Wednesday, September 2, 2015

On the recurrent fury of unethical bloggers and how Anthony Watts issues a correction

Sou | 10:43 AM Go to the first of 31 comments. Add a comment
Anthony Watts issues a correction? Surprised? Yes, you should be. Anthony Watts makes too many mistakes and publishes too many more. If he corrected all the wrongs on his blog WUWT would be one long correction. He didn't issue a correction for the following that have appeared on his blog in the past few days:

Nor did he issue a correction to his article that claimed that global warming is caused by steampipes in Russia, or that it's insects that are causing global warming.

And has Anthony published an apology and correction to his false allegations that NOAA researchers committed fraud - here and here and here? No, not at all.

But today, he's published an article (archived here) that complains that authors have issued a correction to a paper. That's right. Not only does Anthony Watts almost never issue a correction for the errors on his blog that are made multiple times every day - he has posted an article complaining that some authors did issue a correction!

It's worse than that. He did this without issuing a correction to the title he gave to the "guest author" who wrote the complaint - calling him "Dr", when on the Arizona State University website it shows he is just a graduate student yet to be awarded the title of Dr.

And that same guest author has never issued a correction let alone an apology for falsely accusing those same scientists of fraud.

Try to get your head around all that, if you can.

Anthony's (wrong) correction

Anthony did issue one correction, but he got that correction wrong. I'd say he didn't know what paper he was writing about. His wrong correction reads:
Note:  This essay was originally published with an error about the paper name in the title, it has since been corrected to add the proper name “Conspiracist Ideation” rather than just the “Moon landing hoax” paper, which is apparently the source of the data in the paper published at PLOS one.
Anthony seems to be confusing this paper with the original "moon landing" paper, which was published in a different journal, Psychological Science, not PLOS One. The source of the data in the paper published at PLOS One was a different survey conducted in the USA using a market research company. It was exploring similar but more things to the original paper and with a different segment. From the paper:
A sample of 1,001 U.S. residents was recruited in early June 2012 via electronic invitations by Qualtrics.com, a firm that specializes in representative internet surveys. Participants were drawn from a completely bipartisan panel of more than 5.5 million U.S. residents (as of January 2013), via propensity weighting to ensure representativeness. The panel from which participants were sampled is maintained by uSamp.com. Details about the panel and the sampling method can be found on the uSamp.com web page.  

The LGO13 correction

By the way, the correction that the blogger was writing about (or raving about) was to a paper published in 2013. The correction was inconsequential to the conclusions. As the authors wrote: "none of the conclusions in the article are affected by these changes". Scientific papers often have corrections issued. It's something that happens a lot. It could be a mistake in a calculation or a figure that's been drawn wrongly. In this case it was to remove a response because of an age outlier (which meant the whole response was removed), and a mistake in one of the latent variables, which meant a figure was amended slightly. It also clarified that responses from minors were part of the study and complied with all ethical standards. None of these changed the conclusions of the paper, which were that (my emphasis):
... conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science, in contrast to their weaker and opposing effects on acceptance of vaccinations. The two worldview variables do not predict opposition to GM. Conspiracist ideation, by contrast, predicts rejection of all three scientific propositions, albeit to greatly varying extents. Greater endorsement of a diverse set of conspiracy theories predicts opposition to GM foods, vaccinations, and climate science.

So, the irony in all this is that the paper in question is about world view and conspiracy ideation - links which the article at WUWT demonstrates very well.

Shades of Recursive Fury

This episode is turning into Recursive Fury all over again. Deniers didn't like that paper so they threatened the journal and the journal caved in and withdrew the paper. Not on any ethical grounds, not because of anything wrong with the research, but because of the threats from a few deniers. Now Anthony Watts and Jose Duarte and all the conspiracy theorising right wing deniers want another paper withdrawn. They don't want the world to know that "conservatism and free-market worldview strongly predict rejection of climate science".

That's probably why they are shouting about it to all and sundry.

(Is there a paper yet on how completely and utterly irrational the behaviour of climate science deniers can be?)

Unethical behaviour from a graduate student

I've pretty well ignored the ravings of Jose Duarte till now, but let me take the opportunity to point out a few things about him.

