Archive for September, 2017

Protest, protest, protest

What is all this stink about protests. The way I’m looking at it right now is that Trump is blasting the NFL and its players because he truly doesn’t understand the background of this current protest phenomenon. When Colin Kaepernick first sat down while the national anthem was played, it was in a pre-season game. He later said, “I am not going to stand up to show pride in a flag for a country that oppresses black people and people of color. To me, this is bigger than football and it would be selfish on my part to look the other way. There are bodies in the street and people getting paid leave and getting away with murder” His explanation of why he later began taking a knee rather than sitting was to “show respect for members of the military,” after he had spoken with a veteran about his actions. This is the part that Trump doesn’t get. Taking a knee, linking arms, doing whatever one wants to do is not disrespecting the anthem or the flag or any other “symbol.” It is begging the United States to pay more attention to the number of blacks who are being killed by police. What Kaepernick did and what others are doing reflects what is happening in America. By his words and by his actions, Trump has only exacerbated the situation rather than defuse it.

Think about this for a moment…America has been a land of protest before it was a land called America. English people came to this new world as a form of protest against the Church of England. Yeah, protesting goes all the way back to the Pilgrims…but you knew that. Once we got a few colonies established, what did we do? We protested by taking it up a notch to protest King George and all of England. That became sort of the ultimate in protests, but it also became the founding of the country that we know to today. The North protested the South’s tradition of slavery and the South protested the North’s intervention in that tradition. Again, another ‘ultimate’ protest in which, depending on your source, between 640,000 and 850,000 Americans gave their lives. We are a nation that thrives on protest. Workers strike to protest working conditions or pay. Minorities marched to protest the treatment of blacks in the South. Good Lord, all you have to do is walk down Pennsylvania any day of the week – including Sunday’s – and you’re bound to find someone outside the White House with a protest sign in their hands, and the same is true in the halls of Congress.

When Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved hands on the podium of the 1968 Olympics, many thought it was a Black Power salute. As Smith later recorded in his book, Silent Gesture, it had nothing to do with black power and everything to do with human rights. There was much greater symbolism to the clothing worn by Smith, Carlos, and silver medalist, Peter Norman. All three wore human rights badges on their warmup jackets, and Smith and Carlos dressed to recognize black poverty and black lynching’s. Most people never even saw the symbols they wore, merely the raised fists, and even that was misinterpreted.

Should professional athletes be above the fray and not allowed to express their concern over what is wrong in America? You call it. Can you protest something that you believe is unfair? Can you do it publicly by carrying a sign? Of course, you can. Perhaps you don’t like the fact that the athletes do it while millions watch on television or thousands in the stands. Perhaps you’re with them one hundred percent. Perhaps you don’t give a damn one way or the other. I believe that Kaepernick and all the others who have followed him have a perfect right to do what they’re doing and the way they’re doing it. I also believe that standing, locking arms, and showing solidarity against a racist political figure who doesn’t know his ass from a hole in the ground and who is trying to divide rather than unite this country is perfectly fine.

I hope to heaven that the time never comes in this country when men and women, old and young, black, white, brown, yellow, or red cannot protest what they believe is wrong with where the country is going. At that point, America is no longer a democratic republic and that will be the end of America. We’re already attempting to take away the rights of woman when we tell them that they cannot choose. We’re attempting to take away the right to vote from blacks and others when we demand that they show identification to vote while allowing whites to pass freely into the voting booths. We’ve taken away many of the rights of the red man by confining him to some of the poorest pieces of property in this country. Ever since our founding, we have tried to keep one group or another from gaining a foothold on the ladder to the top, but, for the most part, it’s been through protests and hard work that the ladder has been climbable. Keep kneeling Colin, and keep protesting unfairness America.

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The second most divisive CIC

Not since James K. Polk has an American executive been as divisive as Donald J. Trump. Just as Polk’s slave holdings were a contributing factor to the Civil War, so Trump’s actions are attempting to once more make race an issue in the United States. Ever since his tepid remarks about Charlottesville and his sorry attempt to redefine his remarks, he has shown over and over that his white supremacist base is exactly who he plans to appeal to in order to have an eight-year term in the White House. If that means that blacks take issue with him and seek revenge for the actions of a few white police officers, it will only fuel his ongoing racist attitudes.

