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How Texas Helps Its Teens Get Pregnant

Year after year, the United States maintains the highest teen birth rate in the industrialized world. In 2006 — the most recent year for which data is available — the U.S. teen birth rate was 41.9 births per 1,000 teens aged 15-19. According to statistics gathered by the United Nations (.pdf), this was substantially higher than any other industrialized nation:

international-ten-birth-rates-06-reduced

However, the overall U.S. teen birth rate obscures the fact that some individual states have substantially higher teen birth rates than others.  For instance: In 2006, the Texas teen birth rate was 63.1 births per 1000 teens age 15-19 (.pdf p.1).  This extraordinary rate made Texas third in the nation in teen births.

Clearly, the United States has a problem with teen births.  But why is that?  Over the years, an increasing body of evidence has suggested that a scarcity of comprehensive sex education for children and teenagers is in large part to blame for America’s unwanted leadership in sexual problems of all kinds — very much including teen births. Now a remarkable report has come out Texas that adds incredible weight to that hypothesis.

The 70 page report (.pdf), released last week by its sponsor, the Texas Freedom Network, is primarily the work of two courageous researchers: David Wiley and Kelly Wilson. Both are professors of health education at Texas State University. In the preface to the report, Wiley writes (.pdf p.vii):

“We knew we were entering uncharted waters. To our knowledge, a study of this magnitude had never been undertaken on this controversial topic. We also knew that such a study could possibly open us to criticism on both personal and professional levels. But two thoughts settled our resolve to proceed. First, Dr. Wilson and I are both the parents of daughters who have attended or will attend Texas public schools. And second, we live in a state with one of the nation’s highest teen birthrates and a population of young people who rate well above national averages on virtually every published statistic involving sexual risk-taking behaviors. In the end, the stakes were just too high to remain on the sidelines.”

Wiley and Wilson used the Freedom of Information Act to obtain the sex education curricula from 96% of Texas’s school districts.  They then analyzed the curricula to reach the startling conclusion that an overwhelming majority of Texas schools are utterly failing to teach comprehensive sex education to their students and are instead substituting irrelevant, false or misleading information in place of medically accurate sex education.  Or, put bluntly and without political correctness: All but a tiny minority (3.6%) of Texas schools are helping their teens get pregnant either by lying to them about sex or by teaching them irresponsible, proved-to-fail sexual practices.

What makes this news especially difficult to swallow is that “An August 2004 Scripps Howard Texas Poll found that 90 percent of Texans support ‘teaching students with age-appropriate, medically accurate sex education that includes information on abstinence, birth control, and prevention of sexually transmitted diseases'”(.pdf p.3). Thus, the Texas schools are going against the wishes of the vast majority of Texans in providing kids with irrelevant, false or misleading information on sex.

The report, which is titled, “Just Don’t Say Know: Sexuality Education in Texas Public Schools”, relates several specific findings, including the fact that “most Texas students receive no instruction about human sexuality apart from the promotion of sexual abstinence”.  Abstinence only sex education has time and again been demonstrated to fail, yet it remains popular purely for political reasons.  It consists of teaching children the only way to deal with their sexuality is to abstain altogether from having sex.  Ninety-six percent of Texas schools teach abstinence only.

To make matters worse, “materials used in Texas schools regularly contain factual errors and perpetuate lies and distortions about condoms and STDs” (.pdf p.17).  Many of the lies and distortions can be traced back to two specific organizations: The Heritage Foundation and The Medical Institute (formerly The Medical Institute for Sexual Health).  Both are polically involved, socially conservative organizations (.pdf p.22) whose credibility outside of conservative circles is widely questioned.

The sort of lies being told Texas school children include (in varying school districts):

• “A young person who becomes sexually active at or before age 14 will contract an STD before graduating from high school. This is no longer the exception, but the rule.”

• “Out of 100 sexually active women, if a condom is used, 14 of the women will experience an unintended pregnancy during the course of one year.”

