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Dave Portnoy…The Silver Lining

The opportunities for reaching new heights and setting new goals is a Barstool reality as the company has continued to flourish with the Barstool Fund and helping small business after small business, with their team rallying to spread the word about their efforts.

Chrissy Paradis

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Photo "Dave Portnoy" by Zach Catanzareti Photo CC BY 2.0.

Among a year of chaos, division and political unrest there has been an unsung hero that emerged from the most unlikely of places. Dave Portnoy, Founder of BarStool Sports, has given hope to many small businesses who have lost so much during the past year’s Covid lockdowns.

Taking a moment to analyze the foundation of the company itself, Barstool Sports was founded by Dave Portnoy who still remains the Chief Content Officer and his Chief Executive Officer, Erika Nardini, who happens to be an incredibly accomplished executive with a track record of building, developing and growing businesses on a grand scale. Erika Nardini’s background and the foundation that makes up the Barstool that I have always loved—is an authentic and unapologetic space to discuss sports, comedy, current events and more. Since Nardini’s hiring in 2016, the dynamic between her and Portnoy seemingly became an effortless symbiotic relationship, which in and of itself speaks volumes but also lends credence to the facts Kayce Smith shared with me last year about Barstool’s culture.

Portnoy and Nardini’s commitment to content creation as upper level managers, in a hands-on fashion, has separated BarStool from others, as it is unique from any competition. Making way for the idyllic duo with the shared vision of not pandering to, cowering to or straying from their core beliefs as to what Barstool means to them, Nardini and Portnoy are continuing to dominate despite the haters and trolls who don’t seemingly consume the content Barstool is known for.

Rather than focusing on the abysmal behavior and incredulous accusations being made across social media and news media sites in a smear campaign against Barstool and Portnoy, I want to highlight the good work and empowering messages from Barstool’s employees, who’ve promoted the efforts to help small businesses stay afloat.

The opportunities for reaching new heights and setting new goals is a Barstool reality as the company has continued to flourish with the Barstool Fund and helping small business after small business, with their team rallying to spread the word about their efforts.

If you are a small business that needs help staying in business because of the Covid lockdowns email us your story to barstoolfund@barstoolsports.com. We will try to help as many people as we can.

3:51 PM · Dec 17, 2020

In a video that now has close to 3 million views, posted by Barstool founder and Chief content Officer Dave Portnoy just a month ago, he explains the hopes for the Barstool Fund and outlines their goal.

“We’re going to donate a half a million dollars- half a million dollars. We’ve come up with a plan; is it the best plan? No. The best plan is the government getting off their ass and issuing relief, billions of dollars, to these small business owners who are losing their livelihood and have no recourse, no way to save it through no fault of their own.”

The criteria for being included in the fund?

To qualify you have to still be paying your employees.

And you need to disclose: what do you need money for? How much do you need to get to the next month—as a rental leave tax relief? What can we do to make sure you stay in business until this pandemic is over?

“We’re going to help as many as we humanly can and try to keep all the small businesses alive. So, that’s the plan. Is it perfect? Probably not, but it’s better than nothing. Barstoolfund@barstoolsports.com – If you’re a small business owner and you need help: reach out. Hopefully, we can help you.”

It’s been modeled around Frankie Borrelli, who’s been the longtime cameraman for Dave’s “one bite everybody knows the rules” pizza reviews, that have certainly become my guilty pleasure over the years.

Frankie’s father, owner of a restaurant in Long Island is the perfect example of the type of business they wanted to save.

“Dave, I really want to thank you for starting this fund. Do you know what it means to us? This started in April, we had our doors closed, and we made it through the summer. We built an outdoor patio, we’re breaking even through the end of the summer. I’ve got my staff; they’re all being paid. I said, ‘we’ll make it through Christmas.’ January, February, March I was planning on closing. I didn’t say anything to my staff. This is going to help so much. You don’t know. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. And my staff, with their mortgages, families. You don’t know how many people you’re helping. Thank you.” Coming from the most heartwarming video Frankie posted of a video reaction of Dave’s announcement of the Barstool Fund.

