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Business Manager’s Blog

Michael Monahan

John P. Dumas, the Business Manager of Local 103 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, represents more than 7,000 electrical and telecommunication members in the Greater Boston area.

A 37 year member of Local 103, Dumas is a seasoned and experienced leader. Along with serving as 103’s president for the past 18 years, Dumas served the union in a number of leadership roles, including business agent, member of the union’s executive board and trustee of the health, ANNUITY, pension, LMCT and JATC funds. He also has served as a member of numerous contract negotiation teams, playing a pivotal role in several major contracts governing members’ benefits.

Throughout his career he has shown a keen interest in nurturing younger union officers in preparation for leadership roles in the future, and his leadership style has always been one of inclusion and accessibility to all members.


Here’s one big Massachusetts power plant that keeps changing hands

Boston Business Journal | By Jon Chesto
September 17, 2014

Exelon CorpThe days are long gone when someone went to work at a Boston Edison plant and knew that they would eventually retire from the same company. The deregulation of the electricity market changed all that, by forcing the incumbent utilities to sell off their plants and usher in a new era of competition.

That was back in the 1990s. Since then, we’ve seen a long line of natural gas turbines, windmills and solar arrays go up, in a world where just about anyone with the right financing could build a power plant.

It’s been good for the environment — and not so good for worker stability at some of the bigger power plants.

There’s not one place that’s a better exemplar of this volatility than the Fore River Generation Station, the predominantly natural gas-fired plant that greets drivers as they cross the river from Quincy into Weymouth.

When Exelon Corp. bought Constellation Energy more than two years ago, the company picked up the Fore River plant and its big sister in Everett, the Mystic plant, as part of the acquisition. It was a strange twist of fate, because Exelon had previously acquired the two power plants from Sithe Energies in a deal announced back in 2002. The Fore River plant wasn’t even done by that point — but that’s a whole other story. By that time it was resting comfortably back in Exelon’s hands, the Fore River plant had changed hands at least six times.

Make that seven times. Calpine Corp. said on Aug. 25 that it would buy the 809-megawatt Fore River plant from Exelon for $530 million. The deal, when it closes later this year, will give Houston-based Calpine its only power plant in southern New England. The 11-year-old Fore River plant, like many natural gas-fired plants, also has the capacity to burn oil.

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Roche Bros. jumps gun on Downtown Crossing opening

Boston Business Journal | By Eric Convey
September 17, 2014

The Roche Bros. farmers marketWhat do you do when you’ve got a prime location for a supermarket but it’s not ready yet — and the weather’s gorgeous?

For Roche Bros., the Wellesley-based operation building out a store in Downtown Crossing, the solution was to set up a farmers’ market on the sidewalk.

The grocer says in a news release: “Beginning today, the grocer is setting up five fresh produce stands outside the historic Millennium Tower/Burnham Building where construction is currently underway on the company’s 25,000 square-foot flagship supermarket. The open-air offerings are scheduled to operate seven days a week, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. The produce stands will primarily feature fresh fruits, as well as some vegetables, flowers, and seasonal baked goods. The Roche Bros. team will keep the stands open through October.”

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MassDOT moves forward with plan to extend Silver Line to Chelsea

Boston Business Journal | By Eric Convey
September 17, 2014

Chelsea Silver Line Ext.The Silver Line extension to Chelsea from Logan International Airport won approval from the MassDOT board of directors today, the agency reported in a news release.

The work ultimately will give Chelsea residents and commuter rail passengers from north of Boston a viable route to the growing, and traffic-clogged, Seaport District. Part of the route will use a dedicated bus road on a former railroad right-of-way.

An initial phase of what’s being called the Silver Line Gateway contract went to McCourt Construction Co. and carries a price tag of $33.75 million.

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Sonos is latest tech firm to head to Downtown Crossing

The Boston Globe | By Casey Ross
September 17, 2014

The real estate story of Sonos Inc., a maker of slick, wireless hi-fi systems, starts with the kind of setting you might expect — four employees toiling in a cramped office in Cambridge’s tech-dominated Kendall Square.

