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Bethesda Planners Declare Millennial Event A Success

by Aaron Kraut | July 22, 2014 at 3:25 pm | 213 views | No Comments

Attendees at the Streetsense "Untapped Perspective" event last week in Bethesda talk to county planner Marc Deocampo Photo via Montgomery County Planning DepartmentMontgomery County planners were hoping last week’s Streetsense-hosted party would introduce millennials to the downtown Bethesda planning process with the promise of free food, drink and cornhole.

After a few hundred showed up last Wednesday, planners now hope they can keep them interested.

“This was as much to share information, hear their questions and encourage them to be involved in the fall,” said Margaret Rifkin, part of the Planning Department’s team working on the Bethesda Downtown Plan. “We wanted to engage and invite people to be in our feedback loop in the fall, so we weren’t going out with specific questions about planning from our point of view.”

The event was organized by Streetsense, a brokerage, design and development company with a sprawling office at Bethesda Metro Center, after the Planning Department approached the company and developer JBG about more age-targeted outreach.

Until last week, planners hadn’t been able to get much of a response or input from millennials in sessions about the Bethesda Downtown Plan, which will bring new zoning and land use guidelines for the next 20-25 years of Bethesda development.

Streetsense did some basic surveying of what attendees would like to see more of in downtown Bethesda, information that Rifkin said the firm will provide planners in a few weeks.

She said it’s hard to know what portion of attendees work in downtown Bethesda, live in downtown Bethesda, work and live in downtown Bethesda or were representing event sponsors. The event was co-sponsored by Chevy Chase-based developer JBG and Bethesda-based Clark Construction.

“My perception was we got a very good complement of people who were work in downtown Bethesda and a small number who live there and we had just a few who both live and work in Bethesda,” Rifkin said. “But that’s just our staff circulating and talking with people. My feeling is this was a wonderful way to put out a wide net.”

Planners displayed the concept framework plan, a preliminary idea of where new development, parks and open spaces might go. Planners are expected to present their final work to the Planning Board this fall, which is expected to send it up to the County Council in the winter.

“We were really pleased with the number of people who came over to talk with our staff at length about the framework,” Rifkin said. “Although we know that many people would go anywhere for free food, we had a really good number of people who were genuinely interested.”

Photo via Montgomery County Planning Department

County Says It Saved $2.9 Million In Ineligible Tax Credits

by Aaron Kraut | July 22, 2014 at 2:25 pm | 65 views | No Comments

Montgomery County Montgomery County’s finance director said the county has saved $2.9 million in home tax credits since 2012 by identifying rental housing and second homes that were incorrectly receiving the credits.

The savings and the potential to save $3.4 million annually were outlined in a memo this month from Finance Director Joseph Beach to Councilmember Nancy Navarro. Navarro chairs the Council’s Government Operations and Fiscal Policy Committee, which set up the county’s Property Tax Compliance Office in 2012.

Navarro said that office has since worked to identify the correct tax status of residential properties. The office found many properties from absentee owners that were receiving tax credits — the county’s Homestead Credit and Income Tax Offset Credit — that only owner-occupants are eligible for.

According to a Council press release, the office has identified nearly 4,900 ineligible accounts, based on its review of rental housing lists maintained by the Department of Housing and Community Affairs. The office cross-checked those lists with the State Department of Assessments and Taxation to see which accounts were improperly claiming the credit.

The Homestead Credit limits an owner-occupied property’s taxable assessment to a 10 percent increase each year. The Income Tax Offset Credit for 2014 is $692.

County staff says the continued tracking of tax status could mean added additional revenue of $3.4 million per year — though the Council press release claimed the office’s ability to correct the status of more properties depends on the state’s ability “to keep pace in updating its records.”

Got A Flat Tire? Bethesda Fire Station #6 Can Help

by Aaron Kraut | July 22, 2014 at 12:55 pm | 148 views | 3 Comments

Bethesda Fire Station #6 helps remove flat tire on Monday, Photo via MCFRSThe crew on Monday at Bethesda Fire Station #6 added emergency car maintenance to its daily fire and rescue duties.

According to Bill Delaney, who manages the Montgomery County Fire and Rescue Service blog, a group of MCFRS employees noticed a senior resident who got a flat tire just across the street from the station on the corner of Bradley Boulevard and Wisconsin Avenue.

