Courier exclusive: August Wilson Cultural Center to be renamed to “August Wilson African American Cultural Center” after community voices concerns

The New Pittsburgh Courier has learned that the August Wilson Cultural Center is restoring “African American” to the official name, and the building at 980 Liberty Ave., Downtown, will now be called, the “August Wilson African American Cultural Center.”

“We heard from our friends and allies the depth of feeling associated with having ‘African American’ present in the institutional branding, and we believe it is an upside compromise to include it,” said Janis Burley Wilson, the Center’s President and CEO, in a statement provided to the Courier. “August Wilson’s name alone signifies a celebration of African American culture. Although the August Wilson Cultural Center name embodies the African American experience, we’re planning to incorporate ‘African American’ back into the Center’s name. This direction allows more voices within Pittsburgh’s community to feel included, and for the mission, vision and incredible programming to once again take center stage.”

In the statement, the organization’s Board of Directors met recently and were unanimous in their support of suggestions by the Center’s leadership to include the words “African American” in the Center’s name. Support for various approaches came from allies and trusted advisors.

According to the statement, the Center’s name was initially modified out of necessity following its financial reorganization and the bankruptcy of the original company, and after the building was purchased under new ownership and leadership, severing ties with the previous organization. More recently, as a part of a relaunch, a new brand identity went up on the front of the Center’s Liberty Avenue facade and drew feedback expressing interest in having the words “African American” referenced in its branding.

The Board and management have agreed to amend the Center’s current name to: The August Wilson African American Cultural Center. The Center is excited to work with designers to develop the best options to depict this name on signage, marketing and promotional materials, according to the press release. The Center will begin to phase-in the new name and branding over the next several weeks.

“The vision for this unique Center is on course with sound financial footing, solid leadership, and with dynamic and powerful plans for the future,” said Michael Polite, Board Chair of the August Wilson Cultural Center, in a statement provided to the Courier. “This amendment to the Center’s name honors August Wilson and the deep impact his work continues to have with the African American community and beyond.”

“I’m excited, I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m happy, I’m glad the name is back,” said Renee Wilson, cousin of August Wilson, who led the charge to have the words “African American” restored in the August Wilson Cultural Center’s name. “It should never leave. Praise God.”

The Courier attended a meeting at the Carnegie Library’s Hill District branch in early March, in which 10 community members strategized ways to approach August Wilson Cultural Center leadership about placing “African American” back in the name. Black Political Empowerment Project Chair Tim Stevens eventually brokered a meeting between Burley Wilson, Renee Wilson, and others. After the meeting, the Courier has learned, there still was not a clear indication as to if “African American” would be placed back into the Center’s official name.

But, according to Renee Wilson, in an exclusive interview with the Courier, March 21, “I felt coming out of the meeting that we were going to make some progress.”

Renee Wilson, shown here with Paradise Gray.  (Photo by J. L. Martello)

“I am glad that they came to their senses to resolve an issue of gentrification in this city, by upholding the name that it originally was,” said Blaqk Ops member Nicky Jo Dawson, who was also part of the 10-person meeting at the Hill District Library. She told the Courier that by placing African American back in the name, “you are sending a message to the Black population that we will not be erased.”

Dawson added: “I salute Janis Burley Wilson for living up to her senior title in community engagement.”

For the first time, the Center ended a year (2018) with a surplus and new capital improvements to the building are underway under Burley Wilson’s leadership.

AFTER A NATIONAL SEARCH with more than 50 qualified applicants, Penn Hills High School graduate Janis Burley Wilson was tapped to become CEO of the August Wilson Center. (Photo by Emmai Alaquiva)

Constanza Romero Wilson, wife of August Wilson and executor of the estate supports the current leadership, according to the statement released by the Center on March 21. “August Wilson was an artist that very much looked toward the future with optimism and an impeccable trust in the power of the arts both as an instrument for change and as an affirmation of our common humanity. I am confident that he would embrace the vision and the mission of this organization.”

Also On New Pittsburgh Courier:

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Stroke Risk Drops in Both Black and White Older Adults – Black Patients Have Largest Reductions in Mortality

(HealthNewsDigest.com) –  – Recent reductions in hospitalization and death due to stroke extend to both black and white Medicare beneficiaries, reports a study in the April issue of Medical Care. The journal is published in the Lippincott portfolio by Wolters Kluwer.

The reductions in mortality after initial stroke have been even greater in black Medicare patients, according to the new research by Margaret C. Fang, MD, MPH, of the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues. Dr. Fang comments,” Despite these promising trends, our study also found that black men and women continue to be at higher risk for stroke than white patients.”

Stroke Risks Decline Over 25 Years – Trends Linked to Improving Risk Factors

Using Medicare data from 1988 to 2013, the researchers analyzed trends in hospitalization and mortality after an initial stroke in black or white men and women aged 65 or older. The study included more than 1 million hospitalizations for ischemic stroke, caused by blockage or narrowing of the brain blood vessels; and nearly 150,000 hospitalizations for hemorrhagic stroke, caused by bleeding into or around the brain.

Over the 25-year study period, hospitalizations for stroke decreased for both black and white patients. Adjusted for age, ischemic stroke risk decreased from 1,185 to 551 per 100,000 Medicare beneficiaries among black men and from 932 to 407 per 100,000 among white men. Risk fell from 1,222 to 641 per 100,000 for black women and from 892 to 466 per 100,000 for white women.

Mortality after ischemic stroke also fell, with greater reductions in black patients. Risk of death within 30 days after ischemic stroke decreased from approximately 16 to 8 percent in black men and from 16 to 12 percent in white men. Ischemic stroke mortality declined from about 14 to 9 percent in black women versus 16 to 15 percent in white women.

The data for hemorrhagic stroke showed a similar pattern: hospitalization rates decreased to a comparable extent in both races, while black patients had a greater reduction in mortality.

Although the study can’t show a causal relationship, the reductions in stroke hospitalization and mortality were accompanied by declines in key risk factors: particularly smoking, blood pressure, and cholesterol levels. The improvements in stroke outcomes occurred despite the worsening US epidemic of diabetes and obesity.

The findings add to previous studies showing that stroke rates and stroke mortality have declined considerably over the past few decades. Along with reductions in the prevalence of stroke risk factors, these gains could potentially reflect improvements in stroke care, including the development of specialized stroke centers.

This study is important because black Americans have been shown consistently to be at higher stroke risk than whites. “Our study of evolving US trends in stroke found that both black and white Medicare enrollees experienced considerable improvements over time with regard to stroke hospitalizations,”  Dr. Fang and coauthors write.

Moreover, reductions in stroke mortality were more pronounced among blacks. Although the exact reasons for these observations could not be definitively established by the study, Dr. Fang states, “Our findings provide hopeful news about how stroke is being prevented and managed in the United States.”

Click here to read “Trends and Racial Differences in First Hospitalization for Stroke and 30-Day Mortality in the US Medicare Population From 1988 to 2013”

DOI: 10.1097/MLR.0000000000001079

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About Medical Care

Rated as one of the top ten journals in health care administration, Medical Care is devoted to all aspects of the administration and delivery of health care. This scholarly journal publishes original, peer-reviewed papers documenting the most current developments in the rapidly changing field of health care. Medical Care provides timely reports on the findings of original investigations into issues related to the research, planning, organization, financing, provision, and evaluation of health services. In addition, numerous special supplementary issues that focus on specialized topics are produced with each volume. Medical Care is the official journal of the Medical Care Section of the American Public Health Association

About Wolters Kluwer

Wolters Kluwer is a global leader in professional information, software solutions, and services for the health, tax & accounting, finance, risk & compliance, and legal sectors. We help our customers make critical decisions every day by providing expert solutions that combine deep domain knowledge with specialized technology and services.

Wolters Kluwer, headquartered in the Netherlands, reported 2017 annual revenues of €4.4 billion. The company serves customers in over 180 countries, maintains operations in over 40 countries, and employs approximately 19,000 people worldwide.

Wolters Kluwer Health is a leading global provider of trusted clinical technology and evidence-based solutions that engage clinicians, patients, researchers and students with advanced clinical decision support, learning and research and clinical intelligence. For more information about our solutions, visit http://healthclarity.wolterskluwer.com and follow us on LinkedIn and Twitter @WKHealth.

25 Of The Best Events Happening In Southern California This Weekend

The works of women choreographers are performed at The Broad Stage in Santa Monica this weekend. (Image: Ballet Hispánico)

Celebrate Nowruz, the Persian new year, at various events in SoCal. Head to the Inland Empire for a new comedy and music festival that honors the troops. Or spend some time in Claremont digging into a dessert classic: pie. Women’s history month continues with a salute to Yoko Ono, a performance of works by Latina choreographers and a discussion about women who rock. The Broad celebrates black art while Gabba Gabba focuses on Scandinavian artists.

