Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Robotics & Health Research

In deference to all of our military service members who have given their lives in defense of our country and their fellow Americans, today's Tuneage Tuesday is taking a look at health research for the military.

Federal funding for research has made it lots of cures and treatments possible, and in the military that means taking care of battlefield injuries, like loss of limb. This March, I had an opportunity to meet Dean Kamen when he won a Research!America Advocacy Award, and he is, unreservedly, a genius in jeans. Take a look at how his robotics research is improving health.

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
Dean Kamen
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical Humor & Satire BlogVideo Archive

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Friday, May 27, 2011

One Mind for Research

I just returned from the One Mind for Research conference recently held in Boston. The conference was co-chaired by former Congressman Patrick Kennedy and Garen Staglin from the International Mental Health Research Organization. The group convened to outline a 10-year roadmap for neuroscience research and lay the groundwork for innovative funding models to support basic neuroscience research.

We heard from a wide variety of presenters, who demonstrated the great progress and prospects for research into neurological diseases. They shared amazing findings, including groundbreaking research into Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI), Alzheimer’s Disease, and Brain Computer Interfaces.

Throughout the scientific sessions, we also heard from the patients and care-givers who told deeply personal stories about the devastation and burden of mental diseases. Congressman Ed Markey (D-MA-7) told the story of his mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s and how his father took care of her. Former Senator Max Cleland provided a vivid retelling of his experience in the Vietnam War, which robbed him of his legs and one of his arms and took a deep mental toll.

Mary Woolley, the CEO of Research!America provided closing remarks to the second day of the conference. In her remarks, she drew parallels to JFK and the civil rights era, as a demonstration of what we can accomplish as a nation when we unite for change.

The conference culminated on May 25th, the 60th anniversary of JFK’s famous Moonshot speech, in which President Kennedy challenged our nation to put an American on the Moon. In a fitting tribute, Vice-President Biden joined the conference participants at the JFK Presidential library in support of Kennedy’s One Mind initiative and brain science. Colonel ‘Buzz’ Aldrin also spoke and described his vision for space exploration in the 21st century.

Overall, the conference was a crash course in cutting-edge neuroscience and a vivid look into the lives and loss of those who suffer from mental illness. Visit the One Mind for Research website to view conference highlights and the roadmap.

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Thursday, May 26, 2011

Thursday Round-Up

Max is back from Boston, and we're sharing the round-up today to give him a bit more time to write up his experience at the One Mind conference (look for that tomorrow). So, without further ado, here are our highlights from around the web.

Stand up for Research
Jessica Alba was on Capitol Hill this week advocating for safer chemicals. To learn more about how chemicals in products relate to your health research, check out Sarah's series on chemical exposure and public health.

Anyone who's ever tried to explain how research on the genome can improve your health, knows that skeptics can be hard to convince, but this story about how taking an at home DNA test changed a woman's life might bolster your next discussion.

Celebrating the awesome.
New Voices own Christian Torres had his first piece published in the Washington Post this week! Congratulations Christian.

Do you know an innovative neuroscientist? Nominate them for the 2011 Young Scientists' Achievements and Research in Neuroscience award from the Society for Neuroscience.

On this day in New Voices:
2010 - Sarah wrapped up her series on chemical safety with a Call to Action.
2009 - Flygal explored how competitive it really is to get a job as a researcher in her Race to Save the Lab Rats.

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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Who Wants to Write an Op-Ed?

Image courtesy of: Pepsi Refresh Stories
This summer, I'll be working with researchers around the country to publish op-eds about the importance of funding for research to improve health, particularly federal funding of NIH. I'd bet you've cranked out hundreds of pages of science writing in your career, and I'll be the first person to tell you that writing for the public isn't the same as writing for academic purposes. But, writing an op-ed is not an impossible feat and I want YOU to be one of the researchers who gets published this summer.

