Friday, October 22, 2004

 

Krauthammer race-baits and bullies

In his op-ed today, Charles Krauthammer tries to bully supporters of Israel (see below about the Jewish vote) into voting for Bush. Krauthammer talks a lot about “codewords” and says that Sandy Berger’s advice ("Foreign Policy for a Democratic President," written while Berger was an adviser to the Kerry campaign) calls for the United States to “sell out Israel in an instant” and let the filthy terrorist Ay-rabs run amok in the streets of Tel Aviv.

Here is what Berger actually wrote:
"As part of a new bargain with our allies, the United States must re-engage in . . . ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. . . . As we re-engage in the peace process and rebuild frayed ties with our allies, what should a Democratic president ask of our allies in return? First and foremost, we should ask for a real commitment of troops and money to Afghanistan and Iraq."
Think that sounds reasonable? Well, my friend, you just don’t know all the “codewords” that the dirty Arab-lovers use these days. Don’t worry, our buddy Charles will break it down for us.
So in a "new bargain with our allies" America "re-engages" in the "peace process" in return for troops and money in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Do not be fooled by the euphemism "peace process." We know what "peace process" meant during the eight years Berger served in the Clinton White House -- a White House to which Yasser Arafat was invited more often than any other leader on the planet. It meant believing Arafat's deceptions about peace while letting him get away with the most virulent incitement to and unrelenting support of terrorism. It meant constant pressure on Israel to make one territorial concession after another -- in return for nothing. Worse than nothing: Arafat ultimately launched a vicious terror war that killed a thousand Israeli innocents.
First of all, Arafat did not “launce a vicious terror war.” This is a stupid oversimplification and falsehood perpetuated to demonize Yasir Arafat. Believe me, I am not fan of Arafat, but the second intifada was essentially a popular uprising (not ordered by Yasir Arafat) that intensified particularly as a result of Israel’s brutal response to demonstrations and riots in the fall of 2000. Furthermore, even Israeli military intelligence officials have refuted this stupid claim (see what Amos Malka has to say about it if you want).

Secondly, maybe a bit of clarification is needed as to what “peace process” meant under the Clinton White House. Negotiations happened. There was hope that there might be a resolution to the conflict. I would love to let Krauthammer find one territorial concession that Clinton forced upon Israel. And most of all, less Israelis were killed. I’m not even going to get into the numbers of Palestinians killed (since obviously, that’s not what Krauthammer cares about... in fact, the fact that more Palestinians have been killed under Bush is probably a major selling point for him).

If you go to B’Tselem you can find pretty detailed numbers of Israelis and Palestinians killed, where they were killed (occupied territories, inside Israel), who they were (civilians, soldiers), when they were killed (broken down by year and month). Here’s my math (not perfect, but I did my best): The number of Israelis killed under Clinton (from 1992 through the end of 2000) was 379. The number of Israelis killed under Bush was 888 (290 of which were Israeli security forces members, which you could debate whether or not makes them “innocent Israelis”). That’s over twice as many dead Israelis under Bush than under Clinton in half the time. (Note, these numbers might be slightly low for Bush – Ma’ariv reports 1,017 dead since the outbreak of the second intifada, which is lower than what B’Tselem has, but B’Tselem is easier to break down by month, since the intifada started under Clinton).

So I don’t know about you, but I’d rather have Arafat in the White House and less Israeli dead and injured than Arafat in Ramallah but many more Israelis dying. Overall, Krauthammer is relying less on real results (I honestly think that it would be pretty easy to argue that Israel was better off under Clinton than under Bush in terms of relations with the Palestinians, security in the region – a hostile government in Iraq, but not open chaos, world standing, and economy) than on scare tactics. Bring up the demon of Yasir Arafat. Threaten more terror if Kerry is elected. Tell people that Kerry and the Democrats want to sneak into the White House so that they can sell out Israel to the Ay-rabs. It’s ridiculous.

And Krauthammer isn’t alone in his sickening race-baiting bully tactics; also check out this from Ann Coulter, who writes “the Democrats are pretty sure the real reason we went to Iraq was one of the following” and then proceeds to list, among other things, “the Jews” and “oily Jews.” Really, really disgusting stuff.

