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Virginia is building a comprehensive strategy of inclusion in state government employment practices

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RICHMOND, VA – On May 17, 2022, Governor Glenn Youngkin announced that the Virginia state government has implemented an alternative hiring process for individuals with disabilities, serving as a model for inclusive employment practices. The process embeds the employment of individuals with differing abilities as part of standard hiring policy and the state work culture.

A collaboration of state and community partners, the Department of Human Resource Management (DHRM), and the Department for Aging and Rehabilitative Services (DARS) have spearheaded the continuing effort to employ, integrate and accommodate more individuals with disabilities in the state workforce.

“My administration fully supports expanded economic and job opportunities for individuals living with disabilities. This is a significant step in the Commonwealth’s commitment to the overall goal of increasing employment opportunities for all Virginians,” said Governor Youngkin.

The state hiring policy will be updated to incorporate the new alternative hiring process.

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Applicants with documented disabilities, as certified by a DARS certified rehabilitation counselor, are eligible for consideration.

Interested applicants will apply at jobs.virginia.gov and upload a Certificate of Disability to their employment application.

Approved applicants may receive priority consideration during the recruitment process.

Agencies are strongly encouraged to provide a 6-month provisional period to these new hires to ensure accommodation needs are met, and employees are set up for success.

“This process is only the beginning of our strategy to demonstrate our commitment to individuals with differing abilities to improve the state workforce. It is one facet of a more comprehensive strategy, which includes accommodations, communication, education and awareness, compliance and retention of individuals with differing abilities,” said Margaret “Lyn” McDermid, Secretary of Administration.

The Commonwealth’s continuing commitment to equal employment opportunities for all, including individuals with differing abilities, is highlighted in Code of Virginia §2.2-203.2:3 and §2.2-1213.

“This policy opens doors for job applicants with disabilities to seek state employment, paving the way for new career paths. DARS’ collaboration with DHRM is essential to its success in assisting those who are underrepresented in the state workforce,” said DARS Commissioner Kathy Hayfield.

“To bolster this initiative, DARS received a $9.2 million federal grant called ‘Pathways to Careers using Partnerships, Apprenticeships and Equity,’ that will serve at least 750 Virginians with disabilities to acquire skills-based training and registered apprenticeships in high-wage, high-demand fields, including STEM and state government,” said John Littel, Secretary of Health and Human Resources.

The DHRM website has more information at jobs.virginia.gov, including Frequently Asked Questions for Applicants. A Certificate of Disability may be requested from DARS or by calling 800-552-5019. Sign language users may use the videophone at 804-325-1316.

 

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Jail deaths and suicides soar and more Va. headlines

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The State Capitol. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

 

• The former Virginia police officer who “catfished” a 15-year-old girl in California and killed three members of the family was detained and hospitalized in 2016 after threatening to kill himself and his father, according to Virginia police records. A spokesman for the Virginia State Police said the agency conducted a “thorough background check” before admitting him to a law enforcement academy five years later.—Los Angeles Times

• Jail deaths and suicides soared in Virginia last year, but officials aren’t offering an explanation for what caused the increase.—Richmond Times-Dispatch

• In a lawsuit challenging the transgender-inclusive policies of Harrisonburg’s public schools, the judge dismissed claims brought by parents but allowed three teachers involved in the case to continue pursuing claims the policy violates their rights.—Daily News-Record


• A federal judge declined to dismiss a First Amendment lawsuit brought against Virginia Tech by a former soccer player who claims she was berated and benched for refusing to kneel during a pregame unity statement. Her former coach says she was benched for poor play, not her conservative views.—Roanoke Times

• A Richmond restaurant refused to serve a group affiliated with the Christian advocacy group the Family Foundation, which opposes abortion and LGBTQ equality.—WRIC

 

by Staff Report, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Virginia regulators enter into agreement with menhaden fishery

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A.J. Erskine, far right, speaks as a member of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission at a meeting Tuesday. (Charlie Paullin/Virginia Mercury)

 

Following months of negotiations on proposed regulations and hours of testimony Tuesday, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission approved an agreement with the menhaden industry that will restrict fishing in the Chesapeake Bay but doesn’t carry any enforceable penalties.

In a 5-4 vote, the commission voted to approve a memo of understanding stating the Bay’s lone reduction fishery, Omega Protein, and two bait fisheries agree to not fish in state waters of the Chesapeake Bay around Memorial Day, July 4 and Labor Day, as well as on Saturdays and Sundays between Memorial Day and Labor Day and within a half-mile of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

The agreement also calls for the whole fishery to work collaboratively with the governor’s office and the General Assembly to maintain a buffer where fishing will not occur in waters along the densely populated areas of the Eastern Shore, the Chesapeake Bay, and Virginia Beach region.


