Michael Moore's "SiCKO"

Discussion in 'Et Cetera, Et Cetera' started by Dr. Dilznick, Jun 11, 2007.

  1. Dr. Dilznick

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    Release date: June 29, 2007 (U.S. and Canada)


    Salon.com's review:

    Michael Moore's scathing, important look at the U.S. healthcare system has plenty to rile the far right -- and a lot more to enrage the larger American public.

    By Andrew O'Hehir

    May. 20, 2007 | "I know the storm awaits me back in the United States," Michael Moore told a wall-to-wall throng of reporters here after the Saturday morning press premiere of his new film, "Sicko." Then he heaved a deep breath and added, "But this is just so pleasant."

    It was indeed another gorgeous, summery morning on the French Riviera, but the real heat was indoors. There wasn't a single empty seat inside the Grand Théâtre Lumière -- which holds more than 2,000 people -- for "Sicko," and dozens of stragglers were locked out on the sidewalk. Moore's screed against the outrageous state of American healthcare was received with uproarious affection, but one might argue that Cannes provided the softest possible crowd. An American left-wing populist, attacking America's profit-motive, private-sector ideology before a roomful of international intellectuals, at least half of them Europeans. May I introduce a new phrase into the Franglais dictionary? C'était un slam-dunk.

    "Sicko" does not display Moore at his most cinematically inventive or imaginative. It presents a TV-documentary-style parade of episodes, characters and settings, bouncing from various American cities to Canada, Britain, France and Cuba (and yes, don't worry, we'll get to that). Moore plays a far smaller personal role in this film, appearing only occasionally in his comic-relief role as the clueless buffoon who can't seem to grasp that healthcare in all those other countries is free, or virtually so. When he's eating dinner with a group of Americans living in Paris who begin to list all the things they can have as free or nearly free entitlements -- not just healthcare but an emergency doctor who makes house calls; not just childcare but a part-time in-home nanny -- Moore puts his hands over his ears and begins singing "La la la la la." (If you have kids or any kind of chronic family health problems, your reactions might include weeping in despair, slitting your wrists or booking a one-way ticket.)

    Still, there is no mistaking the passion and political intelligence at work in "Sicko." It's both a more finely calibrated film and one with more far-reaching consequences than any he's made before. Moore is trying to rouse Americans to action on an issue most of us agree about, at least superficially. You may know people who will still defend the Iraq war (although they're less and less eager to talk about it). But who do you know who will defend the current method of healthcare delivery, administered by insurance companies whose central task is to minimize cost and maximize shareholder return? Americans of many different political stripes would probably share Moore's conclusions at the press conference: "It's wrong and it's immoral. We have to take the profit motive out of healthcare. It's as simple as that."

    "Sicko" purposefully does not focus on the 50 million or so Americans who don't have health insurance, as scandalous as that is, but on the horror stories of middle-class working folks who believed they were adequately covered. There are so many of these they begin to blur into each other: the woman in Los Angeles whose baby was denied treatment at an emergency room outside her HMO network, and died as it was being transferred hours later; the woman in Kansas City whose husband was repeatedly denied various drugs his physician prescribed for kidney cancer, and who in the last stage of life was denied a bone-marrow transplant that could have saved his life; the woman who was told her brain tumor was not a life-threatening illness, and died; the woman who was told her cancer must have been a preexisting condition, and died.

    One might respond that anecdotes like these have tremendous emotional power but little analytical rigor, but in this case I think we all know (and fear) that these worst-case outcomes exemplify the system perfectly. Moore interviews two healthcare whistle-blowers, both now plagued with guilt, who explain what should be obvious: The point of the system is to treat as few people as possible as cheaply as possible, and those who get ahead in the healthcare industry are those who find ever more devious ways to deny coverage. (For example, you can now be denied for certain preexisting conditions you didn't know about, on the premise that you should have known about them.)

