Scientology Sues Debbie Cook Over Her New Year's Eve E-Mail

Cook, from her website
Monday evening, the Tampa Bay Times reported that the Church of Scientology filed a lawsuit Friday in San Antonio against Debbie Cook and her husband Wayne Baumgarten. The lawsuit, which accuses Cook of violating the terms of a non-disclosure agreement when she dared to criticize the leadership of her church, should draw major media attention to various issues that have been splitting Scientology apart, as we've been reporting over the last few years here at the Voice

On January 1, the Voice was the first in the press to report that on New Year's Eve, Cook sent out a remarkable e-mail to thousands of her fellow Scientologists which harshly criticized the "extreme fundraising" of the church under leader David Miscavige. Carefully citing the words of Scientology founder L. Ron Hubbard, Cook made it clear that she was not an outsider, but a member in good standing who wanted her fellow members to question where the church was headed.

Now, Scientology reveals that Cook and Baumgarten were paid $50,000 each to sign non-disclosure agreements as they left their staff jobs with the church in 2007. By speaking out in the e-mail, Cook violated her agreement, Scientology's lawyers claim. (Baumgarten is accused in the suit of being a "co-participant" in sending out the e-mail.)

But could such a gag order really prevent an American from following her conscience and exercising her Constitutionally-guaranteed rights of religious freedom? We're going to find out, and Scientology, normally shy about press, could get much more exposure than it's had in a while.

For some time, we've been hearing from our sources that Scientology had stepped up its use of gag orders with former members, sending out teams from its intelligence wing, the Office of Special Affairs, with offers of payment if disaffected parishioners would promise not to criticize the church. As Janet Reitman explained in her excellent history of the church, last year's Inside Scientology, there's been a significant drain of longtime members and high-ranking executives from the church in recent years which Reitman characterized as an "Exodus." Ex-Scientologists have been telling us that the church has been dealing with this drain of the disaffected by offering many of those people cash payments if they will keep quiet about their experiences in Scientology.

Two high-ranking former executives, Marty Rathbun and Mike Rinder, had told us that they helped develop those gag orders, and that they were designed to be draconian in their terms and intimidating in their effect. Rinder had even told us in recent days that he was going to search through his personal records to see if he had a sample agreement to show us.

But now we have the real thing.

As Tampa Bay Times journalists Joe Childs and Tom Tobin point out, getting to see Cook's gag order is "a rare look at the extraordinary lengths the church goes to to keep its inner workings secret."

In their story last night, they list some of the things Cook and Baumgarten agreed to in the gag orders:

• They waived their First Amendment rights to free speech.

• They can never, "in perpetuity," disclose any information about the church, its staff or former staff.

• They can never publish, attempt to publish or help anyone publish any information about the church in any media, including newspapers, television, radio or the Internet.

• They can never utter a disparaging word about the church, either directly or indirectly.

On New Year's Eve, however, Cook sent out an e-mail to thousands of her fellow church members, complaining that with Scientology's focus on constant fundraising, on purchasing new buildings it calls "Ideal Orgs," and collecting massive reserves -- a billion dollars, by Cook's estimate -- the church under David Miscavige was betraying the intentions of Hubbard, whose proclamations are still supposed to be sacrosanct, even 26 years after his death.

We watched in some fascination as Scientologists, unused to such criticism of management from within the church, panicked in a very public way on Facebook after reading the e-mail, advising each other to unfriend Cook, who had enjoyed a stellar reputation as one of the most respected executives in the church.

Our sources told us that this effort hit Cook in more ways than her friends list at Facebook. Since she left her church post in Clearwater, Florida, Cook built a business consulting venture in San Antonio with many Scientologists as clients. Rathbun, at his blog, writes that the church has been busy convincing those clients to leave.

And now, Scientology's attorneys have filed a lawsuit against Cook and Baumgarten and obtained a temporary restraining order to prevent them from saying anything further about the church. (Childs and Tobin report that Scientology spokeswoman Karin Pouw characterized the $50,000 payments to Cook and Baumgarten as "help," and "Only with recent violations of that agreement was it necessary for the church to pursue and protect its rights.")

