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Off the Record (July 2, 2014)

THREE Point Arena High School students died Sunday morning in a 4am, single-car crash on Highway One near Sea Ranch. The three boys were coming home from a quinceanera and were northbound when Jhovani Gonzalez-Marquez, 18, of Gualala, lost control of his 1996 Acura Integra. According to CHP officer Hawkins, the car crossed into the oncoming lane, spun and slid sideways into a tree. “A low tree branch, combined with the vehicle slightly rolling over, crushed the interior cab of the Acura,” Hawkins said. Gonzalez-Marquez and his front-seat passenger, Aron Gonzalez-Marquez, 14, of Gualala, died on impact. A third passenger, 17-year-old Jason Alanis Marquez of Pacific Woods, was knocked unconscious and was flown by helicopter to Santa Rosa Memorial Hospital, where he died later Sunday. The cause of the crash is under investigation. Alcohol has not been ruled out as a contributing factor, Hawkins said.

GONZALEZ/MARQUEZ MEMORIAL FUND: Fundraising has been started to help offset funeral and other costs for our local boys (18-year-old Jhovani Gonzalez-Marquez, 14-year-old Aron Gonzalez-Marquez and 17-year-old Jason Alanis Marquez) who tragically lost their lives yesterday 6/29/14 in a horrible car accident near Sea Ranch. Online donations can be made at: There has also been an account set up at WestAmerica Bank under the name of Gonzales/Marquez Memorial Fund (#2204088005). We have had some local businesses step up to offer financial and other support for these families! To date: Pirates Cove Restaurant, Shoreline Restaurant, Heart of a Child Toy Store, DJ Yasmin (DJ services for the celebration of these boys’ lives). There were also counselors available today at Point Arena High School. Thank you for sharing this fundraising information to help these families in their time of need. —Janet Heenan, Gualala

THERE'S A SUSPICIOUSLY well-informed character calling him or herself 'Engr Rules' haunting the websites that discuss the Willits Bypass. This person attempts to refute pretty much everything Bypass opponents assert. If he doesn't work for Caltrans he seems to have up-to-the-minute access to the latest Bypass propaganda put out by Big Orange.

A WILLITS WOMAN named Julia Dakin, in person, confronted Geoffrey Wright of Caltrans with the accusation that Wright was 'Engr Rules.'

Geoffrey Wright, third from left [photo courtesy]
Geoffrey Wright, third from left [photo courtesy]
Caltrans' spokesman Phil Frisbie wrote to Dakin: “... After you visited him at the bypass construction office and accused him of being Engr Rules, and I am sure he is not. Caltrans employees have all been admonished that I am the only person who may speak for Caltrans to reporters and in social media. I do not even know for sure Engr Rules is a Caltrans employee; he might be an engineer working for our contractor, or he might even be the spouse or other close relative of an employee. Phil at Caltrans."

E. RULES has now appeared on the AVA website. This is the commenter who, last year on the FB board, said things like, and quoting from memory, “How could most of the traffic be local, there’s only 5,000 people in Willits?” Big bypass booster Phil Dow of MCOG, confirmed some years ago that the bypass would reduce traffic by 20 to 30 percent; Caltrans is now claiming there’ll be a 40 percent reduction of traffic (odd since studies done for Harris Quarry confirm that through traffic has gone down since the economic crash). But even using Caltrans’ sketchy 40 percent figure, “most of the traffic” remains local.

CALTRANS is on record in anticipation of a 20 to 30 percent reduction in traffic, though “E. Rules naturally prefers the 30 percent number. Caltrans is now saying 40 percent, based on some supposed updated study: but even using Caltrans’ figure, “most of the traffic” remains local.

FOR A NON-EMPLOYEE of Caltrans, E. Rules sure spends a lot of time on the 'net defending the agency's huge Bypass missteps. Some still assume he’s Geoffrey Wright, the engineer for the project. The anonymous commenter has denied actually working on the Bypass, but acknowledged being closely related to Caltrans. Comments like “only 5,000 people in Willits” make it seem like he’s not local. He’s very slippery: Facebook is a great venue for propagandists because you can say something different than you said a month ago and, if anyone even remembers the individual comment; it’s often really hard to find what was said or it can be deleted or edited out of its original meaning.