The commission initially considered regulations that would have created a no-fishing buffer one nautical mile wide around Virginia shorelines and Virginia Beach and a half-nautical mile wide around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, along with 17 days of no fishing around holidays.

The proposed regulations would have applied to both Omega Protein and the bait fisheries.

The regulations were proposed following two net spills by Omega Protein over the summer, resulting in thousands of dead menhaden washing ashore in Northampton County. Subsequently, the Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association delivered a petition with 11,000 signatures to Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s office asking Virginia to shut down the reduction fishery in the Bay.

Youngkin appointees Spencer Headley, A.J. Erskine, Lynn Kellum, and Chairman Jamie Green, along with James Minor III, an appointee of former Democratic Gov. Ralph Northam, voted in favor of the agreement with the industry.  Board members Glen France, John Tankard III, and Heather Lusk, all appointed by Northam, and Youngkin appointee Will Bransom voted against the agreement.

Before the vote, the board’s legal counsel stressed that the agreement doesn’t carry any force of law.

Erksine of the Northern Neck-based Cowart Seafood Corporation and Bevans Oyster Company said the proposed regulations didn’t address the problem of net spills and argued the state should increase enforcement of cleanup obligations after spills. Omega has said it has invested in a vessel to catch spilled fish before they reach the shore.

“I just think we’re falling a little short of our responsibility if we don’t address the issues at hand,” Erskine said.

Secretary of Natural and Historic Resources Travis Voyles called the agreement with the menhaden industry a “good potential path forward,” while Youngkin spokeswoman Macaulay Porter said, “the administration and the Virginia Marine Resources Commission have been engaged with all stakeholders from Virginia’s commercial and recreational fishing sectors about these issues and the importance of commonsense solutions for protecting and cleaning up the Bay.”

During the five-hour discussion on the topic, VMRC Chief of Fisheries Management Pat Geer said the proposed regulations would have prevented Omega from setting about 6.4% of its nets in the Bay.

The sportfishers want the fishery shut down because they say overfishing of menhaden leads to the depletion of other species like striped bass.

However, Virginia Institute of Marine Science professor Rob Latour said coastwide menhaden landings have fallen to less than 50% of the 700,000 metric tons of landings that occurred at its peak, and striped bass populations have been periodically overfished.

“There’s very rarely a single smoking gun,” Latour said

Virginia Institute for Marine Science Professor Rob Latour speaks at the Virginia Marine Resources Commission meeting.(Charlie Paullin/Virginia Mercury)

 

The Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission recently increased the coastwide quota for menhaden by 20% after concluding the population is healthy.

But Virginia Saltwater Sportfishing Association President Steve Atkinson said coastwide menhaden data don’t reflect the impacts of the fishery on the Bay.

David Reed, executive director of the Maryland-based Chesapeake Legal Alliance, said the VMRC is ignoring a lack of science on the Bay’s menhaden population.

“They are covering their eyes and ears to the best available science,” Reed said.

Del. Tim Anderson, R-Virginia Beach, has proposed legislation to close the Bay fishery for two years to study the impact of menhaden reduction fishing. He also proposed legislation to expand the time frame when regulations can be changed. Currently, they can only be altered from October to December.

This article was updated to state that France, Tankard, Lusk, and Bransom voted against the agreement.

 

by Charlie Paullin, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Governor Youngkin announces budget language to halt prosecution of COVID-shutdown related fines, penalties, and begin reimbursement process

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On December 6, 2022, Governor Youngkin issued an Executive Order directing enforcement agencies, boards, and commissions to report all fines, fees, and suspensions related to the COVID-19 shutdown violations. The Governor also announced he would direct agencies to halt further collection and enforcement action in his upcoming budget to be delivered on December 15th. The budget will also direct the Secretary of Finance to work with agencies to develop a reimbursement process for individuals and businesses who paid unjust COVID-19 fines and fees.

“I am today requiring a statewide review of COVID-19-related penalties imposed by the Northam administration. The fact that businesses are still dealing with COVID-19-related penalties and fines is infuriating. Livelihoods are on the line,” said Governor Glenn Youngkin. “In the previous administration, we saw our government shut down businesses, close our schools, and separate us from each other. While we can’t undo the damage done during the Northam administration, we are taking action going forward to end COVID-era draconian overreach.”

