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‘On All Fronts’: Clarissa Ward, war correspondent: ‘I faked having a fiancé because it made life easier’ | International

Clarissa Ward found out what she wanted to be while smoking a joint as a teenager. She was “high as a kite” and in the bathroom of her friend’s house when she understood: “I am not going to write novels or make films or be a great artist. I’m a vessel. I can understand people and convey their ideas. I’m a communicator.”

It took a while for that epiphany to materialize. She grew up among the most privileged circles of New York and London, taking classes in ice skating, ballet and horse riding. Her father is a former investment banker and ex-member of Cambridge University’s rowing team, while her mother is an exclusive interior designer. By the time she was eight, she had had eight different nannies. Nothing indicated that decades later, she would be dressed in an abaya, riding a motorcycle with Syrian fighters and trying to flee a shooting in an area where one day later American journalist Marie Colvin was killed.

After more than a decade working for TV channels such as Fox, ABC and CBS, Ward is currently the chief international correspondent for CNN. As a correspondent, she has reported from Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen. She has lived in Moscow and Beijing, and covered the uprising in Ukraine, the Russian military offensive in Georgia and even the tsunami in Japan. But it was her coverage of the fall of Kabul last summer that brought her worldwide fame. It’s a topic she covers in On All Fronts, a memoir that examines her experiences as a correspondent in a complex and changing world, as well as more the personal and surprising details of her life, such as the fact that she was Uma Thurman’s stand-in in the movie Kill Bill.

After returning from Ukraine, Ward talks to EL PAÍS about her memoirs via Zoom from her home in London. On the day before the call, Al Jazeera journalist Shireen Abu Akleh was killed by Israeli forces in Jenin, a Palestinian city in the northern West Bank. “It’s a tragedy. I didn’t know her personally, but of course, I know of her. I can’t say that journalism has become more dangerous, although I will say that more and more of my colleagues and friends have lost their lives covering conflicts.”

Clarissa Ward, reporting from Kabul in 2021.
Clarissa Ward, reporting from Kabul in 2021. Brent Swails (AP)

Question. How did a young, privileged woman who studied comparative literature at Yale become a war correspondent?

Answer. For me, it was 9/11 [terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center]. It rocked my world and just turned everything upside down. It made me realize that there was so much going on in the world that I hadn’t really been paying attention to. And I just became convinced right away that this is what I wanted to do, that I wanted to go to the tip of the spear and understand why these things were happening and who was responsible. I wanted to investigate why what we think about ourselves in America is different from what people see about us.

Q. You write in your book that the “privilege of witnessing history has a price.” What is the price?

A. Bearing witness to trauma can be traumatic in and of itself. There can be the risk of losing loved ones, losing colleagues, watching people die, watching children being injured or killed. And then you have to navigate the normal, real world and move between these two different universes in a way that doesn’t make you crazy. And you must find peace, which is a struggle.

Q. Susan Sontag wrote about the horror of returning to Berlin following the Balkan War and seeing the rest of Europe go on as if the siege of Sarajevo hadn’t happened. What defense mechanisms do you have to find peace and prevent trauma?

A. It’s my children. Before, I would often feel detached from my life when I came home. With children, in my experience, it’s not possible for me to feel detached. So no matter how exhausted I am, no matter how depressed I am, I see my children, I squeeze them, and there’s just this wellspring of love that is like a geyser. You can’t control it, you can’t squash it. It’s just there and it’s beautiful and it’s real. And it’s very physical.

Q. In your memoir, you speak about feeling guilty about leaving your children at home and catching a plane to report from a conflict zone. Male correspondents don’t seem to talk about this sense of “guilt.” Do they feel it differently?

A. It’s hard to know. Do they not feel it the same way or do they just not talk about it? I suspect that a lot of them just don’t talk about it.

Q. Do you feel different because you are a mother and a reporter?

A. I think it’s harder. For so long, we have told young women, you can have it all. You can have a great career and be a mother. And the reality is you can’t have it all at the same time. It’s constantly like a push-pull. If you’re excelling in your career, you’re feeling horrendous guilt as a parent. If you’re being a wonderful parent, it’s like you’re not present at your job. And it’s not just about covering war. I think professional women who are mothers as well feel this across the board.

