October 27th, 2017

Sexual harassment in the workplace: just a girl who cain’t say “no”?

The musical “Oklahoma” came out in early 1943, a welcome nostalgic respite from the trauma of World War II. The movie (far inferior, IMHO) was released in 1955.

I was raised on Broadway musicals. I know just about every word of every musical (except the flops) of the 40s through the 60s, including “Oklahoma” (which I only saw in revival, at City Center). I learned these lyrics as a young child, which a great many adults around me found quite amusing. For example, one of my favorites was “Fugue for Tinhorns” which I could warble at around age 3, as well as “Doin’ What Comes Naturally”. The first is about betting on horses and the second about sex, albeit in a fairly cleaned-up way.

And then there was “I Cain’t Say No” from “Oklahoma.” It’s sung by a girl who knows the basic mores of the time but has trouble saying no to men who proposition her. It begins this way:

It ain’t so much a question of not knowin’ what to do
I knowed what’s right an’ wrong since I been ten.
I heared a lot of stories an’ I reckon they are true
About how girls are put upon by men…

Here’s the movie version:

I immediately thought of this song when I read the latest accusation of sexual harassment against Mark Halperin [emphasis mine]:

Dianna Goldberg was a young researcher at ABC News in 1994 when she asked a colleague, Mark Halperin, for some information about a story. He readily agreed to help her and asked her to come to his office.

Close the door, he said when she arrived. Come over here, he said, seated at his desk. Sit down and I’ll give you the information, he said. He motioned to his lap.

“What?” she remembers thinking. “I don’t want to sit on your lap.” But Halperin was the political director of the network, a rising star who was highly regarded by ABC’s management, including “World News Tonight” anchor Peter Jennings. Goldberg, who now goes by her married name, May, thought that refusing him could injure her career.

She reluctantly agreed and sat down briefly. Halperin, she recalled on Wednesday, had an erection.

The same routine happened on three or four other occasions, she said. Each instance left her confused, shaken and ashamed…

I didn’t know what to do,” said May, now a lawyer. “He was important. He wasn’t my superior, but he was certainly in a superior position to mine. I didn’t say anything. I didn’t know how to at the time. I knew it was wrong.

This is nothing like Ado Annie, the character in “Oklahoma” who revels in the attention and seems to consent with full awareness of what she was doing—including the “wrongness” of saying “yes” (“I knowed what’s right an’ wrong since I been ten.”). Annie had also “heared a lot of stories” of this sort and had “reckoned they were true”, so none of it came as a surprise—in 1943 and in 1955. And there’s even a lyric in the song “soon as I sit on their laps, something inside of me snaps…”

But Annie seems to be happy about the attention, unlike Goldberg and her sisters. Women like to be referred to as “women” when they’re in college these days, but they seem a lot less sophisticated—and to have a lot less agency—then the “girl” Ado Annie claims herself to be. Halperin was hitting on young women (he himself was rather young at the time of this incident, by the way: about 29 years old) and using his position of power, although not issuing any threats or promises. And once Goldberg had sat in his lap the first time, he certainly had reason to think he could hit on her again. Perhaps he even thought she was a willing rather than a reluctant participant.

Why on earth was someone like Goldberg—who later became a lawyer—so passive and pliant? It reminds me of Stanley Milgram’s obedience to authority experiments, as well as the favorite saying of everybody’s mother “If he jumped off a cliff, would you follow him?”

Yes, Halperin was a user, a sexual opportunist who chased after women in the workplace and used his power to get sexual perks. But in his sexual harassment he was preying not just on the youth and inexperience of these women but on their own ambition as well. Goldberg says she wanted to refuse, but that she thought a refusal would injure her career. But she seems to have expressed nothing of her hesitation to Halperin, and gave in—not once, but many times.

Abuse of power for sexual favors is very wrong. That’s why we condemn priests who abuse children (or who have sex with adult parishioners, for that matter, because priests have taken a religious vow and also have a position of power and influence over adults). Same is true of therapists who come on sexually to clients and of teachers. The workplace contains power differentials, too, so is all workplace sex now verboten? And if it’s not, how on earth is anyone supposed to figure out when an advance is wanted versus when a person is only saying “yes” because she (or he) feels an unstated threat to career ambitions?

