Wednesday, October 31, 2012

WSJ & NYT Thrive, but Newspaper Circulation Declines Overall

A percent sign.
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Audit Bureau of Circulations numbers for the six months ending Sept. 30 show a .2 percent decline in the newspaper industry compared to a year ago, The Wall St. Journal reports.

All is well, however, at the WSJ, the nation's largest newspaper, which experienced a 9.4 percent boost to its daily circulation compared to a year ago, topping out at an average 2.3 million. Its rival, The New York Times, rode a substantial boost in its digital issue circulation, to come in at 1.6 million copies daily, a 40 percent hike over last year's numbers, for the nation's third largest daily.

Overall, digital editions made up 15.3 percent of all U.S. circulation, compared to just 9.8 percent a year earlier.
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Disney to Lucas: 'May the Force & $4b Be With You'

Image representing The Walt Disney Company as ...
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George Lucas, the producer/director behind the Star Wars and Indiana Jones film series and American Graffiti, is $4.05 billion richer following The Walt Disney Co.'s acquisition of San Francisco-based Lucasfilm, the New York Times reported yesterday.

Lucas, 68, the beneficiary of the cash and stock deal, plans to step down from the daily operation of his company. Acquisition of the Lucas Empire brings to Disney a live-action production entity, the Industrial Light & Magic special effects business, Skywalker Sound audio company and a line of consumer products. Disney paid $4 billion for Marvel Entertainment in 2009 and $7.4 billion for Pixar Entertainment in 2006, as it continues to devour superhero and animated film outlets like a Death Star.

Plans are underway, according to Disney CEO Robert A. Iger, to resume the Star Wars film series, on which Lucas will consult, with the next film slated for 2015.  Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (2005) is the most recent film in the blockbuster series.

Although one can go to the well once too often, "TUOL" is looking forward to the 2015 Star Wars film in which Darth Vadar reveals to Donald Duck: "Duck, I am your feather."

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Monday, October 29, 2012

Attack of the Giant Penguin

Looking to offset the surge in electronic books and the growth of Web retail companies such as Amazon and Apple, two media conglomerates, England's Pearson and Germany's Bertelsmann, plan to create the world's largest book publisher, Penguin Random House ("PRH"), the Wall St. Journal reports today.

If it withstands antitrust review, the new entity would represent nearly 25 percent of the world's English-language book sales, according to the WSJ article. Authors who would publish under PRH include John Grisham, Tom Clancy, Toni Morrison and naughtynovelist E.L. James of Fifty Shades of Gray fame.

Bertelsmann will control 53 percent of PRH to Pearson's 47 percent interest in the joint venture. Random House CEO Markus Dohle is expected to oversee the entity and Penguin CEO John Makinson would serve as Chair of PRH, according to the WSJ piece.
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Friday, October 26, 2012

Appeals Judge Won't Allow Fox Chicago Affiliate to SLAPP Away Libel Suit

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In James Ryan v. Fox Television Stations Inc. et al (Case No. 10 L 006258), Illinois appellate court Justice Maureen Connors this week upheld a lower court ruling denying WFLD Fox News Chicago a route to escape a $28 million defamation suit filed by enraged Judge James Ryan via Illinois' anti-SLAPP ("Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation") statute [735 Ill. Comp. Stat. 110/15].

As reported by the THR, Esq. Web site, circuit court judge Ryan was reassigned after being one of the judges targeted in a four-part investigative report by the Chicago Fox affiliate regarding judges' purported lax work habits. The series featured sheriff's logs allegedly depicting courtrooms closing early during work hours and employed hidden cameras to show judges sunbathing and engaging in other decidedly non-jurist activities.

Ryan's suit was prompted by footage allegedly showing a car in the driveway of his home during daytime work hours as narration suggested Ryan had left the courthouse early. Unfortunately for Fox, it was Ryan's neighbor's home and vehicle that was featured in the account.

Ryan sued for defamation, invasion of privacy and intentional infliction of emotional distress and Fox offered an anti-SLAPP defense, which is intended to derail intimidating lawsuits designed to stifle free speech about issues of public interest. Although Justice Connors ceded that a news story in furtherance of free speech was the type of activity warranting anti-SLAPP protection, she ruled against Fox because she didn't believe Ryan's lawsuit was without merit.

