Archive for activism

Jobs, jobs, and more media activism jobs

People’s Production House is hiring. And we’re not the only ones.

The PPH position is for a community organizer working on our Digital Expansion Initiative. We’ll be working together, though I don’t know if that’s a plus or a minus. The goal of the project is to work with PPH’s community partners to define and campaign for meaningful broadband access in New York City.

Here’s the job description:

PPH is hiring a community organizer to spearhead a citywide campaign on a key media policy issue. The organizer will plan the campaign, reach out to community partners, develop materials, and educate partner organizations and their members. You will work closely with our Media Policy Director [that's me!], taking the research and studies produced by PPH and working them into the campaign and helping translate the needs and desires of our community partners into policy demands. No prior knowledge of media policy issues is required, but a distinct willingness to learn them is critical! We are looking for an awesome and experienced community organizer who can appreciate how important media policy issues are for low-income communities and communities of color, and can help us build momentum around media issues in New York City. We expect the world to be a different place as a result of your work here.

If you’re interested, send a cover letter stating why you want the job and what connection you see between media and community organizing, along with a resume to

More than 15 other job announcements below…

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Democratizing the Beltway talk shows

In media reform as in most political endeavors, direct action gets the goods. You don’t like the questions the corporate media are asking the decisionmakers? Ask ‘em your own questions.

The big news in the DC news biz every week is who will be appearing on the Sunday talk shows – Face The Nation (CBS), This Week (ABC), and Meet The Press (NBC). Those shows send out a press release with the lineups every Thursday.

Competing news agencies send interns or other rookies to sit outside of the corporate media studios in case the guests want to make any statements after the interview. There’s a microphone stand set up outside; sometimes the guests stop there on their way out of the interview and take some questions.

Those other news agencies don’t send more seasoned reporters because they don’t expect to get any of what they consider useful footage there. Also, this all takes place on a Sunday morning when many of their employees would rather be in bed.

A couple of months ago, some enterprising media activists joined the post-talk show gaggle in order to ask the questions no one else is asking. The project is called The Washington Stakeout and is the work of DC Indymedia veterans and Sam Husseini, best known for his work with the Insititute for Public Accuracy.

If you check the site, you can see the Stakeout asking questions about Israel’s nuclear weapons of John Edwards and about pre-Iraq war intelligence of Colin Powell.

Washington DC is basically a series of concentric boxes, each one designed to keep you from thinking outside of its borders. It’s refreshing to see this kind of imaginative yet straightforward media activism in this town.

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Free The Flyers Lives… in Harrisburg for a rare FCC hearing

The FCC is holding a hearing in Harrisburg, PA, tomorrow, February 23, for a rare public hearing, certainly the only one in our area. It will be held at 9:00 am at the Whitaker Center for Science and the Arts at 222 Market Street in Harrisburg. More details from

I got an email saying Media Tank, my former employer, is organizing a free bus to the hearing leaving at 6am from 30th Street Station. There’s no hint of it on their website, but if you want to reserve a spot, call Bryan at 215-563-1100.

Unfortunately, I won’t be able to be there since I have to be up in NYC on Saturday for the Grassroots Media Conference. But I could not pass up a chance to make a little Free The Flyers hay, so I prepared some brief written comments, available after the jump.

I also hit up the F2F list, now numbering around 300 irate Philly sports fans. I’m not sure what our best options for relief are at this point, but that’s not a group I’d want to get on the wrong side of.

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Plugging the NYC GMC

Thanks to the wonderful people at the New York City Grassroots Media Coalition, I get to moderate a really amazing panel at the NYC Grassroots Media Conference on February 24:

New York’s Wireless Future

New wireless technology provides an efficient and affordable way to deploy new broadband infrastructure. You can use it to turn your local park into a hotspot or to give affordable access to all of your neighbors. Across the country, local governments are considering whether to build – or to let corporations build – wireless networks that cover an entire city. New York City is just beginning this process. This is the best chance in a generation, if not a century, to come together as a community to decide what we want and need from our communications infrastructure. This panel will bring you up to speed on the discussion.