 

Thoughts about the Jewish vote and anti-Semitism

I was reading this article in Ha'aretz called The Jewish vote paradox. The paradox in the article is about how a dispropotionately large number of Jewish Americans do not support the war in Iraq, thus reinforcing the traditional Democratic trend of Jewish voting in the US. However, Bush has been making headway with certain Jewish voters.
Surveys suggest that a majority of Jews will retain their Democratic allegiance, but support for Bush is on the rise. Bush backers tend to be the loudest in the community because support for Bush is greater among activists, especially in Orthodox circles (whose numbers are growing). Among Jews who emigrated to the U.S. from the former Soviet Union (estimated to number about half a million), there is a clear majority in Bush's favor.
Interesting, but it's not really what grabbed me from this article; the last paragraph really kind of got in my head.
American Jewry is in constant demographic decline. Despite that, as the election wooing demonstrates, the Jewish vote has not lost its force. And it seems that more than ever before, the world is keeping an eye on the Jewish vote.
So why did this grab me? I think the paradox here is that while it can hardly be viewed as a bad thing within the Jewish community to have such political clout, I definitely see the danger of an anti-Semitic backlash when "the world is keeping an eye on the Jewish vote." This certainly allows the Jewish vote to be over-emphasized in the eyes of the world and could easily play into the classic anti-Semitic notion of Jews running the world or the United States really being run by Jews. Not good.

Secondly, if enough Jewish voters determine the election for Bush (in a place like Florida for example), then even if a majority of Jewish voters in the United States voted for Kerry, then there is a danger that any and all disasters linked to a second Bush term (or even back to his first term), especially in the Middle East because of Israel, will be open to being portrayed as Bush doing the bidding of his Jewish masters. (Let me emphasize that I am not saying this as legitimate - indeed, I am trying to point out just how illegitimate it is. But with "the world ... keeping an eye on the Jewish vote," the anti-Semitic possibilities are worrying to me). Not good.

Furthermore, if this is the case (where the Jewish vote in Florida - or elsewhere - is portrayed as the deciding factor in a Bush victory), then I can easily see the Democratic response to be one of further support for Israel. The danger here is that there is already no criticism of Israel from either party. The Democrats, in an attempt to out-support the Republicans when it comes to Israel, would have to pursue a pretty aggressive campaign of emphasizing Israel's need for incursions into the West Bank and Gaza, an active support of assassinations (as opposed to tacit acceptance), etc. In this scenario, you have the Democratic party increasingly equating the American Jewish vote with support for Israel (especially its aggressive, illegal, and destructive policies in the West Bank and Gaza). There becomes even greater world (especially Muslim and Arab) animosity toward Israel. The lines between Jewish people and Israel becomes increasingly blurred (in no small part because of that blurring in US political campaigns). The result is increased potential for anti-Semitism around the world which would mean an increasingly dangerous world for Jews. Not good.

And all because of America's stupid electoral college system where a minority voting bloc in one state can mean so much. Now of course, maybe I'm just crazy and am leaping too far ahead with this paranoid idea. But I do tend to hear a little voice in my head that says that when I read that American Jewry are in demographic decline, yet their being wooed (especially being tied to a candidate's stance on Israel) by the political parties is increasing, and "more than ever before, the world is keeping an eye on the Jewish vote," this might not just mean things are rosy rosy.

 

Iran, Nukes, and Reform

Mustafa El-Labbad writes in Al-Ahram that "foreign pressure [stemming from Iran's nuclear program] might tip the balance in the reformers' favour" in Iran. Well, actually, he doesn't really do a good job of writing that. After reading the article, El-Labbad doesn't give any clear explanation of how the international pressure will help the reformers. But he does make some points that would lead one down that path of reasoning, which I will now take myself. El-Labbad points out that Iran is essentially coming to a turning point. "The storm clouds are gathering over Iran and the wind is howling," El-Labbad writes. "But, even if this particular storm blows over, there is no doubt that the meeting of the IAEA in November will mark a turning point in the history of Iran and the Middle East as a whole." It would be nice if he would tell us why.

