Lawsuit challenges California’s new vaccine requirements

As reported by the Associated Press:

A lawsuit has been filed seeking to overturn California’s strict new law requiring mandatory vaccines for school children.

The suit filed by a group of parents and the nonprofit Education 4 All was filed in San Diego federal court on Friday, the same day the new law took effect.

It says that the law violates the children’s right to an education as guaranteed under California’s constitution, and asks for a judge to suspend the law while the suit plays out.

The law “has made second class citizens out of children who for very compelling reasons are not vaccinated” according to federal regulations, plaintiff’s attorney Robert T. Moxley said in a statement. “We are hoping the court will grant us an injunction while the judicial process takes place to see if this law is constitutional, which it most certainly does not seem to be.”

Gov. Jerry Brown signed the vaccine measure, SB277, into law last year amid fierce opposition from …

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Who Funds CA’s Public Pension Systems?

As reported by the San Diego Union-Tribune:

The debate over public employee pensions often centers on funding — who’s paying the tab.

Taxpayer groups point to large public contributions to retirement funds. Public employees and pensioners point to their own contributions — and investment earnings by the pension fund itself — as significant contributors.

New data from the U.S. Census bureau sheds light on the balance among those three sources, when it comes to funding pensions.

The top contributor to state and local pensions in 2015 in California was investment earnings, at $28.2 billion or 45 percent of incoming revenue for pension systems.

Next was government contributions, generally borne by taxpayers, at $24.6 billion or 40 percent of funding. Public employee contributions totaled $9.4 billion, or 15 percent of revenue. …

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Business Bashing in the Golden State — How to Reverse Course

mickey mouse politicsRecently, when my firm completed a study that found about 10,000 companies left California in the last eight years, it hardly surprised leaders in the business community.

Some say there is one thing in California worse than taxes – and that is the complex set of directives enforced by unforgiving state inspectors. In fact, many business owners consider the state’s regulatory environment to be worse than its notorious tax burden.

California’s political elite and their regulatory enforcers don’t understand that business owners enjoy running their enterprises and virtually all of them try to do the right thing. One example can be found in Kallisto Greenhouses, which closed in Fontana in response to Sacramento stinging them from many directions like a group of killer bees.

Suffocating a Nursery

Even a non-polluting, greenhouse-gas reducing, job-creating, tax-paying, greenhouse run by good employers can’t escape the punishing regulatory noose.

Kallisto Greenhouses operated with a peak of 36 employees shipping tropical indoor plants to ten western states and Calgary Canada since 1977. But the owners padlocked the doors because of actions by the California Air Resources Board (CARB) and California’s Occupational Safety and Health office (Cal-OSHA).

CARB required heaters that underperformed despite costing tens of thousands of dollars and also insisted that their truck – which almost certainly would be legal in most states – be replaced by a new vehicle with an unaffordable price tag.

“Contributing factors included the ripple effect of an increase in the minimum wage and addition of paid sick leave,” said Kathye Rietkerk, co-owner. “But the nail in the coffin was Cal-OSHA. We got a letter saying we had the choice to invite in a visit by a Cal-OSHA consultant to review employee manuals or take the chance of being visited by an inspector.”

Naturally, the company opted for help from the state’s consultant. Upon his arrival he noted that a numerical calculation on a certain OSHA form was in the wrong column, which resulted in a $5,000 fine. Not that the number was incorrect. Only that it was in the wrong place on the form.

By the time he was done, the fines he felt he could assess had he visited not as a consultant but as an “inspector” would have been in the hundreds of thousands of dollars for similar mistakes.

“Also, the corrections to procedures and existing manuals were deemed not exact enough to suit the Cal-OSHA consultant, so it took six months of staff time to satisfy him.” she said. “They wanted us to be rigorous on things that aren’t that important.”

For example, the agency wanted a requirement that mandatory disciplinary proceedings be initiated for certain employee mistakes even if the employer doesn’t want to treat long-term employees that way.

“To be forced to be inflexible makes you an adversary to your employees, and we should be allowed to determine when discipline makes sense and when it does not,” Rietkerk said. I contacted workplace expert Tom Martin of People Management Professionals in Riverside, Calif., who confirmed her viewpoint that Cal-OSHA indeed makes inflexible “one size fits all” demands.