He's a graduate student in the Department of Psychology at Arizona State University, but he's not a youngster. He's a blogger who has been seeking a lot of attention the past few months. The way he's been going about it has been completely unethical. For a mature age student he should know a whole lot better as should his patrons, which include Judith Curry. (Anthony Watts is without ethics, as you probably know. So we can put him aside.)

Jose has sought attention by accusing scientists of fraud. By calling not just for corrections, but for withdrawal of papers on the grounds that he doesn't like them, or for minor errors, or for flaws that aren't there except in Jose's warped imagination. In this article, he does it again, writing that:
The conduct of the UWA ethics office is consistent with all their prior efforts to cover up Lewandowsky’s misconduct, particularly with respect to Lewandowsky’s Psych Science paper, which should be treated as a fraud case. UWA has refused everyone’s data requests for that paper, and has refused to investigate. Corruption is serious problem with human institutions, one that I increasingly think deserves a social science Manhattan Project to better understand and ameliorate. UWA is a classic case of corruption, one that mirrors those reported by Martin.
Not only is Jose accusing the researchers of fraud, he is accusing the University of Western Australia of a mythical "cover up". By claiming "a classic case of corruption" and likening it to "those reported by Martin", Jose Duarte is making unsubstantiated allegations that the work of Professors Lewandowsky, Gignac and Oberauer is plagiary and/or fraudulent. That in itself would be grounds for defamatory action by the scientists against Anthony Watts and Jose Duarte.

He falsely claims that the University has "failed to investigate". Worse, while being unethical himself, and talking about rights of "human subjects", which neither this paper or the original paper were related to, he wants the university to infringe the privacy rights of anyone who took part in the earlier study. He is saying that the University should have acceded to requests by denier blogger to release *all* the data, including IP addresses and more. Giving sufficient information to identify some of the individuals who responded to the survey. How unethical would that be? How unethical is Jose Duarte?

Much is made in the article of the fact that some young people were included in the Qualtrics sample. From the published correction was an extension to the Ethics Statement:
Several minors (age 14–17) were included in the data set for this study because this population contributes to public opinions on politics and scientific issues (e.g. in the classroom). This project was conducted under the guidelines of the Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NH&MRC). According to NH&MRC there is no explicit minimum age at which people can give informed consent (as per https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/book/chapter-2-​2-general-requirements-consent). What is required instead is to ascertain the young person’s competence to give informed consent. In our study, competence to give consent is evident from the fact that for a young person to be included in our study, they had to be a vetted member of a nationally representative survey panel run by uSamp.com (partner of Qualtrics.com, who collected the data). According to information received from the panel provider, they are legally empowered to empanel people as young as 13. However, young people under 15 are recruited to the panel with parental involvement. Parental consent was otherwise not required. Moreover, for survey respondents to have been included in the primary data set, they were required to answer an attention filter question correctly, further attesting to their competence to give informed consent. The UWA Human Rights Ethics Committee reviewed this issue and affirmed that “The project was undertaken in a manner that is consistent with the Australian National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007).”

It's clear that neither Jose nor Anthony are qualified to make a judgement on ethics, as evidenced by their grossly unethical behaviour over time. However they, in their lack of wisdom, try to argue that the University of Western Australia was wrong (and by extension that the Australian ethical standards are wrong). In the PLOS One correction it states about including responses from :
"The UWA Human Rights Ethics Committee reviewed this issue and affirmed that “The project was undertaken in a manner that is consistent with the Australian National Statement of Ethical Conduct in Human Research (2007).”
I wonder how long it will take before Jose accuses the following organisations, who jointly drafted the National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research, of being unethical:

National Health and Medical Research Council
Australian Research Council
Australian Vice -Chancellors’ Committee

Is it time to call a halt

It's one thing to dispute results of scientific research. The proper place for that to be done is in the scientific literature. If Jose or Anthony thinks the results are flawed, then they can do their own research and get it published. If they think there is something wrong in the paper, they can write a comment and get it published.

They are not doing any of that.

Instead, Jose Duarte has been flouting ethics in his blog articles for quite some time now. With the Cook13 paper on the 97% consensus, calling for its "retraction". And on papers by Drs Stephan Lewandowsky, Klaus Oberauer, and Gilles E. Gignac. He labels their work "scam"  and "scam" again, and "false" and has been calling for "retraction" of papers. He outright accuses scientists of fraud. He accuses the University of corruption. He has no grounds for any of this completely unacceptable behaviour.