Trump appears to feel that kneeling by players in the NFL during the national anthem is an affront to the anthem and to the American flag. If he could take his head out of the sand long enough, he might understand that they are not protesting either. Their protest regards the manner in which this nation is once again being divided by the color of peoples’ skin. To say to NFL owners that they should fire the “son-of-a-bitch” who kneels before the anthem is sung is not only an insult to the players, but to the mothers of those players…think about that one carefully before you make any snide comment.

Perhaps the one thing that is becoming bothersome to me is the slow pace of Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation. I can only hope that it’s because Mueller and his team are dotting ‘I’s and crossing ‘t’s before slamming the door in Trump’s face and opening the door for Congress to impeach the slimeball. Do I actually hate Donald Trump? The answer is no. I hate what he stands for. If he wished to remain a sleazy real estate mogul in New York, going bankrupt, coming out of it and going bankrupt again, that was fine and didn’t affect my bottom line in any way. Now, however, he occupies a position of power and trust that does affect me and every other American citizen, including our naturalized citizens and the children who were brought here illegally by their parents, and he is still being the sleazy operator that he was when he was in real estate.

The Republican Party had seven years to decimate the Affordable Care Act, and one of Trump’s major talking points was “repeal and replace.” Neither the Republicans, Trump, nor the Democrats ever thought of the more appropriate slogan which might have been “repair and reinvent.” Would it have been possible? No, not with members of Congress on both sides of the aisle so unwilling to meet and have an open debate about the merits and faults of the ACA. As a consequence, instead of working together to achieve a consensus, Congress tried more than 70 times to merely repeal the act. That’s like a football team trying to run a play through the eight hole every play, knowing that there are two 385 granite blocks on the other side who are immovable, or to put it another way, it’s like trying to knock down a steel door with your head. Wait a minute…nah, forget it.

Taking Trump’s asinine behavior one step further, why is this man so interested in playing chicken with North Korea. When Goldilocks starts calling other world leaders his little made-up nicknames, he has no idea of how they will react. In the hermit kingdom of North Korea, Kim Jong Un, a man of questionable mental stability, might just become sufficiently pissed to launch an all-out attack on his neighbors to the south, thereby triggering a response that could well develop into WWIII with a final solution not dissimilar to On The Beach.

When the United Nations was formed, it adopted a portion of the goals of the League of Nations, formed shortly after WWI. A portion of this meant, “to promote international cooperation and to achieve peace and security.” Trump’s recent remarks to the General Assembly of the UN hardly was in the spirit of international cooperation. Quite plainly, it was a declaration of war against Iran and North Korea and not once, but several times did he make his intentions known. I was somewhat surprised that several of the nations represented didn’t get up and walk out to show their displeasure with the tenor of his speech. I suppose they were worried that they might be the subjects of his next round of Tweetie Bird tweets. I could have told them not to worry, that he was too concerned about the Emmy Awards and what the players in the National Football League were doing.

This country is in dire need of a Health Care Bill that will provide coverage for those who want and need it, and in most cases, those who have preexisting conditions that must be covered. We are also in dire need of tax reform that will simplify our tax code. Rather than the nearly 74,000 pages that the current tax code requires, there should be something less complex and confusing. Who is working on this? Is anyone working on this, or is this like the health care bill…”We’ll get around to it.” If you and I had that same attitude on our jobs, we’d be out looking for work in no time flat.

If Donald Trump wishes to remain in his current position, he damn well better start to act like he knows what he’s doing, and stop taking on piddly-ass causes like slamming football players, news outlets, and members of the entertainment community. Otherwise, he should get out now while the getting is good. He may even be able to convince Robert Mueller to stop the investigation that will probably put him behind bars.

