Bravo TV, public figures, Reality TV

#FlippingOut: Jenni Pulos is Staying Mum, Not Taking the “Radziwillian Route”

Last Friday, Jeff Lewis took to his eponymous SiriusXM radio show Jeff Lewis Live to address the People report about a rift between him and his Flipping Out costar and longtime pal Jenni Pulos. It turns out, the former besties haven’t had a simple “falling out”: This was a breakup and it looks like there will be no reconciliation any time soon…if ever.

Why? Because Pulos – according to Lewis – reported him for verbal abuse and harassment to the production company and network (Bravo, of course) behind Flipping Out.

In a follow up article in People, reporter Dave Quinn writes:

Lewis, 48, addressed PEOPLE’s report that he and Pulos had gone their separate ways Friday on an emotional episode of his SiriusXM radio show Jeff Lewis Live. “It’s true,” the house flipper and designer said. “Jenni and I did have a fight which then resulted in a rift. … I haven’t spoken to her in three months.”

Quinn later adds:

According to Lewis, there’s more to their fallout. He said that Pulos allegedly reported him to Bravo and the show’s production company, Authentic Entertainment, for “abuse and victimization.”

Fans of Flipping Out can fully acknowledge that what makes Jeff Lewis fun to watch is how he balances work with his unpredictable temperament,and how, as hilarious and entertaining as he is to observe on TV, he probably “isn’t the easiest person to work with in real life.” Many would label that as an Understatement.

In past seasons, Pulos seemed to be the one to roll with the punches and cheer while riding the roller coaster of Lewis’s erratic moods. Her brand of humor struck many as ideally suited to his obsessive compulsions, idiosyncrasies and meltdowns…So now fans are wondering how things got this bad between them.

From the account Lewis provided on his Radio Andy show, one can surmise that Pulos was unhappy for quite some time, but did not effectively communicate her issues directly to Lewis. In turn, this resulted in Lewis feeling completely blindsided by the ensuing complaints.

Last year, I interviewed Lewis and Pulos within the same week. It was prior to the 2017 season premiere of Flipping Out. I found each of them to be quick-witted, charming, charismatic and surprisingly down to earth in our conversations. Since Lewis has now had the chance to share his side of the story about their breakup, I recently reached out to Pulos to see if she would share hers.

As I write this, I’ve received no response (and candidly, as well as humbly, given the extinction of Huffington Post’s Contributor Platform which afforded me the opportunity to interview her last year, I don’t expect to hear back). Another reason we should not expect to hear from her side right now: LAWYERS. This whole shebang is a developing story, but what makes it most interesting is that we’ll see the demise of the Jeff-Jenni friendship play out this season of Flipping Out — which has just begun airing.

Pulos has been active on social media posting about events like the recent deaths of John McCain and Burt Reynolds, as well as happy occasions, including time spent with children and extended family. There have been no instagram posts pertaining to Flipping Out in recent days, nor is Pulos going the Radziwillian Route of bashing her former cast mate on Twitter.

Interestingly, Pulos issued a benign promotional tweet for Flipping Out three days before Lewis revealed this bombshell: Pulos hasn’t been an employee of Jeff Lewis Designs in ages (Rather, she’s an employee of Bravo).

Lewis shared with listeners that it had bothered him for quite some time that this was the one insincere and not true-to-life aspect of their “reality show.”

Despite nasty missives hurled her way, Pulos has been staying mum, resisting the urge to reply to mean tweets from Lewis stans.

In time and as things calm down, we may hear her side of the story.

For now, silence is the smarter option. It is also likely to be the route advised by a legal team. Regardless, Pulos must sense that she’s taking the high road by resisting any urge to address reports.

We recently witnessed how Carole Radziwill struggled to get a word in edgewise next to her adversary Bethenny Frankel on the Real Housewives of New York reunion. If you check out Radziwill’s Twitter timeline, it seems she is carrying on an argument with Frankel post-show that Frankel has backed away from. After years of working with Jeff Lewis, Jenni Pulos knows that his powerful voice will drown hers out in a similar fashion to Frankel’s over Radziwill’s.

Independent of any legal protocol, Pulos appears more dignified by remaining mum, admirably swallowing her pride and letting Jeff Lewis have his say….for now.

