Episode 66: Dan Bryant, Psychologist: Giving the Gift of Forgiveness

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It is very easy to stress over what material items to give people we love during the holidays. What we often overlook are gifts that cost nothing from a monetary perspective, but can be difficult to offer others. I am talking about things like compassion, understanding, acceptance and the biggest of all ~ Forgiveness. In this interview with Dan Bryant, Behavioral Health Educator, we talk about ways we learn to cultivate and practice forgiving ourselves, and others. For people in intimate relationships, we talk about important keys in communication that will foster greater intimacy such as: being genuinely curious about the other person, owning our experience and feelings, as well as deepening our understanding of ourselves. To finish we delve into what forgiveness is and what it isn’t. Ultimately forgiveness is a gift we give to ourselves, but getting to that place can be quite a journey in the mind. Tune in!

Transcript

Announcer:  This program is brought to you by PersonalLifeMedia.com.

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Alissa Kriteman:  Welcome to “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex.”  I’m your host, Alissa Kriteman.  This show is dedicated to providing today’s modern women with useful information they need to make empowered, conscious choices.

On the show today, we’re talking about the power of forgiveness.  We’re going to take an in depth look at our beliefs, how we unconsciously accept and follow them and how doing that can destroy intimacy and love in our lives.  We’ll also talk about the power of forgiveness.

Our guest today is Dan Bryant, a behavioral health educator at Kaiser Permanente.

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Alissa Kriteman:  Okay, so it sounds like, take action, don’t wait to be inspired and do what we say we’re going to do, sounds like integrity, and then exercise.  You know, it’s funny, like you said earlier, it’s nothing new.  Right?  So, let’s talk a little bit about, you know, it seems to be what’s getting in the way of people actually taking action.  Would you say what precedes action is thought?

David Bryant:  Well, we teach, you know, a variety of things.  Communication is a whole group of actions.  It’s taking time with people, it’s listening, it’s expressing ourselves.  It’s, you know, doing little caring kinds of behavior things and doing pleasant things together.  And then, for older relationships…

You know, it’s not there.  The only one I can change is myself; nobody else changes without their permission.

Alissa Kriteman:  I think, yeah, and I think it’s futile trying and I’ve heard that over and over again.  It’s like, do not try to change your partner, just focus on yourself.

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Alissa Kriteman:  Welcome to “Just for Women,” Dan.

Dan Bryant:  Well, thank you, Alissa.

Alissa Kriteman:  Your client [?] is best known for  having a Master’s degree in psychology and being an educator on stress management, depression management, couples communication, anger management and forgiveness.

He’s also the president of NetNow, a company that provides behavioral health programs for insurers and companies.

So, Dan, I know my listeners really care about learning how their unconscious beliefs might be getting in the way of the love and intimacy they want in their lives, so I’m really pleased to have you on the show today.

Dan Bryant:  Oh, and, it’s a pleasure to be here.

Alissa Kriteman:  So, today, I want to talk about how these unconscious beliefs are formed, how we can identify them and then transform them.  I want to talk about how to authentically communicate and then I want to talk about what it takes to chose and practice forgiveness.  Are you up for all of that?

Dan Bryant:  I am.

Alissa Kriteman:  [laughs] Okay, great.  All right, cool.

So, let’s start with a few questions about you.  It seems as though a lot of what you talk about comes from Buddhist ideology.  Are you Buddhist?

Dan Bryant:  I am, you know, I’m not, Alissa, I’ve read a great deal of Buddhist tracks, Suzuki and Thomas Merton and early on Alan Watts, and I’ve always been interested.  I’m a Catholic, but what I’ve found is that reading texts from other religions, one, helps me to respect them; two, helps me to understand my own spirituality, because so much of what I’ve learned in the Western tradition, came with thousands of interpretations attached onto it.  So, I was never really free to evaluate it the way I am when I look at another culture and another religion.  And what I pretty much find is, there’s not much new under the sun. [laughter]  It’s the same things we believe are pretty much everywhere else.

Alissa Kriteman:  [laughs] Yeah.  Isn’t it wild?  Everyone has their own take and then they call it something and then they get a bunch of people to follow them and then there it is.  [laughs]

Dan Bryant:  It allows for entrepreneurial success. [laughter] I think that Shakespeare, in one of his sonnets, talked about that Ecclesiastic quote about nothing new under the sun and said, but, isn’t it amazing we keep rediscovering the old things as though they are new?

