Richard Prince's Journal-isms™

Saberi Set Free From Iranian Prison

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Monday, May 11, 2009
Updated May 12

Roxana Saberi, center, poses with children in this undated file photo provided by her family. Her father says she plans to return to the States. (Credit: Grand Forks [N.D.] Herald)

Freelancer Offers Thanks, Wants to Stay With Parents

"Roxana Saberi, the US-Iranian journalist released from jail in Iran on Monday, has thanked all those who helped to win her freedom," the BBC reported on Tuesday.

"She was freed after four months in prison when an eight-year term on charges of spying for the US was cut. She denied the charges.

"Speaking publicly for the first time since her release, Ms Saberi said she was happy to be free.

"She said she was looking forward to spending some time with her family.

"Ms Saberi's imprisonment drew international attention and sparked protests calling for her release.

"She is now able to leave Iran, but has been banned from working as a journalist there for five years.

"Speaking outside her home in Tehran, she said: 'I am very happy that I have been released and reunited with my father and mother.'

"'I am very grateful to all the people who knew me or didn't know me and helped for my release."

"'I don't have any specific plans for the time being. I want to stay with my parents,' she said. Her parents live in Fargo, N.D.

Meanwhile, her father, Reza Saberi, told National Public Radio that his daughter was physically unharmed but suffered a lot of psychological pressure" during her incarceration.

"She had had a lot of psychological pressure. There was no physical abuse or anything, but just to be there, to be confined in one room and not to be able to do all the activities that she used to do, it was hard for her," he said. [Added May 12.]

"I Don't Want to Make Any Comments But I Am Okay"

"US-born reporter Roxana Saberi walked free from an Iranian jail on Monday after a court reduced her prison term for spying to a two-year suspended sentence, ending a four-month ordeal," Aresu Eqbali wrote for Tuesday's editions of the Age newspaper in Australia.

"'I'm okay. I don't want to make any comments but I am okay,' the US-Iranian national told AFP minutes after leaving the notorious Evin prison in Tehran and then being driven away by her father.

"Saberi was initially detained in January and sentenced last month to an eight-year jail term on charges of spying for the United States in a case that caused deep concern in the United States and among human rights groups.

"'The verdict of the previous court has been quashed,' her lawyer Saleh Nikbakht said. 'Her punishment has been changed to a suspended two-year sentence.'

"The ruling was greeted with joy and relief by Saberi's father, who has been in the country since March to push for her release and said he will take his daughter back home to the United States 'as soon as possible.'

"Iran's judiciary said the two-year sentence would be suspended for five years, and a judicial source told AFP that the 32-year-old journalist and former beauty queen would be free to leave the country.

"'She's free to do what she wants as any other citizen who has a passport and can come and go as they want,' the source said.

"Her release comes just a day after a Tehran court heard a closed-door appeal by Saberi, who was initially detained in January reportedly for buying alcohol, an illegal act in the Islamic republic.

"Saberi, who worked for a number of foreign media outlets, had been accused of 'cooperating with a hostile state,' a charge which carries a prison term of one to 10 years. Washington had dismissed the allegations as baseless.

"But Nikbakht said the appeal court had quashed the initial verdict issued on April 13 on the grounds that the United States and Iran could not be defined as hostile towards each other."

"'She was sentenced to two years suspended for gathering secret documents,' he said.

"Her father, who came to Iran from the United States in March to seek her release, voiced delight at her release.

"'We will come back as soon as possible' to the United States, Reza Saberi told US cable network CNN.

Meanwhile, American journalists Euna Lee and Laura Ling, detained by North Korea for nearly two months, haven't been allowed contact with Western officials since March 30, as Evan Ramstad reports in Monday's Wall Street Journal.Still in Pyongyang: Euna Lee, left, and Laura Ling

"The North said on April 24 that it would put the two women on trial for 'hostile acts,' in what would be its first trial of Americans, but it didn't say when. It has given no details to the U.S. or to Sweden, which has diplomatic relations with North Korea and provides services to U.S. citizens in the country.

"Mats Foyer, the Swedish ambassador in Pyongyang, met with Ms. Lee and Ms. Ling separately on March 30. He declined to comment on the situation late last week, and referred questions to the State Department. An official there said Mr. Foyer has 'repeatedly requested additional visits,' but none have been allowed.

