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Yes or No: EFMs Are Making Their Maximum Contribution ūüėĪ A Picture Book ūüė≠

Posted: 12:38 am ET

 

Part I: ¬†“EFMs are making their maximum contribution!”

Yes, Sir. Yes.

Via giphy.com

Great! Word cloud your maximum contribution.

Note: Eligible Family Members (EFMs) washing their vegetables in Clorox or donating one collapsed lung due to host country pollution are considered normal condition of the service, and do not/not count as contribution.

How many receptions did you host? Did you cook all the meals? Did you massage your diplomat’s tired feet? How do you rate yourself in the¬†perfection scale of a diplomatic hostess?

via reactiongifs.com

See, a perfectly painless exercise!

*

Part II: “EFMs are making their maximum contribution.”

No, Sir. No… I mean …

via professionalfangirls.com

So, EFMs are not working as hard as they should in support of the mission.

Via Imgur

No, sir, that’s not what I mean, see … it’s like …

You have an MBA from Wharton and you take any job you can to support the mission,¬†keep your brain from turning into a rusty nail, and keep the bag lady “I’ll live to be 86 with no retirement” nightmare away.

Certainly underpaid, and underemployed but 30.0001% of EFMs are LUCKY if they can get any job. Any  job maybe except as a cheesy hottie in Minsk.

 

But 56.01234% of EFMs do not even have jobs. And see, the 14.0016% who works in the local economy (if there is a bilateral work agreement), may have to give up some of their immunity.

Also if you have to start a business or stick your tongue out, you need permission from the Chief of Mission, who may/may not give it to you.

Then there’s …¬†well, the delicate¬†part.

If your spouse finds a¬†younger¬†model, well, damn, you could be back in the USA looking for a paid job at age 52 with a resume that’s more spotty than, oh lord, a Spotted Trunkfish!

Do you know that …. wait …

 

Too much information? You mean, wouldn’t a “yes” or “no” and a word cloud¬†work just as well?

 

The end? The END!? But … but …. there’s more!

Via reactiongifs.com

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No thaw in sight for @StateDept hiring freeze until reorganization plan is “fully developed”

Posted: 4:17 pm ET

 

Via the Daily Press Briefing | April 13, 2017:

QUESTION: There is an internal memo that went around as well as something that was updated online that even though the OMB lifted the hiring freeze, the federal hiring freeze, that the Secretary Tillerson, that the State Department was going to maintain its hiring freeze. Do you know what led to that decision?

MR TONER:¬†Sure. So OMB —

QUESTION: And what is it about?

MR TONER: Okay. So the OMB on Wednesday announced the lifting of the hiring freeze, as you noted, and provided also extensive further guidance to all the various federal agencies on the implementation of and requirements pursuant to the OMB memorandum which is called, I think, Comprehensive Plan for Reforming the Federal Government and Reducing the Federal Civilian Workforce, which is a mouthful. I apologize.

QUESTION: Yeah.

MR TONER: And this document, this memo, provides guidance on new requirements on the presidential memorandum that was initially issued on January 23rd.

QUESTION: Correct.

MR TONER: This was the one that issued the hiring freeze, as well as the executive order issued on March 13th that required a comprehensive plan to reorganize all the executive branch departments and agencies.

So as part of that process, the department and this Secretary are going to be undertaking a reorganization later in the year, and the decision was taken that the hiring freeze will continue until that plan is fully developed and agreement is reached on its implementation.

And this is just part of prudent planning. We can‚Äôt be onboarding people when we don‚Äôt know what our reorganization is ultimately going to look at ‚Äď look like. But until then ‚Äď and this is an important point ‚Äď the Secretary does retain authority to waive the ruling ‚Äď or the hiring freeze and will do so in instances where national security interests and the department‚Äôs core mission and responsibilities require. So he does —

QUESTION: So it doesn’t break any federal law that he’s done this?

MR TONER: It does not. It’s his decision to maintain this hiring freeze.

QUESTION:¬†Even though that ‚Äď even though the Congress has ‚Äď the appropriations has approved money for it, or even if the Congress has said that that‚Äôs fine to lift it. So there is a law, a federal law, that if appropriations has moved on some kind of spending or whatever —

MR TONER: Right.