Clarissa Ward in an image from her book.
Clarissa Ward in an image from her book.

Q. In On All Fronts, you write about yelling: “You’re a fucking moron!” to a condescending security advisor named Matt who “didn’t like working with women.” Have you come across many men like this in your work?

A. I think there are fewer than before, but they understand that they need to be much more careful about what they say out loud and how they deal with women. I do think that casual misogyny still exists. But it is not quite as pervasive and quite as offensive as it used to be. And that’s partly because there are many more women doing this job and just more generally because as a culture, we are constantly learning from our past about the ways in which we talk about women, treat women and view women.

Q. Has there been a change in the paradigm about how female reporters should be treated?

A. Yes, definitely. When I was starting out my career, you would often find yourself as a young, attractive woman in situations where you were having to be charming, but also laugh something off, but kind of make it clear. It’s tedious, it’s boring, it’s wasting my time, it’s awkward. Let’s just focus on the work. It’s not that I’m against romance in the workplace. If two people have a profound connection, fine. But I’m really glad we don’t have to deal with the constant, weird flirtation anymore because it was tedious.

Clarissa Ward reporting from Tehran in 2019.
Clarissa Ward reporting from Tehran in 2019.Cortesía de Roca

Q. In your book, you write about being sexually harassed by Saif Gadafi, the son of Libyan leader Muammar el Gadafi. What made you decide to include this story?

A. First of all, I think I assumed I was never going to get an interview with him because it looked like he was dead. Now it turns out he’s not dead. So I’m still probably not going get that interview [laughing]. I included it because he never said it was off the record and the way he behaved was so disgraceful. I wasn’t traumatized by it at all. But the arrogance to assume that because of who you are that every woman really desperately wants you to make advances on her without even consulting her is deeply dangerous on many levels.

Q. You write that you spat in his face while he rubbed your leg.

A. Yes, it speaks to the problem of how power corrupts people’s minds. It’s not just an episode about a sort of famous son of a dictator trying to grope a young journalist in the back of a car. It’s the story of how people with too much power will freely exploit and take advantage of those who are more vulnerable than they are without giving it a second thought.

Q. You say that lipstick is a distraction, but Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci considered it a powerful ally.

A. It’s tricky. Over the years, I have come up with a uniform, and it’s what I will always wear in a conflict zone. I do wear makeup. If I didn’t, the viewer would be like: ‘We’re never watching CNN again.’ But the goal is not to look sexy or beautiful. The goal is to look polished and put together. And the goal is to have my appearance not be a distraction one way or the other. So you’re just like that’s Clarissa, the same way she always looks. I think when you wear a low-cut top or your hair down, you are almost distracting from the story that you’re trying to tell. I want you to focus on the story and not on my hair.

Clarissa Ward in 2006 outside a bombed building in south Beirut.
Clarissa Ward in 2006 outside a bombed building in south Beirut.
Cortesía de Roca

Q. When it comes to how women dress and gender freedoms, you write that there is a cultural divide between the West and the East. Is it difficult to navigate these two worlds?

A. It’s really complicated. And I think one of the most important lessons you learn as a journalist early on is not to assume that your way is the best way, that you are the most enlightened, that your culture is the most open-minded. You’ll very quickly realize that other people have a totally different understanding. We’ll be talking about freedom of speech and equality, about women can do this, and women can do that. And someone else will come back to you with: ‘What about prostitution and pornography?’ It’s a blurry line.

Q. In what sense?

A. Different cultures have their own norms, traditions and standards of beauty. You have to respect that. I think there is a difference, though, when you have women from within those cultures who are saying, like in Afghanistan right now, ‘I have been going to school and now I can’t.” If you know enough about Islam, you know that there is absolutely nothing in Islam that precludes women from going to school. Quite to the contrary, education is really encouraged for men and women. I think you can call that out as an injustice. But it is arrogant to make an assumption that wearing a headscarf is an injustice. That’s your preconceived notion. As a journalist, it’s not your place to weigh in on a lot of those types of debates. But when you see intolerance, corruption or discrimination, you call it out. That is the job.