Rather than watch the resident struggle to get the tire fixed or car towed in the middle of a busy street, the crew rolled the car into the station driveway and installed a spare tire.

“While not a situation they normally handle the crew felt it important to help, promptly changed the tire, and got the driver safely on their way,” Delaney wrote.

Photo via MCFRS

Bethesda Restaurant Turning Back The Clock On Menu Prices

by Aaron Kraut | July 22, 2014 at 11:20 am | 910 views | No Comments

Image via Lebanese TavernaTo celebrate its 35th anniversary, a locally based restaurant with a location at Bethesda Row will offer 1979 menu prices for two days in August.

A family of Lebanese immigrants opened the first Lebanese Taverna 35 years ago in Arlington. It’s now a company of six full-service restaurants with a location at 7141 Arlington Rd. And on Aug. 20 and 21, it will also have $2.50 tabouleh and $2.75 baba ghanoush.

The full throwback menu is here. It’s for dine-in customers only and includes the staples: $6.95 for shawarma that costs $12.50 at the restaurant today, $6.95 for shish kabob that now starts at $16 and $2.25 for hummus that now starts at $6.50.

The 1979 menu special will rotate for two days at a time through all restaurant locations.

Image via Lebanese Taverna

Shoppes Of Bethesda Getting A Facelift

by Aaron Kraut | July 22, 2014 at 10:20 am | 503 views | 1 Comment

A Bethesda shopping center is getting a facelift as it brings in more big-name national retailers.

The Shoppes of Bethesda, which has parking and an upper level along Hampden Lane and a lower level on Elm Street, is undergoing a series of facade and signing changes.

Crews are on-site and have chained off much of the upper level. The stores remain open, with temporary signage and scaffolding built on top of entrance ways.

Four locally owned stores in the shopping center closed or relocated in 2013. A fifth tenant, Irish pub and restaurant Ri Ra, relocated to Georgetown. The Hinode sushi restaurant closed last week and will be replaced by Tako Grill, another Bethesda sushi restaurant now on Wisconsin Avenue.

New arrivals to the center included Pure Barre, a national chain of franchised fitness studios. A Noodles & Co. and Soul Ryde cycling studio are set to take over the empty Ri Ra space on Elm Street.

Shoppes of Bethesda owner David Draiman has been mum, at least to us, about future plans for the center. Back in November, blogger Robert Dyer posted a rendering of the renovations found on the Shoppes of Bethesda Facebook page.

Rendering image via Facebook

Many Want Bethesda’s One-Way Streets To Be A Thing Of The Past

by Aaron Kraut | July 22, 2014 at 9:05 am | 414 views | 21 Comments

Downtown Bethesda's one-way street network, via Google Maps

A trip through downtown Bethesda’s core of one-way streets can throw drivers for a loop, especially if you miss your destination and have to go around again.

To a growing group of residents and business owners, the downtown’s system of one-way streets — which includes a rare couplet made up of eastbound-only Montgomery Avenue and westbound-only East-West Highway — is outdated and hurting the area’s retail scene.

With the rewrite of the area’s master plan ongoing, the local Citizens Advisory Board will likely send a letter to County Executive Isiah Leggett and the County Council asking that they study or consider the possibility of making those one-way streets go two-way.

The Board, organized by Montgomery County’s Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, is made up of residents and business representatives, many who have been active participants in the Bethesda Downtown Plan. They see the Plan, which must be approved by the Planning Board before it’s approved by the County Council, as an opportunity to take on the one-way street issue.

“It seems like we’re at an inflection point with Park and Planning looking at the future downtown Bethesda,” said Citizens Advisory Board Chair Jad Donohoe, who’s also a vice president at the Donohoe Development Company. “I thought it would be useful to get something in their hands that would speak to that one particular issue. They’d have backing from a community group.”

That community backing could come in handy in front of the County Council, but also in front of the State Highway Administration.

The state agency is in charge of some of the sections of one-way road identified in the letter, including Old Georgetown Road (from Commerce Lane to Woodmont Avenue). The SHA is known for its focus on moving cars, which means reluctance to change road patterns, road widths or add traffic signals if the moves risk slowing traffic down.