Dave, who’s been a champion of the small business owner, receives criticism from others in the broadcasting, sports and journalism industries, not to mention the relentless social media trolls.  The false narratives involving the culture for women employed by Barstool or the content involving females on Barstool’s platforms has been dispelled by Kayce Smith in a one-on-one Q&A she graciously allowed me in 2020 about her experience with the company. This unfortunate and shameful narrative has not been called out by others in the media world, especially as Barstool Sports has expanded their role in broadcasting to encompass finance, current events and news. I think it’s essential to point out a few of the significant facts that conveniently get cut from stories about Portnoy and Barstool Sports because the facts simply don’t align with the narrative they want to perpetuate.

Some talking points for the people who refuse to consume any of the content Barstool produces on a daily basis has been condensed below to cancel the “cancel Barstool culture” and instead, focus on the incredible work they have done and continue to do, particularly in the vein of small business assistance.

Stuart Varney of FOX Nation and FOX Business, as well as Tucker Carlson of FOX News, have hosted Dave Portnoy to discuss his work to breathe life back into the small business owners and encourage the hard working individuals who want to continue to come to work every day and earn a check for the work they’ve done rather than be handed a check from the government to tide them over.

“Kid Rock, reached out unsolicited, Guy Fieri‘s been a big help, Tom Brady, we’ve had Dana White donate one hundred grand, so we’ve had a lot of big celebrities but we have over 160,000 individuals, so they’re just everyday people. The people who like Barstool, the people who care about what’s going on, and that may be the most moving part of it.” Portnoy shared on FOX Nation.

“I keep saying it: no amount of money will ever be enough. This is a government issue if the money is involved but they’re not getting involved.”  Said Portnoy.

“So how about coming back for a Townhall on Fox Business to talk about all the businesses you’ve saved, maybe surprise a few people, live during the special and just tell him, ‘hey, we rescued you.’ Do you want to do it?” Varney proposed to Portnoy earlier this month.

“I’m aiming for the moon.” Portnoy replied.

Stuart Varney concluded the interview saying, “Portnoy, I think you’re doing great work. I really mean that. You’re a good man.”

“You’re calling out CNN because they promoted Beyoncé’s efforts to help businesses but they just left you completely out of it. They stayed silent about you.” Tucker Carlson said to Portnoy on his show.

Portnoy replied, “Yeah, so I mean I have no problem with Beyoncé. Any charity is good. I don’t care if you’re political, not political; everyone should care about this. And I’m beating the drum: I’ll go on any network anytime anywhere because the more publicity we get, the more donations we get, the more businesses we can help. So, I don’t know why CNN would not mention it, at least to help people, help small businesses. I have nothing against Beyoncé, mention Beyoncé, she’s famous and she’s doing good work, but we’re doing something too and I think it would help everybody the more publicity that we get.” 

A fair point that has been avoided at all costs by network news media with the exception of FOX and a piece done by the Today Show. Just two weeks ago, Portnoy joined Carlson again to discuss the progress made and what the latest response from the news media has been.

Tucker Carlson pointed out the elephant in the room and how Portnoy just decided ‘I’m going to do it myself, I’m going to raise the money and give it some people who need it.’ Kind of an amazing story and you’d think it would be everywhere: it isn’t. It’s been pretty much ignored, the Barstool Sports Fund by the media, but this week some of the press start taking different approach—they’re angry and they’re trying to destroy Barstool Sports.”

Airing one of the lovely success stories and video reactions, “My whole body is numb right now,” says the recipient crying through her gratitude to Portnoy. “You guys are angels, we’ve been feeling so abandoned and so scared about the future. Thank you so much for taking care of the people that have seemed to be forgotten.” she finished.

Tucker Carlson isn’t here for it. He airs the video and then says, “The San Francisco Chronicle, for example, is a garbage paper, wrote that the woman you just saw was ‘not aware of Portnoy‘s history of making racist and misogynist remarks or the accusations of sexual harassment against him.’ because no good deed goes unpunished, apparently.” 

The claims of misogyny, sexual harassment continue despite the fact the female CEO of Barstool Sports  Erika Nardini, the female employees of Barstool and former interns have shared experiences that couldn’t differ more from the unsubstantiated claims expressed in The SF Chronicle.

