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January 11, 2001
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"In a case believed to be a first of its kind since the inception of the Wisconsin hate crimes law, three area young men have been charged with a hate crime for singling out a Christian." Found at obscurestore.com
posted by ericost (40 comments total)

 
Hate crimes laws are bogus anyway. I think hate crime legislation should be done away with. If you drag someone behind your car, it shouldn't matter if you did it because you're a sociopathic sick mofo or you did it because you're a racist or an anti-semite, you should go away for a very long time.

I understand that people want to send a specific message that these behaviors and ideologies will not be tolerated, but I think hate crime legislation is maybe not the right way to go about it.
posted by ritualdevice at 1:11 PM on January 11, 2001


Easy to say, when you're not a victim of a hate crime. Anyway, at least in Wisconsin, all it does is bump up the penalty on a "normal" crime charge.

Generally sociopathic, sick people need treatment more than punishment, but hate crimes are understood to be rational choices made by sane, but hateful, people.
posted by dhartung at 1:27 PM on January 11, 2001


Geez . . . it's a horribly touchy topic, and it's hard to voice one's opposition to hate crime laws for fear of being shouted down as a racist, homophobe, what have you. But I guess I'll give it my dumb college try.

My main problem with hate crime legislation is that it takes a specific set of "hates" that we as society have decided we don't like while ignoring other types of "hates" that we apparently are okay with. The truth is (and a random sampling of some MeFi--or, better, slashdot-- political threads will bear me out) that there is plenty o' hate to spread around out there on all sides of most issues. Who gets to decide which ones are "good" or "bad"? We legislate against racism, anti-gay motivations, which seems okay on the face of it . . . how about people who hate fat people? How about, as we've seen, people who hate Christians (ostensibly)? I grew up with a bunch of rednecks, and there were times when I was younger when I think it was fair to say I hated "them" as a whole--they kept beating the shit out of me, you see. Is that an okay hate with everyone? If I retaliated and accidentally killed one of them at the time, and was convicted of manslaughter or murder, should my sentence have been increased?

An anti-semite spray-paints "I hate Jews" on a synagogue. A hippie spray-paints "I hate Corporate Fascists" on a downtown office building. Same damn crime, but the first guy gets a longer sentence because we don't like the way he hates. Isn't this verging dangerously close to thought crimes?

I've tried not to completely gloss things over here, and I probably got some dumb thing wrong (and y'all will let me know, I'm sure), but that's my take.


posted by Skot at 1:53 PM on January 11, 2001


Not to mention those darn Corporate Facist Jewish Hippies.
posted by Optamystic at 2:06 PM on January 11, 2001


The thing that I noticed most in the article was that each of the alleged assailants had his address included in the article... very weird. Is this standard practice in Wisconsin?

Talk about an invitation to trouble.


posted by silusGROK at 2:11 PM on January 11, 2001


Des Jardins gave Chartier the option of wearing a sign stating, "I'm convicted of a hate crime against a Christian," which Chartier accepted.

Has this judge watched Die Hard 3 a few too many times?
posted by Neb at 2:20 PM on January 11, 2001


The thing that I noticed most in the article was that each of the alleged assailants had his address included in the article... very weird. Is this standard practice in Wisconsin?

Many newspapers print the addresses of the accused to avoid libel lawsuits. Imagine a newspaper report that "John Smith" was charged with child molestation. If my name were John Smith, I'd hope the the newspaper made damn sure no one thought it was me who was charged, and I'd probably sue if they didn't.
posted by mikewas at 2:27 PM on January 11, 2001


Incidentally, who wants to bet that the next person charged with a high profile hate-crime will be someone who commits a crime against a white male?
posted by mikewas at 2:32 PM on January 11, 2001


"Des Jardins gave Chartier the option of wearing a sign stating, "I'm convicted of a hate crime against a Christian," which Chartier accepted."