• “Although lab studies have demonstrated that latex condoms block the entry of the AIDS virus, there is no scientific evidence that they do so during intercourse.”

• “Ladies, you contract chlamydia one time in your life, cure it or not, and there is about a 25 percent chance that you will be sterile for the rest of your life.”

• “The divorce rate for two virgins who get married is less than 3%.”

• “If a woman is dry, the sperm will die. If a woman is wet, a baby she may get!”

Wiley and Wilson found that over 40 percent of Texas school districts teach “factually incorrect” information (.pdf p.25).

As if it were not bad enough for Texas schools to teach abstinence only sex education and then, in many cases, proceed to substitute lies for truths, Wiley and Wilson also found that “Shaming and fear-based instruction are standard means of teaching students about sexuality” (.pdf p.27).

Notably, many of the curricula materials seek to link sex to death:

• “FOR OUR YOUNG PEOPLE TO ENGAGE IN SEX NOW IS LIKE PLAYING RUSSIAN ROULETTE WITH ALL BUT ONE CHAMBER FULL” (emphasis in original).

• “WARNING! Going on this ride could change your life forever, result in poverty, heartache, disease, and even DEATH” (emphasis in original).

• “You’ve found this girl you love, I mean this is it, all those other girls, they were just messing around. This is the real thing. Pull out that diamond, look her in the eyes, if you’re really cool guys you get on your knees, you say marry me, by the way I’ve got genital warts, you’ll get it too, and we’ll both be treated for the rest of our lives in fact you’ll probably end up with a radical hysterectomy, cervical cancer, and possibly death but marry me.”

When not equating sex with death, some of the materials used in Texas schools attempt to denigrate sexually active youth:

• “Destructive behaviors such as violence, dishonesty, drug abuse and sexual promiscuity arise from a common core—the absence of good character.”

• “‘No one wants food that has been passed around. Neither would you want your future husband or wife to have been passed around.'”

The poor quality of sex eduction in Texas comes with several price tags.  Perhaps the most obvious is the economic cost of an exceptionally high teen birth rate.  According to an analysis (.pdf) by the National Campaign to Prevent Teen Pregnancy, teen childbearing in Texas cost taxpayers at least $1 billion in 2004.  Fifty-five percent — or at least 550 million dollars — of those costs were picked up by the Federal Government.  That is, paid for by all American taxpayers.  It seems ironic that a deeply conservative state is, in effect, on the public dole largely because of its irresponsible educational practices.

When all is said and done, Texas was not the worse state in the nation for teen births in 2006, but only the third worse.  However, Wiley and Wilson’s extremely thorough study has put Texas in the spotlight.  At the very least, Texas is now the textbook case for the failure of abstinence only sex education to prevent or even significantly reduce the teen birth rate. For no matter what else can be reasonably concluded from the Just Don’t Say Know study, it can be reasonably concluded that abstinence only sex education doesn’t work.

30 thoughts on “How Texas Helps Its Teens Get Pregnant”

  1. When I was in the eight grade a guy from the health dept. visited our all boys health class to show us a film about VD…His message was to go ahead fellows go out and have all the sex ye want as long as you protect yourself from getting VD…

    This is of course why many parents resist the teaching of sex education in the schools their children attend. As well as the liberal idea of promoting what is an illegal behavior by handing out condoms and birth control pills…

    It is after all ironic that the purchase of a Playboy magazine is illegal for an underage individual yet the same underage individual can buy a condom and other forms of over the counter birth control…

    Plus our sex ed class in high school didn’t deter one of my classmates from having an affair with a married man nor did her Baptist upbringing stop her from having an abortion…The side effect of which (damage to her cervix) caused her to have miscarriage after miscarriage after she married and tried to start a family…

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  2. “It is after all ironic…”

    I agree about the irony, but I suspect I’d disagree about which scenario is desirable and which is not.

