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On May 16, while walking from the high-end Serena Hotel to a flea market in downtown Kampala, Uganda, Chhitup Lama, a blind Nepalese man, was holding on the elbow of Bau Bautista who was guiding him as they traversed the city.

Out of nowhere, policemen appeared to tell the two “not to hold hands” since doing so was “not allowed”. Apparently, these policemen assumed that the two are in a gay relationship and the “touching” was a PDA (public display of affection), which was a no-no for them.

When told that Chhitup is blind, they backed out. “Oh,” one of them said. “Good job, good job.”

This – in a way – encapsulates what it’s like to live as an LGBTQI person in Uganda…

“The Ugandan system is broken,” Ruth Muganzi said, noting that – at times – LGBTQI people are used as scapegoats so people forget how bad the country’s situation is due to government actions/inactions. “But we volunteer, we sacrifice because we’re fighting to survive.”

WHAT YOU HEAR IN THE NEWS

“The news you hear (about LGBTQI people in Uganda while) overseas, those are true,” said Jay Mulucha of Fem-Alliance Uganda to Outrage Magazine. This is because it’s still a crime (to be LGBTQI) in Uganda; and there is a lot of crimes (directed against) LGBTQI people in Uganda,” including “attacks, being taken to jail… So the situation is (still) not that good).”

Jay, a transgender man, experienced how dire the situation can be in Uganda. He was actually expelled from school after his teammates (while a varsity) found out he’s part of the LGBTQI community. “They didn’t know me as a trans person; they knew me as a lesbian,” he recalled. This news “went around the university and they had to expel me because of who I am.”

But Jay said that this gave him “the courage to come out to everyone”

Because of who he is, “my family is not comfortable with me,” Jay said. Fortunately for him, his only sister sides with him. “She says she will never walk away from me because I’m still a part of the family and no matter what they do, (we’re of the same blood) and she can’t do anything about that so she will still support me. The rest of the family is not okay with me.”

All the same: “This is me and I don’t care about anything else.”

Isaac Mugisha of Spectrum Uganda, “were still there; we’re still not giving up.” He added that “we believe that it’s the right of every Ugandan to walk everywhere and to get service.”

USING THE LAW AGAINST THE PEOPLE

The laws of the land have repeatedly been used against LGBTQI people in Uganda.

On September 29, 2005, for instance, Pres. Yoweri Museveni signed a constitutional amendment prohibiting marriage equality.

Then on December 17, 2013, the Uganda Anti-Homosexuality Act of 2014 was passed, mandating life imprisonment for aggravated homosexuality. While it was eventually annulled by the Uganda Constitutional Court, it was NOT because the law was illegal; instead, it was on a technicality, and that because “not enough lawmakers were present to vote” on the law. Meaning, a similar law can still be passed… with the needed number of politicians advocating anti-LGBTQI sentiments.

Most recently, in April, Pres. Museveni went on a media blitz to denounce LGBTQI people again, using the erroneous line of reasoning that being LGBTQI is a “foreign” introduction, that it is “wrong” and that “the mouth is for eating, not for sex”.

But according to Isaac Mugisha of Spectrum Uganda, “were still there; we’re still not giving up.” He added that “we believe that it’s the right of every Ugandan to walk everywhere and to get service.”

Isaac is, by the way, helming the organizing of Pride in Uganda, which the government often cancels.

CHALLENGING LIFE, CHALLENGING WORK

Working with the LGBTQI community is – obviously – challenging.

For instance, “you don’t want any LGBTQI people to be affiliated with you” as it could put them in danger, Isaac said.

But this is also because not many LGBTQI Ugandans come out and are willing to say “I am LGBTQI”.

For Ruth Muganzi of Kuchu Times, “You risk a lot by (coming out and) sharing your story. But it is also very important for us to be very visible.”

Isaac said that “every time mainstream media (released) stories about the LGBTQI community, these were negative stories that (made) other Ugandans react violently against LGBTQI people. When you put out a story that says that gay men are raping children, or that we’re recruiting children, of course it invokes a sense of anger from community members that are (to start) already (not supportive of us because) of the assumed cultural and religious perspectives (that oppose us).”