Ken Hartman, director of the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Regional Services Center, told the Advisory Board the one-way street network might be one of the reasons why the Bethesda Metro Plaza space has been a failure.

The space, just above the Bethesda Metro station and next to the Hyatt hotel space, was envisioned as the town center of downtown Bethesda in the last county master plan (completed in 1994).

There was an ice skating rink that never gained traction. Attempts at retail space didn’t quite work and now the plaza along one-way Old Georgetown Road serves primarily as a pass-thru for Metro commuters.

Meanwhile, the busiest retail and restaurant sections of Bethesda are a few blocks to either side of the Metro station at Bethesda Row and in Woodmont Triangle.

Hartman also said he often gets complaints from people who say the one-way streets of Old Georgetown Road and Woodmont Avenue lead them to miss the county parking garage used for the Regional Services Center — the county government’s hub in downtown Bethesda.

“The one-way streets are a source of increased speed and confusion. Many people who try to reach this facility, if you miss the left turn into this garage you have to go all the way around again,” Hartman said. “For us, and we’re a government office, that’s a problem.”

The letter from the Advisory Board — which will likely be approved by a majority of the group and sent this summer — also asks for consideration of two-way streets along Woodmont Avenue (from Old Georgetown Road to Hampden Lane), Montgomery Lane (from Woodmont Avenue to Wisconsin Avenue), North Lane (from Woodmont Avenue to East Lane) and East Lane (from North Lane to Montgomery Lane).

Photo via Google Maps

Morning Notes

by Aaron Kraut | July 22, 2014 at 8:15 am | 170 views | No Comments

Flickr photo by ehpien

Montgomery County Is Tech Savvy, Says Group – The Public Technology Institute has designated Montgomery County as a “Tech Savvy County in 2014.” The Institute looks at local government performance in cybersecurity, commitment to green technology, performance management and other measures. Montgomery County was one of four local governments in the country and the only county in Maryland to be designated tech savvy. [Montgomery County]

White Flint Project Faces Long Wait – Gables White Flint, a series of apartments planned for just north of Wall Park and the Shriver Aquatic Center, faces a long wait as the county continues to work toward a reshaped street grid. The project also depends on a large parking garage to be shared by residents and users of the Aquatic Center and future Wall Park. The county didn’t include money for that project in the current six-year capital budget. [Friends of White Flint]

Tax Free Week – The week before the first day of the public school year will once again be a tax free shopping week for apparel and footwear less than $100. Shop Maryland tax-free Week will run from Sunday, Aug. 10 to Saturday, Aug. 16. [Comptroller of Maryland]

Flickr photo by ehpien

Montgomery County Could Target E-Cigarettes

by Aaron Kraut | July 21, 2014 at 2:35 pm | 207 views | 5 Comments

Bethesda Vapor Company coming to Woodmont TriangleMontgomery County officials are considering targeting the use of tobacco-less “e-cigarettes” by teens.

The County Council’s Health and Human Services Committee on Monday heard from a group of health experts in a session dedicated to learning about the battery-operated products increasing in popularity. E-cigarettes heat liquid nicotine, along with flavors and other chemicals, into a vapor that the user inhales.

But health officials say the nicotine found in the products is highly addictive, has “immediate bio-chemical effects on the brain and body at any dosage” and can be toxic.

The Food and Drug Administration has banned fruit and candy flavors from traditional cigarettes and many — including the National Association of Attorneys General — have urged the FDA to do the same when it comes to e-cigarettes.

A briefing from the University of Maryland School of Law provided to members of Council on Monday recommends licensing electronic smoking device retailers, prohibiting the use of the products on school property, prohibiting flavored electronic cigarette nicotine, “limiting the placement of sale to areas inaccessible to the consumer” and restricting the sale of the products to places where only adults can enter.

At his weekly press conference, Council President Craig Rice told reporters he doesn’t think it will be long before the County Council acts in an effort to keep kids away from the product.

Still, that same briefing from the University of Maryland School of Law says there isn’t yet consensus on the health risk of e-cigarettes:

While ESDs continue to gain popularity, not enough is currently known about their short-term and long-term health risks, their effectiveness as smoking cessation tools, or even their contents. However, the scant information that is available suggests the need for comprehensive regulation. In the absence of federal regulations, states and local authorities can continue to take the lead in restricting the availability and appeal of ESDs to minors. Property owners can also restrict the use of ESDs on their premises. Such regulations can help protect the public from the unknown, potentially harmful effects of these new devices.