(Photo Source: Us Weekly)

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Bravo TV, Reality TV, public figures, Bachelor Nation

#BachelorNation and #BravoTV Stars: Kim Biermann Said WHAT?!

I had this same reaction when Kathryn Dennis said something similar:

I’m familiar with #BachelorNation, the culture surrounding ABC’s The Bachelor franchise and many of its antiquated notions with regard to casting.

Weeks ago, Kathryn Dennis claimed to have been courted by production to be an upcoming Bachelorette (People Magazine article), and now, Kim Zolciak Biermann is saying she too was once considered for the title roll.

The Bachelorette may have finally welcomed its first black lead with Rachel Lindsay during its thirteenth season to help reject rumors related to racism, but CLASSISM still marks the franchise. I don’t envision that changing anytime soon.

Lindsay was an accomplished attorney with a stellar reputation overall. Single mom Emily Maynard (Season 8’s Bachelorette) was a gorgeous widow who had tragically lost her young husband. However, a trash talking, cussing, chain-smoking single mom (Biermann) wouldn’t have fit the franchise’s “brand”, particularly at the time she claims to have been approached. That brand is about having a wholesome as apple pie image (or one as close to it as possible for a show that concludes with a “Fantasy Suite” catering to the final three contenders and lead).

Dennis’s turbulent, televised and highly publicized history with the scandalous Thomas Ravenel could not feasibly have garnered such an invitation by ABC. Simply put, they are just not that open minded. It boils down to viewership demographics and ratings.

I have to wonder about WHO was actually talking to these women and scamming them into believing these were valid offers.

In the interim, I am all for a Bravo show encouraging men to step up to the plate and vie for Kathryn Dennis’s affections. After all, Bravo gave her a platform and allowed fans to witness her maturations from season to season on Southern Charm.

Because of how Biermann was received on Real Housewives of Atlanta (RHOA), as well as unresolved havoc following the show’s reunion, I cannot imagine Bravo and its viewers would be on board for something similar with her as the lead.

Tamara Tattles brings us more information here about Zolciak Biermann’s recent remarks.

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#RHONY, Bravo TV, Psychology, public figures, Reality TV

#RHONY Psychology: Is the Bar Set Low for Your “Bethenny”? (Opinion)

Disclaimer: The following post may be deemed “psychobabble” as it reflects thoughts of a former psychology major, rather than psychologist or licensed mental health professional.

It is a residual learned helplessness from elementary school interactions with mean girls. When we come across someone brash, opinionated and intimidating, it’s somewhat instinctive how we set the bar lower, how we’ll lap up the love we do receive – between thorny barbs that prick us repetitively – like a little lost puppy dog.

As with an A-Plus student, someone like Bethenny Frankel has a podium to stand on so we are at a loss for words during debates. The little girls inside of us, upon recognizing approval from the harshest of critics, prize the praise of a “Bethenny” over the kind words of someone softer and more sensitive.

Because she is one who suffers fools lightly (so to speak), her moments of tenderness and vulnerability stand out more prominently than they would in an easygoing individual, and a fortress of respect surrounds her.

While I did not agree with certain actions of Carole Radziwill this season of Real Housewives of New York (RHONY), – her need to repeat atrocious things said to people behind their backs could perhaps be justified by the fact that cameras were capturing everything – I had compassion for her after witnessing her evisceration by cast mate and former buddy Bethenny Frankel.

No one on this show is without faults and the argument about “setting the bar lower” could be applied to other cast mates too. However, that would entail several other separate, lengthy articles. I’m going to stick to Bethenny in this particular one, while bearing in mind the argument about allowances made for Ramona Singer. We can save that Megillah (and ones devoted to Sonja, Luann, Dorinda…) for another time.

Think back to your days vying for the popular classmate’s attention and wishing you were in “the clique.” Remember laughing at the girl in the back brace who the cool kids were taunting? Would you put up with and participate in that sort of behavior now? I’m sure you are saying “no”, but if you think hard, you have probably made other mental adjustments for rude people.

You may know someone blunt who won’t back down and listen to you finish your points in a discussion – even when what they’re spewing is entirely wrong. It may be because they’re so often right and regarded as the “voice of reason” in other instances.

