SCHAFER AUTISM REPORT "Healing Autism:
No Finer a Cause on the Planet"
Friday, November 19, 2004 Vol. 8 No. 185
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* Dad Apologizes For Poisoned Cake At School
* Brain Inflammation Found In Autism Part II
* An Apple A Day Could Help Protect Against Brain-Cell Damage That
Triggers Alzheimer's, Parkinsonism, Cornell Studies Find
* Parents Savage Ont. Government's Handling of Autistic Kids Program
* Irish Fragile-X Test Results Prove Inaccurate
* Accused Florida Teacher Drew Complaints
* Write-Minded: 16-yr-old's One-Act Play About High Functioning Autism
* Time to Eliminate the National Vaccine Injury Act?
* More Clear Blue Water
Dad Apologizes For Poisoned Cake At School
AP - The father of one of two 13-year-old girls accused of serving
poisoned cake to about a dozen students said Thursday he and his daughter
were sorry it happened.
"It was a horrible prank that went too far and a lot of people have
suffered," the father told The Associated Press. The man asked that he not
be identified by name to protect his daughter.
The girls were held on assault charges Wednesday, a day after handing
out the cornbread cake at East Cobb Middle School.
Lab tests showed the icing contained, bleach, clay and hot-pepper
sauce, police said. Twelve students, mostly seventh-graders, were treated
Both teens were charged with 12 counts of aggravated assault with
intent to commit murder. One girl was also charged with terroristic acts and
interference with government property. Both are still in custody, the father
Because the investigation is ongoing, Cobb Police Department spokesman
Dana Pierce declined to comment on exactly how dangerous the cake was
believed to be, saying only that it was potent enough to cause nausea,
vomiting, headache and diarrhea in the victims.
The father said the two girls began playing around in the kitchen the
night before the incident after growing bored.
"It was not any kind of malicious intent," he said. "They thought it
would be funny. They know it's not funny now."
The father said his daughter was diagnosed this summer with Asperger's
syndrome, and that doctors told him the girl should not be in a conventional
* * *
Brain Inflammation Found In Autism II
Note: This is the second article we have reproduced on this
subject. Just out today from a science journal, it is a
little more technical, with additional details (and
speculation) than the previous.
Inflammation in the brain is clearly a feature of autism, according to
a new study published November 15, 2004, in online edition of Annals of
Neurology, http://www.interscience.wiley.com/journal/ana , the scientific
journal of the American Neurological Association. The researchers found
strong evidence that certain immune system components that promote
inflammation are consistently activated in people with autism.
"These findings reinforce the theory that immune activation in the
brain is involved in autism, although it is not yet clear whether it is
destructive or beneficial, or both, to the developing brain," said senior
author Carlos A. Pardo-Villamizar, M.D., at the Johns Hopkins University
School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland.
Autism is a disorder of the developing brain that appears in early
childhood. It is estimated to afflict between 2 and 5 of every 1000 children
and is four times more likely to strike boys than girls. Children with
autism have difficulties in social interaction and communication and may
show repetitive behaviors and have unusual attachments to objects or
Autism has a strong genetic component, and in some families, autism
tends to be more prevalent. In identical twins with autism both are usually
affected. However, the number of children with autism appears to be
increasing more than expected for a genetic disorder. This suggests to
scientists that genetic abnormalities require the influence of other factors
to cause the disorder. Birth complications, toxins, diet, and viruses and
other pathogens have been suggested, though there is no strong evidence for
any of these.
In recent years, there have been scientific hints of immune system
irregularities in children with autism, but not all studies have confirmed
this. Pardo and his colleagues sought a more definitive answer by looking
not at the immune system overall, but at immune components inside the
relatively sealed environment of the nervous system.
Led by first author Diana L. Vargas, MD, a post-doctoral fellow
working in Pardo's laboratory, the researchers examined brain tissue from 11
people with autism, aged 5 to 44 years, who had died of accidents or
Compared with normal control brains, the brains of the people with
autism featured immune system activation and inflammation in the brain.
"This ongoing inflammatory process was present in different areas of
the brain and produced by cells known as microglia and astroglia," said
When the researchers measured brain levels of immune system proteins
called cytokines and chemokines, they found abnormal patterns consistent
"The pattern of cellular and protein findings indicate that they are
part of the 'innate' immune system in the brain, and do not appear to be
caused by immune abnormalities from outside the brain," said Pardo.