If I were a man in the workplace today, I would never say a single sexual thing to anyone, not even a joke. It’s too dangerous out there. And I’d keep many feet between me and anyone I spoke with. I’d also follow the Mike Pence rule—which the liberal press used to say was something that harmed women:

Pence is not the only powerful man in Washington who goes to great lengths to avoid the appearance of impropriety with the opposite sex. An anonymous survey of female Capitol Hill staffers conducted by National Journal in 2015 found that “several female aides reported that they have been barred from staffing their male bosses at evening events, driving alone with their congressman or senator, or even sitting down one-on-one in his office for fear that others would get the wrong impression.” One told the reporter Sarah Mimms that in 12 years working for her previous boss, he “never took a closed door meeting with me. … This made sensitive and strategic discussions extremely difficult.”…

Because of that, when men avoid professional relationships with women, even if for noble reasons, it actually hurts women in the end. “The research is irrefutable: Those with larger networks earn more money and get promoted faster. Because men typically dominate senior management, there’s evidence that the most valuable network members may be men,” wrote Kim Elsesser, a research scholar at the UCLA Center for the Study of Women, in the Los Angeles Times recently. “Without access to beneficial friendships and mentor relationships with executive men, women won’t be able to close the gender gap that exists in most professions.”

Men are to blame for everything, right? That’s sarcasm, by the way. But if women want to be called “women,” they need to earn the title and be women—not girls—women who can say “no” if that’s what they’re thinking.

While we’re at it with songs, there’s also this:

Sixteen million views and counting.

33 Responses to “Sexual harassment in the workplace: just a girl who cain’t say “no”?”

  1. TommyJay Says:

    Oh boy! Gloria Grahame. She has quite the distinctive voice. I love her roles in film noir, like In a Lonely Place, The Big Heat, and Crossfire (I think).

    The show tunes that have stuck in my head from childhood are from South Pacific, The Music Man, Bye Bye Birdie, and West Side Story.

    Goldberg may have been surprised the first time, and possibly confused the second; but she was confused on the fifth time it happened??

  2. Mike K Says:

    She was terrific in “It’s a Wonderful Life” but her film career was spotty and she ended in a sad way. She wanted to audition for “Born Yesterday” and I think she would have become a big star.
    Howard Hughes would not let her do it. He was not very good at judging talent.

  3. neo-neocon Says:

    Mike K:

    Maybe Grahame wouldn’t sleep with him.

  4. parker Says:

    Males have been exploiters from forever, females have traded sexual favors for advancement from forever. There are guilty parties on both sides of the XX XY divide. But I hope a majority of adults know when things have gone too far.

    I was raised to respect and protect the XX side. Different time, different society.

  5. neo-neocon Says:

    By the way, Celeste Holm was the original. That’s the version I was raised on:

    Sounds like they used the actual record I had in my youth, scratches and all 🙂 .

  6. TommyJay Says:

    Ha! But Faith Domergue did sleep with H. Hughes and it got her into “Where Danger Lives,” directed by John Farrow (Mia’s dad). The Hughes-Domergue relationship is featured in several scenes in “The Aviator.”

    I though that film (WDL) was pretty good for a noir film. That is until the very end, where Ms. Domergue delivers the big emotive climax to the film. That scene is just awful.

  7. parker Says:

    Never likrd BS, thought him a pompus ass from the day his music first hit the airwaves, Gimmee that old time rock and roll, espcially the Kinks who were not like everybody else.

  8. Artfldgr Says:

    Men are to blame for everything, right?
    That’s sarcasm, by the way.

    from you, yes… but not from a whole lot of high level academic types who have really put their finger on the scape goats of this century…

    but currently, this is like the Day care thing with no boundaries
    coming in with the real Salem story and mass hysteria
    cause when it comes to bandwagons, the biggest is women kind past and present and the leaders that declare for them!!!!

    Its about to blow up into wacko ridiculousness:
    Jackie Speier, D-Calif., said that a chief of staff forcibly “kissed me and stuck his tongue in my mouth” when she was working as a congressional staffer.

    in short time your gonna see the larges collective confessions mass declaration the likes of which will really blow the mind. Mostly cause we have reached the point, everything has to be believed and not believed!

    Speier confirmed to ABC News that the man the allegation was directed at was Joe Holsinger, the chief of staff for former Rep. Leo Ryan, D-Calif. Holsinger was around 50 at the time of the incident, Speier said, and she was in her mid-20s. Holsinger died in 2004.

