Modern Journalism for a Modern Society

 

A story in three photos –

In the issue of 12-17 April, the New Statesman published an article by George Eaton, joint deputy editor, on the Conservative philosopher Roger Scruton.

On April 10th, George Eaton tweeted what he called “a series of outrageous remarks” by Roger Scruton. The four tweets by George Eaton certainly had an immediate effect on social media – racism, Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, homophobia: Roger Scruton was guilty of it all according to Eaton.

Only the supposed quotes from Roger Scruton seemed to be wholly out of context and appeared to have been manipulated. Did anybody try to find out whether Roger Scruton had actually said any of the things he was accused of saying? No. This is not how things work anymore.

There was a twitter storm and it raged for a while.

The Labour Party and several leading Conservative figures immediately demanded that ministers remove Scruton from his unpaid position as chairman of the government’s Building Better, Building Beautiful commission.

A mere four hours after the article appeared, James Brokenshire, the housing secretary, dismissed Scruton. Without talking to him, without asking for his side of the story. James Brokenshire sacked Roger Scruton based on a series of inflammatory tweets, and nothing else.

Eaton posted on his personal Instagram account a picture of himself drinking champagne, clearly as way of celebration.

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If anybody was in any doubt that Roger Scruton had been the victim of a hit-job, this was proof, of sorts.

(George Eaton later deleted and apologised for the Instagram post.)

Luckily there are still people with honour and integrity in the journalism world. Douglas Murray (I adore him), a friend of Roger Scruton took up the fight to clear the philosopher’s name. He repeatedly called for the full transcript of the interview to be published, a call that was not answered. Meanwhile, George Eaton had suddenly gone very quiet on social media.

 

Eventually, Douglas Murray somehow got his hands on the transcript of the interview which revealed Roger Scruton had been smeared in the most appalling fashion. He had been deliberately misrepresented, his reputation tarnished by…a journalist… who works for a major magazine. Is it any wonder people don’t trust the mainstream media anymore?

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I can’t even begin to explain how angry this whole debacle made me. As a person who values truth, integrity – as a qualified journalist myself who was told every single day without fail when I was training that: “accuracy is everything” – I was disgusted by it all. I still am, actually.

I was ecstatic when Douglas Murray published his article clearing Roger Scruton. So much so I indulged in being petty and replicated the ‘George Eaton gloating champagne pic’ for Twitter – twice – with the caption: “The feeling when Douglas Murray exposes the duplicity of George Eaton in an excellent piece that should hopefully deter other ‘journalists’ from distorting, lying and trying to destroy the reputation of anyone, let alone one of our finest minds.”

Petty? Yes, but I couldn’t resist. incidentally, that second pic is the first drunk pic of me to ever make it on the internet (Facebook doesn’t count)

 

I had booked tickets to go and see Roger Scruton and Douglas Murray talk in London before George Eaton published his ‘article.’ I had been looking forward to it but the event took on a special importance after the scandal. The evening wasn’t just about listening to two highly interesting people anymore, it was about showing support for a man with a very fine mind who had been needlessly demonised.

And it was a delightful evening – I was (without exaggeration) glowing when I left. Roger Scruton came on and was given a standing ovation. The love and respect for the philosopher in the room was almost tangible. He touched on the whole scandalous story of course, without bitterness – he was actually wonderfully magnanimous considering he hasn’t received a proper apology from anyone who was so quick to condemn him based on nothing more substantial than a few tweets. 

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I have to ask: what kind of a society have we become when journalists deliberately entrap others, when journalists are happy to lie, to smear, to demonise…and to gloat about the result of such despicable actions. When people in governments make decisions to sack someone without knowing the full story, without even bothering to speak to the person they employ, a person who has an outstanding reputation as a philosopher and writer.

I am so angry about the left’s methods which have gathered momentum in the last couple of years. No debate, but lies instead. No discussion but name-calling.

