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About gpurlee

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  1. RememberSchiff - thank you for taking time to review the court documents for us. I am afraid that the reality of the situation may be that we are likely to see the loss of dozens of properties as this bankruptcy proceeds. At the same time, if we incur a 30% to 40% loss in membership due to the pandemic, loss of the LDS as well as loss of income, it may be increasing difficult to maintain and justify the number of camps that we currently have.
  2. What does history teach us? Some thoughts from a Scouting Historian. The BSA has a 110-year history that easily meets the longevity criteria of “Built to Last”. Millions of youth and adults have been served and have benefitted. And it means that the organization has been able to adapt and deal with the crises that occur within any organization. Yet, there is no guarantee that events will not occur that can and will sink even the best built organizations. Ask any shipbuilder. My second post in the series “Boy Scouts In Crisis” discussed “The Perfect Storm” of events that has engulfed the BSA. They included the combination of rapid cultural change and the introduction of extended statues of limitations for childhood abuse claims by several states. Finally, the onset of a once in a hundred-year pandemic has crippled programs and choked cashflow. The storm reached a potentially catastrophic level with the recent announcement that over 90,000 abuse claims had been filed against the BSA. We are now in the midst of one of the most complex bankruptcies in the nation’s history. It has the potential to involve not only the national organization but thousands of claimants, over two hundred councils and potentially thousands of chartered organizations and units. The case will span over fifty states with their very different statues. The process and outcomes of this case will be studied for years and likely will establish new legal precedents. This Perfect Storm of events has resulted in the most serious situation that the organization has ever encountered. Some national publications are calling for congressional inquiries. Others are stating that despite 110 years of service to the nation and its youth, an epidemic of pedophilia has permeated and tainted the organization. Therefore, it should no longer have a place in American society. Could we be looking at the worst childhood abuse scandal in the nation’s history? There is the court of law and also the court of public opinion. The risk is that the movement may be judged and convicted in the court of public opinion before a decision can be rendered in a court of law. A detailed analysis of the claims by an independent panel will be essential. Unfortunately, the sheer number of claims will make this a very time-consuming process. What percentage of the claims will be determined to be valid? Are the vast majority of these claims related to incidents that occurred decades ago? Have the major changes made in the BSA youth protection had an impact? Or, despite our very best efforts, have we proven ourselves, as an organization, unable to protect the children and youth entrusted to us? At this time, there are far more questions than answers about the future of the BSA. I have tried to identify and comment upon a few of them. Can the organization reach a satisfactory settlement with claimants that financially allows the organization to continue its mission? Bankruptcy attorneys have stated that a bankruptcy of this magnitude typically would stretch on for years. There are tens of thousands of victims’ claims that will need to be vetted by an appointed independent panel. The BSA insurance companies will also need to review these claims. And the work of these groups may be slowed working within the constraints of a covid environment. What will be the outcome of the current discussion and litigation with our previous insurance carriers? This will play an important role in the ability of our organization to move ahead. It will also greatly influence the tone of the bankruptcy claims if our past insurance companies are successful in avoiding paying claims due to perceived neglect on the part of the BSA. In addition, there are also significant long-term questions for an organization that has been increasingly self-insured. Will a re-organized national organization emerge with the financial resources to provide adequate insurance coverage for its councils, partners and units? How this will play out at the council level remains to be seen. Despite the efforts of the national organization to shield the councils, this appears increasingly unlikely. If the number of claims remains at the current level, the claimants’ attorneys will likely be seeking a larger pool of settlement dollars. The council assets will look very attractive. Councils located in states that have not added extended periods for childhood abuse claims may have some additional latitude in negotiations. Membership losses due to the pandemic, decreased cash flow resulting from hampered fund-raising, cancelled events and diminished or no camp attendance will add a lot of stress on the councils. Battling image issues with donors and others will complicate it even more. What impact will recent events have on the willingness of our current chartered organization partners to continue their association? Chartered partners have been an integral part of our structure and operation. And for decades they have been shielded from much of the inherent risk. Unfortunately, the vast number of abuse claims will make many of our present partners nervous about the risk associated with Scouting. This will also hamper the recruitment of new partners. Some of our chartered organizations may find themselves in a position of needing to incur the cost and the angst of defending against claims that