back to article After Leveson: The UK gets an Orwellian Ministry of Truth for real

Ever wondered what a British coup d’état might look like? You’ll have to bring your own visuals, but the soundtrack would probably go like this ... “Other than an Index of Censorship press release, where is your evidence for '300 years' of freedom?” demands one Reg comment-poster after your correspondent suggested MPs had ended …

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Megaphone

There's no need for press regulation per se

Merely an enforcement of current laws. As pointed out, everything that led to the Leveson enquiry was already illegal - it just wasn't being enforced.

Print what you like, as long as it's accurate and you can prove it; if you can't prove it expect to be taken to the cleaners... at the very least, a correction in the same place, font, and size as the original article.

But it doesn't need another round of regulation on top of existing laws.

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Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

"Print what you like, as long as it's accurate and you can prove it; if you can't prove it expect to be taken to the cleaners... at the very least, a correction in the same place, font, and size as the original article."

Suing somebody is an option if you're rich, it probably isn't if you're just some regular person that a newspaper has decided to shit on to sell a few papers or generate hits on their site.

For example we learned that a transgender teacher killed herself 3 months after Richard Littlejohn ran an opinion piece in the Daily Mail basically describing how this person was "selfish" and not fit to teach or be anywhere near children.

It's incidents like this (plus 3 months of examples in the inquiry) which demonstrate why the regulation as it exists is toothless and needs to be strengthened.

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Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

Well - the upper piles of the British press are full of noisy little shits like Littlejohn, who bully the weak for profit.

And let's not get started on some the riper things that have happened elsewhere in press land.

As for 'freedom' - duh. What freedom do poor people have when someone like Littlejohn picks on them? Or when someone like Murdoch decides who's going to be the next PM?

The current situation is already as Orwellian as it gets.

Instead of telescreens, we have phone hacking, GCHQ, Facebook and Google.

Instead of Two Minutes Hate we have pitiful self-righteous 'crusades' against so-called scroungers and immigrants.

Instead of MiniTrue we have Campbell and Mandelson and Hutton, and Coulsoun doing PR for Dave from Marketing.

Freedom, you say? Really, citizen?

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Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

Hang on - are you saying that Richard Littlejohn is not allowed to express his opinion? Because it might cause someone distress? I'm not sure you've got the hang of this "principle of free speech" business.

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Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

For example we learned that a transgender teacher killed herself 3 months after Richard Littlejohn ran an opinion piece in the Daily Mail basically describing how this person was "selfish" and not fit to teach or be anywhere near children.

As others have said, he should be allowed to be a shit-stain, and we should be allowed to call him such in response.

Depressingly, what gives his shit-stainery the power to hurt people is the legion of knuckle-dragging fuckwits who agree with him, not his stupid little column.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

"It's incidents like this (plus 3 months of examples in the inquiry) which demonstrate why the regulation as it exists is toothless and needs to be strengthened"

It is being strengthened anyway. You make no case for any kind of state regulation, at all.

What you're doing is what I describe in the piece. Find a victim - pin their corpse to the front of your bulldozer, and steam through the crowd.

It's pretty shameless.

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Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

littlejohn is free to say what he likes, just so long as I am free to reply

in person

and if my mouth happened to be full of petrol and i was holding a lit match when i shouted my response in the oleaginous little turds face...

so what?

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Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

"Hang on - are you saying that Richard Littlejohn is not allowed to express his opinion? Because it might cause someone distress? I'm not sure you've got the hang of this "principle of free speech" business."

No I'm not. That would be called a straw man argument. He can spout any bollocks he likes but if he makes someone a victim of his bile they should have a fair and simple mechanism for seeking redress.

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Unhappy

Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

"What you're doing is what I describe in the piece. Find a victim - pin their corpse to the front of your bulldozer, and steam through the crowd.

It's pretty shameless."

True.

But when we talk about how the British press is "kept in check" or some such by the law of libel only if you're rich enough to afford it.

