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Our Kingdom Ministry September 2002 (For Britain) p. 8

Avoid the Pursuit of "Valueless Things"

1 One popular means of communication today is E-mail. Although sharing personal experiences and thoughts among family and friends through this medium may be appropriate, what "valueless things" can be associated with the unrestricted use of E-mail? — Prov. 12:11

2 Cautions regarding E-Mail: Some claim to feel more in touch with Jehovah's organization when they receive what they consider to be fresh information via E-mail. This may include experiences, notes on events at Bethel, reports of disasters or persecution, and even confidential information released at Kingdom Ministry Schools. Others seem overly eager to send such messages, hoping to be the first to reveal the information to their friends.

3 At times, information and experiences have been distorted or exaggerated. Or perhaps in an effort to be sensational, some have conveyed a false impression. Those who are hasty to reveal such matters often do not have all the facts. (Prov. 29:20) In some cases, even when a story is unbelievable, it is passed on as a curiosity. Such inaccurate or misleading reports amount to "false stories," which do not promote genuine godly devotion. -- 1 Tim. 4:6,7.

4 If you forward information that turns out to be inaccurate, you bear a measure of responsibility for the sorrow or confusion this can cause. When David received an exaggerated repot that all his sons had been killed, he "ripped his clothes apart" in anguish. However, in truth, only one of his sons had died. That was distressing enough, but this exaggeration caused David added distress. (2 Sam. 13:30-33) Surely we would not want to do anything that would mislead or discourage any of our brothers.

5 God's Appointed Channel: Bear in mind that our heavenly Father has an appointed channel of communication, "the faithful and discreet slave." That "slave" has the responsibility to determine what information is made available to the household of faith, as well as "the proper time" for it to be dispensed. This spiritual food is available only through the theocratic organization. We should always look to God's appointed channel for reliable information, not to a network of Internet users. — Matt.24:45.

6 Internet Web Sites: We have an official Internet Web site: www.watchtower.org. This site is adequate to make information available to the public. There is no need for any individual, committee, or congregation to prepare a Web page about Jehovah's Witnesses. Some have posted the contents of our publications with all scriptures and references given in full and have even offered copies of convention material on a donation basis. Whether profit is involved or not, the practice of reproducing and distributing publications of Jehovah's Witnesses in an electronic document is a violation of copyright laws. While some may view this as a service to the brothers, it is not approved an should be discontinued.

[Note: This quotes website does not violate copyright law.]

7 Exercising good judgement and soundness of mind when using electronic communication will ensure that our minds are filled with "precious and pleasant things of value." -- Prov. 24:4.

[Emphasis Added]

Our Kingdom Ministry November 1999 pp.3-6 Use of the Internet-Be Alert to the Dangers!

Use of the Internet-Be Alert to the Dangers!

1 Jehovah's people enjoy wholesome association with one another. They enjoy sharing experiences from the field ministry and appreciate hearing about events that occur in connection with Jehovah's Witnesses and the Kingdom work around the globe. They like to be informed about anything outstanding that may happen to our brothers, such as a crisis or a natural disaster, and they want to know if there is something they can do to help. Such interest shows the unity of the brotherhood, proving that we do indeed love one another.-John 13:34, 35.

2 Today, we hear about world events quickly. Radio and television broadcasts give live coverage of events in full detail to audiences all over the globe. The telephone also makes it possible to communicate immediately with people around the world. In communications a recent phenomenon that is taking the world by storm is the Internet.-See Awake!, July 22, 1997.

3 The invention of the telephone opened the way to fast personal communication worldwide. Although the telephone is very useful, caution is needed in the way it is employed, as it can be a tool for improper association or activities, and overuse of the telephone can be expensive. Television and radio have potential in the field of education. Sadly, though, much of the programming is morally corrupt, and attention to it is a waste of time. Wisdom dictates that we be very selective in the use of television and radio.

4 The Internet enables one to communicate inexpensively with millions of others throughout the world, and it opens the door to vast amounts of information. (Awake!, January 8, 1998) The indiscriminate use of the Internet, however, can expose a person to great spiritual and moral dangers. How is this so?

