The World and Everything in It: November 17, 2023
On Culture Friday, free speech wins in Finland while life loses in the U.K.; new installments in the Hunger Games and Trolls movie franchises; and a classic Advent resource for families. Plus, Word Play with George Grant and the Friday morning news
PREROLL: The World and Everything in It is made possible by listeners like us. My name is Ed Noland, and I'm a dentist in Pensacola, Florida. My wife Kathy is the librarian at Trinitas Christian School, where our three children graduated, and where two of our five grandchildren now attend. We hope you enjoyed today's program.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning! A win for free speech in Finland … and a loss for life in the UK.
NICK EICHER, HOST: That and more ahead today on Culture Friday with John Stonestreet. Also today: a classic family resource for Advent. And, two new installments in movie franchises that have seen better days.
AUDIO: That girl’s not going to win these games. You saw her. She’s underfed. Unstable.
And the history of “mnemes”!
BROWN: It’s Friday, November 17th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
EICHER: And I’m Nick Eicher. Good morning!
BROWN: Up next, Kent Covington with today’s news.
SOUND: [D.C. protest]
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR:
Israel-Gaza protests » In Washington, pro-Palestinian protesters blocked entrances outside the headquarters of the Democratic National Committee on Thursday.
And many protesters clashed with police who showed up to clear the entrances.
SOUND: [D.C. protesters]
Protesters calling for a ceasefire in Gaza also blocked bridges in major cities, including Boston where they shut down the major artery to Cambridge for more than two hours.
SOUND: [Boston protest]
Police arrested dozens of people.
And in California, authorities arrested at least 50 protesters who blocked the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.
Meantime, in Israel, demonstrators marched demanding the return of hostages captured by Hamas.
SOUND: [Israel demonstration]
GALLANT: [Speaking Hebrew]
Israel latest » And Israeli Military officials say they’ve found a Hamas tunnel shaft inside the Al-Shifa hospital complex in Gaza City. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has more.
KRISTEN FLAVIN: Israeli Defense Forces released a video showing the hole, reinforced with concrete and lined with pipes and cables less than 100 feet away from the hospital. Nearby, they found a booby-trapped car packed with weapons.
HAGARI: [Speaking Hebrew]
And IDF spokesman Daniel Hagari said they also found the body of one of the hostages taken by Hamas in a house near the hospital.
He said Yehudit Weiss was abducted from her home during the October 7th Hamas attacks. Her husband was murdered in the same attack.
For WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Funding bill Senate » President Biden is expected to sign a short-term government funding package that landed on his desk after the Senate approved it late Wednesday night.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer:
SCHUMER: Because of bipartisan cooperation we’re keeping the government open without any poison pills or harmful cuts.
The stopgap measure, which passed in the House earlier in the week, funds some government agencies into January and others into February.
Many House Republicans opposed it because it does not address Washington’s spending problem.
Rep. Santos report » Congressman George Santos will not seek reelection in 2024 after the House Ethics Committee released a report saying it found substantial evidence of his wrongdoing.
Santos’s fellow New York Congressman Nick Lalota was one of several Republicans who unsuccessfully tried to expel Santos from the House earlier this month.
LaLOTA: I don't need an ethics report to tell me what I already know I am certain that he does not deserve to be a member of the House of Representatives.
Santos has pleaded not guilty to nearly two dozen federal felony charges while confessing to lying about his background during his campaign.
Manchin possible White House bid » West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin is not seeking reelection to the Senate next year. But that does not necessarily mean he’s retiring from politics. The blue dog Democrat said he may yet run for a different office, one of the oval variety.
MANCHIN: But what I will be doing is traveling the country and speaking out to see if there is an interest in creating a movement to mobilize the middle and bring Americans together.
But he most likely will not challenge President Biden for the party’s nomination. The moderate lawmaker described himself as an independent in an interview this week.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. has already announced an independent bid for the White House.
MLB All-Star game to Atlanta » Two years after Major League Baseball waded into politics in Georgia, the league appears to be reversing course. WORLD’s Josh Schumacher reports.