There is no current federal law for regulation of e-cigarettes, though the FDA has proposed a regulation that would create a minimum age of purchase and ban the sale of the devices in vending machines, among other strategies.

Picks This Week From Our Bethesda-Chevy Chase Event Calendar

by Aaron Kraut | July 21, 2014 at 1:30 pm | 182 views | No Comments

For those sticking around town this week, there are a number of worthwhile events, including the start of this year’s Bethesda Outdoor Movie Series:

Tuesday

Outdoor Movie Series, via Bethesda Urban PartnershipBethesda Outdoor Movie Series
Woodmont Triangle: Corner of Norfolk and Auburn Avenues
Time: 9:00 p.m. — 11:30 p.m.

The Bethesda Urban Partnership will present the ninth annual Bethesda Outdoor Movies: Stars on the Avenue from July 22-26, 2014. Five evenings of major motion pictures in a variety of genres will be showcased, including new releases, action, comedy, musical and classic films. Admission is FREE and show times will begin at 9pm at the corner of Norfolk and Auburn Avenues in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle.

Schedule:
Tuesday, July 22: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off
Wednesday, July 23: Moonrise Kingdom
Thursday, July 24: Citizen Kane
Friday, July 25: Pitch Perfect
Saturday, July 26: Top Gun

Residents, employees and visitors are encouraged to arrive early and bring their own lawn chairs. A limited number of chairs will also be provided. Woodmont Triangle is home to numerous restaurants, ice cream and coffee shops and attendees are invited to enjoy dinner or a snack before the 9 p.m. movie start. Parking is available in the Auburn Avenue garage which is adjacent to the event site.

Wednesday

thumbnail22Bethesda Big Train Baseball
Shirley Povich Field 10600 Westlake Drive
Time: 7:30 p.m. — 10:00 p.m.

Game: Baltimore Redbirds vs. Bethesda Big Train

Come out to Shirley Povich Field in Cabin John Regional Park and enjoy a night full of baseball and fun and affordable family entertainment as you watch the Bethesda Big Train of the Cal Ripken League!

Thursday

Chamber logoBCC Chamber of Commerce – Monthly After Hours
Gallery Bethesda 4800 Auburn Avenue
Time: 5:00 p.m. — 6:30 p.m.

Join us after work for cocktails and networking at the newly opened Gallery Bethesda. Cost $10/Members Free.

Friday

Outside at the Bethesda Farm Women's Market, via Bethesda Farm Women's MarketNew Farm Women’s OUTDOOR Friday Market
Bethesda Farm Women’s Market 7155 Wisconsin aVENUE
Time: 11:00 a.m. — 3:00 p.m.

The NEW Farm Women’s Outdoor FRIDAY Market starts July 18th! A handful of new food and craft vendors begin this Friday with more coming July 25th! Bethesda’s Top Deli Food Truck- Corned Beef King headlines the Farm Women’s new Outdoor Market. New vendors bring together cuisine from around the world to satisfy every palate.

Saturday

ZannieClusterOfSaguaro_resizedSummer Visions
Gallery B: 7700 Wisconsin Avenue, Suite E
Time: 12:00 p.m. — 6:00 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday

Summer Visions is a group exhibition featuring work by Shaune Bazner, Judy Gilbert Levey, Donna K. McGee, Patricia Zannie and Michele Zugrav.

Gallery hours: Wed. – Sat., 12-6 p.m.
Opening reception: Friday, July 11, 6-9 p.m.

Check out the entire Event Calendar here and submit your organization’s events here.

Montgomery County Police Traffic Safety Director Honored

by Aaron Kraut | July 21, 2014 at 12:35 pm | 68 views | No Comments

Capt. Thomas Didone speaking at a June award ceremony in which he was honored for his traffic safety efforts, via MCPA national traffic safety organization honored Montgomery County’s top traffic enforcement official, a man who has experienced personal tragedy when it comes to vehicle safety.

Montgomery County Police Capt. Thomas Didone is a 28-year veteran of the department who twice has headed up its traffic enforcement division. He helped create the county’s speed camera program and has been highly visible in the county’s ongoing pedestrian safety programs.

