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The documentation on how to do it is slightly outdated:

But if you check the code they actually drop the ampersand function:

$config = JFactory::getConfig();
$fromname = $config->get('fromname');

Also if you are trying to connect to the database you really can just use the DB object from JFactory.

$db = JFactory::getDbo();

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JFactory::getApplication()->get($varname, $default);

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