Mark Bieganski: January 2009 Archives

Happy birthday, Oprah Winfrey

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Singer Stevie Wonder helps talk show host Oprah Winfrey blow out 50 candles on her birthday cake during a party thrown for her in San Ysidro, Calif., in 2004.

Happy birthday to daytime television's queen of talk Oprah Winfrey -- the inspiration behind this blog -- who turns 55 years old today

And if you thought Winfrey would be taking the day off today -- think again. Sticking to her routine, Winfrey taped shows this morning.

Check back later to hear details on the taping from an audience member and whether Winfrey's staff busted out any surprises during her special day.


BY KARA SPAK Sun-Times Staff Reporter

Oprah Winfrey thinks she has the chops for the U.S. Senate but said today she has no interest in the seat she was apparently being considered for by Gov. Blagojevich.

Winfrey called into Gayle King's Sirius XM radio show to react to the news that the embattled governor considered Winfrey for the Senate seat, replacing President Obama, that Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell.

Blagojevich, speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America" this morning, said he considered offering Winfrey Illinois' once-vacant U.S. Senate seat, but that she "probably wouldn't take it."


BY KARA SPAK Sun-Times Staff Reporter

Oprah Winfrey thinks she has the chops for the U.S. Senate but said today she has no interest in the seat she was apparently being considered for by Gov. Blagojevich.

Winfrey called into Gayle King's Sirius XM radio show to react to the news that the embattled governor considered Winfrey for the Senate seat, replacing President Obama, that Blagojevich is accused of trying to sell.

Blagojevich, speaking on ABC's "Good Morning America" this morning, said he considered offering Winfrey Illinois' once-vacant U.S. Senate seat, but that she "probably wouldn't take it."

"No, it came to me from a friend," Blagojevich said of Winfrey. "And then along the considerations we discussed whether or not it made any sense, she seemed to be someone who would help Barack Obama in a significant way become president. She was obviously someone with a much broader bully pulpit than other senators. She probably wouldn't take it. And then we talked about if you offered it to her, how would you do it in a way that it didn't look like it was some [unintelligible] to try to embarrass her."

Winfrey said she heard the news when King called her during a commercial break in King's show.

"I think that's amusing," Winfrey said. "So I guess you're under consideration, but nobody tells you you're under consideration."

"Yep," King said. "That's how it goes."

Winfrey said she was "absolutely not" interested, questioning how she could fit official government duties in with "my day job, my mid-day job, my night job, my radio job, my magazine job."

"I think I could be a senator," she said. "I'm just not interested. I think I could be a senator, too."

Winfrey said she was meditiating, "watching the sun take its place over the horizon, over the lake" when King called.

Had she instead been exercising on the treadmill, watching "Good Morning America," as is her typical morning routine, she said, "I probably would have fallen off the treadmill. I'm pretty amused by the whole thing."

Senate seat aside, Winfrey said she planned to spend part of today at an annual trip to the doctor's office. She said she considers her annual physical "a gift to myself" before her Jan. 29 birthday.

Oprah Winfrey interviews Sun-Times Page One Editor James Smith during her talk show Friday in Chicago.


Click here to purchase your copy of the Sun-Times Obama covers mentioned today on the Oprah Winfrey Show!




In the wake of a historic political season - one in which Oprah Winfrey endorsed a presidential candidate for the first time -- the talk-show diva also endorsed recent editions of the Chicago Sun-Times as her favorites that captured Barack Obama's historic win.

In honor of that, Winfrey welcomed Sun-Times Page One Editor James Smith to Friday's "Oprah Winfrey Show" for an interview.

Winfrey made no secret of her admiration for the Chicago Sun-Times' string of Obama-related front pages Friday saying the Sun-Times has been "spot on" with its coverage during President Obama's historic White House run.

"I love to check out front pages of newspapers from all over the country and find my favorites and at least three times during these historic last three months my hometown paper -- the Chicago Sun-Times -- has been spot on," Winfrey told viewers before her interview with Smith.

"The photos and headlines have been elegant, and simple and gorgeous," Winfrey said.

Winfrey showcased three of her favorite covers on the show, including the paper's post-election edition, the historic meeting of the Obamas and Bushes at the White House and the inauguration edition.

