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Polls: Undercover journalism

Answer our poll question, then debate the topic below.


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Due to a medical problem it was necessary for me to seek help from a neuro-surgeon-though I have always feared going to the doctor. He & I had played in the same baseball Little League in a different state over 30 yrs. ago, and his character was built on solid small town Southern values. Given my understanding of his values & my faith in God, there was no apprehension & all went well. Later he told me of a lawsuit recently filed from an emergency case, almost 2 yrs. before, where a young man had a wreck on a motorcycle, was not wearing a helmet & the emergency team was heroic & tireless in trying to save him, including trying to deal with brains coming out of a wound. Saving him required a miracle that did not happen. In over 30 yrs. of "brain" surgery this Dr. had never been in a suite & he retired vs dealing with insurance, & liability, etc. "good" doctors face.

My father was 83, in the hospital, his long term GP ordered a test. The cardiologist told me he may not survive the test & if he did he could not survive surgery & mother & I told the GP not to have the test done. Early the next morning the test was performed & dad survived, but elected not to have surgery.

The first doctor is a hero & the second a scoundral!

Undercover is underhanded, but if the medical profession must deal with unreasonable law suits then over protection means scoundrals exist & are fair game of undercover reporting. Then the good Drs. suffer.

My question is, why are the trials held in the media vs a court room?

Billy Bob, Florida

Lior Kahane MD Speaks the Truth of Why He Lost His Medical License

In life there are always two sides to a story.

The feature headline, "Doc Who Lost License Becomes Love Guru” written by Carla McClain about me in The Arizona Daily Star on Jan 28, 2007 is simply untrue.

It shocked me to read this article using words like “gross negligence” and “egregious” in an attempt to defame my character.

In the process of getting a move on my life over the past couple years I made the best of the situation by letting things just be.

At this point, I realize it’s time I speak my truth.

Rather than go into the detail about the real reason “why” Carla wrote this story and her agenda of trying to destroy my career through the manipulation of the press - it’s not worth my time.

Instead it’s important to focus on the reality of what happened in my legal case by sharing the facts of my story. The false judgments need to be corrected so others are justly informed.

As a Trauma Surgeon I dealt with life and death on a daily basis. Throughout my career, I have operated on thousands of patients, including celebrities, politicians, physicians and their families and regular people just like you.

The accusation that I was involved in deaths or wrongdoings of patients is false and misleading.

The patients alluded to were very complex sick patients that did not die under my knife, nor was their demise attributed to my surgery.

If anyone at the Arizona Daily Star paper would have taken the time to review public court documents they would have seen that world renowned experts have denounced my involvement in these so called “botched” and “unnecessary cases.”

During my practice I was one of the busiest and most well respected surgeons in Nogales and Tucson. Over the years I also developed a reputation as a surgeon who was known to give freely of my compassion and empathy to patients of many different cultures.

The Federal Government of Tucson sector honored me with commendations, and even an honorable citation for saving a Border Patrols agent life after a gun shot wound to the abdomen. The story was highlighted in the Arizona Daily Star on August 11, 1995.

It’s been my honor to speak to audiences throughout the world and receive standing ovations based on the knowledge, wisdom and experience in the medical field.

The bottom line is: I lost my medical license due to peers attacking me and not due to patient care.

One peer in particular was Dr. Edward Schwager, a family Physician who knew me in Tucson, sat on the Board and persuaded them to revoke my license base solely on this ridiculous chart review.

He too, is no longer on the Board and was not reappointed by the governor. Incidentally the attorney for the state medical board “Stephen Wolf” whom tried to make a name for himself by sensationalizing his comments against me has been removed and demoted since my case.

My license was revoked in 2003 despite an administrative judge's recommendation not to revoke it. The revocation was based solely upon one Board's medical expert opinion Dr. William Kennell whom turns out never re-certified his Board Status and later admitted in not keeping up with his Continuing Medical Education as required by both Federal and Arizona state statutes.

When complaints about this were posed against Dr. Kennell, the Board ignored these statutes.

It is interesting soon after my case was finalized Dr. Kennel no longer qualified as an expert with the Medical Board. It is equally important to note all my experts completely disagreed with Dr. Kennell and there was no patient harm or complaints from any patients.