But as the company grew, the story took an unusual turn.

Instead of expanding in Kendall Square with the Googles and Amazons of the world, Sonos recently signed a lease to move into 170,000 square feet in Lafayette City Center, a downtown Boston office complex that long served as back-office space for State Street Corp.

“Once we saw Lafayette, it was clear to me that it was the best place for us,” said Andrew Schulert, vice president of quality at Sonos, which employs 375 people.

What Schulert saw was a resurgent real estate market in Downtown Crossing, where hip technology companies are joining new retail shops, restaurants, and upscale residential buildings. The interest among tech firms has benefited downtown landlords who are trying to replace dated department stores and other tenants that have left the area.

“We’ve really been able to take advantage of a the complete transformation of downtown and the perception of downtown,” said David Epstein, president of the Abbey Group, which owns Lafayette City Center.

In addition to Sonos, Abbey Group has signed a lease with Carbonite, a maker of IT protection software for businesses that is expected to move into Lafayette City Center next month. That company will occupy about 53,000 square feet.

Danielle Sheer, vice president and general counsel for Carbonite, said she has not been around long enough to remember the old Combat Zone, a crime-infested collection of bars and strip clubs that once operated on streets near Lafayette City Center. Most of those businesses have been replaced by new restaurants and upscale residences.

“It feels like Tribeca in Manhattan now,” she said. “It’s gotten much cooler.”

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New York Builder Takes Vertical Leap in California

Related Cos. Plans $6.5 Billion Project in City of Santa Clara.

The Wall Street Journal | By Eliot Brown
September 16, 2014

Silicon Valley has a distinctly suburban feel, dotted with low-slung office parks on winding roads and long boulevards packed with strip malls.

But on a bayside golf-course area 40 miles south of San Francisco, plans are afoot for a project that looks more like Manhattan than Cupertino.

New York-based Related Cos., one of the country’s largest developers, is planning a $6.5 billion project in the city of Santa Clara. The city recently struck a deal to move forward on a plan for 8 million square feet of offices, retail, hotels and apartments. Now the proposal must undergo an environmental review.

Taken with two planned skyscraper projects in San Francisco and a $2 billion mixed-use project in downtown Los Angeles, the ventures show how Related is betting California is ready for denser urban development.

“We’re now in a major expansion mode,” said William Witte, chief of Related’s California division, which until recently had been focused on building low- and moderate-income housing in the state, keeping its luxury housing and retail efforts largely concentrated in New York. “The economy is stable and growing, and appears like it will be for some time.”

Related’s efforts to ramp up large-scale development in California reflect both the company’s ambitions to stretch beyond its New York roots and California’s growing appeal to investors.

But the moves carry risk. Related plans to start work on two mixed-use towers in downtown Los Angeles, which already has become an epicenter of apartment construction, causing some analysts to fear oversupply. The buildings—to be designed by Frank Gehry —are part of the company’s Grand Avenue project that was stalled by the recession, and are scheduled to be started next year.

Meanwhile, the booming technology industry has made the Bay Area one of the most sought-after markets for real-estate investors, pushing up land prices. Yet Related isn’t set to break ground on either of its two San Francisco towers until at least 2016.

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Construction of College Buildings Is Booming and New York City Is Reaping the Benefits

Spending Will Top $2 Billion This Year and Continue Near That Level for Next Three Years, Report Says

The Wall Street Journal | By Mike Vilensky and Laura Kusisto
September 16, 2014

Columbia University DormSpending on higher-education construction in New York City will top $2 billion this year and will continue near that level for the next three years, according to a new survey by a building industry trade group.

The report, underwritten by some of the city’s biggest universities, says New York—with 105 institutions of higher learning—has the largest population of college and university students in the country.

Education was a bright spot in the city even as private-sector construction languished through much of the downturn, when there was little demand for new offices or apartment buildings.

Frank Sciame, chief executive of Sciame Construction, said his company is doing a half-billion dollars of post-secondary construction work, about twice as much as before the recession. In 2006, he said, the firm was more focused on hotels and condos.