Despite some aggravation, you say to yourself, consciously or subconsciously, “She’s tough, but has chosen ME as her friend…ME!!!” So you listen and bite your tongue to keep from objecting.

This does reflect a collective self esteem and the desire we have to be appreciated by people we see as accomplished, authoritative and determined. As confident as one could argue that Manhattan socialite and bestselling author Carole Radziwill is, she is not above succumbing to another’s flattery and adoration of her.

Avid RHONY viewer and reality TV blogger Essence Capp observes: “When Carole met Bethenny at Luann’s during Season 7, she was almost ‘star struck.’ She really did seem in awe of her during the early period of their friendship.”

Bethenny called Carole the “cool girl” during that time and Carole (no doubt) loved it. I cannot blame her at all: I’ve been a a part of this type of dynamic in my own social life. Who doesn’t appreciate and value the praise of a highly discerning individual? Bethenny had already set herself apart as being that fussy, fault finding judge whose BS detector was extra fine-tuned.

My husband will say to me “Forget elementary school! That was 100 years ago!” However, it is the experience of playground and classroom interactions, including past swift assessments made by teachers and peers alike, that shaped who we are today. Whether we are willing to reflect and admit to it or not, the social and academic scrutiny in our formative years can affect us throughout young adulthood and beyond.

Knowing this allows us to ask ourselves “Why exactly do I need this person in my life? Why does their opinion of me matter so much?”

Unfortunately, as the Carole-Bethenny breakup attests, it can take a falling out for us to step back and decide what is worth fighting for…and what isn’t.

As I write this, Carole is still tweeting about the fights with her former friend. In doing so, she comes across to many as the Bitter Betty of the duo. Perhaps it’s because she feels that now that she won’t be returning to RHONY, she has nothing to lose and can totally go rogue.

It is best, when there’s no reality show in the picture, to be the better person. In the fashion of those beloved by Bravo who can look scornfully upon the Housewives and laugh at them, Carole could bow out gracefully and opt to “plead the fifth” instead.

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Celebrities, Cults, public figures, True Crime

#NXIVM and NYC Actors: “The Source”

The NXIVM cult is all over the news now, but it didn’t start out the way it has all ended…Or rather than “ended”, I should phrase it this way: When it all began, it wasn’t the group you now know about. I’m not sure what – if anything – is left of the disgraced group at present. There are a few known faithful adherents who possess varying takeaways regarding the main messages. However, they are staying very very quiet and out of the public eye.

Remember: NXIVM didn’t start out with a sexual slavery division called DOS! It began as a multilevel marketing company. Keith Raniere (the group’s now-imprisoned, manipulative hypnotist of a leader, worshipfully referred to by members as “The Vanguard”) had learned his tips and tricks about MLMs from being in Amway. Yes, it’s true. Scott Johnson is one of the people to enlighten me to that fact. Before I go any further, I should say that my own dad was in Amway for a blip in time and left when he realized it wasn’t ultimately profitable – certainly not for the immense dedication and time required. He and my mom did meet their very best friends through the group though. So “cults” can have benefits and are not always all bad (if you want to think of Amway as being one).

Johnson maintains informative websites about Amway’s scam-way tactics. He frequently writes about the parallels between NXIVM’s methods (the NXIVM that dealt with business and offered courses under its Executive Success Program, rather than the NXIVM you know of as a “sex trafficking cult.” Again, that whole sex thing came to light later…) and Amway’s.

NXIVM has had many evolutions since it began as Consumers Buyline, as well as many offshoots. The most notorious of the offshoots is DOS because of the attention that sex trafficking garners.

Another more benign-seeming offshoot of NXIVM was “The Source”. If you are an actor based in NYC or Brooklyn, you may have attended a meeting for this group. The idea was to get through to actors about opening themselves up more, kineticising that potential energy (AKA “self actualization”) and identifying the tools and tricks to be one’s best. All the lingo that they used was perfectly designed to appeal to a struggling actor.

One Canadian television personality had been so captivated by “The Source” (which was also big in Vancouver at one point) that she was swept up into the group which ended up feeding her to NXIVM. Like Jonah in the belly of the whale, the insides were dark and deep until she was finally able to pry the mouth open, expelling herself from the mammal. But she did so only after being inducted into DOS and having her pubic region painfully branded with the initials of Keith Raniere and actor-turned-NXIVM slave recruiter Allison Mack.

