Christie gets his buddy back!

MONDAY, JANUARY 13, 2014

Ways to make story grow: When the press corps invents a Standard Group Story, their work can take several forms.

The main point must be driven, of course. But many less significant, smaller points will make the story that much better—more pleasing, more satisfying to the target audience.

When Bill Clinton got it on with Miss Lewinsky, the claim that she was a “21-year-old intern” made the story vastly better. When the corps decided to slime Candidate Gore, the claim that he grew up in a fancy hotel was extremely pleasing.

Gore didn’t grow up in a fancy hotel; Lewinsky wasn’t 21. But when the guild constructs a Standard Tale, it will often invent bogus facts.

Regarding the lane closings at Fort Lee, we assume that investigations will shed light on what happened. We may even learn, in a definitive manner, why the lanes were closed.

That said, the topic has reached a critical mass. For that reason, a Standard Group Story is being created right before our eyes. As part of that story, we have been told that David Wildstein, who shut the lanes down, was Chris Christie’s “high school buddy”—even his “best friend from high school,” even a “childhood friend.”

Last Thursday, Christie went on at length at his press event, saying these claims aren’t true. We have seen no one refute his statements. Below, we’ll quote some of Steve Kornacki’s confirmation of the things Christie said.

For one brief shining moment last Thursday night, the claims on this minor point stopped. Christie said it wasn’t true and the bullpucky briefly stopped.

But sure enough! Last Friday night, Chris Hayes started all over again. This was part of his program’s opening presentation. The transcript still hasn't been posted:
HAYES (1/10/14): With each day, the number of people involved in New Jersey`s house of cars gets bigger. To fully understand the drama, you better know who the characters are.

First, the main actor, David Wildstein. He’s been pretty quiet lately.

WILDSTEIN (videotape): I respectfully assert my right to remain silent.

HAYES: Wildstein is the Christie appointee who responded, got it, when asked to start a Fort Lee traffic jam. Yes, Wildstein and Christie are old high school chums. But now, the governor wants a little distance...
Just like that, Governor Christie had his “high school chum” back!

We were struck by this reinstatement for several reasons. The previous night, Hayes had seemed to drop this claim in the face of Christie’s denials.

On Thursday night, Hayes dropped his previous buddy claims, substituting a statement which was technically accurate: “Wildstein went to high school with Chris Christie.”

One night later, the earlier claim was back. There was no attempt to demonstrate that Christie’s denials were wrong.

Hayes is generally considered to be one of the fresh-faced new honest brokers on MSNBC. We can’t tell you why he chose to restore Wildstein’s status as an “old high school chum.”

As we noted earlier today, the New York Times played the same card this morning, right there on page one. The Times has a much wider reach that Hayes; they too drove this bullshit along.

Absent some attempt at explanation, we regard this as what it is—political lying. On the brighter side, it does make the story work better.

We’ve learned to expect this from the Times. In the case of Hayes, we’ve been disappointed to see some of the ways he has been reinvented since he was moved to prime time.

New Jersey isn’t for lovers: On Saturday morning, Steve Kornacki discussed this very point.

Kornacki knows New Jersey politics. Beyond that, he was willing to tell the truth, an excellent way to do business.

At one point, Kornacki actually worked for Wildstein, on a journalistic enterprise. This is what Kornacki said about those high school days:
KORNACKI (1/11/14): David Wildstein resigned from the Port Authority a month ago. And if you heard or read about him at all since then, you’ve probably heard or read him described as Christie’s long-time friend, Christie`s high school buddy.

But here’s what Christie had to say about that on Thursday.

CHRISTIE (videotape): David and I were not friends in high school. We were not even acquaintances in high school. We didn’t travel in the same circles in high school. You know, I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time.

KORNACKI: And here’s what I can say about that. I can actually pretty much vouch for that, pretty much vouch for what Chris Christie’s saying there, because no one who knew Christie and Wildstein in their high school days describes them as friends from back then. And I can tell you that when I worked with Wildstein on our Jersey political news site, there was never any reason for me to suspect that he had any kind of a relationship with Chris Christie.
Kornacki went on at substantial detail about the various players in this mess. He added more information about the lack of a friendship between Wildstein and Christie.

Along the way, he confirmed another statement from Christie’s press conference. He said Wildstein was working at the Port Authority because he was a friend of Bill Baroni, not because of his non-friend Christie himself.

This morning, on page one, the Times said nuts to all that. That said, the Times is currently crafting a Standard Story, something it’s done many times in the past. If past behavior is any guide, they will continue to lie in your faces, tilting their pleasing new story in the ways they prefer.