JOSH SCHUMACHER: The league announced Thursday that Truist Park, the home of the Atlanta Braves, will host the 2025 All-Star Game.
Atlanta was set to host the game in 2021. But just months before the game, the league caved to political pressure by Democrats and moved the game to Denver in protest of new voting laws in Georgia.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred later expressed regret over entangling the league in a political fight.
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp responded to the announcement, stating, “Georgia’s voting laws haven’t changed, but it’s good to see the MLB’s misguided understanding of them has.”
For WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher.
I'm Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: Culture Friday with John Stonestreet. Plus, Word Play with George Grant.
This is The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: It’s Friday the 17th of November, 2023. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Myrna Brown.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. It’s Culture Friday. Joining us now is John Stonestreet, the president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint Podcast. John, good morning.
JOHN STONESTREET: Good morning.
EICHER: A not-guilty verdict in Finland. We don’t typically cover those. But because of the nature of the charges, we do in this case. A member of the Finland Parliament by the name of Päivi Räsänen found herself on trial this summer for hate speech. The hate speech in particular you’d probably know in other contexts as the word of God. A verse in the Bible. Although, to be fair, the state prosecutor in the case allowed, and I’ll quote here from a translation, of what she said in court: “You can cite the Bible, but it is Räsänen’s interpretation and opinion about the Bible verses that are criminal.”
Well, the court said otherwise. The bottom line is that Päivi Räsänen—we’ve talked about her case here—is found not guilty.
John, she didn’t back down, not even a little bit, and she won. Good news, I’ve got to believe.
STONESTREET: Well, it is good news. I think it destroys at least to some degree, this inevitability narrative that we often hear that it's going to get worse and worse and worse and there's nothing we can do about it, so it doesn't make any difference if we stand up and that sort of thing. I think we hear that more and more in various forms in an increasingly secular world. I mean, you hear it, for example, in sociology that the world is getting more and more secular, rather than more and more religious. What a remarkable piece you know, this week, when Ayaan Hirsi Ali described her embrace of Christianity, or at least a Christian framework, and one of the things she pointed to is that, you know, the world's not getting more rational, it's getting less rational and more attracted to fantasies. And that's an aspect to deny this inevitability narrative that this completely rational, secular view of the world is going to be triumphant and take out Christianity and that sort of thing. We need not believe that.
The fact that secularism is more rational is something else we ought not believe, which was really, I think, illustrated in some of the accusations against Räsänen, for her prosecutors, for example, to say, oh, no, it's okay to quote the Bible, it's just not okay to have your interpretation of the Bible. Well, she quoted a Bible verse, you know, in other words, it was the straightforward reading of it, which means then that you have to superimpose an increasingly secularized interpretation on the text as if that's the only real way to read it. And that really is where hyper-secularism leads. It's an oppressive thought control experiment, which we're seeing in other nations, not the least of which Britain where we've had people arrested for thought crimes and for silent prayers, all of which of course undermine true freedom, and the claim that it is Christianity that gets in the way of freedom, rather than kind of a secularized tyranny.
It's just back to front, upside down. And then lastly, Räsänen, really, I think, has helped bring all of these things to light. And that's a real service. I would never sign up for this service, given what she's gone through in the last four years. You know, we shouldn't wish this kind of calling, like what has been experienced by her, Jack Phillips, Baronnelle Stutzman and others, but they really do a real service when they're willing to stand up. And of course, ADF does a real service as well in coming to their defense. So it's a huge win. It can't be overstated. It's just a very, very important thing to get these charges dismissed and to have her exonerated.
EICHER: Well, John, I thought when you brought up Britain, you were going to mention little Indi Gregory. Here’s a case where the girl’s parents didn’t back down, but they lost in the worst possible way. They’d gotten into an unwinnable argument with the UK’s government health system and were denied the right to seek treatment elsewhere. Italy, to be exact, where she could’ve gotten treatment, even if it was futile.
But we’ll never know, because the little girl died this week. Your thoughts?