    OK, let's get to the headlines: Yes, in the film Moore travels with a group of ill and injured 9/11 rescue workers (along with several other of his film's protagonists) to Cuba, where they receive free and apparently excellent medical treatment. It's unquestionably another button-pushing Michael Moore stunt, designed to provoke controversy. It's cheap but funny, dubious as evidence but affecting anyway. Moore does not even seem aware of the possibility that the Cubans were shrewd enough to see the propaganda value in this exercise, and put on a dog-and-pony show for his and our benefit. (For that matter, we don't know how much of the visit was planned in advance with Cuban authorities.) All that aside, within the context of the film and the argument Moore is building, Cuba makes as much sense as anywhere else.
     
  2. Dr. Dilznick

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    [continued]

    Moore begins his foreign odyssey in the film after meeting a 22-year-old Michigan woman who has moved across the Ontario border (not entirely on the up-and-up) because she's been denied treatment for cervical cancer. He wanders around emergency rooms in London, Ontario, and London, England (where he discovers that the cashier's window is for paying patients their travel expenses, not for settling the bill). He zips from one Parisian arrondissement to another with an on-call physician on the night shift. He dines with the aforementioned Americans abroad, who seem dazed and a little guilty about their escape from healthcare hell.

    Much of this is played as comedy; Moore corners a young Afro-British couple with a wiggling bundle in the hallway of a London hospital and says cheerfully, "So -- how much they charge you for that baby?" But Moore is trying to push us beyond the universally shared idea that something must be done to the slightly more controversial idea that something has been done, and that all we have to do is appropriate it. Americans have of course been conditioned for generations to believe that socialized medicine is first of all a disaster in its own terms, and secondly, the pathway to totalitarianism.

    His portrayal of the Canadian, British and French systems is undoubtedly simplistic , and several Canadian reporters took that up with him at the press conference -- although all of them admitted they wouldn't trade their system for ours. But Moore's overall point is, I think, inarguable: Flawed as they may be, those systems are a hell of a lot more humane and civilized than anything we've got. (Life expectancy is significantly higher, and infant mortality lower, in all of those countries than the United States. Whatever outdated stereotypes you may hold, these days poor people in Britain are statistically healthier than rich people in America.)

    Addressing a series of questions from foreign reporters at the press conference, Moore said: "We should do what we always do as Americans, steal the best things you're doing and make them our own. The Canadians do certain things very well. The Brits do certain things very well. The French have the best system in the world, and that's not my opinion. That's how the World Health Organization rates them. None of them is perfect, but it's not my role to make criticisms. It's my role as an American to say, why don't we take the best elements you're doing and blend them together, and call it the American system?"

    Moore decided to go to Cuba, as he explains in the film, after learning the peculiar irony that detainees at Guantánamo Bay are entitled to something American citizens are not: free healthcare. In a brief and awkward scene, he tries to bring a fishing boat with his 9/11 refugees aboard into U.S. waters just off the naval base. They are refused entry (Moore is evasive about the details) and then seek treatment at the best hospital in Havana.

    "The point of this was not to go to Cuba," Moore said at the press conference. "The point was to go to Guantánamo Bay, to get the 9/11 workers the same medical care we're giving to members of al-Qaida." If the detainees had been at a U.S. base in Spain or Italy or Australia -- all countries with universal healthcare -- he'd have taken his 9/11 workers there instead. In fact, when Moore drops the jokes and political attitudinizing during the Cuba sequence, the pathos of the story makes his point for him: A poor Caribbean island, whatever its ideology, can afford healthcare for everyone while we do not. The only possible conclusion is that our society has chosen not to.

    When asked about his potential prosecution for violating U.S. Treasury sanctions against trade with or travel to Cuba, Moore was uncharacteristically sober. "I know a lot of you have written things like, 'How dumb are they?'" he said, "but I don't take this lightly. The Bush administration may try to claim that my footage was obtained illegally. We haven't discussed this possibility yet, but actions could be taken to prevent this film from opening on June 29. I know that sounds crazy to the Americans in the room. I guess it is crazy."

