Archive | January, 2016


Seeds for Edmund Edible Alley germinating in Hamline Midway

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Calvin

NCFA’s alley garden will be a place neighborhood residents can forage for berries, plums and more

Photos submitted

IMAG0131It may be cold outside, but the seeds for the Edible Edmund Alley are germinating.
The Edible Edmund Alley along Edmund near the intersection of University and Snelling will be a mini-forest garden.

Set in this high-traffic area of St. Paul, the garden will provide a source of free fruit to hundreds of food insecure people living in the neighborhood.

“The Edible Edmund Alley is the perfect synthesis of our garden and foraging programs. It will provide a resource that will demonstrate how to build and maintain a forest garden, teach how to identify and harvest wild foods, and grant free fruits to low-income people,” said North County Food Alliance (NCFA) foraging coordinator Maria Wesserle.

Founded in 2013, NCFA is a non-profit organization based in the Twin Cities that seeks to increase access to food and share food with people in need. Increasing access is accomplished through weekly foodshares, wild food foraging workshops, community gardening, and community meals.

“Fresh fruits and vegetables are vital to a healthy diet,” pointed out Wesserle.

“Unfortunately, a diet rich in fresh produce is more expensive than one high in processed foods, making it cost-prohibitive for many people. Fresh foods (which spoil easily) are also more difficult for food shelves and soup kitchens to carry.

“This is why North Country Food Alliance focuses on providing fresh produce to low-income communities.”

IMAG0672Berries and plums
NCFA has rescued tens of thousands of pounds of overstock food from farms, grocery stores, and distributors and donated it to people in need.

NCFA also builds gardens in urban areas in the Twin Cities. According to Wesserle, the produce from these gardens is donated to organizations that serve low-income people, such as homeless shelters, soup kitchens, and food shelves. There are currently gardens in St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Richfield.

“So far, these gardens have grown only annual vegetables – things like kale, tomatoes, and beets. However, since the start of the program we have been looking for plots that would be available for long-term projects so that we could grow perennials such as fruit trees,” said Wesserle.

In the winter of last year, a community member (who wishes to remain anonymous) approached NCFA about building a mini-forest garden on a piece of property owned by her and her husband. “After visiting the parcel and meeting with the community member, we at NCFA decided it would be a great project to invest in,” stated Wesserle.

NCFA began fundraising last fall and raised $850 for the project. The organization also hopes to receive a $400 grant from SeedMoney.

The newest garden will be located on 800-square-feet bordering an alley. Before planting commences this spring, unwanted trees such as Siberian elms need to be removed. Once that is complete, workers will amend the soil and plant seedlings.

“We plan on planting native fruit trees and shrubs such as juneberries, wild plums, and aronia berries,” said Wesserle.

Neighborhood benefits
This garden will serve the needs of the community in several ways.

NCFA will provide free educational opportunities for residents to get involved in the process of planting and maintaining fruit trees and perennials.

Donation-based foraging workshops will be offered that explain how to identify, harvest, and prepare wild foods.

The garden creates a location where passersby will be free to pick the edibles.

Plus, fruits will be donated to the Keystone Community Food Shelf based in the neighborhood.

“NCFA makes nearly all of its money from door-to-door canvassing. This is an effective way to let people know what’s happening in the area, and to recruit volunteers,” observed Wesserle. NCFA informs people about activities through social media, email lists, and flyers.

Benefits of foraging
IMAG2892Wesserle doesn’t know of any other foraging forests based in alleyways but pointed out there are several public edible forest gardens throughout the U.S., specifically one in Seattle, WA and one in Asheville, NC. There is also a permaculture plot at the Tiny Diner Farm in south Minneapolis that is privately run for the Tiny Diner restaurant.
What are the benefits of foraging in a city?

“The main benefit is accessibility. You don’t need to own a car or travel long distances to state forests or parks,” said Wesserle. “Most likely there are delicious edibles right outside your doorstep!”

Safety is a substantial concern of Wesserle’s when teaching foraging, be it in an urban or a wild environment.

