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  1. #1
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    Angry Columnist insults Volunteers.....

    This is a link to an article from Bucks County, PA, where I grew up and spent 7 years as a volunteer. This idiot displays all sorts of ignorance and has gotten quite a few nastygrams from area firefighters and EMS personnel. Including me, and I've included my email to him and his superiors below. If you feel like sending one yourself, his email link is at the top of the page. This should strike a nerve with anyone who's ever done any fundraising.

    Article: http://www.phillyburbs.com/pb-dyn/news/38160.html

    My Response:
    -------------------------------------------------------------
    Dear Mr. Mullane,

    I grew up in Bucks County, and was a member of a volunteer fire department and volunteer ambulance corps for nearly 7 years before relocating to Houston. Although I no longer live there, the power of the internet has kept me in touch with my roots, and unfortunately, the grand displays of ignorance from people with your mindset.

    The volunteer spirit runs in my family as both grandfathers were members of Bucks County fire departments. Your comments have struck a major nerve with me because of my grandfathers, who many years ago were the people standing out in that cold weather asking for donations, before taxes were given to the departments. Like every other member of that age, they were some of the few that were able to return from the wars and still attempt to give even more back to the communities they lived in. This compassionate and giving spirit lives on in every firefighter, as many of today's members are also carrying on a family tradition of community service.

    You state that taking without giving is "low class." How do fire departments take without giving? Are there any that never respond to any emergencies? While you're sleeping soundly thinking of more ignorant ways to waste page space in a valuable news medium, hundreds of volunteers in Bucks County are out trying to save lives and property, with little regard for their own tired bodies. The hours spent away from family and friends to make sure everyone else's family is safe, go very much unnoticed by the public. Very few people ever realize the amount of time and effort it takes to acquire just the basic knowledge of the profession of firefighting. Just because they're "volunteers" doesn't mean that they're not professionals. Through the continued apathy and ignorance displayed by columnists such as yourself, a good portion of the general public probably doesn't even realize that Bucks County Firefighters are volunteers.

    "..and the fire people were literally.." Fire people? FIRE PEOPLE? The mere phrase screams ignorance. My wife's kindergarten class doesn't even call firefighters that. Do you really live in that much of an information vacuum that you can't even find a remotely accurate term?

    And the crack about fully funded fire companies playing on post September 11th emotions. You have a better chance of finding a unicorn than a fully funded fire company. Sure some are doing better than others, but there are no independently wealthy fire companies. This goes back to the part about you being completely ignorant about the cost of equipment, training, insurance, and the people themselves. Sure, 9/11 hit emergency services the hardest in New York and FDNY. Our thoughts and prayers are still with them and their families. But you would be completely wrong to assume that such a situation would never happen in Bucks County. There is not one member of a fire company anywhere in Bucks County or this country that would not have done the same thing as those brave members of FDNY on that day.

    "...guilt gripped my conscience..." What do you feel guilty about? Having to give a bill instead of a smaller amount of change? The fact that you wouldn't give up any of your precious time to help the community? Maybe then you wouldn't have enough time to come up with another gem of an article like this one. Then again maybe everyone else that reads this can sleep tight tonight, realizing that their local volunteer firefighters are professionals, and they're lucky that ignorant jackasses like yourself aren't members.

    Sincerely,

    Brian P. Vickers
    Proud Former Bucks County Volunteer EMT/Firefighter
    ----------------------------------------------------------------

    Enjoy, and feel free to fill up his mailbox.

    Stay safe.

    Brian
    Brian P. Vickers
    www.vickersconsultingservices.com
    Emergency Services Consulting
    Westlake VFD - Houston, TX
    Proud Member IACOJ - Redneck Division


  2. #2
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    i got a different article, repost cuz i wanna see the article the reporter wrote

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    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    I got an article about coin tosses that barely mentions volunteer FD's. Is that the right article? We outlawed coin tosses in my town years ago.

    A town should be ashamed if its volunteer fire companies are so underfunded that firefighters must stand in the streets to collect cash. Raise taxes and give them what they need. But any fire company that's fully funded yet cynically plays on our post-Sept. 11 emotions to collect beer money through coin tosses ought to have its commanders sacked.
    Last edited by Bones42; 02-11-2003 at 12:33 PM.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    MembersZone Subscriber Airborne's Avatar
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    I have to admit that I found nothing wrong with his artical. Infact I think that he had a few very valied points.

    1. I don't think that he was saying asking for donations was wrong, just that there is a good way to go about it and coin tossing or pan handling is not one of them.

    2. He also said that it is shamefull that a community would be so stingy not to provide enough money to make sure there FD had the money they needed.