Alissa Kriteman:  Yeah, it’s pretty amazing, I think.  And, we’ll talk more about that when we get into forgiveness.  I think.  [laughs]

But, let’s talk about a little bit of these classes that you offer.  You have quite a range and a variety of classes.  Which one’s your favorite?

Dan Bryant:  Probably, the depression and forgiveness.  And, I think they’re the favorite because I see people make dramatic changes in their lives that are beneficial for them.  And, when I talk to them later on, I see that it sticks.  They make systemic changes in their belief systems.  So, I’d say those two predominately.

Alissa Kriteman:  Now, let’s talk about depression a little bit more.  I’ve read a lot that women suffer more often from depression than men.  Can you talk a little bit about why that is and maybe some things women can do to stave off depression since it seems more prevalent among women?

Dan Bryant:  Well, the statistics indicate that women suffer from depression at about twice the rate that men do.  Though there are some recent studies that indicate that men do two things that women don’t.  They are far more aggressive in their outlets and they self-medicate more.  And, so, the amount of depression in men, it may be higher than the statistics indicate.

I think the other fact is that, as a gender, we do have a habit of being a little unconscious of what’s going on.  We don’t ruminate as much; we don’t talk as much.  And so I think that leads to less depression.

The thing that women can do, I often think of the example of somebody sitting in a corner of a big pit with a ladder on the other side and saying to themselves, “You know, as soon as I feel better, I’m going to go climb that ladder.”  And that’s kind of how it is with depression, that we think that when we’re inspired, we’ll go ahead and act.  But, the reality is that action always precedes inspiration.

And for men, women, whoever it is, that’s depressed, what we need to do is do some basic thing to decide that, “You know, tomorrow, I’m going to get up and I’m going to walk to the corner post box,” or something and then do it.  And then, notice that we have the capacity to do what we’ve said.

One of the other things that’s interesting is depression is certainly increasing a good deal.

Alissa Kriteman:  Um, hmm.

Dan Bryant:  And, I bet a week doesn’t go by but that I see a study that indicates that people who exercise 30 minutes every other day, and I’m not talking about becoming women or men of steel, just a basic walking and exercise, fresh air and light and everything, that they reduce as a group the need for antidepressants by as much as 80% in study groups that they’ve done.

Somehow, in the last 100 years, as a society, we’ve invented our way out of doing some of things that kept us healthy.  We need – exercise is something people can do for sure.

Alissa Kriteman:  Mm, hmm.  Okay, so it sounds like take action, don’t wait to be inspired and do what we say we’re going to do, sounds like integrity, and then exercise.  You know, it’s funny, like you said earlier, it’s nothing new.  Right?

So, let’s talk a little bit about, you know, it seems to be what’s getting in the way of people actually taking action.  Would you say what precedes action is thought? 

Dan Bryant:  Yeah.

Alissa Kriteman:  And a lot of what you talk about are these unconscious beliefs that might get in the way of us even having inspirational thoughts that would have us act.  So, seems like we can break it down even further, it’s like what happens before the action?

Dan Bryant:  You know, we clearly get in the habit of running on automatic pilot.  And, then it enables – is to multiply the tasks that we can do at any given day because we don’t have to keep re-deciding them.  But, what it also means is that we’re depending on old solutions to present problems.  So, you know, automatic thoughts occur from, you know, favorite sermons that we might have received when we were a child from our parent or a school teacher or someone of that nature.

They also occur from traumatic events and decisions that we make in relationship to them.  And they’re stuck in that they’re hardwired into that hypothalamus, that part of the brain that reacts automatically to what it experiences as threat.  And so something comes up, the mind perceives it as a threat based on some similarity to the past and it starts spewing out these thoughts and decisions that were made long into our past.

First thing we can do is when we find ourselves stressed or depressed or anxious or angry, is stop and take a deep breath and say to ourselves, “You know, what’s going on?  What am I telling myself?”  And then to ask the question, “Is what I’m telling myself moving me down the road or keeping me stuck?”  You know, “Is this the kind of thought that would bring joy into my life or taint me?”