    When Americans do get to see "Sicko," Moore says, "They will understand that this was about helping 9/11 rescue workers who've been abandoned by the government. They're not going to focus on Cuba or Fidel Castro or any other nonsense coming out of the Bush White House. They're going to say: 'You're telling me that al-Qaida prisoners get better medical treatment than the people who tried to recover bodies from the wreckage at ground zero?'"

    When Moore interviews Tony Benn, a leading figure on the British left, his larger concerns come into focus. Benn argues that for-profit healthcare and the other instruments of the corporate state, like student loans and bottomless credit-card debt, perform a crucial function for that state. They undermine democracy by creating a docile and hardworking population that is addicted to constant debt and an essentially unsustainable lifestyle, that literally cannot afford to quit jobs or take time off, that is more interested in maintaining high incomes than in social or political change. Moore seizes on this insight and makes it a kind of central theme; both in the film and aloud, at the press conference, he wondered whether some essential and unrecognized change has occurred in the American character.

    "I hope this film engenders discussion, not just about healthcare, but about why we are the way we are these days," Moore told us. "Where is our soul? Why would we allow 50 million Americans, 9 million of them children, not to have health insurance? Maybe my role as a filmmaker is to go down a road we might be afraid to go down, because it might lead to a dark place."

    Moore's last revelation in "Sicko" is sure to be endlessly debated in the right-wing blogosphere that is so obsessed with him (and may be of little interest to ordinary viewers). Some time ago, Jim Kenefick, proprietor of the especially bilious anti-Moore site Moorewatch, almost shut down his site to focus on his wife's worsening illness and escalating healthcare costs. An anonymous donor then sent him $12,000 to cover his wife's bills and keep the site running. (She has apparently recovered.) Now that donor has been revealed and, as Kenefick now says he suspected all along, it turns out to be Michael Moore.

    "I want him to know that it was done with all the best intentions," said Moore, adding that he planned to phone Kenefick personally after the press conference. (According to Kenefick's blog, Moore left him a voice-mail message later on Saturday.) "I went back and forth about whether to use that material," Moore went on. "I asked myself, would you be doing this if it weren't in the film? I decided that I would, and I should, and that that's the way I think we should live."

    Moore says he began exercising and lost 25 pounds while working on his healthcare film; "I'm actually a fairly skinny person for the Midwest," he quipped. He says he's tried to maintain a lower public profile since "Fahrenheit 9/11" and would like Kenefick and his many other critics to cut him some slack. "You know, I begin to hope that as I enter the discourse with this film, I might get some kind of a break. As far as the accuracy of my movies goes, I think the record speaks for itself. Maybe people will say: He warned us about General Motors, he warned us about school shootings and he warned us about Bush."



    Source: "Sicko" | Salon Arts & Entertainment
     
  3. Gillette

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    I really hope this film makes enough of an impact to get things rolling.

    Implementing a change as big as the healthcare system needs certainly won't be easy but it's such a worthwhile battle.
     
  4. B_NineInchCock_160IQ

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    as many things that there are wrong with healthcare in the United States, I'd still much rather get sick, have an accident, or deliver a baby there than almost anywhere else in the world.

    I'm guessing Moore ignores any of the good things about healthcare in the U.S. But I wouldn't expect anything even-handed or intellectually honest from him.
     
  5. Gillette

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    How so?

    Is medicine more advanced in the USA than France? I don't think the problem with the American system is the level of care possible, it's the lack of access to it.

    I'll admit that Moore isn't likely to emphasize the positive points of healthcare in the states but if those points are shared by these other countries they become moot for the purpose of comparison.

    I'll also admit that I don't know as much about the American heathcare system as an American might. If I can pose the question, In what way is the American healthcare system ahead of what other G8 countries?
     
  6. Dr. Dilznick

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    Unfortunately, in Michael Moore films every American system (for everything) only has cons, while every Canadian / European system (for everything) only has pros. That being said, the current system does have lots of flaws, but most of the problems that do exist can be fixed without looking to a more socialist model.
     