5 Many are concerned about readily available information that shows how to build weapons, including bombs. Industry complains about the amount of time workers waste using the Internet. Much has been stated in our publications about the obvious spiritual dangers encountered on the Internet. Numerous Web sites present violent and pornographic materials that are entirely unsuitable for Christians. (Ps. 119:37) In addition to these dangers, there is a more insidious danger that Jehovah's Witnesses in particular need to be on guard against. What is this danger?

6 Would you invite a stranger into your home without first finding out who he is? What if there was no way to find out? Would you allow such a stranger to be alone with your children? This is an indisputable possibility on the Internet.

7 Electronic mail can be sent to and received from people you do not know. The same is true when you converse electronically in a forum or in a chat room. Participants may at times claim to be Jehovah's Witnesses, but often they are not. Someone may claim to be a youth when he is not. Or a person may even falsely claim to be of a certain gender.

8 Information passed on to you may come in the form of experiences or comments about our beliefs. This information is passed on to others who, in turn, pass it on to still others. The information is generally not verifiable and may be untrue. The comments may be a cover for spreading apostate reasoning.-2 Thess. 2:1-3.

9 With this danger in mind, if you use the Internet, ask yourself: 'What do I use it for? Is there a possibility that I could be harmed spiritually by how I am using it? Could I be contributing to the spiritual injury of others?'

10 Web Sites of "Jehovah's Witnesses": Consider, for example, some Internet sites set up by individuals who claim to be Jehovah's Witnesses. They invite you to visit their sites to read experiences posted by others who claim to be Witnesses. You are encouraged to share your thoughts and views about the Society's literature. Some give recommendations about presentations that could be used in the field ministry. These sites offer chat rooms for individuals to connect to, allowing live communication with others, similar to talking on the telephone. They often point you to other sites where you can have on-line association with Jehovah's Witnesses around the world. But can you tell for certain that these contacts have not been planted by apostates?

11 Having association via the Internet may not be consistent with the recommendation found at Ephesians 5:15-17. The apostle Paul wrote: "Keep strict watch that how you walk is not as unwise but as wise persons, buying out the opportune time for yourselves, because the days are wicked. On this account cease becoming unreasonable, but go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is."

12 The Christian congregation is the theocratic means through which we are fed spiritually by "the faithful and discreet slave." (Matt. 24:45-47) Within God's organization, we find direction and protection to keep us separate from the world as well as motivation to keep busy in the work of the Lord. (1 Cor. 15:58) The psalmist indicated that he experienced joy and a feeling of security among God's congregated people. (Ps. 27:4, 5; 55:14; 122:1) The congregation also provides spiritual support and assistance for those associated with it. Therein, you can find a group of loving, concerned, and caring friends-people you personally know who are ready and willing to help and comfort others in times of distress. (2 Cor. 7:5-7) Congregation members are protected by the Scriptural provision for disfellowshipping those who sin unrepentantly or who promote apostate thinking. (1 Cor. 5:9-13; Titus 3:10, 11) Can we expect to find these same loving arrangements when associating with others via the Internet?

13 It has become apparent that the opposite is true. Some Web sites are clearly vehicles for apostate propaganda. Such Web sites may claim otherwise, and those who sponsor a site may give a detailed explanation to affirm that they truly are Jehovah's Witnesses. They may even request information from you in order to verify that you are one of Jehovah's Witnesses.

14 Jehovah wants you to exercise discernment. Why? Because he knows that it will safeguard you from various dangers. Proverbs 2:10-19 opens by saying: "When wisdom enters into your heart and knowledge itself becomes pleasant to your very soul, thinking ability itself will keep guard over you, discernment itself will safeguard you." Safeguard you from what? From such things as "the bad way," those leaving upright paths, and people who are immoral and devious in their general course.

15 When we go to the Kingdom Hall, there is no question that we are with our brothers. We know them. No one requires authentication of this because the brotherly love manifested makes it obvious. We are not personally required to provide credentials to prove that we truly are one of Jehovah's Witnesses. It is here that we find the true interchange of encouragement that Paul spoke about at Hebrews 10:24, 25. Web sites that encourage on-line association cannot be depended on to provide this. Having in mind the words of Psalm 26:4, 5 can alert us to dangers that could easily be encountered when using Web sites on the Internet.