“I look forward to working with the General Assembly to address this, forgive COVID fines and fees and restore unjustly suspended licenses,” Governor Youngkin continued.

The budget language will not apply to instances where the violation was in relation to practices, guidelines, rules, or operating procedures intended to protect the health and safety of individuals, patients, residents, and staff of hospitals, nursing homes, certified nursing facilities, hospices, or assisted living facilities.


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Virginia is expected to received at least $16.8 million; prohibits deceptive and youth-focused marketing of e-cigarettes

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On December 6, 2022, Attorney General Jason Miyares announced that Virginia has joined a bipartisan coalition of 33 states to secure a $434.9 million settlement from JUUL Labs, widely recognized as the leading e-cigarette manufacturer, resolving allegations of nationwide efforts to lure America’s youth into using “vaping” products. The settlement resolves claims that since 2015, JUUL has used social media marketing campaigns, easily concealable e-cigarette designs, youth-friendly flavors, and other means to addict a new generation of Americans to nicotine.

“I am proud of my office’s efforts to address the harm caused in this case nationwide and here in Virginia. Our consumer protection section will continue to work tirelessly to hold bad actors accountable when they disregard the health and welfare of Virginians, particularly our youth,” said Attorney General Miyares.

Under the terms of the settlement, JUUL is required to pay Virginia at least $16.8 million, with the first payment of $1.58 million to be paid after the settlement is approved in court. The settlement prohibits JUUL from engaging in a variety of misleading, youth-focused marketing tactics, including:

  • Marketing to youth
  • Funding education programs
  • Depicting persons under age 35 in any marketing
  • Using cartoon advertisements
  • Selling flavors not approved by FDA
  • Allowing access to websites without age verification on the landing page
  • Advertising in outlets unless 85 percent of the audience is adult
  • Using paid influencers

Attorney General Miyares previously announced the agreement in principle in September.


Attorney General Miyares filed the settlement as a proposed Consent Judgment today in the City of Richmond Circuit Court. The settlement requires court approval.

The following states joined Virginia in the settlement: Alabama, Arkansas, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Maryland, Mississippi, Missouri, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Nevada, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Puerto Rico, Rhode Island, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. The investigation was led by Connecticut, Texas, and Oregon, with support from Virginia and other states.

Click here to read the settlement.

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Scathing grand jury report on Loudoun schools assaults and more Va. headlines

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The State Capitol. (Ned Oliver/ Virginia Mercury)

 

• A former political consultant for ex-congressman Scott Taylor avoided prison time by pleading no contest to three misdemeanor charges tied to a petition fraud scandal from Taylor’s 2018 election campaign.—Virginian-Pilot

• A grand jury report released Monday blasted the Loudoun County school system’s handling of a pair of sexual assaults by the same student last year that became a major campaign issue for Republican politicians. “Had any one of a number of individuals across a variety of entities spoke up … then the sexual assault most likely would not have occurred,” the report said. “But nobody did.”—Associated Press

• Gov. Glenn Youngkin is looking to overhaul the state government’s procurement process, drawing criticism from Democratic legislators who say they’re not being kept in the loop on what he has planned.—Richmond Times-Dispatch


• Youngkin’s commission on antisemitism released a final report Monday with recommendations that “focus on blunting perceived attacks on Israel in Virginia’s education system, doubling down on Holocaust education and strengthening discrimination protections for Jews.”—VPM

• A coalition of Virginia faith leaders plan to lobby the General Assembly for more mental health funding for crisis receiving centers.—Washington Post

 

by Staff Report, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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At this Virginia agency, bones of the dead are people in need of homes

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Elizabeth Moore, Virginia’s state archaeologist, with a high school student around 2017. (Courtesy Elizabeth Moore)

 

Elizabeth Moore and Joanna Wilson Green are kind to their guests – even though these companions are very old and very dead.

Moore and Green, state-employed archaeologists, tend to Virginia’s homeless human remains, typically bones and pieces of bones.

To Moore and Green, these bones aren’t artifacts. They are human beings. Guests. People who need to find their loved ones.


The lonely bones reside in the repository of the women’s employer, the state Department of Historic Resources in Richmond’s Museum District.

“Our goal would be for all of our guests to go home,” said Green, speaking with Moore in a small meeting room at the agency. “I would love to retire and have no human beings in residence here. That’s my goal. Whether or not we can achieve it is another question entirely.”

