MEDIA ALERT: Keith Olbermann’s Countdown Tonight On Iran’s Presidential Election

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(This is the video clip of my discussion with Keith Olbermann about the possible and likely impact President Obama’s speech is having on Middle East politics.)
Tonight at about 8:30 PM EST I will be discussing this Friday’s presidential election in Iran with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC’s Countdown.
My personal view is that whoever wins the election – and my hunch is that it will be incumbent hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – what really matters is whether the Obama administration decides to make a full-fledged, “Nixon Goes to China” effort to recalibrate our strategic relationship with Tehran.
I’ll post the MSNBC video clip here at The Washington Note as soon as it is ready.
The clip will run again at 10:30 pm EST on MSNBC
— Steve Clemons

Comments

32 comments on “MEDIA ALERT: Keith Olbermann’s Countdown Tonight On Iran’s Presidential Election

  1. questions says:

    To clarify on the ideals of democracy….
    For Plato, the people en masse are generally ill-suited to overcoming personal desires, to listening to reason, are easily swayed by strong leaders and are often willing to give up the hard work of study for the easy work of living in a tyranny. Abstract thinking (“summoning” terms) is too hard for most people. Concrete thinking, focusing on desire and an inability to comprehend metaphor and irony are all too common. Democracy, for Plato, is one notch above tyranny and will fall into tyranny.
    For Aristotle, there is a fundamental tension between oligarchy (the few rich) and democracy (the many poor). The most stable and beneficial government is one that balances the two tendencies.
    Our Constitution seems to be aware of both of these readings. Limitations on participation, and limitations on power, are designed to keep the wealthiest and the poorest in some kind of check. There is an institutional suspicion of both classes, and there are institutional guards against either one’s taking over. Elections can stop the richest from seizing power, and rights can stop the poorest from seizing property. Thus we take account of Aristotle and Locke, and we’re not unaware of Plato either.
    When we call for “democracy” we should be aware of the criticisms that it has engendered over time. We should remember that Ahmadinejad was elected, that the Iranian Revolution was popular, that Bush won a very close race and was re-elected, that people choose to watch and listen to “this partisan crap,” that a lot of people (53% of us, I think it is) support the use of torture under a variety of circumstances, that the sensationalism that we use to convince others is likely an essential part of democratic governance and is simultaneously an enemy of good governance.
    This is not to say that I would advocate some other form of governance. Even Plato realizes that his notion of aristocracy is unsustainable, impractical, and, at some level, bizarre and undesirable. What we are stuck with, then, is this endless swing back and forth between oligarchy and democracy, and the rhetoric that induces people to side with one or the other.
    The oligarchs want the democrats to vote against their own interests, and the democrats want the opposite.
    How do you convince someone to vote against his/her interests? Why, you scream.

    Reply

  2. questions says:

    When an interest group screams, it does so to generate memberships.
    When a TV-caster screams, s/he does so to gain viewership and ad revenue.
    When a politician screams, s/he does so to gain votes.
    When you scream, you do so to convince people of the truth of your views and goad them into action on behalf of those views.
    All the screaming happens to motivate action. Sometimes the action is, indeed, political participation, where “participation” means “Vote for me” or “Gimme money.”
    If I’m wrong, please explain with actual arguments? Thanks.

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  3. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I see, Questions. So, in your esteemable opinion this partisan crap is nurtured to induce the rabble to participate in the process.
    Horseshit.

