Archive for category sceptics

Climate Scientists Pursued By Sceptics Through Courts Of Law And Public Opinion

THE climate science denial industry doesn’t like Penn State University’s Professor Michael Mann very much.

Mann is the scientist behind the famous “hockey stick” graph that first appeared in the journal Nature in 1998.

Mann and two other scientists Professor Raymond Bradley and Professor Malcolm Hughes had reconstructed temperatures in the Northern Hemisphere from the year 1400 to present day using data mainly from tree rings, ice cores and modern temperature readings.

The following year, the same three scientists extended their study to reconstruct 1000 years of temperatures and published this in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Each time the team plotted their data on graphs and each time the plots showed what is the now famous “hockey stick” shape with a sharp uptick in temperatures towards the end of the century.

What really got the ire of the climate science denial industry and its cheerleaders was that this second study showed that modern day temperatures were likely hotter than they had been in the so-called Mediaeval Warm Period.

This negated a key argument from sceptics – which they continue with today – that it’s been warmer in the recent past before the industrial revolution caused the westernised world to fall in love with fossil fuels.

Incidentally, it was never a very convincing argument anyway. Even if it was warmer in the past, it doesn’t challenge the multiple lines of evidence which point to burning fossil fuels and deforestation as the main cause of the rapid warming, ocean acidification and sea level rises we see now.

But anyway, enough of the climate science history lesson. Back to Michael Mann.

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Climate change, the New World Order and spam-weary journalists

BEN CUBBY, the environment editor at the Sydney Morning Herald, admits he has an unusual problem – “how does one critically analyse a pile of horse shit?”

The horse excretion in question is a report – CSIROh! – Climate of Deception or First Step to Freedomsent to Cubby by one of Australia’s most tireless – and some might say tiresome – climate science deniers, Malcolm Roberts. But more of Ben Cubby’s response later.

Malcolm Roberts is the volunteer project manager for the Galileo Movement - a climate science denial organisation whose patron is popular Sydney radio shock-jock Alan Jones who himself thinks human-caused climate change is a “hoax” and “witchcraft”.

Roberts’ “report” appears to have been sparked by an email from ABC Brisbane radio presenter Steve Austin back in February 2010.

“For some time now I have been receiving a barrage of your unsolicited emails about climate change and your analysis of IPCC flaws,” wrote Austin, who attached a copy of a CSIRO report on climate change and suggested Roberts respond. Austin promises he’ll send that response to the CSIRO and provide any feedback he gets.

Roberts is a former coalface miner and management consultant and in a declaration of  interests writes: “For extensive work performed in the mining industry I was paid money by mining companies (including three government-owned coal mining companies)….”

He claims to have foregone more than a million dollars in earnings for his unpaid work researching climate change. Part of that involved him travelling to the US to attend the Heartland Institute’s climate skeptics conference in New York in 2008, co-sponsored by Australian free market think-tank the Institute of Public Affairs.

Well, three years pass since the exchange with Steve Austin and finally Roberts sends him the report, which he must have been hanging out for. But here’s a prediction. Whatever the CSIRO or any other reputable research institution says to Malcolm Roberts about human-caused climate change, Roberts will not accept it. Why?

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Andrew Bolt is still on the fringes, whether he stands with Lord Monckton or not

Lord Monckton at the launch of Rise Up Australia. Credit: ABC footage

A FEW weeks ago I wrote a story for DeSmogBlog looking at how Lord Christopher Monckton – a poster child of the climate science denialist movement – had agreed to launch a new Australian political party fronted by an anti-Islamist Creationist preacher.

The party in question is called Rise Up Australia and its messianic front man, Pastor Danny Nalliah, believes that only God can control the climate and that Victoria’s 2009 Black Saturday bushfires, which killed more than 170 people, were God’s punishment for Victoria’s laws allowing abortion.

Well, Lord Monckton’s deed has been done and duly covered on the ABC’s flagship news program 7.30 Report.

The rented room at the National Press Club in Canberra was chock-full of Pastor Danny’s enthusiastic, God-fearing supporters and Lord Monckton whipped their evangelism until the froth was soaking the carpet. Reporter Hayden Cooper went through Nalliah’s beliefs, including his claim that he had brought a couple of people back from the dead.

