On the Red Couch with Food Writer Ruth Reichl

Some wear many hats; Ruth Reichl preferred wigs. That’s because, as the food critic for The New York Times from 1993 to 1999, Reichl discovered that her headshot was placed in restaurant kitchens throughout the country. Chefs would scan dining rooms for an effusive woman with flowing, dark hair who could make or break their careers—so review after review, the writer donned a new ‘do.

Few had reason to fear. Reichl (pronounced RYE-shil) used her pedestals—both at the Times and as Editor-in-Chief of the now-defunct Gourmet Magazine—to champion the best in food. But if something went south, as did almost everything during an amusingly dysfunctional visit to Manhattan’s Box Tree, her blade was swift: “Best of all, it is almost time to leave,” she remarked at the sight of dessert.

Less a food snob than a free spirit, Reichl came to California in the early ’70s to live in a commune and cook at a co-op before transitioning into an editor, critic and memoirist. With the publication of Delicious! last month, she’s fulfilled a long-standing dream of becoming a novelist. We spoke with her about seeing the world “food-first,” male egos, and what you should—and shouldn’t share—at the dinner table.

We live in a time in which everyone’s a food critic. Why is a professional restaurant critic still relevant?
Good criticism enriches your experience—whether it’s film, books, TV, theater. Restaurant criticism works in the same way. One of the things that’s been great about social media is that it’s taken on the consumer reporting aspect, leaving the professional critics to do something more important: to put things in context and give you the history and a better way to experience restaurants.

Was there a memorable meal that made you think, “I want to write about these things for the rest of my life”?
No. (Laughs) Truth be told, when I was first offered the chance to be a restaurant critic, my first thought wasn’t, “Oh, this is a new profession for me.” My first thought was “free meals!”

Professional cooking has become a macho endeavor. You can turn on the TV and see any number of male chefs taking up the screen. Isn’t that removed from the more traditional homestyle scenes that are familiar to many of us?
Well, what’s wrong about that is equating home cooking with restaurant cooking. A more interesting comparison would be between restaurant cooking and factory work. It’s an assembly line. A chef isn’t really a cook; a chef is the CEO of a company. Being a chef is about getting people to translate your vision.

That said, I do think that we are seeing women chefs coming up, and they are just very different from their male counterparts. A lot of them are choosing not to be in charge. Men do it more for ego, and women do it for a lot of other reasons.

Eating is a touchy subject: if you love spicy food, going on a date with someone that doesn’t can be a deal breaker. Does learning about our appetites give us a better understanding of ourselves and other people?
I do see the world “food-first” and I’ve always categorized people by what they ate. Our food choices are very much like handwriting. They are one of the ways we tell the world who we are. It’s not for nothing that there are kosher and halal laws, and part of those is to set people apart by saying, “This is who I am.” It’s a way of announcing yourself to the world.

When someone says, “I love spicy food,” they’re essentially saying, “I’m an adventurous person.” Someone who grows up in a kosher home who chooses not to keep kosher, that’s a huge statement. You can be with someone who likes a different kind of movie, but you’re going to be eating a lot together—so of course you’re gonna care what they eat!

Has social media affected those statements? Is there something interesting about taking pictures of our food, or is it a class signifier?
When I was 25 and had no money, I didn’t go out to eat. It didn’t occur to me as a way I could spend money. My son is 25 and has no money and it wouldn’t occur to him not to go out to eat. It’s just one of the things he needs to do. I don’t think it’s so much [about] class unless you’re talking about very rich or very poor people.

I hope we get beyond taking pictures of our food. I do it myself, but it’s pretty tiresome to be with someone who’s pushing the silverware out of the way so they can get the right angle of their food. It’s annoying the way photography has taken over the experience. I hate it when people are taking pictures of things while traveling and they’re so busy taking photos, they’re not even there. We’ve gotten to that point with food.

Food has achieved a near-mythic significance in America. Why?
Food TV. I’m sorry to say it, but you cannot underestimate the importance of having a generation of kids who may not have seen their mom’s cooking, but who loved watching Mario Batali, and who are now in their twenties. They saw chefs as celebrities, as interesting people in the culture, and so they experienced food in a way that no previous generation ever did.