WE'VE GOT our ace techno-sleuths on the case. If “Engr Rules” does turn out to be a well-paid Caltrans employee, posting from a Caltrans server/posting from work, it could be argued that they’d given up their right to personal privacy along with the paycheck.

INDEED the first “E. Rules” comment on the AVA’s website originated from a Department of Transportation server ( or A subsequent comment from E. Rules arrived yesterday afternoon, this one coming from a Verizon Wireless server (perhaps indicating the use of an electronic mobile device, like a phone, pad or tablet).

UKIAH'S VENERABLE Water Trough bar at the south end of State Street, bar-tended and baby-sat for the last quarter century by the affable Larry Mayfield, will close in September. We're pretty sure it's the oldest bar in the County under one owner, Ted Schamber, who, until a few months ago, pulled a shift or two behind the plank himself until he got too old to report for active duty. There's a couple of old bars in Fort Bragg, maybe one legitimately old one in Willits, but the Trough pre-dates World War Two, as does Mr. Schamber, who has seen it all and then some.


PATRONA, the upscale eating place on the north end of the County Courthouse in Ukiah, has bought Schamber's liquor license, not that you're likely to see anybody at Patrona ordering up a shot and a beer. And then another one. And a third. Then just the shot. And what the hell, Larry, let's make a night of it. My, my. If the Trough's walls could talk we'd have the true history of Mendocino County just for the listening.

A READER WRITES: I saw that item you ran that quoted County CEO Angelo crowing that “agreement reached with Mendocino County Deputy Sheriff’s Association.” The item went on to say that “Negotiations formally began on September 3, 2013 and included nine bargaining sessions,” but that the agreement “largely extends the prior agreements and the 10% reduction with no enhancements to benefit or salary levels in the contract.” It concludes with “the term covers the one-year period since the expiration of the prior agreement on June 30, 2013.”HMMMMM. Let’s re-state that: We’ve been bargaining since September of last year over nine sessions on a contract that expires in two weeks that basically changes nothing. 

WHAT IS THIS, A negotiators full employment act? The next contract begins July 1, which is yesterday, when another round of negotiations will result in more negotiations? Small wonder that Mendocino County is facing what the CEO calls “an economic crisis.” Negotiations aren't cheap, and Mendo, despite its own office of tax-paid lawyers always goes for expensive outside attorneys to do the County's negotiating.

ON-LINE COMMENT OF THE MONTH: “I agree that there are some seriously ill people who find relief in using marijuana. The part I find disgusting is when people who are intent on sneaking in full legalization for recreational use wheel out the sick folks in a ploy for our compassion. And then everybody blows up huge fake medical greenhouses with xeroxed copies of recommendations for people 'suffering' who bought them from doctors who never saw them and if you ever point this out then growers turn on you like you're the asshole. It's a major shit show…all played out supposedly for some very sick people who should never be used like that."

COPPER THEFTS being a late-night industry of the Tweeker Community... On the morning of June 18th, a Mendo deputy took a report that copper fittings from fire hydrants at Nor Cal Wood Products, Ukiah, had been stolen. Ryan James Campbell, 39, of Redwood Valley, just happened to have sold brass fire hydrant fittings at a recycling center in Ukiah and had returned a few days later to cash in more copper fittings, converting them to cash under his own name. Campbell, soon arrested off the handy info he'd left with the recycling people, turned out to be on formal probation in Sonoma County for possession of stolen property. A search of Campbell's van lead deputies to discover yet even more copper fittings from fire hydrants belonging to the City of Ukiah and the Hopland Utility District.

TIM LINCECUM'S magnificent no-hitter last week was demeaned by Tim getting doused with a container of Gatorade, or whatever it was, just as he was about to be interviewed, post-game. These post-game dunks in football and baseball were unamusing the first time they happened, and now, gushers of liquid cancer later, we absolutely dread their inevitability. Ditto for cream pies in the face. Lincecum himself seemed very unhappy about it. He stormed off into the clubhouse to recover himself. Not that he would have said anything of much or any interest; jocks are now thoroughly trained in the art of words without meaning, and know they'll be pilloried if they deviate one word from clichés. But a no-hitter is a big event and should be treated with some solemnity, not slapstick.

