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Archive for the tag “news”

Journalism Under Fire

https://static.kent.ac.uk/nexus/ems/116.jpgJournalism is printing what someone else does not want printed; everything else is public relations”. George Orwell’s quote, today more than ever, remains relevant, at a time when media and control over them has become a highly controversial issue, mainly due to the ethics involved. Because, while journalism should, ideally, be objective and free of political affiliations, nowadays, the newsroom is dominated by the ominous shadow of advertising revenue. In a period when almost everything has been affected by the financial crisis, media – the people’s source of information – are searching for sources of income, while at the same time competing against social media and the plurality of free news.

How then can we distinguish the truth in what we read? And how can we dismiss ‘fake news’?

This was the topic of a very interesting discussion held in Athens in the context of the New York Times Athens Democracy Forum, hosted by the journalistic platforms Oikomedia and Hostwriter. The aim was to examine why Media have come under Suspicion and how journalism can regain public faith. Five guest speakers from international media participated: Serge Schmemann (New York Times), Philip Faigle (#D17, Zeit online), Simon Wilson (BBC Brussels), Prune Antoine (freelance journalist) and Tasos Telloglou (Skai TV/ Kathimerini).

The prevailing view, shared by many journalists and citizens alike, is that the observation of how real life unfolds is absent from many media reports today, mainly because of the rising trend of ‘opinionated journalism’. This trends sees the inclusion of a commentary, with the reporter him/herself often expressing a view on the story reported. But that is not what the role of the journalist is supposed to be, nor what the point of journalism is. It is supposed to be about the clear, undeterred, fair and objective presentation of facts that have been thoroughly researched and presented as is. Journalism is the means to make heard as many voices involved in a story as possible, and to cause, through that, the audience’s critical thought, so that citizens themselves may launch a public debate on the matter. In an era of rapid technological evolution, media outlets are perfectly positioned to become platforms promoting such active public discussion.

Instead, citizens increasingly turn against media, viewing them with suspicion and distrust and accusing them of transmitting ‘fake news’ and siding with any one political group. As such, it is not strange that, especially in Greece, citizens do not trust the media, and in fact increasingly tend to avoid the news. The 2017 annual Digital News Report by the Reuters Institute for Journalism revealed that Greeks have the lowest rate globally in trusting media with only 23% (compared to, for example, 62% recorded in Finland, the highest rate). Greece is also the only country in the world that believes social media do a better job in separating fact from fiction than traditional news media (28% vs 19%). In addition, over half the respondents (57%) in Greece and Turkey are avoiding the news, compared with fewer than one in ten in Japan (6%). One of the main reasons for this ‘media avoidance’ may very well be all the ‘negative’ news constantly broadcast, regarding the economy, politics, corruption, accidents, war, bloody conflicts and terrorism attacks around the world. News that not only contribute to increasing fear and agony for a future that is already blurred, but also result in further dampening an already low morale and bad psychological state. Consequently, people prefer not to know, endorsing that ‘ignorance is bliss’.

But in all this, how much are the journalists themselves to blame? Are they not asking the right questions? Are they presenting news out of context, indeed causing misinformation? Is the need for higher revenue placing at risk not only the independence of the organism but also its credibility as a source of objective and truthful facts? Press freedom is not only about the pluralism of views, but also about their presentation as facts, without editorialisation.

Journalism should be about opening questions not answering them. The journalist’s view has no place in the story they are reporting.

Today’s need to ‘sell more copies’ and ‘record more online views’ has irreparably also affected the quality of journalism. We need to go back to basics, to remember that in order for a fact to be reported correctly, you need to experience and (re)search it as best as possible to make it easier for the reader to comprehend. And most of all, to realise that people want to read about things that concern their lives and that affect them.

There will always be a need for stories. This was broadly acknowledged at the discussion. The main issue, however, is that journalists should never stop striving for their fundamental element: objectivity. And to step away from the uniformity and unanimity that so often characterises news stories today. After all, the mind opens up when it tries to do, see and think something differently. Otherwise, it is not even worth it.

No news is not a fact

https://fcmalby.files.wordpress.com/2013/05/latest-news-headlines.jpgYou know that feeling when you go to bed at night at a decent hour, tired but satisfied with what you’ve accomplished, and then wake up the next morning refreshed and ready to actively engage in a full day ahead? Could you describe what that feels like please? Because in our hectic lives, this all sounds like a luxury. Being able to go to sleep early and wake up having adequately rested.