The findings in the brain tissue were corroborated by studies of
cerebrospinal fluid obtained from six children with autism (ages 5 to 12
years), in which cytokines that promote inflammation were found to be
It is conceivable that signs of inflammation in the cerebrospinal
fluid could one day be used to diagnose autism, or even that doctors could
treat inflammation to prevent or combat autism, however this is still
speculative, according to Andrew W. Zimmerman, a pediatric neurologist at
the Kennedy-Krieger Institute in Baltimore and co-author of the paper. For
one thing, it is possible that the inflammation represents the brain's
efforts to combat some other process damaging to brain cells.
"These findings open new possibilities for understanding the dynamic
changes that occur in the brain of autistic patients during childhood and
adulthood. Although they may lend themselves to development of new medical
treatments for autism, much more research would be needed to establish the
validity of this approach," said Pardo.
Among the next steps in this line of research, Pardo and colleagues
are studying how the genetic background of patients and families may
influence the development of immunological reactions in the brain that
confer susceptibility to autism.
Article: "Neuroglial Activation and Neuroinflammation in the
Brain of Patients with Autism," Diana L. Vargas, Caterina Nascimbene, Chitra
Krishnan, Andrew W. Zimmerman, and Carlos A. Pardo; Annals of Neurology;
Published Online: November 15, 2004 (DOI: 10.1002/ana.20315).
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* * *
An Apple A Day Could Help Protect Against Brain-Cell Damage That Triggers
Alzheimer's, Parkinsonism, Cornell Studies Find
Phytochemicals to the rescue, too.
A group of chemicals in apples could protect the brain from the type
of damage that triggers such neurodegenerative diseases as Alzheimer's and
Parkinsonism, according to two new studies from Cornell University food
scientists. The studies show that the chemical quercetin, a so-called
phytonutrient, appears to be largely responsible for protecting rat brain
cells when assaulted by oxidative stress in laboratory tests.
Phytonutrients, such as phenolic acids and flavanoids, protect the
apple against bacteria, viruses and fungi and provide the fruit's
anti-oxidant and anti-cancer benefits. Quercetin is a major flavanoid in
apples. Antioxidants help prevent cancer by mopping up cell-damaging free
radicals and inhibiting the production of reactive substances that could
damage normal cells.
"The studies show that additional apple consumption not only may help
reduce the risk of cancer, as previous studies have shown, but also that an
apple a day may supply major bioactive compounds, which may play an
important role in reducing the risk of neurodegenerative disorders," says
Chang Y. "Cy" Lee, Cornell professor of food science at the university's New
York State Agricultural Experiment Station in Geneva, N.Y.
In a study that recently appeared online and is to be published in the
November/December 2004 issue of the Journal of Food Science (69(9):
S357-60), Lee and his co-authors compared how two groups of rat neuronal
cells fared against hydrogen peroxide, a common oxidative stressor. Only one
of the two groups was pretreated with different concentrations of apple
The researchers found that the higher the concentration of apple
phenolic extract, the greater the protection was for the nerve cells against
"What we found was that the apple phenolics, which are naturally
occurring antioxidants found in fresh apples, can protect nerve cells from
neurotoxicity induced by oxidative stress," Lee said.
When Lee and co-author Ho Jin Heo, a visiting fellow at Cornell,
looked at quercetin they found that it appeared to be the main agent
responsible for the beneficial effect. In fact, they found quercetin works
even better in protecting nerve cells against hydrogen peroxide than vitamin
C, a naturally occurring antioxidant known to help prevent cell and tissue
damage from oxidation. Quercetin is primarily found in apples, berries and
This study, which appeared online recently, will be published in the
December issue of the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. The two
studies build on Lee's 2002 findings that quercetin has stronger anti-cancer
activity than vitamin C, and his 2000 findings that phytochemicals in apples
have stronger anti-oxidant protective effects than vitamin C against colon
and liver cancer cells.
Other studies have found that phytochemicals are associated with a
reduced risk of cancer, heart disease and diabetes, and that they fight not
only cancer but also bacterial and viral infections. In addition, they are
anti-allergenic and anti-inflammatory.
