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How Quitting the Barbell Bench Press Made Me Stronger



You’ve heard of the great resignation, but quitting your job is just one way to throw in the towel to move forward. This story is part of a Men’s Health series that talks about how real risers became winners – and how you can join them.

The barbell bench press is widely regarded as one of the gold standard fitness exercises. It is the only strength exercise football players test in the annual NFL Scouting Combine. And that’s the first thing a gym brother will ask when he meets you, “What’s your max bench press?” is one of the most popular questions in the gym. It’s also an exercise that took me years to get my bench press to over 250 pounds and eventually do 225 reps with ease.

So, no, I had no interest in quitting the exercise I’d been doing at the beginning of every single week since high school. But there I was in 2012 when I was told to take the barbell back and focus on the dumbbell press. And I wasn’t going to listen, even though I’d asked for that advice anyway. I was at a gym in the Bronx talking to a bodybuilder about the excruciating shoulder pain that was handicapping my beloved barbell bench press, and the bodybuilder immediately suggested switching to dumbbell presses instead.

It would be a lot easier for my shoulder to get off the barbell press, the guy said, and it might help my chest development too. This was not new information; I had actually heard this from an NFL friend a year earlier, then Giants defensive lineman Justin Tuck. But I hadn’t listened to the NFL player, so why should I listen to a bodybuilder?

Answer: Because two weeks later the pain in my right shoulder would get worse. And that’s when I decided to ignore my better (OK, worse) judgment on the bench press and give up the barbell press.

For the first time in my life, I decided to stop doing an exercise.

It’s a decision that could overwhelm any gym-goer as standard fitness rhetoric tells us to never stop. From the moment we do our first push-up (OK, try) we are taught to fight for every final rep and set. We are taught to get through the pain and never stop until training is over. And we are taught to always do the exercises that we hate because those are the exercises our bodies need most.

Aside from the fact that all of these mantras are a complete gym myth. Such ideas are designed to lead you to be a bigger, stronger, and fitter version of yourself by giving you the rigidity that comes with never giving up. By never stopping a workout or going through a set, you are building a resilient mind, and this will gradually help you build a resilient body. But we tend to overuse that rigidity and that was my struggle. I was concerned that by giving up the barbell bench press, I was setting a nightmare precedent. Pretty soon, I’d be quitting the deadlift just because, and then I’d quit the gym and then I’d quit working. . . and then I moved back to my parents’ basement, put on 200 pounds, and played video games around the clock.

But then I thought about all of the older types of bodybuilders I had met at my gym and the number of times they complained of pain in their shoulders, elbows, and almost all joints. And sure, they looked like this and they did their barbell bench press, but if my workout broke me, were all those muscles good? The more I withdrew to think about my personal fitness goals (being strong and looking like a superhero), the less I could convince myself that I needed to do the barbell press. The truth is, I did it because everyone else did – and that’s never a good reason to do anything.

Don’t let movements that just don’t work for you paralyze you. Understanding how and when to give up an exercise is important – and in the long run, it can only prepare your body to eventually return to the exercise you once finished. At least that’s what happened to me when I bench press; For three years (yes, that long) I haven’t touched a barbell bench press. Then last year I was back to casually vomiting 275 on a whim.

To get there, I had to learn three lessons that helped me break free from general fitness dogma.

The body doesn’t care about the equipment.

We believe we need to use certain tools in the gym, be it the wide bar for the lat pulldowns or the barbell for the deadlift and bench press. But the body doesn’t actually record the equipment you use. Everything it feels is a burden – and how you move that burden.

That’s the problem with the barbell bench press: most people move the barbell ineffectively. The barbell is a rigid tool that assumes that your body is perfectly symmetrical. But very often one of your shoulders has a different mobility and strength than the other. Forced into the barbell can cause injuries – my rotator cuffs screeched with every push.

After I stepped away from the barbell, I started benching with just dumbbells and kettlebells. Both tools are great for many exercises, not just the bench press. It’s more natural to do overhead presses with dumbbells as well, and it’s much easier to squat with a dumbbell held in the cup position on your chest instead of doing squats with a barbell on your back. Even squatting with a barbell can gnaw your shoulders; You need to stay tighter than you think when doing barbell squats to protect your middle back.