"I came downstairs in my lobby and saw [the election edition with Barack Obama's picture in black and white] and I got chills," she said.

Smith, the mastermind behind the front page of the newspaper, said it's a collaborative effort among the staff.

"I was scared to death with [the Mr. President cover]," Smith told Winfrey.

"Are you kidding, this is the one, this is the one," she responded.

Winfrey then asked Smith why he felt that way.

"Mainly, because the journalism police tell us that when an event like this happens, we have to use a live news photo -- something from the Grant Park celebration -- something everybody else would have," he said. "But when you grow up admiring Muhammad Ali, you've got to shake up the world, and that's what we wanted to do."

Smith said told Winfrey his family is his biggest inspiration and focus group, and that his mom helped him come up with the idea for the election edition.

"About a month before the election, she felt the connection like many Americans between Barack [Obama] and Abraham Lincoln," Smith said. "'Is there anything you can tie in Obama and Abraham Lincoln?'" his mom asked.

It inspired Smith to think of the iconic image of Abraham Lincoln taken by Alexander Gardner where Lincoln is looking straight into the camera, Smith told Winfrey.

"That inspired me to search for a photo of Barack that was similar -- and for the grace of God we found one," Smith said. "And the headline, you think about everybody with that title before this man, and how they've looked."

Winfrey asked Smith what was the inspiration behind Wednesday's front page cover with the headline "So help me God."

"We felt that the most powerful message were the ending words of the Oath of Office," Smith said. "It could be our reflection on to him, it could be his reflection onto us."

Winfrey also praised Smith's "Welcome" cover featuring the Barack and Michelle Obama's first meeting at the White House with the Bushes.

"This warmed my heart when I saw this," Winfrey said. "Even now I could tear up. It's powerful."

"We wanted something that reflected the beauty of America and the peaceful transition from one presidency to another. When I thought about the word 'welcome', this was a house built by slaves, and now we're taking this house and saying 'welcome' to your home," Smith said.

Winfrey said she wasn't sure at first about Smith's cover Thursday with a picture of Obama in the Oval Office with the headline "Seeing is believing," but said all she hears from people when she runs into them is a variation of that headline.

"We're over the euphoria," Smith said. "We had a moment with all the Pomp and Circumstance, the partying, the celebrations -- now it's time for business," Smith said. "This is real -- it happened."

Winfrey -- who was in Colorado for Obama's nomination acceptance speech -- hadn't seen the newspaper's front page of that moment until today and said it, too, would have been one of her all-time favorites.

That edition featured pictures of Barack Obama and Martin Luther King, Jr. in a wrap-around front page.

Sun-Times Page One Editor James Smith is scheduled to appear live tomorrow at 9 a.m. on "The Oprah Winfrey Show."

Smith, who's been the marvel behind designing the Sun-Times' Barack Obama front pages, is slated to talk to the talk show host about the designs.

Check back here tomorrow after the show for a clip of Smith's appearance!

Here's a blurb that ran in our inauguration edition about why Smith chose the design he did for the election front page.

Winfrey has featured four of Smith's front pages on her show in the past three months.

"Every boy should listen to his mother, and our Page 1 designer James Smith says he'll never be too old to do that. Smith, 36, knew he would be designing the front page of the Sun-Times for the morning after Barack Obama's election last November when his mom told him: "James, Obama is just like Abraham Lincoln. You've got to do something that ties together."

Alexander Gardner's photo of Lincoln was the inspiration. Finding an image of Obama that was equally powerful was a task. "I knew that I needed to find a photo of Obama looking straight at us, looking straight at the problems facing America today,'' Smith said.

"So I started looking online and eventually found the amazing photo of Obama taken by Brooks Kraft."

And thanks to those two searches, Smith put together an iconic front page that Oprah Winfrey held up as "the best paper in the world" and delighted readers around the world."

According to a report from Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet, Oprah Winfrey was among select crowd of Chicagoans who attended a late night party at the White House last night.

Barack and Michelle Obama attended the party, which was scheduled until 2:30 a.m. and included a champagne toast.

Click for the full report and list of attendees ...