"U.S. officials have said less about Ms. Lee and Ms. Ling than they have about an American reporter, Roxana Saberi, who was recently convicted of espionage in Iran. The strategy is partly a gamble that not provoking the North Koreans may lead to a speedy resolution, analysts say, but it's also a sign of the increased uncertainty in dealing with Pyongyang."

Marisa Guthrie of Broadcasting & Cable wrote last week that the cases of Saberi and of Ling and Lee underscore the vulnerability of freelancers, "who work without the political resources and public clout of large, internationally recognized news organizations.

"The dearth of public comments about Ling and Lee stands in stark contrast to the outcry over Saberi," Guthrie wrote. Saberi has reported for the BBC, National Public Radio, Fox News and other news organizations, while Ling and Lee were working on a piece for the lesser-known Current TV, about North Korean refugees fleeing to China.

Station Defends Showing Native Suspects in Jumpsuits

Station KOTA-TV in Rapid City, S.D., "does not target Native American suspects for racist coverage as Mr. Giago asserts," John Petersen, news director of the station, told Journal-isms on Monday, saying it is not the station's fault that the suspects are wearing jumpsuits and shackles when its cameras have access to them.

He was responding to a request for comment about a syndicated column by Native columnist Tim Giago, who wrote last week:Tim Giago

"The station most notorious for nightly visuals of Native Americans shackled hand and foot is the oldest station in Rapid City, KOTA-TV. KOTA is a subsidiary of Duhamel Broadcasting and in the past has had glimmers of objectivity when it came to its coverage of Native Americans. Helene Duhamel, the nightly news anchor and one of the family owners of the station should know better, but if one watched this station every night for one month these troubling, and I would go so far as to say racist, images would lead off the nightly news nearly 75 percent of the time. African Americans spoke up about this same treatment by television news years ago and did win many concessions.

"What about the thousands of Native American children watching these nightly news reports? How do images of Indians bound and shackled affect their self-esteem? With racism on the rise in Rapid City, positive self-esteem is imperative for these children. One Lakota teenager said that she could feel the animosity and hear the snickering behind her back whenever she changed classes at Central High School. Paranoid? I don't think so.

"The negative images of Indians as criminals as seen on the nightly news not only reinforces and even lends false support to the racist attitudes of the white students and their parents, it also generates an image of inferiority and a loss of self-esteem among the Native American students."

Petersen replied:

"KOTA-TV was never contacted by Mr. Giago prior to publishing his column - he left a weekend voicemail message for a news anchor who does not work weekends - with a weekend deadline to respond. As far as we know, he made no attempts to contact anyone else at KOTA-TV during regular business hours.

"Mr. Giago's commentary is an exaggeration of the video content and the news coverage of crime stories in general. Likewise, he failed to mention other news coverage of Native Americans that would most certainly counter his flawed argument.

"Yes, KOTA-TV News shows suspects in custody headed to court. What Mr. Giago failed to mention is that 1) suspects wear jumpsuits which are required by the sheriff, 2) they are often shackled together, also required by the sheriff, and 3) KOTA and the other media are forced to shoot court video from a location located above the walkway because of courthouse security and because cameras are not allowed in court. The media, KOTA-TV included, has no control over these relevant facts which were left out of Mr. Giago's column.

"KOTA-TV does not target Native American suspects for racist coverage as Mr. Giago asserts."

Tony Brown Leaves as Hampton J-Dean After 5 Years

Tony Brown, the often-combative former television personality, author and journalism school dean, formally announced his departure Sunday as dean of the Hampton University Scripps Howard School of Journalism and Communications, Wayne Dawkins, one of his faculty members, wrote Monday.Tony Brown

In a column on the politicsincolor.com Web site, Dawkins noted that at the Hampton commencement activities, "the 76-year-old announced he ended a 5-year-stint at the venerable HBCU," or historically black college or university.

Judy Clabes, former president and CEO of the Scripps Howard Foundation, which has put $10 million into Hampton's journalism program, told Journal-isms she thought Brown had done a "great job" at the school and had said it was time for him to move on.

Mike Philipps, who succeeded Clabes, told Journal-isms it would be up to the Hampton administration to choose a successor to Brown. "I'm not going to stick my nose into an academic decision," he said.