Clarissa Ward reporting for CNN from Kabul last August.
Clarissa Ward reporting for CNN from Kabul last August.Brent Swails (AP)

Q. Many female correspondents wear a fake wedding ring to avoid being harassed. Is this something you had to do?

A. Before I was married, I definitely faked having a fiancé just because it made life easier. You tell people you have a fiancé and then they’re no longer going to bother you. I’ve definitely faked a fiancé. When I’ve gone undercover, I’ve had to fake a story about what I’m doing. When I went to Syria, I said that I was a decorator and trying to buy antiques. In general, though, you want to be as transparent as you possibly can be as a journalist because there are so many misconceptions about the work we do and the motivations behind it. But sometimes you throw in a white lie here or there to make people more comfortable.

Q. In On All Fronts, you write that a “good fixer can make the difference between a hellish assignment and a successful and enjoyable one.” You have the support of a team and your network, but there is a growing number of freelance journalists who have little support and are often poorly paid. Is the industry failing them?

A. I think the industry is more accessible than it was before. In the US, for example, there were three television networks. Now even The New York Times does great video projects. It’s completely changed the landscape of how we tell stories and who tells those stories. It also means that there are a lot more jobs out there. There are a lot more freelancers out there. And for the most part, I think that’s a good thing. But we as an industry have a responsibility to our freelance colleagues. We have to ensure that they have the appropriate training, that they have the appropriate body armor, that they are working with responsible editors who uphold them to the same security protocols that they would hold their own direct employees. I think in Syria, we saw too many instances of freelance journalists getting in over their heads and not having anyone telling them that they needed to put on the brakes. It’s about finding that balance.

Q. Your reports on the fall of Kabul on Twitter had a big impact worldwide. What is your relationship with social media?

A. It’s love, hate. Social media has allowed stories to be told in a much more democratic way, because they’re not only being told by people like me, they’re being told by women in Afghanistan, they’re being told by people all over the world. That’s really important. It is, however, often a pool of misinformation, name-calling, trolling, anger and ugliness. I think you can only use it if you’re strong enough, by which I mean, you have to be willing to tune out the noise and honestly, not just the criticism, but also the praise. Both of those things can be a distraction. Both of them can consume you for hours on end. That’s a waste of your time. Focus on the work.

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Culture

Top 10 Urban Property Hotspots

Bradford And Blackpool Lead The Pack

Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, exclusive data from OnTheMarket reveals.

A combination of affordable house prices and growing number of buyers being priced out of nearby Leeds is helping lift Bradford’s property market, OnTheMarket said.

Speaking to This is Money, Robert McCarthy, manager of Hunters estate agency in Bradford, said buyers were attracted to the area because properties are ‘dirt cheap.’

Hotspots: Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, data reveals
Hotspots: Bradford is the top urban property hotspot for the second consecutive quarter, data reveals

He said: ‘Bradford is seeing a high increase in first time buyers and investors, with properties ranging from around £70,000 for a two bedroomed terrace, £110,000-£130,000 for a three to four bedroom terrace and £120,000 to £240,000 for a three bedroom semi-detached or detached property.

‘This gives a buyer much more for their money, while keeping the mortgage payments lower.’

He added: ‘This week we had a three bedroom semi-detached property go on the market needing some work at £100,000.

‘We we had over 90 requests to view, with some buyers offering before a viewing at well over the asking price.

‘I personally bought a three bedroom semi-detached renovation project in the area with a large garden for £51,000 a few years ago.

‘Now fully renovated, if I was selling to put it on the market it would be around £180,000 to £190,000.’

Mr McCarthy told This is Money that it was possible to buy a one or two bedroom flat in the centre of Bradford for between £20,000 to £60,000.

Urban property hotspots

Blackpool, Rochdale and Plymouth came in second, third and fourth place respectively in OnTheMarket’s latest rankings, with Rochdale climbing from 23rd to third place.

As cities like Manchester become increasingly expensive, Rochdale has ballooned in popularity with buyers.

Andrew Cardwell, manging director of Cardwells Estate Agents, said he wasn’t surprised about Rochdale’s colossal climb in the rankings.

