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BBC Victoria Falls Complaint Escalated

June 10, 2021
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By Paul Homewood

You will recall the BBC’s fake news story of how the Victoria Falls was drying up due to climate change:

 

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https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-56902340

I submitted this short complaint at the time:

 

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I have now received this response:

 

image

 

In short, they are just saying “Look, there was a drought, so go away!”

You will have noticed that they have not actually answered any of the points I made.

 

Needless to say, I have now resubmitted my complaint, as follows:

Dear Sirs,

Thank you for your response, but it does not address my complaint.

You state that there was a drought in the region 2019, but this is not in dispute. According to the Zimbabwe Tourism Office in December 2019:

Historical data provided by the Zambezi River Authority, who monitors the water level flows in the region daily, provide evidence that the annual mean water levels of the river have in fact been lower in at least six prior examples of a period spanning 1914 to the current date period.

Whilst Zimbabwe has indeed experienced an extensive drought over the course of this year, the water levels of the Zambezi and indeed the flow levels over Victoria Falls, have remained above those recorded over the drought period of 95 / 96.

https://www.zimbabwetourism.net/news-update-on-the-state-of-vic-falls/

In other words, such droughts are common, and the 2019 one was not as bad as that of 1995/96. They are normal meteorological events, and nothing to do with climate change, as you claim.

To recap, your report states:

In our monthly feature, Then and Now, we reveal some of the ways that planet Earth has been changing against the backdrop of a warming world. Here, we look at the effects of global heating on Victoria Falls,

In 2019, however, Victoria Falls was silenced. In a drought described as the worst in a century, the flow of the Zambezi was reduced to a relative trickle and the Falls ran dry.

A single extreme weather event cannot, in isolation, be viewed as a consequence of climate change.

But the region is recording a sequence of extreme droughts that reflect what climate modellers have predicted will occur as a result of an increase in greenhouse gases in the world’s atmosphere as a result of human activity.

As already noted, there was nothing unusual about the 2019 drought, nor have you provided any evidence that extreme droughts are increasing in the region. The predictions of computer modellers are therefore irrelevant.

It is therefore misleading and inaccurate to claim that this perfectly common event is an “effect of global heating”.

Also your claim that it was the worst drought in a century is also false, as we know 1995/96 was much worse.

Moreover you grossly mislead readers with your image of the Falls supposedly drying up. This is something that happens every year between October and December.

Again according to Zimbabwe Tourism:

The seasonal rise and fall of the Zambezi River changes the look of Victoria Falls on a daily basis. The western side of the falls is lower than the eastern side and therefore carries the most water all year round. This fluctuation is less noticeable at Devil’s cataract and the Main Falls. From Livingstone Islands onwards, this ebb and flow becomes more apparent and at low water, this portion of the Falls dries up almost completely.

https://www.zimbabwetourism.net/news-update-on-the-state-of-vic-falls/

Although water levels are low during dry season, it is inaccurate for you to claim:

The flow of the Zambezi was reduced to a relative trickle and the Falls ran dry

There was still plentiful water at the time of year, it is simply that the eastern end is at a higher elevation that the water stops flowing over.

Worse still your image contrasts January 2019 with December 2018, with the caption “how the falls have changed over time”. But the two months are totally different in terms of water levels. As already noted, December always sees low lake levels, coinciding with the dry rock face you show.

According to Lonely Planet::

Every single year the Eastern Cataract of the Victoria Falls exposes a dry rock face, normally between the months of October to December,” explains Wilma Griffith, a marketing executive at the Wild Horizons Lookout Café, a restaurant overlooking the Batoka Gorge. “Historical figures show that on or around 14 November the river is at its lowest and then gradually starts to rise again around 14 December, once the localised rains start having an impact on the Zambezi.”

November and December are the end of spring and the beginning of summer in the southern hemisphere, but it can take time for the post-winter rainfall in the DRC and Angola to travel downstream to Victoria Falls, and eventually to in the Indian Ocean.

https://www.lonelyplanet.com/articles/victoria-falls-drought-climate-change

By January the heavy spring rains upstream lead to a large rise in lake levels, as the chart below from the Zambezi River Authority shows:

http://www.zambezira.org/hydrology/river-flows

The correct comparison should have been between December 2018 and December 2019. Instead your readers are left with the false impression that the drying up from January 2019 and December 2019 was not a natural event that occurs every year, but something to do with climate change.

