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Book on the personality of Donald Trump by his niece, who is also a psychologist.When I worked for the New York City school system as a school psychologist, I occasionally sat on panels to interview people applying for various positions. Someone commented to me, “You know who does the best in interviews? Psychopaths. They are not nervous. They figure out what interviewers want to hear and give it to them. They are charming and make good impressions—when they want to. This hides their weaknesses from others.”
So it has been with Donald J. Trump, in the opinion of his niece, Mary Trump. She has intimate knowledge of Donald and his family, based on many years of experience, and is a clinical psychologist. While various other psychologists and psychiatrists have speculated (in and out of print) about the president’s mental health, none have direct experience of his personality and behavior. She has not had a clinical relationship with him, such as psychotherapy or testing, so there is still an element of speculation involved, as she acknowledges. She writes clearly, only occasionally using technical terms (such as “learned helplessness” or “mirroring”), which she immediately explains.
Besides being a revolutionary anarchist (libertarian socialist), I am a New York State licensed psychologist with a Doctor of Psychology professional degree (Psy.D.). I find her book fascinating.
By and large, most attempts “to make sense of Donald’s often bizarre and self-defeating behavior” (12) have relied on the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders—5th Edition, produced by the American Psychiatric Association (DSM-5 2013). Usually there is a reference to Narcissistic Personality Disorder, “A pervasive pattern of grandiosity (in fantasy or behavior), need for admiration, and lack of empathy…in a variety of contexts.” (DSM-5 2013; 327) Dr. Trump says of the president, “He meets all nine criteria…” of this disorder, as listed in the DSM-5. (12)
Mary Trump suggests “co-morbidity:” more than one diagnosis applying. She notes that he may also fit the diagnosis of Antisocial Personality Disorder, “A pervasive pattern of disregard for and violation of the rights of others….Failure to conform to social norms….Deceitfulness, as indicated by repeated lying…or conning others for personal profit or pleasure….Impulsivity….Irritability and aggressiveness….Consistent irresponsibility, as indicated by repeated failure to…honor financial obligations….Lack of remorse, as indicated by being indifferent to or rationalizing having hurt, mistreated, or stolen from another.” (DSM-5 2013; 324-5) The most extreme forms of Antisocial Personality Disorder are considered as being a “psychopath” or (the term she uses) “sociopath.”
The author also raises the possibility of Dependent Personality Disorder. She says this includes “an inability to make decisions or take responsibility, discomfort with being alone, and going to excessive lengths to obtain support from others.” (13)
Also, “He may have a long undiagnosed learning disability that for decades has interfered with his ability to process information.” (13) This includes the possibility of dyslexia, a reading disability. That would explain his reluctance to read—even briefing papers prepared for the president. She does not estimate his level of general intelligence, although referring to the limits of “his ability to process information.” (13) Other members of his family have been intelligent, such as his father, his older sister (a federal judge), and his older brother (a pilot), but Donald is another story. (The evening tv show host, Stephen Colbert, quoted the book as describing his father, Fred Trump, as “a high-functioning sociopath,” and commented, “If only he had passed on the ‘high-functioning’ part.”)
in this book, Mary Trump does not explicitly use psychoanalytic object-relations theory. Drawing on how she describes the president’s behavior and thinking, the level of his character structure is apparently more dysfunctional than the usual neurotic personality (of most of us) but somewhat better than a psychotic (“crazy”) personality. He probably fits in the “borderline” level of character
A psychodynamic approach might fit Donald’s pathologies into a range of “exaggerated attempts to consolidate a sense of self…..[In] phallic narcissism…the individual seeks to exhibit himself or herself to win endless accolades and approval to defend against intense feelings of guilt, shame, worthlessness, and humiliation…. All [these syndromes] involve issues of self-reproach, guilt, and preoccupations with self-definition, self-control, and self-worth. All these introspective disorders tend to emphasize [problems with] cognitive processes , and they share an emphasis on aggression that is directed at others or the self. People with these disorders are much more concerned about self-assertion and aggression than about bonding and relatedness.” (Blatt & Levy 1998; 89-90)
Dr. Trump acknowledges that DSM terms are limited in really understanding Donald Trump, his lived experience, his thinking, his psychodynamics, and his social behavior. “The label gets us only so far.” (12) “Donald’s pathologies are so complex and his behaviors so often inexplicable that coming up with an accurate and comprehensive diagnosis would require a full battery of psychological and neuropsychological tests that he’ll never sit for.” (13) (I would love to administer the Rorschach Inkblot Method to him.)