Left to right: Band members Oscar Stagnaro, Alex Brown, Oprah Winfrey, Diego Urcola, Mark Walker.

Left to Right: Band members Oscar Stagnaro, Alex Brown, Mark Walker, Barack Obama, Diego Urcola, Paul Malesi, Charlie Fishman

Band member Charlie Fishman and Oprah Winfrey.

He was hours away from becoming president. She's one of the most influential people in America.

So you can imagine the look on musician and Chicago native Mark Walker's face when he found out he'd be playing an intimate -- and top secret -- dinner Sunday hosted by Barack Obama and attended by Oprah Winfrey at the Blair House .

Walker's band -- The Band of Paquito D'Rivera -- was in town to play a gig at the Kennedy Center when he found out they'd also be playing the party attended by Obama and some of his closest friends.

"[Obama projected] a really, strong, positive vibe and was really relaxed at the same time," Walker said. "We've seen his face everywhere, and we're there hanging with him."

Walker said the 50 or so guests who attended the three-hour party with Obama and Winfrey were screened by Secret Service before they entered the building, but were able to roam without restriction once inside.

"I went to hang up my coat and I see these two little girls come in, smiling and saying, 'hi,' and I realized they were the first daughters. It was kind of surreal. [Obama] seemed very down to earth and friendly," Walker said. "He had that million-dollar smile."

Walker, who currently lives in Boston, grew up in Chicago's Old Town neighborhood before moving in 1995. While in Chicago, he was a full-time musician and began playing the drums for his band in 1989.

Walker said Michelle Obama was already at the party when the band arrived. Winfrey walked in solo, and Barack Obama followed shortly after as the band was playing Miles Davis -- an Obama favorite.

"You know, I'm a big Miles Davis fan," the drummer said Obama told him. "You did your homework."

"[Winfrey] came in, noticed we were playing and gave us a thumbs up," Walker said. Later, the Chicago talk show host posed for a picture with the band.

Walker said guests sat at five round tables and feasted on ribs, sweet potatoes, fried chicken, salmon, macaroni and cheese, pie, ice cream and brownies. They also drank Pinot Nior from California, he said.

Winfrey -- who sat two seats away from Obama and across from his wife, Michelle-- looked great, Walker said.

"They were talking the whole time, having a good time," Walker said. "I had read somewhere that [Winfrey] was down on herself, but I thought she looked great."

The band didn't get paid to play at the dinner, but did it for the experience.

"We did it to meet the new president, and we did. So mission accomplished," Walker said, who ironically voted for Republican John McCain in the general election.

Walker didn't recognize anyone else at the party, other than Obama's chief of staff -- Rahm Emanuel.

Oprah Winfrey at Barack Obama's inauguration

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Photo by Sun-Times' Lynn Sweet.

Oprah Winfrey first called the Sun-Times' election edition "the best in the world."

Today, she held up a copy of today's inauguration edition capturing Barack Obama's historic rise to be the 44th President of the United States.

For the fourth time this political season, Winfrey showed her love for the Sun-Times.

In November, Winfrey held up a cover of the Sun-Times featuring a historic meeting of the Obamas and the Bushes at the White House.

"You're rockin', Sun-Times," she said to America.

Winfrey paraded on the day after Barack Obama's election win with a copy of the "Mr. President" election front by Sun-Times' James Smith.

"It was the best paper of all the papers in the world," Winfrey said.

Sun-Times Washington Bureau Chief Lynn Sweet catches up with Oprah Winfrey during Barack Obama's inauguration. Here's her post on her blog:

WASHINGTON--"It means everything." That's what Oprah Winfrey--sitting down the row from Caroline Kennedy-- told me when we chatted about attending the inauguration of President Obama just before the ceremony.

One of the hottest VIP sections at the presidential inauguration was just below the West Capitol steps, with Winfrey, Caroline Kennedy, Denzel Washington, Jennifer Lewis and the Rev. Jesse L. Jackson, among others.

I asked Winfrey what it meant for her to be at the inauguration. During the Democrat primary last year Winfrey jumped into partisan politics by fund-raising for and stumping with Obama and wife Michelle.