The university's public relations office apparently had Monday off and Brown did not respond to inquiries.

A former journalism dean at Howard University who had left academia to return to writing books, producing for television and filmmaking, Brown found on his return that one of his challenges was trying to educate some students who were unprepared.

He told parents on the school's Web site: We "find that many freshmen, including those with high GPAs, have serious challenges in GPS (grammar, punctuation and spelling) and English composition."

Thus, the school started the "Dean's 6 O'clock Club. The dean meets with serious freshmen who are pre-majors at 6 A. M. every Thursday during the first semester. These highly-motivated students already recognize that you cannot stay as you are if you want to become what you ought to be and could be."

Brown surprised some observers by working in tandem with the university president, William R. Harvey, who was viewed as just as strong-willed as Brown.

Brown challenged an accreditation decision that went against the school and won his appeal after accusing the site team's chair, from rival Howard University, of professional jealousy; and when leaders of the National Association of Black Journalists took up the cause of journalism students who said they felt intimidated at the university, Brown and Harvey left the NABJ delegation looking badly. NABJ had refused to reveal its sources, weakening its case.

Brown also took part in a public dispute with former Time correspondent Jack E. White, a faculty member at the school with whom he parted company. Each wrote pieces for the Daily Press in Newport News, Va., with Brown telling the newspaper that in publishing White's piece, "All you gave your readers was convenient outrage.

"To my knowledge, our school's placement of four interns from one school at KNBC-TV, a flagship network owned-and-operated station, could be a first," he wrote in the 2006 piece. "A graduating senior's appointment at an ABC television affiliate in a top-25 market as a department head at a very handsome salary could also be a first."

Brown was also proud of a writing program founded by former faculty member Will Sutton, a Hampton alumnus and a former NABJ president.

"The recent successes noted on the list of Scripps Howard School internships and job placements and the fact that every student in the core group of our Academy of Writing Excellence program received an internship or job (in some very competitive industry situations at prestigious companies) demonstrates, as a direct measurement, the level of our school's performance," he said.

Journalism Organizations Rethinking Their Role

"In a reflection of the turmoil in the news industry, organizations such as the American Copy Editors Society (ACES) and the American Society of News Editors (ASNE) are seeing fewer checks in the mail and more empty seats in convention halls.

"Membership has dropped by as much as 20 percent, according to an informal survey of 12 of the 40 or 50 journalism associations in the U.S. Convention attendance is just as bad," Steve Myers, online news editor at the Poynter Institute and a member of Investigative Reporters and Editors and the Online News Association, wrote for Poynter.

"This has forced soul-searching upon journalism associations. It's not enough to be a fraternity of people with similar jobs who get together once a year to trade war stories at a hotel bar. These organizations must prove their worth by helping their members become digital journalists, find jobs and set up independent operations. They need to help their members figure out what role they can play in a news business that has been turned inside out.

"The only organization that reported an increase is the Online News Association (ONA), which has seen membership grow by a third in the last year and has sold out its last two conventions. (The next best showing is AAJA, the Asian American Journalists Association, which hasn't experienced a significant drop, though Executive Director Ellen Endo said the group may not see a drop until later in the year.)"

In contest of Obama campaign photos, Chris Carlson won "best of show" and first prize in the "professional campaign/election" category. The exhibit opened on Thursday.

"Fotobama" Displays Obama Photo Winners

"A new exhibit at the Newseum features the top 100 professional and amateur photographs selected from a field of more than 1,500 related to the historic presidency of Barack Obama," the Freedom Forum's Washington museum about the news announced on Monday.

"Campaign, election and inauguration photographs were entered into the 2009 FOTOBAMA international competition, sponsored by the Newseum and FOTOWEEK DC.

"Obama can be seen body-surfing during a campaign break in Hawaii, shedding a tear for his late grandmother at a campaign rally and embracing his wife, Michelle, after the election night victory. Images from inauguration week depict not only official events, but also the outpouring of emotion from the millions who came to the nation’s capital to witness the beginning of a historic presidency.

