Patterico's Pontifications

5/20/2020

National Guard Deployments To End One Day Before Members Qualify for Education and Retirement Benefits

Filed under: General — Dana @ 2:44 pm



[guest post by Dana]

This is not good news:

More than 40,000 National Guard members currently helping states test residents for the coronavirus and trace the spread of infections will face a “hard stop” on their deployments on June 24 — just one day shy of many members becoming eligible for key federal benefits, according to a senior FEMA official.

The official outlined the Trump administration’s plans on an interagency call on May 12, an audio version of which was obtained by POLITICO. The official also acknowledged during the call that the June 24 deadline means that thousands of members who first deployed in late March will find themselves with only 89 days of duty credit, one short of the 90-day threshold for qualifying for early retirement and education benefits under the Post-9/11 GI bill.

The looming loss of crucial frontline workers, along with questions about whether the administration is shortchanging first responders, would require a delicate messaging strategy, the official — representing FEMA’s New England region — told dozens of colleagues on the interagency call.

“We would greatly benefit from unified messaging regarding the conclusion of their services prior to hitting the 90-day mark and the retirement benefit implications associated with it,” the official said.

The decision has compelled both sides of the aisle to seek an extension from the White House:

Governors and lawmakers in both parties have been pleading with the White House to extend the federal order for several more months or until the end of the year, warning in a letter to Trump that terminating federal deployments early in the summer just as states are reopening “could contribute to a possible second wave of infection.”

Here are the numbers:

More than 40,000 Guard members are currently serving under federal orders known as Title 32, which grants them federal pay and benefits but puts them under local command, in 44 states, three territories and the District of Columbia — the largest domestic deployment since Hurricane Katrina.

Tens of thousands of them have been working full-time since early March on a wide range of sensitive and dangerous tasks, such as decontaminating nursing homes and setting up field hospitals, along with performing tests for the virus. They’ve provided a crucial backup for understaffed and underfunded state public health agencies trying to contain the pandemic.

The cost of the deployment is as much as $9 million per month for every 1,000 troops, according to the National Council of State Legislatures — an expense that states would have to shoulder should Title 32 expire. In addition, state deployments do not count toward federal education and retirement benefits.

It’s possible for National Guard members who have extra deployments within the same fiscal year to qualify for GI Bill benefits or early retirement.

So far, “more than 1,100 guardsmen had been diagnosed with coronavirus, many of whom were deployed for pandemic response missions.”

FEMA is the federal agency responsible for the final determination of how long National Guard members are activated.

I checked out FEMA’s Coronavirus Rumor Control page (yes, they have one), and found this:

On March 22, President Trump directed the Secretary of Defense to permit full federal reimbursement, by FEMA, for some states’ use of their National Guard forces. The President’s action provides Governors continued command of their National Guard forces, while being federally funded under Title 32. Each state’s National Guard is still under the authority of the Governor and is working in concert with the Department of Defense.

I perused President Trump’s Twitter feed, and given the incredible array of tweets covering any number of subjects, I was only able to find this mentioning the National Guard (it is in response to the recent flooding in Michigan):

My team is closely monitoring the flooding in Central Michigan – Stay SAFE and listen to local officials. Our brave First Responders are once again stepping up to serve their fellow citizens, THANK YOU!

We have sent our best Military & @FEMA Teams, already there. Governor must now “set you free” to help. Will be with you soon!

One National Guard member has publicly voiced her disapproval of the decision by the Trump administration:

According to reports, the White House has declined to respond to any inquiries about the matter. But of course…

–Dana

58 Responses to “National Guard Deployments To End One Day Before Members Qualify for Education and Retirement Benefits”

  1. Obviously the one-day-short decision was intentional, and that is what is so aggravating. Well, that and the fact that the person occupying the Oval Office is someone who can’t stop talking about how much he loves the military and soldiers, at least during campaign rallies…

    Dana (0feb77)

  2. I’m guessing there was some penny-pinching low-level official behind this, or that there is some other reason for the decision. If it is the former, I don’t expect the situation to stand.

    norcal (a5428a)

  3. Yep, this seems about par for the course.

    Nic (896fdf)

  4. Trump is playing 14-dimensional chess, and you guys are playing checkers.

    Having created the problem, obviously the plan is for the Dear Leader to personally intervene with great fanfare at the last minute, and generously (using our money) save the day. Then he will brag about doing it from now until the election.

