Monthly Archives: March 2008

Amazon’s Kindle

Amazon has been looking for more ways to market content, and they’ve come up with one. Amazon’s Kindle is a device that provides e-book content, but goes one step further: instead of cartridges or downloads to your PC that have to be transferred to your Kindle device, Kindle comes with its own wireless connectivity. This means that you can order and receive content for Kindle right from Kindle. That’s based on EVDO, so pretty much anywhere you get a digital cell phone signal is Kindle-ready. Here’s something they got right in this: the wireless access back to Amazon’s Kindle store is not billed, nor is browsing Wikipedia. Now, they do want about $400 for the Kindle reader and $10 each for downloads of New York Times bestsellers, so certainly they don’t plan on losing any money in this proposition.

Speaking of not losing money, the following Amazon Associate link will not only provide you with a way of ordering your own Kindle, it also nets me a 10% referral fee. So if just ten of you buy one via my link, I will be able to afford one of my own. (Currently it is sold with free two-day shipping.)

The Amazon Kindle page has various video endorsements and a 30-inch drop test to watch, as well as listing various books, newspapers, and weblogs that can be delivered to Kindle. The user reviews mostly are in the positive, but you’ll probably want to have a look through several before making a purchase decision.

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Flunked, Not Expelled: Can’t Get Buzz? Offer More Kickbacks

The promoters for “Expelled” seem to be having difficulty convincing theaters to sign onto the regular distribution given the poor early reviews. Recent events have lifted traffic at ScienceBlogs far more than for their own movie site. Their answer to these distressing developments? Offer a kickback competition plan!

This new kickback scheme differs a bit from the old one. That one was offered to private schools and was fairly open-ended, though in the fine print one notes that the promoters have “limited” funds and will only pay out up to some nebulous, undisclosed amount in that kickback program. They are slow, but they are learning. This time, rather than offering something to all participants (modulo the “limited” funding), the new kickback system is a game where the promoters are offering a fixed number of fixed money prizes:

Fill out the information below to sign up for the Adopt-A-Theater campaign. We will help coordinate your group sale with the film distributors and theater chains based on group size, location, and availability. The top five largest groups to register and attend a screening will win $1000 each.

Yeah! A $5,000 pot is sure to help “Expelled” beat out “Fahrenheit 9/11″ in opening week statistics! Or not.

One wonders if that sort of thing is even legal in all fifty states.

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Curse of the Blue Streak

I mentioned in a previous post that we picked up a bunch of quail for training our Hungarian pointer (Vizsla), Ritka. Yesterday, Diane went out to the bird house we have for quail, chukar, and pigeons to collect a couple of quail. She discovered that an extra bird had gotten into the house, presumably through the pigeon door bobs: a Cooper’s hawk. It was helping itself to dinner in the form of one of the quail. We had to kill that quail; raptors are not always considerate of niceties like whether the prey item they are munching on is actually dead or not. I’m not sure what would have ensued if the Cooper’s hawk had been stuck in the house after its meal, since the pigeon door bobs are designed for one-way access. Would it have ended up perched next to the chukar? We don’t know exactly.

In any case, Diane managed to extract the Cooper’s hawk from the bird house. Somewhere in there, the Cooper’s hawk attached itself firmly to Diane’s right breast. This is something that you really don’t want to try at home. It took a while for it to decide that it could let go. Once we had the Cooper’s hawk free and clear of tender body parts, I got a few pictures. These will illustrate something about the nickname for these birds, “blue streak”. I set the camera to program mode, upping the bias for higher shutter speeds, set crop mode, and put it in continuous high-speed mode. With those settings, I expect to get 8 frames per second. First, a couple pics of bird in the hand:

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Now for the release… These are all the photos I have that have some part of the Cooper’s hawk in the frame. Mind you, I set up to capture frames quickly and was prepared to try to follow movement… and I failed. The blue streak is nothing if not fast.

There you have it. Instead of a long series showing the blue streak flying off into the sunset, I have about one second’s worth of it flying right out of the frame while I futilely try to keep up.

Diane’s impression at the time was that the Cooper’s hawk took a couple of flaps in the time it took for it to leave the immediate vicinity. The sequence of photos is telling me something different. Notice that the hawk’s wings are in almost the same position in every frame? I’m taking this to mean that there is almost one complete wingbeat per each photo, or almost 8 wingbeats per second from a standing start. Wow.

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Ed Brayton’s Talk on “Demonizing the ACLU”

Yesterday, Diane and I took a bit of a road trip.

First up was a visit to Holland, Michigan, where we picked up 60 quail for training Ritka with. Diane is hoping to have Ritka ready for field trials come this fall.

Then it was off to downtown Grand Rapids. We parked at City Women’s Club on East Fulton and walked down to the One Trick Pony restaurant to meet with Ed and various other people associated with the Center for Inquiry. The food there is good and they serve pretty large portions. Both Diane and I get tempted by that to eat a bit more than we ought to. We had a pleasant time talking with Ed, Jeff Seaver, Carl Bajema, Greg Forbes, and a few other people whose names I didn’t catch. Then we headed back to the City Women’s Club for the talk.

Ed got his laptop set up with his PowerPoint presentation and I got my camera ready. I took a few posed shots of Ed, since he wants a new head shot for his weblog. I switched over to the 70-200mm f/2.8 VR lens and bumped the ISO up to 800 for available light shots during the talk.

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Ed’s talk was on “Demonizing the ACLU” and how the religious right has consistently mischaracterized the ACLU and failed to credit the ACLU for acting in cases where the religious right and the ACLU share an interest. There was a lot of material that was new to me. Ed systematically tackled the urban legend of the religious right when it comes to the ACLU.

First up was the “The ACLU is a Commie organization”. This is based upon Roger Baldwin, founder of the ACLU, having been a socialist. The rest of the story involved how Baldwin, after 1939, purged the ACLU of Communists on the governing board and had the charter changed so that totalitarians of any sort were not eligible for membership. And how Baldwin publicly criticized Communist states. And the book Baldwin wrote on how Communism was bad for free societies. Etc. Why don’t the folks in the religious right bother to talk about those facts? Ed brought up a theme that ran through the evening’s talk: Trashing the ACLU helps the religious right bottom line. The ACLU provide convenient bogeymen, and people sympathetic to the religious right tend to open up their wallets and give, and give, time and again, when they are told that this or that organization is fighting the good fight against the depraved minions of darkness at the ACLU.

