Republican Governors Association Sets Up Partisan News Site & Forgets To Tell Anyone As It Pumps Out 'News'

from the that's-not-news dept

I like to assume that everyone is as tired as I am of the term "fake news." The term, which once seemed to have a fairly coherent meaning, has since been co-opted by pretty much everyone to mean any number of things that mostly amount to "news I don't like." That's incredibly annoying, as is all of the partisan mold that has grown upon this now dead and useless term.

That said, one does struggle to find different terminology to use when referring to a very strange thing the Republican Governors Association did when it set up a site that purported to be a "news site", but which only served as a GOP governors propaganda outfit, while forgetting to tell anyone who was behind it all.

The Republican Governors Association has quietly launched an online publication that looks like a media outlet and is branded as such on social media. The Free Telegraph blares headlines about the virtues of GOP governors, while framing Democrats negatively. It asks readers to sign up for breaking news alerts. It launched in the summer bearing no acknowledgement that it was a product of an official party committee whose sole purpose is to get more Republicans elected.

Only after The Associated Press inquired about the site last week was a disclosure added to The Free Telegraph's pages identifying the publication's partisan source.

It should be noted that this source identification was not some simple omission, but rather a calculated effort to fool people into thinking the site was some objective source of journalism. The evidence for that is rather plain. Over the summer, the site was registered through Domains By Proxy, a service solely useful for its ability to hide the identities of those registering websites. The social media accounts for The Free Telegraph projected the site as everything from an "outside Washington perspective" to putting the site in the "Media/News Company" category on Facebook. The site was, of course, absolutely none of these things, instead being a GOP operation run squarely from inside Washington that was engaged in obvious partisan messaging as opposed to anything resembling news or journalism.

And, just so some of you don't think we obvious pinko commie Antichrists here at Techdirt are slanting this, Republicans themselves made sure it was known how itchy all of this made them.

"It's propaganda for sure, even if they have objective standards and all the reporting is 100 percent accurate," said Republican communications veteran Rick Tyler, whose resume includes Ted Cruz's 2016 presidential campaign.

Democrats, meanwhile, rightly point out that a site like this can serve two purposes, neither of them in the category of honest. The site can fool readers themselves into thinking they are reading objective or even slanted "journalism", when instead they are drinking from the hose of one of the country's major parties. Perhaps equally important, however, is how the "news" and "headlines" on the site could be used in future campaigns.

Democrats say Republicans are laying the groundwork with headlines that will appear in future digital and television ads, while also providing individual voters with fodder to distribute across social media.

"They're just seeding the ground," said Angelo Carusone, who runs Media Matters, a liberal watchdog group. "They are repackaging their opposition research so it's there as 'news,' and at any moment that publication could become the defining moment of the narrative" in some state's campaign for governor.

Again, I really want to call all of this something other than "fake news" because of what that term has become, but it's hard to find an appropriate substitute. What I wonder is how anyone could trust this particular governors association again, given this fairly bald-faced attempt at this offshoot of gaslighting voters.


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  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 4:28am

    The only value the GOP has left...

    ...is blind obedience to their leader: white supremacist, sociopath, senile, insane, narcissist, Putin's obedient bitch Donald Trump.

    They could remove him from power: they control both houses of Congress and could easily shut him down. They could restore some sanity to the executive branch. They could engage in open and honest debate. They could tackle real problems - like the humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico - rather than imaginary ones like the NFL players. They could do a lot of things.

    But they haven't. And they won't.

    Which is why a lot of us are now ex-Republicans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 4:33am

      Re: The only value the GOP has left...

      Nothing is being done for Porto Rico.

      http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/09/trump-puerto-rico-relief-effort-amazing-tremendous-170927 050401534.html

      "But Puerto Rico Governor Ricardo Rossello, characterising Hurricane Maria as an "unprecedented disaster" for the island, said he was satisfied with the administration's relief efforts and called Trump's performance "excellent".

      "They have responded very quickly," he told Reuters news agency by telephone, adding that he has spoken often with the president since the storm hit. He cited swift disaster declarations issued by Trump and a six-month waiver of FEMA's cost-sharing requirements.