Here is what I can gather: The international community has reached a concensus against Iran's attaining nuclear weapons and is willing to turn the matter over to the UN Security Council. El-Labbad writes: "By merely coming under UN Security Council scrutiny over its nuclear capabilities, Iran effectively loses its sovereign status. Iran would become subject to internationally stipulated deadlines, conditions and inspection demands, as was the case with Iraq from the end of the second Gulf war until the overthrow of Saddam Hussein in 2003." Even though the Iranians have "proved themselves skillful negotiators, tacticians and hagglers in the global political bazaar," they look out "at a barren and brutal international landscape. It has no major allies to speak of now that the countries of the G8, following their latest meeting, have ranged themselves against it." Thus, Iran has reached a point where it is pushed up against the wall. And it is hardly willing to allow itself to be Iraqized in terms of UN Security Council involvement, deadlines, weapons inspectors, and all that. So how does this benefit the reformers? Here, I think, is the paragraph that is key to answering this question:
Europe is currently using the carrot-and-stick approach towards Iran, offering it economic and political privileges if Iran abandons its possession of nuclear technology. The US, on the other hand, has succeeded in tightening the legal and diplomatic siege on Iran preparatory to homing in its sights following the US presidential elections.
I think the reformers win if the European way is the one that works. As Europe offers economic and political priveleges, this cannot but help to open up more Iranians to Europe. The reformers are given an avenue by which they can return to the Iranian political landscape and by which the Iranian conservatives are in less of a position to deny them. In fact, the increased European role cannot but be much more helpful to the adversarial position of the US (which some see as the reason that the conservatives were able to reassert their dominance over the reformists). Anyhow, its something interesting to think about. If somebody else can better articulate how the IAEA and European involvement would benefit the reformist movement in Iran, please post comments, links, etc. I think this is interesting, important, and much overlooked in the US (where the Iranian nuclear threat is rarely if ever viewed with an eye toward Iranian domestic politics).

Thursday, October 21, 2004

 

The same old story

Yet another IDF investigation ended this week without finding anybody responsible for the death of an innocent civilian. This time, the child was a 13-year-old girl. This time, the victim had "at least 17 bullets" in her body when she arrived at the hospital. This time, even some soldiers from the unit responsible for the girl's death came forward, shocked at the cruel violence of which they had been a part. This time, like the others, nobody was held responsible.

From the mouth's of the soldiers:
[S]ome soldiers in the unit responsible, the Shaked battalion, were outraged at what they saw as a cover-up. One told Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper that a soldier in the watchtower had told the company commander that he was about to shoot a child: "Don't shoot, it's a little girl".

"The company commander approached her, shot two bullets into her, walked back towards the force, turned back to her, switched his weapon to automatic and emptied his entire magazine into her. We were in shock. We couldn't believe what he was doing. Our hearts ached for her. Just a girl of 13," a soldier told the newspaper.

Other soldiers said that if the company commander was not dismissed they would refuse to serve under him: "It is a disgrace that he is still in his position. We want him kicked out."
From the mouths of the Palestinian witnesses:
"Some soldiers were lying on the ground and shooting very heavily toward her," said Basim Breaka, who saw the killing from her living room. "Then one of the soldiers walked to her and emptied his clip into her. For sure she died on the second or third bullet. I could see her lying on the ground, not moving. I can't imagine why that soldier wanted to shoot her after she was dead."

[...]

Fuad Zourob was working at a small brick factory overlooking the area where Iman was shot. "The girl was walking in the sand. She was shot from the army post. She was hit in the leg and she was crawling.

"Then she stood up and started to try and run and then she fell. The shooting went on. The soldiers arrived by foot. One came close to the girl and started to shoot. He walked away, turned back and then shot her some more," he said.

Yousef Breaka watched from the balcony of his second floor flat. He owns the 12 acres of bulldozed land beside the building which Iman crossed minutes before she was shot.

"The first shot came from the army post. It hit her in the leg. She was starting to walk on and then fell. She dropped her bag. They were firing, heavy shooting. I am sure she died before the two soldiers came and shot her bag and then her," he said.
From the mouth of the father:
"The day Iman was killed, the headmistress of her school called me at 8.15 and asked why she wasn't at school. I said I had no idea," he said.

"I ran to the school. The teachers and headmistress told me the army shot toward a small girl but she was fine, don't worry. I calmed down a bit when I heard that and thought maybe they shot toward her to make her afraid and arrested her for interrogation and they will release her. But then they declared her dead. That was the worst moment in my life."
And from the IDF:
This week, the officer responsible for the Gaza strip, Major General Dan Harel, completed his investigation and pronounced that the company commander had not acted unethically in the shooting of Iman but was being suspended for losing the confidence of his soldiers.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

 

Let's face it. We're not all that sweet. Yes, better than a fruit fly. But we can't compare with rice.

