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« On monoliths | Main | Climate Change Act Reconsidered part 2 - Josh 130 »

Harrabin - an official response

Roger Harrabin passes on an official response to my blog post on his proactivity at the Tyndall Centre.

The Tyndall Centre is a reputable research group and Roger Harrabin’s association with it, which ended in 2005, accorded with BBC guidelines on impartiality.

“Many journalists, including Roger Harrabin, have long complained about the difficulty of getting timely, clear responses from the scientific establishment to issues in the news like climate change. It is in the interest of the BBC's audiences for these issues to be properly debated.”

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Reader Comments (41)

It is in the interest of the BBC's audiences for these issues to be properly debated.

Er.....which "debate" would that be Roger? I don't remember any debate about man made global warming on the BBC.

Dec 2, 2011 at 8:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterBuffy Minton

Its a shame that in the interests of balance and unbiased reporting that the BBC and journalists like Roger Harrabin don't seem to think to get more than one opinion on climate research, or look at both sides of the story. The use of the phrase "Science Establishment" is pretty damning.

As for the climate debate on the BBC, when did that take place? I must have missed the in-depth interviews and reporting of work by McIntyre, Lindzen, Landsea, Spencer, Christy etc. Can I still get them on BBC iPlayer?

Dec 2, 2011 at 8:07 AM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

Here's how the BBC wants science to be "properly debated", in the words of Prof Steve Jones in his recent report.

He [Jones] added that, for years, "the climate change deniers have been marginal to the scientific debate but somehow they continued to find a place on the airwaves".

Can't have that, can we, Mister Harrabin?

Dec 2, 2011 at 8:30 AM | Unregistered CommenterRick Bradford

Come on - they interviewed Sir David King a few days ago, and got Jonathon Porritt on for balance!

Dec 2, 2011 at 8:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterJames P

Thinking Scientist

I was struck by SM's appearance in the New Statesman's list of 50 people who matter. Then consider how often he has appeared on the BBC. It would be an interesting exercise to see how many people on the New Statesman list have appeared less often on the BBC.

Dec 2, 2011 at 8:39 AM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

The Adam Smith Institute and the Centre for Policy Studies are both reputable research organisations. If Robert Preston or Nick Robinson acted as advisers to either of these organisations, would BBC management consider that was within impartiality guidelines? Somehow, I doubt it.

The longer that the BBC tries to justify what has happened, the deeper the hole that they are digging for themselves.

Dec 2, 2011 at 8:54 AM | Unregistered CommenterTonyN

"It is in the interest of the BBC's audiences for these issues to be properly debated"

If the reporting of the past is the example of proper debate by the BBC then I would suggest that their target audience for most News programs does not include myself.
I do find it lazy and inappropriate for news anchors to interview their own reporters on topics, not just CC, instead of finding an individual involved in the topic.
Or the frequent case of receiving a video report from a correspondent who never actually interviews anyone but just presents their own interpretation of events. How can objectivity or debate be present when questioning one's own subordinate, it is really just a means of passing on a desired opinion.
They do not present news, they present their limited interpretation of the news, which may not reflect the true situation and I might add is not limited to the BBC. I do though expect the BBC to set a higher standard because I am directly financing their operation.

Could this be conceived as mis-representation of 'News' and should certain programs be scheduled as, for example, the "Ten o'clock Opinion from the BBC"?

Dec 2, 2011 at 9:37 AM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Part of the problem is encapsulated in these words:

"...have long complained about the difficulty of getting timely, clear responses from the scientific establishment to issues in the news like climate change."

Journalists are driven by deadlines, audiences and their bosses. They're looking for clear short messages they can put over in a few seconds, and one that ideally doesn't grate too much with their belief systems. Given that very little in science is that straightforward, and that few journos have any technical background, they struggle to understand the whole picture. If you then introduce a PR machine as Grantham has done, and spoon-feed them with access to a select group, you make them feel good, and you provide endless material which fits the mindset.

You'd expect that the journo's higher up the tree would know better how to avoid this trap, but in my experience they are the one's more easily led - their belonging to the 'in' crowd is more important to them than objectivity. There are some very good correspondents in the BBC regions who do ask awkward questions and I know a few on local papers that would count with the best investigative journalists.