    3. I think that he was also valied in his point that there are some departments and other organizations that are still trying to capatilize on 9/11 for donations. Now I know this is a very touchy thing but he is right, there are people low enough to use 9/11 to push there cause and that just is not right.

    4. Over all again I think that it was a well written artical that had a point that if you are going to ask for donations there is a right way and a wrong way. Anytime that you are breaking the law to do it that is wrong. I know in my old town they use to have a chili feast or something like that and hte whoel town would go down to the fire station and have chili for a buck a bowl, and this would all go to help fund the FD.

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    The article's main point was about coin tosses, mainly a few in that area in the past couple of weeks that were held in areas where it is against the law.

    It's not against the law in those areas where the fire departments were doing the coin toss to do them. The offense was taken at the suggestion that the only reason the coin tosses are done is for Beer Money. The mere suggestion that those departments are harping on post 9/11 is very insulting, let alone the inference that volunteers are just a bunch of arson crazy drunks. Lots the members in Bucks County know many of those that went to the better world that day. Life long friends, colleagues, former members of Bucks Departments, and even family were among the lost. To even suggest that "beer money" is the reason for the coin toss is ludicrous, let alone tying that to drinking.

    And I'm not sure about the rest of you, but being called "fire people" is pretty insulting. In addition, he does call anyone that does a coin toss, or any kind of solicitation for donations with out giving anything back, "low class". At no point does he say that the departments give anything back, so again, the inference is that they don't. I know of a lot of departments in rural NJ that keep a coin toss target on the side of the road all year in hopes of raising funds. Instead of training, they spend hours a week hosting bingo and searching the side of the road with a metal detector in hopes of finding a few more bucks.

    I don't disagree with his point that stingy townships should better fund their fire departments. But that means one thing: raising taxes, which no one will ever go for. If they did there wouldn't be a single department in this country that would need to do any fundraising. I don't think anyone can disagree with that. But since there ARE departments out there that must do fundraising, the suggestion that they are in it for the beer irritates me. Just look at how many departments still need the money after the grants were awarded. I'm lucky enough to run with a department that doesn't need to collect donations. We are funded fully by taxes. It's not enough to ge us everything we need, but we get by. But as I said in my response, I had family members on those street corners collecting donations years ago. That how EVERY department got started, with donations. I was there with my department in Bucks doing door to door myself. If you've never done it, you probably don't understand the situation these departments are in. And his point would have been much stronger without the 9/11 comment. Actually, it was lost because of the crack.



    Here's the entire text of the article for those that couldn't get to it.

    Coin toss collectors should get stiffer fines


    Got an e-mail from a lady in Northampton who was astonished that several Penn State students collecting cash for kids with cancer a couple of weekends ago were fined $84 each by the Warminster police.

    The college kids were running a coin toss while standing in the hyper-intersection of Street and York roads, violating a no-soliciting law.

    She read my column last week that criticized the Northampton cops for ticketing mourners illegally parked at a viewing. I guess she thought this would make a nice companion piece about petty injustice doled out by grinchy cops.

    "These are good kids doing a good thing. They are not from Warminster and did not know about the no soliciting law," she wrote.

    OK. But too bad.

    The only regret I have with the Warminster cops is that they couldn't fine the kids $500 each - no, make that $1,000 each. And that goes for scouts, soccer teams, softball leagues, marching bands and any organization that pickpockets the motoring public at busy intersections.

    You're breaking a state law that forbids roadside money-grubbing. Worse, you're annoying.

    Tell me, all you coin toss people, we give you money but what do we get in return?

    A few years ago I was in San Francisco and I gave a panhandler in a wheelchair a couple of bucks. In exchange, he told me a few clean jokes. ("What did the cannibal say after he ate a clown? 'Hmm. Tastes funny.' ")

    He insisted on giving me something for my donation, explaining that taking without giving was "low class."

    That's what coin tosses are - low class. And dangerous.

    Once, I was cruising down Route 13 in Bristol Township. Up ahead I saw members of a volunteer fire company standing at Bath Road, rattling their tin cups.

    Traffic blasts through that intersection, and the fire people were literally inches from getting hurled onto someone's car hood. But knowing these guys would risk their lives to save my family and my house, guilt gripped my conscience.

    I braked hard, searched my pockets unsuccessfully for a buck or two, and finally unbuckled my seatbelt to grab my wallet.

    My Jeep drifted into the next lane and almost collided with a car in my blind spot.

    A town should be ashamed if its volunteer fire companies are so underfunded that firefighters must stand in the streets to collect cash. Raise taxes and give them what they need. But any fire company that's fully funded yet cynically plays on our post-Sept. 11 emotions to collect beer money through coin tosses ought to have its commanders sacked.

