Closing the academic “excellence gap” in Fairfax

- Over the past decade, a program called Young Scholars has tried to address the wide disparity in the number of low-income and minority students in gifted and talented programs in Fairfax County schools by identifying promising students at a very young age (WaPo, 4/10):

Experts have put forth a variety of theories to explain why bright students in some groups fail to excel: They may enter kindergarten less ready; lack access to enriching resources or activities; face pressure from peer groups that stigmatize high achievement; or contend with instability at home. A lack of basic skills may mask their potential, and teacher bias may creep in.

As Carol Horn, Fairfax County Public Schools’ K-12 program coordinator, made the rounds at schools with high low-income and minority populations in 2000, she learned that bright students were often perilously behind by third grade, when most decisions about gifted services were made.

“The principals said, ‘You really need to start looking in kindergarten and have something for those students,’ ” Horn says. After a pilot program that included a three-week summer camp, Young Scholars was up and running. Today it has expanded to 82 Fairfax schools, serving 5,266 students in kindergarten through eighth grade, with roughly half coming from low-income families and half identified because they speak English as a second language.

- As DCPS implements the Common Core Standards, teachers say students are learning to read better. (WAMU, 4/14)

- Community college-university pipeline eases higher-ed route (WaPo, 4/10)

- D.C. school proposals trigger debate over future of neighborhood schools (WaPo, 4/12)

- The Post has announced 20 winners of the Agnes Meyer Outstanding Teacher Award at schools throughout the region. (WaPo, 4/10)

- The region’s population growth has finally started cooling off. Economists point to federal budget cuts for the slowing growth. D.C. proper, on the other hand, is still attracting swarms of new residents. (WaPo, 4/11)

- Speaking of budget cuts: the national parks in the area, which are huge sources of revenue for jurisdictions across the region, are feeling the pinch as Congress has cut spending on them over the past few years. (WAMU, 4/14)

FOOD | Lindsay Smith, consultant for the Washington Regional Food Funders, reflects on Michael Twitty’s message about why the cultural heritage of food is as important to consider as environmental sustainability and other related issues at the kickoff of WRAG’s Brightest Minds series. (Daily, 4/14)

HOMELESSNESS | Since Mayor Gray launched the 500 Families, 100 Days initiative two weeks ago, 26 families have moved out of the homeless shelter at D.C. General. (DCist, 4/11)

HOUSING | Md. gubernatorial hopeful Brown calls for major increase in affordable housing program (WaPo, 4/14)

WORKFORCE | At Potomac Job Corps Center, working to bridge the skills gap (WaPo, 4/13)

ENVIRONMENT | DC-area transportation is not on track to meet climate change goals (GGW, 4/11)

NONPROFITS | Catching up with Patty Stonesifer (WaPo, 4/13)

Who would have thought that this super famous and super boring Microsoft desktop image would actually be kind of interesting?

- Rebekah

Middle schools are DCPS’ next big challenge

- The “looming challenge” for the D.C. public school system, according to the Post, is the high rate of attrition among students entering middle schools. A significant number of families pull their children out of the traditional school system to avoid sending their kids to DCPS middle schools, which are perceived to be substandard (WaPo, 2/18):

After the 2011-12 school year, 11 percent of the system’s fourth-graders did not continue on to fifth grade in a traditional D.C. public school, according to city data. From fifth grade to sixth grade — the city’s usual transition point from elementary to middle school — the system’s enrollment that same year plummeted by 24 percent.

Often, those leaving D.C. schools are those with the most educated and engaged parents, who worry that the city’s middle schools won’t prepare their children for the rigors of high school and beyond. They cite poor academic results, concerns about safety, discipline and culture, and a lack of course variety and extracurricular activities that students need to stay engaged and to prepare for high school.

- Greater Greater Education asks: More and more DC students are taking AP classes, but what are they getting from the experience? (GGE, 2/14)

- In a New York Times op-ed, two foundation leaders, including Kenneth Zimmerman of the Open Society Foundations, highlight positive changes in school discipline policies that have reduced the number of suspensions in California and Maryland schools (NY Times, 2/16):

Ultimately, full-scale change requires giving teachers the tools and resources to effectively manage their classrooms. It also means ensuring that students are not victims of the kind of stereotyping or racial bias that results in unfair punishments. As a nation, we need to embrace the reforms, both large and small, that keep students in school learning rather than out of school misbehaving.