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  4. questions says:

    A different way to look at it — people have no motivation to do things that don’t scream at them. Why vote, why get involved, why even bother turning the tv on (thumb pain could be significant) if some part of your brain isn’t on fire? Would you watch a tv show beginning to end if there weren’t passion or pain or humor? Would you pay 10 bucks to see a movie if it didn’t drag tears, raucous laughter or some other intense emotion out of your soul? Of course not.
    Those motivating emotions get us to: turn the tv on, join interest groups, wake up in the morning, and so on. All the tv newsreaders play on this set of emotions because otherwise we’d never do anything. One identifies with Tristan Anderson, or Korean journalists, or a security guard in DC or the nutwing/birthers of the world precisely because of a set of identificational or fear-inducing or pleasure-inducing emotions.
    There really isn’t a “true democracy,” or rational agents who all participate. Democracy has been bashed by thinkers from the earliest times, and even our own constitution is structurally uncomfortable with broad democratic participation. What democratic participation really lends itself to is precisely the insane emotions we see in the media.
    How do you get the people to spend time and money on an issue? You induce panic. Panic is an unhelpful emotion when you try to govern, but it’s great when you want ears and eyes upon you. The next time, POA, you invoke “Tristan Anderson,” think about the emotions you want to evoke, and think about whether or not that evocation might end up counterproductive?

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  5. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “Maddow and Olbermann are little better than O’Reilly and Hannity”
    I agree, and have stated as much in my comments here.
    To my way of thinking there can be no more despicable a calling than making a living sowing and nurturing division along party lines. This carefully nurtured partisan division is robbing the American people of any power a true democracy should allow them. Personally, I believe it is by design, and this division is actually purposely sown by our politicians and our media to drive a wedge into our ability to arrive at a popular concensus about what truely constitutes “representation”. God knows, this corrupt lying posturing garbage form of “representation” these effin’ criminals in Washington are currently employing is not what the Founding Fathers had in mind. Who in the citizenry feels “represented” these days? Not many people, to be sure. And Obama’s complete and utter disdain for his own campaign promises certainly underscores my comment.

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  6. questions says:

    Oh! That was my summer reading a few years ago! I got through part one and a bit into the second part. Really enjoyable, and my first time through the text! This summer I’m reading the entire Russell Hardin corpus. Not exactly beachwear! But some interesting issues nonetheless.
    I’m too book-fixated to get a Kindle, and I’m such a late adopter of all technology that it’ll be years…. But I am enjoying an up-generation inherited iPod (my son got a better one, I got the old one.)
    Hope is good. Especially after I have read more about the DC museum shooter.

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  7. WigWag says:

    Questions, actually I don’t watch much cable any more, I just catch snippets of Olbermann, Maddow, O’Reilly, Hannity and Cooper here and there. I try to watch when Steve is on and from time to time I watch Jon Stuart who replays segments from the cable news shows (mostly to make fun of them).
    I can’t cancel cable altogether because then how could I watch my favorite show, “Weeds” on Showtime? (The new season just started.)
    But I do try to limit my TV watching. My granddaughter just bought me a kindle and I’m having a great time with it. I can download hundreds of books for free from the Gutenberg Project and from manybooks.net and even the ones I buy from Amazon cost quite a bit less than regular hard or soft cover books.
    Right now I’m reading Edith Grossman’s extraordinary translation of Don Quixote.
    And I’m hoping for a better fate than Howard Beale.

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  8. questions says:

    An edit function! An edit function! My kingdom for an edit function!
    Should say “Two different ways to say the same thing.”

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  9. questions says:

    WigWag,
    Just cancel your cable subscription and you won’t have to take it anymore! I do okay without it. All I ever see of Olbermann is what Steve links to.
    Anyway, I am feeling vaguely hopey-changey for now. I’d love to see a sense of radicalism’s temporary demise. I think the US shootings may well give the right here a bit of a pause, and I think that there’s some chance Iran might express some of the same feeling of being ready to move away from a particular kind of radicalism for a time. The more that countries around the world push against radicalism, the worse Israel looks for embracing it, and this moment of something akin to shame might be good there as well. There’s been so much killing, so much pointless killing. It’s time to move on. (Of course, I’ve been wrong before….)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nDit0DyItsM
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zh1nUaSd-OI
    Two different ways to same the same thing.

