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“North Carolina Burning” by Mumia Abu-Jamal

raleighmarchers.2014They call it “Moral Mondays” and in North Carolina this means a movement of civil disobedience led by Rev. Dr. William Barber a local head of the NAACP.

Why protest? That’s because for the first time since 1870 – yes, that’s right, 1870 – the Republicans have their hands on all the levers of power there: the governor’s office and both houses of the legislature. And they are on a tear to keep it. above photo, thousands marching in Raleigh today, Feb 8, 2014 ]

One of their first efforts was to attack voting rights and similarly redistricting, thus to block voters from the polls and to redraw districts to isolate and weaken those who make it through to vote.

They slashed unemployment benefits to some 170,000 people; so much so, that they no longer qualify for federal unemployment programs – North Carolina, the eighth state to cut such benefits. Social programs have also been hit and that’s just the beginning.

And so demonstrations at the Capital have attracted hundreds of protesters. Nearly 1,000 people have been arrested in Raleigh, proving that we are not as far as we think from the civil rights days.

It is one of the ironies of history that a party built on black suffrage and black freedom has now become one designed and determined to strip blacks from the voting roles. Despite the people in the streets and over 900 arrests national coverage is slight and fleeing. Perhaps that may be because they are so busy covering the 50-year anniversaries featuring Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., instead of what is happening now right beneath their noses.

You may not see it, or hear of it, but a movement is blossoming in Raleigh, North Carolina.

It is called “Moral Mondays.” rsz_mumia_innocent_2

From Imprison Nation – this is Mumia Abu-Jamal.

© Mumia Abu-Jamal, February 7, 2014  (audio at Prison Radio).

 

MUMIA & MANDELA, by Johanna Fernandez

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(Professor Fernandez’s post below went viral )

Friends:

Dec. 6, 2013. Today we mourn the death of Nelson Mandela, the fearless, South African freedom fighter who was incarcerated for his affiliation and active involvement in the armed revolutionary wing of the African National Congress. During the 28 years of his incarceration, Mandela defied his captors from his cell by preserving his humanity and compassion in the face of the torture and brutality unleashed against him, and many other political dissidents, by the U.S.-backed, Apartheid South African regime. In the United States, the incarceration of former Black Panther Mumia Abu-Jamal and the failed attempt on the part of the state to execute and silence him mirror the trajectory and legacy of Mandela’s imprisonment. From the early 1980s to the present, Mumia’s prison writings have made him a symbol of defiance against the absolute, inhumane, and repressive power of the state. Like the early revolutionary Mandela, Mumia’s voice resounds with clarity, humanism and an unflinching commitment to the struggle for freedom, the world over.

Today, let us honor Nelson Mandela by launching the struggle that will bring home our current-day-Mandela. Like the struggle that freed Mandela, the fight to free Mumia is bound up in the struggle to build a better world and to free all political prisoners in the United States,  the majority of whom belong to historically oppressed minority groups. Like Mandela, these currently imprisoned Puerto Rican Revolutionary Nationalists, African American radicals (mostly former members of the Black Panther Party and the Black Liberation Army), and radical Native Americans were incarcerated for their defense of the idea of armed revolutionary struggle, and for their determination to defend, by any means necessary, their people’s right to life and the pursuit of happiness.

Johanna Fernandez, Baruch College (CUNY)
EMAJ Coordinator

NEW FILM IN PHILLY: MUMIA: LONG DISTANCE REVOLUTIONARY – FOR WHAT?

by  Mark Lewis Taylor

A new film, Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary (A Journey with Mumia Abu-Jamal), opens May 3 at Philadelphia’s Landmark Ritz on the Bourse for at least a week. Film-goers again consider Mumia Abu-Jamal, the revolutionary journalist who recently won federal court rulings that his death sentence was unconstitutional. He is now serving a life sentence in prison, after having served nearly 30 years on death row.

The film comes as new “Bring Mumia Home” campaigns build momentum. A petition to the Department of Justice supports claims to innocence that Abu-Jamal has maintained ever since he was arrested for the 1981 shooting death of Philadelphia Officer Daniel Faulkner. In calling for his immediate release, the petition cites the “cruel and unusual conditions” of his long-term confinement, recent exculpatory evidence and Amnesty International’s 2000 judgment that Abu-Jamal’s trial was “irredeemably tainted by politics and race.”