"It means everything. It means everything and more and everything. It's like no moment I ever expected to experience. I can't say anything that hasn't already been said. It's beyond. It's sacred. You know I feel both celebrative and like celebratory and also very sobered by it. That's how I feel."

I asked Kennedy--who may land inside the Capitol in a matter of days if New York Gov. Dave Patterson taps her to replace Secretary of State Designate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton--about witiness the inauguration. Kennedy jumped into the public political arena when she started campaigning for Obama.

"It's so exciting for everyone." she said. "I am thrilled to be here. I can't wait to see and hear his speech. It's such a wonderful day."

Oprah Winfrey, center, is joined by companion Stedman Graham, left, as she arrives for the inauguration of Barack Obama and Joe Biden at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (AP)

Oprah Winfrey met privately for dinner with president-elect Barack Obama and about 100 others Sunday night.

Winfrey pal Gayle King confirmed that the "top secret" dinner was held at the Blair House -- just steps away from the White House.

"You guys are good! How did you hear that? Boy you people are good," King said to Entertainment Tonight.

King wouldn't confirm what dress Winfrey would be wearing to the inauguration tomorrow, but said she will be wearing something red from designer Angel Sanchez.

The wife of Vice President-elect Joe Biden let it slip to Oprah Winfrey Monday that her husband had a pick of two jobs in the Obama administration.

Jill Biden said President-elect Barack Obama gave Biden the choice of being secretary of state or vice president. The vice president-elect tried to hush his wife as soon as the words came out of her mouth, with a loud "shhh!" that sent the audience into laughter.

The Bidens made a surprise appearance on Winfrey's show, recorded at the Kennedy Center for broadcast later Monday on the eve of the inauguration.

The vice president-elect said he only accepted Obama's offer to be his running mate after talking it over with "Jilly," his pet name for his wife. Mrs. Biden said she told him vice president would be better for the family.

"If you're secretary of state, you'll be away, we'll never see you, you know," she said. "I'll see you at a state dinner once in awhile. But I said, if you are vice president, the entire family, because they worked so hard for the election, they can be involved. They can come to our home. They can go to events, they can be with us all the time. And that's what's important to us."

The vice president-elect didn't address his wife's comments, but said he didn't immediately take the vice presidential offer since he wasn't sure it was the best place for him to serve. But Biden, who ran against Obama in the Democratic primary race, said he agreed after getting some assurances from Obama about his role.

"This is a partnership," Biden said. "He's president of the United States, but as I said to him when he asked me, I said, `Barack, don't ask me unless the reason you're asking me is, you're asking me for my judgment. I get to be the last guy in the room before you make every important decision. You're president. Any decision you make, I will back.' "

"He said he wanted to have a confidant and somebody who wouldn't be a yes man. He's pretty sure about that" last part, Biden said with a laugh.

The secretary of state's job went to another Obama campaign rival, Hillary Rodham Clinton. From the Associated Press

Monday's double dose of Oprah, D.C. style

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Oprah Winfrey fans are getting a double dose today.

Winfrey will broadcast her show at a special time -- 3 p.m. today in Chicago -- from the historic Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.

This morning, Winfrey aired her Martin Luther King, Jr., special, which was previously recorded in D.C. and had already been broadcast in the past.

Oprah Winfrey's taking her show on the road next week for Barack Obama's inauguration - and she's bringing an all-star cast of stars with her.

Fans on Monday will see an exclusive, one-time-only, music performance by Bono,, Faith Hill, Seal, David Foster and Mary J. Blige of a brand-new song celebrating Obama's inauguration and her show's trip to D.C.

Demi Moore and Ashton Kutcher will also appear on Monday's show - and other stars, including Scarlett Johansson, will share special messages about the event.

Actor Forest Whitaker and musician Jon Bon Jovi will join Winfrey on Wednesday as she broadcasts her show live from chef Art Smith's "Art and Soul" restaurant.

Even the most powerful in Hollywood don't always get their way.

Earlier this week in an interview with Meryl Streep on her daytime talk show, Oprah Winfrey says she asked to audition to play "Mrs. Miller" in the film "Doubt" because she felt connected to the part and wanted to work with Streep.

Winfrey was turned down and the role was given to Viola Davis. Should Winfrey have gotten the part?

