Energy

The Platform is a 4-Letter Word – Part 2

Reading time – 6:20; Viewing time – 9:38  .  .  .

This is the continuation of my notions of a national platform begun in the last post. It’s necessary to make an addendum to point #5 regarding healthcare.

Memo to Lawmakers: Only 20% of Americans approve of the job Congress is doing and that number hasn’t varied by more than a few percentage points since 2006. The disapproval rating of Congress stands at 74%, meaning that 3 out of 4 Americans think you’re doing a really lousy job. You really should feel terrible about that. Here’s what you need to know.

A big piece of the public disapproval of you is due to your making back room deals – sleaze behind closed doors – like what the Republican senators have done with their cruel healthcare plan that keeps millions of Americans from getting healthcare at all. That’s why We the People don’t approve of you.

All you have to do is to craft something that provides healthcare for everyone and do your deliberation in public, opening the process to comments from actual American people who will be impacted by what you do. This is not complicated and you really can do this.

Memo to Republicans in Congress: We the People know that your American Health Care Act (“AHCA”) isn’t really about healthcare. It’s about giving an $800 billion cash windfall to already rich people. Can you be any more disingenuous? Shame on you.

8. George W. Bush may go down in history as our worst president because he started two unnecessary wars which are likely to continue for decades. Donald Trump is trying to one-up him by tweaking the nose of an infantile nuclear dictator, thumbing his nose at our strongest allies, buddying up to Vladimir Putin and refusing to endorse Article 5 of the NATO charter.

Memo to lawmakers: You already know that only Congress has the power to declare war. Put on your big boy/girl pants, take a stand and fulfill your obligation. We don’t need perpetual war initiated by autocrats.

Economic teaching moment: War robs us of huge amounts of money – trillions of dollars. The cost of every bullet or rocket that’s fired is lost forever; in contrast, the money spent in America, on America gets recycled nearly perpetually to the benefit of all of us.

Mortality teaching moment: Our military people who get killed in our unnecessary wars really don’t come home and resume their lives. They’re dead and if you didn’t stand against our unnecessary wars, it’s your fault. Do you support our military? Then stop sending our people off to die for no good reason.

9. If Trump gets his way we’re going to de-fund the National Institutes of Health, the EPA and gut our diplomatic corps. so we’ll cut spending on cancer research, let our air and water get polluted again and make the military our only foreign affairs tool, all to save less than a couple of percent of our budget.

Memo to lawmakers: Really?!!! Please wake up and tell us you’re not that self-defeating. Put on those big boy/girl pants and take a stand for America.

10. Steven Bannon wants to tear down our established order and so far Trump seems to be his puppet in charge of dismantling what makes the American government work. At the same time Trump is collapsing the international coalition that has kept us strong and safe for 100 years, while at the same time sucking up to vicious autocrats around the world. Using duck logic, this looks, walks and quacks like a duck that is in the process of the self-immolation of America.

Memo to lawmakers: Get a grip on reality, stop this un-American president and put our government back together. Note that once again this will require that you put on your big boy/girl pants.

11. Fossil fuel is on the way out because we’re choking on its exhaust and the planet is warming at a staggering rate that will cook us all. We need clean energy, not more oil extracted from ecologically perilous places.

Memo to lawmakers: You’ll be okay without Big Oil and Big Gas campaign contributions – I promise. So, stop the idiocy of, “I’m not a scientist, so I don’t know about global warming.” Craft legislation that will drive a complete transformation of our energy infrastructure – a moon shot – like solar collectors on all roofs, solar farms, wind energy, tide energy, a new smart grid and all the rest. If you don’t care enough about your grandchildren to do this, then do it for mine.

12. 100 years ago graduating from 8th grade was a fine accomplishment and enough education for someone to get a good job with good pay. A few decades later a high school diploma was needed for a good job, so we made high school tuition-free for our kids. The world has changed and even more education is needed today. Right now there are 6 million jobs going wanting, many because employers can’t find people with the education required for those jobs.

Memo to lawmakers: Make state college education tuition-free. And find a way to get past property taxes being the primary funding for our schools, because this antiquated system leaves kids in poor areas unable to get a good education. That sentences them to a sub-standard life and robs us all of their contributions to a better America. And stop the efforts to privatize education because that isn’t the answer, even if big donors want you to believe it is. Yes, all of this will have tax implications, just as the switch to tuition-free high school did. Figure it out.