STONESTREET: It just is one of those examples of "it'll never happen," and then it happens. You know, the idea that somehow expanding quote, unquote, the "freedom" to choose death suddenly will not become the targeting of the most vulnerable. This isn't the only story in Britain's history that resembles this. This was as tragic as they get. In a rational world we would call this a kidnapping, we would call this killing, we would call this the abdication of the duty of the government to protect citizens and individuals, and the abdication of responsibility of hospitals and doctors to provide health care, which is what they're supposed to do, that they got their job exactly backwards, which is supposed to be help, never harm, and instead they harmed instead of helping. But that's the sort of thing that happens in a culture whose narrative is upside down, where wrong means right and life means death. And we don't have any definition of human value and human dignity to begin with. Words start meaning different things.
So Indi Gregory was called hopeless, initially, of course, when that sort of language is used to pass a law that allows this sort of thing to take place, because someone has a condition that they're going to die from imminently. Because care has to be extraordinary. And we see all of these definitions just continually move. What is extreme measures, what's considered that I mean, we remember, for example, in our own country, when it came to Terri Shaivo, extreme measures, which is what we were totally keeping her alive was basically food and water just happened to be through a tube. I don't know all the specifics of Indi Gregory. But I know their heartbreak is great, and good for her parents for doing the best that they could. And they should be remembered as being heroic in the cause of their daughter. And I pray that it will start the kind of hard conversations that we need to have over the rights of children over who they ultimately belong to, certainly not this hospital, and certainly not the state. And what does it mean for us to be as compassionate as we say we are?
BROWN: John, we knew it was coming. Rolling Stone Magazine rolled out this article: here’s the headline, “Speaker of the House, Mike Johnson admits he and his son monitor each other’s porn intake.”
What is he thinking??? Attempting to keep his son away from internet porn by using an accountability software, and then holding himself by the same standard?
You've used this phrase a couple of times, back to front upside down. This sounds exactly like what the prophet Isaiah warned us about, doesn't it, calling evil “good” and good “evil”?
STONESTREET: Oh, yeah. I mean, I don't know what was worse. The Rolling Stone headline with his kind of gotcha tagline is if what the speaker was doing was somehow crazy. And you know, and I couldn't even tell whether they were trying to accuse him of being puritanical, or something else. Certainly a lot of the people who responded, I'm thinking here, Keith Olbermann, in particular, he accused speaker Johnson of grooming his son, as if monitoring the son's intake of pornography with some sort of perverted thing. Literally, this is something of course, that the speaker has freely admitted as have many other people. The idea of accountability partners isn't not a very difficult thing for the Rolling Stone journalists to have figured out. I mean, this is something that is a pretty common thing, by the way, not only in church, but also like in a and all the other sort of groups that help people overcome addictions. Not to mention, there's no question remaining any more that porn use is addictive, and what it does to the brain, and that it's not good for people. And this is stuff that's being published, you know, widely in secular magazine. So this was just lazy. And it was clearly a hit job in a way that makes no sense at all.
So I don't think it had the effect that they wanted it to. I don't think a whole lot of people really paid attention to it. If they did, most people kind of quickly saw what it was, which was just kind of an article that completely ignored things they could have known. But you know, all of this is part of something that journalist Terry Mattingly, at Get Religion has pointed out, which is it is very possible for people in elite circles, I'm thinking universities, and certainly the elite institutions of journalism and media, doesn't ever talk to a Christian who have never met one, then to kind of assume things that they don't know. I think it exposed the motive of the publication, the motive of the author. And look at this is weird now, for fathers to keep their sons accountable for what they see for what goes into their hearts and minds. Well as Tom Holland, the historian said, when asked I think by Douglas Murray, about the advice that he would give Christians in light of what he had studied in the history of the church, interacting with a pagan culture, Stay weird. Now, this isn't weird, but if it's called weird, Stay weird.
BROWN: Bring on the weird! John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center and host of the Breakpoint podcast. Thanks, John!