The people on this panel are:

Michael Lewis, founder of Wireless Harlem Initiative, a New York based non-profit, which is advocating to bring affordable wireless broadband to Harlem in order to close the digital divide;

Laura Forlano, a Board Member of NYCwireless, a community wireless group in New York, and a Ph.D. candidate in Communications at Columbia University researching the socio-economic implications of the use of mobile and wireless technology;

and Bruce Lai, the Chief of Staff to Council Member Gale A. Brewer, the Chair of the Committee on Technology in Government at the New York City Council.

This builds on the panel I moderated at the National Conference for Media Reform on “Owning Our Own Media Infrastructure,” obviously with a very local twist.
You can get a more full understanding of why I think this is so important by reading the statement from The Ethos Group: “Thoughtful Infrastructure as a Platform for Media Reform.”

One key is that “convergence” – the term used to describe the transition from a diverse array of communication media (phone calls, email, music, television, film) to a common, digital medium – means we can use a public dialogue on wi-fi as a point of departure for a comprehensive reimagining of our entire system of communication.

The point of the “New York’s Wireless Future” panel is primarily to pass information from experts to anyone who’s interested in the topic. People’s Production House plans to follow up with another event, which will be more of a town hall session where everyone will be invited to share their needs and desires for a potential public wireless network in New York City.

I’m on a different panel at the GMC called “Dead Trees: Small Magazines and Newspapers in the Digital Age” organized by Chris Anderson. The title says it all. Another important piece of that larger discussion and I’m honored to have been invited into it. (More details on this one to follow.)

If the promise of plenty of yapping from yours truly doesn’t do it for you, pre-registering for the NYC GMC saves you $10. So go ahead and do it now, or sign up to volunteer. See you there.

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The 9th annual Allied Media Conference: “Breaking Silence, Building Movements”

The long awaited opening announcement of the 2007 Allied Media Conference, including the call for session proposals, went out this morning:

The 9th annual Allied Media Conference:

“Breaking Silence, Building Movements”

June 22-24, 2007

Detroit, MI

Because so many voices have been silenced by corporate media. Because media should be a tool for communication and transformation and not a commodity to passively consume. Because our stories have been misrepresented, misinterpreted, and straight up missing…

We need a participatory media movement to change the world.

To all of you brilliant supporters of the Allied Media Conference: It’s official. The 2007 AMC is coming to Detroit. Block off June 22-24 in your 2007 calendars for one of the most engaging and inspiring events that you will ever attend.

Keep reading for more information, or go to


It’s getting louder and louder out there. Though much of humanity is still silenced, more people than ever are speaking out. Whether it be with high-tech tools like blogs, video cameras, and MPCs, or lo-fi tools like spray paint or the spoken word, people are voicing their truths and forging new connections. For eight years, the Allied Media Conference has contributed to that by providing hands-on trainings, accessible discussions, and a supportive community.

Now in its ninth year, the AMC will continue to provide a critical space for us to strategize on the role of media in our communities and movements. In a time of escalating war, and the daily violence of neoliberal policies, we need media that amplifies the voices of those most affected by these crises. We need media that not only breaks silence, but mobilizes people to envision alternatives and to take action.

Read the entire AMC 2007 vision statement.


Let us know what you want to see at this year’s AMC. There is an easy-to-use form on the conference website where you can submit proposals for workshops, panel discussions, presentations, caucus, film programs, or speakers. You can let us know if it’s something you want to present or if it’s something you’d like to attend.

Propose a session. (Deadline March 15.)


The Allied Media Conference is an annual, weekend-long gathering of influential, alternative media-makers and committed social justice activists. The AMC is a vital contributor to the growth of a large-scale social movement around media that centers issues of race, class, gender and other systems of oppression at its focal point.

The Allied Media Conference brings together a phenomenal cross-section of media workers: daring filmmakers, ambitious radio producers, serious publishers, skilled web designers, and artists whose work “makes revolution irresistible.” It is organized by a team of activists in Detroit, supported by many local organizations and long-time conference participants.

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Reflections on the National Conference for Media Reform

WireTap graciously accepted an article I wrote about the National Conference for Media Reform. In it, I survey the relationships between Free Press and some of the groups that have been marginalized at past conferences. This year’s conference was different. Sort of.

