Pentagon a Legitimate Target?; "More Inclined" to Believe U.S. Than Iraq; Diversity Before Accuracy; Wash Post Labeling Disparity
1) Cokie Roberts blamed the Pentagon's denial of access
to Afghanistan for allowing images of kids hurt by U.S. bombs to replace
memories of the World Trade Center. She asked Donald Rumsfeld: "Why
not allow more press access so that the United States press can show
pictures that fight the Arab press?" But ABC's record of focusing
on U.S.-caused atrocities where they have access hardly supports her
2) ABC News President David Westin refused to say the
Pentagon was not a "legitimate target." At a Columbia University
event last week he demurred: "I actually don't have an opinion on
that." He argued: "For me to take a position this was right or
wrong, I mean, that's perhaps for me in my private life...perhaps it's
for my minister at church. But as a journalist I feel strongly that's
something that I should not be taking a position on." [Web
Update: Westin: "I Was Wrong"]
3) CBS's Lesley Stahl decided she's "more
inclined to believe my government" than the Iraqi regime.
4) Diversity and quotas before accuracy? Guidelines issued
by the Society of Professional Journalists urged that "when writing
about terrorism, remember to include white supremacist, radical
anti-abortionists and other groups with a history of such activity"
and to "ask men and women from within targeted communities to review
your coverage and make suggestions."
5) Last week in front page profiles of the Virginia
gubernatorial candidates the Washington Post used various conservative
tags 18 times, including "social conservative," "religious
conservative," "religious right" and "Christian
right" to describe Republican Mark Early and his supporters, but only
employed four liberal labels in the story on Democrat Mark Warner.
6) Insult of the weekend. Jack Germond on Inside
Washington: "I think the real cruel and unusual punishment is the
terrorists have to be locked up in a closed room for twelve hours with
us before we spread more Taliban propaganda. ABC News regularly runs Al-Jazeera
video of supposedly U.S.-caused civilian casualties in Afghanistan, airing
it more often by my observation than either CBS or NBC, but it's not
their fault Cokie Roberts suggested on Sunday. She blamed the spreading of
the video images, which so help the Taliban cause, on the lack of access
U.S. journalists are allowed by the Pentagon.
ABC's This Week opened on October 28 with
Al-Jazeera video of injured Afghan kids as Sam Donaldson passed along how
the Taliban claims ten civilians were killed in the particular U.S.
bombing. A few minutes later, wrapping up an interview with Secretary of
Defense Donald Rumsfeld, Roberts argued:
some sense that we're losing the propaganda war and those pictures we
saw of those children at the beginning of the program have taken the place
in our minds of the picture of the World Trade Center being blown up. Why
not allow more press access so that the United States press can show
pictures that fight the Arab press?"
Rumsfeld maintained the U.S. military has been
"enormously forthcoming" with the media but that it's not
practical or safe to have reporters parachuting into Afghanistan.
But, in contrast to Roberts's thesis, ABC
reporters have hardly contradicted Taliban propaganda when they had free
access to an area to report what they wanted, such as in Pakistan. Recall
this dispatch from ABC's Dan Harris in Pakistan which aired on the
October 23 World News Tonight, picking up after he showed Al-Jazeera video
of where 93 were supposedly killed by the U.S. in Afghanistan:
the border in the Pakistani town of Quetta, five people arrived today at a
hospital with injuries they say they suffered in another U.S. attack, this
one about 75 miles north of Kandahar. They say 29 people died when their
village was hit Monday night. This boy is one of the injured. His uncle
says he had heard American radio broadcasts promising civilians wouldn't
be targeted, but he says his village was nowhere near any Taliban
positions. Abdul Jabar is the doctor in charge. How do you feel when you
see these kids?"
feel very sad."
"Yes. My sympathies are with the Afghanis."
"Angry at the United States?"
"Everyone we spoke with at this tiny hospital said the ongoing raids
have made the population here and across the border angry at the U.S. and
supportive of the Taliban."
hundred percent of the people are against America."
"Twenty-five-old Sammy Ullah (sp?), who lost three sons Monday night,
says as soon as he recovers, he'll go home and fight. Dan Harris, ABC
Do you really think if Harris were given open
access to Afghanistan we'd get reporting all that much different?
