Rep. Mina Morita's Blog

Ike Kuokoa – Liberating Knowledge

Posted in Education,Environmental Protection,Events,General,Oceans/Water,Sustainability by Mina Morita on November 6, 2011

Last week I had the pleasure of giving Dr. Puakea Nogelmeier a ride to a friend’s house for a dinner party.  Although on sabbatical this year, he is feverishly organizing to launch a volunteer drive to typescript Hawaiian -language newspapers to make the entire collection word-searchable.  No language skill is necessary and forgive me for not using okina and kahako in my blog.

I don’t have a scanner so I’m going to practice my typing and accuracy, the desired skills needed for this project, by retyping parts of the brochure describing the project:

Awaiaulu: Hawaiian Literature Project

Ike Kuokoa – Liberating Knowledge

Over 125,000 pages of Hawaiian-language newspapers were printed from 1834 to 1948, equaling a million or more typescript pages of text.  Perhaps the largest native-language cache in the western world, the newspapers were an intentional national repository of knowledge, opinion and historical progess as Hawaii moved through kingdom, constitutional monarchy, republic and territory, yet only 2% of that collection has been integrated into our English-speaking world today.

75,000 of the newspaper pages have been converted to digital images.  15,000 of which have been made into searchable typescript, but 60,000 pages remain unsearchable.  For a decade we have used OCR and paid operators to make quality searchable text, educating every person connected with the process.  The 15,000 pages showed the world the importance of this resource, but funding has continually dwindled.  We face closure of the project or export of the work to Asia.  Instead, we are enlisting an army of volunteers to type those pages word-for-word and make them all searchable.  We plan to liberate knowledge from the archival dust because knowledge liberates everyone.

Volunteers Needed – Be a part of this historical Hawaiian legacy effort

No Language Skill Necessary!

Mounting a locally-based volunteer drive will be a massive effort, with thousands of volunteers and a central coordinating hub to engage volunteers and guide production for reliability and accuracy.  The cost is higher than exporting the work and the effort is daunting but this allows for community engagement, personal investment in Hawaiian knowledge and Hawaii-centered kuleana in the product, supported by hands around the world.

Ike Kuokoa launches on November 28, 2011 (La Kuokoa since 1843) and will finish 60,000 pages on/before July 31, 2012 (La Hoihoi Ea).  Up and web-searchable by La Kuokoa 2012.

For pre-registration and more information go to:

My understanding of the volunteer effort is that a volunteer will “check-out” a newspaper page.  The volunteer will then typescript each article and return the page to the archive when pau.  The articles from the page will be reviewed for accuracy and, if necessary, returned to the volunteer to make corrections.  When completed the typescripted newspaper page will be credited to the volunteer as an acknowledgement of the volunteer’s participation and the volunteer may then “check-out” another page to be typescripted.

Puakea tells me that the Hawaiian Civic Clubs, Kamehameha Schools Alumni Classes, hula halau from around the world are among the groups challenging each other to amass volunteers for this effort.  He estimates that at least 3,000 volunteers are needed.

Most importantly, this cache of over 100 newspaper publications helps to reveal various viewpoints of Hawaiian life during a 100 year period.  Such insight has been invaluable.  For example, of particular interest to the University of Hawai‘i Sea Grant College Program (UH Sea Grant) are articles touching on marine ecosystem management in Hawai‘i, traditional and introduced fishing practices, climatic conditions, and storms and other significant weather events.  Read more about this particular project here.

I excitedly signed up, hope you will too.

ICA Rules Hamman/Williams Not Legitimate Candidates for 14th District Race

Posted in Elections,Kauai by Mina Morita on October 24, 2011

Today the Hawaii Intermediate Court of Appeals overturned a Kauai Fifth Circuit decision which allowed the Republican Party three additional days to field a “replacement” candidate (Harry Williams) when David Hamman supposedly “withdrew” from the District 14 State House Race to run for the Kauai State Senate seat.  The ICA ruled that Hamman was never a candidate because his nomination papers were not complete and should never have been accepted for filing.  This is an important decision for future elections to make clear that all candidate nomination papers must strictly comply with the law.