These current times are interesting in many ways – in the fact that revolutionary movements spur to life, that innovations succeed one another faster than you realise, that societies strive to become more open-minded, that politics reveals just how dirty a game it can be, and terrorism overshadows the entire globe. Everything seems to evolve so rapidly that you sleep-in for a few hours more, and wake up feeling you lost an entire year due to all the things that have happened: violent massacres, gruesome juvenile crimes, train accidents, lost airplanes, mass shootings, explosions, financial crises, political elections, the emergence of radical movements, and so much more than you could ever imagine.

We have reached such a point that when we read fewer than five items of news per day, we begin to worry that we missed something. It’s that feeling when all of a sudden your heart begins to pump faster and anxiety overwhelms you, because you are almost certain there is something you didn’t see or you haven’t heard of. It’s like the restless calm before the storm; when you know that the next day will definitely contain a shower of news headlines to compensate the fewer ones the day before.

But all of this is exhausting. Not only for people who have to cover the news. But for everyone who reads and listens to it. It is physically and mentally stressful to hear all this negativity span our lives. To constantly add to the stress of contemporary living and to know that things will hardly get any better.

So how do you manage this situation? Probably in the only way you can: with a nap whenever possible. Because you may feel strong and able, but after a while, your organism itself will begin to call on you – through headaches that turn into migraines, upset stomach, and drowsiness – sounding an internal alarm that you need to slow down, rest and maybe even hit pause. The news will happen whether you chase it or not. And unless you have some kind of superpower, there is little you can do to change that.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Struggle

It’s not easy being Greek

Youth in GreeceFor the past five years, Greece has been the centre of news around the world. Not so much because of its spirit of democracy and ethos imbued by our Ancient Greek ancestors. But because of the shame, deceitfulness and financial mismanagement brought about by their predecessors. Media around the world have vilified the country that thus far was praised for all the principles and values it had introduced to the modern world. Yet, we ourselves proved unable to live up to them.

It is not Greece alone that is in financial trouble. The whole of Europe is, and most of the world too. But Greece is an easy target. The advertised ‘300 days of sunshine’, the Mediterranean diet, the mythical island beaches, the relaxed and ‘easy-going’ way of life are so easy to despise and scorn, and all the more easy to contradict with the lack of responsibility and order, especially as regards public finances. The source of all our troubles.

Foreigners cannot understand how Greeks can still fill restaurants and cafés, as if nothing is going on around them. But Greeks themselves justify their outings, by arguing that staying indoors and damning their misfortunes is not a solution that will lead anywhere.

And they are right.

Because it is not the “ordinary” Greeks who can do much to change the situation, other than adhere to the harsh measures imposed. Those brought upon them by others. Others, who, are supposed to represent them, but once in power, forget all electoral promises and turn the other way. The lay Greeks are the ones who witness their country’s demise and all they can do is shout, exasperate, and eventually just let it go, because somethings will never change.

This attitude is what has caused over 200,000 young Greeks to search for a future abroad. For many, their dreams and expectations were too big for what the country (now) had to offer. It is certainly not easy to get up and leave. To abandon everything you are familiar with, the life you are accustomed to, your friends and family. But it is even harder deciding to stay. It takes more courage to remain and continue to fight in a country that is constantly proving to be against you in every way.

There are many Greeks who choose to stay. And they should be respected all the more for that. Because they are still trying. They are the ones who believe that “if everyone just leaves, who will stay and fix the country?” They are the ones who still dream, but are determined to compromise on a few things in order to survive. They may not be acknowledged as much as they should, nor are they compensated for the work they do. But they choose to stay. Why? Why would you stay when everything and everyone around you screams go?

Because you still hope. You believe deep down that things will change for the better. And that you will be part of the wheel that will set it all in motion.

There are young Greeks, in their early 30s, educated, full of thirst for life and willing to work. There are those who decide to strive on their own, and, since they can’t find the work they want, they will create it themselves. In a period of crisis, struck on all fronts by austerity measures, stifling bureaucracy and high taxes, these Greeks persist in having their own way. There are many who have launched their own business, determined to change foreign perceptions of their country, making it a model to emulate, rather than one to avoid. It is these Greeks who have been dubbed the crazy ones, the radicals, the dreamers. The ones who people look upon with both admiration and sympathy. But aren’t “those who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, usually the ones that do”?