I also recommend reading DeeDee Halleck’s assessment:

To achieve media justice we need to raise our level of commitment. Next Media “Reform” Conference needs to speak of strategies that go beyond internet petitions to Congress. An authentic movement needs to march and to encourage the sort of non-violent civil disobedience that helped to open the airwaves for low power FM.

DeeDee’s labels and mine – who or what is media justice or media democracy – don’t exactly match up. This might be because she is discussing the history of the movement up to early 2003, where I cover the media reform conferences that started in November 2003.Perhaps the divisions I describe came about later, after Indymedia simplified the path to one type of media organizing and Free Press co-opted the grassroots energy that fought off media ownership deregulation.

Under the heading “Media Justice History,” DeeDee describes a multiracial network of organizers using civil disobedience and direct action to fight corporate media, resisting pressure from reformist white men to use more mundane tactics.

There are important successes to learn there, ones I admit I am still fairly ignorant of. (I wasn’t even doing the movies on a roof in Brooklyn thing when they were “marching against the moguls” in 1996.)

As I wrote after the 2005 NCMR, however, I think we need to recognize more subtle divisions in our community. Seeing merely a distinction between media revolution and media reform, at least at this point, gives too much credit to the revolutionaries. It creates connections among them that don’t exist in reality, but that should – that must if we are to win.

It also locates the division at the level of tactics. There is a good side to that: by highlighting the absense of certain ones and advocating for their increased presence, you can promote a greater diversity of tactics, which this movement sorely needs right now. On the other hand, the antiglobalization movement was filled with examples of people who thought that more radical tactics equalled more radical politics. They don’t.

So I ask you to take the time to read my piece on WireTap (it’s kind of long, I know) and I encourage you to read DeeDee’s post (we’re all so lucky she’s started blogging) and then to work through these and related ideas on your own or with your friends and colleagues. And then publish them online.

I’m very excited to see Reclaim the Media hosting a conference reportback and discussion with Andrea Quijada in Seattle on January 29, for example. I look forward to hearing what comes of it.

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NCMR: Independent Media as an Organizing Tool

Adrienne Maree Brown, The Ruckus Society (moderator)
Shivaani Selvaraj, Philly IMC Media Mobilizing Project
Jenny Lee, Live Arts Media Project
Kat Aaron, co-Director of People’s Production House

listen to the mp3 of this discussion

(Adrienne was just telling me I don’t take credit for things. I hardly think that’s true – see every blog post where I crib other people’s ideas – but I’ll take her advice and admit I proposed this session. I was pleasantly surprised that it was accepted by Free Press. These are some of the most inspiring folks in the movement, along with all of the people they work with.)


Adrienne Maree Brown, The Ruckus Society

This is media that changes the producer, the participant, and hopefully the receiver forever.

We’re going to talk about it, then we’re going to do some popular education workshops so you walk out of here knowing how to do this in your own community.


Shivaani Selvaraj, Philly IMC Media Mobilizing Project

I love being an organizer. I have an agenda for building a social movement in this country. I have experience with different models of organizing:

Poor People’s Economic Human Rights Compaign inspired by MLK
Media Mobilizing Project of the Philly IMC
Media Empowerment Project, affiliated with the United Church of Christ

Today going to focus on MMP:

The media is less about informing the public, more about transformation. Fighting for a just media alongside fighting for a just society.

Working with taxi workers, hotel workers, anti casino, anti gentrification, and a collaboration with Head Start, which is poor-led. We help with political education, an analysis of power, a discussion of frameworks.

Nijmie Dzurinko, also with MMP:

sharing a story about the casino fight. We got involved because we live in a time when the state is doing whatever it can to enhance profit, making up shortfalls in their budgets from federal cuts.

Neighborhoods were having trouble because of the images being fed to them, the inability to get information about what kinds of profits

Focused on completing 4 or 5 minute-long pieces that engaged key issues, broke down casino-propaganda machine. Showing how different groups that had been divided along racial and economic lines were united in this issue. Worked with groups to complete the pieces, then distributed 500 DVDs around the community to get people involved.