Alissa Kriteman:  Hmm.  That is – so, basically, stopping ourselves in the moment and asking ourselves, “Hey, is this thought going to bring me joy or is it going to bring me pain?”

Dan Bryant:  Absolutely.  The, you know, we tend to think that the brain is a perfect recorder of events.  But, what in reality happens, is it takes little bits of information and then reconstructs them in the moment and it does it based on what’s going on in our life at the time and a whole series of things.  And it makes often very good representations but, the fact is, if you had 200 people witness an accident, they’d have 200 different representations.

Alissa Kriteman:  Um, hmm.

Dan Bryant:  It’s just the way the mind works.  So what we need to do is be custodian of our own thoughts and inner examiner of our own thoughts.  We get so good at going from an event to a feeling and a behavior that we don’t even pay attention to the fact that there’s a thought that precedes it.  And so, just stopping and breathing and, in breathing, physiologically changes so much in our lives.  It improves our immune system and I’m talking about the deep-belly breathing.

Alissa Kriteman:  Right.

Dan Bryant:  If you were to hold your hand in the air and make a fist and pay attention to what you do, in attention to the exhaustion that would come and the tension that you feel, if you notice, you’re probably holding your breath.  Just a little bit of stress causes us to do that shallow breathing.

Alissa Kriteman:  Hmm, yeah, I think – I think I realized recently how shallowly I breathe.

Dan Bryant:  Yes.

Alissa Kriteman:  And, I’ve really been practicing breathing into the belly and really, it transforms everything, that fresh oxygen.  I think we don’t realize just how much of nice long, slow deep breath, it really levels everything.

And, I know that in Vajrayana Buddhism, there’s a lot of practices with the breath and breath work, because it is so transformative.

Dan Bryant:  Yeah, and, now, neurologically, if you look at it too, one of the things that happens when we’re stressed, when we’re experiencing those moments of tension, the blood flow changes.  It starts going to the arms and legs in a typical fight or flight pattern, but it also quits going to the digestive system and quits going to the reasoning side of the brain.  So, we start operating on our automatic pilot.

Breathing deeply is the one thing we can do automatically or, you know, on our own, that begins to reverse all of that.

Alissa Kriteman:  Yeah, that makes sense.  And I know that’s associated with, you know, cortisol and stress, I’ve heard a lot about that.  How that’s almost like a, you know, a drug in the system that works similarly to where reasoning goes away, like the body’s literally shutting down.  And, it’s so pervasive.  Do you talk to in stress management about really – I see, I’m starting to see how all this ties together because you’d have to be in charge of your mind if you were going to be able to have any control or efficiency with managing stress in your life.

Dan Bryant:  Yeah, it...

Alissa Kriteman:  You know, it’s like an inside game.  There’s lots of stuff you could do outside, like maybe hang out with different people, or eat other foods, you know, you know, more energetic foods.  But really, it’s kind of a mind game.

Dan Bryant:  Yeah, and this is not new either.  You know, as a man thinketh or, in your case, a woman…

Alissa Kriteman:  [laughs] That’s right.  All the women listening. [laughs]

Dan Bryant:  You know, the reality is that, you know, we are late to the game in Western medicine, realizing how closely attached the mind and the body are in spirit.  And, that they’re circular in a way that 50 years ago or 100 years ago, we wouldn’t have considered in Western medicine.

Alissa Kriteman:  Right.

Dan Bryant:  But, you know, that whole system – and, it’s for a good thing.  I mean, when you were, you know, 250,000 years ago going to the mall to shop and you ran into a saber-tooth tiger, the system protected you.

Alissa Kriteman:  [laughs]

Dan Bryant:  Well, it still works the same now, but we hardly ever see that saber-tooth tiger.

Alissa Kriteman:  [laughs]  No, now it’s other people in the mall.  [laughs]

Dan Bryant:  That’s right.  It’s other people in the mall which is also a key to the amount of stress and depression that we experience, because we form opinions about how life’s supposed to work.  And, nobody else has our same opinions.  And so, when we’re bumping into people in the mall or at holiday time when our relationships increase, or in our primary relationships, we get out of our habitual thinking to believe, “Gee, these other people ought to be thinking the same way I am.”