Although Lee stresses that his studies were conducted in the
laboratory, not in clinical trials with humans, he has no hesitation in
recommending more apples in the diet as well as other fresh fruits and
vegetables. "Indeed, I have a reason to say an apple a day keeps the doctor
away," he says.
The researchers used red delicious apples grown in New York state to
provide the extracts to study the effects of phytochemicals. Lee said that
all apples are high in the critical phytonutrients and that the amount of
phenolic compounds in the apple flesh and in the skin vary from year to
year, season to season and from growing region to growing region.
The study on apple phenolics, which was co-authored by Heo and D.O.
Kim, a postdoctoral researcher at Cornell, as well as S.J. Choi and D.H.
Shin at Korea University, was supported in part by Heo's postdoctoral
fellowship through the Korea Science and Engineering Foundation (KSEF) and
the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The study on quercetin, authored by Lee
and Heo, also was supported, in part, by the KSEF fellowship program and
U.S. Apple Association.
Brief comment: This is a 180 degree reverse P.R. of the big apple alar
scare of over a decade ago, readers may remember. -LS
* * *
Parents Savage Ont. Government's Handling of Program For Autistic Kids
[By Gillian Livingston for the Canadian Press.]
(CP) - Growing frustration with the "crushing" burden that weighs on
families with autistic children boiled over Thursday as parents savaged the
Ontario government's failure to dole out nearly $17 million in funding with
1,200 kids languishing on a waiting list.
It's "unconscionable" that the province neglected to spend $16.7
million it had allocated for the program over the last five years, said
Bruce McIntosh, whose son Cliff, 4, has been on the waiting list for nearly
"They should be helping those parents," said McIntosh, who lives just
north of Toronto.
"It's a crushing load to bear, $20,000 (a year for treatment) and
that's for our boy. . . . To just leave them literally high and dry on a
waiting list is ridiculous."
McIntosh was one of several parents who were on hand for a legislative
committee's review of a scathing auditor's report that found the province's
$44-million Intensive Behaviour Intervention program in a state of disarray.
Acting provincial auditor Jim McCarter found records at the Ministry
of Children and Youth Services, which is responsible for the program, were
inaccurate, including at least two instances where $3 million was
incorrectly recorded as spent.
It also found the 547 children who are getting therapy are being
shortchanged on the number of hours of treatment they should receive by four
hours a week, on average.
Under the program, children receive an average of $79,000 a year to
cover the steep cost of intensive one-on-one therapy, regarded as the most
effective treatment for training autistic children to function more
The audit also indicated the province couldn't track spending and
waiting lists, or ensure agencies were providing the support services they
were being paid for.
Lillian Wagman, whose autistic sons Michael, 6, and David, 3, both
waited nearly five months for treatment, gets direct funding from the
province, but not enough to cover the full cost of therapy or the
$150-an-hour price tag for a clinical psychologist to oversee her program -
a requirement of the funding.
"At $150 per hour, that's impossible for a family with two children
with autism," Wagman said.
New Democrat health critic Shelley Martel, a longtime critic of
Ontario's autism program, urged the government to take immediate action.
Martel said the province needs to cut waiting lists and choose between
funding agencies to provide services or give parents the money directly to
hire approved therapists.
"If there are not concrete policy decisions made within the next
number of months, you will continue to see children who will sit on a
waiting list and never get service because they're going to turn six,"
"We just can't have that happen anymore. . . . We can't wait 18 months
or even a year for those important issues to be resolved."
+ Full story here:
* * *
Irish Fragile-X Test Results Prove Inaccurate
52 people in Galway who have been tested to find out if they were at
risk of having a child with a form of intellectual disability have been told
that they may have to repeat the procedure.
It has emerged they may have received inaccurate results from the
Diagnostic Testing Centre at NUI Galway, and will have to be retested at Our
Ladies Hospital for Sick Children in Crumlin, Dublin.
The patients were genetically tested for 'Fragile X', a syndrome which
can cause autism. The procedure has now been suspended at the Diagnostic
Testing Centre after a patient tested in Galway and given the all-clear
subsequently received abnormal results from a test in Crumlin.
This development could have very serious consequences for NUIG as one
of the 52 is currently pregnant and some of the others may have already had
children. Testing started there in 1994.