Experts who testified on my behalf stated these few cases out of thousands of my cases met the standard of care.

These experts are all well recognized Surgeons which included Dr. James Malone Professor of General and Vascular Surgery at the University of Arizona Medical School, as well as Tyler Kent MD, Alfredo Guevara MD and John Taylor MD, who is an internationally highly respected Surgeon and program director at The Baylor College of Medicine in Houston.

Unless you’ve been involved in a media scandal it’s hard to understand how easily the press can manipulate the truth of what really has occurred at one point in time and the power over the people the media has – regardless whether what the press says is true or not.

The business of the media is often to put a “spin” on a story, sensationalize an event and mislead the public in order to catch your attention, sell more papers and make more money.

- Lior Kahane MD
April 13, 2008

Lior Kahane MD is a trauma surgeon and graduate of the prestigious Baylor College of Medicine and studied under the auspice of Michael E. DeBakey MD.

Correction: I was responding to Norm Netko's post on the 30th. Sorry, Lyle!

Response to Lyle Ross' comment about a universal journalism ethics code: there already is one. The Society of Professional Journalists:
http://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Here's a list of some other ethics codes also used by professional journalists:
http://www.spj.org/ethicsresources.asp

Yes, colleges do instruct students about the use of ethics codes and ethical issues.

It's astonishing that this is even a question, and that people would actually condemn Silverstein. Undercover investigative journalism is a time-tested longstanding method of getting at the truth and has only recently declined because the media has become so uninterested in doing real hard journalism. Some of the finest journalistic work has been done this way -- thank goodness there are still a few journalists around who know how to do it, and do it right. Only they will save the profession, not the likes of media whore and fake journalist Howard Kurtz.

How fascinating that some of you say you can't accept Silverstein's work because he's a "liar," yet you're not complaining about the government's frequent dependence on such sting operations.

Methinks there is some sockpuppetry being practiced in some of the "bad Silverstein" comments.

Investigative journalism is the duty of every newsgathering organization, yet we see so little of it. Editors and reporters should not settle for news releases and other PR handouts regarding any serious developments affecting the public interest. In a democracy we need to demand investigative reporting and reward those who are brave enough to do a good job of it.

The problem lies in the motivations and actions that reporters take when they do investigative reporting. The same as a lobbyist can have poor morals, so can a reporter. Nonetheless, such investigations are essential.

How then do we get the best out of situation where an undercover investigation is required? The journalistic world, which has served us so poorly over the past decade, needs to come together and construct a code of conduct for reporters. That code would include recommendations on how reporters should conduct themselves while on an undercover investigation. Those recommendations should be publicly vetted and codified. From there it would be very easy to determine whether an undercover investigation had merit by asking the simple question, did the reporter follow the code of conduct.

If I remember correctly, journalism schools do cover ethics and conduct. I am speculating when I say that each school handles this differently. A uniform code agreed on by all would bring some credibility back to the profession. BTW – such a code might also address the media’s relationship with politicians and money, something which would benefit us all.

Undercover investigative reports are an invasion of
privacy. No one, including Mr. Silverstein looks very good after an I-team gets through with editing. Let's remember as the saying goes "the camera
never blinks...but the editors can edit."


Mr Silverstein's courage, persistance and wit in persuing Angler are to be commended. Information, public information especially, is the property of the people. Mr. Silverstein was very cleaver indeed in gathering information thru a ruse. Good Work. But for lobiests to excersize their immense influence over public servants, secrecy is necessary. Watch your back Mr. S. And when o when will the congress of the USA grow some walnuts and begin impeachment proceedings aginst this corrupt administration?

I prefer investigative journalism where the journalist is my eye witness to the use of informants. The journalist is accountable to the public he/she serves. The reader has no way to test the integrity of the informant.

