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WILLIAM KATZ / URGENT AGENDA

Cheerful Resistance

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I did another interview with Silvio Canto Jr. in Dallas on Tuesday night.  It's here.

 

WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 1, 2010

ZERO ON THE SPEEDOMETER – AT 8:38 P.M. ET:  After all the hoopla about GM making a profit, the latest news from the auto industry is more sobering.  From CNN:

The nation's top automakers reported disappointing sales Wednesday, resulting in the worst August for industrywide auto sales in 27 years.

According to sales tracker Autodata, U.S. new vehicle sales fell just short of 1 million vehicles, a drop of 21% from a year ago, which included Cash for Clunkers. That federal program created a sugar rush of sales by dangling an incentive of up to $4,500 in cash for buyers who traded in older gas guzzlers for more efficient models.

Industry sales also fell 5% from July levels. August sales typically outpace July, as deals become available on older models ahead of the fall introduction of new model year cars. August sales would equate to an annual sales pace of about 11.5 million vehicles.

"Car buying is far from repaired, and consumers hesitate before they make a big ticket purchase," said Jesse Toprak, an analyst with the auto pricing Web site Truecar.com. "It shows that the recovery is going to be much slower and more painful than expected."

This year was the weakest August sales total since the 993,100 sold in 1983. Analysts had been forecasting a weak month, with expected sales of about 1.03 million. Most of the major automakers fell short of estimates. The soft demand for autos is seen by economists as another sign of growing weakness among nervous consumers.

COMMENT:  Cash for clunkers was just a temporary stimulant, but it did not address fundamental problems in the economy, just as tax credits for homes didn't do much to strengthen housing for more than a few months.

We need a change away from the thinking in Washington that the federal government will save us.  Only the private economy can save us.  I'm not an economist, but we must expand that private economy, or our standard of living will decline and decline.

September 1, 2010      Permalink

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BORDER INCIDENTS – AT 7:37 P.M. ET:  One of the sleeper issues that keeps homeland security types awake at night is the possibility that elements from the Mideast may try to cross into the U.S. from Mexico.  Now, Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) expands on the danger from the South, which should concern all of us:

An indictment was handed down Aug. 30 by the Southern District Court of New York that shows a connection between Hezbollah - the proxy army of Iran and a designated terrorist organization - and the drug cartels that violently plague the U.S.-Mexico border.

In short, a well-known international arms dealer was trying to orchestrate an arms-for-drugs deal in which cocaine from FARC - the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, which works with Mexican drug cartels to take cocaine into America - would be traded for thousands of weapons housed by a Hezbollah operative in Mexico...

...This is just the most recent incident in which it's clear that Hezbollah may have a presence in Mexico and along our southern border. There have been more incidents - which have been ignored by the Obama administration and the Department of Homeland Security.

And...

The evidence is there: Hezbollah's cooperation with countries across South America. Highly sophisticated tunnels for transferring drugs across the U.S.-Mexico border, ones very similar to the tunnels dug by Hezbollah into Israel. The close relationship between Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the increase in Iranian nationals traveling through Venezuela to receive false documents, which they use to cross into the United States. Mexican officials raising concerns about Hezbollah operatives possibly training Mexican drug cartel enforcers in making car bombs.

And...

it was reported that Jameel Nasr, a Mexican national with ties to Hezbollah in Lebanon, "entrusted with forming a base in South America and the United States to carry out operations against Israeli and Western targets," was arrested by the Mexican government. Days later, a cell-phone-detonated car bomb - the first of its kind reported used by Mexican drug cartels - was deployed just across the U.S.-Mexico border in Juarez. On Aug. 27, another car bomb exploded in a U.S.-Mexico border state. These car bombs show an evolution in the tactics being used by the drug cartels and bear a strong resemblance to those employed by Hezbollah, raising questions as to who trained the cartels.

COMMENT:  It would not take much, given the growing presence of Hezbollah along our southern border, to slip weapons, including WMD, into the United States.  Biological weapons, in tiny canisters, would be the most logical choice.  Even if 75% of the weapons couriers were caught, 25% would still get through.  And they'd be in our backyard.