occurred decades ago. If this occurs, we will have a very serious problem indeed. Are we looking at a future situation more similar to Girl Scouting where the unit and the assets are “owned” by a local council? One where the host community organization’s primary role is to provide meeting space and their liability is much more limited? What lasting financial impact will the pandemic have upon the national and local organizations? If you combine the loss of the LDS as well as 30% or more losses of membership due to the pandemic, this loss severely impacts all levels of the organization. It is a loss of millions of dollars that includes registration fees, a drop of activity income, a decline in product sales and a reduction in the base of potential donors. Several of our councils were already financially struggling before the recent events. The image of the BSA as a safe environment for youth has been severely damaged. There is no way to avoid that conclusion. We can anticipate that the organization will continue to be blasted from a variety of directions as this case progresses. If Boy Scouting is to survive, it must be able to successfully communicate two messages. First, the current program is safe for our youth. The organization must be able to show that the changes that were initiated over three decades ago have made a significant difference. The second message is that the organization will own its past failures in protecting youth and will demonstrate a sincere effort to reach a fair and just settlement with victims The organization’s response as we deal with this crisis and the aftermath will determine how families, partners and donors view us. It will affect their willingness to be associated with the BSA. Unless we can accomplish this, the BSA will not survive. If the program survives and I sincerely hope that it does, it is likely to be a very different program. The specific form remains uncertain. We can expect a need to significantly reduce operating expenses including staffing. There will be financial strain caused by legal expenses and settlement costs at both the national and council levels. In addition, membership losses from the pandemic may be significant. I would anticipate that we are may see the closure and/or sale of several camps as well as the consolidation of many councils. We currently have several councils that do not have the long-term ability to withstand this intense combination of severe membership losses, loss of income and potential settlement costs. Some councils already have begun merger discussions. We can anticipate that this situation will take many different turns, some of them predictable. Others will be unexpected. I expect the BSA to appoint a blue ribbon independent “commission” to review our programs. They will review what we have learned and will make recommendations for the future. This will be part of the effort to rebuild our organizational credibility. I would not be surprised if this type of independent review becomes an on-going process. Youth safety and protection must remain our primary focus. It cannot be overstated that we must be able to convincingly communicate this priority to our stakeholders, as well as the general public. Lessons Learned from our Past What lessons have we learned from our past? This crisis has elements that are unique in our history. The timing of how they have all coalesced at the same time makes the situation especially challenging. Nevertheless, there are lessons: First, within Scouting, any experienced Scouter can tell you that the Scouting program ultimately occurs at the unit level. During the previous times of crisis, those units that focused upon their mission of serving youth with high quality and safe programs not only survived but thrived. Determination and a commitment go a long way. During the 1970’s as Scout troops folded throughout the country, other units offered remarkable experiences and grew in membership. The best thing most of us can do to support Scouting is to provide exceptional programs to the best of our ability in this challenging environment. Second, our message is critical. During the crisis in our early years and the Great Depression. Scouting was very effective in getting out its message of being a positive and needed youth program. What is our key message today and how do we get it out? A core group of advocates is essential to help tell this message and to provide support. There are millions of alumni nationwide who have a personal desire in seeing the BSA survive and thrive. Are we communicating with them and enlisting their support? We have built up goodwill over many decades. Now is the time to tap this goodwill. Exceptional leadership at the national, council and local level will be essential to navigate successfully through the crisis. This applies at both the professional and volunteer levels. Sometimes this leadership is already in place. Other times it emerges as it did with the hiring of the young attorney James West in our early years who provided the growing organization with very visible leadership. Will we see this type of leadership? In closing, I am reminded of the words that the widow of our troop’s first Scoutmaster wrote in 1976 to me: I recalled the early days of Scouting. It seemed so right for boys, and men as well, as boys were most enthusiastic about the program. How wise were the men who established the high ideals which gave boys the desire to do their best! Bertha L. Frank (widow of Homer M. Frank) November 29, 1976 First Scoutmaster of Troop 1, Jeffersonville First Scout troop in Southern Indiana 1911 Organizations that successfully navigate a severe crisis recognize that the objective is not survival but a greater cause. And Scouting since its formation has had that vision of making a difference in lives and in the nation. That need today for Scouting is perhaps greater than it has ever been.