Much of his work since 2008 has been spurred by his son, who in October of that year was killed while riding in the back of a vehicle that crashed on a rural county road.

In June, Didone was one of 14 who received Highway Safety Hero Awards from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, presented to activists who have pushed for highway-safety initiatives.

Didone has testified for bills tightening driver safety laws. He’s also been in charge of the county’s new school bus camera initiative and explained the shifting focus of the department’s pedestrian safety efforts — which until a few years ago seemed more directed at pedestrians crossing illegally.

Photo via MCP

Sold In Bethesda

by Aaron Kraut | July 21, 2014 at 10:05 am | 221 views | No Comments

9116 Kittery Lane 4509 Chelsea Lane South 5110 King Charles Way

Check out all the activity on the local real estate market from last week, including the sale of a $2.8 million home near Bradley Boulevard:

  • 5225 Pooks Hill Road; 1 BD | 1 BA condominium; List price: $164,900; Sale price: $160,000
  • 4601 N. Park Aveue; 1 BD | 1 BA condominium; List price: $275,000; Sale price: $255,000
  • 7500 Woodmont Avenue; 1 BD | 1 BA condominium; List price: $339,900; Sale price: $322,500
  • 5101 River Road; 2 BD | 2 BA condominium; List price: $360,000; Sale price: $345,000
  • 5110 King Charles Way; 2 BD | 2.5 BA townhouse; List price: $510,000; Sale price: $510,000
  • 4978 Sentinel Drive; 2 BD | 2 BA condominium; List price: $550,000; Sale price: $550,000
  • 5606 Forest Place; 5 BD | 3 BA single family detached; List price: $729,000; Sale price: $630,000
  • 9309 Wadsworth Drive; 4 BD | 3 BA single family detached; List price: $699,000; Sale price: $640,000
  • 9302 Kentstone Drive; 5 BD | 2.5 BA single family detached; List price: $659,900; Sale price: $674,000
  • 6406 Westland Road; 4 BD | 3 BA single family detached; List price: $799,900; Sale price: $755,000
  • 5508 Charlcote Road; 3 BD | 2.5 BA single family detached; List price: $750,000; Sale price: $788,000
  • 5312 Wriley Road; 3 BD | 2.5 BA single family detached; List price: $819,000; Sale price: $850,000
  • 6252 Clearwood Road; 5 BD | 3.5 BA single family detached; List price: $998,000; Sale price: $965,000
  • 4509 Chelsea Lane; 4 BD | 4 BA single family detached; List price: $1,099,000; Sale price: $999,000
  • 5505 Northfield Road; 5 BD | 4.5 BA single family detached; List price: $1,789,000; Sale price: $1,754,275
  • 9116 Kittery Lane; 6 BD | 8 BA single family detached; List price: $3,275,000; Sale price: $2,800,000

Photos via MRIS

6252 Clearwood Road 9302 Kentstone Drive 5508 Charlcote Road

Eastham’s Demolished

by Aaron Kraut | July 21, 2014 at 9:15 am | 416 views | No Comments

Work has started on the 12-floor, 139-unit Solaire apartment project at the longtime site of Eastham’s Exxon Servicenter on Wisconsin Avenue.

Last week, crews demolished the gas station structures that had served as home to the auto repair shop. The shop was at the spot (7100 Wisconsin Ave.) since 1929. It has moved to a shuttered gas station at Old Georgetown Road and Fairmont Avenue — but only temporarily.

That site is also set for redevelopment.

Rendering via Washington Property Company

MCFRS: At Least 4 Hurt In Crash On Old Georgetown Road

by Aaron Kraut | July 18, 2014 at 4:15 pm | 1,177 views | 4 Comments

Photo via TrafficLand.comA multi-vehicle accident on Old Georgetown Road Friday left at least four people injured and some lanes closed.

MCFRS responded to the scene, at the southbound Old Georgetown Road ramp to the outer loop of the Beltway, at about 4 p.m.

Units are extricating one patient from a vehicle and have transported three additional patients to area hospitals.

Expect heavy delays.