That's like Americans going on about how they have the best healthcare in the world, with the (unspoken) addition the company has a decent health plan or you can afford it directly.

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Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

Won't Coulson (hopefully) be doing time soon? I wonder if he'll take Dave down with him?

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Bronze badge

Re: There's no need for press regulation per se

Yes, and we 'learned' that from The Guardian which omitted to mention the poor woman had already tried to top herself twice before the Mail article was published. Because

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Big Brother

The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

With Communism you know you are not free, with Capitalism you have the illusion you are free.

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Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

If you don't have to fight for it then it is probably not freedom.

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FAIL

Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

> With Communism you know you are not free, with Capitalism you have the illusion you are free.

Meh.

Please explain again what State Control of Media has to do with "Capitalism".

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Thumb Up

Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

Nice one.

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Stop

Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

Or Communism, for that matter.

The fact that most Communist states have been totalitarian too is a coincidence (more probably linked to the propensity for greed in the human race).

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Big Brother

Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

Please explain again what State Control of Media has to do with "Capitalism".

To put it simply, it ain't you who writes the menu, you just scoff what's put on the plate in front of you irrespective of the chef.

Your sincerely

A. Misanthrope

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Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

Surely that should be Totalitarianism and "Democracy" rather than Communism and Capitalism?

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Big Brother

Re: The Difference Between Communism And Capitalism

> The fact that most Communist states have been totalitarian

You mean, 100% of them?

> more probably linked to the propensity for greed in the human race

More probably linked to the propensity of control in the sociopaths.

Orwell knew exactly what he was writing about when he described the end result of the Fabian's drive to societal "good management".

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Boo hoo

> MPs had ended three centuries of freedom from political interference of the published word

Alternatively: newspaper owners gave up 300 years of responsible reporting and professionalism.

Saying that something is "in the public interest" is an easy and lazy defence that can be applied to pretty much any newspaper article. It's also completely unprovable - and attributing increased sales is the worst possible rationalisation for "public interest".

What's happened to newspapers is what happens every day in thousands of households across the land: where exasperated parents say to their misbehaving toddlers "if you won't play nicely, we're taking your toys away". The press brought this sorry state of affairs on themselves. Maybe they thought they were "too big to fail regulate" - it looks like their arrogance was called.

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Re: Boo hoo

All true, and I don't have much sympathy for the press in this. But I think the main point of the article is that we will all lose because of this. The press aren't the only Truth-manipulators out there, and we really do need the press to be free to point that fact out.

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Re: Boo hoo

All true? No pretty much all false.

> 300 years of responsible reporting and professionalism

Anyone with a slight knowledge of history could point to countless counterexamples. The first purpose of any newspaper* is to maintain its existence - this is just as true of noble and fearless publications such as The Guardian as it is of The Star. To succeed, they must sell papers, and that doesn't always lead to responsible and professional behaviour.

> Saying that something is "in the public interest" is [...] completely unprovable

If laws have been broken and the cases are deemed sufficiently serious, they may be and have been tested in front of a judge and/or jury. This defence does not always succeed, as numerous journalists have discovered to their cost.

* Any commercial newspaper, this didn't apply to Pravda or Izvestia, if that's where you prefer to get your information.

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Re: Boo hoo

"Saying that something is "in the public interest" is an easy and lazy defence that can be applied to pretty much any newspaper article. It's also completely unprovable - and attributing increased sales is the worst possible rationalisation for "public interest"."

You are confusing 'in the public interest' with 'of interest to the public'. Simple example for you (although it is already explained perfectly well in the article):

Public interest: Newspaper obtains evidence by phone hacking about a government minister making fraudulent expense claims to fund a crash pad for his bit on the side.

Of interest to the public: Newspaper obtains evidence by phone hacking about minor celebrity using his own money to fund a crash pad for his bit on the side.