Perhaps cruel, certainly unusual. But where can I buy the t-shirt?
posted by chino at 2:35 PM on January 11, 2001


Yeah that's fucking hysterical chino! You'll show em!
posted by littlesolty at 3:00 PM on January 11, 2001


Skot, you are totality wrong...
There is a big difference between writing hateful things on MeFi, that's simply called expressing your freedom of speech, but threatening someone with violence or violating another person's civil liberties simply because of that person's race, creed, color, religion, or sexual ordination. A crime becomes something more than just a crime when it is motivated by the hatred of hate against any group. How would like it you found "Die N****r" or "Die Jew" painted on your house? This more than just a simply act of vandalism, there something more dangerous behind it. The intent to hurt some one based on nothing more than their race, creed, color, religion, or sexual orientation goes against everything that Bill of Rights and Constitution stand for, threatens to destroy the basic rights that many people have fought, and continue to fight, so hard to gain.
You are right, society does pick and choose what crimes are "hate crimes." However, this article proves that that may not be true anymore or is at least it is changing. Besides, it's up to us, the courts, and law enforcement to make sure that these are applied fairly equitably. How about let's begin to take responsibility for the bad stuff that goes on in our world and do something about it.
I hope you have heard of a group people that were really big into the crimes that you don't want to punish, you know, the Nazis. Perhaps, if hate crime legislation was in place in Germany during 1930s six million Jews may not have die. Reminds me of a poem that goes a little like this:

When they came for the Jews and I said nothing
When they came for the Catholics I said nothing
When they came for the homosexuals I said nothing
When they came for the mentally retarded I said nothing
When they came for the political dissidents I said nothing...
And when they came for me, no one was left to say anything.

Being against hate crimes legislation does not make you a racist, although it might help to prove that are one, but what it does do show that is that are a fool and are blind to history. If evil is not fought against that it will always remain.
posted by Bag Man at 4:20 PM on January 11, 2001


The notion that hate crimes legislation in Nazi Germany might have stopped the Holocaust is ludicrous. Germany set up a system of laws based upon a racial (and class, and sexual identity) ideology, and that led to the slaughter of six million. The Nazi government codified the way its citizens should think, and soon they were acting it out.

Hate crime legislation tells us that we are not allowed to have opinions. But do they actually stop anyone from committing crimes? The fact that some over-sundayschooled punk got pissed off at a “Got Jesus?” sign and gets saddled with a stiffer sentence just goes to show that these laws don’t protect anyone. Bigots will still hate. The ignorant will always act out against those that are different, because they fear them. There are crimes of hate and crimes of greed, and you can’t legislate hate or greed away.

That lengthy “When they came for...” quote is horribly misused. It’s about individual responsibility, not for passing legislation that absolves us of our obligation to speak out against injustice. When governments try to legislate morality or ideology, we always end up in trouble.

posted by chino at 5:28 PM on January 11, 2001


Of course, all that being said, how do we account for the pretty standard lessening of punishment for "Crimes of passion?"
posted by chino at 5:32 PM on January 11, 2001


I think we set a bad precedent when we start punishing for motive instead of the actual crime committed...

Murder should be recognized as murder. Rape as rape, regardless what the attacker was thinking when they were commiting the crime.
posted by Neb at 5:58 PM on January 11, 2001


Things brings up one of the problems with the justice system in America. Making tougher sentencing requirements is only good for filling prisons, it doesn't help fix anything.

Longer sentence does not = more effective deterrent. Nor does a longer sentence mean that the offender has a higher chance of being "cured", exactly the opposite in fact. Prisons are a great place to hone your feelings of hate and violence.


posted by ritualdevice at 6:17 PM on January 11, 2001


This for you chino...Hate crimes laws do not, I repeat do not, legislate your opinion, however they do legislate and punish an act. An act that is committed with a particular very heavy extra dose of malice. Please note: freedom of expression does not include: murder, rape, violence, or vandalism. You know ritualdevice, I hate to bust your bubble, but of our laws have very little to do with deterrents or "curing" criminals. Our legal system is based on civil rights. If you commit a crime you have violated some one’s rights, so the constitutional purpose of jail to take away your right for taking away some ones else’s rights in the first place. That brings to my point, a hate crime is a crime that violates more than one’s right to life or one’s pursuit of happiness, but it violates every principle (i.e. religious freedom, civil rights acts establish through common law, etc. for those kiddies who don't know). Therefore, committing a crime against a person based on a person's race, creed, color, religion, or sexual orientation makes that crime worse because it violates more of your, yes your, of your civil rights.

I used the poem to point out that it is our, yes our, responsibility to make sure that this situation never happens. One way to combat such violence is to make it sure that when it happens those who are responsible have their right taken away, in other words, so our legal justice system work correctly.

