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[December 16, 2005]
U.S. SENATORS HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY), JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT) AND EVAN BAYH (D-IN) HOLD A NEWS CONFERENCE ON THE SALE OF INAPPROPRIATE VIDEO GAMES TO CHILDREN
(Political Transcript Wire)
SENATORS CLINTON, LIEBERMAN AND BAYH HOLD A NEWS CONFERENCE
ON THE SALE OF INAPPROPRIATE VIDEO GAMES TO CHILDREN
DECEMBER 16, 2005
SPEAKERS: U.S. SENATOR HILLARY CLINTON (D-NY)
U.S. SENATOR JOSEPH LIEBERMAN (D-CT)
U.S. SENATOR EVAN BAYH (D-IN)
CLINTON: Thank you all for being here.
I'm here today as a parent and a senator, and along with my
colleagues and so many of the advocates from around the country, we
are determined to stop a situation in which video games with
pornographic and violent content are being peddled to our children.
Today I'm announcing, along with my colleagues, Senator Lieberman
and Bayh, the Family Entertainment Protection Act. This bill will
prohibit the sale of violent and sexually explicit video games to
minors and will give parents the tools they need to make informed
Now, as the holiday season is upon us, this is a particularly
important time to raise awareness of this issue. Video games are hot
holiday items, and I understand that. They are certainly entertaining
and even educational in many instances. They can help our children
learn. They can increase hand and eye coordination.
But it is also clear that there are games that are just not
appropriate for children. And busy parents are looking for some
guidance all the time, but especially during this hectic holiday
Now, as you can see from the posters that we have displayed here,
many games contain content that is deeply disturbing. It's almost
routine in popular games for players to spray other people with Uzis,
to drive over pedestrians, to kill police officers, to attack women,
and in some cases even to engage in cannibalism.
Players commit gruesome acts like these using top-of-the-line
graphics in stunningly realistic detail.
Now, it is up to adults whether they wish to expose themselves to
this type of violence and pornography. But we have 40 years of
research to tell us that violent media is bad for our children.
CLINTON: According to the most comprehensive statistical
analysis yet conducted, violent video games increase aggressive
behavior as much as lead exposure decreases children's I.Q. scores.
And I want people to think about that. Everybody knows lead
poisoning is bad for children. Well, I want everybody to know that
exposure to violent video games is also bad for children.
There was testimony before the Senate Commerce Committee in 2000
that playing video games -- violent video games -- accounts for a 13
percent to 22 percent increase in teenagers' violent behavior.
Yet we know that such games are easily accessible. A recent
study by the National Institute on Media and the Family found that
children between the ages of 9 and 14 were able to purchase M-rated
video games nearly 50 percent of the time.
Furthermore, nearly a quarter of retailers didn't even understand
the ratings they were supposed to enforce. And only half of the
stores surveyed train employees in the use of the rating.
Well, we need to do better, and that's why we're introducing the
Family Entertainment Protection Act.
And let me be very, very clear: This legislation is not about
government censorship or regulation of content. Quite simply, it is
about protecting children and empowering parents.
We need to treat violent video games the way we treat tobacco,
alcohol and pornography. We know that these products are damaging to
children, and we need to give parents the tools to keep them out of
If you put it just really simply, these violent video games are
stealing the innocence of our children. And it is certainly making
the job of being a parent even more difficult.
So the time has come to put on the brakes and to just insist that
parents know what material is in the video games their children play
and to pass laws with real teeth that will send a clear message that
we really do mean business.
CLINTON: I'm pleased now to introduce Norman Rosenberg, who is
the president and CEO of Parents' Action for Children, a nonpartisan
network of parents founded by the actor and director Rob Reiner.
Parents' Action for Children mobilizes parents to stand up for
policies that put children and families first. And Mr. Rosenberg has
certainly done that in his 30 years of advocacy on behalf of
He first came to Washington in 1977 when he fought for the rights
of children with disabilities. He's a native New Yorker and brought
up in New York City, graduate of the State University of New York at
Buffalo and a former professor in SUNY-Buffalo's School of Law, where
he taught family law and juvenile justice.
And finally, what makes him even more qualified to be here today
is he is the father of twin boys, just like Senator Bayh. So Mr.
Rosenberg looks at the effect of violence and pornographic video games
on children in a very personal way.
