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VISIONS OF LATINO CULTURES, “AQUÍ Y ALLÁ”

The acclaimed documentary feature HARVEST OF EMPIRE screens at Two River Theater Sunday night as part of a three-day Vision Latin-American Film Festival at locations around Monmouth County. 

By TOM CHESEK

Its performance spaces may have gone momentarily dark between mainstage productions — but this weekend, Red Bank’s Two River Theater becomes one of the newest participating hosts for an arts event that’s primed to connect with some new audiences: the annual Vision Latin American Film Festival.

A presentation of the Latino Coalition of New Jersey — the nonprofit organization that’s hosted the annual Latino Festival of Monmouth County in Freehold Borough since 2005 — the newly expanded program offers up a slate of seven feature-length dramatic and documentary films selected to increase the understanding and appreciation for the various Latino cultures that thrive in New Jersey.

“Through the eyes of the filmmakers, we will see Latino perspectives on relationships, politics, family, religion and customs that surround their lives,” the coalition says in its press materials for the filmfest, which will feature introductions by guest speakers as well as post-screening Q&A discussions.

The celebration of Latino cinema has forged a separate identity from the summertime festival in Freehold, with a two days/ three nights schedule of recent works from North and South America that screens this weekend in three different Monmouth County locations — including Two River Theater Company’s branded Bridge Avenue artspace.

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BOYS & GIRLS CLUB, STRAPPED, SEEKS HELP

Kids in the after-school Child Care program play a game at the Red Bank unit of the Boys & Girls Club Wednesday. (Photos by Danielle Tepper. Click to enlarge)

By DANIELLE TEPPER

On a typical weekday afternoon, a visitor to the Boys & Girls Club in Red Bank might find a handful of kids keeping happily busy inside the modest building on Drs. James Parker Boulevard. This is their after-school hangout, where they play games, get homework help, and relax before their parents pick them up after work.

Many families in the borough depend on this program, especially in these hard economic times, to keep their kids off the streets and engage their minds. But the club, which took over the borough-owned building – formerly Bizarro’s bar  – at the corner of Bridge Avenue just three years ago, is struggling, say club officials and supporters. They’re making the financial situation the focal point of the year’s programming plans.

“There are so many lucky people in Monmouth County with really comfortable lives, but others are far less fortunate,” said Nicole Corre, a borough resident who is raising money for the club through her participation in this year’s New York City Marathon. “So many kids get to spend their summers at beach clubs or nice sleep-away camps, but the small respite these kids have at the Boys & Girls Club is fading away. Where do they have to go?”

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TWO RIVER AGAIN SHOWCASES LATINO WORKS

Director and curator Jerry Ruiz, playwright Tanya Saracho and actor-writer Carlo Albán return to Red Bank for the second annual CROSSING BORDERS festival Thursday through Sunday at Two River Theater.

When the event known as Crossing Borders makes its second annual stand at Red Bank’s Two River Theater this week, it will do more than roll into town with a precious cargo of four new works by Latino playwrights. It will cross between matters of cultural curiosity and personal identity — and it will cross over into some surprising settings that range from chilly Wisconsin to some of the lesser known stretches of Sesame Street.

A follow-up to last year’s successful series, Crossing Borders takes over the black-box Marion Huber space at the Bridge Avenue arts center for four days between Thursday, June 28 and Sunday, July 1 — a four-day interval in which audiences will be treated to “bare bones” readings of acclaimed new plays, bookended by public-welcome parties, and all presented free of charge.

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DOWNTOWN RED BANK COMES OFF THE ROPES

The recent opening of Lucki Clover, above, in a Broad Street space vacated last September, is seen as one of many indicators of a strengthening comeback.  (Click to enlarge)

By JOHN T. WARD

Rcsm2_010508Without question, the losses have been significant.

Over the past six months, as the global, national and regional economies have struggled to emerge from the wreckage of the 2008 credit meltdown, Red Bank’s retail market has continued to absorb hard-to-shake-off business departures.

Primas Home Cafe. Willy’s Cheesesteaks. Soapmarket. Later this month, Surray Luggage, a Broad Street fixture, will hold a liquidation sale.

But more so than in the recent past, the downtown real estate market has been marked by two noteworthy trends: faster refilling of storefronts, and the end of several key, longtime vacancies.

What’s it all add up to? In a word, recovery, says at least one downtown Churn watcher.

