Articles about "Disaster coverage"


San Diego fires: where to go for coverage

Media large and small are covering the multiple wildfires in San Diego County that have burned homes, closed schools, forced thousands to flee, and prompted a state of emergency declaration by California Gov. Jerry Brown this week.

Temperatures reached 106 in some areas on Thursday, contributing to conditions that have given firefighters little relief since the first wildfire was sparked on Tuesday. As of Thursday evening, the fires had burned more than 10,000 acres, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Here are some news sites to follow and the coverage features to look for. Some of the latest and best coverage has been appearing on social media:

U-T San Diego (short, digestible stories; photo galleries; video; information for residents; curation of emergency agency tweets)

Los Angeles Times (analysis of drought-linked fires; latest on fire investigation; photos and videos; explanation of “firenados”)

CBS8 (live streams, video of multiple fire locations, displaced pet information)

 

KTLA5 (firenado video)

 
Fox5 (live blog)

Add your suggestions for notable fire coverage in the comments below or email soshiro@poynter.org. Read more

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N.Y. Daily News uses drone video in Harlem explosion coverage

New York Daily News

Drone-captured video and images of the Harlem explosion aftermath made for riveting viewing on the New York Daily News site Thursday.

The drone belongs to 45-year-old Brian Wilson, a business systems expert, the Daily News reported.

Wilson said he heard about the explosion from his roommate and immediately jumped in a cab with his flying camera and headed to the scene.

Police allowed Wilson to videotape the collapsed buildings with his DJI Phantom 2 quadcopter for 30 minutes before his battery ran down. And, at the end, police told him they’d prefer he not fly his drone any longer, he said. Read more

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Firefighters battle a fire after a building collapses in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, Wednesday, March 12, 2014 (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Resources for covering NYC building explosion and other disasters

Firefighters battle a fire after a building collapses in the East Harlem neighborhood of New York, Wednesday, March 12, 2014 (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

 

Here are some quick tips and best practices for coverage of disasters such as the building explosion in Harlem Wednesday:

5 tips for covering disaster preparedness Dig for context and other advice when covering the unexpected.

Boston explosions a reminder of how breaking news is changing Don’t make assumptions and other advice on avoiding mistakes when the adrenaline is pumping. Read more

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A winter storm approaching the East Coast has been blamed for over a dozen lives since moving across the country from California. (National Weather Service)

Time to prepare as storm approaches the east

The New York Times | Weather.com

As a winter storm cuts its way through the South and lumbers closer to the East Coast this week, it’s a wise newsroom that’s planning not just for a severe weather story but also for an emergency that could stop its presses or take down its website.

As of Monday night, forecasters expected the storm to bring rain, ice and snow to the South, with two to four inches of rain predicted for eastern cities beginning Wednesday. Airports from Boston to Washington, D.C., may be hardest hit, but the storm could also complicate holiday driving, the National Weather Service said.

Travelers in the East may see the effects of the storm as early as today, according to the Times. The timing, as they say, could not have been worse:

The inclement weather comes as millions of people take to the air and roads for the Thanksgiving holiday. More than 40 million people are expected to drive or fly at least 50 miles for Thanksgiving, with Wednesday expected to be the single busiest day, according to the AAA, the automobile association.

So what’s a newsroom to do? Complete all of the preparations that you would make for yourself and your family: have the staff fill up their gas tanks, set side some extra cash, and think through contingencies.

Emergency supplies should be taken out of storage and checked to ensure they are in working order. Batteries for flashlights and lanterns, windup cell-phone chargers, car chargers, adapters for laptops, extra water and food and rain jackets should all be ready to go. Keep journalists who will be out in the field stocked with equipment and supplies and test their backup communication systems.

Among the resources to consult for both stories and preparations:

Federal Emergency Management Administration’s Ready.gov website offers advice on preparing for winter storms and severe weather.

The American Red Cross provides winter-storm preparation advice, emergency-kit lists, and tips for keeping safe during a storm and protecting pets.

The California Energy Commission has tips for businesses in the event of a power outage, while Portland General Pacific offers a brochure for businesses that provides a quick checklist, even if you aren’t in their coverage area.