DAILY | Today we’re announcing some changes to the Daily WRAG.

- The New York Times has a cool tool to measure how many more hours you would need to work (or debt you would need to take on) to get by on minimum wage in your state. (NY Times, 2/8)

- Intellectually disabled struggling to find work (WaPo, 2/17)

HEALTH CARE | Va. Senate panel proposes alternative to Medicaid expansion (WaPo, 2/17)

ENVIRONMENT | There’s a 443-foot long machine digging a 13-mile long tunnel beneath D.C. that will one day help deal with the wastewater that today runs into the Anacostia, Potomac, and Rock Creek. (WaPo, 2/15)

Here are some cool photos from the first 12 winter Olympics. The outfits were definitely different. The ski jump was just as terrifying.

And, hat tip to Philanthropy Fellow Sara Gallagher, who passed along this video – what a conference call would be like in real life.

- Rebekah

New agreement would put budget surplus toward housing

AFFORDABLE HOUSING | An agreement between the mayor and two members of the D.C. Council would put half of the city’s future budget surplus toward the Housing Production Trust Fund (CP, 1/31):

Elizabeth Falcon of the Coalition for Nonprofit Housing and Economic Development, who oversees the Housing for All campaign, concedes that today’s announcement probably won’t mean much of a boost for the Trust Fund in the 2013 or 2014 fiscal years. But in future years, she says, it’s likely to provide a stable funding source for the Trust Fund that could allow it to reach housing advocates’ funding goal of $100 million per year, including the city’s existing contribution of about half of that through deed transfer and recordation taxes.

HOMELESSNESS | A coalition of homeless advocates are calling on D.C. officials to expand programs, such as rapid re-housing, for homeless families. Part of their argument is that rapid re-housing and other services that help families stay in or find housing are much cheaper than putting families in motel rooms. (CP, 2/3)

- Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton is raising concerns that the proposal put forward by D.C. council member David Catania to provide college scholarships to low income D.C. students could put the federally-funded D.C. Tuition Assistant Grant program in jeopardy. (WaPo, 2/3)

- With New Lottery, D.C. Helps Parents Navigate School Choices (WAMU, 1/31)

ENVIRONMENT | Op-ed: In his latest column, Robert McCartney highlights the debate around the gas industry’s push to begin fracking in the George Washington National Forest — the source of the Potomac River, which provides drinking water for the entire metropolitan area. (WaPo, 2/1)

Related: Back in December, Cecily Kihn of the Agua Fund, and the Hillsdale Fund’s Megan Gallagher, wrote a special post for the Daily about the potential impact of the fracking boom on the Greater Washington region. (Daily, 12/4)

HEALTHCARE | can’t handle appeals of enrollment errors (WaPo, 2/3)

Back in 2012 Felix Baumgartner broke a record that no one ever thought actually needed to be broken by jumping out of a balloon 24 miles above the ground. Well, here’s a new video of the jump from the perspective of cameras mounted to his helmet. It’s cool – but I wouldn’t watch it if you just ate lunch.

- Rebekah

44 area theater companies take on the gender gap in theatrical productions

ARTS | Only 27 percent of the plays produced in D.C. this theater season were written by women. To address this disparity, 44 theater companies from around the region have committed to producing a new play by a female playwright in the fall of 2015: (WaPo, 1/24)

The Women’s Voices Theatre Festival, encompassing virtually every large, midsize and fledgling theater company in and around the city, is being billed as a landmark event in the effort to put new plays by female playwrights onstage. Its organizers acknowledge that it won’t permanently rewrite the statistics showing that in this country, about four plays by men get produced professionally for every one by a woman. But the festival does throw down a gauntlet, in the cause of striking a more equitable gender balance — especially given that surveys show that women make up as much as two-thirds of the theatergoing audience across the nation.

CORPORATE SOCIAL RESPONSIBILITY | In a special piece on the Forbes site, the Advisory Board Company‘s Graham McLaughlin writes about why his company is placing a new emphasis on empathy among their employees:

We want to do this because it will further our mission and our margin. By creating this empathetic workforce…we think we can better understand, at a gut level as well as an intellectual level, the needs of our member hospitals and higher education organizations, as well as those of our communities.