The Skokie incident where the ACLU defended the right of Nazis to march through Skokie, Illinois demonstrated principled defense of the bill of rights. Ed pointed out that the lead attorney on that case for the ACLU was Jewish, and made clear that they were defending their client’s right to assemble, not the content or position that their client took. Principle costs sometimes, and if I recall correctly, Ed noted that the ACLU lost a third of their membership over disagreements about having taken on that case.

Ed made a great point about how there are two aspects to religion and rights in the first amendment, that the government is prohibited from endorsing a particular religious view and that individuals have the right to practice religion as they choose, the free exercise right. The religious right goes a long way in vilification of the ACLU, Ed noted, by highlighting ACLU cases where the ACLU opposes government endorsement of religion and acting as if those cases meant that the ACLU opposed individual free exercise of religion. The truth, of course, comes through clearly in the many cases where the ACLU has stepped in to protect free exercise.

There was the obligatory slide featuring Chuck Norris and commentary by Ed on the content of a column Norris wrote for WorldNetDaily. It showed Norris standing in front of a huge billowing USA flag holding two handguns, almost like Yosemite Sam from old Warner Brothers cartoons. One comment of Ed’s was that it didn’t seem like Norris was doing much to turn the other cheek in that pose.

In the Q&A period, someone asked about the Supreme Court, and we almost got a second talk from Ed on that topic. It was impressive to see Ed go off to the races with detailed analysis of the post-O’Connor court and how Justice Kennedy is now the swing vote on church-state separation cases.

I mentioned the bit of over-eating before. Diane had not felt well through the talk, and given that she had classes to teach early in the day, we took our leave after the talk and didn’t go off to the pizza joint that is the usual post-talk hangout for CfI events.

My hat’s off to Ed for yet another sterling public presentation.

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Remembering Rosalind Franklin

I heard a snippet on the radio, by Garrison Keillor if I heard it correctly, discussing an event leading to the discovery of the structure of DNA. The story is familiar, with Watson and Crick having been provided with data, specifically Rosalind Franklin’s photograph 51, that permitted them to leap ahead in the race to elucidate the structure of DNA. According to Keillor, once informed by the photograph, Watson drew a picture on a piece of newspaper while on a train with Crick. They utilized their physical model materials back in the lab to confirm the initial insight, and shortly afterward published their paper in Nature. Rosalind Franklin may not have been aware of the crucial role her own effort played in helping Watson and Crick steal a march on Linus Pauling. That aspect of this affair is arguable.

What isn’t arguable is that the specific way in which the structure of DNA was elucidated, at the time it was, was crucially dependent upon the excellent technique Franklin used in producing clear X-ray crystallography. There was plenty of X-ray crystallography of DNA to look at, but Franklin produced a better image, and to Watson at least this was sufficient to trigger the critical insight.

While much has been written about the role of chauvinism and feminism in denying Franklin a higher profile in the discovery, I instead want to explore another aspect of discrimination that I find no less deplorable. That aspect would be the common elitism that draws a line between the research roles of scientists qua scientists and “technicians”. In general, the way in which credit has been apportioned in the past has been that credit has been artificially restricted to a fraction of people who could claim a significant role in the production of knowledge. There are legitimate issues here, as in how to avoid a heap paradox (not everyone at a university need be included in the author list). But the cultural pressure here has less to do with such issues and more to do with aggrandizing the credit given to those who remain on the author list. This has something to do with lazy administrators who prefer simplicity in evaluation (“count up the number of single-author papers and multi-author papers separately”). One of the fields in which this trimming of credit has been curtailed to some degree is molecular biology and especially genomics, where the effort needed to produce a report of, say, the human genome simply cannot be trimmed down to one or a handful of researchers. Usually, though, critical or crucial contributions to scientific research have been relegated to notes in an “Acknowledgments” section of a paper, or omitted entirely, if the role of the contributor can somehow be construed as being that of a “technician”. This is something that I have personally observed happen time and time again, and can recognize in historical examples such as the diminishment of Franklin’s role in finding the structure of DNA. Being included in an “Acknowledgments” section of a papers earns someone pretty much nil credit for any meaningful review.

I think that a significant factor in the dynamic that shut out Rosalind Franklin has to do with classing her not primarily as a colleague in scientific research, but as a technician putting on airs. This is not to deny the chauvinism/feminism angle, but rather to give some consideration to yet another dynamic at work that has an impact on how credit for scientific work is apportioned — or excluded.

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Frank Hagan’s Point

Check out frankhagan.com » Quote Mining Examples. That’s a follow-up comment to a post about a documented quote mine by the Discovery Institute’s Casey Luskin.

Hagan simply cannot overlook the fact that antievolution materials and antievolution advocates often do not tell the truth.

Its uncomfortable agreeing with the strident atheists and hostile agnostics, and they certainly don’t welcome me to their fold. But lies are the not the product of the Spirit of God. They are a product of our own failed natures at best.

One reason I reconsidered my position on the origins was that I found lies in the Creationist’s literature when I started checking out the original sources. I encourage Christians to visit The Quote Mine Project and see for themselves.

Some time ago, I wrote the following:

The topic of debate that Dr. Silver reported was “Is ID science?” One approach is to show that the claims of ID fail as science. That’s how I approached the task I had in 2001, and that’s the approach of Why Intelligent Design Fails from Rutgers University Press. The other approach is to show that religion underlies “intelligent design”. In 2002, I gave a talk on evolution and “intelligent design” at the CSICOP Fourth World Skeptics Conference. In that one, I did show how the “intelligent design” movement was run by religious people for religious purposes. And that’s the approach of Creationism’s Trojan Horse from Oxford University Press.