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  10. WigWag says:

    It’s not the censorship, it’s the self-censorship.
    Steve’s answers to POA about his appearances on MSNBC are interesting and good to hear. I’m glad that Steve’s comments aren’t censored by the producers at MSNBC but I wonder how much self-censorship Steve engages in to make sure he keeps getting invited back.
    For example, Steve seems quite a bit more critical of Israel and of a wide variety of American policies when he posts at the Washington Note than when he appears with Maddow and Olbermann.
    By the way, while I think Steve is great, Maddow and Olbermann are little better than O’Reilly and Hannity. People on the progressive end of the spectrum like them because they echo the views these folks share. But when it comes to intellectual honesty or nuanced thought, the MSNBC talking heads are merely entertainers just like the FOX talking heads.
    To the corporate media, shows like Olbermann’s, Maddow’s, O’Reilly’s and Hannity’s (not to mention the dumbest of the dumb, Anderson Cooper) are just cheap programming; nothing more.
    Steve is the best guest you’ll find on MSNBC; all the other usual guests like Gene Robinson, Richard Wolf, Howard Fineman and Lawrence O’Donnell are contemptible sell-outs who contribute nothing to the public debate. The fact that many on the left are too dumb to see it demonstrates that self-identified progressives are frequently as stupid and hypocritical as self-identified conservatives.
    In my opinion, the only two journalists on mainstream cable channels who usually have something intelligent to say are Christiane Amanpour and Fareed Zakaria, both of CNN.
    As for the rest of the cable news crew, they want to make me imitate Howard Beale. You know, run over to my window; open it; and shout “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.”

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  11. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Steve, thanks for your response.

    Reply

  12. JohnH says:

    Now that we know that Steve is not compensated for his appearances, it would be interesting to know exactly who funds NAF.
    It would go a long way to helping us understand why certain topics are constantly on the table and why certain others are forever buried.

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  13. kotzabasis says:

    JG
    Why then you don’t spell out the names of Iran’s enemies and you instead leave them in PHANTOM LAND? And if it has enemies, are these of the calibre of the Soviet Union or of a lesser one?
    Your shift from my argument to Iranian and American ”needs” is a cerebral tergiversation on your part. I was specifically referring to the unreality and the dangers therein of a repeat by Obama of “Nixon Goes to China.”
    Lastly, the wedge that the U.S. must “try to drive” is not “between Iran and Russia and Iran and China,” but between Iran and America’s deadly enemies, i.e., the holy warriors of Islam. Do you think that is feasible?

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  14. JG says:

    Steve:
    After the Iranian election would it be possible for you to put together a program with MIT Center for International Studies’ John Tirman and the Leveretts?
    You and NAF are the only hope we have of getting Tirman’s and the Leveretts’ messages any menaingful air time.
    You are one of the few progressive voices in the sea of Beltway “status quo”.
    Keep up the good work.

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  15. JG says:

    Kotzabasis:
    Ignoring for the moment your sweeping generalizations, you completely lost me with your assertion that Iran has no enemy other than the United States. No emenies — really???
    You don’t think that Iran has needs that we can fulfill? here are a few hints for you: Foreign Investment/Access to US Goods/Access to US Energy Companies/Greatere Access to US technology/Stability in Iraq/ Stability in Pakistan/Stability in Afghanistan etc etc.
    You don’t think that the US has needs that Iran can fulfill? here are a few hints for you: Iraq/Afghanistan/Pakistan/Palestine/Lebanon/Persian Gulf Sea Lanes/Central Asian Former Soviet Republics/ Energy Access and Energy Security etc. etc.
    You don’t think that it would benefit the US to try to drive a wedge between Iran and Russia and Iran and China?
    Has Iran in the recent past not tried to do “a deal” with US only to be rebuffed by the US?
    The elements of a “grand bargain” between the US and Iran are so obvious that it would unconscionable for us not to seek a deal. But the again, we all know why this may never happen….
    Maybe you are the one induldging in what you call “toy politics”, whatever that means?

