Perfect illustration of risk compensation rendering COVID-19 vaccines ineffective

“Benefit of COVID-19 vaccination accounting for potential risk compensation” (Nature, by Stanford Medical School professor John P. A. Ioannidis) points out that our current crop of COVID-19 vaccines won’t slow the spread of SARS-CoV-2 infection if humans who are vaccinated change their behavior as a result of having been vaccinated.

Tailor-made for Prof. Ioannidis: “Getting Back to Normal Is Only Possible Until You Test Positive” (The Atlantic, Alexis Madrigal). Some relevant excerpts:

I was ultracareful for 18 months. Then I got COVID.

When I first received the invitation to the wedding where I would eventually get COVID, I was on the fence about attending at all. My best friend had gone through a tough divorce and was remarrying. I was thrilled for him. His wedding had been put off repeatedly because of COVID, and this was the couple’s second try at a real ceremony. As a bonus, the wedding would take place in New Orleans, where my friend lives. I hadn’t seen him since before the pandemic. New Orleans is a miraculous place, and my favorite city to visit in America. The notion of a trip there shone out of the fog and dreariness of this whole era of history.

The downside, of course, was the risk of exposure to COVID. Sure, I’m vaccinated—two shots of Pfizer—and the wedding’s other attendees would all be vaccinated too. But breakthrough cases happen, and we’d be in New Orleans in October, a place where cases were still high and vaccination was inconsistent. One could not expect to not get exposed to COVID.

But then I reasoned both with myself and with my wife. COVID was unlikely to kill me, a vaccinated 39-year-old endurance athlete. I would be fine, and even if I gave the coronavirus to any of my family members, they too would almost certainly be fine. My wife is vaccinated, and our young children’s risk of serious illness, while not nonexistent, is very low.

Filled with a surge of love for my friends and New Orleans and a sense that, you know what, I’m ready to nose out into a new tier of risk, I booked a flight; I’d be going solo.

As the day approached, my wife and I had not run through every scenario. I still was not precisely sure how the wedding would work, COVID-wise. My friend is a doctor, and I knew the crowd would mostly be New York and California people. There would be no anti-vaxxers among the guests, and the invitation said they’d follow the local public-health protocols.

If he/she/ze/they hadn’t gotten vaccinated, he/she/ze/they never would have gotten on the packed flights nor would he/she/ze/they have attended the wedding of the righteous (“no anti-vaxxers”) at which “at least a dozen people” contracted COVID-19. I myself exhibited the identical behavior. Not being a believer in the efficacy of facerags for the general public, I avoided getting on a commercial airline flight until after getting vaccinated (and the flights that I took ended up being packed and mostly unmasked).

Separately, the rest of the Atlantic article is a great reflection of Bay Area zeitgeist:

I spent hours in an N95 mask in the Las Vegas airport and on planes before arriving in Louisiana and heading to the welcome drinks.

My kids were so happy to see me, and after my negative result came back, to hug me. Was I actually safe? No, I knew I was not. I should have quarantined. But I had stuck my wife with the kids for four days, and I wanted to get back in the mix and help. That seemed like the right thing to do.

Moms are heroic on the one hand, but on the other hand it is unreasonable to expect a mom to be able to take care of two children for four days,

On Monday, I felt fine, but I took an antigen test anyway (negative). I scheduled a PCR test for the next day. By the time my appointment arrived, I’d started to have some postnasal drip and what felt like a possibly psychosomatic tickle in my throat. Tuesday night—four days after the wedding—my PCR result came back negative, and despite having what felt like a cold, I figured I was pretty close to being in the clear.

The next day, my symptoms were about the same. I did an intense Peloton workout and it felt fine, though maybe my legs were a little slow. I wasn’t eager to test again; a negative PCR test seemed good enough. But my wife heard me cough—one of only maybe 20 coughs throughout my whole sickness—and said, “Couldn’t you take another antigen test?”

I was on the phone with a young geographer, talking about doing research at Bay Area libraries, and kind of absentmindedly did the swabbing. When I looked down a few minutes later, I had tested positive. Maybe a false positive? I immediately took another antigen test and the little pink line was practically red, it was so dark. Wrapping up the call, I packed my things quickly, texted my wife the result, walked outside with an N95 mask on, and waited for all hell to break loose.