The petty infighting between journalists has also continued due to a perplexing inability to focus on the sheer magnitude of the charitable contribution Dave has taken on. Dismissing the chance to report on the incredible and historic efforts made by Portnoy and his team to help provide relief for business owners who have lived in fear of making payroll or next month’s rent since the shutdown started.

The opportunities for reaching new heights and setting new goals is a Barstool reality as the company has continued to flourish—with The Barstool Fund and helping small businesses, the team has rallied to support these efforts.

One of his supporters and teammates Liz Gonzalez, Portnoy spoke of just yesterday on his podcast. “Liz is one of the purest people we have at Barstool and that’s a high compliment for me to give somebody.” Portnoy said on Tuesday’s episode of The Dave Portnoy Show with Eddie & Co.

“Liz is uniquely Liz and I respect her for that. There’s nothing fake about Liz, ever. Liz is Liz. She doesn’t care what people think.”

Liz Gonzales, blogger and host alongside PFT Commenter (Eric Sollenberger) can be heard on SiriusXM Channel 85 weekdays from 11-2.

I wrote a profile on Kayce Smith and the culture at Barstool, stemming from the years of the same inaccurate, asinine narrative about the foundation of the company.

Kayce Smith held nothing back in speaking with me about the freedom, safety and support she has around her at Barstool: “as a woman in this company, I feel very safe and have never been treated better. So that whole ‘Barstool treats their women employees poorly’ narrative is just flat out incorrect.”  The entire article can be found here: https://barrettsportsmedia.com/2020/08/04/kayce-smith-has-never-had-more-freedom/ I know the last thing that Dave Portnoy needs is me as his bodyguard, but I think it’s time to put the petty and unnecessary hit pieces aside and acknowledge the great work Dave continues to do with Barstool Sports and most recently, his philanthropic efforts for The Barstool Fund.

BNM Writers

Bitcoin and the Economic Breaking Point

This bitcoin bull remains as optimistic as ever, at least according to his comments on the widely-acclaimed What Bitcoin Did podcast, hosted by Peter McCormack.

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Bitcoin is down nearly 80% from its all-time high of 2021. Virtually everything is down, so that’s not a surprise. Yet many of the most influential and cerebral names in the space remain as optimistic as ever about the asset’s future.

“I see it as a cleansing,” Preston Pysh said of the current crypto bear market. “It sure hasn’t changed my opinions on anything.”

This bitcoin bull remains as optimistic as ever, at least according to his comments on the widely-acclaimed What Bitcoin Did podcast, hosted by Peter McCormack. He spoke recently on the program about the latest cryptocurrency exchange collapse – this time the popular FTX exchange led by Democratic mega-donor, Sam Bankman-Fried.

“I’m a little shocked at the size of the scam that was being played on everyone, and when you’re dealing with private equity, not a publicly-traded company when you can kinda peer into the books, it’s a little hard to kinda know what you are dealing with,” Pysh said of the latest exchange implosion. “I didn’t see FTX blowing up in literally, seconds. When you can’t peer into the numbers and you can’t actually see what’s being done, like, it’s kind of hard to be able to see something like that coming.”

Pysh is the co-founder of The Investor’s Podcast Network.  He is also an entrepreneur, author, investor and cryptocurrency proponent. As he has said on this, and other programs, he believes this tumultuous period of time has been part of the well-known Bitcoin cycle. All part of Bitcoin’s ebb and flow, which he believes will eventually turn positive once again.

For his part, McCormack drew a distinction between the recent scandal and other start-ups in the industry who appear to be approaching things in ethical ways.

“This is somebody who’s come in recklessly and damaged the industry. Damaged individuals, damaged businesses, damaged peoples’ holdings in Bitcoin. There is some dark consequences for this,” McCormack said. “And I know people hate regulations. And I know people hate the likes of Coinbase being so friendly with regulators. But at the same time, it’s like well, they’re building proper businesses within the infrastructure.”

“This is what a bottom starts to look like. Now, how long does this go? I don’t know. It really depends on how much the central bankers allow it to persist. But they have got to get the inflation prints lower,” Pysh said.