By combining our unique skills and expertise with an empathetic approach to our member and community interactions, we can better anticipate their needs and the needs of those they serve, work with our members as a true partner, and ultimately create transformational, positive change in healthcare, education, and our communities.

HEALTH/WORKFORCE | Check out the Community Foundation for the National Capital Region‘s blog for a video about a new health clinic in Ward 8. The clinic also features a workforce development program, funded by the foundation’s Greater Washington Workforce Development Collaborative, that trains neighborhood residents for positions at the clinic. (CFNCR, 1/24)

EDUCATION | DC schools chancellor Kaya Henderson has announced the creation of a task force on standardized tests to, in her words, “help put testing in the proper perspective.” (WaPo, 1.24)

HOMELESSNESS | Homeless shelters bogged down as cold snap continues (WTOP, 1/23)

LOCAL | ‘Green’ modifications proposed to D.C. clean-water plan; environmentalists are skeptical (WaPo, 1/24)

This time lapse video of a woman teaching herself how to dance has been around for a while but I missed it until now. It’s awesome.


More problems with D.C.’s tax lien program

DISTRICT | A Post investigation has found that in hundreds of cases the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue has sent warnings to incorrect and outdated addresses, meaning that many people find out that they are behind on their property taxes only after the liens are sold to investors. (WaPo, 10/11) Seriously?

Another series of increasingly dire shutdown-related news today:

- Mayor: Federal shutdown threatens D.C. (WaPo, 10/10)

- Nine ways the shutdown will get more painful as it drags on (WaPo, 10/10)

- Lack Of Medicaid Funding Cutting Off Primary Care For District Children (WAMU, 10/11)

- The Children’s Law Center’s Judith Sandalow was on WAMU this morning talking about the devastating impact a continued shutdown will have on safety net services and the D.C. residents who depend on them. (WAMU, 10/11)

HOUSING | Maryland and Northern Virginia have seen a big uptick in the number of new foreclosures in the past year, despite foreclosures declining nationally. (WBJ, 10/10)

ENVIRONMENT | Mayor Gray is proposing a ban on the use of styrofoam food containers, which seem to find a way of ending up in the Anacostia River. (WBJ, 10/10) The article also includes this lovely side note: thanks to the – wait for it – government shutdown, the Anacostia Watershed Society can’t access the trap that captures trash in the river. If it keeps raining much longer, the trap will overflow, sending garbage into the surrounding area.

GUNS |The Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments passed a measure calling for increased education and training about (rather than stricter control of) guns. (WaPo, 10/11)

NONPROFITS | The Post profiles Abel Nuñez, the new head of the Central American Resource Center, D.C.’s largest and oldest Hispanic nonprofit organization. (WaPo, 10/11)

DATA | Metro has released two interesting maps that show ridership at each Metro station in terms of race and income. (CP, 10/10)

TRANSIT | Metro Considering Fare Hikes Next Year (WAMU, 10/10)

So, this exists.

The Daily will be back on Tuesday. Have a great long weekend!

- Rebekah

What housing discrimination feels like

COMMUNITY | In a post on their Game Changer blog, Consumer Health Foundation president Yanique Redwood discusses the pervasiveness of race-based housing discrimination, and reflects on her own recent experience trying to find a new home and the impact that perceived discrimination had on her (CHF, 9/3):

As my husband was getting off the phone, the owner asked, “What are your names?”

As my husband shared his name and began to share mine, I waved frantically at him mouthing, “Don’t tell him my name!” But, it was too late… I had the sinking feeling that my name with its “q” sound was a dead giveaway of my race. Again, I knew what the Urban Institute study confirmed: minority testers whose race was more easily identifiable – by name, by voice over the phone, or in person – experienced more discrimination than minorities who were more likely to be mistaken as white.

We scheduled an appointment to see the unit… But, the day before the appointment, we got an email stating that the property had been rented. My shoulders slumped, and I let out a long, sad sigh. I was not certain that discrimination was at play, but I was acutely aware of the active levels of stress I had been experiencing around the need to find a place to live—yet anticipating and possibly experiencing difficulty simply because of the color of my skin.