QUESTION:¬†— and he says, ‚ÄúNo, I‚Äôm not going to touch that,‚ÄĚ isn‚Äôt that against a law?

MR TONER:¬†My understanding is that he has the jurisdiction to ‚Äď basically to keep this freeze in place as we go about this presidentially mandated reorganization.

QUESTION:¬†Are we talking about Civil and Foreign Service officers, political appointees? What —

MR TONER: Across the board.

QUESTION:¬†So he‚Äôs ‚Äď wait a minute. So he‚Äôs not going to hire any political appointees —

MR TONER:¬†I —

QUESTION:¬†— before the reorg?

MR TONER: I believe it’s a hiring freeze across the board. I don’t know about political appointees. I’ll check on that.

QUESTION:¬†Could you check on that? So what are you ‚Äď yeah, I mean —

MR TONER: I can check on that.

QUESTION:¬†That would ‚Äď essentially, if that‚Äôs true, what you‚Äôre saying, that there‚Äôs a hiring freeze across the board, that you would not be hiring any assistant secretaries —

MR TONER: I will check on political appointments. I’m not sure about political appointments.

QUESTION:¬†— under secretaries, a deputy secretary of state.

MR TONER: Yeah, I’m not sure about political appointments.

QUESTION: That can’t be right.

MR TONER: Yeah, I’ll check on that.

QUESTION:¬†So effectively he‚Äôs put this on, the freeze, until he‚Äôs done the reorganization. Have those plans actually started? And how are they going to be fleshed out? Does —

MR TONER: I believe they have started. As to how they’re going to be fleshed out, I don’t have any more details.

QUESTION: I mean, it’s going to go on for the rest of the year?

MR TONER: I don’t know if there’s a time, date. I don’t have any kind of timeframe for you. If I get one, I’ll let you know.

QUESTION: And I gather that he would have got White House or congressional approval for this?

MR TONER: Yes, I would imagine he would.

QUESTION:¬†I just want to point out something that —

MR TONER: On the political appointees, though, it’s a good question.

QUESTION:¬†Yeah, no, because I mean Foreign Minister Lavrov even said yesterday that ‚Äď I mean, we can consider the source, but other diplomats from other —

MR TONER:¬†No, I‚Äôm not responding, I‚Äôm just —

QUESTION: I understand, but other diplomats from other countries have also said that the lack of staff at the State Department has become an impediment to having interlocutors to deal with, whether it’s long-term foreign policy cooperation, short-term foreign policy crises. So I mean, I would really like some clarification on that. Because if you’re saying that there’s a hiring freeze across the board, I really would say that suggests that that will continue to be a problem.

MR TONER: It’s a fair question.

QUESTION:¬†Related to this, though, Mark, you said that he has the ‚Äď he retains authority to waive it, right?

MR TONER:¬†Yeah, authority. Thank you. Yes, he does. Yeah. In instances where national security interests and the department‚Äôs core mission —

QUESTION: Has he?

MR TONER:¬†— responsibilities ‚Äď I would assume that political appointees in high positions would fall under the department‚Äôs core mission responsibilities.

QUESTION:¬†Do you think that would apply to the ‚Äď do you think that would apply to the newly nominated deputy? You think he‚Äôd get away with it?

MR TONER: I would think that would apply.

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Are #EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under #Tillerson’s watch?

Posted: 3:20 am ET
Updated: April 22, 2:13 pm ET

 

On April 12, 2017, the State Department posted a statement indicating that the current hiring freeze guidance remains in effect particularly as it affects the hiring of Foreign Service family members.

At this time, the Department’s current hiring freeze guidance remains in effect, including with respect to hiring under a Family Member Appointment (FMA) or Temporary Appointment. The Family Liaison Office will continue to distribute any updates on the hiring freeze as soon as it receives them. FLO shares family member concerns regarding the current situation and communicates to Department of State management the many helpful suggestions and insights that it receives from the field. In the meantime, please be assured that FLO continues to actively represent the interests and concerns of family members.