 

The Inmates Running the Asylum

From Ha'aretz:
Public Security Minister Gideon Ezra authorized on Tuesday a controversial appointment of a Border Policeman that may conflict with the recommendations of the Or Commission, which investigated the October 2000 riots, in which police killed 12 Israeli Arabs and a Palestinian.

The commission recommended that Brigadier General Benzi Sau, who served as Border Police Northern District commander during the riots, not be promoted for four years.

Nonetheless, Sau, who is currently serving as head of the police disengagement administration, has been appointed to the position of staff commander....

The Or Commission Report, published in September 2003, said Sau commanded a long and unnecessary confrontation between police and Israeli Arab citizens at the Umm al-Fahm junction. During the incident, a group of policemen entered the Arab town and killed two people while using live rounds and rubber bullets. The commission, however, did not hold Sau responsible for the incident.

On the second day of the riots, Sau was involved in an incident which involved police snipers illegaly firing at stone throwing demonstrators at the same junction.

Sau's appointment is part of a general round of new appointments in the police force. The position of Border Police staff commander was created recently to replace the position of deputy commander.

 

This is your War on Drugs

So not only is opium production in Afghanistan booming, but now the lack of security in Iraq is lending itself to rampant drug smuggling in the region.
The head of Jordan's anti-narcotics department, Tayel Majali, says there has been a string of substantial drugs hauls along Jordan's border with Iraq.

Iraq's other neighbours were recording similar problems as the security situation in Iraq worsened, he said.

Before the Iraq war, Jordan had few problems with drug smuggling from Iraq.

But now this year there have been a series of big drug finds on the Jordan-Iraq border as smugglers exploit the collapse of security.
Thanks to the Angry Arab for spotting this.

 

Why should Bush care about global warming? It's not going to effect his "base"

The Guardian today reports on a study by the Working Group on Climate Change and Development (pdf) saying that "[g]lobal warming threatens to reverse human progress and make international targets on halving world poverty by 2015 unattainable." The report has gotten the attiontion of individuals such as Tony Blair:
The report says the prime minister, Tony Blair, has signalled that he will use the UK's presidency of the G8 nations in 2005 to bring the issues of climate change and Africa - where many of the world's poorest countries are found - to the top of the international political agenda.
To Archbishop Desmond Tutu:
Archbishop Tutu, Nobel Peace laureate and former Anglican archbishop of Cape Town, said: "I urge governments and development and environmental organisations to work together to find sustainable solutions to avert a catastrophe that will exacerbate human suffering to a magnitude that perhaps the world has not yet seen."
And yet, I can't imagine that the Bush administration would make much of it. After all, one can imagine Dick Cheney wondering, how do we make a profit off of this? Why there's much more money to be made by allowing big industry to do nothing at all about global warming. And who are the victims? Thousands of Haitians killed by hurricanes Jeanne and Ivan. Flood victims in Bangladesh. The trailorpark inhabitants in Florida who were victims of hurricane after hurricane this year. Not people that the Bush administration seems to have at the top of their list in terms of importance. And while you might say George W. Bush is a good steward of the land (according to himself), the tragedy is that not only is he not a good steward of the land, but by forwarding his irresponsible environmental policy he is also a bad steward of the people, especially those who are in the worst situations to begin with.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is trying to make do without the involvement of the US:
[British Environment secretary, Margaret Beckett] said: "No one can welcome what the report says, but ... I very much welcome the direction of the report and the way that it is bringing people with these concerns together."

She said she hoped the report would increase pressure on the US to shift its stance on global warming.

"It is true that the present American administration - and the last one - were not prepared to sign up to the Kyoto protocol, but we are moving on without America," she said.
Unfortunately, the world really needs America to move forward on this, too. And probably the best way to move forward on it is without George W. Bush in office.

 

Everything you ever needed to know about disengagement

There is a surprisingly comprehensive look at the myriad of impediments to Ariel Sharon's Gaza disengagement plan by Mark Heinrich of Reuters in an article whose main focus is on next Tuesday's Knesset session which will address the disengagement proposal. Security measures are going to be stepped up dramatically in the face of death threats against Sharon and promises from the extreme right that they will disrupt the Knesset session.
A Knesset spokeswoman said it would slash the number of visitors a parliamentary deputy would be allowed to bring into the chamber to two from 20, with all sitting behind a bulletproof glass screen in the gallery.

A new surveillance camera network was also being installed and the threshold for ejections from the building for unruly behavior -- Knesset debates are notoriously tumultuous affairs -- would be lowered, spokesman Giora Pordes said.