Nishimura v Williams – Decision

Pilgrimage of Compassion – 2011

Posted in Events,Kauai,Sustainability by Mina Morita on August 7, 2011

Lawai International Center

Today I participated in the eleventh annual Pilgrimage of Compassion, as I have done for the past three years at the Lawai International Center.  Many of the sentiments I shared came from others and deserve to be repeated and their wisdom remembered each year.  Many of the participants have asked that I post what I shared today, which is below, and the link to the blog I posted last year.

Ano ai me ke aloha kakou, e na hulu mamo like ole.

Greetings, with aloha, among all of us, birds of many feathers. I think this is the 3rd time I have participated in this pilgrimage and each time I have opened with this greeting, which I learned from Puanani Burgess, a community builder and poet from Waianae. She learned this formal greeting from Pilahi Paki who was instrumental in giving Lynn guidance and the foundation to restore this area.  Puanani, who is also a Buddhist priest, told me she thought that this greeting demonstrates the Hawaiian mindset perfectly. The kaona, or hidden meaning, of this formal greeting is that even though we may look different we are all the same. And, scientifically, this is true. Through the human genome project we now know that 99.9% of humans are genetically the same but unfortunately, most conflicts focus on our differences be it race, gender or religion.

Respect for nature, universal human rights and a culture of peace. These are the kind of values we share and these values can be embodied in a single word, Aloha. Aloha is what brings us together today.  Aloha guides Lynn Muramoto and is the foundation of Lawai International Center. It is Aloha that allows this puu honua, this place of refuge, to transcend through generations.

Over twenty years ago another person that helped to give Lynn guidance is Alvin Shim, a Hawaii visionary and peacemaker and who was a mentor to many of Hawaii’s leaders.  Several weeks ago I was having dinner with his son, Pono Shim.  Pono continues his father’s legacy of social justice to spread the meaning of living with Aloha.

Pono told me, “you know Mina, we don’t have cultural diversity in Hawaii, what we have is a cultural hybrid.”  Pono explained to me that he viewed cultural diversity as being together in a defined area but still identified through our differences.  To Pono, cultural hybrid was more suitable in describing what we have in Hawaii – that we strive to blend the best qualities from each culture and bind them together through our shared value of Aloha.

Pono, a practitioner who stresses the importance of native storytelling to describe Aloha, compared the concept of a cultural hybrid to lei-making.  We all know that a lei is very special.  Many times a lei is a symbol and a gift of Aloha.

Kui Lei

We are all familiar with the kui lei, the most common type of lei making where we take similar flowers and with a needle poke through the center of the flower to string the flowers together.  Pono said this describes cultural diversity.  We have lots of beautiful kui leis but it’s usually all the same kind of flowers held together on a string.

However, the more traditional lei is either wili or haku, where you weave multiple lei materials held together with a strong backing and light cordage.  Pono explained that with a haku or wili you bring together many different types of materials, flowers and foliage, to create a lei.  If the backing and binding is done right the flowers and foliage will hold together no matter how hard you shake the lei.  However, if not bound correctly and tightly, the lei falls apart.  Similarly, without the backing and binding of Aloha our communities fall apart.

Haku Lei

At the 2009 pilgrimage, I shared how Hawaii became known as the Aloha State through Reverend Abraham Akaka famous statehood sermon in 1959.  To close, I want to share an excerpt of that timeless sermon with you again.

Kahu Abraham Akaka

We do not understand the meaning of Aloha until we realize its foundation in the power of God at work in the world. Since the coming of our missionaries in 1820, the name for God to our people has been Aloha. One of the first sentences I learned from my mother in my childhood was this from Holy Scripture: “Aloha ke Akua” – in other words, “God is Aloha.” Aloha is the power of God seeking to unite what is separated in the world – the power that unites heart with heart, soul with soul, life with life, culture with culture, race with race, nation with nation. Aloha is the power that can reunite when a quarrel has brought separation; aloha is the power that reunites a man with himself when he has become separated from the image of God within.

Aloha consists of this new attitude of heart, above negativism, above legalism. It is the unconditional desire to promote the true good of other people in a friendly spirit, out of a sense of kinship. Aloha seeks to do good, with no conditions attached. We do not do good only to those who do good to us. One of the sweetest things about the love of God, about Aloha, is that it welcomes the stranger and seeks his good. A person who has the spirit of Aloha loves even when the love is not returned. And such is the love of God.