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Volunteerism…what an interesting word. I suppose one might say it’s a word that has helped to build America and make it the nation it is today. Certainly, we can trace it back to the earliest settlers in the country who voluntarily (well, almost voluntarily) supported the religious establishments of which they were a part. Reverend Cotton Mather, a Puritan minister in colonial times, urged his parishioners to identify and care for residents in their neighborhoods in need. One source reports that, “He also encouraged people to create associations to suppress disorders, to visit the sick and needy, and to enable young artisans to help one another.” When it came time to establish the New Republic, volunteerism really began to show its appeal. Militia were formed voluntarily rather than by mandate to fight the British and to create the country of today. While we still have voluntary militia today, we look at them a bit differently.

When we think of volunteerism now, we think of it in somewhat different terms. We look at the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of American volunteers who make their way to places like Haiti, Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, New Jersey, and even across the oceans to assist those in need. Recently, the crises caused by the spate of hurricanes that tore up so much of US possessions and Southern states was a tribute to what I think of as American volunteerism in action. Whether it was fire and police department volunteers or private citizens with boats; whether it was volunteers from the American Red Cross and other agencies; whether it was the people who opened their purses or the groups of medical personnel who banded together to help in hospitals and shelters, America showed once more just how quickly we can come together to assist those in need.

Maybe you and I don’t think about volunteerism in such ‘severe’ terms. Maybe you’re the mom who goes into her child’s classroom once a month to aid the teacher. Maybe you’re the volunteer at the Boston, Chicago, New York, Denver, or other marathon who registers runners, passes out water along the route, or works in the medical tent because that’s what your background allows you to do. Or maybe, just maybe, you’re the person who is physically unable to volunteer directly, and so you write a check to support one of the participants in the race, the ride, or the activities.

I was sitting at the kitchen table recently and I printed a little saying. I don’t know if it’s original, probably not, but I thought about the number of people I know to whom this applies. “Never stop believing in the amount of good you can accomplish if you’re only willing to try.” Looking at it on the page, it sounds kind of corny, but then again, I’m not so sure it is. There are so many things that we can do to help others, and in so doing, we really help ourselves. Years ago, hell, I don’t remember how many – we were living in Newton, MA at the time, so it had to be more than thirty years – I used to drive in to Cambridge on Saturday mornings and record some books for the blind. I wasn’t very good at it, but it was something that I could do to help those unable to see the printed page. I always walked out of there wanting to do it better the next time. Come to think of it, I don’t know whether I just stopped because I thought that I sucked at it or whether they politely told me that I’d done enough…isn’t that a great way to fire somebody…tell them they’ve done enough?

Today, I think just about every school in every district, at least in the New England area anyway, has some type of program where students are required to perform a certain number of hours of community service. I don’t necessarily agree with that because ‘requiring’ something may not appeal to everyone. Seems to me that if parents are involved in volunteering, asking their kids to help them out might be a better way. The children get the idea that the parents enjoy doing it, maybe it will just rub off, so to speak. Many parents brought their children to the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge bike-a-thon when I was volunteering at that event. Some of the kids grew into becoming volunteers while others wanted a more active role and became riders. Today, more than 4,000 volunteers and nearly 6,500 riders participate in this event that has become the largest single fund-raising event in America, an event that has given more than half a billion dollars to the Dana Farber Cancer Research Institute over the past thirty years.

For several years, I volunteered at a road race in a nearby community. My job was to sell T-shirts, and I was good, so good in fact that I became known as the “T-Shirt Nazi.” Hey, all the profits went to Amnesty International, a darned good organization. Eventually, I became “King T-Shirt Nazi,” responsible for all the shirts. That was when I learned that leftover shirts were just thrown into a basement to either be parceled out during the year by the race organizer or left to mold, mildew, and rot. Don’t get me wrong, I liked this race organizer. He was doing good things for charity, but storing T-shirts in a damp basement just wasn’t the thing to do. Now, at the end of the race each year, all shirts are folded, sized, boxed up, inventoried, and stored in a dry area. Anyone authorized by the race organizer can pick up one or two, but the rest are sold the following year as “Vintage T-Shirts.” Hey, we only charged five bucks a pierce for them, but they became a hot item. Ain’t imagination wonderful?

From the days when the Pilgrims stepped ashore to these days when tragedy seems to be striking everywhere, volunteers are still a backbone of free people everywhere. If the volunteer bug hasn’t bitten you yet, I hope that you’ll give volunteering a try. Be careful though, you’ll find that it can become habit-forming.