It is not easy being Greek nowadays. And it is certainly not easy being Greek in Greece. But there are still many who insist, persist, and resist all negative waves pounding their way. Maybe it is through them that Greece will arise again. After all, it was Socrates who said that the secret of change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old, but in building the new. And that is just what we need. A new start.

See also related reports with examples of Greeks who try to accomplish more in their own country in English and Greek.

Bottled Message

Tmessage in a bottlehere Andre was, sitting on his luxury soft blue towel, soaking in the last of the summer sun’s rays and enjoying the massaging feeling of the small white pebbles on his back. Routine would strike him sooner than he could expect and he was determined to make the most of every carefree moment he still had. When he got up to turn around – the secret to sunbathing is to roast on both sides equally – his eyes fell upon a glistening object at the water’s edge. At first, he thought it was a reflection that the waves had caused as they foamed ashore. He got up to quench his curiosity. It was a glass bottle. And yes, there was a message inside.

As Andre uncorked the storm-tossed bottle, he carefully unrolled the yellowish creased paper inside. It had four words scribbled on it in panic: “Help! SOS! In danger”.

Andre looked across the sea, towards the horizon. It was an unconscious act. Perhaps in his mind he believed he would have seen the shipwrecked letter-writer emerge and he could run (or rather swim) to his/her rescue. But there was nothing out there. The water was tranquil and not even a sailboat was apparent at the coastline.

Andre took out his tablet – because everyone has one form of technology or other available at all times, even at the beach – and began to search the news for shipwrecks. It took him a while, given the increased incidents of Middle Eastern migrants risking their very lives and abandoning everything in search of a better life in a new continent. But he finally found it. It was a small boat cramming 200 migrants. It had been found just hours after it sunk having completed over half of its perilous journey. All of its passengers, downtrodden humans just like everyone else, with a story of their own to tell if they could, men in their thirties and forties, women who seemed so much older than they really were and children who had had the innocence of their childhood stolen away from them, all perished at sea. All that remained as a reminder of their existence was this scrawny paper.

Andre got up. His holidays had just ended. He spent the rest of his time before returning to work, and as much free time as he had after that, volunteering in shelters and centres that were constructed especially for people who had nothing. Not necessarily for refugees who had come from afar, but even for people in his own country who were struggling to survive. A message in a bottle had changed his entire perspective. If he could have the same influence on someone else, imagine how much change could be brought about.

Also part of Daily Prompt: SOS

The dress and an escape from the truth

the dressIn the last week, we have been arguing over the colour of a dress (blue/black or white/gold?), have witnessed llamas run loose in Arizona, and have been baffled over a Senator’s questioning of the effects of climate change by tossing a snow ball as evidence.

All the while, it has been revealed that the masked Islamic State (ISIS) militant known as “Jihadi John”, seen in the videos beheading Western hostages, is a Kuwaiti-born British man from West London, while ISIS militants ransacked Mosul’s central museum destroying thousand-year old priceless artefacts.

Meanwhile, Eurozone countries continue to bewilder each other on account of their increasing economic problems, leading to internal strife, while the fighting in Eastern Ukraine is ongoing and getting worse.

It is interesting to how we chose to see as news what is more enticing and entertaining to us. The fact that conflict is rampant across the world no longer surprises or even affects us (unless we are in those impacted areas). Nor are we touched by the world’s financial problems, even though these affect our own economic state and employment status. These are things we seek to get away from when surfing the web.

Instead, we’ll click to watch Madonna fall at her Brit Awards performance, we’ll enter the worldwide viral debate on the color of that dress, and we will laugh at the videos of animals doing the weirdest yet cutest of things imaginable.

When we enter the world wide web, we seek to be informed, but at the same time entertained. Our attention span diminishes rapidly when we begin to read a long political analysis on the state of affairs – simply put, this is boring. We want something that draws our attention, that is quick and easy to read, and that is entertaining enough but enlightening at the same time.

