti-2nd Amendment.

Nothing could be further from the truth. Edwards broke with his own party to support and sign into law one of the harshest anti-abortion laws in the nation—the constitutionality of which will be decided by the U.S. Supreme Court. And Edwards, himself a hunter, is a strong advocate of the 2nd Amendment.

Rispone has fashioned himself as a “jobs creator,” but Edwards ads point out that he has a record of outsourcing jobs to foreign workers who subsequently sued him over benefits. And as for the jobs Rispone says he “created,” Edwards has noted that Rispone’s company has received millions of dollars in tax exemptions for businesses that created precious few jobs.

Rispone has an ad attacking Edwards as being “too liberal for Louisiana” that inserts Edwards responding to the hypothetical “how liberal is John Bel Edwards,” saying “That’s a stupid question.”

Problem is, the Edwards comment is taken out of context. The remark was in response to Rispone’s debate question about New Orleans being a sanctuary city—which, in fact, was an uninformed question, much like Rispone’s claim that the State Constitution contained 400 pages just on the state tax code.

Ugly.

The Edwards campaign features an ad that shows Rispone introducing then-Gov. Bobby Jindal at some function (we don’t know what, but it does appear authentic). His introduction is interspersed with negative news headlines about major budget cuts and budgetary shortfalls that occurred during Jindal’s eight years. Rispone can be heard congratulating Jindal on “a great job.”

The end concludes with a warning that we can’t go back to the Jindal years.

Recently, Secretary of State KYLE ARDOIN apparently violated a state prohibition against him (or any secretary of state) from participating in any partisan election other than his own—because as secretary of state, he is in charge of impartially overseeing all elections in the state—when he appeared in a Trump rally in Monroe and endorsed Rispone.

Ugly.

A Rispone ad inaccurately accused one of Edwards’ supporters, a West Point roommate, of landing a STATE CONTRACT worth up to $65 million. The facts revealed that while Murray Starkel did bid on the coastal restoration contract, neither his firm nor any of the other three bidders received the contract. The ad was subsequently pulled.

A Rispone ad attacking Edwards’ MILITARY RECORD was particularly ugly, especially in light of the fact that Rispone’s primary benefactor, Baton Rouge businessman Lane Grigsby, DROPPED OUT of West Point.

And while Rispone appears satisfied to attack Edwards vis TV ads, he seems reluctant to face Edwards face to face, one on one, other than the formal debates to which he committed earlier. But he was a NO SHOW at a Baton Rouge Area Chamber forum as well as a Baton Rouge Press Club debate, prompting one observer to speculate that he didn’t get Grigsby’s permission to attend.

And while Rispone offers no hard solutions to any of the state’s problems other than to say he is a “jobs creator,” Edwards can—and does—boast that he took over a state wallowing in eight consecutive years of budgetary deficits of the Jindal administration to produce a $300 million budget surplus.

Rispone’s most effective ad features his daughter Dena extolling his family values, his faith and the fact that he is not only a wonderful father, but a “good man.” It’s easily the least offensive ad that either candidate has rolled out, even more effective than the image of Edwards driving down the road in his pickup truck with his arm draped around his wife’s shoulder. That ad may have been genuine, but I couldn’t help but feel it appeared contrived, posed. Rispone’s daughter, by contrast, was about as sincere as any ad in the entire festering campaign and, looking directly into the camera, she comes across as a truly loving daughter. Nothing about it seems rehearsed.

Rispone, however, all but negates that ad with another in which he opens by saying Louisiana is the best state in the nation but immediately clicks off a multitude of poor rankings that causes one to question his claim of our being the “best” state.

There can be no denying there are lingering problems that are so entrenched from decades of back room politics that put lawmakers’ personal gain of the state’s best interests.

In 2018, Louisiana had an unemployment rate of 4.9 percent, fourth-highest in the nation, and a poverty rate of 18.6 percent, the nation’s third-highest.

There are those who are not as enamored as Rispone’s daughter. And the skeptics include at least two elected Republicans.

One, a state senator, cautioned, “If you think Jindal was bad, just wait until you see what happens if Rispone is elected.”