Unfortunately, we are fast becoming a country where bad ethics and dishonesty are judged by how much money or power people have and whether or not they are sharing with the right people.
It's also unfortunate that most Americans still, after the last decade of hateful and "divide and conquer" politics, don't realize or want to realize that this country and its people have become a commodity. We don't have to look in criminal courts to find wrongdoers but just have to look at the three branches of government which have been undemocratically merged in order to auction this country off to the highest bidders.
The only ones who can change the direction we are in are the American people and the only way we can do this is to get over ego, embarrassment and selfishness. Our children don't need the official entertainment industry to show them how to do things the dishonest and wrong way. All they have to do is look at the real adults that are around them, including parents, their parent's friends and those whom their parents look up to and/or defend. I'm talking about the same people who will brag about their moral values and/or those who dutifully go to their places of worship and proclaim their Christianity or other faiths, and then live their lives in an anti-Christian or anti of faith way.
We will be looked at as the Americans who helped kill democracy, not just by affirmatively acting, but also by condoning or ignoring the detrimental behavior we have a duty to act against.

I believe undercover was the only way to go. Great way to expose what really goes on in this supposedly free country. I hope it will start a new wave of activism. Silverstein should give us some direction!

Thank you for fighting the good fight. Your airing of Ken Silverstein was a breath of fresh air in the current fetid swamp of influence peddling and political corruption.

He shows how a once idealistic public servant can devolve into political
animal (lobbyist) and further devolve into a traitor to his country. All while never having to make a ethical decision. All through the magic of political rationalization and money.

As someone who works in the field of PR, I find the actions and decisions made by these two firms deplorable. There are ethical lines that all humans must abide by, regardless of how we make our living. We don't support dictators and governments that oppress their opposition. We don't even "hear them out."

Excellent program and segment. It is unfortunate that to expose how lobby shops really work, Ken Silverstein had to go uncover. But we need to know how these businesses work, and we won't see how they work unless we are shown how they react to a person they see as a "big bag of money."

The idea that governments with which we should not interact can buy access to the halls of power in DC is one of several aspects of lobbying that is horrible. At it's core, however, the worst part of corporate lobbying is the way in which the lobbyists not only have more access to our representatives than we do, but they actually control the legislative agenda! (Medicare Part D was largely written by Big Pharma.)

We've tried stricter rules and stricter rules prove to be a challenge the lobbyists take on to find "loopholes" (just as Mr. Silverstein reported). The only cure for this cancer on our democracy (the very thing that is introducing facism into our process) is to shutter K Street and expel those people from DC. Let them write letters and make phone calls like the rest of us from outside the Beltway. And the buffer period for public servants to work for lobby shops should be eliminated, public servants and former public servants must be PROHIBITED from working for these leeches on society.

Draconian? Yes. And this is one of the few areas where truly saving our country requires draconian measures. The Constitution ensures protection of liberties and representation for individual citizens, not lobbyists. And that precedent that corporations like to use to say they are citizens (in spite of the fact that they are not allowed to vote - only the citizens working within them may vote), is based on a NOTE written by a clerk in the margin of one of the SCOTUS decisions during the period when anti-trust legislation was being applied to the railroad robber barons and was NEVER intended as a precedent. As for the Valeo precedent (money = speech), we must legislate Valeo out of existance. Whoever on the court thought that was appropriate needs to be reminded that BY DEFINITION, FREE speech cannot be FREE if it costs money. And it sure isn't free with these people and their six- and seven-figure salaries and programs.

Thank God for investigative journalists who shines the light on truth and exposes these scoundrels.If it hadn't been for Woodward & Bernstien's work,WATERGATE would have never "occured"!

Thanks, Bill Moyers and PBS for this segment. You're keeping journalism alive in a difficult time. More power to you. I can always count on finding food for thought, first on Now, and now on the Journal.

As for Mr. Silverstein's going undercover: the lobbyists would have been completely open with him if he hadn't, wouldn't they? Oh, sure.

I have a nit picking question: are Thierry Zimmerman and John P. Thompson the same person? Their comments are so astonishingly the same. How interesting. Perhaps the repetition was the result of a glitch in cyberspace. Or a lack of originality on someone's part?

