Busted Halo

Busted Halo distributed Flip videocameras to undocumented individuals and agencies and asked them to start videoblogging. We hope Busted Borders gives a personal glimpse into the humanity of these strangers in our midst.

Click this banner to see the entire series.

May 19th, 2010

In this video, Benita shares some of the skills she has acquired while trying to support herself as an undocumented worker. 

In episode one, Benita discusses her background and the difficulties she faced growing up.

In episode two, Benita describes how a routine traffic stop has turned her life upside down.

In episode three, Benita talks about the story of Esther and God’s plan.

In episode four, Benita talks about her hopes and dreams for attending law school.

May 18th, 2010


Interested in learning about the Vatican secret archives? Want to know a little bit more about Catholic superheroes? Never knew what “Diet of Worms” really referred to? Then you won’t want to miss Busted Halo’s latest addition to its podcast lineup — Facts of Faith.

Facts of Faith — available every Tuesday and Thursday, both on our homepage and through iTunes — is the fourth separate podcast we offer each week to Busted Halo visitors, joining the Busted Halo Cast, excerpts from the Sirius XM Radio Show and Fr. Dave’s Homilies.

Facts of Faith episodes are short (five to ten minute) discussions between Fr. Dave Dwyer and Fr. Larry Rice about everything and anything Church-related: historical Catholic trivia, little-known pop culture facts, Church traditions, rituals, rules, orders, saints, history, stories and tales. Upcoming episodes include such varied topics as: famous Catholics; the Catholic connection to coffee; J.R.R. Tolkien; creationism versus evolution; Trappist ales; and the Chronovisor (if you haven’t heard of this you better Wikipedia it soon, and stay tuned for the podcast.)

Take a listen to Facts of Faith on the home page, from the archive of episodes, or subscribe to the podcast via iTunes.

New Facts of Faith podcasts will be available Tuesdays and Thursdays, and the Facts of Faith archive can be found here.

May 17th, 2010


What is a hook up?

As a not-that-old, not-that-out-of-touch college professor who teaches classes on the sociology of marriage, family and gender, this is one of my favorite questions to ask a class of undergraduates for three reasons: It wakes ‘em up; everyone is interested in the answer; and it stirs up quite a debate.

But in the three years I’ve been asking this question, there’s never been a class consensus. Some students tell me it’s sexual intercourse, with a zero-to-sex pick-up speed, within hours (and many beers) of a first meeting. Others tell me hooking up means making out or kissing, and might not happen until two people have hung out together in a group of friends for a while.

So a few months back, I put it to you: How do you define a hook up?

Defining the hook up: Survey results

As always, Busted Halo readers were more than willing to share thoughts and responses. More than 250 of you filled out the online survey, and the results are fascinating.

Amanda, 26: “If a friend or sibling used this phrase… I always asked for clarification. You never know what it means!”

Who took this survey? The average age of respondents is 26. Of those who took the survey online, 57% are single, 25% are in a relationship or engaged, and 16% are married. Two-thirds of the respondents are female, and half are college students.

What does a hook up mean? More than a third of respondents said a hook up means sex. Here’s a chart with the breakdown of possible definitions.


But… when you run the numbers on college students, the definitions change a bit: Only 28% of college students (compared with 34% of all respondents) said that if a friend told them they’d hooked up the night before, they’d assume that meant sex. Among college students, the most popular answer — for 30% of respondents — was that hooking up meant kissing and touching with clothes on.

Elizabeth, 29, commented,

May 14th, 2010


On April 14, Comedy Central’s “South Park” celebrated its 200th episode of “take no prisoners” animated comedy by dressing up the Prophet Mohammed in a bear suit. (It’s a long story…)

Unlike most of their show business rivals, when South Park creators Trey Parker and Matt Stone say everyone is fair game for ridicule, they mean it. The religiously themed episode targeted Moses, Jesus, Mormon patriarch Joseph Smith and the Buddha.

Then, parodying the disputed Islamic dictum that forbids the depiction of its holiest prophet, Stone and Parker showed Muhammad dressed in a bear costume. (Perhaps this was a nod to the British teacher working abroad who was sentenced to death for naming the classroom teddy bear “Muhammad” — at the behest of her (Muslim) students.