If you read the articles at Jose's blog you might be excused for wondering about his competence. I argue that it's not up to us to determine whether he was of sound mind when he wrote the articles. It's sufficient that he is writing them and that he is touting them on various other blogs around the internet. The University has not judged him incompetent or he would not still be a graduate student.

Anyway, since Anthony is calling for his readers to "contact the journal editor" - even providing the editor's photograph (and probably flouting copyright in the process), to alert him to something the journal already knows (since it was told by the authors, and published their correction), then I'm going to wonder something myself.

Update: Incidentally, the person Anthony Watts wants his readers to write to, Professor Eric Eich, to isn't listed as an academic editor at PLOS One, the journal that published the article in question. Last year he was the Editor in Chief of a completely different journal - Psychological Science. But not this year. This year he's not listed on the editorial board of Psychological Science at all! Will Anthony issue a correction? [Added by Sou at 12:22 pm 2 September 2015]

Should someone be contacting Jose Duarte's supervisors and head of school or university about his multiple breaches of ethics? Shouldn't Jose's university be held at least partly responsible for what one of their graduate students gets up to? After all, he has his blog address listed on the Arizona State University website. At the very least, shouldn't they be made aware of his ongoing unethical behaviour and defamatory blog articles and comments? (I've never suggested anything like this before, and hopefully will never be prompted to again. The reason I'm thinking along these lines now is that Jose Duarte's behaviour is so far over the top and has been going on for so long. It shouldn't be tolerated.)

If you do send a warning to the University, for heaven's sake don't do as Anthony and Jose do - don't be unprofessional and unethical. Instead do as Anthony says: "please be professional and respectful". (Given it's Arizona State, a complaint might or might not get a hearing. I don't know.)


As a postscript on ethics. This research would be regarded as "low risk" when it comes to human research. It would at worst fall under the banner of "inconvenience", in that the research participants are completely anonymous, there is no identification of individuals or any information that could be used to identify such individuals, the survey was of opinions of people provided of their own assent to a quality assured survey company. The responses were reported in aggregate, not as individual responses. Also, the Australian ethics guidelines in no way prohibit collecting information from people under 21 years of age or 18 years of age. (On the contrary, the guidelines provide for research that involves minors and young children. This research did not include information provided by young children.).

Similarly, the research underpinning Recursive Fury and Recurrent Fury was completely ethical. It was research about public statements that people wanted the world to read. It was not research on individuals. It was analysis of the evolution of conspiracy ideation. Research on ideas, not of the people who expressed those ideas. The republished paper, Recurrent Fury was completely anonymised with data only made available to approved researchers on request. Oddly, while pretending to be concerned about ethics, which he doesn't understand, Jose Duarte seems to want to any old unprincipled Canadian to have access to information that would allow individuals to be personally identified. How unethical is that?

Added by Sou at 11:35 am 2 September 2015

References and further reading

Lewandowsky, Stephan, Gilles E. Gignac, and Klaus Oberauer. "The role of conspiracist ideation and worldviews in predicting rejection of science." PLoS One 8, no. 10 (2013): DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0075637 (open access) - LGO13

Lewandowsky, Stephan, Klaus Oberauer, and Gilles E. Gignac. "NASA faked the moon landing—therefore,(climate) science is a hoax an anatomy of the motivated rejection of science." Psychological Science 24, no. 5 (2013): 622-633. doi: 10.1177/0956797612457686 (pdf here) - LOG12

Lewandowsky, Stephan, John Cook, Klaus Oberauer, Scott Brophy, Elisabeth A. Lloyd, and Michael Marriott. (2015). "Recurrent fury: Conspiratorial discourse in the blogosphere triggered by research on the role of conspiracist ideation in climate denial." Journal of Social and Political Psychology, 3 (1). doi: 10.5964/jspp.v3i1.443. (open access)

National Statement on Ethical Conduct in Human Research 2007 (Updated May 2015). The National Health and Medical Research Council, the Australian Research Council and the Australian Vice-Chancellors’ Committee. Commonwealth of Australia, Canberra (pdf here)


  1. I've just added an update. Anthony can't tell one paper from another. The person he is urging his readers to write to has nothing to do with the research paper that the article is about. Professor Eric Eich not on the editorial board of PLOS One. That's the journal that published the report of the closed survey of a US invited sample of people. The one that issued a correction that Anthony is complaining about. He's not even on the editorial board of Psychological Science any longer - the journal that published the report of the internet survey - the "moon landing" paper.