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ATRIUM ADDITION HITS GROUND RUNNING

atrium-lotA makeover of the vacant lot in the foreground is slated to begin shortly after the start of construction of six-story structure between the two Riverside Avenue high-rises in the distance. (Click to enlarge)

[See corrections at the bottom of this article]

Construction of an addition to the upscale Atrium at Navesink Harbor senior-citizens residence in Red Bank is expected to start next week with nearly all 60 units spoken for, according to officials at Springpoint Senior Living.

Long before the build-out is complete, however, an eyesore lot at the fork of West Front Street and Riverside Avenue will be transformed into a green-trimmed parking area for use by Atrium residents – and attended by valets, says company chief financial administrative officer Chuck Mooney.

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DIVERSITY PLEDGE MAKES ROOM FOR ATHEISM

inclusive-signRed Bank has adopted a diversity statement as a “tremendous strength and asset to the community.” (Photo by Dustin Racioppi; click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

The Red Bank Human Relations Committee must’ve thought it had all its bases covered when it drafted a diversity statement and sent it along to the borough council for adoption last week.

But even though it was a “wonderful gesture,” said resident Stephen Mitchell, the statement, which highlights the borough’s acceptance of diversity, was missing one contingent to make it fully embracing: non-believers.

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CBS DROPS IN ON THE OTHER SIDE OF JERSEY

roccaMo Rocca interviewed Rumson Mayor John Ekdahl back during shorts weather for an upcoming piece for CBS Sunday Morning. (Click to enlarge)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

New Jersey, it seems, is always on the defensive. There’s the ‘Jersey stinks‘ stigma, and while we have the small luxuries of pork roll sandwiches and not having to pump our own gas, the Garden State can’t quite get past the perception that it’s a dump with mafia ties and is a breeding ground for ultra-tanned, fist-pumping troublemakers.

In reality, all one really has to do is stop looking at photo galleries glamorizing the bronzed figureheads and TV shows celebrating jaw-dropping indulgence and take a trip to a place without a boardwalk or parkway rest stop.

Like, say, Rumson.

CBS News did, and on an upcoming Sunday morning plans to air a piece showcasing all this affluent community has to offer: shoreline tranquility, a bustling business district, horse-and-carriage rides, speed-boating on the Navesink — you know, the typical wintertime stuff.

But the story is not that CBS made this discovery a half-year ago, nor was it interviewer Mo Rocca‘s yacht club-ish outfit, a pink Oxford and baby blue shorts.

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RED BANK GOES TWEET, TWEET, TWEET

preston-twitterPreston Porter is the “social media chef” for Basil T’s and Undici restaurants. (Photo by Dustin Racioppi)

By DUSTIN RACIOPPI

Chicago may be a toddlin‘ town, but Red Bank is tweetin.’

A new study shows that the borough has one of the highest densities of Twitter users in New Jersey, coming in ninth overall among its towns and cities. According to the independent study, conducted by the communications and publications firm Jaffe Communications, Red Bank has 17.61 users per 1,000 people.

Twitter’s 140-character message limit fits a broad spectrum of users, and you can tell by a simple search who in town is taking advantage of it — store owners, professionals, bands, students. redbankgreen, for example, touts each new article under @redbankgreenman.

“It’s become part of the everyday language,” said Tom Sullivan, a web developer who lives in Middletown and works on Broad Street. Read More »

REPORT: CINDY McCAIN TO VISIT RUMSON

MccainsSen. John and Cindy McCain, Jersey-bound.

Trailing in three recent New Jersey polls, the wife of Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain is set to visit a GOP redoubt next week: Rumson, where no Democrat is said to have been elected to the local governing body in the town’s 101-year history.

The planned visit was reported on the PolitickerNJ blog.

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‘STATEN ISLAND? SURE. WHAT EXIT?’

MennapringlePringle, right, in his capacity as Red Bank’s borough attorney, with Mayor Pasquale Menna at a 2007 meeting.

Eating crow, Belmar Mayor Ken Pringle says he’ll accept an invitation to tour Staten Island for a day to make amends for stereotyping of island residents and other visitors to his hometown.

Pringle also tells the Asbury Park Press he’ll quit writing the newsletter that blew up in his face when he characterized some Belmar tourists as “guidos” and epoxy-haired, cat-fighting women from Staten Island.

Pringle’s faux-pas generated widespread media attention, including a New York Post article that labeled him a “beach bum” from a “two-bit Jersey beach town.”

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YO, PRINGLE’S PROSE RAISES EYEBROWS

Img_4227Ken Pringle at a 2007 Red Bank meeting.