Ruth is first to say that working for – not just living as part of – the LGBTQI community is “difficult, but it is something that we anticipated.”

Jay, of course, said that even the local LGBT community still needs to be educated – e.g. it is still not very familiar with trans issues, leaving many issues of the Ugandan trans community unattended. Not to different from a country like the Philippines, in Uganda, “many people think that a trans person is (just) a gay person,” Jay said. While – yes – a trans person can also be gay, the very idea of being trans is still completely foreign to so many people.

Still not many LGBTQI Ugandans come out and are willing to say “I am LGBTQI”.

FINDING ONESELF… IN CHALLENGING TIMES

Spectrum Uganda’s Sultan Muyomba said that there was a time when he tried to “convince myself that I am not this or this,” he said. Until one day, “I said, I can’t fight myself; it’s like fighting nature.”
It remains hard, Sultan said. One time, for instance, he and a friend had to bribe another “friend” who – upon knowing that they are gay, could have put their lives in danger by blackmailing them.

“The Ugandan system is broken,” Ruth said, noting that – at times – LGBTQI people are used as scapegoats so people forget how bad the country’s situation is due to government actions/inactions.

Incidentally, Uganda still has numerous “traditional” practices many may find “antiquated” – e.g. during pamamanhikan (that is, when the groom-to-be visits his would-be in-laws), he is not even supposed to see (much more touch) his mother-in-law. The reason? Because he may end up eloping with her, not her daughter.

“But we volunteer, we sacrifice because we’re fighting to survive,” Ruth said.

HOPE FLOATS

“Are we hopeful? First of all, the Ugandan LGBTQI movement has done a lot. In 12 years, we (now) have our own clinic, we have our own outspoken advocates, we are providing our own legal services… We’ve done a lot of advocacies that has allowed us to get this far. We’re not the same movement that we were 12 years ago,” Ruth said. “There is hope. We just need to keep pushing. Every day is about pushing.”

Jay seconded Ruth, saying that in 12 years, a lot of change has happened. “The LGBTQI community members stood up to raise their voices.” In fact, “a lot of LGBTQI community has come out and learned to fight for their freedom.”

And to continue this fight, Jay said that the help of other LGBTQI communities (perhaps in other countries) can give them a boost. Having said this, Jay isn’t a big fan of so-called keyboard activists (i.e. those who just “sit back”), but those who come and give them support (even if it’s only to share notes on activism, and how to move forward) are always welcome,” he said. “This strengthens our work and keeps us moving.”

“The LGBTQI community members stood up to raise their voices,” said Jay Mulucha. In fact, “a lot of LGBTQI community has come out and learned to fight for their freedom.”

For those interested to visit Uganda, you may apply for a visa HERE. The visa is also available on-arrival at Entebbe airport. Rates start from $50. Note that only those with yellow fever vaccine are allowed into the country (the yellow fever card will be checked upon arrival).
There is always a threat of civil unrest (particularly 50 km of Uganda’s border with the DRC and to the Karamoja region, and within 50 km of Uganda’s border with South Sudan). Similarly, there are health notices on the Zika virus and Ebola.
Though of course, there, too, is the issue of the treatment of the LGBTQI people, particularly those whose gender expression is not aligned with their assigned sex at birth, just as there are issues with PDAs…

The founder of Outrage Magazine, Michael David dela Cruz Tan is a graduate of Bachelor of Arts (Communication Studies) of the University of Newcastle in New South Wales, Australia. Though he grew up in Mindanao (particularly Kidapawan and Cotabato City in Maguindanao), even attending Roman Catholic schools there, he "really, really came out in Sydney," he says, so that "I sort of know what it's like to be gay in a developing and a developed world". Mick can: photograph, do artworks with mixed media, write (DUH!), shoot flicks, community organize, facilitate, lecture, research (with pioneering studies under his belt)... this one's a multi-tasker, who is even conversant in Filipino Sign Language (FSL). Among others, Mick received the Catholic Mass Media Awards (CMMA) in 2006 for Best Investigative Journalism. Cross his path is the dare (read: It won't be boring).