First though, let's take a look back at a post on Op-Ed Advocacy from February of 2009:
One effective way to spread an advocacy message is through submitting an op-ed. Op-ed is short for opposite the editorial page.
Trivia: Most people call them opinion editorials, but editorials are - by definition - opinion pieces.
There are lots of ways to put together an editorial. I like the structure of rubrics, so my preferred method is Monroe's Motivated Sequence or MMS for short. This method can be used for speeches, letters to the editor, op-eds - basically anything persuasive.
  1. Get attention. Also known as the hook, this first part is supposed to grab the reader. Studies show that stories (of any kind) are the best hooks. Make it personal and relevant for bonus points.
  2. Establish Need. What is the problem? Why are you trying to convince the other person to do, support, or think something? This is the reason why you are writing the op-ed.
  3. Provide a Solution. You told us what the problem was, now tell us how to fix it. What would make the situation better?
  4. Vision of the Future. What does the future look like when your solution has been implemented? Use figurative language (but don't get too flowery), and really drive the point home in this section.
  5. Call to Action. Tell people what you want them to do. This is your take-away message and your closing statement. Finish with a bang.
General writing tips:
  • Avoid double negatives
  • Never have more than one rhetorical question
  • Use the reading level setting in your word processor. If it's greater than a 10th grade reading level, simplify.
  • Stick to the specified word count. The paper you'll be submitting to probably has some rules about submissions. If you want to see it in print, follow the rules.
Three good examples of advocacy editorials in support of the NIH funding in the economic recovery package are included below.
Those are the basics for writing an op-ed, and a number of New Voices successfully published pieces (nine to be exact) during our last major op-ed campaign. If you're interested in being published, sharing your passion for why research needs to be funded, or are simply looking for a way to break into the field of advocacy, now is the time. Reply or ask questions in the comments or by email at hbenson at researchamerica.org.

Contributing to the public dialogue about science has a ripple effect, and it takes very little time to make an incredibly large impact. Start now.

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Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Commencement Speech Anyone?

It's that time of year, when young people across the country find the cure for their cases of "senioritis" by dressing in long robes and funny hats and sitting through long ceremonies to - in the end - receive a piece of paper. But we all know that that piece of paper is so much more than it seems. A diploma symbolizes years of study and serves as the culmination of a degree of achievement. It's worth sitting through the speeches to get it.

As graduations go, mine were all pretty standard. After a few "commencement really means the beginning" quips and a few jokes or anecdotes from the likes of Doris Roberts or David Gregory, I was walking across a stage and turning my tassel. Mostly, I remember being nervous about whether or not my stuff was packed back in the dorm or if I would hear back about a job application.

A few years out from my own graduations, I'm able to better appreciate the content of commencement speeches and pick out the truly wise nuggets of wisdom in them. So, for this Tuneage Tuesday, here are a couple of well-known commencement addresses from science-y folk to inspire you this graduation season.

From computer scientist, Randy Pausch to Carnegie Mellon's class of 2008.

To the Vassar class of 2010 from Lisa Kudrow, who received her degree in biology there in 1985.

Congratulations to all of our readers who have earned their diplomas this year. Drop us a line in the comments so we can celebrate with you!

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Monday, May 23, 2011

One Mind for Research

In lieu of a policy post today, Max is sharing quotes and notes he captures at the One Mind for Research Scientific Forum in Boston. Follow @NV4Research on Twitter to follow along with him.

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Friday, May 20, 2011

This Could Be Our Last Round-Up...

...but it probably isn't.

Just in case, we want to help you prepare for potential disaster.

Get started by reading about disaster preparedness.  (Information that is critical in the Midwest right now due to floods and could be essential during the approaching hurricane season. Remember: prevent injuries.)

If you need a diversion (for a quick getaway, or just from the work in front of you!) we suggest these MacGuyver strategies. While the science of MacGuyver wasn't always exact, it was ingenious.

If you need to do some fast talking, try creative messaging. NPR wasn't jesting when they took on puns as a means of explaining complex ideas.

Stay in touch with friends. New Voice Sheril Kirshenbaum has moved to the WIRED blog network, and you can follow her blogging on the Convergence of just about everything science and policy.

Finally, if you're just looking for something to take your mind off of things, two new reports have recently been released touting the NIH as an economic driver, both generally and as a leader in the Human Genome Project. Important news for advocates to help make the case against future cuts to research agencies. Or, take a look back ...

On this day in New Voices:
2010 - Sarah wrote about Cleaning Up Our Act.
2009 - FlyGal wrote From Training to Practice: Joining the Faculty.

See you on Monday?

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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Our Newest Voice: Molly Maguire

Name: Molly Maguire

Position: Research!America Science Policy Intern

Education: B.A. in Modern History from St. Andrews University in Scotland and a Masters in Public Policy from the University of Michigan.

Previous experience: Has a certificate from the Science, Technology, Public Policy Program and advocated for the involvement of others in the program and spent last summer at the Center for Genetics in Society tracking legislation and blogging on human reproduction & genetic technologies.

Fun fact: Molly used to be a child actor, starring as a mathlete in Freaks & Geeks.

We're excited to have Molly join us for the next few weeks. Please welcome her to New Voices!