The next day, a seemingly tiny group with the grandiose name “Revolution Muslim” (and led by a young convert from Judaism, no less) announced on its web site:

“We have to warn Matt and Trey that what they are doing is stupid, and they will probably wind up like Theo van Gogh for airing this show. This is not a threat, but a warning of the reality of what will likely happen to them.”

(Theo van Gogh is the iconoclastic Dutch filmmaker who was murdered on the streets of Amsterdam in broad daylight by an Islamic militant, after making a film depicting the abuse of women in Muslim countries.)

Stone and Parker then told the media that Comedy Central had censored the show. That episode was supposed to end with a speech challenging “intimidation and fear,” but the speech was cut, presumably on account of fear and intimidation.

I’m not inclined to defend South Park. On the whole, the show is tasteless, offensive and not something I would ever allow my children to watch.

However, I do defend Parker and Stone’s right to free speech, even if — especially if — I don’t like what they are saying. (Without that coda, as Voltaire recognized, the very principle has no meaning.)

In my latest

May 13th, 2010

Meet Siby from Mauritania in West Africa. In this, his first video, Mirlande Jean-Louis finds out why Siby left home to come to the United States.

Stay tuned for his next installment when he’ll talk about what it has been like living undocumented.

May 12th, 2010


There’s a great scene from The Simpsons that sums up my childhood view of church perfectly. Bart, Lisa and Homer all run out of church triumphantly on a Sunday after services have finished, shouting — and I paraphrase — Hurray! It’s the time of the week that is the longest time before we have to go to church again!

And that’s how I felt when I was younger. Once Mass was over on Sunday, that was it. I was done. I was no longer a prisoner of the Liturgy and Eucharist, tradition and ritual, dressing up and sitting up. For an entire week I had nothing to look forward to but no church.

And then a Holy Day of Obligation would roll around in the middle of the week, ruining everything.

As a kid, not only was I enrolled in Catholic school grades K-8, but I was cosmically enrolled into a very devout Catholic family. And it seemed back then that everywhere I turned there was a Holy Day of Obligation lurking around the corner, a chance for my parents to force me to GO TO CHURCH again for an hour on a weekday, in addition to having already attended the weekend before with my family and during the week with classmates for the school-wide Mass that all the grades had to attend.

Back then it seemed like the Holy Days of Obligation numbered somewhere in the hundreds if not thousands of days a year, where all Catholics just had to GO TO CHURCH outside of the regular weekly obligation. Suffice it to say, these holy days dealt a critical blow to my endless video game matches with Punch-Out’s Bald Bull or watching yet another syndicated rerun of The Simpsons that I had seen at least ten times before. Having to GO TO CHURCH again in the middle of the week felt forced and unnatural.

From my teens to my late 20s, practicing my faith didn’t really mean a lot. The symbolism and meanings were lost on me; the words seemed empty; the buildings

May 10th, 2010


When I met David Spotanski at a conference on leadership in the Catholic Church in 2007, my first impression of the Belleville, Ill., native was that he was like so many of the Midwesterners whom I’ve known and worked with over the years: friendly, approachable, and not in the habit of taking himself too seriously. The fact that, as a layman, Spotanski also happened to be the chancellor for the Belleville diocese — just outside of St. Louis — for all matters except canonical issues requiring a priest seemed a little unusual. But after a number of conversations over the course of the gathering it became clear to me that if this married father of three was indicative of the sort of leadership in the Catholic Church’s future, the Church was in very capable hands.

I wasn’t prepared, however, for the information Spotanski decided to share with me at the end of our meeting. Before returning home, he left me with a 10-page photocopied document that contained what was easily the most personal, honest and moving commentary I had yet to read on the sex abuse scandal. It was blunt, unsparing and deeply challenging language from someone who worked for the Church, clearly loved his Catholic faith and was deeply concerned that the Church’s leadership wasn’t able to comprehend how badly its credibility had been damaged.

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May 6th, 2010

One of the strongest proponents for comprehensive immigration reform in the Catholic Church over the last quarter century has been Cardinal Roger Mahony, the Archbishop of Los Angeles.  Busted Halo’s Fr. Dave Dwyer, CSP, had the chance to speak with Cardinal Mahony while The Busted Halo Show on Sirius XM radio was broadcasting on location in L.A. in March 2010.