“Ingesting the soil and dust of contaminated areas is the primary way people are exposed to dangerous chemicals,” she noted. “Reduce the risk of exposure by washing harvested foods, peeling roots, and peeling off the outer layers of leafy foods. Fruits tend to absorb fewer contaminants than leafy vegetables or root crops.”

NCFA typically holds six foraging workshops a year, one each month from May through October.

“The program has grown substantially in the past year, with registration overflowing and people being put on waiting lists,” said Wesserle. “From this, I would say there is a large interest in learning to forage.”

For more information, call 612.568.4585 or email info@northcountryfoodalliance.org.

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Black Lives Matter St. Paul makes its mark on local discussions

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Calvin

Two of its protests were held in the Midway—a Minnesota State Fair demonstration and a light rail shutdown

Article and photos by JAN WILLMS

Black Lives Matter (BLM) began as a hashtag on social media in 2013 after the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the shooting death of African-American teen Trayvon Martin. The movement, which has focused primarily on calling attention to Black deaths at the hands of police, has continued to grow with the deaths of Michael Brown in Ferguson, MO, and Eric Garner in New York City. Branches have arisen in 31 states, as well as internationally, in the past two years. One of those cities is St. Paul.

blmRashad Turner spearheaded the Black Lives Matter chapter in St. Paul. He grew up in the Frogtown area of the city, and he said that he was conscious of Black rights issues and had been doing work regarding those issues. But a trip to Selma, AL last March to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday was a momentous event in his life. Black protesters had started to march from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights in 1965 but were driven back as they approached the Edmund Pettus Bridge, badly beaten by state and local lawmen.

“There were 150,000 people in Selma this year, and we got to march across the Edmund Pettis Bridge,” recalled Turner. “For me, the trip was going back to how empowering protesting and demonstrating can be.”

Turner said he went on the journey with one of his best friends, Nekima Levy-Pounds, president of the Minneapolis NAACP.

“Just able to experience that trip was the best time I have had in my life since my daughter was born,” he said. “It gave me that nudge I needed. I came back here and began talking with some people from Minneapolis, where they already had a BLM chapter. We got some tips on setting up a protest and things like that, and we’re rocking and rolling.”

The group’s first action, according to Turner, was at Summit Church at Summit and Victoria in June 2015. “They have had this event called Love the Police, and it didn’t sit well. We went there, had Black Church, and read off the names of black people killed by the police, unarmed victims, mostly black males.”

Turner said BLM met with Rev. Joe Anderson, the pastor of Summit Church. “We sat down for about an hour, both sides listening to each other, hearing each other out,” he said. “Pastor Anderson was receptive, and they changed that event to Love the Community, which is more inclusive. It was the beginning of what we like to say is our collaborative style here in St. Paul. I think that was an action that showed people that we are going to protest and demonstrate, but also that we are willing to sit down and talk, have that dialogue and try to understand each other.”

“That kicked us off, and then we shut down the fair for a little while. The state fair represents a lot of people who come from areas where they don’t have to deal with these issues. Our intention was to reinvent awareness. In January, Marcus Golden was killed by the police department. We wanted to draw attention to that; it was being swept under the rug. Marcus’ mother was a reserve in the St. Paul Police Department and always works out at the fair. We figured this was a good way to honor him.”

About 500 people showed up that day and marched from Hamline north on Snelling to the Fair gates.

“This was our first big protest, and BLM Minneapolis helped with the structure of it. There were a few hecklers, but it was mostly peaceful,” Turner said.

The organization’s next action was in response to Marcus Abrams, a 17-year–old autistic boy, who was allegedly beaten by Metro Transit Police. “We did Black Rail and shut down the Light Rail. There was a lot of backlash and a lot of racism that showed its ugly head during these times, but we still created awareness,” Turner explained. The transit officer who took down Abrams was let go,

BLM St. Paul next met at the governor’s mansion with Gov. Mark Dayton, who had expressed concern about the appropriateness of the protest at the state fair.

“We wanted to send him a message to let him know we are not going to be discouraged, whether we had his support or not,” Turner noted.

But the protest that drew the biggest backlash was the final action of the summer, the protest at the Twin Cities Marathon.

“We got into these spaces that more people see as sacred than light rail,” Turner said, Messages flooded the group’s Facebook page.