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You loot…we shoot

It is time that we came up with a new slogan in light of these climatic catastrophes that are becoming more common…here it is: “You loot; we shoot…to kill.” I suppose the last part might be a bit of overkill, so to speak, but I’m sick and tired of seeing these people, damn near all of them black, looting stores in the middle of storms. It’s no wonder people don’t want to obey the orders to evacuate. They may come back to find the house in great shape only to find their valuables gone. And how do black people justify this looting…and many do try to justify it? They say that “the man” has oppressed them and their ancestors for so long that they are forced to take this action. Forced my ass…

…Am I being a racist about this. You’re damn right I am. Listen, I didn’t keep black people in bondage. My father didn’t keep black people in bondage. My grandfather was not ‘the man’ to be feared with his whip and his shotgun, and neither was my great grandfather. Yeah, my ancestors did come over on the Mayflower. One was a servant (George Soule) and another became governor of Massachusetts (William Bradford). So-friggin-what? Big-damn-deal.

I have many friends of color. Some are black; some brown, some white – is white considered a color by these measures – and others are Asian. I would and have invited many of these people to my home. They are wonderful people, so why is it that the preponderance of looting that I see going on is not done by white people or even Asian people, but instead is done by black people…oh, I guess we covered that in the first paragraph.

Truth to tell, there is no ‘the man’ anymore. Yes, there are racist cops and racist firemen and racist Wall Street brokers and bankers. You will find racism damn near anywhere you go in the United States…and that includes Hawaii and Alaska. You will also find reverse racism, but we aren’t allowed to discuss that because that’s racist. You wanna feel your bladder begin to give out? Walk into a black bar in Mission Hill as the only white person. I guarantee that you will just partially begin to understand what some blacks feel. The open hostility can almost be tasted. I’ve been there. It’s happened to me a couple of times in my life. I was not trying to be some macho idiot; I made a mistake…and boy, did I learn something from it.

Let us, however, look at some statistics: data shows that 93 percent of black homicide victims are killed by other blacks. There were almost 6,000 black people killed by other black people in 2015. According to The Wall Street Journal’s Jason Reilly, “Black crime rates were lower in the 1940s and 1950s, when black poverty was higher” and “racial discrimination was rampant and legal.” Okay, so if poverty and racial discrimination aren’t to blame for today’s horrible black crime statistics, what is? How about if we start with family values. In 2013, over 73 percent of blacks were born out of wedlock as opposed to 29 percent of whites. If it’s of any consolation to my black readers, don’t worry, whites are catching up. Today, only four years later, whites are nearing the 41 percent mark. What does all of this mean. It may not take a village to raise a child, but a couple of caring and devoted parents would be a pretty goddamned good start. Single mothers are wonderful. They are to be commended for their drive to raise their kids. It’s even great that they want kids in the first place. Unfortunately, it’s really a bitch to raise a kid and have a job that pays enough to afford day care, renting an apartment in a decent neighborhood, or buying a house…funny, things just don’t work that way. I say this to every woman of child-bearing age, “Before you go to bed with a man, please ensure (a) that he’s wearing a condom; (b) that he’s a man who will stand by you should you become pregnant; (c) that this is the guy you wish to spend the rest of your life with; (d) that this horny bastard will be a good father; (e,f,g and onward) do you really want to get laid that badly that you haven’t thought through the consequence of what might possibly happen?” I love sex. I love making love. I’m so damned old now that I’ve almost forgotten what I loved about it, but I do remember just how wonderful it was. I remember how wonderful it was for us to welcome our first child, a girl. We had lost three before she was born. The best advice we ever got from a doctor was, “Keep trying.” Suffice it to say, he didn’t have to tell me more than once. But then again, we were married. I had a job. This was a “til death do you part” thing. It wasn’t any, “Wham, bam, thank you maam.” Yeah, I’d had several of those before marriage…the young man sowing his wild oats, and yeah, I’d had unprotected sex…largely because I, like so many others, was stupid.

