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A Publication by the Federal Geographic Data Committee July 1996



GeoData Partnerships Forum

The Urban and Regional Information Systems Association (URISA) and the Federal Geographic Data Committee (FGDC) will sponsor a GeoData Partnerships Forum on Wednesday, July 31, 1996 in Salt Lake City, Utah on "Building the National Spatial Data Infrastructure."

The forum is a part of the upcoming URISA Conference scheduled for July 27-August 1. Fifteen sessions about the Clearinghouse, Framework, Partnerships and Standards Development initiatives to build the NSDI have been organized. On Monday, July 29, Doug Nebert, FGDC Clearinghouse Coordinator, will demonstrate the latest Internet spatial data search techniques in two technical training sessions: "Using the National Digital Geospatial Data Clearinghouse" and "How to create a node in the NSDI." For more information on the URISA 96 Conference and Exposition see the URISA website

The 1996 Competitive Cooperative Agreements Program
Award Announcements Soon...

Awards for the 1996 Competitive Cooperative Agreements Program (CCAP) will be announced this July. CCAP, an FGDC program, facilitates the formation of partnerships with and among non-Federal organizations to assist in the evolution of the NSDI. The 1996 CCAP program objective is to build on current CCAP efforts to develop and implement the National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse, and develop FGDC endorsed standards including the metadata standard. In addition, the 1996 program expanded to include feasibility projects for implementing technical or institutional aspects of the National Geospatial Data Framework. Watch for the announcement of awardees and their project descriptions at the FGDC.

National Digital Geospatial Data Framework Initiative

The framework concept outlined in the report "Development of a National Digital Geospatial Data Framework" (April 1995) proposes a means by which the geospatial data community can work together to produce and maintain commonly needed themes of data for national, regional, state, and local analyses.

The Denver Framework Workshop

Thirty-six National Digital Geospatial Data Framework Pilot representatives from local, regional, State and Federal Government, academia and the private sector met in Denver, Colorado from May 7-9 1996 for the second in a series of FGDC hosted workshops to discuss technical and institutional issues related to the implementation of the framework concept. The participants selected four topics for additional work:

    development of the framework data model

    definition of framework management organizational structure

    identification of incentives to participate

    formulation of framework business plans.

The next workshop has been scheduled for the week of July 22 in Baltimore, Maryland.

The NSDI Framework Handbook

The firm of Somers-St.Claire, GIS Management Consultants, has been commissioned by the FGDC to develop a handbook for the framework. The handbook will introduce the framework concept, suggest actions that organizations can take to participate, and provide a directory of other resources. The handbook will be available in the spring of 1997.

The 1996 Framework Demonstration Projects Program

Proposals will be announced early this fall for awardees of the NSDI Framework Demonstration Projects Program. The application submission period closed June 26, 1996. The FGDC invited proposals for cooperative agreements for projects that will broadly test the applied framework concept in its information content, and in its technical, institutional and business contexts. Participant organizations sought are those establishing long-term institutional structures, and cooperative arrangements with other partners in sustained efforts to build, maintain and disseminate geospatial data over an area for the larger geospatial data community.

These projects will provide guidance on policies and practices for establishing other operational framework sites, act as examples of applied framework for other implementers, and provide a springboard for future research and development.

Watch the Framework homepage for Framework Demonstration Project announcements and project summaries.

State GIS Councils Meet with FGDC Steering Committee

On April 30, 1996 representatives of nine recognized State GIS coordination councils participated in a meeting of the FGDC Steering Committee. Bruce Babbitt, Secretary of the Interior, and Chair of the FGDC Steering Committee noted that the purpose of the meeting with State representatives was to gain insights about the nature of this partnership and to sharpen the focus of mutual activities. The discussion generated several ideas for joint action, including the need to focus on building framework data sets, and the exchange of contact lists to improve coordination and cross-membership participation on working groups. A full report of the meeting is available on-line in the Partnerships homepage.