There’s a line in your book “Tender at the Bone”—“Even in the dark I could hear the smile in her voice”—that sums up your writing in way. It helps us receive an intimate, sensory sensation, if not the tangible product. It’s personal. Have you felt reluctant to tell stories from your private life?
Not from my own life. I’ve had real pause about incorporating my family. I’ve been very cautious on what I’ve written about my son. I think your parents are fair game, but your kids aren’t. In my memoirs, if I’ve worried that I was treading on people’s privacy, I sent them that part of the book and asked if they had any objections. I don’t have a big sense of privacy. But I know other people do, and I’m very cautious about saying things about other people that they might have problems with.

In terms of process, was writing a novel that different from writing food? Were you channeling the same ability?
No, it’s really different. As a daily journalist, once you’ve gathered the facts, you decide what angle you’re going to take and you know where you’re going. With fiction, you’re inventing it all and because of that, it goes in places you don’t expect. When you let yourself go, the characters take over. The next day you have to decide whether you’re going to let that happen.

My characters continually surprised me and there was a kind of “letting go” that’s very different from non-fiction. You have to come back with all your mind and read it and say, “Am I gonna let Sammy be that person? It’s not who I thought…” and you have to decide, “Yeah, I love him. He’s not who I thought he was, but I love him.”

It’s both harder and more fun because anything can happen.

You’ve adapted to change really well. When you were running Gourmet, did you ever wonder what life would look like beyond the plate, so to speak?
I loved my job at Gourmet but I never thought that I was there forever. One of the things about running that kind of magazine was to take chances. You have to be constantly aware that you could get fired. I wrote books the whole time I was there because I thought the minute that they think that they own me, I’m in trouble. I’d have fights with my publishers about publishing the David Foster Wallace piece, and I would say, “No, I’m going to do it.” I always felt like I just need them to know that I have another life, that I can write books, and I’m not going to stop doing that. I need them to know that I’m just a visitor to this world.

Talking about disparate things makes for great criticism. Within the essayistic tradition, it’s a handy way to spot links in the cultural chain. That tradition lives on in writing about sports or pop culture or music. Has that way of thinking about food—beyond food—faded away?
When there was no longer a Gourmet, I wished that another mainstream publication would have tried to do what we did: which was to talk about culture and politics and anthropology and all of that in a mainstream publication. Unfortunately what we’re getting—Lucky Peach or Cherry Bombe or Modern Farmer, which are all great—are niche publications for a smaller audience. It makes me sad. I still think there’s a place in the world for a mainstream epicurean publication that’s challenging.

Besides including great recipes, how can a food magazine—whether in print or online—entice readers?
What we tried to do at Gourmet was create a magazine that didn’t give people what they expected, but what they didn’t know they wanted. It had an element of surprise. One of my goals was for every issue to have something in it that caused people to go, “Isn’t that amazing? What a great piece of writing!” or “I didn’t know that I wanted to know that, but I’m really glad I do now.” If you go beyond the expected and give people an appetite, they will keep coming back.

You’ve said that you could live in a house without furniture, or go without new clothes, but that you couldn’t live without literature. If you could invite any writer(s)—living or dead—who would you choose, and why?
Grace Paley was a wonderful writer and activist and someone who felt very familiar to me. George Saunders, I’m so admiring of him, he seems like a guy with such an amazing vision and so kind. And you’d want to have Shakespeare at your table—wouldn’t you? Even just to know who he was! He would have to be fabulous company. I love Hilary Mantel and would love to get her together with a writer named Dorothy Dunnet, both of whom are big writers of historical fiction with interesting lives.

How would you counsel a young person who’s prone to eating out constantly to think about food in a way that was essential to your culinary education?
I wish people would cook more. Cooking is so easy and fun. People say they don’t have time, but if you figure out what you’re gonna cook for a week and do the shopping, the work is mostly done.

