Issue:  Vol. 44 / No. 43 / 23 October 2014

Gay priest supports teen accused of SF murder

A gay independent Catholic priest is asking for a boy accused of murder in San Francisco to be charged as a juvenile, rather than as an adult.

Rashawn Williams (

Homicide victim Rashawn Williams (

The teen, whose name hasn’t been released because he’s a juvenile, has been charged in last month’s fatal stabbing of Rashawn Williams, 14, in the Mission district.

In a letter to District Attorney George Gascon released Wednesday (October 22), Reverend River Sims said he hopes the DA “will look at the case from the perspective of the young man’s age, and his future.”

Sims, who’s worked for years with LGBT youth in the city, appears to have directed his letter to the wrong person, though.

According to the San Francisco Examiner, the DA’s office has already declined to charge the teen as an adult, and the decision lies with a juvenile court judge. As the Examiner indicated, the boy’s sentence could be greater if he’s tried and convicted as an adult, which is how Williams’s family wants him charged.

Sims said that at 14, the defendant’s brain “is not fully developed,” and at that age, people’s “decisions are made in the moment and without thought to the consequences. And in looking at the information presented so far my guess is that he was jealous of Rashawn’s life, the prospects he was given going to Sacred Heart [Cathedral Preparatory school], and in those moments acted out, with terrible consequences.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 22, 2014 @ 4:38 pm PST
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SF LGBT Center honors lending group

Mission Asset Fund,  a nonprofit that helps low-income people get loans, has received the San Francisco LGBT Community Center’s Ally Award, the center announced Wednesday (October 22).

The honor goes to community partners who work with the gay nonprofit to assure economic justice for LGBTs. The center presented the award to MAF Tuesday as part of its LGBTQ Economic Justice Week.

Edgar Cruz, left, and Gustavo Cerritos have benefited from the Mission Asset Fund. Photo: Rick Gerharter

Edgar Cruz, left, and Gustavo Cerritos
have benefited from the Mission Asset Fund. Photo: Rick Gerharter

The asset fund has partnered with the center to provide the lending circles program, which gives people a chance to pool their money, take out interest-free loans, and boost their credit scores. Through the program, the gay nonprofit said it’s helped 150 clients.

The Bay Area Reporter has highlighted the story of two clients who gained economic freedom and other benefits from the program. (Articles on the couple appeared in 2012  and 2014.)

In a news release, Clair Farley, the center’s associate director of economic development, said, “The partnership between MAF and the center has served as a crucial resource for the local LGBTQ community, granting clients access to secure, affordable and socially responsible capital – opening doors that previously were far too often slammed shut.”

José Quiñonez, the asset fund’s CEO, stated, “The issue of financial exclusion is one that touches so many lives. The center is already doing great work to address this need in the community and we’re honored to ally with the center to reach more hardworking families.”

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 3:05 pm PST
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Gay SF filmmakers launch crowdfunding campaign for doc on mid-Market Street changes

a5d5775b-64fb-4c4a-b256-be8533f7f987.jpegFilmmakers Robert Cortlandt and Dan Goldes are asking for the public’s help in completing their documentary 5 Blocks that details the transformation taking place along San Francisco’s Mid-Market corridor.

This morning Goldes (seen at left in the photo) and Cortlandt announced they had launched a new crowdfunding campaign to help cover the cost of their last year of filming.

“We’re in the final year of shooting 5 Blocks and it’s vital that we get the footage that tells the story about the changes in the neighborhood,” they wrote in an email to supporters of their project. “While we will go into post-production following this phase, we still need to film interviews and ‘b-roll’ footage of what the area looks like now.”

As the Bay Area Reporter noted in a 2013 article, the friends, who met at a gay country western dance party, have spent the last three years chronicling the changes along the once gruff and gritty thoroughfare into a new hub for arts groups, tech companies, and high-end housing.

Lured by generous city tax breaks, companies like Twitter and Uber are now headquartered in the area. Pop-up events like a Friday night beer hall and food truck party in U.N. Plaza are activating central Market Street areas long considered best to be avoided at night.