While this week’s storm is no Hurricane Sandy, the superstorm that devastated parts of the Eastern seaboard in October 2012 provided useful and replicable examples of storm coverage that went beyond the ordinary.

Significantly, several media outlets dropped their paywalls during Hurricane Sandy allowing readers to access important coverage of the massive storm. And they did it again in February when a severe winter storm pummeled the Northeast.

Sandy also produced fake photos and efforts to debunk misinformation, and that’s something to keep in mind for the coming storm coverage. Read more

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Occupy Oakland

Journalists under attack: Pros offer safety advice

Look at this page on the Committee to Protect Journalists’ website and feel a pain in your gut. The site documents the 45 journalists who have been killed on the job worldwide this year. Most were covering human rights, politics and/or crime when they died.

If you think the only journalists who face danger on the job are those working in Syria or Egypt, you’re wrong. Last week, WDAZ reporter Adam Ladwig was attacked by three people while covering a fire. Last month, a woman attacked a WUSA9 crew. A CBS2/KCAL9 reporter and photojournalist were attacked while covering the Zimmerman verdict protests in July. In August, Poynter.org told you about the San Francisco area attacks on news crews. In a six-week period, thieves attacked journalists six times, targeting cameras, computers and tripods and taking gear at gunpoint in at least one case. In 2011, journalists across the country said they were attacked by both crowds and police while covering the “Occupy” protests.

I turned to seasoned reporters and photojournalists and to the Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma for advice on how to stay safe and still get your job done. (Their answers have been edited for clarity and length.)

I asked my questions of:

What advice do you have about how to stay safe and still get the job done?

French

Lynn French, KPNX-TV Phoenix: Even though it feels a little “Mother may I?”, I always let the assignment desk or someone in my department know where I am going and when I should be back. It sounds simple, but journalists are independent by nature and have to fight the urge to just run out the door and hope for the best. No matter where I am going, I have my phone on me and location services turned on so if worst came to worst the newsroom could track my phone for evidence. If I am going into a tense situation, especially a door knock, I will call someone at the station to stay on the phone with me and I will tuck my phone somewhere where they can hear me (Arizona is a one-party state). And they know the exact address I am at so if things turn bad they can call the police and I can concentrate on getting to safety.

Shapiro

Bruce Shapiro, Dart Center for Trauma & Journalism: Even local journalists need to be aware of a potentially hostile environment, and pay attention both to the vulnerabilities we share with other citizens and the special risks which may be involved in our work. Anyone should worry, for instance, about being alone on a dark street. On the other hand, a journalist may also need to worry about being mistaken for law enforcement or some other unwanted presence, may be knocking on doors or taking photos in a community that has felt badly treated by media in the past, or may be displaying technology that makes us a target.

Adkins

Richard Adkins, WRAL-TV Raleigh: Knowledge is more than power — knowledge is armor. Know your surroundings and your way around. In the rush to the scene of  breaking news, pay attention to how you got there. What was the road/intersection where you parked your vehicle? Remember the street names. If you need to call 911 on your cell, could you give your exact location? I’m amazed at how often a reporter turns to me and asks, “Where are we?” If I’m working with a reporter at an active scene, the first thing I do is give the reporter my wireless microphone and turn it on — that way while I’m shooting video I can keep track of the reporter, who may go knocking on doors or talking with gathering crowds. This not only helps with safety, but also lets me come running if the reporter finds a great interview.

Pitts

Byron Pitts, ABC News: Pack the best first-aid kit possible. Get certified in basic first aid and CPR. I always carry a bandana, flashlights, local map and contact numbers. I also have a get-out-of jail card — either a note or phone number from the most important person in that part of the world I know. A colleague asked me once, “How much blood are you bringing?” There are places in the world where that is a legitimate question. Read, read, read. And always pray, pray, pray. But at the end of the day none of that may be enough — sometimes the best reporting is not going and telling the story another way.

What are the key things to never do and always do?