The courts are perfectly capable of determining these things; sometimes the balance can be a fine one, but that is why you have the seemingly endless appeals process. That is all going to be swept away now, and decisions about what you get to hear will be made by an unelected quango subject to all sorts of hidden special interests. And don't think it will all be after the event either; serious investigative journalists (of which a few do remain) will have to think long and hard about who and what they take on in the future. That certainly isn't 'in the public interest'.

Celebrity now happy since he can keep his illicit shagging quiet (but he could have anyway if existing laws were actually enforced). Dodgy politician even happier, since he too can keep his illicit shagging and criminal activity quiet, which he previously could not have done despite the journalist having broken the law.

You tell me who emerges the winner in all this? It ain't you or me, that's for sure.

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Re: Boo hoo

Just because the public are interested in it, doesn't mean it's in the public interest (and vice versa!)

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Re: Boo hoo

"The first purpose of any newspaper* "

A fact known even to the readers of JK Rowling.

Newspapers (like all media outlets) are businesses after all.

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Flame

Re: Boo hoo

> Alternatively: newspaper owners gave up 300 years of responsible reporting and professionalism.

Not really. Newspapers as a source to truth and righteousness is a myth from Superman. We've always known that publishers basically only tell their readers what they want to hear, however in the past we've accepted that as a cost of freedom of speech and the occasional gem of journalism.

Regulation isn't the issue either. The Papers could have been regulated simply by enforcing the existing rules. The issue here is that a powerful interest group took a hard and tragic case and used it to bulldoze through legislation which (a) wasn't required and (b) completely changes the relationship between the state and those who write things, for their own benefit.

We now have freedom of speech as long as you don't write it down. Legal due process has been effectively replaced with a government agency with regard to the written word.

When the MPAA tries to bypass legal due process, most commentards here are quite rightly are outraged. How tragic when not just a principle is at stake, but also a key freedom, that so many are so focused on "getting the right result" in one case, that they can't perceive what they are giving away to get it.

Having seen the past 20 years of governments lie about their activities and take away more and more freedoms in an effort to force people to be more liberal (the irony!), I am amazed that people trust the government to do anything. To pretend that more legislation is needed when the old laws weren't enforced is willfully deceitful. By all means regulate commercial entities, but to fail to define "publisher" appropriately is gross and deliberate negligence and the resulting laws will be abused as intended.

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Re: Boo hoo

Precisely. This paranoid rant is worthy of the Tea Party. Not a word about the corruption of journalistic standards by politically-partisan, monopolistic press owners (with the power to fire or not hire dissenting journos). The regulatory body isn't to be a state agency, that's Tory spin.

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Anonymous Coward

"“Other than an Index of Censorship press release, where is your evidence for '300 years' of freedom?” demands one Reg comment-poster after your correspondent suggested MPs had ended three centuries of freedom from political interference of the published word - brought about by giving the nod to a new, powerful press regulator."

Press ethics is the prblem, not freedom of speech.

Opponents would not be shouting so loundly if they were the subject of intrusion by the press.

Clearly the british paper reading public are mugs anyway! Who beleves the shit the press put out? And who still reads newspapers? They are about as accurate as the weather forecast. It's all bollox.

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pragmatic most

when was the last time you read a newspaper?

I haven't for years.

a pox on all their houses. fucking noisy dinosaurs.

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I really hope the British press isn't kowtowed. You don't have to look too far from the UK to find out what happens when the press' job is little more than taking down what the government minister says.

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taking down what the government minister says.

which is somehow worse than

"taking down what the rupert murdoch says."?

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Mushroom

There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

For those of you that move in LGBT circles, the name Lucy Meadows has been making headlines this week. For those unfamiliar with the story, about 3 months ago, Richard Littlejohn of the Daily Mail wrote an extremely degrading "expose" of a transwoman in Manchester, describing her as being in the wrong job and that her transitioning was "having a devestating influence" on the children in her class.

She killed herself last week after three months of press harassment.

To date, no official action has been taken against Richard Littlejohn. The PCC refuses to get involved despite literally thousands of third party complaints. Do I want journalists to have completely free reign? Not if they can destroy lives and get away with it.