    Cops, by the way, won't do anything about coin tosses unless someone complains.

    So the next time you see one, pull safely to the side of the road, pick up your cell phone, call 911 and report them.

    Let me know what happens. It should make an interesting column.

    As for those Penn State students who were fined by Warminster? Helping kids with cancer is noble. But not while panhandling in the middle of traffic.

    Here's a suggestion: Anyone enrolled at Penn State should take the money they would have spent on beer and CDs during a semester and donate it to kids with cancer.

    The kids get the money, motorists are spared the coin toss annoyance, and nobody can accuse you of being low class.

    Nah. That'll never happen.

    Could the Bucks County delegation to Harrisburg please draft an amendment to state law hiking the fine for roadside soliciting to $1,000?

    J.D. Mullane can be reached at 215.949.5745 or at jmullane@phillyBurbs.com. His column appears Sunday, Wednesday and Friday.


    February 5, 2003 6:44 AM

  6. #6
    Forum Member Bones42's Avatar
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    let alone the inference that volunteers are just a bunch of arson crazy drunks.
    Might be me, but I missed this inference.
    "This thread is being closed as it is off-topic and not related to the fire industry." - Isn't that what the Off Duty forum was for?

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    MembersZone Subscriber Airborne's Avatar
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    Sorry again I think that you are just reading too much into it, and I sort of agree with him that standing on the corner asking for a hand out is a bit low class. Have a fundraiser if you are looking for help in funding. People have them all the time, it also helps bring the community and the FD together.

    For a about 100 - 200 dollars and some time from the people (NOTING WRONG WITH BEING PC) at your station you can have a fundraiser that could bring in allot of money for training and extra things that your department may need. It also is a good time to get your people out there to help teach the community since they are going to be there are your station on fire safety and it is a chance for them to see what it is that you are buying or spending there money on. Because in the end donations or tax dollars it is there money that is being spent and having a good relationship with them will help you to get more of it to spend.

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    To address the inference question:

    "But any fire company that's fully funded yet cynically plays on our post-Sept. 11 emotions to collect beer money..."

    Not money to buy gear. Not money to put fuel in the trucks. Not money to buy hose. "beer money" I don't think I can help you to understand it any better than that. And I don't think I'm reading too much into that. The attitude in that area, and probably many other places is that volunteer firefighters do nothing else but sit around the firehouse and drink beer waiting for something to burn. That stereotype has been around for years, and it's still very prevolant. Comments like that one don't help to disprove it. Of course no one ever stops in the fire houses and meets the members either. They just listen to the media because they're always accurate in what they print.

    Probably just a technicality, but aren't all fundraisers asking for handouts? I mean, do departments really need to spend the money to have a pancake breakfast to make sure that people get something back for their money? Or bingo? Or carnivals? People don't go to bingo at the fire halls to help the department. They're there to win money. Isn't spending time away from families to save someone else's can enough of a payback? This country has gone downhill farther than I thought if the general public expects food or something else in return for them "gracing" the fire department with their "donation". Remember, it's not a donation if you expect something back for it. Even if it is just lunch.

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    A town should be ashamed if its volunteer fire companies are so underfunded that firefighters must stand in the streets to collect cash. Raise taxes and give them what they need.
    I agree absolutely 100%. Fundraising is the only thing I dislike about the volunteer fire service (well, ok, maybe the 3 am "ill person" calls too) It's degrading to have professional firefighters constantly begging for money.

    But any fire company that's fully funded yet cynically plays on our post-Sept. 11 emotions to collect beer money through coin tosses ought to have its commanders sacked.
    100% agreement again! If your town pays enough in taxes to support your department, what are you having fund-raisers for? Chances are it's to make enough money to have another fund-raiser!

    Also, I don't think he meant any disrespect in his article:

    But knowing these guys would risk their lives to save my family and my house, guilt gripped my conscience.
    FTM-PTB-DTRT

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    Tell Jerry Lewis that coin tosses are low class. The volunteers in my town made $8000 in one day for M.D. Call it low class if you want, but it buys a kid a wheel chair.

  11. #11
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    A town should be ashamed if its volunteer fire companies are so underfunded that firefighters must stand in the streets to collect cash. Raise taxes and give them what they need. But any fire company that's fully funded yet cynically plays on our post-Sept. 11 emotions to collect beer money through coin tosses ought to have its commanders sacked.
    What's wrong with that?

    It's is WRONG for a fire department or any other emergency service to have to go out and shake tins at intersections to raise funds.