Jenny Lee, Live Arts Media Project

Ilana described phase 1 of LAMP in the previous session. I’m going to talk about phase 2.

LAMP grew out of Detroit Summer, which was started over 10 years ago by veterans of the Detroit Black power movement.

Addresses the school crisis in Detroit, in particular the dropout crisis, which is
evacuation from the auto industry has crippled the city
DPS closed 50 schools
95 more will close by 2008
Catholic schools all closed last year.
Those that remain are increasingly militarized. Dress code that lead to suspensions that lead to more dropouts.
DPS is now the number one employer in the city, which makes the union extremely powerful.

The goal of LAMP was to center young people’s voices in this debate.

We trained youth to do interviews with other youth, they interviewed other young people, as well as the principals.

We saw that the process by which we actually make the media is a method of organizing.

After the summer, they completed the CD, and started thinking about distribution. How to get it into schools and into community centers?

The production process had yielded a supportive network of educators.

The way we distribute it is also an organizing tool.

Wanted to apply creative methods to distribution, as with production. That process needed to centralize youth as well, so they turned to popular education to develop the popular education curriculum.

The teaching is also an organizing tool.

Played a clip about criminilization of youth in the schools. The montage of interviews went right into a hip hop song about it, “12 Steps to Oblivion.”

Jenny then asked the audience what stood out to them in the track and asked a few other questions to bring out the impact it had.

Taking the CD on tour.


Kat Aaron, co-Director of People’s Production House

Kat’s also a producer of Wakeup Call, on WBAI, of which her co-director, Deepa Fernandes, is the host, Everyone who works at PPH is a media maker and a media teacher. We partner with groups to help them make media that supports their organizing. Radio Rootz which works with kids, media production and media literacy. And CNPI that works with low-wage workers.

We organize for media justice

Participatory media is about creating and distributing media but also understanding how it works, how it gets to you. “Opening the doors to media is not the same as media justice.” Different people are told different things about what stories are valuable, who is important.

Not that everyone will be a journalist, but emphasizing to young people that their stories are important and helping them figure out how to communicate.

We teach people how to edit, which is incredibly important so it’s not them gathering stories that the experts edit. We want people to be able to leave our organization, so they need to have the full range of skills.

One of the groups CNPI works with is street vendors. A POC and mostly immigrant workforce, they call themselves the smallest of small businesses. They get ridiculous fines. They had been attending City Council hearings on those fines, but when they came as press, it allowed them to confront Councilmembers in a different way. Their presence at the City Council hearings has an impact on the decisionmaking because the Councilmembers know someone is watching.

Played clip from Domestic Workers United. DWU went to Albany to make their case and they brought their own reporters.

They play these clips not just on WBAI, but around their community for other workers and the people they are trying to organize.

The summer program matched a group of youth with a community organization, which helped teach the youth about organizing. Instead of just publicizing their own
work, they all chose to address issues in their community that were not being discussed.

Played clip from group that addressed the issue of South Asian gangs, which no one was addressing. Now the community organizing group uses the piece to kick off discussions around their community.

Everyone asks, how do you engage people in discussing media policy. Kat ran a small workshop they use to teach 12-year-olds about media consolidation. Everyone writes down their own, idiosyncratic station play list. Then you crumple them up and force them to collaborate, which ultimately yields the lowest common denominator.

(Here’s my station:
Wakeup Call
Radio Rootz hour
LAMP hour
BBC World Service
Yankee games
Brooklyn Hip Hop hour)

End with big plug for Allied Media Conference, where these discussions and models are the main focus of the conference.

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Saving The Internet: This is where it starts to get frustrating…

I’m in the Steamboat room hoping that these panelists will be able to convince me that “saving the Internet” doesn’t mean keeping it just as it is for the privileged folks who own and extract the majority of benefits from it.

The makeup of the panel, where a Columbia Law Professor and former lawyer for the telcos seems to be the only person of color, is not reassuring… one woman and three men, with a woman moderating.

Free Press has made progress, but the goal is not to have more people of color talking about people of color issues, women talking about women’s issues, and “grassroots” people talking about “grassroots organizing” while white men talk about the “big” issues. The goal is to get everyone talking about everything.