To summarise:

  1. You have claimed that the “drying up” of the Victoria Falls in December 2019 was the effect of “global heating”.

  2. You also erroneously claim that the 2019 drought was the worst in a century

  3. You dishonestly publish a flagrantly misleading comparison of photos of the Falls, comparing the dry season in December 2019 with the wet season in January 2019.

But you fail to disclose:

  1. There have been many worse droughts there in the past

  2. The drought of 1995/96 was much worse

  3. The aforesaid “drying up” is a normal annual event, which occurs every dry season because the eastern side of the falls is at a higher elevation, and not because the river dries up to a trickle.

  4. The Falls were back in full spate by January 2020, just as they are every year as a result of spring rainfall, and just as they were a year previously.

There is no evidence whatsoever that climate change, which you ludicrously label global heating, has had any impact whatsoever on the Victoria Falls.

43 Comments
  1. AC Osborn permalink
    June 10, 2021 9:17 am

    Talk about sticking it to , nice one Paul.
    There will be an even longer delay before they provide another waffling response.

    • Bloke down the pub permalink
      June 10, 2021 10:50 am

      Their next reply will be even shorter. Our bat, our ball, if you don’t like it, yah boo sucks!

  2. HotScot permalink
    June 10, 2021 9:25 am

    If ever there was a time to make a complaint about the BBC, it’s right now. They will be shi**ing their pants at each one that comes in.

    • June 10, 2021 10:39 am

      No they won’t. In fact, they don’t give a …. shit. EG. Re4cednt complaint I put in that they always called the internationally recognised as a terrorist group, Hamas, “militants”. This is the crap I got back.

      Apparently, the truth is “other people’s language”.
      ================================================================

      Thank you for contacting us regarding Today, broadcast 18 May on BBC Radio4.

      We note your concerns with our coverage of the Israel-Palestinian conflict.

      BBC News has an obligation to be impartial, independent and accurate. There is no BBC ban on the words ‘terrorist’ or ‘terror’. However, we should convey to our audience the full consequences of the act by describing what happened. We should use words which specifically describe the perpetrator such as bomber, attacker, gunman, kidnapper, insurgent and militant. We should not adopt other people’s language as our own. Our responsibility is to remain objective and report in ways that enable our audiences to make their own assessments about who is doing what to whom.

      Overall, we have covered the recent escalation in the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians across our television and radio bulletins, online and on our news and current affairs programmes. We have reported on the circumstances and events which have led to the current escalation in violence, reflecting both the Palestinian and Israeli perspectives, and the response from the international community.

      Please be assured that we aim to report as impartially, comprehensively and accurately as possible, so we are disappointed to hear you felt this wasn’t achieved on this occasion.

      We do value your feedback about this. All complaints are sent to senior management and we’ve included your points in our overnight report. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the company and ensures that your concerns have been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future content.

      Thanks again for taking the time to get in touch.

      Kind regards,

      Phil Young

  3. 186no permalink
    June 10, 2021 9:25 am

    I made a similar complaint and got a “piss off” type fobbing excuse as follows:
    Reference CAS-6720567-K9B4T7

    Dear Mr Simpson

    Thank you for writing in with your feedback about the BBC News Website story “Then and now: When silence descended over Victoria Falls” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-56902340).

    Please accept my apologies for the long time that it has taken to investigate your complaint. We have been presented with several challenges to maintaining our regular service over this period, and we’re very sorry for the impact that this has had on our response times.

    We note your concerns about accuracy in this article and would like to assure you that we are absolutely committed to reporting accurately and impartially, in accordance with our editorial guidelines.

    While this series charts the way in which global warming is changing the world, we would never seek to sensationalise or over-embellish the facts.