Turner said that a lot of people had to realize with this protest that being allies was a 24-7 position.

“Black Marathon allowed us to take that next step as far as being uncomfortable,” he said. “At the end of the day, we measure what is more inconvenient and what is more important. People who I consider followers of the movement or kept close tabs on me all of a sudden were not sure we should protest there. I remember a conversation I had with someone who said he had been training six years for this marathon. I said there had been a 12-year-old boy in Cleveland who had been training for 5 or 6 grades but didn’t get to make it to the 7th grade. That person I was talking to had an aha moment. A marathon is nowhere close to that little boy losing his life.”

“With the marathon, more people who considered themselves allies of the movement had to look in the mirror. Are they doing this because they regard themselves as allies or because they don’t want to be considered racist?”

In the end, BLM St. Paul did not interfere with the marathon runners but held a meeting with Mayor Chris Coleman.

As to criticism that BLM is harming its cause by trying to disrupt events and inconvenience people, Turner said he thinks that a lot of people have a false narrative when it comes to the civil rights movement of the ‘50s and ‘60s.

“Dr. [Martin Luther] King’s message has been whitewashed in textbooks,” he stated. “They think he was just all about peace. But when you think of some of the actions and demonstrations they did, Dr. King’s goal was pretty much to uproot racism and white superiority, so he was right in peoples’ faces. During that time, Dr. King was the most hated person in America.”

Turner said that racism and police brutality are not as overt for today’s protesters as things were during the ‘50s and ‘60s when fire hoses were sprayed at people and Billy clubs, canines and horses were used.

“I don’t feel we have to deal with that, so we should be able to have even more courage, based on what our people had to go through back in the day.”

He said it frustrates him that some young people today don’t understand history. “When you hear them saying ‘This isn’t your grandma’s civil rights,’ it’s an obvious indication they are not aware of what the history really was.”

Turner said that division between the elders and young people just slows the movement down. “This movement is strong and going to continue, but we are missing some of the knowledge and wisdom they had back in the civil rights movement,” he said.

“We’ve come a long way from the horses and the fire hoses,” Turner continued, “but we still are not where we should be 50 years after Bloody Sunday. When I went down to Selma back in March, you would have thought based on the buildings and the town it was still 50 years ago and that not one thing had changed in that town. When I talked to local kids down there, they said that Selma’s been the same since the civil rights era. We think about social injustice, but when you think about the economic injustice, it is still very prevalent, even right here. When you look at every disparity, it is the same group at the bottom.”

‘We’d like to think that since we have a Black president, we’ve gotten somewhere but based on how he is treated by these white males in Congress, and people yelling stuff at him, it is just real disrespectful treatment. Even though he was able to organize our country, and the majority of people are not racist, at the highest levels of power you either have people of color who get these positions and are tokenized and don’t do much for their community, or you get people like the president who are trying to do stuff, and they are just undermined at every step of the process.”

In addressing critics who wonder why BLM does not protest Black-on-Black crime, Turner said the national platform of the organization is to fight against police brutality. Although he said the St. Paul chapter is more community-based, addressing Black-on-Black crime, or what Turner calls self-hate crime, is not the group’s main emphasis.

He said that Black-on-Black crime is near and dear to his heart because his father was killed at age 19. “He and another Black guy got into it, and the guy killed him,” he said.
“People know that Black people killing Black people is just as tragic to me as police killing unarmed Black people,” Turner reflected.

As he prepares for a run for House District 65A in the state Legislature, he said he realizes that he is going to be performing a balancing act in some ways, focusing on the goals of BLM but also expanding his concerns to education, cutting down on violence, giving kids more opportunities to have different outlets than just hanging in the streets.

He said he does not consider his position with BLM to be a hindrance in his legislative race He ran for the school board as a write-in candidate and garnered over 1,000 votes.

“Being with BLM definitely helps. It gives people an opportunity to see me in a leadership role,” Turner noted.

He encouraged anyone who might want to join the group or serve as an ally to check out BLM’s Facebook page.

“We’re always looking to build the group, and now’s the time,” he said.

Turner said he thinks the rapid growth of BLM nationwide is primarily due to so many youths being involved.