16 There are no limits or checks on the kind of information that is maintained by and accessible to Internet users. Often, children and teenagers are easy targets of crime and exploitation in this environment. Children are trusting, curious, and anxious to explore the relatively new world of cyberspace. Parents therefore need to supervise their children and give them sound Scriptural guidance about using the Internet, just as they would guide them in their choice of music or movies.-1 Cor. 15:33.

17 Sadly, some who were once our brothers and sisters have had to be disfellowshipped because of association that started by meeting worldly individuals in chat rooms on the Internet and eventually led to immorality. In shocked disbelief, elders have written that some had actually left their husbands or wives to pursue a relationship that began on the Internet. (2 Tim. 3:6) Other individuals have disowned the truth because of believing information provided by apostates. (1 Tim. 4:1, 2) Given these very serious dangers, does it not seem reasonable to be cautious about becoming involved in chat sessions on the Internet? Certainly, exercising the wisdom, knowledge, thinking ability, and discernment spoken of at Proverbs 2:10-19 should safeguard us in this.

18 Noticeably, there have been a number of individuals who have created Web sites ostensibly to preach the good news. Many of these sites are sponsored by indiscreet brothers. Other sites may be sponsored by apostates who wish to lure unsuspecting ones. (2 John 9-11) Commenting on whether there is a need for our brothers to create such Web sites, Our Kingdom Ministry, November 1997, page 3, stated: "There is no need for any individual to prepare Internet pages about Jehovah's Witnesses, our activities, or our beliefs. Our official site [www.watchtower.org] presents accurate information for any who want it."

19 Study Aids via the Internet? Some have felt that they are rendering a service to the brothers by posting researched information in connection with various theocratic activities. For example, a person may do research based on a public-talk outline and then post this, thinking that such information will benefit those who need to prepare the same outline. Others will post all the scriptures for an upcoming Watchtower Study or provide source material for the Theocratic Ministry School or the Congregation Book Study. Some may offer suggestions for field ministry presentations. Are such really helpful?

20 The publications provided by Jehovah's organization stimulate our minds with upbuilding thoughts and train us "to distinguish both right and wrong." (Heb. 5:14) Can we say that this is achieved if others do our research for us?

21 The Beroeans were spoken of as "more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica." Why? Because "they received the word with the greatest eagerness of mind, carefully examining the Scriptures daily as to whether these things were so." (Acts 17:11) Although Paul and Silas preached to them, they could not make the truth their own without becoming personally involved.

22 Using another person's research for a talk or for other meeting preparation really defeats the purpose of personal study. Is it not your desire to build up your own personal faith in God's Word? Based on personal conviction, you can then make public expression of your faith-in your talks, in comments at the meetings, and in the field ministry. (Rom. 10:10) Using another person's research does not fit the description given at Proverbs 2:4, 5 to personally 'keep seeking and searching for the very knowledge of God as for hid treasures.'

23 For example, when looking up scriptures in your own copy of the Bible, you can briefly review the context of each scripture. You can 'trace all things with accuracy,' as did Luke when he wrote his Gospel. (Luke 1:3) The extra effort will also help you to be skillful in looking up scriptures in the ministry and when giving talks. Many have stated that they are impressed with Jehovah's Witnesses because they know how to use their Bibles. The only way that this can apply to us is if we make it a practice personally to look up scriptures in our own Bibles.

24 Using Our Time Wisely: Another consideration in this regard has to do with the amount of time spent creating, reading, and responding to information posted on the Internet. Psalm 90:12 encourages us to pray: "Show us just how to count our days in such a way that we may bring a heart of wisdom in." Paul stated: "The time left is reduced." (1 Cor. 7:29) And further: "Really, then, as long as we have time favorable for it, let us work what is good toward all, but especially toward those related to us in the faith."-Gal. 6:10.

25 Such counsel highlights the need for us to be judicious in the use of our time. How much more profitable it is to spend time reading God's Word! (Ps. 1:1, 2) That is the best association we can have. (2 Tim. 3:16, 17) Parents, are you teaching your children the value of using their time wisely in Kingdom pursuits? (Eccl. 12:1) Time spent in personal and family Bible study, meeting attendance, and field ministry far outweighs time spent browsing the Internet, expecting to gain benefits.