As I exlained on DeSmogBlog and also on Crikey, Pastor Nalliah actually launched the party in May 2011 (and again a couple of months later) and registered the party with the Australian Electoral Commission 12 months ago. But the launch made for good telly.

One of Lord Monckton’s longest-serving supporters is Andrew Bolt, the climate science mangling News Ltd columnist  and blogger who is, as we’re often told, the country’s most influential political commentator. He’s none too chuffed by Lord Monckton’s endorsement of Pastor Danny, and wrote on his blog:

Why on earth was Christopher Monckton endorsing the nationalist Rise Up Australia Party? Great chance for warmists to paint climate sceptics as fringe dwellers.

So rather than denouncing the extremist views of Pastor Danny Nalliah, Andrew Bolt instead is most immediately concerned that Lord Monckton’s endorsement of Rise Up Australia might be bad PR for climate sceptics.

But Andrew Bolt is an awful long way behind the climate science denial 8-Ball here, given that Lord Monckton was endorsing Pastor Danny Nalliah’s position as long ago as July 2011 when Monckton was invited to speak at Nalliah’s extremist Catch the Fire Ministries.

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Give us a break on the climate science denial

Flooding in Bundaberg, January 2013. Credit Instagram/ABC News

“GIVE me a break,” said the premier of the Australian state of New South Wales Barry O’Farrell when asked if recent devastating floods might have something to do with climate change.

“Let’s not turn this near disaster, this episode that has damaged so many properties and other things, farm properties and other things, into some politically correct debate about climate change,” said Mr O’Farrell.

Let’s just all reach for the “pause” button for a second.

Mr O’Farrell now thinks the issue of climate change is one of “political correctness” which sits alongside debates about the appropriate language to describe homosexuals or whether Christmas trees might offend one religious group above another.

Not to degrade those important debates, but political correctness doesn’t flood thousands of people’s homes, threaten water and food supplies or machine-gun the economy leaving a scattering of billion dollar-sized bullet holes.

The flooding concentrated in Queensland has so far killed six people, devastated several towns and cities and thousands of people’s homes, in particular in Bundaberg, and sparked food supply fears after crop damage.

The disaster has come just weeks after the longest and most widespread extreme heatwave in Australia’s recorded history, causing life and livelihood-threatening bush fires. In all likelihood, January 2013 will turn out to be Australia’s hottest ever month on record. Queensland still remembers the 2011 floods which put a dent in the country’s GDP of an estimated $30 billion.

Mr O’Farrell’s fellow Liberal, Federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott, was similarly dismissive of climate change when he was asked by a journalist if he thought that climate change had played any role in the recent floods. He broadened his answer to include the role of climate change in droughts and fires.

“Droughts, fires, floods have been a part of this country’s experience since records were kept,” Mr Abbott said. “Now, I think that climate change is real and humanity does make a contribution and we must have a strong and effective policy to deal with it, but I don’t think anyone could credibly say that this kind of thing has only happened since man made carbon dioxide increases started.” Read the rest of this entry »
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The Australian admits it misinterpreted research on sea level rise linked to climate change

A FEW days ago The Australian newspaper ran a story on its front page with the headline “Sea rise ‘not linked to warming’” which was supposedly based on the findings of research published in a peer-reviewed journal late last year.

The problem with the story, written by the newspaper’s environment editor Graham Lloyd was that, as I showed a couple of days ago, the scientific paper published in the Journal of Climate made no such claim and came to no such finding.

The paper discussed at length the role of humans in rising sea levels. In short, Lloyd had the arse of the story where the face should have been.

This morning, The Australian has issued a correction, which is buried away on page two.

It reads

A report in the Australian on Tuesday (Sea rise ‘not linked to warming’, page 1) said a paper by JM Gregory with a contribution from John Church had “found no link to global warming and no increase in the rate of glacier melt over the past 100 years”. In fact, the paper found the effect of anthropogenic global warming on the rate of sea level rise would have been greater in the 20th century but for volcanic activity. It found that in the past two decades the rate of sea level rise had been larger than in the 20th century.