"Photographs have been divided into two categories: Presidential Campaign and Election (covering photographs from Jan. 1, 2007, through Jan. 14, 2009) and Inauguration Week (Jan. 15-21, 2009). For each category, first and second place professional and first and second place amateur winners have been selected, for a total of eight awards. In addition, a 'Best in Show' prize has been awarded to a single image."

The FOTOBAMA opened on Thursday.

Black Papers Want Some of Stimulus Money

John B. Smith Sr."Black publishers of the National Newspaper Publishing Association (NNPA) are concerned that there is nothing 'designed' in President Barack Obama’s $787 billion stimulus package to do business with struggling black newspapers in this flailing economy," Cash Michaels wrote for the Wilmington (N.C.) Journal.

“'While we publishers wholeheartedly applaud the president’s efforts of making certain economically devastated communities of color are able to benefit from the billions of dollars within the stimulus package, it is unclear whether any of the money has been earmarked to otherwise help educate the very communities serviced by the Black media, as well as how they are to access the myriad of opportunities,' NNPA Board Chairman John B. Smith, Sr. wrote in an April 23 letter to White House Chief of Staff Rahm [Emanuel]; President Obama’s Special Advisor Valerie Jarrett, and U.S. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), chair of the Congressional Black Caucus.

"With opportunities to use the proven outreach mechanism of NNPA’s more than 200 Black-owned newspapers to educate those in need on how to take advantage of the money flowing into their communities, Chairman Smith, publisher of the Atlanta Inquirer, added that the omission of the Black Press from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act was 'most disheartening and perplexing.'"

Last week, Lee sided with the publishers in a letter to Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., who chaired a hearing on the future of journalism.

"Too often African American newspapers and radio stations are underrepresented when it comes to receiving federal government advertising dollars," she wrote. "I am also concerned that black-owned media outlets are (not) being utilized by federal agencies tasked with distributing the $787 billion recovery package or by corporations, banks, and auto companies receiving bailout money."

CNN to Partner With Essence on Weekly Segments

CNN, HLN (formerly Headline News), CNN.com and Essence Communications, Inc., announced a partnership to develop "What Matters," a series of weekly news segments focused on issues of importance to the African American community, those organizations said on Monday.

"As an extension of the regular news items and features in ESSENCE magazine, as well as the ongoing multicultural programming on CNN, the on-air and online segments will be hosted on CNN by Tony Harris and Don Lemon with contributions from Roland Martin, Fredricka Whitfield and T.J. Holmes. The segments will be hosted on HLN by anchor Richelle Carey.

"The recurring segment debuted on CNN on Friday, May 8, in the 12 p.m. hour and will feature topics ranging from 401(k) strategies to elder-care issues to pop culture. On HLN, the segment will be seen during the 6 p.m. hour on the Friday, Saturday, and Sunday editions of 'Prime News.' Inspired by the monthly 'Our News' section of ESSENCE magazine, content for the segments will be developed collaboratively.

"Online users also can view the 'What Matters' segments on-demand at CNN.com and on Mondays via CNN.com Live, the Internet's only live multi-stream video news service. This online content will be available beginning May 15. In addition, Essence.com will offer users related articles, additional commentary, blog discussions and the opportunity to view the 'What Matters' segments." Segments are to be two to five minutes.