Aloha does not exploit a people or keep them in ignorance and subservience. Rather, it shares the sorrows and joys of people; it seeks to promote the true good of others.Today, one of the deepest needs of mankind is the need to feel a sense of kinship one with another. Truly all mankind belongs together from the beginning all mankind has been called into being nourished [and] watched over by the love of God. So that the real Golden Rule is Aloha. This is the way of life we shall affirm.

Let us affirm [for]ever what we really are – for Aloha is the spirit of God at work in you and in me and in the world, uniting what is separated, overcoming darkness and death, bringing new light and life to all who sit in the darkness of fear, guiding the feet of mankind into the way of peace.

Aloha ke Akua.  Mahalo for allowing me to share this message with you.

Closing One Chapter, Starting A New One

Posted in Events,General,Kauai by Mina Morita on March 20, 2011

On Wednesday, March 9, the Senate Committee on Commerce & Consumer Protection held my confirmation hearing (click here for Governor’s Message No. 523, testimony and committee report) and recommended for approval my appointment to the Public Utilities Commission.  The full Senate confirmation vote was held on Monday, March 14.  Just prior to my vote, former Kauai Senator, Gary Hooser, was also confirmed by the Senate as the Director of the Office of Environmental Quality Control.  Subsequently, after the confirmation vote, I walked back to the House Chambers to meet for the last time with House colleagues and was allowed to make my last statement on the House floor.  I then resigned as the State Representative for District 14 and was sworn in as a Public Utilities Commissioner later that afternoon in the Lieutenant Governor’s conference room.  My first day on the job as the Chair of the Public Utilities Commission was the next day, Tuesday, March 15.

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Setting Our Sights As We Begin A New Year – The Blue Economy

Posted in General,Sustainability by Mina Morita on January 1, 2011

As the new year begins, we will continue to face the many challenges of a struggling economy which will no doubt be exacerbated by rising oil prices. Unfortunately, from my past experience, when the economy is weak expectations are set pretty low at the Legislature for the upcoming session.  However, on the bright side, we have a new Governor.  Governor Abercrombie’s inaugural address portends the sense of hope and optimism as we set our sights on this new year in establishing Hawaii’s future direction.  Here is an excerpt from the address:

This morning the sun rose in paradise, bringing a new day.  What becomes of this day is in our hands—as stewards of our land and water, providers for our families, and citizens of our beloved Hawai‘i.

On this day in Hawai‘i we begin our work on building a sustainable prosperity that can be enjoyed today and for generations to come, we will make investments in the capabilities of our people, and we will build strong communities based on our core values of compassion and unity.

Our first task is accelerating our recovery by restoring and creating good jobs, capitalizing on new opportunities, working smarter and more creatively, and building partnerships to optimize results. We can no longer spend precious time and energy fighting to gain a political edge. Instead we must focus all our efforts on Hawai‘i’s future and our respective roles in it.  Each one of us has important work to do—as laborers and managers, business owners and innovators, public and private sector leaders, educators and caregivers.

We will face challenges, but we will not let these become excuses.

Yes, I am excited to get to work with a leadership team that is focused on aspirations, innovation and values to reshape our economy to one that truly reflects our desire to be prosperous in every aspect of our  lives.

The Enterprise Honolulu (the economic development board of  Oahu) website opens with a photograph of a voyaging canoe in a vast ocean asking, “Will we ever trust our senses again?  No signs, no milemarkers, no GPS.  They knew where home was.  They knew where they wanted to go.”  We are the legacy of “they”, and, hopefully, well embedded in our na’au are all our senses to guide Hawaii to economic and environmental prosperity to enrich our quality of life.  I cannot think of a better way to start of the new year with the hope that the following video will help to stimulate discussions and action on the numerous innovations awaiting to be tapped into in redesigning how we think and do business in Hawaii.

I Miss Molly Ivins

Posted in Elections,General,Uncategorized by Mina Morita on November 1, 2010

I woke up this morning missing Molly Ivins.  I wish I could channel her right now to get her perspective on the absurdity of the 2010 political landscape.  But, she sums it up quite eloquently with this quote:

What stuns me most about contemporary politics is not even that the system has been so badly corrupted by money. It is that so few people get the connection between their lives and what the bozos do in Washington and our state capitols.

