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Gillum’s Siblings Accused of Voting Illegally

October 22nd, 2018 by Jake Stofan
A new report from a conservative news outlet in the State’s Capital city suggests Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Andrew Gillum’s siblings may have voted illegally. 
The report cites court, DMV and other public records suggesting  Andrew Gillum’s brother, Marcus Gillum used his brothers former address to vote in Florida in 2016 despite residing in Chicago at the time. 
The report also suggests another sibling, sister Monique Gillum, may have lived in New York but voted at the same address as her brother in 2016.  
Leon County Supervisor of Elections Mark Earley says the allegations against Marcus Gillum are currently being reviewed.
“We’ve been sending communications to the address he has on file since 2004 or 2005. Nothing’s been returned to us as undeliverable so as far as we can tell he is a valid voter for Leon County,” said Earley. “Now like I say, we did get presented information, so I’m compelled by that to just kind of validate that he is a registered voter at the address we have on file.”
Earley says he not sure if criminal charges would be brought if the allegations are found to be credible, but if either sibling is found to be residing outside of the county or state they will be removed from the voter role. 

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Hurricane, Early Voting at Universities Means Voter Turnout Uncertain

October 22nd, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Early voting Began in more than 30 Florida counties Monday morning.
 
A lengthy ballot, and increased early voting access for college students all have potential to swing the race one way or the other.
 
Early voting is officially underway in more than 30 Florida counties and because of a recent federal court ruling, college students will be able to vote early on campus  at the Tucker center at Florida State University. 
 
The same goes for other universities around the state.
“After the 2016 election, young people in Florida and around the country are more engaged than ever,” said FSU student Joshua Hanson.
Democrats like FSU student activist Kathryn Casello say they believe young voters will take full advantage of the additional access.
“The more available that we make voting the more that we will see diverse populations, young people, working families, people of color, the more that we’ll see them turn out,” said Casello.
But as of this morning 50,000 more Republicans than Democrats had cast their vote through the mail, despite democrats requesting about 100,000 more ballots.
The Florida Chamber of Commerce says it’s not surprising.
“Right now what we’re seeing is what we typically see in absentee or vote by mail ballots,” said Andrew Wiggins with the Chamber. “It tends to be more Republican, tends to be more white and it’s more elderly.”
The Republican party expects their numbers to continue to rise.
“We don’t have huge reports from Bay county and some other areas that were hard hit by the Hurricane that are traditional Republican areas,” said Evan Power, Assistant Treasurer of the RPOF.
Governor Rick Scott has loosened or waved some voting rules in eight counties hit hardest by Hurricane Michael to help victims of the storm cast their vote.
Seven of those counties are dominated by Republicans.
Adding to the mix this year are 12 constitutional amendments making the ballot abnormally lengthy, which could mean long lines at the polls, or even voter fatigue.
FSU student Ariel Ynovy says the high number of complex proposals slowed her down at the polls.
“Instead of taking like five minutes, it took me a good 20,” said Ynovy.
All counties in the state are required to start early voting on Saturday. In eight counties impacted by the hurricane, early voting can extend all the way to Election Day.

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Greyhound Breeders on Pins and Needles

October 22nd, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Greyhound breeders invited voters to visit kennels at dog tracks and see first hand how the dogs are treated, but the state blocked the visits. 
 
Instead we visited a greyhound farm in rural north Florida.
 
The prospect of being out of business has dog breeders on pins and needles.
Seven days a week, 365 days a year, the Gurley family is up and at work before dawn. They’ve been breeding Greyhounds since 1961.
Twice a week, they take a dozen or more dogs to a nearby practice track.
Here, the dogs are eager to chase a lure. 
 
Rob Gurley says he knows all of his dogs names.
Five of the dogs running this day are in rehab. 
 
Gurley watches as they run one by one down a short stretch of track.
“You can watch them this way, and for the most part see if something is wrong or not,” said Gurley.
This year, voters will decide whether Greyhound racing is banned in Florida. 
 