Alissa Kriteman:  Um, hmm.  Yeah, it’s quite dangerous.  We’re going to talk more about that when we come back.

We’re going to take a short break to support our sponsors.  And, listeners, I’d love for you to listen to these ads.  They’re created by my sponsors for my show and they help me bring these great experts to you.  So, if you can support them, I’d really appreciate it.

All right.  This is Alissa Kriteman.  I’m speaking with Dan Bryant about how we form our opinions, depression, how we get over that.  What are some amazing things that we can do to have more love, energy and forgiveness.  And, we’re going to talk more about that too when we come back.

We’ll be right back.

[Commercial]

Alissa Kriteman:  We’re back.  I’m Alissa Kriteman.  We’re talking to Dan Bryant about how unconscious beliefs and anger really get in the way of the love and the intimacy and the connection that we want in our life.

And we were just talking about how our opinions of other people really just form our reality.  And, you know, I think, Dan, now, that things are getting more and more heated up with the economy, people are a lot more stressed out.  They’re losing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

I think it’s important, I’ve read a couple of things about how it’s important not to focus on the negative, that there’s some shining piece of positivity in every sort of crisis.  What do you have to share with us about that?

Dan Bryant:  Well, I, you know, I, obviously, we’re a lot happier when we’re focusing on the positive.  And we make a different kind of a decision, if you think about it, in the times in your life when you’ve been in an argument or it’s deteriorated to a fight, you make a completely different kind of decision about the same material than you would if you were at peace, if you were relaxed, if you were thinking about something pleasant, and then, making decisions about that same material.

The other thing is that the events happen in our lives.  Don’t they?

Alissa Kriteman:  Um, hmm.

Dan Bryant:  And, there’s nothing we can do about that, you know?  Whether it’s Buddhist, or it’s current psychology or it’s any other great train of thought, the reality is that the beginning premise is usually that life is going to involve some suffering.  And, I don’t like that word in the sense that it tends to be too all-embracing, but life clearly involves things that we would prefer were different.

Alissa Kriteman:  Right, and I think the perspective of suffering really comes from  how we’re holding any given situation, which I think is what you’re pointing to, you know.

Dan Bryant:  Yup.

Alissa Kriteman:  It looks like things are really terrible and I could see, you know, if you’ve lost hundreds of thousands of dollars, it might look that way, but, you know what?  Maybe, maybe it needed to wake people up to how they were investing or where they weren’t being generous.  I don’t know, but, what can you – what can you say to people who might be suffering at this time about some financial losses or not having a job, things of that nature?  What are some practices people can do to calm down a little bit?

Dan Bryant:  Well, for one thing, they can breathe, the first thing that we started with.

Alissa Kriteman:  Um, hmm.

Dan Bryant:  The second thing that they can do is make a list of the things that they’re concerned about.  Start circling the things they can do nothing about.

Alissa Kriteman:  Um, hmm.

Dan Bryant:  Okay?  And then, get in the practice of only working on the things you can do something about.  What we tend to do is we tend to go from obsessing about a problem that we can do nothing about to obsessing about how we don’t think about what we’re obsessing about.  And, it’s really the same thing.

What we need is a real change of channels.  We need to go from saying, “You know, I can’t do anything about that,” to start thinking about something positive.  Maybe, it’s gratitude; maybe it’s a time of love in our life.  Maybe, it’s a moment of peace we experienced.

I also have some rules about thinking about things we can’t do anything about.  I assign them a time and I think a good time to think about things you can do nothing about is like from noon to 12:01.

Alissa Kriteman:  [laughs]  Give it 60 seconds, go.  [laughs]

Dan Bryant:  Right.  If they don’t have to come up at that time, they have to postpone till the next day.  And you tell your brain, you know our job is to train our brain to work for us instead of letting it work us over.  You tell it, “Look, I don’t think about that now.”  And then, switch channels.

And, the other thing about it is we tend to do so much of our painful obsessing at night.  And there’s nothing we can do about most things, you know, when we’re lying in bed unable to sleep.

Alissa Kriteman:  Yeah, I was going to say, that’s probably why a lot of people develop insomnia.  And, again, because that kind of repetitive, obsessive thinking, has a physiological reaction in our bodies.  So, of course, we can’t sleep.  There’s all kinds of chemicals going on.