While many bitcoiners believe the future of “digital gold” is bright, no one can confidently predict the near-term future. The next Bitcoin halving – when the newly-issued supply is cut in half – is scheduled to take place in roughly 15 months. This traditionally has spurred a years-long bull run for the asset.

“We swallowed a lot of bad news to still have Bitcoin at $16,800,” McCormack pointed out, seeing the big picture, decade-long trend of the asset.

“This is extremely healthy stuff as far as I’m concerned,” Pysh said, pointing out that it is a blessing to clear out the weaker industry exchanges and businesses now. “All of those activities, could you imagine building on top of those? Like, if we weren’t going through this tightening right now, and let’s say they were releasing the floodgates again, you’re just going to have more of these types of activities that are going to get built on top of this. You want to talk about a real meltdown. That would be really concerning.”

Pysh has long voiced his opinion that Bitcoin is here to stay and will continue appreciating far into the future. He’s not alone. 

Gregg Foss. Michael Saylor. Ben Armstrong. Benjamin Cowen. Rob from Digital Asset News. James from Invest Answers. Anthony Scaramucci. Mark Cuban. Kevin O’Leary. Robert Breedlove.

These thought leaders, along with countless others, believe Bitcoin’s brightest days lie ahead. Their price targets for a decade out stretch well into seven or eight figures. And many analysts believe it will be off to the races once the Fed pivots from its hawkish approach on interest rates.

“It feels like the massive headlines regarding the economy, regarding inflation, it feels like things are starting to calm down a little bit,” McCormack offered on last week’s program.

“You’re CPI is coming down a little bit, but you have to remember, prices are still going up. Prices are still going up. It’s the rate at which they’re going up, and that’s really important for people to understand that difference,” Pysh said, pointing out that the world economy may be at a breaking point. “And so the speed at which they’re going up is slowing, but I don’t think they’re aggressively – I would call that deceleration – the deceleration is not really all that much.” 

In other words, Pysh says regulators are between a rock and a hard place because their actions, thus far, haven’t reduced inflation as quickly as they’d hoped.

“There’s nothing I could tell you that they could be doing better because the situation is so dire,” Pysh said. “If you put me in the seat at any of these central banks, I don’t know that I could really do policy different. And this is a huge, like, foot stomp for me. I love banging up central bankers with the best of em. But if you’re really going to get at the inherent problem, you have to go upstream of that. And when you go upstream of that, it’s fiscal appropriators that are the actual problem.” 

In essence, he believes those who spend the money – politicians and bureaucrats – are mostly to blame, for spending more than is coming in. Across the United States, and across the globe.

“The central banker is the one who’s adjusting the money supply to try to work with what’s being spent, the fiscal appropriators,” Pysh said.

It may be that both the near-term and long-term future for Bitcoin, and the world economy as a whole, hinge on the actions of these people. 

Appropriators, regulators and central bankers. All eyes remain on them.

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BNM Writers

Jack Swanson Found Success in Radio Much More Than Happiness

Swanson worked at WLS from 1973-79. Swanson said it was a radio era that included Larry Lujack, Fred Winston, Tommy Edwards. Legendary personalities.

Jim Cryns

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I’ve had more jobs than Jack Swanson has had hot dinners. Unlike Swanson, I’ve been canned from a few. There’s always the job you loved, and sometimes you wish you could go back. 

“I quit WLS and in many ways I regret it to this day,” Swanson said. “I quit every radio job I had, never fired. If today I could wave a magic wand I would have stayed at WLS in Chicago.”

Swanson worked at WLS from 1973-79. Swanson said it was a radio era that included Larry Lujack, Fred Winston, Tommy Edwards. Legendary personalities.

“One of the best collections of talent ever,” he said. “As my career went on, I was generally more successful than I was happy. I found I always performed better when I was around really crazy-talented people. I think you’ll always perform better on a great team.”

Swanson explained that just doesn’t happen today as great teams are very expensive. 

He worked at KGO a total of three times. Every year he’d sit down with the GM and there was a ‘come to Jesus moment.’ 

“As PD, it was not uncommon to get a budget dropped in front of me and the GM would glare at me and say, ‘Do you have everything single thing in this budget you need to become number one?’ Now that’s a whole new kind of pressure.”