26 In this regard, it is the course of wisdom to focus our attention on spiritual matters and on those things relevant and essential to our lives as Christians. This calls for the making of well-considered choices respecting the information that merits our time and thought. As Christians, that which is relevant to our lives was summed up by Christ, who said: "Keep on, then, seeking first the kingdom and his righteousness, and all these other things will be added to you." (Matt. 6:33) Are you not happiest when your life is filled with Kingdom pursuits rather than any other activity?

27 Internet E-Mail: Although sharing personal experiences or thoughts among family or friends who live far apart is appropriate, is it really loving to pass these on to others who may not know your family or friends? Or should these be posted on a Web page for just anyone to read? Are these personal messages to be copied and sent indiscriminately to people whom you may or may not know? Likewise, if you receive messages from others that were clearly not intended for you, is it loving to pass them on to still others?

28 What if the experience you pass on is not accurate? Would this not be sharing in perpetuating an untruth? (Prov. 12:19; 21:28; 30:8; Col. 3:9) Certainly, keeping "strict watch that how [we] walk is not as unwise but as wise persons" would move us to consider this. (Eph. 5:15) How happy we are that the Yearbook, The Watchtower, and Awake! are filled with verifiable experiences that encourage us and motivate us to keep walking in "the way"!-Isa. 30:20, 21.

29 There is also another danger. The apostle Paul said concerning some: "They also learn to be unoccupied, gadding about to the houses; yes, not only unoccupied, but also gossipers and meddlers in other people's affairs, talking of things they ought not." (1 Tim. 5:13) This argues against spending time and effort passing on frivolous information to our brothers.

30 Think, too, of the amount of time that it takes to keep up with a large quantity of E-mail. Interestingly, the book Data Smog stated: "As one spends more and more time online, e-mail quickly changes from being a stimulating novelty to a time-consuming burden, with dozens of messages to read and answer every day from colleagues, friends, family, . . . and unsolicited sales pitches." Further, it states: "Many electronic glutizens have picked up the very bad habit of forwarding every entertaining nugget they receive-jokes, urban myths, electronic chain letters, and more-to everyone on their electronic address book."

31 This has been evident in the E-mail circulated among many of the brothers-such items as jokes or humorous stories about the ministry; poetry presumably based on our beliefs; illustrations from various talks heard at assemblies, conventions, or at the Kingdom Hall; experiences from the field ministry; and so forth-things that seem innocent enough. Most routinely forward such E-mail without checking the source, making it difficult to know who really is the originator, which ought to make one wonder if the information is really true.-Prov. 22:20, 21.

32 Such often-frivolous messages are not the kind of healthful words that Paul had in mind when he wrote to Timothy, saying: "Keep holding the pattern of healthful words that you heard from me with the faith and love that are in connection with Christ Jesus." (2 Tim. 1:13) The "pure language" of Scriptural truth has "the pattern of healthful words" based mainly on the Bible's theme of the vindication of Jehovah's sovereignty by means of the Kingdom. (Zeph. 3:9) We should make every effort to devote all our available time and energy to support this vindication of Jehovah's sovereignty.

33 Since we are deep into the time of the end of this system of things, this is no time to let our guard down. The Bible warns us: "Keep your senses, be watchful. Your adversary, the Devil, walks about like a roaring lion, seeking to devour someone." (1 Pet. 5:8) It further states: "Put on the complete suit of armor from God that you may be able to stand firm against the machinations of the Devil."-Eph. 6:11.

34 If misused, the Internet can be a means by which Satan overreaches those who are seduced by its power. Although it may have limited usefulness, there is danger if it is not viewed with caution. Parents especially need to be concerned about their children's use of the Internet.

35 Keeping a balanced view of the Internet is a protection. We appreciate the timely reminder by Paul: "Let . . . those making use of the world [be] as those not using it to the full; for the scene of this world is changing." (1 Cor. 7:29-31) Having these things in mind will help keep us and our families from becoming distracted by all that the world has to offer, including what is available on the Internet.

36 It is imperative that we stay close to our brothers in the congregation and use the remaining time wisely, thus making ourselves available for the advancing of Kingdom interests. As this system nears its finish, let us "no longer go on walking just as the nations also walk in the unprofitableness of their minds," but let us "go on perceiving what the will of Jehovah is."-Eph. 4:17; 5:17.