    Looks like another correction is called for from Anthony. What are the chances of that?

  2. I've been reminded by email that Jose Duarte makes a habit of alleging fraud when it comes to any research paper he doesn't understand. He has not only falsely alleged fraud by the authors of the paper in this article, and falsely alleged that the University of Western Australia is corrupt, he has tossed the "fraud" word around with other ethical researchers, including Bart Verheggen and John Cook, amid calls for the withdrawal of those papers. Jose is behaving like a crazed man. Maybe he's trying to build a defense of insanity. I don't think it will wash.

    You can read about the Verheggen paper on Bart Verheggen's blog. And the paper is here. And the award-winning Cook13 paper is here.

    1. I recommend to read Duarte's comment to Bart's paper and the response.

      Here's the full response:

    2. Thanks, Marco. I figured there would be a published response as well, not just the blog article. I missed it.

      Jose really is a piece of work, isn't he. I do think that it's time his faculty became aware of his appalling behaviour if they don't already know of it. He is giving it and Arizona State a very bad name. (That might be just what he wants, I guess. So he can add fake martyrdom to his list of fake gripes.)

    3. Just noticed this passage in the reply to the comment, which adds irony upon irony, and may go partway to explain his obsession with cog sci papers exploring opinions on climate science:

      "Duarte’s claim that dissent is oppressed has a conspiratorial tone to it. As such it cannot be disproven, but it can be pointed out that it lacks real-world evidence."

    4. Note that none of the conclusions in the article are affected by these changes. The authors apologize for these errors.

      Now that Steve McIntyre has turned his forensic attention to the crucial issue of American football inflation, could Duarte be the new Auditor? He certainly seems to have Steve's gift for taking utterly inconsequential methodological nitpicks and inflating them beyond all reason. On reflection, probably not, Duarte's hysterical (and hilarious) demands for paper retraction based on nothing more than his delusional rants make McIntyre seem sane by comparison

  3. Duarte's a joke. As I think you've highlighted here, he states in his blog that including minors is "wildly unethical" and yet the Australian guidelines say no such thing. That he can state this as an obvious truth, when it clearly isn't, is ludicrous for someone who regards himself as the protector of valid science. That senior scientists like Judith Curry encourage this type of behaviour does their credibility no favours. Highly irresponsible, in my view.

    1. Well...Judith Curry is apparently looking for credibility by people who don't mind wildly inaccurate claims as long as they suit their ideology, so in that sense supporting Duarte actually does do her credibility favours...

  4. I persuaded Anthony to issue a correction in the not too distant past Sou! See:

    Mark Serreze and the Arctic Sea Ice Death Spiral

    Perhaps he's becoming prematurely senile, since his memory is obviously failing him. What's more his ultimate "update" contained not a single word of thanks to yours truly :(

    1. Jim, great article. I'd consider that a win, by WUWT standards, even though he didn't properly correct his article. Anthony publishes way more "wrong" stuff than facts.

      Since he's often stuck for freebies from his readers and fans, here's a thought (if you're reading this Anthony).

      If he started posting corrections to his existing articles, he'd be able to publish several articles a day for the next several years, and still have more corrections waiting in the wings.

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Watts is loud, offensive, stupidly malicious, vastly uneducated and nearly always wrong but I hold him in higher regard than I do Dr Judith Curry.

    4. That's a good point. Watts is a know nothing wannabe who's found a way to turn his lack of knowledge and skill into a vehicle for ... something.

      On the other hand, Curry may not be an outstanding scientist, but she is a scientist. That imposes certain minimum standards on her.

      She fails. I thought when she started the blog she was just naive about how to conduct such a venue. Even made a couple of gentle suggestions by email. No dice.

      She's just gone from bad to worse to utterly incoherent and swings wildly between the three options she's chosen. No excuse.