So please join me in welcoming Norman Rosenberg.
NORMAN ROSENBERG, PRESIDENT AND CEO, PARENTS' ACTION FOR
CHILDREN: Thank you, Senator Clinton.
As the senator says, Parents' Action for Children is an
organization which is seeking to have parents heard by decision-makers
around issues of critical importance to them, critical importance to
child development, family stability and family well-being.
As I have traveled around the country in connection with my work,
talking to parents about a range of issues, I have found few that get
parents as angry and as frustrated as the assault on them and their
children from violent, racist and sexually explicit video games.
Kids love video games, there's no question about it. As the
senator said, my 11-year-old twin boys love them and they play them.
In limited doses, and if you're careful about the content of
these games, many of them are just fine. What's not fine, however, is
when young kids are allowed to play games that glamorize and reward
violence against women, hate crimes, murdering of police officers.
And it's certainly not fine that young kids can walk into major
retailers across the country and easily purchase games no matter how
old they are -- 10-year-olds, 12-year-olds, 14-, 15-year-olds.
As an organization founded, as Senator Clinton said, by a
filmmaker -- and somebody who cares very deeply about freedom of
expression and the protection of the First Amendment -- we approach
this issue, nevertheless, with a great deal of enthusiasm and vigor.
ROSENBERG: Video game producers have every right to manufacture
and to sell their games. But just as we don't allow children to buy
cigarettes or alcohol, as a society we simply cannot turn away when
the product in question is violent video games, games that researchers
increasingly showed are very, very closely linked to aggressive and
antisocial behavior of all kinds.
Manufacturers and retailers take the position that parents are
responsible for monitoring what their children do. Well, as parents,
of course we take that responsibility. But it's very clear that we
can't do it alone.
The Family Entertainment Protection Act gives parents the tools
they need to do their job. It bans the sale of violent games with
ratings of "mature," "adult only," or "pending ratings," to our kids.
And it establishes a meaningful ratings system for parents to use so
that they can judge the content of those games.
No parent can know what their children are doing every hour,
every minute of the day, especially given the realities of life in
this country with parents working so hard to make ends meet.
If the culture around us allows kids to easily purchase video
games that are full of hate, extreme violence, graphic sexual content,
we as parents are forever going to be in the position of having to
fight against our own culture. We need to feel that our society is
working for us, not working to undermine us.
Parents' Action for Children thanks Senator Clinton, Senator
Lieberman and Bayh for answering the call of America's parents for
government policies that help parents raise our kids.
On behalf of our parent members, we pledge our support for
passage of this very important legislation.
CLINTON: Thank you very much, Norman.
ROSENBERG: And it's, I understand, my pleasure to introduce...
CLINTON: Go ahead, yes.
ROSENBERG: Oh, you're welcome to do it.
CLINTON: No, no, go ahead.
ROSENBERG: ... Senator Lieberman, a great parent and a great
champion of this issue.
LIEBERMAN: Thanks very much, Doctor.
I apologize for my voice. I'm fighting with a cold.
LIEBERMAN: I'm delighted to be here.
And I particularly want to thank my colleague and dear friend
Senator Clinton for taking the leadership on this very, very important
issue -- important to America's children, America's families and
Because remember that we are not only here trying to protect our
children from the impact of the most violent and over-the-edge video
games, we are trying to protect the rest of society from antisocial
behavior that those children stimulated by those games may carry out
against others. This is a real problem.
It's a real problem in another way. I was just part of an
announcement a few weeks ago with a group that did a survey, actually
sent in juveniles as testers into major retailing establishments to
see if they could buy video games that were clearly rated as
unobtainable and unacceptable by them. And the rate in most of the
stores of their ability to do that was jarring. In other words, it's
all too easy to do it.
So this proposal, this Family Entertainment Protection Act,
speaks to a very important need and does it in a very reasonable way.
It takes the industry's own rating system, the video game industry's
own rating system, which is one of the most comprehensive out there,
and simply says to retailers in America, you've got to live by that
And as Dr. Rosenberg said, people say it's up to the parents. Of
course it's up to us parents. But it's also up to the retailers, as
it is up, hopefully, to the video game producers to show some sense of
limits about what they produce.