JUNE WAS A BUSY CRIME MONTH for dear old Mendoland. Badged dope raiders visited a rural 160 acre parcel located off Oat Gap Road in Potter Valley, California where they found 4,692 marijuana plants, a small amount of processed marijuana, marijuana seeds, a digital scale, 27 firearms, which included a stolen assault rifle, and evidence that showed that Saul Hernandez, 43, of Potter Valley, was in control of the property. The stolen assault rifle was taken in a 2008 burglary at the home of a Petaluma Police Officer. Hernandez and Co. were also diverting water from adjacent BLM land, making his operation at least half a trespass grow.

THE STATE WATER BOARD, at its Tuesday, July 1st, meeting in Sacramento considered emergency regulations “to ensure timely compliance with orders to stop diverting water to prevent harm to senior water rights holders.” According to the Water Board’s analysis, fewer than a third of those ordered to curtail their water rights have provided proof that they are complying.

AS OF JUNE 17th, 79% of the water right holders who “received a notice to curtail (last month) had not returned a curtailment certification to demonstrate compliance.”

WITH MORE THAN 7,910 curtailment notices issued so far this year, almost all of them in the Russian River Watershed, the Water Board says it “must move quickly to enforce these water diversion restrictions or risk losing the ability to effectively manage the scarce water supply and prevent harm to senior water rights. Delays in enforcing curtailment orders also could mean that more curtailment orders than necessary would be needed to retain enough water in the system to protect senior water rights.”

UNDER THE BOARD’S PROPOSED regulations, the board would adopt “a more efficient, real-time process for enforcing ongoing curtailments. Rather than a curtailment notice, the regulations would allow the board to issue an enforceable curtailment order to limit or stop diversions and require reports to ensure compliance. Without the regulatory action, diverters could potentially delay compliance through procedural measures well into the dry season, or until no water remains.”

FURTHER, “When there is not enough water to meet all water rights holders' needs, state law requires that junior water rights holders stop diverting water so that there is water available to more senior water-rights holders: those with rights dating to before 1914 and those on riparian land directly abutting a waterway.”

DROUGHT compels the Water Board to anticipate “water requests for critical domestic supply and sanitation needs, and unintended health and safety consequences stemming from lack of water for fighting fires, electric grid reliability or air quality health impacts during pervasive drought conditions.”

THERE HAVE BEEN 1250 water rights issued for the Russian River above Healdsburg since Feb. 19, 1954, half of which are in Mendocino County. The water board has issued “curtailment orders” for 652 of those 1250, so about half of the 652, around 330, would be in Mendocino County. Some 40 of our noble sons of the soil get their water directly from the twenty percent of the water controlled by Mendocino County stored at Lake Mendocino. Ukiah Valley’s water districts (some of which supply vineyards as well) also get some of that 8,000. Sonoma County owns the rest.

IN OTHER WORDS, hundreds of permits for just a few dozen Mendocino vineyard owners in a jumble of arrangements that would confuse M.C. Escher. Not all water drawers need permits because they suck directly out of the river — “we don’t need no steenkeen permit.”

IN THEORY, domestic/drinking water is supposed to have priority and then the older permits are supposed to have priority over the newer ones. This, obviously, puts grape growers far down the priority list since most of their permits have been filed within the last two decades.

BUT THE BYZANTINE permit system the Water Board has evolved into is beyond management because it’s essentially an honor system which requires ungaged permit holders to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for permit paperwork but with no enforcement to speak of — other than the occasional gotcha notice to a small-draw permit holder; large-scale growers are de-facto exempt from the feeble existing regs.

WATER BOARD BUREAUCRATS have allowed this unmanageable arrangement to balloon to the point where they can’t do their basic job of ensuring drinking water for Ukiah Valley. The grape growers aren’t going to voluntarily give up their water and they and their lawyers will fight any real attempt to curtail water draws to the bitter end, and they'll probably win because they can afford to stay in court forever.

IF THE WATER BOARD and grape growers had done what former water board staffer Bruce Fodge proposed back in the 90s: a strict diversion season, limited pipe sizes with gages on all pipes, and a minimum flow requirement before pumping, most of this expensive and unwieldy permit system would be unnecessary and much more fair, especially during a drought. (And perish the thought of what the Napa River has: an independent water master in charge of water allocations.) As it is, however, the Russian River will go dry and Ukiah will die of thirst before any reasonable cutbacks are imposed.