“They’re the ones with the energy to keep things going,” Turner said. He also attributed the growth to the fact that people are finally starting to wake up and realize something is wrong, and things need to change.

“The awareness created over the past two years has been tremendous, and it has given a lot of people space to use their voice. Once you go to one protest or demonstration and see how peaceful things actually are, you become empowered and want to fight for justice and be a part of the change that’s coming to make this a better society for everybody.”

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Community Advisory Committee crams for super-block end game

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Calvin


One month into its work, the Snelling-Midway Community Advisory Committee has bounced around many ideas for a future Major League Soccer stadium and redeveloped Midway Center site. Among the ideas raised are: transit and transportation; how a stadium would be used for events othsuperblocker than soccer games; where green space could be located; and, whether a redeveloped shopping center could accommodate locally owned businesses.
The group is working toward an end-of-March deadline to weigh in with suggestions for the entire 34.5-acre block bounded by St. Anthony, Snelling and University avenues and Pascal St. After several weeks reviewing site plan ideas, the committee hopes to look soon at site plan concepts.

The group meets from 4-6pm the first and third Thursdays at the former American Bank building at Snelling and University avenues. The meetings are open to the public to observe, but public comment is being taken at community open houses and on the city’s Open St. Paul website. See the inset box for notice of an open house on Jan. 26.

Deputy Mayor Kristin Beckmann urged the committee members to bring forward as many ideas as possible, on all facets of site development. She describes the committee as a filter for all of the ideas the greater community brings forward.

“We’re looking for a lot from this 35-acre site,” she said. The promise of a new soccer stadium and a redeveloped Midway Center is an exciting and once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. “But it’s going to be hard, and it’s going to require a lot of conversation with the community.”

The committee is looking at community needs and what is desired for the project, discussing everything from the desires of hardcore soccer fans to neighbors who don’t want the stadium built at all. The committee will review plan concepts and provide input in major themes and design elements. Ideas brought forward by the committee, and the greater community, will be considered.

One master plan will be developed by RK Midway LLC, which owns everything but the former bus barn site (eyed for the soccer stadium). The Minnesota United FC ownership group is working on a site for the stadium itself. Both site plans will have to go to the St. Paul Planning Commission and City Council for final approval. The soccer stadium owners and their architect are working with RK Midway to coordinate the site plans.

Bill McGuire, who leads the soccer ownership group, said the chance to plan a soccer stadium site in conjunction with Midway Center redevelopment is going well. “We’re pleased to say that there have not been conflicting views about what could be done here,” he said. “We think of this as building a neighborhood, and we want to integrate with and be respectful to the surrounding community.”

But McGuire warns that there are time constraints, which is why the community advisory committee needs to wrap up its work in March. Plans call for the stadium groundbreaking in the spring, with team play as soon as 2018. The stadium will hold about 20,000 people. The soccer ownership group is looking for tax breaks from the 2016 Minnesota Legislature, which convenes in March.

Thus far the committee has reviewed current and past plans for the superblock, including land use, transit, traffic, bike access, green space, storm water and transportation.

One issue that has drawn much attention is a way to get people to the stadium and a redeveloped Midway Center. The area is already served by light rail and bus, with bus rapid transit on Snelling starting this year. Transit service in the area is heavily used, with the Snelling light rail station ranking as the fourth busiest at an average 2,200 weekday boardings. Pedestrian and bicycle safety issues are a concern for the committee, in the wake of fatal and serious injury accidents in recent weeks.

Another issue is transportation constraints. The four streets around the site are under state, county and city jurisdiction. Any changes to Snelling or St. Anthony will require Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT) approval, said Erik Ludens of the St. Paul Department of Public Works. Snelling is, and will always be, a truck route as a result of the I-35E consent decree from the 1980s.

Snelling carries about 34,000 vehicles per day, down from about 43,000 a decade ago. University, which is a county road, carries about 15,000. That’s down from a high of 22,000 before light rail was built. About 15,000 to 16,000 are on St. Anthony, while about 8,500 are on Pascal. Ludens said that Pascal is nearing the end of its lifespan and may have to be rebuilt soon.