Dan Bryant:  Sure.

Alissa Kriteman:  So, it sounds like taking a deep breath, being proactive about what we can do things about and really just coming to terms with the things we can’t do anything about and just release it and let it go – sounds like – and just focus on the gratitude?

Dan Bryant:  Yeah, and not just – and then change channels.  I don’t care what it is.  I think when they started telling us in second grade to quit daydreaming, that maybe we shouldn’t have given the skill up completely, that now’s a little time to focus on something more positive.  Whether gratitude, it’s wonderful, times of love, dreams, any number of things, but certainly not focusing on things we cannot do anything about at the moment.

Alissa Kriteman:  Yeah, maybe, it sounds like a good time to create a vision board and sort of regroup.

Dan Bryant:  Sure.

Alissa Kriteman:  Okay, now, it’s the vision.  I like that idea; I like vision boards.  All right.

Now, I want to talk to you about your couples communication class.  There are a lot of women who listen to my show who are single or in relationship and they want to be more empowered in dating or in the relationship that they’re in.  So, what are you teaching couples about how to communicate?

Dan Bryant:  Well, we teach, you know, a variety of things.  Communication is a whole group of actions.  It’s taking time with people; it’s listening; it’s expressing ourselves.  It’s, you know, doing little caring kinds of behavior things and doing pleasant things together.  And then, for older relationships, it’s managing our stress and anger and overcoming things.

One of the stories I have always liked, this is the story about Gladstone and Disraeli, prime ministers in the late 1800s in England, and as such, two of the most powerful men in the world.  And, a young woman had had an opportunity to go to dinner with them separately and spend an evening in conversation.  And a jealous friend asked her, “Well, what was it like?”  And she said, “Oh, when I went to dinner with Mr. Gladstone, Prime Minister Gladstone, I felt like I had just been to dinner with the smartest man in the entire world.”  And she said, “Yeah, yeah, but what about Disraeli?”  And she says, “Oh, when I went to dinner with Mr. Disraeli, when I came home that night, I felt like he’d just been to dinner with the smartest woman in all of England.”

Alissa Kriteman:  [laughs]  One spoke and one listened.

Dan Bryant:  Yeah, precisely.  I think that one of the important parts of communication, especially in dating and anything else, is curiosity about the other person.  It’s disclosure but it’s also getting another person to disclose who they are and share it and to establish games for ourselves.  What can I find out that nobody knows about this individual?  How can I, you know, get a little bit about them?  And to become a detective and enjoy communication at that time.

As the relationship matures, it also demands honest disclosure and more than just curiosity and the like.  I don’t think that there’s any magic bullet that makes relationships work other than maybe the thought of commitment.  And, I’m talking about commitment in the sense of believing that something’s worthwhile and then being willing to change our self as an individual in order to attain it.  And whether that’s dating and saying, you know, I really have a lot of trouble talking to people, but it’s important to me to do it and then going out and finding ways to be in conversation and increasing our ability to do it.

Alissa Kriteman:  So, you’re saying honest disclosure, not only are you saying be honest in what you’re communicating to others and your partner, but you’re also saying wake up to the areas in ourselves that might need changing.

Dan Bryant:  Yup.  You know, how much impact do you have on another person?  The person you can really have control over and that you can change is yourself.

Alissa Kriteman:  Um, hmm.

Dan Bryant:  And that, perhaps more than anywhere else, is where we needed work.  I think I mentioned that, when I do couples’ classes, there is not a time that both parties don’t come with some sense that somebody’s going to tell their partner what they need to do to be a better partner.

Alissa Kriteman:  [laughs]

Dan Bryant:  You know, it’s not there.  The only one I can change is myself; nobody else changes without their permission.

Alissa Kriteman:  I think, yeah – and I think it’s futile trying and I’ve heard that over and over again.  It’s like, do not try to change your partner, just focus on yourself.

We’ve got to wrap up soon, but I wanted to talk to you about forgiveness before we go and, you know, it’s a nice segue way from being in relationship, I think one of the key ways to have a relationship that’s healthy and thriving and lasts for a really long time is to practice forgiving each other.  I mean, we all have foibles.