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Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Social Math & Priorities

Yesterday, my colleague Brian wrote about rapping economists (a brilliant Tuneage Tuesday idea!). This passage really got me thinking about priorities:
The idea of social math is presenting complex issues in a way that can be easily understood by anyone: For example, a 2010 report by the National Retail Federation found that graduates were expected to receive nearly $90 in gifts – in all, spending on grad’s gifts were expected to reach $3.9 billion.

Few of us can comprehend a billion dollars, unless you had boatloads of Microsoft stock back when it took off. Social math, then, insists we take another step: Find a way to translate. Knowing our audience here, that $3.9 billion could fund all but two institutes at the National Institutes of Health for a year – and in many cases, for several years. (Even the two exceptions, NCI and NIAID, would have a majority of their budgets covered by that amount.) The same $3.9 billion would fund 8,193 NIH research grants, according to FY10 numbers.

Social math is finding the common ground between a niche and the mainstream.
The case described above doesn't just elaborate on the social math - making it simpler to see what billions of dollars represent - it makes a point about the value of our dollars. If we're willing to spend $3.9 billion dollars on stuffed animals in graduation garb, balloons, and alma mater mugs, would an extra dollar a week in taxes to advance research be a real burden on American finances? For the cost of a beanie baby or tassel a piece, could we mark an important genome? Treat cancer? Provide a healthier future for all those graduates?

I'm not saying don't celebrate or shower grads with gifts (most of my first apartment's security deposit came from graduation gifts, and I still have a Minnie Mouse that plays Pomp and Circumstance). I'm just saying that in tight times, it's important to make investments in the things that really matter. Whether that's siblings using air horns to cheer for the first person in their family to receive a diploma or the government keeping pace with inflation at federal research agencies.

Priorities matter. What are ours?

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Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Let Me Be Clear: Science Journalism in the Age of the Genome & Twitter

"Let Me Be Clear: Science Journalism in the Age of the Genome and Twitter" was held May 11, 2011, at the Holeman Lounge at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. More photos.
Last Wednesday, I got to help out at a really exciting program at the National Press Club: Let Me Be Clear: Science Journalism in the Age of the Genome and Twitter.

Anything that has to do with science and talking about science automatically has me interested, but the line-up for this event was especially awesome. Also, I had the pleasure of working on the accompanying public opinion poll which shed some light on the perception of scientists and journalists in Missouri.  Some of the top line results were covered in the press release, but listen to the program to hear Research!America President Mary Woolley lay out the findings.

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Monday, May 16, 2011

Freshmen Start the Day with NIH 101

On Wednesday, I attended a breakfast meeting sponsored by Congressman Dan Benishek, MD of Michigan. This meeting provided an opportunity for several freshman Members of Congress to meet Dr. Francis Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health.

We were thrilled to be joined by Congressman Austin Scott of Georgia, Congressman Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania, Congressman Larry Buchson, MD of Indiana and Congressman John Carney from Delaware.

Congressman Benishek opened the meeting by introducing Dr. Collins and thanking those in attendance. After providing a brief overview of the NIH, the members were given an opportunity to ask questions about health and biomedical research.

The Q&A discussion touched on a variety of issues and challenges facing health and health research. The importance of prevention was discussed as a cost-effective means for improving health while lowering overall health spending. Dr. Collins also mentioned the importance of personalized medicine and new technology to foster healthy behaviors in patients. But he also informed members about the challenges facing the NIH. Dr. Collins estimates that grant award rates at NIH could dip as low as 17% due to funding constraints, which would be the lowest in history.

Overall, the freshmen members in attendance seemed supportive of research to improve health and interested in health research issues. They all received personal invitations to take a tour of the NIH. Have your representatives visited the NIH campus yet?

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Friday, May 13, 2011

Not-at-All-Scary Friday the 13th Round-Up

It was a scary start to the day with Blogger down, but we're back in business and this Friday the 13th isn't too scary at all. In fact, since you didn't get a post yesterday, today's round-up has a few bonus links and a new summer feature to keep you reading until we're back on Monday.

Making the Case for Investment in Research
For those who wonder why it's important to spend NIH money on global health, here's one great reason: a dramatic decrease in infant mortality. For about $208 per life, 97 families are celebrating a new member of their family. Since that doesn't include the value beyond the control of this study, in the end, it will probably cost even less per life saved. Knowledge is power, lasts a lifetime, and can make more lives possible.

Senator Shelby of Alabama is pushing to save NIH from cuts in FY2012.

Advocacy Around the Web
Research shows that people portray their personalities on social networking sites more honestly than anecdotal evidence has us believe. All the more reason to get out there and tell our science stories and defend research while being ourselves.

We're all excited for summer, but remember that with sunny days come summer sunburns. This well-done PSA - Dear 16 year old me - regarding melanoma should be shared with every teenager you know.