The current guidance says that “hiring activities may resume for positions that are or most recently have been filled by¬†employees on¬†Personal Services Agreements (PSAs).” ¬†This authority to hire apparently does NOT extend to any locally employed staff, Family Member or Temporary Appointments as those¬†are still subject to the hiring freeze. “Positions that are or become vacant that have been most recently filled using a mechanism other than a PSA may not be filled at this time.” ¬†Also that “Circumventing the hiring freeze by using a PSA to employ family members who would normally be hired on an FMA is not permitted.”¬†

Available now, contract jobs with no USG service credit!

PSAs are typically¬†designed for a non-U.S. citizen spouse on the travel orders of a Foreign Service, Civil Service employee, or uniformed service member assigned to a U.S. embassy or consulate abroad. This is also the¬†hiring mechanism for¬†Members of Household (MOH) overseas who are not on the employee’s travel orders.

Most notable, PSAs are subject to government contracting authorities and do not/do not confer retirement benefits or USG service credit.

Eligible Family Members (EFMs) may apply for jobs, but no job offers 

“Eligible family members may continue to apply for any advertised position for which they feel they are qualified and the hiring preference will be applied during the process. However, Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) cannot be offered a position at this time due to the freeze on use of FMA and temporary appointments. Any position where an AEFM would have been selected absent the hiring freeze must be referred to the Office of Overseas Employment (HR/OE) in Washington at ¬†HR-OE-Freeze@state.gov.”

With the summer transfer season just months away, this means that FS family members who currently have jobs, will be jobless once more when they transfer to their¬†new posts. And because there is a hiring freeze, they will be able to apply for jobs at their next posts, but they won’t be hired into new jobs even if they have current security clearances and even if their new posts need them. Think of mailroom jobs, security escorts, facility escorts, admin assistants, community liaison officers to name a few.

EFMs who work in Civil Service positions (via)

Due to the federal civilian hiring freeze, EFMs who are working in Civil Service (CS) positions and who are planning to accompany their sponsoring employee abroad may not join the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC) at this time. The processing of a CS employee into the FSFRC requires the issuance of a new Family Member Appointment (FMA). Unless an exemption has been granted, all direct hire appointments (including Family Member Appointments) are currently subject to the federal civilian hiring freeze.

EFMs may request Leave Without Pay (LWOP) status, but Uncle Sam may still say “nooooooo!”¬†¬†(via)

EFMs who are currently working in Civil Service positions, who are preparing to join their sponsoring employee abroad may want to request consideration of being placed into Leave without Pay (LWOP) status when they finish working in their CS position. LWOP is a temporary non-pay status and approved absence from duty that may be granted at the discretion of the Bureau’s Executive Director. (Please note that a Bureau’s Executive Director may not be able to approve LWOP requests based on a variety of factors.)

Holymoly macaroni! They won’t even let you stay on the rolls even on non-pay status? ¬†The notice did not include the “variety of factors” what would cause the disapproval of a LWOP request. ¬†We should note that 3 FAM3500 is clear that the authorization of LWOP is a matter of “administrative discretion.”¬†Which means that an employee cannot demand leave without pay as a matter of right except as provided by¬†3 FAM 3530,¬†3 FAM 3512,¬†3 FAH-1 H-3513, and¬†3 FAH-1 H-3514. ¬†Which makes us wonder — if a family member¬†is a Civil Service employee accompanying his/her FS spouse overseas but is not allowed to join¬†the FSFRC and could not be granted LWOP status, what option is there for the employee short of going AWOL or quitting his/her¬†job?

What happens to the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC)?

Remember in mid-2016 when the State Department¬†launched the Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC)¬†‚Äúto more quickly mobilize family members to fill available positions in missions overseas?‚ÄĚ ¬†At that time,¬†the State Department notes that the FSFRC will become the exclusive hiring program for Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFM) into Family Member Appointments (FMA). Its¬†FAQ says that¬†‚ÄúAfter open enrollment commences, which we estimate to be 18 to 24 months from now, the Department will announce the initiation of a new hiring preference.” The Department estimated that¬†in excess of 5,000 family members are eligible to apply to join the Reserve Corps¬†(see¬†@StateDept Launches Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps¬†(FSFRC)).