TRANSIT | An environmental impact study concludes that the proposed Purple Line would displace 116 homes and businesses, mostly around Silver Spring, Takoma Park, and Riverdale. (WaPo, 9/6)

HEALTH | The Northern Virginia Health Foundation has published commentary from Sarah Holland, executive director of the Virginia Oral Health Coalition, about the critical need to integrate oral heath into overall health care, and the opportunity that the launch of the state’s health benefit exchange presents to get individuals and families enrolled in dental insurance. (NVHF, 9/5)

AGING/ARTS/HEALTH | Grantmakers in the Arts Grantmakers in Health has released a short report on their work to date on bringing together the fields of arts, aging, and health to promote creative strategies to improve the health of older adults. The report highlights a few promising initiatives and recommendations for grantmakers who want to work at the intersection of these issues. (GIA, GIH, September 2013)

AGING/WORKFORCE | The Atlantic profiles the organization, which connects retired people with paid internships at nonprofits. The organization’s model addresses two issues: older adults who can’t actually afford to retire and are experiencing challenges finding new jobs, and nonprofits with limited staff and financial capacity. (Atlantic, 9/5)

ENVIRONMENT | Yesterday the Kojo Nnamdi Show focused on the Anacostia River and current efforts to re-imagine the river as a D.C. destination. (WAMU, 9/5)

As loath as I am to link to a Buzzfeed list, this one of art installations is actually worth the click.


Would applying strategies for developing nations make our region more equitable?

A few years ago, WRAG partnered with the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments to look at disparities in life expectancy across our region. The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation has taken a similar approach – and they suggest that the way we think about these disparities needs to be altered in a dramatic way (Atlantic, 7/15):

We need to think about the differences between adjacent neighborhoods the way we currently think about the differences between America and Haiti. To [RWJF's David] Fleming, this may mean importing strategies into U.S. cities that have worked in developing countries (like leveraging community health workers, and not just highly trained doctors). And once you start to see cities the way Fleming does, that also leads to a radical change in some of our most basic assumptions about public health.

Related: Inequality a Predictor of Poor Economic Success in Cities (Atlantic, 5/12)

WORKFORCE | In a guest post for the Daily, the Curtis & Edith Munson Foundation’s Angel Braestrup writes about how unpaid internships – which are so common in our region – “create a ripple of inequality in the labor pool.” She discusses how philanthropy can work to change thinking around internships to ensure that they are more equitable and accessible to lower-income young adults. (Daily, 7/15)

PHILANTHROPY | A new survey from the Chronicle of Philanthropy finds that the nation’s biggest companies expect to increase giving, albeit modestly, in 2013. The survey also found that WRAG member Wells Fargo gave away the most cash in 2012 with $315.8 million, displacing Walmart for the first time in seven years. (Chronicle, 7/15)

COMMUNITY | Over the weekend, baby expert Jennifer Jue (of Washington AIDS Partnership fame) was interviewed by WJLA about the imminent birth of the British royal offspring. Check out her commentary at the :45 and 1:31 marks. During the interview, Jenn’s awesome son, Marcus, can be seen pondering a devious question: What if the baby is a boy and we can trick them into naming him George Washington? Very funny, Marcus!

LOCAL | Following the passage of the “living wage” bill, the District’s deputy mayor for planning and economic development, Victor Hoskins, says that the legislation will reach much further than intended and will likely scare off other retailers (WaPo, 7/15):

“What they’re doing is, they’re killing the golden goose,” Hoskins said of city lawmakers, citing figures of 3,000 permanent jobs, 1,000 construction jobs and untold tax revenue lost over the next 18 months should the bill pass and Wal-Mart follow through on its ultimatum. Although lawmakers may think they are targeting Wal-Mart, he added, other retailers are “concerned it may one day turn on them.”

ENVIRONMENT | How will climate change affect our region in the coming years? In extreme ways, according to the Metropolitan Council of Governments’ new climate adaptation report. Among the changes, the report says we can expect higher temperatures. (WaPo, 7/15)

EDUCATION | Here’s the latest on D.C. Councilmember David Catania’s proposed education reforms, following a series of public hearings. (WaPo, 7/15)

I know people have mixed feelings about Catania’s proposals, but its easy to appreciate his challenge to the opposition. In a hearing, he said, “We’ve put forward a serious proposal that I believe will help stabilize DCPS schools…If you are not in support of what I propose, then what is your alternative?” What are your thoughts?