One concern committee members have is safety, not just for pedestrians and bicyclists getting to and from the site, but also regarding crime. Metropolitan Council member Jon Commers said it would be helpful not only to have more statistics but also look at the experience near Lowertown’s CHS Field as well as past experiences near the former Midway Stadium site on Energy Park Drive.

Read more about the planning process and learn about upcoming meetings at https://www.stpaul.gov/departments/planning-economic-development/planning/snelling-site-redevelopment-opportunity.

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Hartland slider

Hartland Shoes still going strong

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Calvin

Celebrating an old business in a new year

Article and photos by MARGIE O’LOUGHLIN

Hartland Shoes 51Welcome, 2016! Out with the old and in with the new! Well, maybe, unless you’re talking about a favorite pair of worn out Birkenstocks, as tried and true as an old friend.
Gene Hartsock estimates that he has handled upwards of a million pairs of shoes in his nearly five decades of repair work. He has been fixing or, more accurately, rebuilding shoes at 591 Hamline Ave. since 1992.

His interest in shoes started early. As a 15-year-old in Iowa City, Hartsock learned to sew leather on an industrial machine. He spent 5 ½ years learning the trade of shoe repair at a local shop. Eventually, Hartsock made his way to Minneapolis, intrigued by the high volume of repair work being done at Dayton’s Department Store. It was, he said, “a beehive of activity.”

All of the major department stores had their own shoe repair back then: Dayton’s, Donaldson’s, Penny’s, and Power’s, but Dayton’s was one foot ahead of the pack.

Hartland Shoes 04When Hartsock opened the doors at his current location in St. Paul, there were 45 shoe repair shops listed in the St. Paul Yellow Pages. That number has since dropped to eight. “Shoppers are becoming more environmentally conscious, and are buying better quality footwear,” Hartsock said, “but there are fewer qualified repair people to fix them.”

A sign in the shop says, “If the shoe fits, repair it,” and regular customers know that this doesn’t happen overnight. Shoe repair, like good cooking, is something that takes patience. Hartsock warns each customer that the expected wait time is between four and eight weeks and that, he said, “doesn’t go over so well with some folks.”

A survivor of two kidney transplants, Hartsock still works long days but said he isn’t as fast as he used to be. At 61, he’s realistic about what he can do—and believes the wait is worth it for customers who want to get the job done right.

Hartsock has established a reputation for himself, not just in the neighborhood but around the world. A believer in “niche creation,” he is widely recognized as an expert in restoring Birkenstock sandals, with boxes of shoes piled up from as far away as Ireland, Australia, and Singapore to prove it. Rebuilding Birkenstock foot beds, replacing broken cork, adding Vibram soles for better traction and durability – Hartsock does it all.

His other specialty market is making orthopedic lifts for all types of shoes, by adding height to the midsole. This modification makes it possible for customers with legs of different lengths to walk comfortably and evenly.

Hartland Shoes 55Hartsock’s reputation as a craftsman has reached even to Hollywood, of all places. For the 1995 filming of Grumpier Old Men (which took place in Minnesota), he was hired to apply non-slip surfaces to the bottoms of more than 60 pairs of shoes. Ann-Margret, Sophia Loren, Walter Matthau, Jack Lemmon, the rest of the cast and even the stunt doubles were reliably sure-footed on location in the snow.

While working for the film industry was novel, Hartsock is grounded in his Hamline-Midway neighborhood. Every October, he offers pink heels in support of Breast Cancer Awareness Month with a percentage of sales going to benefit Region’s Hospital Breast Cancer Research Fund. No stranger to health issues with his ongoing kidney disease, he does what he can to help others.

And he certainly does what he can to promote the longevity of shoes worldwide. Go to the company website at www.hartlandshoes.us for step-by-step instructions on how to properly polish your shoes or boots. The website even offers a do-it-yourself guide to simple shoe repairs like re-gluing separated soles. Hartsock can sell you a handy, retail-sized tube of Barge contact cement to complete the job.

Stop by the shop to choose from a wide selection of leather lotions, shampoos, and balms. There are polishes in many colors, and racks of brushes, laces, heel guards, insoles and cedar shoe trees for optimal storage. The shoemaker said, “I use what I sell, and I sell what I use.”