Okay, enough of that. Black men have a responsibility, just as every other man does, to be a father in a family. If a woman becomes pregnant, she has every right to give birth to that child with the expectation that the man who impregnated her will share an equal responsibility for raising that child. I happen to believe that she also has the right to abort that fetus, but that’s a discussion for another time. If the guy is unwilling to take responsibility – white, black, brown, yellow, pink, or green – don’t sleep with him. If you’re that starved for sex, buy some toys; at least, they won’t run out on you!

End of sermon, but don’t forget…”You loot, we shoot.”

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No more like that, thank you

All I know is that this is the kind of day when people should not be exposed to me. The alarm went off at its usual three-forty-five. It took a while for me to recognize what it was, but eventually the light dawned on marble-head, and I shut the damned thing off. The compression socks that I put on argued like the devil with me about which was heel and which was toe, which was left and which was right, but we finally came to an agreement…at least, I think we did because my sneakers fit over them rather easily.

You should understand that I sleep in my workout gear. Oh, sure, I change before getting into bed, but it’s the workout gear into which I’m changing. I’m not, I’m not, I mean I really am not quite awake when I am supposedly awake. It’s a good act until I bump into a wall or collapse back on the bed…sneakers on and must begin the entire process of arising once more. There was a time…I’m not sure, I say, I’m not quite sure when that was, but there was a time when I could just pop out of bed, wide awake and get on with the day…when the hell was that anyway?

Anyway…oh, did I begin a new paragraph…I’ll be damned; I guess I did. Well…after performing my morning ablutions…that’s going to the bathroom, brushing my teeth/tooth, and combing my head with a sponge, I sit at the computer, click on the Greater Good Network, feed the hungry, provide mammograms for the poor, and click on sites for autism, veteran’s benefits, Alzheimer’s research, and a few other things. If I’m still viewing the monitor, I then check the blog to see who has left me a nasty comment…. this time, and then move on to read – yes, my eyes are open, and the brain is slowly awakening – the Washington Post, Boston Globe, and Chicago Tribune. I then proceed to the kitchen, eat my protein bar, drink my black cherry V-8 fusion, take my morning pills, and head off to the gym.

That didn’t happen today. At least I performed well until getting to the computer. There followed a brain cramp that set me looking at a blank computer screen with no thoughts of how to proceed. Eventually, I managed to click on to help all those folks mentioned above, but even there my heart wasn’t in it. Gym, gym, what gym? Why would I go to the gym? I can’t even get me arse out of this chair. (If you’re getting the idea that this morning was not starting well, congratulations.) Newspapers, what newspapers? Why the hell would I want to read newspapers? It took me well over an hour just to haul my pain-wracked bod to the kitchen, eat the friggin’ protein bar, slurp down the fusions, take the pills, and stumble back to bed…thankfully, not meeting anyone along the way. This day was, in my own self-tortured mind, the day from hell of which I’ve heard others speak.

Thankfully, that was several days ago. I don’t wish to have any more of those days…ever…ever again. Those days are not me. It was almost as though my body and mind had been invaded by some other species while I was sitting at the computer. Looking back at it – from afar I might add – that day really sucked. I mean, really, there are days when I’d rather sleep in and not go to the gym, but I go, and once there, enjoy myself and my workouts, but this, this was something totally different. Ah, well, screw it, because I’m back to being me…and having a great deal of fun.

Now, on to more pleasant things. Number one son just returned from a couple of weeks in Taipei, Taiwan. He was on the coaching staff of the US swim team that was competing there. One of the great things about Rick and this international coaching gig is that I will often receive a T-shirt or more from his trips. It’s also wonderful to hear his tales of adventure from the many foreign countries he’s been blessed to visit. The only down side is the number of days per year that he is away from his wife and children, but from all appearances, everyone has his head screwed on straight and that, too, is a blessing.

Well, for now, that’s about all that’s new on the home front. When the urge to write strikes, I will, once more, sit down for a critique of the latest goings-on in Washington, or babbling about something else that I find of interest. Until then, take care and be safe.

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Don’t let them get to you

If there is no other lesson to be learned from the Trump presidency, it should be this…never make jokes about Donald Trump in a public gathering. President Barack Obama made this error when he chided Trump at the Washington correspondents’ dinner a few years ago. As a result, Trump is attempting to completely erase any evidence that there was a 44th President of the United States.