ONE OF SEIU'S major complaints about its labor negotiations with the County of Mendocino is the County's alleged “lack of transparency.” But when Lisa Garcia and Mariam Noujaim tried to get the union to cough up the travel and related perks for SEIU big shots, they have to sue to get them. “I do not trust my officers are spending my dues money for my best interest. Why spend $62 million to negotiate our contract? I suspect they splurge member dues on perks. Just like the City officers in Bell and elsewhere,” said Noujaim. (Remember when Harry Bridges was paid no more than everyone else in the Longshoreman's union?)

RECOMMENDED READING, SORT OF. It's hard reading, but not as hard as Marx. Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty. Given the huge subject matter — it's about who's got the money in the world — Capital is written in mostly readable style by a modest man who consistently qualifies his conclusions with “I may be wrong” or “data incomplete.” The conclusion that Piketty doesn't qualify is the one most reasonable people agree on: That global wealth is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands, and that if wealth continues to accumulate in fewer hands we can kiss even the hope of democracy goodbye.

I'D SAY DEMOS took a permanent hike during Bill Clinton's deregulating of the financial markets, and we former citizens are now mere digits in a (so far) more or less benign oligarchy. Piketty, unlike Marx who came to most of the same conclusions 150 years ago, doesn't see violent revolution as the only way to stop THEM.

PIKETTY suggests a “ten percent global tax on capital,” a proposal he characterizes as “utopian,” although given the growing chasm between the mega-rich, a ten percent tax on big money is a pittance. But given the full-on ownership of our political system by the rich, never mind Japan and the moneybags of Europe and places you don't think of as rich like Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, China and so on, even the smallest tax adjustment has the One Percent and their “elected” reps and their media gofers howling “confiscation.”

I'VE NOTICED that several reviews of Capital in the Twenty-First Century suggest that a serious tax on big capital would somehow go to the lowest income earners in one-time payouts, which is a howlingly literal way to read what Piketty is saying, but not surprising coming from the mostly kept intellectuals who write about economics.

A TEN PERCENT TAX on the very rich in this country alone, if that miracle came to pass, would, we would assume, fund a massive New Deal-like program that put people to work tuning up the country's infrastructure and doing all sorts of useful stuff that now is starved of funding by the One Percent. Which is what the New Deal did via fair taxation before the rich reversed fair taxation to no real taxation on them at all, which is what we have now. As Piketty points out much more elegantly, people don't just lie down and die in the context of ever tightening injustice, people cause Big Trouble.

AN UNCHARACTERISTICALLY CRITICAL Supervisor Dan Gjerde was the only person at last June 17th’s Board of Supervisors discussion of the latest Mental Health Board report who didn't participate in the otherwise self-congratulatory happy-talk surrounding the report. “I want the other Supervisors to know that I continue to hear concerns on the Coast about the quality or lack thereof of adult mental health services on the Coast. We keep hearing that things are going to get better or that they're going to get better at some point. But I'm not really hearing that it is getting better from the parents of these people, these adults with mental health issues. By contrast, they say that the children's mental health services are in pretty good shape on the Coast. So really it's the adult services on the Coast that seem to be lacking and needs to be improved. When I say parents, these are parents of people who are in their 20s and 30s and 40s but who are causing pretty major traumatic situations involving people who end up in the emergency room. Then somebody comes that the county has designated and says, Oh the person is fine. And they are not fine and nothing is done about it. So it's like this revolving mess basically. It's pretty tragic, pretty sad. I feel like the County needs to step this up a bit."

GJERDE is generally not one to complain unless he's satisifed himself that something is genuinely wrong, so you'd think that his complaints would lead to a discussion of what could be done to improve adult mental health services on the Coast. But you'd be wrong.

SUPERVISOR JOHN McCOWEN quickly pooh-poohed Gjerde's remarks saying there are funding shortfalls all over and there's always room for improvement but that things had improved and were improving since last July when the County privatized mental health services. Supervisors Pinches and Hamburg congratulated themselves and the mental health board for having representatives from more places around the County than in the past, as if that had anything to do with poor adult mental health services on the Coast. Sheriff Allman said he and the County's three police chiefs thought that crisis response has improved since mental health services were privatized last summer. But generally, the cops are just glad that the crazy people they have to pick up are turned over to what Gjerde calls “somebody the County has designated” and off their hands. In the past the cops had to wait for hours after they dropped a crazy person at the emergency room. Now, under privatization, they don’t have to wait long for the newly privatized “somebody the County has designated” to come and release the crazy person (and save themselves a lot of time and money), so as far as the cops are concerned things are better.