Photo via TrafficLand.com

Strathmore Announces New Food Festival In North Bethesda

by Aaron Kraut | July 18, 2014 at 3:20 pm | 1,665 views | 1 Comment

Food Network personality Giada De Laurentiis, via Strathmore "Bizzare Foods" host Andrew Zimmern, via Strathmore

Strathmore on Friday announced a two-day, “culinary and epicurean arts festival” packed with national TV personalities, local chefs, food trucks, tasting sessions and a craft beer garden.

“Appetite – A Gastronomic Experience,” will run Friday, Aug. 1 and Saturday, Aug. 2 on the grounds of the Strathmore facility (5301 Tuckerman Lane).

Food Network’s Giada de Laurentiis and “Bizzarre Foods” host Andrew Zimmern will give talks and have meet and greets. The Music Center at Strathmore will have pairing workshops from J. Chocolatier, Righteous Cheese, MeatCrafters and others. Federal Realty will show off some of the restaurants coming to its Pike & Rose project this fall, including Summerhouse and M Street Kitchen.

There will be a pig roast, demonstration from local chef Robert Weidmaier of Mussel Bar & Grille and Wildwood Kitchen and specialty food vendors plus samples from a host of other local food retailers.

Outdoors will be a free Food Truck Court with Red Hook Lobster Pound, the Culinary Nomad, Dolci Gelati, Jose Andres’ Pepe, Corned Beef King and others.

And, of course, there will be live music to accompany it all.

Strathmore is offering a few levels of tickets, ranging from individual tickets to see either De Laurentiis or Zimmern ($44) or a VIP All-Access Weekend Pass ($225) that offers entry and premium seats to all events and meet and greets throughout the weekend.

Photos via Strathmore

Survey Shows Cyberbullying, ‘Risk Behavior’ Rates Of County Students

by Aaron Kraut | July 18, 2014 at 2:25 pm | 135 views | 2 Comments

Image via MCPSNearly as many MCPS students reported being cyberbullied as opposed to bullied on school property, according to a state survey done in spring 2013 that delves into a number of “youth risk behaviors.”

The recently released 2013 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey Report is conducted every two years in Maryland classrooms to get a sense of student nutritional habits, whether high school- and middle school-aged kids use drugs and alcohol, if they text or email while driving and a host of other risky behaviors.

The 2013 report found that 14.1 percent of 4,096 Montgomery County high school students surveyed said they have been “electronically bullied” during the past year. That’s nearly identical to the 14 percent of students statewide who said they had been electronically bullied.

In Montgomery County, 18.9 percent of the high school students surveyed said they had been bullied on school property during the past year.

Both the statewide and Montgomery County data showed significant disparities in the cyberbullying rates for males and females, with 17 percent of female survey-takers in MCPS responding yes. Eleven percent of male survey takers in Montgomery County said they had been cyberbullied.

In a similar 2012-2013 study in Fairfax County, 11.9 percent of students reported having been cyberbullied in the past year by a student at their school, with female students nearly twice as likely to report being cyberbullied.

MCPS has started a Cybercivility Task Force to “develop strategies to encourage healthy online decisions/behaviors by students and adults and create/evaluate tools that schools, parents, students and community members can use to foster a culture of cybercivility.”

The move has its roots in a series of allegedly inappropriate tweets sent to MCPS Superintendent Joshua Starr from students last winter. The students wanted to get the school day off because of winter weather. Starr wrote an open letter to MCPS parents encouraging them to be aware of what their children were doing on internet social networks.

The rate of students who said they were cyberbullied in the 2013 survey was consistent with the 2011 survey.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey also asked how many students who drove a car during the past 30 days texted or emailed while driving. A little more than 31 percent of MCPS students and 33.1 percent of students statewide responded they had.

Other questions zeroed in on alcohol and drug use, sexual behaviors and feelings of sadness or hopelessness — 26.9 percent of Montgomery County high school students responded they felt so sad or hopeless “almost every day for two weeks or more in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities,” over the past year.

Ahead of new, federally mandated nutrition standards starting this month in school cafeterias, 24.3 percent of Montgomery County students said they had eaten fruits and vegetables five or more times per day during the past week. The statewide response rate on that question was 20.1 percent.

The entire 2013 Maryland Youth Risk Behavior Survey Report and summary can be found here.

Image via MCPS

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