Reading between the lines, Swanson said what they were really saying was, ‘You’d better bring me a winner.’ To accomplish that, you always need a few dollars more. When you have the appropriate budget, you get better performance all around. 

“From your on-air people, producers, and other staff. It’s a great environment when people feel appreciated. Like they’re being paid what they’re worth.”

The third time at KGO, Swanson quit after only three weeks. 

“I just wanted out,” he explained. “I had a three-year contract so that complicated things. The nice people at Cumulus indicated they might sue me if I left. I figured, ‘Have at it. If you want to sue an old man, do your worst. The truth is I didn’t think they knew what they were doing. I had to negotiate a departure.” 

Talking about KGO and their abrupt shift of formats, Swanson said he thinks ownership got desperate. “I don’t fault what they did. They were in a corner. Their money people were getting very edgy. But what fills that gap?”

Unfortunately, San Francisco currently has no local talk station despite being the fourth-largest radio market in the country. KSFO is also programmed, all syndicated. 

“Tragically, it’s all radio from a computer,” Swanson said. “Radio is a crazy business. People don’t want to invest because they generally want to keep their money.”

He said all the time people say radio isn’t what it used to be.

“Not even close,” Swanson said. “It doesn’t mean I don’t honor and respect radio. You should let your talent shine wherever you can let it shine. Back in the day at WLS, it was possible to make money. It’s not really possible any more. It’s like 1,000 points of light. Anybody can go on Amazon and purchase a Mr. Microphone and have their own show and talk to the world.”

The fact that podcasts are the new popular kid on the block isn’t lost on Swanson. With 2.4 millions podcasts today and counting, Swanson said there are just too many, a sensory overload.

“They’re like exploding stars, scattering around and trying to find an audience,” he explained. “There are only so many hours in a day.”

His resume is extensive; VP and general manager at KING AM/FM, VP of programming at KGO/KSFO, director of news and programming at KCBS Radio.

Swanson began his radio career as a news anchor and reporter for WLS Radio in Chicago before becoming the News and Program Director for KGO. 

“While I was at WLS, it was owned by ABC, and we had 25 full-time new people.”

He is the recipient of numerous awards including the best radio program director in America, and the best news talk PD for four years and the best programmer for three years by Radio Ink and Radio & Records.

Having spent most of his time in major markets, Swanson has great respect for people who spent their careers in small, or medium markets.

“If you’re on the endless chase to be in a bigger market, when you get there it can be hollow. If you find a city and community you like, it can become a great home forever. There aren’t any gold watches in radio. My advice to talent is to listen to your stomach. There’s nothing more important.”

Some people are naturally good at what they do, but a PD can only take you so far.

“It’s like being a football coach,” Swanson said. “You can’t make your quarterback a star, he has to do that himself. My career has been satisfying. I’d say it has been 85-90 percent luck. Being in the right place at the right time. That’s absolutely true for my career.”

He’s had great success in radio. But now, things are different. 

“I definitely wouldn’t encourage young people to get in the business or pursue a journalism curriculum,” Swanson said. “Years ago, I had a group of students come into KCBS, journalism students from the University of California. About 13 kids came in and said they wanted to see the real world of broadcast journalism. They asked me for advice and I told them if they were intent on the degree, for God’s sake don’t go on for a masters in journalism. One of the students told me they were all in the masters program. I don’t want to say we’re dumb in radio, but we’re not the smartest people.”

When KGO was part of the ABC group, and ABC was sold to Disney. Swanson was stunned. They sold all the stations for a great deal of money.

“I asked why they were doing it? This was 20 years ago. An executive at ABC told me radio had no growth potential and that’s what they wanted. They took all the money from the sale, billions of dollars, and put it into Pixar. While I was angry at Disney, they saw the writing on the wall.” 

In 1994, Swanson was to program KSFO. He’d done that once and didn’t want to go back. 

“KSFO was a dog, but the essentially offered me a blank check to fix it. So I went back. Within a year I took the station from 36th in the market to number two, just behind KGO.”

Swanson said they went all conservative at KSFO. This was before the Fox News Channel. Limbaugh existed, but there were no all conservative stations with the exception of one in Seattle.