By switching to dumbbells and no more shoulder pain, I was able to focus on pushing my chest instead of just pushing the weight. This contraction eventually helped me gain even more strength and size in my chest muscles. So don’t be afraid to switch tools no matter how many people are staring at the gym. Years later, I took a course called Pain-Free Performance Specialist Certification. This certification indicates that the barbell deadlift and barbell squat, two other exercises that most people find necessary, are actually the most complex forms of hinging and squat, respectively.

When in doubt and in the fight against pain, there is a good chance it will help you free yourself from the barbell.

Vithun KhamsongGetty Images

Your gym brothers don’t define your workout.

I was training with a workout partner when I embarked on this barbell-free journey, and the last thing I wanted to do was choose different exercises than him – especially since my exercise seemed “weaker”.

By switching to dumbbells, I had to get a little lighter when pressing, as my shoulders were exposed to new stability requirements. That didn’t work out at first, because my partner was definitely more of a classic fitness brother wannabe. So he sewed me a bit more than a couple of times, pointed out that I wasn’t lifting that heavy, or told me that I would ruin the workout. And it wasn’t entirely unfair either, as I was rightly making things complicated: we suddenly needed two benches to do our training.

The thing is, I started going to the gym on my own and I had workout goals long before I had a workout partner. Our bodies were different; he was older and stockier, with shorter arms, and better able to deal with discrepancies in his bench press form. I had to recognize that and hide any grin. Funnily enough, weeks later he switched to dumbbells too. I had led him to a better, more articulated press.

Also, don’t be afraid to be the leader in your own workouts. Whether you’re exercising with a partner or in a group, even if everyone is doing pull-ups, you can do pull-ups if it’s easier for your elbows to do. You can still bend dumbbells even if they are grabbing dumbbells. Take your training in a new direction and watch your friends follow your example.

Three men doing pull ups on the exercise bar in the gym

Corey JenkinsGetty Images

If you stop now, you can get stronger later.

When I gave up the bench press, I had faint hope that one day I would try the exercise again. But switching to dumbbells also helped me: It helped me build more shoulder stability and understand how to properly position my forearms to get the most out of my chest. My bench press mechanics improved and I quickly started lifting larger weights.

Then, about three years ago, on a whim, after doing a full chest workout, I decided to try the barbell bench press again. With great care (since my shoulders hated the movement years ago) I did reps at 135 pounds first, then 185 pounds. I was in no pain in either situation. Then I went back to my once-holy grail, the 225-pound bench press, and asked someone nearby for a seat just to be on the safe side, knowing I could blow my shoulder out in that one moment.

Unless I didn’t. I had spent so long honing my technique that the weight rose eight times. And for the past three years I’ve reintroduced the barbell bench press here and there, and I can lift heavy weights comfortably with the exercise too.

It is no longer a fitness requirement for me, and realizing that there are no fitness requirements has helped me in other ways as well. Similar to the barbell press, I gave up conventional deadlifts for a while. I recently reverted to these after years of focusing on the trap bar, and similar to the barbell bench press, I found these deadlifts easier because I’m more mechanically solid.

Giving up an exercise is not the end. It’s the beginning of a freer version of fitness – and that version of fitness can get you the results you want.

Ebenzer Samuel, CSCS, is the Fitness Director of Men’s Health and a certified trainer with more than 10 years of training experience.

This content is created and maintained by a third party and imported onto this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may find more information on this and similar content at

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Men’s Health

How to Watch Kattar vs Chikadze Online



On Saturday, January 15, Calvin Kattar takes on Georgia’s Giga Chikadze, currently ranked eighth, in the number five UFC featherweight division. Under the bright lights of the organization’s 130,000-square-foot Las Vegas headquarters, dubbed Apex, Kattar is trying to recover after being mauled by Max Holloway last year, while Chikadze, long considered a promising contender, looks to continue his rise. There’s also a convincing women’s flyweight matchup between Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia (numbers two and four respectively in their division), along with men’s light and heavyweight bouts and the second appearance of 26-year-old Joanderson Brito, a Brazilian on a 10-win streak that debuted in Dana White’s Contender Series last summer. If you’re wondering how to watch UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs Chikadze (aka UFC Vegas 46), you’ve come to the right place.