* * *
Accused Florida Teacher Drew Complaints
Parents say they raised concerns about the veteran teacher but were ignored
or shut down.
[By Dave Weber for the Sun Sentinel. This report has disturbing,
graphic elements. Thanks to Leah Pardee.]
A mother who accused a Seminole County teacher of abusing handicapped
students in her class said Wednesday she was scared off four years ago by a
threatening letter from a powerful teachers union.
Carol Goings of Casselberry said the letter from the Florida arm of
the National Education Association made her drop her crusade against teacher
Kathleen Garrett, who was arrested last week on nine counts of child abuse.
Garrett has been unwilling to talk about the allegations against her.
The letter warned Goings not to "impugn the reputation of this fine
teacher," or "it will be necessary for us to consider formal legal action
against you and pursue whatever damages are available to Ms. Garrett."
"I was petrified," said Goings, who had accused Garrett of hitting her
mentally handicapped daughter on the head. "We're a young family struggling
to raise three kids on my husband's salary."
She settled for getting her child transferred into another class, she
Meanwhile, school officials disclosed Wednesday that a computer in
Garrett's classroom at South Seminole Middle School contained "adult-rated
materials," and will be turned over to police investigating complaints
against the veteran teacher.
Officials would not describe what was found on the computer's hard
drive, except to say it involved e-mail that could figure in a possible
criminal case against Garrett.
Casselberry police say Garrett, 48, beat and humiliated students, sat
on some, knocked one child's teeth out when she slammed his head on a desk
and pushed another's face into vomit. They say she also took children into
the bathroom, where sounds of screaming could be heard.
Since the arrest, parents have come forward to say they had complained
repeatedly to school officials about Garrett, even as she received year
after year of good job-performance evaluations from principals.
Superintendent Bill Vogel said Wednesday that he has called in a
special investigator to look into allegations of a cover-up. He said Drew
Thomas, an Orange County attorney familiar with school and
exceptional-education law, would get to the bottom of accusations of abuse
going back many years.
"Whatever the outcome is, this needs to be resolved," Vogel said.
Goings said she has been waiting for years to resolve incidents she
says occurred in Garrett's class at Indian Trails Middle School in 1999 and
2000. She said she went to school officials after her daughter Melody, now
17 and a student at Winter Springs High, told her that Garrett had struck
her on the head.
Goings said she was silenced when she received a stern letter in March
2000 from the Florida Teaching Profession-National Education Association,
which merged later that year with the Florida Education Association United
to become the Florida Education Association.
The letter from attorney Pamela Cooper, now the general counsel for
the merged organization, said Goings "falsely made formal allegations that
Ms. Garrett mistreated your child." The Seminole Education Association, the
local teachers union, had asked Cooper to intervene on Garrett's behalf.
Cooper called Goings' allegations "malicious and actionable," as well
as "categorically false," a stand union officials softened Wednesday.
"The action Pam took at that time was warranted," said Mark Pudlow,
union spokesman. "Whatever the parents were alleging was not proven."
Pudlow said he has no idea whether the new charges against Garrett are
A union representative would neither confirm nor deny the organization
is representing Garrett in legal matters.
The union letter four years ago came after several parents, including
Goings, asked to have their children taken out of Garrett's class.
Goings has copies of a four-page letter of complaints that she said
she sent at the time to Indian Trails Principal Eugene Petty, district human
resources director John Reichert, and Exceptional Education Director Tom
School officials looked into Goings' complaints and dismissed them.
However, Larnell Watford, assistant principal at Indian Springs, noted in a
letter to Goings that Garrett had been reprimanded for calling Melody "a
liar" in front of her new teacher after the girl was transferred to another
Garrett's personnel files have been stripped of all complaints,
however. School officials say the records have been closed to the public
because they are part of the current investigation.
School district officials said earlier they had no indications
anything might be amiss in Garrett's classroom, but a growing number of
parents and others have stepped forward to list complaints.
Greg Griffis, a senior at Winter Springs High, said he saw Garrett
abuse a child in 2000 while he was a seventh-grade peer tutor in her class
at Indian Trails. He said he told school officials, who did not believe him,
creating the most indelible memory of his middle school years.