Why did Hayes revert to that claim? We can’t tell you that. But could it be? Are you now allowed to repeat a false claim as long as you frame it like this?
HAYES (1/10/14): With each day, the number of people involved in New Jersey`s house of cars gets bigger. To fully understand the drama, you better know who the characters are.

First, the main actor, David Wildstein. He’s been pretty quiet lately.

WILDSTEIN (videotape): I respectfully assert my right to remain silent.

HAYES: Wildstein is the Christie appointee who responded, got it, when asked to start a Fort Lee traffic jam. Yes, Wildstein and Christie are old high school chums. But now, the governor wants a little distance.

CHRISTIE (videotape): I was the class president and athlete. I don’t know what David was doing during that period of time.

HAYES: Wildstein was elected to his local school board at 16 and served a term as mayor of Livingston, New Jersey, before he was 30.
In a way, that's even worse. It almost makes it sound like you’re saying that Christie was lying.

That said, are you now allowed to make a false claim if you instantly play tape of the principle semi-denying it? In this case, it must be said, Hayes wasn’t even honest enough to play the part of the tape where Christie denied the “old chum” claim quite directly.

Let’s call it bad staff work!

On its face, that presentation was a bit on the dishonest side. In our view, Hayes has been reinvented in several ways since he got moved to prime time.

In fairness, the suits tell talent to change. A great deal is at stake.

58 comments:

  1. On Saturday morning, I wrote this under his "21-year-old intern" post:

    "He's found his new "Zimmerman." He hasn't attracted this much attention and traffic since, well, Zimmerman.

    "And he will be scouring MSNBC transcript for anything said that didn't turn out 100 percent accurate by his pristine standards. Then he'll run to his blog to expose the latest case of egregious journalistic malfeasance."

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  2. By all means, let's get to the bottom of the Christie-Wildstein friendship.

    Meanwhile, for those interested in an interesting analysis of the real long-standing widespread press "script" re: Christie, Eric Boehlert:

    http://mediamatters.org/blog/2014/01/09/how-the-media-marketed-chris-christies-straight/197500

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    Replies
    1. I also recommend this:

      http://prospect.org/article/choosing-right-filter-presidential-image-making

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    2. Yes, excellent like to the Prospect story.

      One would think that of all blogs, TDH would be rejoicing that the previous "narrative" that made Chris Christie a national figure and a leading contender for president is now "no longer operative" and that the truth does -- sometimes -- have a way of emerging.

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    3. That would be nice except we don't yet know what the truth is about this matter.

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    4. We don't know the whole truth because powerful people don't want us to know it, including some DEM "leaders". We do know Christie claimed during his magnum opus that he just didn't much care about the traffic study thingy until the world fell out from under his ass, then he was angry and sad and stuff. But we also know he made a personal call to the DEM guv of NY to ask for suppression of investigation. This is not a Sherlock-level observation of self-contradiction. Some people hate the messenger so much they hate whatever message.

      Delete
  3. Apparently, the Howler missed this that showed up the same day as Hayes' blurb. Not definitive, and maybe not enough to justify the word "chums," but enough to make it wrong for the Howler to call what Hayes said "false." The Howler should be more careful with the language he uses.
    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116177/chris-christie-did-know-david-wildstein-high-school-coach

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    1. You think the athletes pay any attention to whatever geeky kid compiles the team statistics? You think one of the athletes would remember who did that decades later? That is like considering the band members and the team best friends because they too are on the playing field together. Ditto for the kids who carry the equipment bags or provide the water. They are considered wannabe's and hanger-ons and are not on the radar of the key players in high school social circles. Further, why would a high school coach remember this (or even keep records of who was statistician back in the day)? Can you say "politically motivated"? And why do we trust a tenuously connected person like this coach instead of Christie's own memory of who he knew? Is everything he says automatically wrong because he is a Republican and it would be nice if he didn't become a presidential candidate? Where did sanity go?

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    2. Did anyone say it is automatically wrong? Is it your logic that since it should not be assumed he is not telling the truth, it therefore should be assumed that he is and his words should not be examined?

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    3. In the absence of evidence that a major public figure is lying, I do think he should be given the benefit of an assumption of truthfulness. Sort of like the way people are assumed to be innocent until proven guilty.