FRIDAY, MARCH 22 – SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 7:30 p.m.
Ballet Hispánico
The Broad Stage — 1310 11th St,. Santa Monica
The dance company takes audiences on an exploration of Latino cultures through dance. The ballet presents a program of Latina choreographers featuring Línea Recta, choreographed by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa; Con Brazos Abiertos, choreographed by Michelle Manzanales; and 3. Catorce Dieciséis, choreographed by Tania Pérez-Salas.
COST: Tickets start at $45; MORE INFO

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FRIDAY, MARCH 22; 8 p.m.
BREATHEWATCHLISTENTOUCH: The Work and Music of Yoko Ono
Walt Disney Concert Hall — 111 S. Grand Ave., downtown L.A.
The next generation of groundbreaking musicians pays tribute to the trailblazing musician and artist. Ono work will be performed by an ensemble of special guests including La Marisoul, Madame Gandhi, Shirley Manson, St. Vincent and We Are KING. FYI: the program features both nudity and mature content.
COST: Individual tickets $32; MORE INFO

FRIDAY, MARCH 22 – SUNDAY, MARCH 24
Salute the Troops Music and Comedy Festival
Fox Theater, Glass House and other venues throughout Pomona
The inaugural festival features performances by Snoop Dogg, Cold War Kids, Capital Cities, members of the Wu-Tang Clan, the Dan Band, New Power Generation (for a special Prince tribute night) and comedians Adam Carolla and Rob Riggle. The organization behind he festival works to reduce veteran suicide rates and post-traumatic stress. For every full price ticket sold, an active service member will receive a free ticket. Veterans and retirees an purchase discounted tickets.
COST: Tickets/passes: $49 – $189; MORE INFO

FRIDAY, MARCH 22 – SUNDAY, MARCH 24
Bach in the Subways
Several locations throughout SoCal
Celebrate the 334th birthday of composer Johann Sebastian Bach at pop-up performances of the composer’s music at the Santa Monica Promenade, the Glendale train station and in Claremont. There are open-mic opportunities for musicians in Pasadena, too.
COST: FREE; MORE INFO

FRIDAY, MARCH 22 – SUNDAY, MARCH 24
The Los Angeles Women’s Theatre Festival
Theatre 68 — 5112 Lankershim Blvd., North Hollywood
The longest-running annual solo festival for women in L.A. has given a stage to more than 500 solo performers from around the globe. This year’s theme is I, Woman, and the opening night gala honors five women including Sandra Tsing Loh and the late Carol Channing.
COST: $25 -$30 for performances; $50 – $90 for gala admission; MORE INFO

FRIDAY, MARCH 22; 8 p.m.
Mike Doughty
Lodge Room — 104 N. Ave. 56, Highland Park
Musician Mike Doughty had a hard time embracing his past work with ’90s band Soul Coughing but he’s made a 180-degree turn and will play the band’s first LP, Ruby Vroom, in full at this show, where he’ll be joined by a cellist, a bassist and a guitar player. Experiences a “live remix” of the album, which will be performed differently each night. All ages.
COST: $22; MORE INFO

A woman carries a vegan burger during the Vegan Fest fair on October 13, 2014 in the Israeli city of Ramat Gan near Tel Aviv. (JACK GUEZ/AFP/Getty Images)

SATURDAY, MARCH 23 – SUNDAY, MARCH 24; 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Vegan Street Fair
Chandler Blvd. — between Tujunga and Vineland, North Hollywood
In its fifth year, the vegan food festival expands to two days with food, vendors and activities stretching over a mile. Returning vendors include Vegatinos, Cena Vegan, Burgerlords, Cinnaholic, Eat Love, The Vegan Hooligans and Brooklyn-based Monk’s Vegan Smokehouse. New purveyors include Souley Vegan from Oakland, Plant Posse from Oregon, Street Beet from Detroit, Vaffls from San Diego and SoCal’s own MANEATINGPLANT, Vegan Earth Cafe, Lettuce Feast, Dank Vegan and Nodoh. The Federal Bar hosts a beer garden for those 21+.
COST: FREE admission; MORE INFO

SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 6 p.m. – midnight
Inland Empire Brew Witches & Rescue Brewing Co. Fundraiser
Rescue Brewing Co. — 67 N. 2nd Ave., Upland
The Witches, a local organization that supports women in craft beer, teams with Rescue Brewing to raise funds for the Friends of Upland Animal Shelter. In addition to music from local bands, the night also features the release of the limited-edition beer, Heckin’ Good Boi Blonde Ale. This event is kid-friendly and pet-friendly but if you want to drink, you have to be 21+.
COST: Varies; MORE INFO

Kurdish people living in Greece dance during Newroz celebrations on March 21, 2017 in Lavrio, some 80 kilometres from Athens. (ELEFTHERIOS ELIS/AFP/Getty Images)

SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 7 p.m.
Annual Nourouz Celebration
Hotel Irvine — Jamboree Road, Irvine
However you spell it (Nowruz? Norouz? Norooz?), it’s the Persian new year and also ushers in the start of spring. This is one of SoCal’s largest Nourouz parties. It features DJs, live music, Haji Firooz (a fictional character in Iranian folklore), the traditional haft sin display, snacks, tea and coffee.
COST: $15-25; MORE INFO

SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 9 p.m.
Second Annual Persian New Year Show
UCBT Sunset — 5419 W. Sunset Blvd., East Hollywood
The Shahs (of UCB) Sunset ring in the Persian new year with Kimia Behpoornia, Peter Banifaz and Ruha Taslim performing Persian song and dance, stand-up, poetry and improv set to live music.
COST: $12; MORE INFO

U.S. jazz singer Dee Dee Bridgewater performs during the 24th edition of the Cognac Blues Passion festival on July 6, 2017. (AFP Contributor/AFP/Getty Images)

SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 7:30 p.m.
Dee Dee Bridgewater
Bram Goldsmith Theater at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts — 9390 N. Santa Monica Blvd., Beverly Hills
The Grammy- and Tony Award-winning jazz vocalist pays tribute to the R&B sounds of her birthplace: Memphis, Tennessee. She’s joined by Memphis Soulphony as she performs pieces from her four-decade career, including her album Memphis…Yes I’m Ready, which was recorded at the city’s famed Royal Studios in 2016.
COST: $25 – $55; MORE INFO

SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 12 – 5 p.m.
13th Annual Santa Monica Airport ArtWalk
Santa Monica Art Studios — 3026 Airport Ave., Santa Monica
Artists open their studios and creative venues at the airport’s converted airplane hangars. Attendees can watch art-making and ceramic demos, participate in art and theater workshops, chat with artists and and enjoy live music and food trucks. The Museum of Flying also features a collection of artifacts related to the Douglas Aircraft Company, which used to occupy the airport.
COST: FREE admission; MORE INFO

SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 8 p.m.
Shades and Shadows
Bearded Lady’s Mystic Museum — 3204 W. Magnolia Blvd., Burbank
The reading and story series, dedicated to dark fantasy, horror and science fiction, brings together authors Justin Robinson, Joe Lansdale, Keith McCleary, Janet Joyce Holden and Julia Evans to read from their works. Hosted by Xach Fromson.
COST: $10; MORE INFO

SATURDAY, MARCH 23 – SUNDAY, SEPT. 1
Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power 1963-1983
The Broad Museum — 221 S. Grand Ave., downtown L.A.
This exhibition about black art makes its West Coast debut as three separate galleries showcase the works of Barkley Hendricks, Noah Purifoy, Faith Ringgold, Betye Saar, Charles White and William T. Williams, among others. Pro-tip: You can see the exhibition for free every Thursday from 5 to 8 p.m. (last entry at 7 p.m.). It also features a number of programs, including Art and Politics: Soul of a Nation Symposium, held on March 23 at the Aratani Theatre in Little Tokyo, and The Un-Private Collection: Mark Godfrey + Zoe Whitley on March 24 at the museum’s Oculus Hall.
COST: FREE – $18; MORE INFO

SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 8 – 10 p.m.
Black List Live!
The Montalbán — 1615 Vine St., Hollywood
The Black List is an annual survey of Hollywood executives’ favorite unproduced screenplays from the online scriptwriting community. It presents its first live read of 2019: Popular, written and directed by Hannah Hafey and Kaitlin Smith. The story covers themes of power, betrayal, scandal and deceit… in high school. Readers include Kiersey Clemons, Nina Dobrev, Shannon Purser, Ramona Young, Ross Butler and Ben Lewis.
COST: $20 – $25; MORE INFO

SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 7 – 11 p.m.
Borderless: Scandinavia
Gabba Gallery — 3126 Beverly Blvd., Westlake
The gallery presents its second international exhibition, Borderless, which focuses on three Scandinavian artists: Ari Behn (Norway/Denmark), Espen Eiborg (Norway) and Mikael Persbrandt (Sweden). The opening reception features DJ Jonathan Williams spinning and a bar sponsored by Humboldt Distillery and Auspicion Wine. The works will be on view through April 6.
COST: FREE; MORE INFO

SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 6:30 – 10 p.m.
Dancing with the LGBTQ Asian Pacific Islander Community
Lumina Academy of Dance — 1052 N. Allen Ave., Pasadena
This dance doubles as a fundraiser and silent auction benefiting API Equality LA. Take part in an hour dance lesson lesson of Latinx dances like salsa and bachata then shake yer thing on the dance floor.
COST: $30 per ticket or $50 for 2 tickets; MORE INFO