"I witnessed her grab a student by the neck and throw him into a
closed closet door," he said. The boy used a walker and was crossing the
room without permission, Greg said.
Other parents raised complaints about Garrett that same year,
including Brenda Alexander, who said Garrett hit her son with a ruler until
his head was bloody. School officials and Winter Springs police said they
found no proof of abuse, after Garrett said the boy had fallen down.
Garrett, who worked in a half-dozen Seminole schools during her
26-year career, was transferred to South Seminole Middle for the following
IF YOU WITNESS ABUSE OF CHILDREN OR THE DISABLED. . .
National number to report child abuse and neglect 800 422-4453
Discrimination complaints, Dept. Health and Human Services 800
Also, if it is your child or yourself who is the victim, contact
Department of Justice www.usdoj.gov/civilliberties.htm
And or, contact the children's protection agency in your county.
It's listed under a similar name, usually in the front of the white
page telephone books, or available through your local police or
-- > THE SCHAFER AUTISM REPORT IS < --
0 Canada's widest read autism publication
0 United Kingdom's widest read autism publication
0 The United States' widest read autism publication.*
A Calendar of Events makes sense.
* Whew! That's a pretty tall claim. Here are more details:
~200 editions, times 8 pages each, times ~20,000 circulation
comes to 32 million electronic pages per year
* * *
Write-Minded: 16-year-old's One-Act Play About High Functioning Autism
[By Ivette M. Yee.]
It's not easy being George. A mailman in his mid-30s who lives with
his sister, he has just been fired from his job.
George is autistic and the fictional subject of a play of the same
name written by Kate Reynolds, 16, of Delray Beach, the top winner among
three in the 2004 VSA arts Playwright Discovery Program.
The contest was open to all high school students who submitted one-act
plays that included some aspect of disability. Sponsored by the Kravis
Center for the Performing Arts and VSA arts of Florida-Palm Beach County, an
organization that promotes education and creative expression among children
and adults with disabilities, the winning plays were performed recently by
professional actors at the Kravis Center.
Other student plays selected were written by Sofie Tamayo, 17, of Lake
Worth, a student at the private Elles School, and Casey Hopkins, 15, of Palm
Beach Gardens, a student at the Alexander W. Dreyfoos Jr. School of the
VSA arts officials said the contest, now in its fourth year, promotes
awareness about disabilities among young people. This year's crop of
playwrights explored topics including mental illness and deafness.
"I was really trying to write a story that wasn't depressing, but
uplifting," said Reynolds, an 11th-grader at Dreyfoos. "I wanted to write a
story about a person living with a disability and how they are able to
function in society."
Reynolds said her goal was to create a different view of autism than
the memorable performance by Dustin Hoffman in the film Rain Man. Hoffman's
character, Raymond, was a child-like man with a brilliant mind, but wasn't
In George, the main character is more capable, Reynolds said. He is
fascinated with literature, memorizes whole books and quotes phrases from
Alice in the Wonderland. But his disability makes it hard for him to
The play looks at what happens when a prejudiced new boss fires George
from his job, and how he copes with the loss.
"George is quirky and he's real," Reynolds said. "You automatically
sympathize with him."
To write the play, she researched information about autism and spoke
with the ARC of Palm Beach, an organization that provides services to people
with developmental and mental disabilities. She also spent time with a
member of her church whose son has autism.
"I was really tickled at how she was able to portray this character
and how she made the play entertaining and educational at the same time,"
said Alison Reynolds, Kate's mom.
She has kept her daughter's earliest creative writings, including
Garbage Can, a story written in second grade about a puppy and a raccoon
stuck in a garbage can.
An avid reader, Kate Reynolds said she began writing at a young age
because she was inspired by the Harriet the Spy children's books.
"I wanted to be Harriet the Spy when I was 8," she said. "I tried the
whole spying thing around my neighborhood. It didn't work out, but I kept
the journal and kept observing and writing things down."
Julie Gilbert, an author and the Kravis Center's professional
playwright in residence, praised Reynolds' work. "Kate's play is very well
done," Gilbert said. "She was successful at creating a play in which the
character is very likable. It has a lot of humor in it and is never
As part of the Playwright Discovery Program, Gilbert instructed high
school teachers in playwriting so they could teach their students for the
contest. More than 50 Palm Beach County high school students participated.