Amidst the commercial changes, Goldes and Cortlandt have been capturing the stories of artists, low-income seniors, and residents of single-room-occupancy hotels who have long made the neighborhood their home. Their plan is to focus on “the personal stories of three individuals who currently live and work in the 5 Blocks area, while the background of a sometimes messy transformation from ‘skid row’ to  ‘vibrant neighborhood’ unfolds.”

The San Francisco Film Society is the film’s fiscal sponsor and has been collecting donations for it online. By the end of last year they had raised more than $40,000 in public donations to finance the film.

A two-and-a-half minute teaser of the film can be seen on the society’s website here.

Their latest fundraising effort is being done through the website Hatch Fund. It aims to raise $10,000 by the end of Thursday, November 20.

As of Wednesday afternoon, they had already surpassed $4,500, roughly 30 percent of their donation goal. To donate, visit their crowdfunding campaign page here.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 3:04 pm PST
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Campos, Chiu roll out endorsements from political leaders

David Campos, left, makes a point during an October 2 debate with David Chiu at UCSF Mission Bay. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

David Campos, left, makes a point during an October 2 debate with David Chiu at UCSF Mission Bay. Photo: Jane Philomen Cleland

With less than two weeks to go before the November 4 election, the candidates running in a heated San Francisco state Assembly race are rolling out last minute endorsements from two major political leaders.

This morning (Wednesday, October 22) saw Mayor Ed Lee endorse Board of Supervisors President David Chiu, who represents District 3 centered in North Beach and Chinatown, in his bid for the 17th Assembly District Seat covering the city’s eastern neighborhoods.

“There is no doubt that David Chiu is the right choice for state Assembly,” Lee told a crowd of several hundred community leaders who had gathered at the Laborers 261 Union Hall for the announcement.”He has the proven experience, the record of accomplishment, the values and the vision to get things done for our city in the state Assembly. David Chiu has delivered for San Francisco again and again and he is the leader we need in Sacramento. I am proud to give him my enthusiastic support.”

Lee joins with fellow Democrats U.S. Senator Dianne Feinstein, Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom, and Attorney General Kamala Harris in supporting Chiu’s legislative bid.

The Chiu campaign’s event with the mayor came a day after his opponent in the race, gay District 9 Supervisor David Campos, who represents the Mission district, announced that former state legislator John L. Burton, now the chairman of the California Democratic Party, had endorsed him.

“For decades this Assembly seat has set the tone for progressive politics in the state of California,” stated Burton. “David Campos is the only candidate I trust to carry that torch.”

Burton’s backing of Campos in the heated race followed the news earlier this month that District 2 Supervisor Mark Farrell, one of the most moderate members of the board, was supporting his by far more progressive colleague in the Assembly race as well.

“From working to close loopholes in San Francisco’s universal healthcare law to enhancing public safety and reducing homelessness by helping to implement Laura’s Law, David has proven his commitment to finding solutions through cooperation and
compromise,” stated Farrell. “I trust his dedication to the public interest and know that he will find ways to bridge his progressive ideals with the pragmatic realities facing our state. I firmly believe he will be an effective leader for San Francisco in the state Assembly.”

Campos and Chiu, both Democrats, are competing to succeed gay Assemblyman Tom Ammiano (D-San Francisco). Due to term limits, Ammiano is barred from running again after having served three two-year terms in the Assembly. He is backing Campos in the race.

With few policy distinctions between them during their time on the board, Chiu and Campos have largely been arguing over who has been more productive at City Hall and who will best build consensus in the state Legislature as for why voters should send them to Sacramento.

The outcome of the race will largely come down to which of the two Davids does a better job of getting their supporters to the polls next month.

— Matthew S. Bajko, @ 1:28 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Hearing set for proposed Castro Hamburger Mary’s

The site of the defunct Patio Cafe in the Castro.

The site of the defunct Patio Cafe in the Castro.

A proposed Hamburger Mary’s franchise in the Castro will go before San Francisco’s planning commission in early December, according to the project sponsor.

In response to a question from the Bay Area Reporter, Les Natali, who is seeking permits to open a location of the fast casual chain at 531 Castro Street, said over the weekend that he was informed Friday the hearing date would be Thursday, December 4.