Short Takes

  • National Public Radio is airing four stories about Native Americans in conjunction with the PBS series "We Shall Remain." Among them have been two by Brian Bull of Wisconsin Public Radio, "For Native Americans, Old Stereotypes Die Hard" and "As Requirements Change, Just Who Is An Indian?"
  • "The Michael Eric Dyson Show," hosted by Baltimore's WEAA-FM, the Morgan State University station, and sponsored by the African American Public Radio Consortium, is ironing out technical problems that plagued it shortly after its debut last month. The station's server, which enabled listeners to hear the program live on the WEAA Web site, was out of service but was fixed on Monday. Podcasts of recent shows were added on May 4, and are posted two to three hours after the airing at 1 p.m. EST, said general manager LaFontaine Oliver through a spokeswoman. The show from the prolific Dyson, an author, college professor, minister and talk-show pundit, airs in 18 markets.
  • Hunter College's Department of Film and Media Studies has awarded a James Aronson Lifetime Achievement Award to Les Payne, longtime Newsday editor and columnist, for career achievement. Media critic Danny Schechter of NewsDissector.org won the Aronson Blog Award for his muckraking reports on economic, political and social issues, the school said.
  • "'To report or to sing?' that is the question, but for Evrod Cassimy there is only one answer ‚Äî do both," according to Cassimy's bio on the Evrod CassimyWeb site of the 24-hour local news station that employs him. "In July 2008, Evrod joined the Central Florida News 13 team using his microphone to cover the Orlando newsroom as a general assignment reporter. When he‚Äôs not covering the big story, Evrod is entertaining on another mic. A singer since he was three years old, Evrod has released his own CD single." Cassimy's own Web site features him singing an R&B number, without an invitation to do so, for anyone who clicks on the site. It calls him ""TV News' FIRST R&B recording artist."
  • "At a time when music magazines are struggling to stay in business, the Vibe Media Group, publisher of Vibe, is looking to defy the odds by launching The Most!, a biannual print magazine and Web site," Jason Fell reported Monday for Folio. "With an initial print run of 300,000, The Most! is set to hit national newsstands June 16. TheMostmag.com is expected go live about two weeks earlier. The magazine will feature 'tabloid-themed' content focusing on urban style, celebrity, beauty and culture." Addressing another matter, a spokeswoman told Journal-isms, "Rumors about VIBE Media Group filing for bankruptcy are completely false and have absolutely no merit. The source of this false rumor is a disgruntled blogger who didn't make VIBE's 50 Top Rap Blogs list posted last week."
  • A TV special called "The Oprah Effect," an examination of the influence of media personality Oprah Winfrey, is set to air on CNBC this month. The business-oriented channel‚Äôs Carl Quintanilla is to serve as host of the one-hour program on May 28, as UPI reported.
  • Despite the popularity of the Twitter microblogging network, "more than 60 percent of U.S. Twitter users fail to return the following month, or in other words, Twitter‚Äôs audience retention rate, or the percentage of a given month‚Äôs users who come back the following month, is currently about 40 percent. For most of the past 12 months, pre-Oprah, Twitter has languished below 30 percent retention," David Martin, vice president, primary research for Nielsen Online, wrote on April 28.
  • "Where is the recession hitting hardest? Which places have been spared from the worst economic pain? Which places are recovering? To answer those questions on an ongoing basis, The Associated Press is launching an index that will provide monthly, multi-format updates on the economic stress of the United States down to the county level," the news cooperative announced on Monday. "The Associated Press Economic Stress Index weighs three economic variables ‚Äî unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcy ‚Äî to produce a score on a scale of 0-100 that measures how the recession is affecting a county compared to all others."

  • Overlooked in this column were that AARP The Magazine captured its first National Magazine Award last month, taking the industry‚Äôs top prize in the 1968: The Year That Rocked Our Worldinteractive feature category for a story on a seminal year for baby boomers, "1968: The Year That Rocked Our World,‚Äù as AARP noted on May 1. "So very few of us are hanging in magazines now, much less getting positive notice," Marilyn Milloy of AARP told Journal-isms. "I was really proud of the folk of color I was able to prominently feature in that package, Kathleen Cleaver, 'Bootsy' Collins, Tommie Smith, Benny Stewart, etc. It was a remarkable year ‚Äî even moreso for us 50+ plus folk who remember it." She was speaking respectively of the activist, musician, athlete and chairman of San Francisco State's Black Student Union.
  • "I'm told that HBO has just ordered 9 episodes of the pilot 'Trem?©' from 'The Wire' writers David Simon and Eric Overmyer which has been in development for the pay channel. It's a post-Katrina hourlong set in the New Orleans music scene and will be filmed there," Nikki Finke wrote on her Deadline Hollywood Daily site. Among Simon's collaborators are former journalist David Mills, who worked on "The Corner" and "The Wire," and Lolis Eric Elie, a writer for the New Orleans Times-Picayune.
  • Speaking at the commencement at Claflin University in his hometown of Orangeburg, S.C., the Washington Post's Eugene Robinson, winner of this year's Pulitzer prize for commentary, said that growing up near the end of the Jim Crow era had some influence on his future career, Dionne Gleaton reported Sunday in the Orangeburg Times & Democrat. "I‚Äôd hear all kinds of ethos of excellence, of not accepting the notion that you had any limitations or that your ambition was in any way circumscribed. That gave me a certain . . . confidence and a certain motivation to provide that to anyone who thought otherwise,‚Äù he said.
  • "Global TV networks in China are bracing themselves for difficulty covering the first anniversary of a deadly earthquake after reports of attacks on journalists trying to interview families grieving lost children and griping about government inaction," Jonathan Landreth reported Monday in the Hollywood Reporter.
  • "Zimbabwean police on Monday arrested and charged Vincent Kahiya, editor of the Zimbabwe Independent, and Constantine Chimakure, its news editor, over an article that named police and security agents allegedly involved in the abduction of rights activists from the opposition MDC party, according to their lawyer Innocent Chagonda, Reuters reported.