For some reason, the growing influence of Iranian-backed groups in Latin America has gotten little attention.  It deserves much more.

September 1, 2010      Permalink

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HOW THE DEMS DID IT...TO THEMSELVES – AT 10:05 A.M. ET:  Gallup reported this week that the GOP holds an unprecedented 10-point lead in the generic congressional ballot.  Byron York goes inside the details behind that number and shows the extent of the Democratic fall.  From the Washington Examiner:

The most striking example is in health care. Back in October 2006, just before Democrats won control of Congress, Gallup asked the traditional question, "Do you think the Republicans in Congress or the Democrats in Congress would do a better job dealing with [the following issue]…"  At that time, Democrats held a 64 percent to 25 percent lead on health care -- a 39 percentage-point advantage. Now, after Democrats passed their long-dreamed-of national health care bill, the result is 44 percent for Democrats versus 43 percent for Republicans -- a virtual tie. That is an enormous advantage to have thrown away during four years in power.

The news is just as bad for Democrats on the economy. In October 2006, Democrats held a 53 to 37 lead over Republicans on the issue. Now, after Democrats passed an $862 billion stimulus bill and touted 2010 as the "summer of recovery," Republicans hold a 49 to 38 lead. Democrats have gone from having a 16 point lead to being 11 points behind.

It took real talent and effort for the Democrats to accomplish this.  Give 'em a hand.

Back in 2006, things had gotten so bad for Republicans that Democrats took the lead even in a traditionally Republican area: protecting the country against terrorism. Just before the '06 elections, Democrats held a 47 to 42 lead on protecting against terrorism. Now, after Ft. Hood, Detroit, and the Times Square bombing attempt, Republicans hold a 55 to 31 lead.

The only issue on which Democrats hold the lead today is the environment.

COMMENT:  When you show contempt for public opinion, and don't take the people into your confidence, that's what happens.

It's a warning to both parties.

September 1, 2010      Permalink

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SNIPPET OF THE DAY – AT 9:16 A.M. ET:

IRVINE, Calif., Aug. 31 (UPI) -- A California recreational vehicle dealer says he wants to resolve the lawsuit actor Taylor Lautner filed against him with a push-up contest instead of a trial.

Brent McMahon, 47, owner of McMahon's RV in Irvine, said he wants to settle the lawsuit brought against him by the "Twilight" film series star, who claims the dealership failed to deliver a $300,000 customized RV on time and up to his specifications, with a contest of muscles instead of legal wrangling, KTLA-TV, Los Angeles, reported Tuesday.

Like a lot of actors I've known, Lautner probably believes he's the person he portrays on screen, and might be dumb enough to accept this.  Go for the cash, Taylor.

September 1, 2010       Permalink

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HE IS UNMOSQUED – AT 8:54 A.M. ET:  The Ground Zero mosque controvery isn't going away.  The imam in charge is returning to the U.S. soon from his State Department-sponsored jaunt around the Mideast, and has promised to explain himself.  It will take quite a bit of explaining, as this report from CBS News demonstrates:

As the Ground Zero mosque controversy continues to simmer, questions continue about the background of the man who wants to build the $100 million Islamic cultural and religious center.

Mosque developer Sharif El-Gamal has often been reluctant to answer questions.

We wonder why.  Could it have something to do with his rap sheet?

His most recent arrest was in 2005 for assault on a man he met while working as a waiter at Serafina Restaurant, who sublet an apartment from his brother. He reportedly punched the man, breaking his nose and cheekbone and spit on him.

El-Gamal first said he didn’t hit the man, but arrest documents obtained by CBS 2 showed he later conceded “his face could have run into my hand.”