As the B.A.R. reported on its blog back in February, nearly a year ago Natali sought the city zoning administrator’s opinion on whether Hamburger Mary’s falls under the city’s formula retail rules that require any chain with 11 or more locations nation-wide to seek a conditional use permit to open a new location in San Francisco.

Natali, who also owns the Castro gay bars Badlands and Toad Hall, had argued he didn’t need to seek a conditional use permit because his version of Hamburger Mary’s would differ from the others. But in January Zoning Administrator Scott F. Sanchez ruled that Natali would need to seek permit approval from the Planning Commission as his planned Hamburger Mary’s qualifies as a formula retail business.

According to the company’s website, there are 11 locations of the business across the U.S. While it still lists a twelfth in Palm Springs, that location announced in September it would not reopen this fall, according to a message on both its answering machine and Facebook page.

Hamburger Mary’s was launched in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood in 1972 and quickly gained a loyal LGBT following. The local restaurant shut down in 2001.

A year later the long-running Patio Café, a popular weekend brunch spot in the Castro, closed down. Having taken over the business back in the 1990s, Natali expected to reopen the eatery within a short time frame after a remodel.

Instead, he has spent the last 12 years fighting with city planners over various aspects of the build out to the space, which included his acquiring the building next door and redesigning its ground floor retail spaces.

By May 2012 Natali had planned to reopen the Patio a decade after it last welcomed patrons. But a routine health department inquiry related to his request for an occupancy permit led to a determination that his planning permits were not in order.

That zoning fight, which primarily involved how many seats Natali was allowed to have at the site, was resolved in August of 2013. At the time it was expected that Natali would reopen the Patio as he had said he was in talks with a restaurant operator to take on the business.

The plan changed last fall when Natali decided to team up with the owners of Hamburger Mary’s. According to the company’s website, in 2007 the franchise system was sold to Dale Warner in West Hollywood and brothers Ashley and Brandon Wright in Chicago.

According to Natali’s email over the weekend, he is “now looking for a working-chef-partner. If you know or hear of anyone who may be interested, please ask them to contact me.”

It remains unclear if Natali will be allowed to open a Hamburger Mary’s in the Castro location. The proposal has been met with mixed reactions, with some welcome to seeing anything reactivate the long dormant space.

But others have objected to seeing a chain restaurant be given permission to open. Should the planning commissioners decide to allow Natali to move forward, their decision can be appealed by those opposed to the restaurant.

— Matthew S. Bajko, October 20, 2014 @ 1:38 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

‘Notorious bully’ expected to be released soon in SF

Arturo Pleitez (Photo: SFPD)

Arturo Pleitez (Photo: SFPD)

A San Francisco man who’s been called a “notorious bully” is expected to be released from custody soon, after he agreed to a plea deal this week in a hate crime case.

Arturo Salvador Pleitez, 54,who has an extensive criminal history, has been in jail since July after he was accused of threatening a lesbian couple and their daughter at Arizmendi Bakery, at 1268 Valencia Street in the Mission district. At Pleitez’s arraignment, Assistant District Attorney Karen Catalona called him “an extreme public safety threat” and “a notorious bully.”

Tuesday, October 14, Pleitez pleaded guilty to a charge of making criminal threats, which will be reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor at his sentencing November 4. Superior Court Judge Philip Moscone dropped another criminal threats charge and a hate crime allegation.

Pleitez, who’s in custody on $150,000 bail, is expected to receive credit for time served and be released with three years of informal court probation, Deputy Public Defender Michelle Tong said Friday.

He’s also been ordered to stay away from the bakery where the incident occurred and the neighborhood nearby, and Tong said there’s also “a request that he refrain from drinking any alcohol.”

In the July incident, Pleitez said “offensive things,” but there’d been “nothing to suggest he was going to be violent at all.”

Alex Bastian, a spokesman for the district attorney’s office, said the plea deal “was done over our strenuous objection, and we are disappointed by the judge’s ruling.”

Pleitez had originally been charged with three felony counts of making criminal threats and two hate crime enhancements, but in August, Assistant District Attorney Charles Bisesto dismissed one of the charges and one of the enhancements due to a lack of evidence. At that time, Superior Court Judge Gerardo Sandoval held Pleitez for trial on the remaining two charges and the enhancement.