    “The side effect of which (damage to her cervix) caused her to have miscarriage after miscarriage after she married and tried to start a family…”

    Maybe that was God’s way of saying, “I have different plans for you.”

    – M. \”/

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  3. Dabir Dalton, if a man told you to go out and have as much sex as you want, as long as you protect yourself from VD, he was not being representative of the normal comprehensive sex education class as it is taught elsewhere.

    I had a comprehensive sex education course, and all that is taught is the accurate information about the effectiveness of condoms and birth control devices, the various sexually transmitted diseases, the facts about reproduction, and that abstinence was the only one hundred percent effective way of preventing sexually transmitted diseases or pregnancy. Condoms and another birth control method could reduce the chances of pregnancy to something under one in a thousand, but I think parents would have been up in arms if someone had heard that the health teacher told us to have as much sex as we could. That’s irresponsible on the part of your teacher, and not part of a good comprehensive sex education program.

    Something I always found fascinating is that out of nine young women who went to a Christian college that promoted abstinence and the purity of virginity in 1993, eight dropped out because of pregnancy. The only one that remained was my friend’s sister. The abstinence-only approach yields similar results everywhere. I’d rather my child learn about condoms, spermicidal jelly, sponges, IUDs and the pill than have her come home pregnant before she’s ready. Our hope as parents is always that our children will wait, but the reality is that teens let their hormones get the best of them, their judgment is not fully developed, and they find themselves in these situations.

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  4. Greg I wasn’t that stupid then and I’m not that stupid now like the vast majority of parents…I didn’t want my son to become a father before his time so as a responsible parent I discouraged him from dating while in high school…The reason that teenagers engage in premarital sex is because their parents are too lazy to keep an eye on them and allow their little darlings (who in their eyes can do no wrong) put themselves in the position of being tempted by allowing their underage teenager to date without a chaperon…

    Once I read about a single father who allowed his 15 yr. old daughter go out with an 18 yr. old boy and the first thing they did was score some drugs and the girl died of an accidental overdose…IHMO that father was neglectful and should have been charged by child welfare and thrown into jail for his stupidity…

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  5. Dabir, I suppose that since more women have complications from pregnancy than from abortion, since many more women die from pregnancy than from abortion, your god is more comfortable letting them live with the consequences of trying to bring new life into the world than he is with making women who had abortions live with them. By your reasoning, your god favors abortion over pregnancy.

    People live with the consequences of their actions. There’s no supernatural involvement necessary. It’s a bit more complicated than that, really, because some women are impregnated by relatives who sexually abuse them. Many teenage girls are pressured into sex by their male peers–and unless you go everywhere with your teen, you can’t always prevent these situations. I knew a girl who was sexually assaulted by two boys her age at a private school–someplace her parents thought she was completely safe.

    There are two people involved in these situations; only one has to face all of the physical consequences, and most of the emotional ones. In the case of deadbeat dads, you have to throw in the financial ones, too. I’m not saying there aren’t irresponsible young women out there, but I am saying that giving them access to the proper information will help protect them from the most difficult consequences–consequences boys do not have to face.

    It seems to me that you engage in anecdotal fearmongering to make your point, and I don’t find it helpful. If you compare the statistics between places where comprehensive sex education is taught and those where abstinence only is taught, you will find that those with the “just say no” approach get far worse results.

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  6. Dabir is of the mindset to hide and shun information from teens because he’s scared of what they might find out. When in reality that information will be learned. The question is, do you want your teen to get it from a quality source or from friends that might be full of bogus information and lies.

    I don’t think I will ever understand the mindset that shunning information from anyone (older than a young teen) is a positive thing.

    Dabir, are you seriously against giving quality information to teens and allowing them to make smarter decisions? If so why?

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  7. dabir dalton: “No Meowlin God just let her live with the consequences of her actions”

    So… you presume to speak for God, then? At least I said “Maybe…”

    – M. ò”ô

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  8. “If a woman is dry, the sperm will die. If a woman is wet, a baby she may get!”

