Reason.tv: Light Bulbs Vs. The Nanny State

In September, the European Union banned the sale of 100-watt incandescent light bulbs, with lawbreakers facing up to $70,000 in fines. Over the next few years, bans on lower-wattage bulbs kick in. In the United States, similar legislation comes into play in 2012. The idea is to kickstart the market for compact fluorescent lights (CFLs), which use less energy than conventional incandescents. Although CFLs present any number of problems (even beyond a much higher initial cost), governments all over the globe are determined to make them the new standard.

Invented in its modern form by Thomas Edison in 1879, the light bulb became synonymous with a brilliant idea. Now, it seems, it's just one more symbol of a nanny state that increasingly dictates more choices in our public and private lives.

"Light bulbs vs. The Nanny State" is produced by Meredith Bragg and Nick Gillespie. Approximately two minutes. 

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  • Keith||

    Where's the video?

  • Mister DNA||

    I might have to revoke my libertarian credentials, but I'm somewhat fond of CFL bulbs, although by no means do I think the gov't should force everyone to buy them.

    I'm guessing there are exemptions in place for professionals who require lighting that can't be done with CFL. Filmmakers and photographers will definitely need incandescent lighting to produce all those PSAs telling the public that incandescent lighting is bad...

  • Suki||

    Filmmakers and photographers will definitely need incandescent lighting to produce all those PSAs telling the public that incandescent lighting is bad...

    Not to mention the pills and alcohol looking so much more appealing to 13 year olds under regular light than CFL.

  • Mister DNA||

    Not to mention the pills and alcohol looking so much more appealing to 13 year olds under regular light than CFL.

    But the real question is: Do 13 year-olds look better under incandescent or CFL bulbs?

    Incidentally, that Reason.tv clip must have been taped under 50,000 watt halogen bulbs, because Nick Gillespie isn't sporting his leather jacket.

  • Suki||

    Better check with a Roman on that one.

  • Suki||

    Would you rather live with a CFL or in Gaza?

  • ||

    Why not both? Then again, if the Israelis are picking up the electricity bill, why do Gazans care what bulbs they use?

  • Daniel||

    I'll worry about how much energy my light bulb uses when the ban all the doorless refrigerators at the grocery.

  • Suki||

    Shouldn't you be shopping at the farmer's market? :)

  • ||

    Reminds of something about "jumping off a bridge". Some old cheesy cliche.

  • ||

    CFLs suck. By all accounts the incandescent should be as obsolete as the telegraph. LEDs are far superior to both. Yes, a higher initial cost, but 50,000 hr (10 years) lifespan and only 13 watts for a 100 watt incandescent equivalent in Lumens. It pays for itself in two years. The "quality" of the light is similar to incandescent, but it's actually better because there are several different color temperatures that are available that don't require the use of filters (glass coatings). In fact, there is no glass. And the sizes and dimensions are limitless.

    http://www.earthled.com/evolux-led-light-bulb.html

    Soon, only "knuckle dragging Neanderthals" will be using incandescent.

  • Suki||

    Racist!

    (previewed with preview)

  • ||

    "So easy a Caveman can do it".

    "(previewed with preview)"

    Yeah, I saw that.

  • Kant feel Pietzsche||

    OK, question: Why does my LED 5 bank flashlight, which puts out excellent illumination, and runs like forever on 4 AA cells, costs equivalent to a standard flashlight, while an LED fixture bulb costs $50?

  • ||

    LEDs are low voltage, low current DC devices. You're flashlight is already low voltage DC. Household electricity is 120 volt AC. Therefore, you need a transformer (voltage) and a rectifier circuit(AC to DC), and a small fan to cool, built into the device (bulb). Eventually, the lighting fixtures themselves will (should) have the necessary electronics.

  • Turnkey||

    The electronics are even cheaper than the LEDs are typically. And some newer LEDs can run off 120V and 220V (Ariche).

    A lot of the cost is thermal management (and lots of profit).

  • ||

    I haven't been into it (optics) since the early 90s. They didn't even have blue LEDs. I noticed the lower power (20-30W equiv.) are only around $10. So, yeah, I'm sure an aluminum heat sink and a micro fan add considerably to the cost. The added electronics don't help, either. LEDs are essentially semiconductors, and we all know what heat can do to a semiconductor.