STONESTREET: Thank you both.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, November 17th. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
Coming up on The World and Everything in It, we take a look at what’s new in theaters this weekend.
EICHER: And what’s new turns out to be more of the same old same old. Here’s arts and culture editor Collin Garbarino to talk about the latest installments from familiar franchises.
COLLIN GARBARINO: This weekend, the big new movies at theaters are the third Trolls movie and the fifth Hunger Games movie.
Let’s start with The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes.
LUCY GRAY: Jessup.
VOICE: 4… 3…
LUCY GRAY: Jessup.
VOICE: 2… 1…
It’s been eight years since the last installment of The Hunger Games hit theaters, and now we’re back in Panem with a prequel to the story of Katniss Everdeen. The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is an adaptation of the bestselling novel by Suzanne Collins which tells the story of how a young Coriolanus Snow grows up to be an evil tyrant.
CORIOLANUS: Everything is about winning. If not the games now, then the crowd.
This film is set 64 years before the original story. The Hunger Games have only been going for 10 years. And some people are calling for the end of this cruel entertainment in which young people are forced to fight to the death. Coriolanus, played by Tom Blyth, has been told to mentor a young girl from District 12.
CORIOLANUS: That girl’s not going to win these games. You saw her. She’s underfed. Unstable.
The unstable girl in question is Lucy Gray Baird, played by Rachel Zegler. But Lucy Gray ends up capturing the hearts of the people and Coriolanus himself with her haunting singing.
MUSIC: [LUCY GRAY SINGING]
The Hunger Games: The Ballad of Songbirds & Snakes is rated PG-13 for strong violence, but the violence isn’t as bad as some earlier installments, and the language is pretty mild.
The movie has a lot going for it. The Capital has an impressive mid-century German aesthetic that strikes the right note for an authoritarian society. On the other hand, the folk music of Lucy Gray evokes a sense of freedom-loving community. And Viola Davis really swings for the fences with her performance as the Capital’s evil mad scientist.
VOLUMNIA GAUL: I am Dr. Volumnia Gaul, your humble head gamemaker in charge of the War Department and all its affiliated concerns.
But the movie also has some problems. Its 2-hour-and-37-minute runtime starts to drag by the end. This is mostly due to the fact that the film sticks too close to the book. The action takes place in the first two-thirds, and then we get a sort of extended epilogue in which Coriolanus wrestles with himself in the last third. It might work in print, but not so much on the screen.
The movie succeeds in presenting the world as a brutal place filled with brutal people. It vaguely suggests there might be another way, but it fails to give any hope. If, like the movie says, there’s a songbird and a snake in every human heart, then it seems like the snake wins every time.
Let’s move from this rather pessimistic movie to our other new film, which is about as optimistic as they come.
MUSIC: [“Opening Title Medley”]
DreamWorks’ Trolls are embarking on another goofy musically inspired, psychedelic adventure in their third feature film, Trolls Band Together.
Justin Timberlake and Anna Kendrick return as Branch and Poppy, the franchise’s odd couple. He’s a little grumpy and always worried about risk. She's an exuberant optimistic ray of sunshine. Now they’re dating, but Branch has been keeping secrets from Poppy—four secrets, in fact.
ANNOUNCER: Give it up for BroZone!
Branch used to be in a boyband called BroZone with his four older brothers.
MUSIC: [BroZone singing]
The band broke up, and the brothers aren’t on speaking terms. But when Branch’s oldest brother shows up to report that another of the brothers has been kidnapped, Poppy tells Branch it’s time to get the band back together.
POPPY: Branch, get up there. Go sing with your brothers.
BRANCH: I’ll do it to save Floyd, when I have to. But I’m not doing it right now, just for funsies.
POPPY: Oh, yeah. You’re probably right.
BRANCH: No, no, no, no, no. You’re the one—wait, what’d you say?
Trolls Band Together is rated PG for some mild rude humor on par with the previous Trolls movies. But a bleeped out foul word feels out of place, and there’s also some suggestive dialogue between Poppy’s best friend Bridget and her new husband.