“There were mostly religious stations with conservative hosts, but nobody was listening,” Swanson said. “They waved the flag and I personally didn’t know people like that. Suddenly there was  a need to provide a place where people could say what they never dared to say out loud.”

Anybody in the business will tell you the line between journalist and opinion is evaporating. “They are broadcasting information that we want to hear to make us feel right about our beliefs,” Swanson said. “People may not believe when someone tells them they love them, but they always believe them when they say they’re right.”

He said when he went to school, students tried to find the truth as best they could understand it. Swanson said he’s not so sure that can happen anymore.

“When I started in news, I had an AP and UPI teletype in my station,” he explained. “I knew everything that was going on and listeners didn’t know any breaking news. We had no morning news, no news channels, newspapers came out twice a day. Radio was the only way to learn immediate things. What a responsibility it was.” 

Swanson said the most important things politicians can do today is listen. He explained they stopped listening a couple of years into their careers.

“They no longer hear their constituents. They just say what their base wants them to say.”

Does he have an encounter with someone that he holds dear? Not really. 

“I did encounter Richard Nixon once,” Swanson said. This was during the heat of Watergate and Nixon was in Madison. 

“The President was walking toward Air Force One and the national press was all over him,” Swanson said. “With Watergate crushing him, He wasn’t about to talk with anybody. I was behind the press line and I yelled out, ‘Mr. President, your tan looks great. Where did you go to get it?”

Swanson said Nixon stopped, pivoted and looked his way.

“Nixon turned around and came toward the press line and we chatted a bit. I think he just liked the fact that someone wanted to talk with him as a human being.”

For a moment, Nixon wasn’t such a Tricky Dick. 

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BNM Writers

The Donald Trump Conundrum For News/Talk Personalities

I would suggest that in order to not risk alienating either side of the audience, that we guide the conversation this early in the process.

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With 721 days to go until the 2024 Election, Donald Trump decided it was time for him to officially jump into the race. He could not wait any longer. And on Tuesday night, in a speech that lasted more than an hour, he decided to move ahead and officially kick off 2024, one week after the 2022 midterms ended. 

This has created an interesting dynamic for talk radio. Not only does it give reason to quickly move on from the over-analyzing of dissecting what happened in the midterms, but Trump is generally good for business, especially when he has been (mostly) off the radar the last two years. 

And as is always the case with Trump, the opinions and emotions will be strong across the aisle.

But with the opinions and emotions so strong across the aisle, what’s the play for News/Talk hosts?

Many are comparing this to 2015-16, when conservative-leaning media broke down pro-Trump or never-Trump, and it changed the landscape and careers for some, depending on which side of the aisle one landed on. 

However, there are stark differences this time around.

Those who would call themselves conservatives would all agree that the policies implemented by Donald Trump were a success. Whether it was economic policy, foreign policy, trade policy, or judges appointed, the 45th President kept to his word on all of the above and they were all highly-successful, especially before the pandemic. 

There is no true “never-Trump” angle amongst conservatives like there was in 2016. The question this time around is simply: “Is Trump the best person to move Trumpism forward? Or is there a better option to keep the movement moving ahead?”

That’s a very different conversation amongst the news/talk audience, that if handled properly, should not result in audiences turning on their favorite personalities, regardless of which side of the conversation one might come down on.

For these reasons, I don’t foresee a “civil war” amongst conservatives in the way we saw it six years ago. 

And for our audiences, there will be hosts who lean more Pro-Trump or Pro-DeSantis (or whoever else), but I would suggest that in order to not risk alienating either side of the audience, that we guide the conversation this early in the process.

That doesn’t mean not having an opinion. That’s ultimately our job. But if we form that opinion, on either side, through the prism of, “We’ve still got 18-24 months of this, things will change, and here are the pros and cons of what I’m thinking…”, it creates an environment that invites listener interaction and makes your show the place to voice opinions on both sides of the issue.

Also, that audience interaction will remain our great leverage in this conversation that cable news, newspapers, and social media can’t duplicate with the same intimacy. So let’s take advantage of it and it will also give us an on-the-ground feel for where the audience is in our market in a way the political consulting class can only dream of.

That’s how we can win this 2024 news cycle, that, yes, believe it or not, has already started. 

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