There’s so much good, simple food. It worries me that we spend so much of our private time in public spaces. I wish people would invite people into their homes, which is an act of bravery. They get to see you with all your warts, with your animals misbehaving and your cats walking on the counters.

That’s how you foster intimacy. There’s a distance that happens when you just meet in restaurants. Learn to cook a few things, invite people over, and share your home and table.

It’s no secret that Ruth has excellent taste. Check out her collection of the latest cuisine, recipes, and musings on food culture here on Flipboard:

Ruth Reichl by Ruth Reichl

~ShonaS is curating “Holiday Road (6/27)
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Big Ideas Gets a Bit Bigger

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We’ve got a special place for people aspiring to make the world better: it’s called Big Ideas. This category, which debuted last year, celebrates innovation and the visionaries driving it. Their quests are as diverse as beating cancer, solving poverty, protecting nature, and inspiring the next generation to further today’s achievements. The category also sports an eponymous magazine, updated daily, that highlights a broad range of news that just might be game-changing for humanity.

Today, Big Ideas is excited to welcome a new crop of organizations working hard to make a difference. They’ve all created new Flipboard magazines around some key issues of our day: sustainability, access to healthcare and education, women’s issues, and more. You can browse these new additions by tapping on the covers below, or head over to the Big Ideas category in the Content Guide (it’s listed under Books) to explore a range of organizations, causes and magazines.

Inspiration by Stand Up 2 Cancer: Articles, photos and videos that strive to offer hope and strength to people touched by cancer.

Making the Impossible Possible by XPRIZE: A showcase of breakthrough inventions that could change the world.

Best of Sierra Magazine by Sierra Club: A collection of “best of” tips and in-depth opinions on environmentalism and sustainability from the Sierra Club’s official publication, Sierra Magazine.

Women’s Health by Doctors Without Borders USA: News and information about women’s health in high-risk, post-conflict areas.

Leveling the Playing Field by United Way Bay Area: An exploration of how schools are working to improve opportunities in low-income schools and communities in the Bay Area and nationally.

Wildlife and Nature by The National Wildlife Federation: Animal facts and stories, environmental news, and other intriguing bits from the wild kingdom.

Global Poverty 101 by One Campaign: An informative collection of articles, blog posts, infographics and videos on global poverty and development.

Gender in the Media by The Representation Project: Stories on gender inequality and stereotypes, with a global focus.

If you would like to be involved with Big Ideas to generate awareness around the causes that matter to you, please write to featured@flipboard.com with “Big Ideas” in the subject line and include your Flipboard magazine link in the body of the email. We’ll do another showcase of great new magazines later this year.

~ TommyC is reading “Social Impact & Philanthropy
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Get Perspective: Bloomberg View Is Now on Flipboard

In 1981, Michael Bloomberg was a recently laid-off investment banker—with $10 million dollars in severance. Instead of going on “funemployment,” the future mayor of New York City used his more substantial wealth of financial information to launch a startup offering up-to-date market data. The Bloomberg Terminal was born.

By 1990, the company needed to deliver digestible information to its subscribers in a news-like format. After seven years, Bloomberg News grew from a team of six to 335 reporters in 56 international locations, covering business, politics and international affairs.

Since leaving office, Bloomberg has returned to the newsroom. And he’s turned his attention toward one of the company’s newest and most promising divisions, Bloomberg View, a site boasting opinions on current affairs from renowned voices like Megan McArdle, Kavitha Davidson and Jonathan Bernstein.

Expanding its mobile focus, Bloomberg View’s responsive, sophisticated site is now optimized for Flipboard. Tap one of the buttons below and refresh your point-of-view:

~ShonaS is reading “Non Sequitur
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The Week in Review: Iraq Uprising

Formerly associated with al-Qaeda, militants from the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have crossed the border from Syria and now threaten the future of Iraq. Attempting to divide the country along sectarian lines, ISIS has invaded Iraq in the hopes of creating a pan-Islamic state under Sharia law. After occupying most of northern Iraq, the group gained control of the country’s largest oil refinery on Wednesday.