    Reply

  16. Steve Clemons says:

    Another note to POA — sorry for the incomplete answer to your question. There may be some who are talked to about spin, but what I know the MSNBC producers expect from me — and same goes for CNN, the other networks, etc. is thoughtful, nuanced, serious analysis. I watch some of the shows I am on which do include a lot of slapstick or banter about political stuff that often seems substanceless. But no network will bring me on to do humor — they want policy discussion, and that is what I try and provide…and that’s what I want to provide. No one has ever tried to spin my positions or leanings. On Keith Olbermann’s show once, I actually said that the US was lucky in 2002 to have Richard Armitage on hand because he and Colin Powell pretty much bucked the disinterest and lack of support from the President and his cabinet and got deeply engaged in stopping the quickly escalating conflict between India and Pakistan — which we know now was extremely close to nuclear exchange. Armitage of course leaked Valerie Plame’s ID — and this was big mistake — and Olbermann would never have coaxed me to say that in the India-Pak case, Armitage was a godsend.
    Anyway — thanks for your question. I really don’t know how others are managed and do know that others who are on almost nightly are compensated, which I think is appropriate. The cost to them is that they are pretty much bound to that network and can’t appear elsewhere.
    all best, steve

    Reply

  17. Steve Clemons says:

    POA — thanks for the question. Easy for me to answer. I am not compensated for appearing on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown or Rachel Madddow’s Show.
    Kotz — I know yuo and I live on different sides of the planet, but I enjoy your critiques of my positions and it’s good to hear from you.
    All best,
    steve

    Reply

  18. kotzabasis says:

    As always Steve is fond walking in the dark without a torch in his hand for the potential THRILLS all “darknesses” are pregnant with. But in the case of Iran there are no potential diplomatic thrills to come out from such a walk in the dark. A “Nixon Goes to China” repeat by Obama to Tehran will be a totally misplaced “effort,” and indeed strategically a most dangerous one. The kinetics of the Kissingerian strategy of the visit arose out of the split between the two ‘Red Powers’ and China had a geopolitical interest to reach some sort of accommodation with the U.S. so it would make itself stronger in its confrontation with the Soviet Union. Kissinger’s clever strategy was to push the wedge even harder so it would make the split even deeper.
    There is no such strategic geopolitical interest for Iran as the latter has no enemy other that the United States. So a “full-fledged” visit by Obama to Tehran, especially without his Kissinger, will be perceived by the Iranian leadership as a clear admission of American weakness which it will use to its utmost advantage, whoever is in power. Thus Obama’s visit will be an Iranian thrill while leaving Steve in an everlasting state of frustration. And it will be self-inflicted as he continues to indulge himself in his ‘toy politics.’

    Reply

  19. TonyForesta says:

    We are witness to the last throes of American hegemony and empire. America’s standing in the world economically, politically, and perhaps, (though there will likely be no real test to this metric) militarily is being challenged and rejected or repudiated, or in certain kind cases re-examined. Obama’s greatest challenge (outside of getting re-elected (which is a slim and rapidly dying hope since he has betrayed every promise he campaigned upon and turned his back on the people who defended, supported, and elected him) is managing America’s certain decline. How will America evolve into the newworldorder, (wherein America is no longer dominant) with the least costly, bloody, pain and suffering to the predator class primarily, and the American people secondarily?
    America’s credibilty is hanging on a gossamer thread of hope. If and when America returns to abiding by our own principles, our own Constitution, and the rule of law, economically, politically, and militarily – then and only then will the rest of the world bother to listen to, or be concerned with the hopes, ambitions, dreams, and dictates of America. Until that day, – which is sadly far into the future – America is just another potent banana republic with a powerful lawless predatorclass, and lots of weapons, – and certainly NOT to be trusted.

    Reply

  20. PissedOffAmerican says:

    “wouldn’t WE just love such overarching involvement by Iranian’s in OUR political elections?”
    They’d hafta get in line behind Israel.