Though she tweaked her judicial colleague by questioning how the $28 million damages amount he is seeking could be "factually justified," Justice Connors expressed doubt that Fox's story was "substantially true." She wasn't sold on the proposition that Ryan not being present in courtroom at certain hours equated to neglecting his judicial duties, writing in her opinion that "a judge's official duties do not require a constant presence in the courtroom itself at all times, or even in the courthouse."
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Cruise (Libel) Missile Targets Bauer Publishing

Katie Holmes and Tom Cruise in June 2009.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In Tom Cruise v. Bauer, Inc. et al (Case No. 2:2012-cv-09124), United States District Court for the Central District of California Judge Dean D. Pregerson will hear a defamation suit by the Hollywood superstar against the publisher of In Touch Weekly and Life and Style Magazine whom he accuses of portraying him as a neglectful father.

According to a report by the New York Times, Cruise went ballistic over the cover story of Life & Style last July 30 that featured a photo of his daughter Suri from his marriage to actress Katie Holmes accompanied by the words "Suri in tears, Abandoned by Her Dad," and another cover photo of Suri on the Oct. 1 issue of In Touch captioned "Abandoned by Daddy."

Cruise's suit alleges neither of the inside stories concerning the provocative covers backed the claims that he abandoned his daughter after Holmes filed for divorce in June 2012. The lawsuit seeks more than $50 million in damages.
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Wednesday, October 24, 2012

MTV Generation Gets a Crack at the Prez

With his family by his side, Barack Obama is s...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
MTV's "Power of 12" election promotion received a big boost as President Barack Obama will appear on the network this Friday, Oct. 26, at 5 p.m., where he will respond live for a half-hour to viewers' Facebook questions,'s TV Newser blog reports.

MTV correspondent Sway Calloway will interview the President in the White House while colleague Andrew Jenks chills at a nearby college campus with MTV-lovin' young voters. Viewers in the 18-29 age range potentially are a significant voting bloc, numbering roughly 45 million, though turnout by this age group historically has been spotty.

MTV has extended an invitation to GOP challenger Gov. Mitt Romney for a similar event, but he has yet to respond. "TUOL" wonders whether Gov. Romney thought he'd been invited to address "Mormon Tabernacle Voters" and figured he already had their support.

In any case, "TUOL" is eager to learn whether President Obama favors boxers or briefs (MTV once determined President Clinton preferred boxers, though, unfortunately, he liked them around his ankles). Looking forward to questions such as: "OMG, did you really call Kanye West a jackass? LOL."

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Family Who Sues Together...Daughter Apple(ant) of Her Dad's Eye

Daily News (New York)
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

In what can be seen only as an early Xmas present for New York tabloids the Post and the Daily News, prominent Manhattan attorney Richard Fischbein has sued his 43-year-old attorney daughter Beth Fischbein-Bodner for defamation regarding comments contained in court documents seeking an accounting of a trust he adminsters on her behalf.

Plaintiff Dad is seeking $3 million in punitive damages against his daughter, whom he suggested was ungrateful for his largesse, which he claims includes funding summer travel, private school, college, law school, expensive cars and a job at his firm when she was a newly minted attorney. Although he contends Fischbein-Bodner has routinely received trust-related bank statements, Fischbein alleges his honesty and professional integrity were sullied by her court filing requesting an accounting because of concerns about "waste," "loss of assets" and "self-dealing."

The New York dailies quote a spokesperson for Fischbein who optimistically expects an amicable resolution to the family discord. From a legal standpoint, "TUOL" questions whether the offending statements rise to the level of defamation and whether, in any case, if the remarks are privileged as they appear in a court document. On a more practical note, "TUOL" wonders what Fischbein is going to do when "Take Your Daughter to Work Day" rolls around.
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Monday, October 22, 2012

Newspapers in Brazil: 'Nuts' to Google News

Google Brazil
Google Brazil (Photo credit: kulo)
In an unprecedented action by a newspaper association against search engine leviathan Google, the National Association of Newspapers in Brazil ("ANJ") has urged its 154 member papers that comprise 90 percent of the country's newspaper circulation to abandon Google News.

As reported by the Journalism in the Americas blog of the Knight Center for Journalism in America (, a heated debate at the Inter American Press Assn.'s 68th General Assembly earlier this month in Sao Paulo sparked the ANJ action over Google's continued refusal to compensate papers for use of their headlines. In December 2010, ANJ and the search engine giant agreed that Google would just display the headline and one line from stories that would link to the Brazilian newspapers.

Google argues that Google News channels more than 1 billion clicks to news sites globally to the sites' benefit. News sites, however, consider Google a direct competitor. Serasa Experian, a Brazilian digital marketing firm, reports Google has more than a 92 percent market share among search engines in Brazil.