Although talk show host Oprah Winfrey said before her daytime job keeps her busy enough -- rumors are still swirling she'll become an ambassador in the Barack Obama administration.

The latest rumor plugs Winfrey as Obama's pick to be ambassador to South Africa. The Mail & Guardian cited an unidentified source within the United Nations saying Winfrey would replace Eric Bost.

In October, rumors sparked by a column in the Financial Times speculated Winfrey would be named ambassador to Britain.

Winfrey, who has been very public in her support of Barack Obama and also built a school for girls in the region, recently returned from a trip to Africa.

Saying it was the most controversial moment of her "Best Life" Week series, Oprah Winfrey said Monday her show's message boards were flooded with responses to statements made by a religious leader that being gay was OK in God's eyes.

Responding to a viewer who Skyped into the show, The Rev. Ed Bacon, declared being gay is a "gift from God."

Bacon appeared live via satellite during today's show and didn't back down from statements made last week.

"I meant exactly what I said," Bacon said.

It is so important for every human being to understand he or she is a gift from God. ... and it's important to remember that God made them, he said.

Bacon said he's received a lot of response from his appearance last week, most of it being positive.

"It simply unleashed a flood of healing," Bacon said.

Bacon will appear live for a 90-minute webcast Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on

Oprah Winfrey -- long-time pal of actor John Travlota -- won't be attending the memorial service of his son, who died last week after allegedly falling and hitting his head after having a seizure.

Access Hollywood reports that Winfrey won't be in attendance because she's out of the country. Fellow Travolta scientologist -- and also a pal of Winfrey's -- Tom Cruise also won't be making an appearance for the Thursday service. He'll be in New York taping an episode of "The View."

Day three of Oprah Winfrey's "Best Life" series took on a revelation even Oprah Winfrey says she's never heard.

Responding to a viewer who Skyped into the show to talk about being gay, one of Winfrey's panelists, The Rev. Ed Bacon, declared being gay is a "gift from God."

Bacon is the rector of All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., a well-known liberal and progressive church.

"Well you are the first minister I've ever heard say being gay is a gift from God, I can tell you that," Winfrey said.

"We're not talking religion, we're talking spirituality," said Michael Bernard Beckwith, founder and spiritual director of Agape International Spiritual Center in Los Angeles. . "People don't just happen to be gay. When people are born, they have that type of orientation, so he is gay by diving right."

Click here to watch a video clip of the discussion >>

Despite initial reports, Oprah Winfrey won't be hosting an inaugural bash for Barack Obama when he takes office later this month.

A Harpo source confirmed to me Wednesday that Winfrey won't be sponsoring a bash when she takes her show on the road for the inauguration later this month.

"Everybody's calling me about a party. I'm like, 'Isn't somebody else having a party?'...I don't know about the party thing yet...There is extreme party confusion. I'm trying to get to the bottom of it myself!" Winfrey said in an interview last month.

Rumors began to circulate last month when event planners allegedly working for Winfrey apparently were combing D.C. to find a site for a big inauguration bash.

Sun-Times columnist Richard Roeper gives his take today on Oprah Winfrey's new blue chip diet:

"No matter who you are, sitting on the sofa feels better than running four miles when you didn't get any sleep the night before. No matter who you are, potato chips, ice cream and pizza taste better than steamed vegetables, salads with no dressing and detox drinks. No matter who you are, when time is at a premium, diet and fitness often take a back seat.

... Oprah is proof that there are no quick-fix solutions, no magic diets, no gimmicks that will give you miraculous results."

Click here to continue reading Roeper's column >>

Will cassava be Oprah's next favorite thing?

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My Sun-Times colleague Stefano Esposito today proposes a candidate for Oprah Winfrey's newest favorite thing: the cassava root.

The giant cassava root has an acrid taste and needs to be soaked in water to flush out the cyanide, but the tuber -- popular in Nigeria -- may be just the thing to help Winfrey lose weight. Winfrey has pledged to slim down in 2009, and her plans include a 6:15 a.m. workout at the swanky East Bank Club.

Full story after the jump ...


Congrats to my colleague and former Sun-Times web staffer Erin . She recently accepted a job at Harpo working as a producer for

Congratulations, Erin!