In my role as a “politician”, Molly Ivins grounded me because she always spoke the truth – that’s the power of a good journalist.

In this speech at Tulane University, Molly gives the most succinct civics lesson ever and her political commentary is probably more germane than anything you will hear tomorrow night.

Appointed vs. Elected Board of Education

Posted in Education,Elections,Legislation/Capitol,Uncategorized by Mina Morita on October 17, 2010

I am voting “yes” on the appointed school board question.  Hawaii’s families need to hold elected officials accountable for our public education system, however, under the current structure it is very difficult to hold anyone accountable.  We can’t say we hold our elected Board of Education members responsible because most of us don’t even know who the BOE members are and many voters don’t even vote in the BOE races.  At least with an appointed school board Hawaii’s families can point directly to the Governor and the Legislature.

Several weeks ago I wrote about what makes a great school.  Here is an excerpt from that post:

Since 2002 the Lingle-Aiona administration tried to peg school reform on one issue, locally elected school boards. The Chair of the House Committee on Education, Representative Roy Takumi, has studied the issue of school reform extensively.  What is clear is governance of a school system (local versus state board of education) has little to do with successful schools.

Throughout the country, successful schools have these common characteristics:  (1) Principals with effective leadership qualities, (2) Skilled and dedicated teachers, (3) Involved parents and active community support, (4) An Articulated Curriculum, (5) A Safe and Healthy Learning Environment.  Using this framework, I have supported legislation that brought funding and decision-making directly under local school control, worked to reduce class size, add more money for textbooks and modernize computers and technology infrastructure, tried to address the teacher shortage by providing fair compensation to retain and attract skilled and dedicated educators, established a Principal’s Academy to enhance leadership skills, established and adjusted the weighted student formula to adequately address a student’s special needs.

Today’s Star-Advertiser story on this issue sort of misses the point.  It’s not about the BOE, it’s about the best structure that can support transformation at the school level.  Yes, there can be bad, political choices made for BOE appointees but, hopefully, there will be checks and balances to minimize that possibility.  The Legislature tried to address this concern but Governor Lingle vetoed the bill that would have set-up the statutory framework for the selection/appointment process in anticipation to the possible passage of the appointed school board constitutional question.  House Bill 2377, which I co-sponsored, would have set-up a selection committee using the Hawaii P-20 Council to submit a list of potential candidates.  The Governor would have to select an appointee from this list of candidates who are then subject to the advice and consent of the Senate.  This process is similar to the Judicial selection process.

I cannot defend an elected BOE as a “democratic” process especially when voter apathy is so great.  No amount of voter education or money can “fix” this problem in a timely way.  The future of public education is at stake, the future of our children is at stake.  Democracy will not survive if public education is not our most important priority.  So please vote “yes” on the appointed school board question and remember, a blank vote is counted as a “no” vote.

No Fishes, No Fishermen

Posted in Environmental Protection,Issues,Kauai,Oceans/Water,Sustainability by Mina Morita on October 15, 2010

Reacting to the convoluted discussion surrounding the Hawaiian Island Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary management plan review, a fisherman asked me if I was for or against fishermen.  My simple answer to that question is I am for the fish – no fishes, no fishermen.

I understand that fishing is a significant factor in keeping our island lifestyle and culture but this important resource is dependent on maintaining a healthy ocean ecosystem.  Unfortunately, indiscriminate fishing, the absence of comprehensive marine management and sensible regulations and enforcement have put our marine resources in jeopardy not only in Hawaii but throughout the world.  Kupuna Louis “Buzzy” Agard describes the situation we now face:

In our oceans today, too many people are fighting over a diminished resource. I have been fishing in Hawai‘i for more than 60 years. I remember when there were dense schools of fish in Hawai‘i. But I can tell you from experience, times have changed. Our food fish are now a commodity, and when a limited natural resource becomes a commodity, you have the tragedy of the commons – everybody keeps taking, but nobody takes care. If we learn to take care, and to take only what we need in a responsible manner, then maybe we can be proud of the future we pass on to our children.