"Hi. I am a liar who lied in order to generate a 'story.' Now I expect you all to believe that everything I selected to present to you was truthful, balanced, fair, and without an axe to grind."
Hmmm, what's wrong with this, America? Once again, it's time to stick your collective finger down your throat and perform some "information" bulimia. The same public that willingly swallowed cheerleading media coverage in the run-up to (and early months of) the Iraq war gulps down the Silverstein agenda as "truth" and then applauds it as "journalism." It makes me sick.
NPR, on June 19th, at least offered opposing viewpoints and Mr. Silverstein was exposed in one of the more one-sided debates I've heard in years. Silverstein, unable to defend his "story," resorted to name-calling.
Excellent investigative journalism builds a case through logical steps. Silverstein's case against Washington lobbying firms collapses because of the author's gap-jumping assumptions of convenience. His "story" does not hold up to scrutiny (e.g., his continuing insistence that an early-stage sales pitch with anyone claiming to be from such-and-such a country is the equivalent of endorsing and aiding that country's government). But Silverstein and Harper's had their agenda and ran with it anyway. Silverstein has damaged what's left of honest journalism. It's sad that he gets a forum from the likes of Moyers.

First I want to just say how I am amazed that Mr. Silverstein has risen to the level he has in journalism as Editor of HARPER'S magazine if this “undercover reporting” is a true refection of his ethics. Journalism, like science, should a search for information and the truth. This story seems to be his search for publicity.
Bill I am surprised that you had Mr. Silverstein on your show. His journalistic standards are not up to your level, or close to it based on this report, and I am disappointed he got so much of your time.

I've seen a lot of this over the years but it was previously limited to an ethically challenged individual or small group of individuals. What's so demoralizing today is the systemic nature of the problem. You can fight the greed of a few powerful individuals but what do you do about a culture of corruption? When even the dog catcher is on the take, expecting political action at the grass roots to change things is like trying to extinguish a forest fire with a water pistol!
We can't really be surprised that the average American is so demoralized by this situation. Ethical journalists like Mr. Silverstein are in the minority and are largely confined to partisan print media that is only seen by Americans who already oppose the current system. Consolidation of media to a few for-profit corporations has disconnected us from our Democracy, what remains is little more than a state propaganda machine that legitimizes the corruption and passes off human interest stories as substantive reporting.

Thanks so much for covering this, Bill.

I've been increasingly angry lately about how the Republicans want to slash aid to poor and disabled Americans because "we can't afford it" but have no qualms whatsoever about funneling BILLIONS of our money to the worst evil dictators imaginable.

Did you know we prop up the evil dictator in Ethiopia to the tune of $500 million a year? The NYT did some amazing reporting this week on what the Ethiopian regime is doing to repress a rebellion in its Somali province--torturing women sexually with plyers, etc.
Ethiopian-Americans are writing Congress and saying please stop funding this regime. Expatriate dissident bloggers say the money only benefits Cayman Island bankers. But Bush insists Ethiopia is an important ally in the war on terra. I wonder if lobbyists like Cassidy and Assoc. are ensuring the aid continues to flow?

did you know we're sending $120 million of taxpayer dollars to the government of Uzbekistan, that is universally regarded as one of the most corrupt, repressive regimes on Earth? Uzbekistan's Saddam-style tyrant, Islom Karimov, is infamous for boiling dissidents alive, but we prop him up because he is "tough on terror." to call these regimes EVIL is no exaggeration.
Is a DC firm behind that too?

We need MORE undercover journalists like Ken Silverstein exposing these crimes, not fewer.

DC lobbyists are perfectly willing to aid and abet evil dictatorships, and legally bribe public officials to get huge aid packages of OUR MONEY for dictators.

And I don't want to hear another word from politicians talking about "cost-cutting" and "unsustainable" social programs (Dems too) unless every single dictator is cut off the dole FIRST! Yes Egypt, Yemen and Saudi Arabia, this means you.

What happened to our own people mattering most? what about "America First?" what about priorities?

Services and infrastructure for Americans is being cut to the bone, while we buy new palaces for dozens of new Saddams.

I AM OUTRAGED!

Nick

Thank God for Bill Moyers and other journalists who care about truth, who care about the health and welfare of our democratic republic (what's left of it), and who care about the welfare of average citizens who who are getting shafted by the big rich and rich corporations who sponsor, buy and sell, influence, legislation, and politicians in Congress and the White House!

Thank you for being a model, caring citizen, Bill Moyers.

I appreciate all journalists who care to find the facts and report the truth, especially that which blows the whistle on those who would subvert our government and gut the USA of its wonderful Vision, values, integrity, and life-enhancing meanings.

Thank you for being and doing!