    I’ll admit it, I didn’t honestly believe you when you said this was on the Texas curriculum. I had to look it up in Google. And you’re right, of course.

    That’s extraordinary. I don’t know what else to say.

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  9. Teenagers have sex because they want to.
    [I’ll repeat that]
    Teenagers have sex because they want to.

    There is no way to fight that. Get a grip folks, your kids are screwin’.

    Same as it ever was.

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  10. Dabir: “I didn’t want my son to become a father before his time so as a responsible parent I discouraged him from dating while in high school.”

    This is so painfully ironic – I’d find it funny if the consequences your son’s girlfriends will have to live with because of YOUR behavior weren’t so dire.

    My best friend in high school had a dad like you. Because she wasn’t allowed to have ANYTHING to do with boys she became an absolute genius at sneaking around. She used to use me as an alibi to go sneak around parks and back alleys with her boyfriend. Once she even made me go to a week-long pentecostal church camp with her and her boyfriend so they could have more freedom from her father’s prying eyes. They left me holding hands with a hundred praying, shaking, speaking-in-tongues teenage lunatics every night to sneak off into the woods every night and engage in risky sexual behavior. Talk about the least fun week of my life. I was a vegetarian and they locked me in a little room away from all the others during dinner so they wouldn’t be influenced by my god-hating dining habits.

    I, on the other hand, had liberal parents who left the books “Where Did I Come From” (sex ed for kids) and “What’s Happening to Me” (puberty ed for kids) lying around for me to find on my own. I could have all the boyfriends I liked and entertain them at home, although my mom requested I leave the door open. I could go wherever I liked, with whomever I liked, as long as I gave my parents a contact number and let them know when I’d be home.

    Bottom line, my friend lost her virginity in a downtown parkade with a stranger she picked up in the mall at the age of 15, without using any protection at all. I was 17, protected, indoors at my family’s lakeside cottage and with a trusted friend I deeply cared for and still hang out with 15 years later.

    How’s that for an anecdote? The bottom line is, “discourage” your son all you like and keep your watchful, disapproving eye on him 24-7. The harder you try, the more likely it is he’ll be humping a stranger bareback up against a back alley wall the minute your back is turned. If you teach your kids that sex is dirty, your kids will be into dirty sex.

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  11. Sunstone, that is horrifying… it makes me sick that the wishes of the masses can be overridden by the mere opinions of a few.

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  12. My daughter is five. I really don’t have to worry about dating right now.

    A domineering man with a daughter is either going to have a rebellious girl on his hands or a girl who wants to be with domineering men. The domineering type are more likely to pressure and bully her into sex.

    If I raise my child to think critically about the consequences of her actions, if I have a policy of openness and honesty with her, I will not have to worry. I watch how other people parent, and it’s the parents who either rule with an iron fist or don’t care at all who have the worst children.

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  13. Webs I have no problem with sex ed being taught in high school…After all I was the only boy in the childcare class I took during the tenth grade who not only scored the highest on the final exam but was the only boy in a room full of girls who watched without blushing a graphic film of a live child birth that same year…

    Where I draw the line and where the backlash against sex ed occurred is because instead of sticking to enlightening the underage children they were teaching…The educated professionals in many schools stepped over the line by making condoms and other forms of birth control available to their sexually active students as well as violated the rights of the parents by taking pregnant girls down to the local health clinic without notifying her parents…

    During the Clinton years the female surgeon general advocated teaching children how to masturbate…While other schools began to both teach and advocate homosexuality as normal behavior…

    Now if sex ed can be taught without actively promoting behavior that is immoral, perverted and illegal and refrain from violating the rights of the parents in regards to their children…I’m all for it however I seriously doubt that liberals could restrain themselves from promoting what they consider to be a okay…