We like to engage into quizzes on what your choice of wine says about you, for example, read the daily horoscope and cartoon strips, and be inspired by a quote someone famous said long ago.

What we don’t like, is to be reminded that nothing seemingly works as it should pretty much anywhere; that those who were elected to represent us are sometimes just as corrupt as the people they criticize and place behind bars, and that corruption and clientilism are two trends that may possibly never be transcended.

So we turn to entertainment. To momentarily forget the harsh reality and drift into a realm where all there exists are celebrities falling from grace, animals proving they’re smarter than us, and meaningless chatter on trivial issues.

We all need to get away for a while, and if this is the way to achieve some serenity of mind, then so be it. Just remember, The Dress is the colour you see, and all that says about you, is that you can at least see there is a dress.

Selfish Shellfish Selfies

ShellfieGo into a café. Look around. How many people do you see who are really conversing? Who are actually talking and listening to each other? Look at their hand gestures, their body movement, their eye contact. Any? Now, count how many people you see instead being distracted by a digital device. Too many to count, huh?

It’s amazing how the first thing we have come to notice when entering a café, a bar, a restaurant, is whether they have free Wi-Fi or not. As if that is the criterion of whether their food will be healthy or tasty, or even edible. Because of course, we then have to check-in, post on every social media account we have, that we are at that specific place. And then, we have that irresistible need – that feels like an itch that must be scratched – to take selfies of everything, as if that is what will prove our existence.

We have become such narcissists and so self-centred that when someone asks us what we do, we hesitate for a while, and our thoughts run to the last thing we posted or read online in order to find an interesting conversation starter. How many hours of the day do we spend sunk in a screen, reading. As though we are shellfish retreating in their hard exterior, waiting for the moment a pearl will emerge. Reading about the news, about other people’s status updates, about pretty much everything. Because we need to be informed about everything. And then we also need to have an opinion about everything too. And we obviously need to post it to demonstrate that we are opinionated and follow the current trends.

But just consider for a moment, what happens during a power cut? We sit in silence not knowing what to do. And if we still have charged phones, we might take a selfie and save it for later, to post as soon as power is back – #blackout #nowwhat #awkward.

Is this what we want to be remembered as? The generation hashtag? We are so busy trying to prove that we are active digitally that we don’t really do much in reality. What is the point of going for a hike or for a cross-country train ride, when you keep posting updates of your location? How are you exactly enjoying being in nature away from the digital insanity? Sure, take pictures, but save them for later. Then you can comprehensively recap your experience and tell others how worthwhile it was to escape for a while. Prompt yourself and others to step away from the screen.

Because, honestly, is this all we have to show for ourselves? That we are selfish shellfish taking selfies?

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Don’t You Forget About Me

Also part of Daily Post: 21st Century Citizen

Don’t talk. Just listen….

unknown call– Don’t talk. Just listen. Did you see the fireworks yesterday? Yes, just after the new Prime Minister’s victory speech? It was as if the country was having one huge party. Well, I don’t blame them. I mean the guy’s just 40 years old. And he is not bad to look at either. Plus, the casual, no-tie look makes him more likeable. I think that’s one of the reasons why he won over so many people. He managed to convince them that he relates to them. He is one of them. And like he said, he wants to have a government that belongs to all the people. Well, good luck. It would be great if at least somebody managed to do so. But did you see the fireworks in the capital’s centre? It reminded me of those 4th of July fireworks. You remember then ones. That is when I met him. You know who. That bastard who broke my heart. He played me like a fiddle on the roof. You know I ran into him the other day at the supermarket? He was shopping for groceries. At least that is what he said. He looked good. Was wearing jeans and a shirt. A shirt I got for him. It felt very weird. To be honest I even forgot to buy half my shopping list after I saw him. I was so depressed by the time I got home, that I spent the entire night watching series on TV and going to bed by midnight. I know it’s pathetic, but what do I do? Come on, you know what I am talking about don’t you?

– I’m sorry, who is this?

– Becky? It’s me, Deborah.

– I’m sorry, I’m not Becky and I don’t know any Deborah.

– Oh. Well, this is embarrassing. I am so sorry.

– Not a problem. I hope everything works out. And don’t worry, we’ve all been there. It takes time. Stay strong!

– Thanks! Sorry again for this awkward call!

