washingtonpost.com
Inauguration Watch

David Nakamura
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, January 19, 2009 1:00 PM

Washington Post Inauguration Watch blogger David Nakamura was online Monday, Jan. 19 at 1 p.m. ET to offer any last-minute updates about the events, hype and hoopla surrounding the swearing-in of Barack Obama and how the city is preparing for Jan. 20.

The transcript follows.

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David Nakamura: Hi everyone, Thanks for joining us for this inauguration chat. The latest news on our Inauguration Watch blog is that long lines have formed outside congressional offices for people who are trying to pick up tickets they had been awarded for tomorrow's swearing-in ceremony. We're hearing reports of people waiting as long as two hours. So if you are still planning to go pick up your tickets, you better get a move on. Also, there seems to be a chance of some snow flurries this afternoon, though no serious accumulation. Anyhow, ask away and we'll do our best to answer. (Be sure to read the transcript of the long chat my colleagues Lena H. Sun and Eric M. Weiss just did about inaugural transportation questions.)

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New York, N.Y.: It seems there is a pretty significant backlash to the cost of the inauguration. Two questions: what were the costs for previous inaugurations? And, doesn't most of this money go back to the city and workers so, in effect, it is stimulating the economy not to mention all the money being poured into food services, entertainment, hotels, etc.

David Nakamura: Four years ago, President Bush raised $42 million in private money to pay for his inaugural events. However, that does not include the federal money that was spent on security, such as the $15 million the federal government gave the District to defray local costs. So it was well above the $42 million.

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Anonymous: What time does the Mall open to the general, unticketed public?

Are there specific entry points? Or specific areas (besides the reserved area) that will not be open for entry?

David Nakamura: The Mall never officially closes, as public, federal land. However, Secret Service has urged people not to camp overnight; they've asked that people begin arriving at 4 a.m., which is also the time that Metro begins service. There will not be major checkpoints to get onto the mall, though some streets and places will be closed, so you might have to weave around to get there. Now, if you have a swearing-in ticket, you will have to go through security, which opens at 8 a.m. and closes at 11:30 a.m. when the official program begins. Likewise, the Parade route has checkpoints and will open at 7 a.m. Mayor Fenty has said that Secret Service will close the parade checkpoints once it is full -- about 300,000 to 350,000 people, which could be as early as 10 a.m., according to officials.

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Upper Marlboro, Md.: So just to be clear... If we are headed to the non-ticketed Mall area west of the Capitol, can we bring backpacks with food and extra belongings?

David Nakamura: Yes, that is correct.

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Abingdon, Md.: How close to noon is the actual swearing in of the president? A number of us (who would are not going to be in D.C.) are trying to work our lunch (with TV) around that time. Thanks.

David Nakamura: The program begins at 11:30 a.m. and will last until just before noon, when Obama will take the oath. Then he'll deliver his inaugural address, have lunch with Congress and make his way to the parade at about 2:30 or so.

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Washington, D.C.: Does any bar/club/organization have anything planned for Monday night at midnight (1/20/09) to toast the end of the Bush administration? I would love to be amongst people and have a toast to the end of that disaster of an administration.

David Nakamura: We've not heard of any bar doing such an event; most are celebrating Obama's arrival, rather than hail Bush's departure. We've heard rumblings of an impromptu gathering of folks at the White House to rejoice at his departure (their words, not mine) but nothing firm.

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Chantilly, Va.: Do I have to go through a security checkpoint to enter the Mall for the swearing in ceremony without a ticket? The map in the Post yesterday showed the security entrances, but not sure if that applies to non ticket holders. Thanks.

David Nakamura: Security checks for ticketed areas only -- but if you try to cross through the parade route to get to the Mall, then yes, you'll have to go through security. Probably better to weave around the parade route on Pennsylvania Ave from about 3rd street to the White House.

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Richmond, Ky.: What happens in the event of an interruption of the ceremony prior to taking the oath? Will Obama still be president and can he take the oath later? Thanks very much.

David Nakamura: The oath is necessary but can be deliver quickly and doesn't have to be at the Capital -- remember LBJ taking it on the plane. Obama must be sworn-in by noon by law, so presumably it would take place in a secure area in case of an emergency.