The Family System
The author pictures Donald by placing him in the dynamic context of his dysfunctional family system. His mother, Mary, is described as physically weak and ill, often withdrawn, with little interaction with her children. His father, Fred Trump, is bluntly described by the author (his granddaughter) as a “sociopath,” that is, utterly lacking in empathy or moral conscience. He was domineering, insisting on getting his way, and cruelly sadistic. A forceful and ambitious man, he made a fortune in real estate in Brooklyn and Queens.
The overwhelming but un-loving father and the distant mother had enormous impacts on their five children, of course. This included the writer’s father, “Freddy,” the second-born child and eldest son, and Donald, the next son. Freddy was under great pressure by his father to be his heir in the real estate business. But Freddy did not fit in; his father responded by increasing his personal disapproval. Freddy wanted to become an airline pilot, something he was good at, but his father Fred sneered at this and demanded that he knuckle under. Over time, Freddy became an alcoholic, failed at his airplane career, was divorced by his wife, and died at a young age.
Donald had been a screw-up all his youth—the book says his older sister did his homework and he paid a friend to take the SATs. Yet he became the successor to Fred’s empire. He was good at glad-handing people and networking, but not really at the business of real estate. He expanded into Manhattan, but was repeatedly a failure. His father successively bailed him out. To Fred Trump, Donald was the extension of his success, as Mary Trump sees it. But when Donald opened New Jersey casinos, where he did not have his father’s contacts, he was a disaster. He failed and the banks bailed him out, until they stopped doing it. The only “business” he did really well as, was pretending to be a successful businessman on television, dominating other actors.
To Dr. Trump, Donald is a hollow man, a sociopath who enjoys playing a great person in order to try to win his (now gone) father’s approval (which he more-or-less got) and his love (which he could never get). His constant lies, his bullying, his cheating others, his transactional relationships with everyone, including his family and his wives, were all covers for his sense of inadequacy and inferiority. “He rants about the weaknesses of others even as he demonstrates his own. But he can never escape the fact that he is and always will be a terrified little boy. Donald’s monstrosity is the manifestation of the very weakness within him that he’s been running from his entire life.” (210-1)
Donald’s attitude toward his father has been repeated by his fan-boy reaction to authoritarian leaders abroad: Putin, Jin, Kim, the Saudi prince, Erdogan, and Duterte. Whether or not Putin “has something on” Donald, he is strongly drawn to brutal, ruthless, and cynical authoritarians. He wishes he could be like that and pretends he is.
I am not going to go over the family history which is outlined here nor repeat the telling anecdotes about Donald’s often strange behavior. Mary Trump says little about herself, outside of her reactions to her grandfather, her parents, and Donald. Just in passing, so to speak, she mentions her lesbianism and that she could not be open about it even to her beloved grandmother. She does review her experience after her father’s death and the dishonest way she and her brother were treated by the family in terms of inheritance.
Donald did not have a program or set of policies, although he has racist and nativist prejudices—against African-Americans, Jews, immigrants, and so on—also women. Otherwise he twists and turns, saying this thing or that, in order to arouse a base and to confuse his opponents. He has no strategy for election—he had one set of skills and if they resonated with enough of the voting population, he was politically successful. But when this approach became less popular—as it has currently—he does not change his behavior because he cannot. He does not know any other way to be.
When the novel coronavirus hit the U.S. and the world, Donald brushed it away. He would not face up to it nor let anyone else in his administration face it. It was interfering with his plan to run for reelection on economic “prosperity.” Therefore he denied that it existed and/or said it would vanish any day now, like a “miracle” As it got worse, he could not admit that he had been wrong. He could not understand the science nor trust the advice of the scientists, who were no doubt out to get him. As parts of his right-wing base became ever more hysterical, he did not try to calm them but sought to ride their craziness and whip it up to an even more fevered pitch. So his behavior became ever more bizarre and dysfunctional, and more people died and will die. He does not care about that, but it bothers him that the voting public does not believe his contradictory and delusional claims. In a recent interview he lamented that it was unfair that Dr. Anthony Fauci was more popular than he is. “It must be my personality,” he sadly concluded.