The film at Philadelphia’s Landmark Ritz already has achieved “Official Selection” at multiple film festivals, ranking number 3 nationwide when it opened in New York City (number 1 in Los Angeles and the Bay Area). It has played on campuses such as Princeton and Temple Universities.

The film dispels a number of myths about Abu-Jamal, not the least of which is the most flagrant and defaming one, that he was just an angry young Black Panther “out to kill a cop.” The real story of Abu-Jamal is carried in the film-title phrase: “long distance revolutionary.”

“Revolutionary” for what, some may ask?

The answer, as dramatized by the film’s riveting, historical treatment of Abu-Jamal, is freedom – a mode of freedom the media and mainstream rarely treat. It would be a freedom for America’s poor communities which, since the late 1960s, have been trapped in a pincers movement of social dispossession and police repression, resulting in a seven-fold increase in the U.S. prison population since the 1970s (“One in 100” Americans imprisoned, the Pew Center reports).

Numerous scholars meticulously explain this pincers movement (Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Bruce Western, Loïc Wacquant). As “safety nets” were slashed for the socially vulnerable, state powers offered only “dragnets,” ramped-up policing that swelled the prisons. Across decades of social service cutbacks for the poor, like the 1996 “Welfare Reform” bill that cast 6.1 million off welfare (315,000 being children with disabilities), there arose across the same period omnibus crime bills, mandated long-term sentences, media-hyped racial stereotypes of the poor, and a failed drug war that didn’t stop drugs but did fill prisons with non-violent drug users.

Law professor Michelle Alexander argues in her new book, The New Jim Crow, that the real problem lies in the prisons’ scandalously disproportionate confinement of people of color, often on drug charges despite the majority of users being white. No other nation incarcerates its racial/ethnic groups at a higher rate. A new racialized “caste” has emerged, Alexander writes, like the old Jim Crow. Especially Black communities are locked into an ever-deepening politics of disempowerment.

So, “long distance revolutionary” for what?

For a freedom from this legacy of the 1960s, freedom from powerful structures that dispossess and incarcerate the black, brown and poor, freedom from racist regimes that undermine national ideals of justice for all. Abu-Jamal has been a “revolutionary” for that freedom.

Martin Luther King, in 1963, named prisons and policing as threats to full freedom in rarely-cited words of his famous “I Have a Dream Speech.” There, he intoned, “Some of you have come fresh from narrow cells. Some of you have come from areas where your quest for freedom left you battered by the storms of persecution and staggered by the winds of police brutality.”

King felt even greater persecution and surveillance after his 1965 speech criticizing the Vietnam War, U.S. imperialism and corporate power. A White House advisor termed this “Martin throwing in with the Hanoi Hawks.” Authorities feared rising national alliances of Blacks, Asians and other war-dissenters.

The film dramatizes Abu-Jamal’s struggle through these times. From his youth in the late-1960s, he organized among his city’s racialized poor communities. He was personally “staggered by the winds of police brutality,” recalling King’s words.

Abu-Jamal and Black communities in Philadelphia suffered this in full measure in the years of former Mayor Frank Rizzo: high schoolers beaten for peaceful protests, whole neighborhoods suffering police brutality, community leaders harassed. In 1985, police dropped a military explosive on the MOVE family/activist home, decimating 65 neighboring homes.

As funding grew for policing in cities like Rizzo’s the FBI’s COINTELPRO (Counter Intelligence Program) under Director J. Edgar Hoover acted out its fear of a “Black messiah” rising from urban communities. While Abu-Jamal had never been charged with a crime, the FBI compiled over 600 pages about him. COINTELPRO targeted King and other leaders in the Black Panthers, the Young Lords, American Indian and Chinese-American movements. This is meticulously documented in works like Kenneth O’Reilly’s, Racial Matters.

In sum, the state’s fear of activists organizing in their communities of color prompted both repression of those activists, and also the “drug war” policing of activists’ entire communities, thus driving U.S. mass incarceration to unprecedented levels, and anchoring the racialized caste regime of today.