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Friday, October 19, 2012

ABC's The Bachelor: In Color but not of Color?

The Bachelor (US TV series)
The Bachelor  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In a 23-page Memorandum of Decision, United States District Court for the Middle District of Tennessee Judge Aleta Trauger this week ruled that alleged racially discriminatory casting decisions by ABC for its reality programs The Bachelor and The Bacheorette are protected by the First Amendment.

In the class action suit, Nathaniel Claybrooks & Christopher Johnson v. ABC, Inc. et al. (Case No. 3:12-cv-00388), the plaintiffs claimed that the failure to feature non-white, looking-for-love contestants violated the Civil Rights Act of 1866 [14 Stat. 27] and other non-discrimination legislation. According to reports by the THR, Esq. Web site and the Associated Press, Judge Trauger held that the First Amendment shields the programs' producers and the network's casting decisions from claims that would regulate content.

"[C]asting and the resulting work of entertainment are inseparable and both must be protected to ensure that the producers' freedom of speech is not abridged," Judge Trauger wrote. No word on whether the decision will be appealed.
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Google & France at an Impasse

Fran├žais : Logo du site Google France
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A move to require Internet search engines to pay media sites for displaying links to their content has Google threatening to bypass France's media sites from its search results, Agence France-Presse reports.

Boasting that it directs more than 4 billion clicks to French media Internet sites, Google argued that its own survival would be imperiled by having to pay for content. But Aurelie Filippetti, France's Culture Minister, is among a chorus of government officials who back legislation requiring search engines to pony up for content.

Taxing online advertising revenues was rejected by French lawmakers last year.
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Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Guardian Needs an Angel

LONDON, ENGLAND - NOVEMBER 16:  Alan Rusbridge...
 (Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
The U.K. daily, The Guardian, may soon be an online publication only, according to an article by rival The Telegraph.

As The Guardian faces annual losses of 44 million pounds ($71,145,553) and its parent company, Guardian Media Group ("GMG") contends with its own operating losses of 129 million pounds ($208,548,734), an internal battle over the direction of the publication is being waged, the Telegraph article reports.  Guardian Editor Alan Rusbridger apparently wants to delay ending the print edition until its online version is further developed, while GMG owner, the Scott Trust, according to the More About Advertising Web site, wants to speed the process along to stanch the flow of cash to sustain the print edition.

GMG's holdings include The Guardian, Top Right Group and Trader Media Group. The company has been stymied by employees being slow to accept voluntary buyouts as it attempts to reduce the 650-member editorial workforce by as many as 100 positions.
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Mom & Daughter Give Ex a Good SLAPP in Online Libel Suit

Defamation of character
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
In Chaker v. Mateo, Cal. App. 4th (Case No. D058753 (2012)), the court granted defendants' anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) motion to defeat an online defamation claim. But the underlying principle of the case decided earlier this month and reported by is that Hell hath no fury like an ex-girlfriend and her mother scorned.

A brief dalliance by Darren Chaker and Nicole Mateo produced a child, bitter paternity and custody battles, and two women determined to employ an Internet Web site to share their impressions of the plaintiff.

Negative comments about Chaker's character and his forensics business appeared on a Web site that invited consumers to evaluate the honesty and reliability of service providers and businesses.

When Chaker found comments on the site branding him a criminal, drug-using deadbeat dad whose business engaged in fraudulent conduct, he surmised that Nicole's mom, Wendy, didn't think too highly of him. He also alleged in his defamation suit that Nicole weighed in with negative comments as well. Wendy responded to the suit with an anti-SLAPP motion pursuant to Calif. Code Civ. Proc. sec. 425.16.

The anti-SLAPP analysis requires a court to find that a defendant's actions were in furtherance of her constitutional right of free speech regarding a matter of public concern and that the plaintiff has a likelihood of prevailing on his claim.  In this case, the judge concluded that the offending statements were made in a public forum about a matter of public interest and that Chaker couldn't sustain his burden of proving defamation.

Apparently, in this Internet age, a bouquet of flowers and saying "it's not you, it's me" to a jilted significant other just doesn't cut it.
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Monday, October 15, 2012

Toronto Daily Debuts Digital Edition Paywall Next Week

The Globe and Mail
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The Globe and Mail October 22 rolls out a metered paywall for its digital readers that will allow 10 free articles a month to non-subscribers, the Toronto daily announced.

Those who subscribe to the daily print edition will have unlimited access to the digital version and apps, while weekend paper-subscribers must pony up $4.99 a month for unrestricted viewing. After an introductory one-month for $.99 promotion, current non-subscribers will be charged $19.99 a month for unlimited digital access, according to the Globe and Mail.