If they can do this to a respected philosopher, what chance do the rest of us have?

After a prolonged absence, George Eaton is back – he has apparently been demoted but the real scandal is the fact he wasn’t actually sacked. He is a disgrace to journalism and clearly an appalling human being. Journalists have always been guilty of bias, they’ve always been known to flirt with misrepresentation and even lies…but we’ve achieved a whole new level of deception that is just unacceptable.

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We are living in dark times, anybody who cares about truth and freedom of speech should be very worried – we have a duty to fight back against this tidal wave of sheer hysteria, self-righteousness and authoritarianism that has infected everything. 

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Staring down the barrel – How To Start a New Novel

Please go and like the original post – thank you 🙂

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

“Ideas are like rabbits. You get a couple and learn how to handle them, and pretty soon you have a dozen.” John Steinbeck

To be honest this should read how to start a new blog, as I’m sure I’ve started one like this before. Yes. All writers have been here before: the hinterland between the joy of completing a novel and the niggling sense that it’s time to start another. Life basically becomes a decision between buying a dog, or writing a new novel. Mind you a book doesn’t plead to be walked or fed, although it does rest its head on your lap and look up at you expectantly; wondering when you’re going to do something. I only ever had the ambition to write one book, I thought that would be enough, but it’s strangely addictive.

Unfinished Business was published last month as a continuation of the Life Assistance…

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Game of Thrones: all style and no substance

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Game of Thrones…

WHY?

Why do this to us? We invested so much into the show and have been treated with utter contempt in return.

Let’s start with Daenerys. So many people are spitting mad she is now “the insane queen”.

I’m sorry, but she was always destined to become exactly that. The only problem I have with her burning everything to the ground is that this season was incredibly rushed and we don’t see the progression of her state of mind clearly enough. But it was always on the cards. Dany has consistently shown pride and arrogance, an utter belief in her “right” to rule. She never showed any mercy in the past when she thought people didn’t accept her birth right. She ultimately suffers from that god-awful self-righteousness that affects so many people who see themselves as “good” – they make the best tyrants because they believe that anything is justified when it comes to ridding the world from “bad” people. God knows I’ve seen enough of this in real life in the last 2 years, I’ve been abused and bullied by so many who preach “love, not hate” simply because I disagree with them. That’s not kindness, it’s a horrifying sense of their own moral superiority which drives them. But I digress, revenons à nos moutons.

Jon Snow or Aegon Targaryen…it makes no difference: he knows nothing. I have grown so annoyed with him in the last few episodes. Leaving aside the fact there’s NO chemistry between him and Dany and their relationship has been unbelievable from the start and no more than a convenient plot point, what the hell was he doing indulging a woman who clearly cares more about the throne than their relationship? Also, does it not strike anyone as odd that incest has not been mentioned at all, not at any point since Jon discovered who he really was? Not once. Dany immediately begged him not to tell anyone, he refused at which point she turned frostier than all the combined ice queens throughout history…but he or she never said: oh, hey, we’re family and we’re…you know…having sex…maybe we should think about that…FOR AT LEAST A COUPLE OF SECONDS! But no, clearly incest is fine in this case even though the whole realm was in bits over Cersei and Jaime…okay.

So Jon watched with a stupid expression on his face when Dany started to let loose in the city and her ‘army’ suddenly turned into bloodthirsty savages. The breaker of chains was now a burner of children and Jon was nonplussed, as if he really, REALLY didn’t see that coming.

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I have championed Jon for years, but this last season has led me to think that maybe he doesn’t deserve the throne anymore than that crazy arrogant bitch does. That’s an exaggeration actually, but he better redeem himself by killing her in the last episode – I won’t be satisfied with anything less.