WE’VE HEARD some of the same stories Gjerde has. But to break through the self-congratulations among the helping classes and their funders in Ukiah, Gjerde would have to take the time and trouble to document the problems he’s heard and have those parents he’s talking about come forward before any of his fellow officials will take any action. If then.

IN CASE YOU'RE WONDERING, and if you reach my years it does cross one's mind, according to the British National Health Service if you are between the ages of 65-75 you are among the young elderly; 75-85, you are elderly; over 85 you are very definitely old and living on borrowed time. Who the lender is remains the Big Question.

SATURDAY'S SF CHRONICLE featured the paper's bi-annual think piece on the thousands of drunks, drug addicts and crazy people living on the streets, concluding that there's so many of them they'll never all be housed, let alone confined to treatment facilities where some of them might be redeemed.

THESE STORIES never, ever mention the political roots of the homeless “problem,” which are really quite evident and boil down to the grim fact that the rightwing, with the usual acquiescence of the libs, has so discredited and starved government that nothing can be done in the present context. Cruelty became policy in California with Reagan, who, among his many other crimes against the true public interest, dismantled the state hospital system, always getting big laughs from his wealthy admirers by making stupidly smug little jokes: “Hi, I'm from the government and I'm here to help.”

GOVERNMENT never helps, you see. It only makes things worse. Do away with government and its taxes and everything magically gets better. Like it is now with at least ten thousand persons, including, according to the Chronicle, a thousand or so children, living on the streets of San Francisco, most of them clustered in the downtown area.

AND THERE REALLY is a large bloc of advocates who themselves benefit from a permanent class of dependent persons. The much lauded Reverend Cecil Williams of SF has grown rich operating poverty programs, and he's hardly the only person making a handsome living doing good. Williams lives in Diamond Heights, not anywhere near the Tenderloin site of his ministrations. Of course he, as are all the most prominent homeless “advocates,” tight with the Democratic Party apparatus.

THE ONLY SOLUTION to homelessness is federal funding for a revival of state-by-state hospitals and clinics, along with a federally-funded jobs program to staff them. That miracle could only occur out of a broad political movement that refused to allow millions of mentally crippled persons, unable or unwilling to help themselves, live on American streets. I'm sure this agitation will be right at the top of the Democrat's agenda in the next round of Who Gets To Be Lead Serf to the Oligarchs.

ANOTHER HIGHLY IRRITATING piece in Saturday's Chron was an obtuse column by C.W. Nevius called, “Why the Mentally Ill Need Laura's Law.” Nevius begins, “God bless San Francisco's far-left activists,” and goes on to blame this non-existent entity for preventing the adoption of Laura's Law in San Francisco. (A few paragraphs later Nevius trades “far left” for “ultra-progressives.”) If the now-mythical “far left” would get out of the way, according to Nevius, and let the great humanitarians of the superior courts work out individual treatment plans with the helping professionals, the open air insane might begin to get help.

THE PROB with Laura's Law is precisely its lack of compulsion. Under Laura's Law, it's up to the individual crazy person to take his meds and voluntarily report regularly to his helping pro for “therapy.” If you're like me, you probably know fifty neurotics who can't be relied on to take their pills and show up on time for mental re-tooling. A person who has taken flight from all known realities can't cope on any level. He needs to be sequestered for help; he can't be depended on to depend on himself. Which is where our non-existent system of hospitals and clinics normally would kick in — you know, the system they have in all the rest of the wealthy countries of the world.

BACK WHEN WORDS still had meaning, and the Chronicle still employed editors committed to meaning, writers like Nevius wouldn't have gotten away with terms and concepts promulgated by Fox News, Murdoch and the rest of them over the past quarter century. There isn't a left in this country. There was one up through the 1950s but it had faded into ineffectual cliques by the end of the 1960s. The rightwing has so demonized liberals as real or latent bolsheviks, that people like the Clintons and Pelosi, multi-millionaires as devoutly wed to private fortune as any 19th century tycoon, are now plausibly called socialists!