    Smear a dead man to score feminist ticket votes!
    Nice. Even worse… it will work… not a blink…

    Many of us in Congress know what it’s like because Congress has been a breeding ground for a hostile work environment for far too long.”

    That is a very interesting thing to say (from the party of Barney)…

    But this is usually the rally cry to force changes to some system by application of other means to the levers who will not be able to say what?

    Speier is pushing a new movement — “#MeTooCongress”

    being an armchair Marxist is so last century
    today you have to be a twitter leader of a hash movement to power
    and we have really reached a new level of dirty without complaint

    To return to the sarcasm of the opening point from neo:

    IF the ladies think that they guys screwed it up, take some time to look at old home magazines and beauty things and old movies, and then take a look at what kind of lives are more common now…

    but your gonna see a parade..
    it wont be a slut walk parade
    it wont be a take back the streets parade
    it wont be a pussy hat parade
    it will be a parade of endless mostly OLD allegations without a shred of any real evidence or ability to get any, that are basically socio political bombs.

    by the way… how we make that power equal for all? the power to safely malign anyone guilty or not with really no repercussions with a formulaic claim of how it would ruin the victims life if known (as if this was 1880). (though for some reason a large portion of them are gonna score good on being victims going forwards)

    sadly, this will hurt real victims more than it will help them…

    but it WILL make a market for magnum beneficium in declaring victim status, whether real or not. Just as you got more cache from coming from a broken home, so everyone had to have one… even if they didnt…

    it will really really be unfashionable not to have some abuse story… how could a girl accent her life and have that edgy something without it? how can she be there and be marginalized for not having the experience??

    so here is an interesting warning…

    guys out there with past ladies:
    you think any of them are gonna pin their victim story on you to have a modicum of validity – after all you haven’t seen each other for decades, and what is the harm if she scores some social points with a fib?
    and Just think? Remember that girl you didn’t like and turned down?
    pray she don’t remember you…

    do not expect this to die down..
    its a motivator money maker with low risk and high payoffs regardless of validity.. you can bet that dozens of publishers are lining up books for the coming year!!

    gonna get interesting…

  9. F Says:

    As artfldgr says, “don’t expect this to die down.”

    Why not? because it allows very rich, very successful people to be victims too, despite the fact that they are really not victims and in fact have probably victimized a lot of other people in various ways. And victimhood is the IN thing to the left.

    But really, the issue is probably a matter of difference in style. I mean: #metoo. I’ve been hit on by women and much of it has been subtle, flirtatious, capable of being ignored as not really sexual harassment.

    Except for the younger generation, who appear to be liberated in a way that makes them more like men than the girls I grew up with. The girls of my generation, for example, would never think of saying “I’d like to take you home and f*ck your brains out,” as one women said to me. Or rubbing their leg against yours, in a way that can only be interpreted as saying the same thing in semaphore.

    I will admit no woman has ever asked me to sit on her lap when she has an erection. Thank god. But About the same. So #metoo

  10. Stephen Ippolito Says:

    I have been waiting for the media’s discussion of sexual harassment – both of the real sort and of the merely inflated, piling-on type – to turn to cover men as victims of empowered and predatory female bosses but it seems to be a non-issue.

    I saw a single reference a few days ago to a man who claimed harassment by another man but that doesn’t seem to have sparked any great outrage or calls for a national conversation or any trendy “#me-too’ing”.

    The subject is close to my heart because as a newly-minted lawyer in my early 20’s I was sexually harassed by a female partner of the firm I worked at.

    I have no reluctance to call it that because it escalated over months from a merely offensive habit she had of always dropping papers when I was nearby and when we were alone in her office and then obviously leering at my backside and even making a type of “purring” sound as I bent over to pick up her papers from the floor. (Eventually I learned to bend from the knees so it probably saved my back in the long term).

    The lady really upped the ante one day by sneaking up behind me in my own office while I was kneeling on all fours arranging some files, (don’t ask why:my desk, like my office was very small in those days so I utilised floor space on occasion), and took a long deep bite on one of my buttocks as though it were one of Neo’s beloved juicy New England apples.

    It was the right buttock as I recall.