Ample space: The property in Bradford is link detached and perfect for families
Ample space: The property in Bradford is link detached and perfect for families
Time to eat: The dining room in this Bradford property is chic and modern

Time to eat: The dining room in this Bradford property is chic and modern

Outdoor space: the property has a low maintenance garden perfect for entertaining
Outdoor space: the property has a low maintenance garden perfect for entertaining

He said: ‘Earlier this year Rochdale was recognised as one of the most affordable places to buy a property, with an average house price of around £206,000.

‘As well as offering excellent value for money, it’s within easy reach of Manchester city centre and has beautiful countryside.’

Plymouth jumped from 22nd to fourth place in the rankings. It is the only southern location to make it to the top five, OnTheMarket said.

Plymouth is home to HMNB Devonport, the largest naval base in western Europe and the city is brimming with shops and restaurants.

Jacob Tebb, president of OnTheMarket, told This is Money: ‘Property buying decisions continue to be heavily influenced by affordability, according to our latest hotspots index, which reveals that some of the most active or “hottest” areas also offer buyers the best value.”

He added: ‘Overall, the north/south divide is holding firm, with some of the most vibrant and cheapest locations in the north seeing the most heat in terms of housing market activity and only one southern location making it into the top ten.’

Leicester, Stoke-on-Trent, Swindon, Sunderland, Wakefield and Derby also made it to the top ten, while Middlesborough, Burnley and Coventry were just outside the top 10.

Wakefield rose from thirtieth to ninth place, while Birmingham climbed from forty-third to twenty-third place.

Where is the market cooling? Urban property hotspots

OnTheMarket added: ‘Moving in the other direction, demand in Wigan cooled significantly, dropping from second to fifteenth place in our rankings, while Liverpool has fallen from eleventh place in the first quarter to thirtieth.

‘Worthing, one of the few southern locations to be considered a hotspot, fell from twentieth to fifty-third place. The “coolest” hotspot on our list is Brighton.’

The average price of a house in Brighton and Hove was £422,000 in April, according to the Office for National Statistics. Its coastal location and proximity to London makes it popular but expensive with buyers.

Activity in Gloucester, Norwich and Warrington is also cooling, OnTheMarket said.

How is the London property market faring?

OnTheMarket crunched separate data for the London property market. The data suggested there has been ‘less fluctuation nationally and very little movement’, On The Market said.

Within the London-focused rankings, Barking and Dagenham, Havering, Sutton, Redbridge and Newham comprised the top five, followed by Bexley, Hillingdon and Enfield. Hounslow and Croydon also made it to the top 10.

However, Hounslow dropped out of the top five London hotspots in the quarter, while Lambeth, Southwark and Merton all fell four places.

In the last few years, higher mortgage rates have put a dampener on the property market. However, the Bank of England is expected to cut interest rates this summer and some banks and building societies have already started trimming rates on their mortgage deals.

Barclays recently upped the ante in the mortgage price war currently playing out between banks and building societies.

The mortgage lender cut rates by up to 0.33 percentage points across a wide range of deals for both homebuyers and those remortgaging, resulting in several new best-buys.

Halifax also announced it was cutting mortgage rates by up to 0.13 percentage points on selected deals.

What’s on sale now?

1. Three-bed semi-detached house, Bradford, £190,000

This three-bedroom semi-detached house at Hopefield Way, Bierley in Bradford, is on sale via Hunters estate agency for £190,000.

It has a light and airy living room and a spacious kitchen-diner. The property has gardens at the front and rear and comes with one driveway parking space.

Bargain: This three-bed semi-detached home on sale via Hunters could be yours for £190,000
Bargain: This three-bed semi-detached home on sale via Hunters could be yours for £190,000
Chill time: The semi-detached house in Hopefield Way, Bierley, is light and airy inside
Chill time: The semi-detached house in Hopefield Way, Bierley, is light and airy inside
Culinary delights: The Bradford property comes equipped with a spacious kitchen-diner
Culinary delights: The Bradford property comes equipped with a spacious kitchen-diner
Relax: One of the three bedrooms on offer at the property in Bradford
Relax: One of the three bedrooms on offer at the property in Bradford