    The Ariche looks very expensive. Patents and all. It looks like it's more applicable to large systems where controlling high current can be a problem.

    Don't forget also, that the flashlight has a parabolic reflector and a lens, making it appear brighter by focusing the light.

  • Slutmonkey||

    Usually the flashlight is cheap because the LEDs in it are cheap--the light is not very 'pretty'. Turnkey is right that the electronics to convert 120v AC to low volt DC are almost free, and cooling isn't expensive either. A good resister keeps the current manageable without much heat for just a few cents.

    IMHO the high cost of these bulbs is mostly a early adopter tax. They're making their money back on all the research and manufacturing capital it took to invent and produce these wide spectrum LEDs. These bulbs use the latest greatest LED tech to create the best QUALITY light currently available. As the technology matures the price will drop dramatically to match the LEDs in your flashlights.

    Google CRI light quality. You could light your home with the LEDs from your flashlight, but it would look horrible.

  • smartass sob||

    Why not wire all the lighting circuits for low-voltage DC back at the breaker box? Also, what about all those power supplies that get tossed with obsolete desktop computers? I wonder how many LEDs one of those could be made to power.

  • Kolohe||

    The last time I shopped for one, the LED version of a Mag-Lite(TM) was considerably more expensive than an incandecent ver of the same size from the same company. (about twice IIRC)

  • ||

    LEDs are great for looking at, not with.

  • @||

    If one breaks, people are advised to air out rooms and avoid using vacuum cleaners when cleaning up the mess to prevent exposure to mercury and other electronic parts in the bulbs, officials said. Instead, householders should remove the debris with a wet cloth while avoiding contact with skin. Used bulbs should be put in special collection receptacles, officials said.

    You worry too much, Comrade. Can't you see that the ban will open up all kinds of new opportunities for clever capitalist dogs?

  • Suki||

    Love that ideeli ad.

  • @||

    It's a shoe!
    It's a medieval battle helmet!

  • Suki||

    The Myspace banner ad for it is better. Has side views. Looks like a nice decoration for an end table or something, all metal.

  • Chinny Chin Chin||

    HEED ME:

    ACCEPT THE PAYPAL!

  • Suki||

    Looks like the new spammer feature is working too.

  • @||

    Aren't spam filters anti-libertarian?

  • Suki||

    Not on the individual choice level. Banning them would be Leftoided.

  • ||

    The enemy of my enemy is my friend. And Ed Hardy is my enemy.

  • Slutmonkey||

    Spam filters are anti-anarchist. It's not quite the same.

  • @||

    And yet many "libertarians" are anarchists. The "pirate" crowd certainly is.

  • ||

    LOL, we all know the Nanny State will always come out on top! Never fails!

    RT
    www.complete-privacy.net.tc

  • Tim||

    I might have to revoke my libertarian credentials, but I'm somewhat fond of CFL bulbs, although by no means do I think the gov't should force everyone to buy them.

    Agreed, because I like spending less on my electricity bill, although I am fond of dimmer switches and can't use them there. Keeping a light dimmed also saves electricity. Has anyone ever considered that the wasted energy is in the form of heat, which is only wasteful in the summer, because in the winter it just contributes to warming your house.

    The "quality" of the light is similar to incandescent, but it's actually better because there are several different color temperatures that are available that don't require the use of filters (glass coatings).

    And also no mercury, where can you get them.

  • SpongePaul||

    you can get cfls that are dimmable.

  • ||

    Incandescents don't produce enough heat to make much difference when the temperature is very cold. Their heat-producing power is most effective when the ambient temperature is closer to their surface temperature. You're better off using a space heater during the winter months.

  • Thomas||

    So I guess that my mother and the millions of other people with lupus or any of a myriad of medical conditions that are adversely affected by CFLs will just have to suffer that much more come 2012.

    And, no, sitting ten feet away doesn't help, and neither do the covers.

    http://www.environment.gov.au/.....s/fs1.html

    http://hubpages.com/hub/Negati.....Bulbs-CFLs

  • @||

    the millions of other people with lupus or any of a myriad of medical conditions...

    ...will be eligible for a special exemption after filling out a 32-page questionnaire, getting a note from their primary physician and a second opinion from a government-sanctioned clinic, and successfully being entered on the waiting list, pending final acceptance of the 32-page questionnaire, provided they used a No. 2 pencil as specified on Page xii of the application instructions.