Last year, the¬†State Department said that “at full implementation (by 2018), the FSFRC will improve efficiency in the hiring process for Appointment Eligible Family Members (AEFMs).”

But what happens if/when there are no jobs?

Foreign Service Family Member Employment

Jobs for diplomatic spouses are supposed to enhance quality of life overseas, and is an important part of the agency’s¬†effort to recruit and retain Foreign Service employees¬†who, like the rest of America, have come increasingly from two-profession households.

The creation of the¬†Foreign Service Family Reserve Corps (FSFRC) is part of that effort, as well as various programs¬†and initiatives through the years like¬†EPAP, GEI, SNAP, Professional Associates program, etc. In 2003, there was even a proposed three-year pilot program to establish a Family Member Cost Equalization Fund, which the Office of Overseas Employment was to manage. With funds in place, posts would have been able to make specific requests to fund the salary gap when a qualified EFM was selected to fill a job previously filled by a locally employed staff (LES). The 2006 OIG report says that ‚ÄúDespite the apparent support for the concept, in the course of three successive years the Department has not funded the initiative.‚ÄĚ It further states that if¬†no funding is available, that “Department management may need to acknowledge that it cannot give a high enough priority to this particular program.” ¬†The OIG noted then that “Maintaining rhetoric on the program in communications with posts overseas and in briefings of incoming officer classes creates expectations that, when not met, negatively affect morale and retention of entry-level officers.‚ÄĚ

11 years on, and the 50% target remains beyond reach

One of the agency’s performance goals in¬†FY 2005 was a 50%¬†¬†increase in the percentage of family members employed overseas. ¬†The State Department previously¬†noted that the 50% “was¬†not intended to be a one-year goal but rather a multi-year goal.” The target¬†was developed with the expectation that “the Department would steadily work towards the 50 percent spousal employment rate.”¬†Its justification was that this contributes to increased retention rates of Foreign Service and Civil Service employees.

According to state.gov, statistics from an earlier survey from the Family Liaison Office indicate that even though 83 percent of Foreign Service family members have college degrees (29 percent have advanced degrees), the majority of positions they fill while serving abroad are clerical in nature.  These jobs typically pay in the low to mid-$30Ks.

As of November 2016, there are 11,841 total adult family members serving overseas with their FS employees. About 3,500 or 30% works inside an embassy or consulate, about 1,650 or 14% works outside the U.S. mission, while more than half — 6,688 or 56% are not working.

So 11 years on, and that 50% target is still beyond reach. And it looks like things are about to get harder not better.

Rumor #1: EFM Hiring Freeze Till 2018?

Internal State Department circles are ripe with rumors about the future of eligible family member (EFM) positions. There are talks that the EFM hiring freeze may last until 2018. Or beyond. No one is sure. No one is authorized to discuss it. You will find nothing about it anywhere online. Not on a FLO website or anywhere else, for that matter.

The State Department is clear that EFM positions are affected by the Federal hiring freeze. ¬†However, if this¬†becomes a permanent directive, it will have sobering repercussions not only in the operation of over 280 posts overseas, but also in the retention of FS employees. ¬†Note that the last time the State Department had a hiring freeze and the agency was hiring at 50% below attrition, diplomatic spouses ended up getting hired because the Department could not hire direct-hire USG employees. We still don’t know what will happen to the September FS classes, but IF¬†it turns out that State will not be able to hire FSOs and specialists even at attrition,¬†and also won’t be able to hire EFMs, then embassies and consulates overseas will be in a real pickle (also see¬†¬†@StateDept Gets Exemption From Trump Federal Hiring Freeze, March Classes Are¬†On).

Rumor #2: Locally Employed Staff for EFM Positions?

One of the few times when the State Department was forced to hire family members and US contractors for local jobs was in Moscow back in the 1980’s when 260 Soviet employees were withdrawn from the embassy.