As archbishop of the largest Catholic diocese in the U.S. for 25 years, Cardinal Mahony has presided over some very significant milestones, and has also seen his fair share of controversy. And yet, his work with and for migrants has become the hallmark of Cardinal Mahony’s time as bishop. It was this topic that he was most passionate about and most conversant with during this candid and personal conversation that took place in a meeting room on the grounds of the impressive new Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.

May 6th, 2010

I guess I wasn’t all that different from most college freshman who get swept off their feet. Every year, scores of first-year collegians return home for Christmas break itching to try out all of their newfound wisdom on the folks back home: psychology majors suddenly become experts in diagnosing their families’ dysfunction, philosophy majors proselytize about existentialism with a new convert’s zeal. 

After finishing my first semester as a theology major at Notre Dame I returned home to my Mexican-American family in El Paso, Texas, poised and ready to judge the religiosity and spirituality of any relative I came into contact with.  Armed with words like hermeneutics, eschatology and praxis, my first target was an easy choice, my grandmother.

Grandma — whose name is Guadalupe but whom I affectionately refer to as La Lupe — is a feisty jorobada (crooked-backed) woman who stands 5 feet tall, and weighs no more than 90 pounds.  She grew up very, very poor in Chihuahua, Mexico, got married at 22, and gave birth to eight children. When her second child (my dad) was just 3, she moved her young family to El Paso and has lived there since.  She raised eight kids on next to nothing and then raised me and my 18 cousins (not to mention a lot of my cousins’ kids). 

La Lupe takes her role as the matriarch of the family very seriously, especially the “educator of the faith” part.  She never lets an opportunity pass to lecture about morality, work ethic or God.

On that first day home from college as I sat on her couch drinking the atole (oatmeal water with cinnamon and milk) she made for me, I looked around her home and decided that La Lupe was superstitious and her spirituality was too Mary-centric. Every room in the house had an image of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  She has an unending number of little medals of La Milagrosa that she pins on us if we are going out of town.  She always tells us that we should honor Mary …

May 4th, 2010


Recent passage of new legislation in Arizona has brought the divisive issue of immigration to the forefront of the national consciousness once again. This latest salvo comes on the one-year anniversary of the debut of our Busted Borders video series, in which BustedHalo.com — along with the help of a grant from the Carnegie Corporation — began covering the issue of immigration in a unique way.

Busted Borders is an attempt to use the web’s unfiltered nature to move the immigration debate away from abstractions and statistics to reveal the deeply human dimension of the issue. Instead of contributing to the glut of coverage about immigration, Busted Halo decided to feature stories by immigrants themselves about their experience. We distributed Flip video cameras to undocumented individuals and agencies across the country and asked them to start video blogging for a period of at least three months.

Over the past year we have published a total of twenty-four segments that have been viewed by thousands of visitors to BustedHalo.com. In addition, the Los Angeles Times and USA Today have taken note of the unique way Busted Halo covers the intersection of culture, politics and faith by featuring Busted Borders in their pages.

We’ve featured the lives of nine individuals thus far, specifically highlighting the stories of:

Walter, from Argentina
Prerna, from Fiji
Benita, from Mexico
Rishi, from Trinidad

Additionally we have followed American citizens Nicole, from Ohio, and Giselle, from New York, whose husbands were deported to Mexico, in their struggles to reunite with their spouses. Throughout this journey many others have shared their stories with us, including Fatoumata, from Senegal, Roxroy, from Jamaica, and Facundo, from Argentina.

The following video compilation is an overview of the segments and stories we’ve featured over the past year:

May 3rd, 2010


If a woman insists on paying for her $3 coffee when she’s on a first date with a guy, does that mean she’s probably not that into him? Longtime Busted Halo reader, Phil, wrote in with that question a few weeks back — read the original piece here — and you replied with some great comments:

“The reciprocity heuristic is pretty hard-wired into most people… for a dating female, the stakes are higher,” counsels Karen. “I pay my own way, and find ways to get to know you to see how I like you. By the way, I work to stay even on a gesture-for-gesture basis, not strictly dollar-for-dollar. So: you get the movie tickets, I’ll get the popcorn and soda. Please, please do not be ‘persistent’ on paying. It sends the complete opposite message you intend.”