  7. overshot

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  8. brainzz_n_dong

    brainzz_n_dong New Member

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    Excerpted from the review:

    Moore plays a far smaller personal role in this film, appearing only occasionally in his comic-relief role as the clueless buffoon who can't seem to grasp that healthcare in all those other countries is free, or virtually so.

    Well, perhaps the reason for that is that nothing is ever free. If you are not paying a premium or a co-pay, you are paying much higher taxes to subsidize the system that gives you your health-care "free".

    I won't stand and defend the state of our system here. It needs attn just like the sick patients it's supposed to be there for. But I ultimately agree with Dr. Dilznick - there are ways to improve it without signing it over to the government.

    We must have an amazing health care system if you can do THAT here :wink:


     
  9. ClaireTalon

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    And once again, the master of polemics and populism, the godfather of misrepresented facts and walking car accident strikes it.

    I admit I'm biased, I can't agree with Moore's aggressive way of presenting facts that fit his political outlook and leaving out the facts that are contrary to it. His movies are in no way suited to get a real insight on a subject.

    In "Sicko", he praises the health system of France and Cuba. Of course, he forgets to mention that the Cuban system is short of a breakdown, the free health care there exists, but the quality and standards are rather simple. It's also correct that the french system even includes health checks for homeless and other non-insured citizens, but again, these can't expect sophisticated examinations or anything that goes beyond the basic supply.

    The problem about the American health care system is that it's mostly based on private provisions, or health insurance provided by the employers. And a majority of American doesn't even want it to be different. I would die to find a link now, but we can also wait until the next election, this question is usually asked in opinion polls then. One more fact that's elegantly disregarded by Moore.
     
  10. B_NineInchCock_160IQ

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    In general, yes, medicine is more advanced in the U.S. than many other places in the world. They have the newest, best, and most expensive equipment and the most qualified and highly trained professionals. This is part of why medical costs are so high there. Another part is that if you present at most E.R.s in the USA with an emergent condition you will receive the same excellent care as anyone else. This was certainly the case at the one that I worked at. By law we were not allowed to turn away anyone for any reason, even if we KNEW they were lying about their name or address, if we knew they had no money or no insurance and that we were never going to get paid, even if we knew they were not U.S. citizens or were using fake social security numbers, even if we knew they were homeless people come in off the street for no other reason than because they wanted a warm bed to sleep in, they were still treated exactly the same as everyone else. You don't need checks or vouchers from the government, you just need to show up.

    I've been to some countries were people are terrified of going to the hospital. They have no faith at all in the care that they will receive there. I'm not describing France, but this is the case in several of the eastern European countries I have travelled through. In the U.S. you hear people bitch because they go to the emergency room for something idiotic that does not deserve emergent attention and then they are made to wait 6 hours. boo fucking hoo.

    Additionally, while yes, you may have national health insurance if you are a tax paying citizen of many different countries, if you don't fit that description you may also get turned out on your ass. At Fairfax we would treat illegal immigrants, uninsured homeless people, anyone.. We had financial assistance programs, we had doctors who would come in in the dead of night because they were on call even though they knew they weren't going to get paid, we had medicare and medicaid offices in the hospital, and patient accounts routinely wrote off huge bills for patients who couldn't afford to pay them.
     
  11. Satsfakshun

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    "This is part of why medical costs are so high there..."


    Of course, the other part is the ridiculous salaraies of insurance barons. Health insurance is a public trust. Here in Indianapolis, the retiring president of Anthem/Wellpointe is leaving with a massive retirement package and all he really accomplished was increasing premiums by two, three and sometimes four times on people. They'd already cut to the bone what they were willing to pay doctors and hospitals and that was after months of haggling.

    Capitalism is a sick system for delivering something like healthcare.


    I got to praise Moore for getting the right-wing clucking about his movie and giving him a month and a half of free publicity. In reality, Moore didn't try to get Cuban care for patients. He took 9/11 victims with health problems and tried to get them treated a Guantanomo Bay where the US "War of Terror" prisoners get free, extensive healthcare.
     