2. Two-bed flat, Plymouth, £220,000

Plush: This spacious two-bed flat in Plymouth is on sale via Julian Marks for £220,000
Plush: This spacious two-bed flat in Plymouth is on sale via Julian Marks for £220,000
Features: The period features at the two-bed flat in Plymouth are clear to see
Features: The period features at the two-bed flat in Plymouth are clear to see
All the mod cons: The Plymouth flat comes equipped with a newly fitted pristine kitchen
All the mod cons: The Plymouth flat comes equipped with a newly fitted pristine kitchen
Space: The Plymouth flat has a small private garden and communal grounds
Space: The Plymouth flat has a small private garden and communal grounds

This two-bedroom ground floor flat on sale via Julian Marks is set in a substantial end of terrace late Victorian-era property and is listed for £220,000.

The newly fitted kitchen is modern and stylish, and elsewhere charming period features have been retained.

The property has been owned by the same people since 1994 and comes with use of a small private garden, as well as a communal garden.

3. Four-bed house, Rochdale, £325,000

Ideal: This four-bed detached house on sale via Hunters could be yours for £325,000
Ideal: This four-bed detached house on sale via Hunters could be yours for £325,000
Family hub: The living room in this Rochdale property is spacious and calming
Family hub: The living room in this Rochdale property is spacious and calming
Ready to go: The property in Milnrow, Rochdale, is in turn key condition
Ready to go: The property in Milnrow, Rochdale, is in turn key condition

This four-bedroom detached property located in Milnrow, Rochdale, is on sale via Hunters for £325,000.

The house is in mint condition throughout with light and airy rooms. A family could move straight into this home without needing to lift a finger. There’s off-road parking, a single garage and gardens to the front and rear.

It’s an ideal property for a growing family.


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Culture

Assessing Property Size: What Square Footage Can You Get With The Average UK House Price In Your Area?

Assessing Property Size In The UK

In the United Kingdom, there is a prevailing tendency to gauge the size of residences based on the number of bedrooms rather than square footage. In fact, research indicates that three out of five individuals are unaware of the square footage of their property.

However, a comprehensive analysis conducted by ‘Savills’ reveals significant variations in property sizes throughout the country. For instance, with the average property price standing at £340,837, this amount would typically afford a studio flat spanning 551 square feet in London, according to the prominent estate agency.

Conversely, in the North East region, the same sum would secure a spacious five-bedroom house measuring 1,955 square feet, nearly four times the size of a comparable property in London.

Best value: Heading to the North East of England is where buyers will get the most from their money

In Scotland, the median house price equates to a sizable investment capable of procuring a generous four-bedroom residence spanning 1,743 square feet. Conversely, in Wales, Yorkshire & The Humber, and the North West, this sum affords a slightly smaller four-bedroom dwelling of approximately 1,500 square feet, while in the East and West Midlands, it accommodates a 1,300 square foot home. In stark contrast, within the South West, £340,837 secures a modest 1,000 square foot property, and in the East, an even more confined 928 square feet.

London presents the most challenging market, where this budget offers the least purchasing power. Following closely, the South East allows for 825 square feet of space or a medium-sized two-bedroom dwelling. Lucian Cook, head of residential research at Savills, emphasizes the profound disparity in purchasing potential across Britain, ranging from compact studio flats in London to spacious four or five-bedroom residences in parts of North East England.

While square footage serves as a critical metric, with a significant portion of Britons unfamiliar with their property’s dimensions, the number of bedrooms remains a traditional indicator of size. Personal preferences, such as a preference for larger kitchens, may influence property selection. For those prioritizing ample space, Easington, County Durham, offers a substantial 2,858 square foot, five-bedroom home, while Rhondda, Wales, and Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Scotland, provide 2,625 and 2,551 square feet, respectively. Conversely, in St Albans, Hertfordshire, £340,837 secures a mere 547 square feet, equivalent to a one-bedroom flat.

The disparity continues in central London, where purchasing power diminishes considerably. In Kensington, the budget accommodates a mere 220 square feet, contrasting with the slightly more spacious 236 square feet in Westminster. Conversely, in Dagenham, the same investment translates to 770 square feet. Three properties currently listed on Rightmove exemplify the diversity within this price range across the UK market.