Westin, Cokie Roberts's boss, doesn't think the World Trade Center was
a legitimate military target but refused to say the same about the
terrorist targeting of the Pentagon building, headquarters of the
Department of Defense. Appearing at a Columbia University Graduate School
of Journalism event last Tuesday shown on C-SPAN over the weekend, the
President of ABC News demurred: "The Pentagon as a legitimate target?
I actually don't have an opinion on that." [See Web Update below]
Westin maintained that "our job is to
determine what is, not what ought to be." He elaborated: "I can
say the Pentagon got hit, I can say this is what their position is, this
is what our position is, but for me to take a position this was right or
wrong, I mean, that's perhaps for me in my private life, perhaps it's
for me dealing with my loved one, perhaps it's for my minister at
church. But as a journalist I feel strongly that's something that I
should not be taking a position on."
Westin was responding to a questioner in the
audience who, picking up on Westin's observation in his address to the
group that thousands of innocent civilians were killed in the attack on
the World Trade Center, inquired: "Do you believe the Pentagon was a
legitimate military target, even if the missile was not?"
(I believe by "missile" the
questioner meant the planes hitting the World Trade Center.)
Westin replied at the October 23 event which
C-SPAN played on Saturday night, October 27: "The Pentagon as a
legitimate target? I actually don't have an opinion on that and it's
important I not have an opinion on that as I sit here in my capacity right
now. The way I conceive my job running a news organization, and the way I
would like all the journalists at ABC News to perceive it, is there is a
big difference between a normative position and a positive position. Our
job is to determine what is, not what ought to be and when we get into the
job of what ought to be I think we're not doing a service to the
American people. I can say the Pentagon got hit, I can say this is what
their position is, this is what our position is, but for me to take a
position this was right or wrong, I mean, that's perhaps for me in my
private life, perhaps it's for me dealing with my loved ones, perhaps
it's for my minister at church. But as a journalist I feel strongly
that's something that I should not be taking a position on. I'm
supposed to figure out what is and what is not, not what ought to
Another item to file under "journalist
first, American second."
And Cokie Roberts wants Donald Rumsfeld, who
was in the Pentagon at the time of the attack, to give ABC News more
access to the battleground? Why would anyone trust them if their boss
considers Pentagon staffers the legitimate target of a sneak attack?
Update: -- On October 31 ABC News e-mailed to the MRC this statement
from ABC News President David Westin:
Americans, I was horrified at the loss of life at the Pentagon, as well as
in New York and Pennsylvania on September 11. When asked at an interview
session at the Columbia Journalism School whether I believed that the
Pentagon was a legitimate target for terrorists I responded that, as a
journalist, I did not have an opinion. I was wrong. I gave an answer to
journalism students to illustrate the broad, academic principle that all
journalists should draw a firm line between what they know and what their
personal opinion might be. Upon reflection, I realized that my answer did
not address the specifics of September 11. Under any interpretation, the
attack on the Pentagon was criminal and entirely without justification. I
apologize for any harm that my misstatement may have caused."]
concession from CBS's Lesley Stahl who has decided she's "more
inclined" to believe the U.S. government than the Iraqi regime.
Friday's Access Hollywood, a program carried
by NBC-owned stations and syndicated in other markets, featured a preview
of Stahl's then-upcoming October 28 60 Minutes interview with Iraq's
Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz about Iraq's role in terrorism. Access
Hollywood played a clip of Aziz denying that Iraq provided the anthrax as
he called the idea "ridiculous." To the Access Hollywood
reporter Stahl then commented:
sitting interviewing someone and you're listening to him. He's
plausible, he's making sense. But you know that they've lied in the
past. I'm more inclined to believe my government."
File that under American first, reporter
second -- but just barely.
and quotas in reporting, and above all nothing which would offend a
Muslim, before accuracy? Guidelines issued a few weeks ago by the Society
of Professional Journalists (SPJ), recommended to journalists that
"when writing about terrorism, remember to include white supremacist,
radical anti-abortionists and other groups with a history of such
activity" and to "ask men and women from within targeted
communities to review your coverage and make suggestions."
The Weekly Standard's Stephen Hayes
dissected the new guidelines for an online "Daily Standard"
article posted on Friday which was plugged by James Taranto's "Best
of the Web" column for OpinionJournal.com.