Health & Wellness

Osteoporosis risk may be greater in gay men – study

As it is, sexual minorities already have greater risks of several adverse health outcomes. This may be due to a greater prevalence of unhealthy lifestyle factors, including smoking; as well as the significant stresses they experience related to the stigma associated with their sexuality.

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Non-heterosexual minority men have a greater risk of poor bone health than heterosexual men. This is according to a study published in the American Journal of Human Biology, which also noted that this risk appears to be independent of lifestyle and psychosocial factors.

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Surprisingly, the study – “Sexual orientation‐based disparities in bone health: Evidence of reduced bone mineral density and mineral content among sexual minority men but not women in multiple NHANES waves” by James K. Gobb and Eric C. Shattuck – did not find that non-heterosexual minority women were more likely to experience poor bone health.

As it is, sexual minorities already have greater risks of several adverse health outcomes. This may be due to a greater prevalence of unhealthy lifestyle factors, including smoking; as well as the significant stresses they experience related to the stigma associated with their sexuality.

But according to the people behind this study, there has been little research looking at whether sexuality has any impact on bone health using assessments of bone mineral density measures or fracture risk.

To examine the association between bone health and sexuality, these researchers combined data on 3,243 adults from the 2007 to 2008, 2009 to 2010, and 2013 to 2014 cycles of US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. The data included dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) assessments. With an average age of 36 years, the participants included 253 sexual minority people (53 lesbian/gay, 97 bisexual, and 103 same-sex experienced) and 2,990 heterosexuals.

Sexual orientation-based comparisons were made for a number of bone health indicators, including z-scored bone mineral density in the lumbar spine (L1-4 vertebrae) and proximal femur (femoral head, greater trochanter, and intertrochanteric line), bone mineral content in the femur and spine, and osteoporosis risk.

Photo by @akwice from Pexels.com

The study reported sexual orientation‐based disparities in bone mass across all anatomical sites. This effect was due to differences between heterosexual and gay men and persisted in linear regressions after adjusting for risk factors.

Differences were also found in femoral and femoral neck BMC in heterosexual and gay men (P = .02) and in femoral, femoral neck and spinal BMC between heterosexual and bisexual women (P = .05). Sexual orientation remained significant in BMC regressions.

“Our findings suggest that sexual minority men but not women are at greater risk for poor bone health relative to heterosexuals and this disparity is independent of the lifestyle and psychosocial risks included in our models,” the researchers stressed.

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Health & Wellness

Trans women can safely maintain estrogen treatments during gender affirming surgery

The practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

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There was no difference in blood clots when estrogen hormone therapy was maintained during gender affirming surgery.

This is according to a study (titled, “No Venous Thromboembolism Increase Among Transgender Female Patients Remaining on Estrogen for Gender Affirming Surgery”) helmed by John Henry Pang with Aki Kozato from Mount Sinai, and was published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism.

Historically, the lack of published data contributed to heterogeneity in the practice of whether doctors and surgeons advised transgender women to withhold their estrogen therapy before surgery. The sudden loss of estrogen in the blood was sometimes very uncomfortable with symptoms that amounted to a sudden, severe menopause.

So the researchers tapped 919 transgender patients who underwent gender affirming surgery at Mount Sinai’s Center for Transgender Medicine and Surgery between November 2015 and August 2019. Notably, including 407 cases of transgender women who underwent primary vaginoplasty surgery.

This study found that the practice of withholding estrogen prior to gender affirming surgery was not necessary. Most transgender women can now safely remain on their estrogen therapy throughout surgery.

The bottom line: This study found that most transgender women can  safely maintain their estrogen hormone treatments during gender affirming surgery.

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Health & Wellness

Facebook posts help facilitate belief that HPV vaccine is dangerous to health

Nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk, and the data suggests these posts had momentum over time.