Amidst local resistance, ISIS responded with a wave of violence. On Sunday, the group tweeted about the massacre of 1,700 Iraqi soldiers, a number that has yet to be verified by independent sources. Though unable to confirm the milita’s claims, the United Nations High Commissioner Navi Pillay condemned systematic executions as “war crimes.”

In an effort to protect both Iraqi and American interests, President Obama plans to send 300 military advisors to Iraq to provide training and advising to local fighters. The President reiterated that the U.S. will not be “returning to combat with Iraq,” answering speculation regarding the level of American involvement.

How far will ISIS go? Will they coerce the United States, which spent billions of dollars bringing democracy to Iraq, into further military action? Find out in these magazines:

Iraq: A History Of Violence and interventions by Insu-Ansu : Filled with articles on the Iraqi situation—including updates from previous conflicts in the region—this magazine provides current reports and a historical context for the recent uprising.

ISIS by Lulu : This magazine provides news and updates about the al-Qaeda-inspired extremist group responsible for some of the Middle East’s most recent violence.

Middle East & US relations by Casey Parrett : Exploring the relationship between the United States and the Middle East, this magazine gives current, bilateral updates on events and reactions concerning both parts of the world.

Sunni Shia Conflict by Andrea Muller : With ISIS exploiting sectarian differences, Sunni and Shia tensions are boiling over into bloodshed. Covering religious conflicts all over the Middle East, this magazine will keep you informed about the ongoing disputes.

Crisis In Syria by infinities : ISIS initiated its military rampage in Syria. This magazine will allow you to follow the trail of the extremist group as it attempts to create a united Islamist state.

Uprising in Iraq by Flipboard Newsdesk: Focusing on the U.S., this magazine compiles recent news and responses from the American perspective.

~BrookeB is reading “Design for Public Good
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Home Sweet Home: ELLE DECOR Beautifies Flipboard

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For those of us who can’t even keep succulents alive in our homes, magazines like ELLE DECOR induce us into a state of breathless possibility. “What if…my home…could look…like that?!” goes the excited brain, as page after page reveals ideas and inspiration, the latest products, and tools to help readers decorate, renovate and entertain in style.

Launched in 1989, ELLE DECOR caters to a mostly female audience for whom great design is as much of a domestic essential as a spotless bathtub. Articles address most aesthetic styles, from classic to contemporary to a mix of both, and even go beyond interiors to cover celebrity style, culture and travel.

Now ELLE DECOR has received a renovation of its own, on Flipboard, where posts sit on custom pages designed just for the magazine. Browse the latest stories or dive deeper into niche feeds devoted to topics such as shopping, remodeling and the Hollywood lifestyle. Take a tour:

~MiaQ is reading “Shop Kids
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Quartz Goes to India, on Flipboard

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Can anything slow down Quartz on its path to world-wide domination? Launched a scant two years ago, the global business site now serves its blend of fast-paced, “obsession”-based coverage daily, to more than 5 million people a month—including a version customized for Flipboard.

In early June it launched Quartz India, a site aimed specifically at India’s business class. We’re pleased to be able to offer it to our readers now as well. “It’s a mobile-first region at a critical moment in its economic history—and we’re excited to deepen the coverage available to readers on their smartphones and tablets especially,” Kevin Delaney, Quartz’s editor in chief, explained when the site was unveiled.

Readers can find Quartz in the Indian edition of our Content Guide, as well as in the U.S. and other editions. (You can change your country edition by tapping on the Settings gear.) Or you can hit the button below.

~JoshQ is reading “Live From Brazil 2014
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The Week in Review: Eric Cantor Loses Leadership

On Tuesday, Eric Cantor lost his seat as representative of Virginia’s 7th Congressional District, making history by becoming the first House majority leader to lose the primary in over a century. Cantor was defeated by the Tea Party’s David Brat, an economics professor and political unknown.

Cantor’s ouster was unexpected according to early polls. After calling his defeat a “personal failure,” Cantor resigned as House majority leader, effective late July. The election results not only stunned the House, but left leaders from both parties scratching their heads. Without a clear successor to the role of majority leader, the GOP finds itself at a crossroads.