13. Russia is not our friend. Russia is an opponent and, considering their ongoing cyber attack on the U.S. and our allies, they may be considered our enemy. Failing to vigorously oppose their behavior and impose penalties on them is ineptitude in the extreme and possibly treason. It’s true that the Executive branch conducts American foreign policy. It’s also true that both the House and Senate are investigating Russian hacking and possible collusion from within. The problem is that those investigations are cumbersome and glacially slow, which means that the president has plenty of time to undermine American security.

Memo to lawmakers: I really don’t care how much money the president owes to Russian interests or the pictures they may have of him or any other pressures Putin can put on Trump. I don’t care about Trump’s notion of making friends with Russia. They are antithetical to our beliefs, our way of life and our safety. Find a way to stop the foreign policy disasters that Trump is creating.

14. It’s absurd to be able to say this, but we are living in a world where millions actually believe in alternative facts and fake news. Surprise, Donald Trump didn’t invent it. This has been going on for a long time. The concept of shame for one’s despicable actions like lying no longer seems to exist and people are prepared to dismiss provable facts. Indeed, millions regularly dismiss reality because they have been told by self-serving types that others are lying to them. That itself is a lie, but it’s crafty stuff for those wanting power and for whom integrity isn’t high on their list of personal attributes.

Memo to lawmakers: Are you lying or misleading the public? Stop it. Stop manipulating to get control of the Supreme Court. Stop telling Americans that it’s all about jobs, jobs, jobs and then doing nothing to stimulate job growth. Stop saying we’ll have better healthcare at a much lower cost when you can’t deliver either one. Stop telling the American people that those who report on you are liars when they report on your dalliances. Stop claiming your programs won’t privatize Social Security and Medicare when that’s exactly what they will do. Stop creating enemies like the press just to gain popular support for you, because now the truth has become an enemy and that is corroding our society. One last time: Put on your big boy/girl pants and tell the truth.

Final memo to lawmakers: What I’ve outlined in this post and the one prior is what Americans want. This isn’t fringe stuff, but doing this won’t be easy. In fact, it will be hard. There are competing interests and some are legitimate and quite valuable, with the exception, of course, of the issue of lying. Nevertheless, everything is either a negotiation and a compromise or it is stagnation through polarization. It’s your choice. Choose well, especially when it’s hard.

Unavoidably, our solutions come down to a 4-letter word: WORK. Roll up your shirt/blouse sleeves and get to work. Not the hateful, in-your-face behavior that we see so often or the misleading, hyperbolic idiocy that dominates the news, but work that’s focused on a better America and improving the lives of all Americans. If you can’t do that, just resign, because otherwise We the People will be sending you home real soon.

Get to work.

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What Could Possibly Go Wrong?

ptsd2Reading time – 3:46; Viewing time – 6:44  – longer than most, still respectful of your time  .  .  .

NOTE: Email addresses listed in the prior blog have been repaired. If that kept you from taking action, please make your voice heard right now – tomorrow is too late.

Let’s see what we have now for Trump administration picks to run our country – just a little taste test. Note that the first three do not require Senate confirmation. We’re stuck with them.

Steve Bannon is Trump’s Chief Strategist. Bannon is the former chairman of Breitbart News, an Alt-Right (i.e. White Supremacist, hate mongering, lying) website of – dare I say it? – scum bucket fake news stories and attacks. And this guy will have the President’s ear full time. What could possibly go wrong? Late addition: Click here and scroll down to section IV to learn about Bannon’s possibly treasonous activities that would invite Russia into the White House.

Rience Priebus, former head of the Republican National Committee with an exceptionally fluid connection to facts and reality, has been named as Trump’s Chief of Staff. That means that Priebus will largely be in charge of who and what comes before the President of the United States. What could possibly go wrong?

Michael Flynn has been named Trump’s National Security Advisor. Flynn is the guy who was fired from the Defense Intelligence Agency for his flamboyant and fatuous notions and ways. He had the astoundingly poor judgment to retweet anti-Semitic comments and to tweet fake news 16 times in the last few months. He even had the complete lack of sense and absence of good judgment to tweet baseless, brainless nonsense about non-existent Hillary emails, supposedly connecting her with money laundering and sex crimes with children (the so-called “Pizzagate”). With Flynn as the nation’s National Security Advisor, what could possibly go wrong?

Jeff Sessions is Trump’s nominee for Attorney General. This is the same Jeff Sessions who was rejected for a federal judgeship a few years back because he’s a racist and a segregationist. As a senator from Alabama, he’s opposed nearly every piece of immigration legislation that’s come before him. The AG is the one in charge of deciding which cases will be prosecuted – that is to say, which laws will be enforced. With a segregationist and anti-immigrant in charge of our civil rights laws, again, what could possibly go wrong?