Company Hit Hard

Meanwhile, the company’s operating costs kept increasing as water bills rose despite having installed $300,000 in sophisticated water-saving technology, health insurance prices went up, electricity became more expensive, and taxes continued to climb.

“The day after the OSHA consultant left we called the developers who had been seeking to buy our property for yet another distribution warehouse to serve ‘products imported from abroad,’” Rietkerk said. The company owned ten acres, six of which were covered by 257,000 square feet of greenhouses.

Kallisto Greenhouses had loyal employees (76 percent with more than 20 years of service) and offered health insurance since the early 1980’s, three weeks vacation to long-term employees, seven paid holidays and flexible working conditions.

“We were forced to make decisions we never dreamed of because of the incredibly hostile small business environment in California,” she said. “It is sad that government programs that are ideally intended to protect employees can result in complete job loss instead.”

“We got into business because it was enjoyable and we loved producing a product that enhanced people’s lives. People who create jobs are not ‘the enemy’ and we were grateful to have choices when the onslaught of regulations made the choice of closing more attractive,” Rietkerk said.

It appears that the majority of California legislators, Gov. Jerry Brown’s “jobs czar” Michael Rossi, and state bureaucrats are just fine with ignoring the hardships the state imposed on Kallisto Greenhouses and continues to inflict on other businesses.

Hold the State Accountable

It’s time we make life uncomfortable for state inspectors who have been allowed to remain anonymous while inflicting unreasonable demands on entrepreneurs.

I have such a way – it’s called accountability.

Let’s begin requiring that California regulatory agencies publish online the names of inspectors every time a business shuts down or leaves the state because they decided there was a regulatory “failure.” The inspector would be free to list the details of infractions, but, in the same posting, an option should be available for the company’s leadership to tell their side of the story.

Doing so would help journalists and the public better understand how harsh treatment by public agencies motivates companies to transfer jobs and capital to other states or close their doors.

California needs such disclosures because the majority of voters are ill-informed about what it takes to run a successful enterprise. Such voters elect majorities of business-bashing politicians to the state legislature and to city councils in liberal strongholds like Los Angeles and San Francisco.

Consider the popularity of Presidential Candidate Bernie Sanders, a fierce socialist who attracted a huge crowd in San Diego on Tuesday. It seems that the ranks of voters antagonistic toward business are expanding.

If we fail to expose how California politicians and their regulatory armies treat companies, the proverbial man in the street will continue to be unaware of the pain that leaders of commercial enterprises have to endure.

An Astonishing Contrast

Many California Democrats represent a Jekyll-and-Hyde disorder by being contemptuous toward business interests while coddling state agencies that are guilty of far worse behavior.

For example, legislators recently blocked the State Auditor from examining financial mismanagement at the California High Speed Rail Authority (CHSRA); they did that after eliminating the rail agency’s obligation to report twice yearly on a project likely to cost in excess of 100 billion. Now, the CHSRA must report only once every two years despite evidence of serious cost overruns, dubious changes in plans and multiple statements that lack credibility.

Members of the Authority’s board ignore the stipulations contained in Proposition 1A, which voters passed into law in the 2008 election. California propositions that pass at the ballot box become law, and that high-speed rail law is being violated in so many ways that the list is too long to publish here.

Can you imagine the outcry if Kallisto Greenhouses had copycatted the High Speed Rail Authority by demanding elimination of audits by the California Franchise Tax Board or the Internal Revenue Service? Or obfuscated details in documents required by state law?

The double standard in the way California treats businesses and public agencies is enough to turn the stomach of any business owner. Without more voters becoming concerned, we will continue to see company relocations to friendlier states, or – as in the case of Kallisto Greenhouses – simply go out of business.

he Irvine-based Principal of Spectrum Location Solutions helps companies plan and select ideal sites for new facilities across the U.S. and internationally.

This piece was originally published by Fox and Hounds Daily

SeaWorld to phase out killer-whale shows, captivity

As reported by USA Today:

Embattled amusement-park operator SeaWorld Entertainment said Thursday that the killer whales currently living at its facilities will be its last as it will stop breeding them immediately and phase out theatrical orca shows.