    Perhaps it’s a male thing but I didn’t feel violated or threatened or endangered – physically or career-wise. My only emotion at the time and since was embarrassment for her – and pity that she was reduced to such childish behaviour.

    Perhaps I failed to feel traumatised because I was a strong man and she was a physically weaker woman or else because I was an educated person with professional qualifications who felt he could fairly readily obtain another job if he had to. I just don’t know.

    I do know that no incentives or threats to my continuing employment or career progression were voiced, but of course, the factual and legal reality is that such threats don’t need to be stated when the power differential is so great.

    Of one thing I am certain: if I had been, (or felt), threatened with dismissal or curtailment of career progression I simply would not have agreed to anything with her anyway. My disgust would have precluded me from ever being around her again.

    There are always options in the guise of honorable alternative employers and harassment-free workplaces and, in the case of actresses, – ethical producers with other roles that can be competed for honestly. Often these other roles may be smaller or lack potential for a spin-off franchise, but such is life.

    Sexual harassment of women and others who may lack qualifications in a tight employment market is a very real evil – but if an actress or female journalist has talent and is willing to back herself, then she always has the option to take a stand, walk away and seek out other roles, surely?

  11. Artfldgr Says:

    Neo Says: Why on earth was someone like Goldberg—who later became a lawyer—so passive and pliant? It reminds me of Stanley Milgram’s obedience to authority experiments, as well as the favorite saying of everybody’s mother “If he jumped off a cliff, would you follow him?”

    no, its none of those well defined and tested effects!

    Milgrams was basically how refusal to cooperate can make sane none violent people very devious and sadistic.. but it was also in a way about the normalization and frog in the water effects that completely negated limits..

    and the everyone doing it will be more about the confessions post cosby… and more so post now…

    you want to know what this is?
    Bet you lots of guys will others wont…
    its the one thing that gets them every time..
    its what the whole movement is based on..
    its i can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan, and never ever let you live in my house again… enjoli…

    no.. its trying to skin the cat, split the hair, and gain the benefit.
    its the refusal to accept the cost is too high, and then accept it, and then want both ends later (the benefit and the punishment). this was the behavior that had men blame women and even women blame women.

    its even what you want to allude to, that women are agents and have wills and so on… but the movement promised them no responsibility… dont you get that?

    its the promise of benefit with the knowledge that your not responsible even if you stepped into that mean nasty bear trap that broke your leg!!!

    its not HER fault he is doing that, its his fault
    no matter what happens, its not her fault!!!
    she can twerk the night away, drunk, popping ludes till she passes out, and it wont ever be her fault no matter what happens. (think that doesn’t cause problems?)

    So if she doesn’t leave, she gets the benefit, and its his fault
    and even if it didn’t happen, she gets the benefit!!!
    because the other answer is: you cant say she lies

    but here is the beauty of this. IF your the kind of girl who that kind of thing doesn’t bother you, you can build an empire. ALL you have to do is renounce your unknown past and claim innocence and its not your fault… everyone will come to you and fawn over you and send you letters and all kinds of things..

    now, anyone with any idea of how biology and game theory works, you will have a nice manipulative maladaptive prize system here, as stated before, a race to the bottom

    kind of why we came up with MGTOW

    but do not be surprised that soon after the parade of confessions that will tire everyone out way before they stop…

    that someone is going to start using those personal body cams and have office cams for EVERY meeting and save them to the cloud for life…

    im not in a place to exploit that business model
    among lots i have..

  12. Artfldgr Says:

    i forgot to add

    Its sympathy on tap…

  13. Ed Bonderenka Says:

    Just this week I started back in a position I had left 8 years ago,
    I had left because I was privy to a female managers indiscretions with another manager (stumbled on them in the plant in as I was closing it) and complained about it regularly to the Plant Manager (my boss). The affair they were having kept him from doing his job which involved providing support for my job.
    The Plant Manager left and the female manager took his position and I was laid off and subsequently severanced.
    Earlier this year she was fired.
    It was discovered that she was sexually aggressive to a number of young men over the last eight years and also involved in receiving bribes and kickbacks,
    Morals read across behavior patterns.

  14. Mrs Whatsit Says:

    That song is SO MUCH FUN to sing. Physically, I am not the Ado Annie type at all, so I will never be cast in the role and am limited to singing it in the shower, or in my car with all the windows securely rolled up. But there I can let loose.