Records showed El-Gamal also had trouble coming up with the $15,000 settlement reached in 2008, and had to pay interest. El-Gamal also has a number of other arrests on his record:

-In 1990, he was arrested in Nassau County and pled guilty to disorderly conduct.
-In 1992, he pled guilty in Nassau to DWI and paid a $350 fine.
-In 1993, he pled guilty in Nassau to attempted petit larceny and paid a $100 fine.
-In 1994, arrested for disorderly conduct in Manhattan.
-In 1998, there was another Manhattan disorderly conduct arrest.
-In 1999, yet another Manhattan disorderly conduct arrest.

A potential problem for the mosque developer is a deposition he gave in the assault case in October 2007. When asked if he was ever convicted or pled guilty to a crime, El-Gamal replied “no.”

And...

El-Gamal also owes over $227,000 in unpaid real estate taxes and a spokesman for the Department of Finance said interest will be added for each and every day its unpaid.

COMMENT:  So, just your average builder of a house of worship.  And yet, we're told we must not ask questions lest we run afoul of First Amendment freedoms.  Sorry, we don't buy.  Can you imagine the uproar if someone with that rap sheet were behind a church, a cathedral, a synagogue? 

Of course, the trendy left considerers convicted felons to be mere victims of an oppressive society, so we won't get any help from that quarter.  But the mosque controversy will continue, with overwhelming numbers of Americans, including New Yorkers, opposed to its placement so close to a national shrine.  I'm betting the thing never gets built.

September 1, 2010     Permalink

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THE PRESIDENT'S SPEECH – AT 8:40 A.M. ET:  The president delivered a passionless speech last night that struck many pundits as odd and distant.  He clearly doesn't feel comfortable as commander-in-chief.

The president marked the end of American combat operations in Iraq, itself a strange occasion on which to make a speech.  After all, some 50,000 American troops remain, and they are at risk.

Before the speech, Paul Mirengoff at Power Line wrote this:

...there are complications for Obama, the most important of which is that he opposed the policy that turned the situation in Iraq around, namely the surge. How to deal with this inconvenient truth?

It actually shouldn't be very difficult. Obama could simply give credit to President Bush for launching the surge. A gracious word about his predecessor would improve Obama's image. After all, he won office in part by promising to transcend partisan finger-pointing. And by exhibiting a little grace for a change, Obama would make it seem churlish for anyone to point the finger at him over his misguided thinking about the surge.

Perhaps Obama will rise above his perpetual pettiness and turn his speech into a bi-partisan feel-good event. Obama reportedly called former president Bush this morning. That might be a good sign.

It wasn't a good sign, and, unfortunately, Paul's advice wasn't followed.  While Mr. Obama mentioned Mr. Bush, he limited his remarks to noting his predecessor's patriotism and devotion to the troops, as if these things were ever in doubt.  He gave Bush no credit.  As John McCain said after the speech, praising Bush just isn't the kind of thing that's in Obama's DNA.

Again, no class.  And that pretty much sums up this presidency and another forgettable speech.

September 1, 2010      Permalink

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ANOTHER INCUMBENT GONE – AT 8:17 A.M. ET:  Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska has now conceded defeat in her primary contest against tea partier Joe Miller, who had the endorsement of former Alaska governor Sarah Palin.

She is one of a number of Republican incumbents to be defeated by more conservative candidates for the party's nomination.  From The New York Times: 

ANCHORAGE — Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska conceded late Tuesday in her Republican primary race against Joe Miller, a lawyer from Fairbanks who was backed by Tea Party activists, Sarah Palin and other conservatives.

Mr. Miller shocked the political establishment here and in Washington last week when he emerged with a narrow lead, 1,668 votes, after the primary vote, on Aug. 24. His victory makes him the presumed favorite to win the Senate seat from this heavily Republican state.

Mr. Miller, who has proposed drastic cuts in federal spending, had trailed badly in local polls in the weeks before the election but benefited from a last-minute flood of advertisements, mailings and automated calls casting Ms. Murkowski as a Democrat in disguise. An abortion-related ballot measure also brought conservatives to the polls.