The way Moore and Green treat these bones – the very way they talk about them – reflects a change in the ethics of many modern archaeologists, scientists once widely regarded as little more than grave robbers.

According to Jack Gary, director of Colonial Williamsburg, archaeologists have moved toward this more respectful approach over the past decade or so.

“That is the norm,” Gary said.

Archaeologists study history by analyzing what they find underground, from spear points to skeletons. For a long time, these digs were conducted with little respect for human remains and their living relatives.

Joanna Wilson Green, a state-employed archaeologist, deals closely with human remains. (Rex Springston / Virginia Mercury)

But in the 1990s, state and federal laws aimed at protecting the dead prompted a major attitude shift. One federal law, for example, requires that Native American bones, in many cases, go not into museum displays but back to their tribes.

More recently – over the past 20 years or so, Moore said – archaeologists have been getting even more respectful, not just because of the law but because they believe it’s the right thing to do.

Furthermore, experts say that showing respect for human remains and their relatives helps archaeologists because these relatives often have oral histories, records, and other materials that can aid the research.

“It makes better archaeology,” Moore said. “Why would you go out and antagonize an entire community and not have their information and perspective to inform your work?”

Moore, 60, a cheerful, brown-haired woman, is Virginia’s state archaeologist. She is in charge of, among other things, the repository – made up of lots of shelves and boxes – that holds the bones.

Green, tall, and athletic-looking at 53, deals most often with the bones, making sure they are properly removed from the ground and seeking homes for them if possible – say, with an Indian tribe or other descendants.

To say Moore and Green are protective of the bones in their charge is like saying a mother grizzly can be attentive.  About 150 sets of remains are stored among about 6 million artifacts, such as arrowheads, pipes, and ceramic pots. The public can see many pipes and pots, but no outsiders – including the Virginia Mercury – can see the bones. You can’t even see the boxes the bones are in.

“That’s a good example of how things have changed,”  said Gary of Colonial Williamsburg, which has a similar policy. “We don’t want to trivialize it or sensationalize it, so we don’t show any human remains.”

Green said, “These are not artifacts. They are not objects. They are not things that sit in museums in dusty boxes. They embody the culture, society, and emotional connection of people who are still living, and you have to treat them differently. …It would be the same if I had the bones of your mom or your dad in my care.”

A slow change

Experts say that many museums and academics are also demonstrating this greater respect, but it hasn’t seeped entirely into the general public.

“There are still people around who think nothing of having human skeletons in their homes and displayed on their fireplace mantels,” Moore said. “It will take a long time to change those attitudes.”

People sometimes inherit human remains – Grandpa might have dug up some bones long ago on his land – and don’t know what to do with them. What they can do, Moore said, is contact her.

It’s illegal in Virginia to disturb a burial site, Moore said.  It’s also illegal to buy or sell human remains, although possessing them is not against the law.

If you find human remains, you should call the police. If the police don’t want the bones because they’ve determined the remains aren’t evidence of a crime, they become guests of Moore and Green.

Human remains turn up at construction sites, at archaeological digs, in eroding stream banks, and sometimes in yards.

“As people are planting their gardens and putting in patios and things like that, it’s not infrequent that people find bodies in the backyard,” Moore said.

A paved-over church site

Two Virginia cases illustrate the rise of respect for the dead and their descendants: the discovery of human remains at Colonial Williamsburg in 2020 and the discovery at Virginia Commonwealth University in 1994.

Archaeologists at Colonial Williamsburg, a living-history museum, are excavating the former site of First Baptist Church, one of America’s oldest churches founded entirely by Black people. Colonial Williamsburg bought the site in the 1950s and later paved over it.

The dig began in the summer of 2020. The scientists discovered the foundation of the church’s original meeting house, then late that year, found graves. From the beginning, the dig team has kept close contact with church members – possible relatives of the dead – and the discovery of the graves triggered another consultation. The church members decided they wanted the dig to continue.

Connie Matthews Harshaw, a member of a historic Williamsburg church, stays in close contact with scientists who are finding graves there. (Courtesy of Connie Matthews Harshaw)

“That’s a big difference right there in how we operate today,” Gary said. “In the past, we probably would have just continued excavating without involving the community in the decision-making process.”

Gary’s team has found more than 50 graves, and they’re still digging. Gary said that the archaeologists removed a full skeleton from one grave and bone fragments from two others. The remains are now at the College of William and Mary for study.