How to watch UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs. Chikadze

Since the purchase in 2019, all untitled UFC fight nights will be shown exclusively through ESPN+, a streaming subscription service. Want to know how to buy UFC Fight Night? There is a $7 monthly fee on ESPN+ for access, or pay an annual fee of $70 per year Save 15 percent. Also, since ESPN is owned by Disney, there is a bundled plan that includes Disney+ and Hulu subscriptions, e.g $14 a month. Once your credit card information has been entered (no free trial, sorry), you can access live sports, including Kattar Vs. Chikadze, from your mobile device via the ESPN+ app, as well as on your Smart TV and other connected devices including Apple, Android, and Amazon Fire devices, Roku, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and Oculus Go.

Read more: How to stream UFC fights online

Of course, an easy way to watch without paying the fee is to head down to the nearest sports bar to catch the fight. Not sure if there will be? Call ahead and ask if they offer ESPN+ for Business, which adjusts its cost based on venue size. Big chains like Buffalo Wild Wings have longstanding relationships and ties with the organization and are a safe bet when things get tight.


When to Watch UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs Chikadze

Set your alarm clock 7 p.m. East This Saturday, January 15, for the opening of the card, with Brito touching gloves with Bill Algeo, who already has three fights in the UFC (two losses, one win). At least, we think that’s the plan — as of this writing, Brito is currently undergoing COVID testing, and Algeo is joking with the press that should fellow featherweight and main event contender Kattar also fall ill, Algeo is ready to take it with him Chikadze up. Do you think that’s far fetched? It’s not just the NFL that has players constantly getting in and out of coronavirus protocol, and the UFC announced a host of card changes back on Thursday. Will Brito come out clean? Will Chikadze end up boxing with a unicorn? In these pandemic times, all we know for sure is UFC President Dana White getting the first game of the main card started on time.


Who to Watch at UFC Fight Night: Kattar vs Chikadze

At the time of writing (and barring major disease outbreaks), the map looks like this.


  • Jamie Pickett vs Joseph Holmes
  • Court McGee vs. Ramiz Brahimaj
  • Dakota Bush versus Viacheslav Borshchev
  • Brian Kelleher vs. Kevin Croom
  • Charles Rosa vs. TJ Brown
  • Kleydson Rodrigues vs. Zarrukh Adashev

    main card

    • Calvin Kattar vs. Giga Chikadze
    • Katlyn Chookagian vs Jennifer Maia
    • Brandon Royval vs. Rogerio Bontorin
    • Jake Collier vs. Chase Sherman
    • Bill Algeo vs. Joanderson Brito

      Kattar is a guy to keep an eye on. As mentioned, Max Holloway, who himself suffered a championship loss to Alexander Volkanovski the year before, poked fun at the fighter. Holloway solidly dominated Kattar, winning all five rounds of the main event fight en route to setting numerous all-time UFC records including total strikes landed and attempted, significant strikes landed and attempted, strike differential, distance strikes landed and more. In fact, it was so lopsided that mid-fight, Holloway looked at the comment box and yelled, “I’m the best boxer in the UFC!” and then punched Kattar in the face again. Needless to say, Kattar has some catching up to do as he tries to win back a totally disaffected fan base. At the same time, Chikadze is on a seven-win streak and has a perfect record in the UFC. He has a penchant for going long, with four of those wins coming to deciders and a fifth to a TKO in the third round. The resulting fireworks, as well as the game’s impact on both fighters’ careers, make for a compelling story to behold.

      Next, women’s flyweight begins to grow. Chookagian and Maia, his two and four seeds respectively, fight each other on the heights. But leading the way are number one contender, fighter-munching Jessica Andrade, and reigning champion, technically perfect Valentina Shevchenko. When iron sharpens iron, Saturday’s matchup has to throw a hell of a lot of sparks, because only the double victories of the division leaders follow.

      Finally, from the main to the sub-map, there will no doubt be some compelling games. But to see ours? Look at Russia’s Viacheslav Borshchev, a 30-year-old striker who is new to promotion. His unique UFC match before Saturday featured Canelo Alvarez-style counterattacks and a check-hook KO in round two. Yes, he can kick, but on Saturday his fists will probably do the talking.