Donald isn’t Really the Problem After All
While the author puts Donald Trump in the context of his family, she only hints at the way Donald and his family fit in the context of the overall society. It is obvious that Fred Trump’s success was only possible in a society which valued money-making above all else, as he did as an individual. And Donald’s success (despite all his business failures) was only possible in a society which valued braggadocio and surface glibness over real interpersonal connection, that values self-centered ambition over community. The name of that system is capitalism and its regulating mechanism is the state.
After all, if Donald Trump is so terrible, how come he was nominated by the Republican Party (out of about 14 other candidates)? How come he was “elected” president (even if he lost the popular vote by a few thousand)? How come he has not been laughed out of office or at least discredited by the entire political class and the whole of the media (instead of supported by a major political party and a right-wing media system)?
“The government as it is currently constituted, including the executive branch, half of Congress, and the majority of the Supreme Court, is entirely in the service of protecting Donald’s ego; that has become almost its entire purpose.” (201) This is something of an exaggeration, but not entirely so (the Republicans get something in return, such as huge tax cuts for the rich, deregulation of the economy, and reactionary judges at all levels).
Why does a minority of 35 to 40 percent continue to support him despite the wreck of the U.S. health system and economy? What is it about Donald’s personality which resonates among his base?
“The deafening silence in response to such a blatant display of sociopathic disregard for human life or the consequences for one’s actions…fills me with despair and reminds me that Donald isn’t really the problem after all.” (my emphasis; 204-5)
Donald Trump is personally eccentric in many ways (such as in his attachment to Russia). But in other ways he is logical culmination of decades of political devolution. This is clearest in the history of the Republican Party, which has gone from a center-right party to a far-right cult, rejecting science and embracing ignorance, playing to racist and nativist popular prejudices, and also relying on anti-LGBT and anti-women’s rights for its appeal. Meanwhile the Democrats have been following along behind them, becoming the new center-right party (now with a “progressive” but powerless wing). The economic and political reasons for this are important, as is the political mass psychology of sections of the people as they react to these developments. While it will be good to see the back of the vile Donald Trump, electing Joe Biden will not really solve “the problem.”
I do not criticize Mary Trump for not writing a different book. Nor for failing to be rise to the level of those who provided deep insights into the social-psychological pathologies of capitalist society, such as Wilhelm Reich, Erich Fromm, or Paul Goodman. (I would guess that she is not a radical but a Democratic liberal.) It is enough that she provides us with insight into the dysfunctional psychology of the current president of the United States. It is up to us to generalize further.
Blatt, Sidney, & Levy, Kenneth (1998). “A Psychodynamic Approach to the Diagnosis of Psychopathology.” In Making Diagnosis Meaningful; Enhancing Evaluation and Treatment of Psychological Disorders (Ed.: James W. Barron). Washington DC: American Psychological Association. Pp. 73—109.
DSM-5 (2013), Desk Reference to the Diagnostic Criteria from DSM-5. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Publishing.
Trump, Mary L. (2020). Too Much and Never Enough; How My Family Created the World’s Most Dangerous Man. NY: Simon & Schuster.
*written for www.Anarkismo.net
north america / mexico / migration / racism / opinion / analysis Monday July 06, 2020 06:01 byWayne Price
Racial oppression is rooted in capitalism. White people are not oppressed as white people, but do suffer from capitalism in other ways. White anti-racism cannot only be based on moral values but must also be related to their own oppressions caused by capitalism.Many things have been impressive about the Black Lives Matter movement of 2020. The extent of the demonstrations, the depth of the anger, and the mass mobilization of the African-American community has been heartening. As I write, weekly and daily protests are still going on, extending into occupations, across the U.S. and even internationally. The U.S. population, which had seemed to be so quiesent, hunkering down during the covid-19 plague and the politically repressive Trump administration, has suddenly burst out in righteous outrage.