Rev. J. Roland Cole

In my opinion undercover journalism is perfectly justifiable if you follow some ethic rules such as those Ken Silverstein employed.
His scheme was very basic, which exposed the compagnies' greed, and he fully informed his readers on the methods he employed.
We urgently need more of this type of investigation to keep pressure on lobyists and lawmakers.
Congratulations to Ken Silverstein and thank you Bill Moyers for giving it some publicity.

I am sure that I would have issues with journalists going undercover in CERTAIN circumstances. I understand the issue of journalists posing as medical, or emergency, workers, as mentioned in the article by Bob Steele. But, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, it seems reasonable to have had journalists on site, photographing the events. As we learn that workers were lied to about the danger involved in rescue, recovery and clean up operations, it seems that an undercover journalist taking notes and photographs would have served the interests of the public. An undercover reporter watching the Blackwater gang in New Orleans would have been important, as we now read reports that these same mercenaries are murdering civilians in Iraq. Not ACCIDENTALLY killing, but MURDERING. It makes me wonder what went on in New Orleans, where I heard many rumors of people shot very suspicious circumstances. While it would be unethical to appear as a rescue worker in an emergency, showing the promise of aid without delivering it, I don't think that working one's way into such a scene by OTHER means is unethical. Quite simply, our government has shown itself to be secretive and deceptive. Any means of watch-dogging their behavior is not only ETHICAL, but HEROIC. Mr. Steele mentions that the stories he presents about unethical journalists might, in fact, be apocryphal, which seems unethical. That is, he talks about the situations as if they are true, and THEN mentions that they are bad, whether real or apocryphal. In short, he is giving the illusion that journalists are unethical and do things that we would all find questionable with urban legends of reporting, and then trying to paint legitimate reporters with the same brush as these imaginary ones! That Mr. Steele requires analysis to decode his story should qualify as an ethics violation, because his goal is to deceive and create a sense of hostility toward investigative journalism. I know nothing of Mr. Steele, but my first instinct is that he is funded by someone with an interest in keeping journalists as nothing more than transcribers for the powers that be.

Local news stations that run pharmaceutical companies' press releases as "news" are unethical. Journalists that call mothers crying out about the autism/mercury connection "hysterical" are unethical. Journalists who report on presidential elections as horse races and don't explore the substance of what these politicians say are unethical. A journalist who must go incognito to expose the corruption of in the Halls of Power? The Saving Grace of America. Thanks Mr. Silverstein, and thanks Mr. Moyers for bring his work to a larger audience.


I've thought that there are enough people in the medias and political arenas to protect, encourage and strengthen all our constitutional rights. We have to use "undercover journalism" as a tool to step out of financial and political slavery. How else can we honestly inform ourselves?

Fantastic program. As a veteran of the VietNam and Gulf War in 1991 I have found that of late journalism has changed. Not the good reporting of old, but a new media based hype. Dan Rather, and the 2 journalist of Knight Ritter were RIGHT ON. It seems that the American public is quick to buy the crap our politicians dish out.
A friend of mine and I did the math and you might try this also. In VietNam we lost approximately 40 personnel per day. In Iraq we are losing approximately 10 a day. Check the number of troops in VietNam vs. Iraq.
When I was in the Gulf War I met an Iraqi defector, an Air Force pilot. His verbage was that "it's about oil".
This country has put almost every dictator in power since the end of World War 11, then we can't get them out without losing somebody's life.
We buy the political hype like we'd buy a MacDonald's hamburger. Unfortunately both are bad for your health.

I am sure that I would have issues with journalists going undercover in CERTAIN circumstances. I understand the issue of journalists posing as medical, or emergency, workers, as mentioned in the article by Bob Steele. But, in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, it seems reasonable to have had journalists on site, photographing the events. As we learn that workers were lied to about the danger involved in rescue, recovery and clean up operations, it seems that an undercover journalist taking notes and photographs would have served the interests of the public. An undercover reporter watching the Blackwater gang in New Orleans would have been important, as we now read reports that these same mercenaries are murdering civilians in Iraq. Not ACCIDENTALLY killing, but MURDERING. It makes me wonder what went on in New Orleans, where I heard many rumors of people shot very suspicious circumstances. While it would be unethical to appear as a rescue worker in an emergency, showing the promise of aid without delivering it, I don't think that working one's way into such a scene by OTHER means is unethical. Quite simply, our government has shown itself to be secretive and deceptive. Any means of watch-dogging their behavior is not only ETHICAL, but HEROIC. Mr. Steele mentions that the stories he presents about unethical journalists might, in fact, be apocryphal, which seems unethical. That is, he talks about the situations as if they are true, and THEN mentions that they are bad, whether real or apocryphal. In short, he is giving the illusion that journalists are unethical and do things that we would all find questionable with urban legends of reporting, and then trying to paint legitimate reporters with the same brush as these imaginary ones! That Mr. Steele requires analysis to decode his story should qualify as an ethics violation, because his goal is to deceive and create a sense of hostility toward investigative journalism. I know nothing of Mr. Steele, but my first instinct is that he is funded by someone with an interest in keeping journalists as nothing more than transcribers for the powers that be.