Rathbun has said publicly that he is not in touch with Cook (who has turned down our repeated requests for an interview and who has so far maintained that she is not communicating with church outsiders), but he had anticipated a legal move against her and has already set up a legal defense fund. Cook herself has set up one as well. In the lawsuit, however, the church says that when it told Cook to stop violating her agreement, she responded in an e-mail, "If you sue me, it really doesn't matter ... I have no money to spend on an attorney."

I asked our resident expert on Scientology and legal matters, Manhattan attorney Scott Pilutik, to look over the lawsuit and the non-disclosure agreements last night. Here's what he had to say...

Scientology's lawsuit cites a number of instances within Cook's e-mail they claim breaches the non-disclosure agreement (NDA) she and Baumgarten signed, and the question of whether they did will probably wind up being many separate questions, with individual passages of the e-mail matched to the passages of the NDA. The complaint doesn't do this beyond citing some paragraphs of the NDA they argue were violated [6(b), 6(d), 6(e), 6(h), 6(f) & 7(a)], so it's not worth speculating too extensively as to which sections of the e-mail violate which terms just yet.

That said, I think one key question will focus on whether Cook revealed privileged information due to her former position [paragraph 6(b) of the NDA], or whether (as Cook will likely argue) that information was otherwise widely available. I think, too, that the meaning of "disparagement" could be key. It's not a reach to suggest that Cook's e-mail is critical of Church management and the relevant paragraph of the NDA [6(h)] is written somewhat broadly. And Cook did, presumably, cash the checks.

But Cook and Baumgarten also have possible affirmative defenses that could make this case truly fascinating. Cook's e-mail is, at heart, a sincere religious argument. She's genuinely concerned about the direction of Scientology and strongly suggests that the current management is not adhering to Hubbard's doctrine, quoting him liberally throughout.

A legitimate question therefore exists, I think, as to whether this isn't a contract dispute at all, but rather a religious dispute, which the Court could not resolve without violating the establishment clause of the First Amendment (i.e., courts are prohibited from deciding religious disputes lest they become impermissibly entangled in religious disputes), or without violating Cook and Baumgarten's First Amendment free exercise rights. If the Court is to find for Scientology over Cook/Baumgarten, it must not appear to be taking sides in a religious dispute, and that doesn't appear to be so easy a task.

I asked about Cook waiving her free speech rights: could she really give up her Constitutionally protected rights of religious freedom?

No, the NDA only cites her waiving "free speech", not free exercise, which is a whole other animal, despite also being part of the same First Amendment.

I just started noticing too that the agreement cites that it's to be governed by Florida law (with regard to disputes involving the Flag Land Base in Clearwater); I wonder what a Texas court is going to make of this. It's probably in Cook's interest to keep the case out of Florida.

These are obviously early days, and we should get a better idea soon of how vigorously Cook is going to fight back.

At the least, it will be interesting to see if this country's mainstream press begins to take the kind of interest in Cook and recent crises facing Scientology that we've been seeing in the European and Australian press.

Debbie Cook Coverage in the Village Voice...

January 1: Scientology rocked by allegations of greed in e-mail to 12,000 church members

January 3: Is Scientology imploding? Watching the panic after a former executive dares to question church management

January 4: Scientology in crisis: Debbie Cook's transformation from enforcer to whistleblower

January 6: Scientology in turmoil: Debbie Cook's e-mail, annotated

Also, please see our primer, "What is Scientology?"

Tony Ortega is the editor-in-chief of The Village Voice. Since 1995, he's been writing about Scientology at several publications. | @VoiceTonyO | Facebook: Tony Ortega

Keep up on all of our New York news coverage at this blog, Runnin' Scared


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   I'll bring a couple of phone books to aid him seeing the big people.


  Notice that Scientology is arguing that she violated her NDA and also saying that her email was untrue.  Translation:  Scientology lies to its employees, and, if they repeat those lies, they are violating an NDA.  Also, NDAs are used for trade secrets (since 3d party disclosure hurts their value) but Scientology claims to be a religion.




I am wondering why the "church" is suing for only $300,000.  Are they trying to have it both ways?  Are they trying to "utterly ruin" Cook with a long legal battle, while hoping that the relatively small amount they are suing for will allow them to escape major press scrutiny?


You can't depose someone or require a person to be a witness if you can't serve them with papers to be in court or contact them to be at a deposition.