The move comes nearly three years after SeaWorld came under pressure for its treatment of killer whales and their trainers in the documentary Blackfish.

The company had already announced plans to end killer-whale shows at its San Diego park following regulatory scrutiny in California.

SeaWorld will turn its attention to “new, inspiring, natural orca encounters” emphasizing enrichment, exercise and health while its killer whales are alive, CEO Joel Manby said on a conference call. …

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CA Pension Reform — A Rigged Game

public employee union pension“Certainly the game is rigged,” science fiction author Robert Heinlein once wrote. “Don’t let that stop you; if you don’t bet you can’t win.” The quip should be the new rallying cry of California’s indefatigable band of pension reformers, who continue to fight to rein in the state’s pension debt. It’s always been a tough battle — but the latest setback shows that the system is rigged at practically every level. Last month, California’s Public Employment Relations Board, the quasi-judicial body that oversees the implementation of the state’s collective-bargaining statutes, invalidated the results of a three-year-old referendum —Proposition B — that passed in November 2012 with 66 percent of the vote and would have reduced pension benefits for most new hires in San Diego and moved them to a 401(k)-style, defined-contribution system. Other reforms have also fallen by the wayside. In June 2012, heavily Democratic San Jose approved with nearly 70 percent of the vote a measure that would have trimmed benefits for current employees. A Santa Clara County judge in 2014 eviscerated the measure, invoking the so-called “California Rule,” a 70-year-old court interpretation of the state constitution that has made it impossible for overburdened cities to trim employee costs.

San Diego’s reform initiative was qualitatively different from San Jose’s. Its authors were careful to craft language that avoided running afoul of the California Rule by focusing on new hires and placing caps on pensionable pay. Prop. B was touted as a model for the rest of the state to follow, and the state needs one. The union-controlled Legislature remains hostile to reform, beyond the expedient passage in 2012 of a pension-reform bill that mainly served as a bait-and-switch to convince voters to hike taxes.

PERB is not an impartial agency. Before the 2012 city vote, PERB had tried to keep the proposition off the ballot altogether. Most of the board’s members have worked for one of two big unions — either the California Teachers Association or the Service Employees International Union. Its administrative law judges aren’t real judges but officials employed by the agency. Nearly two years ago, one of those biased adjudicators issued a lengthy ruling demanding that San Diego return to the 2012 status quo. The full board affirmed the ruling, maintaining that officials were required to bargain the terms of the initiative with the city’s unions before placing the measure on the ballot. But the city didn’t place the measure before voters — voters did it themselves, signing petitions to place it on the ballot. The board elided this vital distinction by pointing to the participation of San Diego’s former mayor, Jerry Sanders, and other officials in the initiative’s campaign. Never mind that Sanders said he was involved as a private citizen.

On Tuesday, the City Council voted unanimously to appeal the measure, even though a leading Democrat said he voted for the appeal simply to get legal clarity. “The people’s right to initiative is guaranteed by the California Constitution,” City Attorney Jan Goldsmith told the Union-Tribune. “This right cannot be bargained away in a back room, or stolen from the people by a government agency.” The appeal will send the matter to the courts.

Goldsmith, a strong backer of Prop. B, wrote in a July 2012 San Diego Union-Tribune column that the issue boiled down to constitutional rights. “[N]ever before has any initiative that qualified for the ballot through petition signatures been deemed a ‘sham’ citizen initiative,” he wrote. “Since 1911, the right to place citizen initiatives on the ballot through voter petitions has been a constitutional right in California reserved by the people to bypass politicians and special interests. This right is not conditioned upon the approval of those special interests and is not something to be bargained over.”

PERB isn’t the only agency to try to kill citizen initiatives. Recently, the union-friendly Agricultural Labor Relations Board invalidated an election by Fresno farm laborers who voted against representation by the United Farm Workers. For more than a year, the board refused even to count the ballots before deciding to destroy them. Former San Diego councilman Carl DeMaio, a leader in the city’s pension reform fight, and Chuck Reed, San Jose’s former mayor and a leader in that city’s pension reform efforts, have been working on a statewide initiative for either the November 2016 or 2018 ballots. They’ve faced lots of resistance from entrenched power, and they’re preparing to meet other legal obstacles from unions and their political backers. Yes, the game is rigged, but reformers soldier on. At least they understand that California’s fiscal future is at stake.