Double strawberry pie. (Brian J. Geiger/Flickr Creative Commons)

SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 10 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Claremont Pie Festival
festival headquarters — 175 N. Indian Hill Blvd., Claremont
Enjoy a pie baking contest, a pie eating contest, a pie tasting buffet, cooking demos, artisan vendors, a classic car show, live music, a recipe card hunt and bargains throughout town. If you can’t make it to Claremont, check out our list of pie places around Los Angeles.
COST: FREE ; MORE INFO

SATURDAY, MARCH 23; 4 and 7 p.m. – SUNDAY, MARCH 24; 4 p.m.
Selected Shorts
The Getty — 1200 Getty Center Dr., Brentwood
The public radio show and podcast presents three performances around the theme of “entanglements.” Actor Jane Kaczmarek hosts the literary feast that pairs performers with stories. Participants include René Auberjonois, D’Arcy Carden, Tony Hale, Stana Katic, Wendie Malick, Michael McKean, Elizabeth Reaser, Retta, Andy Richter, Natasha Rothwell, Jenna Ushkowitz and Baron Vaughn.
COST: $20; MORE INFO

SUNDAY, MARCH 24; 5 – 7 p.m.
Women Who Rock Panel
Hotel Figueroa — 939 South Figueroa St., downtown L.A.
In conjunction with Loyola Marymount University professor Evelyn McDonnell’s new book, Women Who Rock, there’s a discussion with panelists including McDonnell, Riot Grrrl co-founder and musician Allison Wolfe and punk legend Alice Bag. The panel will be moderated KPFK’s Valecia Phillips. KSPC DJ DeeJay Dia spins. Seating is limited for this all-ages event. Cash bar.
COST: FREE with RSVP; MORE INFO

SUNDAY, MARCH 24; 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
40th Vintage Paperback Show
Glendale Civic Auditorium — 1401 Verdugo Rd., Glendale
Organizers of this book event call it the best bargain in town and we may have to agree. Now in its 40th year, the show features more than a 100 vendor tables selling thousands of paperback and hardback sci-fi, mysteries, early pulp fiction and original art. A few dozen authors are doing live appearance and won’t charge for their signatures.
Tickets: $5 admission; MORE INFO

More than 24,000 participants will be running 26.2 miles — for fun — this Sunday for the Los Angeles Marathon. (Photo: Jonathan Moore/Getty Images)

SUNDAY, MARCH 24; 6:30 a.m.
Los Angeles Marathon
Throughout L.A. — Dodger Stadium to Santa Monica
More than 24,000 people are expected to take part in the annual stadium-to-the-sea race. Chances are you know one of them, so get out to the streets and support them on their grueling 26.2-mile journey. The competition kicks off with wheelchair participants at 6:30 a.m.; handcyclists at 6:42 a.m., the elite female runners at 6:45 a.m. and elite male runners 6:55 a.m. before the full field takes off. Please check for road closures/openings throughout the day as streets will be reopening on a rolling basis. Runners have 6.5 hours to complete the course.
COST: FREE (for spectators); MORE INFO

SUNDAY, MARCH 24; 7 p.m.
Nowruz: Persian New Year
Segerstrom Center for the Arts — 600 Town Center Dr., Costa Mesa
The Pacific Symphony, conducted by Carl St.Clair and Shardad Rohani, presents a program that celebrates the rebirth of nature. Listen to readings of works by Persian poet Rumi as well as Persian classical and folk music selections.
COST: Tickets start at $45; MORE INFO

SUNDAY, MARCH 24; 7:30 p.m.
The New Negroes
The Virgil — 4519 Santa Monica Blvd., East Hollywood
The live show is finally getting a slot on Comedy Central, and there’s a pre-premiere shindig with a big lineup that features Tone Bell, Jak Knight and hosts Open Mike Eagle and Baron Vaughn. The show’s title refers to a term popularized during the Harlem Renaissance when Black Americans spoke up and told their stories to dismantle misconceptions. “This show is KINDA doing that, but jokes.”
COST: $7; MORE INFO

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Which Colorectal Cancer Screening Do I Need?

(HealthNewsDigest.com) – HERSHEY, Pa. — March is Colorectal Cancer Awareness Month, and the Colorectal Cancer Alliance is urging everyone to talk with their health care providers about screening.

Each year, more than 140,000 people in the U.S. receive a diagnosis of colorectal cancer, and about 50,000 die from the disease. It’s the second-leading cause of cancer death among U.S. men and women combined. Yet it’s highly preventable.

“With colorectal cancer screening, we can detect precancerous lesions and get them removed,” said Dr. Kofi Clarke, chief of the Division of Gastroenterology at Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center. “We’ve begun to notice the incidence of colorectal cancer decreasing in the past few years, and we believe that is partly due to screening.”

While all types of colorectal cancer screening are more effective than no screening, the right test for an individual depends on their risk factors.

If a person has no family or personal history of polyps, colon cancer or inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), no history of abdominal radiation as a child or radiation treatment for prostate cancer, they are typically at average risk for colorectal cancer. This category represents the majority of people.

“People at average risk should start getting screened at age 50 with the exception of African-Americans who should start screening at age 45,” Clarke said.

People at average risk have numerous screening options, including:

Colonoscopy: This test allows doctors to view the inside of the colon and remove any polyps or abnormal findings for further testing. It’s the gold standard and is recommended once every 10 years for patients at average risk. If a patient’s doctor finds precancerous polyps, he may ask them to increase the frequency of colonoscopies depending on the size, number and type of polyps found.

Virtual Colonoscopy: People at average risk who decline a colonoscopy can have this less invasive test — a CT scan of the colon — once every five years. “But if the test detects polyps, you will still need a colonoscopy to have them examined,” Clarke said.

Stool DNA Test: This newer option includes tests like Cologuard, which was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2014. In simple terms, it measures stool DNA from a single sample and can be as effective as a colonoscopy for people at average risk. These tests should be done once every three years.

Other fecal tests: A Fecal Immunochemical Test (FIT) checks for blood in samples from a single stool. A High-Sensitivity Guaiac-Based Fecal Occult Blood Test (HSgFOBT) preferably should be done at home. It involves testing for blood from three separate bowel movements. Either test is recommended once a year for people at average risk.

People at high risk for colorectal cancer should have a colonoscopy once every five years and preferably should not use other screening options. “For those with a family history of colorectal cancer, we recommend they start screenings at either age 40 or five years before their family member was diagnosed,” Clarke said. People with IBD should begin screening after eight years with the condition.

People who are uncertain about their risk level should talk with their health care provider.

Learn more:

The Medical Minute is a weekly health news feature produced by Penn State Health. Articles feature the expertise of faculty, physicians and staff, and are designed to offer timely, relevant health information of interest to a broad audience.

Black Arts Festival 2019: Experimental Film and Community Shine at Black Filmmakers Screening

On March 5, “From the Mind’s Eye” — a black filmmakers screening offered by Kuumba’s Black Arts Festival — brought experimental films and community discourse to the Leverett Library Theater.

The evening started with screenings of experimental films by students and black filmmakers, followed by a community discussion on the work presented. The films included “Office Hours,” a comedic look at the life of a teaching fellow by Jasi Lampkin, and Frances Bodomo’s “Boneshaker,” which chronicled an African family lost in America traveling to a Louisiana church.

Kuumba aims to improve whatever spaces it enters with new and diverse voices, according to its website— and BAF co-chairs Antonia L. Scott ’20 and Gabrielle S. Preston ’20 said that “From the Mind’s Eye” is one way to give black artists a platform.

“We wanted to create a space where we can give models for how to envision the world, and change the way we see the world and ourselves through the medium of film,” Scott said.

Films that represent a diverse group of artists are important because, according to Scott, blackness itself is not monolithic. “I wanted to make sure we featured people of different genders and from different regions,” she said.

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The 2019 Black Arts Festival is the 21st in Kuumba’s history, and some viewers said that they felt excited to attend the screening because of Kuumba’s legacy. “I love BAF,” Ruva Chigwedere ’21 said. “I didn’t want to miss out on this event. I wanted to support Kuumba because they are doing great work.”

Other audience members said that they were drawn to particular films at the event. “Boneshaker” caught the attention of Taylor D. Shirtliff-Hinds ’21. “Although I was confused by it, I was also very moved, and you could feel the silence in the room as everyone was taking it in,” she said. “I think it’s really powerful that films can have that effect on people, and cause them to sit and live in the moment even after the moment of experiencing the film has ended.”

When asked whether black artists had a duty to use their platforms to evoke social change, Preston said that black art shouldn’t be held to that standard — instead, it should be judged on its artistic merit.

“I’m firmly in the camp of: ‘Nothing I do is necessarily related to my blackness or unrelated to my blackness.’ That’s the most viable way to look at a lot of this work,” Preston said.

“Unless the artist has spoken to their goals for the work particularly, I tend to view everything with a critical lense,” Preston added. “Not only asking what this is doing politically or culturally, but appreciating the work for its full potential instead of boxing viewers into only seeing it from that one perspective.”