In my opinion, Roger Harribin is subconsiously moulding himself to the 'establishement' though he probably regards himself as independent minded. Of course, he's only part of this closed cycle of groupthink.

Dec 2, 2011 at 10:01 AM | Unregistered CommenterCumbrian Lad

Could this be conceived as mis-representation of 'News' and should certain programs be scheduled as, for example, the "Ten o'clock Opinion from the BBC"?
Dec 2, 2011 at 9:37 AM | Lord Beaverbrook

That's exactly why I get my current affairs reporting from Sky.

Both Jeff Randall and Adam Boulton interview a wide range of people with divergent backgrounds and views.

Whenever I check BBC - one earnest Beeboid is coaxing the standard BBC line out of another earnest Beeboid, like an endless Greek chorus of dilute Marxism.

I suppose for an organisation that sees nothing wrong with Newsnight's economic commentator, Paul Mason, being a shop-steward with Socialist Worker's Party affiliations (recently edited from Wikipedia BTW) - having an environmental activist to "debate" climate science is par for the course.

Dec 2, 2011 at 10:03 AM | Unregistered CommenterFoxgooose

The "objectives" of the Tyndall Centre.


To research, assess and communicate from a distinct trans-disciplinary perspective, the options to mitigate, and the necessities to adapt to, climate change, and to integrate these into the global, UK and local contexts of sustainable development.

This "purpose" explicitly rejects the need to question the existance or efficacy of Catastrophic Man Made Climate Change.

Earth to Harrabin - That is the heart of our objection to the BBC coverage of climate science.

Dec 2, 2011 at 10:46 AM | Unregistered CommenterGeckko

That's a joke, right?
As Cumbrian Lad said: they are being spoon fed, and they are the one and the same propagandists.

Dec 2, 2011 at 10:49 AM | Unregistered CommenterJohn Silver

Dec 2, 2011 at 9:37 AM | Lord Beaverbrook

Couldn't agree more.

I have often wondered why, rather than standing in front of an empty office/factory/Whitehall/Old Bailey/etc. at 11pm they couldn't do the same report from the nice warm studio or their front room. Even the "Occupy St Pauls" people go home of an evening.

Dec 2, 2011 at 10:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterSandyS

Interviewing colleagues should be made illegal at the BBC. It's one step short of a newsreader announcing (for example): "A new batch of hacked CRU emails appeared on the internet today. Here's what I think about it..."

'Debate' appears to be another of those words hijacked by the BBC/Left and contorted to mean something other than is does.

Dec 2, 2011 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

"It is in the interest of the BBC's audiences for these issues to be properly debated"

Surely this is an open admission that the BBC is working against the interests of it's audiences.

Dec 2, 2011 at 11:08 AM | Unregistered CommenterDoubting Rich

The only explanation for Harrabin's comments are, that he had his fingers crossed when he made them.

Dec 2, 2011 at 11:31 AM | Unregistered CommenterDougS

Your Grace: In case of any dispute from usual sources, I should point out that SM was 32nd on the 2010 New Statesman list. He doesn't appear in the 2011 list - but the Koch Brothers do manage 45 (probably because the trolls keep banging on about them ;-) )

And I can only echo Thinkingscientists' comment that Harrabin doesn't seem to understand 'balance', nor the concept of what a 'debate' is.

Dec 2, 2011 at 12:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterSnotrocket

I hope part of Harrabin's study at Michigan Ann Arbor (the wallace fund) is on what will happen to Gaiia when the 99% all will enjiy the lifestyle he enjoys : flying around the world on other's expense, 70k a year hanging about with likeminded caviar lefties at Ford's and Noke's expense, Drinking wine in the Pampa's to rejuvenate thoughts how we should shower less etc.

Particularly disgusting is to read how the BBC who pretends caring about the poor cries for equivocallity, allows here one of their minions to have a sabbatical holiday in all comfrotable security.