    As for his remark about Sept 11, put it into the context I think it's meant to be- if a department is funded, then why are they still collecting and rattling tins? Maybe his reference to Sept 11 was a bit off the mark and hits a nerve with a few people, but we all know the issues that have come up about the souveneir sellers around NY. If a fire dept. uses Sept 11 to their advantage with regards to collecting funds, then there's an issue to be looked at....

    Once, I was cruising down Route 13 in Bristol Township. Up ahead I saw members of a volunteer fire company standing at Bath Road, rattling their tin cups.

    Traffic blasts through that intersection, and the fire people were literally inches from getting hurled onto someone's car hood. But knowing these guys would risk their lives to save my family and my house, guilt gripped my conscience.
    What's the problem with what he's written? We should not be on the intersection when the lights are green and traffic is flowing! Our ssafety comes first....
    Luke

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    I don't know Brian, you and I have usually agreed on things but I can't go along with you on this one.

    "A town should be ashamed if its volunteer fire companies are so underfunded that firefighters must stand in the streets to collect cash. Raise taxes and give them what they need. But any fire company that's fully funded yet cynically plays on our post-Sept. 11 emotions to collect beer money through coin tosses ought to have its commanders sacked."

    Volunteers in Pennsylvania can't ask for better words in the press than this. For years we have been trying to convince local governments to properly fund us (volunteers). Municipalities have no problem hiring new cops, buying new cop cars, especially Expeditions, but can't come up with the money to buy or help buy a new fire truck.

    We have one member of our borough council who tells us that the borough can not tax present residents for something that will be used in the future when they may not be there. We are having trouble convincing him that he does that everytime they buy a cop car, dump truck or pick up truck for the town.

    Yes he did say that the Bristol firefighters were close to being hit but he followed it with a great paragraph. I wrote and teach the state's public relations class and I am going to use this article in future classes as an example of positive help from the press. Sometimes it helps having someone else point out the inadequecies of a situation.

    I feel that this article has the potential to do a lot more good than harm.
    Steve Dragon
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    You're right Steve, we usually are in close agreement. I agree he does point out that firefighters are brave for risking their lives for others, and that taxes should be raised to help departments. But there is a negative light that is being shed on the departments. After reading some of the earlier responses, I started to think that maybe we were overreacting a little and taking what he said out of context. So I showed the article to quite a few people in my office. All are originally from the south, and none of them are in emergency services. All agreed that he was insulting volunteer firefighters and their use of coin tosses. And without any prompting either. Half of them didn't know I was a volly. Until they asked why I cared what some hippy yankee was saying, that is. Another reason I like it down here. People tell it like it is. Y'all.

    And thanks for reminding me about Fill The Boot, Scoop. I don't know how I did, considering the major sunburn I got on my proceeding forehead. (I'm in denial. It's not a receding hairline, my head is just growing to contain the years of knowledge and experience. Yeah, that's it.) As you say, low class some may call it, but how many million did the IAFF and Volunteer Departments raise? I think it was around $15 mil last year? Something high. We raised over $12K last year, and we did get some hostile comments until people realized that we weren't standing on a 6 lane highway in 105 degree temps for ourselves. I guess maybe it's not low class if you're doing it for others. Although last time I checked everything volunteers do is for others.

    Anywho, as with most things, there is the chocolate and vanilla. But if it wakes people up to the realization that fire departments are underfunded, I guess the end almost justifies the means. The guys will be happy if Bristol gives them more money. This way, according to Mullane, they'll be able to buy a better beer than PBR. Sorry, couldn't help it.

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    [QUOTE]Originally posted by BC79er
    [B]To address the inference question:

    "The attitude in that area, and probably many other places is that volunteer firefighters do nothing else but sit around the firehouse and drink beer waiting for something to burn. That stereotype has been around for years, and it's still very prevolant. Comments like that one don't help to disprove it."


    BC79er,

    I hate to bring this up again, but take a look at some of the past threads on "alcohol" and Beer bans" You've got guys that feel there is nothing wrong with refrigerators full of beer at the station. What's worse is there are even a couple of idiots who think it's ok to go on runs after tossing down a few.
    I know what you are saying and i'm on your side but you can't blame some people for thinking the way they do.

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    Sounds to me like an ample opportunity for the departments Public Information Officer to get in touch with the columnist and see if he would do another one on why we have to rattle tin cups and where this money actually goes - and that its not for beer money.

    I think the columnist may have some good points. Standing at the roadside "rattling tin cups" is dangerous - for us and the drivers. I don't like pretending I'm a speed bump at an accident scene and I sure don't want to do it to collect spare change. I can see how it would also distract drivers that should be concentrating on driving.