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The human papillomavirus infection, or HPV, is one of the most common sexually transmitted infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). HPV is associated with health problems including genital warts and cancers, but a vaccine has been available since 2006 to help stop the virus. The CDC reports more than 12 years of data supports the HPV vaccine is safe and effective, yet HPV vaccination rates still remain low.

Social media has a history of being a popular place for sexual health discussions, and the HPV vaccine is one of the most discussed vaccines on the internet. Monique Luisi, an assistant professor in the University of Missouri School of Journalism, has studied more than 6,500 public HPV vaccine-related posts on Facebook from 2006 to 2016. In a previous study, Luisi used these Facebook posts to identify a negative trend on Facebook related to how people perceive the HPV vaccine.

Now, she suggests this negative trend on Facebook may also cause people to develop a false perception of the health risk of the vaccine. After looking at the percentage of posts that made the vaccine seem more dangerous, less dangerous or neither, Luisi found nearly 40% of Facebook posts about the HPV vaccine amplified a perceived risk, and the data suggests these posts had momentum over time.

“We should not assume that only the disease is perceived as a risk, but when research supports it, that medical treatments and interventions might unfortunately also be perceived as risks,” she said. “It’s more likely that people are going to see things on social media, particularly on Facebook, that are not only negative about the HPV vaccine, but will also suggest the HPV vaccine could be harmful. It amplifies the fear that people may have about the vaccine, and we see that posts that amplify fear are more likely to trend than those that don’t.”

Luisi suggests the spread of this negative information may lead people to have a false perception of the vaccine, so people should consult their doctor or health care provider before making an informed decision.

“Facebook remains a very popular social media platform for adult audiences, which necessitates action to address HPV vaccine risk messages,” she said. “People are going to see what they are going to see on social media, so it’s important to not only take what you see on social media, but also talk to a doctor or health care provider. Just because it’s trending doesn’t mean it’s true.”

Luisi notes research must continue to address the perception of vaccine safety where the vaccine is perceived as a greater health threat than the virus or disease it prevents, and her study could also inform officials for the ongoing COVID-19 vaccine roll out and distribution.

“As the COVID-19 vaccine is being rolled out, people are likely going to see a lot of negative information, and that negative information will be what trends on social media,” she said. “But, if the public can anticipate this negative information, it will be interesting to see if that will that make them less sensitive to the perceived risk of the vaccine.”

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Health & Wellness

Depression and stress could dampen efficacy of COVID-19 vaccines

Even though rigorous testing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution are highly effective at producing a robust immune response, not everyone will immediately gain their full benefit. Environmental factors, as well as an individual’s genetics and physical and mental health, can weaken the body’s immune system, slowing the response to a vaccine.

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Decades of research show that depression, stress, loneliness, and poor health behaviors can weaken the body’s immune system and lower the effectiveness of certain vaccines.

A new report accepted for publication in Perspectives on Psychological Science suggests that the same may be true for the new COVID-19 vaccines that are in development and the early stages of global distribution. Fortunately, it may be possible to reduce these negative effects with simple steps like exercise and sleep.

Vaccines are among the safest and most effective advances in medical history, protecting society from a wide range of otherwise devastating diseases, including smallpox and polio. The key to their success, however, is ensuring that a critical percentage of the population is effectively vaccinated to achieve so-called herd immunity.

Even though rigorous testing has shown that the COVID-19 vaccines approved for distribution are highly effective at producing a robust immune response, not everyone will immediately gain their full benefit. Environmental factors, as well as an individual’s genetics and physical and mental health, can weaken the body’s immune system, slowing the response to a vaccine.

This is particularly troubling as the novel coronavirus continues to rage across the world, trigging a concurrent mental health crisis as people deal with isolation, economic stressors, and uncertainty about the future. These challenges are the same factors that have been previously shown to weaken vaccine efficacy, particularly among the elderly.