    As reported by the World Meteorological Organisation in their report ‘State of the Climate in Africa 2019 (https://library.wmo.int/index.php?lvl=notice_display&id=21778#.YL4Zur5KiUn):

    “Drought affected several areas of Africa in 2019…Rainfall in the 2018–2019 southern rainy season was near or below 50% of the average in most of the western half of the continent south of 15°S, particularly affecting Namibia, Botswana and western South Africa… Another area with comparably low rainfall extended from southern Mozambique north through parts of Zimbabwe and Zambia. Most of these regions also had a poor start to the 2019–2020 rainy season, with low rainfall in the October–December period.“

    We make clear the huge size of the Falls, and the picture where you can drag the central line to compare Jan 2019 and Dec 2019 indeed clearly shows that part of the Falls were very much flowing, beyond the part of the Falls that had, to all intents and purposes, run dry.

    We require headlines to be engaging and summarise a situation in less that 55 characters, and it can be hard to reflect the details of a complex situation in this short space. While ‘silence descended’ is evocative, I believe it summarised that particular time and part of the Falls and was not misleading.

    While we’re satisfied that the piece adheres to our Editorial Guidelines, we’d like to stress that we value your feedback about this. All complaints are sent to senior management and your points were included in our overnight reports. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your concerns have been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future content.

    Thank you again for taking the time to correspond with us.

    Kind regards,
    Reference CAS-6720567-K9B4T7

    “Dear Mr XXXXXX

    Thank you for writing in with your feedback about the BBC News Website story “Then and now: When silence descended over Victoria Falls” (https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/science-environment-56902340).

    Please accept my apologies for the long time that it has taken to investigate your complaint. We have been presented with several challenges to maintaining our regular service over this period, and we’re very sorry for the impact that this has had on our response times.

    We note your concerns about accuracy in this article and would like to assure you that we are absolutely committed to reporting accurately and impartially, in accordance with our editorial guidelines.

    While this series charts the way in which global warming is changing the world, we would never seek to sensationalise or over-embellish the facts.

    As reported by the World Meteorological Organisation in their report ‘State of the Climate in Africa 2019 (https://library.wmo.int/index.php?lvl=notice_display&id=21778#.YL4Zur5KiUn):

    “Drought affected several areas of Africa in 2019…Rainfall in the 2018–2019 southern rainy season was near or below 50% of the average in most of the western half of the continent south of 15°S, particularly affecting Namibia, Botswana and western South Africa… Another area with comparably low rainfall extended from southern Mozambique north through parts of Zimbabwe and Zambia. Most of these regions also had a poor start to the 2019–2020 rainy season, with low rainfall in the October–December period.“

    We make clear the huge size of the Falls, and the picture where you can drag the central line to compare Jan 2019 and Dec 2019 indeed clearly shows that part of the Falls were very much flowing, beyond the part of the Falls that had, to all intents and purposes, run dry.

    We require headlines to be engaging and summarise a situation in less that 55 characters, and it can be hard to reflect the details of a complex situation in this short space. While ‘silence descended’ is evocative, I believe it summarised that particular time and part of the Falls and was not misleading.

    While we’re satisfied that the piece adheres to our Editorial Guidelines, we’d like to stress that we value your feedback about this. All complaints are sent to senior management and your points were included in our overnight reports. These reports are among the most widely read sources of feedback in the BBC and ensures that your concerns have been seen by the right people quickly. This helps inform their decisions about current and future content.

    Thank you again for taking the time to correspond with us.

    Kind regards, ”
    This typical of a dissembling mindset with other complaints I have made – they are rarely if ever “wrong”, and defend their biased and opinionated content without admitting their predisposition to having made their stance on a particular subject which then governs their so called reporting. I look forward to reading their reply

  4. Ian Wilson permalink
    June 10, 2021 9:31 am

    Well done, thank you for all your work and thorough research on this and other topics. If they realise you are not letting go they just might come up with a credible response.

    • June 10, 2021 10:16 am

      Hear hear to the praise for Paul and all his hard work.
      However, I cannot agree that the BBC will come up with a credible response; ever. Like the NHS, they are the recipient of a never ending flow (forgive the pun) of taxpayers’ money, without any need to justify their performance or biases. This allows them to really believe they are ‘the envy of the world’ and are consequently immune from the need to justify any of their decisions; editorial or otherwise.

      • Graeme No.3 permalink
        June 10, 2021 11:30 pm

        Time to dry the flow of taxpayers’ money?