If you disagree with the fundamental principles of our society that you have the right to try and change them via constitutional amendments, voting for politicians who share your views, or simply voting with your feet. Hate crimes laws are not only constitutional, but they are necessary.
posted by Bag Man at 7:07 PM on January 11, 2001


Bag Man, do you think that mandating higher sentences for hate crimes is a better solution than leaving it up to a judge's discretion? If so, do you feel the same way about mandatory sentencing in drug cases? What about three-strikes laws?
posted by snarkout at 8:09 PM on January 11, 2001


When they wanted faster trials and less loopholes I said nothing because let's face it if you're on trial you probably did it so you're a criminal and criminals are bad.

When they wanted to search the cars and the pockets for weapons or drugs or alcohol I said nothing because only criminals need fear and anyway drugs and weapons and alcohol hurt people so they are bad.

When they came for the guns I said nothing because guns hurt people so guns are bad.

When they came for the right to express ignorance through hurtful expression I said nothing because that type of thing diminishes an individual's humanity and leads to other people thinking hate is OK or normal - so free expression is bad.

When the leader said that hurtful speech against the government is also bad I went along because The leader has my best interests at heart. The leader is good.

Wait! No! Please, I said the leader is good. The leader is love. It was my neighbor that said the leader is bad. I swear you have to believe me. The leader is love.

*Bang*


posted by willnot at 8:30 PM on January 11, 2001


Hate crimes laws are not only constitutional, but they are necessary.

Necessary for *what*? Every offense which is committed as a so-called "hate crime" is already a criminal act. You suggest, Bag Man, that it is necessary that we, as a matter of statute, punish people more severely based on their motivation. If I punch you in the head because I think you're an idiot, that's just assault, but if I punch you in the head because you're white/black/pagan/jewish/whatever and I don't like that, it's worse? How is that anything but punishing me for my opinion? And how can that be healthy for us as a society, Constitutionally acceptable, or "necessary?"

How we are to prove it, in order to provide equal justice under the law? Will an allegation of a hate crime require an affirmative defense? Will we simply presume that (when overt evidence is lacking) any time there are class/race/group status differences between a perpetrator and a victim, that a crime is hate based, and force the accused to prove otherwise?

What about personal hate? What if I hate you so terribly that I want to wipe you off the planet? Is that a hate crime, or does it only count when I hate more than one person? What if I hate a whole family? Will that suffice to punish me for something more than the deed that I commit to satisfy my malice?

It is necessary that we further efforts to mend the breaches that divide. It is necessary that we bridge the gaps between groups that foment misunderstandings and build rage and hate. It is necessary that we make it a priority to speak out against hatemongers of every ilk, and expose them as the dangers that they are.

It is hardly necessary that we undertake further misguided, feel-good legislation that does nothing toward prevention and serves only to make us think we're doing something about a huge problem, when in fact, we're doing nothing.
posted by Dreama at 8:45 PM on January 11, 2001


A crime becomes something more than just a crime when it is motivated by the hatred of hate against any group.

I disagree. A motive may be more or less understandable/reprehensible/forgivable, but a crime is a crime is a crime. Hate crime laws are, to me, yet another example of the thought police at work trying to enforce their belief that their--and ONLY their--beliefs/worldviews are acceptable, with draconian fearmongering tactics.

If I hate you--for whatever reason--my loss. If I threaten or harm you based on that feeling, then I've crossed the line from having the right to my opinion (however ignorant or ill-advised) to transgressing against YOUR rights. And there are laws to protect you against that.
posted by rushmc at 9:02 PM on January 11, 2001


First, I don't support mandatory sentencing or "three striking and you're out"
rushmc...I don't understand how this going to lead to thought police. Please tell me how anyone one's opinion is being legislated or some one's freedom of expression is being threatened. There is no law against expresing one's opinion in a peaceful way. Need I point that recently the KKK marched and rallied in the mostly Jewish Chicago suburb of Skokie. In fact, the police had to restrain anti-KKK protesters and enforce the KKK members’ constitutional right to free speech. I hate the KKK, but respect their right to exercise their right to free speech and free assembly. No hate crime law prevented them form expressing their options. No one is talking about speech codes, which I absolutely hate. I understand your fears of an over controlling and intrusive government they are very valid, and I have those views too. Believe me, I agree with you 100%, the government as no right legislating speech or telling us what do, think, or how to live our lives. However, hate crimes laws do none of that.