Richard Prince's Journal-isms originates from Washington and is published Monday, Wednesday and Friday. It began in print before most of us knew what the Internet was, and it would like to be referred to as a "column." For newcomers: The words in blue (on most computers) are links leading to more information. The Web site BugMeNot.com provides passwords and user names to some registration-only news sites, but use may be illegal in some states. Any views expressed in the column are those of the person or organization quoted and not those of any other entity.

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Comments

Indians in Jumpsuits (Michael Adams)

From Michael Adams: The televised images of shackled Indians in jumpsuits being led to jail panders to South Dakota's long history of racism. Several years ago, I visited the Pine Ridge Reservation while on assignment for The Baltimore Sun. That assignment had a lasting impact on me. I was surprised by the level of hatred and hostility that still exists in Indian Country. Despite what the TV officials say, the images of shackled Indians feeds a deeply ingrained stereotype in South Dakota. Some might find this surprising, but Indians did not receive U.S. citizenship until 1924. And despite being given the right to vote, in South Dakota they were denied access to the polls by law until the 1940s. Even after the law's repeal, Indians were denied voting rights in three counties where their populations were greatest. Finally, in 1975 Congress added South Dakota to the list of states covered by the Voting Rights Act. Details can be found at www.civilrights.org/voting-rights/vra/states/SouthDakotaVRA.pdf. The report notes that South Dakota's history includes laws that prevented Indians from entering "ceded lands without a permit," prohibited the marriage of whites and persons of "color," forbade the instruction of any language other than English and restricted jury duty to "free white males." While these archaic laws are no longer in effect, their underlying sentiment has not disappeared. For example, in 2002, the ACLU filed a class action suit after a police dog was used to conduct a drug search in a elementary school attended by Indian children in Wagner, a town near the Yankton Sioux Reservation. The dog terrified the children, some as young as six, according to the lawsuit. There are other disparties. The unemployment rate for South Dakota Indians is 23.6 compared with 3.2 percent for whites, according to the 2000 Census. On some reservations, it was as high as 80 per cent. The census also reported that 48.1 percent of the state's Indians lived below the poverty line. When I visited Pine Ridge, I stayed at a motel in Martin, the county seat for Bennett County. About 100 years ago the entire county was carved out of land that once belonged to Pine Ridge. While I was there, a controversy was raging about the sheriff harassing Indians who came to town to shop. Some said they were stopped and arrested for simply driving through the town. Others said they were harassed by the sheriff if they stayed in town too long after their shopping was done. Meanwhile, some whites in the town were upset because Indians had moved into houses that were off the reservation. And, they were angry with the mayor because he did back the sheriff's law and order approach for dealing with the Indians. I had breakfast with Russell Means and his wife at a small cafe in Martin, population 1,100. He told me that the Indians had not given up on their claim for the Black Hills, which were taken from them in a broken treaty. Once, during a protest, the Indians took over the Black Hills and Means climbed Mount Rushmore and stood on George Washington's head. "We haven't forgotten," he said. The sale of alcohol is prohibited on Pine Ridge. But a few miles away in White Clay, Nebraska, liquor establishments flourish. A handful of people live in this widespot in the road, which appears to have been created for one purpose: to sell alcohol to the Indians. I met a man at Pine Ridge named Tom Poor Bear, who said his brother had been murdered one night during a visit to White Clay. No arrests were made in connection with the slaying, and Tom Poor Bear said law enforcement officials didn't seem to care about the murder. He said he was continuing to investigate on his own, but he doubted that charges would be filed even if he discovered what happened to his brother.

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