    Fully funded? Yeah, right. Why are some departments so underfunded? Because everyone knows that it is easier for the fire department to have a fundraiser to buy a new truck or turnout gear. When was the last time you saw a fundraiser so the township could buy a new end loader or the village have one so it could buy water treatment chemicals? Essential? Yes. Community support? No.

    I'd also point out to the reporter that while being underfunded, that you may be more fortunate than others. There are those departments that could not even afford to apply for a $20,000 FIRE Act grant because they could never afford the 10%. Can you see yourself at your districts busiest intersection and see about two dozen cars all day?

    As far as raising taxes, try this one night when you have nothing better to do than wait for the pager to go off. Go to a town council meeting and suggest they raise taxes so you can buy that new heavy rescue that may hit the street about 100 times a year. Rattling a tin cup while standing in the middle of busy traffic may be safer and easier.

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    MembersZone Subscriber Airborne's Avatar
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    OK this is what I got from his article.

    He supports the fire service and he sees the good we do. He disagrees with the form of getting donations by pan handling, but he is not against other forms of getting donations for FD, and likes the idea when the donations are received in a way that the community is getting something in return.

    Also he things that communities as a whole should be ashamed when their FD are not funded by there tax dollars.

    Yes he took a few shoots, but he I think his aim was not at all departments but at the ones that should be ashamed of them selves. We are all FF but that does not mean there are not Brothers and Sisters out there that are abusing their status of being a FF or using 9/11 for ill-got gains.

    Another point that I tried to make above is this. We are in the business of protecting our citizens. On a daily basis they never thing about what it is that we provide for them. Having a town get together at the Firehouse, is not only a great way and a safe way of raising needed funding, but it is a great way to make the community more aware of the services that you provide, and to help them feel apart of the community. In that they will be more willing to vote yes on levies for more taxation of their properties to help fund the FD. But when you become a nescience by standing on a street corner bagging for money that you need, and shoving a tin cup in there face, there going to have a bad image of you.

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    A town should be ashamed if its volunteer fire companies are so underfunded that firefighters must stand in the streets to collect cash. Raise taxes and give them what they need. But any fire company that's fully funded yet cynically plays on our post-Sept. 11 emotions to collect beer money through coin tosses ought to have its commanders sacked.
    This guy deserves an award. He is 100% correct.

    And quiet is right also. Time for the FD's PIO to step up and seize this opportunity to do two things:

    1. Solicit the public's support for increased funding.
    2. Put forth the positive image of the local VFD's if, and only if, it is deserved.

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    Smile Y'all Missed Something

    In the Wash DC area this type of fund raising is called a "boot drive" and we head out to a local intersection, one with well marked traffic lanes and directional traffic signals, and stand there with a boot in our hands so motorists stopping for the light can throw money into the boot. What's the problem?? We haven't had any. No one has been hit by a car, traffic has not been held up, and I am not aware of any complaints. Now, here's the part that is guaranteed to fire some people up. WE DON'T WANT LOCAL GOVERNMENT TO BUY THE APPARATUS. Our county buys apparatus for those locations or purposes that the local volunteer companies cannot provide for. This apparatus is wholly paid for, designed by, titled to, and painted and lettered for, the county government. Yes, they have every right to do this, it's their money. And yes, they have made that very clear to everyone, with a very Ham-Handed approach of "here it is, you have to take it as it is and like it". Some of our VFD's are driving very old, badly worn apparatus to avoid taking something from the county as they (in fact, all of us) feel that the county is trying hard to eliminate the individual identities of the volunteer organizations so they can have their "one big faceless county fire department" Look at it this way - would you knowingly accept an offer from your local government to provide a unit for your VFD if you had no input whatsoever into anything concerning the vehicle, color, style, size, lettering, even operating conditions (Now boys, you know you can't use this truck on brush fires, it's only for houses) That's what some people are faced with in 2003, so they would rather raise their own funds in any way they can. Stay Safe....
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    MembersZone Subscriber Airborne's Avatar
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    Default Re: Y'all Missed Something

    Originally posted by hwoods
    so they would rather raise their own funds in any way they can. Stay Safe..
    First I think that you need to get someone in your department and in the community to help you out with your issues facing your County. Second I take issue with your statement above, standing at any road side no matter what is an unsafe act. You just never know what is going to happen. If you are going to have a fundraiser I say put some time, imagination, and safety into doing it. But that is just me.

    It sounds to me like you need to work on getting the community on your side and let them know the issues that you are having they in turn can then put pressure on the ELECTED officials to change there way. But that is up to you and your departments to do, and in my opinion sticking a boot in a person face on the side of the road to get a donation is not the way to get the community to be more involved in your needs to support them better.

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