French: The No. 1 thing to never do is play the “Don’t you know who I am?” card. I have watched reporters do this time and time again in heated situations and not once has the other party stepped back and said, “Oh, I love your newscast, by all means proceed.” The desperation behind their motives is far greater than the stature you believe your organization has in the community. Something I learned from wildfire training is to always have an escape route. I try to stay close to my vehicle or have a place to flee to where someone can call for help. I am always looking for security cameras on buildings and ATMs, so that if something is going to happen, at least it is caught on someone else’s camera. And even though it is a competitive environment, when it comes to some situations there’s safety in numbers.

Pitts: The “ugly American” thing never works. Be kind. Be kind. Be kind to all you meet.

Adkins: Probably the most important advice I can give is for people to speak up. Don’t be afraid to tell the assignment desk when you have concerns for your safety — especially if you are working alone. The desk may give you an address that’s just a street with numbers to them, but you may know it’s an area with issues. Speak up — tell them that’s not a safe area. In the field, get out if you feel threatened — don’t wait for the situation to escalate. Always have an escape plan.

French: I just try to stay calm and aware, which is much tougher to do than it sounds. If someone asks why I’m there shooting video — especially if they have an edge of contention about them — I’m honest but don’t give any details other than the headline of the story. A little perceived ignorance can go a long way toward keeping the situation calm. If someone prods for more details on the story and it’s not apparent how they are attached to it, I’m apt to shrug my shoulders and say, “I was just told to get some shots of this building, I think it’s for tonight’s newscast. Do you know what goes on here that might help me understand why I’m here?” If someone asks me how much my gear is worth, again I play ignorant: “This stuff? It’s pretty old. It’s like cars — the value decreases really fast. We’re really the last ones using this old format.”

If you are working alone, does that change things?

Adkins: I often work alone. A while back I was shooting video along Oregon Inlet. I stepped wrong and one leg went into a hole up to my waist while the other leg went 90 degrees out to my left, a gymnastic move I had never practiced. I was stuck, couldn’t free myself and could feel blood running down my leg. Luckily a couple of guys fishing nearby saw me and came to help. While I was being stitched up at the local Urgent Care, I knew that from now on someone needed to keep tabs on me while I was out. The assignment desk is too busy, so we enabled my phone for my wife to keep up with me via GPS. I also text her where I am and where I’m going. If too long passes without her hearing from me she will call and check on me.

French: Working alone absolutely changes things. Other than your camera, there are no witnesses who have your back. When I am working alone, I roll tape on every interaction and whenever my Spidey sense tingles. While nothing may come of the interaction in the moment, it has helped me prove my conduct was proper when someone has called the news director after the fact to say I was trespassing or being unprofessional. If a situation feels bad, I trust my gut and treat it as a dangerous situation. That may include not advancing into the scene as fast as I normally would, calling the desk to alert them that my safety is in question, or finding an alternative way to cover the story.

What do you wish your reporter/photojournalist partner would or would not do to lower the temperature out there?

Pitts: My checklist: Get the latest security intel from the government, local law enforcement, private security and any reliable source on the ground. Make sure I’m aware of local customs, weapon systems and the proper threat assessment. What’s the biggest threat: kidnapping, murder, violence, intimidation, robbery? I make sure I pack the proper clothes to fit in or not fit in. I make sure I’m in the best physical shape I can possibly be in. In many parts of the world size matters — if you look like someone not to be fooled with people will usually leave you alone. Have an exit strategy. I usually travel with a team, and here are the rules: Let someone in the home office know your schedule, then stay on schedule. We travel most often in daylight. We know in advance (as best we can) who must get paid on the trip — local drivers, interpreters, etc. Avoid negotiating prices on the ground and never flash money. We make all safety decisions as a group, and unanimous votes are the only ones that count. If anyone votes to stop, we stop — no questions asked.

Adkins: Door knocks are one of the most difficult things we do and most of us don’t want to be there. Recently I was with a reporter on a door knock, and when we got back to the car he turned to me and thanked me for being beside him on the stoop. He said, “You’re the only photog I work with that gets out of the car on these things.” I told him it’s a safety-in-numbers thing so I always go to the door with the reporter. Some reporters like to sit in the car while I may be out shooting B-roll. In some situations, I’ll ask them to get out of the car with me. Again, safety in numbers — and while my eye is glued to the viewfinder, their eyes can be open to our surroundings.