      • June 11, 2021 9:11 am

        If only we could

  5. George Herraghty permalink
    June 10, 2021 9:31 am

    I have never received a response to a second complaint, ever.

  6. June 10, 2021 9:31 am

    Sky news Alex Crawford did exactly the same con trick in a very prolonged broadcast sbout the falls wjich broughtvprotests from several local people interviewed who said they had been totally misrepresented and much damage was done to the tourist industry because of the misleading broadcast.

  7. saveenergy permalink
    June 10, 2021 9:34 am

    Well done Paul, hold their feet to the fire.
    In the past, I’ve complained several times & get the std response (roughly saying they are above reproach & I am mistaken in my understanding) so I gave up … my bad.

    The BBC have always been good at ‘Drama & Fantasy’ trouble is that now apply’s to the entire BBC output.

  8. Chris Davie permalink
    June 10, 2021 9:44 am

    I see that GB News is starting up this weekend. i think I can guess Andrew Neil’s view on these things. Might a copy to GB News precipitate some discussion?

  9. Malcolm Johnson permalink
    June 10, 2021 9:47 am

    BBC — Biased Broadcasting Corporation or British Brainwashing Corporation. This once-trusted organisation is now a DISGRACE!

  10. MrGrimNasty permalink
    June 10, 2021 9:48 am

    The BBC is about to dramatize ‘climategate’. Why on earth would an organisation without an agenda bother with that. It is not good drama material. It is another chance to lie about the unimpeachable integrity of climate science being attacked by supposedly evil deniers.

    The rotten core, the collusion, the data manipulation at the heart of climate science was exposed bang to rights. Yet the media and scientific establishment whitewashed it away.

    If it was a significant point in history, it was the moment that truth/science died, and the activists masquerading as scientists realised that they could get away with anything – and the establishment would protect and support them.

    • June 10, 2021 10:19 am

      Exactly as with ‘the science’ employed to fan the ‘Covid crisis’ hysteria.

      • MrGrimNasty permalink
        June 10, 2021 1:14 pm

        The BBC completely ignored the massive anti-lockdown/passport etc. demo, but half a dozen XR nutters do something silly it’s headline news.

    • ThinkingScientist permalink
      June 10, 2021 2:00 pm

      PErhaps they shoudl also dramtize 28gate that preceded it?

    • Ian Wilson permalink
      June 10, 2021 2:31 pm

      The BBC ran a programme on Climategate a year or so ago which was utterly disgraceful even by BBC standards. Michael Mann and his ilk were portrayed as poor innocent victims instead of the guilty party, a travesty of reality. I went through three tiers of complaint levels but did eventually receive a reasonably conciliatory response..

      • ThinkingScientist permalink
        June 10, 2021 5:26 pm

        And then what? Nothing?

  11. 2hmp permalink
    June 10, 2021 10:19 am

    The BBC lies go on and on.Are they simply trying to hope we shall stop pointing out their errors.

  12. Stephen Castle permalink
    June 10, 2021 11:13 am

    They are so committed to their own position that they are happy to try and reject a valid and well argued complaint. The reporter who came up with this and the editor who sanctioned it should be reprimanded and forced to publish a retraction. Good luck with your appeal.

  13. johnbillscott permalink
    June 10, 2021 11:33 am

    When the Beeb is caught lying it should be forced to give equal prominence of complaint and their reply. The recent Dyson episode exposed the lies and the half witted apology was, as usual, tucked away. The highly biased offending lair was not sanctioned as usual.

    • Jack Broughton permalink
      June 10, 2021 11:59 am

      Agree that the mistake should be given more prominence than the error; otherwise it amounts to lying by omission. As noted above, the only hope now for unbiased news is GB News, which starts up this weekend: let us hope so anyway!