Tennessee Valley Geographic Partnerships Program

The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) has initiated a Geographic Partnerships program to build partnerships with agencies that produce or maintain base geographic information as a part of their regular operations. Through these partnerships, TVA intends to help build and maintain better information for the agency partners' internal purposes, and obtain current and accurate information for its own requirements. The program will include:

    development of partnerships, and coordinating geographic data activities in the region

    development of joint data production projects

    creation and maintenance of a clearinghouse of geographic data

    coordination of TVA geographic data activities with other Federal agencies through the FGDC in compliance with Executive Order 12906

    evaluation of geographic data needs for the TVA and the effectiveness of this program in meeting those needs

The data production activities currently of interest include scanned topographic maps (digital raster graphics), digital orthophotography, digital vector data (digital line graphs and other formats), revision and publication of 1:24,000-scale topographic maps, acquisition of aerial photography, participation on the National Aerial Photography Program steering committee, wetlands mapping, and land use and land cover mapping.

If you would like more information or to participate in this program, please contact:

    Alan Voss, Program Manager
    Tennessee Valley Authority
    1101 Market Street (HB2A)
    Chattanooga, TN 37402-2801

Or by telephone at (423) 751-2425 or via the Internet at

U.S. Forest Service to Form Inventory and Monitoring Institute

In January, 1996, the U.S. Forest Service leadership approved the formation of an Inventory and Monitoring Institute (IMI) to facilitate and support the collection and management of consistent scientifically reliable resource information at all levels to support ecosystem management. In March, a meeting was held in Ft. Collins, Colorado to begin implementation by drafting a charter and working on other integration issues.

While the IMI's initial emphasis will be on tying together the myriad Forest Service inventory and monitoring programs, the agency invited its partners in the Bureau of Land Management, the National Biological Service, The National Park Service, the U.S. Geological Survey, The Department of Defense, The U.S. Department of Agriculture Office of General Counsel, and the National Association of State Foresters to the meeting to contribute their perspectives. The draft charter produced at this meeting is undergoing revision by the Forest Service.

Some proposed functions of IMI are:

    standardize protocols, eliminate inconsistency, promote quality assurance

    assess quality of resource information and develop strategies for improvement

    advise leadership on priorities and budgets

    provide technical assistance and serve as clearinghouse

    coordinate and prioritize research and development

    facilitate sharing of information, methods and protocols to partners and the public.

For more information contact Doug Powell,
U.S. Forest Service, National Monitoring
Coordinator at (202) 205-1724.

EPA's Role in Community Based Environmental Protection

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has embarked on a new community-based strategy for solving environmental problems. Working with states and other concerned stakeholders, EPA has committed to a process for identifying and solving environmental problems that gives preference to local and regional initiatives. Many of these initiatives are attempting to solve a full range of human health, ecological, and economic issues that have been complicated by Federal regulations. As a key element in its community-based approach, EPA is building partnerships with states and communities to upgrade and share spatial data for pollution sources, ecosystems, and other factors critical to the quality of life in communities. Of interest to URISA 96 attendees: "EPA's Role in Community Based Environmental Protection" features a panel of EPA representatives and state officials from Washington, Connecticut, and New Jersey who will discuss their joint efforts in applying this community-based strategy and will engage the audience in a discussion of how best to proceed.

Tribute to a Champion

Popular culture equates the word champion with a winning sports figure or team. In Middle English usage however, a champion was a defender, a staunch advocate. In this older, more authentic sense, the Federal spatial data community is losing a true champion as Nancy Tosta resigns from Federal government service to accept a new position as Director of Forecasting and Growth Strategy for the Puget Sound Regional Council.

In her four-year tenure as the Staff Director of the Federal Geographic Data Committee and most recently as a Special Assistant to Secretary of the Interior Bruce Babbitt, Nancy has served as a tireless and effective champion of spatial data sharing. Her vision, embodied in the developing National Spatial Data Infrastructure, encompasses a distributed network of spatial data producers and users cooperating to exchange information and data nationwide, throughout the public and private sectors. Nancy initiated activities to create a National Geospatial Data Clearinghouse, to identify and implement standards for metadata and other categories of spatial data, to form partnerships among Federal, State, and local governments, academia and the private sector, and to begin to develop a distributed framework of basic categories of high-quality spatial data.