“If a woman doesn’t want the guy to pay, it’s a sign of something. ‘A sign of what?’ you ask. Who knows? Everything that happens on a first date is a sign of SOMETHING or other,” quips Matt. “In Phil’s position, I’d pay more attention to how she said it (including both tone of voice and the selection of phrasing she used — ‘no, I always pay’ is very different than ‘this one’s on me’ which is different in turn than ‘maybe next time’). If you’re otherwise interested, it’s worth exploring the source of the issue over time.”

And advises Theresa, who has both been on the dating scene herself and watched her son struggle with these question: “I always told my son to rely upon manners, when unsure. If he asked her out to coffee, he’d pay, but if she insisted on paying for her own, see nothing negative in it. She’s treating you as an equal and that’s respect. If she asked him, he’d still pay his own, allowing her the dignity of saying ‘halves’. The real message is all about respecting each other as equals but different in needs and abilities.”
What’s the bottom line?

57% of women (and an even higher

April 30th, 2010

Now you can have fresh customized daily content for your website or blog by including one of our BustedHalo® widgets on your site. Every day new stories, essays, columnists, video features, bloggers, the Googling God question of the day and our Daily Jolt can be yours to offer your readers. Your site will have something new for your visitors to come back for that will challenge, intrigue, inform and inspire them whenever they visit. Click through to the widget page to find out more…

April 28th, 2010

In this episode, Benita talks about her hopes and dreams for attending law school.

In episode one, Benita discusses her background and the difficulties she faced growing up.

In episode two, Benita describes how a routine traffic stop has turned her life upside down.

In episode three, Benita talks about the story of Esther and God’s plan.

April 26th, 2010


When Anthony Dodero and two of his church friends decided to quit their jobs and head out to Thailand, it wasn’t a thrill ride they were looking for, but the truth about a very horrific modern-day crime — human trafficking.

It is estimated by the United Nations that at least 1.3 million young girls and women are sold into sex slavery worldwide. When Anthony read about this issue, he wanted to see it for himself, so he and his two best friends, Liem and Chad, set out to investigate, documenting the trip along the way. They called it The Blind Project.

“We called it The Blind Project because we were very blinded to the issue, and were hoping this trip would ‘unblind’ us,” Anthony said about their first trip to Thailand. “We were going into this blinded. We were sponges, just absorbing information.”

The three guys, who all belonged to the Journey Church in New York City, spent time in Thailand’s orphanages, AIDS organizations, and later, made an unexpected stop in Cambodia. Cambodia, as Anthony explains, was much more apt than Thailand to unveil what was really going on because they are more desperate for help. But the worst wasn’t over until Anthony and his friends decided to go undercover in a Cambodian brothel. There they found the youngest girls herded like cattle, flirting and encouraging the guys to buy them for sex.

“That was the most visceral life-changing experience for me personally,” Anthony said. “Our attempt was to purchase one of the girls to take back to a shelter. I realize now it’s not a good thing to do. If you do purchase one of the girls, you’re essentially funding the brothel for them to buy more.”

When they walked back to the hotel, Anthony reported feeling an emptiness. He contrasts it with walking past a person who is homeless and having the choice to help, whereas here he felt entirely helpless; nothing they could do.

Creative answers

That’s when Anthony, Liem and Chad returned home and officially started The Blind

April 23rd, 2010


They call me the “Comic Book Rabbi.” Given the chance to choose my own “superhero” nickname, I’d have picked something more dynamic, like “Super Jew” or simply “The Rabbi.” (Imagine The Thing, but with a kippah.) I come by my humble nickname honestly, though. My first book was called, Up Up and Oy Vey : How Jewish History, Culture and Values Shaped the Comic Book Superhero. Not surprisingly, I quickly came to be seen as an expert about the Jewish influence on American popular culture.

Most of the time, I study these matters at arm’s length — literally, with a well-thumbed issue of the Fantastic Four circa 1964 in hand. However, I confess (and that’s not something rabbis normally do) that I sometimes fantasize about doing more than writing and talking about superheroes. Like millions of ordinary people, I wonder what it would be like to pull on some Spandex, then hit the mean streets and kick some villainous tuchas.