  • smartass sob||

    An exemption will not help much. If incandescents are "outlawed", then relatively few will be produced - which means that they will probably become very expensive.

  • Kolohe||

    It's never lupus.

  • ||

    What? The world is ending in 2012. Haven't you read your Mayan calendar lately, or accepted that Obama is the anti-Christ or something?

  • smartass sob||

    Ha! They don't call him the Obamesiah for nothing! ;-)

  • SpongePaul||

    Well as bad as the CFL's are, they have been a boon to indoor cultivators, you can pick up a few 100 wt actual watt cfl and grow tomatoes without the need for vent fans and cooler fans, because they put out much less heat than a hid.

  • Isaac Bartram||

    tomatoes...yeah...right....sure, that's what you're growing.

    I believe you. :)

  • SpongePaul||

    i grow nothing, just saying

  • ||

    Does this mean cops won't be able to look at your extravagant electric bill, cite that as probable cause that you're growing stuff in your closet, and get a warrant to break down your door and kill your dogs?

  • SpongePaul||

    well they certianly use less elec. but are good for only 1 or 2 tomatoe plants as their penetrating power is not great, see sea of green for best results.

  • ||

    You may want to consider this:

    http://store.earthled.com/prod.....d-growcube

  • ||

    Or, there's an even higher power model.

    http://store.earthled.com/prod.....owcube-pro

  • Ratko||

    In the year 2024 dangerous adulterated incandescent light bulbs will be purchased from your friendly neighborhood bulb pusher for a price ranging from $1,000 to $5,000 per light depending on wattage, tinting, et cetera.

    Seem a little steep? Hey, it's a dangerous business giving people what they want, and not getting any safer.

  • LifeStrategies||

    Yes indeed, Ratko. How nice to see some humor around a subject that shouldn't even need to be discussed.

    I'm still waiting to see someone explain where in the Constitution it gives the Feds the right to regulate light-bulbs.

    I try to keep up with Constitutional Amendments, but must have missed the one cancelling the 10th... Isn't that the one that limits the powers of the federal government to those explicitly delegated to it by the Constitution?

  • ||

    Er, the best economic estimates put the true cost of electrical power, including the externalities caused by pollution, at something like two or three times what U.S. consumers are charged today. (See http://blogs.wsj.com/environme.....ectricity/) So, basically, when libertarians complain about the nanny state mandating CFLs, they're cheerleading for irresponsible profligacy that imposes costs unfairly on the little guy, while representing themselves ideologically as the champions of responsibility and the little guy. Which is pretty much their shtick generally.

  • Slutmonkey||

    On the contrary, the numbers you're talking about come from government subsidization of electricity prices. Where does government money come from? Mostly taxes on poor and middle income follks, but when the government subsidizes it instead of just charging each person for the cost of what they really use you introduce an extra (and unneeded) step in the process. That extra step requires paying people to make it work, which increases cost, and since you're not gaining any real benefit it's waste.

    Libertarianism is about NEITHER "the little guy" NOR "The rich". Libertarianism is about maximizing personal freedom, and by extension it's about efficiency in governance and the right to own/keep/sell as much of the value you produce as possible.

    If you disagree with libertarianism it's because you either don't understand the logic, haven't fully thought through the logic, or you place a higher value on something other than freedom.

  • MJ||

    How is saying one should be able to choose between using incandacents and CFLs unfairly impose costs on anyone, let alone the benighted "little guy"?

    Understand what words mean before you use them.

  • J.||

    If the "true cost" of electricity is "two or three times what U.S. consumers are charged today", how is that its "true" cost? Who is paying this cost and how? How is it calculated?

    How does the article you cite relate to this discussion?

  • ||

    Of the above three commenters, none appear to know or care what an externality is. Tells you something about the intellectual level of internet libertarians.

  • William Furr||

    Now now, you can respond constructively to those posts without resorting to ad hominems and baseless generalities.

  • J.||

    Evan can't respond constructively because he doesn't know how to answer any of the questions. I know what an externality is. From his childish response, I wonder if he even really does. He says there are "true" costs of an externality -- air pollution -- implying they can be measured objectively:

    "[T]he true cost of electrical power, including the externalities caused by pollution, [is estimated to be] two or three times what U.S. consumers are charged..."