Supporters of Amendment 13 call it a cruel business.
“On average a dog dies at a Flordia track every three days,” said Kate MacFall with Yes on 13. “We know they are confined, these are words from the industry, between twenty and twenty-three hours a day.”
The Gurley’s say there’s nothing cruel about what they do.
“That’s one of our big jobs here is to rehab the dogs,” said Gurley.
Gene Gurley says it makes no sense to treat the animals with anything but love and respect.
“If you were raising corn, if you don’t fertilize it, weed it, water it, you’re not going to make much corn,” said Gurley. “And it’s the same principle on anything like this.”
 
Right now, there are about a hundred and thirty dogs here. 
 
Usually there would be more, but they’ve stopped breeding until they know what happens November sixth.
 
The amendment gives track owners until 2020 to phase out the sport, but the amendment also says there’s no penalty for stopping dog racing January first.
In Florida, as many as 8,000 dogs could be out of work. 
 
Breeders say there is not viable plan to find them homes. 
 
Yes on 13 counters that just as many dogs will need a new home is racing remains because the racing life of a dog is two to three years.

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Voting Rules Waved for Hurricane Torn Counties

October 19th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Hurricane Michael hit just weeks before the midterm elections, and recovery will continue well after November 6.
An executive order signed by the governor will make it easier for those in affected counties to vote.
Ten days after hurricane Michael blasted through Blountstown in Calhoun County, there are signs of recovery, but the scars left have forever changed the landscape.
Election day is just over two weeks away.
Calhoun Elections Supervisor Sharon Chason says damage from Michael is complicating election planning.
“We are trying to keep things as normal as possible. We had two polling sites that were completely destroyed,” said Chason.
At a relief station in the heart of downtown, residents say no one is talking politics, but they do want to vote.
“I wanna see the people that I would want to vote for in office and you cant do that without voting,” said Blountstown resident Gary Futch.
“I plan on voting because we still need to keep people in the chair that is doing good for us even though the hurricane came through,” said local Shelena Cooper.
Governor Rick Scott signed in executive order Thursday loosening, even waving some voting rules for eight impacted counties.
It will allow mail in ballots to be sent to addresses different from the ones registered for voters, give supervisors the option of extending early voting up to election day, and allow them to set up polling places in locations not generally allowed.
The Executive order also instructed all supervisors of elections to ensure the delivery of vote by mail ballots to military members, law enforcement and line workers responding to affected counties.
Republicans do have an advantage in seven out of the eight counties included in the executive order. Scott took those counties in his narrow victory over Charlie Christ in the 2014 election.
Voters we spoke with were mostly conservative and say the hurricane will not change the way they plan to vote.

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Ron DeSantis Defends FBI Ad

October 19th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
The race for Governor remains too close to call, as it has been since the August Primary.
Team DeSantis is putting a major emphasis on trust.
Ron DeSantis is 40; Andrew Gillum 9 months younger.
Both have small children and neither is wealthy, but the similarities end there.
In an exclusive interview DeSantis was quick to draw contrasts.
“In the Congress, I slept in my office for six years. I didn’t accept the pension, the health care subsidies,” said DeSantis. “I put the taxpayers first. I didn’t use the office to benefit myself.  And I think that’s a distinction. I mean, Andrew is a career politician.”
A new Republican Governor’s Association Ad implies Gillum is part of an investigation into Tallahassee’s City hall.
DeSantis defended the accusation.
“Of the course the ad is valid,” said DeSantis. “Just think what happened. He’s mayor of Tallahassee. He goes on a junket to New York City  with a lobbyist who had business before the city, undercover FBI agents. He didn’t pay for a dog gone thing.”
In a conference call Thursday, Gillum supporters refuted every sentence in the ad.
Gillum has repeatedly said he is not a target of the FBI investigation.
“Obviously I would be happy for them to clarify all of what they are doing,” said Gillum in August. “I fully have a good opinion about where their target is.”
While polls show the race in a dead heat, DeSantis says voters will choose the one they trust most.
Trust may play a role, but so will turnout.
Most polls also show the majority of voters have already made up their mind, leaving the candidates to fight tooth and nail for a very small number of people.
Andrew Gillum has not been the subject of a subpoena that has been made public. The subpoena’s issued involve a City Commissioner, developers, and Gillum’s former treasurer.