First and foremost, Nancy believes that geography is the key to finding new approaches to solving problems. By asking what data are available or are needed over a particular piece of geography to address "place-based" issues, and how people can be brought together to talk about the issues and the data, Nancy reached out to people who may never before have used or thought about spatial data-- educators, county officials, local groups. She opened a national conversation about spatial data and gave us a vision of how this conversation can be extended into our own communities.

As Staff Director of the FGDC, Nancy was a frequent presenter and keynote speaker at local, state, regional, national, and international conferences on GIS and technology, addressing issues of data sharing, technology use and implications, community development, and data infrastructures. In her "free time" she continued her "Data Data" column in Geo Info Systems. Always lively and provocative, Nancy's writing has been and will continue to be a bellwether.

In their recent study of spatial data sharing, Onsrud and Rushton ask :"Are data-sharing 'champions'...necessary or advantageous to successful sharing?" In the case of Nancy Tosta, we would be obliged to answer a resounding "yes" to the second proposition. At the FGDC, we are fortunate to have had the advantages of Nancy's leadership. We know that she will continue to be a champion in her new role, and we wish her well

Onsrud, Harlan J. and Rushton, Gerard. 1995. Sharing Geographic Information. New Brunswick, N.J.

FGDC Subcommittees and Working Groups Highlights The subcommittees of the FGDC are responsible for coordinating the activities related to a specific theme of data. These activities include establishing and implementing standards for data content and data exchange, encouraging data sharing, and organizing data collection to minimize duplication. The subcommittees are composed primarily of Federal agency representatives. The following are highlights of current subcommittee plans and activities.

Cultural and Demographic Data Subcommittee Fred Broome, Chair Commerce, Bureau of the Census (301) 457-1056

The Subcommittee on Cultural and Demographic Data (SCDD) is continuing its effort to identify key cultural and demographic thematic data sets that meet national policy, planning and management needs. This work is considered essential for identifying classification schemes for cultural and demographic data. The first information gathering session hosted by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) lead to a refinement of the proposed data use query form. The next session will be hosted by the National Archives and Records Administration (NARA).

Standards Update: The initial version of the SCDD's Content Standards for Cultural and Demographic Data Metadata is currently under review by the Standards Working Group.

Of interest to URISA 96 attendees...

The SCDD encourages persons interested in cultural and demographic data to attend two Census 2000 Forums sponsored by the Census Bureau as part of the URISA 96 Conference. Partnerships and cooperative programs will be discussed in the sessions:

    "Statistical Areas Program Delineation"

    "Updating the Census Address List and TIGER Data Base"

    "Local Partnerships: The Key to a Better (and Less Costly!) Census"

Those interested in the changes taking place in the criteria for defining and identifying census blocks will want to attend "Reengineering the Census." If you frequently surf the net in an attempt to access data, don't miss Gisele Asher's talk on "Electronic Data Access and Dissemination at the Census Bureau."

Federal Geodetic Control Subcommittee John Spencer, POC Commerce - NOAA (301) 713-3169

NOAA's National Geodetic Survey (NGS) and the National Geophysical Data Center met on May 16 with representatives of the FGDC to discuss the Geodetic Control Data Profile for Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS). The profile will be developed from the NGS geodetic digital transfer format of the NGS data sheet (DSDATA).

DSDATA format is now used as a "de facto" standard by the surveying and mapping industry and is utilized in most GIS systems as the accepted geodetic control transfer format. On June 13, Dr. Charles Schwarz, NOAA, will present a proposal to the Federal Geodetic Control Subcommittee (FGCS) to begin the process to make this standard a "de jure" standard that fits the SDTS model.

Writing such a profile requires skills not found in the FGCS member organizations; it requires a deep understanding of the Spatial Data Transfer Standard itself, as well as knowledge of the procedures for proposing FIPS standards for approval. Initial contact with the FGDC Standards Working Group indicates that this group and the SDTS maintenance authority at the U.S. Geological Survey are willing to take the lead in drafting the Geodetic Control Profile.