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ACx

Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

Same sort of thing with that nurse who got scammed when Kate Middleton was in hospital.

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Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

I think that here we have an example of where things are going wrong.

There is / never was any requirement for press intrusion into the life of the individual; nothing was covered up as the school made an announcement to the parents and they would have had the opportunity to remove their children from the school if they felt this necessary on moral / religious grounds. (I don't personally believe that would have been appropriate, but accept that others might feel it necessary)

However, there are also examples of people that court publicity for various reasons; but want to be able to block any news reports of them that are critical. I'm thinking for example of an elected person that tried to have information on specific illegal behaviour covered up.

We need to have a balance between what is really "in the public interest" and prurient intrusion into people's lives, just because it sells a few more adverts. How do we achieve that? Damned if I know, but I suspect that this is not the last we have heard on this topic.

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Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

There is an old legal maxim - "hard cases make bad law". Of course this was a tragic case, but if, in order to safeguard the rights of a few (be they transgendered or super-rich), we trample over the rights of the many, then that is a bad law. Have your press regulator if you want, but don't come crying to me in a decade's time when bribery and corruption in government have become rife and the Press are powerless to expose it.

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Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

Intriguingly that article is no longer visible on the Daily Wail website - I can't find it either searching on "Lucy Meadows", or "Nathan Upton" or even clicking on "see all of Littlejohn's articles".

Can't think why it might have disappeared...

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Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

I only first became aware of it on FreeThoughtsBlog; someone had managed to cache the page before it was taken down. It didn't do any favours for my blood pressure.

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(Written by Reg staff) Silver badge

Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

"Do I want journalists to have completely free reign?"

RTFA.

We don't.

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Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

I've re-read it and I have been hasty in my initial post, for which I apologise.

That said, with your example about the PR wanting to get an article taken down, what if it had been an individual that has been the victim of unfair press? The PCC is a remarkably toothless organisation and the only other option is legal action, which for an individual going up against a national newspaper, must seem like a futile task. A newspaper can hire an army of lawyers, an individual can't. Plus someone that's had their life intruded into by the press is already under a colossal amount of stress and pressure; to go through expensive legal action with a highly doubtful outcome...

There does need to be a way for individual people to be able to call newspapers to account but allowing them to do so in a way that cannot be abused by more powerful people...that's beyond me.

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Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

We need to have a balance between what is really "in the public interest" and prurient intrusion into people's lives, just because it sells a few more adverts. How do we achieve that?

Follow the money.

Write to all the advertisers in the paper telling them that you and all your friends will boycott them until they remove the adverts.

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@AO

I was trying to take the article seriously when after stating that newspapers are already regulated but the laws aren't properly enforced it described the ongoing criminal investigations as witch hunts and from that point it was very hard.

The current proposal may be very bad but I have very little sympathy for the whingers in the press and hold them accountable for it getting to this stage. The demand for the pointless (because they are already regulated by defamation laws and other general laws) principle of no statutory aspect to press regulation has prevented proper discussion of what might actually be a reasonable system, pushed the process into the realm of Royal Charters, the Privy Council and other closed door manoeuvrings.

I do worry that there may be impacts on Private Eye and other proper investigative journalism but I don't think that the effect of the regulation will be as bad as you fear but the section on the last page about your view of the practical effects and added power to PRs was the most interesting (and most persuasive) part of the article rather than the bulk based on a rose tinted and generally deluded view of the last few hundred years of British history.

I went looking for the views of Private Eye and The Guardian and found this from Alan Rusbridger which I hadn't previously read but agree with to a great degree although it is probably weak in considering impact on magazines and purely online journalism.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/24/need-reform-free-press-time-openness

And anyone talking about 300 years of freedom of the press should be hit round the head with plank of wood with "D-Notice" written on it until they shut up about 300 years.