Dec 2, 2011 at 12:25 PM | Unregistered Commentertutu

Has RHs pension pot been reduced by him going to enjoy la dolce vita?

the 99% when they want to enjoy a years break , they have to resign from their job.
It's in Gaiia's interest, that.

Mb the BBCs caroline thompson could come and explain us why this is in Gaia's interest.
Sure she can spare a minute pulling her fat 1%-ish snout out of the trough, it wld do her good.

Dec 2, 2011 at 12:30 PM | Unregistered Commentertutu

@ Doubting Rich
"Surely this is an open admission that the BBC is working against the interests of it's audiences."

Possibly. It's worth wondering what 'properness' Harrabin has in mind when he states that "It is in the interest of the BBC's audiences for these issues to be properly debated". My dictionary defines 'properly' as correctly or satisfactorily.

The interests of BBC's audiences, of course, would be met by the corporation correctly adhering to the universally recognised structure of a debate - whatever the issue and whatever its outcome.

Harrabin may mean he wants issues to be satisfactorily debated - ie: stilted to arrive at the predetermined result he is satisfied with. Whether or not that is in the 'interest of the BBC's audiences' depends upon whether Harrabin and the BBC see their role as educating or indoctrinating.

Dec 2, 2011 at 12:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterPeter S

RHs dire fate has not been communicated enough to the 99% , methinks.

The 99% when they make a small professional error can go look for another job most of the time.
Here we have a political activist , most of the time agitating outside his mandate at high pay and now compromised and exposed. But tAl Beebcejah takes well care for its fallen, at our expense. He can make long walks in nature, sample wine , fly around enjoy the major vistas in nature the wolrd around.

Next time another [moderate your language, please]from the BBC tells me something about the 99% or another just found political bandwagon, I'll think about RHs dire circumstances.

Dec 2, 2011 at 12:38 PM | Unregistered Commentertutu

In this, and the previous posts (concerning both Harrabin and Alex Kirby), I can certainly understand what they are saying, though I don't support some of their actions.

Both their stories go back to the early-mid 90s when mainstream environmental concern was still a backwaters in the public mind and on newspaper pages. Journalists like Harrabin had to work hard (in cahoots with university professors and scientists) to gain visibility to their field of investigation. It is not like that anymore (since governments aligned their interests with environmentalism and started using it to promote their interests). Harrabin's objectivism has become a victim of his own success.

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:03 PM | Unregistered CommenterShub

PeterS. The BBC drive me mad, but I can see their dilemma in having a debate on climate science. The activists have effectively driven the more cautious climate scientists either out of the debate, into silence. Consequently there isn't a large scientific voice prepared to challenge the tosh we see them putting out on the streets, hence no debate. Clearly in the early days they did allow debate because there is a record of Mike Hulme objecting to the BBC allowing Prof Stott to engage with the Reverand Houghton on the issue of climate science. Clearly they were lobbying Harrabin et al not to let anyone challenge their "science", as Harrabin and Black are believers they were pushing on an open door asking them to stifle debate. However, it has to be said there are precious few scientists who will come forward and challenge the IPCC and the Team, so it makes it easy for Harrabin and Black to excuse themselves for not being even handed.

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:17 PM | Unregistered Commentergeronimo

Missing the point again, are we, Mr Harrabin?

The point, incase you still haven't noticed, is that "these issues" have not been properly debated!

Instead, we've been force-fed your propaganda for a dozen years now, and have been made to pay for it, twice.
Once through the enforced licence fee - which secures you a lifestyle the huge majority of us can only dream about.
Secondly through the green taxes, the huge increase in energy bills, the devastating economic consequences of the last winter which was predicted to be "normal" by your cronies in the Met Office.

The AGW chickens will come home to roost for you as well!

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:22 PM | Unregistered CommenterViv Evans

Not just a problem at the BBC but also generally a problem with MSM journalists - few if any have any science training at all. If you studied for a BA in Classics or English then being a journalist and reporting on politics or crime is ok, you just need to be abe to write clearly and have some common sense. Science reporting requires some minimum of science training so you can spot the porkies when you see them, and ask the awkward questions. What can possibly qualify Black, Harrabin etc for science reporting when they cannot even understand basic science principles? I am still unsure whether they are deliberatley mis-reporting "hide the decline" or whether they really are just ignorant.