“It’s become a nice part of our workload,” Mr. Sciame said of the higher education market.

The strength of the city’s postsecondary institutions has helped attract new companies and diversify the city’s economy so it doesn’t rely so heavily on the financial industry.

“The residential market is increasing, but not this much,” said Richard Anderson, president of the New York Building Congress, the trade group that issued the report. “Cultural facilities are doing well, but not quite as well. Higher-education may be the largest individual sector in the city doing this much construction.”

The report, underwritten partly by New York University, the City University of New York and Columbia University, paints a rosy picture of the city’s market for academic facilities.

Among the school expansion plans are Columbia’s 6.8 million- square-foot Manhattanville campus, NYU’s 1.9 million-square-foot growth plan, and the construction of Cornell Tech, a new school on Roosevelt Island.

Manhattan’s Pace University acquired sites in the Financial District several years ago to build residence halls for a growing student body.

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Gaming commission picks Wynn for Boston-area casino license over Mohegan Sun

Boston Business Journal | By Jon Chesto
September 16, 2014

Wynn ResortsWynn Resorts CEO Steve Wynn didn’t seem as eager as his rivals at Mohegan Sun to win the coveted Boston-area casino license for much of the past year.

But Wynn showed he was in it to win it after all. After Massachusetts Gaming Commission members raised numerous criticisms, Wynn and his team responded in the past few days with numerous concessions. And it was that flexibility, after months of deliberations, that seemed to give Wynn the votes he needed.

The MGC voted 3-1 today in favor of Wynn’s plan to turn a polluted industrial site in Everett, on the edge of the Mystic River, over Mohegan’s proposal for a casino in Revere, at the Suffolk Downs racetrack.

Wynn Resorts’ last minute concessions included an agreement to redesign the project’s exterior and another to pay as much as $76 million for traffic mitigation for Boston over the 15-year life of the license. (That final figure, though, comes with an asterisk because $20 million of that is a maximum over a 10-year period, not a guaranteed amount of spending.) Wynn had previously proposed $46 million for Boston traffic issues.

Wynn’s concessions were aimed at two main points of attack — that his towering hotel was inferior in appearance and design to Mohegan’s scaled-down project, and that he wasn’t doing enough to address the inevitable traffic issues in Charlestown’s already congested Sullivan Square.

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The lesson of Crosstown Center and the false promise of a mega-hotel in South Boston

Boston Business Journal | By Craig Douglas
September 16, 2014

Crosstown Hampton Inn & SuitesIt’s been roughly three years since these pages last wrote about the financial shortfalls at the Crosstown Hampton Inn & Suites, a city-subsidized hotel in Boston’s no-mans-land between Roxbury and the South End. Little has changed in the interim, that is, the property is still tens-of-millions behind on its debt obligations, and its income statement is still deep in the red.

To understand how and why this is relevant, one need only look across town at the blueprint to build a state-subsidized hotel adjacent to the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center in South Boston. Crosstown’s inability to generate sufficient revenue and cash flow is if anything be a harbinger of what’s to come when public officials ram through a project that no one in the private sector is willing to develop on their own.

And so it goes at the site forever known as the Crosstown Center Hotel, a 175-room property built and managed by a partnership involving development veteran Kirk Sykes and Boston-base real estate concern Corcoran Jennison. Earlier this month, the trustee in charge of some $43 million in Crosstown bond debt said the property continues to list in a sea of red ink and is nowhere close to generating enough cash to start chipping away at its primary mortgage, let alone its various layers of subordinated debt.

Last year the property generated $10.8 million in revenue, a flat year-over-year performance despite solid increases in occupancy, room rates and revenue per available room throughout the city’s hotel market in 2013. The property’s net operating loss for the year was $2.7 million, slightly deeper than the $2.6 million deficit recorded a year earlier.

In a Sept. 1 letter to bond investors, Crosstown trustee UMB Bank said the hotel’s cash flow remains insufficient to satisfy past-due principal payments on its senior bonds, and as such it is prohibited from making any payments on its millions in subordinated debt.