The Global Positioning System (GPS) Interagency Advisory Council (GIAC) provides technical and administrative staff support to the Department of Defense/Department of Transportation Positional Navigational (POS/NAV) GPS Advisory Board, which sets policy on GPS Federal government activities. GIAC members Captain Lewis Lapine, Charles Challstrom, and William Strange, of NOAA, assisted with the Presidential Decision Directive (PDD) on GPS that was released by President Clinton on March 29, 1996. This directive provides for a comprehensive National Policy on the future management of GPS, supports continued growth of GPS for its use in transportation and other civilian activities, and Federal Government commitment for support of GPS. For information about FGCS and GIAC activities, visit the FGCS homepage

Ground Transportation Subcommittee Bruce Spear, Chairman DOT - Bureau of Transportation Statistics (202) 366-8870 The Ground Transportation Subcommittee has continued its standards development activities with a revised version of a Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS) Transportation Network Profile that includes a module for encoding complex linear objects like routes and linear referencing systems. This revised profile is posted at the Subcommittee's website and will be available at the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) booth at the URISA annual meeting in Salt Lake City, July 28-August 1.

Members of the Subcommittee have also been engaged in several meetings with the Intelligent Transportation Systems (ITS) locational reference design team. The ITS community needs a standard set of procedures for finding and communicating the location of vehicles, accidents, etc. on a highway. One proposal now under consideration by the ITS design team is to develop a national highway locational reference geo-datum, consisting of well defined and accurately measured reference points on major highways. These reference points can be used to anchor linear measurements between major highway interchanges as well as to register highway network base maps of different accuracy and level of detail. At its last meeting, the subcommittee voted to help promulgate the ITS linear reference geodatum as a new FGDC standard. A two-day technical workshop on linear referencing is being held in conjunction with the URISA annual meeting and the Transportation Research Board mid-year meeting in Salt Lake City on Friday and Saturday, July 26-27. There is no registration fee for this workshop. Details, including a preliminary agenda, are posted on the BTS website:

The subcommittee is also working to develop data sharing partnerships with state and local transportation agencies as part of the NSDI initiative. National transportation networks and facilities geospatial databases are being developed by many of the Federal agencies represented on the subcommittee. The databases are disseminated free of charge by the BTS through its website and on CD-ROM as the National Transportation Atlas Databases (NTAD).

These databases will aid in the development of the transportation theme for the NSDI framework. Consistent with the framework philosophy, it is anticipated that state DOT's and local transportation agencies will develop and contribute more accurate and detailed network data to the framework.

A day-long discussion of geodata partnership issues has been planned as part of the URISA meeting on Wednesday, July 31. A separate session (Session 12), focused specifically on improving access to transportation data, is scheduled on Monday, July 29.

Historical Data Working Group Bruce Ambacher, Chair, National Archives and Record Administration (301) 713-6630 The Historical Data Working Group, with assistance from the Standards Working Group, recently completed drafting changes to the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) which incorporated the Spatial Data Transfer Standard (SDTS) and the Content Standard for Geospatial Metadata into the requirements for transferring permanently valuable electronic records to the National Archives and Records Administration. The proposed changes are currently under review at the Office of Management and Budget. They will appear in the Federal Register in late June with the standard sixty day period for comments from Federal agencies and others. The changes appear in 36 CFR 1228.188(d)(3) and (e)(2). Subitem (d)(3) requires that all geospatial data files transferred to NARA must be SDTS compliant if the data were created on a system procured after the SDTS became mandatory in February 1994; data created on systems procured prior to that date are exempt. Subitem (e)(2) requires that all permanently valuable geospatial data files created after January 1995 must include the metadata created for that file in conformance with Executive Order 12906. Again, geospatial data created prior to the effective date of the executive order is exempt from this requirement, although agencies are required to have plans in place for creating metadata for all geospatial data files.

The purpose of both proposed modifications to the CFR is to increase understanding of the data, promote its transfer to other users, and enhance use of the data for other purposes.

The Historical Data Working Group and the Standards Working Group encourage all Federal geospatial data creators to examine these proposed changes and to make any comments you may have on them to the appropriate authorities in your agency. For more information contact Bruce Ambacher, National Archive and Record Administration, at (301) 713-6630.

New FGDC Factsheet: "Managing Historical Geospatial Data Records, Guide for Federal Agencies" The NSDI will play a guiding role in the protection and preservation of geospatial data records through their life cycle from creation and use until they pass into the Nation's archives.