YOUTH | Va. program sets goals to improve early-childhood education (WaPo, 7/15)

It’s usually hard to read the news and not come to depressing conclusions about the human race. But here’s a story that should restore some faith. Two year-old Hazel is in cancer treatment at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. To have a bit of fun, her mother taped the words “send pizza” and the hospital room number on the window. Then this happened!

And a bonus, since you’ll probably want to sit in front of your desk rather than going to melt outside during lunch – some really neat photos that have popped up on social media over the last week. The elephants aren’t too cheery, but keep scrolling down for a happier ending.

Celebrating the England family’s legacy at Bell Multicultural High School

COMMUNITY | Each week, WJLA anchor Leon Harris features a program segment called Harris’ Heroes in which he celebrates the work of people making a difference in our region. His latest, well-deserved distinction goes to Lois and Richard England.

This week’s segment profiled students from D.C.’s Bell Multicultural High School who are going to college with scholarships this fall. The school and its programs have received a tremendous amount of support over the years from the Lois & Richard England Family Foundation.

In the video, Mrs. England speaks about the opportunities being cultivated for the students of Bell Multicultural (WJLA, 6/5):

No question – it’s just a wonderful, wonderful thing to see.

About the England family’s impact on the students’ lives, Bell Multicultural’s principal says,

Without a champion like Mr. England and his family, it would be very hard to meet their dreams.

Related: Leon Harris notes that Mr. England’s legacy lives on through Bell Multicultural, but it also lives in the minds of local philanthropic leaders. Here are some of their memories of him. (Daily, 4/2).

Related: Mr. England was also paid tribute by the Washington Jewish Federation this week, along with local philanthropist Jack Kay.

GIVING | Due to widespread technical difficulties yesterday, Do More 24 has been extended until 11:59pm tonight. At publishing time, the grand total is nearing $1 million. So stop reading, and start donating!

EDUCATION | Opinion: Natalie Hopkinson asks whether the current approach to school reform is creating a bifurcated approach to education, with one track for wealthy, and typically white, students that values creativity and individuality, and one for poor, black students that focuses on compliance. (WaPo, 6/7)

ENVIRONMENT | Besides all the regular kinds of pollution, the Potomac is also increasingly contaminated with things like caffeine and hormones from pharmaceutical products. According to the article, current health regulations don’t require drinking water to be treated for these kinds of contaminants. (WTOP, 6/7) Thirsty?

Related: In 2011 Eric Kessler, head of Arabella Advisors (and now a WRAG Board member) wrote steps we can take to clean up the Potomac. (Daily, April 2011)

EQUITY | The Obama administration has announced a plan called ConnectED, which will provide broadband and wireless Internet access to every school and library in the country. (WaPo, 6/7)

AGING | Report: Virginia among best, Maryland among worst states for retirement (Examiner, 6/7)

TRANSIT | WMATA is testing new fare gate designs. (WaPo, 6/7) The quote at the end pretty much sums up my thoughts on this.

If you’re not into actually reading them, the Seattle Public Library found another great use for books.

- Rebekah

Metro lines and tree canopy as indicators of inequality

- Plotting the median annual household income of the neighborhoods around each Metro station makes for some striking graphs of the region’s income inequality. The orange line shows the most dramatic fluctuations, ranging from $142,000 at the East Falls Church stop to $34,000 at Minnesota Ave. (City Paper, 4/25)

- D.C. is known for its greenery, but there is a clear divide between the number of trees in high-income neighborhoods and the number in low-income areas. (WaPo, 4/25)

WORKFORCE | Goodwill of Greater Washington has been selected to provide recruitment and job training programs to fill 600 jobs at the new Marriott hotel opening next year near the convention center. The United Way of the National Capital Area collaborated on Goodwill’s bid and has pledged $350,000 to support the program. (WaPo, 4/25)

- Robert Bobb, chair of the DC Children and Youth Investment Trust Corporation, writes in a Post op-ed that the various standardized test cheating scandals that have come to light around the country are indicative of a larger culture of corruption in some school systems (WaPo, 4/26):

For the sake of the nation’s children and its future, education reformers must begin to examine governance structures and the quality of management in public schools, including the handling of funds, distribution of bonuses and failed educational outcomes despite massive investments.