SP 'Onage
SP 'Onage

Miscavige is taking Debbie and her husband to court to harass, to delay, to exhaust them financially, physically, mentally. They're going to file every motion they can think of just to lock them up in court. The lawsuit isn't being used to seek justice, but to destroy Debbie the enemy, to prevent negative stories from appearing.

Win or lose the damage is done. There's a storm brewing and something tells me Debbie has been planning for it to hit a long time ago.

"I am sorry that I am the one telling you, but a new storm is upon us. Its waves are already in the media and the world around us."-Debbie Cook-


Thank you Roberts - you just resolved my dilemma if to donate to Debbie $5000.


Almost 20 years ago, David Miscavige decided to make an example out of Time magazine, and  did manage to cost Time over 4 million dollars (while spending, by some estimates, over $100 million).

It worked.  For years, this church carried on its dirty business with impunity, the major media afraid to investigate and report for fear of costly litigation.  Someone literally had to die before they would do anything.

Now this church wants to make an example of Debbie Cook and send a clear message to others who can reach the membership.

I donated money to this church to help it pay for the expensive lawsuits against Time.  I was told that for every dollar I gave, the enemy was going to have to pay $70.  I was told a number of other lies.  I believed it all.  I can't express how angry that makes me at myself and at them.

I've met Debbie Cook.  I don't know her personally, and I know she's done a lot of dirty work for the church, but you better believe I'm sending money to her legal fund!   It's time for another short dictator to have his Waterloo!

This church is getting its ass kicked all over the place.  Everywhere you look it's loss after loss after loss.  I don't think it even feels the blows anymore.  Rex Fowler, Jan Eastgate, Marty Rathbun, Mike Rinder, Anonymous, Anonymous, Anonymous, Nancy Many, Jeff Hawkins, Bruce Hines, The Headleys, The Truth Rundown, The Money Machine and on and on and on. 

But Debbie reached the membership, and the membership is all they have now, and that hurt.  It looks to me like they've decided to draw the line right here.  It's on!


Americans have such a sense of self-entitlement. Two adults agree to, and sign a legal NDA Non Disclosure agreement that includes a financial reward and NDA breach penalties. The agreement as I've read about it is no different than that used by entertainment, corporate, and I.P. companies. Yet, when those two people willfully choose to breach the agreement they signed, they are the victims? Not. Look, we either have law and agree to it here in the U.S. or we don't.


"Opression by its very nature creates the power needed to destroy itself;for a champion arises a champion of the opressed"with any luck this lawsuit lights a fire under Debbie and her husband and they become a bigger headache than Rathburn/Rinder.Good luck Debbie if your resigned to get sued,maybe it might pay to air every thing you know about CO$,get your moneys worth so to speak.

Kim O'Brien
Kim O'Brien

And i just thought of something else ..I thought that spouses could not testify against each other  ? Granted i might watch too much Law and Order but would that apply here i wonder ? 

Kim O'Brien
Kim O'Brien

Are they holding her responsible if someone else forwarded the email to others ?? This whole thing is so crazy ...but kind of par for the course with this" church" . My biggest hope is that somehow they lose their tax exempt status . That dissolves the whole "religious" concept and that would be a huge plus . 


It's interesting that there are numerous Scientology "scriptures" that support Debbie Cook in taking the actions that she did by sending out the email. 

There are hierarchies of policies and tech.  Some are more fundamental than others and, in fact, serve as the basis for lesser ones.

One of the most senior is The Code of Honor and the whole concept of Ethics.  If you are not practicing those, you are not doing Scientology(For argument's sake we temporarily suspend the inherent oxymoron between Scn theory and practice.  As one wit wrote, "For every policy, there is an equal and opposite policy".)

With the wealth of available references that demand a person take the ethical actions necessary to promote better survival for all, it can be argued that the Church of Scientology is factually preventing a Scientologist in good standing  from practicing standard Scientology.

What's up with that?


This just in.  Tampa Bay Times Editorial, Wed, Feb 1, 2011.  Digital online version post this last half hour.  A follow of Debbie Cook lawsuit article. 