An excerpt from the October 26 piece by Hayes:
Imagine the Outcry if a newspaper editor permitted a Catholic priest to
revise -- before publication -- a reporter's story about a pro-life rally.
Or if a columnist called in a tobacco executive to edit an article about
the hazards of smoking. Or if a publisher gave an advertiser the
opportunity to rework a piece about his industry.
Spontaneous panel discussions would break out across the country in
response to these outrages. Mass Communications professors and retired
reporters would gravely fret about the future of journalism. A loud chorus
of media critics would condemn the miscreants. The journalist would almost
certainly be fired.
But such a transgression occurred shortly after last month's terrorist
attacks, and because it was done in the name of "diversity," the
editor was celebrated by his colleagues. Richard Luna, managing editor of
the Salem, Oregon, Statesman Journal, invited Salem-area Muslims to edit
the pages of his newspaper for any offensive content. No one criticized
Luna, but if anyone had, he could have pointed to guidelines issued by the
Society of Professional Journalists in his defense.
Earlier this month, the group published guidelines for journalists who
hope to avoid racial profiling and stereotyping in their reporting.
The SPJ guidelines are absurd. They come perilously close to calling
for racial and religious quotas in both news photography and composition,
and they focus so obsessively on avoiding "offensive" words and
phrases that truth and accuracy seem like secondary concerns. And if the
guidelines read like a public relations project from the American Muslim
Council -- a Washington, D.C., lobbying group that works "toward the
political empowerment of Muslims in America" -- there's a good
reason: The group helped develop the new diversity standards.
SPJ guidelines instruct photographers to "seek out people from a
variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds when photographing Americans
mourning," and "seek out people from a variety of ethnic and
religious backgrounds when photographing rescue and other public service
workers and military personnel." What's more, they should use visual
images to "demystify veils, turbans and other cultural articles and
According to the guidelines, now is the time for journalists to
"make an extra effort to include olive-complexioned and darker men
and women, Sikhs, Muslims and devout religious people of all types in
arts, business, society columns and all other news and feature coverage,
not just stories about the crisis."
The same goes for analysts. "Seek out experts on military
strategies, public safety, diplomacy, economics and other pertinent topics
who run the spectrum of race, class, gender and geography."
The guidelines also warn against using misleading qualifiers.
"Avoid using word combinations such as 'Islamic terrorist' or 'Muslim
extremist' that are misleading because they link whole religions to
criminal activity. Be specific: Alternate choices, depending on context,
include 'Al Qaeda terrorists' or, to describe the broad range of groups
involved in Islamic politics, 'political Islamists.' Do not use religious
characterizations as shorthand when geographic, political, socioeconomic
or other distinctions might be more accurate."
But these concerns about qualifiers must be, well, qualified.
"When writing about terrorism, remember to include white supremacist,
radical anti-abortionists and other groups with a history of such
The guidelines also instruct journalists to "use spellings
preferred by the American Muslim Council (AMC), including 'Muhammad,' 'Quran,'
and 'Makkah,' not 'Mecca.'"
No doubt, the most disturbing item on the SPJ list is guideline #12,
the directive that gives cover to editors like Salem's Richard Luna.
"Ask men and women from within targeted communities to review your
coverage and make suggestions."...
The best thing that can be said about the SPJ guidelines is that they
will likely be ignored. They should be, because they raise more questions
than they answer. Do we need a Muslim or "olive-complexioned"
quote on this Iditarod story? Can we run this photo even though we can't
determine the "religious backgrounds" of the people in it? Is it
acceptable to use "radical anti-abortionist" in this story about
"political Islamists?" If the hijackers claim to have died in
the name of Allah, can we omit their religion? Does anyone know of a
lower-middle-class white female with expertise on troop movements in Mazar-e
To read the Hayes article in full, go to: http://www.weeklystandard.com/Content/Public/Articles/000/000/000/408vsxdt.asp
The guidelines were issued on October 12 to
match resolutions passed at the SPJ's convention a week earlier. An
excerpt from the press release about them, "SPJ Offers Guidelines for
Coverage to Counter Ethnic and Religious Profiling":
...."Journalists need to cover all aspects of a complicated and
emotional situation in a fair and accurate way," said Sally Lehrman,
a medical technology writer and chair of the committee. "The
repetition of certain images and wording can unintentionally lead to
racial profiling and the hate crimes that come with it."
