Voluntary Sterilization? Great Idea!

Herald

Jessie Lee Herald

by James A. Bacon

Let us all applaud Ilona White, assistant prosecutor of Shenandoah County. She had the brilliant idea of offering Jessie Lee Herald, a 27-year-old man who had sired seven children by six different women, the option of undergoing a vasectomy in exchange for a five-year reduction in his prison term.

Her motive in offering the deal, she explained, was to prevent him from fathering any more children. “He needs to be able to support the children he already has when he gets out,” she said, according to the Associated Press.

Not surprisingly, the deal evoked hand-wringing from civil libertarians. The deal calls to mind the involuntary sterilizations carried out in Virginia in the early 20th century under the banner of eugenics, said Brandon Garrett, a University of Virginia law professor. “This takes on the appearance of social engineering,” said Steve Benjamin, past president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. “Sentencing conditions are designed to prevent future criminal behavior,” he added. “Fathering children is not criminal behavior.”

I am not moved in the slightest by those concerns. Garrett’s statement is ridiculous. Benjamin may make a valid point from a narrow legal perspective — fathering children may not be criminal behavior. The problem is… it’s a narrow legal perspective. It misses the larger issue at hand.

I will fully admit my boundless contempt for Herald, a man who has for years engaged in animalistic, indeed sociopathic, behavior with no serious consequence. Fathering seven children by six women — at the age of 27, no less! — is vile and reprehensible. He cannot possibly be a good father if he wanted to, and it is dubious that anyone so consumed with his own desires even cares. Herald cannot support that many children financially, and he cannot possibly find the time to undertake the non-pecuniary duties of fatherhood. By his own admission, his nephew — a man who has worked as a roofer and in a poultry plant — has financially supported “at least some” of his children. I don’t know how many children of his own the nephew has, but he is more of a man than Herald will ever be.

Among his other derelictions, Herald was convicted of child endangerment, hit and run, and driving on a suspended license in a crash in which his three-year-old son suffered minor injuries.

Society has no good solutions for reprobates like Herald. Mothers of the children can sue for child support, but if he has seven children, it’s highly unlikely that he is willing or able to live up to his obligations for all of them. So, what’s to be done? If you throw him in jail, he can’t earn any money or pay any child support at all. But if you let him out of jail, he’s likely to continue his reckless, irresponsible behavior.

That’s why Ilona White’s offer makes so much sense. The dirtbag gets out of jail early, giving him an opportunity to find gainful employment, earn money and meet at least some of his financial obligations to his children. But the vasectomy ensures that he won’t be spawning any more offspring. If anything, the deal wasn’t strict enough — it gives him a year to scrape up the money to pay for the procedure, during which time he can easily father another child or two… or three.

Amazingly, Herald had to wrestle with the decision. “It was not a no-brainer for him,” his attorney said. Apparently, he saw a big downside to denying himself the ability to impregnate more women and foisting the responsibility for raising his offspring onto single mothers, relatives or taxpayers. What a contemptibly selfish man!

The comparison with involuntary sterilization is, of course, totally absurd. First, Herald would undergo voluntary sterilization — just like millions of other American men do when they don’t want to father any more children. Secondly, he does not belong to one of the groups stigmatized by the eugenics movement on the basis of “undesirable” genetic characteristics. He is stigmatized for his reckless, anti-social behavior.

I think White’s solution is an excellent one. We should reject the superficial comparison with involuntary sterilization and eugenics, which were truly atrocious, and deal with the real social problems created by derelicts like Herald. There are dozens more, if not hundreds, of predatory males in Virginia who should be given the same alternative.

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24 responses to “Voluntary Sterilization? Great Idea!

  1. I think Jim is wrong on this on many levels but it illustrates how Conservatives think about things and I’m not at all sure that this is not a worldwide – as opposed to a US-only issue.

    There is no proof or guarantee that someone who fathers many children is incapable of being a good father.

    there is no guarantee that someone who is financially responsible for the kids he fathered is a good father.

    this is no guarantee that a guy who married the gal who is the mother of his kids is a good father.

    there is no guarantee that a guy who marries a gal who has children from another man – will be a good or bad father.

    It’s not very satisfying from a moral perspective to accept these realities but trying to construct some simplistic moralistic truth is worse.