Belmar Mayor (and Red Bank Borough Attorney) Ken Pringle is in the hotseat today for what he calls a “tongue-in-cheek” newsletter and at least one visitor to his town calls the work of “a misogynistic racist.”

In the July 4 edition of the “Belmar Summer Rental News” posted on the Belmar website and distributed in printed form, at Pringle’s cost, to rental houses in the beach town, the mayor pokes fun at Staten Islanders, blondes and “guidos” who populate the town’s bars and beaches in the summer.

Here’s an excerpt from Pringle’s account of a fight between a Staten Island woman and another from Boonton in D’Jais bar:

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CROWD EXPECTED FOR CONSULATE VISITORS

Large numbers of undocumented Mexican immigrants are expected to begin lining up outside the Red Bank Charter School as early as this evening for a five-day visit by employees of the Mexican Consulate in New York beginning tomorrow.

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Thirteen consulate employees will be on hand from Wednesday through Sunday to process requests for Mexican passports and consular ID cards, says Diana Litwin, a volunteer who’s helping organize what’s billed as ‘the Mexican Consulate on Wheels.’

The documents, says Litwin, in no way change the holder’s citizenship status. Rather, they provide Mexican nationals with basic identification for use in everything from banking to healthcare, and enable holders to obtain federal taxpayer ID numbers from the IRS so they can pay taxes.

“They’re already here, so tax them,” says Litwin. “When they work in restaurants and they have tax ID numbers, their bosses can put them on the payroll and hey can begin paying taxes.”

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WOMAN CHARGED IN COP IMPERSONATION

Just_in

Red Bank police have charged a Tinton Falls woman in a string of cases in which she’s alleged to have pretended to be either a federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency officer.

Maria Collins, 41, of Buford Place is in he Monmouth County lockup facing charges of robbery and impersonating an officer.

According to Capt. Steve McCarthy, borough police were summoned shortly before noon Sunday to the corner of Bridge Avenue and Chestnut Street, where a 31-year-victim reported that she’d been stopped by a woman driving a car who had demanded to see her identification.

The woman in the car “displayed what appeared to be a handgun,” took the victim’s purse and fled in the car, McCarthy said.

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RARE DEMS SHOW THEIR FACES IN RUMSON

Last November, redbankgreen ran a feature on the paucity of Democrats in Rumson, where no member of the party is believed to have won elective office in the borough’s 101-year history.

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Now, two examples of “the rarest of species, which hasn’t been seen here for 25 years,” have been sighted amid the borough’s chateaux and luxe lawns, today’s Asbury Park Press reports. And they’re seeking office on a platform that for too many years, the town’s governing body has spoken with a single voice.

From the Press:

The Rumson Democrat has resurfaced in the form of two council candidates, Michael Steinhorn and Fred Blumberg, who say their mission is to bring a bipartisan presence to what they contend is a government locked up by one party. They face incumbent Republicans Shaun Broderick and Robert Kammerer, who counter that current council members are independent thinkers acting for the good of the borough.

“We’re starting with the bipartisan issue,” said Steinhorn, 60. “We’re looking for a sense of fairness, a sense of democracy, inclusion as opposed to exclusion. I think a lot of people feel excluded.”

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AFFORDABLE HOUSING ISSUE SLOWS PLAN

DetailAn architectural rendering of George Coffenberg’s proposed retail and residential project, with West Street in the foreground and Oakland Street at right. The Monmouth Street side would have four-story buildings.

A mixed retail and residential project proposed for Monmouth and West streets hit a speed bump last night enroute to possible approval by the Red Bank Planning Board.

At issue is a question towns all over New Jersey are grappling with the in the aftermath of a state appeals court decision of 13 months ago. The court upended rules drawn up by the state Council on Affordable Housing, saying that COAH had miscalculated the need for so-called “affordable housing” while hindering, rather than fostering, its creation.

Now, having pretty much come to terms with developer George Coffenberg over building design, access to an underground garage, landscaping and other matters, the borough has decided to call in its planning expert to referee dispute over which rules, exactly, apply while the state is in the midst of proposing new ones.

Coffenberg’s attorney, Wayne Peck, contends that the builder cannot be obligated by the borough as a condition of plan approval to provide any so-called “affordable” units among the 20 that the project calls for. The borough contends… well, it doesn’t know exactly where things stand, and needs expert advice, says board attorney Michael Leckstein.

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RUSSIAN CONGREGATION IN COMEBACK

Img_1834St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on Pearl Street.

By TOM CHESEK

At 1p tomorrow, one of Red Bank’s best-kept cultural secrets is scheduled to step into public view, bringing with it a millenium of tradition.