Canadian competitor Postmedia Network Inc. already has erected online paywalls on publications including the Vancouver Province and Ottawa Citizen.  Newspapers are increasingly turning to metered payment for online viewing to offset the loss of advertising revenue in traditional print editions. The Globe and Mail article cited a study of U.S. newspapers indicating that presently, only $1 in digital advertising is being generated for each $7 lost in print revenues.
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Friday, October 12, 2012

Supreme Court Leaves Telcom Cos. Shield in Place

The United States Supreme Court.
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The United States Supreme Court this week declined to hear a challenge by the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation to legislation that provides legal immunity to telecommunications companies that assist the National Security Agency in monitoring citizens' email and telephone communications.

The Associated Press reported that the High Court left in place a unanimous ruling by a three-judge panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit on December 29, 2011, that upheld a lower court ruling that the 2008 surveillance rules enacted by Congress were constitutionally permissible.

The rules, which allegedly enabled the intelligence community to engage in warrantless monitoring of Americans' communications, were targeted by the ACLU and EFF in lawsuits against various telecommunications entities, including Sprint Nextel Corp. and Verizon Communications, Inc. that claimed violation of customers' privacy.
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Wednesday, October 10, 2012

UPDATE: Elton John Loses London Times Libel Suit

English: Publicity photo of Elton John from th...
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mr. Justice (Michael) Tugendhat of London's High Court has ruled that a series of London Times articles last June about tax avoidance strategies did not defame singer Sir Elton John, The Guardian reports.

John sued over an article that ran June 21, 2012 entitled Secrets of the Tax Avoiders, that he alleged wrongly linked him to Ingenious Media CEO Patrick McKenna, suggesting McKenna was John's accountant and advised him about circumventing taxes (see "TUOL" post 8/8/12). The rock legend was dissatisfied with a four-line correction that the Times later ran ceding that McKenna was not John's accountant or a second correction that appeared in July saying that Ingenious Media was not implicated in tax avoidance conduct.

Mr. Justice Tugendhat ruled that the language of the Times article was not susceptible to a defamatory meaning. Or as Sir Elton himself once warbled: "Ain't Nothing Like the Real Thing."
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Old Guard Newspaper Owner Sells Tampa Trib to Newspaper Novice Equity Co.

Channelside in Tampa Florida
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The pre-Thanksgiving sales season has begun early, as Los Angeles-based equity investor Revolution Capital Group ("RCG") has acquired the Tampa Tribune from Media General for $9.5 million in what some newspaper analysts are calling a "fire sale."

According to an article by Tribune rival Tampa Bay Times, RCG has established the Tampa Media Group to oversee the Trib, its Web site and affiliated newspapers, in what is RCG's first foray into the newspaper business. Software, manufacturing and telecommunications companies have been RCG's strong suit since its formation three years ago, according to the Times article.  Conversely, the sale, which is expected to yield $2 million net proceeds pre-expenses, signals media conglomerate Media General's severing ties with the newspaper industry after 150 years.

Tribune Publisher William Barker will retain that position under the new ownership. Richmond Newspapers acquired the Tribune in 1966 and subsequently became Media General three years later.
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Penske Persistence Pays Off: Mogul Buys Variety

English: a high rise on Wilshire Blvd in the h...
 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Dutch media conglomerate Reed Elsevier has unloaded the 107-year-old weekly newspaper and "Bible" of the entertainment industry, Vareity, to Penske Media Corp. ("PMC") in an assets purchase deal whose terms were not disclosed, the Web site reports.

PMC CEO and Chair Jay Penske, a 31-year-old Internet media mogul and son of a famous racing family, is adding Variety to a stable that already includes the online MovieLine and HollywoodLife. His quest for Variety (see "TUOL" post 4/29/11) was backed by debt and equity financing from Third Point LLC affiliates, according to the post.