French: Read the situation and consider how the camera will change the dynamic. Cameras are a lot like alcohol, they intensify people’s personalities and intentions. If people are happy, they become happier around the camera; if they are angry, they become angrier at the camera and the person using it. Everyone is trying to hit a deadline, but remembering the people we are covering have to live with a situation long after our deadline has passed will hopefully help us be more respectful of the emotional temperature. Finally, keep an eye on each other and help if needed. Yes, we are competitors but at the end of the day our goal is the same.

Do newsrooms train journalists to handle this sort of thing? What would such training include?

Shapiro: No — and they should. Assessing threats and staying safe — whether that means being smart about physical threats, understanding basic cybersecurity, being able to deliver routine first aid, or basic awareness of psychological trauma — is part of the training news organizations should provide. This isn’t just something for correspondents covering exotic conflicts. Even local journalists may contend with mass shootings, disasters, civil unrest, or simply dangerous streets, disturbed individuals, traumatic assignments or the risk of mugging, sexual assault or being targeted because of our work. It’s an occupational health risk, just like repetitive strain injury. If a news company would invest in ergonomic chairs, why not invest in a safety briefing, first-aid course or trauma-awareness session?

Pitts: The first time I went to Afghanistan for CBS News, Dan Rather called me into his office. “Here are the rules of the road,” he said. “Don’t eat the meat, don’t drink the water and never look at the women.” He was smiling when he said it. And then he turned serious: “Who are the people you love most in the world? Think about it. Go back to your office and write each of them a letter. Seal the letters and leave them with me if you like. Because when you go someplace like Afghanistan, you might not come home.” Then he just sat there and let the idea sink in. Finally he added: “If you can accept that reality, then go with God. If not, we will send someone else.” Period. End of discussion. I share that story only to say this: In our business and in these times there are no guarantees. Read more

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Typhoon survivor Mario Barbado, 56, waits for a chance to board any military transport planes from the U.S., Philippines, Malaysia or Singapore, on Sunday Nov. 17, 2013 at the damaged Tacloban airport in central Philippines.  Typhoon Haiyan, one of the most powerful typhoons ever recorded, slammed into central Philippine provinces on  Nov. 8, leaving a wide swath of destruction and thousands of people dead. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez)

Reporting on the ground in the Philippines

At least 2,300 people are reported dead following the onslaught of Haiyan, the super typhoon that swept through the Philippines Friday.

As more media outlets deploy reporters to the scene, the scale of the devastation in Leyte and Samar provinces is coming into sharper focus. Help is slowly arriving, but many remain without food, water and medical supplies, journalists and aid organizations report.

We’re monitoring the social media posts of reporters, bloggers and aid officials on the ground in the hard-hit regions. Add your suggestions for others to follow in the comments below.

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How NBC News reporter and firefighter Al Henkel covers wildfires

You never get the smell of smoke out of your skin.

“It’ll be in there for weeks,” NBC News Coordinating Producer Al Henkel said via phone as he drove to Boise after several days covering the Beaver Creek fire in Idaho.

Henkel, who is based in Dallas, has been covering fires for NBC News since at least the mid-’80s. In 2005 NBC sent him to fire school in Colorado so he could earn his “red card,” the credential that allows firefighters to join wildfire crews upon arrival. He occasionally helps out with controlled burns at the LBJ National Grasslands in Texas.

“Some guys play golf,” Henkel said. “This is what I do.”

Henkel joined the Pike Hotshots of Monument, Colo., in Idaho for two days this week and posted pictures from the Beaver Creek blaze on Instagram when he could get cell phone service.