As for Tyrion. He’s meant to be a smart man, he’s been one of my favourite characters because of it…and yet, he betrays Varys and chooses the wrong side …then we have to endure the camera lingering on his shocked and horrified face…what I was doing when that happened was shouting (quietly, it was almost 3am and other reasonable people in my house were sleeping) “what are you looking so shocked about? Is it because you realise you misplaced your brain?? You stupid fuck!”

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The fact he also thought Cersei would “give up” if she thought the city was lost made no sense whatsoever. Does he NOT know his sister by now??

Varys…he deserved better, he really did. Again, if they hadn’t rushed this season we would have seen him think long and hard about whether Dany was fit to rule or not…he might have agonised over it…it would have taken time because, well, these things do and it’s Varys ffs, he isn’t the type to be impatient or make decisions in haste…and yet from one episode to the next he decided the woman he had gone through so much to support wasn’t actually right for the role he had envisioned for her and he went straight to Jon with this…absolutely ridiculously stupid.

Are we REALLY meant to believe Varys would immediately betray Dany and that Tyrion would also immediately betray Varys?? Give us some credit, it flies in the face of everything we know about the characters.

The dragons…last week we lost one in about 20 seconds as a ballista seemed super accurate and destructive. Three shots managed to bring down a powerful moving target…JUST LIKE THAT.

Never mind the fact Dany and her advisers should have been prepared for some kind of attack as they were nearing King’s Landing, NEVER MIND THAT, nobody thinks anymore because the writers wanted to be done with Game of Thrones once and for all…so last week we lost a dragon quickly and effortlessly, there was no strategy in place, no scouts had been sent ahead like they’ve been since the dawn of time in those kind of, you know, WAR situations. Fast forward to last night and a ballista is ALL OF A SUDDEN totally ineffective – like it should have been last week – and the last remaining dragon now has a super duper instinct and is dodging everything aimed at it with NO problem whatsoever. Hmmm, ok.

Cersei…waiting with a faint smile on her face, confident af and I have to tell you, I was SURE she had some kind of brilliant plan in place. She must have had, right? She’s displayed such cunning in the past, she’s smart, there’s no way she’d just wait for a dragon to come swooping down burning everything to the ground…right?

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WRONG. Turns out there was NO plan, none whatsoever. The wildfire that had been put to such good use in the past may as well not have existed. Oh, it appeared, but as an afterthought, because the dragon ignited it as it was rampaging through the city. Could I have rolled my eyes any harder?? 

I was asked to believe that this brilliant if flawed woman had lost her capacity for thinking too. No, no and no. Come the fuck on.

So I watched as the confident smile turned into a worried frown… then into a face betraying fear…then eventually into tears. Lena Headey is SUCH a brilliant actress, she can convey more with her face than most people with pages of dialogue…she deserved SO much better than this.

Jaime…that fight with Euron (how the fuck did he survive btw, another stupid thing in a long line of them) was contrived and utterly ridiculous…he somehow found his way to Cersei at the end of it…and he died with the woman he loved in his arms. How touching. But wait…THAT Jaime who knighted Brienne and had sex with her? That Jaime who stayed behind in Winterfell until he SUDDENLY decided he had to go and be with the love of his life after all?? Yeah, that one, because the writers yet again wanted to end all this as quickly as possible and destroyed all the character building that had gone on for entire seasons.

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My favourite bit last night was the scene between Tyrion and Jaime btw, it reminded me of a time when GoT actually made sense and could be emotional and didn’t try hard to steamroll my favourite characters.

CleganeBowl was great too but once again it was part of an episode that packed far too much in. It kind of diminished something that had been coming for a LONG time.

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I’m not sure what they were doing with Arya, I think that after she – kind of quickly and easily gave up on her revenge plans – served mainly as a witness to the horrors visited upon King’s Landing’s inhabitants…all the people Dany is supposed to care about, the poor, the powerless, the REAL people.