RankTribe™ Black Business Directory News – Arts & Entertainment

Fentanyl-Linked Deaths: The U.S. Opioid Epidemic’s Third Wave

Authorities intercepted a woman using this drug kit in preparation for shooting up a mix of heroin and fentanyl inside a Walmart bathroom last month in Manchester, N.H. Fentanyl offers a particularly potent high but also can shut down breathing in under a minute. Salwan Georges/Washington Post/Getty Images hide caption

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Salwan Georges/Washington Post/Getty Images

Authorities intercepted a woman using this drug kit in preparation for shooting up a mix of heroin and fentanyl inside a Walmart bathroom last month in Manchester, N.H. Fentanyl offers a particularly potent high but also can shut down breathing in under a minute.

Salwan Georges/Washington Post/Getty Images

Men are dying after opioid overdoses at nearly three times the rate of women in the United States. Overdose deaths are increasing faster among black and Latino Americans than among whites. And there’s an especially steep rise in the number of young adults ages 25 to 34 whose death certificates include some version of the drug fentanyl.

These findings, published Thursday in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlight the start of the third wave of the nation’s opioid epidemic. The first was prescription pain medications, such as OxyContin; then heroin, which replaced pills when they became too expensive; and now fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that can shut down breathing in less than a minute, and its popularity in the U.S. began to surge at the end of 2013. For each of the next three years, fatal overdoses involving fentanyl doubled, “rising at an exponential rate,” says Merianne Rose Spencer, a statistician at the CDC and one of the study’s authors.

Spencer’s research shows a 113 percent average annual increase from 2013 to 2016 (when adjusted for age). That total was first reported late in 2018, but Spencer looked deeper with this report into the demographic characteristics of those people dying from fentanyl overdoses.

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Increased trafficking of the drug and increased use are both fueling the spike in fentanyl deaths. For drug dealers, fentanyl is easier to produce than some other opioids. Unlike the poppies needed for heroin, which can be spoiled by weather or a bad harvest, fentanyl’s ingredients are easily supplied; it’s a synthetic combination of chemicals, often produced in China and packaged in Mexico, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. And because fentanyl can be 50 times more powerful than heroin, smaller amounts translate to bigger profits.

Jon DeLena, assistant special agent in charge of the DEA’s New England Field Division, says one kilogram of fentanyl, driven across the southern U.S. border, can be mixed with fillers or other drugs to create six or eight kilograms for sale.

“I mean, imagine that business model,” DeLena says. “If you went to any small-business owner and said, ‘Hey, I have a way to make your product eight times the product that you have now,’ there’s a tremendous windfall in there.”

For drug users, fentanyl is more likely to cause an overdose than heroin because it is so potent and because the high fades more quickly than with heroin. Drug users say they inject more frequently with fentanyl because the high doesn’t last as long — and more frequent injecting adds to their risk of overdose.

Fentanyl is also showing up in some supplies of cocaine and methamphetamines, which means that some people who don’t even know they need to worry about a fentanyl overdose are dying.

There are several ways fentanyl can wind up in a dose of some other drug. The mixing may be intentional, as a person seeks a more intense or different kind of high. It may happen as an accidental contamination, as dealers package their fentanyl and other drugs in the same place.

Or dealers may be adding fentanyl to cocaine and meth on purpose, in an effort to expand their clientele of users hooked on fentanyl.

“That’s something we have to consider,” says David Kelley, referring to the intentional addition of fentanyl to cocaine, heroin or other drugs by dealers. Kelley is deputy director of the New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. “The fact that we’ve had instances where it’s been present with different drugs leads one to believe that could be a possibility.”

The picture gets more complicated, says Kelley, as dealers develop new forms of fentanyl that are even more deadly. The new CDC report shows dozens of varieties of the drug now on the streets.

The highest rates of fentanyl-involved overdose deaths were found in New England, according to the study, followed by states in the Mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwest. But fentanyl deaths had barely increased in the West — including in Hawaii and Alaska — as of the end of 2016.

Researchers have no firm explanations for these geographic differences, but some people watching the trends have theories. One is that it’s easier to mix a few white fentanyl crystals into the powdered form of heroin that is more common in eastern states than into the black tar heroin that is sold more routinely in the West. Another hypothesis holds that drug cartels used New England as a test market for fentanyl because the region has a strong, long-standing market for opioids.

Spencer, the study’s main author, hopes that some of the other characteristics of the wave of fentanyl highlighted in this report will help shape the public response. Why, for example, did the influx of fentanyl increase the overdose death rate among men to nearly three times the rate of overdose deaths among women?

Some research points to one particular factor: Men are more likely to use drugs alone. In the era of fentanyl, that increases a man’s chances of an overdose and death, says Ricky Bluthenthal, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.

“You have stigma around your drug use, so you hide it,” Bluthenthal says. “You use by yourself in an unsupervised setting. [If] there’s fentanyl in it, then you die.”

Traci Green, deputy director of Boston Medical Center’s Injury Prevention Center, offers some other reasons. Women are more likely to buy and use drugs with a partner, Green says. And women are more likely to call for help — including 911 — and to seek help, including treatment.

“Women go to the doctor more,” she says. “We have health issues that take us to the doctor more. So we have more opportunities to help.”

Green notes that every interaction with a health care provider is a chance to bring someone into treatment. So this finding should encourage more outreach, she says, and encourage health care providers to find more ways to connect with active drug users.

As to why fentanyl seems to be hitting blacks and Latinos disproportionately as compared with whites, Green mentions the higher incarceration rates for blacks and Latinos. Those who formerly used opioids heavily face a particularly high risk of overdose when they leave jail or prison and inject fentanyl, she notes; they’ve lost their tolerance to high levels of the drugs.

There are also reports that African-Americans and Latinos are less likely to call 911 because they don’t trust first responders, and medication-based treatment may not be as available to racial minorities. Many Latinos say bilingual treatment programs are hard to find.

Spencer says the deaths attributed to fentanyl in her study should be seen as a minimum number — there are likely more that weren’t counted. Coroners in some states don’t test for the drug or don’t have equipment that can detect one of the dozens of new variations of fentanyl that would appear if sophisticated tests were more widely available.

There are signs the fentanyl surge continues. Kelley, with the New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, notes that fentanyl seizures are rising. And in Massachusetts, one of the hardest-hit areas, state data show fentanyl present in more than 89 percent of fatal overdoses through October 2018.

Still, in one glimmer of hope, even as the number of overdoses in Massachusetts continues to rise, associated deaths dropped 4 percent last year. Many public health specialists attribute the decrease in deaths to the spreading availability of naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.

This story is part of NPR’s reporting partnership with WBUR and Kaiser Health News.

Evangelicals and Muslims see similarities in faiths and favor closer ties, survey says

(RNS) — As a growing number of evangelical Christian leaders are working to improve Christian-Muslim relations, a new online study finds that more than 3 in 4 U.S. evangelicals say they never or infrequently interact with Muslims.

The national benchmark survey by the Foundation for Ethnic Understanding — which conducted online interviews with 500 self-identified Muslims and 500 self-identified evangelicals in early January — suggests that an overlap in religious values between the two faith groups is obscured by a lack of understanding.

Rabbi Marc Schneier, who heads the foundation, said he was surprised at the low number of evangelical Christians — 22 percent — who said they interact with Muslims at least somewhat frequently and that they believe the interaction has fostered better understanding between the groups. In contrast, 53 percent of Muslims said the same for evangelicals.

Fentanyl-Linked Deaths: The U.S. Opioid Epidemic’s Third Wave Begins

Authorities intercepted a woman using this drug kit in preparation for shooting up a mix of heroin and fentanyl inside a Walmart bathroom last month in Manchester, N.H. Fentanyl offers a particularly potent high but also can shut down breathing in under a minute. Salwan Georges/Washington Post/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption

Salwan Georges/Washington Post/Getty Images

Authorities intercepted a woman using this drug kit in preparation for shooting up a mix of heroin and fentanyl inside a Walmart bathroom last month in Manchester, N.H. Fentanyl offers a particularly potent high but also can shut down breathing in under a minute.

Salwan Georges/Washington Post/Getty Images

Men are dying after opioid overdoses at nearly three times the rate of women in the United States. Overdose deaths are increasing faster among black and Latino Americans than among whites. And there’s an especially steep rise in the number of young adults ages 25 to 34 whose death certificates include some version of the drug fentanyl.

These findings, published Thursday in a report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, highlight the start of the third wave of the nation’s opioid epidemic. The first was prescription pain medications, such as OxyContin; then heroin, which replaced pills when they became too expensive; and now fentanyl.

Fentanyl is a powerful synthetic opioid that can shut down breathing in less than a minute, and its popularity in the U.S. began to surge at the end of 2013. For each of the next three years, fatal overdoses involving fentanyl doubled, “rising at an exponential rate,” says Merianne Rose Spencer, a statistician at the CDC and one of the study’s authors.