‘Serious threat’

Captain Dan Perea, who oversees the Mission police station, has said he’s “had to deal with” Pleitez himself, and “The guy is a real serious threat to public safety in the Mission district,” the

At Pleitez’s arraignment, Catalona said Pleitez has had 71 felony contacts and 174 misdemeanor contacts. (There may be multiple contacts for a single arrest.)

Some people in the Mission have obtained restraining orders against Pleitez, according to court records, with at least three of those coming since 2012.

Connie Ramirez Weber, 93, obtained a restraining order against Pleitez in June that expires in 2019. Weber got the order after her son-in-law reported to police that Pleitez had driven into a garage Weber owns.

Pleitez “shouted obscenities” at her, and threatened her and her son-in-law, she said in court documents.

In an August interview, Weber said, “He’s going to hurt someone one of these days, and then it’s too late,” and she added, “He should be locked up for a long time. I don’t know why they keep letting him out.”

Told Friday of Pleitez’s expected release, Weber said, “I just hope he doesn’t bother me anymore, because I’m really afraid of him. I hope they make him stay in his own area. … Please have him so that he doesn’t bother me at all, doesn’t talk to me, or call me or anything.”

Mission residents shouldn’t be worried about Pleitez, Tong suggested.

She said he’s lived in the Mission “his entire life,” and “to me, it’s no different than the neighbor who lives in Pacific Heights who’s lived in his house for his whole life and is maybe known as the neighborhood curmudgeon.”

Tong compared Pleitez to “the neighborhood grouch” actor Clint Eastwood played in 2008′s Gran Torino.

“It’s not like my client is walking around all over San Francisco hurting people, hurting strangers,” she said. “He historically has had a drinking problem, and he gets kind of loud. I don’t think he’s dangerous. I think if he was dangerous, he would have convictions to support that, and that’s not the case.”

‘I will fuck you up’

Tong also pointed to a victim from the bakery incident telling police that’d she’d taken the scene “as another day” in her neighborhood.

During the preliminary hearing in August, the woman testified that she’d noticed Pleitez “standing next to a woman” who kept “stepping away” from him and “was clearly uncomfortable,” according to a transcript.

Pleitez screamed, “You can’t look at her. Don’t fucking look at her” and he “started yelling about how I need to read the Bible, and how that I can’t look at her … and that it was a sin,” the woman testified. Pleitez “kept yelling, and then he said, ‘I will come over there and I will fuck you up,” she said. He also told her she “was going to hell,” she said.

The woman said she was “scared,” but Pleitez left after about two minutes.

At the end of the hearing, Sandoval, the judge who oversaw the hearing, said using the standard of finding someone guilty “beyond a reasonable doubt … I think that there is something to be said for the defense’s argument that the reason that the defendant threatened [the victim] was because she was staring at the defendant.”

He also said there was “no evidence” that Pleitez had “singled out” the woman “because of her sexual orientation.”

Sandoval also said, “the immediacy of the threat” alleged “may not be sufficient” to get a conviction at trial, and he hoped the matter would settle.

However, he told Pleitez, “You cannot go around scaring people. You cannot go around scaring a family. And I guarantee you this family feels very differently about going out to their local bakery today than they did before this event.”

The woman who testified against Pleitez in August couldn’t be reached for comment Friday.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 17, 2014 @ 7:46 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

UC Berkeley frat member reports sexual assault


Theta Delta Chi (Photo Courtesy Theta Delta Chi's website)

Theta Delta Chi (Photo Courtesy Theta Delta Chi’s website)

A UC Berkeley fraternity member has reported he was sexually assaulted by a fellow member, according to Berkeley police.

“A leadership member of the Theta Delta Chi fraternity contacted a UC Berkeley Campus Security Authority,” a Berkeley Police Department news release issued Friday, October 17 said. The leadership member said that a Theta Delta Chi member had contacted him and reported that another current member had sexually assaulted him. “The reporting member stated that there may be other victims,” police said.