In NYC just a few short years ago, Allison Mack was out with another actor named Mark Hildreth, scouting for new recruits to “The Source”.

The hope was that the recruits would see the beauty in Keith Raniere’s teachings. Upon attending a meeting with other actors in Brooklyn, the actors would hear about getting the tools to thoroughly introspect, identify what they were doing wrong and figure out how to do it all effectively.

What would sound like a bunch of hocus pocus, BS mumbo jumbo to some were words that would bring a young and impressionable actor like Mack to tears. One young woman met the duo and found Hildreth to be both attractive and captivating, but also thought to herself: This is creepy AF, weird and culty.

Hildreth would never hear back from this young actor who he saw as a potential new recruit. However, there are accounts of other NYC-based actors approached about “The Source” who met Hildreth and Mack at meetings and had different takeaways.

Had the young woman (referenced above) connected well with Mack, she may have ended up depleting her savings on courses and even possibly moving to Rochester to become a DOS sex slave devoted to Keith Raniere. She may also have ultimately followed him to Mexico as Mack did, being under his potent hypnotic spell and believing in the greatness of The Vanguard.

But this young woman – despite finding Hildreth to be somewhat cute, dynamic and intoxicating (Hildreth had reportedly learned his skills from the very best of the best, The Vanguard himself) – realized she was being fed a bunch of gobbledygook.

She went back to her acting and trying to make it in NYC the ole fashioned way, shying away from all sketchy Brooklyn-based meetings.

So where is Mark Hildreth today and what does he have to say about all of this?

Understandably, it seems he is ashamed, and perhaps any brainwashing he himself had been subjected to, has worn off. He’s doing his acting thing and his social media reflects a devotion to those projects.

From all of the reports I’ve combed through, it seems that Hildreth had little to no knowledge of DOS and looked at “The Source” as a way for people to actualize potential and grow professionally. The only “crime” Hildreth should probably be ashamed of having a more direct connection to? Encouraging people to become part of a group that charged ridiculously overpriced fees for self-improvement courses (Richard Branson took some NXIVM courses. However, I wouldn’t worry about his wallet having taken a hit).

Hildreth allegedly split from the whole NXIVM/”The Source” crew in 2016 after discovering that Raniere was hitting on his girlfriend. I don’t get what the allure was of this hairy, overgrown Harry Potter lookalike, but Raniere was known to have quite the harem to satiate his polyamorous desires.

It seems that now, Hildreth wants all of this to be behind him. He wishes the public would stop associating him with NXIVM. I cannot blame the guy for these desires, but I do have a lot of questions:

What exactly did Mark Hildreth know about NXIVM as a group when he severed ties to Raniere?

Did he keep in touch with Allison Mack?

How many DOS slaves were originally recruits of “The Source”?

And here are some questions for you, the readers:

Did you know of anyone who was approached by Mark Hildreth and Allison Mack about “The Source”?

Did you ever attend one of those Brooklyn-based meetings yourself?

Feel free to respond in the comments section, or email me directly by going to the “contact” portion of this website.

There are indeed so many unanswered questions about NXIVM. Fortunately for Mark Hildreth, it appears he got out just in time.

(Pictured: actor Mark Hildreth)

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Cults, Psychology, public figures, True Crime, Uncategorized

#NXIVM: Catherine Oxenberg Says Daughter “Will Be Fine…More Than Fine”

Catherine Oxenberg is many things. She’s enviably beautiful. She’s intelligent and she’s kind. She’s also “royal” – her mother is Princess Elizabeth of Yugoslavia – in addition to having played royalty on televisions as an actress.

But these days Catherine Oxenberg is known for more than her television roles, most notably for starring on Dynasty, and her lineage. These days she’s known as a fierce crusader and a fighter, one who took on a cult and didn’t back down until she knew her daughter was safe. It is a group that has threatened its detractors, terrorized them via bogus litigation, and maligned former members. Yes, it is the cult that is the subject of many conversations and is currently all over the media. The one that fronted as a mainly innocuous, but money-sucking, professional empowerment/self-help group and has changed names many times, but is now known by one represented by Roman numerals. The cult that – it was subsequently discovered – had a unique division devoted to the sexual slavery of women. That division, called DOS, called for fierce loyalty pledges from members, requiring the handing over of “collateral” (incriminating information/pictures that would mortify the individual should they defect from the sorority) and branding in the pubic region.