  12. Ethyl

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    I'll refrain from making any judgments about the film until I see it, but I hope Moore offers more than just complaints. Insuring over 300 million people is no small task, particularly when it's more about profit than actual health care.
     
  13. B_big dirigible

    B_big dirigible New Member

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    Countries can't be compared quite so slickly as Moore will doubtless pretend. What do we know about his paragon, the French health care system? We know about 14,802 deaths in a simple heat wave (what? August is hot? Mon dieu!) in 2003.
    For some strange reason, that sort of thing doesn't happen much around here. Moore may think we should be more like France; I suspect that most of my fellow Americans will disagree, and not just those in the "riled" right wing. Not that it would prevent Salon from feeding us lines like
    Not arguable? Hell, it doesn't even make it out the starting gate.
     
  14. B_spiker067

    B_spiker067 New Member

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    Frustrated with the denizen of LPSG too? Who more often get it spoon fed to them and then regurgitate the pablum without digesting it for themselves first. MZ erroneously refers to it as 2D thinking. I think she meant binary thinking.


    Happens on the left and the right.

    I SAY SOCIALIZE THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY NOT MEDICINE.
     
  15. SteveHd

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    Fox News has a review that might surpise some folks around here: FOXNews.com - 'Sicko' Shows Michael Moore's Maturity as a Filmmaker - Celebrity Gossip | Entertainment News | Arts And Entertainment
    By Roger Friedman
    Filmmaker Michael Moore's brilliant and uplifting new documentary, "Sicko," deals with the failings of the U.S. healthcare system, both real and perceived. But this time around, the controversial documentarian seems to be letting the subject matter do the talking, and in the process shows a new maturity.

    Unlike many of his previous films ("Roger and Me," "Bowling for Columbine," "Fahrenheit 9-11"), "Sicko" works because in this one there are no confrontations. Moore smartly lets very articulate average Americans tell their personal horror stories at the hands of insurance companies. The film never talks down or baits the audience.

    "This film is a call to action," Moore said at a press conference on Saturday. "It's also not a partisan film."

    Indeed, in "Sicko," Moore criticizes both Democrats and Republicans for their inaction and in some cases their willingness to be bribed by pharmaceutical companies and insurance carriers.

    In a key moment in the film, Moore takes a group of patients by boat to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba because of its outstanding medical care. When they can't get into the U.S. naval base, Moore proceeds onto Havana where the patients are treated well and cheaply.

    This has caused a great deal of controversy, with the federal government launching an investigation into the trip, which officials say was in violation of the trade and commerce embargo against the Communist country.

    "This administration flaunts the law, flaunts the constitution," Moore said at the press conference, explaining the flap over the trip to Cuba.

    Moore now claims the U.S. government says his Cuban footage may be illegal, and Moore said he made a second master copy of "Sicko" and had it shipped it to France immediately just in case of potential government issues.

     
  16. SteveHd

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    As someone who doesn't have health insurance, I agree with that.
     
  17. dong20

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    I think that's probably true at least as the sweeping generalisation it admittedly is.

    That's a very common misconception held in Europe and probably elsewhere. That you'll be left at the side of the road if you're unable to prove you have 'insurance'.

    The thing is, isn't that right an unfunded mandate? And what you don't mention is that you will quite likely be billed afterward, and said bill may of course bankrupt you. I suppose it may be better than death. Probably best to give fake details and flee asap.

    It's good that some hospitals operate such a policy but I wonder how typical it is. Do hospitals have 'uninsured' patient cover to recover such costs?

    Not for emergency care in the EU, and in most circumstances for EU citizens Emergency treatment is free, or close to it. The old E111 used to provide reciprocal emergency only cover across most of Europe. This has been superceeded by the EHIC. The situation for others is a little more blurry. To refuse life saving treatment would be a breach of Human Rights legislation.