    This is the same playbook he used for bailing out the victims of his stupid tariffs.

    Dave (1bb933)

  5. My money is on the low level accountant for this.
    If it was Trump-level, we would get a string of tweets about “how great I am to let them get federal benefits and to let federal money is paying for it, even though it’s something the states should be doing”.

    Kishnevi (4777d8)

  6. I meant to put into comment five that Trump would end the deployments on day 90, not day 89.

    Kishnevi (4777d8)

  7. I guarantee these guys and gals were hoping for this benefit. Guarantee they’ve been talking about it for the past few months. Talking to families they miss to cope with stress and hardship.

    It surprises me that Trump would do this, to the point that I doubt he did. Yeah he’s a bastard, but this isn’t his expense. In fact, he will probably come in and save the day on this, because what’s a little more debt to him at this point?

    It’s still his fault. The lack of communication and direction, the way leaders in agencies are selected, often because they are ass-kissers or hostile to the agency’s purpose, it leads to a lot of problems. A lot of problems. Our soldiers deserve much better leadership, much like our sailors did with that SecNav drama.

    Dustin (d59cff)

  8. I see Dave and Kishnevi see it the same way.

    Dustin (d59cff)

  9. This really distresses me. I don’t understand why the military is expected to take the hits like this. In some ways, it reminds of this.

    Dana (0feb77)

  10. Also, it’s disappointing to see only Tulsi Gabbard and Max Rose (D-NY) make noise about this. Both are members of the National Guard, he’s a captain as well as a combat vet. Why isn’t anyone else in Congress making noise about this?

    Dana (0feb77)

  11. “We would greatly benefit from unified messaging regarding the conclusion of their services prior to hitting the 90-day mark and the retirement benefit implications associated with it,” the official said.

    OH, yeah…!!! You dayam bet you’d best get your messaging harmonized!

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  12. Remember every vet who got their GI bill and tried to put themselves back together after losing friends in Iraq and Afghanistan, graduating with a lot less (hopefully no) college debt, only to hear Bernie Sanders tell all the folks who didn’t make such sacrifices they will basically get the GI Bill too in the form of debt forgiveness. It’s always bugged the hell out of me.

    Or when Al Gore fought to keep military ballots from being counted in Florida.

    Or Trump laughing off the notion some guys had head injuries in the aftermath of whatever that was in Iran.

    Or crucifying a captain for straying from a public relations narrative.

    This kind of timing is not unusual at all and the more I think about it, the more I doubt it gets fixed. Oh well. They will be redeployed in the fall, next fiscal year.

    Dustin (d59cff)

  13. Wait a minute. I thought Trump loved the military.

    Paul Montagu (b3f51b)

  14. Right, Paul??!! See my comment @ 1.

    Mabe Dave is right: Trump knew about this, had them do it, and then when enough noise is made, he rides in to save the day. That’d be a serious MAGA move, and make the fever swamp roar with approval!

    Dana (0feb77)

  15. When I talked to my brother who (a) is in the army reserves and (b) used to be in the army, his reaction was: what’s the big deal? this is standard operating procedure and has been for years.

    aphrael (7962af)

  16. 10. Nobody in Congress cares.

    13. He does. Just ask him.

    Gryph (08c844)

  17. The GI Bill is nothing more than an indirect subsidy of the academic racket. 75% 90% of those McDonald’s rejects will never be capable of learning anything more than they were taught in Basic Training.

    Now, early retirement is a different matter. The sooner we get the goldbricks out of the ranks so we can have some semblance of a competent military, the better. Go ahead and give them VA benefits, we’d be paying for Medicaid for them, otherwise, anyway.

    nk (1d9030)

  18. @15 Politicians don’t care about the actual people in uniform. They make big noises about how they love love the military, but when it comes down to brass tacks, what they love are photo opportunities with uniforms and money going into the military industrial complex in their states.

    Nic (896fdf)

  19. 13. He does. Just ask him.

    I’d ask him how much he loved the military when he talked a podiatrist into diagnosing with him bonespurs.