Lloyd’s story ran on January 15, the day after he had decided to criticise the national broadcaster for the way it was covering climate change in a week-long series of stories from the ABC’s environment correspondent Sarah Clarke.

Essentially, Lloyd’s rather churlish argument seemed to be that Clarke hadn’t interviewed the people he would have interviewed and cited facts in the way that he would have cited them.

Discussing an ABC report on sea level rise, Lloyd wrote: “But the ABC did not mention recent scientific findings that there was no firm link to sea-level rises and climate change in the 20th century.”

Oh the irony, it burns. To me, it seems a little rich for a journalist who is able to invert the findings of a science paper to feel confident enough to publicly lecture other journalists.

Lloyd didn’t quote a single author of the paper which he misrepresented, but he did at least quote from the actual paper (rather than just the abstract) in a second follow-up story.

I understand Lloyd did attempt to contact John Church, one of the world’s leading sea level experts and a co-author on the paper, but Church didn’t respond.

He did respond indirectly in an IPCC press conference by saying Lloyd’s story was wrong. Perhaps the reason Church didn’t reply to The Australian was that he had taken a leaf out of the book of Michael Coughlan, formerly Australia’s most senior climatologist at the Bureau of Meteorology.

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Murdering a scientific paper on sea-level rise – the Graham Lloyd way

UNRAVELLING the causes of rising sea-levels across the globe is a little like one of those Agatha Christie TV murder whodunnits that you might have sat through while your Sunday lunch disappated through your system.

There are all sorts of co-conspirators that come together in the plot that’s causing sea levels to rise.

There’s thermal expansion of the oceans – which basically means as the oceans warm up the body of water gets larger and pushes higher. Then there’s water from melting glaciers and water melting from ice-sheets in Greenland and Antarctica.

There are also events that have a mild cooling effect on the climate, such as volcanic eruptions and the amount of energy coming from the sun as it moves through its cycles.

But according to The Australian newspaper, a new piece of research on sea levels “has found no link to global warming and no increase in the rate of glacier melt over the past 100 years”.  Now that seems to be pretty categorical doesn’t it?  Just in case you weren’t sure, the headline states even more clearly “Sea rise ‘not linked to warming’, says report

The Australian’s environment editor Graham Lloyd reports on a paper published in the Journal of Climate and points out that one of the globe’s leading expert on sea level rise, Dr John Church, is a co-author. This lends some degree of credibility to the paper.

Strangely, The Australian doesn’t quote Church, which is perhaps just as well given that he told reporters this morning that Lloyd’s story was misleading. “Sea level clearly is linked to climate change, it clearly is linked to greenhouse gases and that was in the paper quoted by The Australian. The quote is, I am sorry, inaccurate,” The Conversation reports.

Now we could simply leave it there, with Lloyd hoisted on his own petard. But let’s have a look at how The Australian has misinterpreted – or perhaps even misrepresented – what the paper, published in November last year, actually says about the role of humans in rising sea levels and how it in no way concludes what Lloyd says it concludes.

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Clickbait climate denial from The Australian

COOL spell to chill hearts of climate activists,” says the clickbait headline in today’s The Australian.

The story, a reprint from the Sunday Times’ Jonathan Leake, is just the kind of editorialised-opinion-disguised-as-news which The Australian has become known for whenever it reports about climate change.

Let’s have a quick look through the piece, because obviously we’ve all got nothing better to do.

THE world’s climate has cooled during last year and this year, temperature data from Britain’s Met Office reveals — just before this year’s talks on cutting global greenhouse gas emissions.

The figures show that, although global temperatures are still well above the long-term average, they have fallen since the record seen in 2010. The findings could prove politically sensitive, coming ahead of the UN’s climate summit in Doha, Qatar, where the global system for regulating greenhouse gas emissions faces collapse.

The threat comes because the Kyoto Treaty, under which developed nations pledged to cut their carbon emissions, expires at the end of this year. Doha is seen as the last hope of securing an extension.

In such a febrile situation, any data casting doubt on climate scientists’ predictions is potentially explosive.