And that's the simple and common-sense intention of this
legislation, to say to retailers: If you're selling video games that,
because of their violence or sexual content, are rated by the industry
itself as unacceptable for children, to our children, then you're
going to be fined.
We're going to put some teeth into the rating system.
LIEBERMAN: I know people will always say, as Senator Clinton
said, that this is somehow an abridgement of constitutional rights.
This is not at all a curtailment of our First Amendment. It is a
protection of our first priority, which is America's children.
I am delighted to be part of this introduction. Again, I thank
I thank the parents' groups that are here. I want to give a
special welcome to April Delaney (ph), who, with her husband John,
were neighbors and remained dear friends of my wife.
And neither the Delaneys (ph) nor the Liebermans have twins.
But we do have a lot of children.
Thank you very much.
CLINTON: Our other co-sponsor...
LIEBERMAN: Together we will introduce the great senator from
Indiana, and a great dad, too, Evan Bayh.
BAYH: Thank you.
CLINTON: Father of twins, sure enough.
BAYH: That's probably the most important credential I've got,
Joe, so thank you for that.
I am so pleased to join with my colleagues who I've known for so
many years and have had the pleasure of working with on so many
issues, but none more important than the one we've gathered to
Let me just begin by observing that, very often around here, we
come to podiums like this to discuss with you the economic prosperity
of our country or the importance of restoring our nation's finances.
And those things are important.
Very often we come to press conferences like this to talk about
our nation's security and what we need to do to protect ourselves in a
dangerous world. That, too, is vitally important.
But all of those things will lack meaning if we allow ourselves
to become a nation that is not also healthy and decent and the kind of
place in which we can raise our children to share our values. And
that is all too often in peril today by the proliferation of these
graphic, violent video games.
And we've heard discussed by academic experts and my colleagues
the evidence. Forty percent of kids as young as 9 can go into these
stores and buy videos that involve assassinations of political
figures, shootings of police officers, dismemberment of other human
beings, degrading behavior toward women.
Of course this has an effect on children who are 9, 10, 11 years
old. We know that it does, and the scientific evidence is now backing
that up, in places like Iowa, Indiana University's medical school,
Harvard, many other eminent institutions.
And as you heard my colleagues mention, the voluntary system just
isn't working well enough. Fifty percent of retailers don't even
train their employees in what the system requires.
BAYH: And as we've said, the problem isn't when parents go in,
it's when the kids go in by themselves and they can get their hands on
this kind of thing.
Senator Clinton mentioned this as particularly topical, and it
is. Fifty percent of video games are purchased between Thanksgiving
and Christmas -- half. So it's an important time for us to elevate
the public's consciousness -- parents, producers, retailers, all of us
-- about getting our act together to do right by our children.
Let me just conclude by summarizing, I'll tell you what I think,
at the bottom line, this really is all about.
We decided many years ago that pornography, graphic sexual
content, was bad for our kids, and it is. The time has come to
conclude that graphic violence is also bad for our children, because
we now know that it is.
This is not about the censorship; it's about empowering parents
to make the right decisions for our kids.
And the final thing I'd say, as both Joe and Hillary mentioned,
is that, look, the First Amendment protections lie at the heart of our
country and must not be sacrificed. But they must not also become an
altar upon which our children's innocence is sacrificed.
This legislation today protects both of those values in a way
that is good for America. And that's why I'm proud to be here with my
colleagues to do something about that. And I thank them both for
their leadership in this important area.
I'm now privileged to introduce Dr. Michael Rich, who is the
director of the Center of Media and Child Health at Children's
Hospital in Boston. He's also a professor of pediatrics at Harvard
Medical School. In our part of the world we kind of refer to that as
the Indiana University of the East.
So, Mike, we're grateful to you.
And he's going to discuss with us, you know, some of the evidence
here, the real evidence about the impact of violent video games on
Doctor, thank you.
MICHAEL RICH, DIRECTOR, THE CENTER OF MEDIA AND CHILD HEALTH,
CHILDREN'S HOSPITAL, BOSTON, MA: As a pediatrician and as a parent,
though not of twins -- I apologize, I'm the odd man out -- I thank the
senators for having the foresight to pull this bill together and
RICH: With the Family Entertainment Protection Act, Senators
Clinton, Lieberman and Bayh have recognized a clear and present public
health threat and have had the courage and compassion to create a
child-protection law for the new information age.