Another, a parish official, said Rispone would bring back former commissioners of administration Kristi Nichols and Angelle Davis from “political oblivion” to work in his administration.

Those two, and others Republicans with similar opinions, will be targeted by the State Republican Party as RINOs (Republicans in Name Only).

Regardless, the citizens of Louisiana will breathe a sigh of relief when this circus is over.

Political campaigns in Louisiana can wear even the most resilient observer down to his or her last nerve.

Ugly.

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Over the years, I have taken Troy Hebert to task over his tenure as head of the Louisiana Office of Alcohol and Tobacco Control (ATC). I even had to give a deposition in a lawsuit filed against Hebert by one of the agents he fired.

But I would be remiss if I did not now point out that we are in complete agreement on at least three issue: the failure of both political parties to represent Americans, lobbyists, and campaign finance.

On August 27, Hebert appeared along with Melissa Flournoy on the Jim Engster Show on Louisiana Public Radio. Both served in the Louisiana Legislature and Engster had them on together to present their viewpoints from the left (Flournoy) and the right (Hebert).

Flournoy correctly pointed out that gubernatorial candidates Eddie Rispone and U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham are placing far too much emphasis on their being in lockstep with Donald Trump, who has proven that anyone can indeed become president—even the mentally deranged.

“I’m a little surprised (they) have embraced the President so much. I’m ready for them to talk about their vision for Louisiana and the kind of leadership they can provide,” she said. “I don’t think liking the President is good enough reason to be governor. I’m ready for the governor’s race to pivot to the real issues in Louisiana—education, health care, infrastructure and making Louisiana better.

“People don’t want to talk about solutions. We stand on different sides of the street and shriek at each other when we really ought to be focusing on solutions where we can work together.”

Hebert, a staunch Trump supporter. As a former legislator and member of the Jindal administration, nailed it when he said, “Neither party is getting done what needs to be done in this country.”

Hebert would seem qualified to speak to that issue, having been a member of each party but who now calls himself a “conservative independent. I served on both (parties) and just couldn’t take either one of them.”

He then fired a broadside at the Louisiana Association of Business and Industry (LABI). “As somebody who was in the legislature for 16 years as both a senator and a representative, I think big business owns the legislature and owns many officials.

“The little man is either dead or on life support in the legislature,” he said. “Why don’t you just pull up the campaign finance reports and find out who gives to these candidates.” LABI, he said, is “so blatant that they hinge their support on … a report card they give every year. And you have to score a certain percentage in order to receive funding from LABI when you run for re-election.

“I can’t tell you how many times I approached legislators with a bill I thought was a good idea to help the little guy and they said, “… This is a really good bill but the problem is LABI is against it and if I vote for it, they’re going ding me on their report card and I’m not gonna get money.”

Flournoy agreed, saying that LABI and the Chemical Association control and big corporations “… control and influence every decision made in Louisiana. They’re looking out for their interest and not for the people of Louisiana.”

Hebert, while agreeing with Flournoy, took his argument a step further by attacking the emphasis on money politics and how it even affects the media.

“The media judges a candidate’s ability by how much month they have in the bank. If you look at every report when the news comes on, when they talk about this governor’s race, they don’t talk about their ideas or what their policies are. They talk about how much money they’ve raised.

“When I ran for the U.S. Senate (in 2016), they had a debate put on by LPB (Louisiana Public Broadcasting) and you had to have a million dollars in order to be on the debate stage. So, the media also is responsible and is guilty for bringing money into play.

“The regular working guy who would want to run for office, the media won’t even let them in.”

Turning to the 2020 presidential campaign, Hebert said Joe Biden is probably the only Democrat in a crowded field who could give Trump a decent run but because he’s more moderate. “But watch the Democrats cannibalize Joe Biden. He’s going to be eaten by his own. The people in charge of the Democratic Party will not allow Joe Biden to be the nominee.”

Flournoy, while agreeing that the Democratic Party is moving too far to the left, said she does not believe we have seen the candidate who will end up running against Trump. “There’re going to be some late entries,” she said.

If I were a TV news analyst, I would sum up that appearance by pointing out that Melissa Flournoy and Troy Hebert are in agreement on more issues than those on which they disagree and that the common culprit is the influence of LABI and its big business membership on the Louisiana Legislature to the detriment of the citizens of Louisiana.