The findings could prove politically sensitive? Any data casting doubt on climate scientists’ predictions?

I would challenge Jonathan Leake to find any climate scientist who has “predicted” in the peer reviewed literature (or anywhere else for that matter) that global temperatures will rise uniformly year upon year. This only becomes “politically sensitive” if the politicians in question accept this sort of spoon-fed misrepresentation of the science.

Given that 2012 will probably end up as another year in the top ten warmest years ever recorded (something the Met Office predicted back in January) , actually reinforces what the climate scientists have been “predicting” rather than casting doubt on them.

Not only that, but the expert from the UK’s Met Office which Leake quotes, Peter Stott, even spells out for Leake why the strawman argument he went on to insert into his story is wrong.

However, it is such a short period that it is scientifically meaningless. Climate change can only be measured over decades — and the records show that the world has warmed by 0.75C over the past century.

Also in the story, Leake says

The World Meteorological Organisation, which oversees the publication of climate trend data from the four main global centres, including the British Met Office, has been strongly criticised for its policy of releasing such data just before the UN’s key annual summits.

Because of course, it would be much better for policy makers and global leaders not to have the latest information available to them from their major agencies when they enter major international climate summits.

This excellent graphic from Skeptical Science demonstrates just how ridiculous these arguments, from the likes of Jonathan Leake and The Australian , actually are  and why it’s a misrepresentation of what’s actually happening in the world.

 

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Lord Monckton’s new climate role for the IPCC isn’t what it appears

IT’S DIFFICULT to know really where to start in describing Lord Christopher Monckton, one of the planet’s most outspoken deniers of the risks of human-caused climate change.

You could say he’s the leader of the Scotland branch of a fringe UK political party, for example. Or describe him as the chief policy adviser to the Science and Public Policy Institute, a climate science-mangling organisation in the US which doesn’t disclose its funders.

But earlier this week, Lord Monckton gave himself another title. In an opinion column about how climate change had nothing to do with the deadly superstorm Sandy, Lord Monckton wrote how he was “an appointed expert reviewer for the forthcoming “Fifth Assessment Report” to be published by the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.”

Now that’s pretty impressive. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change is a United Nations body tasked with gathering and describing the world’s research on climate change.

I wondered how one might be “appointed” as an “expert reviewer”, so I asked the secretariat at the IPCC about the process. Here’s what they told me (my bolding).

Anyone can register as an expert reviewer on the open online registration systems set up by the working groups. All registrants that provide the information requested and confirm their scientific expertise via a self-declaration of expertise are accepted for participation in the review. They are invited to list publications, but that is not a requirement and the section can be left blank when registering. There is no appointment.

Hang on. No appointment? But Lord Monckton just.. but he says that he.. right there, he just said he was appointed, all official like. Reading the response from the IPCC, it sounds as though even I could get that gig.

It would make a cracking addition to most people’s CV. Anyone out there who might be thinking about applying for a job that you just know in your heart of hearts you’re not qualified to do, might want to think about asking Lord Christopher Monckton for a bit of guidance.

Because when it comes to puffing out your CV, the non-Member of the House of Lords is highly skilled.

His modus operandi (aside from speaking Latin in interviews) appears to be that the more spectacular the claim, the less likely people are to disbelieve you. Like climate change science being a plot to “shut down the west“, for example.

So here, just a small handful of some of Monckton’s greatest hits.

For lists of this stuff as long as one of Robert Wadlow‘s arms, visit Monckton MythsBarry Bickmore’s Monckton Rap Sheet or look at Peter Hadfield’s Monckton Bunkum video series (watch the first one below).

Perhaps there’ll be more to add to these lists next year. There are plans for another Lord Monckton tour of Australia for 2013.

Can’t wait.

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Andrew Bolt’s climate fact drought

A NEW climate study out this week in the leading science journal Nature is getting a bit of attention in Australia because it reportedly called into question the way that climate models work out the risk of future droughts.

SOME computer models for global warming may be over-estimating the risk of drought, according to a study,” read the introduction of the story from agency AAP.

This delighted News Ltd columnist and climate science mangler-in-chief Andrew Bolt, who promptly wrote a blog arguing that this was why “local warmists” have been predicting worsening droughts for Australia.