Our best efforts have to be brought forth to ensure a thriving fishing community.  It was not long ago that our nearshore waters were managed through a konohiki with strict rules and serious consequences.  Our Hawaiian ancestors truly understood that having a thriving fishery was a matter of survival and responsibility.  Rebuilding our fisheries can only happen through a thoughtful discussion and acknowledging our kuleana as an island community dependent on our ocean, not through rumors, fear and speculation.  Hopefully, the Hawaii Humpback Whale Sanctuary management plan review can be seized as an opportunity to redirect federal and state resources not to focus solely on target species but to identify what it will take to restore a thriving and diverse marine ecosystem to enhance the quality of our island lifestyle.

Navigator Nainoa Thompson says, “It’s time for us to recognize the value of our ocean, and understand that we are in a time of decline . . . We must rebuild a culture of an ocean community. This will require a partnership among scientists, government, and those who use and love the ocean like I do. It’s about values and responsibility, and is truly a matter of survival.”

Examining the Perils of Mining to Make A Case for Recycling

Posted in Environmental Protection,Legislation/Capitol,Sustainability by Mina Morita on October 13, 2010

Years ago I visited two Hewlett-Packard electronic recycling facilities, one in Nashville, Tennesse while attending the National Conference of State Legislatures and another in Roseville, California while on a vacation.  The concept of “above ground mining” – removing precious metals from discarded products to be recycled for manufacturing new products – was proving to be a cost-effective concept and alternative to mining for virgin materials at these facilities.  This was my impetus to move forward in the legislature an electronic recycling bill after passing the bottle bill.

Recently, the risks and environmental problems of mining have been highlighted by the Chilean miners rescue and the Hungarian bauxite sludge disaster. The “wasting” of non-recycled aluminum cans is discussed in this Massachusetts Lowell Sun Editorial, tying mining with recycling.  For many years Massachusetts bottle bill advocates have been trying to expand their deposit/redemption program to make it similar to Hawaii’s:

That wave of red sludge is the environmental cost of man’s quest for bauxite. Bauxite is usually strip-mined (surface-mining) because it is almost always found near the surface. Bauxite ore is heated in a pressure vessel along with a sodium-hydroxide solution at a temperature of 150 to 200 Celsius. At these temperatures, the aluminum is dissolved and the toxic red sludge becomes a byproduct. For each equivalent of alumina produced, an average plant produces 1-2 times as much red mud. The red mud cannot be disposed of easily. In most countries where red mud is produced, it is pumped into red-mud ponds. These “ponds” are simply wastelands full of red mud. Due to the process used, the mud is highly basic with a pH from 10 to 13. Lake water is normally at a pH of 7. Red mud presents a problem as it takes up land area and can neither be built on nor farmed, even when dry.

About 95 percent of the world’s bauxite production is processed first into alumina, then into aluminum by electrolysis. Yes, that’s aluminum… The same aluminum can that some of you might have considered throwing away as opposed to recycling.

Too much of the “recycling movement” has been focused on issues of landfill space and waste-to-energy facilities. That is only a secondary issue. Recycling is about supplying manufacturers with the feed stocks that they need to make new products. By doing so, we can reduce the energy-intensive and too-often environmentally destructive extraction of natural resources — such as mining for bauxite ore.

Aluminum is one of the most easily recycled commodities. As we all know, making new aluminum cans out of recycled cans takes 95 percent less energy than using virgin bauxite. An aluminum can has 68 percent total recycled content, the highest of any beverage package material.

By recycling or returning our cans for redemption, hopefully we can work toward reducing these sorts of tragic accidents in the future. That is why folks are out there pushing for increased recycling and expanded bottle bills. Forty-one billion cans are wasted annually! In a recent editorial, Roger Guzowski (the recycling manager at Five Colleges Inc.) asked the question “It’s only one can though, right?”

According to statistics from Hawaii’s beverage deposit and redemption program, in fiscal year 2010 413,119,202 beverages in aluminum cans were sold in Hawaii.  329,896,576 cans were recycled.  With a recycle rate of close to 80%, almost 83,000,000 aluminum cans were “wasted”, probably ending up in landfills.  Besides the “wasting” of this important metal, there are significant energy savings when using scrap aluminum.  A can made from recycled aluminum uses 95% less energy than a can made from virgin aluminum.