COMMENT:  Is this good for the GOP?  Bad?  You have to go case by case.  But a word of caution:  The Republicans won a huge congressional victory in the midterms of 1994, but then overreached in their administration of the House.  Eventually, they lost the presidency in 1996 when Bill Clinton was strongly reelected. 

If the GOP, which is moving to the right as a party, gains control of one or both houses of Congress this year, it must govern intelligently, creatively, and show real benefits to the American people.  Otherwise, control may prove to be just as great a liability in 2012 as it did in 1996.  Winning in politics isn't everything.  It's only the beginning of something.

September 1, 2010     Permalink

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TUESDAY, AUGUST 31, 2010

NO, WE HAVE A RIGHT TO ASK QUESTIONS – AT 8:52 P.M. ET:  Mayor Mike Bloomberg of New York may have to be sent to a home for the terminally weird.  This is a serious situation requiring medical intervention.

The mayor, who has a tendency to lecture anyone who's earned less than a billion, now is warning against any state investigation of the Ground Zero mosque builders, even though reporting has turned up some, well, oddities.  Like a criminal record.  Like one of the chaps owing about a quarter mil in back taxes.  Little things like that.  WaPo reports:

NEW YORK -- New York's mayor says an investigation by the state attorney general into the finances of a proposed Islamic center and mosque near ground zero would set "a terrible precedent."

Mayor Michael Bloomberg says there's no reason for the government to investigate donations to religious organizations.

Hey, now wait, Mayor.  We give great leeway to religious groups, but they are not above the law.  They must file appropriate tax forms, they must cooperate in legal requirements like autopsies of members, even though the particular religion may bar autopsies, and they must be responsible citizens. 

Congressman Peter King disagrees. The ranking minority leader of the Homeland Security Committee says "a number" of terrorist plots have "emanated from mosques." He cites the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center as an example.

The mayor made the remarks Tuesday after he was asked about a Quinnipiac University poll showing a majority of New Yorkers want the attorney general to investigate funding sources.

An investigation is in order if it can be demonstrated that there might be legal improprieties in the building of the mosque or the raising of funds. 

By the way, the state attorney general in New York is the Democratic candidate for governor.  He's feeling the heat now to look a little more closely at those behind the mosque.  Obviously, he must remain within the law and avoid a witchhunt.  But some of the stuff coming out now requires some lookin'.

August 31, 2010     Permalink

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MORE AGONY FOR DEMS – AT 7:30 P.M. ET:  Several new polls confirm that the Democratic Party has seen better days. 

One poll, by AP, measured opinion on the most divisive issues:

WASHINGTON — Americans with the strongest opinions about the country's most divisive issues are largely unhappy with how President Barack Obama is handling them, an ominous sign for Democrats hoping to retain control of Congress in the fall elections.

In nine of 15 issues examined in an Associated Press-GfK Poll this month, more Americans who expressed intense interest in a problem voiced strong opposition to Obama's work on it, including the economy, unemployment, federal deficits and terrorism. They were about evenly split over the president's efforts on five issues and strongly approved of his direction on just one: U.S. relationships with other countries.

That last one is strange, given the repeated failures of Obama foreign policies.  I wonder how the question was phrased.

In another danger sign for Democrats, most Americans extremely concerned about 10 of the issues say they will vote for the Republican candidate in their local House race. Only those highly interested in the environment lean toward the Democrats.

Yeah.  The words "global warming" generally don't pass through Republican lips.

And then there's Ohio, which often reflects national trends.  The PPP polling organization did some work there:

We'll start rolling out our Ohio poll results tomorrow but there's one finding on the poll that pretty much sums it up: by a 50-42 margin voters there say they'd rather have George W. Bush in the White House right now than Barack Obama.

Independents hold that view by a 44-37 margin and there are more Democrats who would take Bush back (11%) than there are Republicans who think Obama's preferable (3%.)

A couple months ago I thought the Pennsylvanias and Missouris and Ohios of the world were the biggest battlegrounds for 2010 but when you see numbers like this it makes you think it's probably actually the Californias and the Wisconsins and the Washingtons.