But before we look at why Bolt is wrong to link the study to Australian conditions, let’s first have a quick look at what the paper actually did and what it concluded.

What the researchers did was to look first at a set of data which records moisture in the first few millimetres of soils and then compared this to records of where and when rain has fallen. More precisely, they looked at afternoon rains.

What they found was that on a local scale and under certain conditions, rain did not appear to have a preference for falling over areas where the soil was wet. The researchers point out that six global weather and climate models do assume that rain is more likely over wetter soils, hence their conclusion that the models might need a tweak.

So how does this relate to the kind of long-term drought periods suffered in Australia? I asked Dr Christopher Taylor, the study’s lead author at the UK’s publicly-funded Centre for Ecology and Hydrology. Dr Taylor told me:

Prolonged droughts are strongly related to persistent large-scale weather patterns. These can occur simply due to the chaotic nature of the atmosphere, though for many regions of the world, ocean temperature patterns (such as El Nino) are often the underlying cause. Where our work comes in is when the atmosphere is in a marginal state – will it rain or won’t it? Under such conditions, we know that soil moisture can make a difference.

To summarise then, this paper was not looking at the processes which drive long-term drought in Australia, but rather what happens on those days when there’s a bit of cloud around and you wonder whether or not you should bring your washing in. Nevertheless, the study is important as it could improve the accuracy of weather and climate models.

But just to be certain, I asked Dr Taylor how relevant his study was to the sort of conditions that can break long-term droughts in Australia? Dr Taylor added

Our results don’t challenge the conventional notion that large already-dry regions in the sub-tropics will get drier under climate change.

Cue Andrew Bolt, who tapped into his many years of experience misrepresenting climate science to conclude that this study was highly relevant to Australia’s situation. He wrote:

This will explain why our local warmists used to predict our last drought would “never break” – would be “permanent”, our “new climate” – and why we built appallingly expensive desalination plants now lying idle in the rain.

Except as we have already learnt (because we read the paper and checked first with the researcher in question) the paper doesn’t “explain” much at all about the long-term drought conditions in Australia and how climate models predict them. Oops.

But that’s not the only thing that Andrew Bolt misrepresents in his story. To highlight how “local warmists” have been using models to predict drought, Bolt quotes Dr David Jones, head of climate monitoring and prediction services at the Bureau of Meteorology.

“It may be time to stop describing south-eastern Australia as gripped by drought and instead accept the extreme dry as permanent . .. ‘Perhaps we should call it our new climate,’ said the Bureau of Meteorology’s head of climate analysis, David Jones.”

What’s wrong with this quote is that Dr Jones never actually said it. The beginning of the quote was in fact the introduction to the story from the 8 January 2008 edition of the Sydney Morning Herald, written by journalist Richard Macey.

What Dr Jones actually said was “There is a debate in the climate community, after … close to 12 years of drought, whether this is something permanent. Certainly, in terms of temperature, that seems to be our reality, and that there is no turning back”. Earlier in the story, Jones does say “Perhaps we could call it our new climate” but he was mainly talking in the story about temperatures, not drought.

So twice Andrew Bolt fails to check a source properly and ends up misleading his readers as a result.

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Anti-green activist James Delingpole runs appeal for IPA think-tank

James Delingpole

JAMES Delingpole is a UK columnist waging a long personal jihad against wind farms, environmentalists and climate science.

A resident blogger and columnist at The Daily Telegraph, Delingpole is probably best known for being among the first mainstream columnists to declare, wrongly as it turned out, that emails illegally hacked from an influential climate research unit showed scientists were trying to con the public.

So he is the perfect person to be appealing for people to donate their cash to the Melbourne-based Institute of Public Affairs, a free market think tank which has been working for about 20 years on a campaign to mislead the public about climate science and the impact of carbon pricing.

In the appeal, Delingpole lauds the IPA’s campaign against climate science and action on climate change. Readers of the appeal might be forgiven for thinking the IPA is struggling for cash. Says Delingpole: ”Their budget is always stretched. If you don’t give them money they’ll go broke.”