Local news stations that run pharmaceutical companies' press releases as "news" are unethical. Journalists that call mothers crying out about the autism/mercury connection "hysterical" are unethical. Journalists who report on presidential elections as horse races and don't explore the substance of what these politicians say are unethical. A journalist who must go incognito to expose the corruption of in the Halls of Power? The Saving Grace of America. Thanks Mr. Silverstein, and thanks Mr. Moyers for bring his work to a larger audience.


With respect to those on the top of the political/economic ladder in our society, there can never be enough investigative journalism. Since those at the top are the ones leading the charge, extra attention should be paid to make sure they are honest, ethical, and operating within our laws. Lying in order to get the truth is a reasonable dilemma, however I agree with Mr. Silverstein in that it was the only way to get the real story.

But the ethical dilemma is not the real story here. The real story is how dangerous it is to have a system of government where the people with the most money can have the most influence over what laws are passed by our government. Because that is not democracy, that is plutocracy. And judging from some of our governments actions throughout its history - not just with respect to our foreign policy but domestic as well - a plutocracy is dangerous indeed.

i am glad that some one has the insperation to do this, it takes a lot of guts. isn't it really rotton when people the taxes from an eight dollar an hour job, in house keeping, to fill thier pockets whith gold. what would they do without us, the american people?

I have a hard time feeling any ethical concern over journalists going undercover. I can think of sensitive situations in which it would be of questionable ethics, but it seems a time-honored tradition when it comes to getting to the heart of a powerful and secretive organizations. Certainly, we could use a mole in the office of the Vice President. We could use a whole population of moles around the Justice Department. We need journalists to wait the tables where our Supreme Court Justices dine to try to root out what has caused them to sell us so far down the river this last month. When we can't even get journalists to ask the simple, obvious questions of power, I am not so much inclined to condemn undercover journalism as I am to canonize its practitioners!


I'm sort of surprised by the question. The first time I heard a similar question it was coming from a corporation that had just been stung by an investigation using a hidden camera and the journalist was using an assumed name years ago by 60 Minutes. How does one uncover the truth from a scoundrel without these tactics? You cannot expect a liar to start telling the truth simply because you say you're a journalist.

Sadly, there does appear the need to deceive a source to aquire information. I believe that "undercover journalism" should be used sparingly for "shy" sources e.g. corporations.

I think his intent was justification of his action. I was appalled by his findings. People need to stand together against this corruption and greed. To lose ourselves to todays politics is to lose at the expense of our children and grandchildren.

Undercover investigation has been the only way to gain access to certain kinds of information. If the level of information is not exposed, then someone has to be covert to get the information. Police can't identify and build a case on drug dealers by looking in the phone book.

Now to journalism credibilty. I think someone seeking out the truth and reporting is at the heart of journalism. What I do find to be damaging to the credibility is a dozen news channels putting out nothing but op/ed dribble. I long for the days of unbiased journalism when things weren't sensationalized.

hey, if NBC can pay Paris Hilton a million bucks for an "exclusive," i suppose a little "posturing" by a legit journalist to get a good story is not so bad. Ken Silvertein would never have had the real story of how these lobbyists work if he had called and said, "hi, i'm a reporter..." hehehehe...i do have a feeling though that these firms will now be googling prospective clients a lot more.
ya know, i just got back from dc, gotta wonder how much influence has been peddled at oh, the smithsonian? or the national gallery? didn't i see altria corp sponsoring an exhibit there? smokin!

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