    5. PG : Being less charitable than you, I hold Judith Curry in even lower regard than I do Watts.

      As for Duarte, he seems to fall into the same category as Chris Monckton (the title of which is not suitable for a family blog such as this one).

    6. Thanks Sou!

      Since adelady mentions Ms. Curry, I feel compelled to point out that I am less than content with one of her Arctic "corrections" too. Here's the sorry story of the David & Judy puppet show. Start at the end then wrap around to the beginning:


      David Rose’s erroneous headline still remains on proud display at Climate Etc. to this very day.

    7. Cugel we are in agreement. Adelady specifies.

  5. Re Jose's attack on Bart Verheggen and co, Politifact has just done its assessment of an attack on the work by Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum (USA), which probably came from a badly wrong article on some blog called "Fabius Maximus" (yeah, my thoughts exactly!) and Australian denier Jo "Nova".

    To cut a long story short, the Politifact verdict is that Santorum and the denier bloggers claims are FALSE.

    Just think. If scientists didn't have to waste so much time showing how deniers are wrong and often downright deceitful, they could do a whole lot more science. Which is probably why deniers do what they do. They don't want knowledge to get out.

    1. I am pretty sure Jo Nova was quoting the Fabius Maximus article about the "consensus" being wrong. Jo Nova does very little analysis herself, she just tends to publicise and help spin the work of others.

      The flaw in the reasoning was obvious, it was an attempt to redefine the "consensus" from the majority of scientists accept the evidence for AGW, to the majority of scientists don't accept the attribution certainty calculated by the IPCC.

      A sort of combination of the "moving the goalposts" and the "straw man" fallacy.

  6. A note. I've removed two comments from Barry Woods who is not welcome here for reasons that will be obvious to anyone who is familiar with Professor Lewandowsky's work and the deniosphere. (Barry has, for the past three years, been arguably defaming Professor Lewandowsky every time his name pops up in one of Barry's Google alerts. That's a lot of times - still probably several times a week. I wouldn't be surprised if Barry wakes up during the night to do so, if he hears his computer beep. He is more than obsessive.) I'll comment on his comments though.

    In his first comment, Barry claims that Jose Duarte has already been awarded a PhD because he saw a tweet saying he'd successfully defended his dissertation. However defending a dissertation is only one of the final steps that a candidate has to take. It doesn't mean he has yet submitted his written dissertation or that he's been awarded the PhD. If he already had a PhD, I expect he'd have said so on his blog and on his university page.

    The second comment was outrageous. The more so given Barry's history. I'd be stunned if I hadn't seen all the other outrageous things that came from the keyboard of Barry Woods. After being one of the main people who took credit for the withdrawal of the Recursive Fury paper following Barry's threats (now republished in expanded form as Recurrent Fury), in part because buried deep in the supplementary information it contained a comment Barry made in public - Barry want Professor Lewandowsky to "release data" that contains personal information about individuals who completed a survey. That is, information that would in many cases allow identification of people who completed an internet survey on the basis that their response would be treated anonymously. As I wrote in the above article, that would be unethical. It also demonstrates the height of hypocrisy on Barry's part.

    What is wrong with such people? No ethics, no sense of propriety. To think we have to share the planet. (Now I have to wash my mouth for mentioning his name.)

    That's all.

    1. Woods thinks Ethics is a county north east of London.

      Duarte thinks Ethics is a boat, sunk by a whale, that inspired Moby Dick.

    2. "Barry want Professor Lewandowsky to "release data" that contains personal information about individuals who completed a survey."

      If you use the Barry Woods inquisitorial method you can prove (cough) that Barry Woods is, in fact, a lizardman.

      All I need to do to prove my thesis is to demand Barry demonstrates he is not a lizardman by releasing his personal medical data . As he cannot do that, I am then entitled to go around every blog I can find questioning why he won't release his medical data while ignoring any inconvenient answers.

      "What is wrong with such people? No ethics, no sense of propriety."

      But don't forget: lizardmen are exempt from normal human ethics. So that provides a separate proof to confirm my thesis.

      The only fault with all of this is that it is complete crap. But, unlike Barry Woods, I can recognise it.

      Maybe lizardmen aren't very good at recognising complete crap.