For a deeper dive, we’ve collected a list of magazines exploring what Eric Cantor’s upset means to the future of the Republican Party:

Go “Inside Politics” by John King: Curated by key CNN reporters and producers, this mag is a great way to get a political education. With a recent focus on Hillary Clinton and Eric Cantor, it provides relevant context for the most newsworthy stories from the political realm.

Commonsense Immigration Reform by House Democrats : The Commonsense Immigration Reform has passed in the Senate, and now House Republicans have the power to put the plan into action. Check out this magazine to get the latest on immigration reform.

RNC Morning Reads by Republican National Committee : Compiling the top daily reads of the Republican National Committee, this magazine offers a Republican perspective on pressing news affecting the polls.

H-232 The Speaker’s Office by Speaker John Boehner: Presented by Speaker of the House John Boehner, this media-heavy mag keeps you updated on what’s inside the House of Representatives—as well as some light humor from the Speaker himself.

Tea Party News by Toby Marie Walker: With the election of David Brat over incumbent Eric Cantor, the Tea Party has plenty to celebrate. Flip through this magazine to learn more about America’s largest grassroots movement.

2014 Election: Primary Season by Flipboard Newsdesk: Focusing on the primary elections, this magazine reports the latest political developments from counties across the country. Check it out for all your post-election updates.

~BrookeB is reading “Big Ideas
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“Deep Dive” on Hillary Clinton

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Hillary Clinton has been involved in American politics for over 30 years, with much of that time on the national and world stage as she went from lawyer, to First Lady, senator, author, presidential candidate and Secretary of State. Her opinions, speeches, policies, travels, family and even clothing is endlessly analyzed, sometimes with reverence and sometimes with disdain.

With her new book, “Hard Choices,” available this week, interest in all things Hillary is heating up, particularly as she continues to mull a bid for the White House in 2016. We’ve compiled key coverage about this important figure in one place, including her most famous comments as First Lady, analysis about her 2016 run and some of the juiciest revelations in her book. (We’ll follow up by focusing on a much-talked about Republican in the months ahead.)

This “deep dive” is the first installment in a new series that explores a person or issue dominating the news. Each month, we’ll break down a subject into four subsections: Latest News, Players, Backstory, and Analysis & Opinion. All the Deep Dive magazines will ultimately be archived in one place.

Let us know what topics you’re curious about by writing to featured@flipboard.com, and we’ll do our best to include them in a future deep dive.

~GabyS is reading “The Daily Briefing”
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On the Red Couch with CNN’s Brian Stelter

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For CNN’s Brian Stelter, there’s no such thing as too much screen time. The senior media correspondent and host of Reliable Sources, a weekly show that “explores how journalists do their jobs,” Stelter has been fascinated with news media since grade school. But it was his college blog, TVNewser, that brought him to the attention of cable news anchors and network executives who regularly visited the site.

The New York Times, which normally recruits experienced reporters from the ranks of established publications, hired the newly graduated Stelter to cover TV and media. For over six years, he filed stories daily, tweeted and even found time to write a book about the battle of the morning shows.

Now the host of CNN’s Reliable Sources, he’s starting from scratch on the other side of the screen: inside. As the definition of media mushrooms to include everything from social media to wearable technology, so will our curiosity to understand its effect on us. We spoke with Stelter about point-of-view journalism, life in front of the camera, and the future of cable news.

You’ve spent a long time reporting about television, and now you’re on it. In the past, you’d seemed reluctant about making the transition. What’s changed?
If I was reluctant before, it’s because I loved The New York Times and still do. But when Howard Kurtz departed Reliable Sources, it was a one-of-a-kind opportunity.

When CNN offered me the show, what was most important was that they were also offering a full-time reporting job. The Sunday show was the proverbial cherry on top. But being able to [do] daily reporting the way I did at the Times is what was most compelling.

What’s the importance of approaching the show that way?
It’s important that I’m the anchor because I’m the reporter.