But in neither case was my goal to tell the followers of ID that their own views of religion were wrong. And it is that part of Dr. Silver’s first report that strikes me as not just poor tactics, but as Lenny Flank notes, directly counter to the cause of promoting good science education. It sure wasn’t something that would separate ID advocates from their followers. It isn’t even exposing the ID movement as inherently religious, which I have used as a tactic myself (CSICOP 2002). If you want to drive a wedge between an audience of evangelical Christians and the professionals in the ID movement, you need a third approach: show that the ID advocate on stage with you has been lying to his followers. Show misquote after misquote; demonstrate error after checkable error, and make the audience understand that if the ID advocate claims that the sky is blue, their next step had better be to look out the window to see for themselves. Evangelicals do want to take Christ’s message to the world, but they also have a deep loathing of liars. Of the three approaches, the last one requires the most preparation and care in delivery.

Dr. Silver’s approach, on the other hand, requires very little in the way of preparation. One does not need to acquaint oneself with the arguments of the opposition, with the history of the opposition, or even the failings of the opposition. Irrelevancy does have some benefits after all. But the downside is that simply doing forty minutes of religious nay-saying does not convince people that “intelligent design” is not science; it does not convince people that “intelligent design” is another religious form of antievolution; and it does not convince people that “intelligent design” advocates are unreliable sources of information. It does help to convince those people that the “intelligent design” advocates are right when they cast the issues in terms of atheists attempting to indoctrinate kids.

I came in for a fair amount of criticism from antievolution cheerleaders, mostly because they mistakenly thought I was talking about inventing stuff about IDC advocates lying. Why invent something that exists in copious abundance? But beyond that, I’d just like to note that Frank Hagan is an example of the sort of person who may not agree on various points of technical discussion, but who can readily appreciate when it is pointed out that one side of this socio-political controversy can’t seem to do much of anything without the aid of fibbing.

And, Frank, if you happen to read this, not everyone actively opposing the antievolution movement is an atheist or “hostile agnostic”.

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AP Story on Myers is Just Right

There’s an Associated Press story hitting the papers about the “Expelled” producers excluding PZ Myers from a screening of a film he appears in and is thanked in the credits for.

It’s a filler-size article, just right for one of those human-interest columns many newspapers put together. It is written at about an sixth-grade reading level. It doesn’t have room for details and doesn’t give those. The first sentence is the capsule summary:

P.Z. Myers was interviewed in a movie. He’s even thanked in the credits. He just wasn’t allowed to actually watch it.

The word “hypocrisy” does not appear in it, but anybody reading the article can reach that conclusion pretty readily.

This is exactly the message that should be getting out. Did you hear what those producers of “Expelled” did? That was unfair.

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A Friday Night Outing

Spring has arrived on the calendar. Here in Michigan, what arrived was a heavy snowstorm dropping about four inches of new snow on things.

Ed Brayton came to Lansing this evening for a performance by a friend of his, Don Reese. I got invited to tag along. We met for dinner at “Smokey Bones” at the Eastwood Town Center. I was unfashionably late, having left in time to get there — if the roads were clear and dry, which they weren’t. It took the better part of an hour to make the trip I usually do in about fifteen minutes.

Don is a stand-up comic who has appeared on A&E, MTV, and worked with Adam Sandler. Don is about my height and weighs, I don’t know, somewhere in the upper 200 pound range. Don’s response to male pattern baldness was a razor. Ed and Don engaged in a batch of shoptalk plus discussion of various things about the entertainment industry, but mostly things to do with the stand-up comedy business and people they knew. I couldn’t aid that much at all, so I primarily applied myself to a beef brisket sandwich.

Eventually we parted ways with Don, who needed to go change wardrobe for his appearance. Ed and I went out to our cars and performed the ritual of brushing off snow and scraping off ice so common to early spring here in Michigan. Then we were off to Connxtions Comedy Club in Lansing. There were three acts, and Don may kick me next time I see him, for though Don made it part of his act to bring up the tendency for audiences not to remember the names of the people who just made them laugh, I am not at all sure that I have remembered the names of the first two comedians up on stage. As near as I remember, they were Andy Badinga and Marvin Todd. I’m sure Ed can correct me, and I’ll update this once I do get that correction.

Ed and I somehow got the front center table. Usually I prefer being more inconspicuous, especially where live comedy is concerned, but this didn’t have any untoward consequences this evening. Andy’s set was pleasant, if a bit rough on the delivery. Marvin Todd had an edgier routine, often playing off the mismatch between his skin color and the preponderant white-bread appearance of the audience, but handled with an experienced delivery. Todd also went between some self-deprecation and some bits where, thank goodness, another part of the audience came in for attention. A group had wandered in late and were fairly noisy in rearranging tables and chairs to suit them. For the rest of Todd’s routine, he would intersperse some vocal sound effects mimicking the moving chair noise, eliciting a “Sorry!” from one of the girls in the group.

Don Reese’s routine was thoroughly professional and while it was clear that Andy and Marvin have talent, Don certainly brings talent and polish to an act that is nonstop laugh fest. Don’s brand of humor ranges from some medium raunchy stuff common to a lot of comedy to allusions that challenge the cultural literacy of the audience. For instance (on the allusions, not the raunchy stuff), there were the references to trying to keep from offending an audience of senior citizens and having to skip his material on the Hindenburg and the Teapot Dome Scandal. Quite a bit of Don’s humor concerns his imposing physical appearance that Connxtions describes thus: “Looking like the illegitimate son of Uncle Fester and G. Gordon Liddy…”. Since he’s shaved off the mustache, I think the G. Gordon Liddy thing can be retired. But a part of Don’s routine that I particularly enjoy is his exploration of a common science fiction B-movie dialogue cliche’, having a scientist exclaim at some point, “Why, that’s fantastic!” This he folds into making the phrase relevant to more common experience, while defending the exclusivity of it. “Raspberry vinaigrette is salad dressing. It can be delicious, but it isn’t fantastic. Fantastic is having a Viking materialize in your living room because of a botched time-travel experiment.”

But I think a short summary of Don’s performance with, “Why, that’s fantastic!” isn’t really a stretch.

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Expelled from “Expelled”

This is pretty much a placeholder for a huge developing story. PZ Myers of Pharyngula went to an advance screening of “Expelled”, only to be spotted by a producer and disinvited, via armed security guards, on the spot. Richard Dawkins was there as PZ’s guest and was not challenged at the entry. At the question and answer period, Dawkins and “Expelled” producer Mark Mathis had a bit of an exchange, though it sounds like Mathis used his control of the venue to ridicule Dawkins yet again.