Spencer’s research shows a 113 percent average annual increase from 2013 to 2016 (when adjusted for age). That total was first reported late in 2018, but Spencer looked deeper with this report into the demographic characteristics of those people dying from fentanyl overdoses.

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Increased trafficking of the drug and increased use are both fueling the spike in fentanyl deaths. For drug dealers, fentanyl is easier to produce than some other opioids. Unlike the poppies needed for heroin, which can be spoiled by weather or a bad harvest, fentanyl’s ingredients are easily supplied; it’s a synthetic combination of chemicals, often produced in China and packaged in Mexico, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. And because fentanyl can be 50 times more powerful than heroin, smaller amounts translate to bigger profits.

Jon DeLena, assistant special agent in charge of the DEA’s New England Field Division, says one kilogram of fentanyl, driven across the southern U.S. border, can be mixed with fillers or other drugs to create six or eight kilograms for sale.

“I mean, imagine that business model,” DeLena says. “If you went to any small-business owner and said, ‘Hey, I have a way to make your product eight times the product that you have now,’ there’s a tremendous windfall in there.”

For drug users, fentanyl is more likely to cause an overdose than heroin because it is so potent and because the high fades more quickly than with heroin. Drug users say they inject more frequently with fentanyl because the high doesn’t last as long — and more frequent injecting adds to their risk of overdose.

Fentanyl is also showing up in some supplies of cocaine and methamphetamines, which means that some people who don’t even know they need to worry about a fentanyl overdose are dying.

There are several ways fentanyl can wind up in a dose of some other drug. The mixing may be intentional, as a person seeks a more intense or different kind of high. It may happen as an accidental contamination, as dealers package their fentanyl and other drugs in the same place.

Or dealers may be adding fentanyl to cocaine and meth on purpose, in an effort to expand their clientele of users hooked on fentanyl.

“That’s something we have to consider,” says David Kelley, referring to the intentional addition of fentanyl to cocaine, heroin or other drugs by dealers. Kelley is deputy director of the New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area. “The fact that we’ve had instances where it’s been present with different drugs leads one to believe that could be a possibility.”

The picture gets more complicated, says Kelley, as dealers develop new forms of fentanyl that are even more deadly. The new CDC report shows dozens of varieties of the drug now on the streets.

The highest rates of fentanyl-involved overdose deaths were found in New England, according to the study, followed by states in the Mid-Atlantic and Upper Midwest. But fentanyl deaths had barely increased in the West — including in Hawaii and Alaska — as of the end of 2016.

Researchers have no firm explanations for these geographic differences, but some people watching the trends have theories. One is that it’s easier to mix a few white fentanyl crystals into the powdered form of heroin that is more common in eastern states than into the black tar heroin that is sold more routinely in the West. Another hypothesis holds that drug cartels used New England as a test market for fentanyl because the region has a strong, long-standing market for opioids.

Spencer, the study’s main author, hopes that some of the other characteristics of the wave of fentanyl highlighted in this report will help shape the public response. Why, for example, did the influx of fentanyl increase the overdose death rate among men to nearly three times the rate of overdose deaths among women?

Some research points to one particular factor: Men are more likely to use drugs alone. In the era of fentanyl, that increases a man’s chances of an overdose and death, says Ricky Bluthenthal, a professor of preventive medicine at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine.

“You have stigma around your drug use, so you hide it,” Bluthenthal says. “You use by yourself in an unsupervised setting. [If] there’s fentanyl in it, then you die.”

Traci Green, deputy director of Boston Medical Center’s Injury Prevention Center, offers some other reasons. Women are more likely to buy and use drugs with a partner, Green says. And women are more likely to call for help — including 911 — and to seek help, including treatment.

“Women go to the doctor more,” she says. “We have health issues that take us to the doctor more. So we have more opportunities to help.”

Green notes that every interaction with a health care provider is a chance to bring someone into treatment. So this finding should encourage more outreach, she says, and encourage health care providers to find more ways to connect with active drug users.

As to why fentanyl seems to be hitting blacks and Latinos disproportionately as compared with whites, Green mentions the higher incarceration rates for blacks and Latinos. Those who formerly used opioids heavily face a particularly high risk of overdose when they leave jail or prison and inject fentanyl, she notes; they’ve lost their tolerance to high levels of the drugs.

There are also reports that African-Americans and Latinos are less likely to call 911 because they don’t trust first responders, and medication-based treatment may not be as available to racial minorities. Many Latinos say bilingual treatment programs are hard to find.

Spencer says the deaths attributed to fentanyl in her study should be seen as a minimum number — there are likely more that weren’t counted. Coroners in some states don’t test for the drug or don’t have equipment that can detect one of the dozens of new variations of fentanyl that would appear if sophisticated tests were more widely available.

There are signs the fentanyl surge continues. Kelley, with the New England High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area, notes that fentanyl seizures are rising. And in Massachusetts, one of the hardest-hit areas, state data show fentanyl present in more than 89 percent of fatal overdoses through October 2018.

Still, in one glimmer of hope, even as the number of overdoses in Massachusetts continues to rise, associated deaths dropped 4 percent last year. Many public health specialists attribute the decrease in deaths to the spreading availability of naloxone, a drug that can reverse an opioid overdose.

This story is part of NPR’s reporting partnership with WBUR and Kaiser Health News.

What Does the Uptown Innovation Corridor Mean for Avondale Residents?

News10320Uptown Innovation CorridorThe intersection of Reading Road and Martin Luther King, Jr. DriveNick SwartsellThe neighborhood of Avondale has seen a monumental transformation over the past 25 years. What was in 2000 a neighborhood of 16,298 shrank into a neighborhood of 12,466 by 2010, according to the U.S. Census.

The reasons for the population loss in Avondale — the city’s fourth-largest neighborhood — are complex. Some residents moved out to seek better housing or economic opportunities. Some lost their homes as major institutions like Cincinnati Children’s Hospital have expanded.

Now, efforts are well underway to bring new jobs and residents here. But can the long-term residents who have remained in this predominantly African-American community benefit from the coming changes? While the groups in charge of the next major development in the area are making big promises of innovation and opportunity, fears of residential displacement and gentrification are as strong as ever.

Since 2014, when the city began construction of the interchange at Interstate 71 and Martin Luther King Drive, Vice Mayor David Mann, the University of Cincinnati and the Uptown Consortium — an organization comprised of leaders from Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, the Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden, University of Cincinnati, UC Health and TriHealth, Inc. — started vocalizing ideas about an “innovation corridor” located in the area around the interchange, but it was not clear at that time exactly what that would look like.

Avondale’s low-income residents and renters are very concerned about being priced out of the area with so many higher-income residents potentially moving in, says Patricia Milton, president of the Avondale Community Council. For Milton, racial gentrification is not the only issue, but income gentrification as well.

“You’ll have more professional people that will be moving in to the neighborhood who can call Avondale home, and that’s really the thing that we’re trying to figure out now — how that’s going to work without displacing folks that are already a part of the community,” she says.
Plans for Avondale’s resurgence via the Innovation Corridor have come into sharper focus recently.

The latest development along that corridor: the March 12 announcement of the Uptown Gateway, which represents $150 million in private investment in the form of an office complex, hotel and University of Cincinnati’s Digital Futures building.

The idea of an “innovation corridor” is inspired by similar areas such as the Innovation District in Boston or Silicon Valley in San Francisco. These districts, centered near universities, share the goal of attracting cutting-edge companies that intend to take advantage of university resources and recruit students to work on projects, particularly focused around new technology. Cincinnati’s Uptown Innovation Corridor will be made up of “four corners” centered around the intersection of Martin Luther King Drive and Reading Road in Avondale.

UPTOWNWEBA map of proposed Uptown Innovation Corridor developmentsUptown Consortium

Each segment of the new district has been designated to a different development group, each one with a different concept and purpose than the others:

• The northwest corner is exclusively designated for the construction of a $110 million campus for the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), to be completed by 2021. The campus will employ 550 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). It will consist of three buildings — an office, a lab and a warehouse.

• MLK Investors I, a partnership between Neyer Properties Inc. and Kulkarni Properties, will redevelop the 20 acres in the northeast corner. The project will be developed in three phases and will include office, retail and residential spaces, according to the Uptown Consortium.

• The consortium tasked Queen City Hills, a minority-owned development organization, with redeveloping the southwest corner, the former site of the Dual Manor Health Care Center. The corner will house a 162-room Residence Inn by Marriott hotel, the Business Courier reported in June, along with other mixed-use spaces.

• The aforementioned southeast corner, called “Uptown Gateway,” will be developed by Terrex Development and Construction and Messer Construction Company. The $150 million development will include three office buildings encompassing 450,000 square feet and a 158-room hotel and is expected to be completed by 2021. The development will also include an underground parking garage with 1,800 spaces. The UC Digital Futures building will be housed in this corner, a space similar to the existing 1819 Innovation Hub that the university promises will provide more space — 180,000 square feet, to be exact — for digital research.