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  21. PissedOffAmerican says:

    I realize this is off topic, but is it really? Read the comments following this TPMuckraker article on Obama’s bullshit about a “new open-ness”.
    He is a dissappointment, a liar, and a fraud. You can’t believe any damned thing that oozes forth from his lyin’ maw. And he’s proven it in less time than it took that Little Lord Fauntleroy Texas hick Bush to establish his creds as a blatant prevaricator.

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  22. Don Bacon says:

    Steve, just for the record I am not at all interested in your compensation and furthermore I never, never doubt that you say exactly what you think, even though it might be . . .misguided.

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  23. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Steve, Nina and I are curious as to a coupla things. Don’t take offense, this is pure curiousity with no underlying motives in the asking.
    We were pondering whether or not people such as yourself are compensated for your appearences on shows such as Olberman’s or Maddow’s. That was the original query that Nina raised to me in passing, which got me to pondering whether or not the content of your commentary on these shows is “pre-screened” by the producers or the actual media host. It is quite obvious that Fox News, and MSNBC, are both “leaning”, Fox to the right, (of course), and MSNBC to the left. And the “guests” and “experts” showcased on the various shows such as Hannity’s, or Olberman’s, almost invariably reflect the “leanings” of the network. How much levity and leeway are you accorded with your commentary, and are you asked to limit your commentary to a predetermined “spin”?
    I’m hoping you’ll answer, or “can” answer without jeapordizing your gigs. We really are curious, and not in a judgemental way.

    Reply

  24. Don Bacon says:

    JohnH is correct. This is all BS. Hezbollah only ran 11 candidates and they all won. M-14 picked up one seat. There is evidence that Hez didn’t care to win — like Avis, they’d rather be a powerful #2 and not bear the brunt of the inevitable US counterattack if they were in control. It ain’t over.

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  25. Don Bacon says:

    Jim Eye,
    Perhaps this is why Obama “confessed” about the overthrow of the democrat Mossadegh and his replacement with the repressive, brutal Shah. The message was: Hey, we did it once, we can do it again, and we’re killing Iranians to show we mean business.

    Reply

  26. JohnH says:

    I too saw Steve on Olbermann. Olbermann’s frame needed to be destroyed. The world does not revolve around the US. It’s highly unlikely that the Lebanese election shifted from massively pro-Hezbollah to massively M-14 simply because of Obama’s speech. Likewise Iranian voters do not breathlessly await every word of an American president before make their decision. Yet this was what Olbermann seemed to suggest. This is American exceptionalism at its worst.
    Steve did note that a lot of factors were at play in these elections. Nonetheless, the viewer was left with the impression that an American president is so powerful as to be able to reorient foreign elections at the broadcast of a single speech.
    At best, such magical thinking does nothing to advance the understanding of foreign policy. At worst, it fosters a sense of omnipotence that inevitably leads to overreach and endless quagmires.

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  27. Jim Eye says:

    Don Bacon, Jun 09 2009, 7:40PM wrote: “In short, the US, now under Obama, is using terrorism by al-Qaeda to attack and destabilize Iran.”
    Surprise, surprise, Don … but as unseemly as it may be, this ‘state-sponsored’ (read: U.S.) attempt at regime change has been U.S. policy since 1979 (when I was in the Navy and we were showboating off the coast in a failed and miserable attempt at rescuing the hostages) and very possibly BEFORE 1979; recall our involvement in 1953?
    Iranian regime change has been part of the CIA’s covert program – and budget – for *decades* and it’s unlikely that Leon Panetta will stunningly or miraculously decide to save us any taxpayer dollars by suggesting the program cease and desist.
    Fact of the matter is that for YEARS Iranian’s (in Iran) have BEGGED the U.S. to stop helping them with any regime change; they are perfectly able of doing it themselves in their own time. With such U.S. involvement being highly suspect in the first place (wouldn’t WE just love such overarching involvement by Iranian’s in OUR political elections?), ceasing such covert programs will negate the veracity of such *loving* slogans so commonly used by Iran’s extreme conservative political class, i.e., Death To America!
    I agree that we SHOULD stop funding such idiotic, subversive programs that completely undermine our interests in the region. We should also STOP supporting (so literally) totalitarian and dictatorial regimes like those in most Middle Eastern countries (read: Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and the list goes on, and on, and on) if for no other reason than the remainder of majority moderate Islam/Muslim world sees US as hypocrites for supporting them while endlessly preaching democracy. Hmmm … imagine that?