One aspect of the protests that has impressed many is the large proportion of white people who are participating. Along with African-Americans, Latinx, Asian-Americans, and Native Americans, white people have sometimes been the majority of the demonstrators. Labelled as “allies” of People of Color, the European-American marchers include many who have suddenly realized that racism still exists in the U.S. So many had let themselves believe that racism was mostly dead. Southern segregation had been abolished by the civil rights movement a half century ago. Anti-discrimination laws had been passed. Prejudice had decreased. Television commercials show mixed-race couples. There had been a Black president. Then the murder of George Floyd by a group of police, in full view of eyewitnesses and cameras, suddenly lit up the scene. It revealed an oppression which had never gone away.
Despite the gains of the past (and there had been gains, such as ending legal Jim Crow), racial prejudice is still widespread among white people. This ranges from the bitter hatred held by neo-Nazi white supremacists to the blindspots, the insensitivity, and ignorance of even those who are subjectively anti-racist (such as myself).
Beyond the ideas and emotions of racial prejudice are the systemic institutional aspects of racial oppression. Schools are more segregated than ever, due to housing segregation. Being last hired, first fired, causes African-American workers to have low seniority and poor pay (and poor housing). Generations of poverty results in young adult People of Color starting out life without family wealth to fall back on (not even the house and car equity which many white working class families have). Large numbers of young Black and Brown men have gone to prison (often for drug-related minor “crimes”), which blights the rest of their lives.
Over all, while legal segregation is gone and discrimination has lessened, African-Americans remain on the bottom of society. Even those who had advanced, have, at most, moved up to the lower middle class, as “white collar” workers. Very, very, few have “made it” to the upper levels of society (especially if we leave out some entertainers and sports figures). What is the reason for this continuation of racial oppression? Why was there racism to begin with?
Africans were brought to North and South America and the Caribbean to be slaves. They were not kidnapped in Africa so that white people would have someone to feel superior to. They were enslaved so they would do heavy labor for minimal costs. They were brought to the English colonies so they could raise tobacco, sugar cane, and cotton as commodities for the world market. In particular, the cotton trade became the foundation of British wealth, the basis for its industrial revolution and the British empire—and the basis for U.S. capitalism as well. The slaves themselves were commodities, traded, bought and sold on the market. Their “racial” differences from Europeans made it easier to keep them separate and controlled. It permitted the Europeans to justify to themselves the practice of slavery, despite Christian and democratic ideology (“all men were created equal” but that only meant “white” men).
Slavery of Africans was different from Northern and European capitalism. Under mainstream capitalism, the workers were “free” (lacking masters but also lacking tools, capital, or land), forced to temporarily sell their ability to work (their “labor power”) to a capitalist for a wage. Slavery was a bastardized form of capitalism, but one which was important for capitalist industrialism to develop on a world scale.
After the U.S. Civil War, slavery was abolished, but the ex-slaves were not given parcels of the land they had worked for generations (“forty acres and a mule” had been their demand). Without this, they were impoverished and vulnerable. Many became sharecroppers, working for big land owners. Others became workers, laboring for capitalists South or North. Either way, they became a pool of low-paid working people, “super-exploited,” with a living standard below that of the rest of the (white) working class. Big profits were made off the descendants of slaves.
Racism also justified and rationalized white settlers’ genocidal attacks on the Native Americans, in order to take their land, and then the U.S. seizure of half of Mexico. Meanwhile, on a world scale, white supremacy served to motivate European imperialism and colonialism. The European empires seized huge chunks of the world, and forced millions of People of Color to work for them. It was said the sun never set on the British empire nor the blood ever dried. This was justified as “the white man’s burden,” even as the wealth of the world flowed into the banks of rich white men.
Besides the cheapness of the labor of Blacks, there was a second advantage which racism gave to the U.S. capitalist class. It was used to split the working class. In general, the white workers (and most U.S. workers were white) accepted their “supremacy” over the African-Americans and other People of Color (such as Chinese immigrants and Chicanos). They got better jobs, promotions, higher wages, and better housing. They were taught that even if they were poor, they were “better than” People of Color—which has been referred to “the wages of whiteness.” All the suffering of white workers, all the anger and dissatisfaction, could be channeled into hostility toward African-Americans. From the slave owners to modern capitalist politicians, the rich have deliberately promoted these prejudices.
Actually these benefits were quite limited. The low wages of the African-American workers pulled down the wages of the European-American workers. The split between races made it hard to form unions, to win gains from the bosses. Unions have remained the weakest in the most racist part of the country, the South. Wherever unions have been successful, it has been necessary to overcome the racism of the white workers. The racial divide is the main reason why the U.S. working class remains behind the Western European working classes in benefits, despite the greater wealth of the U.S. For example, it is the main reason why the U.S. remains the only industrialized country without universal health care.