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Time Running Out for State to Appeal Marijuana Ruling

October 18th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The state has  until 5pm Friday to appeal a circuit court ruling that could drastically change the state’s medical marijuana industry.
The order was issued two weeks ago, but some say campaign politics may be why there has been a delay in filing the appeal.
In early October Circuit court judge Charles Dodson sided with Tampa-based Florigrown in a lawsuit challenging the law implementing medical marijuana in the state.
Jeff Sharkey with the Medical Marijuana Business Association says the ruling struck down major parts of the law, which limited the number of growers licenses that could be issued and the requirement for growers to process and sell their product.
“This ruling basically said, you know, there is a possibility that the department should just move forward and accept registrations,” said Sharkey.
Dodson gave the Department of Health until Friday to register Florigrown as a medical marijuana treatment center and begin registering other treatment centers.
Activists say if upheld, it would be a win for patients.
“The benefits to the patients would be easier access and hopefully high quality medication,” said Josephine Cannella-Krehl with MMJ Knowledge.
The Governor asked for legislative support to appeal the court order.
It’s unlike in prior cases where the state was quick to appeal medical marijuana rulings.
Fighting the expansion of medical marijuana, which was overwhelmingly supported by Florida voters might complicate the Governor’s Senate campaign.
“We have 71% of the people in the state who voted for this, you know there may be some concern about whether or not appealing this is saying, we don’t support medical cannabis,” said Sharkey.
If the ruling is ultimately upheld it could be bad news for growers who already have licenses.
More growers means they’ll have less market share.
As of mid-afternoon Thursday, no appeal had been filed, despite the Speaker of the House, incoming speaker and other to House members supporting an appeal.

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State Opens Two Programs for Hurricane Job Seekers

October 18th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Thousands of people are either unable to work or their their jobs disappeared with Hurricane Michael’s winds, but the state has activated two programs to help get people back on their feet.
Chattahoochee Florida, forty miles west of the Capitol, is in shambles.
The already distressed Main Street now looks like a ghost town.
“There are a lot of people all over the panhandle in so many counties and  communities that not only don’t have a job but don’t have a place to go if there was electricity because so many buildings don’t have roofs and a lot of buildings don’t exist anymore, so they can’t open,” said Cissy Proctor, Director of the Florida Department of Economic Opportunity.
It’s here, and dozens of other places the state has set up a mobile jobs center.
Aquilla Washington worked in a day care center until Michael hit.
“All the windows are out and a tree fell down in the middle of the day care center,” said Washington. “Hopefully they can get me another job so I can get what my kids need because I lost all the clothes and everything.”
To help people like Aquilla, the state has activated two programs.
The first is Disaster Unemployment assistance.
“It’s not all your wages, but it can help you get through some tough times,” said Proctor.
The second will pay people like Aquila to help in the recover.
That’s her first choice.
“I can help clean up the debris. I can serve food. I can do all that,” said Washington.
The center we visited was supposed to close at noon.
It will be open all day.
The good news is that people can collect disaster unemployment assistance and get paid to help the recovery.
Just how many are out of work is an unknown, but unemployment figures for Michael won’t be known until just before Thanksgiving.
The spike is expected to drop sharply in the following months.