  3. You are correct that very few COR's recognize their power and their responsibility. Typically at our council's annual meeting only a handful of COR's attend out of the potential of a few hundred. I know that the United Methodist Church has begun to encourage COR training and involvement. I was the guest at the Atlanta's council religious committee's training a couple of years ago. It is a combined effort of the Catholic and the UMC committees. They have an excellent training program for COR's along with numerous side sessions. We were hoping to replicate that in our council but the pandemic had other ideas.
  4. This is the second in a planned series of three posts related to past and present crises in Boy Scouting. They reflect my observations as a long-time Scouter and Scouting historian. A few years ago, I received unexpected telephone calls from a New York Times reporter and a CNN producer asking me to comment, from the perspective of a long-time volunteer Scouter in the heartland, about the controversies which were shaking the organization and had now burst out into the public arena. In reality, the storm clouds had been building on the horizon for several years. Almost two decades ago, a prominent national news magazine had featured the cover photo of a Boy Scout with the caption “The Battle for the Soul of the Boy Scouts”. The largest youth movement in the nation had attempted to stay apolitical but rapid social change created a new and challenging environment for the organization. The national decision to allow openly gay boys and adults to be part of the movement came after agonizing years of heated debate that deeply divided the organization. Debates continued about whether to admit girls into the traditional Boy Scouting program at the pack and troop level. Coed membership had long been commonplace in many other international Scouting programs as well as our own Exploring and Venturing programs. Change once again met resistance for various reasons. In a series of actions, all programs were opened to female membership at the discretion of the chartered organization. In reaction to these decisions, some local chartering organizations chose to discontinue their long-standing relationship with the Boy Scouts. Citing a variety of factors, the LDS church announced that it was withdrawing from participation in the BSA effective at the beginning of 2020. This ended a long relationship with the loss of an estimated 18% of the BSA membership nationally. However, the percentage of LDS linked members varied significantly from council to council with some western councils losing almost 90% of their membership overnight. The leading edge of the storm was clearly on the horizon as several states temporarily extended the stature of limitations in past abuse claims. The national BSA and the councils in those states faced an onslaught of abuse claims. This set the stage for the filing of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the national organization in an effort to avoid financial collapse and to attempt to reach a fair reconciliation with victims. Yet, there was an element of this storm that no one anticipated. The advent of the coronavirus pandemic rapidly accelerated the growing crisis. It was like a hurricane entering a body of warm water and rapidly building to Category 5 magnitude. Scouting units ceased to meet in many communities, council and national events were cancelled and much fund-raising ground to a halt in many places throughout the nation. The attorney for national BSA stated that cash flow was a major issue and the national operation might not have a sufficient cash flow to continue operations past the 2021 summer unless a settlement could be quickly reached. As of this writing, membership in 2021 seems poised to take a significant drop in many councils. Some Scouting professionals have stated that they are anticipating an estimated loss of 30% or more of the council membership at recharter time. The Cub Scouting program has been especially hard hit with estimates of an 80% membership loss in some areas. Scout troops apparently have been affected to a lesser degree as many of them were able to shift to virtual meetings. Many units have been unable to successfully conduct recruitment events during the pandemic. The deluge of non-stop negative media coverage and advertising related to abuse in Scouting have created a negative and scary image for prospective families. Scout troops will be adversely affected if cub packs have on-going major membership losses. In addition, it is unclear how potentially months of virtual Scouting and no in-person Scout activities due to pandemic restrictions will affect the retention of youth members. The force of the storm upon the organization has been unrelenting. The statement of 90,000 plus abuse claims is stunning. It far exceeds even the “worst case” estimates. If it indeed proves accurate, it is a damning indictment of, at the very least, our past if not present programs. And it will shake the trust of our families, our partners, our donors and even ourselves. Insurance companies have threatened to withhold payment toward past abuse claims due to perceived neglect on the part of the BSA. While this still has a long time to play out, the question may be, has the brand been so damaged that even if it survives bankruptcy, will it be able to successfully function? The storm is still not done with us. Boy Scouting has historically been built around the idea of chartered partners. The impact and willingness of these chartered partners to continue sponsorship has been shaken. Many churches recently received notification from their conference that they needed to immediately have their attorney file a claim against the BSA. The responsibility and liability of hosting Scouting will be perceived in a different way in the future. The days of simply allowing a troop or pack to meet in the church basement on Wednesday nights being your perceived sole duty as a sponsor are behind us. The sheer number of abuse claims will certainly raise a multitude of concerns among our charter partners. These concerns will only accelerate if chartered organizations find themselves as a target of a lawsuit from a program that they may have ceased to host decades ago. From a historical standpoint, this is the most serious crisis that the organization has faced since its formation. A perfect storm of events is occurring that threatens to significantly reshape or perhaps even destroy a program that has been a staple of American society for over a century. My next and final planned post in this series – The reality of the current situation is sobering and disheartening. There are a host of questions. What are possible paths ahead for our national organization? How will these events play out at the council and unit levels? What can we do as Scouters? Does our history offer us lessons for the future? I will discuss my take in more detail on the issues discussed in this post and more.