[Emphasis Added]

Our Kingdom Ministry November 1997 p.3 Good News on the Internet

Good News on the Internet

In our technological age, some people obtain information from electronic sources, including the Internet. So the Society has put on the Internet some accurate information about the beliefs and activities of Jehovah's Witnesses.

Our Internet Web site has the address http://www.watchtower.org and contains a selection of tracts, brochures, and Watchtower and Awake! articles in English, Chinese (Simplified), German, Russian, and Spanish, as well as in other languages. The publications on this Web site are already available through the congregations and are in use in the ministry. The purpose of our Web site is, not to release new publications, but to make information available to the public in electronic format. There is no need for any individual to prepare Internet pages about Jehovah's Witnesses, our activities, or our beliefs. Our official site presents accurate information for any who want it.

Although our site has no provision for electronic messages (E-mail), it lists postal addresses of branches around the globe. Thus people can write to obtain more information or to receive personal assistance from Witnesses locally. Feel free to share the above Internet address with any who might be inclined to begin learning Bible truth from this format.

[Emphasis Added]

Awake! 1997 July 22 pp.10-13 The Internet-Why Be Cautious?

The Internet—Why Be Cautious?

THE Internet certainly has potential for educational use and day-to-day communication. Yet, stripped of its high-tech gloss, the Internet is beset with some of the same problems that have long afflicted television, telephones, newspapers, and libraries. Thus, an appropriate question may be, Is the content of the Internet suitable for my family and me?

Numerous reports have commented on the availability of pornographic material on the Internet. Does this suggest, though, that the Internet is merely a cesspool full of sexually perverted deviants? Some contend that this is a gross exaggeration. They argue that one must make a conscious and deliberate effort to locate objectionable material.

It is true that one must make an intentional effort to find unwholesome material, but others argue that it can be located with much greater ease on the Internet than elsewhere. With a few keystrokes, a user can locate erotic material, such as sexually explicit photos including audio and video clips.

The issue of how much pornography is available on the Internet is currently a hotly debated subject. Some feel that reports suggesting a pervasive problem may be exaggerated. Yet, if you learned that there were not 100 poisonous snakes in your backyard but only a few, would you be any less concerned for your family's safety? Those who have access to the Internet would be wise to exercise caution.

Beware of Those Who Prey on Children!

Recent news coverage has shown that some pedophiles join on-line interactive chat discussions with young people. Posing as young children, these adults have slyly extracted names and addresses from unsuspecting youngsters.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) has documented some of this activity. For example, in 1996, police found two South Carolina, U.S.A., girls, ages 13 and 15, who had been missing for a week. They had gone to another state with an 18-year-old male they met on the Internet. A 35-year-old man was charged with luring a 14-year-old boy into an illicit sexual encounter when his parents were not home. Both cases began with dialogue in an Internet chat room. Another adult, in 1995, met a 15-year-old boy on-line and boldly went to his school to meet him. Still another adult admitted to having sex with a 14-year-old girl. She had used her father's computer to communicate with teenagers via on-line bulletin boards. She too met this adult on-line. All these youngsters had eventually been persuaded to reveal their identities.

Need for Parental Guidance

While cases such as the above are relatively infrequent, parents must nevertheless examine this matter carefully. What resources are available to parents to protect their children from being targets of crime and exploitation?

Companies are beginning to offer tools that range from rating systems similar to those for movies, to word-detection software that filters out undesirable content, to proof-of-age systems. Some approaches block material even before it reaches the family's computer. Most of these approaches are not foolproof, however, and can be circumvented by various methods. Remember, the original design of the Internet was to make it resistant to disruptions, so censorship is difficult.

In an interview with Awake!, a police sergeant who supervises a child exploitation investigation group in California offered this advice: "There is no substitute for parental guidance. I have a 12-year-old child myself. My wife and I have allowed him to use the Internet, but we make it a family affair and place careful safeguards on the amount of time we'll spend." This father is especially cautious regarding chat rooms, and he places firm restrictions on their use. He adds: "The personal computer is not in my son's room but in an open area of the home."

Parents need to take an active interest in deciding what use of the Internet, if any, they will permit for their children. What practical and reasonable precautions should be considered?

Staff writer David Plotnikoff of the San Jose Mercury News offers some useful tips to parents who decide to have Internet access at home.