“In addition to the physical toll of COVID-19, the pandemic has an equally troubling mental health component, causing anxiety and depression, among many other related problems. Emotional stressors like these can affect a person’s immune system, impairing their ability to ward off infections,” said Annelise Madison, a researcher at The Ohio State University and lead author on the paper. “Our new study sheds light on vaccine efficacy and how health behaviors and emotional stressors can alter the body’s ability to develop an immune response. The trouble is that the pandemic in and of itself could be amplifying these risk factors.”

Vaccines work by challenging the immune system. Within hours of a vaccination, there is an innate, general immune response on the cellular level as the body begins to recognize a potential biological threat. This frontline response by the immune system is eventually aided by the production of antibodies, which target specific pathogens. It is the continued production of antibodies that helps to determine how effective a vaccine is at conferring long-term protection.

The good news, according to the researchers, is that the COVID-19 vaccines already in circulation are approximately 95% effective. Even so, these psychological and behavioral factors can lengthen the amount of time it takes to develop immunity and can shorten the duration of immunity.

“The thing that excites me is that some of these factors are modifiable,” said Janice Kiecolt-Glaser, director of the Institute for Behavioral Medicine Research at The Ohio State University and senior author on the paper. “It’s possible to do some simple things to maximize the vaccine’s initial effectiveness.”

Based on prior research, one strategy the researchers suggest is to engage in vigorous exercise and get a good night’s sleep in the 24 hours before vaccination so that your immune system is operating at peak performance. This may help ensure that the best and strongest immune response happens as quickly as possible.

“Prior research suggests that psychological and behavioral interventions can improve vaccine responsiveness. Even shorter-term interventions can be effective,” said Madison. “Therefore, now is the time to identify those at risk for a poor immune response and intervene on these risk factors.”

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Lifestyle & Culture

How you should pack for a cross country move

Packing can take a long time, which is why this is a task you won’t want to put off. You shouldn’t try to pack everything you own up in just a few nights. Instead, you’ll want to tackle this job a little at a time. Start by packing non-essential items. Save the items that you regularly use until the last minute.

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Are you getting ready for a big move? If you’re packing up your things ahead of moving day, many tasks need to be taken care of. Thankfully, this advice will help you as you pack for a cross-country move. 

Start Packing As Soon As Possible 

Packing can take a long time, which is why this is a task you won’t want to put off. You shouldn’t try to pack everything you own up in just a few nights. Instead, you’ll want to tackle this job a little at a time. Start by packing non-essential items. Save the items that you regularly use until the last minute. 

If you give yourself more than enough time to pack, you won’t feel rushed. You’ll be able to take your time and make sure that everything is properly organized when you’re packing. Remember, this is a big task. Set a packing schedule so that you’ll have more than enough time to take care of everything. 

Look Into Hiring A Full-Service Moving Company 

If you feel overwhelmed by all of the packing you need to do, you should keep in mind that you don’t necessarily have to do all of it yourself. You also have the option of hiring a full-service cross country moving company that will be able to pack everything up for you. 

Hiring professional cross country moving companies to pack up your things is an especially great option if you’re working with a tight schedule or feel that you don’t have enough time to prepare for your move fully. You can trust your movers to take care of the packing. You’ll be able to focus on other tasks. 

Get Rid Of Items Before You Start Packing 

You likely have many things that you won’t need to bring with you when you move. That’s why it’s a good idea to go through your belongings and see what you can donate, give away, or sell ahead of your move. 

This is the perfect time to get rid of clothes that no longer fit or clear out toys that your kids don’t play with anymore. You’ll have limited space for your things when you move cross-country, and because of that, you’ll want to get rid of plenty of items before you pack. 

Label Every Box That You Pack 

You should be able to identify exactly what’s in each box that you pack. Once you’ve packed a box, you’ll want to make sure that the box is clearly labeled so that you know exactly what’s being stored there. 

Although it’s standard to use cardboard boxes when packing for moves, you may want to consider investing in clear plastic storage containers. When you use these kinds of boxes, you’ll be able to see everything that you’ve picked up at a glance. You can also reuse these boxes for storage once you’re settled in. 