Like my dentist friends, he/she/ze/they has a whole closet full of N95 masks! Also note the persistence in test, test, testing until positivity is achieved!

But the real worst-case scenario was everything that happened to the people around me. My kids had to come out of school and isolate with my wife. A raft of tests had to be taken by everyone I’d had even limited contact with. (I was one of at least a dozen people at the wedding who got sick.) I had been with several older people, including my mother-in-law. For my wife and children, the tests went on for days and days, each one bringing a prospective new disaster and 10 to 14 more days of life disruption or worse.

But for me, the very worst part was my children. They knew, cognitively, that I was vaccinated and unlikely to get really sick. That said, COVID-19, for them, is a terrible thing. The past year and a half of their lives has been disrupted by this virus. They take precautions every single day not to have this happen.

Even the kids know that if you’re vaccinated it is safe to party! How old are these kids?

My nonbinary 8-year-old was so mad and maybe so scared that they could barely look at me. My 5-year-old daughter proved her status as the ultimate ride-or-die kid. She brought a chair down the street so she could sit 20 feet away from me outside in her mask, as I sat on the porch in an N95.

Five and eight and they are already experts on a disease that kills 82-year-olds.

Despite his/her/zir/their vaccine, the 39-year-old author gets about as sick as the sickest unvaccinated New Yorkers and Europeans whom I talked to back in spring 2020:

I felt pretty sick, like when you have a cold, but I’ve probably been sicker 15 times as an adult.

In other words, a bad cold/flu. The kicker, though, is that he/she/ze/they imagines that he/she/ze/they would have died without the sacrament of vaccination:

These vaccines are amazing. I was and am fine. [emphasis in original]

I understand that my scenario is far better than could or would have played out in a pre-vaccination world.

What about the people infected with SARS-CoV-2 in 2020, pre-vaccines, who never had any symptoms at all? (81 percent of cruise ship passengers who tested positive, for example; or at least one third, if you believe the other side of the #Science coin) They were and are fine. If the 39-year-old endurance athlete author was seriously ill despite vaccination, shouldn’t he/she/ze/they actually suspect that his/her/zir/their vaccine was, at best, laughed at and ignored by the virus?

Readers: I hope that you enjoy the Thanksgiving flights and gatherings that you probably wouldn’t have risked if you hadn’t been vaccinated!

Practical Take-aways: (1) Don’t get more COVID-19 tests than you have to! With current test tech, regardless of what’s in your body, you will eventually test positive; (2) if you don’t want to get COVID-19, stay home (or move to Florida, currently the nation’s lowest-risk state, and stay outdoors!).

Recent group chat exchange:

  • friend 1: So i am in Poland and i got the f***ing flu. Have been coughing for 10 days. Question: Since everyone is in masks, how do I get the flu if masks work?
  • me: 10 days might just be cold, not flu
  • friend 1: And i didn’t have sex with any polish prostitutes
  • friend 2: YET
  • friend 1: Ok and cold is unaffected by masks? What is the science on that?
  • me: I think those who #FollowScience are ready for you! Coronavirus is spread by airborne particles, which is why we #MaskUpAndStopTheSpread On the other hand, every other disease is spread by surface contact, which is why kids still have colds
  • friend 1: I am so damn sick of all of it. Germany is on the rise despite compliance and FFP2 masks everywhere


39 thoughts on “Perfect illustration of risk compensation rendering COVID-19 vaccines ineffective

    • It is not insane for a parent in the Bay Area to gain status by saying that his/her/zir/their child is non-binary.

    • It is insane to gain “status” among certifiably insane by claiming that one’s child is mentally ill (aka “non-binary”).

  1. We know that according to The Onion, scientists isolated Gene Simmons in March of 2005. Has anyone developed a vaccine to Howard Stern yet?

    >I knew the crowd would mostly be New York and California people. There would be no anti-vaxxers among the guests

    Were they all natural-born American citizens? Do “New York and California people” include the undocumented, unvaccinated and migrant? How many of those people were at the wedding in New Orleans? How about Black people? Were there any vaccine-hesitant migrant BIPOC people at Alexis Madrigal’s White Wedding doing anything other than serving the hors d’oeuvres, catering, decoration and trash removal? Maybe they all caught COVID from an undocumented “essential worker” – or a worker at an essential marijuana dispensary that someone visited prior to the wedding to top up their stash before the reception.