Now, rumors are circulating that locally employed (LE) staff could replace EFM positions at our overseas posts.  While this might be cheaper in some countries, it will be more expensive in others.  For example, at the US Embassy in Japan,  the public affairs section allocated 68 percent of its FY 2014 budget of $8.5 million to LE staff salaries.  And in Germany, LE procurement agent salaries in Frankfurt are among the highest in the world at $74,700.  So hey, you can probably hire two EFMs for the price of one LE staffer in Frankfurt, unless you want to hire local staff in Asia or in Africa. But then, of course, since you want to save money on housing and travel of local nationals working at U.S. embassies, you need to teleport them to the various posts that requires their services. Good luck with that teleportation scheme with Captain Kirk.

So right now, apparently, many are wondering – if Locally Employed Staff members replace EFMs, will this replacement be permanent? Are EFM positions literally about to become…extinct under Secretary Tillerson’s watch?

“Hire American” except at US Embassies?

Somebody should really ask the new State Department management how this would work with Trump’s new “Hire American” policy.

The Foreign Service Act of 1980 (FSA) ties LE staff salaries to prevailing wages and compensation practices for corresponding types of positions in the host country. The OIG review of local compensation back in 2009 notes that the FSA does not require that wage adjustments be associated with inflation and cost of living changes, and the Department does not link LE staff compensation adjustments to variations in inflation or cost of living. This has its own problems and issues due to persistent underfunding. The 2015 OIG report on US Mission Japan indicates that the LE staff there received their last pay increase in 1995. Yup. 1995. (see State Dept on Embassy Workers Unionization: Yo! Could Put U.S. National Security at Risk).

Local compensation plans are, of course, not created equal. ¬†Some plans like the one in Germany authorizes a year of maternity leave and 6 weeks of annual leave a year.¬†Separation costs in Western Europe are also very high, often exceeding 2.5 years of salary for long-term employees. But we also need to add¬†that a 2009 OIG report¬†cited at least 27 U.S. missions¬†which presented ‚Äúcompelling arguments that their lower grade employees fall short of minimal living standards.‚ÄĚ (Don’t look now but about 200 local guards working for a security contractor at the U.S. Embassy in Nairobi, Kenya have staged¬†a demonstration over low wages. ¬†The local guards protecting an embassy that had been bombed previously¬†are reportedly paid “peanuts” according to one guard rep).

Oh, leadership in action! 

We’ve asked the State Department for comments on these reports a week ago. ¬†Following the April Fools’ Day take down¬†sent to this blog, it looks like the um … our friends¬†at the Bureau of Public Affairs no longer acknowledge inquiries from this blog,¬†or bother to actually answer their emails. ¬†Milk cartoons, anyone?

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@StateDept Gets Exemption From Trump Federal Hiring Freeze, March Classes Are On

Posted: 2:07 am  ET
Updated: 2:27 pm PT

 

The AP’s Matt Lee reports that the¬†State Department was¬†granted an exemption from the Trump administration’s hiring freeze on most federal employees. It will bring on 175 new diplomats:¬†70 entry-level diplomats, 80 mid-level specialists and 25 consular fellows, non-foreign service officers who assist visa processing at U.S. embassies and consulates abroad.

The report says that the State Department has been granted an exemption from the Trump hiring freeze. The number only includes a fraction of the projected hires this year for the Foreign Service.  The State Department has projected 615 positions for FY16 which includes 97 new positions and 518 projected total attrition (employees lost to retirement, resignation, death). Total hiring for FY17 is projected at 599 with 98 new positions and 501 projected total attrition.

It looks like this exemption affects only the March classes scheduled to start on March 6 for FS officers, ¬†and March 20 for FS specialists (see¬†@StateDept Sends Out Job Offers to Prospective FSOs For March 6 Class But ‚ÄĒ Will There Be¬†Jobs?). ¬†Beyond these positions, it appears that the hiring freeze is on, including a halt in the hiring of eligible family members.¬†

There are classes scheduled for July and September but it appears no invitations have gone out for those classes. ¬†The State Department’s careers.gov says, “We do not yet have information regarding hiring authority for future classes. This is not unusual.” ¬†We anticipate that the OPM plan required after 90 days under the federal hiring freeze executive order will be available by then.