UC police provided the information to the Berkeley Police Department, “who advised that no reported activity of this nature has been reported” to them, Berkeley police said.

Anyone with information about the incident is asked to contact the Berkeley Police Department at (510) 981-5900.

Fraternity leaders didn’t immediately respond to an emailed request for comment. The fraternity couldn’t immediately be reached by phone Friday.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 3:01 pm PST
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Folsom Street Fair director gains support for entertainment seat

Folsom Street Events Executive Director Demetri Moshoyannis. (Photo: Rich Stadtmiller)

Folsom Street Events Executive Director Demetri Moshoyannis. (Photo: Rich Stadtmiller)

The executive director of the Folsom Street Fair, San Francisco’s yearly fetish event, has gained support for a seat on the city’s entertainment commission.

Demetri Moshoyannis won the recommendation of the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee Thursday, October 16.

Moshoyannis, who was out of town and couldn’t be at Thursday’s meeting, announced the “great news” in a Facebook post after gay Supervisor David Campos and Supervisors Katy Tang and Norman Yee voted unanimously in favor of him joining the oversight panel for the city’s nightlife and entertainment sector.

“Still have some work to do, but huge thanks to those who came out to support my nomination,” Moshoyannis, 43, said, expressing his gratitude to gay Supervisor Scott Wiener, former Entertainment Commission President Terrance Alan, and others.

Moshoyannis, whose application must still go before the full Board of Supervisors October 28, would fill the rest of the term of outgoing Commissioner Naomi Akers, who’s resigned. Akers, who couldn’t immediately be reached for comment Friday, had held the public health representative seat. The term for the seat ends July 1, 2017.

He had sought appointment to the commission’s industry seat in July, but the rules committee gave its support to reappointing nightclub owner Steven Lee to the seat.

In his application to the commission filed in September, Moshoyannis said, “As a gay man living with HIV since 1993, I have committed most of my career to addressing public health issues affecting the LGBT communities. These issues have included HIV/AIDS as well as substance abuse, mental health, sexual health, [and] homelessness. … Much of my work in public health has focused on dis-empowered demographics, especially teens and young adults.”

He added he’s been especially interested in the Castro district, where he lives, and the South of Market neighborhood, where he works.

“Both neighborhoods serve as hubs for nightlife and entertainment for thousands of residents as well as visitors and tourists,” Moshoyannis said. “It is particularly important to me that our venues continue to thrive and compete on a global scale. These businesses must meet the needs and address the challenges of the communities in which they exist, and I’d like to offer those perspectives on the Entertainment Commission.”

Wiener said Friday that Moshoyannis “absolutely” has a lock on the seat.

“I have ben pushing to get Demetri appointed to the entertainment commission for some time now,” Wiener said. “He will be a stellar addition the commission.”

He pointed to Moshoyannis’s “strong” backgrounds in public health, nightlife, and street fairs and festivals for his support.

“Street fairs are a key part of entertainment in San Francisco,” Wiener said. “They are important to our culture and economy, yet the city has not done a good job in helping them thrive.”

He added, “The entertainment commission has a key role to play in helping keep our street fairs alive and strong. It is overdue to have an entertainment commissioner who has significant street festival experience.”

Moshoyannis beat out Charles Stephanski, a licensed vocational nurse, for the recommendation.

In a brief call Friday, Stephanski, 52, who’s bisexual, said he was “disappointed,” but “it sounds like the guy’s imminently more qualified than I am.”

Matthew S. Bajko contributed to this report.


— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 10:37 am PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Alleged fake cop held for trial on sex charges

Jeffrey Bugai, a.k.a. Jeffrey Thomas. Photo: Courtesy SFPD

Jeffrey Bugai, a.k.a. Jeffrey Thomas. Photo: Courtesy SFPD

A judge has ordered a San Francisco man to stand trial on charges that he pretended to be a police officer and forced other men to engage in sexual acts with him, among other counts.

Judge Gerardo Sandoval ruled Thursday (October 16) that there was “sufficient, credible evidence” to sustain most of the 39 charges against Jeffrey Bugai, 35.

The orders followed several days of testimony from six of the seven alleged victims.