Altering these state practices will require, as Alexander warns, nothing less than a “mass movement.” This is because ending mass incarceration demands ending the politics of dispossession and repression that drive it. It will require anti-racist advocacy, and ending government’s dispossession of the poor. It means also, she stresses, ending the ways U.S. weapons industries and private companies now invest heavily in U.S. prisons.
For such a mass movement, whole communities must tap into a collective “long distance revolutionary” spirit.

Abu-Jamal, alongside other political prisoners, has been an exemplar of this spirit, from days as a young activist to his present writings from prison. Across seven books and thousands of essays, he has exposed, explained, and resisted the political maneuvers creating today’s “prisons for profit complex.” Moreover, he has linked that complex – as did Martin Luther King, Jr. and others –to U.S. wars abroad.

The film, Mumia: Long Distance Revolutionary, shows no stereotyped revolutionary. Instead it foregrounds the long-distance struggle of one whose journey has been to create life in the face of systems of social death. That struggle delivered Abu-Jamal into a racist trial, decades on death row, and now prison. But this film is one more testimony to the power of his struggle, a “long distance revolutionary” struggle – for a comprehensive and liberating justice, for all, which is the mark of any real freedom.

Mark Lewis Taylor is the Maxwell M. Upson Professor of Theology and Culture, Religion & Society, at Princeton Theological Seminary.

CROWDING MORE INTO CHOWCHILLA – Prison Crisis Update by Mumia

© 2013 Mumia Abu-Jamal

Several years ago, in a hotly contested case, Brown v.Plata, the U.S. Supreme Court decided to uphold a lower court ruling declaring California’s state prisons an unconstitutional violation, which threatened the mental and physical health of prisoners.

One of the reasons for this declaration of unconstitutionality was the state’s overcrowding situation, which in 2009, topped 171,000 prisoners. Cali’s prison population is the second highest in the nation, only exceeded by Texas.

Several years after Brown v. Plata, and the state has adopted a strategy of transfer, from state prison to the counties. Also, it has begun to stuff prisoners into other state prisons, including women’s prison.

At Valley State Prison for Women, the state’s prisoncrats are converting it into a man’s prison- and squeezing over 1,000 women and transgendered persons into the two remaining women’s prisons, violating the letter, if not the spirit, of theBrown opinion.

In Brown v. Plata, the U.S. Supremes ordered the State to reduce overcrowding. Despite this, the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDOCR) has been playing bait and switch, shipping people around, sending few people home.

On Saturday, Jan. 26th, people are coming together to protest this state of affairs, by rallying at Valley State Prison for Women, demanding, an end to overcrowding, and true release for thousands of people from prison dungeons.

For more information, contact: www.womenprisoners.org

-© ’13 maj
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Mumia’s essays have been lovingly and tirelessly transcribed and broadly posted by Sis. Fatirah Aziz for many years and is a treasure to Mumia (and us all!)

New Mumia Column: “What ‘Fiscal Cliff’?”

[col. writ. 12/11/12] © ’12 Mumia Abu-Jamal

From every TV and radio news broadcast, the words, `fiscal cliff’ are being mentioned, in a tone and frequency of dread and fear. Listeners, viewers and readers can sense the dread and faux fear, but little clarity arises from the dust.

What is the fiscal cliff?

It is a political creation – made by Congress itself, as a self- made rule to force agreement (but really to blackmail political opponents), or else massive cuts will be automatically made in defense, social services and other government programs.

In the Mel Brooks-made cowboy comedy, Blazing Saddles, a Black sheriff moseys into town to the shock and surprise of the white townspeople. When things get ugly, the sheriff (played by actor Cleavon Little (1939-1992), pulls out his Colt. 45 and points it at himself, warning them to get back, or else he’ll shoot.

The fiscal cliff? It’s “Blazing Saddles.”

But, it’s no comedy.