An incident commander had convinced Verizon to install a cell on wheels, or COW truck at a base camp, he said. But he couldn’t get a tool he sometimes uses to stream video to work over the cell service, so he left a tape at his car for an NBC News crewmember (correspondent Miguel Almaguer was reporting on the fire not too far away) to come pick up. Read more

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Gary England on covering Oklahoma tornadoes for 42 years: ‘I don’t have to tell them it is scary’

In 42 years of Oklahoma City weathercasting, KWTV’s Gary England estimates he has tracked more than 1,000 tornadoes, and without a doubt, that estimate is “on the low end.” When he started his TV career in 1972, he wrote on his weather map with chalk.  Nine years later, KWTV says “England became the first person in history to use Doppler radar for direct warnings to the public.”  He even appeared in Steven Spielberg’s movie “Twister.” In November he will be inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame.

England: “There will be time to look at video of destruction later.”

In those years he had developed a mantra that he says he pushes his team of seven meteorologists to follow on days like Monday, when a mile-wide tornado tore through the Oklahoma City suburb of Moore. “When the storm is moving, I keep asking myself, ‘where is it, what is it, where is it going, what time will it be there, what will it do when it gets there?’ Our main concern during a storm is to be thinking of the people in front of the storm,” England told me. “There will be time to look at video of destruction later, but our first priority is helping the people who are about to get hit.”

Oklahoma City weathercasters like England and his competitors have earned the respect and accolades of viewers and this week, even the Oklahoma governor.  England says when he is on the air he tries not to use “scary adjectives.” The viewer can look out their windows and see there is a big storm out there. “I don’t have to tell them it is scary,” he said.

Monday afternoon, England and his team of seven meteorologists were tracking five storms on computers at the same time.  “We knew days ago that we were heading for two days of tornadoes. But when you see the live images on the radar and the video we had from our helicopter, you knew somebody was going to die. It is a horrible feeling.”  The timing of Monday’s storm was especially hazardous. “School was still in session, so people see the images on TV and make a run for the school to get the children out and you know they will get caught in the storm.”

Oklahoma City TV stations have the unusual tradition of handing control of what goes on the air to the chief meteorologist when storms are on the ground. You can see what that looks like in this 2009 tornado outbreak when England and his team tracked multiple giant storms as they skipped across the Oklahoma countryside.

Ten years ago this month, England had to take the unusual step of evacuating the studio when a tornado headed straight for the station. Here is video of that day:

Oklahoma City TV stations spend a lot of energy “training” viewers how to react to storm warnings. “We have held community events that attracted thousands of people to train them,” England said. In his four decades of tracking storms, England now thinks of his viewers in terms of “generations.”

Even in Oklahoma, a state that logs 50 tornadoes a year, viewers often complain when TV stations interrupt programming with weather alerts. “After an event like we had this week, the complaints will die down for a while,” England says. “But in about a year, they will start calling when we interrupt their TV programs.” 42 years of experience has taught him that too.

Related: Oklahoma governor thanks media for tornado coverage Read more

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AP photographer Sue Ogrocki talks about photographing children at Plaza Towers Elementary School in Moore, Okla., Monday.

In the 30 minutes that I was outside the destroyed school, I photographed about a dozen children pulled from the rubble.

I focused my lens on each one of them. Some looked dazed. Some cried. Others seemed terrified.

But they were alive.

I know that some students were among those who died in the tornado, but for a moment, there was hope in the devastation.

Sue Ogrocki, Associated Press

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Boston explosions a reminder of how breaking news reporting is changing

Terrible events such as yesterday’s bombings at the Boston Marathon have always meant “all hands on deck” for news organizations, with staffers pulled off their regular beats to contribute.

But the endpoint of the newsgathering and reporting is no longer a front-page package of stories explaining — the best one can — what happened, why it happened and what might be next. Now, there is no endpoint — events are reported in real time, with stories in constant motion, and the front page is a snapshot of an organization’s reporting at the moment when the presses needed to roll.

Boston was a reminder of that, and a look at what’s changing in real-time journalism. Through Twitter and various live blogs, I found myself looking over my shoulder at the Boston Globe, the New York Times, Reuters and other news organizations, and was able to make some observations and draw some conclusions.

My first observation doesn’t speak to what’s changed in journalism, but to what’s remained the same. The Boston Globe’s impressive reporting was driven by having boots on the ground — quite literally, since the newspaper had reporters and photographers at the finish line very near the site of the two bombs.