But the really unique aspect of Hebert’s diatribe against the influence of big money and big business on politics is that as he spoke, I found myself nodding in full agreement with someone about whom I had written many negative stories.

 

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When high-profile people move together in a tight circle, it’s sometimes difficult to break out of their orbit.

And no matter how often or how loudly Trump’s rabid supporters chant “Lock her up” at the mere mention of Hillary Clinton, there’s that inescapable fact that Trump and the Clintons were in that tight little circle of New York society and both Trump and Bill Clinton rubbed elbows with accused human trafficker Jeffrey Epstein.

That’s guilt by association and no matter what size blinders Trump’s evangelical followers choose to wear. They simply cannot get past the inconvenient fact that Trump (a) knew of Epstein’s preference for young (read: underage) girls and (b) thought Epstein was a “lot of fun” and a “terrific guy.”

For those same evangelicals to continue their blind loyalty to a man with zero morals and less than zero compassion for his fellow man is to expose them as the hypocrites of the highest order. Their devotion to such a man exposes the Big Lie: their profession to worship and attempt to emulate the one upon which their entire faith is supposedly based: Jesus.

And for Trump to continue to encourage that now all-too-familiar chant is to ignore a dark side of his character that has been exposed in the Billy Bush ACCESS HOLLYWOOD tapes and other offensive quotes as documented HERE (particularly numbers 4 and 5).

Hard-core Trump supporters, of course, will dismiss this story out of hand as “fake news” while at the same time clinging with maniacal fervor to that long-debunked ALEX JONES-perpetuated conspiracy Pizzagate theory that Hillary Clinton and John Podesta were involved in child sex-trafficking through a Washington, D.C. pizza parlor.

(And just in case you aren’t an evangelical but support Trump on the basis of a robust economy he inherited from Barack Obama—after the Wall Street collapse under George W. Bush—you might do well to remember that Hitler restored Germany’s economy—and gave the world the Volkswagen Beetle—and Mussolini “made the trains run on time,” which makes your reasoning a little suspect. And if you don’t agree that Obama handed Trump a thriving economy, look it up before firing off your half-baked comments suggesting that anyone who has anything favorable to say about Obama is a “libtard.”)

But I digress. Let’s get back to Jeffrey Epstein, Trump, Bill Clinton, Steven Hoffenberg and Alexander Acosta and that tight little circle I mentioned at the outset. And please take note that I haven’t said anything about collusion or obstruction. This is a whole ‘nother matter—and it really leaves egg on the collective faces of those evangelical Trump worshipers who have adopted him as their very own false prophet (or perhaps more appropriately, “profit”).

So, just who is this Jeffrey Epstein I keep mentioning? I’m glad you asked because for the evangelicals, there’s a special Ruston connection.

Epstein is a wealthy hedge fund manager who once hobnobbed with Bill Clinton, England’s Prince Andrew, and a one-time Palm Beach neighbor—one Donald J. Trump.

Anyone who keeps up with the news is aware that Epstein was arrested Saturday in New York on new sex-trafficking charges that date back to the early 2000s and which involve accusations of his having paid underage girls for massages and for molesting them in his Florida and New York homes.

The arrest comes amid renewed examination of a one-time secret—but now out of the bag—plea deal engineered then former Miami U.S. Attorney-turned-Trump labor secretary Alexander Acosta ((I almost used the Latin term for Acosta’s career transition, but thought better of it). Under that deal, Epstein, instead of a possible life sentence, received only 13 months in jail and he was required to reach financial settlements with dozens of his one-time teenage victims and to register as a sex offender.

A federal judge ruled earlier this year that Epstein’s victims should have been consulted under federal law about the terms of the deal, an “oversight” that federal prosecutors have admitted falls short of the “government’s dedication to serve victims to the best of its ability” and that the victims should have been communicated with “in a straightforward and transparent way.”

Court records in Florida reveal that at least 40 underage girls were brought into Epstein’s Palm Beach mansion for sexual encounters after female fixers found suitable girls in Eastern Europe and other parts of the world. Girls were also brought to Epstein homes in New Mexico, New York and to a private Caribbean island, court documents say.