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Michael Hits Georgia Pecan Farmers Hard, Prices Likely to Rise

October 18th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
While much of nation has focused on the loss of life and damage along the Gulf coast, Michael also caused significant damage to crops in South Georgia.
The losses could hit pecan pie lovers in the pocket book this holiday season.
Michael whipped a pecan orchard with 125 mile an hour winds, dropping two million pounds on the ground.
“Thirty to forty percent of the pecan trees are gone, in my opinion,” said fourth generation pecan grower, Eric Cohen. “Basically the storm Michael went right through the heart, I mean, where the majority of the pecans are at.”
South Georgia and north Florida grow the bulk of the nations pecans.
The damage at Cohen’s orchard isn’t unique.
Farmers across South Georgia have been hit hard, which means prices are likely to rise.
“I mean, half the crop gone, it’s got to affect the price some,” said Cohen.
Cotton and peanuts were also hit hard.
“This is the worst thing that anybody’s every seen in South Georgia, and North Florida,” said Tommy Dollar with Dollar Family Farms.
The damage brought both the President and Vice President to South Georgia to listen.
“You can see the importance of this when you see the President, Vice President, Secretary of Agriculture come to this part of the world,” said Dollar.
Despite the nuts on the ground being fresh, they can’t be harvested.
“We can’t because there’s so much debris in here, you can’t get them,” said Cohen. “It costs you more to clean up than the crops on the ground.”
The question for growers here is whether  pecans, cotton, corn and peanuts remain a viable business.
It’s a question that won’t be answered for days or even months.
Most farmers have crop damage insurance which will cover much of this years losses, but there’s no help for the downed trees that take ten years or more to break even.

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Michael Hits Georgia Pecan Farmers Hard, Prices Likely to Rise

October 17th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
While much of nation has focused on the loss of life and damage along the Gulf coast, Michael also caused significant damage to crops in South Georgia.
The losses could hit pecan pie lovers in the pocket book this holiday season.
Michael whipped a pecan orchard with 125 mile an hour winds, dropping two million pounds on the ground.
“Thirty to forty percent of the pecan trees are gone, in my opinion,” said fourth generation pecan grower, Eric Cohen. “Basically the storm Michael went right through the heart, I mean, where the majority of the pecans are at.”
South Georgia and north Florida grow the bulk of the nations pecans.
The damage at Cohen’s orchard isn’t unique.
Farmers across South Georgia have been hit hard, which means prices are likely to rise.
“I mean, half the crop gone, it’s got to affect the price some,” said Cohen.
Cotton and peanuts were also hit hard.
“This is the worst thing that anybody’s every seen in South Georgia, and North Florida,” said Tommy Dollar with Dollar Family Farms.
The damage brought both the President and Vice President to South Georgia to listen.
“You can see the importance of this when you see the President, Vice President, Secretary of Agriculture come to this part of the world,” said Dollar.
Despite the nuts on the ground being fresh, they can’t be harvested.
“We can’t because there’s so much debris in here, you can’t get them,” said Cohen. “It costs you more to clean up than the crops on the ground.”
The question for growers here is whether  pecans, cotton, corn and peanuts remain a viable business.
It’s a question that won’t be answered for days or even months.
Most farmers have crop damage insurance which will cover much of this years losses, but there’s no help for the downed trees that take ten years or more to break even.

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FSU Homecoming May Mean Hurricane Evacuees Will Have to Relocate

October 17th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Hurricane Michael evacuees residing in hotels in the state capital  may have to find a new place to stay this weekend as thousands will descend on the city for Florida State’s homecoming.
Ever since Hurricane Michael hit, finding a hotel room throughout the panhandle has been a challenge.
Peter Schlyen fled Marianna and was lucky enough to find a room in the state’s capital through Thursday.
“We’d rather be at the home. We left our cats in the home. We have to go back for them and also to wait on the restoration of power,” said Schlyen.
Rooms in Tallahassee are expected to become increasingly scarce.
Thousands of alumni are expected this weekend for FSU’s homecoming.
“When hoteliers make reservations, they do have to honor those reservations,” said Amanda Handley with the Florida Restaurant and Lodging Association.
Handley says so far, people are responding with compassion.
“Many folks we have heard from our members have willingly given up their reservations or said we’ll find another place to stay,” said Handley. “So that they can come in and keep the rooms for the evacuees.”
The community and state have had to work together to come up with creative ways to house workers and evacuees.
FSU says up to 600 people can be housed here at the civic center on campus.
Governor Rick Scott says the state is working with the Federal Government to help evacuees find shelter.
“We’re going to do everything we can to keep helping people,” said Scott. “Your heart goes out to anybody who can’t be in their house.”
The Governor opened up the Governor’s Mansion to host Highway Patrol troopers sent to help with the recovery.
The American Red Cross says it has shelter space available.
“We welcome everyone into our shelters. We provide meals, comfort, cots, blankets,” said President of the Red Cross, Gail McGovern.
Any evacuees unable to find a room this weekend can go to redcross.org to find nearby shelters.
The American Red Cross is also asking for additional volunteers to help at shelters.