      SEE ON ESPN+

      Jon Gugala is a Nashville-based freelance writer who highlights the people who create the art, music, plays and policies that change the world.

      This content is created and maintained by a third party and imported to this page to help users provide their email addresses. You may find more information about this and similar content on

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Men’s Health

Relationship dilemma: I don’t give women money, am I stingy?



32-year-old man seeks advice on relationship dilemma. [Courtesy]

Our social life and relationships face a number of challenges; especially when an important decision needs to be made.

On Wednesday 12th January we posted on our Facebook page – Standard Digital – a relationship dilemma of a woman who a month after her engagement has met a new man with whom she feels more comfortable.

Hello Standard,

I’m Oscar, a 32 year old male living and working in Nairobi.

I’ve been developing “stingy” tendencies lately, and I’m concerned that this could lead to either not getting married or being in relationships that don’t last long.

I wasn’t like that two or three years ago. This happened after I changed jobs and earned a higher salary. I am currently obsessed with saving as much as possible and I see spending on women or even a woman as a waste of money.

I’m currently doing affairs that don’t require a lot of money; To put that in perspective, the max I can spend on women in a month is Sh5,000.

Could I be bordering on dangerous, stingy reasons?


Rommie Aloo: The only women I give money to are my mother, my wife and my daughter. Anyone else trying to get money from me is like milking a stone. I’m not stingy, I just use my money how I want. If you’re not careful, random women will milk you dry.

Eliud Murithi: At the last men’s conference we said the maximum should be 200 Sh in a month. Yours is a show off, my friend.

God of the Bay: If it bothers you, it’s more about your own relationship with money than women. You may be afraid of having that newfound money taken away from you, so address that fear and learn to balance your budget and relationship with money.

Edith Oloo: Are these village girls? Because 5k is far too little.

Kawila Kimanzi: very good son Get very stingy. Save, save and invest. Nothing wrong with you

Julius on the other hand: Welcome to the Stingy Men Association of Kenya but reduce the 5k to 50 bob

Priscilla Wanjiru: Welcome to the Stingy Men Association of Kenya but reduce the 5k to 50 bob

Stephen Ayieko: Brother, shorten that number, I say again, shorten. We do not want your name to appear on the list of summonses for the upcoming men’s conference

John Njenga: When it comes to household expenses you can’t rigidly set a number like 5000/- and expect things to work out very well unless there is prior agreement and if you’re that tight-fisted I’ll advise you for free, you If you develop some stress-related health problems and leave this life sooner than you expected, part of what you have struggled to save will go to cremation and the rest will remain with those who were denied you. Life is good when you care for those you love, and should you not have managed to save much, you will be at peace with them and with yourself. But you can choose to live with your money and forget about marriage because if you enter into it with thoughts like that, it might not work.

RK Calvine: You are fine, find someone who wants to grow and go in the same direction as you and grow together.


dr Karatu Kiemo is a sociologist and lecturer at the University of Nairobi.

Hello Oscar and Happy New Year.

Happy New Year because you seem to be undergoing a lifestyle reinvention from extravagance to thrift. And why not?

It would be worrying if you switched from frugality to extravagance. At 32, we thank maturity for change.

Kenya is a strange country with few pathways for leisure and quality of life. That’s why you’re concerned about spending on women. But why would you spend for my sister or daughter?

What is the relationship between monetary investment in a relationship and relationship quality?

I guess someone out there will love and marry you regardless of your spending habits. In your case, celibacy would be a choice rather than any form of determinism that afflicts poor and alcoholic young men in many parts of this country.

Still, it’s normal to be stingy with higher income and more satisfying jobs. Such wins come with greater responsibility and sensitivity.

They are increasingly leaving the age and income groups that spend on waste. To understand your age and income, consider various pastimes and invest in other people without any prospect of personal gain.

Play golf and you’re already doing it, train someone else to do it, support a children’s home, support your local school, church/mosque or youth group.

In these endeavors, you will most likely find and marry a woman with a similar mindset. Please keep saving in the meantime.