  14. June 10, 2021 11:58 am

    The BBC yesterday midday Wednesday 9th June on You and Yours on Radio 4, had a fairly comprehensive interview with a Heating Specialist Engineer about Heat Pumps and their viability, or rather lack of it. The engineer explained about the cost, the disruption and inconvenience, the lack of heating, larger radiators etc etc. He pointed out that during the current Government Trial (read Experiment) the same problems are being encountered that they “have been dealing with for 12 – 13 years and nothing has changed”. Disruption, high cost, cold houses, space required for water tank in new houses, microbore pipework replaced, floors up, walls changed, hydraulic pipework added, etc. The interview starts at 13min 10seconds into the programme, link here: https://www.bbc.co.uk/sounds/play/m000wsfb The interviewer cut him off after 8 minutes as he was really getting into his stride! The official response from Government to questions about the Trial, is that the participants had “agreed to take part”. The alternative doesn’t bear thinking about…….. The results will be published by the Department of Business at the end of the year.

  15. Cheshire Red permalink
    June 10, 2021 12:17 pm

    Expertly done.

    • dave permalink
      June 10, 2021 1:11 pm

      Meanwhile, EDF has thrown in the towel with Dungeness B, after spending 100 million pounds since 2018 trying to get it producing again.

      Another 1.1 billion kw of base gone for good.

      I am told that the turbines on the windfarm, down the road from it, have been virtually stationary for ten days!

  16. June 10, 2021 1:11 pm

    It never ceases to amaze me to what lengths the BBC will stoop to spout lies and propaganda. You have caught them out, again, but I doubt you will get a satisfactory reply to your challenge, and admission of fault or even an apology. It is this gutter level of ‘journalism’ and bias that fuels the group to Defund the BBC. It’s about time it was abolished and replaced.

  17. Thomas Carr permalink
    June 10, 2021 1:22 pm

    Now is the time to test Tim Davie’s concern for getting things right in future.. Courtesy of Paul and our commentators there is a now a formidable dossier with which to challenge Tim D’s sincerity/commitment.

  18. bobn permalink
    June 10, 2021 1:23 pm

    I sincerely hope no-one who views this site actually pays the BBC tax!
    I dont. I have now collected about a dozen threatening letters from them saying Im going to get a visit from their ‘enforcement team’. Bring it on, I want to tell them why i dont watch their filthy propaganda.
    Alas no-one has yet to show up for me to hurl abuse at.
    Maybe that would be a good drama; the fight between conscientious objectors and Big Brother Corp.

    • Gerry, England permalink
      June 10, 2021 2:13 pm

      Don’t engage with them is the best policy. I am probably due my next letter…

    • Eric permalink
      June 10, 2021 2:51 pm

      Good for you! I just wish I had the courage tofollow your lead.

    • Paul H permalink
      June 10, 2021 8:45 pm

      Do not engage with them, it only strengthens their hand. Close the door in the face of whoever turns up. Write across the reminders ‘NO CONTRACT’ and send the letter back. whilst you may gain an element of satisfaction having a go at the poor sap who is only trying to make a living, such as it is, you weaken your hand if you have to go in front of the beak.The ‘no contract’ route works, leave it at that.

      • Robert Jones permalink
        June 11, 2021 10:29 am

        Send them another letter making it clear that you no longer watch or record live television and ‘hereby withdraw the implied right of access for TV Licensing officers to approach your property’.

  19. Harry Passfield permalink
    June 10, 2021 2:36 pm

    You can play ‘Climate Emergency’ bingo with replies from the BBC. we’ll know when you’ve got ‘HOUSE!’ when they include the new UN buzz-word into their answers: ‘Equity’.

  20. Lez permalink
    June 10, 2021 2:47 pm

    Well done, Paul.
    KBO!!

  21. Bill Hutchison permalink
    June 10, 2021 3:32 pm

    Well done Paul. Could you raise the whole BBC complaints saga with Steve Baker MP who is now a Trustee of the GWPF? If you went via the GWPF you would stand a better chance of engaging him as I find MP’s offices filter out all non-constituent emails.
    The BBC’s bias is a scandal of great importance as what they say is assumed by many to be impartial and accurate information.