Yikes.  Those last three are Dem strongholds.  If they're in play, we might be able to dream big dreams. 

August 31, 2010      Permalink

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INCREDIBLE – AT 9:59 A.M. ET:  The Obama administration's war on Arizona continues.  I wish they'd have this much passion about fighting the Taliban or Al Qaeda.  From the Washington Post:

The Justice Department filed another lawsuit against immigration practices by Arizona authorities, saying Monday that a network of community colleges acted illegally in requiring noncitizens to provide their green cards before they could be hired for jobs.

The suit against the Phoenix-area Maricopa Community Colleges was filed less than two months after the Justice Department sued Arizona and Gov. Jan Brewer (R) over the state's new immigration law. It also comes as the department is investigating Joe Arpaio, the sheriff in Maricopa County, who is known for tough immigration enforcement.

In Monday's lawsuit, Justice officials said the colleges discriminated against nearly 250 noncitizen job applicants by mandating that they fill out more documents than required by law to prove their eligibility to work. That violated the federal Immigration and Nationality Act, the department said.

The law's antidiscrimination provision "makes it unlawful to treat authorized workers differently during the hiring process based on their citizenship status," said Thomas E. Perez, assistant attorney general for Justice's Civil Rights Division. He said the government "is acting now to remedy this pattern or practice of discrimination."

COMMENT:  Perez is rapidly gaining a reputation as a certified nutbag.  He's a left-wing political activist who seems to be on a mission to restore the 1960s, flower jeans and all.  He recently went after Kindle because he didn't feel it was designed well enough for those without sight.  How an electronic reader can be designed for the unsighted is a mystery to me, but Perez knows.  He is all-knowing.

The assaults on Arizona will simply create more Republicans.  Perez will then sue Arizona for being unfriendly.

August 31, 2010     Permalink

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SNIPPET OF THE DAY – AT 9:24 A.M. ET:

SAO PAULO (Reuters) – Brazil's election is a laughing matter again, at least for now.
Carlos Ayres Britto, vice president of the country's Supreme Court, late Thursday suspended a rule banning TV and radio programs from poking fun at candidates in the country's October 3 elections. 

These backward countries.  We don't have to poke fun at candidates here.  They do it to themselves.  That's progress.

August 31, 2010      Permalink

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WELL, WE ALL MAKE MISTAKES, DON'T WE? – AT 8:53 A.M. ET:  The sound you hear is another trendy trend starting to bite the dust.  It seems that an outside panel is questioning the Holy Writ of the climate "scientists."  Haven't seen much about this on the mainstream media.  From Fox:

Acknowledging flaws in its reports and growing public skepticism toward the theory of manmade global warming, the United Nations hired an independent review panel in March to audit its climate-science arm. The group found plenty of problems.

The InterAcademy Council, an independent group of scientists representing agencies from around the world, presented the findings of its five-month investigation Monday morning at the United Nations. The group took issue with the structure, methods and leadership of the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) -- the group responsible for a 2007 report that erroneously forecast the imminent melting of Himalayan glaciers, the rate of melt of polar ice caps and dwindling Amazon rainforests.

"The IPCC has raised public awareness of climate change, and driven policymakers," said Harold Shapiro, chair of the IAC Committee to Review IPCC and former president of Princeton University. But the controversies that have erupted, and revelations of errors, have put the group under the microscope. "We recommend some significant reforms," he told the U.N.

"The IPCC has yet to review the IAC's findings, so I am not able to comment on its findings," said longstanding chair Rajendra Pachauri in a press conference following the presentation. But he did note that none of the seven reviews of the IPCC to date had found flaws in the U.N. group.

Yeah, but this one did, pal. 

"The scientific community agrees that climate change is real," Pachauri said.

Right.  Some of it is about warming, some of it about cooling.  But the issue is the degree to which humans contribute to the changes.  The public isn't buying the glib arguments, which often seem more political science than real science. 