"Scientology's First Amendments rights and wrongs".  It's a thing of beauty.  Here's an appetizer:

"The Church of Scientology relies heavily on First Amendment religious freedoms to shield itself from scrutiny in this country, but it is awfully quick to suppress freedom of speech that enjoys the same constitutional protections. The same church that raises the specter of Nazi oppression whenever it faces inquiry from German and French officials, expects its former, hardworking employees in the United States to sign away their free speech rights for as little as $500 in severance. The First Amendment is not a buffet where some rights are recognized and other inconvenient ones are ignored."


Your rights are not defined by Scientology and the court of law doesn't follow L Ron. This case, if you can call it that, can be won by any civil rights attorney, 1st year grad. Debbie, get yourself a good civil rights attorney, leave what you learned about Scientology aside, and fight this case based on your basic rights.

Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty

Two Hubbard policies came to mind.   1) The policy that Sicentologists are not to sue one another   2) The "Fair Game" policy, which has the option to sue an 'enemy'.

I don't think a religious scholar alive would deny Debbie and her husband's claims that they are Scientologists.   So suing a Scientologist can't be what's being applied, even though, in truth, this is the church's actual policy violation.   Debbie Cook and Wayne ARE Scientologists, in truth.

Therefore, what's going on is "Fair Game" suing option.   AND it proves that Fair Game tactics are still being employed by church of Scientology.  


The Church of Scientology receives tax-exemption as a religious institution. Are they legally permitted under that status to force followers to give up their First Amendment rights?  We can't have religious organizations usurping the rights and freedom of US citizens. Our country is built on these freedoms, and people have died to protect them. CoS gets tax exemption and force members to "give up" their constitutional rights? Tell me again why the ACLU and Feds haven't swooped down on them....


Maybe this will bring more local attention to Scientology and to that Superhero Org that's sitting there taking up an entire city block in a tourist-y city. That block could have how many shops? Restaurants? Offices? A nice park that would attract more money to Clearwater? SOMETHING to give Floridians jobs -- real jobs, not Sea Org "jobs". 

Scientology is purely parasitical, and Florida really doesn't need more parasites right now.


I agree, but the weight of the case will be mutual, and Debbie will be hard pressed, IMHO, to qualify an argument that she didn't know what she was signing, or was under duress to sign it, because a large sum of money was offered with the NDA, and they accepted it.The judge could care less of people's opines about Scientology as a cult or a scam, but on the merits of the case as applied in contract law.  It's going to be an interesting lawsuit. I suspect, whatever the outcome, the case will fall into the hands of the appellate court.

Chuck Beatty
Chuck Beatty

As most of us who studied the Hubbard "Scientology Ethics Book" know, Scientologists don't have the option of suing other Scientologists!   It's an ethics offense.   So WHY is Scientology suing a lady and man who absolutely consider themselves Scientologists, instead of following Hubbard policy, and work it out with the couple, standardly per the Hubbard policy?  

The only way official Scientology can sue, is if they are engaging in the "Fair Game" policy, which Hubbard said to sue.

This case against Debbie proves they are engaging in Fair Game (the suing option), and for sure they will deny they are engaging in Fair Game, since Hubbard wrote that they should not use the phrase Fair Game any longer.

So they are doing the "Fair Game" suit option, per the Hubbard policy dodge rules he left them.

SO sad, more bad word of mouth against Scientology.

- Chuck Beatty, ex OEC/FEBC Sup/Word Clearer, 1977-1983, amongst my total 27 years career in the Sea Org as staff (1975-2003).

Kim O'Brien
Kim O'Brien

Now THIS will be interesting . At least she is alive to tell her story ~ seems like her last visit to the RFP was a close call 


  Tony, a basic rule of contracts is that you can suspend performance if the other side materially breaches the contract.  Did Davey do this?  Arguably yes, inasmuch as Scientologyis based on LRH teaches squirreled by Davey.  Did Davey squirrel these teachings?  That, as Scott said, is a matter of religious interpretation, but suffice to say that Debbie Cook believes he has and thus has to either breach the contract or violate good faith beliefs as to her religion (which breaches the contract, because good faith is implied in contracts), so she is between a rock and a hard place.


I am wondering what Wayne's mother longtime scio Sherry and her friens' Melva and Eunice (mother and auntie of Laurisse Stuckenbrock) will think of that - also over forty years scios.