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I most probably left lots of stuff out, but to conclude: last night’s episode LOOKED great: the dragon unleashing hell, the carnage, the blood, the buildings collapsing, the people screaming, the burning bodies, the ash, the dust…visually, I can’t really fault it. But that’s all it was, style and no substance. Which might satisfy some people but most of us care a great deal more about content.

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I am so, SO disappointed by this last season. I spent the time during the breaks and after the episode messaging with people who all, without any exception, felt as pissed off as I did. We felt CHEATED.

I read this on Twitter and it echoed my own thoughts so much, I’m ending this rant with it:

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For anybody who wants a more measured review, you can check out Tom’s blog: Game of Thrones: The Final Season (NO spoilers)

How to live with Writer’s Block.

By Tom, about writer’s block – please go and like the original, thank you 🙂

Idle blogs of an idle fellow

“Writing about a writer’s block is better than not writing at all”
Charles Bukowski

What awful timing, or perhaps it’s related. My new novel UnfinishedBusiness is published and I’m struck down by what feels like something I don’t want to name, no, not a STD, but writer’s block. Despite a launch party last night that included four Spanish women without  word of english to their name arriving to buy a signed copy of the novel for one of their brothers, I’m looking at Unfinished Business with the sense it was a fluke; never to be repeated.

I can’t recall if I’ve written about writer’s block before, I must’ve blocked it out, which is exactly the sort of crap joke that suggests it’s time to step away from the keyboard and do something else. Anything. Just stop writing. Mind you writers aren’t capable of much else, unless it’s the…

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Midnight Remorse ~ Remord de Minuit

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I get off my throne 

Take off my clothes

I keep my crown

My silver bangles

Get down on the floor

Crawl

A slow

Deliberate animal

I lick my lips, shake my hair

I can see your hands tremble 

Such are our desires

An urge, intense and primal

To play predator and prey 

At times you are my slave

Others I am yours 

We revel

In filth and shame 

Games of pleasure and pain

Now

You stand over me 

Still statue carved in stone

Silent with burning eyes

 

You are already mine – 

 

But my submission 

Its meaning 

My legendary pride 

Discarded

For you, thrown aside

A queen purposefully brought low 

 

makes you even more so

 

Placing the final piece in the puzzle

So complicated and yet so simple

The contract that binds 

Is the one left unsigned

Your hand on my throat 

My fingers in your mouth 

The sharp intake of breath

I expect 

When you’re on the edge

When I know you’re close

Tomorrow

And the days after

I will bleed into your thoughts

Seep in little by little 

Until

The need 

To taste me again 

Takes over 

Colours

With crimson red over monochrome 

Controls

You – body, mind and soul because

 

Mine is the name you can’t say

I am the secret you can’t share

What should have been sunset-lit

But instead

I am your midnight remorse

Je suis ton remord de minuit 

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Once

We escaped gloomy cages

Breathed new air outside the musty pages

Of the books we’d sheltered in

For so long

We were bewitching birds brought back for a single song

Dried butterflies,

Wings untied,

Briefly swelling with life

Drunk on sun & scented promises

The sweet sound of stolen kisses

For a little while, we were allowed

To fly once more – high, above the clouds

It didn’t last

It never does

Alas everything must die

Go back to ashes and dust

But,

I’ll always remember

How once we emerged

From the cocoon of past winters

Notre-Dame

I watched Notre-Dame burn yesterday, I cried and I had to turn away from it – I couldn’t bear it. I read this by the always excellent Douglas Murray, it encapsulates everything I feel and think – he is much more eloquent that I could ever be. This is Douglas for The Spectator: link to the original article is here: https://blogs.spectator.co.uk/2019/04/notre-dames-loss-is-too-much-to-bear/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

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Civilisation only ever hangs by a thread. Today one of those threads seems to have frayed, perhaps snapped. It is impossible to watch the footage coming out of Paris. Like videos of pornographic violence, all that can be done is to groan and turn away. It is not possible to watch the spire of Notre Dame collapse. It is not possible to watch the great cathedral consumed by fire.