      "He has been very much concerned with the situation in Puerto Rico," Rossello said of Trump. "But they're conscious we still need more resources to the island."

      US disaster-relief spending sufficient to last through mid-October has already been appropriated, White House budget chief Mick Mulvaney said.

      "We are picking up most of the cost right now in Puerto Rico," he told reporters in Cleveland. "We are not penny-pinching in any fashion. We are taking care of folks."

      The administration has about $5bn remaining in a disaster relief fund, and Congress has already approved another $7bn in funding that will become available on October 1, according to a House Appropriations Committee aide."

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:06am

        Re: Re: The only value the GOP has left...

        The Trump response is big ... the biggest response ever.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 10:35am

        Re: Re: The only value the GOP has left...

        Bullshit. The response has been anemic, slow, half-hearted, and ineffective. It took until TODAY for the president to waive the Jones Act, no doubt because the stupid motherfucker is too senile to understand it unless it's explained with cartoons. The US military only has 5000 boots on the ground: it should 50,000 minimum. Generators are failing at hospitals. Most of the population has no drinking water.

        If you want the direct story, then skip the press releases and listen to shortwave radio traffic for a few hours.

        Alternatively, you can continue to believe whatever pablum is being fed to you like the disgustingly stupid, pathetically naive, utterly worthless bag of meat that you are.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      aerinai (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:22am

      Re: The only value the GOP has left...

      Register as Libertarian. I did it in my state this year given the absolutely ridiculous choices we had. Don't regret my vote one bit. Only way for us to make a difference is start to flock from their base and show them they have an up-and-coming party that will pose a real threat. I think it has a chance to become something if the GOP keeps up their racist and hate-mongering platform. Millenials won't stand for it...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:21am

        Re: Re: The only value the GOP has left...

        Unfortunately the Libertarian party has even more problems with racism than the GOP does. The only reason you don't hear about it is because the party is too inconsequential to draw any critical attention.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Mason Wheeler, 28 Sep 2017 @ 8:24am

        Re: Re: The only value the GOP has left...

        Yeah, that'll show 'em! The way to fix the problems on the Left and the Right is to join a party whose ideology combines all the most toxic, blatantly evil precepts of both the Left and the Right and precious few of the virtues from either side!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          ShadowNinja (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 8:49am

          Re: Re: Re: The only value the GOP has left...

          What ideas from liberals do libertarians even take?

          Sure they say they support equal rights, but they also oppose government measures to bring about those equal rights, like the 1964 civil rights act (the act that had real teeth at stopping mass discrimination against blacks in the south). They insist the private market should about that change by boycotting businesses that discriminate.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Wendy Cockcroft, 29 Sep 2017 @ 2:27am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: The only value the GOP has left...

            But the volunteryism they espouse means it is up to individuals to choose to boycott of their own accord; they don't organise boycotts, to my knowledge. It's usually Progressives who do that.

            Mind you, not all Libertarians are right wing YOYOs (you're on your own); the left-leaning ones support some government intervention where the market fails to provide. They're also into UBI despite the fact that anybody with a calculator can quickly pull that idea apart.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 8:05am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: The only value the GOP has left...

              Why do you believe (or insist) that because someone doesn't think the government should do something means that the person doesn't believe those things should be done?

              Libertarians can want to help people individually, but don't believe the federal government should.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 4:38am

    It's about...

    ...ethics in political journalism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 5:27am

      Re: It's about...

      The republican gobers are surely not looking pretty with the facts about the blog that has surfaced. Particularly the proxying is pointing to malicious intent. The only question is how the funding is funnelled since that could have an effect on the legality instead of just morality.

      The Party is anything but strong on ethics and values.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:11am

      Re: It's about...normal politics

      .... so comforting to know that the "Democratic Governors Association (DGA) NEVER engages in partisan politics, propaganda, or fake news.

      Of course, the DGA can fully rely upon the the NYTimes/WashPost/LATimes/CBS/ABC/NBC/CNN/etc for constant anti-Republican ... pro-Democrat fake news.