  5. Jameson76 - In our community in 1976, there were six very active Scouting units. Five years later, all but one had ended. The new Scouting program was a disaster for the Boy Scouting program overall and helped to bring the Golden Age of Scouting to a close. There were elements that worked well in our troop such as the Leadership Corps and the skill awards but honestly, we just continued a very strong and active outdoor program. Trips to the National Jamboree, Washington DC and Chicago helped. And we saw significant growth from a combination of transfers and new Scouts.
  6. qwazse - I have been surprised at how little serious research has been done on Scouting programs that have affected millions of youth over a century of time.
  7. I would be glad to send a pdf file once all three parts are posted. The next section focuses on 2001 to the present time including the lead up to present bankruptcy. I hope to post that in a couple of days.
  8. I am a Scouting historian. This is what happens when your time in Scouting equals half the time that the program has been in existence. An unpaid but gratifying position (like most of our positions). My focus has primarily been my local council in which, in a fit of madness, I began a two-year process which ended up with a 500 plus page book. During that process, I went through literally thousands of local and national documents over two years trying to get a feel for the program at different time periods. I conducted countless interviews. And I came away with a very different understanding of the program. As I did my research, it appeared to me that there were three separate past periods in the past century in which the Boy Scouts were in a time of serious crisis. Times that threatened the very existence of the program. Historians like to think that perhaps we can learn from history. And there are lessons to be learned from crises. I am hoping to do three separate posts: (1) A look back at past crises (2) Observations on the current crisis (3) What lies ahead and lessons from the past I welcome your thoughts and comments. Our first crisis unfolded soon after the formation of the BSA. The Boy Scout movement had spread like wildfire initially. Newspaper features captured the excitement of a new movement whose aim was to develop American manhood and virtue. It was a program based upon the highest ideals of the time. Boy Scouting was largely a grassroots movement where civic minded individuals and organizations almost raced to form a troop in communities throughout America. Organizational meetings were held in school gyms and church auditoriums. Local committees often selected an “outstanding” individual to lead this program. Most of the new units did not charter with the New York City national office which was grossly undermanned and ill prepared for the deluge in interest. Instead they launched out on their own in hopes of being a part of this glorious new movement. This interest reached fever pitch when Baden-Powell, who had international superstar fame, made his journey by train across America in early 1912. He drew crowds of hundreds and thousands at his stops and was received as a hero and celebrity. Yet by 1914, Scouting had almost disappeared in many of the communities in which it was initially organized. Troops ceased to function and many of the early efforts to establish councils collapsed. What happened? It was the lack of organizational support at the national level, a collapse of the early efforts to organize local councils due to a lack of monies and a shortage of training courses and materials for the fledging unit leadership. A revival occurred after James West established a much stronger national presence and support system. National organizations such as Rotary encouraged their local clubs to provide key leadership and support including funding for camps. The advent of World War One created a surge of patriotism. The positive image of the Boy Scouts increased as they took part in Liberty Loan campaigns, grew Victory Gardens and were very visible in their local communities. As the war ended, Boy Scouting was on solid footing in many areas and the stage was set for rapid growth. A second crisis emerged during the Great Depression. Across America, councils were unable to successfully fund raise to support a professional. Many professionals worked without pay for weeks. Efforts to raise money were often met with letters to newspapers and even editorials criticizing Scout leadership for fund-raising for “camping programs” when communities could not even feed their families. Several camps were closed or threatened with closure when they were unable to pay the mortgages. Families struggled to send their sons to summer camp at the cost of a dollar a day. Some troops purchased a week of summer camp and rotated different boys each day. Yet, we saw amazing creativity in local troops and councils in maintaining a very visible presence and supporting the youth. Local businesses would offer “jobs” to Scouts such as distributing telephone directories and funds would go toward camp. Fathers, Scouts and friends would travel to camp to help prepare it for the summer and to build new structures using donated materials. Following the end of World War Two, Boy Scouting was posed to enter its Golden Age of rapid growth and tremendous public support. The third crisis seemed to emerge with little warning. By the mid 70’s, America was in the midst of enormous social change. There was American disillusionment with the Viet Nam war and the military. Boys in uniform conveyed an image that made many parents uncomfortable. Non-conformity was the movement of the day among many youth and Scouting no longer looked “cool”. Scouting had new competition for family time and