No wonder the new movie Kick-Ass is getting so much buzz. The film, based on the 2008 graphic novel by Mark Millar, tells the story of teenage dweeb Dave Lizewski, who sets out to become a real-life superhero. Like Stan Lee, Jack Kirby, Jerry Siegel, Joe Shuster and the other members of the tribe who created “Golden Age” superheroes like Superman, Lizewski is a bit of a nerd, invisible to girls and the “cool” kids. So he creates his own superhero costume, dubs himself “Kick-Ass” and goes out in search of bad guys to beat up.

Predictably, Dave fails at his first attempt to fight crime. He discovers that, unlike the fights he’s seen in the movies, real fisticuffs can actually be pretty painful. After being recorded in action by bystanders with cell phones, Dave/Kick-Ass becomes an internet phenomenon that inspires a whole legion of copycat costumed crime fighters, including a foul-mouthed 11-year-old named Hit Girl. Meanwhile, Dave sets up a Kick-Ass website and is soon overwhelmed by requests for help from total strangers.

Real life superheroes

April 22nd, 2010


One of the first and key places I encountered the spiritual ideas that eventually led to my baptism was Estes Park, high in the Rockies, amidst Birkenstock-wearing radical environmentalists. It was an interesting time for politics in the late 80s and early 90s and I was looking for new ideas. So were lots of people, and they were talking with each other and reading each other’s books despite divergent backgrounds. Some were grassroots activists, some academics; some were pragmatic, some utopian. There were communitarians and Greens, libertarians and socialists.

I came upon something new (to me) there, something I’d never heard of before with my atheist/Protestant upbringing: natural law. Most didn’t use the term. But the edges of the environmental movement were abuzz with fresh ideas, and two of the freshest were “deep ecology” and “ecofeminism.” (One of deep ecology’s leading lights was Fr. Thomas Berry, CP, whose The Dream of the Earth was required reading.)

It was at that conference in the Rockies that I first heard a woman argue that a pro-abortion stance was anti-woman. And though I didn’t hear the term “seamless garment,” there was a quiet respect for those Catholics and Buddhists who adhered to defense of life across the board, from anti-war and anti-death-penalty to anti-abortion and anti-euthanasia to environmental protection and reducing unnecessary deaths from starvation.

Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation

One of the first and key places I encountered the spiritual ideas that eventually led to my baptism was Estes Park, high in the Rockies, amidst Birkenstock-wearing radical environmentalists. I came upon something new (to me) there, something I’d never heard of before with my atheist/Protestant upbringing: natural law.

It was in this same time period and setting that I encountered the phrase and concept, “Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation” or JPIC. (My recollection from those times is that this was a Catholic movement and, at least within the Church, it’s an outgrowth of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, though the phrase is used by others too.) In

April 21st, 2010


The following reflection was adapted from a homily given on the second Sunday of Easter April 11, 2009.

Last Sunday there were around 3,000 people in our church to celebrate Easter. My question a week later is, “Where did they all go?” It’s too easy to simply say that the 2000 people who did not return a week later and may not return again until Christmas are “Christmas and Easter Catholics.” Is a once-or-twice visit to Church enough to satisfy one’s spiritual or ritual needs, that someone can say, “That’s enough for me”?

As a parish that tries very hard to create an environment of inclusion and acceptance where faith and beauty are interwoven, we can ask ourselves whether we are doing enough to engage those who cross the threshold of our church, so that people want more, want to return, want to be fed with the word of God and nourished with the Eucharist, week after week.

Have we spoken, sung, prayed, danced enough of God’s promise that there is something so compelling that one says, “I can’t get enough”? I know I want and need more. But at the same time there are those 2,000 who are saying by their absence, “I’ve had enough.”

If there were a banner outside our church announcing the theme of today’s preaching, mine would be “Had enough?” It would be an invitation to reflect deeply on the Peace, the Love, the Healing, the Joy, the Life that comes to us in the Eucharist through the Spirit of the Risen Christ. But it would also be an acknowledgement of the very challenging times we are experiencing as a Catholic community once again.