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Clifton, Va.: I have friends arriving from Europe for the inaugural. How is cab service holding up from Dulles to downtown?

David Nakamura: Today should be okay and tomorrow taxis are allowed over the Va. bridges, though there could be tieups because of charter buses and official vehicles... Buy a copy of the Post's grab-and-go guide in tomorrow's paper (it also appeared in yesterday's editions if you have a Sunday paper).

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Pismo Beach, Calif.: How close to the inauguration ceremony can I get if I MUST have a backpack? Thank you for the opportunity to ask questions.

David Nakamura: Anywhere outside the ticketholder area, backpacks are okay.

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Washington, D.C.: Has a decision been made yet about whether bleacher ticket holders need to get through security before the parade route reaches capacity? There is a lot of confusion out there, and it would be really unfair if those of us who have tickets (which we bought) are turned away. Thanks for any info you can provide!

David Nakamura: What we're told is that once they reach capacity on the parade route and close security, you won't get in even if you have a ticket.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Will there be speakers along the parade route so that people can listen to the ceremonies (although they won't be able to see them)?

Are fanny packs considered bags, so that they must comply with the 8" x 6" x 4" rule along the parade route? I saw many bags at the concert yesterday (including one backpack) that clearly exceeded the restrictions.

David Nakamura: There will be more than 20 Jumbotrons on the mall during the swearing-in and parade, with sound and pictures. There will be NO Jumbotrons on the parade route however. As for speakers, it is not clear if you'll be able to hear from the paraderoute. They've promised hundreds of speakers around the areas, but I've not seen a map of the locations.

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Silver Spring, Md.: You just recommended weaving around the parade route to get to the Mall to avoid the security backups if you're just going to the public area of the Mall. What time do those parade checkpoints open? If we're arriving at say 6:30 a.m., do we still need to go around the parade route to get to the public section of the mall if we want to keep our backpack and thermos of coffee?

David Nakamura: What we're told is that the parade route opens at 7 a.m. If you arrive downtown earlier than that and try to walk through that route to go to the Mall, we are told you won't be able to do that. So you'll still have to weave around.

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Fairfax County, Va.: Regarding the imaginary "backlash" about the cost of the inaugural, I think there is no such thing except among those who are still mad that Obama won (Lord love them, as Joe Biden would say). When it's largely private money, the amount doesn't matter.

Be that as it may, I always figured we celebrate the inauguration because we have a peaceful transfer of power in our country, which is something to be praised loud and long and never taken for granted.

David Nakamura: Thanks for that point of view. Anyone else have a thought on whether inaugurations can become too expensive?

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Washington, D.C.: If you are inside the ticketed area in front of the Capitol, can you bring binoculars? I don't see them on the prohibited items list.

David Nakamura: If they're not on that list, they're probably okay, within reasonable size.

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Arlington, Va.: I have standing room tickets at the Capitol for the swearing-in. We are staying on Capitol Hill so it is a short walk. If the color-coded screening points open at 8 am what time do you think we should get in line? I'm assuming that there is enough room for the number of tickets they gave out, right?

David Nakamura: There should be enough room, but my guess is people will begin lining up very early to get the best spots possible. I would line up well before 8 if you can brave the cold.

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Silver Spring, Md.: Can you please confirm for me -- is the list of prohibited items, specifically backpacks, thermoses, and anything to keep from freezing -- is it applicable to the non-ticketed area? Or only the ticketed area? Last week in a chat you guys said only the ticketed area, but the Presidential Inaugural Committee's official web site seems not to specify. It's VERY confusing, and if I'm going to forefit my thermos of coffee I wanna know I actually have to! Thanks!

David Nakamura: Again, from everything we're told those items are banned only in ticketed area.

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Boston, Mass.: Will people on the Mall be able to watch the parade on the Jumbotrons?

David Nakamura: Yes, but the people on parade route will not be able to watch the swearing-in, as there will be no Jumbotrons on the parade route.

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Washington, D.C.: Where were the parties Sunday night?