The guidelines elaborate on two resolutions adopted Oct. 6 by the
delegates to the SPJ National Convention that urge journalists to strive
for ethical and informative coverage of all the communities throughout the
United States and the world....
"The resolutions and the guidelines reflect the first principle of
the SPJ Code of Ethics, 'Seek truth and report it'," said SPJ
President Al Cross, a political columnist for The (Louisville)
Courier-Journal. "Some of the pertinent points covered by that
principle say that we should not stereotype, misrepresent, oversimplify or
highlight incidents out of context, and that we should give voice to the
voiceless, avoid imposing our own cultural values on others, and tell the
story of the diversity and magnitude of the human experience boldly, even
when it is unpopular to do so."...
The SPJ Ethics Code encourages journalists to tell the story of the
diversity of the human experience boldly even when it is unpopular to do
For the press release in full, go to: go
For the full text of all the guidelines, go
[Web Update. Steven A. Smith, the Editor of
the Salem Statesman Journal, sent this letter to Weekly Standard Pubisher
Terry Eastland. Rich Luna, the paper's Managing Editor, requested that the
MRC post this as his response to the Weekly Standard article cited above:
"I am writing in reference to two recent
columns by Stephen F. Hayes dealing with the Society of Professional
Journalists ethical standards and, specifically, alleged actions of the
Statesman Journal, the daily newspaper in Salem, OR.
"Mr. Hayes, in his zeal to take on SPJ, has
smeared -- there is no other word for it -- a fine daily newspaper with an
impeccable record in defense of long-standing and fundamental journalistic
principles and ethics.
"In his columns, Mr. Hayes continues to
present as fact an assertion that members of the Salem Islamic community
were invited into the Statesman Journal newsroom on Sept. 12 to
"edit" our newspaper for potentially inflammatory language,
"He bases this assertion on a student report
of a panel discussion at the recent SPJ convention in Seattle which
included our managing editor, Rich Luna. The student reporter insists Mr.
Luna acknowledged the editing arrangement in both the panel and in a
post-panel interview. This is false. Rich made no such statement during
the panel. And he was not interviewed by the student reporter following
the panel. I respect the right of the student reporter to stand by his
story. But he's standing by a report of statements that were not made and
an interview that was not conducted.
"In any event, even allowing for
misinterpretation of Rich's comments, the fact is the alleged incidents
did not occur. Let me make this as clear as possible. No members of the
Islamic community or any other interest group were in the Statesman
Journal newsroom, on Sept. 12 or any other day before or after the Sept.
11 incidents, editing our newspaper, talking with our journalists, buying
gum from the candy machine or using the restroom. The newsroom was, in
fact, locked down to everyone, including people in other newspaper
"There is no Islamic community, to speak of,
in Salem. The closest mosque is in Corvallis, 45 minutes south of here and
outside our circulation area. But even if we had a mosque next door, the
Statesman Journal would not allow non-journalists of any stripe,
ethnicity, special interest group to edit our newspaper in any way. We do
not provide content to special interest groups in advance, as Hayes
implies. And the assertion we would involve special interests in editing
our terrorism coverage is absurd and a slander to journalists who worked
24 hours a day for days on end to serve their community in a time of
"Mr. Hayes made one attempt to contact me,
hours before his deadline for his most recent column. He left a voice mail
asking for an immediate call back. I called within two hours and left a
voice mail for him. There was no follow-up call, no call to clarify or
discuss. In my voice mail reply, I stated as clearly as I have stated here
that the alleged editing incident simply did not happen. My assertion is
absent from his follow-up column. Instead, he chooses to repeat my
statement that readers are invited into our newsroom to comment on our
coverage. Absolutely true. This is common industry practice. Readers
attend our morning meetings during our daily critique session and may
participate as they choose. I -- we -- also take phone calls from readers,
letters, e-mails and even comment forms collected by subscriber services.
This is how we learn how our journalism is being received in our
community. It's called feedback and it comes after the fact of
"As journalists, we may act on that feedback
or reject it based on our values, our experiences and our professional
practices. By alluding to this process in his column, but deliberately
ignoring my flat-out, confirmable denial of the editing allegation, Mr.