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  14. BTW Paul I have my doubts as to the validity of the study you are quoting especially since I’m well aware that the woman who claimed that 1 out of 4 college woman are raped intentionally redesigned her study to get that very result when she failed to get the results she wanted the first time around…I am also well aware how many studies have clearly shown that domestic violence is a 50/50 proposition between men and women, the super bowl hoax and other false claims touted without question by the liberal media down through the years even after being proved patently false when other researchers couldn’t verify or reproduce the findings…

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  15. DD: “Now if sex ed can be taught without actively promoting behavior that is immoral, perverted and illegal”

    There’s the catch. Who decides which behaviours are “immoral, perverted and illegal”?

    But I forget. You speak for “God.”

    – M. @”@

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  16. Even nature teaches that homosexuality is a perversion of the human sex drive…After all sex is all about reproduction and two women or two men aren’t going to reproduce hence for anyone to engage in sex with a member of the same sex is perverted…

    I stand by my comment…

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  17. @ Dabir: In the first place, it doesn’t make sense to me to reject one study simply because I have that another, unrelated study was corrupt.

    Second, even if sex was “all about reproduction” and served no other ends, it would not necessarily follow that we should regard homosexuality as immoral. Nature is not the final arbitrator of our morality.

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  18. The real problem with liberals is that they have no moral absolutes until they gain political power and then they want to force their own immorality on every body else…While the liberal media will publish any finding no matter how patently false as long as it fits within the frame work of their bias…

    This is why I don’t the trust or believe the results of every single study published in the newspaper or on the internet…

    Cry wolf a little too often as the media has done in regard to the issues that the feminists favor and independent thinkers like myself will have reason to call the media’s credibility into question…

    The simple fact is that those who promote the use of birth control, the murder of children through abortion and sex ed in the schools always end up aiding and abetting Juvenile Delinquency and promoting behavior that is illegal…

    What pray tell are you going to say to the teenage boy charged with statutory rape when he claims that he did nothing wrong because he used a condom?

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  19. Audubon Magazine published an article in the mid to late 90’s which plainly stated that pesticides like DDT break down into compounds that mimic estrogen and have the ability to flip the sexuality of the parents offspring during gestation…

    The scientists studying this verified this finding in the lab and there are compounds in plastics that do the same thing…Also estrogen is also placed in the feed and can not be sold if it contains too of a high rate…This is just one of the reasons I quite eating meat back during this same time period…

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  20. BTW Rev Dave I stopped going to church and listening to the vast majority of shepherds of the flock a long time ago because so many of them refuse to walk the walk while preaching the so called talk…The good book says that by their fruits shall ye know them which is how I distinguish wolves cleverly disguised as sheep…

    BTW Paul if there was no need to reproduce then there would be no need for sex…Hence sex is all about reproduction and the propagation of the species…So if one doesn’t want to accept responsibility that sex entails don’t do it…

    It really is that simple…

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  21. “BTW Paul if there was no need to reproduce then there would be no need for sex”

    Then why do people who cant have children due to infertility have sex?

    What are they having sex if its impossbile for them to reproduce?

    Wouldnt they be doing it because it is serving other needs?..Like couple bonding/pairing needs?

    “What pray tell are you going to say to the teenage boy charged with statutory rape when he claims that he did nothing wrong because he used a condom?”

    Why would a boy claim that if he has been advised that a use of a condom does not negate rape laws?Actually I would question the mental state/intellectual level of a person who thought you could have sex with a minor as long as you were wearing a condom.

    Thats like saying..’what are we going to do when a man breaks into a womans house and rapes her and he says he did nothing wrong because she was taking the pill.So since she was using birth control that meant that the rape laws werent in affect ….

    Love

    Dallas

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  22. “BTW Paul if there was no need to reproduce then there would be no need for sex…Hence sex is all about reproduction and the propagation of the species…So if one doesn’t want to accept responsibility that sex entails don’t do it…

    It really is that simple…”

    Also Dabir Im very curious if you apply this to married couples or just unwed teeanagers and adults?