“ULTRA-PROGRESSIVE” doesn't mean anything. Maybe to some people it means Super-Liberal, meaning liberals who are so unreasonable they're gone over in to ultra-whatever. But the people I hear using “progressive” to describe themselves and their friends are liberals who are embarrassed to be identified as Democrats, people who understand that Democrat, in practice, means moderate Republican. (And Republican means only slightly less nutty than Tea Party.)

ACCORDING to the last election results on the Northcoast, about 10 percent of the vote was cast by people who might be called leftists and could certainly be described as progressives. Most of the vote went to a conservative liberal Democrat representing endless war and oligarchy named Huffman. Us progs voted for Solomon, who represented a social dream based on anti-imperialism abroad and economic equity here at home. Half of the citizens eligible to vote didn't vote, and they're the half not represented by either political party but would be Solomon-ites if they weren't so estranged from the system they don't even think that government might do things that would make their lives easier. In living fact, the non-voters are correct. The Republican Party is overtly hostile to most of them while the Democrats are too because they don't vote for More of the Same.

CAL FIRE reports the death Sunday morning near Elk of an abalone diver. No identification of the deceased has been released but he is known to have been with three friends from San Francisco. All four were rock picking abalone without wet suits or other protective gear when the missing man was carried off by a wave. Volunteer rescue crews from Elk, Mendocino, Cal Fire, a Coast Guard cutter out of Noyo Harbor, and two helicopters all assisted in the attempt to recover the missing man's body.

POOR UPPER-LEVEL MANAGEMENT and the absence of predictable funding continue to plague state parks, always a matter of great concern in Mendocino County where our state parks draw thousands of visitors and locals alike every year. This year, Parks enjoys a total budget of $428 million in an overall state budget of $108 billion. While more open space has been added to Parks domain, allocations from the state's general fund have not kept pace. The upshot could be more “public-private partnerships” and ever higher user fees.

ABS WILL GET A BREAK. The popular mollusk that is. You should continue working on your abs. As of Tuesday, July 1st, no abalone taking until the season resumes August 1st.

IT SEEMS miraculous to me that there are any abalone left on the Mendocino Coast given the numbers of people harvesting them. We won't even get into the poachers. But we hear rumors that thieves are more committed than ever to supplying lucrative city markets. They sneak across private property then nimbly rappel down cliffs to relatively virgin beds of abalone, which can fetch as much as $80 per where hunger for it is greatest.


  1. Lazarus July 5, 2014

    Talk is, a certain Congressman Huffman called the Army corp and put the Kibosh to the bypass build. He allegedly demanded a suspension of the permits…..same guy is supporting Holly Madrigal for 3rd District, strange how these things cut both ways…..
    Whether you like the road or not, they say for every day it’s stopped we pay 100K……It’s time to get out of the weeds with this thing and finish up.

    • chewsome July 5, 2014

      If Congressman Huffman did not lean on USACE to suspend Willits bypass permits, why not? Huffman had pledged on air to KZYX listeners last year, that he was concerned with environmental laws being adhered to, and would make good to put his foot down.

      A year of violations have occurred with no remediation funding nor completion date in sight. Why has Huffman gone along blindly with the destruction bind?

      As far as unending daily financial bleeding without bypass completion, how were the Caltrans bypass contracts rigged or not, with the onsite construction firms who could then collude to violate environmental laws while being indemnified or not by Caltrans, so the wetland project impact components would bog down while the firms reap daily standby pay into the unknown future.

      Speaking of which, what about the Mendocino Council of Governments (MCOG) cost share contribution of its earmarked Surface Transportation Improvement Act (STIP) funding that went into the bypass. There is a percentage formula at work of local match, and more local earmarked funds could be required sooner than later.

      This could stop funding of county roads, except from funds already earmarked and banked, and from yearly county property tax assessment funds that are stretched thin.

      If you look statewide there are many critical road funding projects that are actually needed and hamstrung without resources, such as further widening of 101 at Sonoma – Marin counties.

      And federally, the Highway improvement funding coffers are running out. An appeal is out to raise the per gallon tax for on road motor vehicle fuel, which could be decided as soon as next few weeks.

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