David Nakamura: The Root (owned by the Washington Post Company) had a ball at the Museum of American History, with Oprah, Spike Lee and Samuel L. Jackson in attendance. Mayor Fenty had T.I., Fallout Boy and Wyclef at 9:30 Club, and Moby appeared there after the mayor's show. But there were tons of parties all around town. See the Post's Going Out Gurus, the Reliable Source blog and the Sleuth Blog for more.

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Arlington, Va.: Are strollers restricted anywhere in the security and parade route areas?

David Nakamura: Yes, they are restricted from both of those areas.

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Scarsdale, N.Y.: My son, who worked on the primary campaign, received tickets, for the inauguration from the inaugural committee, that say "Admit Bearer". He is unable to go, but his brother wishes to in his place. At the Purple gate, is there a list of who received tickets and is eligible to enter? In other words they have different first names, should there be a list. Is drivers license sufficient, or is something else needed in addition to the official ticket?

David Nakamura: I believe it is okay to receive a pass from someone else and use it without any problems.

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Washington, D.C.: Hi, please help me out! I can't figure out what time the Mall will open tomorrow. I see that people will not be able to line up along the parade route until 7 a.m., and I see that people will not be able to camp out overnight on the Mall. But what's the earliest non-ticketed spectators will be allowed on the open-access part of the Mall? Thanks.

David Nakamura: By law, the Mall never closes. However Secret Service asks that you don't camp out and don't come before 4 a.m. (Again, the ticketed area opens at 8 a.m. for the swearing-in ceremony.)

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D.C.: Advice to readers, rather than a question: Went to the concert yesterday, and there was a bottleneck walking past the WWII memorial at the end. Thousands of people were stuck waiting to be let out. Some people pushed forward through the stopped crowd, grumpily saying they were trying to get out. If that happens, just relax. Everyone will get out eventually. And it's warmer when you're packed that close together.

Also: better not to go to the closest Metro stop. Foggy Bottom, I read, was a nightmare, but L'Enfant Plaza, a mile or so away, wasn't even crowded.

David Nakamura: A bit of advice from a reader...

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Washington, D.C.: I know that commemorative smart trip passes can be used for tomorrow's inauguration, but with rush hour fair increases, would an all-day pass ($7.80 ahead of time) work too?

David Nakamura: Buy the passes ahead of time either way, says my colleague Lena Sun. If you are expecting to ride the Metro often in a single day, buy ONE DAY pass. If you expect to ride just once a day, the SmarTrip would be better.

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Arlington, Va.: Any word on how to get tickets for the Youth ball? I still haven't heard anything about them going on sale anywhere...

David Nakamura: Ain't happening. They were pretty much sold/given to the army of young Obama volunteers and donors as a thank you for their work. You can watch it on MTV tomorrow night, though.

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Arlington, Va.: So how are all of those "celebs" going to get around town?

David Nakamura: limos, town cars, private cars -- but they won't have any special access through security, unless perhaps they are FOO's... Friends Of Obama

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College Station, Texas: I just want everybody to know I went onto on of the so-called discount hotel and airline ticket websites and found a room for two (not cheap, but in the neighborhood of $350 per night) at a hotel close to National Airport and within hotel van service range of the Metro. It's good for tonight and tomorrow night. The point: there are still lodgings available if one wants them at the last minute. Work a little harder than I did and you can probably find something more reasonable.

David Nakamura: There you go everyone...

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Arlington, Va.: Are there any bridge closures today? What is the best route coming in from Virginia today if any? Is Route 50 open all the way into town?

David Nakamura: We're told no road closures today. HOV restrictions in Virginia are active today even though it's a holiday.

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the concert: Hi there, hope you can answer this. I wasn't able to get to the Mall yesterday, don't know if they broadcast the concert, but would love to see it. I assume it was televised, but do you happen to know if it will be rebroadcast or available online/to purchase? Thanks!

washingtonpost.com: You can see some highlights here: Watch the Post's Concert Video and Photos -- And Add Yours (washingtonpost.com, Jan. 18, 2009)

David Nakamura: HBO broadcast it live and on tape delay last night, offering it free to anyone with cable. HBO might rebroadcast, but you'd probably have to subscribe.