    I cant imagine if you would suggest that not only teenagers should not use BC because sex is for reproduction .So if they dont want the responsibility of what that “may ” entail(a child) then dont do it..That you would say the same to a maried couple who is not in a “postion” to take care of a child..or another child..or another child or another child.

    Lets say that got married when she was 20..and she is fertile and so is he..She can possibly get preganant over the next 30+ years.Are you suggesting that she and her husband should abstain from sex unles they are prepared to take care of as many children that are a result of that sex?

    Say you take that couple at 35..and they have 6 children..they can not afford another one.And lets just say she is high at high risk not to mention the risk go up each year after 35 to have a downs syndrome baby among other birth defects..

    Lets just say they live to be 80.Are you saying they should abastain from sex for the next 45 years?Unless they want the responsibilty of taking care of more children they can not afford on top of possible special needs children and to risk her health due to her being in a high risk cateragory for physical harm to her?

    And what about after menopause(say she is 50) and they have abstained for 15 years already due to above mentioned?Would you approve of them returning to sexual intimacy?And if so why? Because they can not reproduce.What woud they be doing it for if no children could be of the result of it?

    Love

    Dallas

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  23. DD: “The real problem with liberals is that they have no moral absolutes until they gain political power and then they want to force their own immorality on every body else…”

    Let me get this straight – “liberals” have no moral absolutes, and when they get into power, they seek to force those moral absolutes – which they don’t have – on everybody else.

    Take the abortion issue as an example:

    “Conservatives” are generally portrayed as having a “moral absolute” on this issue: it’s bad. Nobody should be allowed to get one. But this isn’t forcing their views on everybody else.

    Whereas “liberals” see this as an issue that should be considered on a case-by-case basis, and that the host organism should be allowed to decide whether the subordinate organism is a symbiote or a parasite. And that the government should butt out of this decision.

    Hmmm… well, I guess if one interprets that as forcing people to make their own decisions instead of leaving them free to let the government make those decisions for them… yeah, I suppose “liberals” could be said to be forcing that view on everybody else.

    “While the liberal media will publish any finding no matter how patently false as long as it fits within the frame work of their bias…”

    Seems to me, your main (if not only) criterion for determining whether a published finding is true or “patently false” is whether it agrees with, or supports, your premises or not.

    But, again, I forget… you speak for “God.”

    – M. ò”ô

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  24. “BTW Rev Dave I stopped going to church and listening to the vast majority of shepherds of the flock a long time ago because so many of them refuse to walk the walk while preaching the so called talk…The good book says that by their fruits shall ye know them which is how I distinguish wolves cleverly disguised as sheep…”

    Since you have no idea what “walk” I might be walking at the moment, I really have no idea how I would respond to this. I’m sorry you feel the need to hide behind generic attacks like this one rather than deal with the particular issue at hand. Unless you feel I’m simply not worth talking to.

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  25. Not just pregnancy. Here’s some more charming news courtesy of our sex-fearing citizens and their crusade against the flesh:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2009/jul/20/bush-teen-pregnancy-cdc-report

    “In a report that will surprise few of Bush’s critics on the issue, the Centres for Disease Control says years of falling rates of teenage pregnancies and sexually transmitted disease infections under previous administrations were reversed or stalled in the Bush years. According to the CDC, birth rates among teenagers aged 15 or older had been in decline since 1991 but are up sharply in more than half of American states since 2005. The study also revealed that the number of teenage females with syphilis has risen by nearly half after a significant decrease while a two-decade fall in the gonorrhea infection rate is being reversed. The number of Aids cases in adolescent boys has nearly doubled.

    The CDC says that southern states, where there is often the greatest emphasis on abstinence and religion, tend to have the highest rates of teenage pregnancy and STDs.”

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