Think about this for a moment…the first thing that Trump did was to attempt to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act put into place by the Obama presidency. That failed. Where Obama welcomed immigrants to this country, Trump has attempted to block immigrants from entering. Whereas Obama, by executive decision, protected young children who were brought into this country through the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) order, Trump is now rescinding that and turning it over to a Congress that has so many difficult issues on its plate that it is highly doubtful DACA will even make it to the floor of either legislative house. It seems to me that rather than putting these people at risk of deportation, Jeff Sessions and company should be concentrating on the gangs that are gaining more power day by day. Could it be that the Justice Department is so afraid of being outgunned that they are leaving the Latin Kings and the 923 other recognized gangs in this country alone. We have a serious gang problem, a serious opioid problem, a serious ‘other’ drug problem, a serious violence problem, and most of it can be found in the gangs in our country. Why are we allowing them to proliferate to the degree that we are? If Trump wants a legacy, this is certainly an area in which he could have an impact.

Perhaps I’m wrong (and it wouldn’t be the first time) but it just appears that Trump is trying to erase any vestige of an Obama presidency. He has already shown that rather than unite the country he is more intent on dividing it than any other USA leader ever before. His pissing contest with Kim Jong Un will, most certainly, lead us into war unless some adult walks into the Oval Office and gives Trump the spanking he deserves. I find it difficult to believe, as Nikki Haley so eloquently put it, that “North Korea is begging for war.” His so-called rallies appear to do no more than to whip his electoral base into a frenzy of hate against those who are not exactly like him.

You must understand that I often return to these essays days after I have started writing. Using that as a segue, I must tell you what happened when Juli and I went shopping this morning. She prefers to shop alone since I (she tells me…and it’s true) walk too slowly and must examine damn near every product on the shelves (also true). As a consequence, I am consigned to the car where I can read my Kindle or watch people come and go. I remarked to here upon her return that people appeared to be angered by having to stop their cars at the crosswalk in front of Wegman’s to allow shoppers to cross. “Americans are in a state of anger right now,” she said. “People are mad because they have to go to work; they’re mad because Confederate statues are being taken down or not taken down; they’re mad because they think we might be on the verge of nuclear annihilation; they’re mad because we have a guy in the White House (she said, “President,” but I refuse to call him that) who is dividing the country rather than uniting it. Face it, Dick, people are pretty pissed off right now.” Frankly, I think she summed it up pretty well. We are a nation that needs to be brought together. Harvey saw the best…and the worst…of how Americans can work together in times of crisis. Irma will bring out the same thing. We will band together to help everyone who has been damaged, physically and mentally, by both storms. Volunteers will appear and pitch in to help, many without being asked. Will this salve the current American anger? Not to the extent that we all wish it would. Congress will be back in session and politics will once again assume it’s not-so-rightful-place as a hotbed of inactivity. The White House will blame Congress for inaction and in six months Trump will say that DACA is now dead because of Congress. He’ll then tell Jeff Sessions to “round ‘em up and head ‘em out,” thus causing greater anger in the country with the possibility of open rebellion, like that which takes place in other countries daily.

If the Republican majority in Congress cannot put together a workable plan to keep the younger men and women of DACA here, and develop a plan for them to attain citizenship, then this Congress deserves dissolution. If they cannot, before their next break, put together a tax reform package that simplifies the Federal Tax Code in an equitable manner, Congress deserves to be dissolved. If Congress cannot pull together a comprehensive immigration package before the holidays, all – not some, but all – members of the United States Congress should be voted out of office and a new group of people with some sense and love of this nation should be placed in charge of our legislative branch. Am I mad? You bet your ass I’m mad. I’m mad at Senators Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey. I’m mad at Stephen Lynch and every other member of Congress from Massachusetts because I believe they are playing the same kind of political games that are also attributable to Tom Connor of Arkansas, Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, and a great many others who could be listed.

Get mad, America, and when these people ask for your financial support, tell them to stop begging and start doing some real work to get this country happy and moving again. We used to say, “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” I’m saying, “Don’t let this President and this Congress grind you down,” for they are trying their damndest to do so.

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