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  28. Richard Granberry says:

    Just saw you on Olbermann, I’m very impressed. I had never heard of this site (sorry) but just bookmarked it and will continue to read.

    Reply

  29. Don Bacon says:

    I suspect that if Obama ever does go to Iran the Iranian leaders may ask him to stop funding and supporting terrorism in Iran. A 2007 Sunday Telegraph report revealed that the terrorist group Jundullah was a CIA creation designed to achieve “regime change in Iran”. The report said it was the CIA that had tried to destabilize Iran by “supplying arms-length support, supplying money and weapons” to Jundullah. The plan was authorized by Bush II in May 2007.
    ABC News had a similar report on April 03, 2007 —
    A Pakistani tribal militant group responsible for a series of deadly guerrilla raids inside Iran has been secretly encouraged and advised by American officials since 2005, U.S. and Pakistani intelligence sources tell ABC News. The group, called Jundullah, is made up of members of the Baluchi tribe and operates out of the Baluchistan province in Pakistan, just across the border from Iran.
    And last year Seymour Hersh revealed that US Congressional leaders quietly agreed in late 2007 to President Bush’s funding request for a major escalation of covert operations against the Islamic Republic.
    Recently there was a suicide attack on Mosque in Zahedan, Iran, near the border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, on May 29 with 19 dead and 125 injured. Jundullah (God’s soldiers) opposition group declared its responsibility for the suicide bombing, and three men were hanged on May 30. And then on May 31 Iranian security officials successfully defused a bomb on a Tehran-bound passenger airliner, averting what could have been a major airborne catastrophe.
    According to Iranian news sources, revelations by the brother of Jundullah leader Abdolmalek Rigi confirmed reports that the U.S. helped the armed separatist ring carry out terror activities in Iran. In a recent interview conducted prior to his execution, Abdulhamid Rigi told Press TV that since 2005, his brother had repeatedly met with U.S. agents in Islamabad and Karachi and communicated with them through a common link.
    “In Pakistan, Malek (Abdolmalek Rigi) contacted an individual that resided in the U.S. who then put him through to the FBI. So, Malek said that he would go to Islamabad and meet with the Americans,” he explained.
    In 2007 Iranian officials say they captured 10 members of Jundullah carrying $500,000 in cash along with “maps of sensitive areas” and “modern spy equipment”. “Jundullah has close ties with Al-Qaeda,” Tariq Jamil, chief of the Karachi police, told Newsline in 2004.
    In short, the US, now under Obama, is using terrorism by al-Qaeda to attack and destabilize Iran.

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  30. Rogermac says:

    “My personal view is that whomever wins the election – and my hunch is that it will be incumbent hardliner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – what really matters is….”
    Whomever? Whomever? Please stop with the hyper-whoming. Grammatically awful. And it clunks.

    Reply

  31. Caitlyna says:

    The point behind the “Nixon Goes to China” meme is that Nixon
    was a champion of Taiwan and only an avoided supporter of the
    Republic of China and opponent of the Peoples Republic of China
    could have the political standing to begin opening relations with
    mainland China. I don’t believe that applies to Obama. Trying to
    open dialog with Iran is a good idea and I am glad that Obama
    seems to be trying to do just that. But it is not a “Nixon Goes to
    China” moment by any stretch.

    Reply

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