Health researchers have long recognized the influence of
electronic media on children and adolescents. Hundreds of studies
conducted in disciplines ranging from public health to developmental
psychology to criminal justice have shown again and again that
children's exposure to violent media is associated with increased fear
and anxiety, desensitization to the suffering of others, and a
significantly greater likelihood of becoming violent themselves.
The effects are particularly profound in children, who, early on,
are developmentally incapable of distinguishing fantasy from reality
and who are constantly learning about the world and how to succeed in
it from whatever source they're exposed to.
Media, which they use for more time each day on average than they
are in school, are an important window on the world for the developing
Research has shown again and again that witnessing violence is
the single strongest predictor of becoming violent yourself.
Interactive electronic games are a relatively new technology, and
there is limited, but growing, research on them.
Much of the research we have over the past 50 years has been done
on the effects of viewing television. Is playing a video game the
same as watching television? No. Video games take the experience one
step further, placing the player in a kill-or-be-killed environment.
The player not only witnesses violence, but is trained and rewarded
for doing violence.
Like flight simulators for pilots, video games place their
players in virtual realities, teaching and rehearsing them over and
over again in the acts that they need to master in order to survive
and thrive, all in the name of entertainment.
Psychologists call such repetitive actions, where behaviors are
done again and again with rewards for success, behavioral scripts.
They are rehearsing the way they're going to live their lives.
Whether the user is learning to fly or learning to kill, he or
she has the opportunity to do it again and again until it becomes
reflexive, efficient and unemotional.
More than 30 years ago, the U.S. surgeon general reviewed the
scientific research to date at that time and reported that violence
viewed on television contributed to violent behavior in children.
This was followed 10 years later by a similar study for the National
Institute of Mental Health that made the same findings.
RICH: The American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical
Association, the American Psychological Association and the American
Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry put together in the year
2000 a very rare consensus statement -- trying to get doctors to agree
is a work onto itself.
But that statement said that the conclusion of the public health
community, which they represented, based on over 30 years of research,
is that viewing entertainment violence can lead to increases in
aggressive attitudes, values and behavior, particularly in children.
Its effects are measurable and longlasting.
We're fortunate to live in a time and a society that are guided
by reason, compassion and the rights guaranteed by our democracy.
Learning from the findings of health research, we try to raise
our children to be healthy and safe, giving them milk to grow strong
bones, de-leading our homes, and teaching them of tobacco's dangers.
However, research has shown a stronger correlation between
viewing violent media and aggressive behavior than exists between
calcium consumption and bone density, between lead ingestion and lower
I.Q.s, between passive smoke and lung cancer.
Now, as a doctor, all of those things I accept as fact, and I
guide my patients and their families on behavior consistent with those
But until now, we as a society have not recognized or responded
to the powerful effects of violent media, and we have an ongoing
epidemic of violence and more children on psychiatric medications than
ever before in history.
This is not the first attempt to create legislation to protect
children from violent electronic games. Parents and citizens across
the country have recognized the problems and have attempted to craft
policy to reflect and respond to this concern.
Cities such as Indianapolis and St. Louis and states from
Washington to Illinois have passed laws to restrict violent video game
sales only to adults. To date, each has been ruled unconstitutional
on the basis of the First Amendment. Yet, our society has decided to
restrict children's access, limiting sales to those over 18.
There's far more scientific evidence of the damage caused by
violent media to the physical, mental and social health of children.
In order to prevail, however, it is clear that more sophisticated and
focused research on the damage caused by violent media to the
physical, mental and social health of children is necessary.
The Children in Media Research Advancement Act sponsored in part
by some of the senators with me here today will provide for such
research, and should be passed into law.
Just as science has guided us to incorporate infant car seats,
safety belts and bicycle helmets into our children's lives, these
senators have shown the foresight, compassion and leadership to give
parents and other caring adults the tools and the power to choose what
their children will be exposed to and to learn from.
RICH: Freedom of speech is, as we have all said, a core tenet of
our society and is to be protected at all costs. But freedom from
fear, especially for those who are most vulnerable, is equally central
to a compassionate society.
The Family Entertainment Protection Act does not censor video
games. It simply limits their sale to those who are old enough to
make a mature decision on the risks and benefits of playing the game.