    I think there’s a good chance COVID crept into the wedding “through the back door” as it were – maybe it was one of the photographers/videographers, not wearing a mask because it fogged up their glasses?

    • Here’s the Weedmaps map of Medical Marijuana dispensaries in the NOLA area. When you have an eight year old nonbinary child, you should definitely qualify for medical marijuana. Maybe someone else at the wedding needed their medical weed and picked up COVID on their way to the wedding. I know I’d have to be stoned to attend a wedding with someone who had a nonbinary eight year old, especially if I knew in advance.

  2. Masks have risen in price so dramatically from $4 to over $10 nowadays, the mask industry makes too much money for the mandates to ever be lifted without impacting vast numbers of mask CEO’s. There would have to be a mask subsidy in the economic stimulus package of the week.

    • With all due respect to lions: Buy Aegle. Made in the USA, $65 per box of 50 ($1.30/ea.) ships free UPS anywhere in the lower 48 in <7 days, contains NFI chip for authentication, thick and sturdy plastic inner liner bag containing them, filters 95% of particles down to 0.3 microns against a virion ~0.1 micron in diameter. Good enough for target practice!

      Comfortable, durable straps, fold right up, fit snugly. Even people who aren't up to an intense Peloton workout can handle the < 343 Pa inhalation/exhalation resistance. I wear mine everywhere and hang one from the rear view mirror of my car to let everyone in Massachusetts know I'm not a Republican (which is true! I'm not a registered Republican.)

  3. The Atlantic article sounds like a high school essay that is desperately trying to please the teacher. It ticks all boxes so perfectly that I’m wondering if it is a) a fabrication or b) carefully written around the following statement:

    “One way to put the question of endemicity is: When do we start treating COVID like other respiratory illnesses?”

    This is essentially MAGA heresy wrapped in social justice. Is the Atlantic an unsound publication?

    • It was always a “liberal” magazine. I don’t know about “Unsound” but based on my experience reading The Atlantic over several decades – since the early 1980s – it has gone the same way as Scientific American. In an attempt to broaden its readership horizons, it became increasingly defocused, less serious, more popular, more overtly politically liberal (to the point of being propagandistic / mouthpiece, which SciAm definitely is.) The real “slide” in my mind began in the mid-late 2000s. According to Wikipedia:

      “After experiencing financial hardship and undergoing several ownership changes in the late 20th century, the magazine was purchased by businessman David G. Bradley, who refashioned it as a general editorial magazine primarily aimed at serious national readers and “thought leaders”.[9] In 2010, The Atlantic posted its first profit in a decade.[10] In 2016, the periodical was named Magazine of the Year by the American Society of Magazine Editors.[11] In July 2017, Bradley sold a majority interest in the publication to Laurene Powell Jobs’s Emerson Collective.[12][13][14]”

      They became less intelligent and more partisan, more “newsy” and trend-of-the-day, to broaden their reader base. Scientific American became positively stupider, much more Donkey-Donk under the editorial “leadership” of Mike Shermer, and turned closer to Popular Science in terms of reading difficulty and signal/noise ratio. I rarely read it now. When I was 10 years old, SciAm was a challenging magazine, almost completely devoid of political propaganda. Now it’s more Discovery Channel reading level with tons of half-baked propaganda thrown in, and the Atlantic has gone the same way for the most part, IMHO. It’s a slightly upscale, longer-format version of the New York Times, just based in Washington, DC.

      My $0.02.

    • Who is Laurene Powell Jobs? She the doppler-shift liberal billionaire widow of Steve Jobs. I wonder if she ever learned to code? Well, it hardly matters. With ownership like this, you know where the Atlantic’s editorial prerogatives always tack toward.