Currently, the standard of living and working of the U.S. working class has been under attack. Large sections of the white working class has been suffering from the downturn in the economy, deindustrialization, overseas transfers of jobs, automation, and now the coronavirus and its triggering a deep recession. Rather than blame their real enemies, the big capitalists and their political agents, all too many have turned their anger against Black people, Mexicans, Muslims, etc.—People of Color, native or of foreign origin and differing religions. Trump and the Republicans have particularly been whipping this up, while the Democrats are much subtler about it. All this racism and nativism is to the benefit of the capitalist class (along with other forms of prejudice against women, LGBTQ people, Jews, etc.).
In brief, racism is rooted in capitalism. I do not say that capitalism is the only factor in maintaining racism (much more could be said about social-psychological factors), but it is the major one. It will be impossible to finally end racism so long as capitalist exploitation continues.
Can Whites be Anti-Racist Allies?
It is fascinating to see the widespread participation of European-Americans in the Black Lives Matter demonstrations, even in small towns where there are almost no People of Color. Books on the evils of racism dominate the nonfiction book list. It has become a major topic of discussion among white people and between white and Black people. Big businesses have taken out full-page ads, announcing that they reject racism root and branch. Politicians of both parties have denounced racism, for what that’s worth. Demands for controlling police violence are common among both Democrats and Republicans, although they cannot agree on programs. The slogan, “defund the police,” has become widespread, if unclear as to what it actually implies. Statues of Confederate generals have been pulled down and Confederate flags taken down, which are at least symbolic gestures.
In fact, much of the popular anti-racism lacks clarity as it what it actually means and what should be done to implement it. It is clear why African-Americans are opposed to white supremacy, as well as Latinx people and also Native Americans and Asian-Americans. But why are white people anti-racist and what can they do about it? On what grounds are white people told to be “allies” and to reject white supremacy?
Overwhelmingly, white people are told to reject racism on moral grounds. It is evil to claim superiority to other people on no grounds but skin color—to get advantages not because of your merits but because of your race—to even passively support the violent suppression of People of Color by the police—to keep people out of your schools, neighborhoods, and job sites, because they do not look like you, etc. All this contradicts the democratic ethos of “All men [people] are created equal,” and religious teachings of the equality and infinite worth of all children of God.
These moral claims are essential. They motivate people to care for more than just themselves and to be ashamed to tolerate oppression in their midst. But morality is not enough. Love is not enough. Nothing is enough. It is also necessary to appeal to self-interest, to show the overlap between moral claims and self-interest. Only a combination can keep people going through thick and thin, struggling for justice, freedom, and equality—for themselves and for everyone. People of Color have both self-interest and moral justice on their side. What about European-Americans?
White people are not oppressed as white people. As white people they have privileges, they benefit from being of European descent. Even anti-racist individuals benefit from being part of the collective of white people, if only indirectly, because they are not People of Color. There is an argument that even oppressors pay a price in narrowness of vision, rigidity of personality, and emotional limitations. There is truth in this, but it does not contradict the key point that white people, as white people, are a privileged layer of society.
There are sections of the left which have focused on this point, on the benefits which European-Americans receive from racism, however limited, which they refer to as “white skin privilege.” They call on white workers to sacrifice for the sake of People of Color. Perhaps unfortunately, this moralistic appeal has a limited appeal; people will not easily give up their families’ incomes and benefits for the sake of morality only.
Capitalism is an Enemy
But white people are not just white people. They have occupations, genders, religions, sexual orientations, social interests, and other aspects of their lives. In particular, the big majority are in the working class. They work for a living, getting wages or salaries, obeying bosses, producing the goods and services which make the world go round. They rely on their incomes to support their families (including children and full-time homemakers) as well as to pay for entertainment, education, and social activities. Those who do not have paying jobs mostly seek to get them.
As members of the working class, the big majority has interests which clash with the boss class, the ruling rich. The capitalists. are supported by their agents, such as the politicians, and—especially—the police. Without the police how could the rich keep working people from taking over the factories, the offices, the mansions, and the rest of the wealth-making infrastructure? In a society full of class conflicts, clashes of interests, and competition, how could society be held together without police, and a brutal police at that? (Not that reforms cannot be won, but the police cannot be abolished in this society.)