- Prince George’s County interim school superintendent announces resignation (WaPo, 4/26)

- D.C. attorneys respond to lawsuit challenging school closures (WaPo, 4/25)

- The state of Maryland will be giving $24 million in grants to local organizations to get uninsured residents to sign up for health insurance programs through the state-run insurance exchange. The Maryland Health Benefit Exchange’s Connector Program will create 300 jobs and raise awareness of insurance options for individuals and small businesses. (WBJ, 4/25)

- Local Food Advocates Prescribe Fruits And Veggies For Food Stamp Recipients (WAMU, 4/24)

ENVIRONMENT | Due to pollution in the Chesapeake, fisherman are catching some pretty freaky smallmouth bass. (WaPo, 4/26)

BUDGET AUTONOMY | Seriously? (WTOP, 4/26)

If you’re as scared of heights as I am, just watching this video will provide enough excitement for one day.

- Rebekah

The Daily gets a new name! [News, 1.14.13]

DAILY | Welcome to The Daily WRAG! It’s the same Daily you’re used to with a new name and some more content periodically. If you visit us on the web (rather than getting an email subscription), you can now go to – and the old still works, too. You’ll notice a few design changes soon, but we aren’t rocking the boat too much!

PHILANTHROPY | When Bill Hanbury (a WRAG board member) took over the United Way of the National Capital Area three years ago, he faced a slew of major organizational challenges. Since then, he’s transformed the local United Way into a thriving organization. And, before he steps down from the post in September, Hanbury wants to fundamentally reform the United Way’s role in workplace giving (WaPo, 1/14):

Instead of transacting money from a donor to a charity, United Way’s new approach is to broker partnerships between the two to create social programs, while collecting a fee from the donor.

“We have to convince corporate donors that this model has value, but they have to sustain the operations side of this. There’s no transaction costs. They have to believe in United Way.”

- A new report from JPMorgan and the Global Impact Investing Network looks at impacting investing and finds that, while there are challenges, major impact investors are highly satisfied with their results. (Chronicle, 1/13)

Here’s a weird memory that resurfaced from Mr. Achilles’ 8th grade history class: JP Morgan had a deformed nose and made sure that any photograph of him was polished to diminish the deformity.

NONPROFITS | Survey: Many Nonprofit Workers Are Anxious About Retirement Planning (Chronicle, 1/12) Well, yeah.

NEW COLUMN | One of the new features of the Daily is commentary from Tamara Copeland, WRAG’s president. She’ll share thoughts on topics including leadership, philanthropy, and the region. In today’s column, Tamara reflects on how spending time caring for an elderly relative has given her a new perspective on leadership transition between generations (Daily, 1/14):

Demographers are telling us that we have to prepare for the senior tsunami…But how do we also prepare for a large segment of vital gray-haired 60, 70 even 80 year old thinkers and doers whose energy and expertise need to be channeled for society’s benefit?

EDUCATION | An AP column making the rounds today asks, Will longer school year help or hurt US students? (WTOP, 1/14)

HOUSING | In Prince George’s, hundreds of vacant houses drag down neighborhoods (WaPo, 1/14)

ENVIRONMENT | No pressure, Mother Nature, but the health of the Chesapeake Bay for the next few years apparently depends on this spring’s weather. I won’t ruin the surprise of finding out why, but I will say that any article that uses the words “double whammy” is worth a read. (WAMU, 1/14)

- A panel on our region’s economic growth revealed an unfortunate fact: many of the region’s economic leaders aren’t interested in cross-jurisdictional collaboration. (WBJ, 1/12)

- Last week, the New York Times attributed our region’s economic boom to federal tax dollars and suggested that, with likely declines in allocations, we might be past our peak. Not so fast, says the Washington Business Journal, our region has a lot to offer! (WBJ, 1/12)

Happy Monday, friends. Did anyone catch the Golden Globes? I only saw a few minutes, but I thought Sacha Baron Cohen’s joke about Gerard Depardieu’s weight was hilarious. Argo was great, although I’m surprised it beat Lincoln. And while I haven’t seen Les Miserables yet, it would have to be a stunningly brilliant movie for me to like it more than Silver Linings Playbook.

Anyhow, is everyone ready for the inauguration fever?


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