In preparation for an eventual Python 2.6/3.x transition, the mainline codebase has been reworked to be completely Unicode-clean. All embedded string constants are declared as Unicode data types now, and data streams from files and sockets are expected to be in either 7-bit ASCII or UTF-8 encoding. Any entry points for raw byte streams are clearly marked in the code so we can easily switch to using the byte data type in later Python versions.

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