This is a straightforward story in which the heroes must track down the other brothers, each of whom has built a new life for himself. They aren’t interested in boy-band fame. They just want a normal life.
Peppy song and dance numbers punctuate the journey, but on the whole the lyrics aren't as catchy or clever as the songs in the first film. But, Trolls Band Together does feature “Better Place,” the first new song in more than 20 years from Timberlake’s former band NSYNC.
MUSIC: [“Better Place” by NSYNC]
In true kids film fashion, Trolls Band Together attempts to offer some life lessons about diligence and teamwork, but the results are mixed. By the end, the movie settles for cliche, saying that everyone—whether they’re famous or not—needs friends.
Diehard fans of these franchises will probably enjoy these movies. But if you’re not already invested, they don’t offer enough reward for the time and money spent going to see them.
For the last couple years, moviegoers have shown a preference for fresh ideas rather than the string of spinoffs, reboots, and sequels coming out of Hollywood. The prepackaged franchises aren’t making money like they used to. I’m hoping studios will soon pivot away from the neverending franchise and give us something we haven’t seen before.
I’m Collin Garbarino.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Next up on The World and Everything in It: Preparing for Advent.
Thanksgiving is almost here, and with it the beginning of the Christmas season. Many families use Advent resources to prepare their hearts to remember the coming of Jesus Christ into the world.
NICK EICHER, HOST: But for families with young children with lots of energy, finding an Advent book that keeps kids and parents engaged can be a challenge.
BROWN: WORLD reviewer Whitney Williams now to share a classic advent book that brings the whole family into the story of Christ’s first coming
AUDIOBOOK: “They think I’m dead! Jotham wailed out loud. “They think I was killed by some animal and dragged off to be eaten!” And then he began to cry again, not a cry of anger anymore, and not a cry of loneliness. A cry of fear.
WHITNEY WILLIAMS, REVIEWER: That’s a clip from the audiobook, Jotham’s Journey, written by Arnold Ytreeide and narrated by Kirby Heyborne.
AUDIOBOOK: “I want my father,” he cried, and fell with his face in the dirt, clutching his little blanket. I want my father!”
Jotham is a ten-year-old Hebrew boy who sets out on a harrowing, action-packed journey to find his family after being separated from them due to his own sinful stubbornness.
Along the way, Jotham receives help and hospitality from friends, like Biblical characters Zechariah and Elizabeth, who tell him of the coming Messiah.
AUDIOBOOK: “‘My wife and I have wanted a child for fifty years, but always she is barren. Yet this Angel is telling me that we will have a child in our old age!” Zechariah almost shouted at Jotham. “Is it any wonder that I doubted those words?”
But not everyone Jotham meets is helpful or historical. Take the fictional character, Eliakim. He’s a caravan leader who slaps Jonathan to the ground, holds a sword to his neck, and works to sell him into slavery:
AUDIOBOOK: “Yes, we shall see what price we get for a worthless boy,” he said again, laughing. Then turning to the men of his tribe he yelled, “Bind him!”
Jotham’s Journey is divided into short, 10-20 minute daily readings that couple the fictional story with a related devotional, candle lighting, and scripture reading, giving parents a springboard for solid spiritual discussion. Here’s one question from Week 2.
AUDIOBOOK: Jotham feels like his whole world has just fallen apart. Not only is his life in danger, but he’s traveling farther and farther away from his family. Surely, this can’t be God’s way of working things out, can it?
As Jotham slowly makes his way to Bethlehem, thinking his family might be heading there for the census, readers gradually make their way to the place of Jesus’ birth, as well, just in time.
AUDIOBOOK: “Jotham, wake up!” The voice was hissing in his ear, and Jotham swatted at it as if it was an annoying bug. “I need your help, my friend. Some more travelers have arrived—a man and a woman. I tried to send them away, but the woman is about to have a child. I need you to help me clean out the stable again so they may sleep there.”