A procession of worshippers and local dignitaries led by the the Very Reverend Archpriest Serge Lukianov will leave St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church at 15 Pearl Street carrying brilliant banners and icons. They’ll file past the Rite Aid and Dunkin’ Donuts, cross West Front Street past the crisply corporate Hovnanian Enterprises headquarters to the foot of Maple Avenue for a blessing of the waters ceremony that will culminate with the release of white doves over the Navesink.

The rite is an integral part of the Orthodox observance of the Feast of the Epiphany each January 19, commemorating the baptism of Jesus in the River Jordan, as well as the appearance of the dove symbolizing the Holy Spirit.

For Lukianov and his congregation, however, the occasion also marks something of a rebirth; a re-entry into the mainstream of a 53-year-old community that had all but dwindled into extinction as recently as a year ago.

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BURGLARY SUSPECT ARRESTED, OUT ON BAIL

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A suspect whose escape in the Dec. 10 burglary of a Catherine Street home was said to be witnessed by neighbors has been arrested, according to police Capt. Steve McCarthy, head of the detective bureau.

Milo Rainey, 28, who police said lives in both Red Bank and Keansburg, was arrested by Red Bank Ptl. Juan Sardo on Dec. 20 and charged with burglary, theft and criminal mischief.

Municipal Court Judge William Himelman set bail at $55,000, and Rainey was released on bond the same day, McCarthy said.

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SUPER EXPECTS BOOST UNDER NEW PLAN

Lmorana1

By TIM HATHAWAY

The extra $368,000 in state funding that Red Bank schools received last year may have been a windfall, but schools Superintendent Laura Morana says there should be even more in the kitty this year.

According to Morana, the state will put more funding towards full-time preschool for three to four-years-olds, at-risk youth and limited English proficiency (LEP) students under the widely anticipated new school funding formula. The Corzine administration is expected to announce the specifics of the plan as early as next week.

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MERCHANTS: TIFFANY WILL HELP, NOT HURT

Img_8228A customer tries on a bracelet at an opening-night reception at Tiffany & Co.’s Broad Street store earlier this month.

The Asbury Park Press today pops in on store owners in downtown Red Bank to gauge their feelings about the recent arrival of Tiffany & Co., and finds the welcome mat is out.

In fact, writes business reporter David Willis, “other businesses in town have showered the store with flowers and gifts.”

“They have been dropping in to see the store,” said store manager Vicky Shortland. “Just very welcoming.”

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BOROUGH’S VIOLENT CRIMES SOARED IN ’06

The numbers of rapes, robberies, aggravated assaults, burglaries and larcenies reported in Red Bank soared from 2005 to 2006, according to new crime data released today by the State Police.

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The 2006 Uniform Crime Report shows that the violent crime rate in the borough spiked to 4.2 incidents per thousand residents, from 2.4 incidents per thousand in 2005. Download uniform_crime_report_2006.pdf

The nonviolent crime rate was also up steeply, to 27.5 incidents per thousand, from 22.4.

Fifty violent crimes were reported last year, up from 29 in 2005. The most recent data include five reported rapes, up from 2, and 27 robberies, up from 13. There were no murders.

Overall, the number of reported crimes soared to 377, from 297, a 27 percent increase.

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Q&A ON LANGUAGE, AND MORE

Lmorana1

As a teenaged immigrant from Ecuador, Laura C. Morana learned English the old-fashioned way. No English as Second Language classes, no bilingual ed, just grind-it-out translations of her biology and algebra lessons, watching TV and talking to fellow students at Irvington High School. In this, she was pushed by her parents.

“They were very supportive and knew the need for us, and them, to learn it,” she says.

Today, her life experience as an immigrant and career educator gives Morana a perspective not often heard in the debate about the rising number of Hispanic students in American schools. For starters, she says, it’s wrong to assume, as some critics do, that new Americans don’t want to learn English.

“They may settle in language communities, but we can’t generalize,” she says. “It depends on level of education and aspiration for their kids. Young families here are learning English. They want that for their kids.”

Morana, who recently completed her first year as Superintendent of Schools in Red Bank, sat down with redbankgreen‘s Linda G. Rastelli earlier this week to talk about language education, the importance of “rigorous curriculum,” and what she’s doing to control costs.

As the new school year begins, what are the top three issues that the Red Bank school system is confronting?

The biggest challenge is the enhancement of our language arts literacy program, focusing our instruction in reading and writing, from pre-K to 8th grade. [Second,] enhancing the rigor of the middle school curriculum, for one thing by establishing an honors program. The third would be the ongoing assessment of student learning, which has been in place but not as comprehensive as it could be.