As I write, people in the U.S.A., of all races and ethnicities, are suffering from the coronavirus plague. They are also living through the severe economic downturn which the plague triggered (but which will last even after covid-19 is “under control”). There is also the looming effects of the climate and ecological crisis (floods, hurricanes, droughts, overheating, etc., etc.). All this being exacerbated by a racist, incompetent, and unhinged political leadership. This combination of disasters is the background for the BLM movement. Outrage at these mishandled calamities has fueled a militancy on all sorts of overlapping issues—consider the demonstrations supporting Black transexuals.
All these evils are caused by—or at least made worse by—capitalism. It is capitalism which pushed industrial agriculture and urbanism deep into wildlife territories in poorer nations, leading to the rise of plagues—and then spreading them through overcentralized world transportation. And failing to deal with them due to underfunded public health services. It is capitalism, whose system has been declining overall since the 1970s, setting the world up for new and deeper recessions. It is capitalism whose incessant drive for accumulation, growth, and profit-making, overrides the ecological need for a balanced and sustainable environment—and is creating the global climate catastrophe. It is capitalism which needs women to serve as breeders and family caretakers, in order to create and re-create the labor power of the workers—and therefore prevents full gender equality. It is capitalism which has evolved the current political situation, with a vile and inept “conservative” (really semi-fascist) president. He is being challenged by a “moderate” (really conservative) politician who is rather inept himself—a dreadful choice. This is the result of decades of political decline which has reflected the economic decline of U.S. and world capital.
Just as it is capitalism which has created and maintains racism, so it is capitalism which created and maintains the exploitation and oppression of white workers, as well as women, and LGBTQ people, people subject to viral pandemics, and people who are in danger from global overheating. It is not as “white people” that they suffer, in any but a moral sense. It is as working class, women, plague victims, and so on that white people are oppressed and exploited—by capitalism. To fight capitalism it is necessary to oppose racism, which remains one of its main props and supports. The failure to oppose white supremacy has repeatedly been the Achilles heel of other struggles for social improvement, leading to their defeat.
The capitalists do not want working people, of any race, ethnicity, or nationality, to see the enemy as capitalism, its ruling class, and its state (with its police). They want us to think that “we’re all in this together,” we should all love each other, the only issue is being “woke” and morally responsible, and so on. Businesses can take out all the ads they want, in order to impress Black people that they are on their side. But they cannot change their basic practices. They will not raise the incomes of the majority of People of Color, with higher wages and better public services. They will not increase their taxes to pay for a vast expansion of health care and for guaranteed jobs for all. (After all, they have just benefitted from an enormous tax cut, pushed through by the Republicans and Trump.) They will not slash the military budget in order to pay for increased spending on public schools. (How then could they threaten countries around the world with the military might of the U.S.?) They will not implement a “Green New Deal,” to save humanity from a climate cataclysm. This too would need more taxes, socializing of major industries, cutting back military spending, and reorganizing the whole system. So they would prefer to talk about moral values and the goodness of racial equality in the abstract.
What is needed is not an abstract set of values but a vision of a different and better society, where all are free and equal, where the economy is democratically managed by its workers, and production is carried out for use rather than profit. In such a society, people organize themselves into voluntary self-managed associations, and protect themselves through community institutions.
People of European descent have important reasons to oppose white supremacy, both as racist prejudice and as an institutional system. There is a moral need to be better than we have been, to support all people’s value as free and equal. But like Black, Latinx, Asian, and Indigenous people, white people also have an objective self-interest in opposing racism. Not as white people as such, but because racism is used to prop up capitalism, which is a basis for the exploitation and oppression of everyone.
*written for www.Anarkismo.net
north america / mexico / community struggles / opinion / analysis Thursday July 02, 2020 20:15 byZaher Baher
This article covers how president Trump has shown us the true face of capitalism and whether the working class struggles grow under the dictatorship or those in power by the names of labour, social democrat, socialists, leftists. It also puts some facts before the readers and question them that who really in a long-term serves our struggle?
Is President Donald Trump a threat and danger?
by Zaher Baher
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