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

South of the river: This semi-detached house is located near to three different train stations

2. Lewisham: One-bed house, £345,000

This one-bedroom property in Lewisham, South London, is on the market for £345,000.

The semi-detached house is set over two floors, and has a private patio.

The property is located near to bus links and amenities, as well as Catford train station.

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

Edinburgh fringe: This three-bed property is located on the edge of the city, near to the town of Musselburgh

3. Edinburgh: Three-bed house, £350,000

This three-bedroom detached house in Edinburgh could be yours for £350,000.

The house, which has a two-car driveway, boasts a large kitchen diner, and is within easy reach of Newcriaghall train station.


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Culture

Top 10 Florida Cities Dominate The Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

Top 10 Florida Cities And Business Startup Landscape In The U.S.

The Voice Of EU | Florida emerges as a hub for entrepreneurial endeavors, with its vibrant business landscape and conducive environment for startups. Renowned for its low corporate tax rates and a high concentration of investors, the Sunshine State beckons aspiring entrepreneurs seeking fertile grounds to launch and grow their businesses.

In a recent report by WalletHub, Florida cities dominate the list of the top 10 best destinations for business startups, showcasing their resilience and economic vitality amidst challenging times.

From Orlando’s thriving market to Miami’s dynamic ecosystem, each city offers unique advantages and opportunities for entrepreneurial success. Let’s delve into the chronologically listed cities that exemplify Florida’s prominence in the business startup arena.

1. Orlando Leads the Way: Orlando emerges as the most attractive market in the U.S. for business startups, with a remarkable surge in small business establishments. WalletHub’s latest report highlights Orlando’s robust ecosystem, fostering the survival and growth of startups, buoyed by a high concentration of investors per capita.

2. Tampa Takes Second Place: Securing the second spot among large cities for business startups, Tampa boasts a favorable business environment attributed to its low corporate tax rates. The city’s ample investor presence further fortifies startups, providing essential resources for navigating the initial years of business operations.

3. Charlotte’s Diverse Industries: Claiming the third position, Charlotte stands out for its diverse industrial landscape and exceptionally low corporate taxes, enticing companies to reinvest capital. This conducive environment propels entrepreneurial endeavors, contributing to sustained economic growth.

4. Jacksonville’s Rising Profile: Jacksonville emerges as a promising destination for startups, bolstered by its favorable business climate. The city’s strategic positioning fosters entrepreneurial ventures, attracting aspiring business owners seeking growth opportunities.

5. Miami’s Entrepreneurial Hub: Miami solidifies its position as a thriving entrepreneurial hub, attracting businesses with its dynamic ecosystem and strategic location. The city’s vibrant startup culture and supportive infrastructure make it an appealing destination for ventures of all sizes.

6. Atlanta’s Economic Momentum: Atlanta’s ascent in the business startup landscape underscores its economic momentum and favorable business conditions. The city’s strategic advantages and conducive policies provide a fertile ground for entrepreneurial ventures to flourish.

7. Fort Worth’s Business-Friendly Environment: Fort Worth emerges as a prime destination for startups, offering a business-friendly environment characterized by low corporate taxes. The city’s supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives facilitate the growth and success of new ventures.

8. Austin’s Innovation Hub: Austin cements its status as an innovation hub, attracting startups with its vibrant entrepreneurial community and progressive policies. The city’s robust infrastructure and access to capital foster a conducive environment for business growth and innovation.

9. Durham’s Emerging Entrepreneurship Scene: Durham’s burgeoning entrepreneurship scene positions it as a promising destination for startups, fueled by its supportive ecosystem and strategic initiatives. The city’s collaborative culture and access to resources contribute to the success of new ventures.

10. St. Petersburg’s Thriving Business Community: St. Petersburg rounds off the top 10 with its thriving business community and supportive ecosystem for startups. The city’s strategic advantages and favorable business climate make it an attractive destination for entrepreneurial endeavors.

Despite unprecedented challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Great Resignation, and high inflation, these top Florida cities remain resilient and well-equipped to overcome obstacles, offering promising opportunities for business owners and entrepreneurs alike.


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