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HALFACRE ON RIVER ROAD: SLOW THE CARS

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By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Fourteen months ago, the Municipal Land Use Center, a federally-funded, anti-sprawl think tank based at the College of New Jersey in Ewing, chose eight central New Jersey towns to share in $300,000 to come up with ways to make their communities more livable. Fair Haven was among them.

Using its $40,000 grant, the borough is now in the midst of a “visioning” process to determine, among other goals, how to make its bifurcated business district — half old-fashioned downtown, half a hodgepodge of strip malls and car-centric stores — more appealing to pedestrians and bicyclists. The Project for Public Spaces, a not-for-profit planning group from New York, has been leading a series of public forums, seeking input.

Mike Halfacre, a lifelong Fair Haven resident and avid bicyclist (he’s competed in numerous triathalons), is in his first year as mayor. He spoke to redbankgreen about the visioning effort last week at his office in Little Silver, where he practices real estate law.

What’s so special about Fair Haven that it was selected for the grant program?

Fair Haven has some unique challenges. The other recipients of the grant were all predominantly cities with downtowns that are much more developed than Fair Haven’s. We’ve a blank slate, in a way.

Our main street is a very busy road and we want to sort of reverse engineer it and make it a more pedestrian friendly place. I think that’s what attracted [the Municipal Land Use Center] — the opportunity to effect some pedestrian-oriented advancements.

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COMMUNITY CENTER BACKERS BRING IT

Linda_clarkLinda Clark makes the case for a town center.

The idea of creating a community center at a Red Bank-owned building on the West Side is one that “needs plenty more discussion,” children’s activist David Prown told a crowded Borough Council meeting last night.

Then he proceeded to introduce more than a dozen speakers — including social services providers, volunteers and average Joe residents — who made the case for creating such a center, whether or not it is based in the soon-to-be vacated building at the corner of Drs. Parker Boulevard and Bridge Avenue.

Some invoked the specter of the recent triple homicide in Newark as a warning of what can happen when kids don’t have the kinds of services that a community center can provide.

A woman who volunteers with the Pop Warner football program lamented an absence of activities to engage boys after the season ends. Several speakers said they favored moving the the Parks & Rec Department to the site from its current offices in a trailer on Chestnut Street to boost program visibility and participation, while others envisioned it as a a clearinghouse of sorts for referrals for everything from healthcare to jobseeking.

What was unmistakable in it all was a sense of a void.

“There’s never that one central location where we can all grow,” Linda Clark, of River Street, told the council. “Even if this is not the one, I think we have a lot of people behind you guys to find that one location.”

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IN THE HOUSE: A NEW PATH FOR FRESHMEN

Berry

By LINDA G. RASTELLI

Being a freshman is hard, says Red Bank Regional ninth-grader Jamar Berry.

Coming from the cozy confines of the Red Bank Charter School, “it took me a long while to adapt,” Berry says. “I’m doing good now, but just getting to classes on time was difficult because the building is so big.”

That sense of challenge, of course, is often not limited to the scale of one’s surroundings. Freshmen can feel lost in a much larger pool of students than they’re used to, and overwhelmed by higher academic expectations and heavier workloads.

“High school students actually make the decision how the rest of their high school career is going to go, according to research, in the ninth grade,” says RBR principal Jim Stefankiewicz, himself finishing out his first year at the school’s helm.

“It’s their first impression of high school. For those who drop out, if they don’t physically drop out by the end of ninth grade, they’ve mentally done it.”

That makes freshman year the most important in terms of retention, and it’s the reason that RBR will institute a new “freshman academy” beginning in September, Stefankiewicz says.

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DISTRICT SPENDING UP, AND UP FOR VOTE

Rbschools

Only four of the 88 kindergarten-through-8th-grade school districts of its size in New Jersey will outspend Red Bank on a per-pupil basis this year, the state Department of Education says.

But that unwanted distinction is a reflection of a familiar reality here in town, says schools Superintendent Laura Morana: the district’s obligation to provide bilingual instruction to a great number of its 800 students, as well as the costs of special-needs students and a $1.8 million obligation this year to the Red Bank Charter School.

Considering those factors, Morana says the district has come up with a “major achievement” with a budget slated for a vote tonight by the Board of Education that raises the local schools levy by just $40 a year for the average-value home in town, now set at just under $405,000.

“We really do a great deal with a lot less” than other towns that don’t have the same constraints, Morana tells redbankgreen.

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