posted by Bag Man at 10:23 PM on January 11, 2001


Mikewas is correct regarding the publishing of addresses. I don't know about defamation law in the US, but under English law it is the same. A newspaper will do this so to protect themselves. If your name is "John Smith" and you are a teacher in Wisconsin, you can be defamed if someone reads a newspaper which states that "John Smith" a teacher in Wisconsin is a child rapist and believes it is you. It only takes *one* person to believe it is you and you have been defamed. It does not matter if the newspaper did not intend to defame you or there is actually another "John Smith" who is a teacher in Wisonconsin who is a child rapist, if one person reads it and believes it was you, you have been defamed and can sue.

I don't particularly like hate crime legislation, but I think generally people are proscecuted under hate crime legislation because of their motive. The Wisconsin case in the link above is a classic example. It was premediated. It was not a spur of the moment attack. I don't prescribe to the 'a crime is a crime' argument. When you think about committing a crime then you go out and do it, I think this is vastly different from just committing a crime.

For Example, a bank robber who goes into the bank with a gun to rob it, and then there is a some kind of problem and a teller is shot. While they may have taken the gun into the bank, I don't think their intent was to kill the teller, there intent was to rob the bank only. However, if the robber walked straight up to the teller got the money and then blew off the teller's head their intent was not just to rob the bank.

I think though it should be up to the individual judge based on the circumstances and dislike mandatory sentences or the like. Also, I think it should be up to the prosecution to prove it was a hate crime.
posted by jay at 1:19 AM on January 12, 2001


Please tell me how anyone one's opinion is being legislated or some one's freedom of expression is being threatened.

I think it's more the underlying philosophy that offends me. *I* get to decide whether *your* beliefs/ideas are heinous or harmless. Followed to its logical conclusion, if we invented a mind-reading machine that could discern with perfect accuracy a criminal's motives, this would lead to differential sentencing for two people who committed the same crime based upon their motives for committing it (Crook 1 mugged Sarah because she had a heavy-looking purse; Crook 2, because she was Irish). Fundamentally, a crime is a crime. I don't think this completely precludes giving judges some leeway to interpret the specifics of a situation and modify the penalty accordingly, but the idea of a blanket intensification of punishment because of the dark worms squirming in a person's mind is unjust to me.
posted by rushmc at 7:10 AM on January 12, 2001


Bag Man, if the murderer sez "I'm gonna kill you, you dirty punk" and kills someone he gets, say, 50 yrs. But if he said "I'm gonna kill you, you dirty " and he gets 70, it's obvious the only determinent of his extra sentencing is his speech and non-violent actions prior to the act. His speech is being criminalized, w/ the proviso that this extra sentence can only be served in conjunction w/ another crime.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:14 AM on January 12, 2001


I have been sucked into this discussion too many times.

My only new thought on the subject: What if we apply the reasoning behind these laws to other things. You and I go to a baseball game. You like baseball, I do not. We both have the same experience, but you got something extra out of event. You should obviously pay more for your ticket. Despite our identical experience, your frame of mind is being taken into account.

Not a polished example, but I just thought of it.

It's always confusing to me anyway, I have found that most people for hate crime laws, are generally against the death penalty. What is it supporters want these laws to do? Trade one insulting sentence to a slightly less insulting sentence? But only for some? Anything I would consider a hate crime, would carry a death penalty. All crime is hateful, it does not take place without at least the criminal having contempt for the victim. We do not rob and harm those we love. All rape should be considered hate crime, shall we take the existing punishment and make it harsher now? Shouldn't it already be as harsh as the violation deserves?

I also believe it is insulting to the families of ordinary murder and what not, that some criminals would be treated more harshly than those who harmed their families. Justice is supposed to be blind, not peeking into peoples heads with a microscope. Punish the crime, not the thought.

Look for the reasoning that justifies Hate Crime laws being applied to protestors next, ie: you might be breaking a small law while protesting, but you are thinking treason.