    Paul Montagu (b3f51b)

  20. “Also, it’s disappointing to see only Tulsi Gabbard and Max Rose (D-NY) make noise about this. Both are members of the National Guard, he’s a captain as well as a combat vet. Why isn’t anyone else in Congress making noise about this?”

    Tammy Duckworth
    @SenDuckworth
    The Trump Admin’s repeated attempts to nickel & dime members of the @USNationalGuard would be wrong under any circumstance, but it’s particularly offensive when these troops are responding to the #COVID19 pandemic that has killed more than 90k Americans
    I strongly oppose a “hard stop” of Guard deployments at 89 days to deny #NationalGuard members full benefits for their service on the frontlines of this crisis and have called on Trump to fix it by extending Title 32 authority
    But, since Trump has failed to fix the problem, today I introduced legislation to require that Title 32 authority be extended for the duration of the #COVID19 public health emergency

    https://twitter.com/SenDuckworth/status/1263238901583556608

    Also a vet.

    Davethulhu (27c163)

  21. So, work for 90 days domestically and get GI benefits? Sweet deal. The idea here was that people who went into battle overseas would be treated like regular forces, as they should be. These folks aren’t in that category. While the optics of what the administration is doing suck, the law should never have granted military benefits to this type of service after only 90 days.

    Kevin M (ab1c11)

  22. If you read the article, it says the service time is cumulative between call-ups.

    So anybody with 89 days would qualify if they were later called up by the Feds for even one more day (although call-ups by the state don’t count).

    If so, at least as I understand it, it’s not like they’ll lose all credit for service during this period. It would also imply that anybody who already had at least one day of service in the past would now be qualified.

    Also, the college benefits scale depending on length of service. 90 days gives you the minimum, which is 40% of the maximum benefits. You need three years of active service to qualify for the maximum benefit (which is essentially a 4-year full ride at an in-state public university).

    40% of tuition for 4 years is nothing to sneeze at, but remember these folks typically train for many years (“one weekend a month and two weeks per year” adds up to spending about 10% of the year in training) and they have to accept the possibility of being called up with little or no notice at any time.

    Dave (1bb933)

  23. they have to accept the possibility of being called up with little or no notice at any time.

    Dave (1bb933) — 5/21/2020 @ 12:25 am

    Indeed, they lose a lot of freedom. At least in theory. Obviously some get out of it John Kerry style or Donald Trump style. But I think this is what the nation gets out of them.

    Kevin, you make a great point, but this is a commitment we made to them. If you want to change the terms of the recruitment drives, go ahead, but folks who join for college benefits and serve to the best that they can, really should get those benefits.

    There’s a social justice angle here too that some may be missing. We hear a lot about how unaffordable college is for poor families. Well, go serve the military on active duty for a couple of years and it becomes a lot more affordable. This is a better economic filter than just making all college free, where bozos don’t actually earn what they are getting.

    The student should put something in too. Personally, I think the commitment should be much more than 90 days, and I would not mind if the GI bill were expanded a little bit. Say people with top ten percentile SAT scores serving as police officers for three years in cities with serious crime rates and ineffective police departments, in exchange for five years full tuition and living expenses. Not only do these college grads also have richer life experience, the communities get some idealist and intelligent patrol officers. But the real point, to me, is that the commitment shouldn’t be something easy and safe. The GI Bill should be something requiring sacrifice on some level, reflecting the imperfect world these folks can work on when they are older and wiser.

    Dustin (d59cff)

  24. Seems like a crappy way to treat people.

    Time123 (441f53)

  25. 23. Let’s get one thing straight here: The G.I. Bill is not a commitment that “I” or “we” made to the troops; it’s a commitment that the politicians made to the troops. I know I’m not going to make many friends for saying this, but if buying troops with college tuition is what it takes to maintain an all-volunteer force, I’m beginning to think we should bring back the draft.

    Gryph (08c844)

  26. @25, Can you explain why you think a draft would be better? On the pay side it’s just compensation. We pay soldiers a salary and give signing bonuses. This is just another part of the pay.

    Is your objection to paying soldiers at all?
    Is it all indirect comp?
    It it college?

    Time123 (441f53)

  27. What I think I despise the most about the GI Bill is that it now pays the salaries and pensions of the draft dodgers and war protesters of my youth who went into the academic con-game for the deferments and found that they could make a career out of it.