The new corridor will offer approximately 7,000 jobs in the area, according to the Uptown Consortium. The answer of whether Uptown’s residents will be eligible for these positions is still unclear — most of the mixed-use spaces in the corridor don’t have tenants planned out quite yet. What is clear, however, is that a large portion of the corridor’s permanent jobs won’t have anything to do with new technology or the digital future as the district’s marketing may imply — there are lots of opportunities for retail, food and office jobs. There are also a multitude of opportunities for contracted employees such as construction and landscaping.

Beth Robinson, president and CEO of the Uptown Consortium, says that there is more work to be done in terms of determining what kind of jobs will be available for residents, communicating those opportunities and preparing neighborhood residents for them. The consortium has hired WEB Ventures, a consulting firm that works to create and execute economic inclusion, workforce inclusion and wealth building, to ensure that minority and local residents are included in the project. The firm also worked on projects such as the MLK Interchange and recent projects including the Avondale Town Center and the UC Gardner Neuroscience Institute. WEB was able to recruit from the neighborhoods of Uptown 13 residents to work on the Avondale Town Center and about 15 to work on the UC project.

WEB Ventures is constantly meeting with residents at community events about how job opportunities will work, says Bill Witten, managing partner of the Witten Consulting Group and a WEB Ventures partner. The firm has even put computers and printers in the Avondale Business Center to help residents find and pursue these positions.

Witten admits that construction jobs aren’t for everyone and is working to educate locals on what these jobs entail. He says that about 70 local applicants have already interviewed for construction positions in the corridor.

Even though the job site may be right in the backyard of these residents, employers may send their workers all across the region to job sites. Construction workers may stick in one job site for three or four weeks and be moved to another site miles away for another three or four weeks. Many residents don’t have their own cars and oftentimes, construction sites will be far off Metro bus lines.

“It is in Avondale, and we’ve been able to find Avondale residents that can walk to the (Avondale Town Center) as an example and work there for three or four weeks, but when the employer says, ‘Monday of next week we’re no longer here, we need you in West Chester,’ that becomes a real hard problem for them in doing that because what they have is a lack of transportation,” Witten says.

Robinson says that WEB Ventures got her organization to think more long-term about job opportunities, as before she and her team were thinking more about contracted workers, not about the more permanent opportunities.

“They got us to think about the jobs even beyond construction,” Robinson says. “Those are the kind of things they like to call the ‘annuity jobs,’ and those are like the landscaping, the supply companies, that sometimes you don’t think of, but those go on and on regardless of what’s being built — it’s really servicing the buildings and the tenants.”

Regardless of the jobs current residents are able to obtain in the district, companies are moving in and bringing with them executives, researchers and other employees who substantially exceed the area’s median household income of $18,120 (according to the 2010 census).

Robinson expects that the Innovation Corridor will help the population go up again for the first time in decades and create a more vibrant community.

“It will most definitely bring in new people to live and to work,” she says. “I think that’s a good thing because that increases the economic activity in the neighborhood, which will bring in some offerings that the community doesn’t have now. And really specifically, I’m talking about restaurants and coffee places — things that really there aren’t much of in Avondale.”

Uptown Innovation Corridor Arial View March2017A rendering of future development in the Uptown Innovation CorridorUptown Consortium

Avondale also lacks green space and places for people to walk around and be immersed in their community. The Innovation Corridor incorporated these elements into the design of the area and created an “open campus.” In initial designs of the area, there was a giant above-ground parking garage in the Terrex corner, something residents were not happy about. Neighborhood residents asked specifically for underground parking and Terrex incorporated that request into the final design.

Robinson admits that more effort is necessary to ensure that the community is aware of the consortium’s plan. She says she is amazed that some people will hear her speak at meetings and still don’t know exactly what is happening in the area.

Through these developments, which have accelerated far more quickly than anticipated due to monumental levels of state support for the interchange, Milton of the Avondale Community Council wants residents to know that there is still a lot of low-income housing in Avondale and lots of empty land.

She says the goal is to bring in these new high price points while protecting the people already in the neighborhood.

“We’re starting those conversations, and I don’t know exactly how that will be done,” Milton says. “I know that we’re probably two or three years behind the conversation, but at least we are having the conversation and we’re trying to plan for it.

Beto enters the fray

In this March 14, 2019, photo, former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke speaks to reporters after a meet and greet at the Beancounter Coffeehouse & Drinkery in Burlington, Iowa. The contours of the Democratic presidential primary came into clearer focus this week with O’Rourke’s entry into the race. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

In this March 14, 2019, photo, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke speaks to reporters after a meet and greet at the Beancounter Coffeehouse & Drinkery in Burlington, Iowa. The contours of the Democratic presidential primary came into clearer focus this week with O’Rourke’s entry into the race. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Former Vice President Joe Biden takes a photograph with members of the audience after speaking to the International Association of Firefighters at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, amid growing expectations he’ll soon announce he’s running for president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke autographs a photo after speaking at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 13 hall, Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Burlington, Iowa. O’Rourke announced Thursday that he’ll seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Democratic 2020 field taking shape with Beto O’Rourke entry

By JULIE PACE

AP Washington Bureau Chief

Friday, March 15

WASHINGTON (AP) — The contours of the Democratic presidential primary came into clearer focus this week with Texan Beto O’Rourke’s entry into the race — one of the final puzzle pieces in a contest that will be shaped by questions about race and gender, political ideology and generational change.

The sprawling Democratic field features candidates ranging from 37 to 77 years old; liberals and moderates; senators, governors and mayors; and an unprecedented number of women and minorities. Former Vice President Joe Biden is the only major contender still on the sidelines and has suggested he could remain there for several more weeks.

The field has been awaiting O’Rourke’s decision for months. He narrowly lost the Senate race in conservative Texas in November but became a political celebrity in the process, demonstrating an easy connection with voters and an eye-popping ability to raise money from small donors.

But the anticipation over O’Rourke, who served three terms in Congress, has rankled some in the party, who contend a woman or a minority would not be seen as a viable presidential candidate on the heels of a defeat.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if there was an assumption of competence, an assumption of quality and a desire for him to run again, as a man,” said MJ Hegar, who lost a close congressional race in Texas in the fall. “A question for me, as a woman, is ‘Why did you lose?”

O’Rourke enters a race with no clear front-runner. Biden and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders have topped early polling, reflecting the reservoir of goodwill each has with a sizable share of the primary electorate but hardly guaranteeing either an easy path to the nomination.

With the first primary contest still 11 months away, huge uncertainties hang over the field. Among them: Which candidates can raise enough money to sustain a long and grueling campaign?

Sanders set the pace for grassroots donations, pulling in $6 million during his first day as a candidate, according to his campaign. In the final weeks of the first fundraising quarter of the year, many wealthy donors are waiting to make commitments.

“You really have to have a plan to stay alive,” said Joel Benenson, a Democratic pollster who worked for Barack Obama’s and Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaigns. “This is not just about having one demographic group. You’re going to have to have broad reach to stay alive.”

The debates, which begin in June, also loom as the first real test of how the candidates will draw contrasts with one another. Thus far, the Democrats have refrained from challenging one another in public, arguing that party unity will be crucial in the general election campaign against President Donald Trump.

“If you don’t end up being the nominee, let’s have none of this lingering acrimony after the nominee has been selected,” New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker said Thursday. “Everybody needs to unify around the candidate because that’s where the strength of the Democratic Party is.”

It was notable that O’Rourke’s entry into the race was accompanied by a notable uptick in the kind of political shadowboxing the candidates have largely avoided, showing he has the attention of his competitors.

Just after O’Rourke announced his campaign Thursday morning, another Texan running for president, Julian Castro, released a list of endorsements from Democrats in the state. California Sen. Kamala Harris announced she plans to headline a rally in Texas later this month. And she sent a fundraising appeal that singled out O’Rourke by name and pointedly mentioned the “record number of women and people of color” running for the Democratic nomination.

O’Rourke, 46, said he knows that being a white man in a party eager to promote women and minorities may be a challenge.

“I totally understand people who will make a decision based on the fact that almost every single one of our presidents has been a white man, and they want something different for this country,” O’Rourke said in a Vanity Fair cover story published on the eve of his campaign announcement. “And I think that’s a very legitimate basis upon which to make a decision. Especially in the fact that there are some really great candidates out there right now.”

O’Rourke opened his campaign in Iowa. Several of his first stops were in counties that voted for Obama, but flipped to Trump in the 2016 election. He had four events scheduled for Friday.

Some Democrats welcomed O’Rourke’s entry into the race. He received a handful of endorsements from congressional colleagues, who praised his unifying message.

Jennifer Palmieri, a former adviser to Obama and Clinton, said the Texan’s raw talent would help raise the bar for the rest of the field.

“Good candidates make each other better, and it raises the level of competition,” Palmieri said.

With O’Rourke officially in the race, Biden is the only major player left to declare. A few long-shot candidates, most notably Montana Gov. Steve Bullock, may also still get in before the field is set.

Biden’s team has yet to formally hire any staff. But his advisers have been signaling to Democratic operatives in Iowa and New Hampshire that the former vice president is ready to make the leap, likely in early April. He’ll deliver a speech on Saturday before a friendly audience of Delaware Democrats.