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Mushroom

Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

I can't find the original article, so there is no way for me to comment on what they said,

but hounding someone until they kill themselves is something the press should never get away with, I thought there were laws against harassment already to stop this...

But freedom of speech means people have the right to make their opinions heard, it is a fine balance between freedom of speech and protecting the free...

She had rights, so did the kids, the parents and the community, it was bound to cause friction and very strong opinions..

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Silver badge

Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

a free reign, but to be held to account.

lynch the fucker

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Anonymous Coward

Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

Bugger me but because some stupid twat tops herself we have to put up with press censorship ! Get a grip man. A free press ain't everything, but it sure as hell is better than a press that carries out the government's wishes.

What is almost unbelievable is the degree to which posters on this site support censorship by and for the government. The government is NOT you friend, never has been , never will. Government is for those who are in and who control those who are in government. And one thing they really value is the ability to do such illegal and unworthy things and to have those activities concealed from the hoi-polloi. Quite why one would support the bastards helping themselves is somewhat beyond me.

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Bronze badge

Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

Your second paragraph (aside from the first sentence thereof) I agree with. However, insulting someone who was driven to suicide puts you in the Littlejohn category

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Re: There sure as hell is a need for press regulation

Committing suicide is just about the most selfish thing a person can do.* This person proved Littlejohn correct - and is therefore stupid.

*My past career as a psychiatric nurse, and being someone who has been close to killing myself, give me the insight to say this.

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Big Brother

Rusbridger of The Guardian

Wrote recently (http://tinyurl.com/cqa7euk) that the press should be allowed to continue to self regulate and have a year for their system to bed in. This falls well short of an apology for *that* article which it could be said was *the* catalyst for Leveson which, in turn, gave Hacked Off the boost they needed to attempt to overturn long established freedoms. Not even an offer of resignation.

Ironic that yet again 'The Left' prove to be less liberal than they bill themselves.

Thomas Paine 1791:

It is a perversion of terms to say that a charter gives rights. It operates by a contrary effect — that of taking rights away. Rights are inherently in all the inhabitants; but charters, by annulling those rights, in the majority, leave the right, by exclusion, in the hands of a few... They... consequently are instruments of injustice ... The fact, therefore, must be that the individuals, themselves, each, in his own personal and sovereign right, entered into a contract with each other to produce a government: and this is the only mode in which governments have a right to arise, and the only principle on which they have a right to exist.

Hugh "$20 Ho" Grant (et al)

"Hacked Off welcomes the cross-party agreement on implementing the Leveson recommendations on press self-regulation"

Leveson is as much of a bodge up as it is a stitch up and it is not fit for purpose. It defines 'throwing the baby out with the bathwater' and typifies the sort of incoherent policy and legislation that 'career' politicians churn out on a regular basis.

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Anonymous Coward

Not everything is covered by existing law

The Leveson inquiry also took evidence from groups campaigning for accurate reporting of facts in the media (e.g. FullFact). Innaccurate reporting of issues, science etc was demonstrated to happen regularly, and has the problem that it often does not directly damage any individual per se, but instead causes wider indirect problems by leading to a mis-informed public and decision makers.

The evidence showed a systemic lack of willingness by some major publications to cooperate or correct major errors when raised through the PCC. Self regulation as it stood was clearly not working.

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Silver badge

Re: Not everything is covered by existing law

Look at the business with misreporting and sensationalism over the MMR vaccine. There are still people even today who believes it causes autism. Unsurprisingly the number of cases of measles has shot up alarmingly in the last decade and is now described as an epidemic. Some of those kids will be scarred for life and potentially die, just because of bad reporting.

See also every day of the week when either the Express or the Mail declares a substance to cause / cure / or cause AND cure cancer, or when they run campaigns to ban / promote health screening or vaccinations for specious reasons.

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Not everything is covered by existing law

"Unsurprisingly the number of cases of measles has shot up alarmingly in the last decade and is now described as an epidemic"

The Swansea area is currently suffering from a major Measles outbreak, linked to a lack of vaccination.

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