Monitor water pumps remotely from your phone

Tracking and monitoring motor vehicles is nothing new to Kenyans. The competition to install affordable tracking devices is fierce, but essential for fleet managers who get reports online and track vehicles from the comfort of their desks.

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Men’s Health

Rising above reality: How Djokovic bends his mind to succeed | Health/Fitness




To his critics, Novak Djokovic has been carefree and reckless in the face of a deadly pandemic. But students of the tennis star’s game are finding that reality-bending has been a secret of his success until now.

The dizzying story unfolding in Australia over Djokovic’s refusal to be vaccinated against the coronavirus has cemented his image as a defiant figure in men’s tennis and turned the world’s No. 1 player into an unwitting new hero of the anti-vax movement . He’s earned a new and certainly unwelcome nickname: No-vax.

In many ways, Djokovic has dealt with the pandemic like a tennis match, long ignoring odds and favoring alternative remedies over traditional medicine. His unconventional approaches to physical and mental fitness over the years have included consulting spiritual gurus, lying in hyperbaric chambers, visiting healing “pyramids” and working with a trainer to develop reality-bending skills.

But the current reality is that every player at the Australian Open, which begins on Monday, will need a COVID-19 vaccine or a valid Therapeutic Use Clearance to compete. The country’s immigration minister on Friday canceled the unvaccinated Djokovic’s visa, citing health and “good order”.

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Djokovic, who has appealed the decision, now faces likely deportation and is at the center of a polarizing issue with fans on both sides of the vaccine debate.

The timing couldn’t be worse for the 34-year-old top player from Serbia. This Australian Open should be the stage of a crowning glory as he seeks his record 21st Grand Slam title, a feat that would catapult him past rivals Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal, with whom he is tied at 20.

Teammates and former coaches have urged Djokovic to submit to a COVID-19 vaccine, saying tennis needs him on the court without fueling political debates.

“All of this could have been avoided, as we have all done by getting vaccinated,” Spanish tennis star Garbiñe Muguruza said during a press conference ahead of the tournament in Melbourne on Saturday. “Everyone knew the rules very well. You just have to follow them and that’s it. I don’t think it’s that difficult.”

Boris Becker, a former top player who coached Djokovic from 2013 to 2016, said the same determination and stubbornness that is Djokovic’s strength on the pitch can also be his weakness.

“He’s a street fighter. That’s his mentality and that’s what made him great and so successful. It’s hard to change that,” Becker said in a recent interview with BBC Sport.

Djokovic has often attributed his toughness to growing up in war-ravaged Serbia in the 1990s. In Serbia, Djokovic is revered as a national hero who overcame adversity to become world No. 1 in a war-crippled country economically with little tennis pedigree and few tennis courts.

As a child in Belgrade, Djokovic developed a passion for tennis from an early age. He trained at a club that used an empty swimming pool as a makeshift tennis court. He has spoken of aborting training sessions and running to bomb shelters and huddled with his family for nights on end as NATO jets targeted the Serbian capital during the 1999 Kosovo war.

Being exposed to emotional trauma at such a young age gave him an early perspective on overcoming adversity and crystallized his motivation. In Serbia, Djokovic is revered as a national hero who overcame all odds to become world No. 1 in the economically struggling country with few tennis courts.

“Most people don’t decide what they want out of life by the time they’re 6 years old, but I had it,” Djokovic wrote in his 2013 diet and fitness book, Serve to Win. Inspired by how Pete Sampras won Wimbledon on TV, he decided that one day it would be him. “For the next 13 years, I dedicated every day of my life to achieving my goal.”

Djokovic won his first major tournament title at the Australian Open in 2008 but it was three years before he conquered another.

The turning point of his career came in 2011 when Djokovic won 10 titles, including three Grand Slams, and he reached the number 1 spot in men’s tennis for the first time.

“It wasn’t a new racquet, new practice, new coach or even a new serve that helped me. It was a new diet,” Djokovic wrote in his book, explaining how going gluten-free helped end his years of battling frequent fatigue during long games, occasionally collapsing on the pitch and having trouble breathing.