Reed Elsevier oversaw Variety for about a quarter century, following an 80-year stewardship of the trade newspaper by the Silverman family.
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Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Some Stability in Magazine Industry

MADRID, SPAIN - MAY 02:  Spanish magazines sho...
 (Getty Images via @daylife)
Neither celebration nor hand-wringing is called for, as, the largest online database of U.S. and Canadian periodicals, reported the first three quarters of 2012 saw 155 magazines debut, a slight uptick from 151 new titles a year earlier, while only 55 magazines tanked, fewer than a third of the 119 publications that folded in the comparable period of 2011, according to an article by Crain'

Fueled by Fairchild Publications' M and Mississippi-based Mud & Magnolias, lifestyle periodicals helped to stop the hemorrhaging caused by declining ad space and shrinking circulation. The Crain's article cited MediaFinder statistics that 26 digital-only magazines launched during Q3 2012, including business journal Quartz, compared to six online titles that vaporized.
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Doctored Syria Photo Elicits Apology from Austrian Publisher

Kronen Zeitung 17.04.1941
(Photo credit: Claus Rebler)

Austria's largest daily newspaper, Kronen Zeitung ("Krone"), has apologized for running a photo on page 4 of its July 28, 2012, edition depicting a family seemingly escaping from the rubble of war-battered Aleppo in Syria that proved to be a photo-shopped manipulation of two separate images, reports.

Three days after the fake photo appeared, the daily printed a letter of apology from Publisher Christophe Dichand to the  Krone's 2.7 million readers, according to the iMediaEthics post. Apparently, a photo that initially appeared July 26 on the European Pressphoto Agency Web site depicting a family in which a father, accompanied by a woman wearing a hijab, carried a child down a street was made to appear as if the family were fleeing from battle-ravaged Aleppo, where the Syrian army and insurgents have engaged in bloody clashes

Social news Web site Reddit was credited for uncovering the altered dramatic photo.

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Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Actress Sues Film-maker & Others Over "Innocence of Muslims" Role

Image representing YouTube as depicted in Crun...
Image via CrunchBase
In Cindy Lee Garcia v. Google, Inc., You Tube, LLC, Nakoula Basseley Nakoula & Does 1-10 (Case No. 2:12-cv-08315-MWF-VBK), filed this week in the United States District Court for the Central District of California, an actress has alleged copyright infringement [17 U.S.C. sec. 501], libel, fraud and unfair business practices concerning her involvement in the film, The Innocence of Muslims, an amateurish anti-Muslim production blamed for inciting riots in several MidEast countries, Reuters reports.

Garcia, a Bakersfield, California, native, was unsuccessful last week in herattempt to get a California Superior Court judge to enjoin You Tube from posting the 13-minute video. The actress contends she was duped by the trailer's producer, 55-year-old Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, an Egyptian-American Coptic Christian using an alias, Sam Bacile, into believing she was appearing in an adventure film entitled Desert Warrior, rather than a video diatribe that portrays the Islamic Prophet Mohammed as a womanizing buffoon. She alleges some of her dialogue was re-dubbed without her knowledge. Nakoula's filmography is sparse, but his resume does sport a federal bank fraud conviction.

You Tube owner Google has resisted entreaties from the White House to remove the video from You Tube but has blocked it from being viewed in Muslim nations such as Egypt and Libya. Garcia will try to persuade federal Judge Michael W. Fitzgerald that the defendants are infringing on her copyrighted performance by posting the video without her approval, but Google counters that actors are not legally protected against how a film in which they appear is perceived, according to the Reuters account. 

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North County Times Staff to be Slashed by One-Third

English: San Diego Metropolitan Area
(Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Eighty employees, including 24 newsroom staffers at the Escondido, Calif.-based North County Times ("NCT") are being pink-slipped by U-T San Diego owner Doug Manchester, reports.

NCT, the product of a 1995 newspaper merger, was purchased last month by Manchester from Lee Enterprises. Manchester, a San Diego real estate developer, informed the California Employment Development Department ("EDD") Monday about the pending layoffs, according to the Poynter post.
Last summer, the NCT alerted the EDD that 56 employees, mostly truck drivers and insert machine operators, were being let go.

Manchester acquired U-T San Diego (formerly known as the San Diego Tribune) from private investor Platinum Equity in November 2011, two years after the Beverly Hills investment firm bought the daily from Copley Press.

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Monday, October 1, 2012

Broadcast Signals for Sale

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 11:  A free Wi-Fi hotspot ...
(Image credit: Getty Images via @daylife)
Authorized by Congress to conduct incentive auctions, the Federal Communications Commission last week  adopted a Proposed Notice of Rulemaking with an eye toward boosting wireless broadband services such as 4G LTE and Wi-Fi networks.

The FCC is targeting underused broadcast signals, such as those re-carried by pay tv systems. The idea, according to an FCC press release, is to enable broadcasters to "cash out" via an auction and allow mobile access cellular build-outs and expansion of Wi-Fi by companies snatching up the broadcast spectrum signals.

The hope is that the broadband expansion will spark economic growth.
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