    So how arbitrary is that "cost"? My guess is 'plenty'. How was that measured to come to the "three times" conclusion? What is the fair price one will accept to breathe polluted air? How many parts per million of what chemical is worth how much to whom? Is it including medical bills attributed to pollution (which could be a fairly tenuous connection)? If so, why are those the true external cost (surely, some people would accept money to breathe some amount of pollution, without regard to future health effects, for a given price)? And how much, if any, of that calculated cost is attributed to the inert "pollutant" carbon dioxide?

    And his first post contained this stupid non sequitur:

    "So, basically, when libertarians complain about the nanny state mandating CFLs, they're cheerleading for irresponsible profligacy that imposes costs unfairly on the little guy, while representing themselves ideologically as the champions of responsibility and the little guy."

    Libertarians give two shits about profligate individuals (it is profligate governments that upset them, because it is not the government's money to spend). People should be entitled to spend their own money how ever they see fit, and not forced to pay the "right" price (since they wouldn't factor in some--possibly fanciful--external cost), or protected from making the "wrong" decision that impacts only their own wallet in a minute way.

  • William Furr||

    The externalities of power generation primarily relate to the environmental costs of fuel extraction (e.g. - mountaintop removal mining) and combustion by-products.

    The costs are borne by those who are exposed to the environmental damage (which is all of us w.r.t. emissions and only some of us w.r.t. mining waste e.g. - the residents of West Virginia). It's also spread unevenly to the taxpayers and industries that fund the EPA's cleanup efforts.

    Instead, those costs should be borne by those who produce them in the first place.

    Now, I still think banning incandescents is stupid. It disproportionately hurts poor people and it creates a distorted market where power is given to the lobbyists.

    A good stiff carbon and pollution tax would level the playing field for everyone. Give it a few years to shake out and then we'll all be empowered to make environmentally conscious decisions based on nothing other than cost.

  • Sean W. Malone||

    Well played, Reason.tv!

  • ||

    LEDs are the way to go, they last a hell of a lot longer and use very little energy. I wonder how much lobby money the supporters of CFL's get?

  • ||

    So, basically, when libertarians complain about the nanny state mandating CFLs, they're cheerleading for irresponsible profligacy that imposes costs unfairly on the little guy,

    Help me out, here, Evan. How is opposing a mandate that the little people buy more expensive bulbs imposing costs on the little guy?

    How is pricing the externalities into the little guy's electric bill going to help him, again?

  • Sean W. Malone||

    RC, don't you understand? In 100 years when global warming melts the ice caps and there are dozens more "Katrina" (times a MILLION!) incidents, the little guy will be the one most negatively effected. Best to hurt the little guy now with higher prices to save his grandkids an underwater house.

  • ||

    From the linked screed article:

    Phase 2: Consumers weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this wonderful product and decide that it is not really that wonderful after all.

    CFLs have been on the market for some time, but so far consumers have not been impressed. Besides being expensive and strange looking, the light quality doesn’t seem to please people.

    Dude, you're going to need to back up that claim with evidence. I see CFLs all over the place and this was so long before the 2012 ban was passed.

    In the final analysis, while I agree this is a STUPID thing for the federal govt to be getting involved in, this is an EXTREMELY STUPID hill for the libertarian movement to die on. CFLs were already becoming predominant in the market.

  • Craig||

    And you thought Equilibrium was a work of fiction...

  • ||

    Wow, reading this article, this dude is just asserting his own opinions as fact. For example, consider this highly objective assessment of the "inferiority" of CFLs:

    They are not as good for reading as incandescent bulbs are, for example. Many also complain that the bulbs flicker and buzz. Dimming the intensity of CFLs also poses a problem. It would appear that consumers have a very clear choice: They can pay more for the new inferior government bulb or pay far less for a superior existing product.

    I've never seen a CFL that behaved that way (and again, I've seen a ton of them). Yes, they do sometimes take a second or two to come up to full intensity, but seriously that's a stupid concern. And there are plenty of disadvantages to incandescents that the author conveniently ignores. I, for one, do not enjoy being surrounded by miniature space heaters on a hot summer night, for instance.