Evelyn Waugh once said that in the event of a fire in his house, if he was able only to save his children or his library, he would save his library because books were irreplaceable. Only at a moment such as this is it possible to concede the slightest truth in that remark. Almost anything could be borne rather than the loss of this building.

There will be recriminations, of course. There will be disputes about budgets, and overtime and safety standards and much more. It is worth reading this piece from two years ago about the funding problems that existed around the cathedral’s restoration. But if Notre Dame can burn then all this is as nothing, because it tells us something too deep to bear. As I said a couple of years ago in a book, in some way the future of civilisation in Europe will be decided on what our attitude is towards the great churches and other cultural buildings of our heritage standing in our midst. Do we contend with them, hate them, ignore them, engage with them or continue to revere them? Do we preserve them?

Though politicians may imagine that ages are judged on the minutiae of government policy, they are not. They are judged on what they leave behind: most of all on how they treat what the past has handed into their care. Even if today’s disaster was simply the most freakish of accidents, ours would still be the era that lost Notre Dame.

We would have to tell future generations what it was like, this treasure that we lost. At the start of this decade I was living part of each week in Paris, commuting back and forth to a little flat on the edge of Le Marais. Each time I headed out to the earliest Eurostar on a Monday morning I would see the great cathedral first as I turned into the street. One winter morning heavy snow was falling and as I headed to the station I stopped dead, alone in the street with the cathedral and just drinking in the sight of a building I had seen a hundred times before. When I got into London a friend could see I was just beaming still, radiating far too much joy for such a time of the week. He asked how I was and I remember simply saying, ‘This morning I saw Notre Dame in the snow’. It was like that.

Publication Day for Unfinished Business

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It’s Publication Day for Unfinished Business – how exciting! – so here’s (another) pic of me holding the book a bit earlier today, because that’s definitely what the internet needs.

If you missed my (looong) post about the novel the other day, here it is again: Being a Bookworm and a Beta Reader is Beautiful

You can order Unfinished Business here: Unfinished Business on Amazon

A couple of pics that didn’t make it in the last post: yes, I know, I’m shameless – but this book is soooo good I’m quite happy inundating you all with photos.

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Walk the plank

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Don’t ever be intimidated by groupthink, don’t fall for identity politics, keep resisting the bullshit…

…but if all your attempts to re-establish sanity fail, leave them to it, desert the sinking ship – and do it with honour and dignity. 

Be an authentic Corsair – walk the plank backwards while looking them in the face, so they are fully aware you’re jumping because you want to, not because they are making you.

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Being a Bookworm and a Beta Reader is beautiful

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Last Friday – I had *just* got my copy!

It’s not news that I’m a bookworm, I’ve been reading avidly and collecting books since I was 6. Books always represented escapism and knowledge…but escapism first and foremost.

I’m also in love with language, the way words can be weaved and put together. I studied English, German and Spanish at a high level and taught myself some Italian. Words have always fascinated me, there is something…magical about what I call a “tight line.” In fact I’ve been known to read tight lines several times in a row when I encounter them – I savour them. Yes, I’m one of those people.

Whilst I’ve always been a bookworm, I became a beta reader only (kind of) recently. But I must say it’s been the most amazing experience. To be able to read a chapter or even just a few paragraphs only minutes after they’ve escaped from the writer’s mind and imagination is…well, it’s everything. 

I started reading Unfinished Business by Thomas Hocknell back in 2017 and I was gripped from the start. I can be an impatient type – especially when it comes to books I’m enjoying, I’ll read something I really like in one sitting sometimes – but in this particular case I had no choice but to wait as the novel was far from finished when I first got my hands on it. I must have been a bit of a nightmare because there were numerous occasions when I asked Tom if he’d written anything new, (anything at all, even just a few lines?!) because I was dying to know what happened next. I was urging him to write, poor man – as if he didn’t have a life and other things to do! 