His arrest Saturday came only days after the unsealing of nearly 2,000 pages of records in a since-settled defamation case also involving Epstein.

Nebraska Republican Sen. Ben Sasse, in calling Epstein a “monster (who) received a pathetically soft sentence,” released a statement calling for Epstein to be held without bail pending trial. He said his victims deserve “nothing less than justice. Justice doesn’t depend on the size of your bank account.”

As a sidebar to all this sleazy mess, Law Newz, an online legal news service, reported on Monday (July 4) that Trump himself is accused of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old girl in Epstein’s presence in 1994.

In the Doe v. Donald J. Trump federal civil case, a witness statement is attached to the lawsuit in which the alleged witness claims to have “personally witnessed the plaintiff being forced to perform various sexual acts with Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein. Both Mr. Trump and Mr. Epstein were advised that she was 13 years old.”

The witness statement went on to say, “I personally witnessed four sexual encounters that the plaintiff was forced to have with Mr. Trump during this period, including the fourth of these encounters where Mr. Trump forcibly raped her despite her pleas to stop.”

http://lawnewz.com/celebrity/why-isnt-anyone-paying-attention-to-the-sexual-assault-lawsuit-against-trump/

Of course, so-called witnesses can—and often do—say things under oath that are far removed from the truth. LouisianaVoice is in no position to authenticate or refute the claims but the fact that they are now part of court record gives them added significance.

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3564767/Donald-Trump-furiously-denies-woman-s-claims-raped-tycoon-billionaire-pedophile-Jeffrey-Epstein-s-sex-parties.html

For his part, Trump is ON RECORD as tweeting back in 2002 about what a wonderful pal Epstein was.

Epstein’s mentor was one STEVEN HOFFENBERG, who headed up Towers Financial Corporation (TFC) which swindled millions of dollars from more than 200,000 investors from the late 1980s and early 1990s in what at the time was the largest Ponzi scheme in history (before Bernie Madoff).

Hoffenberg was convicted and sentenced to 20 years in prison, fined and ordered to make restitution of more than $450 million to his victims.

And just who was it who ultimately blew the whistle on Hoffenberg, exposed his racket to the feds and initiated his prosecution and conviction?

Why, none other than Ruston’s very own weekly newspaper publisher, the late JOHN MARTIN HAYS, who was nominated for the Pulitzer Prize for his work on a series of stories on Hoffenberg and his gigantic scam in his Morning Paper, which ceased publication only weeks before his death from cancer. Hoffenberg could never wrap his brain around the fact that a small-town weekly newspaper publisher could bring down a powerful New York scam artist.

But he did.

Hoffenberg claims that Epstein ran the show and their differences have devolved into seamy LITIGATION with each side making all sorts of claims against each other.

Though he failed to fully repay those whom he cheated, Hoffenberg did manage in 2016 to establish a super PAC for the benefit of DONALD TRUMP’S CANDIDACY and pledged $50 million of his own money in an effort to raise $1 billion on Trump’s behalf—and even managed to exchange his wedding vows in front of Trump Tower in Manhattan.

And what was Hoffenberg’s latest scheme? Perhaps the evangelicals who so adore Trump may wish to pay attention as this could involve them directly.

Thrown into the mix of this bizarre story is Hoffenberg’s latest scheme, the “Christ Card,” a special “Christian” credit card being peddled to churches across the U.S. “The Christ Card holders have the benefit of gaining discounts in all of their purchases under the Walk in Grace serving out Lord Jesus Christ as customers and as our partners in faith, in our Christ Card family,” says Hoffenberg’s pitch on his Towers Investors Group Web page, of all places. http://towersinvestors.com/portfolio-view/christ-card/

Hoffenberg claims to have been converted to Christianity while serving time for cheating investors and now he’s pushing an idea that has spawned numerous scams—Christian debt. This, of course, is not say his promotion is another scam but he does have the pedigree as one who preys on others’ and as one ready, willing and able to lighten unsuspecting victims’ wallets.