Among other counts, Sandoval held Bugai to answer accusations of sodomy by anesthesia or a controlled substance, forcible oral copulation, and impersonating a public officer.

Sandoval dismissed some counts, including those alleging he’d committed the crimes “under the color of authority,” essentially threatening some men that if they didn’t have sex with him, they’d be arrested, incarcerated, or deported.

The men who testified said they believed Bugai was a cop, and some said after he took them to his apartment, he made them drink something they suspect was drugged.

Police Sergeant Sean Perdomo testified Thursday that a former roommate of Bugai’s has said he saw Bugai putting pills in people’s drinks.

One alleged victim, identified in court as Miguel M., 26, testified last week that he met Bugai at El Trebol bar, 3149 22nd Street, in the Mission district, around December 31, 2007. He got into a cab with Bugai, thinking he was getting a ride home.

Miguel said when they got to the apartment, Bugai gave him a glass of what looked and tasted like water, but after that, he testified, “I did not know anything anymore until I had him on top of me without any clothes.”

Bugai was performing oral sex on him, Miguel told the court, and Bugai soon took Miguel’s penis and penetrated himself with it, he said.

He said he unsuccessfully tried to push him away and told him “No” during the incident, but “I had no strength.”

Bugai, who’s pleaded not guilty to the charges, has been in custody since his July arrest and is set to be arraigned October 30. His bail is $3 million.

According to court documents and testimony, Bugai often dressed like a police officer and drove a vehicle that resembled a police patrol car. All of the men, who appeared to be in their late 20s to early 30s, spoke through Spanish interpreters.

Police have said Bugai targeted Central American immigrants with “limited English speaking” skills who had recently arrived in the United States.

The alleged incidents occurred from January 2008 through March 2014, according to the complaint prosecutors filed against Bugai in September.

According to court records, Bugai changed his name to Jeffrey Thomas in 2011.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, October 16, 2014 @ 6:43 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

Plea deal reached in skirt burning case

An Oakland boy who’d been accused of  setting fire to the skirt of a gender non-conforming teen on a bus last November pleaded no contest in the case Thursday (October 16).

Richard Thomas, 17, could serve up to seven years in state prison after entering a plea deal in Alameda County Superior Court in which he admitted to a charge of felony assault assault with an enhancement of inflicting great bodily injury, according to Teresa Drenick, a spokeswoman for the Alameda County District Attorney’s office. An aggravated mayhem charge and hate crime enhancements for each of the charges were dropped.

Sasha Fleischman in an undated photo

Sasha Fleischman in an undated photo

Sasha Fleischman, who was 18 at the time of the incident, suffered severe burns and was hospitalized for several weeks after Thomas set fire to Fleischman’s skirt.

Thomas, who’s been in custody since shortly after the incident, is set to be sentenced November 14.

At his sentencing, Thomas will be sentenced to seven years in state prison, Drenick said in an email. After 90 days, the judge will review an evaluation of his conduct.

“If he is fully engaging in the programs and services offered,” and his conduct’s “good,” there’ll be another evaluation in July 2015, just before his 18th birthday, Drenick said. If he again shows good progress, he’ll be re-sentenced to five years in state prison, “with the addition that he waive four months custody credit.”

At that point, the juvenile justice department would have “have discretion to house [Thomas] for his entire sentence if they believe he is amenable to their services.”

The deal had been in the works for months.

“The victim in this case, as well as the victim’s family, has been kept apprised of the negotiations at every step of the way,” Drenick said.

William Du Bois, Thomas’s attorney, said in a phone interview, “the juvenile justice system doesn’t understand … how time in custody weighs much heavier on a young person” than it does on “an older person.”

Debra Crandall, Fleischman’s mother, has said she’s “sad” about Thomas being charged as an adult. “We’re kind of torn … to put a 16-year-old kid away for life seems really harsh.”

However, she’s said, “I feel like perhaps the DA’s office must have information they can’t give us completely.”

Fleischman’s family couldn’t immediately be reached by phone Thursday. Thomas’s family has repeatedly declined interview requests.

— Seth Hemmelgarn, @ 12:42 pm PST
Filed under: Uncategorized

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