      “Laurene Powell Jobs (born November 6, 1963)[2][3] is an American billionaire, businesswoman, executive and the founder of Emerson Collective, an organization that, among other investing and philanthropic activities, advocates for policies concerning education reform, social redistribution and environmental conservation.[4] She is also a major donor to Democratic Party politicians, including Kamala Harris and Joe Biden.[5][6][7] She is also co-founder and president of the board of College Track, which prepares disadvantaged high school students for college.[4] Powell Jobs resides in Palo Alto, California, with her three children.[8] She is the widow of Steve Jobs, co-founder and former CEO of Apple Inc., and she manages the Laurene Powell Jobs Trust.[9][10]”

  4. I recently had my sixth COVID PCR test and it was negative. I attribute this to my ability to stay the heck away from people, living in a Deplorable semi-rural area, good ventilation, and to a much lesser extent, wearing an N95 mask whenever I can’t stay the heck away from people. My booster shot is tomorrow and I’m getting Moderna, not the Pfizer I was once “fully vaccinated” with. I have also lost >20 pounds in the past month, but that’s a little misleading, because at least a few pounds of that was live tissue that was removed from my body. In any case I am trying to keep my calorie count under 1,500 per day. I like Ka’Chava.

    I did attend a wedding about 2 months ago in a beautiful Roman Catholic church, but I sat apart from the main group of people, at least 20 feet away from the closest, and the church was very interesting because it also had the small ventilation windows OPEN the entire time, providing effective cross-flow ventilation that you could feel. I did not attend the reception because I knew a lot of people would be mingling and dancing with their masks gradually coming off the more alcohol they drank, plus all of the undocumented and essential workers who would be there, running things behind the scenes. So I went home instead. None of my immediate family members caught COVID as far as I know, but I was being extra-cautious.

    I have zero doubt that despite all the above, at some point I will test positive. SARS-CoV-2 is going to become an endemic virus. I believe Judith Persichilli, who should know, because she was a nurse for a long, long time. I hope that when I do, I’m healthier than I’ve been in the recent past and won’t have much trouble. Fingers crossed.

    • Wishing you a speedy recovery from your health challenges. Thanks for your HeatShield, Aegleco, and Ka’Chava recommendations. You’re a smart, hard-working, perceptive guy. Go easier on your awesome dad, please! Anyway, I respect your views, and I hope that you live for many years to bless, amuse, and inspire those in contact with you.

    • @Socrates: Thank you again. Most of the credit has to go to our host and his blog and (most) of the rest of the loyal readers here b/c it’s helped me through some tough times (long story.) Ka’Chava is surprisingly good for something that seems so trendy from the look of the website. Only about 250 calories/shake when mixed with pure ice and water and it’s tasty and nutrient dense. I’ve had a lot of meal shakes and protein shakes over the years and Ka’Chava rises to the top. The usual problems with them are clumpiness, grittiness, aftertaste.

      Not Ka’Chava. I mix mine with a small scoop of lowfat ice cream bringing the calorie count probably to 350 or so, and the ice cream smooths the shake even more. It’s not cheap, though: About $4.50/ea. However, if you really are trying to stick to a calorie-restricted diet, a $4.50 cent “meal” is not bad if it really keeps you satisfied for six hours or more, and this does. Now three flavors also. Easy to digest. Low aftertaste. Not gritty. I was surprised. They also offer referral discounts so if you can bring in a few friends you can cut the cost. /plug.

  5. Good news! Even with risk compensation, the booster gets us back to ~90% effectiveness against infection.(

    Pretty cool considering how much the virus has mutated since Wuhan.

    Anecdotally, I resumed traveling, weddings, and riding the subway immediately after vaccination, and the virus hasn’t caught up to me yet.

    • “the booster gets us back to ~90% effectiveness”

      It doesn’t. The actual figures from the field (not the heavy B.S. by vaccine manufacturers and “independent” scientists who have already been caught in enough scientific malfeasance to basically ignore everything they say) basically indicate that the vaccines are totally worthless. Including actual epidemiological data from Israel.

      There is a world of difference between the extrapolations from short post-booster time periods (i.e. 12-25 days in the cited “study” – and no attempt whatsoever to compensate for obvious confounders) and the reality in which on-going inflammation after the booster shot (due to S-protein circulating in the organism) does mop up the virions which happened to come by – but does not confer long-term immunity after the inflammation subsided. (And, yes, you can see how it works – if you have any clue about immunology – in Fig 2 which clearly shows booster effects already fading after 3 weeks. This is not how a real specific immunity curve looks like, it’s just people getting ill due to S-protein toxicity and recovering from the illness when the toxin is cleared).

    • Where do you find these hot takes? Is QAnon doing vaccine science now?

      Here’s another study by a different group of Israeli academics:

      And an *independent* analysis of the public Israeli data:

      All three show pretty high effectiveness for boosters. The conspiracy runs deep.