    One of the best passages:
    When a fella tries to kiss a girl
    I know she oughta give his face a smack,
    But whenever someone kisses me
    I somehow sorta wanna kiss him back!

  15. Mike K Says:

    Maybe Grahame wouldn’t sleep with him.

    He was not that much into sleeping with his leading ladies. Jane Russell married her high school boyfriend, Bob Waterfield, and I don’t see him putting up with being cuckolded. Faith Domergue maybe but my mother-in-law was the chaperone for Domergue and was Jane Russell’s person rep for many years. She was very cynical about actors but I don’t see her being a passive bystander.

    She knew Hughes very well and worked for him for years. He did mess around with actresses in his younger days. He did knock up Terry Moore.

  16. Molly Brown Says:

    Before my kids left our cozy homeschool for the big bad world they were required to memorize Rule #1.
    Rule #1. Never allow yourself to be maneuvered into being alone with anyone you are not dying to be alone with.
    Rule #1 will armor you against everything from mild embarrassment to a lawsuit.
    There is no Rule #2. Not necessary. So typical that libs mock it.

  17. neo-neocon Says:

    Stephen Ippolito:

    I am almost speechless.

    Not only have I led a dull life, but I could not even conceive of biting some guy in the office on the butt. And here I thought I had a decent imagination!

    Have you ever thought of writing a novel, or a movie script, based on your experiences?

  18. Stephen Ippolito Says:

    Neo said: “…I could not even conceive of biting some guy in the office on the butt.”

    Thanks, Neo. You are one of the good ones!

    Meanwhile, I’m still, after all these years, trying to work out if my erstwhile boss’s behaviour can be accounted for as an Australian female thing; or an Australian female boss thing; or a female lawyer thing; or a female litigator thing; or all of the above.

    My immediate prompt for submitting this account was my disgust at opening the newspaper today to the visage of your poor old 41st president, (God Bless him), being hauled over the coals yet again as a sacrifice to the gods of political correctness who apparently have now decide to decry “old white guy privilege”.

    Good grief. Here’s a 90+ year old man, wheelchair-bound, suffering from some variant of parkinsons, being crucified for goosing some young women in the presence of not only his wife, but their own husbands and/or significant others – and all the time with the secret service present to protect them.

    What possible danger do they perceive they were in from this ailing old man and why do they not just shrug it off and suck it up as a grown-up should?

    And more to the point, when did we in the west decide to bestow plaudits for courage and power on the hypersensitive and weak who do nothing more valorous than whine when offended?

    Meanwhile, (and I don’t mean to brag), I had a powerful woman actually sink her fangs deep into my (apparently, pert) backside and didn’t even complain about it.

    All these GHW Bush women need to get a sense of perspective and proportion – and, dare I say it? A sense of humor.

    Maybe I will write a novel, Neo. It certainly seemed to work out well enough for Lauren Weisberger when she wrote of her own experience of an unpleasant female boss in “The Devil Wore Prada”.

    And by the way, I don’t believe for a minute that you have led a “dull life” as you so modestly claim Neo. You could not possibly have achieved such obvious insight, wisdom and sophistication were that the case.

    Oh, and PS: “#Me too”

  19. ChinaCon Says:

    They have to prove they’re victims. If they can’t, then they have to stretch the truth. Otherwise, that can’t remain members in good standing with Obama’s New Left.

    I’m sure there are genuine instances of abuse or harassment. BUT the GHW Bush thing…give me a break.

  20. Roberta Says:

    We own a small business and over the years a couple of my husband’s female employees have openly flirted with him. Maybe men should use the hashtag.

  21. Jayne Says:

    Two things spring to my mind.
    One, had the young women all, each one from the beginning, slapped this guy, Halperin, in the face for his transgressions, he would have had fewer notches on his sexual predation belt. Each gal who acquiesces puts the next gal in harm’s way, IMO, as with Weinstein too.
    Two, having said that, this bs is starting to look like a real witch hunt. This guy’s career is in shreds and he has not had a day in court nor had the opportunity to face his accusers.