Anybody want that?
posted by thirteen at 8:25 AM on January 12, 2001


"Hate crimes" are just another way of talking about taking motive into account, which is done in sentencing for almost all crimes. Most people (myself included) think a person who poisons his dad so that he can inherit his money deserves a worse punishment than someone who kills someone in a drunken brawl. Perhaps it's debatable whether killing someone because he's black deserves a worse punishment than killing someon to steal his wallet, but I don't think you can say that the whole question of motive is out of bounds and somehow amounts to legislating against "thought crimes".

You can also argue that someone who kills because he dislikes a certain group (blacks, gays, etc.) is more of a danger to society than someone who kills a specific person because of a specific hatred of the person. The person who kills a gay man just because he hates gays is a danger to all gays. The person who kills his wife because he hates her may not necessarily be a danger to all women.
posted by straight at 8:42 AM on January 12, 2001


Rats, let me try again.
But if he said "I'm gonna kill you, you dirty [insert racial epithet]" and he gets 70, it's obvious the only determinent of his extra sentencing is his speech and non-violent actions prior to the act. His speech is being criminalized, w/ the proviso that this extra sentence can only be served in conjunction w/ another crime.

posted by sonofsamiam at 8:45 AM on January 12, 2001


If a white male who hates all other white males because of their blindness to their own racism kills one of those white males, is that a hate crime?

Is it illegal (or will it be) to hate hate crimes?

Our legal system is based on civil rights. If you commit a crime you have violated some one’s rights

Off topic, but this statement can't be completely true. Whose rights have I violated if I grow or possess marijuana?
posted by daveadams at 9:37 AM on January 12, 2001


daveadams: you've violated the paper industry's right to damage our environment and create an expensive product.

Which is, unfortunately, only slightly tongue in cheek. One of the reasons marijuana was criminalized is because the plant can be used for so many things. Cloth and paper being some of the most noteable.

It's loopy side-effects were just a good way to label it as bad for society.
posted by cCranium at 10:54 AM on January 12, 2001


CCranium: not to mention racism (ding, ding, ding, word of the thread!) Marijuana was called hemp by the English at the time, and they began calling it marijuana to associate it w/ mexicans and blacks.
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:14 AM on January 12, 2001


I didn't know that aspect. I'm not especially suprised, a whole lot of dirty tricks were played to get the stuff criminalized, but this just saddens me that much more.
posted by cCranium at 12:20 PM on January 12, 2001


sonofsamiam...you seem like a smart person, so I can't understand why you can't see the difference between saying punish for saying something and being punish for doing something. Using threatening speech plus an affirmative action (just jargon for doing an action) does equal a crime, whether or not it was motivated by race, but simply using speech to say you "you dirt ******" is not, and should not, be against the law. Under hate crimes laws speech or though without with breaking a law is not, I repeat, not threatened.

Not only does a hate crime contain premeditation with more intent than a normal crime of passion, but that combined with a violation of person's rights that when you get a worse crime.

The above article should shows that these laws are are being applied to all points views and beliefs, and not just those that we deem "good." Besides, if you are WASP you are far less likely to even experience a hate crime that say a Jew, a black, a Hispanic, a homosexual, etc.
posted by Bag Man at 3:39 PM on January 12, 2001


?
posted by thirteen at 4:23 PM on January 12, 2001


Please tell me how anyone one's opinion is being legislated or some one's freedom of expression is being threatened.

If A = 2; and A + B = 3; Then B = 1

So

If Vandalism = 90 days; and vandalism expressing racial ignorance = 120 days; then expressing racial ignorance = 30 days.
posted by willnot at 5:27 PM on January 12, 2001


Well, thank you for the compliment, Bag Man, now I feel obligated to come back to this thread ;) I think willnot simplified what I was trying to say and said it more clearly. I do think premeditation should be taken into account when assigning sentences, but this specific application of these methods bothers me in a lot of ways.
Under hate crimes laws speech or though without with breaking a law is not, I repeat, not threatened.
If the speech and non-criminal actions of a murderer prior to the crime are taken into account in the trial and sentencing, then could we say these are part of the crime?
Seems so to me, so I'll assume that ;) (please correct me if not.) This seems very clearly to me to be very close to criminalizing racial (or anti-christian or whatever) speech.
Besides, if you are WASP you are far less likely to even experience a hate crime that say a Jew (...)
I don't see why that matters. Hate is hate, right? ("short people ain't got no reason to live, dum de doo") Now, I understand that these groups are placed in a more vulnerable position as far as prejudice goes, but I do not agree that hate crimes legislation is a good solution, just the opposite in fact.
As far as these laws being applied evenly across the board (to other groups besides racial and gay) goes, I feel it will even more severely limit our free speech down the road.
posted by sonofsamiam at 7:42 PM on January 12, 2001


Going waaaay back up there:

Generally sociopathic, sick people need treatment more than punishment, but hate crimes are understood to be rational choices made by sane, but hateful, people.