As Catherine details in her new book Captive: A Mother’s Crusade To Save Her Daughter From a Terrifying Cult, she and her daughter India went to a meeting for what appeared to be a self help group back in 2011. Catherine’s then-husband made a somewhat offhanded and jokey remark, following some creepy observations about the group’s leader Keith Raniere. He suspected aloud to her that Keith was involved sexually with the group’s women. Catherine remembers the comment (which would prove to be a confirmed truth) in hindsight, but it was stated in such an off-the-cuff manner that she didn’t focus deeply on it. She had also only briefly met the cult leader.

Following that fateful meeting, Catherine took some NXIVM courses that promised success in business and taught about the tools and skills to excel. She reflects now: “A lot of what you hear Keith say about NXIVM’s philosophy sounds like gobbledygook when you listen to him on YouTube and see how captivated (former Smallville actress) Allison Mack is by his words. He has this ability to break you down and then reel you in.”

Catherine said that she gets annoyed by how people undermine those who are susceptible to brainwashing: “Anyone is susceptible because the person doing it is clever and has a strategy. It’s about appealing to an individual’s interests and goals. India is a confident and self-assured woman. There were prominent, highly intelligent people who took NXIVM courses. It’s very insulting when people criticize and judge how one can be taken in by this group. Aside from offering community, NXIVM offers the promise of doing something and being a part of something special that will make a difference in the world.”

When they were first introduced to the group, India was committed to improving her own business skills following a failed food-related venture. Catherine describes India as someone who sees the kindness in people and who is committing to bettering humanity.

“That is something that this group looks for in individuals,” says Catherine, explaining that India was a prime recruit for the group because of her uniquely innate desire to help people and contribute to society. “They slowly convince people – there are brilliant people who have become involved! – that they are part of something that is going to make a huge difference.”

Catherine took some overly pricey NXIVM courses and despite initial interest, became more skeptical and more disenchanted over a three year period. She gave up on NXIVM, but India only became more committed. Then she moved to Albany to be with the group and surrounded by its members.

In Catherine’s book, and on a recent episode of Dateline (in which Megyn Kelly is the interviewer), Catherine speaks about the former NXIVM member who reached out furtively and fearfully to alert her that her daughter was in danger. Catherine was then provided with evidence and became invested in amassing more evidence – which she eventually turned over to the New York State General Attorney’s office.

Although the authorities had been repeatedly pointed to the unethical practices of the group (including shady financial transactions and Keith Raniere’s sexual relationships with women under the age of consent), it was Catherine’s diligently collected mountain of evidence that helped spur law enforcement to serious action.

I ask her if she thinks her status as an actress and coming from royalty helped with her being taken seriously. She laughs: “I think they were tired of being hounded by me and knew I was this mother who wasn’t going to give up!”

While all of this was happening, India had essentially estranged herself from a mother pleading for her return. Mother could not get in touch with daughter or be sure of her whereabouts for a lengthy period of time, and while India was now an adult, Catherine knew the dangers of NXIVM and saw no choice other than to speak out publicly.

This was a move that would have repercussions for Catherine, with India further evading her and ensuring more secrecy regarding her whereabouts.

Going to the media was something that pained Catherine to do, but it was a last resort and a desperate measure called for by a desperate time. Having been in the limelight many years before as an actress and as the daughter of a princess, she would much rather have avoided the media than begged them to shine a spotlight on something.

But in this case, there was a singular goal in mind: getting her daughter out of harm’s way as quickly as possible and to safety.

You will have to read Catherine’s book to see how complicated this journey was. Her daughter India has asked for privacy during this time. We do not know if and how she was culpable in NXIVM’s illicit activities, but few question that she was a victim of Raniere’s intense mind control.

I ask Catherine if India now knows she was “brainwashed.”