Kristine has a first-person report of the incident.

I hope to have more time to write about this tomorrow. Basically, the behavior of the “Expelled” producers and promoters demonstrates exactly the sort of behavior they putatively argue against. There is rampant hypocrisy in outright lying about your project to attract prominent people to interview, then exclude those people from an advance showing of the film they are featured in. This is simply disgusting behavior on the part of Premise Media. I find it hard to put it any other way.

Enough for now, good night.

Update: PZ had a second blog post giving some new information. Unsurprisingly, the reaction on the IDC cheerleading side was to quickly try to href=”http://groups.google.com/group/talk.origins/msg/a51817a1226de2f2?dmode=source”>squink their way out of the mess.

The line from producer Mark Mathis that PZ was not “invited” to the screening because he didn’t have a ticket and was thus a gatecrasher is a transparent piece of flimflam. The “Expelled” RSVP website offers a place at a screening, and the email response says that no ticket is needed for admission. I RSVP’d at one of the “Expelled” showings myself this morning, and here is the email response I got:

Dear Wesley Elsberry,

This is a confirmation of your RSVP for the free “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” movie screening. Venue information is below.

[...]

Number of seats reserved: 1

YOUR NAME WILL BE ON A LIST AT THE DOOR. NO TICKET IS NEEDED. IDs WILL BE CHECKED.

NO BAGS, CELL PHONES OR RECORDING DEVICES WILL BE ALLOWED IN THE THEATER. PLEASE LEAVE THEM IN YOUR CAR.

More information about “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed” can be found at http://expelledthemovie.com; http://g\
etexpelled.com

Sincerely,
Motive Entertainement

If you need to cancel or make an important change to an existing RSVP, please email jessica@motivemarketing.biz. Be sure to reference the screening city, date, and time in your email.

Emphasis added.

I plan to carry a printout of this email with me, plus a bill for my travel expenses if I am refused admission at the door.

Then there is the issue raised by Kristine concerning the bait-and-switch used by Mathis to secure prominent people’s permission to interview them for the film. Mathis’ original requests for interviews described the movie project as being titled “Crossroads” and neglected to mention the sort of confrontational approach that marks “Expelled”. At the Q&A last night, Mathis is reported as saying the following in response to a question about “Crossroads” and making good-faith requests:

I asked Mathis to give (as his film does not) a concise definition of intelligent design and to tell us about some little film called “Crossroads.” Mathis did finally get ID right (irreducible complexity, Dembki’s improbabilities, blah, blah) and then launches in with “And if you know anything about filmmaking, there’s something called a working title…” Yeah, I do know, thanks. I’ve been in films. One of them even won an award (ifilm.com) and filled a few theatres. Without your police state shenanigans I might add, Mark Mathis.

There is a fundamental problem with Mathis’ reply: it is contradicted by the facts.

Fact 1: “expelledthemovie.com” domain was registered on 2007/03/01.

Fact 2: “crossroadsthemovie.*” and “crossroads-the-movie.*” domains are not registered by anyone. (“crossroadsmovie.com” is registered, but has been so since 2001 and obviously refers to an unrelated project.)

Fact 3: Mathis’ requests for interviews are dated after the purchase of the “expelledthemovie.com” domain.

Winston Churchill famously called this sort of thing “terminological inexactitude”. I am not speaking to Parliament, and I can call Mathis’ ruse for what it is, a lie deliberately, willfully, and maliciously told. I plan to bring printouts of the “whois” information and all the interview request emails I can gather to the screening and make this my question to Mathis at the Q&A.

That’s all for the moment.

Update: The “Expelled” producers have employed a contact-hiding service to expunge most data from “whois” lookups on their domain. But the Tucows registration date still shows early 2007 as the domain’s creation date.

Registrar of Record: TUCOWS, INC.
Record last updated on 16-Feb-2008.
Record expires on 02-Mar-2009.
Record created on 02-Mar-2007.

Did I just hear a distant, “Curses! Foiled again!” ?

Note: The Bad Idea blog covered the domain name registration discrepancy and a number of other clues that the “Expelled” producers were not on the up-and-up several months ago.

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Florida: The Hypocrisy of the “Academic Irresponsibility” Advocates

Michael Mayo’s column in the Orlando Sun-Sentinel points out a basic problem with the “academic freedom”/”academic irresponsibility” bills in the Florida legislature: why is there only proposed “freedom” for teachers on one topic?

“This protects the freedom of speech for teachers in the classroom,” Hays said. “I want teachers to be able to show those holes in Darwin’s theory of evolution without fear of chastisement.”

Great. Then why not have provisions covering teachers in all subjects, such as health teachers who want to discuss a full range of information in sex education classes, like birth control and abortion.

“That’s more of a parental responsibility than a school responsibility,” Hays said.

What kind of academic freedom is that?

Good question, Michael.

Will substantive answers follow? I don’t think so.

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Lauri Lebo’s Book, “The Devil in Dover”

During the Kitzmiller v. Dover Area School District case in 2004 to 2005, Lauri Lebo covered the story for the York Daily Record. Lebo was one of the most consistent journalists writing on the topic anywhere; she certainly demonstrated a facility with the facts of the case and was not afraid to write about what they implied.

That willingness to recall the past and apply it to the present put Lebo at odds with the editorial staff at the York Daily Record (YDR), whose notion of journalistic objectivity was closer to simply recording some quotes from opponents on a topic and relaying those pretty much directly to the public, with no evaluation of whether what was being said now was inconsistent with things asserted by the same party previously.

That aspect of Lebo’s experience came to a head when Lebo was invited to talk at an evolutionary biology conference about her experience well after the end of the trial, and she accepted. The YDR editorial staff apparently felt that this was a betrayal of journalistic objectivity, and, as noted in the PBS Nova broadcast “Judgment Day”, Lebo now works at the family radio station.

Another thread is the estrangement from Lauri’s fundamentalist father over the course of the case and trial. This is part of what made the whole case intensely personal as well as professionally challenging.