I won’t even pretend I was an ideal beta reader. For all the: “your characters are well fleshed out, this is a gorgeous line, that scene was breathtaking…etc…” there was also: “this situation doesn’t make sense, you’ve got to add some scenes so the connection between those 2 is more believable because right now I’m not buying it, and what was that? he/she wouldn’t say that…etc”

Actually, that is an ideal beta reader – what I meant was that Tom probably wished at times that I was just a little less demanding. 

In any case I’ve been with the novel for quite a while now, all the way to the editing stages and finally publication. It’s coming out in about 10 days and I’ve lost count of the number of times I read it. Which is why it was such an emotional moment when I finally got an actual copy of it last Friday. It might not have been as defining a moment for me as it was for Tom – because, you know, he actually wrote it – but I did feel a little bit like a godparent when a baby comes into the world. It might not be my baby, but I love it all the same and somehow feel responsible for it. 

So I read the novel again – in book form for the first time! – this weekend in my garden. I admit without any shame whatsoever that I cried when I turned the last page. I felt very proud to have played even a small tiny part in the creative process. 

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What kind of a novel is Unfinished Business? I’m fearful to say very much because if I start I will go on and on, and there will inevitably be spoilers (this isn’t meant to be a review as I can’t write them – I invariably say too much)

Let’s refer to the back cover to give you an idea: 

“The Life Assistance Agency finds itself at a loss after returning from Europe.

Ben is determined to stay away from anything involving Angels, when the phone rings to invite him to write the biography of a self-deluded singer from defunct rave group Elev-8.

At his mansion in Sussex they meet the singer’s right-hand man, Billy `blind’ Fury, a retired wrestler, and his beautiful secretary Amber. Both of whom have plans for the Life Assistance Agency far beyond writing down half-recalled anecdotes from the early 90s pop charts…”

If I absolutely had to, I would describe it as a thriller…a thriller which involves the hopeless but v. funny duo Ben and Scott whom we last saw in The Life Assistance Agency – let’s note though that Unfinished Business is a stand alone novel, there really is no requirement to have read the first one to enjoy its sequel. 

So Unfinished Business is a thriller…with a little bit of fantasy, wit and humour, with a love story and deep observations about life, a thriller that’s also incredibly well-written with enough tight lines to satisfy the most demanding literature lovers. Tom consistently blows my mind – and my mind is not at all easily blown – because of his fluency with language, the ease with which he writes perfectly gorgeous sentences that are scattered throughout his manuscript like sparkling stars in an already stunning purple summer sky. 

Oh, look at that, I’m so in awe of his talent I’m getting lyrical myself! 

In all seriousness, what I love about his writing is how he switches between…let’s say self-deprecatory wit and…poetic prose…seemingly effortlessly. I’ll be sitting there smiling at a humorous line when suddenly a little jewel of a sentence comes along to take my breath away. Or there’s a tense scene with guns and immediately afterwards a magnificent description of a pier…or something. 

It’s like: just when you thought you were reading a book that’s actually really funny,  and rather exciting too, the author hits you with the reminder that he can actually write, and write bloody well too. 

Did I digress? I probably did a little…so, revenons à nos moutons as the French say…

To conclude, Unfinished Business is very much along the lines of what P. G. Wodehouse might have written if he was around today – Unfinished Business is P. G. Wodehouse with guns and car chases.

Ultimately, Unfinished Business is a bloody good story – it’s pure blissful escapism…which is the main reason I started reading in the first place. 

You can preorder Unfinished Business here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/gp/aw/d/1912666251/ref=tmm_pap_title_0?ie=UTF8&qid=&sr=

PS: I loved The Life Assistance Agency – Tom’s first book – but I can confidently say that he’s managed to write a second novel that’s better than his first. And yes, it’s ok for me to write this as I’ve already told him…several times – he can’t have minded because he still thanked me in the acknowledgements. 

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