The new FGDC factsheet "Managing Historical Geospatial Data Records, Guide for Federal Agencies" outlines the responsibilities of Federal geospatial data producers for properly creating data, documenting data with appropriate metadata, making data available, and arranging for the appropriate disposition of data. Although this factsheet is designed for Federal geospatial data producers, the guidelines and principles will be useful to anyone collecting or producing geospatial data.

The factsheet discusses the Code of Federal Regulations, criteria to consider for preservation of data, metadata application, and geospatial data base considerations. Sources of additional information are provided. To obtain this factsheet contact the FGDC Secretariat at the address below.

Standards Working Group Richard Hogan, Chair, U.S. Geological Survey (703) 648-5531 With a recently revised charter, the FGDC Standards Working Group (SWG) has entered a new phase of standards development. The catchwords of this new phase are integration and coordination. The FGDC SWG is now working to integrate the emerging standards of the various subcommittees among themselves and with existing FGDC standards. Additionally, the SWG is working to coordinate that work with other emerging standards activities at both the national and international levels.

The FGDC SWG has begun to put in place guidelines and procedures that will insure an integrated and consistent family of standards rather than a series of independent specifications. The guiding document for this effort is the FGDC Standards Reference Model. A preliminary version of this document is now available through the FGDC SWG Homepage. This document will continue to be expanded and enhanced. The FGDC standards procedure has been revised to guarantee that proposed FGDC standards adhere to the principles laid down in the reference model and are consistent with other FGDC standards.

Users will see two significant results of the integration activities in the near future. The first will be an integrated accuracy standard. This will be a multi-part, multi-agency contributed accuracy standard which includes:

geodetic control surveys by the Geodetic Control Subcommittee

construction engineering surveys by the Facilities Working Group

a national standard for spatial data accuracy by the Base Cartographic Subcommittee

hydrographic surveys by the Bathymetric Subcommittee

The second visible result will be an integrated data content standard. This effort will bring all of the content and classification standards developed by FGDC components together into a single registry that uses a common data model. This will assist users in comparing the content standards and using them appropriately.

The FGDC is a member of the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) and as such participates on X3L1, the geographic information standards committee of ANSI. This committee also serves as the Technical Advisory Group to TC211, the geographic information committee of the International Standards Organization (ISO). This participation provides the FGDC with significant influence on the development of national and international standards for geographic information. An example, is the use of the FGDC Standard for Digital Geospatial Metadata as the base specification for the development of ISO 15046-15, Geographic Information - Metadata. Other ANSI accredited standards bodies also participate in FGDC standards development activities. For example, ANSI X3L8 - Data Element Definition, is contributing to the FGDC Integrated Data Content standard effort.

URISA 96 Standards Session... FGDC Standards Working Group will host an educational session on "FGDC Standards Development" in the upcoming URISA Conference on July 31, This session will be chaired by Richard Hogan, Chair of the Standards Working Group. The first part of the session will deal with the revised FGDC standards process and how the FGDC relates to and participates in ANSI and ISO standards activities. The second part of the session will present specifics of some of the current FGDC standards projects and provide an opportunity for open discussion. The sessions are designed to be interactive and will be an opportunity for the FGDC to hear the opinions of others as much as an opportunity for them to hear about the FGDC standards program and activities.

Further information on the Standards Working Group and the standards activities of the FGDC Subcommittees and Working Groups can be obtained from the SWG Homepage

Facilities Working GroupKevin Backe U.S. Army Corps of Engineers The FGDC's Standards Working Group (SWG) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) are jointly sponsoring a project to integrate the FGDC data content and classification standards into a nationally focused, comprehensive integrated geospatial data content standard. The objective of this project will be to develop an entity/attribute catalog populated from the feature content and classification work of the FGDC subcommittees and working groups. This integrated standard will be based upon a logical data model consistent with Spatial Data Transfer Standard. The USACE will be working with the FGDC subcommittees and working groups to perform the integration activities necessary to generate a single integrated database of FGDC approved entities/attributes, and to provide the software tools necessary to examine this database and generate an Integrated Standard document.