One example of science reporting which annoyed me greatly was when some years ago the Science Correspondent for the Daily Telegraph stated that Pi is a recurring number.....if only.

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:34 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist

@Dec 2, 2011 at 10:56 AM | Peter S

"Interviewing colleagues should be made illegal at the BBC."

And also wheeling out activist NGO spokespersons as "experts" (Fiends of the Earth, Greenpiss, WorldWildLiesFund).

Mind you, I guess you could count those as "colleagues", anyway.

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:38 PM | Unregistered CommenterMartin Brumby

Is that all the BBC said about it, or is that all Roger Harrabin sent you?

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:41 PM | Unregistered CommenterMessenger

BBC in the UK, NPR and major media in the US, ABC in Australia, NZ media, and most of Europe are "all in" on their commitments to be cheerleaders for the AGW movement. Few of their journalists are even able to deploy critical thinking irt reporting claims made by the 'team' or the consensus.
Their default position is to quote verbatim anything to do with AGW catastrophism and report it as if it were a news article, and not a press release.
The credulity they grant to AGW opinion makers includes the opinions those people have on areas completely outside their science- politics, motives of skeptics, history, anything at ll if the particular promoters they are talking to is considered credible (orthodox) regarding AGW.

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterhunter

That's all he sent, but I think that's all there is.

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:43 PM | Registered CommenterBishop Hill

"accorded with BBC guidelines on impartiality."

Aye, there's the rub.

Dec 2, 2011 at 1:50 PM | Unregistered CommenterNeil Craig

Quote, "The Tyndall Centre is a reputable research group"

Ho, ho, ho, ho................ ho, ho,ho...........ho, ho..............ho!

Quote, "Roger Harrabin’s association with it accorded with BBC guidelines on impartiality."

Ho, ho, ho, ho................ ho, ho,ho...........ho, ho..............ho!

Quote, "Many journalists, including Roger Harrabin"

Ho, ho, ho, ho................ ho, ho,ho...........ho, ho..............ho!

Quote, "timely, clear responses from the scientific establishment to issues like climate change"

Ho, ho, ho, ho................ ho, ho,ho...........ho, ho..............ho!

Quote, "It is in the interest of the BBC's audiences for these issues to be properly debated.”

Ho, ho, ho, ho................ ho, ho,ho...........ho, ho..............ho!

All that is missing is the pantomime horse!

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:28 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Why is the first para not in quotes, while the second is. Is that accurate? Who is saying the second para? Who wrote the first?

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJames Evans

Foxgoose: Like you I think Jeff Randall is a good reporter. That may be because his views are often aligned with mine, but I suspect it is more likely that he is well qualified for his job. He took a degree in economics before studying as a post-graduate for journalism.

I recall when Jeff Randall left the BBC he was quite outspoken about how difficult it is to continue work within the BBC when your personal political view is coloured slightly right of centre and the entire monlithic BBC is significantly left of centre. Wiki quotes him as saying:

"Randall criticised the BBC for being biased and left wing. He noted an occasion when he wore Union Jack cufflinks and a producer told him he could not wear them on air as it would be seen as an endorsement for the National Front.[5] Randall also told of an occasion where he complained to a senior news executive about the BBC's pro-multicultural stance. In a reply he was told "The BBC is not neutral in multiculturalism: it believes in it and it promotes it"."

I recall reading one or two lengthy articles on BBC bias written by him.

Clearly someone like Jeff Randall (and his successor at the BBC, Robert Peston, although he is from a left wing family like the Millibands) are qualified first in their chosen subject and only secondly as a journalist. If the BBC insisted on such a policy for its science and environment reporting - relevent science degree such as physics or a serious earth science topic first - then maybe Harrabin and Black wouldn't be so lamentable as reporters and the propaganda might have been stopped. Harrabin has no qualifications whatsoever that would allow him to bring a critical eye to science reporting. Anyone know what Richard Black's qualifications are?

Dec 2, 2011 at 2:45 PM | Unregistered CommenterThinkingScientist


RB has a GCE in Old Testament Studies.