One caution–in chapter 22, the author mentions that God “accepts all people wherever they are in their own spiritual journey.” Parents may want to clarify that salvation comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
And while those familiar with the nativity story can probably guess how this book ends, that doesn’t make it any less magical.
AUDIOBOOK: “How could such a child save the entire world?” Jotham wondered. But he didn’t worry about it. He just accepted it and thought what a marvelous day this was.
I’m Whitney Williams.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, November 17th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Nick Eicher.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown. Up next: what was it again? Oh, that’s right! Commentator George Grant on memory devices we can’t do without in this month’s Word Play.
GEORGE GRANT, COMMENTATOR: In the age of ubiquitous social media, most of us know what a mneme is. The word comes to us from Greek mythology—Mneme was one of the three Muses, who with Aoide and Melete inspired the arts of memory, music, and poetry. According to the mythic chronicler Pausanias, Mneme gave mankind the gift of mnemonics—shortcuts to remembrance. Thus, a mnemonic device is a kind of memory hack. Various mnemonic devices became essential features of Greek composition, rhetoric, and philosophy, including acrostics, songs and rhymes, along with catch phrases.
An acrostic is a poetic mnemonic device often used in Psalms and Proverbs. Psalm 119 is 176 verses long—which would be ominously difficult to memorize. But it is divided into 22 stanzas, one for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet. All 8 verses in each stanza begin with the same Hebrew letter—so every line in verses 1-8 begin with Aleph, every line in verses 9-16 begin with Beth, every line in verses 17-24 begin with Gimel, and so on. Much more memorable.
Songs and rhymes are also effective mnemonic devices. Children can remember the alphabet, 26 seemingly random letters, by reciting the ABC rhyming tune. This hack works for adults as well: think of how easily you’re able to sing along when you hear a favorite old song. Bible verses, poetry, and even foreign languages can be more easily memorized when rendered in song.
Another mnemonic device is the repetition of catch phrases or proverbial sayings: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away,” “All that glitters is not gold;” “Familiarity breeds contempt;” “Great minds think alike;” “Necessity is the mother of invention;” “Memory holds the door;” and “It is Greek to me.”
The apostle Paul uses this mnemonic device in his pastoral epistles. Sometimes called his “Five Trustworthy Sayings” they are a series catch phrases or proverbial sayings he uses to make the central truths of the gospel more memorable: “Here is a trustworthy saying: Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the chief” (1 Tim. 1:15). “Here is a trustworthy saying: Whoever aspires to be an overseer desires a noble task.” (1 Tim. 3:1). “Here is a trustworthy saying… physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come” (1 Tim. 4:8-10).
Thanks to abounding grace, “Memory holds the door” and thus none of these truths are “Greek to us.”
I’m George Grant.
NICK EICHER, HOST: Well, it’s time to say thanks to the team members who helped put the program together this week:
Mary Reichard, Jenny Rough, David Bahnsen, Emma Perley, Mary Jackson, Hunter Baker, Leo Briceno, Onize Ohikere, Will Inboden, Juliana Chan Erickson, Lillian Hamman, Cal Thomas, John Stonestreet, Collin Garbarino, Whitney Williams, and George Grant.
Thanks also to our breaking news team: Kent Covington, Lynde Langdon, Steve Kloosterman, Travis Kircher, Lauren Canterberry, Christina Grube, and Josh Schumacher.
And, breaking news interns Tobin Jacobson, Johanna Huebscher, and Alex Carmanaty.
And thanks to the guys who stay up late to get the program to you early: Johnny Franklin and Carl Peetz.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Our producer is Harrison Watters. Our production team includes Kristen Flavin, Benj Eicher, Mary Muncy, Emily Whitten, and Bekah McCallum.
Anna Johansen Brown is features editor, and Paul Butler is executive producer.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio. WORLD’s mission is biblically objective journalism that informs, educates, and inspires.
The Bible says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to promise.” —Galatians chapter 3, verses 28 and 29
Be sure to worship with your brothers and sisters in Christ, in church this weekend. And Lord willing, we’ll meet you right back here on Monday.
Go now in grace and peace.
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