    CFLs are a superior product -- far less expensive over the long term, far less deleterious to temperature control, and the toxicity concerns he brings up are so overblown it's tough to know where to start. CFLs do not spontaneously explode, as he bases his argument in the last paragraph on.

  • ||

    Well, actually ... I had a CFL shatter unexepectedly on me. Think it was burned out, as I recall, and I unscrewed it while the power was still applied. ... *pop* *fizzle* shattered glass all over the kitchen.

    Then I replaced it with a rather annoying white-spectrum CFL, which I regret, because I like the warm yellows better.

    I can definitely see why incandescent bulbs are preferable in certain circumstances.

    That said, it help that they are only baning 100+ watt ones. You can still get the smaller 30-75W bulbs for reading lamps and bedroom lighting and such.

  • Slutmonkey||

    It's stupid to argue about which is "better". If you don't mind blue light that makes people with certain skin tones ugly, and you want a low electric bill, and you're not going to be turning the lights on and off a lot, then CFLs are for you. If you don't mind heat, and you want a warmer light that's more like a fire or you're going to be turning your light on and off a lot, then you want incandescent.

    The point is that you should be able to CHOOSE which you want based on your personal needs, wants and ability to pay. This legislation is bad because it's arbitrarily removing choice.

  • smartass sob||

    I agree, but I would like to point out that turning an incandescent bulb on and off alot will shorten its life...unless a dimmer switch is used.

  • roystgnr||

    CFLs are a superior product for most applications, and you're allowed to think so without losing your libertarian street cred. I think the only incandescent light left in my house may be the oven lamp.

    What's anti-libertarian is to think "This is better most of the time, which is practically the same as being better all of the time, which is more than enough reason to make the alternatives illegal." What's stupid on top of that is to try to solve a huge, general problem like energy consumption externalities via micromanagement. Space heaters are still legal, unless they emit bright light too? You're allowed to prefer a big-screen TV for entertaining a room but not to prefer a broader spectrum for lighting it? Oh, and because even the most overzealous politicians recognize that CFLs can't go *everywhere*, we're going to need a nice long list of exceptions (remember that oven lamp?). Don't worry, another few dozen pages of legal rules and associated punishments will fix everything!

  • ||

    Excellent, money to be made in smuggling lightbulbs into the EU.

  • ||

    CFL's take a second or two to come up to XX% of full intensity. Some are better than others and they seem to vary by wattage.

    I've never seen a CFL that behaved that way (and again, I've seen a ton of them)

    Good for you, and me. I'm not terribly sensitive to light quality either, but as was stated, "Many also complain that the bulbs flicker and buzz". This is not an uncommon complaint with al types of fluorescent lighting. I don't think anybody needs a 65,000 auto or a 4,000 square foot home, but it's really none of my god damn business what anyone else wastes their money on. I'll even let some anti-environmental prick use air travel to go on a weekend ski trip.

    Yes, they do sometimes take a second or two to come up to full intensity, but seriously that's a stupid concern

    No it isn't. And again, someones product choice is none of your business, nor mine. Incandescents are the best solution for a stairway, say to your basement (if you think we are allowed to have basements), that doesn't need to be illuminated for long. Whack the switch on the way past and fly down the steps to take care of your business. Why wait? Why spend more money on a bulb that will not last as long for this short-use application? But I'm not going to cheer any effort to outlaw CFL use on stairways.

    I, for one, do not enjoy being surrounded by miniature space heaters on a hot summer night, for instance

    Then don't use them. But, if it's OK with our betters in government, can I use them in a garage in the winter when the heat is not a disadvantage and when CFLs have a hard time starting up? Gee, thanks.

    and the toxicity concerns he brings up are so overblown it's tough to know where to start.

    Well, I know where to start. Let's start with the Glass. Both are made with glass. The CFL glass is a far more complex design. Likely that means more labor, more expensive machinery, or more energy (which would partially account for the 4-6x price delta)

    Both have a tin-alloy metal screw base with insulator. That's a tie. The only tie, from a manufacturing environmental impact point of view.

    Let's just ignore the mercury, cuz we all know it will get recycled anyway....pftttt, hahahaha.

    The incandescent has a filament wire where the CFL has insulated wiring, probably PVC. Any guess which is more harmful to manufacture and dispose of?