Now Lauri Lebo has a book shortly to be released, “The Devil in Dover“, that brings Lauri’s personal and professional perspectives together in looking at the Kitzmiller case and its effect within Dover and surrounding communities. The link goes to Amazon, where you can make a pre-order for the book and get it as soon as it comes off the press.

Oh, yes, there’s another reason I like to note this forthcoming book. I was fortunate enough to be able to provide Lauri with a photograph of Tammy Kitzmiller in the press scrum following the end of the trial to use on the front dust cover for the book. While I’ve had photographs published in a number of different venues, this marks the first book cover for me.

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Florida: Thank You, Mr. Steele

Mr. Jason Steele, candidate for the Florida legislature, made a response to a Florida Today editorial. Mr. Steele went so far as issuing a press release to expound his views.

Florida Today has printed an opinion stating the ultrasound is an ideological “ploy” in an effort to block a woman’s right to choose. In the same editorial a number of issues that the editorial board has deemed “frivolous bills” such as insuring creationism is included in classrooms and a person’s right to bear arms was also labeled as “wasting time”.

“As a ‘social conservative’ it is my opinion that allowing for diverging ideas is the stuff this country was founded on. Creationism is a part of many individuals’ beliefs and the editorial staff should not fear this inclusion in the classroom. Freedom of speech is a fundamental right that does not only belong to the media but to the people as a whole,” said Mr. Steele.

Mr. Steele is a former legislator as well as a current candidate. I want to thank Mr. Steele for being so diligent in documenting that the current legislation on “academic freeedom” aka “academic irresponsibility” is well understood to have a religious purpose and not a secular one. This should be a particularly effective piece of evidence whenever one of the possible cases goes to court.

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Mac OS X Leopard

I’m using a MacBook Pro laptop as my primary development platform for work. The project has sprung for the OS upgrade to the new-ish release of Mac OS X, version 10.5.1, or “Leopard”.

So today I identified a hard disk I could erase, plugged it into an external USB case, hooked that up to the laptop, and cleared enough free space to accommodate the upgrade process. I checked “Software Update” and got the 10.4 install up to date. After a reboot, I started the upgrade. It restarted again and began the process. I left the whole thing on its own for a couple of hours. When I came back to it, I had a login prompt. It stepped through a wizard-style process for registering the upgrade, then rebooted one more time. At that point, I was back to usual laptop function, but now with Leopard running the show. Xcode is OS version specific, so that had to be installed from the DVD, too. There were optional updates for the standard Mac applications, so I installed those, too.

All in all, the indications are that it was a pretty smooth in-place upgrade.

I’ll have to see have my experience holds up following that. I certainly wouldn’t do that with Windows; whenever I do a Windows install, I take things down to a new partitioning and clean install.

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Florida: John West Spins Wildly to Cover Luskin’s Back

Yesterday, I wrote about the Discovery Institute’s game plan in Florida, which is to recruit teachers to push their drivel in schools. Casey Luskin had let the cat out of the bag during a press conference, saying that of course “intelligent design” creationism constituted “scientific information” that would be protected by bills filed in the Florida legislature. John West is quick off the mark with a damage-control post on the DI blog, but along the way he confirms exactly what my analysis yesterday said.

Here’s what I said:

The only reason the Discovery Institute makes a big deal about not “mandating” instruction in “intelligent design” creationism (IDC) is that a law doing so could be challenged immediately without waiting for it to actually affect a classroom. By relying upon the known demographic that 30% or so of science teachers would be totally on board with slipping in bogus old religiously-motivated antievolution arguments, like the content of “intelligent design” creationism, the Discovery Institute is able to recruit a substantial proportion of science teachers into providing lawsuit fodder at some later time. Add on to that the fact that in many cases even if a teacher is blatantly proselytizing in a classroom, it is often difficult to find someone with standing that wants to go through the process of becoming a plaintiff. By not “mandating” IDC, they get a chunk of science teachers purposely passing their anti-science drivel on to children, most of whom will never be challenged as they should be.

And here is John West spinning like he usually does:

Right now, as Luskin correctly pointed out at the press conference, there is a debate raging over whether intelligent design is science. Scientists and philosophers who support ID certainly think it is scientific in precisely the same way Darwinism is scientific. But the proposed Academic Freedom Act does not wade into the design debate one way or another. If and when ID supporters are able to win the debate over whether ID science, then by definition any scientific information about it that pertains to biological or chemical evolution would be protected—just like any other scientific information relevant to those topics. But, again, the bill doesn’t decide the debate over whether ID is science. It leaves that debate alone.

So who would decide what is scientific under the bill?

The same people who currently must make that determination: science teachers themselves in consultation with their science curriculum staff and their school boards. And if they happen to promote something that isn’t science, we can be sure that groups like the ACLU will be ready to police their activities—just like they do now.

Just as I said, this DI-sponsored and orchestrated effort seeks to set up teachers as lawsuit fodder. But beyond that, what West says deserves nothing but sarcasm.

Sure, all those teachers are going to “consult” with curriculum staff and school boards before sticking exactly what they want to in the science classroom… riiiigggghhhhhtttt. The “academic irresponsibility” bills also say nothing about any procedure of consultation for teachers — or students, don’t forget the students — to follow before interrupting science class for non-science time. Plus, we know how teachers insert religiously-motivated antievolution materials into classrooms, with the prime example of the Discovery Institute’s own pet teacher, Roger DeHart. DeHart “consulted” with the administration over materials, once students and parents complained. DeHart then agreed to teach a particular curriculum, but once on his own in the classroom, he completely blew off what he had told the administration. Check out what DeHart, as responsible-teacher-example-number-one, wrote on a student’s test when the student disagreed with him:

Interesting. Your belief sounds biggoted.

Spelling error as in the original.

The science domain experts and education experts in Florida have already identified science classroom content. Do we really expect any random teacher to have a better understanding of both the core material and the pedagogy to trump that? This stuff from West and the DI is transparent flim-flam, just another page in the long-running farce that is religiously-motivated antievolution, now working on the third or fourth major strategy to pass off a sham as a legally permissible intrusion into science classrooms.