Hartsock also stocks (or can custom order) Old Friends and Ciabatta’s sheepskin slippers and boots in several styles. They have a friendlier price tag than Uggs, and non-slippery bottoms.

In support of small business sustainability, all orders must be pre-paid. Major credit cards are accepted, and Hartsock gives a 5% discount for payment in cash. Contact him at gene@hartlandshoes.us or 651-646-4326.

It’s 2016. Embrace the new, like Hartland Shoes’ contrasting, colored soles and strident stiletto heels, but don’t forget to honor the old. Weatherproof your footwear often; once a season isn’t enough. Put a dab of black super glue on the tips of your favorite pointy-toed black shoes. And most importantly, plan ahead—bring your shoes and boots in for repair before it’s too late.

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Liquor Law change

City Charter change revises long-standing liquor rules

Posted on 14 January 2016 by Calvin

Will the changes impact development along the University Green Line light rail corridor?


Will the ability for restaurants to more easily obtain a liquor license attract more dining spots to area neighborhoods? St. Paul city leaders hope so.

Whether a major change in liquor licensing will indeed bring about the desired influx of restaurants along Green Line light rail remains to be seen. But the way was cleared Dec. 16 when the St. Paul City Council unanimously approved a city charter change that lifts the citywide and ward limits on on-sale liquor licenses. The charter change, which takes effect 90 days after council adoption, opens the door for restaurants to serve liquor with food.

Ward Four Council Member Russ Stark has heard from prospective restaurateurs wanting to open along the light rail, and from parties redeveloping old Midway industrial buildings for mixed-use. But many restaurants want the ability to serve a cocktail with a meal, and under the city’s long-standing license cap that couldn’t happen.

Ward Four has 16 licenses under the old cap system, and all but one are spoken for.
With the charter change approved, Stark was able to shelve a proposal for a commercial development district that would have been the largest in city history. But, now that restaurants (that meet specific conditions) can seek on-sale licenses, the district isn’t needed.

St. Paul Department of Safety and Inspections (DSI) Director Ricardo Cervantes and Deputy Director Dan Niziolek said the changes are already being implemented. It will likely be March before restaurants can apply.

Niziolek said the licenses allowed under the charter change will have the same neighborhood notification process as existing on-sale liquor licenses have, with district council review and City Council approval.

The City Council made regulatory changes to ensure that restaurants obtaining on-sale liquor licenses don’t operate as bars and that they make and sell food, Cervantes said. The City Council adopted regulatory changes defining what is, and is not, considered a food preparation area. They also dropped the long-required 60 percent food, 40 percent alcohol ratio now in effect for liquor, beer, and wine license holders. That ratio was skewed by the prices of craft beers, boutique cocktails, and premium wines. The old ratio was replaced by a reference to a “substantial amount” of sales of food versus alcohol. Critics still question how “substantial” will be defined.

The change almost went down the drain when Ward Six Council Member Dan Bostrom expressed skepticism. A charter change requires a unanimous City Council vote. Had it not passed Dec. 16, proponents would have had to take the issue to the voters.

Bostrom had several concerns about loosening the liquor license regulations. One is that restaurants would cluster and have adverse effects on neighboring businesses and residents. Another concern is how the city will monitor the changes, and make sure that restaurants don’t operate as bars.

Bostrom also raised red flags with companion ordinances for the charter change. He noted that a recently adopted companion city ordinance states that restaurants must prove that a “substantial amount” of sales are of food and not liquor. Restaurants that obtain the liquor license must close at midnight, but Bostrom fears some will seek a 2am closing time. Current establishments with 2am closing times are grandfathered in.

But Bostrom said that his concerns were addressed and that he believes there will be adequate enforcement to prevent problems.

The charter change, and other related changes, are seen by supporters as allowing St. Paul to better compete with other cities for businesses, bring liquor regulations more into line with state law and to encourage economic development. Several district councils, business owners and business groups, the city’s Business Review Council, St. Paul Area Chamber of Commerce and Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association all supported the changes. The

St. Paul Charter Commission recommended approval of the charter change in November.
The charter change and related regulatory changes have met little opposition. The advocacy group St. Paul STRONG raised questions about what it saw as not enough public input and an overly-aggressive approval process.

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