What's that lrh quote about using the law to trick and harass rather than win?Tis isn't going to work out well for scientology, even if it wins. Just think of those missing bodies that may get called to be deposed. Heber, Shelly, Ray and so many more.Just when you think it can't get worse for scientology, it does!*chortle*


  The problem with implant based religions is that the implant wears off.  It's like the ostrich with its head in the head--inevitably, it will remove its head from the sand and see the world for what it is.


Truth about Scientology = Irreparable harm.


I share your caution. But don't forget the precedent a positive outcome might set in terms of the enforceability or interpretation of Scn's boilerplate confidentiality agreements. There is a possibility for a ruling or rulings that might make a lot of people feel safer talking.


Although I admire your anger and feel for what you've been through, I personally hesitate before giving money to anyone that is associated with this organization (as an active or ex-member) and I hope that you think twice before doing the same.  I am no OSA bot but I am someone who has seen people give money to ex-members facing legal action against the cult only to regret it.  Such funds shouldn't be given to one that has the chance of turning sides on a dime.  This historically has happened when the cult wishes for a lawsuit to disappear (even if they started the proceedings themselves).

Remember that it was only a matter of Debbie Cook taking decades of abuse before finally signing that agreement, sending her email, and being legally entangled.  She still considers herself a Scientologist and the chances of her settling (after suffering much harassment) is high.  Think of it as an abused woman who initially wants to testify against her male abuser only to change her mind due to learned abusive behaviors.  

Many of us would love for her to completely stand up to the cult and fight them to where we all get a sense of justice (to where the cult folds and there are arrests).  Realistically this will not happen so I implore you to think twice before you send your hard earned dollars to someone who threw many under the bus for decades.  My experience with the Montalvo lawsuit is enough for me to never give money for a legal campaign against the cult.  Most lawsuits are settled out of court.  Keep that in mind.


And this is a church. The statements made were facts already in evidence, a known quantity both inside and outside the 'church' and the message was distributed by a [then] member in good standing to members in good standing. And this is a church. And this is a church. And this is church. SNAP OUT OF IT—THIS IS LUDICROUS! THESE ARE SUPPOSED TO BE THE MOST ETHICAL PEOPLE ON THE PLANET!


And Scientology subverts and outright breaks the law all the time. 

When you threaten someone into signing a contract, that contract is not valid. 


This may be why it could be a blessing that the lawsuit wasn't filed in California or Florida.  It seems that Scientology filed in a jurisdiction to strategically keep David Miscavige from personally being deposed.  But that strategy may backfire.....stay tuned.


It's about religion.   If a catholic priest made you sign a contract to never pray again, but then you said grace at dinner... could they sue you for that?  No way.  Same thing here.

You are free to think and pray. 

You are not free to steal copyrighted or other intellectual property, but that's totally different from religion. 


[edit:  "Scientology's First Amendment rights and wrongs" ]ends with just desserts:

"If this case moves forward, the judge should ensure that all depositions, court filings and court hearings are public. The public should be able to observe how the Church of Scientology seeks to wrap itself in First Amendment protections to avoid scrutiny and strip those protections from members of the church who were seeking to reform it."

Yes, yes and Hell Yes!

Tye Solaris
Tye Solaris


DM has redefined who is a Scientologist and who is not.

And since DM  "Is" the church of his mind.

I don't think he really cares all that much what that old stuff says... so riddled with grammatical errors and typo's.

I concur that what your stating is accurate.

But apparently DM feels that is just "Old School Thinking".


You technically cannot waive your rights as per the NDA language, but that in itself doesn't invalidate the entire agreement.  The First Amendment only states that CONGRESS shall make no law abridging freedom of speech but that also includes state/local governments and by proxy, courts.  However, all sorts of speech are forbidden by law including commercial speech.  Don't be fooled by the silly notion that you can say/print/spout out any type of speech you want in America.  It would take you months to go through all the laws/case law that curtails and forbids specific types of speech.


The First Amendment only applies to government actions ("Congress shall make no law..."Non-disclosure agreements are common, even in government, and perfectly legal in concept.


They don't care what policies they break, they don't care about all the negative press; it's all about control. I don't think they care that their church lives a shadowy half-life because there aren't enough Sea Org minions to keep buildings open, or that missions* are disappearing. They have to hammer dissent, and Debbie Cook is a dissident.


* Check the Scientology Church and Mission Locator website; the mission in Chula Vista, CA. that closed four or five years ago is still listed as open. The mission in Melrose, CA. closed in late November 2011 or early December 2011; it's still listed as open.