    I've already covered the entire construction of the incandescent. To that, we have to add a few things to produce a cfl:

    diodes (I use organic ones purchased at the local coop)

    IC's and/or transistors - non-GM of course

    A circuit board. Any idea how dirty this process is? How does that copper get formed in those funny shapes anyhow? Any chemicals involved in that process? I'm leaning toward Jesus on this one.

    electrolytic and polyester or polypropylene metal film capacitors. I think you just pick these from the garden in your back yard.

    Inductors - ignore that enamel coating on the magnet wire and the plastic bobbin.

    Transformer - more enameled wire, environmentally friendly plastic, earth friendly ferrite core, and progressive insulating tape.

    Plastic housing

    All these parts just join together by God's magic wand, leaving us with this:
    Does this look less toxic than an Edison bulb?

  • ||

    I light my house with fire.

  • ||

    So if you have three mansions full of twisty bulbs (and heated and cooled year round regardless of occupancy), then you are a good "environmentalist".

    But if you have one small two-bedroom home and you prefer using one or two regular bulbs for reading - then you are stupid, selfish, and soon to be at risk of breaking the law.

    Can anyone say: totalitarian hypocrites?

    PS Global Warming fanatics! Check out the NASA solar website at: http://sohowww.nascom.nasa.gov/home.html

    Sunspots are still few and far between.

    Then Google "Maunder Minimum".

  • DW||

    bigbigslacker beat me to it. Anyone touting the environmental benefits of CFLs ought to first look at the components and manufacturing processes first before trumpeting, "It's Green!"

  • ||

    The operational energy savings far, far outweigh the increased pollution from the manufacture process. Suddenly libertarians forget that the best way to judge how much energy and waste a product requires is to look at the cost of manufacture and the cost of operation together, and in this metric CFLs are far cheaper than incandescents.

  • Colonel_Angus||

    I have two 12 gallon plastic storage bins filled with classic bulbs, different wattage, styles, coated, non coated. All GE and West. Picked them up cheap from a closing hardware store. Capitalism!

  • Colonel_Angus||

    Who the hell is really going to bother holding on to burned out CFL's to recycle them properly?

    If LED's require transformers and rectifiers to reduce the electricity to that required by the lamp and convert to DC, doesn't that mean some of the extra energy is just being wastefully released as heat anyway?

  • ||

    Yes. The big issue in LED's is dealing with the heat in the driver circuits. And heat always = energy loss.

  • William Furr||

    I take my burned out CFLs (and old mercury thermostats, and alkaline batteries, and all that kind of thing) to household hazardous waste disposal day at my local recycling agency. Then again, I care about this kind of thing, too.

    Bummer we didn't end up with DC household power way back when. We'd have WAY fewer wall warts and waste heat from transformers and rectifiers now. All my gadgets would plug straight in to the wall.

  • ||

    Fire. Hot, cleansing fire. Good for light. Natural. Cooks food. Warms home. Fire.

  • *||

    ♪♫ Glow little glow worm, glimmer, glimmer. ♪♫

  • MJ||

    How much time does anybody give before the government starts finding heavy mercury contamination in landfills, throws a hissy fit, blames corporate greed, and bans CFLs?

  • ||

    It's probably happening already. If these CFL bulbs are out there there has got to be a environmentalist group saying "Yeah, dude, like the goverment should ban this stuff. Right on!" and emailing their Congressman.

  • ||

    I was actually in on the IESA negotiations. It was my first real intro to regulators and NGO's. It was even worse than I ever expected. And my expectations were really bad. It's made me think twice about staying in the lighting industry.

  • J.||

    Aside from being filled with poison, CFLs make a horrible humming noise. They suck. If you prefer them, cool. Buy them and put them in your lights.

    But it is absurd for the government to force them upon everyone against their will. There's not even a time-tested "it's for your own good" argument here. In fact, I think the presence of mercury makes a much stronger argument in the opposite direction (not that CFLs should be banned, though).

    The banning of incandescent bulbs is also going to keep the price of CFLs high much longer than it would be otherwise. It will remove an incentive to make CFLs less expensive and more competitive with incandescents.

  • abercrombie milano||

    My only point is that if you take the Bible straight, as I'm sure many of Reasons readers do, you will see a lot of the Old Testament stuff as absolutely insane.

  • nike shox||

    is good

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