(That’s how the corporate media works – when you break it down by issue, women and POC are even more excluded, since you find that women are often relegated to discussing the weather and human interest while men report on economics and politics.)

As Tim Karr commented on my post from yesterday where I speculated on where the SaveTheInternet goes from here, they’ve laid out a new plan in “The Internet Freedom Declaration of 2007.” They released it at the party last night. Adam Green is pitching it to the audience now.

Now blogger Matt Stoller is talking about Ed Whitacre. “These people are crazy,” he says. Matt wanted to be an investment banker when he was eight years old, he tells us.

The Declaration is a fine set of principles – Universal Affordable Access, An Open and Neutral Network, World Class Quality through Competition – but it doesn’t address the ownership divide and it still views people primarily as consumers: “The Internet should offer a free market to all competitors and maximum choice to all consumers” and “a competitive marketplace fosters innovation, benefits consumers, creates jobs, and grows the economy.”

This echoes the flawed Bill of Media Rights, which begins with the mixed metaphor, “A free and vibrant media, full of diverse and competing voices, is the lifeblood of America’s democracy and culture, as well as an engine of growth for its economy.”

Frannie Wellings just introduced Scott Goodstein. Sigh.

There’s more to it.

Now Azlan White, a woman, is talking about offline organizing, but I’m about to run out of batteries.

More later…

[listen to this panel]

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A definition of Digital Expansion

For my work with People’s Production House and The Ethos Group, I’ve been trying to hash out a detailed answer to the question, “What is Digital Expansion?” here’s what I have so far:

Digital Expansion describes a comprehensive program for addressing the inequalities of the Internet. It differs from current, inadequate approaches in that it treats people as human beings and full, active participants in global society rather than as consumers, as the divided, or as those who have fallen behind. Digital Expansion assumes a transformation of the Internet as a result of expanding participation in it.

The core components of Digital Expansion are

  • A human right to communication
  • The freedom to communicate
  • Access to the means of communication
  • Open lines of communication
  • Popular engagement in determining a shared communications future

The human right to communication requires security for this right as for the rights to food, clothing, and shelter. And the freedom to communicate, which involves listening and being heard and so goes beyond a bourgeois freedom of expression, necessitates the elimination of economic or social conditions that prevent or restrict one’s participation in the exchange of information.

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Notes from “Beyond Rights and Reform: Imagining a Global Movement for Media Justice Featuring You”

Moderator: Malkia Cyril, Youth Media Council
Myoung-Joon Kim, MediaACT, South Korea
Alfredo Lopez, May First/People Link
Janvieve Williams, U.S. Human Rights Network and Radio Diaspora

[listen to this discussion]


[Jesse Jackson's speech ran late so we started late.]

Malkia Cyril, Youth Media Council

Defining media justice…

Media rights need to be distributed. Media rules require enforcement. No way to do either fairly today.

Media justice is a response to the historical reality that the media can either be used as a tool to enforce white supremacy and capitalism, or it can be used as a tool to resist that infrastructure and transform it.

Media reform focuses on securing rights and reforming rules. We need to move beyond rights and reform.

Fighting for a just media means fighting for a just economy, for a just government.

This movement is not housed within or even led by the United States.

Here are concrete examples:


Alfredo Lopez – Mayfirst/People Link (A union of Internet users.)

Having large numbers of people communicate with each other and doing things together used to be a dream. In 1968, we had no idea what was happening in other parts of the world. Had we known, things would have been different.

1.3 billion people today communicate consistently through the Internet. The Internet is a mass movement. We use the technology, but the reality is that we haven’t internalized that the Internet is, in and of itself, a social movement. It is a thoroughly democratic social movement, one that people try to repress and control, but it is out of control. Thoroughly international.

It has a culture of collaboration. Almost everything – the culture, the software, the protocols – is an act of collaboration, hundreds, thousands, of people. It proves that people naturally collaborate, not just motivated by profit.

The Internet has created a situation where the people who make, are affected by, or consume the news, can actually produce the news.

The filtering process that makes the truth has been altered by the Internet. It comes from us, the 1 billion who use the Internet.

Never a better chance to build a media movement.

If you work in media, you need to be an organizer.