Scott Pruitt to head the E.P.A. is a noteworthy choice. As the Oklahoma Attorney General he sued the E.P.A. repeatedly and berated it, saying it was anti-energy. He dislikes E.P.A. regulations – you know, those pesky things that, for example, keep corporations from polluting our water – and he is a de facto climate warming denier. With those bona fides at the head of the agency, what could possibly go wrong?

Dr. Ben Carson is Trump’s pick to head the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Carson has repeatedly declared that he has no experience in running anything other than a neurosurgery. While his doctoring skills may be fine, they don’t qualify him to run any agency of government at any level. He’s clueless. So, what could possibly go wrong there?

Retired General James Mattis is Trump’s pick for Defense Secretary. Most acknowledge that Mattis is a capable fellow, but he retired only three years ago from the military and our laws require that he be separated from the military for at least seven years to hold such a position (it used to be ten years). Oddly, Trump seems to believe that flaunting the law is okay (go figure). But the seven year limitation is there for a reason – so that we maintain civilian control over our military. Conservatives should be all over this as a flagrant attempt to violate the law and Mattis should go find something to do that is both useful and legal. Otherwise, we will have codified lawbreaking. What could possibly go wrong from that?

Betsy DeVos is Trump’s nominee to be Education Secretary. This is the same Betsy DeVos who wants to reform education to “advance God’s kingdom” and wants to use “school choice” to do that. Be clear that school choice means vouchers of public money doled out to spend on kids’ education in private religious schools. So much for separation of church and state. There’s way more to DeVos’ lunacy, but the key here is that she is an opponent of public education, a religious zealot who wants to run this country according to the laws of the Bible (are you ready to stone adulterers?) and she’s Trump’s pick for Education Secretary. What could possibly go wrong?

Saving the most insane for last, Rex Tillerson, CEO of Exxon/Mobil, is the nominee for Secretary of State. He proudly signed a $500 billion deal with Vladimir Putin and his government’s 70% share of Russia’s state oil company to drill in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico. Tillerson was awarded Russia’s BFF (Best Friends Forever) award by Putin himself. Everyone agrees that national defense, the security of our nation, is the primary job of the federal government. How is this guy, who cozies up to our key adversary, going to look out for America’s national security interests? Oh, and by the way, Trump wants John Bolton to be Tillerson’s sidekick. That’s the same John Bolton who thinks we should nuke Iran and insists to this day that Saddam Husein had the weapons of mass destruction that reality has proven never existed. With Tillerson and Bolton at the Department of State, what could possibly go wrong?

There are more nominations we can examine (including a nominee for Treasury Secretary who’s direct from Goldman Sachs, a woman to head the Small Business Administration who’s a reality TV mogul, heading World Wrestling Entertainment, a Labor Secretary who opposes overtime pay and is anti-labor, an Energy Secretary who wants to eliminate the Department of Energy – the list goes on) but the point is clear.

Trump promised to drain the swamp, but instead has brought before us establishment types and billionaires who are blatantly at odds with the agencies they would lead. Given the power in their hands, each would worsen the condition of ordinary (read: not billionaire) Americans. There is nothing that can be done to excise those who do not require Senate approval; that swamp will remain polluted. For all the rest,

senators-stop

Otherwise, we will, indeed, find out exactly what could go wrong.

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    Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

    YOUR ACTION STEPS: Offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

It Isn’t About Your Message

Housefly.Reading time – 1:54; Viewing time – 3:17  .  .  .

The 2012 general election generated a lot of forward looking comments from pundits and political operatives, like:

The Republicans will have to change their messaging if they are going to appeal to Latinos.

“Severely conservative” Mitt Romney will have to pivot to the center in order to attract independents.

Republican candidates have to stop saying things like, “A woman’s body has a way of shutting that down [in cases of rape],” and “[Pregnancy from rape] is God’s plan.”

This year those statements are being modified only slightly by saying that Trump will have to change his messaging if he is going to appeal to Latinos and African-Americans. Like Romney, he’ll have to pivot to the center in order to attract independents. He’ll have to stop demeaning women and he’ll  have to refuse to align with hate groups if he is going to attract anyone but the hair-on-fire pissy people (my description, not a quote).

The important point, though, is that all that “how to win elections” word torturing is completely misguided, wrong-headed and even dishonest.  It seems to say that all that matters is the manipulation of the message and of voters.

To which I say, “Nuh-uh.” What is important is not the crafted messaging of an appeal to African-Americans or a pivot to the center or avoiding saying stupid stuff. What is important is what candidates would actually do. And however you dress up Trump’s piggy statements, it’s clear that even with lipstick, he will continue to be a pig and he will do what pigs do.