    Because it is all about keeping the academic rice bowl filled. Like I said above, 90% of the cannon fodder are not smart enough for college. They’re just going to waste four years of their lives along with the taxpayers’ money to keep the Sociology Department in business.

    nk (1d9030)

  28. The GI bill is used for lots of other stuff besides college.

    And I disagree that “90% of the cannon fodder are not smart enough for college”. For one thing, a minority of MOSs are combat arms, even in the Army and Marines. Quite a few MOSs require pretty smart people to fill them. Maybe not geniuses, but sure-fire college material.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  29. 25. Your really don’t care to live in a democratic republician society, huh?

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  30. 29. Some policies that come down from Babylon-on-Potomac I agree with. Not much, but some. The first GI Bill predated our all-volunteer military, which is why I think a better argument could have been made for it post-WWII. With such a murky definition of what constitutes a “war” these days and with our all-volunteer forces constantly getting s**t-on by the civilian leadership half a world away, I think it would make more sense to pay those men and women a living wage for a change. College tuition doesn’t do a damn bit of good for troops returning home in body bags.

    Gryph (08c844)

  31. @28

    The GI bill is used for lots of other stuff besides college.

    And I disagree that “90% of the cannon fodder are not smart enough for college”. For one thing, a minority of MOSs are combat arms, even in the Army and Marines. Quite a few MOSs require pretty smart people to fill them. Maybe not geniuses, but sure-fire college material.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9) — 5/21/2020 @ 7:08 am

    Absolutely this. And I’d argued that there are quite a bit of geniuses in this group as well.

    Also, you can use the GI bill for trade schools too.

    whembly (fd57f6)

  32. You didn’t answer my question.

    But the G.I. Bill was provided to draftees since forever.

    My poor old irony meter pegged out when Mr. “I have a gawd-given right not to wear no mask” suggested we should reinstitute the draft!

    Fascinating…

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  33. @25

    23. Let’s get one thing straight here: The G.I. Bill is not a commitment that “I” or “we” made to the troops; it’s a commitment that the politicians made to the troops. I know I’m not going to make many friends for saying this, but if buying troops with college tuition is what it takes to maintain an all-volunteer force, I’m beginning to think we should bring back the draft.

    Gryph (08c844) — 5/21/2020 @ 5:22 am

    I disagree. I think it should be a commitment.

    Frankly, the military career and opportunities for advancement (OSC or just to pay college) is one avenues available for the lower income brackets to promote upper mobility.

    Hell, *I* wished I joined the services just for the GI bill access. I’m still paying for my college loans.

    whembly (fd57f6)

  34. The volunteer military is about as close to a meritocracy as I think we’ve come. People of all races, creeds and whatever TEND to be soldiers, sailors, marines and airmen first, and it’s a beautiful thing. The war-fighters today are orders of magnitude more lethal than my generation, and partly because they’re smarter. I got to watch several training cycles at the end of the draft, and some of those kids were outright criminals and/or dumb as bricks.

    We should be grateful every hour for our uniformed services. I damn sure am.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  35. They have audio of the call, lets hear it, or is this more like the kislyak call or the one to zelensky.

    Narciso (7404b5)

  36. Reaganomics.

    DCSCA (797bc0)

  37. They’re already overpaid. An E-1 gets a base pay of $1,733.10 a month. Base pay of a corporal (E-4) is $2,263 per month, with raises up to $2,747 if he’s stuck in the rank for 6 years. All disposable income since all their needs are provided for.

    nk (1d9030)

  38. 34. So am I. And I think the GI Bill is a relic of the past which is just one more way to ensure that congressweasels can buy votes. Pay our men and women in cash, let them spend it on a college education should they so choose. But all this social engineering bulls**t has got to stop, including with our men and women in uniform.

    37. Try going up to a man or woman trying to support a family of four on that income and telling them you think they’re overpaid. See what kind of response you get.

    33. So how come you didn’t?

    Gryph (08c844)

  39. 75% 90% of those McDonald’s rejects will never be capable of learning anything more than they were taught in Basic Training.

    Speechless.