    You can ask any K-3 teacher about kids and their parents and realize in short order that the world is not so simple not to mention the fact that young men after sowing a lot of wild oats can and do settle down to become seriously good fathers who actually know enough about the bad choices in life to share with their offspring.

    I just think these simplistic moralistic ideas when injected into politics is the worse thing since dog poop on a shoe sole – discovered AFTER you’ve walked on the carpet.

    The reality is – there are bad folks in the world – and they do have kids.

    and we’re not going to set up a system to judge men (or women) on this issue and then send them off to be “fixed” even though I will be the very first to admit that some people in this world – should never have kids… and some elementary teachers in a moment of horrible truth will say the same.

    Every killer current in prison – had a mama and a pappa and a good many of them had both in the house they grew up in.

    and thousands of children – every year – are abused in two-parent homes and the govt has to take the children out of that home.

    Unfortunately some of us cannot easily handle these harsh realities without having to find some simplistic mechanism for blame… and I include myself in that – but I do recognize it as a flaw.

    Finally – how many of those who fret about the bad-dad issue look at the current immigration crisis of young kids at our borders –

    …. and think we should take care of these kids rather than sending them back?

    • “There is no proof or guarantee that someone who fathers many children is incapable of being a good father.”

      No proof? Take a look at the guy. Seven children, six mothers. Do you suppose he scrupulously works out visitation with all six mothers to see all seven children on a regular basis? Not bloody likely. We know that his nephew supports “some” of his children. What else do you need, Larry, the welfare case report?

      Liberal non-judgementalism = welfare state = social breakdown = human wreckage. I hope you can live with it.

      • re: ” No proof?”

        can you make that claim about anyone who has multiple children with different women ?

        what if the guy was married the whole time and they had more children than they could support and qualified for welfare, food stamps, the EITC, reduced lunches, etc?

        how many guys like him compared to married folks having more kids than their income can sustain?

        would you treat both the same because in both cases it’s about the costs of taking care of the kids?

        • “Can you make that claim about anyone who has multiple children with different women?”

          No, I just make that claim about Herald. I am confident that there are dozens of other men like him in Virginia but each case must be made on its own merits. If the evidence shows in any individual instance that a man (a) is fathering children by many mothers, (b) is unable or unwilling to uphold his legal obligations to pay child support, and (c) finds himself in prison for various misdemeanors and/or criminal defenses, a willingness to undergo voluntary sterilization should be factored into his parole.

  2. See, this is where it starts. The STATE gives you a choice. Voluntarily submit or face the full consequences. The next step is YOU WILL SUBMIT. What does having a bunch of kids have to do with this guy’s prison sentence? Is having kids now like Bloomberg’s Soda Ban?

    Back in the early 1900s Eugenics was a science, peer reviewed and supported by many of the big names of the day. They advocated sterilizing criminals, the handicapped and other state designated low class creeps. Scientists produced libraries full of papers and studies. All to have a better society. Things were going pretty good until a bunch of Germans started building industrial sized ovens. Then the ‘holier than thou’ Eugenics crowd went into hiding, avoiding any reference to their studies that produced a few million unintended consequences. You want to know why science is distrusted? This is one big reason.

    People become fearful when science begins pushing state social control of things like the environment while simultaneously engineering new strains of potentially lethal microbes and advanced surveillance technology. They rightfully begin to question the ETHICS of science when you have award winning researchers reportedly advocating thinning the human herd down to only the upper ten percent of socially responsible elitists. Then you wonder how bizarre stories of Obama care Death Panels and FEMA concentration camps get started? It’s the 21st Century and society is on the edge of falling into a new Dark Ages. Science led us out of the last one. Are they intentionally pushing us into the next?