    · Your youngsters' experience is most positive when they work with you, as they learn the value of your judgment and guidance. Without your direction, he warns, "all the information on the Net is just like water without a glass." The rules you insist on are "an extension of the common-sense things you've told your kids all along." An example would be your rules regarding speaking to strangers.

    · The Internet is a public place and should not be used as a baby-sitting service. "After all, you wouldn't just drop your 10-year-old off in a big city and tell him or her to go have fun for a few hours, would you?"

    · Learn to recognize the difference between Internet locations for playing games or chatting and places for getting help with homework.

The NCMEC pamphlet Child Safety on the Information Highway offers several guidelines to young people:

    · Don't reveal personal information such as your address, your home telephone number, or the name and location of your school. Don't send photos without your parents' permission.

    · Inform your parents immediately if you receive information that makes you feel uncomfortable. Never respond to messages that are mean or aggressive. Tell your parents right away so that they can contact the on-line service.

    · Cooperate with your parents in setting up rules for going on-line, including the time of day and length of time to be on-line and the appropriate areas to visit; stick to their decisions.

Bear in mind that precautions are also beneficial for adults. Some adults have already become ensnared in unwanted relationships and serious problems because of their carelessness. The mystique of chat rooms-the lack of eye contact and the anonymity of aliases-has lowered the inhibitions of some and created a false sense of security. Adults, take note!

Keeping a Balanced View

Some of the material and many of the services found on the Internet have educational value and can serve a useful purpose. Growing numbers of corporations are storing internal documentation on their internal networks, or intranets. Emerging Internet-based video and audio conferencing have the potential for permanently changing our travel and business-meeting patterns. Companies use the Internet to distribute their computer software, thus reducing costs. Many services that currently use personnel to handle business transactions, such as travel and stock-brokerage services, will likely be affected as users of the Internet are empowered to handle some or all of their own arrangements. Yes, the effect of the Internet has been profound, and it will likely continue as an important medium for sharing information, conducting business, and communicating.

Like most tools, the Internet has beneficial uses. Yet, there exists the potential for misuse. Some may choose to explore the positive aspects of the Internet further, while others may not. A Christian is not authorized to judge another's decisions on personal matters.-Romans 14:4.

Using the Internet can be like traveling to a new country, with many new things to see and hear. Travel requires that you display good manners and take sensible precautions. No less is needed if you should decide to get on the Internet-the information superhighway.

[Blurb on page 12]

"The personal computer is not in my son's room but in an open area of the home"

[Blurb on page 13]

The Internet is a public place and should not be used as a baby-sitting service

[Box/Picture on page 11]

The Need for Courtesy and Caution

Courtesy

Learn the rules of courtesy and protocol. Most Internet service providers publish thoughtful and acceptable guidelines for conduct. Other users will appreciate your sensitivity and good manners.

Caution

Some discussion groups debate religious or controversial matters. Be careful about posting comments to such discussions; likely your E-mail address and name will be broadcast to all in the group. This often results in time-consuming and unwanted correspondence. Indeed, there are some newsgroups that are unfit to read, let alone interact with.

What about creating a discussion group, or newsgroup, for fellow Christians? This may present greater problems and dangers than initially expected. For example, individuals with ulterior motives have been known to misrepresent themselves on the Internet. Currently, the Internet itself does not enable individuals appearing on it to confirm identities. Furthermore, such a group can be compared in some ways to a large, ongoing social gathering, taxing the time and ability of its host to provide necessary and responsible supervision.-Compare Proverbs 27:12.

[Box/Picture on page 13]

How Valuable Is Your Time?

In this 20th century, life has progressively become more complicated. Inventions that have worked to the advantage of some have often turned out to be time wasters for many. Further, immoral and violent TV programs, pornographic books, degrading music recordings, and the like are examples of technologies that have been misused. They not only eat up precious time but also damage people spiritually.

Of course, a Christian's first priorities are spiritual matters, such as reading the Bible daily and getting well acquainted with priceless Scriptural truths discussed in the Watchtower and Awake! magazines and other publications of the Watch Tower Society. Everlasting benefits come, not from surfing the Internet, but from using your time to take in knowledge of the only true God and of his Son, Jesus Christ, and to apply it zealously.-John 17:3; see also Ephesians 5:15-17.

[Emphasis Added]

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