Dec 2, 2011 at 3:04 PM | Unregistered CommenterMac

Fill the gap dear girl while the masters away:
New Icelandic volcano eruption could have global impact By Jane O'Brien

"The possibility that it may include a larger eruption cannot be excluded," he continues. "Katla is a very active and versatile volcano. It has a long history of large eruptions, some of which have caused considerable damage."

The last major eruption occurred in 1918 and caused such a large glacier meltdown that icebergs were swept by the resulting floods into the ocean.

The volume of water produced in a 1755 eruption equalled that of the world's largest rivers combined.

But don't forget the end tag line, not attributed to the scientists.............

But the biggest threat to Iceland's icecaps is seen as climate change, not the volcanoes that sometimes melt the icecaps.

They have begun to thin and retreat dramatically over the last few decades, contributing to the rise in sea levels that no eruption of Katla, however big, is likely to match.

It must be a standard footer in the BBC Office package.

Dec 2, 2011 at 3:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Lord B.

Akin to a bomb disposal expert sitting on a ticking 1000lb bomb and have a Health and Safety officer tell him to stop smoking because of the danger of secondary smoke to passers by.

Good grief. The times we live in.

Dec 2, 2011 at 3:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterStuck-record

IT doesn't matter whether Tyndall is a reputable resaerch centre or not..

The BBC's Roger was on the Advisory BOARD of Tyndall..
That alone is enough to destroy an illusion of impartiality, to scientists from there that he might intervew or write articles about..

The fact the Roger's and Joe Smith's CMEP, was running seminars at the BBC, sponsored by Tyndall makes this beyond hope, for impartiality..

Roger was listed on the board late Oct 2005

WHEN did he step down?

In January 2006, Climate Change - A challenge to Broadcasting, BBC seminar led to the change in BBC policy.. for three years prior, Harrabin was on the board of Tyndall.!!!

the BBC issued a formal editorial policy document, stating that:

‘the weight of evidence no longer justifies equal space being given to the opponents of the consensus’

not least because Mike Hulme, was trying to keep other SCIENTIST's off the airwaves... and said that was WHY he was funding CMEP...

Mike Hulme: Tyndall director:

“Did anyone hear [Prof] Stott vs. Houghton on Today, radio 4 this morning? Woeful stuff really. This is one reason why Tyndall is sponsoring the Cambridge Media/Environment Programme to starve this type of reporting at source.” (email 2496)


Mike Hulme clearly did not like this program and clearly sponsors CMEP to use its influence with it BBC seminars to change reporting at the BBC, with an apparent intent to suppress any sceptical voices. A commentator at the Bishop Hill blog tracked down the ‘woeful’ program, where Prof Philip Stott and the IPCC’s Sir John Houghton debate the “uncertainties” of climate change”, it is mentioned in a 25 Feb 2002 article by Alex Kirby, BBC online environment correspondent, there is an audio link in the article to the radio program (probably UK only, well worth a listen)

Alex Kirby in the article quotes Stott as saying:

“The problem with a chaotic coupled non-linear system as complex as climate is that you can no more predict successfully the outcome of doing something as of not doing something. Kyoto will not halt climate change. Full stop.” - BBC

I might agree with Mike Hulme that Sir John Houghton performed poorly, but here were 2 scientists talking about uncertainties, nearly ten years ago. I see nothing wrong with that program, it appears to present balance, with views from scientists with different opinions. In fact that quote of Stott appears to be almost directly from the 2001 IPCC Third Assessment report (the one with the ‘hockey stick’ graph in) around the time of the interview,

“The climate system is a coupled non-linear chaotic system,
and therefore the long-term prediction of future climate states
is not possible.” – IPCC 2001 TAR (pg 771)

Looking back at Stott’s quote now, and the now, near total failure of the Kyoto agreement, we can perhaps see with hindsight whose argument is treated more kindly by the passage of time.

Dec 2, 2011 at 5:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterBarry Woods

PR at its best? The clowns involved in the CAGW scam have been thoroughly caught with their collective pants down doing the circlular thing. Yea, that circular thing that ends with one hand washing the others until all the hands appear to come clean. Dirty hands washing dirty hands will still result in dirty hands. Sticky fingers will still be sticky until you use soap and water, but in this case it will take a much stronger cleanser.