I doubt if this report will influence the true believers, for whom climate change is a religion. But I'd be curious to see if journalists change their tune at all.  Remember, it wasn't very long ago that skeptics were equated with Holocaust deniers. 

August 31, 2010      Permalink

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NOTHING TO SEE, FOLKS, NOTHING TO SEE – AT 8:12 A.M. ET:  Generally, when we put two and two together, we come out with four.  The "four" this time is that this was a dry run for a terrorist attack.  But watch it get swept under the rug:

Two men taken off a Chicago-to-Amsterdam United Airlines flight in the Netherlands have been charged by Dutch police with "preparation of a terrorist attack," U.S. law enforcement officials tell ABC News.

U.S. officials said the two appeared to be travelling with what were termed "mock bombs" in their luggage. "This was almost certainly a dry run, a test," said one senior law enforcement official...

...The two were allowed to board the flight at O'Hare airport last night despite security concerns surrounding one of them, the officials said.

And that should worry us.

The men were identified as Ahmed Mohamed Nasser al Soofi, of Detroit, MI, and Hezem al Murisi, the officials said. A neighbor of al Soofi told ABC News he is from Yemen.

Y'see, what it is, is that they were upset by the mosque controvery, and, and...

Airport security screeners in Birmingham, Alabama first stopped al Soofi and referred him to additional screening because of what officials said was his "bulky clothing."

In this heat, in Alabama. 

In addition, officials said, al Soofi was found to be carrying $7,000 in cash and a check of his luggage found a cell phone taped to a Pepto-Bismol bottle, three cell phones taped together, several watches taped together, a box cutter and three large knives. Officials said there was no indication of explosives and he and his luggage were cleared for the flight from Birmingham to Chicago O'Hare.

Huh?  No indication of explosives?  Well, no, explosives generally aren't carried on a dry run.  But I wonder how many passengers have cell phones taped to Pepto-Bismol, phones taped together, and watches taped together.  Oh, I know.  That was all so they wouldn't lose any of the items.  It's an old Yemeni custom.

Yuch.

August 31, 2010      Permalink 

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THEY'RE ALL BIGOTS!  THEY'RE ALL BIGOTS! – AT 7:55 A.M. ET:  Well, now the truth comes out.  Residents of one of the most liberal states in the Union have been exposed as militant, narrow-minded Islamophobes, and should probably lose their citizenship along with their cable TV and auto insurance.  At least, that's what the left will probably say. 

Here are the hard, rotten facts:

The controversy surrounding a proposed mosque near Ground Zero leaves New York State voters with conflicting opinions about religious freedom and the sensitivities of the families of 9/11 victims, according to a Quinnipiac University poll released today.

By a 54 - 40 percent majority, voters agree "that because of American freedom of religion, Muslims have the right to build the mosque near Ground Zero," the independent Quinnipiac (KWIN-uh-pe-ack) University poll finds. Another 7 percent are undecided.

But these same voters agree 53 - 39 percent, with 8 percent undecided, "that because of the sensitivities of 9/11 relatives, Muslims should not be allowed to build the mosque near Ground Zero."

In other words, New Yorkers understand the difference between legal rights and the concept of right and wrong.  Who are these people to think for themselves?  Stop them before they think again!

And by a 71 - 21 percent majority, voters agree "that because of the opposition of Ground Zero relatives, the Muslim group should voluntarily build the mosque somewhere else."

They key word is "voluntarily."  New Yorkers want the mosque builders to do the sensitive thing and show the respect for others that they demand for themselves.

I'd love to see how New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg, New York's leading mosque booster, will react to the survey.  I wonder if he'll blame Fox News. 

There are new reports that one of the real-estate principals behind the mosque owes a tidy sum in back taxes.  State Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, the Democratic candidate for governor, and an almost sure thing to win (as of now) has said that the mosque builders have a right to build, but also said that he'd open an investigation if anything about the project didn't pass muster.

Well, muster has been flunked.  Your move, Andy.

August 31, 2010     Permalink

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