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Bulfinch Triangle draws hotel plan

15-story property would hold 90 rooms

Boston Herald | By Donna Goodison
September 16, 2014

104 Canal St.A Woburn firm plans a $30 million, 90-room boutique hotel in the Bulfinch Triangle area near North Station, adding to the boom of approved and proposed development there.

Somnath Hospitality wants to replace a vacant one-level former bank branch at 104 Canal St. with a new 15-story, luxury hotel with six two-story penthouse suites.

“We think that’s a great location because it’s near TD (Garden), it’s near Faneuil Hall (Marketplace), it’s near Mass. General Hospital,” said Vincent Cortina, a Somnath representative. “It will not only get business travelers, it will get tourists. There’s plenty of amenities in the neighborhood for guests.”

The hotel would have a lobby and small cafe on the first floor, with a guest fitness center below, and valet service for off-site parking.

Bounded by Causeway, North Washington, Market and Merrimac streets, Bulfinch Triangle is a popular area for development now, with plans for other nearby hotels already approved. In December, the Boston Redevelopment Authority approved plans by Delaware North Cos. and Boston Properties for the $950 million redevelopment of the old Boston Garden site to include almost 500 housing units, a 25-story office tower, 306-room hotel, a Star Market and other retail. Boston Development Group’s plans for The Merano project, across from TD Garden, include a 210-room Courtyard Marriott and housing. Nearby, the $2.2 billion, 2.9 million-square-foot Government Center garage redevelopment calls for housing, office and retail space, and 200 hotel rooms.

“It’s a great time to be building hotels in Boston, and that area continues to be an up-and-coming part of the city,” said Matt Arrants, executive vice president of Pinnacle Advisory Group, a Boston hospitality consulting firm. “Boston (hotels are) performing at record levels, so it can certainly use more rooms.”

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Energy: What Americans really want

A massive survey shows we’re not as divided as we think

The Boston Globe | By Stephen Ansolabehere and David Konisky

The energy crisis America faces today is unlike energy crises we faced in the past. There is no supply crunch; energy prices are not skyrocketing. US cities are not choked with smog. We don’t face energy-driven security threats, or potential embargoes.

The new problem is that the United States has too much energy, not too little. We have coal, natural gas, and oil reserves that could last hundreds of years at modest cost, thanks to new extraction technologies, such as fracking with horizontal drilling. Therein lies the rub. Scientific consensus holds that continued use of fossil fuels is the single largest contributor to increased concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere — and that our consumption cannot continue indefinitely without risking even more serious global environmental change.

America would seem to need a new national energy policy to face this risk, but we haven’t had one for decades. President Obama has taken a handful of steps toward limiting environmental harm from our energy sources, as have many states and regions. But at the national level, a broader energy policy remains ensnared in bitter partisan and regional politics, and any meaningful congressional action on climate change appears hopeless.

The political rhetoric coming out of Washington suggests a nation divided on energy—torn between industry and environmentalists; between voters who want cheap fuel, and voters who want cleaner power sources. Conventional wisdom holds that it has become impossible to find enough common ground to move forward. But is that right? What do Americans actually believe about energy?

Over the past decade, we have sought to answer that question. In a series of surveys conducted as part of the MIT Energy Initiative and the Harvard University Center on the Environment, we undertook the most comprehensive and prolonged assessment of American public opinion about energy. We compared many different forms—from traditional fuels such as coal and oil to less widely used energy sources such as solar and wind power—to determine what Americans believe, what they know, and what they want.

What we found is that Americans have a good broad grasp of the tradeoffs required when it comes to energy, and considerable willingness to make them. They appreciate that wind and solar are cleaner than fossil fuels, and that it’s more expensive to generate electricity with oil and nuclear energy than with natural gas or coal. They have some mistaken ideas about cost, believing that large-scale wind or solar power is cheaper than it really is. However, when presented with the actual cost of providing electricity through these alternative sources, the public still prefers a substantial deployment of wind and solar to the status quo. And, contrary to what you might think from the political debate, Americans don’t really divide along partisan lines when it comes to their energy preferences.