“He wants to do it,” said Rep. Cedric Richmond of Louisiana, who is a former chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus and a Biden supporter. “He just wants to cross every ‘t’ and dot every ‘i.”

Stacey Abrams, the popular Democrat who narrowly lost the Georgia governor’s race in November, has also stoked speculation about a 2020 White House run. However, people close to Abrams say she is more likely to pursue a Senate campaign.

Abrams and Biden met privately Thursday in Washington.

Trump is closely monitoring the Democratic primary, including O’Rourke’s announcement. He jabbed at O’Rourke’s animated speaking style, saying, “He’s got a lot of hand movement. Is he crazy or is that just how he acts?” and predicted victory over the eventual Democratic nominee.

“Whoever it is, I’ll take him or her on,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office.

Associated Press writers Will Weissert in Austin, Texas, Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, and Juana Summers and Elana Schor in Washington contributed to this report.

Follow Julie Pace at http://twitter.com/jpaceDC

O’Rourke begins 2020 bid with big crowds, centrist message

By WILL WEISSERT and ALEXANDRA JAFFE

Associated Press

Friday, March 15

BURLINGTON, Iowa (AP) — Democrat Beto O’Rourke jumped into the 2020 presidential race Thursday, shaking up the already packed field and pledging to win over voters from across the political spectrum as he tries to translate his sudden celebrity into a formidable White House bid.

The former Texas congressman began his campaign by taking his first ever trip to Iowa, the state that kicks off the presidential primary voting. In tiny Burlington, in southeast Iowa, he scaled a counter to be heard during an afternoon stop at a coffee shop.

“Let us not allow our differences to define us as at this moment,” O’Rourke told a whooping crowd, his heels perched at the countertop’s edge. “History calls for us to come together.”

Earlier in the day, O’Rourke popped into a coffee shop in Keokuk while many cable networks aired live coverage. He took questions about his support of federal legalization of marijuana as well as the possibility of a universal basic income, all while characteristically waving his arms and gesticulating fervently.

“I could care less about your party persuasion,” O’Rourke said.

It was the kind of high-energy, off-the-cuff style that made him a sensation in Texas and a monster fundraiser nationwide, but O’Rourke also was clear that he doesn’t believe in strict immigration rules — drawing a distinction that could allow him to clash openly with President Donald Trump on the issue.

Trump took more note of O’Rourke’s gyrations than his policy plans.

“Well, I think he’s got a lot of hand movement,” Trump told reporters in the Oval Office. “Is he crazy or is that just how he acts?”

After weeks of gleefully teasing an announcement, O’Rourke now must prove whether his zeal for personal contact with voters will resonate beyond Texas. He hasn’t demonstrated much skill in domestic or foreign policy, and as a white man, he’s entering a field that has been celebrated for its diverse roster of women and people of color.

Asked in Burlington how he’d contrast himself with other presidential hopefuls, O’Rourke said that he wasn’t sure but that he’d never been afraid to work with congressional Republicans. That may not be enough for Democrats anxious to angrily oppose Trump, however, and some other White House candidates draw shaper contrasts.

“The reason why I think I’m the best candidate for the presidency is very different than his,” New York Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said of O’Rourke on Thursday. “I think we need a leader who’s going to fight for other people’s kids as hard as you’d fight for your own.”

In an email to supporters, California Sen. Kamala Harris noted that a “record number of women and people of color” are running and added that she was looking forward to “substantive debates” with candidates including O’Rourke. Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren also sent a fundraising email, saying, “I’m sure you’ve seen” O’Rourke’s launch.

In a recent interview with Vanity Fair, O’Rourke said he was “just born to be in” the presidential race. Asked about that after a Washington conference, New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker noted that he is dedicated to working with “communities that are really being left out and left behind.”

“I’ve got decades of showing people where my heart is, where my dedication is,” Booker said.

Still, he picked up several congressional endorsements on Thursday, as well as the backing of Iowa state Rep. Brian Meyer, who serves as an assistant minority leader in the state House of Representatives.

Until O’Rourke challenged Republican Sen. Ted Cruz last year, he was little known outside his hometown of El Paso, on Texas’ border with Mexico. But the Spanish-speaking, 46-year-old former punk rocker used grassroots organizing and social media savvy to mobilize young voters and minorities and get within 3 percentage points of winning in the nation’s largest red state.

In Burlington, O’Rourke distinguished himself from much of the rest of the field by saying he’d be open to remaking the structure of the Supreme Court so that it reflects modern U.S. diversity, even saying he’d be open to justice term limits.

O’Rourke’s record in Congress has drawn criticism from some for being too moderate, but he also spoke at length on Thursday about combating climate change and supporting the Green New Deal, a sweeping environmental plan backed by liberal Democrats.

Alice Davis, a retired teacher from Burlington, said O’Rourke “seems to be kind of a centrist, which I think we need.”

She said, “He’s not too far left, as some people are, and I think he could appeal to a lot of voters.”

At a house party in Muscatine on Thursday night, O’Rourke spoke about institutionalized racism, the harm done to African-Americans after emancipation and the failures of the Civil Rights movement but did not come down on either side of the reparations debate. He said only that, in speaking to others “who are much smarter on this issue,” he’s been told that the country needs to address its grim history with respect to racism before any repair can take place.

“I want to make sure that we have leadership that reflects that need, that is able to reflect and share the truth and bring a reckoning to this country that is hundreds of years in the making,” O’Rourke said. He offered no further clarification on his stance on monetary or other forms of reparation, which a number of his Democratic opponents have embraced.

O’Rourke started the race in southeast Iowa, where none of the 2020 Democratic presidential hopefuls have gone so far. Bordering the Mississippi River and featuring unemployment rates exceeding the state and national average, the area traditionally leans Democratic but supported Trump in 2016. Voters there helped elect Republican Gov. Kim Reynolds but also supported Democrat Abby Finenauer of Dubuque, who unseated Republican Rep. Rod Blum.

“These communities have slowly been hollowed out by the failure to transition from the extraction economy to a sustainable one,” said former Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack, who got his political start in the region.

At the house party in Muscatine, O’Rourke stood on a chair to address the dozens of curious Democratic voters who arrived to see him, taking questions from the crowd as he had all day.

Sharee Byrne and Alexis Huscko, both stay-at-home-moms from Muscatine, Iowa, said they had heard about O’Rourke from his Texas Senate run and were excited to see him in person. Both were concerned about rising health care costs and access to affordable education. Byrne said she was still open to choosing a candidate, while Huscko felt strongly in Bernie Sanders’ camp.

But both acknowledged O’Rourke’s charisma and looks were part of his appeal, while Huscko was less than complimentary about Trump.

“I think people are more interested in having a cougar-style, GQ kind of guy, instead of the frumpy cheeto,” Huscko said.

Weissert reported from Austin, Texas. Associated Press writers Thomas Beaumont in Des Moines, Iowa, and Elana Schor in Washington contributed to this report.

O’Rourke returning to Wisconsin for early campaign stops

By SCOTT BAUER

Associated Press

Friday, March 15

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Beto O’Rourke is returning to Wisconsin this weekend for early campaign stops that speak to the importance of the state in the 2020 presidential race.

O’Rourke is slated to appear Sunday at a coffee shop in Madison, the state’s liberal capital city, before heading to Milwaukee — site of the 2020 Democratic National Convention — for other events. It will be O’Rourke’s second visit to Madison in a month. He met with more than 200 University of Wisconsin students and faculty in February before he officially entered the race on Thursday in neighboring Iowa.

Wisconsin is expected to be one of the most hard-fought states in 2020 because it is one of the few seen as being truly in play. Democrats view it as part of a “blue wall” that they hope to build in the Upper Midwest to deny President Donald Trump a second term.

Trump carried Wisconsin by fewer than 23,000 votes in 2016, becoming the first Republican to carry the state since Ronald Reagan in 1984. Democrat Hillary Clinton was roundly criticized for not returning to the state before Election Day after she lost the Wisconsin primary to Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders.

But Democrats have been buoyed by recent electoral successes — namely Tony Evers’ defeat of two-term Republican Gov. Scott Walker in 2018 as part of a Democratic sweep of every statewide race.

Adding to the momentum, Democrats on Monday announced that they would hold their national convention in Milwaukee in 2020, choosing it over the much larger cities of Houston and Miami.

O’Rourke, a former Texas congressman, made a point during his first visit in February to emphasize that Wisconsin was “too often overlooked, the conversation does not begin until too late.” He said this feeling was motivating his visits to Wisconsin and several other states, including New Mexico, Oklahoma, Kansas and Colorado.

Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, another candidate in the large Democratic presidential field, also made an early campaign stop in western Wisconsin last month.

Milwaukee and Madison are Wisconsin’s two largest cities and are the center of Democratic power in the state. In 2016, Clinton carried Milwaukee County with 65 percent of the vote and Dane County, which includes Madison, with 70 percent.

Associated Press writer Will Weissert in Austin, Texas, contributed to this report.