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Governor Visits Red Cross Operations Center

October 17th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Governor Rick Scott toured the Red Cross facility in the state’s capital city Wednesday morning.
He was joined by President of the American Red Cross Gail McGovern.
He met with volunteers who have come from all over the country to help with Hurricane Michael relief efforts.
“This is the time in an operation where people get weary and and they need a little bit of uplifting and I am so grateful that the Governor swung by, came to the ops center. He shook everyone’s hands. Everyone was just so thrilled,” said Red Cross President Gail McGovern. “They came from all 50 states. He spent the time to talk to everyone and it’s a big morale booster whenever something like that happens.”
The American Red Cross has 1,500 members deployed throughout the state.
An additional 700 volunteers have signed up to help.
If you’d like to volunteer you can go to redcross.org.

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Property Tax Cap Expiring Could Cost Businesses $700 Million

October 16th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
Florida businesses and renters could see a $700 million increase in property taxes at the start of 2019.
That’s the message groups supporting Amendment 2 want voters to consider before casting their ballot in November.
Before 2008 businesses, rental property or second homes faced unlimited increases in property taxes as values skyrocketed.
A constitutional amendment capped annual property tax increases for non-homestead properties at 10%, but the cap is set to expire at the end of the year.
“This cap is very important for renters, for businesses, for communities, for anyone who buys literally anything, any kind of consumer,” said Beth Matuga, Campaign Manager for Everybody is For Amendment 2.
Amendment 2 would extend the cap permanently if it passes.
A coalition of groups supporting the amendment including Florida TaxWatch and Florida Realtors say without the amendment, huge tax hikes are likely.
“Nearly a billion dollar recurring tax increase for businesses throughout the state,” said Robert Weissert, Vice President of Florida TaxWatch. “This will stifle growth. It will cost jobs. It will increase costs for consumers.”
Opponents of Amendment 2 say it’s a tax break for big business, but supporters say small businesses also stand to suffer if the cap is lifted.
Anna King owns Cabello’s Salon and Spa in Tallahassee.
She says any spike in property taxes would drastically increase her rent.
“You know with everything prices rise, but my rent is the highest thing that I have,” said King.
Supporters of Amendment 2 say if the cap expires, an estimated 5.6 million properties in the state would see rapid property tax increases.
Annual property tax increases for homestead properties are capped at 3% a year.

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Hurricane Ravaged Panhandle Could Face Election Difficulties

October 16th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Nine of the counties hardest hit by Hurricane Michael have played a significant role in the outcome of statewide elections.
Voters face significant hurdles when early voting begins next Monday.
Traffic was backed up for more than three miles with relief workers, volunteers or displaced residents, a rarity in downtown Blountstown, the county seat for Calhoun County.
Elections Supervisor Sharon Chason says mail ballots poses a particular problem.
“There’s no way a postal carrier can get into probably half of…more than half of the county,” said Chason.
The damaged counties play an important role in statewide elections.
Donald Trump got nearly 79,000 votes, equating to 69% of his margin of victory.
Rick Scott won in 2014 by just over 64,000 votes.
The nine counties accounted for 70% of his margin of victory.
Both major parties have something to worry about,
“We’ve got a whole set of people who are relocating,” said Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic Gubernatorial Candidate Andrew Gillum. “And my guess is voting isn’t at the top of their agenda right now.”
Gillum should expect 15,000 more votes from heavily damaged Gadsden, if people turn out.
Florida statute 101.733 allows the Governor to suspend or delay an election for up to ten days, but Supervisors in the hardest areas say that won’t be necessary.
“Folks that involved, the Counties, the Supervisors, are working twenty-four-seven to try to make sure they can meet the demands of the election and the voters in their counties,” said Rob Labasky with the Florida State Association of Elections Supervisors.
Early voting starts Monday, but making that happen won’t be easy for Supervisors, or voters.
Under Florida law, any registered voter can vote anywhere in the state during early voting or on election day.
That includes displaced residents or relief workers away from home.
Simply change you address at any polling place in the county where you have re-located.