Charles Blow recently wrote, “Trump is an unfiltered primal scream of the fragility and fear consuming white male America.” Surely, there’s much we can learn from that. More critically, though, Trump’s frivolous comments about the use of nuclear weapons abandons common sense and even survival. In a real crisis, what would he do?

This election is about many things including what’s already been mentioned, as well as voter disenfranchisement, big money poisoning of our politics and the millions of good paying jobs that Congress continues to say “It’s all about” but consistently refuses to take action to improve. It is about these substantive issues and is not about focused-grouped, misleading messages.

TO OUR POLITICAL CANDIDATES (not just Trump) – News flash: It isn’t about your message.You need to understand that Latinos don’t care what you say about immigration reform; they care about what you would do about it. Americans don’t care how you flap your lips about Medicare, Social Security, jobs, climate warming and terrorism; they care about what you would do.

If you’re all about the hot air of your finely honed, misleading messaging, then all you are is a manipulator and we will sniff you out. You may have had your way with us for a while, but if you’ve been dishonest with us, we will swat you like we would an annoying housefly and flick you away.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe and engage.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

What If It’s Worse?

Reading time  – 61 seconds; Viewing time  – 2:08  .  .  .

Hanion’s Razor: “Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity, but don’t rule out malice”. Robert J. Hanion

I’m going around the country and presenting my program, Money, Politics & Democracy: You Aren’t Getting What You Want, and I never get push-back from audiences. Mostly, they tell me that they appreciated my program, that I did a great job and that they didn’t realize things were as awful as they are.

While I appreciate the kudos, I’m mostly struck by their realization of how they personally are being affected by our pay-to-play politics and that they are just beginning to get it. This morning I got chills, as it dawned on me,

What if it’s worse than I thought and I’m just beginning to get it? What if all I’ve been seeing is the tip of the iceberg of our legalized system of political bribery?

What I know is that freshman legislators are instructed by the RNC and the DNC to spend 4 hours a day dialing for dollars and another hour or two daily pressing the flesh of big donors.

What I know is that industries that invest a lot of money in our legislators get favored in our laws and regulations.

What I know is that you and I are not getting:

  • – the gun safety legislation we want
  • – the legislation to deal with global warming that we want
  • – the healthcare service delivery and outcomes we want
  • – the student debt reform we want
  • – the job training and job growth we want
  • – the reform of our prison-industrial complex that we want
  • – the voting rights we want
  • – the lead-free drinking water we want

And that’s just a small sampling of the list of things that we Americans overwhelmingly want and are not getting. It’s all because our pay-to-play politics makes otherwise good people in Congress vote contrary to the desires of we the people.

Vote for the reformers.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

YOUR ACTION STEPS: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Safe, Proven . . .

First watch this feel-good 30-second ad from The People of America’s Oil and Natural Gas Industry (click on the video to start it):

 

What was it the pretty blonde in the black suit said in such soothing tones, as pleasant images caressed your eyeballs? ”  .  .  .  safe, proven hydraulic fracturing technology.” Yes, I’m pretty sure that’s what she said.

Now watch this infrared video (no audio supplied) from the Environmental Defense Fund:

This video was taken just last month. It is an aerial view of the Aliso Canyon oil field at Porter Ranch, CA. The black plume is one way infrared videography displays the methane leaking from the SoCal Gas Company well. It’s the same natural gas you cook with or use to heat your house and it’s as colorless as air, which is why the infrared technology is needed to see it leaking into the atmosphere.

The well has been spewing methane and other hydrocarbons for months – some say for two years – and somewhere between 1,700 and 2,600 local residents have now had to be evacuated because of headaches, nausea, nose bleeds, asthma and other medical traumas caused by the methane.

Spokesmen for SoCal Gas Company say that it will take months to stop the leak because the well is 8,000 feet deep and there is no valve they can turn off. They’re drilling another well designed to intersect the existing well shaft and they plan to pour concrete and other well plugging stuff into the 7″ pipe, assuming they hit it.

Infrared view of Porter Ranch, CA gas leak.

Infrared view of Porter Ranch, CA gas leak.

Meanwhile, the well is pouring 62 million cubic feet of methane per day into the air. That’s 110,000 pounds per hour, the global warming equivalent of 7,000,000 additional cars on the road day and night. To the right you can see what the leak looks like in another infrared video.

The natural gas industry maintains statistics on well leaks and they themselves tell us that 50% of natural gas wells leak. That’s significant, because methane is 84 times more powerful at global warming over a 20 year period than carbon dioxide.

And it’s The People of America’s Oil and Natural Gas Industry bring us all that that from their, ”  .  .  .  safe, proven hydraulic fracturing technology.”