      Having two standards, one for Republicans and another for Democrats, is pretty much a definition of partisan bias. Examining even tangential statements seems like kind of a waste of energy. For one thing, people who dislike Christie already think he is a liar and those who like him aren't going to be persuaded by this nonsense about whether he knew Wildstein or not. And none of this matters at all unless you can link Christie to the bridge lane closures -- which still hasn't been done at all. Shouldn't that be where the energy belongs?

      Delete
  4. How quickly blogger forgets his noble burden - black kids - when a self-administered spanking exposed his red ass for all the world to see and he is obsessively trying to cover it.

    I think the "trolls'" work is done here. Whether this guy continues to blog or not he cannot recover credibility, except among the 2,3 or 5 hardcore loyalists.

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    Replies
    1. Bob certainly is reduced to a self-parody.

      Delete
    2. I couldn't agree more that the point has been made, the blogger has been put in his place and the entire enterprise has sailed past the rubicon full steam ahead into obscurity ocean. Don't worry about the dead ladies in Fort Lee Bob! The first paragraph of the NYT was correct and Hayes was correct.

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    3. TDH's skepticism about a few of the aspects of the Librul media's coverage of this scandal crosses the line and should be deemed verboten. Is there some way we can all join forces to tar and feather him?

      Delete
    4. "A few of the aspects"?

      When this story began to break nationally last month, Bob devoted multiple posts as to how the entire thing was ginned up and phony.

      He went so far as to call Maddow and I quote, a "partisan hack" who was fully in service to the DNC and (I quote again) "some Republicans and conservatives" to bring down Christie.

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    5. No, he didn't say that. He complained that Maddow was going beyond the evidence in her statements. That is not the same as calling the "entire" thing "ginned up and phony."

      Maddow is a partisan hack.

      Delete
    6. Hey Anonymous @ 7:14

      Please poke a couple of eyeholes in that sock you are wearing.

      "This time-killing, exciting diversion tells you nothing about the substance of this currently pointless story. Rachel figured you wouldn't see that.

      Rachel Maddow is Fox." TDH 12/16

      "Finally, she got to the “issue” at hand—the massively ginned-up controversy about lane closings at the George Washington Bridge" TDH 12/16

      "At any rate, Maddow devoted the second half of her program to this so far pointless story, which still doesn’t seem to involve Christie in any particular way TDH 12/17

      I must admit I could not yet locate the word phoney. Will "pimping piddle" come close enough?

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    7. Ah, but that was Bob THEN, and it is "no longer operative."

      Bob now is "Christie and Wildy didn't even know each other in high school. Christie himself says so."

      And "Well, it could have still been a legit traffic study gone wrong. We don't know."

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  5. Bob, you better jump into the comments at New Republic because they've got it all wrong:

    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/116177/chris-christie-did-know-david-wildstein-high-school-coach

    Remember, Christie claimed they weren't even "acquaintances" in high school. Though that was a contradiction of his claim to have met Wildstein volunteering on political campaign during high school...I guess they were not even acquaintances in multiple settings.



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    1. Wildstein sat on the bench keeping score. So did everyone in the bleachers. Why on earth would Christie, playing in the game, pay any attention to Wildstein or what he was doing? There is no personal connection between the two. There is no reason why Christie would remember Wildstein was team statistician because there wouldn't have been any contact between them while doing their two activities. This is a huge stretch trying to paint Christie (and Somerby) as liars. New Republic should be ashamed to be promoting this stuff.

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    2. Nobody in baseball cares about stats. Certainly not the players. The class politican behind the plate didn't need no four eyed geek to tell him when he was in a slump.

      As Mayor Sokolich said when asked about Christie's campaign manager calling him an idiot. "I doan know da guy. I doan wanna know dat guy."

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    3. You must not have played any sports. Do you actually think someone like Christie -- or for that matter, any politician -- wouldn't have been lobbying with the team statistician for a bobble of his grounder by the opponent's shortstop to recorded as a hit because it was too hot to handle?

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    4. People in baseball care about state but nobody cares about who keeps them. I used to do this in high school myself. I was paid to do it as a part-time job for local little league teams too. Nobody knew I was doing it except the person who paid me. No one ever lobbied for anything to be changed. I did once see an umpire split his pants, though.

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    5. Anybody who has a politician's mindset (and Christie was already volunteering for campaigns) would consider the people associated with a team to be at least "acquaintances." Christie denied that Wildstein was even an acquaintance after saying that he had met him while working on a political campaign in high school--so, unless Christie is allowed to redefine ordinary English vocabulary, they were certainly acquaintances.