    None of this, from Weinstein to O’Reilly seems right to me. We actually have zero idea as to the signals these guys were getting from the women in question. Ambitious women all. I have to think that not all were sweet innocents. And finally, those gals who did go along, (other than being overpowered and raped), and who reaped certain bennies, newsroom jobs or movie roles, they just hurt the sisterhood and caused the guy to keep on doing his aggressions. Not only that, but having reaped those benefits, they now turn around and cry foul? I admire those who shut the guy down and, sadly, had their careers truncated.

    Finally, finally, the beauty of seduction involves the man’s animal sexual aggression being brought in the quest of filling the woman with desire, not overpowering her. Has women’s lib destroyed that?

  22. I'm with Decius Says:

    When you put career above honor, all sorts of bad things happen.

  23. Ben David Says:

    OK neo – why was the show better than the movie?

    All I know is the movie – and Shirley Jones before she became Mrs Partridge. Sticks in a young man’s head….

    Like other films of Rogers and Hammerstein shows it seems too faithful to the stage – not fully translated to the movie idiom. This can be seen in some of the stagy gestures and static camera work in the clip you’ve linked.

  24. Gary D. G. Says:

    ► Ed Bonderenka

    I wonder how many of us gents have had to work under a female supervisor and how good/bad the experience has been?

  25. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Stephen Ippolito Says:
    October 28th, 2017 at 1:52 am

    They have a choice, all humans do. But the Hollywoods gods get them by convincing them via social pressure and other tools, that their only choice is to submit to the Authority of the status quo. And in extension, that means they have to get “us” to submit to their authority too.

    Has women’s lib destroyed that?

    Laws can destroy anything. Check out Sharia and FGM.

  26. n.n Says:

    Marriage and fidelity. Fidelity and marriage.

    Social liberalism is a degenerative religious/moral philosophy.

    That said, it was over when the female chauvinists placed conception before choice and normalized abortion rites, thereby denying lives deemed unworthy, inconvenient, or profitable (e.g. Planned Parenthood/clinical cannibalism), and women’s agency.

  27. Lizzy Says:

    Excellent point, NEO. I have a hard time understanding a woman who would agree to sit on a colleagues lap, etc..

    I have to wonder if any of these women worked a regular job in HS and college, or if they entered the professional (white collar) working world straight from college/graduate school. Maybe this contributed to their naivete in the workplace? Not excusing them, just thinking that having an entry-level grunt job (in retail, food industry) teaches one a lot about being task-oriented, how to navigate various work and customer situations. If my boss at the hardware store told me to sit on his lap I would have laughed it off – why wouldn’t this journalist do the same?

  28. Ray Says:

    Was “Fugue for Tinhorns” a composition by PDQ Bach?

  29. neo-neocon Says:


  30. neo-neocon Says:


    I cannot imagine sitting in someone’s lap in the workplace, just because he asked me to.

    I’d even be nervous sitting in the lap of someone in the workplace I really had the hots for, for fear of getting caught!

    I think the women who said “yes” despite not wanting to, did it because of their ambition. Someone who works at a fast food restaurant can laugh at the boss because it essentially doesn’t matter. It’s the sort of job that’s replaceable, ordinarily. If not the McDonald’s, there’s the Burger King, or the Wendy’s.

    But some up and coming young thing in the media probably is fulfilling some sort of a dream and thinks that she’s snagged some sort of a dream job and it’s the chance of a lifetime and she doesn’t want to jeopardize that. Which of course is a dangerous attitude that potentially compromises a person’s ethics.

  31. Lizzy Says:

    That’s what I was speculating, that if they had been in a regular entry-level job while getting a journalism degree they would would be less inclined to accept a weird request from a hero. They would know it’s inappropriate, having worked for someone they didn’t worship, and in deciding to comply with a Halperin type, they would know full well what they were doing.

  32. Ymar Sakar Says:

    Americans witnessing the Obamanation of Desolation first hand. Good preview right.

  33. Ymar Sakar Says:

    But some up and coming young thing in the media probably is fulfilling some sort of a dream and thinks that she’s snagged some sort of a dream job and it’s the chance of a lifetime and she doesn’t want to jeopardize that.

    In order to change the world, they have to change themselves into the prim and proper good Christian or American girl, into a whore and prostitute.

    Soddom and Gomorrah.

About Me

Previously a lifelong Democrat, born in New York and living in New England, surrounded by liberals on all sides, I've found myself slowly but surely leaving the fold and becoming that dread thing: a neocon.

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