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

 

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

Imagine

apollo11Reading time – 2 minutes 31 seconds  .  .  .

It was 1961 when President Kennedy proposed – challenged us, really – to send a man to the moon and bring him safely back to Earth by the end of the decade. It was a daring choice. At the time we didn’t have propulsion technology for the job. Not just the propulsion itself, the rocket engines, but the technology to construct the massive engines that would be needed. We didn’t have the metallurgy or computing capability that would be required and didn’t even know how we would provide food for astronauts on a lunar journey. We just had a bunch of people with slide rules, most doing things that had nothing to do with NASA and who weren’t prepared for such an enormous, complicated and dangerous endeavor.

And on July 20, 1969 Buzz Aldrin and Neil Armstrong put their footprints on the dust of the moon, as Michael Collins circled above in the command module. Imagine that.

Now we are faced with a far bigger challenge and we don’t have a choice on this one. The climate of the Earth is heating rapidly, perhaps as part of a natural cycle, but this time it is exaggerated because of human activity, largely driven by the burning of fossil fuels. The heating of the planet is making each successive year the hottest on record and it is already creating disasters of storms and drought. Sarah Palin, most of the Republican presidential candidates and the rest of the ostrich community may refuse to see that, but, as John Adams was fond of saying, facts are stubborn things. Things are getting worse regardless of whether the ostriches acknowledge that fact. Further, doing nothing about global warming is inherently self-defeating.

And that is a major driver of why Governor Jerry Brown (D-CA) is promoting a bill to slash carbon emissions in California 50% by 2030 and 80% by 2050, based on a 1990 emission levels baseline. He is being opposed by Republicans and some moderate Democrats in the California legislature who represent economically suffering districts in central California and who fear the impact on their communities and perhaps on their political careers.

He is also opposed by the Western States Petroleum Association, which is airing fear mongering ads on television projecting awful things that they say will happen if this legislation is passed. All of this is detailed in a New York Times article which captures well the mindset of this organization, which at its core is designed to protect the profit of its fossil fuel selling member companies. The president of the association, Catherine Reheis-Boyd, is quoted:

“I can’t figure out any other way to reach a 50% reduction in that [time] frame without doing some pretty dramatic measures. If it isn’t gas rationing, what is it?”

“We think there should be a lot more detail and it should be articulated pretty clearly about how one thinks they are going to be about this super-aggressive mandate.”

And that’s it. Ms. Reheis-Boyd can’t figure it out. It’s simply beyond her; therefore, the legislators of California should scuttle Brown’s proposal. And she needs all the details before anything is done, so nothing should be done. It’s all about her and her limited abilities, so make this legislation go away, she tells us.

Compare that to President Kennedy’s challenge to America, when nobody had a clue how to do what he proposed, yet we proceeded anyway, figured it out and succeeded.

Here’s a piece of Human Being 101: Change always involves moving from what is known to some unknown future where we don’t know what the consequences may be. Change feels scary and is always resisted.

Here’s a piece of Albert Einstein: Insanity is doing the same things and expecting different results.

Here’s a piece of observation: When a group of 10 people are presented with a new idea, 8 will immediately explain all the reasons why it cannot be done. One will sit quietly with a deer in the headlights face. After all the naysayers have calmed down a little, the 10th will offer an idea for how to start.

We Americans are fond of seeing ourselves as can-do and proudly announce to ourselves and to the world our American exceptionalism. We have done wondrous things that have benefited not only ourselves, but the entire world and we continue to have the natural and human resources to do so much more. What is puzzling is how people with a big public voice can extol the wonders of our American exceptionalism and at the same time tell us how we can’t do anything about global warming. It is further puzzling that our fossil fuel industries, having such enormous resources, are doing nothing to create the new energy technologies that will be required when we run out of oil within the next 100 years. Where is the exceptionalism in that?

It is time to stop resisting change that is inevitable and to imagine a healthy, sustainable energy superstructure. It is time to imagine a planet that can sustain the billions of us who don’t want to die in a climate catastrophe.

To Ms. Reheis-Boyd, Sarah Palin and all the others with myopic vision or who willfully blind themselves: Stop resisting and instead, imagine.

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Ed. note: There is much in America that needs fixing and we are on a path to continually fail to make things better. It is my goal to make a difference – perhaps to be a catalyst for things to get better. That is the reason for these posts. To accomplish the goal requires reaching many thousands of people and a robust dialogue.

ACTION STEP: Please offer your comments below and pass this along to three people, encouraging them to subscribe.  Thanks!  JA

Copyright 2017 by Jack Altschuler
Reproduction and sharing are encouraged, providing proper attribution is given.

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