    Dana (0feb77)

  40. 37. That neatly explains why so many of our service people are obliged to use food-stamps (or whatever they are currently called).

    On your cannon-fodder comment, if you know a staff sergeant in the Rangers, you know a pretty smart cat, one who’d do well in at least middle management. Read Red Platoon.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  41. So am I. And I think the GI Bill is a relic of the past which is just one more way to ensure that congressweasels can buy votes. Pay our men and women in cash, let them spend it on a college education should they so choose.

    Money (and benefits) are fungible. There would be no difference in economic terms between what we have and you suggest, and no political difference, either. The idea that the GI Bill is some kind of vote buying is laughable. What it has proven to be is a very successful incentive with far-reaching benefits to society. I can readily imagine Heinlein approving.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  42. @38

    33. So how come you didn’t?

    Gryph (08c844) — 5/21/2020 @ 9:02 am

    I was young and stupid.

    whembly (fd57f6)

  43. 37. That neatly explains why so many of our service people are obliged to use food-stamps (or whatever they are currently called).

    I doubt that there all that many, if any, and they are not obliged to, they are allowed, and they take advantage of it. SNAP is 165% of the Federal Poverty Level for households without disabled or elderly persons (age 60 or over); 200% of FPL for households with disabled or elderly persons. Here are some levels for the 165% group:

    Maximum Monthly Income Allowable per Household Size: 1 – $1,718; 2 – $2,326; 3 – $2,933; 4 – $3,541; 5 – $4,149

    More here.

    nk (1d9030)

  44. All disposable income since all their needs are provided for.

    But they are not. War-fighters are often compelled to pay for their own gear, including augmentation to their firearms, body armor, and much of what they wear and carry.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  45. Yetter’s family is among the 620,000 households that include at least one soldier, reservist or guardsman – or 25 percent of the nation’s total active duty and reserve personnel – that are seeking aid from food pantries and other charitable programs across the country, according to a rare inquiry about the food insecurity of troops and veterans conducted by Feeding America, a hunger relief charity, that will be released Monday. Another 2.37 million households including veterans receive assistance from food pantries that are part of Feeding America’s network (this figure doesn’t include households where both a former and current service member reside).

    https://www.nbcnews.com/feature/in-plain-sight/hungry-heroes-25-percent-military-families-seek-food-aid-n180236

    I’m not vouching for the accuracy of that information, but say it’s half right. That’s WAY more than “not that many”.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  46. 41. 98% of what congress does is vote-buying. And the other 2 percent is what little of their constitutional duties they do bother with. You do realize that the first GI bill expired in 1956 and wasn’t renewed for years after that. Not until they started drafting young men into Vietnam. The GI Bill is now as much a boondoggle as the “farm bill” is.

    Irrespective of my personal feelings towards the GI Bill, it has also encouraged a bevy of fly-by-night for-profit institutions with dubious accreditation who have been targeting GI Bill recipients for decades. If you want to show your appreciation to our men and women in uniform, there are far better ways to do it than to support government boondoggles.

    Gryph (08c844)

  47. Irrespective of my personal feelings towards the GI Bill, it has also encouraged a bevy of fly-by-night for-profit institutions with dubious accreditation who have been targeting GI Bill recipients for decades. If you want to show your appreciation to our men and women in uniform, there are far better ways to do it than to support government boondoggles.

    This i can understand.

    Time123 (80b471)

  48. Irrespective of my personal feelings towards the GI Bill, it has also encouraged a bevy of fly-by-night for-profit institutions with dubious accreditation who have been targeting GI Bill recipients for decades. If you want to show your appreciation to our men and women in uniform, there are far better ways to do it than to support government boondoggles.

    Another of your straw man fallacies. You don’t get economics. Your suggestion of just paying more would not mean no “for-profit institutions with dubious accreditation”. In fact, they would arguably increase, since GI Bill funding is not carte blanc without any restrictions. Money in the hands of individuals would be.

    The first part of your comment is just unsupported BS.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  49. @20-
    And she left a lot behind.