      And the Democratic Party itself absolutely never does anything sneaky, dishonest, or not fully transparent to the public.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Wendy Cockcroft, 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:30am

        Re: Re: It's about...normal politics

        The only reason why facts appear to have a liberal bias is the echo chamber problem. Sooner or later you'll have to accept that a fact is a fact whether it suits your partisan bias or not.

        I'm not mad keen on the Democrats as a rule but there seem to be more decent people on that side of the aisle than on the other side, which seems to be all about racism and loving money more than people. For the record, it's the neoliberal authoritarian Dems I'm not so keen on.

        Are there any Republicans with a social conscience that I can have some respect for? Kasich is too far to the right for my liking, though I do agree with him on some of the issues.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 9:33am

          Re: Re: Re: It's about...normal politics

          I can support education but not believe it is the federal governments job.

          I can support helping fellow citizens (or people for that matter) in their lives, but not believe it is the federal governments job.

          I can support civil rights and diversity but believe that affirmative action is actually harmful.

          I can support the environment and believe in man made global warming, but still not want to hurt our economy so our kids have less of a country to live in or believe that my tax dollars needs to go overseas to help combat the effects.

          So yeah, there are republicans out there that you can agree with.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 2:05pm

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's about...normal politics

            Sounds like you like the warm fuzzies you get from helping others without actually doing anything to contribute. Definitely sounds like a modern Republican to me.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              bob, 28 Sep 2017 @ 5:37pm

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's about...normal politics

              That's why I click the Like button on all the posts about helping others.

              Just doing my part ;p

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Wendy Cockcroft, 29 Sep 2017 @ 2:31am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's about...normal politics

            @ Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 9:33am

            RE: So yeah, there are republicans out there that you can agree with.

            Except that I don't agree with any of that. You're effectively leaving it to the market and to voluntary action to solve the problems you mentioned whether they actually solve problems or not. As a pragmatic problem-solver this makes no sense to me so no, I don't agree with it.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • identicon
              Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 8:09am

              Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: It's about...normal politics

              And that is your problem Wendy. The federal government shouldn't do everything and in fact, can't do everything.

              Government closest to the people is the best form of government, not some pie in the sky government in Washington. What problem has the federal government solved?

              Education? Nope, drugs, nope. Civil rights? Not if you believe the progressives here.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 9:48am

          Re: Re: Re: It's about...normal politics

          You really should look into what the Podesta leaks revealed about our news sources. Long story short, most major media stations and news papers are coordinating just as much with the democrats as the RGA is doing with The Free Telegraph

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:05pm

          Re: Re: Re: It's about...normal politics

          "facts appear to have a liberal bias"

          Because liberals tend to rely upon facts while conservatives tend to rely upon faith ?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Wendy Cockcroft, 29 Sep 2017 @ 2:33am

            Re: Re: Re: Re: It's about...normal politics

            Conservatism has been hijacked by the Far Right. I remember when we were the designated drivers and the liberals were the drunken yahoos making a noisy mess in the back. Now the roles are reversed and I often believe I'm in a very small minority of people who are totally embarrassed by this.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 8:07am

        Re: Re: It's about...normal politics

        Too bad this article is about the RGA. If the DGA is soooo bad, start your own blog to tell the world about it. Otherwise, kindly, shut your pie hole.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 9:30am

        Re: Re: It's about...normal politics

        Yawn.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Ninja (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 4:41am

    "Again, I really want to call all of this something other than "fake news" because of what that term has become, but it's hard to find an appropriate substitute."

    This is a good issue for a poll.

    I vote we call it "My Little Phony".

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Landamen, 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:14am

    Republican Governor Association News is an good example of an auto-logical acronym, R.G.A.N.. Reagan being both an ex-Governor and a Republican.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    crade (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:26am

    Making something up and pretending it's news is fake news. Propaganda isn't fake news, it's controlled news. It's usually real it's just filtered for the purpose of manipulation. It's more of a fake "news site" than a "fake news" site :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    JEDIDIAH, 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:34am

    It's all garbage, don't kid yourself.