That’s how John Tlumacki captured the image that seems likely to become the iconic photograph of this tragic day in Boston, and how reporters such as Billy Baker and Chad Finn contributed a wealth of detail — by turns horrifying and surreal — from the scene.

The tools have changed, with Twitter an instant printing press for bite-sized bits of news, but the skills — a keen eye, empathetic ear, and a good list of contacts — have not.

But these days there’s another layer to reporting such events. Besides boots on the ground, news organizations also need an eye in the sky — someone charged with gathering information, deciding what’s credible and what’s not, and presenting it to readers.

Such traffic cops have been part of covering breaking news for generations, but once their role was an internal one aimed at producing those front-page packages. Now, the role is external — and the assets they use can no longer be limited to their own news organizations. The roster of reporters (and those acting like them) for a breaking-news event is ever shifting and changing, bound not by whose ID tag someone wears but by where they are, what they see and what they know.

Other journalists are seeing and hearing things and tweeting them, and must be incorporated into what an organization knows and communicates to its readers. That’s also true of all the people once bundled together under the heading of “sources” — government officials, hospital spokespeople and others now release information directly to the public, without funneling it through the media. And so do people who are participants in an event or observers.

Take the tweets from Bruce Mendelsohn, a marketer who was attending a party just above the site of the first explosion. Mendelsohn is the kind of witness reporters hope to find but rarely do — a former Army medic with an eye for detail and the ability to assess spectators’ injuries and what might have caused them. A photo he took was picked up by the Associated Press, and news organizations quoted him — but only after they discovered his tweets, which were available to all.

 

 

(By the way, next time journalists are quick to dismiss citizen journalism, point them to Mendelsohn’s tweets and photograph. He was reporting on his own, and quite capably.)

The role of a news organization’s eye in the sky demands far more than just aggregating the work of others. It requires the ability to juggle all the parts of a developing story, continually account for new information, and quickly vet tips, photos and descriptions. In a situation such as the Boston Marathon, few bits of information will be able to be vetted the way news organizations would like. The eye in the sky will have to make those calls, relying on another old tool: the reporter’s gut instinct. (Though lessons like these will help.)

Which brings us to the most wrenching change for news organizations confronted by an event like Boston: News gathering and reporting — an intrinsically messy hodgepodge of verifying facts and debunking chatter — is now done in front of readers. Instead of waiting for a carefully crafted report on the news or a front page, readers are now in the “fog of war” with the participants and reporters and officials and everybody else.

Whether we like it or not, this isn’t going to change — given readers’ hunger for news on such days, news organizations can’t remain silent about reports until they’ve been verified with officials and subjected to the organization’s own system of scrutiny. The chaos of breaking news is no longer something out of which coverage arises — it’s the coverage itself.

One of the many difficulties with this is none of us — reporters, officials and readers alike — is used to it. Reporters want to be first but fear the consequences of being wrong. Frustrated officials seeking to figure out what’s going on may pass along a reporting mistake, seemingly verifying it and thereby amplifying it. Readers want information from the beginning of the reporting process but still hold news organizations to the same standards that governed the final product. All of this adds up to a profound change — one we’ve only begun to grapple with.

In a situation like this, the best way forward for news organizations is acceptance and transparency. We have to tell readers what we’re sure we know and how we know it, acknowledge and assess things that we’re hearing, and provide constant updates and cautions that what we think we know is changing rapidly. Establishing facts has value, of course — as does wise analysis. But so too does providing information, publicly asking questions (and providing a forum for answers) and debunking rumors. Former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer’s rules of a crisis are good advice here:

 

In time, all of us will become more accustomed to reporting in the fog of war, with the entire newsgathering process taking place in public. We will develop language, standards and procedures for such reporting, shaped in part by readers — who will in turn learn how to use them to assess and respond to our work. Those standards and procedures are already emerging. But there is much thinking and work still to be done — and the lessons of days like yesterday are part of that process.

Previously: Covering what comes next in the aftermath of the blasts | How journalists are covering, reacting to Boston Marathon explosions | BostonGlobe.com, other sites drop paywalls following Boston Marathon explosions

Correction: This post originally misspelled Tlumacki’s last name. Read more

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