NFL Shifts Rams to L.A., Puts Chargers Next in Line

As reported by the San Francisco Chronicle:

HOUSTON — Oakland, the city with no stadium plans and a halfhearted effort to hang on to the Raiders, gets to keep the team anyway — for now.

The Raiders pulled their bid to relocate to the Los Angeles area late Tuesday after it became clear the team didn’t have the support from NFL owners to move.

Instead, after a long day of deliberations, NFL owners meeting at the Westin Memorial City in Houston formally approved the relocation of the St. Louis Rams to Los Angeles, with ultra-wealthy Rams owner Stan Kroenke planning a $1.86 billion stadium project in Inglewood. The San Diego Chargers were given the option to join them in Inglewood after haggling unsuccessfully for years for a new stadium.

But if the Chargers decline to move, the option to join the Rams in Inglewood will be given to the Raiders, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said.

The plan was approved by …

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For Californians, Dec. 7 a reminder that the coast is never quite clear

“Could it happen here?”

That’s the question that was asked in Southern California 74 years ago. Dec. 7 marks the anniversary of Japan’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor, the U.S. naval base near Honolulu. Two hours of bombing killed more than 2,000 Americans and wounded 1,000 more. Eight battleships were damaged or destroyed, as were nearly 200 airplanes.

Congress approved a declaration of war against Japan the next day, and within a week, Japanese allies Germany and Italy declared war on the United States. World War II had been raging for over two years, but it took just a few days for the American people to go from reading about it in newspapers to living it in full color.

In San Diego, a principal staging port for troop, supply and naval convoys in the Pacific, blackouts went into effect. Camouflage netting covered airports, military bases, and the Pacific Coast Highway. Residents kept buckets of sand in their homes to smother fires in case of enemy bombing. If Hawaii had been hit, they wondered, would the West Coast be next?

People in Los Angeles thought so on Feb. 23, 1942, when a lone Japanese submarine approached the shore and fired at an oil facility near Santa Barbara. The next night U.S. troops watched the skies over L.A. and fired 1,440 rounds at what they thought might be Japanese planes. Newspapers reported that civilians had seen Japanese tanks in Malibu Canyon.

On the Point Loma peninsula in San Diego, the soldiers at Fort Rosecrans were put on 24-hour alert as bayonets, gas masks and ammunition were issued. The only anti-aircraft weapons available were World War I-era machine guns, and the men of the 19th Coast Artillery set them up in a hurry.

But no weapon in the Fort Rosecrans arsenal could have challenged Japan’s battleships, which carried nine 18.1-inch guns with a range of 28 miles. The U.S. Army rushed plans for two guns, 68 feet long, that would fire a projectile 16 inches in diameter at a target up to 26 miles away.

Battery_Ashburn_Point_Loma

This reinforced concrete casement at Fort Rosecrans on Point Loma housed massive guns installed during World War II to defend against Japanese battleships. (Photo by Susan Shelley)

Construction for the weapon known as Battery Ashburn included a giant casement of reinforced concrete, covered by tons of earth, to protect it from a direct hit by enemy battleships or aircraft. When the 46-ton guns were transported to Point Loma, the solid rubber tires of the tractor-trailers carved 3-inch ruts into the asphalt roadway.

Completed in 1944, Battery Ashburn, along with Battery Humphreys, two 6-inch guns with a range of 15 miles, joined Battery Strong and Battery Point Loma (installed in 1941), Battery Whistler (1918), Battery McGrath (1900), and Battery Calef/Wilkeson (1898) in the arsenal of coastal defenses.

It’s a useful reminder that the war on terror is not our first rodeo.

Today the batteries of Fort Rosecrans are part of the Cabrillo National Monument, site of the Old Point Loma Lighthouse, where World War II signal crews used lights and Morse code to contact ships approaching San Diego harbor. If the ships responded with the correct code, submarine nets at the harbor entrance were lowered to allow them to proceed. We always screen visitors during wartime.