As Workers World’s Larry Holmes sees it, this so-called `fiscal cliff’ is a recent political invention designed to erect an American austerity program-cut-backs in social services so that more money could be sucked up by the ruling 1 %.
Holmes, in remarks made to a recent Workers World party conference, made the following analysis:

We are going to hear a lot about the so-called “fiscal cliff”. It is worldwide austerity. In Greece, in Spain, in Portugal, in Ireland and in South Africa, all throughout Latin America, and here in the U.S. From the point of view of the capitalists, the idea is to fix their system on the backs of the workers. They can’t get it from profits because of overproduction, so let’s just go literally into the body of the workers and get more pounds of flesh by stealing things from them. It is a mad, insane exercise in destruction, social destruction. It really should be called “the terminal crisis-of-capitalism cliff.”*

In sum, this is economic warfare parading as a political conflict, between two capitalist parties. It is a self-made squabble among brothers.

–© ’12 maj

[Source: * Holmes, L., "Reviving a Global Revolutionary Perspective", Workers World(weekly), Dec. 13, 2012, p.7]
——————–
Mumia’s essays have been lovingly and tirelessly transcribed and broadly posted by Sis. Fatirah Aziz for many years and is a treasure to Mumia (and us all!)

2012 CANDIDATE FOR U.S. CONGRESS IN CA IS UNDER ATTACK FOR HIS 1999 RALLY SPEECH FOR MUMIA AND PELTIER – A Letter of Solidarity from EMAJ

CONTACTS: Dr. Taylor (847 708-2479) Dr. Fernandez (917 930-0804). Sent today to major print and radio/TV venues in Palm Springs, CA

LATEST UPDATE HERE: RUIZ WINS! – PREVAILING IN SPITE OF POLICE CRITIQUE OF HIS MUMIA AND PELTIER ADVOCACY AS STUDENT.

LETTER OF SUPPORT FOR DR. RAUL RUIZ (November 5, 2012)

In the last days of Dr. Ruiz’s campaign for U.S. representative from California’s 36th District in California, opponents have attacked Dr. Ruiz for statements he made while a medical student in 1999, clipping out brief segments from the speech to aid their video attack. In particular, the attack-ads focus on Ruiz’s words of support for two well-known prisoners in the U.S: (1) Leonard Peltier, a Native American activist who has been in prison since 1977 for the shooting deaths of two FBI agents that occurred on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, and (2) African-American journalist, Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was jailed in 1981 for the shooting death of a Philadelphia police officer.

We as scholars working for intelligent and principled defense of people like Abu-Jamal and others imprisoned for often political reasons, find nothing onerous about Dr. Ruiz’s 1999 statement. We work in an organization, Educators for Mumia Abu-Jamal, an organization that has enlisted the support of over 500 scholars in support of Abu-Jamal, and in support, too, for the many others unjustly imprisoned in this country. In various forums and venues, we have represented every level of education in this country, and institutions of higher education all across the United States.

One of us, Mark Lewis Taylor, Professor of Theology and Culture at Princeton Theological Seminary,* has been studying these two cases for over fifteen years. Another, Dr. Johanna Fernandez, a professor of American History at Baruch College (CUNY)* and a Fulbright Scholar, has also reviewed the case for that length of time, and interviewed Abu-Jamal numerous times. Dr. Tameka Cage-Conley, independent scholar/writer in Pittsburgh and a 2010 Fellow at the August Wilson Center, has also visited with Abu-Jamal and written and taught on his case for the past decade.

We make the following affirmations on behalf of Dr. Raul Ruiz:

(1) Simply to support Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal in no way also suggests any support for killing police officers. To the contrary, to raise questions about the justice of imprisoning these two men is to defend justice in a most principled way, because it assures that the right persons have been convicted for the killings. These were very controversial cases, still highly contested ones, and they took place in racially-charged historical contexts and when official corruption had been documented as a pervasive problem.

(2) Extensive exculpating evidence for Peltier and Abu-Jamal has come forward in both these cases, pointing to law enforcement corruption, prosecutorial misconduct, and partiality of judicial review. Thus, Amnesty International in 2010 placed Leonard Peltier’s case on its “Unfair Trials” list. In 2000, Amnesty International also called for Abu-Jamal to be granted a new trial. So flagrant have been the abuses of Abu-Jamal, and so unconstitutional was his 30 years of confinement to death row (now he still languishes in prison, with a Life sentence), that Desmond Tutu has called for Abu-Jamal’s “immediate release.” Human rights organizations worldwide have been vocal and persistent in making similar calls for Peltier.