The Vatican has spoken out on climate change and made some strong statements about how we should take action now.

News of the Fun
As you might have guessed, kissing is a mood booster.  

Voting is open until the end of the day today on Doodle for Google, a program to encourage young Americans to put in pictures their life's ambition.You can vote once per age group, and there are many fun doodles to choose from. Also, for a country that's falling behind in math and science, it's interesting just how many of the finalists have science themes.

New Features
As New Voices begins its third summer, we now have enough content to feature historical posts from New Voices. The new segment will appear in round-ups, and if you like it and want it to be an even more regular feature, let us know. Without further ado....

On this day in  New Voices:
2010 - Sarah wrote about Failures in U.S. Chemical Regulation
2009 - FlyGal wrote about U.S. Competitiveness and Innovation

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Blogger Issues

If you had some trouble getting to New Voices yesterday, it wasn't just you. Around the world, the host site, Blogger, was out for 20.5 hours. That is basically unheard of, and we appreciate the staff that worked through the night to fix the issues.

What you may notice temporarily is that Christian's sign-off post from Wednesday is missing and some moderated comments are not visible. Blogger is working on restoring all of the work done on Wednesday and we'll be happy to have it back as soon as possible.

New Voices appreciates your patience and understanding and will be getting you back to your regularly scheduled blog posts (as best we can) later today.

Update 4:53 p.m.: It appears that Christian's post is back up now, and aside from the labels, everything else seems back in order. If you have any further issues, please let us know.

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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Final Thoughts from Christian

Incredibly, it’s already been three months, and my time at Research!America has come to an end. I would say that the time has flown by, but I can’t help thinking that those three months had the feel of a year’s worth of challenges and lessons.

If you’ve seen the news these past few months, or read this blog, you probably know why: February through April was an interesting time for Research!America. The fiscal year 2011 (and 2012) budget dominated the discussion in DC, and this organization was once again on the front line of protecting funding for health and medical research. We kept tabs on the potential and final cuts; we had meetings with representatives; and we encouraged our grassroots network to contact their elected officials and push for research funding.

Put simply, the federal budget was at the center of Research!America’s past three months, and it was at the center of my three months, too. I, in particular, took on the topic with my internship project, “Understanding the Federal Budget” (now available on the Research!America website). This new section provides an introduction to the federal budget process, an FAQ, and more. Most importantly, it gives you a picture of how federal research agencies like the NIH and CDC are faring in the budget, along with the cuts they face, and how those cuts might affect the agencies.

My goal in creating this site was to give people much the same education I received these past few months at Research!America. I spent a lot of time digging through spreadsheets, PDFs, and other reports, trying to get a better picture of the budget and what the current debate means for health and medical research. What I found was that this is as crucial a time as ever for research funding, as well as for advocacy. When you take a look at “Understanding the Federal Budget,” I hope you find the same. These past few months were challenging, but if the current political climate is any indication, there are many more challenges to come, and we only can tackle them if we understand them.

That was my ultimate lesson at Research!America: educating ourselves on the issues helps us to care (even more) about the issues. I came here with a slight understanding of the budget, and now I leave with a treasure trove of information. I came here with a deep appreciation for research, and now I leave with a great sense of responsibility for its future. It’s been three months, but if DC has shown me anything, it’s that things can move and change quickly, as can people.

New Voices has been proud to publish Christian Torres' posts during his time here, and we thank him for his innovative ideas, solid prose, and ability to come up with a post in an hour or less when necessary. We look forward to reading more as he continues his science journalism education with an internship in the health and science section of The Washington Post.  Good luck Christian!

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Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Grad Student Rap

Hat tip to Isis the Scientist and Biochembelle for sharing this fabulous tuneage.

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Monday, May 9, 2011

S&T Challenges in FY 2012: A View from the Helm

Last week, I attended the annual Science and Technology Policy forum convened by the American Association for the Advancement of Science. The conference was kicked off by John P. Holdren, the Science Advisor to the President and the Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP).

Dr. Holdren provided a glowing assessment of the President’s commitment to science, exclaiming that President Obama ‘gets it’ when it comes to the importance of science and technology. But with the recent debates over fiscal policy, the honeymoon is clearly over. We’ve already seen budget cuts to many of the research agencies and more may be on the horizon.

Dr. Holdren laid out what he believes to be some of the challenges facing federal R&D over the coming months. Basic research at the Department of Defense will likely come under increased scrutiny. The Department of Energy, which saw significant cuts during the recent budget deal, can expect attempts to downsize or eliminate programs like carbon capture and fusion.