money including new youth football and soccer programs. And the national leadership, in a well-intentioned effort to make Scouting more relevant and to outreach to underserved youth, made dramatic changes in the program structure Unfortunately, there was little buy-in from many of the current unit leadership. The new Scouting program that featured rodent control in apartments and how to ride a subway moved the program away from an outdoor focus. Scout leaders reacted by quitting in frustration. Several councils saw a nearly fifty percent drop in Boy Scout membership during that period. National reacted by bringing back the legendary Greenbar Bill and a new outdoor focused program and handbook but the damage was done. Scouting would continue and undergo several changes in the next decades in an effort to maintain its relevancy and to recruit and retain youth. Yet, by the beginning of the 21st century, new threats were emerging. And a “perfect storm” of events was forming that would threaten the very existence of the program. Post Two – The Perfect Storm will follow.
  9. That is a good question for a bankruptcy attorney. In reviewing several of the claims that have been submitted, many of them have left that section blank or stated simply "unknown at this time".
  10. Hopefully the claim will never be needed and we have no reason at this time to think it will be. We filed the claim upon recommendation of the legal counsel of our conference and the national office. Legal counsel advised us that after the close date of November 16 for claims in the national BSA bankruptcy, there is the possible risk that should a claim for an unanticipated past incident or even a fraudulent claim be filed sometime in the future, we have the risk of not having insurance coverage and indemnification through the BSA unless we have a "placeholder claim" filed. We discussed our intent with our local council also. It is a precautionary legal move. As a side note, we continue to be very supportive of the value of the BSA program as a ministry.
  11. Our United Methodist Church just submitted its claim this evening. Fortunately I was able to work with our leadership team and church attorney for the past month to give them the background and a heads up. The national UMC office in Nashville was very helpful to us in the process. Thanks to Gil Hanke and Steve Scheid. For our church and Scouting units, the process went smoothly and was uneventful. That was not the case with some other chartered organizations in our council. One chartered organization (non Methodist) in our district ceased their sponsorship immediately citing liability concerns. Others are questionable whether they will recharter next year. They are beginning to realize that their commitment as a sponsor goes beyond providing the keys to the church basement on Wednesday evenings.
  12. We wanted to recognize our Scouts and leaders who have served our community and nation through their military service. Our Troop 1 Veterans Project (Jeffersonville, Indiana) is attempting to identify those members who currently or have in the past served in one of the branches of the military. Our troop spans a time period of almost 110 years, so this has been both a challenge and a very rewarding experience. There are amazing stories of service and sacrifice that these statistics cannot begin to express. We have poured through hundreds of pages of records in this effort. This research has had much more of an emotional impact than we had anticipated in the beginning as we learned a little of the lives and stories of our members. So far, we have identified 120 past and present persons who are or have served in our military. The largest number (54) served in the Army. Twenty have served in the Air Force or the Army Air Corps. The Navy has had 24 of our members in its service. There have been eleven Marines and three served in the Coast Guard. We are still working to identify the specific branch of service for a few of our past members. In addition, two of our international exchange student Scouts have served or are currently serving in their home countries (Austria and Switzerland). Many of our members have served during time of war. World War Two saw an amazing 54 members in service. Nine served in Viet Nam and two in Korea (we are currently researching that time period). Troop 1 began in 1911. Four of our Scouts served in World War One. We also have had members in Desert Storm and currently in Afghanistan. Our members have marched with Patton through Europe and fought in all major theaters. In addition, one worked on the Manhattan project and another in the famous Hughes Skunkworks. We have had Scouts who were selected to serve as a member of the Honor Guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns at Arlington Cemetery. Many served with exceptional courage and honor. Recognitions include the Purple Heart, Bronze Star, Army Air Medal and the French Croix de Guerre. We have identified three of our members who gave the ultimate sacrifice. Two were killed in World War Two and another in the Vietnam War. Members have spent time in German prisoner of war camps before being liberated. Some returned from service with lifelong disabilities. This tradition continues at Troop 1. One of our Eagle Scouts just completed his five-year Naval enlistment. Another Eagle Scout is preparing to leave for a tour of duty in Afghanistan. And our newest Eagle Scout is currently in the middle of basic training at the Great Lakes Naval base. Ordinary boys and men providing extraordinary service. We owe a deep debt of gratitude to them. In many cases they left for service on a foreign soil not knowing if they would return. And some did not. Let us take a moment to reflect and to honor their service.