    • Darrell is correct about eugenics and academia… it did not start in Academia but it became popular in academia because:

      At its peak of popularity, eugenics was supported by a wide variety of prominent people, including Winston Churchill,[102] Margaret Sanger,[103][104] Marie Stopes, H. G. Wells, Norman Haire, Havelock Ellis, Theodore Roosevelt, George Bernard Shaw, John Maynard Keynes, John Harvey Kellogg, Robert Andrews Millikan,[105] Linus Pauling[106] and Sidney Webb.[107][108][109] Its most infamous proponent and practitioner was, however, Adolf Hitler, who praised and incorporated eugenic ideas in Mein Kampf and emulated Eugenic legislation for the sterilization of “defectives” that had been pioneered in the United States.[110]

      but you did have disagreement:

      The American sociologist Lester Frank Ward,[111] the English writer G. K. Chesterton, and the German-American anthropologist Franz Boas[112] were all early critics of the philosophy of eugenics. Ward’s 1913 article “Eugenics, Euthenics, and Eudemics”, Chesterton’s 1917 book Eugenics and Other Evils and Boas’ 1916 article “Eugenics” (in Scientific Monthly magazine) were all harshly critical of the rapidly growing movement.

      Among institutions, the Catholic Church was an early opponent of state-enforced eugenics.[113] In his 1930 encyclical Casti Connubii, Pope Pius XI explicitly condemned eugenics laws: “Public magistrates have no direct power over the bodies of their subjects; therefore, where no crime has taken place and there is no cause present for grave punishment, they can never directly harm, or tamper with the integrity of the body, either for the reasons of eugenics or for any other reason.”[114] ”

      but Darrell – no one has ever said that science was 100% correct – ever and the test of science is – over time.

      if something is wrong – it won’t stand the test of time – as we have seen ..

      everything around you – has come from science… the food you eat, the drugs you take, the vaccinations you receive, the medical treatment you receive, on and on…

      science has always been two steps forward, one step back.

      the point about GW is – do you totally discount all of it such that you truly believe none of it and consider all of it a hoax – forever?

      do you REALLY think that 20, 30 years from now that scientists will say they were wrong and global warming was a popular fad like eugenics?

      what bothers me – is why would you bet the farm that ALL of the science was 100% wrong – and it’s all a hoax?

      how do you get there? we have people right now today – who swear up and down that vaccinations cause altruism… call me a skeptic but do you really think that we should stop all vaccinations because we cannot guarantee there is no connection at all? Would you stop taking drugs because you think scientists are lying about the ingredients and they are really harmful instead of helpful?

      I’m trying to understand how you think some science is a hoax while you trust other science.

      what makes the difference for you?

      for me – I see it all pretty much the same. I never expected science to be 100% infallible. On the other hand, if a large number of scientists are saying something is harmful – and we can all be harmed if we don’t act – then I just do not understand how we totally disbelieve it and call it a hoax.

      we did not do that with the Ozone Holes.

      So I ask – were the Ozone Holes really a hoax and we did not realize it then but we do now and from now on anything like an Ozone Hole in terms of a catastrophe in our world, is a hoax?

    • Darrell, I’m not sure where you are going with this. What does science have to do with this case? No one is basing the argument for voluntary sterilization on science. They’re basing it on the fact that a guy continues to knock up women and refuses to take responsibility for child support. The only science here is the science of establishing paternity.

    • re: ” You want to know why science is distrusted? This is one big reason.”

      well… comparing eugenics and sterilization to ozone holes and global warming seems a bit of a stretch but I’ll agree that in some folks minds the process might seem similar.

      Science is not in charge of the world.
      Science does not rule the world or tell people what to do or not to do.

      Science attempts to provide factual information about things that affect our world and yes, if there is a strong consensus/agreement with the apparent facts – recommendations of options of how to avoid outcomes that affect the population of the planet, but not how, more along the lines of “don’t put into the environment the stuff we think is potentially harming it”.

      it’s not “rocket science” in that we follow that same recipe whether it’s CFCs or nitrogen or phosphorous or Kepone or any other substance that science has reached a consensus on with respect to potential harm.

      and it’s almost never been without controversy. We argue about how much Mercury or how much DDT or how much dioxin. Most EPA air and water permits allow the discharge of harmful things into the environment – but they have limits. We allow mercury into the atmosphere – even though we know for a fact that it harms humans. we allow nitrogen and phosphorous into the Chesapeake Bay even though we know that it harms the bay and that if we could outlaw it overnight -the Bay would almost surely recover substantially.

      Science does the same with “defective” humans and make no mistake – it is a defect when a child is born without a brain or a spinal cord and yes – we do let those kids die rather than try to save them and that’s not a scientific recommendation – it’s what society has to do when science tells them the child has no brain.

      if someone knowingly has a transmittable disease or has defective genes that could produce children with horrible deformities – then at that point – do you really blame science for discovering that fact?