At the National Science Foundation (NSF), the Directorate for Social, Behavioral, and Economic Sciences will likely be targeted. This particular Directorate was already singled out in Eric Cantor’s YouCut initiative. Historically, social sciences have always been a controversial component of the NSF portfolio and the current fiscal debate provides a new impetus for criticism.

Regulatory practices by the Food and Drug Administration will probably be challenged on the grounds that overly burdensome regulation slows job creation and dissuades companies from commercializing new products. Lastly, Dr. Holdren pointed out that programs supporting international collaboration will be squeezed, likely on the grounds that we shouldn’t be sending domestic dollars overseas.

Clearly, science is facing an uphill battle in an increasingly tumultuous political environment. If you care about the important research that our government supports, now is the time to speak out.

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Friday, May 6, 2011

Mother's Day Round-Up

Here's the news we thought was interesting from around the web this week:

Since we mentioned Teacher Appreciation Week, this piece where Dave Eggers and Nínive Clements Calegari take on what low salaries for teachers may be costing us in the opinion section of the New York Times caught our eye.

And speaking of the Times, here's a response to an article regarding funding for public health.


Basic research is important not just because it drives the economy. It also helps make good things even better, like an HIV drug that could prevent cervical cancer.

And sometimes research coincides well with the major news story of the week, such as how DNA may have confirmed Bin Laden's death.

Folks We Love to Read
Hooray for New Voice Jaime Vernon, PhD who's subbing in for Chris Mooney over at The Intersection.

Folks We Love to Love

Our moms.

Happy Mother's Day!

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thursday Open-Thread

Here at New Voices, things have been exceptionally busy. You're definitely going to get to see the fruits of this labor soon by way of posts about polling, science communication, advocacy resources and tools, and strategies tailored just for scientists. But for today, we're asking for a brief reprieve and some thoughts from you on what types of things you'd like to hear about on New Voices this summer.

More advocate profiles? guest posts? public opinion data? Policy reports, feedback from events here in DC, or examples of well translated research?

The comments section is open. Help us create content just for you this summer - join the conversation!

*Title amended 5/6/11.

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Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Teacher Appreciation Week

Comic credit: xkcd.com
We all know the value of good teaching. This Teacher Appreciation Week, take five minutes and drop a line to your favorite teacher (formal/informal, classroom, workplace, etc.). It'll make their day and encourage one of the best things we have going for us: our future.

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Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Science is Real

Today's Tuneage Tuesday is brought to you from neither Istanbul nor Constantinople (despite being a featured location for They Might Be Giants).

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Monday, May 2, 2011

Gangs of DC

Two political “gangs” with the same goal now exist in Congress. The Gang of Six and the Gang of Seven both seek to reach a deficit reduction deal that can gain traction with Democrats and Republicans alike.

With the goal of slashing $4 trillion from the nation’s budget deficit over the next decade, the Gang of Six arose out of President Barack Obama’s deficit commission toward the end of 2010. The older of the two, it is comprised of three Democrats and three Republicans: Sens. Dick Durbin (D-IL), Kent Conrad (D-ND), Mark Warner (D-VA), Tom Coburn (R-OK), Saxby Chambliss (R-GA), and Mike Crapo (R-ID). Four of the six members of the group came from President Obama’s Simpson-Bowles deficit commission. The group recommends spending cuts, overhauling the tax code, and revamping Medicare and Medicaid entitlements.

The bipartisan, bicameral newcomer, the Gang of Seven, was recently called for by President Obama. Led by Vice President Joe Biden, it includes Sens. John Kyl (R-AZ), Max Baucus (D-MT), Daniel Inouye (D-HI), and Reps. Eric Cantor (R-VA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and James Clyburn (D-SC). Its first meeting is scheduled for May 5.

Because it is unclear exactly why a second group was formed to tackle the same issue as a preexisting one, the emergence of the Gang of Seven has caused a lot of buzz. According to ABC News, some lawmakers feel that it undermines the work of the earlier-formed gang. That the latter group is comprised of both Senators and Representatives is the only obvious difference between the two. The Christian Science Monitor poses a further observation of the group’s differences:

Unlike the bipartisan “Gang of Six” senators who have been trying to reach an agreement on these very same issues, the newly minted “Gang of Seven,” as some commentators are referring to the new negotiators, represents the starkest partisan views on Capitol Hill: The GOP appointees oppose tax increases, the Democrats oppose cuts to entitlements, especially Social Security.

The article goes on to say that although both groups are unofficial, if either one is able to agree to a plan, they may have the leverage to garner enough support in Congress to pass a budget compromise.

Special thanks to today's guest blogger, Rachael Schoop, a communications associate at Research!America.

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