Prior to passing the beverage deposit and redemption program law, Hawaii’s recycling rate was less than 25%.  Although there is still much work to be done to address Hawaii’s solid waste issues, here’s the impact of the Hawaii’s bottle law which includes aluminum, glass, plastic and bi-metal containers:

Containers Sold

Containers Redeemed

% Recycled

FY 2006


628,818,330 68%
FY 2007




FY 2008




FY 2009




FY 2010




TOTAL 4,612,057,087 3,334,718,624


  • Over 219,960 tons of beverage containers diverted from Hawaii’s landfills and channeled to recycling markets
  • Helped to stabilize and revitalize Hawaii’s recyclers
  • Created 300 jobs statewide
  • Lays the foundation for new businesses to be developed utilizing glass and plastic as resources

Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai

Posted in Education,Events,Kauai by Mina Morita on September 19, 2010

I like it when people stop to talk story with me at the grocery store or post office.  I usually get caught up on or a new issue is brought to my attention.  Yesterday at Foodland-Princeville was no exception.  George Corrigan, the President of the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay, was at the entrance encouraging people to participate in Give Aloha, Foodland’s annual community matching gifts program which runs from September 1 to September 30.  For every customer’s $1.00 contributed, Foodland will match up to $249.00 to a non-profit.  The non-profit George was advocating for is Growing Our Own Teachers On Kauai, which started out as a community service project of the Hanalei Rotary.  The purpose of this non-profit is to provide needed financial aid to teacher candidates who live on Kauai and aspire to become teachers in Kauai schools.

In Hawaii, and nationally, there is a severe shortage of good, qualified teachers.  In the past, the State Department of Education actively recruited teachers from the mainland paying relocation bonus resulting in few longterm benefits to our public education system. Now, through distance learning we can “grow and nurture” potential teacher candidates within our own communities and the retention and commitment to teaching within our communities is much more successful.  A critical partner in this effort is the University of Hawaii, College of Education with its Statewide Teacher Education Program, which offers distance learning on its neighbor island campuses rather than having teacher candidates relocate to the UH Manoa campus.

Growing Our Teachers On Kauai steps in, providing financial assistance, at a critical juncture for these teacher candidates:

Most local teacher candidates have to pay for their own college education.  They do it by working a full-time job or several part-time jobs.  Many candidates have families of their own or are the sole income provider for their families.  They have to balance family, work and school at the same time.  With tuition, plus books, a computer, software, supplies, and other associated expenses, the costs are approximately $5,000 per semester or $20,000 for the two-year program.

In spite of all this, there are many local teacher candidates who have the motivation and dedication to tough it through.  Until that is, their final semester.  At that time, they must quit their jobs and serve full-time in the classroom with their mentor teacher, Monday through Friday, everyday.  Teacher candidates do not get paid for student teaching and the commitment to teaching is full-time.  Many teacher candidates cannot afford to finish that last stretch to become a teacher.

I guess the first question a person would ask a Legislator like me is why don’t these teacher candidates get a stipend.  I don’t know the answer to that question except this is another expense that has to compete with all the other general fund needs of our State.

As I was going through the Foodland checkout line I spotted this Time magazine cover.  Right below the bus window it says “It Starts With The Teachers”.  Since 2002 the Lingle-Aiona administration tried to peg school reform on one issue, locally elected school boards.  The Chair of the House Committee on Education, Representative Roy Takumi, has studied the issue of school reform extensively.  What is clear is governance of a school system (local versus state board of education) has little to do with successful schools.

Throughout the country, successful schools have these common characteristics:  (1) Principals with effective leadership qualities, (2) Skilled and dedicated teachers, (3) Involved parents and active community support, (4) An Articulated Curriculum, (5) A Safe and Healthy Learning Environment.  Using this framework, I have supported legislation that brought funding and decision-making directly under local school control, worked to reduce class size, add more money for textbooks and modernize computers and technology infrastructure, tried to address the teacher shortage by providing fair compensation to retain and attract skilled and dedicated educators, established a Principal’s Academy to enhance leadership skills, established and adjusted the weighted student formula to adequately address a student’s special needs.

There is no doubt that so much more has to be done to transform and improve public education in Hawaii and I can’t thank the Rotary Club of Hanalei Bay enough and its support of Growing Our Own Teachers on Kauai in helping to address one of the most fundamental challenges to our public education system, attracting and retaining skilled and qualified teachers in our rural communities.  So until September 30 double your contribution to this worthy non-profit by making a donation while checking out at Foodland.

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