      Some seem to think that perhaps science should not investigate or – if they do – then they should not publish unless they have incontrovertible proof of something as opposed to indications that science has largely reached a consensus about some of it- and that knowledge released will present society with tougher choices than if they just stayed blissfully ignorant.

      how would we have ever made progress in our world – if that is the restriction that we would put on science?

      So, the “new” rule for science, the rule for getting funding, is that you can’t investigate or publish unless the goal is incontrovertible proof because we don’t want society to have to struggle with the implications of things that are not 100% guaranteed proof and “consensus” is too easily confused with “conspiracy”?

      That’s how I see the dimensions of GW, Ozone Holes, genetic research, and “defective” humans and almost anything else that we obtain from science.

      Look at the Outer Banks issue. Look at what they decided. It’s not even about GW, it’s about forecasts of sea level rise from the scientific community – as if you could obtain such forecasts from some place other than the scientific community!

      And….. they’re so troubled with the forecasts that they want to prevent a website showing the impacts of ocean rise – to – exist…because the science “may not be 100% accurate”.

      so back to sterilization and eugenics…

      science basically investigates and characterizes the issues and through peer-review and other research – gradually, over time, reaches consensus about certain points … and that leads to a “body of knowledge”.

      society then has to decide not only whether or not to trust scientific work product, but also what policy they would develop – based on what the implications of the science might be. It’s that second part that ties people in knots.

      we’ve come a long way with the eugenics argument – but not surprisingly, science has still not provided the “answer” that some would like them to provide, but instead has only further widened the troublesome conclusions that, yes, for a fact, there are folks with some bad genes that can be passed on to their kids…. but as far as I know, no scientists have proposed that we sterilize those with bad genes, much less a strong consensus of science.

      what science has said about GW is that about 97% of them believe it is caused at least in part by the burning of fossil fuels (and volcanoes)- and just like with the Ozone Holes – if you think we should do something about it – we’d have to reduce the emissions of fossil fuels on the things we do control.

      How we do that – or not – is not a scientific issue – it’s a political issue and until society reaches a consensus – we’re not going to do much if anything about it. I accept that pragmatically but not intellectually. It just seems totally ignorant to do nothing until we have absolute non-deniable proof… not even have interactive maps of rising seas.(that allow modelling how much in inches) ..that seems almost Luddite to me. We can’t have people using that map because then they might decide that they don’t want to invest their money in a place that MIGHT be flooded?

      FEMA is having the same problem in NJ. People are attacking FEMA for drawing maps that affect the insurability of their properties. Would they rather just have the private insurance market just refuse to provide insurance – period – like they have tried to do on the southern coasts of the US?

      I don’t think any of this is truly about science. It’s about knowledge and if we want knowledge or not – if it makes us then confront things we’d rather remain ignorant about instead.

    • “Back in the early 1900s Eugenics was a science, peer reviewed and supported by many of the big names of the day. They advocated sterilizing criminals, the handicapped and other state designated low class creeps. Scientists produced libraries full of papers and studies. All to have a better society.”

      Scientists can be wrong en mass? Their arrogance over the own infallibility can cause governments to do things that cause people grievous harm?

      Hmmm….

      • re: ” Scientists can be wrong en mass? Their arrogance over the own infallibility can cause governments to do things that cause people grievous harm?”

        they can and are but you need to separate science from what society chooses to believe about what science says.

        Science says that cigarettes can cause cancer. They cannot prove it , mind you and at one time scientists were accused of being not only wrong but willing to destroy a perfectly legal product because they were biased against it.

        and you know what – it worked.

        …for a while…

        science said there were ozone holes – and how did that work out for you DJ?

        was it a hoax?

        how come you guys won’t weigh in on the ozone holes?

        man up DJ – tell me what your view is of the science behind the ozone holes.

        is it bad, wrong?

        why do you believe it (or not)?

        tell me you view of the ozone holes, please.

  3. altruism… oops – autism…

  4. Forced sterilization is a road you really don’t want to go down. It is a huge can of worms and opens up so many horrible things, far worse that having serial babies.

    Who are a judge and Jim Bacon to start making such judgments based on their peculiar ideas of the Protestant Work Ethic and personal responsibility? Some cultures allow multiple wives and encourage lots of children. The judge very much smacks of the discredited eugenics movement that, needless to say, thrived in Virginia with its smug attitudes of what is right and wrong.