Rules -
1. Put everything online.
2. Move toward collaboration between news writers and news readers and news sources.

The US Social Forum is an ideal place to practice new media and put these ideas into practice.


Malkia – we agree with the “net” part, with the “digital” part. It’s the neutrality and the inclusion that don’t address the power relations.

Difference between increasing power and increasing choices.

Question of ownership – who owns? Ownership at the point of production.

Content is key. We engage people through content.

The rules: fuck the rules, let’s change the game. The rules are not the thing, the game is the thing. Who makes the rules? Not just what are the rules.


Myoung-Joon Kim, MediaACT, South Korea

Good to see that the movement is growing in the belly of the beast.

[Josh Silver, Executive Director of Free Press, comes in and turns down the volume. The symbolism seems lost on him.]

Everyone has broadband in South Korea. We have a democratic country for the last 20 years, but we suffer from social problems and a neoliberal government that wants an FTA with the US and has sent troops to Iraq.

We have a social movement for media democracy. Based on trade union in media industry, independent filmmakers, and Internet activism (privacy + use of media to support social movement).

After 15 years, we have to reframe and restructure
because of (a) attack on participatory media and (b) commercialization of the Internet (at first it was open and led by progressive activism, but now that makes up a small part).

We didn’t have a clear idea of what sort of media structure we wanted to have. We fought against, but we didn’t talk about what we wanted.

We think we need a different structure – including mainstream media, independent media, and “public” media space (public access, media center, education).

Connecting grassroots activism to media policy.

If we lose one part of this movement, then our movement will be in trouble.

We have had some victories:
legislation guaranteeing access to public broadcaster, KBS. 30 minute weekly spot. A cable access structure. RTV, 24-hour satellite channel. Just won last month having this as a must-carry on cable systems. – Doesn’t mean everyone will watch it, but we have a chance to reach everyone. – You can get production support if your program is chosen for broadcast.

National Media Activist Network
also have a small network of producers working in mainstream media

One of the things we are trying to do is reframe and redefine “public interest” since that sometimes just means access to corporate-owned media. It needs to consider social inequities and communication rights, so we need a different meaning, the concept.

We need to strategize on how to extend public media space, based on grassroots activism, as a measure towards redistributing public resources.

It’s all about power, always. We always say people have the power, but really only organized, empowered people have power.


Malkia – Media justice is seen as a sector of the media reform movement. In fact, media reform is a sector of the international media movement.


Janvieve Williams Comrie
US Human Rights Network
Latin American and Caribbean Community Center

Radio Diaspora intro

Aiming to creasing a radical, people centered, human rights-focused movement.

Priorities – women, African descendants, indigenous movements. Not only focused on the US, nor on the South

WRFG in Atlanta, AG.
Only station with open doors for those that are always marginalized from mainstream media.
2 hour weekly program.
use media to support organizations in US Human Rights Network

Produce “This week in people’s history” – links whatever issue going on in a region back 100 years. (Not what happened this week then, but what happened then that matters to what happened this week in the present.) In English and Spanish

Upcoming projects
- radio theater in Spanish


Unwanted replication of divisions within the region, especially based on language.

Latin America has taken the lead on public and community radio, but Caribbean access is more limited.

Community radio under attack – cuts in funding, listener support suffers from economic downturn, limited access in rural areas

Gowth and International Political Scope


Radio Insurgente – now linking to Caribbean struggles through people’s history.

Afro Venezuelan Network – sharing content

Colombia Guerrila Network

Points to Ponder

he question of all and limitations of many

what happens with Community Radio?

Funding Gap and a people centered human rights movement as an organizing and political educational tool?



Another media system is possible, it is bound up with justice. Not in opposition to reform, but a visionary understanding of how media is bound up with justice.

A US-based civil rights movement on its own is insufficient.

How can we use the US Social Forum?


Josue Guillen from Mayfirst and the co-chair of communications working group for US Social Forum

We create relationships by working on things together. We create networks by building relationships by working on things together. So we need to come together to get 20,000 people to the US Social Forum in Atlanta, June 29, 30.

Meet for lunch on Saturday at 1 o’clock in the lobby of the Marriott to discuss US Social Forum.

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