(3) We have reviewed the audio and transcript of Ruiz’s statement at the 1999 rally for Peltier and Abu-Jamal. If statements made by candidates during their student years are to be taken as grounds for judging fitness for public service today, we see nothing in this statement that in itself would disqualify Ruiz. His statement was not then, nor is it now, an uninformed statement. Nor is it incendiary. It is ludicrous, and surely only just a base charge of political gamesmanship, to claim that Ruiz’s words as a youth prove he would not support prosecution of those who murder police officers. On the contrary, we find Ruiz’s 1999 statement to be that of a young man of conscience, who is sensitive to the potential for injustice in any system, and then courageous enough to point the way toward a more just world.

Mark Lewis Taylor, Ph.D.
Princeton Theological Seminary*
Maxwell M. Upson Professor, Religion & Society

Johanna Fernandez, Ph.D.
Baruch College, CUNY, American History
2012 Fulbright Scholar

Tameka Cage-Conley, Ph.D.
Independent Scholar/Writer
2010 Fellow, August Wilson Center for African American Culture

*Institution names given only for identification purposes.

JUDGE HANDS DOWN MUMIA’S LIFE SENTENCE W/O PAROLE – WITH NO NOTICE!

(from EMAJ, Mark Taylor). On August 13, 2012, Judge Pamela Dembe, without notifying Mumia or his attorneys, simply filed an Order to sentence Mumia to life in prison without parole. This was a clandestine act, discovered by attorney Rachel Wolkenstein going through the dockets of the court (an unusual act of scrutiny). It is a clear violation of Mumia’s rights. See Linn Washington, Jr.’s commentary on the Order as the latest in a series of outrages in Mumia’s case. You can also listen here to a video online of Rachel Wolkenstein and Pam Africa commenting on this recent development. A brief statement of Wolkenstein follows immediately below, about the Post-Sentencing Motion filed by Mumia pro se, August 23, 2012.:

I filed it in the Court of Common Pleas, Criminal Division at approximately 4pm after Mumia edited a draft motion during my visit with him earlier. It was filed on an emergency basis to meet the 10-day jurisdictional time requirements for filing the challenge. This will be supplemented by a fuller statement of facts and a Memorandum of Law.

The first issue of this motion is to reverse and declare null and void the clandestine sentencing of Mumia to life imprisonment, which was an attempt to deprive of him of his right to challenge this sentence. Mumia’s motion not only attacks his own sentence to “slow death row,” but makes the constitutional challenge to life imprisonment without parole, solitary confinement for death row inmates and solitary confinement in general. Mumia is fighting with and for the entirety of “incarceration nation.”

Notably, Mumia’s motion concludes with the statement, “This motion does not waive any issues of arguable merit of innocence or any governmental misconduct in the underlying case.”

In the fight for Mumia’s freedom,
Rachel Wolkenstein
August 24, 2012 “

MUMIA WINS THE 2012 FRANTZ FANON PRIZE

We at EMAJ, with the whole movement, celebrate Mumia’s being awarded the 2012 Frantz Fanon Prize. During the ceremony this past Sunday, February 26th, Mumia’s brother, Keith, accepted the award for him. Mumia sent a seven minute acceptance statement. You can listen to it at Prison Radio.

Professor Johanna Fernandez’s Write-Up about Visiting Mumia in General Population

Comrades, Brothers and Sisters:

Heidi Boghosian and I just returned from a very moving visit with Mumia. We visited yesterday, Thursday, February 2. This was Mumia’s second contact visit in over 30 years, since his transfer to General Population last Friday, Jan 27. His first contact visit was with his wife, Wadiya, on Monday, January 30.

Unlike our previous visits to Death Row at SCI Greene and to solitary confinement at SCI Mahanoy, our visit yesterday took place in a large visitor’s area, amidst numerous circles of families and spouses who were visiting other inmates. Compared to the intense and focused conversations we had had with Mumia in a small, isolated visiting cell on Death Row, behind sterile plexiglass, this exchange was more relaxed and informal and more unpredictably interactive with the people around us…it was more human. There were so many scenes of affection around us, of children jumping on top of and pulling at their fathers, of entire families talking intimately around small tables, of couples sitting and quietly holding each other, and of girlfriends and wives stealing a forbidden kiss from the men they were there to visit (kisses are only allowed at the start and at the end of visits). These scenes were touching and beautiful, and markedly different from the images of prisoners presented to us by those in power. Our collective work could benefit greatly from these humane, intimate images.