    This is especially strange for Jim who is Libertarian on most everything else. Who is he to decide who should have children or not? Who is he to decide who is a good father or not?

    • Wow, you guys are amazing.

      First, what is it about the “voluntary” nature of the vasectomy– a reversible procedure, by the way — that you don’t understand. This is NOT involuntary sterilization. There is no “slippery slope” here.

      As for your non-judgementalism… “Some cultures allow multiple wives and encourage lots of children.” That’s true. Those same cultures also have strongly defined roles for fathers. Fathers in those cultures are expected to take care of their children. There is no culture in the world, other than the modern welfare state, where is it is the cultural norm for the father to spawn children without any obligation toward them.

      Look where liberal non-judgmentalism has taken society. It is directly responsible for the rise of the underclass, its social pathologies and the personal wreckage that results. Liberal non-judgementalism is devastating in its effects.

      • re: ” “voluntary” nature”

        umm…. oh heck.. what’s the use

        re: “liberalism” and the welfare state

        can you put this in a world context?

        for instance, all those kids coming across at the Mexican border… is that a creation of the liberal welfare state?

        Do you think those kids are coming here for entitlements or opportunity?

        this is not a trick question!

        • Ack! How totally illogical can you be?

          Of course the children pouring across the border have no connection to the U.S. welfare state. They come from Central American countries that are experiencing social breakdown for entirely different reasons.

          But nobody said that the liberal welfare state was the *only* source of social breakdown in the world. That would be utterly absurd. But it *is* the cause of extensive social breakdown in the United States. And the comments that you and Peter make are a case study in why. The liberal welfare state did not lead to immediate social breakdown in its early days, although some far-sighted observers thought that it might. It led to breakdown only after non-judgemental liberalism so permeated the bureaucratic apparatus and courts that administered and oversaw the system that it led to the total lack of personal accountability. At that point, the welfare state became a mechanism for subsidizing reckless and anti-social behavior. And we now witness aberrant behavior on a large scale.

          • re: ” They come from Central American countries that are experiencing social breakdown for entirely different reasons.”

            but doesn’t it mean that they also are having kids irresponsibly?

            do you think that in both cases the circumstances of creating kids you can’t care for – for similar thinking (or non thinking) going on?

            there is no welfare state in many of the countries that are overrun with kids no one can care for… right?

            If this guy was in Nicaragua or Nigeria would you also advocate sterilization?

            This seems to be a problem with Conservatives and their blame of the nasty “welfare state” – in the US… regardless of whether or not the exact same behavior occurs in countries without welfare states…

            how do you reconcile your views in a larger world context?

  5. This is forced! What a phony choice — jail or the cut. It should all be banned. Back years ago, they’d force you to be sterilized if they thought you had a low IQ. SOme top Virginia health officials used to have a running correspondence with Adolph Hitler. This is all so wrong, I am amazed we’re even talking about it.

    • re: ” “He needs to be able to support the children he already has when he gets out,” she said, adding that Herald and the state both benefit from the deal, first reported by the Northern Virginia Daily.
      ….
      “This takes on the appearance of social engineering,” said Steve Benjamin of Richmond, past president of the Virginia Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers, who said he has never heard of a case like Herald’s.”

      Indeed – Jim “small govt” Bacon is, as his Conservative brethren have said:

      “do as I say, not as I do” when it comes to big government involving itself in people’s lives.

      And so it goes with folks who claim to be small-govt Conservatives who rail about regulations and restrictions and rules on people.. and how that stifles independence and innovation… except of course when it comes to moralistic things – then the Govt needs to step in.

      lordy lordy…

      now let me show you how Jim Bacon and I are on the same page.

      I say – if the govt is not going to let seniors freeze to death in cardboard boxes because they refused to save for retirement that the individual mandate of social security is a necessary evil.

      I say the same thing about health care – if we truly are not going to turn people who can’t pay away from our ERs, shouldn’t we “pay” for them in a much more cost-efficient, cost-effective way?