Follow Scott Bauer on Twitter: https://twitter.com/sbauerAP

Beto O’Rourke says nothing in his past will hinder 2020 run

By SCOTT BAUER and WILL WEISSERT

Associated Press

Monday, March 18

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke told supporters Sunday that he’s never taken LSD and there’s “nothing” he hasn’t already revealed about his past that could come back to hurt his run for office.

The former Texas congressman — who has become known for his propensity for swearing — also promised again to clean up his language, despite breaking such past vows.

O’Rourke grabbed much attention as he wrapped up his first week of campaigning, but his challengers could be found at events from the Upper Midwest to the South. And looming over them all is the shadow of one prominent Democrat not in but not out, former Vice President Joe Biden. He has yet to announce a decision.

Speaking in front of a large map of Russia inside a coffee shop in Wisconsin’s capital, O’Rourke promised to return often, addressing concerns Democrats raised in 2016 after Hillary Clinton never campaigned in the state after her party’s primary and lost the state to Donald Trump by fewer than 23,000 votes.

“This state is fundamental to any prospect we have of electing a Democrat to the presidency in 2020,” O’Rourke said, adding that he was “really glad” Milwaukee was chosen to host the 2020 Democratic national convention. The city, which O’Rourke was visiting later Sunday, beat out Miami and Houston.

O’Rourke, of course, has to secure the Democratic presidential nomination before he can worry about the general election. But then he’s also already said he’d prefer to pick a woman as his running mate, should he make it that far. O’Rourke said Sunday that it was presumptuous to commit to that so early, but that doing so would make a “tremendous amount of sense” given the number of qualified women candidates.

Many remember the Texan for declaring “I’m so (bleeping) proud of you guys” on national television during his concession speech in November, after narrowly losing his Senate race to incumbent Republican Ted Cruz. O’Rourke said Sunday that he’ll not use profanities any more, after being asked by a voter if he was going to “clean up his act,” especially in front of children.

“Point taken, and very strongly made,” O’Rourke said. “We’re going to keep it clean.” He made a similar pledge during his race with Cruz, then didn’t make good.

O’Rourke has previously admitted to a 1998 arrest for drunken driving and said nothing else will come out that could be used against him during the 2020 presidential campaign. Later, he signed the skateboard of a supporter who asked if he had ever taken the drug LSD. The candidate responded that he hadn’t.

About 400 people came to the coffee shop to hear O’Rourke. Half made it inside and half listened from the sidewalk through the opened door. O’Rourke wore a St. Patrick’s Day necklace featuring green cabbage but said he had coffee — not beer — with his breakfast: “Although it can be justified as an O’Rourke on St. Patrick’s Day to do that,” he joked, in a nod to his Irish heritage.

The Republican Party’s official Twitter accounted noted his past arrest, tweeting, “On this St. Paddy’s Day, a special message from noted Irishman Robert Francis O’Rourke” and including an altered photo of the Democrat’s mug shot wearing an oversized, green leprechaun hat over the phrase “Please Drink Responsibly.”

Other highlights of Sunday’s campaigning:

ELIZABETH WARREN

Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren said during a campaign stop in Tennessee that her proposed tax on “ultra-millionaires” is a key step in reducing corruption and privileges for the rich, while making the economy work better for poorer people.

An energetic Warren spoke a racially-mixed group of about 400 potential voters while standing on a podium in front of the American and Tennessee flags in a large room at Douglass High School in Memphis, Tennessee, on Sunday afternoon. It was her first stop in a three-state tour of the South.

Warren is the first of a crowded field of Democratic presidential candidates to visit the Deep South in the run-up to the 2020 election. She is scheduled to visit the Mississippi cities of Cleveland and Greenville before a CNN town hall in Jackson on Monday. Selma and Birmingham in Alabama are on the agenda Tuesday.

Memphis is a majority black, majority Democrat city that has backed Democrats the past three presidential elections. President Donald Trump won Tennessee.

Warren touted her tax on whose households with a net worth of $50 million or more. Warren said the tax revenue, estimated at $2.75 trillion over a ten-year period. could help in reducing the cost of housing, health care and child care.

“It is an America that is working great for those at the top and not working for anyone else, and that’s why I’m in this fight,” Warren said. She reminded the crowd that she is running a grassroots campaign that does not accept corporate donations.

KIRSTEN GILLIBRAND

Kirsten Gillibrand formally joined the 2020 White House race on Sunday and previewed the hard line she will take against President Donald Trump by announcing a rally outside one of his signature Manhattan properties.

The New York senator had spent more than a month traveling around the country to gauge support for a run. Gillibrand’s announcement that she was joining the dozen-plus Democratic candidates seeking the White House came in a nearly three-minute video released early Sunday, when she says the national anthem poses this question: “Will brave win?”

She said her debut speech as a candidate will come this coming Sunday in front of the Trump International Hotel & Tower in New York.

AMY KLOBUCHAR

Democratic presidential candidate Amy Klobuchar says an exchange with a tearful Vietnam veteran who lost his son to mental illness is “a moment I’m never going to forget, no matter where I go in Iowa.”

The Minnesota senator spoke to voters Sunday at a Davenport, Iowa restaurant. It was the final stop of a two-day swing through the state.

The man, who was sitting toward the front of the room wearing a Vietnam Veterans hat, began crying as Klobuchar spoke about her respect for Sen. John McCain, who died last year. The Republican was a prisoner of war during Vietnam.

Klobuchar approached the man after her speech to take a photo. She stood with a hand on his back for several minutes as he recounted losing his son and told her he fears the U.S. may get into more wars.

Afterward, Klobuchar told reporters the moment “brings up again the importance of mental health centers.” She says mental health care has been one of the biggest concerns she’s heard from voters.

PETE BUTTIGIEG

Democrat Pete Buttigieg says he’s met a fundraising threshold to participate in this summer’s presidential debates.

The South Bend, Indiana, mayor said says he’s received contributions from 65,000-plus individual donors. That’s key because the Democratic National Committee said last month up to 20 candidates can qualify for debates in June and July by collecting donations from at least 65,000 individuals, with at least 200 unique donors in at least 20 states.

In an email to supporters, Buttigieg said “we weren’t even close” to 65,000 donors when the DNC originally announced the requirement. The 37-year-old veteran says more than 76,000 people have now donated.

He also told “Fox News Sunday” that “all of the signs are pointing in the right direction” to shift from just exploring a 2020 run to becoming an official candidate, as Gillibrand did Sunday.

BILL de BLASIO

New York Mayor Bill de Blasio criticized former President Barack Obama during a small gathering in New Hampshire as he mulls a run for president, saying that Obama’s early days in office were “a lost window.”

Minutes later, in front of a larger audience, de Blasio praised the Affordable Care Act, Obama’s signature legislative achievement, calling it “progress.” Obama pursued the health care legislation during his first two years in office and has been criticized at times for focusing on health care instead of the struggling economy.

A handful of people were present in a second-floor private room of a Concord restaurant when de Blasio compared Obama to President Franklin D. Roosevelt, who took office in 1933 amid the Depression and immediately began a series of actions that came to define the modern presidency’s focus on a 100-day agenda. The mayor said Roosevelt was the only person who “had a greater head of steam and political momentum and capital coming into office.”

“He, to his great credit, did the 100 days and the reckless abandon and understood that you had to achieve for people to build the next stage of capital to use for the next thing,” de Blasio said. “Obama, I think, nobly went at health care, but it played out over such a long time and it got treated politically as such a narrow instead of universal item, tragically, that it was a lost window. And I’m not saying anything I don’t think a lot of people feel.”

CORY BOOKER

Democratic White House hopeful Cory Booker said Sunday night he would reverse President Donald Trump’s ban on transgender individuals serving in the military if elected president.

Speaking to a crowd of more than 300 voters in Davenport, Booker answered a question posed by a woman who identified herself as transgender about what he would do to protect LGBTQ rights as president.

“When I am president of the United States, right away I will end this ridiculous, insulting, un-American ban on transgender Americans serving in the military,” he said to cheers from the crowd.

It was one of a handful of Trump Administration policies the New Jersey senator pledged to undo if elected president, including Trump’s tax cuts and his revocation of protections from deportation for undocumented immigrants brought to the US as children.

Booker also weighed in on marijuana legalization, offering a more comprehensive vision for legalization that would include expunging criminal records and promoting access to the legal marijuana industry for women and people of color.

Weissert reported from Dubuque, Iowa. Associated Press writers Sara Burnett and Alexandra Jaffe in Davenport, Iowa; Hunter Woodall in Concord, New Hampshire; and Adrian Sainz in Memphis, Tennessee, contributed to this report.

In this March 14, 2019, photo, former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke speaks to reporters after a meet and greet at the Beancounter Coffeehouse & Drinkery in Burlington, Iowa. The contours of the Democratic presidential primary came into clearer focus this week with O’Rourke’s entry into the race. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)

Former Vice President Joe Biden takes a photograph with members of the audience after speaking to the International Association of Firefighters at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, March 12, 2019, amid growing expectations he’ll soon announce he’s running for president. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik)

Former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke autographs a photo after speaking at the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 13 hall, Thursday, March 14, 2019, in Burlington, Iowa. O’Rourke announced Thursday that he’ll seek the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall)



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