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found a thread that explained the problem is actually silver migration across the ribbons. quickly and easily solved by placing index cards between the ribbons and between ribbons and frame. works like a charm. sent back the $350 part.
not really a problem as that is where the circuit diagram is stashed by the manufacturer. in addition, the wiring insulation isn't good over 200 deg and the paper doesn't burn 'til 451, so the temp there isn't intended to be that high.
thanks for the help. see link below