      Delete
  6. OMB (Still Defending BOB's brilliance Part 3)

    There are two big fat holes in the Script that have gone unnoticed.

    1) Christie was not high school buddies with Wildstein.

    2) Sokolich first didn't recall being asked to endorse Christie.

    Only two have had the courage to stand up and point these two fatal flaws out at length. First Chris Christie and now our One True BOB.

    KZ


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  7. I get it, they were not high school chums, so give the media a demerit on that. However, whether they were high school chums or not does not change the basic story here. This was a tangent. Yes, the media does this stuff all of the time, but in this case it is not germane to the basic story.

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    1. When you add up all the little details being fabricated in order to convey a certain impression, you are dealing with propaganda not reporting. One detail here or there incorrect is not a big deal. A bunch of details all contributing to a particular impression is journalistic malfeasance. So, this is a matter of intent and scale, not just a simple mistake. So, yes, it is germane to this event.

      Delete
    2. OMB (As Uncle Walter Said, And That's The Way It Is)

      You are correctamundo, Mr. Snipes.

      Note to Howler readers.

      BOB 'thinks you’re very dumb: How dumb does' BOB think you are?

      BOB 'thinks you’re very dumb:'

      BOB: "When Bill Clinton got it on with Miss Lewinsky, the claim that she was a “21-year-old intern” made the story vastly better. When the corps decided to slime Candidate Gore, the claim that he grew up in a fancy hotel was extremely pleasing.

      Gore didn’t grow up in a fancy hotel; Lewinsky wasn’t 21. But when the guild constructs a Standard Tale, it will often invent bogus facts.

      ......
      That said, the topic has reached a critical mass. For that reason, a Standard Group Story is being created right before our eyes. As part of that story, we have been told that David Wildstein, who shut the lanes down, was Chris Christie’s “high school buddy”—even his “best friend from high school,” even a “childhood friend.”"

      'If you say so!'

      'Losers, guess what?' The relationship between the catcher and the team statistician in high school has nothing to do with this story. Christie's batting average was not covered up, only the decision to deny easy 'access to the bridge from the town of Fort Lee.

      This time-killing, exciting diversion tells you nothing about the substance of this currently pointless story.

      Rachel,' oops, BOB 'figured you wouldn't see that.

      Somebody or other 'is Fox.'

      KZ

      Delete
  8. Somebody subpoena Wilding's senior class yearbook before he destroys it. Let the world see what, if anything, Christie wrote in it.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I liked the one calling him Wildthing.

      Delete
  9. "Thanks for pushing me past .300 in my senior year!"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Fat jokes are beneath trolls.

      Delete
  10. He now seems to have joined the "the moonlanding was a fake (script?)" crowd.

    He has been asking for it, and got it but good. But now he is down and we "trolls" should stop kicking at least temporarily to give him a chance to come to his senses.

    ReplyDelete
  11. To be filed away under "to err is human"

    Joan Walsh at Salon:

    "I saw Buono at an MSNBC studio last week, and I apologized to her for not doing my job – for assuming Christie was a shoo-in and mostly ignoring the New Jersey gubernatorial election, paying attention to closer races. I hope a lot of Democrats are doing the same. Mostly, though, I hope the media can learn a lesson from its Christie fever, but that’s even less likely."

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  12. What does any of this have to do with black kids?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The black running backs of New England will play in the Meadowlands while Brady teaches us about climate change?

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  13. OMB (Your Howler Gets Results)

    We kepot scratching our royal heads wondering when we first heard that Wildstein was a high school pal of Chris Christie. Then we remembered the very first place we read it.

    It was a dark and stormy night. Friday the 13th of December. There under the glaring subhead it stood:

    "Here's the background:

    Back in September, a minor New Jersey official had closed three lanes of traffic from Fort Lee onto the George Washington Bridge. This created a week-long traffic jam which crippled the town of Fort Lee.

    The minor official was a high school friend of Christie’s. First, the minor official lied about why he had done this weird, stupid, dangerous thing. Last week, though, he resigned his post with the Port Authority."

    BOB Somerby December 13, 2013 "Maddow Proves It All Night Long"

    As a famous man once said while writing about this very same high school bro-mance,

    "Once you let these people start, they’ll just keep improving the facts. This includes the little facts which make a story work better. When the other party corrects their mistakes, they act like he is being petty. This is the way the con works."

    KZ

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    Replies
    1. He was relaying background reported in the news before Christie issued his correction about his relationship with Wildstein.

      You only heard Wildstein described as Christie's high school friend when relayed by Bob has what's been reported?