    3. Going by the raucous tweets I'm getting from the denialati, poor Barry doesn't know what he wants. One minute he wants all the metadata with every response (as per his comment here), which would give him access to personally identifiable info so he could work out who said what on the anonymous survey. Next he wants only age and sex of respondents apparently not tied to responses (or maybe he does want it tied).

      Like I say, it shows a weird dysfunctionality of deniers that they suddenly want all sorts of personal data when they objected so strongly to publicly available data being published. And this while at the same time they are screeching "ethics, ethics". The data they objected to was not just publicly available, but they shouted their conspiracies from the rooftops of every denier blog. They wanted people to read it and they wanted to own it. Until it was used in an academic analysis of the evolution of conspiracies. At the same time, they continue to weave their conspiracy theories, as Millicent described with such elegant wit :)

      I'm guessing that, like with his PhD comment, Barry is too ignorant to know what he wants, Which of course means that he wouldn't know what to do with any data. It also means he couldn't be trusted with data of a sensitive nature. Well, we know that already.

      Deniers continue to provide a wealth of material if anyone wants to extend the research done in Recurrent Fury.

      (Data is available to qualified and approved researchers on request. Not to people who don't respect ethics, let alone people who don't know the meaning of the word.)

    4. I do wonder why the denialati don't pester Steve McIntyre to release the data from the A Scott "replication" of the "moon-landing" internet survey. Remember when that was done with great fanfare at WUWT?

      If science deniers were really interested in getting confirmation (or otherwise) of the extent to which free market ideology or conspiracy ideation are predictors of climate science denial, their own survey is there for the asking.

      I doubt that Steve is going to give up the data after all this time has passed. He may have looked at it and decided it's not fit for consumption by free marketers and conspiracy theorists.

    5. #lewgate is about ethics in sociological research.

    6. Barry claims that Jose Duarte has already been awarded a PhD because he saw a tweet saying he'd successfully defended his dissertation.

      Sou, I don't know how it works elsewhere, but in the UK you can be awarded your PhD following your thesis defense, at the discretion of the examiner. There may still be an administrative process to go through (corrections to the manuscript, graduation, etc.), but essentially if the examiners feel you have defended your thesis properly, then you can indeed walk out of your viva calling yourself a doctor. The process may, of course, be different in the USA. If Duarte has tweeted that he's defended his thesis, then I'd be pretty sure he's now a Dr. (although perhaps not officially until the paperwork is complete).

      (P.S. apologies if you get the same post several times, been having problems with the comments box)

    7. Thanks Kit. It's not a big deal (for me - though it probably is for Jose).

      I was going by what I read about the US universities. However the convention seems to vary not only by country but by University. (In Australia friends call their PhD friends "Dr" when they've passed the requirements - as a sort of congratulations, but PhD's don't normally use the title till they've graduated, or at least not before they've submitted the final written thesis and had it accepted - or that's with the people I know, anyway.)

    8. By the way, from my experience where I am doing my PhD, the social science students in the department tend to be the ones who kick up a stink/be controversial/use passionate language. I don't know if the social sciences attract a particular type, or whether they develop these tendencies within the department they work in. But it can grate, when everyone else is just trying to get on with that they do.

    9. Oh, I meant to include this link when I wrote about how the convention differs:


    10. I have run into these "release all your data, otherwise you are guilty of ". I suspect it is a form of projected paranoia - the assumption is the person is hiding something.

      Look at the language; they are implying wrongdoing on the basis of no evidence.

      "Maybe they don't, but Lewandowsky and UWA REFUSE to release the data"

  7. I've turned moderation on for the time being, mainly because this article is attracting some people who want to use it as an excuse to moan about the researchers.

    If you are one of those people, go to WUWT or another denier blog where you'll no doubt be made to feel welcome. Your comments are not welcome here.

    (I notice that such comments are only coming from people who have self-sullied their own reputation and now want to try to sully everyone else's.)

  8. Sou writes:"For a mature age student he should know a whole lot better as should his patrons, which include Judith Curry. (Anthony Watts is without ethics, as you probably know. So we can put him aside.)"

    Admittedly I don't keep up on Judith, but occasionally I do read her latest and it's usually pretty transparently dishonest, occasionally reaching into disgusting extremes innuendo.

    Please clue me in: when was the last time Judith Curry spoke climate science and about 'consensus' scientists in an ethical manner? It would be interesting to read.


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