Without infringing on game creators' freedom of speech or their
ability to profit from their creations, this act will restore to
parents their ability to protect the health and social development of
their children so that they can grow up healthy, safe and free.
CLINTON: April Delaney, who's already been referred to, is the
director of government relations at Common Sense Media.
APRIL MCCLAIN-DELANEY, DIRECTOR OF GOVERNMENT RELATIONS, COMMON
SENSE MEDIA: Hi. I'm April McClain-Delaney. I am the director of
the Washington office for Common Sense Media.
With 3 million Web users on our commonsensemedia.org Web site, we
rate for age appropriateness all forms of media for children. We're
the leading nonpartisan nonprofit in the United States looking at
these issues and improving media lives.
Common Sense Media is very excited and pleased to support this
legislation, which we find vital in the well-being and health of our
nation's children. We commend Senators Clinton, Lieberman and Bayh
for taking this important legislation action.
In general, we look at this as a common-sense approach to promote
informed decision-making by our parents. And in so doing, they are
able to figure out what they want in their own home and able to look
at these video games individually as a family.
We and our colleagues have consulted with constitutional experts
across the country in helping draft this legislation. We believe it
protects the cognitive, social, emotional and physical well-being of
the children in America.
MCCLAIN-DELANEY: We think that this legislation is also narrowly
tailored and carefully drafted, so that it fits the purpose of
protecting the compelling state interest of the nation's children and
I might add that this legislation does not -- I repeat -- does
not restrict adults from buying this or various video gamers from
producing it. It only limits children from buying it who are under
the age of 17.
We commend and support gamers having the ability to distribute
and create these games and to fulfill their creative visions.
However, like those who have spoken before, we believe that there are
several and serious health implications, including impacts on the
cognitive and social and psychological impacts of kids.
Having said the foregoing, we think media is fun. We like media
and we like video games. And we have compiled at the back of the room
a list of the best out there. We think that you can go out and find
age-appropriate video games for your children and that they will, in
turn, be approved by those parents in the household.
At the end of the day, we don't think this is a Republican issue,
a Democratic issue; it's a bipartisan issue. And at Common Sense
Media, we think this is about being kid-partisan, respecting First
Amendment freedoms and cherishing those things that we hold dear, but
also looking out for the health and safety and welfare of our children
in this country.
Thank you. And we have additional information at the back of the
CLINTON: Thank you very much.
And, April, aren't these some of the recommendations that you
make, right here, for videos that families can trust?
MCCLAIN-DELANEY: We have several recommendations. And then we
also kind of talk about some of the ones that we felt maybe were "M"
or "O" in classification.
CLINTON: So I guess to sum it all up, what our bill does is to
make it a federal misdemeanor to sell or rent or attempt to sell or
rent to a minor any video game that is rated "Mature" or "Adults Only"
by the Entertainment Software Ratings Board.
Whoever violates this statute shall be fined $1,000 or 100 hours
of community service for the first offense and $5,000 or 500 hours for
each subsequent offense.
And the people responsible under this law will be the store
managers, those who are responsible for training and supervising
employees in the local store -- not the clerk, not the part-time high
school student who is on duty when somebody comes in to buy. This
goes to the people at the retail level who are responsible for what
happens in their store.
So we're very committed to this. We're going to work hard on it.
But more than that, we just want to send a message this holiday
season, so that retailers can begin to do this on their own, so that
we don't have 50 percent of kids inappropriately being able to buy "M"
or "AO" video games when they really shouldn't.
So we'd be happy to take any of your questions about this.
QUESTION: How are you going to deal with the problem of several
courts in several states that ruled these laws unconstitutional,
saying they (OFF-MIKE). Is there something in your law that (OFF-
CLINTON: Well, you know, as someone said earlier -- and I'm sure
that both Joe and Evan may want to comment on this -- is that our bill
puts teeth into the standards that have already been set by the
The industry has already said it will live by these standards.
And yet we're finding that they are not endorsed. And we believe that
if we put this authority into the hands of parents to make informed
decisions, which is an approach we think the Supreme Court has in the
past and would in the future approve, then in order for that to be
possible, for them to be empowered, you have to get assistance at the
So we don't see this as a constitutional issue. We're aware of
the fact that some of the statutes, as they were drafted and defended,
have been enjoined. There hasn't been a final decision yet.