Players usually speak in awe of Djokovic’s talent, his physical agility that can produce stunning performances and how he has mastered his mental game. “His best quality is his mind,” American player Sam Querrey said of Djokovic last year.

In 2016, Djokovic teamed up with Pepe Imaz, a Spanish coach who had a modest tennis career, and then opened a tennis academy in Marbella with the motto “Amor y Paz” (Love and Peace). After working with Imaz, Djokovic began his now-signature gesture of turning to all four sides of the tennis court after a win and sending heartfelt love to the fans.

He also delved into meditation to calm his mind and learned visualization techniques, which he says allowed him to feel past stressful situations.

Djokovic described the method in 2016 to an audience at the tennis academy seated next to Imaz on a stage. Imagine you’re stuck in a traffic jam and you’re frustrated and confused by all the cars, the people, and the sounds, he said.

“What if for a second, instead of being part of the traffic, you were out of the traffic on the hill and watching the traffic?” Djokovic said.

He applied these techniques to tennis.

After saving two match points to beat Federer in a five-set thriller in the 2019 Wimbledon final, Djokovic explained how he coped with “probably the most mentally demanding match” of his career, playing against arguably the most popular tennis player in the world of all time .

“So when the crowd sings ‘Roger,’ I hear Novak,” he said. “I’m trying to convince myself.”

Some of Djokovic’s convictions have drawn negative headlines. In May 2020, during a Live Instagram interview with self-proclaimed wellness guru Chervin Jafarieh, he claimed that people could use positive thinking to change the composition of toxic foods and polluted water.

Sharing New Age esoteric beliefs, Djokovic and his wife Jelena have together visited the Bosnian mountain town of Visoko, where some believe four pyramid-shaped hills offer healing powers, a claim disputed by scientists.

The tennis star’s visits have spurred tourism to the site, where Bosnian amateur archaeologist Semir Osmanagic opened a pyramid park that features a network of underground tunnels that he claims exude a special energy.

Osmanagic, who was photographed giving Djokovic personal tours of the park, supports the player’s anti-vaccine stance.

“He’s an outstanding athlete who is very strict about what he eats, drinks and puts into his body, and he advocates freedom of choice,” Osmanagic told AP.

Contrary to the heavy criticism Djokovic has faced internationally, he has broad support in Serbia, where the revocation of his Australian visa is seen as anti-Serb. Until the drama Down Under began, Djokovic had refused to say if he was vaccinated, but it was clear he was a vaccine skeptic.

“I’m personally against vaccines and I don’t want anyone to force me to take one so I can travel,” he said during an online chat in April 2020 with fellow Serbian tennis players.

His vaccination status isn’t Djokovic’s first controversy, but the lengthy saga at the Australian Open raises questions about his legacy.

Djokovic was criticized early in the pandemic for organizing a tennis tournament in the Balkans in June 2020 when professional tennis was shut down. Photos and videos have surfaced showing players ignoring social distancing and partying without masks after hours. The tournament was abandoned after several players, including Djokovic and his wife, tested positive for the coronavirus.

A few months later, he was kicked out of the US Open after hitting a ball in frustration that had slammed into a linesman’s throat. It was unintentional and Djokovic repeatedly apologized, but his action exuded a fiery temper that he works hard to quell.

“He’s already had enough moments and enough question marks to definitely taint his legacy,” ESPN tennis commentator Pam Shriver said on a recent conference call. “But surely nothing will ever tarnish his record.”

The players at Melbourne Park asked themselves the same question on Saturday.

“He’s still won 20 Grand Slams. He still has the most weeks as world No. 1. He still has the most Masters Series (titles),” said 2020 US Open runner-up Alexander Zverev, who is close to Djokovic. “So don’t question his legacy.”

Australian Open champion Naomi Osaka called the vaccine saga an unfortunate situation: “He’s such a great player and it’s kind of sad that some people remember him like that.”

Gecker reported from San Francisco; Pugmire reported from Paris. Associated Press Writer Dusan Stojanovic in Belgrade, Serbia; Barbara Surk in Nice, France; Sabina Niksic in Sarajevo, Bosnia-Herzegovina; John Pye in Melbourne and Howard Fendrich in Washington contributed to this report.

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, transcribed or redistributed without permission.

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