    • I think the goal is for people in rich countries to get their 50th booster just as the average African is offered his/her/zir/their first shot.

    • > 99.8% protected from dying of C-19

      Covid is the #3 cause of death for two years running now. We were more likely to die of Covid this year than stroke, Alzheimer’s, diabetes, suicide, COPD, homicide, lung cancer, overdoses, and car crashes. Your elderly relatives are of course at the greatest risk.

      Kirsch seems to be pooling the young and old together and proclaiming “look, vaccines don’t prevent much covid death on average”. Yes, they prevent it overwhelmingly in the elderly. For the young, they just allow us to reopen society without killing off ~10% of the elderly. Worth it? To me, yes.

      > Vaccinated people have asymptomatic infections and happily spread the virus:

      Vaccinated people are >60% less likely to become infected than the unvaccinated and ~90% less likely to be hospitalized. NYC has fully reopened Broadway, museums, concerts, bars, and restaurants using vaccine passes.

      > I think the goal is for people in rich countries to get their 50th booster just as the average African is offered his/her/zir/their first shot.

      For what it’s worth, Africa is doing pretty well, probably due to a younger population and plenty of outdoor time.

      It is worth remembering what happened in India this summer though.

    • > Vaccinated people are >60% less likely to become infected than the unvaccinated.

      In 100% vaccinated Gibraltar cases are currently at least 5 times higher than a year ago. The same applies to Germany (18+: 79% vaccinated) and Austria. Being vaccinated as a 30 year old not protect the vulnerable. That is vaccine propaganda by politicians who run out of ideas and want to have mandatory vaccinations because they are low intelligence authoritarians who need an ego boost.

    • Lots of examples of highly vaccinated populations having the worst sniffle cases. Here is another example of the other method(that absolutely doesn’t work according to people who might not be entirely honest.)
      And for the ‘but taking the vaccine will get us back to normal’ crowd if you still believe that following dictates will get you your freedom back you don’t deserve your freedom back.

  6. The interesting shift is that the leftists now consider being ill (with COVID) a moral failing. They do feel ashamed if they got it. It’s because the person who got it was lax in abiding in rituals and did not stay pure. By now COVID is a full-blown cult, with all the requisite trappings, including complete denial of absolutely everything challenging the dogma.

    Funnily enough other diseases get a pass (particularly mental… these can actually be Morally Good or even Truly Doubleplus Good – gender dysphoria and paraphilic disorders certainly are). Go figure.

    • Alexis Madrigal is very real. Just tonight he was the featured host on “NPR Now” / Sirius XM 122 (nationwide) at 5pm talking about the #Science behind Thanksgiving dinner. He’s got all the right bonafides: He was born in 1982 in Mexico City (GenY Millenial), he went to Harvard, he wrote for the Atlantic, Fusion and WIRED, he helped start the COVID Tracking Project, he’s got a nonbinary eight-year-old child with his wife, he tested positive for COVID last month, he likes Peloton. Master of the Universe from the Bay Area. What’s not to like? He’s a Thought Leader who writes for other Thought Leaders, so he’s kind of a Super Thought Leader.

  7. Silly me… I missed the point of the story. ” Guy goes to wedding, has a great time. He shoves sticks up his nose unitl he gets sniffles? Nothing really happens. He has a family. ”
    This is so not a story. A story has a point…

  8. @Alex > With all due respect to lions: Buy Aegle. Made in the USA, $65 per box of 50 ($1.30/ea.)

    Yes. Or 3M N95s. And WTF are masks with vents still not acceptable? We’re still wearing these to protect “the others”? If you think you should be wearing a mask, a 3M P95 with vent is much more comfortable and effective (excellent foam seal) than an N95 with no vent.

    • @Mitch Berkson: I concur. I’ll see if I can get some 3Ms with the vents to compare. I wear an N95 mask for the same basic reason I sometimes carry a concealed firearm (also made in the USA): to protect myself first. You’re no at good protecting anyone else if you’re dead.

      Fortunately, the closest I’ve ever come to drawing and wielding my CC firearm was during an encounter with a rather large bear that had ambled down from the nearby woodlands to rummage through garbage containers left full and open by vacationers who rented a house a few hundred yards away from where I live. It came out of the brush on the side of the road and loped across the road about 20 feet in front of me while I was walking back from a trip to the local convenience store. I could smell the bear. I froze in my tracks, did not move, and waited about 30 seconds. Then I walked backward slowly toward the store while keeping my hand on my gun.