Pack Heavy Items In Smaller Boxes 

When you’re packing up items like books, you should keep in mind that these boxes can become very heavy fairly quickly. That’s why it’s a good idea to stick to using smaller boxes when you’re picking up heavy things. 

If you stick to boxes on the smaller side, you won’t have to worry about the boxes becoming too heavy. You should use your largest boxes to pack up fairly lightweight items. The heaviest items you own should go in the smallest boxes that you have. 

Take A Suitcase 

You shouldn’t put all of your things into cardboard boxes. It’s a good idea for you to pack up some essential items in a suitcase. That way, you’ll be able to access these items before all of your things are unpacking. 

It’s especially important to take this step if you’re going to be stopping at a hotel as you travel to your new home. Your suitcase should include toiletries, a few changes of clothing, and other essential items, like first aid supplies.

Photograph Your Things 

Even if you’re cautious when you’re packing, some of your things may wind up missing. That’s why you’ll want to take plenty of pictures throughout the packing process. Before you seal up a box, take a picture of that box so that you’ll be able to see exactly what’s in there. 

Snapping these photographs will provide you with evidence if something is lost or damaged, and it will also help you find any things you are looking for. It only takes a few seconds, and it could save you a lot of trouble. 

Use The Right Packing Strategies 

If you just toss items into a box without any strategy, a lot of your things will likely wind up getting lost during your move. Beyond that, you might wind up with items that are damaged or even destroyed during the moving process. 

Always pack similar items together. When packing fragile items, you should take steps to protect those items from damage. You’ll also want to mark the box as fragile so that movers know they need to treat your box with care.  

Packing for a cross-country move can be a big project, but with a little bit of extra planning, you’ll be able to get through these challenges in one piece. Follow this advice so that you’ll be able to stay organized as you pack up for your upcoming move.

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Lifestyle & Culture

Are you ready to start thinking about a baby?

Before you commit to this decision it’s important to think about whether the two of you are ready. That’s not always an easy question to answer however there are signs that you can begin to move forward with this new chapter.

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You might be interested in starting a family with your partner. However, before you commit to this decision it’s important to think about whether the two of you are ready. That’s not always an easy question to answer however there are signs that you can begin to move forward with this new chapter. 

IMAGE SOURCE: PEXELS.COM

You’re Both Stable 

First, you need to make sure that you are both stable in your lives. Think about your career and your profession. You should ideally both be earning a solid income where it’s unlikely that either one of you will experience redundancy in the future. While there are no guarantees, there are always signs that your career is stable. You might also want to think about setting up a side hustle to make sure that you have an extra cushion of cash to fall back on whenever you need to. 

Of course, it’s not just your career that needs to be stable. You need to think about your health – both mental and physical – and your lifestyle. Don’t forget, these are things that will be taken into consideration if you are planning to adopt. So, they should be considered when you are thinking about conceiving naturally too. 

You Both Want One 

As crazy as it sounds many couples do end up having a baby because one individual wants one rather than both. The other will often just go along with the idea because they don’t want the relationship to end. That’s why it’s important to have an open and honest relationship with your partner. It’s possible that there are things that are stopping them from seriously considering children. They might even be questioning whether it’s possible for them. If they’ve tried before with someone else, then this fear is always going to be present. However, there are options like advancedfertility.com to explore if that is indeed the case. 

You don’t Argue All The Time 

Finally, many people believe that couples shouldn’t argue and that’s not true. You need to have the occasional argument otherwise issues are going to simply lie dormant underneath the surface. This will lead to a massive blowout and the last thing that you want is to bring a child into an environment with a lot of friction. 

If you do find that you are arguing quite a lot in your relationship, then you should think about something like couple’s counseling. This can help you get back on the right track with your partner and ensure that things don’t continue to get worse. It can help you deal with some of the deeper issues that might be plaguing your relationship and causing you problems right now.  You can learn more about couples counseling on bark.com

We hope this helps you understand some of the signs that you could be ready to start thinking about having a baby with your partner. Remember, while this can be a big step forward, there are plenty of avenues and resources you can explore to help here and ensure that you do approach this the right way.

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