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Arlington, Va.: Who has told you that holders of tickets to the bleachers at the parade won't be allowed in after the standing room areas are at capacity? Cathy Lanier said this in a chat late last week, but she made it sound like this was second-hand information.

And are they really not going to allow the high-rollers who have given $50,000 to the PIC to not get to their VIP bleacher seats? There must be some kind of accommodation for them, which means that there should also be an accommodation for regular ticket-holders until 1/2 hour before the parade starts.

David Nakamura: The PIC high rollers have a nice warm place to wait until they ahve to go to their parade seats -- at Ten Penh restaurant, which the PIC has rented out. Lanier and Mayor Fenty have both said they will close it after capacity and not let anyone else in.

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Please DO bring your chairs and blankets to the Mall: It's unfortunate that the Park Service created so much confusion about whether folding chairs and blankets would be allowed on the Mall. Being seated = more comfortable wait, better views of the Jumbotrons for everyone, easier to spot the friends and family you are trying to meet, AND easier for the Park Service to monitor capacity and crowd control issues. Yesterday's concert would have been a much more pleasant experience if more people had been prepared to sit.

David Nakamura: They would not let you in with a folding chair to secure areas yesterday, but you certainly could have set it up by a Jumbotron outside the secure zone and watched from there.

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Philadelphia, Pa.: How's the parking at the Metro stops? Will it clear out after the swearing in for those going into the District in the evening?

David Nakamura: Parking lots open at 3:30 a.m., they cost a flat rate of $4 and are expected to fill up -- especially at outer ends of each line -- by 5 or 6 a.m. Don't park overnight Monday or you'll be towed.

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Bethesda, Md.: Coming from Bethesda on the Metro, what's the best stop to get off if we wants to avoid parade security and get onto the unticketed area of the Mall?

David Nakamura: Maybe Farragut North on the Red Line, which would allow you to walk down 18th or 17th on the far side of the white house all the way to the mall...

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Washington, D.C.: I am still puzzled, and I have read your chat and the info from the Post yesterday. It seems conflicting yes and no on whether backpacks (for water, food, etc.) are allowed if you are in the secured parade route (unticketed). Could you clarify further?

David Nakamura: If you are in NON-ticketed area ON THE MALL you CAN bring those items. But not anywhere on the parade route or in the ticket-holder area for swearing-in.

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Howard County, Md.: If I go to the train station and get a one day pass costing 7.80, will I be able to use that for the Metro on inauguration day with no problems?

David Nakamura: Yes. Buy it today (though we hear lines are long to buy passes today).

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David Nakamura: follow up to that last answer -- the one day pass costs $7.80 today but $10 if you wait until tomorrow. You can get those passes at any Metro fare machine and buy them at Metro Center's sales office, which will be open until 10 p.m. tonight.

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Richmond, Ky.: Does Mr. Obama become president automatically at noon, or is the oath required for him to become president? My understanding is that the oath is required to execute the office even though he is already president in title. Thanks very much.

David Nakamura: Oath required to be delivered before noon.

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Las Vegas, Nev.: How close will something with wheels, i.e. cab, pedicab, be able to get to the swearing in ceremony?

David Nakamura: Many blocks around the area are closed to most vehicles expect charter buses. We strongly recommend Metro and then walking from the closer stations (many have limited access tomorrow, so check the WMATA Web site for details or our Inauguration Watch blog under Transportation button or Dr. Gridlock blog) ... There are two bike valet stations (see the Web site for the Washington Area Bicyclists Association for details).

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Handicapped-accessible?: What accomodations are being made for people who must use wheelchairs, oxygen tanks, etc.? Or are they being discriminated against?

David Nakamura: People with wheelchairs and other medical needs will be allowed to attend.

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whether inaugurations can become too expensive?: Well, $150 million is only $50 apiece for each American. Seems like an entertainment bargain for those of us watching for free on TV (or listening to the concert yesterday on NPR).

David Nakamura: Another view...

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D.C.: I brought a chair into the secured area at the concert, and so did some others. That's not to say they'll be similarly lax on the parade route tomorrow...

David Nakamura: They are definitely banned from the parade route.