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Sun and Wind Alter Global Landscape, Leaving Utilities Behind

The New York Times | By Justin Gillis
September 13, 2014

Germany Offshore TurbinesThe small German island of Heligoland, a popular tourist destination, is undergoing dramatic change as the wind industry takes over.

HELIGOLAND, Germany — Of all the developed nations, few have pushed harder than Germany to find a solution to global warming. And towering symbols of that drive are appearing in the middle of the North Sea.

They are wind turbines, standing as far as 60 miles from the mainland, stretching as high as 60-story buildings and costing up to $30 million apiece. On some of these giant machines, a single blade roughly equals the wingspan of the largest airliner in the sky, the Airbus A380. By year’s end, scores of new turbines will be sending low-emission electricity to German cities hundreds of miles to the south.

It will be another milestone in Germany’s costly attempt to remake its electricity system, an ambitious project that has already produced striking results: Germans will soon be getting 30 percent of their power from renewable energy sources. Many smaller countries are beating that, but Germany is by far the largest industrial power to reach that level in the modern era. It is more than twice the percentage in the United States.

Germany’s relentless push into renewable energy has implications far beyond its shores. By creating huge demand for wind turbines and especially for solar panels, it has helped lure big Chinese manufacturers into the market, and that combination is driving down costs faster than almost anyone thought possible just a few years ago.

Electric utility executives all over the world are watching nervously as technologies they once dismissed as irrelevant begin to threaten their long-established business plans. Fights are erupting across the United States over the future rules for renewable power. Many poor countries, once intent on building coal-fired power plants to bring electricity to their people, are discussing whether they might leapfrog the fossil age and build clean grids from the outset.

A reckoning is at hand, and nowhere is that clearer than in Germany. Even as the country sets records nearly every month for renewable power production, the changes have devastated its utility companies, whose profits from power generation have collapsed.

A similar pattern may well play out in other countries that are pursuing ambitious plans for renewable energy. Some American states, impatient with legislative gridlock in Washington, have set aggressive goals of their own, aiming for 20 or 30 percent renewable energy as soon as 2020.

The word the Germans use for their plan is starting to make its way into conversations elsewhere: energiewende, the energy transition. Worldwide, Germany is being held up as a model, cited by environmental activists as proof that a transformation of the global energy system is possible.

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Editorial: Renewable heat gets a moment in the sun

Boston Business Journal
September 12, 2o14

It seems like every new renewable energy incentive out of the State House prompts a backlash from business groups worried about yet another reason for electricity prices to go up here.

But now there’s one such incentive that groups like Associated Industries of Massachusetts aren’t complaining about. The reason? This one isn’t expected to add to the high cost of buying power here.

Gov. Deval Patrick signed a bill into law last month that would allow certain renewable heating and cooling sources to qualify for a kind of renewable energy credit that utilities need to buy to meet state mandates. These credits are similar to a more widely used system for credits for electricity bought from renewable sources, such as windmills, biogas plants and solar arrays. Solar, in particular, has benefited from this system, making Massachusetts one of the hottest places for solar electricity generation in the country.

As of Jan. 1, “renewable thermal” technologies will qualify for a similar incentive known as “alternative energy credits.” Here’s why it shouldn’t drive up costs: Electric utilities such as NStar and National Grid are already paying millions of dollars in financial penalties to the state because there aren’t enough of these alternative energy credits to purchase to meet the state’s mandated levels. Right now, essentially only combined heat-and-power plants qualify. So adding renewable heat to the mix isn’t expected to cause electric prices to rise, as the credits probably won’t add up to more than the cost to the electric utilities for the financial penalties they face today — costs that are passed on to ratepayers.

But there’s still some work to be done before the Jan. 1 deadline. The state Department of Energy Resources is now charged with writing the rules for this new system. It won’t be an easy task given that these heating and cooling credits need to be translated into something that works for electricity companies. (Until now, electric utilities just purchased credits for renewable electricity.)