Yet the IPA’s most recent financial returns to the Australian Securities and Investments Commission suggest that rather than scrambling around for spare change, the think-tank is in fact in rude financial health

For the year ending June 2011, the ASIC documents show the IPA declared a before-tax profit of $217,000 with an income of $2.42 million. In 2010, the IPA’s income was $1.72 million, with before-tax profit of $203,000.

The IPA’s executive director John Roskam refuses to declare where the IPA’s money comes from. In a story I wrote for the Brisbane Times about think-tank funding, Roskam told me that “the reason we don’t reveal our donors is because unfortunately our donors – and people who were believed to be our donors – have been intimidated because of their supposed support for us”.

A similar excuse is given by the UK’s Global Warming Policy Foundation, a climate skeptic group founded by its chairman Lord Lawson, a former chancellor in the Thatcher government.

Professor Bob Carter, the IPA’s science policy advisor, is also an advisor to the GWPF (as well as at least seven other climate sceptic groups), alongside fellow Australian “sceptic” Professor Ian Plimer, who has also made personal appeals for people to hand over cash to the IPA.

As I revealed in a story for The Guardian in March, the only known funder of the GWPF is Michael Hintze, a UK-based Australian-born hedge fund manager, donor to the UK Tory Party, and a man with a personal fortune of $1.4billion, according to Forbes.

The IPA also has close ties to the billionaire set in the form of Gina Rinehart, the coal and iron ore mining magnate and world’s richest woman. In an address to “IPA members and friends”, Rinehart recently declared her concern that Australia was becoming too expensive, given that “Africans want to work, and its workers are willing to work for less than $2 per day”. The comments prompted a Ugandan television personality to declare Rinehart was “removed from reality“.

The IPA is currently working in partnership with Rinehart’s lobby group Australians for Northern Development & Economic Vision, which wants a separate low-tax economic zone for the north of Australia to make it cheaper to run major mining projects. Roskam writes a regular “Ideas for a New North” bulletin on the ANDEV website.

James Delingpole is also a Rinehart fan. When on Twitter recently someone mischievously asked Delingpole if he was being paid by Gina Rinehart, Delingpole responded: “I totally LOVE Gina. She is a heroine of our age. Bludging scuzzballs like you are not worthy of her!”

The IPA paid for Delingpole to tour Australia in April and May to promote his book “Killing The Earth To Save It“, published by Connor Court, which has John Roskam on its editorial board.

Now back in wind swept England, Delingpole has announced he will run as an independent anti-wind farm candidate in a November by-election for the seat of Corby, which the New Statesman pointed out doesn’t actually have any wind turbines.

The Daily Mail, one of the UK’s best selling conservative newspapers, saw fit to run a hopelessly one-sided story written by Delingpole on the suggested evils of wind farms a few days after he had announced his decision to run.

In the story, Delingpole described a visit to Waterloo, near Adelaide, which he said resembled a scene from a “horror movie” with the turbines cast in the role as evil baddie. Delingpole is convinced that turbines make people ill, despite there being no credible evidence.

Delingpole didn’t declare in the story that he had been in Australia on the dime of the IPA or that he was currently running as an anti-wind farm candidate in a by-election.

Australian Federal MP Craig Kelly, the Liberal member for the New South Wales seat of Hughes, was nevertheless impressed by Delingpole’s article, given that he cut and pasted chunks of it onto his Facebook page under the heading “MORE ON THE MULTI-BILLION DOLLAR WIND FARM SCANDAL”.

Kelly also declared on his Facebook page that wind energy was “useless” and “Liked” a comment declaring coal to be the “safest and cheapest” form of energy, and how increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere “accelerates crop growth and improves crop yields, as does warming”.

Perhaps some advice to Mr Kelly. Best not to repeat that “CO2 is plant food” myth to drought-stricken farmers in the US. Don’t mention either, the Harvard-led study showing how that “cheap” coal was costing the US economy half a trillion dollars a year.

UPDATE: The University of Sydney’s Professor Christopher Wright politely turned down on Twitter Delingpole’s request to give money to the IPA. Here’s how Delingpole responded.

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