Hayes violates, in ways we never have, the basic ethical tenants of our
profession. Shame on him...."
In response, the Weekly Standard's Steve Hayes
drafted this reply to Eastland:
"See Candace Heckman's email to me below.
She was the editor present for the SPJ diversity panel and Curt's first
editor on the piece. Her email is self-explanatory.
"You're welcome to forward this to Mr.
Smith. The point of my second column was not, of course, to demonstrate
that such a meeting has taken place. Rather, to point out that SPJ's own
report and several SPJ reporters/advisers/editors indicate that Mr. Luna
claimed that such a meeting took place.
"Mr. Smith did call me back, made a three
minute statement 'for the record' -- his words -- and accused me of
"smearing" his paper. I did include his claim that no one other
than the paper's editors change content.
"It's also worth noting that according to
SPJ adviser Paul Kostyu, SPJ President Al Cross sent personal emails of
apology to the reporter and adviser who worked on the story.
"If the meeting didn't take place, as Mr.
Smith insists, it seems odd that several people have reported that Mr.
Luna claimed -- at least on this diversity panel -- that it did. Maybe Mr.
Smith's next email should be to Mr. Luna."
The above-cited e-mail to Hayes from Candace
Heckman, a reporter for the Seattle Post-Intelligencer:
"Steve: I, too, attended the diversity
panel during which Richard Luna said he let people into his newsroom to
check staffers' work. As he spoke, some people, I included, wrinkled their
foreheads, while others in the audience were quiet, attentive and passive
in facial expression, as to say, 'hmm, that's a way to do it.' I was so
disturbed, I told Curt to go back and talk to him about it to make sure we
understood him correctly."]
major party candidates for Governor of Virginia are trying to portray
themselves as moderates, but only one has the assistance of the Washington
Post in his quest. Last week in front page profiles of Republican Mark
Early and Democrat Mark Warner, the Post employed various conservative
tags 16 times, including "social conservative," "religious
conservative," "religious right" and "Christian
right" to describe Republican Early and his supporters, but only
applied four liberal labels for Democrat Warner.
The count of 16 for Early does not even
include another two labels in the headline. And two of those liberal tags
on Warner were attributed to claims of his Republican opponents, the third
was a reference to an era, not to him, and the fourth came in a quote from
a friend: "Mark never was ultra-liberal. He exhibited pragmatic
Though the Post managed to squeeze in four
times as many labels for Republican Early as Democrat Warner, both
profiles were nearly identical in length at just under 3,000 words.
Below are excerpts from both articles to show
the labeling, with all the labels in ALL CAPS so they stand out. Since the
article contained so few labels on Warner, who unsuccessfully ran for the
U.S. Senate as a liberal a few years ago, we'll start with reporter
Carol Morello's October 26 front page story, headlined: "Warner
Blurs Political Labels." The subhead: "Candidate Addresses
Issues, Including Taxes, His Way."
-- Wilder, who later endorsed Warner, said after the debate that the
exchange revealed a core Warner vulnerability: In his attempt to shake the
tag that he's just another LIBERAL taxer, he may come off as standing for
nothing in particular.
-- The Earley campaign mocks Warner's image on a Web site, www.whichwarner.com.
It reads, in part, "Once again, the voters of Virginia should ask
themselves 'Which Warner' they are voting for -- the truck-racing,
bluegrass-listening, gun-shooting good ole'
boy Warner or the Warner who is just another LIBERAL politician that will
do or say anything to win."
-- "He had an interest in politics and a desire to serve,"
said Keith Frederick, his freshman roommate at George Washington.
"There was a lot of discussion at the time whether the Great Society
had failed or succeeded. There was a backlash, given the Nixon era,
against limousine LIBERALS. Mark never was ultra-LIBERAL. He exhibited
pragmatic social consciousness. The discussion was, 'How do we do this
To read the profile in full, go to: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/metro/va/elections/A53115-2001Oct25.html
Now for many more excerpts from the Post's
October 25 front page profile of Early by Michael Leahy.