Scientists there hope to determine the age, sex, and possibly race of the dead. Bone samples have also gone to the University of Connecticut for DNA analyses. That work could link the dead to living people, although not to specific individuals.

Plans call for the three sets of bones to be reburied in their graves. Colonial Williamsburg also plans to build a reproduction of that early church building and tell the story of those long-ago worshippers.

“Colonial Williamsburg is now doing the right thing,” said Connie Matthews Harshaw, a First Baptist member who stays in close contact with Gary.

Years ago, Harshaw said, “There was just a total disregard for the Black population, and the level of importance that was attached to it, I think, has now come full circle. We are happy to see that.”

Today, church members want to know about the people who were covered by pavement decades ago.

“For the descendant community, this has been more of a healing process than it is anything else,” Harshaw said. “It is hopeful and something they thought they would never see in their lifetimes.”

Bodies in a well

Northwest of Williamsburg, the VCU case also shows a clear change in attitudes. Construction excavation at the Richmond school’s Medical College of Virginia campus in 1994 uncovered an old well holding the remains of more than 50 people, including children.

The bones are believed to be the remains of Black cadavers robbed from graves in the 1800s for use by teachers of anatomy and surgery. Bones of multiple people were mixed when taken from the site, displaying the cavalier attitude toward the dead more common in prior years.

The bone pit generated a few news stories but otherwise remained “largely unaddressed,” VCU acknowledges.

More recently, VCU launched the East Marshall Street Well Project to find ways to study, rebury and memorialize the remains. A council of people who, in effect, serve as descendants is investigating West African burial practices, said Kevin Allison, a VCU senior executive who oversees the project.

The remains were housed for years at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington. In 2019 they were returned to Richmond in archival boxes wrapped in colorful Ghanaian fabric called kente cloth. The bones – the people –  were honored with prayer, music, and speeches at several sites, including the Department of Historic Resources, where they were housed for a while.

Virginia Commonwealth University health sciences students bow their heads beside boxes of human remains during a prayer on Nov. 25, 2019, at the Virginia Department of Historic Resources in Richmond. A ceremony was held to mark the return of the remains from the Smithsonian Institution to Richmond. The remains, probably of Black bodies stolen from graves in the 1800s, were found in an abandoned well on the VCU campus in 1994. Scientists and others are treating human remains with greater care today than just a decade or two ago. (Kevin Morley / VCU)

 

“It was a crowded, emotional, heartwarming event,” Moore said.

For the record, photos of those adorned boxes of remains were allowed because representatives of the well project gave approval. The remains are now at VCU for study.

VCU’s Allison said those involved in the project are bent on “ensuring that we provide appropriate respect and reverence to these individuals, particularly considering their history.”

‘The very large error of that approach’

Today, the Virginia Department of Historic Resources’ stored remains – some 1,000 years old or more – include partial skeletons but mostly bone parts because Virginia’s acidic soils eat away at bones.

“It’s rare that we get a whole skeleton,”  Moore said.

Or, as Green put it, ”I think most of our guests are not intact.”

The bones are kept in acid-free archival boxes. In another move to treat the dead better, the department recently got a $9,870 federal grant to help obtain more-respectful containers. Details are being worked out.

In popular culture, Moore and Green are serious about their work but not prudish about the dead. Green loves mummy films and scary-movie actor Boris Karloff. Moore is okay with plastic skulls at Halloween.

“They are not representing a real person,” Moore said.

Among those upset with the work of archaeologists over the years, African Americans and Indians have been particularly critical because of the scientists’ oft-callous handling of remains.

“I think for a very long time, human remains were viewed as artifacts, just like arrowheads and other things,” Green said. “And it has been a very recent development that our profession has realized the very large error of that approach and has tried very hard to address it, not just in our interactions with some communities but in our own behaviors.”

Archaeologists are still working to change perceptions, she said. “It will probably be a couple more generations before there’s a comfort level there. That’s one of our biggest jobs.”

 

by Rex Springston, Virginia Mercury


Virginia Mercury is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Virginia Mercury maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Sarah Vogelsong for questions: info@virginiamercury.com. Follow Virginia Mercury on Facebook and Twitter.

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Historic Area Journey back in time and immerse yourself in the sights, sounds and smells of a Civil War Encampment during the holidays. Interact with the 10th VA Infantry, also known as the Valley Guards,[...]
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Italia Performing Arts is pleased to announce its own student production of the seasonal ballet The Nutcracker, to be presented in Front Royal, VA, on Saturday December 17th 2022. Tickets: $35 and $25 Under 16:[...]
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