I don't see how someone can be "sane, but hateful." Surely these two mental states are mutually exclusive. I also don't see how anyone can be said to make a "rational" choice while under the influence of an emotion (e.g. hate).
posted by kindall at 7:43 PM on January 12, 2001


sonofsamiam, no one is criminalizing speech. In fact, the term "hate crimes" has no legal meaning at all, it's just colloquial expression. These statutes most likely, and I'll admit I have yet to take a real hard look at them, simply add a harsher penalty to crime that (no speech or thought must be involved) is motivated by hate toward any group. Speech is not being punished; it's just a person’s actions. A person’s speech is only used as evidence of a motive. Motive in any crime is taken into consideration. The Statutes don't assert that if at anytime in your like you make an off remark or joke and them of committed a crime you are guilty as all sin. But if you yelled “I hate all N****rs” will stabbing a black man, then that leads me to believe that passion or insanity had nothing to with the motivation for the crime. There are really no "hate crimes" that don't already exist; hence, no new crime types are being created. Besides, any statutes that created to curd speech, like saying "you can not express this belief or that belief under penalty of the law" would be in direct violation of the 1st amendment and should be struck down (and mostly would in about 10 seconds flat).

For example, I’m totally against speech codes (but that's tricky because it deals with action in colleges and universities…The main question is what are the rights of students residing on private property and dealing with internal college and university justice systems) and against most "hostile environment" restrictions (but that too is tick because they are mainly created by private businesses that often make these types of internal laws under the fear of lawsuits and not made government legislative bodies)

You could go the top of the tallest building in your town and shout "I hate all N****rs" and will not punished, no one is stopping anyone form doing things like that.

Sorry for the long and slightly tangential blog.
posted by Bag Man at 10:52 PM on January 12, 2001


If Vandalism = 90 days; and vandalism expressing racial ignorance = 120 days; then expressing racial ignorance = 30 days.
Exactly, wish I had thought to say that. Narrowly on topic, it takes the same effort to remove graffiti no matter what it says, and I imagine I would feel just the same no matter what it says. My area is suddenly getting tagged more heavily than it has in the past, nasty red scrawls of some crudely rendered street name. I don't imagine the little old ladies, or the local stores are particularly pleased the dirtbags responsible are in for a lighter sentence because some people think that they have been less injured.
posted by thirteen at 11:06 PM on January 12, 2001


Well, yes, I understand that speech is not being restricted now but I fear that laws like this are a step in the wrong direction. I gots no anecdotal evidence or anything, just bad feelings about the direction the court system is moving.
And I can't see how this will discourage further hate crimes, as it's been said already (and I agree) that hate is not rational, so how can we treat it as a regular motive? And if it's not rational, no amount of "discouragement" will change things. We need to attack the problem at it's social roots (I'm worried we're attacking the branches, "look out below!" smash!).
posted by sonofsamiam at 11:36 AM on January 14, 2001


There are two overarching reasons why hate crimes are Bad Ideas. First, they create thoughtcrime, which is close to pure evil. You are convicted and jailed based on what you think, or at least on what you think while you are committing another crime. (I know almost all hate crime laws are of the latter sort now, but I have no doubt that someone somewhere will attempt to create a law based purely on the former in the not-too-distant future. Driving through a black neighborhood with a confederate flag license plate on the front of your truck? I'm sorry sir, you'll have to come with me.)

Second, their implementation is racist. Practically all prosecutions under hate crime laws are of white males who did something to either blacks or Jews. Laws that end up being statistically overapplied to members certain races have been under attack for some time now. So these laws must be attacked also.
posted by aaron at 2:16 PM on January 14, 2001



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