    You speak as if you can trust ANY random website or post on social media these days. ALL of it is suspect, not just the stuff you don't like. Everyone has a pre-set narrative and they adjust the facts accordingly.

    Sometimes you have to go to Al-Jazeera just to get somewhat decent journalism.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:23am

      Re: It's all garbage, don't kid yourself.

      > Sometimes you have to go to Al-Jazeera just to get somewhat decent journalism.

      At least they're open about their sponsorship by terrorists.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 8:08am

        Re: Re: It's all garbage, don't kid yourself.

        That's cute that you think that's actually true. Sad, but cute. Like a puppy running into a wall at full speed.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          Anonymous Coward, 29 Sep 2017 @ 9:29am

          Re: Re: Re: It's all garbage, don't kid yourself.

          Actually it's hilarious to watch. I was walking in my home with a sandwich in hand. My dog was too busy looking up at my food as he walked along side me to notice a wall was in front of him. Sure enough he smacked into the wall head first then walked off while appearing embarrassed.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:08pm

        Re: Re: It's all garbage, don't kid yourself.

        Saudi supports Al Jaz?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:39am

    "even if they have objective standards and all the reporting is 100 percent accurate"

    Fake news ...."has since been co-opted by pretty much everyone to mean any number of things that mostly amount to "news I don't like." Your words.

    So this is fake news huh? Pretty fucking obvious this falls into something that you don't like.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      That One Guy (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:01am

      'Objective' and 'propaganda', two words that do not play nice together

      "It's propaganda for sure, even if they have objective standards and all the reporting is 100 percent accurate,"

      You seem to have missed a few words in that quotation of yours. Even the one the quote came from admitted that it's intended as propaganda, so the idea that it's 'objective' is laughable.

      Add in that they actively tried to hide who set it up and it's pretty clear it was/is intended to present a heavily biased slant on anything they put out, contrary to the "outside Washington perspective" they apparently tried to present themselves as offering.

      A better question would be why you don't have a problem with what happened here, and if you would be so accepting if say a democrat equivalent of the Republican Governors Association tried the same.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      crade (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:13am

      Re:

      The top part is actually a quote from Rick Tyler. He is speaking hypothetically.

      It's old school propaganda; gov't controlled news which is totally different than fake news. They are faking the source by pretending to be independent but not the news itself. If they are following the established playbook for this sort of thing, the news itself should be completely technically true, just intentionally misleading and shown in a specific light and filtered so that it all serves the purpose of manipulating the public to get what they want. If it can actually be shown to be untrue it ends up being counter productive.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:19am

      Re:

      So this is fake news huh? Pretty fucking obvious this falls into something that you don't like.

      Propaganda shouldn't be liked. Unless you're advocating for more of a North Korea-like society, where you MUST stand for the national anthem...oh wait...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 6:39am

    ---I like to assume that everyone is as tired as I am of the term "fake news." The term, which once seemed to have a fairly coherent meaning, has since been co-opted by pretty much everyone to mean any number of things that mostly amount to "news I don't like."---

    Like, Xenophobe, Racist, Homophobe, Socialist, Communist, Inhuman, Bleeding Heart...

    Getting the idea? I have noticed that people only get tired of hearing the truth. Lies... they can't get enough of!

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:12am

    "The term, which once seemed to have a fairly coherent meaning,"

    Hahahahahaha - good one

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ryuugami, 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:16am

    Terminology

    Again, I really want to call all of this something other than "fake news" because of what that term has become, but it's hard to find an appropriate substitute.

    The term you're looking for is propaganda. You even used it earlier in the article!

    "Fake news" are The Daily Show and The Onion.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 7:58am

      Re: Terminology

      Propaganda isn't necessarily fake, nor is it necessarily bad. It's commonly used a pejorative, but propaganda is fundamentally anything that propagates some practice or ideology. Anti-smoking campaigns are propaganda, as are telethons to help the disabled or starving.

      Instead of "fake news," I prefer the straightforward, "bullshit." For example, Fox News is bullshit.