"CONSERVATIVE Earley Employs More Moderate Tone," announced the
headline. The subhead: "Campaign Less Focused on RELIGIOUS
-- Beneath the photo appeared an exhortation meant to represent the
fetus's thoughts -- "I can't vote but you can" -- followed by an
excoriation of the senator, who hadn't been tough enough for SOCIAL
CONSERVATIVES and evangelical Christians on the abortion issues of
parental notification and consent. The brochure featured an endorsement of
Earley, authored and distributed with the candidate's blessing by the
antiabortion organization on whose board of directors he served...
-- The fervid antiabortion messages of his early political days, less
distinct now as he courts moderate voters in the governor's race, have led
Democratic opponents to charge that he is a stealth candidate flying under
political radar, trying to avoid close identification
with the RELIGIOUS RIGHT.
-- "Mark's always under control and pretty reasonable," says
a longtime foe, state Del. Jay W. DeBoer (D-Petersburg), who can't
remember ever seeing Earley angry. "It's a different image than a lot
of [RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVEs] have....He has a nice look, you know?"
-- Earley's style benefited from having watched a string of quixotic
losers among Virginia's RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVES: He has learned what not
to do in a campaign.
-- His campaign is a contrast to that of his fellow RELIGIOUS
CONSERVATIVE Oliver North, who reveled in being incendiary during his 1994
U.S. Senate bid and, in the end, self-immolated.
-- Abortion, the issue that as much as any other sparked his political
birth in Chesapeake, has accounted since for the fierce loyalty he enjoys
from Christian Coalition leader Pat Robertson and cadres of CONSERVATIVE
-- The importance of RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVES in his ascendancy was
never clearer than in 1997, when he won the Republican nomination for
attorney general in a primary that drew only 8 percent of registered
voters. The mobilized CHRISTIAN RIGHT proved a decisive bloc for Earley --
or, as Robertson puts it, "With a turnout that small, we had a
disproportionate influence for Mark."
-- His advisers dismiss as irrelevant his long bond to Robertson while
acknowledging its possible cost, particularly in a close statewide general
election where CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVES' influence will necessarily be
dampened by a larger pool of centrist voters.
-- With Earley's assent and Driscoll and her husband, Frank, at the
reins, the society sent out the 1987 campaign brochure displaying
the fetus photo. It was part of a well-orchestrated campaign by RELIGIOUS
CONSERVATIVES that included door-to-door volunteers, bent on taking down
Democrat William Parker.
-- His subtle charms were never more evident than in an audience with
Virginia's AFL-CIO leaders. "Mark said he supported the key points of
our [agenda] at that time," recalls Daniel LeBlanc, nowadays the
president of the Virginia State AFL-CIO. "And so, even though he was
a Republican CONSERVATIVE, we took a risk and supported him."
-- Some of Earley's alliances were short-lived. As a state senator
under fire from CONSERVATIVES, he reversed his positions on major labor
issues. After first co-sponsoring a bill that would have permitted unions
to collect an "agency fee" from nonunion members, he next
renounced it, explaining his change this way: "I didn't understand
fully what the bill did."
-- He has abandoned, too, the CONSERVATIVE cause of school vouchers.
But on the issues dearest to the Christian RIGHT, he has been steadfast,
pushing successfully, among other things, for a moment of silence in the
public schools and parental notification before minors' abortions. It was
his deft persistence on the parental notification bill that drew Kincaid
-- Kincaid, a co-founder of the SOCIALLY CONSERVATIVE Family
Foundation, saw Earley as the rare ideological purist who could win.
"I was attracted to someone with brainpower and oratorical
persuasiveness who could build a consensus on issues that normally
polarize," Kincaid recalls.
-- Along the way, he played a key role in shepherding the welfare
reform and juvenile justice bills of then-Gov. George Allen, earning
a reputation as a CHRISTIAN CONSERVATIVE who could play the legislative
game, deftly so.
-- He says this ever so courteously, as if a listener could be pardoned
for not seeing what he does. The eyelids droop. The blue eyes
settle on a tree. He is a portrait of ease; it is what has brought him
this far, closer to the prize than any RELIGIOUS CONSERVATIVE.
For the profile in full, go to:
of the weekend. Liberal columnist Jack Germond on Inside Washington:
"I think the real cruel and unusual punishment is the terrorists have
to be locked up in a closed room for twelve hours with John Ashcroft. Now
that's really mean."
Just when you thought we were all in this
together. -- Brent Baker
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