Gilbert also helped both select the winning plays and the young playwrights
polish their work.
The winners will be submitted to the national contest for a chance to
be performed next year at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts
in Washington, D.C.
Reynolds said she already feels rewarded because she succeeded in
showing just how capable people with disabilities are.
"People with autism have a wide range of capabilities," Reynolds said.
"My character can hold a job and he is very high functioning. He proves that
the disability doesn't necessarily define the person."
* * *
Time to Eliminate the National Vaccine Injury Act?
By Sherri Tenpenny, DO
The most recent drug debacle surrounding Vioxx lays bare the
irresponsible actions of Merck. The FDA estimates that more than 27,000
cases of acute myocardial infarction and sudden cardiac death occurred in
the USA between 1999 and 2003 due to Vioxx.  Could this be a direct
result of Merck changing its core values from "People above Profits"  to
"profits above all else"? Already feeling the economic hit as stock values
tumble, more bloodletting is bound to follow as the lawsuits filed against
Merck start pouring in. Merck's likely litigation bill is targeted to be a
staggering US$10-15billion. Highlights from a recent editorial in the
Lancet  regarding Merck and the FDA include the following statements:
".[the Vioxx issue] points to astonishing failures in Merck's internal
systems of post-marketing surveillance, as well as lethal weaknesses in the
Food and Drug Administration's regulatory oversight." "But, too often, the
FDA sees and continues to see the pharmaceutical industry as its customer-a
vital source of funding for its activities-and not as a sector of society in
need of strong regulation."
"For with Vioxx, Merck and the FDA acted out of ruthless,
short-sighted and irresponsible self-interest."
Merck certainly should be held accountable for its actions, which
includes a multi-year cover-up of known dangers regarding its high
dollar-producing drug, Vioxx. Hopefully, the ensuing punitive damages will
send a chilling message to all drug manufacturers, putting them on notice
that cover-ups are eventually uncovered, and profits gained deceptively are
But what about being held responsible for cover ups and damages caused
by other products? Shouldn't Merck, along with other vaccine manufacturers,
be held accountable for damages caused by vaccines? Admittedly, vaccines are
known to have problems. The CDC's introductory statement regarding the
general use of vaccines states, "[Both] benefits and risks are associated
with using all immunobiologics. No vaccine is completely safe nor 100%
effective."  But is admitting that vaccines have problems justification
for continuing to use a vaccine shown to be associated with serious
consequences? Case in point: It has been estimated that the hepatitis B
vaccine is associated with a threefold increase in the incidence of MS
within the three years following vaccination.  Merck, the vaccine's
manufacturer, must be acutely aware of this study.
Or, is imperfection a justification for careless execution? Case in
point: This year's flu vaccine was found to be contaminated with the
bacteria, Serratia marcescens. And there is evidence to suggest that last
year's flu vaccine may also have been contaminated and passed on to the
general public. [7, 8] Or, is the real reason that vaccine manufacturers
appear unconcerned about vaccine injuries due to the protection conferred by
the National Vaccine Injury Compensation Act (NVICA)? The NVICA, a
"no-fault" compensation system, was passed in 1986 to shield the
pharmaceutical industry from civil litigation due to problems associated
with vaccines. Under the law, families of vaccine-injured persons are
required to file a petition which may be heard by a Special Master in the
vaccine court. Successful claims are paid from a Trust Fund that is managed
by the Department of Health and Human Services, with Justice Department
attorneys acting as the legal representatives of the Fund. Sadly, it is
estimated that less than 25% of those who qualify for a hearing actually
+ Complete commentary with references here:
[The opinions expressed in commentaries are those of the author and
not necessarily those of the Schafer Autism Report.]
* * *
More Clear Blue Water
Regarding this new comic, a cursory Google search would have resulted
in anyone being able to read the artist's bio and see that she has an
autistic child. http://www.amuniversal.com/ups/newsrelease/?view=162
Personally, I think if anyone subscribing to this newsletter didn't go
through all sorts of turmoil whilst getting their child's diagnosis, then
good for them. But I know that the storyline I have thus far followed
closely mirrors the events in my family when we were getting my son's
diagnosis. Let's all watch and see how she does with this storyline.
-Shannon T. Ahern
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