  22. Rod Smith permalink
    June 10, 2021 4:05 pm

    Hi Paul – keep at them, this was outright lying. I have lived and worked on the Zambezi River for over 30 years – below is what I wrote at the time:

    Toward the end of the dry season of 2019 both the BBC’s Stephen Sackur and Sky News’s Alex Crawford filed stories about the imminent drying-up of the Victoria Falls because of climate change which were taken up and published prominently by the usual suspects. A local resident at Victoria Falls posted two photographs on social media of Stephen Sackur recording his show. The first was taken from the same angle used by the BBC’s camera which was carefully sited to show Mr Sackur with a back-drop of a section of the Falls over which no water was flowing – an impressively waterless wall of rock. The photographer then moved about ten metres to the right and took a second photograph of Sackur standing in exactly the same place, but now with the Devil’s Cataract section of the Falls with a considerable amount of water flowing over it behind him, a perspective which was never shown on the BBC. These two photographs illustrate perfectly the misinformation being imparted.

    If the reporters filing these stories had spoken to local residents, which they both did, and/or if either of them had taken even the most cursory look at the records of water-flow at the Victoria Falls going back over 100 years, which one would expect that if they were even half-way competent journalists they would have done, they had to know that:
    1. the level of the Zambezi displays considerable seasonal fluctuation, and there are certain sections of the Victoria Falls which dry up every year during the low water season;
    2. while the low water level in 2019 was lower than average (which is why we have averages, because some years are higher or lower than others) it was by no means the lowest recorded – there were lower years in 1921/22, 1991/92, 1948/49, 1914/15, 1994/95 and 1995/96, and flows in 1915/16 and 1918/19 were within less than 1%;
    3. the flow in 2017/18 was among the highest recorded.

    All the above shows very clearly that there is no diminishing trend, yet none of these facts were mentioned by any of these journalists – they went right ahead and reported that the mighty Victoria Falls is drying up because of climate change, even though they had to know that this is not true.

    The only possible conclusion we can draw from this is that they were not interested in what is actually happening to the Zambezi at all; they simply saw the Victoria Falls as an iconic, world-famous and visually spectacular natural wonder which lent itself to being used as “climate change” propaganda. Any facts which inconveniently failed to fit this agenda were suppressed.

    It is also worth noting that both the television journalists involved spent time at Victoria Falls and will therefore be aware that the entire economy of the towns of Victoria Falls and Livingstone is based on tourism centred on the Falls themselves; by broadcasting to the world an entirely false story that the Falls are drying up they have caused considerable economic damage to the area through discouraging tourists to visit there, and great hardship for those people living at the subsistence level. Clearly they believe that compared to getting the “climate change” message over this is as unimportant as telling the truth.

    • Malcolm Johnson permalink
      June 10, 2021 4:33 pm

      Hi Rod
      Thank you repeating what you had said at the time. These two journalists are a disgrace to their profession but, unfortunately, they are not by any means unique, as we know!

    • Graeme No.3 permalink
      June 10, 2021 11:45 pm

      The same thing happens with the ABC (BBC lite) and the Great Barrier Reef.
      Any loud mouthed nong** claiming its coming death will get publicity. The tourist trade suffers, although they do get some people who’ve come “to see the reef before it is dead”.
      They go away delighted and probably never believe that nonsense again. We ned more tourists to go there.
      Background: various academics carrying on about the coming demise (for assorted reasons) always have the increase in government grants in mind. The Great Barrier Reef has been ‘dying’ since 1971

      **local expression for someone dimmer than normal.

  23. avro607 permalink
    June 10, 2021 5:33 pm

    The C.Gate production should be interesting,Many of us will have the originals stowed away somewhere,plus a mixture of comments and takedowns published on line,and in books.
    Monbiot comes to mind.
    If the BBC go ahead in their usual fashion,then I can envisage them knee deep in complaints.
    Should be good fun.Bring it on.

  24. avro607 permalink
    June 12, 2021 7:16 pm

    Ooops,Imeant -Montford.

  25. Eoin mc permalink
    June 12, 2021 8:14 pm

    Thanks again Paul for your amazing indefatigable work on behalf of, not so much the truth, but trying to expose the relentless and, by now, intergenerational smoke and mirrors of a blatantly biased, first world media. The only way this modern-day version of Tulipmania will be found out, and exposed, is if censorious and what are obviously time-consuming climate science reports, such as yours, are read – and then accepted as being written in good faith – by one or several world leaders. Thats why your work is absolutely vital. Will likely be for nought; but still vital for the record.

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