[Dials Again]

– Don’t talk. Just listen…

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Unknown Caller

Speaking Truth to ‘Stupid’: Reestablishing Dignity in Journalism

AB15521Journalism was once described as the Fourth Estate: a watchdog of the elites, informing and protecting the masses. People looked to it for the truth. Today, information is propelled from every direction, medium, and person. Does the power of the Fourth Estate still exist, and if not, how do we reclaim it?

More people today choose to avoid the news at all costs. Especially political news, since all they appear to do is replicate the status quo, with politicians lining up to give their own position on developments (if any), while not even staying long enough to listen to opposing positions. It almost feels like we live in a world that doesn’t want to be changed. But, it is the civil responsibility of journalists to change this by presenting hard-core facts, inspire debate and fuel a desire for improvement.

With The Newsroom Season 3 having just begun, and Kill the Messenger recently hitting the big screens, journalism seems to have returned to centre stage, not that it ever left. But right now, it seems this profession has become all the more important, especially since journalists are sacrificing their lives in order to reveal information that is critical for public safety.

The aforementioned film is based on the true story of journalist Gary Webb and takes place in the mid-1990s, when Webb uncovered the role of the CIA in arming Contra rebels in Nicaragua and importing cocaine into California. Despite enormous pressure, Webb chose to pursue the story and went public with his evidence. As a result, he became the target of a vicious smear campaign fueled by the CIA and was forced to defend his integrity, his family, and his life, even reaching the point of suicide.

Consider the recent example of Serena Shim, an American journalist of Lebanese origin who disclosed that ISIS jihadists were being smuggled into Turkey and back into Syria in the back of humanitarian aid vehicles. Just days later, she was reportedly killed in a car crash with a heavy-duty vehicle. The second car was never found, raising suspicions as to the true cause of her death. Shim is not alone. Journalists around the world are regularly threatened against publishing information that is their disposal. In 2013, approximately 100 journalists were killed, while so far 64 journalists have lost their lives this year, fighting for what they believe in.

But journalism no longer seems to really be what it used to. Journalists are often characterised as “the Fourth Estate”, a term originally used by Edmund Burke, who in 1787 said that the Reporters’ Gallery in the British House of Commons was where a Fourth Estate, which was more important than the other three, took its seat. Since then, a lot has changed in journalism. Although there are some who criticise the government, many argue that journalism has become part of the ruling estate rather than an objective observer of it.

Journalism became a vulnerable profession with the rise of digital media. However, the economic crisis struck a large blow causing salaries and media revenue to decrease. Churnalism has taken the place of investigative journalism and reporters of all stripes simply find it easier to replicate press releases, instead of researching, analysing and criticising power to provide citizens with informed explanations of current affairs. There is also “citizen journalism” which has blurred the definition of who is a journalist. Furthermore, claims blast from every direction, often without any credible evidence to support them. Yet, this is what sells and what is seemingly desired by the public. This is an age where global terrorism is real and no longer an imminent threat; where people are more interested in exchanging narcissistic selfies rather than improving social welfare; and where everyone complains but few take action. Now, more than ever, is the time for journalism to reclaim its lost vigour, grace and glamour.

People want to read the news. They no longer accept bad journalism, as they want to learn what is going on quickly, simply and clearly; to be informed, not mocked. As MacKenzie McHale (Emily Mortimer) told Will McAvoy (Jeff Daniels) on the first episode of The Newsroom: We need to reclaim the fourth estate; to rebrand journalism as an honourable profession; to produce news that informs and stimulates debates characterised by civility and respect; and return to what is important. It needs to end ‘bitchiness, gossip and voyeurism.’ We need “to speak the truth to stupid,” because we need to actually believe that the audience is not stupid. In reality, it is composed of intelligent people who we should address as such. If we treat people as if they were stupid, that is who they will be, but, if we refer to them as intelligent people who have a say in bringing about change, then that is who they will become. Journalism is not simply about conveying news and arousing the wrath of the masses. It is about communicating information and enabling the audience to develop a clear awareness about what is happening in the world and how things might change, for the better, and for the benefit of all of us.

 

First published on Cafébabel.com and translated into French and Italian.

Celebrity VIP to run for US President

false-advertisingWho? When? Why? Who?!