    I can't speak with authority about every nation of course, but I would be surprised if many would refuse to provide life saving treatment if it was available. If you have any specific (non isolated) examples to the contrary I'd be interested, so I can avoid them.

    Some countries, Estonia for example will provide free emergency cover and fund it from social funds. I don't know enough about Estonia's healthcare system to comment on how reassuring that is.

    But I agree given the variability in health care quality, that's not necessarily a comfort.
     
  18. rawbone8

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    I'm happy with the health care system here in Ontario. I am self employed.

    We have a lot to be happy with, in our family.

    During his life my father had hospitalization to treat toxic chlorine gas exposure, spine surgery, stroke recovery/physiotherapy/rehab, urgent major vascular surgery to repair a llfe-threatening abdominal aortic aneurysm, home-care and hospitalization for [SIZE=-1]Amyotropic Lateral Sclerosis ([/SIZE]Lou Gherig's disease).

    My sister has been successfully treated with mastectomy, chemo and radiation therapy for her highly aggressive breast cancer. She will continue to be at risk for the rest of her life due to the nature of her disease.

    My daughter was born at 32 weeks of gestation and was placed in neonatal intensive care for the first twenty days of her life.

    The cost has been taxes that are reasonable.

    It works.

    Americans seem to vilify socialism in any form no matter how mild it may be, as though it is a treasonous form of communism that will rot their society and ruin the nation. Although socialized medicine may have it's weaknesses, as managed in Canada, I say it is worth keeping and funding as it has been for over 40 years. It can be managed much better, too.

    Cancer treatment seems to be the most inadequate sector of treatment. Everyone would like to see the response times improve. Rural and remote areas suffer more from lack of resources and facilities than metropolitan areas.

    We also have a lot of qualified foreign trained doctors who are not allowed to enter practice here without completely redoing their education. I'm all for qualifications meaning something, but it's shameful how the system is closed to them.
     
  19. dong20

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    I remember my jaw dropping at that growing death toll. Many deaths were among the elderly but 15,000 deaths is quite incredible. It was hot, abnormally hot certainly. In London it was frequently over 45c on the tube but the failure of the French healthcare system to cope was lamentable.

    I agree, though I also think the simple fact that is was abnormally hot was a factor. The lack of A/C facilties (much more taken for granted in the US from what I've seen) undoubtably made things much worse than it may otherwise have been, as did huge numbers of medical staff being on their traditional August break.

    Awful, certainly but I don't think it was quite so simple as August is hot, Mon Dieu!

    But, before you wax too lyrical remember there's typically 1000 annual heatwave fatalities in the US v 23 in Australia (1966-1995). That's 1/3rd the US rate. Heatwaves were the top weather related killer in the US, I don't know if that's still true.

    I think acclimatisation is a factor. Let's see what happens next time, as they will be a next time.

    In general terms it seems to me that focussing on France in 2003 to disprove Moore's point seems as simplistic as him trying to use that same system to prove his, when neither is clearly the case. There are major, major problems with the US healthcare system, but there are are in many nations of course. The NHS is in a very poor state for example.

    Moore is astonishingly, blatantly partial and will try and convince you black is indeed white. But despite this, anyone denying that far too many people, in the US don't have ready access to health care and that this is not extremely bad is surely little or no less blinkered.
     
  20. Gillette

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    Many other places in the world, yes, but I'm asking specifically about G8 countries, even more specifically about the countries like France, Britain and Canada. Regardless of where a new treatment or piece of equipment is developed, upon demonstration of success they become adopted by other medical facilities. Newest, best and most expensive is going to be a facility by facility and piece by piece assessment. You can't generalize that for a country overall.

    As to the most qualified and highly trained professionals that tends to go back to the money making aspect of the system. Canada loses a high percentage of our doctors and nurses to the US annually because we can't compete with the salaries offered there.

    Much of the talent has been lured from elsewhere much like you see happening in professional sports. It's an odd analogy but I think it's apt.
     
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