There is no “debate raging” over whether “intelligent design” creationism is science. There are a bunch of delusional people at the DI who think that crankery is “debate”. The 1997 “Naturalism, Theism, and the Scientific Enterprise” was a foray of the DI’s to attempt to get a philosophical imprimatur of scientific standing for “intelligent design”. Those of us who came there as critics immediately took up a two-question response that could stand as the enduring legacy of the NTSE conference: “What would an ‘intelligent design’ hypothesis look like? How could it be tested?” They had no answers to those questions then, and they still have none now.

This wouldn’t be complete without taking up the final piece of spin from West’s screed:

Ironically, the only reason Florida Darwinists would have to fear that this bill might protect intelligent design somewhere down the road is if they already have concluded they cannot win the debate over whether ID is science. Indeed, by insisting that intelligent design must be covered by the bill, Darwinists in Florida seem to have admitted that despite their rhetoric, they really believe that intelligent design is science after all! And that may be the most telling admission in the entire debate.

Sorry, dude, but delusion doesn’t make a good premise for an argument. The bills don’t specify that materials taught will be accountable in any fashion, nor do the bills specify what is or isn’t “scientific information”. We already know that a substantial fraction of science teachers are themselves confused enough to think that bogus old religiously-motivated antievolution arguments, such as those peddled as the content of “intelligent design” creationism, represent some sort of “scientific information”. That confused teachers would bring non-science into the science classroom is a legitimate concern, since we have seen exactly that happen in the past. The “academic irresponsibility” bills make it that much more likely that such confused teachers — and students, don’t forget the students — will interrupt the limited class time available to insert their unaccountable, unscientific, and anti-science arguments for antievolution. We’ve seen it happen before; it certainly is no concession about the status of “intelligent design” creationism as recycled anti-science to say that these bills will be exploited by antievolutionists if passed.

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Florida: Luskin Lets Cat Out of Bag

Marc Caputo at the Miami Herald noticed something in a press conference featuring actor Ben Stein and Discovery Institute spokesperson Casey Luskin. It had to do with what, precisely, could be taught as protected speech under bills currently filed in the Florida legislature if they became law.

The religiously tinged evolution-questioning theory of Intelligent Design could more easily be brought up in public-school science classrooms under a proposed ”academic freedom” legislation being pushed by conservative lawmakers.

And it’s not just the ACLU saying it anymore.

A leading voice for the Intelligent Design movement acknowledged as much Wednesday by saying that the theory constitutes ”scientific information,” which the bill expressly and repeatedly says teachers should present in questioning and criticizing evolution without fear of persecution.

The remarks by Casey Luskin, an attorney with the Seattle-based Discovery Institute, were made during a press conference with actor-columnist-speechwriter-gameshow host Ben Stein, who’s exhibiting a documentary in support of the legislation.

The bill was drafted after the state Board of Education voted last month to include repeated mention of evolution and natural selection in state science standards for the first time in state history. The bill expressly bans the teaching of religious theories — which a federal court has ruled Intelligent Design is.

The Discovery Institute doesn’t want, it says, mandated teaching of “intelligent design”. They do want teachers and students to have complete immunity for bringing “intelligent design” creationism into science classrooms, either as “scientific information” or as simple disruptive tactics to distract from the curriculum that will express the recently adopted standards.

The only reason the Discovery Institute makes a big deal about not “mandating” instruction in “intelligent design” creationism (IDC) is that a law doing so could be challenged immediately without waiting for it to actually affect a classroom. By relying upon the known demographic that 30% or so of science teachers would be totally on board with slipping in bogus old religiously-motivated antievolution arguments, like the content of “intelligent design” creationism, the Discovery Institute is able to recruit a substantial proportion of science teachers into providing lawsuit fodder at some later time. Add on to that the fact that in many cases even if a teacher is blatantly proselytizing in a classroom, it is often difficult to find someone with standing that wants to go through the process of becoming a plaintiff. By not “mandating” IDC, they get a chunk of science teachers purposely passing their anti-science drivel on to children, most of whom will never be challenged as they should be.

The falsely so-called “academic freedom” bills aim to maximize the proportion of teachers that will participate in the Discovery Institute miseducation scheme and to extend the strategy to also recruit children into being as disruptive as possible whenever evolutionary science is a topic in a classroom. There’s already evidence that this is exactly what the DI wants in the PDFs they offer of what they think of as poser questions to be printed on labels and stuck in school biology textbooks. This, by the way, is also standard operating procedure for young-earth creationist advocacy groups, who urge parents to prepare their children to loudly challenge their teachers whenever evolution is mentioned in class.

The bills should be termed more accurately “academic irresponsibility” bills. The only purpose served is to spread confusion about the content and nature of science and to inculcate a distrust of science — and scientists — within students.

While Caputo is to be commended for the catch on Luskin letting slip the fact that the Discovery Institute believes that “intelligent design” creationism will be protected under either of the “academic irresponsibility” bills being considered, he did give them a pass on being the original source of the draft bill that two legislators filed versions of. That’s right, this entire kerfluffle is being engineered and orchestrated from Seattle, Washington. The various actions that we’ve seen of antievolution advocates spouting off about “academic freedom” during the science standards revision process has the DI fingerprints all over it. They have obvious “plants” in place, including “intelligent design” creationist advocate Fred Cutting, who acted as the conduit for an alternative draft of the science standards that would have incorporated the DI’s academic irresponsibility notions. It’s not like this information is going to go undiscovered if any such case goes to court. The contacts with the Discovery Institute will be a primary item for the legal discovery process to uncover at that time. At that point, we’ll be seeing Barbara Forrest or another expert witness who will testify as to the DI’s long plans for their governing goal:

To replace materialistic explanations with the theistic understanding that nature and human beings are created by God.

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Is There Something About Golf?

CBS Sports reports that Tripp Isenhour is being charged with killing a red-shouldered hawk on a golf course. Apparently, the hawk was making noise while Isenhour was trying to perform for a video production. It took shot after shot for a while, but Isenhour finally managed to bean the hawk in the head with a golf ball. Neither Isenhour nor any of his production crew figured out that this was a bad idea before he actually managed to fatally injure the hawk.