I think that being in relationship is one of the biggest challenges there are for all of the stuff, the wounds and the triggers and the things that come up and you’re working it out with this other person.  And to have forgiveness is essential I think.  What do you have to say about forgiveness?

Dan Bryant:  Yeah, I think it’s absolutely a foundation for a long-term, good relationship.  When you consider [xx] Easley [sp] and John Gottman in Washington, probably does better research on couples communication than anyone I can think of.  And, you know, his studies consistently show that couples who have been married for 40 and 50 years go to their graves disagreeing two-thirds of the time.

Alissa Kriteman:  [laughs]

Dan Bryant:  And we all know that from our relationships.  And when you are so different on so many levels from the person who you decided to spend your life with, you need to know about forgiving.  And, part of the problem that I experience with forgiveness in the classes we do, starts with the definition, you know.  People have the sense that forgiveness is forgetting.  It is clearly not about that.  Or it’s about excusing behavior.  It’s not.  If something bad happened, we need to be clear about it and acknowledge it.  It’s not even necessarily about reconciling.  It’s not setting the other free or condoning on kindness or forgetting something painful happened.

You know, what it is – it’s a gift to yourself.  It’s the peace you learn when you let your emotions subside, when you let that craziness that goes on from a betrayal or a bad incident and that lives between your ears for how ever long you allow it to live there and where you finally decide to let yourself have peace from that.  It’s for you.

Alissa Kriteman:  Hmm.  I really like that distinction, to say what it isn’t and then really what it is.  What is one practice you would leave our listeners with to help them cultivate practices of forgiveness?

Dan Bryant:  I think the single most important thing I do, since all of the listeners are already breathing [laughter] and doing things, is I’d tell them to learn about unenforceable rules.  And unenforceable rules are all the things that come up in our lives when other people behave differently than the way we think they should behave.

And, you know, what happens in life is we get opinions about how life’s supposed to operate and then we try and enforce those opinions on other people.  And rarely are our opinions about how others should behave enforceable.  And so, what I think in terms of forgiveness, what I’d like people to understand is, that they – other people are different than we are.  That’s the start.

The second thing I’d like people to think about is to remember that in their lives, they’ve hurt someone, as we all have.

Alissa Kriteman:  Hmm.

Dan Bryant:  Just think for a moment, did they do it on purpose or did they just simply have different needs at the time than the person they hurt?  Or inadequate skills…?

Alissa Kriteman:  Right.

Dan Bryant:  …to navigate those waters in [xx]?  My guess is, in most cases, people just needed something else than somebody wanted from them.  Or they had inadequate skill to do well in that moment.

Alissa Kriteman:  Yeah, and maybe like you said before, where we can’t change other people, we just have to focus on healing and shifting behavior in ourselves, the same thing with forgiveness.  It’s a little difficult to offer forgiveness if we have yet to forgive ourselves for places where we’ve hurt people.

So, Dan, thank you so much for being on “Just for Women” today.  We are out of time.

How can people find you?

Dan Bryant:  Well, they can find me by emailing probably to [email protected], would probably be the same way and that all comes to me.

Alissa Kriteman:  Say that again.

Dan Bryant:  It’s NetNow, N-E-T-N-O-W, @sbcglobal.net.

Alissa Kriteman:  Got it.  Okay, great.  Also, thank you so much.  I really appreciate you sharing with us some of these practical tools that we can use, definitely the deep breathing, really forgiving ourselves, learn about unenforceable rules and know that, just because people are behaving how they are, and it might not be the way they want, it’s not wrong, you know.  And so, really us just cultivating that practice of being able to accept people in situations exactly how they are.  There’s a lot of freedom there.

Dan Bryant:  There is indeed.

Alissa Kriteman:  Okay.  Well, thank you so much.  I’m Alissa Kriteman, your host of “Just for Women: Dating, Relationships and Sex.”  For text and transcripts of this show and other shows on the Personal Life Media Network, please visit our website at PersonalLifeMedia.com.

You can also call me and leave me any comments that you might have.  I’d love to hear from you.  That number is (206) 350-5333.  And, as always, you can send me an email at Alissa – A-L-I-S-S-A, @personallifemedia.com.

It’s been such a pleasure being here today.  Thank you for tuning in.  Tune in next week for more juicy news you can use.

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