He claimed three years ago to have already completed the negotiation phase for the marketing of the card to more than 700,000 registered Christian churches in the U.S., according to another Web page of WHAM, Inc. http://whaminc.us/investor-questions-wham-answers

Perhaps he could call his latest enterprise “Credit with God, Girls from Epstein and Votes for Trump.”

 

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The news release by last September said that former Gov. Bobby Jindal had been appointed to the board of directors of by Wellcare Health Plans, Inc., of Tampa, Florida.

Yawn. Ho-hum. Has LouisianaVoice become so desperate for stories that it resurrects a nine-month-old news release?

Well, things have been a little slow of late. Even the recently-adjourned legislative session failed to generate any surprises other than the usual parties, dinners at Baton Rouge’s most expensive restaurants and hobnobbing with lobbyists to the general detriment of constituents, i.e. Louisiana citizens.

But it has long been my contention that when one peels back a few layers from the cover story, one will usually find the real story. After all, a July 2016 LouisianaVoice STORY turned up a link between Jindal and a lucrative state contract for another company that had appointed him to its board.

Accordingly, I went looking a little deeper and YOWSER! Sha-ZAM!

It seems that appointment of Jindal, described in the news release as one “who has dedicated his career to public service and advancing innovative healthcare polices,” appears to have been payback for services rendered while he was governor.

Documents obtained from the Louisiana Department of Health show that CENTENE, a major U.S. health insurer, is the parent company of Louisiana Healthcare Connections, Inc., which was awarded a contract for nearly $1 billion with the Louisiana Department of Hospitals in September 2011, just a month before Jindal’s reelection to a second term.

LHCC Contract 2012

The contract called for Louisiana Healthcare Connections to perform “a broad range of services necessary for the delivery of health care services to Medicaid enrollees…”

That contract was to run from February 1, 2012, through January 31, 2015.

On January 19, 2015, the contract was renewed for another three years, to run through January 31, 2018. The contract amount was increased from the original $926 million to $1.9 billion.

LHCC Contract 2015

But just before Jindal left office, on December 1, 2015, that contract was amended from $1.9 billion to $3.9 billion, perhaps in anticipation that incoming Gov. John Bel Edwards would keep his promise to expand Medicaid under Obamacare—which he did.

In March of this year, USA Today published a STORY that Centene (Louisiana Healthcare Connections parent company, remember) would purchase WellCare Health Plans, Inc. for $17.3 billion.

It would be most interesting to see if Jindal netted a windfall from that transaction, coming as it did only six months after he was named to WellCare Health Plans’ board.

It’s unknown just how long negotiations had been ongoing between Centene and WellCare Health Plans, but the timing does open the door for speculation that the doubling of the Louisiana Healthcare Connections contract, Jindal’s appointment to the WellCare Health Plan board and Centene’s purchase of WellCare are more than coincidental.

To add a little spice to the recipe of Louisiana political gumbo, they’re also a few interesting campaign contributions.

  • On March 11, 2011, just six months before Louisiana Healthcare was awarded that initial contract for $926 million, WellCare of Louisiana, a subsidiary of WellCare Health Plans, contributed $5,000 to Jindal’s reelection campaign.
  • On January 17, 2012, only two weeks before its initial contract took effect, Louisiana Healthcare Connections gave Jindal $5,000.
  • Louisiana Healthcare’s parent company, Centene, gave Jindal $5,000 on January 17, 2012 (the same date as Louisiana Healthcare’s contribution). Centene gave him another $5,000 on November 19, 2012 and still another $5,000 back on August 14, 2008, eight months after Jindal first moved into the governor’s office.
  • Oh, and the New Orleans law firm of McGlinchey Stafford, the registered agent for Louisiana Healthcare, gave Jindal $1,000 on September 23, 2003; $5,000 on October 30, 2003; $5,000 on April 6, 2007, and $5,000 on March 2, 2011.
  • On April 23, 2009, Centene’s then Chairman and CEO Michael Neidorff kicked in $3,000 to Jindal.

It would seem that Bobby Jindal is perfectly willing to skirt a few ethical standards in order to ensure that life after politics can continue to benefit from life while in politics.

So, you see, even the most mundane news release can carry a wealth of information if one is willing to follow a convoluted path to the ultimate source of the money.

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