  13. Our Spanish exchange student who is also a Scout in Spain just enjoyed his first Thanksgiving meal. We have hosted 11 exchange students (Germany - 4, Belgium, Switzerland, Austria, Spain -2, France, and Columbia) and they have all found this American tradition to be wonderful (wunderbar). Daniel will help me do the international Scouting presentation at this year's University of Scouting training event. It is great to be a part of a worldwide organization.
  14. I am the chartered organization representative for our units, vice-chair of the church board and a long time Scouter. As a sponsor, we have hosted Scouting continuously since 1911. We view it as an outreach ministry to the youth and families of our community. The following is our thinking at this time: The Scout troop has adequate reserves and can probably handle increased costs between $50 to $75 per Scout and Scouter. We will certainly have to look at our fund-raising capabilites in the future. Our Cub pack was totally re-organized this year. The good news is that we now have 50 active Cubs. The challenge is that many of these families are already under financial strain We have a LOT of children being raised by grandparents. And single parents with as many as four Scout age children. The church gave the pack $1,000 for supplies, training and scholarships to help the pack reorganize because the pack essentially had no monies. Unfortunately, even before the news of the national fee increase, we were already very concerned about the ability of the pack to recharter and to help families participate in the program. Nevertheless, we are determined to attempt to re-charter but realize that we may face an uphill battle. I wonder how many other units are in the same position? Our plan includes meeting immediately with key leadership after we get information from the local council on anticipated fees. We are looking at a combination of scholarship funds, potential assistance from the council if any is available (which they are hopeful), fund-raising and approaching friends and potential donors for one time assistance. And implementing a plan for next year. We will discuss this issue with our parent committee and the council on ministries next week to finalize our plan. With nly a month before registration and fees are due, we feel that we will probably have our backs against the wall if there is a significant increase. From the perspective of five decades of Scouting experience, this is the greatest challenge in Scouting that I can remember since the 1970's when we lost half of our Boy Scout membership in the council at the same time that nationally our numbers plummeted. However, this time feels more serious in many ways. A perfect storm scenario seems to be emerging with the loss of the LDS and several other long term sponsors locally, a flood of lawsuits across the nation and an increasingly tarnished image. I hope that the national council is successful in developing a long term strategy in dealing with what feels clearly like a major crisis, is as transparent as possible with stake holders incuding families and Scouters and seeks input from us. However, my perception is that there is a feeling that options at this stage are very limited and we run a real risk of being forced into a survival mode as an organization. I hope I am wrong.
  15. I am a new member and have been browsing previous comments and thought I would chime in on this one. I am the chartered organization representative for our units and a long time Scouter. Ironically, our church attorney who is also a board member and I were discussing a very related topic today at lunch. In my opinion, any chartered organization that would require a Scout troop to perform work as a condition of a payment is entering questionable legal waters. The key term is require. A chartered partner owns the unit under Scouting policies. If money is being exchanged based upon required work rather than a donation, we are beginning to look at a potential employer - employee relationship. It is somewhat similar to the issue on the establishment of individual Scout accounts where Scouts are credited based upon their sales. The IRS has some very specific rules around this and the chartered organization's tax exempt status could be at risk. It might be worth investgating further.
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