This project will consist of two phases. The first "proof of concept" phase will develop a rapid prototype of the Integrated Standard using content and classification standards selected by the SWG and provide a runtime version of the database for evaluation by the FGDC. The second "full execution" phase consists of integrating all relevant FGDC approved data content and classification standards into this FGDC integrated standards database. This phase includes providing assistance upon request to the FGDC subcommittees and working groups in the incorporation of their data classification and content standard(s) into the logical data model approved by the FGDC for this project, performing the integration activities necessary to produce and maintain a single integrated database of FGDC approved entities/attributes, and developing the software tools necessary to examine this database and generate an Integrated Standard document.


To Friends of the FGDC:

Many of you know I've decided to step off in a slightly different career direction, but I couldn't do so without taking the opportunity to say a heartfelt "Thank You". Though frustrating at times, the last four years in Washington have given me a sense of incredible wealth. I've had the opportunity to meet and work with hundreds, if not thousands, of dedicated people who are genuinely trying to make a difference in their agencies, in our governments, and in the quality of all of our lives. I've been challenged by and learned more from all of you than I could ever have imagined. I thank you for the support you've given me personally and for your willingness to participate in and take charge of an activity as esoteric as the National Spatial Data Infrastructure.

Please know that I leave the progress you've made on NSDI in good hands. First, there are all of the visible committees and certainly Secretary Babbitt's increasing committment to the value of geospatial data sharing across geography and institutions. Additonally, there are numerous federal, state, and local government people who labor on nearly invisible committees on your behalf to help create standards and resolve other issues of data sharing. And last, but by no means least, there are the staff of the FGDC Secretariat. They commit untold hours in the nether world of interagency-intergovernmental coordination. They've become my friends over the last few years and there are no words I can find to tell them how much their support has meant to me, other than to say, they will be sorely missed.

Thanks again for the opportunity to interact with all of you and I hope that our paths will continue to cross. Please keep in touch. My new title and e-mail are: Director of Forecasting and Growth Strategy, Puget Sound Regional Council, Seattle, Washington at

Nancy Tosta
Special Assistant to the Secretary for
Geographic Data Coordination
Department of the Interior

P.S. And don't forget about metadata!

The FGDC Newsletter describes activities of the geospatial data community and the National Spatial Data Infrastructure. Subscriptions are free of charge. Correspondence or contributions may be directed to the FGDC Secretariat as indicated below:

FGDC Secretariat
590 National Center
Reston, VA 22092
Voice (703) 648-5514
Fax : (703) 648-5755

FGDC Information and Documents
FTP via Internet
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Password: "your E-mail address"
After connecting: cd pub

README.DOC file has current information on the files in each subdirectory.

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To subscribe to the newsletter or request the FGDC's publication list, please complete the information below and return it to the FGDC Secretariat by facsimile or mail. Be sure to provide the information requested below in your message.

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Upcoming Conferences


Jul 10-12 / Wetlands 96 / Washington, DC Md
Jul 27-Aug 1 / URISA 96 / Salt Lake City, UT Md, Ch, Std, Fw
Aug 24-29 / American Public Works Assoc. Conference / Washington, DC
Sep 14-18 / National States Geographic Information Council / Tucson, AZ
Sep 23-25 / Geographic Technology in Gov't 96 Conference / Crystal City, VA
Oct 6-8 Int'l City/County Management Assoc. / Washington, DC
Oct 7-8 / 7th Annual Virginia GIS Conference / Wintergreen, VA NSDI
Nov 4-7 / Eco-Informa 96 / Lake Buena Vista, FL
Nov 16-22 / GIS/LIS 96 / Denver, CO
Nov 18 / GIS in Illinois, 96 Annual Conference / Schaumburg, IL
Dec 9-11 / 1996 Texas GIS Forum / Md


May 1-2 / 6th Annual IMAGIN Forum / Lansing, MI / Ch, Fw

FGDC sessions & workshops indicated thus: NSDI - general,
Ch - Clearinghouse, and Md - Metadata, Std - Standards,
Fw - Framework. Subject to change.

For more information please contact the FGDC Secretariat.

U.S. Department of the Interior
U.S. Geological Survey
590 National Center
Reston, VA 22092

Last Updated: Jan 17, 2006 12:45 PM
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