I’m still figuring out how I feel about TV. I’ve come to realize that I can still say, “I made this call and checked this fact.” The hope is that the viewer knows that what they’re seeing is the result of a lot of work and not regurgitation.

Modern media is as much about personalities as it is a story. What do you make of that development?
It feels like we’re moving toward point-of-view journalism. I don’t object because it’s what I and other viewers gravitate toward. It’s not that the reporting isn’t accurate, but to know where an anchor is coming from is a positive.

People want to watch people. When I share more of my point of view, viewers respond.

But when I say “point-of-view”, I’m not talking about my random opinion. It’s transparency: here’s where I come from a topic and here’s my impression of what’s going on.

Covering the Jill Abramson story at The New York Times was a challenge coming from the Times myself. Viewers appreciate my openness.

How would someone looking to establish themselves as an authority do that amidst the abundance of information and perspectives?
If I was starting TVNewser today, I would make FoxNewser or CNNNewser. I would make it narrowly focused. The notion of owning a topic and being indispensable on it is what I come back to.

In 100 years, what do you think will be the great media moments?
I think the story of our time touches on certain themes: from the few to the many, from professional media to user media, from a few gatekeepers to no gatekeepers. You can see it in everything: the mass shooter videos on YouTube, in the #YesAllWomen campaign on Twitter, etc. The other giant trend that I end up covering in every story I write is from live to on-demand—from someone else’s schedule to our own.

A hundred years from now those are the changes that we’ll remember, [that] will continue to unravel for decades. Every time there’s a breaking story we see an example of users producing the news, of sources going public and choosing where they want to be interviewed.

Do you consider yourself a media critic?
I go with “correspondent” and “host.”

Here’s the thing about the term “media critic”: I think it’s so much more interesting to talk about why things are the way they are. Anyone can complain. But I’m interested in the structural reasons why stories are undercovered.

What are you most proud of about your book, Top of the Morning? Is there anything you would have done differently?
I loved writing the book because I was able to fill in many of the blanks of the 2011-2012 morning show story, like what happened between Ann Curry and her bosses at NBC.

What would I have done differently? I probably have the same answer as a lot of authors — I would have sought more time to write and rewrite.

What’s your long-term plan for Reliable Sources?
I want people to be reading CNN’s coverage all week and have that build up to the show on Sunday. I want it to be a seven day a week cycle, not just a one-hour program.

On our first show I said that everybody and everything is a source—so what’s reliable? Where are we in media, and how does that affect us? How are we making our own media? Those are the questions I love to ask. They help us understand how things change.

Expanding on Stelter’s premise, CNN Money has curated a selection of magazines exploring the stories of our day: cybersecurity, media culture, and the evolution of the automotive industry. Take a look.

Future of media by CNN Money

Cybersecurity: How safe are you? by CNN Money

Cool cars: Hot wheels and deals by CNN Money

~ShonaS is curating “Holiday Road (6/13)
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Gooooal!-Driven: Flipboard Gets Footie Fever

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Every four years, soccer fans become ever more intense about their sport, homeland and team…and that day is nearly upon us again: On Thursday, June 12, the 2014 World Cup tournament kicks off in Brazil, where 32 elite teams will go head-to-head and toe-to-toe in the hopes of emerging as the One True King—at least, for the next four years.

The world’s eyes are already on all the action in Brazil, and that will only intensify over the next four weeks as the tournament, and all of the drama around it, unfolds. On Flipboard, each participating country has a dedicated magazine curated by our editors and/or community, featuring news inside and outside of the stadiums, as well as fan fun, photos, sentiments and more.

We’d like to also welcome World Soccer and Soccerly to Flipboard; their pages have been specially designed for Flipboard, just in time for this blessed event.

And current partners like The New York Times and CNN are curating special magazines for the occasion, too.

You can find your country’s Brazil 2014 magazine as well as any of these publishers in your local Content Guide edition, in the New & Noteworthy, News and Sports categories, or try searching for them. That said, we’re a little biased about one particular country/team, so here’s a shortcut to the U.S.A. news and community magazine:

~The Flipboard Team is reading “Goal!
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