      Jim Bacon – says no… that’s wrong. Each person should be responsible for themselves and not depend on the “welfare state” – but the individual mandate is not about “welfare”, it’s really about – forced individual responsibility…

      and so … we’re circling back to what the govt should do with this fella…or
      in this case – more accurately – one prosecutor exercising discretion than other prosecutors might not, nor subsequent judges agree, much less a majority of General Assembly buffoons actually vote in favor of even as they vote against MedicAid expansion.

      so Jim and I agree? we have to have to govt get involved to make people do the right thing?

      good gawd o’mighty! boy am I confused!

      Jim.. help me understand!

  6. Jon Wight approaches the issue from a different perspective than either me or my critics in his Economics and Ethics blog. He lands on my side of the debate, though not without reservations.

    “Does the threat of a 5-year jail term constitute coercive circumstances that make the sterilization proposal suspect? … Let the convict decide. He is an adult (27 yrs. old). Yes, he is under coercion, but the coercion arises (and hence can be justified) by his conviction of a crime. The state is giving him the choice of picking his own punishment. This makes sense in this case, and I would be much more leery if the medical procedure were more permanent and serious. Hence, this is not a blanket acceptance of trading off body mutilation for prison time.”

    For me, here’s the key insight: “The state is giving him the choice of picking his own punishment.”

    • re: ” “Does the threat of a 5-year jail term constitute coercive circumstances that make the sterilization proposal suspect? … Let the convict decide. ”

      convict?

      “He is an adult (27 yrs. old). Yes, he is under coercion, but the coercion arises (and hence can be justified) by his conviction of a crime.”

      any coercion for any crime?

      ” The state is giving him the choice of picking his own punishment. This makes sense in this case, and I would be much more leery if the medical procedure were more permanent and serious. Hence, this is not a blanket acceptance of trading off body mutilation for prison time.” ”

      who exactly is “the state” ?

      Are you justifying the use of Big Govt to use social engineering ?

      “For me, here’s the key insight: “The state is giving him the choice of picking his own punishment.”

      basically, you’re justifying big govt to coerce people, to socially engineer them, who find themselves already in trouble with “the state”, right?

      How about we come up with something like that for Congressmen found to be cheating on their spouses – especially those Congressmen who tend to be moralist buffoons who ascribe all kinds of immoral behaviors to others?

  7. The big problem, as I understand it, is that he was not convicted of failing to pay child support. He was convicted of hit and run driving, child endangerment, etc.

    How will getting a vasectomy help ensure that he becomes a better driver?

    If he’s also failing to make child support payments then he should be charged with that offense too. If convicted of that I can see a certain logic to offering him a lighter sentence in return for getting a vasectomy. Comparing that to eugenics is pretty ridiculous. The people sterilized under the eugenics program were not sterilized as part of a criminal sentence. And the sterilization was forced, not voluntary.

    There have been people convicted of computer hacking. They have taken plea deals which require that they never go online again. Nobody seems too concerned about that voluntary trade-off. A person with seven children who is not making child support payments should be able to make a trade-off too. They can have all the sex they want. They just can’t have any more children. Hell, they already have seven! They are forgoing the opportunity to have child number 8, child number 9, etc. They are not forgoing the opportunity to have children.

    Maybe the vasectomy can be reversed if the deadbeat dad makes all of his required child support payments for three years in a row.

  8. I’d agree to drop one year off his sentence if he agrees to have that neck tattoo removed. Unless you are a professional musician or a brilliant computer programmer having a neck tat must make it harder to get a job that pays well enough to support seven children.

    • oh there is a slight problem… does the punishment fit the crime he is charged with?

      that don’t matter to the moralistic right.. and perceived sin can be dealt with at any time … why bother with that silly govt concept called justice….

      this is what scares me about the political right.

      I don’t think they have good sense if you know what I mean.

      they proclaim they are small govt conservatives but you know – I don’t think they really know what that means -either.

      Either that – or they do – and their whole deal is basically a lie because what they want is power to decide everything.

      scary, eh?

  9. LOL at people who consider taxation theft asserting that this is a freely made choice. I guess the state monopoly on power is just ignored here. Also, how many other people and for what crimes are we going to let choose their own punishment? Can we offer this same deal to rapists? Can we knock time off a tax evasion sentence if the perp promises to tithe his income to charity for some determined time?

    And making the comparison between this and computer crimes is absurd and completely ignores any concept of natural rights.

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