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OMB/OPM Issues Additional Guidance For Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze, Jan 31.2017 (Read)

Posted: 2:43 am ET

 

On January 31, Mark Sandy, Acting OMB Director, and Kathleen McGettigan, Acting OPM Director issued a joint memo which¬†provides ¬†additional guidance regarding the freeze on the hiring of Federal civilian employees. The hiring freeze ¬†was directed by the President on January 23, 2017, via Presidential Memorandum entitled ‚ÄúHiring Freeze.‚ÄĚ

Item #3 lists the exemptions permitted under the Federal civilian hiring freeze. Take note of the following:

c.  Nomination and appointment of officials to positions requiring Presidential appointment, with or without Senate confirmation.

d. ¬†Appointment of officials to non-career positions in the Senior Executive Service (SES) or to Schedule C appointments in the Excepted Service, or the appointment of any other officials who serve at the pleasure of the appointing authority (i.e., ‚Äúappointed‚ÄĚ positions of a political/non-career nature).

h.  Appointments made under the Pathways Internship and Presidential Management Fellows (PMF) Programs (this does not include the Recent Graduates Program).  Agencies should ensure that such hires understand the provisional nature of these appointments and that conversion is not guaranteed.

and

r.  The head of any agency may exempt any positions that it deems necessary to:

i.  Meet national security (including foreign relations) responsibilities, or

ii.  Meet public safety responsibilities (including essential activities to the extent that they protect life and property).  Agencies may refer to longstanding guidance, which provides examples of such activities in OMB Memorandum, Agency Operations in the Absence of Appropriations, dated 11/17/1981 [see examples 3(a) to 3(k)].

Note that the memo ends with the following:  The guidance in this memorandum is effective immediately.  Within 90 days of the publication of the PM issued on January 23, 2017, the Director of OMB, in consultation with the Director of OPM, shall recommend a long-term plan to reduce the size of the Federal Government’s workforce through attrition.  The hiring freeze will expire upon implementation of the OMB plan.

The original memo is here or read in full below (click on lower right hand corner arrow to maximize reading space).

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OMB Issues Initial Guidance For Federal Civilian Hiring Freeze (Read Memo)

Posted: 2:34 pm PT
Updated: 3:52 pm PT
Updated: 5:09 pm PT  (correction memo from OMB not OPM)

 

The following guidance memo from OPM OMB¬†via Federal News Radio includes some guidance following President Trump’s memorandum on the federal hiring freeze (see¬†President Trump Freezes Federal Hiring Regardless of Funding Sources (Read¬†Memo). ¬†Of relevance to Foreign Service candidates expected to start classes in March, the OMB memo says that “an individual who has received a job offer/appointment prior to January 22, 2017, and who has received documentation from the agency that specifies a confirmed start date on or before January 22, 2017¬†February 22, 2017 should report to work on that start date.”

We’ve checked with the State Department about the hiring freeze, as well as impact on EFM and WAE jobs. We will update this if we¬†get an official response. ¬†The official response from the State Department refers us back to the White House.¬†

 

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President Trump Freezes Federal Hiring Regardless of Funding Sources (Read Memo)

Posted: 8:03 pm ET

 

On January 23, President Trump imposed a federal hiring freeze, as promised, with a stroke of a pen. ¬†The memo says that “no vacant positions existing at noon on January 22,2017, may be filled and no new positions may be created, except in limited circumstances.¬† This order does not include or apply to military personnel.¬† The head of any executive department or agency may exempt from the hiring freeze any positions that it deems necessary to meet national security or public safety responsibilities.”

For the State Department’s CA-funded positions,¬†here is something to note: “hiring freeze applies to all executive departments and agencies regardless of the sources of their operational and programmatic funding, excepting military personnel.” ¬†For those thinking contracting might be a way forward, the memo says, “Contracting outside the Government to circumvent the intent of this memorandum shall not be permitted.”

Here is what the hiring freeze memo allows:

–> this memorandum does not prohibit making reallocations to meet the highest priority needs and to ensure that essential services are not interrupted and national security is not affected.

–> it does not limit the hiring of personnel where such a limit would conflict with applicable law.¬† This memorandum does not revoke any appointment to Federal service made prior to January 22, 2017.

–> This memorandum does not abrogate any collective bargaining agreement in effect on the date of this memorandum.

Read in full below:

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