      The Daily show isn't news of any sort. It's a comedy program focused on current events. The Onion, similarly, isn't news, it's a satirical comedy site in the format of a newspaper.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • icon
        crade (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 9:21am

        Re: Re: Terminology

        not necessarily fake, but necessarily misleading and manipulative. The intent to mislead and manipulate is part of the definition of propaganda.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        ryuugami, 28 Sep 2017 @ 10:18am

        Re: Re: Terminology

        Propaganda isn't necessarily fake, nor is it necessarily bad. It's commonly used a pejorative, but propaganda is fundamentally anything that propagates some practice or ideology.

        But that's what I'm saying, that's exactly what this is. It's a propaganda website, which is not necessarily bad in and of itself. The bad part is hiding its affiliation and masquerading as a news site. It's a fake "news site", not a "fake news" site.

        Instead of "fake news," I prefer the straightforward, "bullshit."

        Indeed. Bullshit, biased, misleading, propaganda, ... - we have better words and phrases than "fake news". Interpretation and bias (or unintentional mistakes) doesn't make news fake, intentionally making up facts does. As a clear example, the "pizzagate" was fake news, the email-private-server-gate was not.

        The Daily show isn't news of any sort. It's a comedy program focused on current events. The Onion, similarly, isn't news, it's a satirical comedy site in the format of a newspaper.

        They're comedy presented as news, which makes them fake news :) They're just upfront about it. TDS even called themselves "best fake news show" and such, for at least a decade (probably longer, but that's when I started watching). Of course, people still get outraged about The Onion articles...

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 9:06am

    As I read this article I was quite offended at the governors association. At least up until the quote from Media Matters where the partial hypocrisy squelched it significantly.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 9:36am

    If I hammer a politician for voting against an aid package is that propaganda? Sure, maybe they voted against it because there was other bullshit in the bill, but it is still true. Is that propaganda by not telling the whole story?

    If so, then CNN, the NYT, WaPo and others are all propaganda machines.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 2:16pm

      Re:

      I suggest you look up what grown-up words mean before you try to chime in on conversations during lunch.

      Hint: The key to propaganda is who it comes from.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 28 Sep 2017 @ 9:51am

    β€œThe circle is now complete. When I left you, I was but the learner. Now I am the master.” β€” Star Wars: Episode IV β€” A New Hope

    I guess Russia did teach the US politicians something.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    mainiac (profile), 28 Sep 2017 @ 1:00pm

    Republican Govenors Web site

    Well I've yet to see a political party's (any party, any country) web site anywhere on the internet that could be described as anything but propaganda. So I guess I'll go with that.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    John85851 (profile), 3 Oct 2017 @ 12:48pm

    But fake news is entertainment

    Since most media outlets are basically entertainment driven, they'll talk about the stories that get the most attention/ readers/ viewers. And the more outrageous and fake the news, the more it gets passed around Facebook.

    I know this is an old joke, but it seems like the media cycle goes something like this:
    CNN: Obama eats a hamburger at McDonald's.
    MSNBC: Obama goes to McDonald's to eat a hamburger.
    FOX News: Obama tells Burger King to shove it by eating at McDonald's.
    CNN reports: FOX News reports that Obama hates Burger King.
    FOX News: The lying CNN is lying again.

    BBC News: China invades North Korea. US media concerned with Obama eating hamburgers.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 3:02pm

    So many rabid liberal comments...
    This repub governors site is simply copying ShareBlue.

    The real answer is to get the superpac money, smith-mundt act money, and DNC\RNC money out of politics. If this unlimited political spending is not limited now the next election will waste billions on propaganda, including massive Correct the Record shill campaigns. This will destroy the free and open internet, and probably start a civil war. It needs to be stopped now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 4 Oct 2017 @ 3:02pm

    So many rabid liberal comments...
    This repub governors site is simply copying ShareBlue.

    The real answer is to get the superpac money, smith-mundt act money, and DNC\RNC money out of politics. If this unlimited political spending is not limited now the next election will waste billions on propaganda, including massive Correct the Record shill campaigns. This will destroy the free and open internet, and probably start a civil war. It needs to be stopped now.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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