In the past weeks, I’m sure you have heard, as I have, “I’ve had enough,” from many within our Catholic community. With all the revelations of abuse and questions of the culpability of those religious leaders who

April 20th, 2010


We know, we know, it’s been a couple weeks. Lent has passed, Easter is here, and we never formally announced the end of our Fast Pray Give contest or its winner. Ok, we’re sorry. We certainly didn’t intend for this to slip through the cracks but in the midst of covering everything else going on in the world of spiritual seekers it unfortunately did. (We ARE proud to note, however, that we actually picked the grand prize winner and sent the prize out right on time…we just forgot to tell the rest of you.)

So finally, at long last…

Congratulations to the Grand Prize winner, Kim Dousette of Hopkinsville, KY, who received an Easter Basket with a custom Fast Pray Give Flip Video Camera, candy, books, music and more. And thank you to all the readers who participated for making the Fast Pray Give calendar and contest a success.

With the Fast Pray Give calendar, we offered daily meditations and contemplative exercises at a click of a browser button throughout the forty days of Lent. And just because Lent is over, that doesn’t mean those exercises are no longer necessary. You can still find inspirational quotes, meditative practices and contemplations on our Daily Jolt page.

Stay tuned for our upcoming summer contest beginning in May. Where there is a Busted Halo contest, reflections and prizes are sure to follow…

April 20th, 2010


Gratitude and gloom colored my view of the debate over health care reform.

On St. Patrick’s Day 2009, I learned that my chronic leukemia had morphed into a much more formidable lymphoma. It was not, statistically speaking, the cancer one would choose, especially as a husband and a father with two teenaged sons and a 20-year-old daughter. But I had sound health insurance, which allowed me the best treatment at one of the nation’s best hospitals. I was, therefore, especially grateful when reminded about the tens of millions of other Americans who lack medical insurance altogether.

The gloom descended when legislative dynamics seemed to pit the demands of Social Justice against the rights of the Unborn. The conflict was no surprise. Years ago, in sadness and frustration, I left the Democratic Party, unable to abide any longer its mindless pro-choice orthodoxy. At the same time, I had no illusions about the Republican Party’s building the “Culture of Life” which George W. Bush talked about (after electorally exploiting his Texas record of capital executions but before misleading us into Iraq). And politics is politics.

No, the conflict brought no surprise. But the Uninsured vs. the Unborn had the makings of especially stark tragedy.

My sense of tragedy, I confess, was heightened at times by a laughably self-centered fear as to what major political event I would last witness (earthside). Specifically, I feared departing while watching a major affront to the seamless garment — the commitment to a consistent pro-life philosophy.

I held and hold the seamless garment precious. It sustained me during my seventeen years defending death row inmates and capital defendants in Alabama and New York. It animated my writing. It accompanied me into any voting booth I entered. It has served as my tent, my flag and my sail.

Given the depth of voter opposition to publicly funded abortion, how difficult would it have been for a unified pro-life community to lock in, as part of a universal coverage agreement, the kind of steel-trap language the Stupak

April 19th, 2010


I recently received this note from long-time Pure Sex, Pure Love reader, Phil, a 26-year-old in Iowa. In a previous column, I’d suggested to readers that simple body language is a good way to tell if someone is interested in you. Phil took that test to the next level and asked: If a woman refuses to let me pay for her coffee on a first date, is she sending me a signal that she’s not interested?

Hi Dr. Whelan,

I think that I have found a variant of the salt shaker test. As you have written in your column, that is when you are on a first date and you put a salt shaker (or something like that) on your date’s side of the table. From what I recall, how they react is suppose to indicate whether they are into you.

If they play with it, they are subconsciously inviting you into their personal space. If they put it back where it was before, they are subconsciously rejecting your intrusion into their space (or something like that).

Anyway, I seem to notice a similar reaction when I offer to pay for my date. Letting me pay would be like them inviting me into their personal space. Rejecting my offer would be like putting the salt shaker back. That’s how it seems anyway.

Maybe I’m too old fashioned for modern dating, but it just seems like there isn’t much potential for a relationship if a girl won’t even accept my offer to pay for her $3 cup of coffee. Am I mistaken about this?

Girls, you think that you’re the only ones who worry about whether he’s “into” you? Think again. Guys are wondering how to interpret your signals, too. And this was such a great question, that I wanted to put it to you, the readers of Pure Sex, Pure Love, for your thoughts and experiences.

“Maybe I’m too old fashioned for modern dating, but it just seems like there isn’t much potential for a relationship if a girl won’t even accept my

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