According to court documents, Isenhour got upset when a red-shouldered hawk began making noise, forcing another take. He began hitting balls at the bird, then 300 yards away, but gave up. Isenhour started again when the hawk moved within about 75 yards, Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officer Brian Baine indicated in a report.

Isenhour allegedly said, “I’ll get him now,” and aimed for the hawk.

“About the sixth ball came very near the bird’s head, and (Isenhour) was very excited that it was so close,” Baine wrote.

A few shots later, witnesses said he hit the hawk. The bird, protected as a migratory species, fell to the ground bleeding from both nostrils.

Back in 2006, there was the Orlando golf course that called in the USDA to kill a red-shouldered hawk. Is there something about golf that turns people’s brains off? [Looking back, that golf course was the "Villas of Grand Cypress"; this one is called "Grand Cypress". Does anyone know if this is actually the same facility? -- WRE]

Update: The story expands to unveil another seamy aspect of human behavior, this time in the form of parasitic attention-seeking. Unable to interest people in the core issue of severing all ties between humans and domesticated species, animal rights groups desperately latch onto just about any incident that might be somewhat more broadly respectable and milk it. Poser-group “Humane Society of the United States”, whose name even was chosen to illicitly borrow credibility from the far older animal welfare groups that actually ran pet shelters and did good work in countering cruelty to animals, has jumped on the Isenhour incident with all the unseemly haste of a junkie going for a dropped wallet. Why the San Francisco Chronicle chose an enabling role by putting that non-news action in their lead sentence on the story remains a mystery.

An animal rights group wants the PGA Tour to take action against player Tripp Isenhour, facing charges for hitting a hawk with a golf shot because it was making noise as he videotaped a TV show.

I wouldn’t mind if the PGA Tour wanted to add on some penalties to obvious idiocy on the part of high-profile people in golf. But that’s what makes this such a juicy target for parasitism, since that is likely to be a generally approved-of action.

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City Government as a Blunt Weapon

What’s up with Littleton, Colorado? Here’s the contents of an email from a person who does — or did — dog rescue when Littleton decided to declare war on multiple pets. Visit Attleson Dog Defense to get contact information for Littleton city officials.

Below is an email from a long time friend of mine who has English Setters and does a bit here and there of handling. Bob has been extremely active in All Setter Rescue for a long time – even before it was consider a problem. A bit of background before you read his email .. about 18 months ago, Bob and Melissa (who he’s lived with forever), purchased the house next door to their’s. More as a tax deduction as their house had been paid off some years before. At some point in time, the City of Littleton changed the number of MAMMALS (to include dogs, cats, gerbils, etc.) on one property and didn’t grandfather Bob in. So with the purchase of the house next door, Littleton just freaked out a bit and then revised the law again stipulating if you owned two properties within the city limits the maximum was to still be THREE. So they started hasseling Bob and he kept on his normal low key way of dealing with it, but knew he had to purchase property away from the metro area. He would have been out earlier, but it is a bit hard to get fencing up in the winters around here. So from here, you can read Bob’s email:

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Hi All,

Thought that I better touch base and let you know that I am still out here and, as yet, not in jail (but of course working on it).

As you know, Littleton broke into both of my houses in Littleton on February 15, 2008, after making sure that I was not there, and took one adult dog out of one and three adult dogs and four 9 week puppies out of the other. Bashed the front door in with a battering ram used for drug raids, to get at the one dog, and broke into a back door on the other house and then broke blinds, screens, etc., in order to hand the dogs and puppies out through the window of the second house. All this with four police cars, at least six patrolmen, two animal control trucks (Littleton only has one), animal control officers. As told me by my neighbors, there were zoning and other people, while my neighbors watched in horror as to what was happening.

I need to note again here that there are no known complaints about me and/or my dogs, or number of dogs, from my neighbors. The day before, I finally told the city that I had the place out at Strasburg (actually said that it was 60 miles away as they wanted the complete address) and that all dogs would be moved out there by Monday night February 18th. This appeared to be okay with them and a meeting was set up for 10 am Tuesday, February 19th. with animal control to verify. That was my mistake because I allege that they then went back to City Hall and laid out the plans for the raid the next day. The Court then called an emergency hearing for Friday morning and left a phone message for me to attend, knowing full well I would be at the Denver shows. When I did not show up as directed, I was declared a fugitive and they proceeded with their raid.

They actually staked out my house (according to one neighbor on the corner where they saw their car parked) and waiting until they saw me leave with three dogs to go to the show that day. They had verified the day before that I was going to be at the shows all four days. After I left, they attempted entry, and then went back to the judge for a forcible entry warrant, which they exercised about 4 pm that afternoon. Quite a show and very upsetting for my neighbors who witnessed it.

Melissa came to the house about 6 pm to check on the pups as I was still at the show (going Best Brace in Show with two of my mistreated, neglected and abused 8-1/2 year old English setters; Pig & Joe). I can only imagine her horror finding the houses broken into and the dogs and puppies gone. Freaked her out and she could not reach me because my cell was off at the show. She caught up with me at the show just after I had finished getting my show photos shot.

The paperwork that she found at the houses demanded that I bring to the city the 3 dogs that I had taken to the show. Of course they expected I would do this immediately but instead they went home with me to Strasburg. The paperwork they left also had the judge’s orders that the dogs taken (plus the three at the show) were not to be returned to me, my agents, or anyone that might be suspected of being a straw buyer/adopter for me.

The shelter where they were taken is the same one that was in trouble last fall with the State Attorney General. It cannot and allegedly has not passed minimum state standards (PACFA) for a number of years. It was here that the city felt that the dogs seized would be safer than with me even though the city had canceled their contract with the shelter last fall Almost all other public contracts with this shelter have been canceled. It should be noted here that the animal control officer for Littleton, used to work for Colorado Humane Society, and before that worked 11 years in animal control in San Diego, California.

Try finding a criminal defense attorney (especially a good one) on a Friday night before a three day holiday. Also note that this raid was done late on a Friday afternoon before a 3 day Holiday where no City Offices would be open until Tuesday.