But certainly we think that our bill gets around the
constitutional problems, because it doesn't impinge First Amendment
rights of either adults or those who produce video games. It just
holds adults to a standard to enforce the very criteria that were used
to determine which of these games are appropriate for kids.
CLINTON: Joe, do you want to take this?
LIEBERMAN: I would just first add a note of -- if I can say --
irony at the beginning. That is, generally speaking, courts in
America have not been hesitant to uphold laws that limit children's
access to pornography.
It is very ironic that these courts -- two courts -- have now
struck down attempts to limit children's access to violent materials,
which is, arguably, at least as harmful.
But the more direct answer is I think the one that Senator
Clinton gave, that this is -- in fact, we can talk a little legal
lingo here. When it comes to the First Amendment, courts generally
apply strict scrutiny tests, and you've got to narrowly tailor the
These restrictions are very narrowly tailored. And, in fact,
there are no restrictions on free expression. The restrictions are
simply on the sale of this material to minors.
And the final word is there has not been a final court decision,
certainly not by the Supreme Court. There is, as Dr. Rich, Dr.
Rosenberg have indicated, a growing body of scientific evidence about
the connection between the playing of violent video games and violent
And I'm confident that the proposal that we are making here
today, therefore, is constitutional.
MCCLAIN-DELANEY: At Common Sense Media, we did look at this
issue. There are eight states which have passed legislation and given
jurisdictions on this. It's pending. There are eight states that
have introduced legislation. Eight states have passed it, as well as
the District of Columbia.
The three injunctions in question are pending. But they are
preliminary. And if I say preliminary, a full hearing with all of the
And I agree with Senators Clinton and Bayh that I think when the
health evidence is out there, all the compelling evidence is there,
that there is a growing body in support of this.
BAYH: Thank you, April.
Joe and Hillary have touched upon this. This is a case where the
courts need to catch up with the scientific data. It is simply not
sustainable to say that we're going to treat graphic sexual content
one way but graphic violent content another in light of developing
evidence that they both have harmful effects for children.
That's the bottom line here, and that's why I think ultimately
QUESTION: Ms. Delaney brought up the point about this being a
kid-partisan issue. I'm just wondering, is there any members of the
Senate -- I was wondering why there aren't any Republican members of
the Senate (OFF-MIKE)
CLINTON: Well, we expect to pick up cosponsors on both sides of
We wanted to get this introduced before we ended the season,
particularly because it is the holiday season and this information, we
believe, is helpful to parents so that they are vigilant about the
decisions that they make with respect to buying the right kind of
video games for their children.
But we'll be pushing very hard on this after we come back after
the 1st of the year.
QUESTION: Could you talk about the use of the bully pulpit to
send a message (OFF-MIKE).
Senator Lieberman, you've been holding these press conferences
for 10 years and the games get worse and worse. How effective is this
LIEBERMAN: I'd say this. In fact, the number of games that have
gotten better has gone up, in my opinion, and that's what most of the
experts who look at this. There are a lot of very good, enjoyable,
challenging video games out there.
But the bad ones have gotten worse, and the "worse" in part is
because the technology of video games has been much improved, so the
games are much more lifelike.
LIEBERMAN: The other fact, sadly, is that, you know, just as
there can be -- there are all kinds of competitions. When you get
into this niche where you're competing for over-the-edge video game
experiences, people keep one-upping each other.
So, as Senator Clinton said, and I've seen some of these out this
year, some of the games are actually featuring cannibalism now. It's
just really unbelievable.
So I'd like to think that one thing the bully pulpit does is to
educate parents. And I think Senator Clinton wanted to do this
announcement now because this is the time when most parents are buying
video games for their kids -- and to keep in mind that a lot of these
games, most of them, are great, but some of them are really
threatening to our kids and others who interact with the kids.
Maybe I'll put a final word in for the bully pulpit. The ESRB
ratings system itself was a reaction to an early round of, shall I
say, sermons from the bully pulpit. And it is a good ratings system
-- so good that we're prepared to hold retailers accountable to it.
QUESTION: (OFF-MIKE) in regards to the Patriot Act?
LIEBERMAN: That's A.O. rated.
CLINTON: Thank you all very much.
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