Fort_Rosecrans_National_Cemetery_Point_Loma_San_Diego

Some of the 50,000 veterans’ graves at the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery on the Point Loma peninsula in San Diego. (Photo by Susan Shelley)

Point Loma, for all its tourists and whale-watching and coin-op binoculars pointed at spectacular views, is a somber place. On the hill high above the Pacific, 50,000 veterans are buried in the Fort Rosecrans National Cemetery, their white headstones facing the ocean or the bay, silently watching.

Dec. 7 reminds us that danger can be closer than we think. And that the U.S. defense budget is high for a reason.

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Susan Shelley is a columnist for the Los Angeles Daily News. Reach her at Susan@SusanShelley.com or follow her on Twitter, @Susan_Shelley.

SeaWorld San Diego Scraps Orca Shows

SeaWorldScrambling to salvage its business amid a wave of negative publicity, SeaWorld has scrapped its traditional orca shows, banking on shaky hopes that the move is enough to turn the tide of criticism.

Trying for a reboot

“In 2017 we will launch an all new orca experience” focused on the whales’ “natural environment,” SeaWorld CEO Joel Manby recently announced, according to the Guardian. “2016 will be the last year of our theatrical killer whale experience in San Diego.” But the traditional performances will continue at SeaWorld’s other locations in Texas and Florida.

“He said the decision to end the orca shows in California was in direct response to customers, who he said had made it clear that they want less of a theatrical experience and would rather see the whales in a more natural setting,” the Guardian added. “Attendance at the San Diego park is falling fast. Visitor numbers dropped 17 percent last year to 3.8 million, according to city authorities, and Manby warned investors last week that numbers are still falling and would contribute to a $10 million hit to SeaWorld’s profits this year.”

Activists and critics, to little surprise, welcomed the change but swiftly demanded more. “Animal rights activists applauded SeaWorld’s plans to end its orca shows at its San Diego park but said the company should phase out its captivity of killer whales altogether,” the Associated Press reported.

Growing opposition

The root of the crisis traced back to the debut two years ago of a harshly critical documentary film. “Attendance has plunged, and company shares have fallen in half, since the 2013 documentary ‘Blackfish’ made a compelling case that the confinement and exploitation of killer whales inflicted physical and psychological stress on creatures that thrive on socialization and vast expanses of the ocean,” as the editorial board of the San Francisco Chronicle noted. Tim Zimmerman, co-writer of the film, told CNN SeaWorld’s abandonment of the San Diego shows was a “first step.”

“That film, shown repeatedly on CNN, had a profound impact on how the theme park is percieved by the public. SeaWorld has spent millions of dollars on ads and social media to restore its reputation,” as NPR observed. ‘Blackfish’ took as its point of departure the 2010 death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, killed by one of the captive orcas at the company’s Florida location. SeaWorld withdrew its trainers from orca tanks after the incident, NPR added; but the damage to its reputation was done, as activists began to focus in on its treatment of whales and the psychology of the animals in captivity.

Legislators and regulators have also chipped away at the company’s fortunes. “SeaWorld suffered another blow last month when the California Coastal Commission approved a SeaWorld plan to expand its orca enclosures in San Diego but added the condition that the park must end its killer whale breeding program and halt the transfer of new whales to the park,” the Los Angeles Times recalled. “The conditions would eventually put an end to the park’s most popular attraction.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., has forged ahead with a plan to federally prohibit the captive breeding of orcas. “The fact still remains that as long as SeaWorld holds orcas in captivity, the physical and psychological problems associated with their captivity will persist,” he said, according to the AP.

Added troubles

In a grim irony, SeaWorld’s troubles have not been confined to their featured marine animals. “A Wilsonville man is suing SeaWorld in San Diego, California after a trained hawk attacked his service dog,” KATU reported. “His dog may have contracted an aggressive disease as a result. Robin Revel has mounting veterinarian bills for his service dog Yogi that he didn’t expect after the attack happened in February. That’s why his attorney e-filed the liability lawsuit in San Diego on Wednesday.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

Excitement Surrounds CA GOP Prospects

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

Photo courtesy of DonkeyHotey, flickr

When California Republican activists converged on the Anaheim Marriott in mid-September, they experienced something they hadn’t felt in years.