I was fortunate and well taken care of by friends in the rescue side of the dogs, and by 9:30 am Saturday morning I was talking to my lead attorney on the phone. I met with both of my attorneys at the show on Sunday. They prepared the Emergency Motion On Illegal Seizure Of Property that I believe I sent to you last week. They also contacted the shelter where the dogs had gone. By Tuesday morning, all involved city departments and the shelter were put on notice that we were coming. My lead attorney, Susan Martin, came highly recommended by the prosecutors and others in the Denver District Attorney’s office.

We could not tell if an arrest warrant had actually been issued, so I started staying out at the Strasburg house Friday night and each night since. To make this short, we ended up getting a 3 pm emergency court hearing on Friday, February 22 with the city. Our priorities were to get the dogs back; then keep me out of jail; then deal with the charges, etc., and then get mad. When they offered to return the dogs in pre-hearing negotiating, we jumped at it. As a consequence, I had to agree to a number of outrageous terms including; 3 year deferred jail time, up to $3,000 in fines, $1,000 board and care costs on the dogs, 3 years unannounced access to my houses and I cannot be caught with a dog anywhere within the city limits (not even my vet’s office). Also required a professional inspection of my Strasburg place, and that I must plead guilty to all charges brought against me. Hell of a price to pay to get my dogs back, but the only way, as they were holding them ransom so that my motion against them would not see the light of day in their court.

Then for good measure, they added a number of additional charges/violations (mostly bogus) against my properties based on everything from the city codes to the International Property Maintenance Code (?). Most all of these violations are unspecified and are for failure to remove outdoor storage and rubbish, and failure to maintain plumbing, a clean and sanitary structure and maintain interior surfaces. We begin the fight on these tomorrow morning at 10:30 am. They have been inspecting both houses in Littleton since September 6, 2006 and now bring these additional charges. In my opinion, these charges are being brought in reaction to my bringing an attorney to the table, as this has happened before.

I emphasize, that no abuse, neglect, or cruelty charges have ever been brought against me, none at all, in the previous years of ongoing inspections. These claims were used by the city to justify their seizing of my dogs for their own health and safety. However, if they thought that they could prove such charges, I am sure that they would not hesitate in bringing them forward. That should say something for their strength, or lack of strength in their case and arguments against me.

The important thing is that I do have the pups and dogs back and I am not in jail. Pups and dogs are doing good, primarily because they were a good healthy state when seized. The puppies were down considerably in weight and body tone, and dehydrated, but they have responded well since I got them back Friday night. All were over medicated, including shots, if the reports that I was given on them are correct. The adults received DVM care, but the puppies were not seen by a vet. The report is dated February 22nd., the day they were released to my agents. The puppies were kept at Mary Warren’s house in Conifer {SALLY: GOOGLE Mary Warren & Colorado Humane Society} If we can get to next Monday or so without anyone getting sick, we should be okay on the short term as far as catching something from the shelter and captivity.

Over 45 people attended the hearing last Friday in support of me against the city. Someone started passing the hat for financial help, and $865 was collected. All sides of the dog game (showing/breeding, rescue, and welfare) were represented. This was put together in less than 40 hours notice.

Channel 7 news video team showed up and videoed after the hearing in the court lobby and at the location where I met with the recovered pups and dogs. I was not allowed to go to the shelter to claim them; only my attorneys, Melissa and other supporters to help with getting the dogs and transporting them to where they would meet up with me and the press. The bill to have them released was $1,100. My attorney had to call the Englewood police (two cars) to come out and enforce the court order to release the dogs to her. She also has filed assault charges against Mary Warren’s husband, Bob, and other charges against Mary, with the cities of Englewood and Littleton, Arapahoe County, and the state attorney’s office. She was pissed.

Sadly, it’s not over yet, but at least I have the dogs back, and I am not in jail. Littleton has started damage control with a press release, but is still having to answer to complaints from citizens and non-citizens. It has been given to all the major TV stations in Denver but so far has not been aired that I know of. It is coast to coast on the Internet and is getting put into dog related publications’ web sites. A defense fund is being set up to help defray my legal expenses, something that was recommended by those in attendance at the hearing.

My cell phone does not work well out here in the country, and of course I am not around Littleton much anymore except to begin moving from the residences there to here. The best number now to reach me at (after trying my cell) is 303-622-4488, and of course by email.

Sorry about the length of this.

Sincerely,
Bob

AND THIS IS FROM AN EMAIL THAT BOB SENT TO ME THIS MORNING …

After the dogs were seized 2/15, I made the decision that I had to just go really public about what has been going in Littleton the past 18 plus months. I hoped for some reaction and support, but never expected or fore saw how this has taken off and all of the support offered. To walk in that packed court room on the 22nd really blew me away, and I felt bad that I was having to plea bargain such a bad deal just to get my pups back. Susan (my lead attorney) and I had decided at our first meeting the priorities were, first to get the pups/dogs back or at least safe; second to keep me out of jail; third to rectify/overturn/correct what had been coming down; and fourth, get angry and revenge. We did not really believe that we could get the kids, but thought keeping me out of jail was possible. Appeal to higher court would have to take care of #3, and #4 would have to been in civil court and the arena of public outrage toward Littleton and the Littleton Municipal Court.

Susan & Ruthann put together an excellent 17 page motion and off to races we went. When Katz (the short prosecutor) offered return of the kids, I felt that I had no choice to but bargain to that end, whatever it would cost me. Thus we both won; I got my kids back and Katz could continue to exact his revenge on my head and succeed in his original goal of running me out of town. So I am still Littleton Public Enemy Number Uno, but the pups and adults seized, plus the rest of my beasts are safe in Strasburg (often referred to as “Defoe”) for at least the time being.

Now, without Katz being able to hold my kids for ransom, Susan, Ruthann, Melissa, and I can get mad. It is now my turn, but it is going to costly emotionally and financially. Katz has now moved toward condemning my two houses in Littleton, and, as of yesterday, filed charges against Melissa who now has a court date 3/12 to answer the charges revolving around 6519 {SALLY: for trash on the lawn!} I am due back in court 3/26 I believe.

Enough of the soapbox. Thanks for your help and support. This should be interesting, but it is needed to protect us all. If they can come after me this way, they can go after anyone in dogs.

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