Oprah Winfrey has yet to comment on Herman Rosenblat and his debunked story of meeting his future wife in a Nazi concentration camp. But a brief disclaimer has been added to the Chicago-based talk show host's Web site, which still devotes substantial space to the Rosenblat romance.

"On December 27, 2008, Herman Rosenblat admitted to fictionalizing portions of his life story, including how he met his wife. Based on this admission, the publisher of his forthcoming memoir -- 'Angel at the Fence' -- canceled plans to print his book."

Rosenblat's story is listed on the site as an example of "Love Lessons From Amazing Couples."

When asked why it wasn't removed from the site, Winfrey spokeswoman Angela DePaul referred to the update posted by "the editorial team" and declined further comment. AP

Talk-show host Oprah Winfrey is battling the calories again -- and you can follow along her diet plan, too.

Click here to find out what Winfrey's new diet plan consists of and how you can incorporate it into your diet!

Here's a story by my Sun-Times colleague Kara Spak -- is Oprah shedding her pounds at the East Bank Club?


Oprah Winfrey said on Monday's show she was "putting herself back on my to-do list."

At the top of the list flashed on the screen -- a 6:15 a.m. workout at "EB."

EB as in East Bank Club, the cavernous 28-year-old Chicago workout facility where anonymous gym rats have spotted such movers-and-shakers as Winfrey, Barack Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson and state treasurer Alexi Giannoulias.

Winfrey said on Monday's show she was committed to 30 minutes daily on the elliptical machine and resistance training six days a week. She won't have to wait for a machine at the East Bank Club despite the 10,000-strong membership.

There are more than 450 pieces of cardiovascular and strength training equipment in the club's 20,000 square-foot cardio room. There are also four pools, a 60-foot golf driving range, tennis courts, a 1/4 mile running track and as many as 57 different fitness classes offered daily.

"There is nothing of this size with this level of service in the world," said Nathan Aydelott, EBC spokesman.

In a much-anticipated return from winter hiatus, Oprah Winfrey tackled head on one of the biggest issues that's plagued her public life: weight.

Winfrey debuted her new "Best Life" week series today with an admission that last year she'd just about "given up" on herself and that her life had been out of balance.

While Winfrey herself didn't say she was suffering mild depression, adviser and fitness expert Bob Greene suggested she was.

"I looked in her eyes, and she wasn't there. She was very vacant and distracted. It was alarming to me," Greene recalled while walking with Winfrey one day last year at her California estate. "I think I felt she was losing her zest for life, and that was one of the saddest moments."

With a crazed schedule that balanced her talk show and several other arms of her empire, Winfrey began suffering sleep issues and heart palpitations over a year ago. Four doctors and several prescriptions later, the sleep Winfrey craved didn't come. But, the added pounds did.

"None of the doctors recognized it was a thyroid problem, but our viewers did," Winfrey said. "The moment I heard I had a thyroid problem, I thought I don't even know how to fight this."

"It's not about using food or abusing food. It's about balance. When I ask myself what I am hungry for, I am hungry for balance."

Winfrey admitted during the show and in this month's edition of "O" magazine that her entire body hadn't been featured on the cover last year because she was embarassed by her weight.

"This past year has been really difficult, because I didn't feel like a cover girl. I'd rather not be seen," Winfrey said. " All this year I've been hiding my body because I didn't want you to see it. Here I am one of the most visible people in the world, trying to hide my body."

Winfrey might have been down, but definitely not out. She pledged 2009 would be about having more joy and balance in her life.

"When you love yourself enough, you take care of yourself. You have to make yourself a priority."

Winfrey's "Best Life" week continues all this week, with expert advice from Bob Greene, Dr. Oz, Elizabeth Lesser, Suze Orman and Sun-Times columnist Dr. Laura Berman. Visit for more and for info on live webcasts Winfrey will host next week at

Note: Special thanks to online entertainment editor Thomas Conner for keeping readers up to date on Oprah news while I was away for a two-week vacation!


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About this Archive

This page is a archive of recent entries written by Mark Bieganski in January 2009.

Mark Bieganski: December 2008 is the previous archive.

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