    RipMurdock (d2a2a8)

  50. Yetter’s family is among the 620,000 households that include at least one soldier, reservist or guardsman – or 25 percent of the nation’s total active duty and reserve personnel – that are seeking aid from food pantries and other charitable programs across the country,

    Nice how they lump in active duty soldiers who get full pay with the weekend warriors. And how many of them are head of household? I don’t question that the bulk of the military comes from the unemployed and unemployable classes. In fact, I assert it.

    nk (1d9030)

  51. Under pressure, Trump administration weighs extending National Guard deployments
    Trump administration officials are preparing plans to extend the federal deployment of more than 40,000 National Guard members performing coronavirus relief work across the country, after scores of lawmakers moved to pressure President Donald Trump to keep the Guards in place past June.

    Four people familiar with the matter said the administration is prepared to extend the deployments through July, which would maintain federal funding for troops administering Covid-19 tests, disinfecting nursing homes and performing other public safety duties in nearly every state and federal territory. An extension would also help thousands of Guard members qualify for federal retirement and education benefits for which they would otherwise fall only one day short of obtaining.
    ….
    Another letter to Defense Secretary Mark Esper from 78 House members led by Rep. Cheri Bustos (D-Ill.) and first shared with POLITICO, demands an explanation for the June 24 cutoff, given that it would limit the Guards’ benefits.
    ……

    RipMurdock (d2a2a8)

  52. Another of your straw man fallacies. You don’t get economics. Your suggestion of just paying more would not mean no “for-profit institutions with dubious accreditation”. In fact, they would arguably increase, since GI Bill funding is not carte blanc without any restrictions. Money in the hands of individuals would be.

    This is not a great economics argument. Forcing the compensation through a specific channel creates an incentive for individuals to use that benefit more then they otherwise would. I could argue that this would drive consumption of ‘college’ that would otherwise not happen. Similar to how a gift card to Walmart would encourage me to shop at Walmart, even though I prefer Target. In the case of college it likely creates an inventive to make this college cheaper in other ways, such as the opportunity cost of the time to complete the work.

    Time123 (a7a01b)

  53. Military pay is fine as long as you are single. If you have a spouse and kids it isn’t enough.
    Yes, there is often base housing, so you don’t have to pay rent, but base housing is limited. Most of the time there is a waiting list and you have to rent on the local economy until something comes open if you want base housing. However, base housing isn’t great. It’s crackerbox housing built by the cheapest contractor who bid at the time the housing was being built and generally the upkeep has been less than ideal. Sometimes the floors contain asbestos. IDK if it’s still true, but there used to sometimes still be lead paint. The walls are thin, the facilities minimal, sometimes the doors to the bedrooms are plastic and only vaguely opaque. And, depending on which base you are on, the water may not be safe to drink. Military bases do not follow civilian environmental standards.

    And family doesn’t eat in the messhall, and neither do you if you aren’t in the barraks. You can shop on base and that takes away the sales tax, which makes things cheaper, but the BX has limited options and you can’t find most things there, and they’ll tell you things are coming or on order and they never arrive. The commissary is a good advantage and food prices can be pretty good there and it has basically the available products of a civilian grocery store, though there can be some weird shortages. Frex, the year Bush senior said he didn’t like broccoli, the commissary didn’t carry broccoli for months.

    You are responsible for your own uniforms (incl. dress uniforms), some of your own equipment, and all of everything else a civilian person buys as well.

    “Everything is taken care of for them” is not exactly the case.

    Nic (896fdf)

  54. Thank you, Nic, I know you know what you’re talking about. But, but, but … uniforms? That’s chintzy.

    nk (1d9030)

  55. Nice how they lump in active duty soldiers who get full pay with the weekend warriors.

    Well to remember how many “weekend warriors” have serve in our recent deployments, or been called up to backstop those deployed.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  56. @54 No problem. They do provide the first set of uniforms but those don’t last that long.

    Nic (896fdf)

  57. Forcing the compensation through a specific channel creates an incentive for individuals to use that benefit more then they otherwise would. I could argue that this would drive consumption of ‘college’ that would otherwise not happen.

    You are overlooking the fact that college is only ONE of several options available to a service person under the GI Bill. There are many, and you can easily acquaint yourself with them.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

  58. Another thought, MANY trades are taught in “college”. Junior colleges in Texas are where you go (generally) to learn and become credentialed in everything from HVAC to papers required for maritime ratings to firefighting to forestry.

    Ragspierre (d9bec9)

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