“She does not like that word, Catherine states adamantly, “That’s definitely not a word that gets a good reaction so I stopped bringing it up. India feels for the ordeal that I’ve been through. She feels for the ordeals of others.”

By “others”, I privately hope that in time, the empathic India Oxenberg will have little to no sympathy for Keith Raniere.

For now, mums the word, but India has told her mom that she’ll tell her story her way and specifically, in her own time.

To hear India’s carefully crafted statement to the media, you’ll have to check out the Dateline episode. Catherine was able to share with me (and with Megyn Kelly) that she recently reconnected with her daughter and India is safe. The media has reported that she’s away from NXIVM (or what’s left of it currently) now.

When questioned by Megyn Kelly about India’s future (with the allusion of possible lingering effects of NXIVM), Catherine smiled at the interviewer. It was an authentic and heartfelt smile that she hadn’t exhibited publicly in a long, long time. “She will be fine,” she replied, then paused as her smile widened a bit: “…more than fine.”

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#RHONY, Bravo TV, public figures, Reality TV

#RHONY: Crap with the Countess…& Chicago?

A source tells me that Luann De Lesseps’ personal publicist recently fired her. This is ALLEGED, please note, but the source goes on to add that it was because Lu wasn’t being totally truthful about her troubles — and was, generally, a handful to deal with.

This report explains why Bethenny Frankel stepped into the role of spokeswoman for Lu, and why she was the one to give Dave Quinn at People talking points for an article about Luann not attending the reunion (to undergo round two of rehab for alcohol addiction).

The source adds that the folks at Bravo “don’t want to handle her shit anymore.” An interesting Twitter handle to follow that keeps up with the RHONY-Lu shenanigans, and appears to be impressively in the know and legitimately well-connected is @myfeetonfleek.

Celebrity gossip columnist Rob Shuter (The Naughty Gossip) recently expressed to podcast host Kate Casey (Reality Life with Kate Casey) that Luann is at a point where she doesn’t “need” RHONY and has a very full life outside of the show with friends, a packed itinerary and a successful cabaret show.

He said fans should not be surprised if Lu departs the RHONY franchise to focus on family, health and sobriety. Shuter also mentioned that producers from the longstanding Broadway production of Chicago were at one of her #CountessAndFriends (cabaret) performances.

Luann De Lesseps starring in Chicago in the near future? Could that actually happen?

For now, without official personal PR representation, the best person to ask might just be Bethenny!

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Celebrities, public figures

This Week in Celebrity Train-Wrecks: Pete Hits “Delete”

I’ll admit I haven’t thought much about Pete Davidson and Ariana Grande, but my Millennial friends seemed to be obsessed with this odd couple. He’s the quirky SNL comedian who, notably, lost his dad on 9/11, and she’s the high-pony adorned pop star who shows us one side of her face.

She was also thrust into the global spotlight when her concert was attacked by a suicide bomber in Manchester, resulting in 23 fatalities. Both have been exposed to the light and the dark, the comedy, music and absolute horrifying tragedy. Perhaps that makes their pairing more suitable than the untrained eye might assess.

Comedians aren’t strangers to attacks on the tastefulness of their brand of humor, and Davidson hasn’t escaped public ire for his own questionable comments and jokes. He’s never really been my “cup of tea”, but perhaps I would change my mind if I saw a solo performance in a club.

When it comes to Ariana, I think of her licking donuts without planning to buy them and proceeding to call America fat. That flashback is redeemed by the recall of her returning to Manchester much later on, post tragedy, to show her support for the people and raise money for the victims.

Otherwise, I cannot name a single song of hers, but I was born in 1974 and I still think Queen and Erasure are two of the best popular music groups to exist – I may not be the best judge.

Pete and Ariana’s engagement had been a thing that had fans speculating and gossiping daily. It all seemed like a whirlwind and folks were placing bets on how long this duo would last. Then “news” broke earlier today that Pete had hit delete on his Instagram. “No more Ariana posts?!” one onlooker exclaimed in a Facebook group devoted to celeb gossip.

Pete’s Instagram activity coincided with a tweet from Ariana:

Fans, particularly those avidly tuned in to celebrity shit-shows, are speculating that the couple is kaput and are on their edges of their seats waiting to see what happens next.

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