Their house is burning and the walls are crumbling, run for the doors and proclaim your innocence. Now comes the proclaimations; "we are not crooks, you just don't understand, we'll get back on track as soon as it all blows over. Trust us". Yea, right.

The BBC, Harrabin, Tyndall Centre, EAU, etc. This is a blog and not an encyclopedia so I will stop the list with 'etc'. .......

Dec 2, 2011 at 6:52 PM | Unregistered Commentereyesonu

UEA’s Tyndall Centre rejects Mail on Sunday claims over influencing BBC policy

But a spokesman for the BBC rejected the claim that the Tyndall Centre influenced the corporation’s broadcast policy.

And a spokesman for the Tyndall Centre said: “We infrequently provide advice to media programmes for effective science communication when requested.

Doesn't this get a bit silly if both spokesmen could be the same person!

Dec 2, 2011 at 8:20 PM | Unregistered CommenterLord Beaverbrook

Lord Beaverbrook,

Apparently the Katla story is bogus:

The last third of the BBC 'News' story is entitled 'Changing climate' but only the last two sentences you quoted refer to climate change.

I complained to the BBC.

News just in: If Erebus blows it'll make a mess of the Antarctic.

Dec 2, 2011 at 9:08 PM | Unregistered CommenterBilly Liar

Did anyone see the BBC 6 o,clock News last night. It featured the Eco-centric David Shukman 'interviewing' Sir David Attenborough on his views on AGW to be shown in the final part of Frozen Planet on Wednesday night.

This was a classic example of what I call the 'Circular Denial Principle' at work whereby everyone at the Beeb covers each others' backsides!

See it at i-Player: and scroll forward to 15:30

Dec 3, 2011 at 12:00 PM | Unregistered CommenterYertizz

RE: "The Tyndall Centre is a reputable research group . . ."

Who is the Scientific Director now @Tyndall?

Apparently there was an opening back in 2000. This from CG2 #0527

date: Mon, 21 Aug 2000 06:57:09 -0600
from: Tom Wigley <REDACTED>
subject: Tyndall



I was a little disturbed by the lack of credible candidates for the
Scientific Director job. Astrid and I have discussed the situation at
length and decided that I should make myself available. As you can
realise, there are some difficult factors involved. Moving back to
England would not be easy for Eirik or Melissa, both in terms of
schooling and (particularly) because of established friendships here. My
pension scheme is also an issue that I would have to investigate
carefully. A third item is housing -- price increases here have not kept
up with Norwich, so this could create a financial burden.

The most difficult aspect, however, is Astrid's career. For us to return
to England, she would have to be offered an appropriate job by UEA,
preferably in the Scandinavian department. As you know, Astrid's career
has really 'taken off' since coming here. She has produced many
important papers, obtained a number of big grants from NSF (the most
recent one was for some $400K), and been Assistant Director of INSTAAR
for two years (INSTAAR, by the way, is vastly bigger than CRU, so this
Assistant Director post was a major item). She is currently being
courted by the C.U. Scandinavian Dept. here; but with the problem that
her academic credentials are almost too good (superior to almost
everyone in that Department).
We could not return to England unless she was given a position in UEA
that matched her present position and status level.

So, if you are willing to entertain me as a candidate, could you discuss
this with Trevor ... and up the line within UEA.

On the positive side, I am not making myself available purely because it
appears that your candidate list is less good than one might have hoped.
Getting the Centre was a major coup for UEA, and it is clear that its
future success will depend to no small degree on who is the Scientific
Director. It would be pointless to show false modesty here, but I
believe that my qualifications, academic stature and credibility, and
breadth of knowledge, interests and experience put me far above any
other actual or potential candidate. Furthermore, the broad
policy-relevant goals of the Centre lie squarely within my own current
interests, which have evolved considerably in this direction over the
years that I have been here in Boulder.

Cheers, Tom.

Dec 3, 2011 at 7:11 PM | Unregistered Commenterbarn E. rubble

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