Radio Paul did a YouTube video a few years ago on various Orgs and missions and what he found was that there were empty lots, unmarked houses, hotel rooms, and other marginal areas listed as missions. For most of America, Scientology is a false front, addresses in a phone book that lead nowhere.


And that's going to get into a religious argument, which the courts avoid like the plague. I'm thinking Debbie Cook's best bet is to phrase everything as a religious argument, that everything she did was part of Scientology and to save Scientology. The court might even find the contract invalid because it's trying to use the courts to enforce religious compliance (hey, that's wishful thinking on my part, but a girl can dream, no?).


That would be fabulous.  The church isn't fond of precedents. 

Oh, p.s.  -- sorry for the weird spelling/punctuation errors in my post.  That'll teach me to type when I'm half asleep.


I sincerely appreciate the thoughtful response and concern.  You're right that this will likely end in a settlement.  I would be very happy if it did.  Wouldn't a settlement send a message to the other gagged critics that if they speak up, they stand to receive an additional payoff? 

Don't worry, I'm not sending the mortgage money, just a token of support to add my voice to the chorus singing for Debbie to fight.  If she takes it all and disappears, I'll just think of it as a  thank you for the flaming sack of turds she left on David Miscavige's doorstep on New Year's Eve!

"I am no OSA bot" - LOL  You speak so well for our side, it wouldn't matter to me if you were :))


You raise valid points, Deckard. This is indeed a woman who wants to "keep Scientology working", a pseudo-religion and scam that stunts spiritual growth for anyone lacking enough discernment to buy into it, not to mention the other tragedies that awaits them.

Daniel Shaw wrote:

"For many who successfully exit cults, the process oftransformation and expanded self-awareness they sought when they joined the cult only really begins once they have left the cult."

www (DOT) danielshawlcsw (DOT) com (FORWARD SLASH) traumabusecults.pdf

Tye Solaris
Tye Solaris

Good Point!

And that leads us into the whole area of how a religion is allowed to trademark and copyright everything it has, says and does.

Is the Bible copyrighted?Is the Koran copyrighted?

The U.S Govt "Goofed" big time when they mindlessly handed out copyright's and trademark's and patent rights to the 'Corporation of Religious Technology'.

Which really should be regarded as an oxymoron.


Unfortunately, some courts disagree with your conclusion.  One only needs to look at how Scientology manipulated the court system with Gerry Armstrong's NDA to the point where he can never utter the word "Scientology" without incurring a fine.  He had to move to Canada to get away from bamboozled California judges.

Tye Solaris
Tye Solaris

Time to 'Load up the Phaser Banks' and take out DM's Cloaking device.

Let America see who the church of scientology really is.


A contracts attorney friend of mine was reading the NDA and he says you're right. But also indicated a judge can rule it unenforceable. Happens all the time, but you know it won't be that easy. What struck my friend was that Debbie Cook and her husband were given $50K each, even though they made virtually no income while "employed" by the church. The NDA document screams of cover-up. The church was buying their silence so she's probably got some very explosive information. I hope all that comes out in the court case and Scientology is completely exposed.


That's correct but my issue is that the "church" is stripping followers of those rights, while enjoying the benefit of tax exemption. The government has provisions for maintaining that tax-exempt status. It seems crazy to me that the government would not have a provision to prevent this type of civil rights violation. What the CoS is doing mimics what Jim Jones did. Human rights violations. We all know how that turned out. Didn't our government learn anything from that?


Actually, they DO care about negative press.  They measure their weekly statistics when someone posts a disparaging comment in the same sentence as "Church of Scientology" or "David Miscavige", etc.  See Chuck Beatty's comments from last week as reference.

The more inches of downstat they have, the more pressure is put on the Sea Org slaves to be upstat.  That pressure can include such things as taking away pleasures like sleeping and eating.  The more pressure put on the slaves, the more likely they are to blow the cult en masse.  

So......please......encourage everyone to write posts such as, the "Church of Scientology" is a criminal mafia organization led by "David Miscavige" who should be arrested on multiple RICO violations including murder, conspiracy to murder, extortion, conspiracy to extortion, attempted murder, human trafficking, human rights abuses, and other sundry crimes.

Get it now?

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