Excitement.

“It’s an exciting time for the delegates as we embark on a journey in 2016 by selling principles of limited government and holding the line on taxes,” said Allen Wilson, a delegate to the state party and member of the Los Angeles County Republican Central Committee. “That resonates with millions of Californians.”

Since former State Senator Jim Brulte took over the helm in 2013, the state party has made steady progress in picking up legislative seats and rebuilt its party operations. Last November, California Republicans defeated two Democratic incumbents — the first time in two decades that a Democratic incumbent has lost re-election to the Legislature.

Brulte also put Democrats on the defensive in the Central Valley, forcing the state party to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to rescue Assemblyman Adam Gray in his re-election campaign.

CA GOP will be tested in 2016

Although Brulte deserves credit for a shrewd campaign strategy and effective fundraising, Republicans’ legislative gains in 2014 were aided, in part, by a record low turnout. The 2014 electorate also skewed heavily toward older, more conservative voters.

According to an analysis by Political Data, Inc., less than 10 percent of 18 to 24-year-olds voted last November.

“In California, an 18- or 19-year-old was more likely to be arrested this year than actually vote in one of the statewide elections,” Paul Mitchell of Political Data, Inc., told KQED earlier this year.

Next year, Republicans won’t be so lucky, when the presidential election is expected to draw more young people to the polls.

But, this time around, state GOP activists say that the party is doing a better job of reaching the younger generation as demonstrated by the turnout at the state party convention.

“The most exciting thing is to see the numbers of young people in attendance,” said Dr. Alexandria Coronado, a longtime Republican activist and former president of the Orange County Board of Education. “They are energized and ready to work for the conservative cause.”

CA GOP: “No Longer in Hospice Care”

Republicans have reason to be optimistic, but state political observers say the party still has a long way to go.

“The California Republican Party used to exist in the hospice care of American politics, but now they’re undergoing plastic surgery,” said John Phillips, an Orange County Register columnist and co-host of “The Drive Home with Jillian Barberie and John Phillips” on KABC AM 790. “Unfortunately, it’s the doctor that did Kanye West’s mom.”

Phillips believes that Republicans’ best chance is to embrace “tough on crime,” fiscal conservatives.

“If they want to expand the base, they need to run fiscal conservatives who are hard on criminals and are social libertarians,” Phillips said. “Otherwise, have fun handing over control of the state to the SEIU.”

That approach has worked in San Diego, where Mayor Kevin Faulconer has achieved sky-high popularity. There’s even talk that Faulconer won’t draw a major Democratic opponent in 2016.

Nearly one hundred delegates and guests made the short journey up from San Diego County and shared their optimism with their fellow GOP activists from around the Golden State.

“I’d say the convention was a success as we re-adopted a solid, conservative platform and adopted a common sense rule to skip two conventions in the ‘on’ year,” said San Diego County Republican Chairman Tony Krvaric. “A lot will depend on how the presidential race develops, but I’m very optimistic about our chances to have a ‘Republican wave’ in 2016 which will have reverberations all the way down the ticket.”

That positive attitude was echoed throughout the convention halls.

“This working weekend made me realize how far we have come,” former Downey city councilman Mario A. Guerra, who ran a strong but unsuccessful State Senate campaign in 2014, wrote on Facebook, “and how much more we need to do here in California.”

Originally published by CalWatchdog.com

California right-to-die debate heads to court

As reported by the San Jose Mercury News:

SAN FRANCISCO — With efforts to legalize doctor-assisted suicide stalled in the California Legislature, the contentious issue of providing end of life treatment to the terminally ill is now headed back to the courts.

A San Francisco judge on Friday is expected to hear one of the leading legal challenges to California laws forbidding physicians from providing medical treatment that helps the dying end their lives.

Specifically, lawyers for several terminally ill patients and doctors who care for the terminally ill are moving to block enforcement of California laws that date back 140 years barring physician-assisted suicide. A San Diego judge last month rejected similar arguments, but right-to-die advocates say the San Francisco case tees up the central legal issues to resolve the question across California. …

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