See what happened there? You got all excited and intrigued by the title you wanted to read more, didn’t you? Curiosity is a pain!

I hate to tell you this though, but you were tricked into reading this blog post.

Pretty much like every misleading headline or advertisement does to you.

The majority are misleading, false and have nothing to do with what they really mean.

News headlines that promise to reveal something shocking and a “worldwide exclusive” (as if the whole world is sitting at the edge of its seat waiting for a development in e.g. a royal wedding or the end of a year-long television series).

Advertisements that promise one thing and deliver another. Things like “half-off anything from this shelf”, but when you reach the counter you are told that you had to get two of the same items in order to benefit from the offer.

Airlines advertising low-price tickets but when you are about to book you see the price rising sky high due to added taxes, administrative costs etc etc. Even the “change without charge” is not true, as the only thing you don’t pay is the administrative costs.

Every day we face situations such as these. Things that mislead us and in essence deceive us into believing their marketing crafts.

Then we are left feeling cheated and make a racket out of it to anyone who dares listen.

We just need to develop the sense of reading beyond the “charming” lines, judge what the reality would be and pay attention to avoid being duped (again)!

What people say and what they mean is usually different. We just need to learn to understand what they mean despite what they say.

 

Also part of Daily Prompt: Ripped from the Headlines!

 

Indebted to the future

DSC05826“We live in a Europe of mistrust”. This is what European Parliament (EP) President Martin Schulz stated yesterday Monday 4 November speaking at a very interesting conference in Athens. Organised by the EP Information Offices in Greece, Cyprus, Ireland, Italy, Portugal and Spain – the countries worst hit by the crisis and forced to implement austerity measures – the first of its kind international conference entitled “South for Growth” aims to address the challenges and prospects faced by the countries on the south of the European map in managing the crisis.

In a densely packed room at the Athens Concert Hall, keynote speaker Schulz uttered “it is time to come to an end with the rhetoric of crisis and start a new debate – the rhetoric of hope”. He outlined four proposals which he said are the key points in forging a strategy that will help the south exit the crisis.

Calling on personal experiences, Schulz stated that during the post-WWII period governments asked parents to make sacrifices, with the promise that this would bring a better future for their children.
“These promises were kept,” he said, noting that his generation lived a better life with unprecedented opportunities. “Europe was a promise”. But now, how can we ask parents to make all the more sacrifices, when their children are unemployed, desperate and have lost hope in their future? It is for this reason, Schulz said that youth unemployment must be the first step in promoting growth.

In a passionate and dynamic speech, the EP president stressed that it is unacceptable that the European Central Bank (ECB) maintains interest rates at such a low  figure (0.5%), but Small and Medium Sized Enterprises (SMEs) do not have access to liquidity. This money is not injected into the real economy, he said, and for this we need a strategy to overcome the credit crunch and help realize the SMEs’ projects. This in turn, he added, will help with employment opportunities.

“We are not bold enough,” he stated. “Let’s dare more, be more imaginative, let’s seize the potential of the resources and geostrategy of the Mediterranean”. Greater economic cooperation in this region will lead to a stronger south and as a result to a more powerful Union.

But “for all these proposals to be realized we need to regain confidence between north and south, between citizens, politics and institutions”. Using the word “trust” over ten times, Schulz was striving to pass the message that without the trust of its people in the EU and the principles of the EU forefathers, the EU structure cannot move forward.

Himself a probable candidate for the post of European Commission President, Schulz delivered a speech that by far responded to the expectations of all those people from all over Europe, mainly young, who filled the room for this conference. It is unknown as to whether the EU officials’ persistence on immediate actions that deliver results is actually due to the campaigning that has already begun ahead of the 2014 EU elections. Because it is widely acknowledged that to stay on board, you need to have achievements to show in your favour.

“The trust of citizens cannot be gained by speeches. It can only be gained when we deliver solutions,” said Schulz with MEP Thodoros Skylakakis (ALDE) adding that “we are just talking heads…we do not realize the extent of the problems, and for that citizens don’t listen to us”.

We live in a Europe of mistrust and of debt. And as EP Vice President Anni Podimata said, “we are indebted”. Not only because of the money we owe, but because of the hope and future we promised to provide to the next generation.

 

Also part of NaBloPoMo (November 2013)

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