      There was no need to draw the firearm but if the bear had charged me, I would have unloaded the entire magazine into it. I was glad I had the option if I had needed it. Luckily Yogi was only looking for half-eaten “pickinick baskets” that were left around by negligent renters, there were no cubs around, and we both continued merrily along our separate paths.

  9. I guess I’m out of the loop, but is common to have a bunch of antigen tests lying around the house?

    • This phenomenon was first called “Covid-19 hoarding” in 2020, I think now it is considered virtuous.

    • Speaking of hoarding… Does anyone need a half-container of toilet paper, 200 gallons of hand sanitizer, 632 rolls of Bounty, and 144,000 disposable gloves? Asking for a friend.

  10. A perceptive 10 year old can see, and could see from the start, that Covid-19 has nothing to do with real science (ie, it’s a s c a m). So it comes down to this…

    “If you’ve ever wondered whether you would have complied during 1930s Germany, now you know.” — Banner of a Covid-19 protester

    The saying goes “SEEK the truth and you shall find it” –and NOT that you find the truth by passively ACCEPTING what authorities tell you is the “truth” like herd animals unthinkingly obey their shepherds’ orders. Yet almost nobody ACTIVELY SEEKS the truth, they only PASSIVELY ACCEPT as “truth” what the authorities tell them and so become UNthinking members of “herd stupidity.”

    Do YOU actually SEEK the truth or are you a mindless member of “herd stupidity”?

    I suggest you study (not briefly scan) “The 2 Married Pink Elephants In The Historical Room –The Holocaustal Covid-19 Coronavirus Madness: A Sociological Perspective & Historical Assessment Of The Covid “Phenomenon”” at

    You can ONLY see the official lies IF you SEEK the truth…. it means you must LOOK “behind the curtain” — behind the official narratives.

    “The inhumane abominations, issued by the highly credentialed professional class of psychopaths-in-control and their lauded sycophantic minions, of “No Jews Allowed” and “No Colored People Allowed” of yesterday is the “No Unvaccinated People Allowed” of today.” (from cited article)

    “[…] when you do things to people against their will and force them it destroys their spirit, it destroys the integrity of their body. […]. Being an adult is meaningless if you cannot even protect the integrity of your own body.” — Jennifer Daniels, MD, MBA, Holistic Doctor

  11. And while #FollowScience, #MaskUpAndStopTheSpread, #GovernmentSavesLives, et. al. are trending, no one seems to care about the dumbing down of our society and the next generation that will lead this country. Here are few examples:

    1) California is in the process of approving new guidelines for math education in public schools that “pushes Algebra 1 back to 9th grade, de-emphasizes calculus, and applies social justice principles to math lessons,” [1]

    2) Gov. Kate Brown signed a law to allow Oregon students to graduate without proving they can write or do math. She doesn’t want to talk about it. [2]

    Years ago, we gave up on our manufacturing powers, now we will give up on our brain powers. The solution? Bring in more low skilled, non educated, illegal immigrants into the country to fix our problems [3].

    Let’s all work work together to #DefeatCovid, #FlattenTheCurve, #SocialJustice, et. al. to save every-single-life and teach our kids about nonbinary and social justice. As for the farm, let us watch from a safe distance as it burns to the ground.

    Happy Thanksgiving everyone and get ready to pay 2x next year for that turkey meal.


  12. We are being told that this is a crisis of the unvaccinated. How is Portugal, a shining beacon of morality (86% or more vaccinated), doing?

    “Portugal is bringing back some tight pandemic restrictions, less than two months after scrapping most of them when the goal of vaccinating 86% of the population against COVID-19 was reached.”

    • Not only is accuracy optional for covid stories, internal consistency is optional too. From a Reuters story on the ‘very high’ global risk of omicron:

      ‘In vaccinated persons, meanwhile, “COVID-19 cases and infections are expected … albeit in a small and predictable proportion”.’

      In the next sentence, ‘Overall, there were “considerable uncertainties in the magnitude of immune escape potential of Omicron”‘.

      (Next to that story on the “very high global risk” was one about how omicron cases are very mild.)

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