When we entered, we immediately saw Mumia standing across the room. We walked toward each other and he hugged both of us simultaneously. We were both stunned that he would embrace us so warmly and share his personal space so generously after so many years in isolation.

He looked young, and we told him as much. He responded, “Black don’t crack!” We laughed.

He talked to us about the newness of every step he has taken since his release to general population a week ago. So much of what we take for granted daily is new to him, from the microwave in the visiting room to the tremor he felt when, for the first time in 30 years, he kissed his wife. As he said in his own words, “the only thing more drastically different than what I’m experiencing now would be freedom.” He also noted that everyone in the room was watching him.

The experience of breaking bread with our friend and comrade was emotional. It was wonderful to be able to talk and share grilled cheese sandwiches, apple danishes, cookies and hot chocolate from the visiting room vending machines.

One of the highlights of the visit came with the opportunity to take a photo. This was one of the first such opportunities for Mumia in decades, and we had a ball! Primping the hair, making sure that we didn’t have food in our teeth, and nervously getting ready for the big photo moment was such a laugh! And Mumia was openly tickled by every second of it.

When the time came to leave, we all hugged and were promptly instructed to line up against the wall and walk out with the other visitors. As we were exiting the prison, one sister pulled us aside and told us that she couldn’t stop singing Kelly Clarkson’s line “some people wait a lifetime for a moment like this.” She shared that she and her parents had followed Mumia’s case since 1981 and that she was overjoyed that Mumia was alive and in general population despite Pennsylvania’s bloodthirsty pursuit of his execution. We told her that on April 24 we were going to launch the fight that would win Mumia’s release: that on that day we were going to Occupy the Justice Department in Washington DC. She told us that because she recently survived cancer she now believed in possibility, and that since Mumia was now in general population she could see how we could win. She sent us off with the line from Laverne and Shirley’s theme song – “never heard the word impossible!”- gave us her number, and asked us to sign her up for the fight.

We’re still taking it all in. The journey has been humbling and humanizing, and we are re-energized and re-inspired!!

In the words of City Lights editor, Greg Ruggiero:”

“Long Term Goal: End Mass Incarceration.

Short Term Goal: Free Mumia Abu-Jamal!”

–Johanna Fernandez

Facebook Link to Photo

http://www.facebook.com/pages/National-Lawyers-Guild/338038119888

ALICE WALKER’S NEW POEM FOR MUMIA

New Poem for Mumia by Alice Walker, Courtesy of Prison Radio

Occupying Mumia’s Cell   ©2011 by Alice Walker

I Sing of Mumia
brilliant and strong
and of the captivity
that
few black men escape
if they are as free
as he has become.

What a teacher he is for all of us.

Nearly thirty years in solitary
and still,
Himself.

He will die himself.
A black man;
whom many consider to be
a Muslim, though this is not
how he narrows down
the criss-crossing paths of
his soul’s journey.
Perhaps it is simpler
to call him
a lover of truth
who refuses
to be silenced.
Is anything more persecuted
in this land?

No boots will be allowed
of course
so he will not
die with them on;
but there will always be
boots
of the mind and spirit
and of the heart and soul.

His will be black and shining
(or maybe the color of rainbows)
and they will sprout wings.

Mumia
they have decided
finally
not to kill you
hoping no blood will
stain their hands
at the tribunal
of the people;
but to let you continue
to die slowly
creating and singing
your own songs
as you pace
alone, sometimes terrorized,
for decades of long nights
in your small cage
of a cell.

We lament our impotence: that we have failed
to get you out of there.

Your regal mane may have thinned
as our locks too, those flags of our self sovereignty, may even have
disappeared;
waiting out this unjust sentence,
until we, like you, have become old.
Still,
if you will: accept our gratitude
that you stand, even bootless,
on your feet. We see
that few of those around us,
well shod and walking, even owning, the streets
are freed.

Somehow you have been.

Enough to remind us
of freedom’s devout
internal and
ineradicable seed.

What a magnificent Lion
you have been all these
disastrous years
and still are,
indeed.

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