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Small-Town Blues: Blountstown Recovers

October 15th, 2018 by Mike Vasilinda
Blountstown Florida is 50 miles west of the state capital and 52 miles from the Gulf of Mexico.
The destruction caused by. Hurricane Michael in the small town is unusual because it so far inland.
Blountstown Florida resembles a war zone.
Carolyn Panek rode out the 145 mile an hour winds on the floor of a friends house.
“Very glad to be alive. TI have never seen anything like this. It’s unreal,” said Panek. “Of course I was afraid. I was in a little old bitty utility room on a dog pad with a blanket and a pillow.”
We met Carolyn picking up relief supplies at the first Baptist Church.
The church lost part of its roof in the storm, but Pastor Tim Rhodes held Sunday services anyway.
“We wanted to remember there is a god. He is good, and he loves us,” said Rhodes. “Even though you’re going through this, God’s still here.”
On the town’s main intersection, a Texas trucking company, who’s owner grew up in Blountstown, set up a large scale kitchen.
“Just trying to cook, trying to keep up. We’re in desperate need of more water, we need ice. It’s unbelievable,” said Travis Platt, who is volunteering as a cook.
Thousands are being fed three meals a day.
“If it wasn’t for everybody out here, no, we probably wouldn’t be able to eat. And we are thankful we are blessed,” said Jake Peters, a volunteer fireman.
The city has so much distraction, recovery will likely be measured not in months, but years.
The prison outside Blountstown was so damaged, inmates had to be transferred.
It was one of four panhandle prisons that had to be closed because of storm damage.

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Tallahassee to Act as Hub For Hurricane Relief Efforts

October 15th, 2018 by Jake Stofan
The state capital is almost back to normal after Hurricane Michael knocked out power for more than 90% of the city and took down thousands of trees.
As of Monday morning, 92% of residents had power back and schools and universities were back open, but Hurricane relief efforts are far from over for the city.
The Million Air field on the outskirts of town will become a tent city by mid week, acting as a base for 1,000 personnel and another thousand trucks.
Those personnel will continue relief efforts in harder hit areas of the panhandle.
Tallahassee Mayor and Democratic Gubernatorial candidate Andrew Gillum surveyed the area Monday afternoon.
“Tallahassee, one of the reasons all throughout this storm recovery I’ve said that it was important for us to get back to 100%, is because we knew that we would play a larger recovery role throughout the region,” said Gillum.
The storm is also impacting elections. Both U.S. Senator Bill Nelson’s debate with Governor Rick Scott and Gillum’s debate with Ron DeSantis were put on hold in the wake of the disaster.
Scott has supsended his campaign for the U.S. Senate indefinitely.
“Well people don’t want to be talking politics in the middle of a storm, but that time will come,” said Nelson.
Gillum says many displaced Floridian’s will likely be seeking refuge in Tallahassee during the election.
“What we should do as a state, is make every opportunity possible for them to vote, to include for some of those folks who are in the impacted areas who have chosen to stay,” said Gillum. “Making sure that they have mobile units available to be able to cast their votes.”
Those victims will be allowed to vote wherever they end up, but they’ll have to update their address to do so, even if it’s only a temporary one.
We’ve reached out to the Department of State for comment on what will be done to help hurricane victims vote, but have not received a response yet.

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