      Really?...

      Really!?

      Evidently, your chief source of info must be Somerby because that description was repeated frequently in the media.

      You need stop being so obsessed with Somerby and get out more, groupie.

      Delete
    2. Oh, I see. Somerby was merely repeating what others were saying without first checking it out to see if it were true.

      Thanks for clearing that up, Cecelia.

      Delete
    3. Somerby does not have the clout to call Christie's office, or Wildstein's attorney and get a call back with that info.

      He depends on the media just as we do.

      That's the p

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    4. Cecelia, unlike BOB we don't have Nexis on Doom.

      But it's good to see coach put you back in on defense. How was the rain at Gillete?

      KZ

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    5. What? The Pioneer of Political Blogging can't get anyone to return his phone calls? I vaguely remember U.S. Attorney Chris Christie's office spoonfeeding "scoops" to some blogger working under the nom de plume of "Wally Edge," but you will no doubt explain that as well for me.

      Or . . . Bob thought then that the issue of their actual relationship in high school was so inconsequential that he would simply repeat it.

      Or . . . (Cecelia version) that it was consequential but because he knew nobody would return his phone calls to check it out, he'd simply repeat what he read anyway without bothering.

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    6. Yes, Kzzzzzzzz, I'm sure the nature of Christie's relationship with Wildstein was just all over Nexus.

      Good to know Somerby has a Nexus. Is that why he's your soul source for info?

      Delete
    7. Anon9:48pm, Somerby repeated it because that was the reported Christie background in the media.

      That was the media's frame of reference on the story when Somerby wrote about how the story was being covered and whether the reported facts justified Maddow's many teasings of Christie segments.



      Delete
    8. Yes, Cecelia, we get it. Bob, that great hound dog of narrative, is excused from repeating what he read elsewhere. How was he to know until Christie told him otherwise?

      Now to others with functioning brains, "is it possible" that this is yet another mote/beam, "Do as I say, not as I do"?

      Nope. Can't be. It is only a mortal sin when others said Christie and Wildstein were high school chums.

      But let's take Christie at his word. The coach of that team remembers statistician Wildstein fondly -- even said he was a valued member of the team who provided important information.

      Star athlete and class president Chris Christie couldn't be bothered with him. What a dick!

      Delete
    9. You needed the coach to tell you Christie is a jerk?

      You seem to be unable to understand the difference between Somerby talking about what has been reported in order to make a point on the narrators of the report, from Somerby actually reporting news himself.

      His point was where the media was coming from. And yes, he's a blogger who does not have the resources of big media.

      Delete
    10. "Somerby repeated it because that was the reported Christie background in the media."

      Yes, and Somerby has spent his entire blogging career writing about how reliable media "background" reports are.

      You know, even Richard Nixon had the decency to praise Haldeman and Ehrlichmann while he was throwing them under the bus.



      Delete
    11. "You needed the coach to tell you Christie is a jerk?"

      No, I'm not the one taking Christie's word at face value.

      Delete
    12. Well, is Steve Kornaki just taking Christie's word at face value?

      He worked with Wildstein and says there's no evidence that the two men are close.

      Delete
    13. Cecelia, where we take Christie at face value is when he said the relationship between the two in high school matters little.

      To us it is much like Rachel correcting her error about the ranking given to the GW Bridge by virtue of its traffic volume. BOB seems to be the one making this matter, just like that one, into a major point. It is an error which fits his narrative. He just hasn't called anyone "losers" over the issue. Yet.

      What is different about this than the Maddow traffic volume point is that Maddow was in the process of making a correction for which BOB took her and her loser viewers to task. BOB has yet to correct his minor one about the nature of the relationship between Christie and Wildstein.

      KZ

      The difference be.

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  14. So, the thrust of this article seems to b that Christie was as oblivious to his surroundings then as he is now. I've never heard of a 16-yr old on a school board, you would think a future governor would be connected enough in HS to hear about such a thing. And that a sitting governor would be aware of the actions of key members of his administration.

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    1. Wonder if Wildstein was some sort of nerd student-representative on the school board.

      One of those geeky guys some us regret always shooting down when they asked us out in high school.

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    2. Right, Cecelia. "Geeks" that the cool kids like you and Christie couldn't be bothered with.

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    3. Speak for yourself. I just was more interested in the failed musician type.

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  15. Wonder how Somerby will deal with theWSJ photo of the tiny high school reunion Governor Christie had with his not-high-school-friend on 9/11/13 at ground zero while traffic on the brigde was uneffected.

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