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Great Falls, Va.: Beyond dressing warmly, any advice on attire for those with tickets to the inauguration. (Not the balls, the seated area in front of the Capitol.) Do I need to dress up for it (top coat) or just dress warmly (like a ski jacket)? Thanks!

David Nakamura: In America these days, formality seems mostly a lost art. I'm sure many will put on their fancier duds, but it's not required.

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Washington, D.C.: What time do the regular ticket-less people need to get to the Mall for the swearing-in?

David Nakamura: Again, the swearing-in ceremony begins at 11:30 a.m. and culminates with the oath of office just before noon, followed by Obama's address... (But again, if you are in a ticket-area for the swearing-in, you should get to the checkpoints no later than 9 a.m., according to organizers, and the gates will close promptly at 11:30 a.m.)

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Philadelphia, Pa.: My friends and I were supporters of President-elect Obama from the beginning. We donated, we volunteered, and we are coming to D.C. to pay tribute as the 44th President of the United States is inaugurated. We even got lucky enough to get tickets to the bleachers within the first minute they went on sale. My comment/question: how could the organizers decide that it would be simply too much trouble to figure out a way to allow parade-goers to see the inauguration or inaugural address? This is the most important day in the history of our country. I don't need to be 10 feet away, I simply want the honor to see and hear Barack Obama and Joe Biden take their oaths of office. I am not alone. 305,000 others on the parade route will feel the same way.Thanks.

David Nakamura: I'm told that the Presidential Inaugural Committee discussed trying to get Jumbotrons on the parade-route but came to the conclusion that it would be nearly impossible because of the large crowds.

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Arlington, Va.: My daughter is a volunteer with the Girl Scouts tomorrow. Needs to be down on the mall at 5:00 a.m. Can she bring her backpack guitar? Something to spend the next 3 or 4 hours doing something other than stand in the cold? She is stationed north of the Air and Space Museum.

David Nakamura: Should be okay if it's a non-ticket area, which that appears to be.

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Washington, D.C.: Do you have a definitive on which Metro stations will be entry/exit only tomorrow? I have to work, and just heard the the station where I was counting on entering the system may be exit only (McPherson). I am trying to be diligent about planning alternate routes, but it's hard with such limited info!

David Nakamura: Go here...

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Overnight parking: "Don't park overnight Monday or you'll be towed." Note, that's Metro operated lots. According to Montgomery County's website, county-run lots are always open 24 hours a day every day of the year. Today is a holiday and MoCo is not charging for parking. Tomorrow normal parking rates are in effect -- i.e. payment is required beginning at 7 a.m. in most lots.

David Nakamura: Yes, that's a good point. You are correct.

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Chantilly, Va.: If I get off the at the Federal Triangle Metro stop, where can I cross Penn Ave to get to the Mall? Where are the security checkpoints located for the non-ticket holders trying to get to the general public area of the Mall for the swearing in ceremony? I've looked at the map provided in the Post, but it's not clear to me where I can enter the Mall. Also, the Mall opens at 4 a.m. tomorrow, but what time will the security checkpoints open? Thanks for your help!

David Nakamura: Federal Triangle has a station on the south side of Pa. Ave. so hopefully you could get off there and make it to the Mall without too much hassle.

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Alexandria, Va.: I am trying to travel to National/Reagan airport for a flight at 5:30, should I be worried about traffic for any inaugural events? I guess I would leave around 3:30. I am coming from the Duke Street exit on I-95 down to the National Airport exit (I guess by Crystal City.) Should I leave earlier? Should I take the Metro?

David Nakamura: I assume you mean today? We do not anticipate any major tie-ups getting there today.

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DC: Latest tally on the cost for this year's inauguration: $150 million and counting.

Totally unnecessary, inappropriate, and uncalled for, especially during these tough economic times.

washingtonpost.com: That's a lot of balloons (Yahoo News, Jan. 19, 2009)

David Nakamura: another point of view...

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David Nakamura: Okay, everyone, thanks for another great chat. Stay tuned to washingtonpost.com, the Inauguration Central page, the Inauguration Watch Blog, the Capital Weather Gang, Dr. Gridlock's Blog, Reliable Source, the Sleuth, 44, the Fix and all of our other great resources for more updates from now all the way through tomorrow night.

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