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ViewPoint: Mass. solar industry can’t afford another stand-off

Boston Business Journal | By David O’Connor and Tom Thompson
September 12, 2014

During the recent legislative session, Gov. Deval Patrick tried to persuade legislators to pass a bill that would have restructured the state’s incentives for solar energy. This was surprising, given his record of solar success. Policies he previously proposed, and that the Legislature approved, have produced a local industry that employs hundreds of people. The state now hosts 15,000 solar installations that can generate over 640 megawatts of clean electrical power.

Yet the governor could see problems on the horizon and moved aggressively to get ahead of them. He could see that limits (known as “caps”) on the amount of solar power that can qualify for financial incentives would likely cause a sudden stall in the growth of the state’s burgeoning solar industry. His bill would have removed those caps altogether. At the same time, he was hearing complaints from utilities and the business community that current incentives are too expensive. His bill would have provided for less generous, though more predictable, revenue streams for new solar projects.

But the bill did not gain the support it needed to pass. Solar businesses and advocates differed on whether any reform was needed. Utilities and business groups differed on whether the proposed reforms were still too generous.

This lack of consensus caused the Legislature to balk at restructuring the current incentives. Instead, it raised the caps, though only slightly, allowing solar development to continue at its current rate for another six months to a year. It also appointed a task force of representatives from all sides of the debate and asked for legislative recommendations by next spring. Despite what must have been a considerable disappointment, the governor signed the stopgap bill.

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Boston could get power to block Wynn under gaming panel’s latest plan

Boston Business Journal | By Jon Chesto
September 11, 2014

Wynn ResortsWynn Resorts has done everything it could to avoid tangling with the city of Boston, as it tries to build a casino on a polluted site in Everett, right on Boston’s doorstep. Most notably, Wynn designed its entire plan for the site to circumvent a section of that land that lies within Boston city limits. The state’s casino law gives host cities the power to approve or deny a project via a referendum, and Wynn was determined to ensure that Boston didn’t get that power. But now, in the eleventh hour of this state review, the Las Vegas-based gaming giant could find itself facing a license with terms that essentially give Boston veto power over the project after all.

Nonetheless, Mayor Marty Walsh’s top legal aide, Eugene O’Flaherty, fired off a letter on Thursday accusing the Massachusetts Gaming Commission of manipulating the review process in Wynn’s favor. (It was unclear whether O’Flaherty had seen the latest proposal to give Boston some veto control over the Wynn project before he composed the letter, as he doesn’t mention that proposal.) Walsh has long argued that Boston should be a host city for the Wynn project, but the commission has dismissed that assertion. O’Flaherty is claiming that the entire process for the Boston-area license is tainted for several reasons, and he seems to be putting the commission on notice that the Walsh administration is prepared to sue, if necessary, to block Wynn.

The commission is expected to decide next week whether to award its Boston-area casino license to Wynn or to Mohegan Sun’s project at Suffolk Downs in Revere. The commissioners just made public their assessments of various aspects of both proposals — and Wynn emerged with a slight lead, based on a simple tally of the categories where Mohegan was outscored by Wynn.

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Millennium Partners pledges $225k to preserve Boston’s Old South Meeting House

Boston Business Journal | By Thomas Grillo
September 11, 2014

Old Meeting HouseDevelopers of Millennium Tower has pledged $225,000 in donations to preserve the Old South Meeting House, one of Boston’s oldest and most historically significant landmarks.

Millennium Partners is constructing a 60-story condominium project at the former Filene’s department store site on Wahington Street, one block from the historic Old South. In 2102, the New York-based developer with offices in Boston won approval to build a $630 million complex of offices, stores, and 442 condominiums expected to be priced between $800,000 and $2 million apiece.

The donation resulted from conversations between the development team and Old South staff who had expressed concerns about construction impacts on the 285-year-old brick building. The funding will bring 21st century improvements to the 1729 National Historic Landmark, including enhanced energy conservation, new interior lighting and a digital sound system to support the many programs and performances that take place in the hall year round, Old South said.

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