Leaders of the 8,000 settlers designated for evacuation from Gaza said their schools would shut Tuesday to enable a mass turnout of protesters around the parliament in Jerusalem.

Anti-"disengagement" activists planned to circle the Knesset in a slow-moving procession of cars.
Seriously, though, the rest of the article does a fantastic job of giving a sort of overview of the path and perils facing Sharon's plan in the future.

 

Tarazi strikes back

Michael Tarazi, who got a lot of attention from his op-ed appearing in the New York Times and the International Herald Tribune that approached the idea of a single state for Israelis and Palestinians, is now responding to at least one of the attacks against him. Tarazi takes on Avraham Tal's October 14 Ha'aretz piece that accuses the PLO of lusting after the destruction of Israel and the establishment of a single Palestinian state from the river to the sea. Tarazi comes out swinging:
Avraham Tal's recent article - "The PLO still sees a single state," Haaretz, October 14 - effectively argues that any Palestinian support for a one-state solution is proof that the PLO's real intention is the destruction of the "Jewish" state. This is the logic of a man who kicks a beehive and uses the resulting stings as proof that the bees intended to attack him all along.
Despite the "generous offer" myth (please read some Rob Malley and Clay Swisher's The Truth About Camp David if you still think the Palestinians turned down a good deal at Camp David), Tarazi's analogy, I think, works here. The two-state solution is essentially a concession on the part of the Palestinians. In return for a state, the Palestinians must give up claims on land within the pre-1967 borders of Israel. The problem is that the Palestinians view it as a concession whereas the Israeli establishment views it as a neutral starting point, from which further concessions can be seen as reasonable. To the Palestinians, further demands and humiliations add insult to injury. Tarazi puts it well when he writes:
But Israelis are deluding themselves if they believe that a "one state, one reservation" solution can be repackaged and sold to the Palestinians as a "two state solution". Given the realities of Israel's Wall and incessant settlement expansion, Palestinians not only have the right but the obligation to reevaluate their options.
The truth of the matter is that Israel has the military capabilities to enforce a two state solution. There is no realistic threat that the Palestinians will "push the Jews into the sea." There will be no realization of a Palestinian state from the river to the sea. But the truth of the matter is also this: The Palestinians will not accept a "solution" that denies them dignity, a viable situation, a state to call home, or perpetuates the occupation and the subjugation of the Palestinian people to the military rule of Israel. Essentially, this is Tarazi's argument; and if it cannot be done by creating a separate viable Palestinian state, it can be done by creating a single state that respects the rights of all of its citizens.

Tuesday, October 19, 2004

 

Facial Hair In The News


Check out this amazing mustache! That's really what drew me to this article about Veerappan, a notorious Indian criminal. It is an interesting story and includes this amazing tidbit:
When asked what she saw in him, Veerappan's shepherdess wife Muthulakshmi reportedly replied: "His moustache and notoriety."
There you have it, gentlemen. Chicks dig big moustaches.

 

Happy Ramadan

The Justice Department rejected a request yesterday from American Muslim groups to provide a list of Islamic charities to which one can make a donation without showing up on a terrorist watch list somewhere.
Muslim groups said they fear giving to a charity that might make them look suspicious to the FBI. The holy month of Ramadan began last week, and Muslims are required to give to the poor during that period.

"If the government knows there are charities that are misleading the American Muslim community, it's their obligation to help protect these innocent Americans," said Sohail Mohammed, a lawyer for the American Muslim Union, based in New Jersey.
And so the Dept. of Justice continues to foster the kind of respectful and understanding relationship with American Muslims that makes us all feel proud and safe to be Americans. This seems like a reasonable request for several reasons. First, it is not as though it is obvious which charities are giving "material aid" to terrorist groups. They aren't naming themselves "The Hamas Charity Fund" or "Islamic Jihad Foundation for Charitable Giving." They don't express support for terror in their mission statements (for obvious reasons). And it seems reasonable that somebody giving to a charity would 1) not want to get into trouble because of something that they thought was benevolent and harmless and 2) want the money to actually go toward doing some good instead of being frozen indefinitely while the Dept. of Justice conducts some kind of investigation.

Monday, October 18, 2004

 

Zarqawi and al-Qaeda

So I am reading here on Yahoo! News that Monotheism and Holy War, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's terrorist organization, has declared its allegience to Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda in an internet statement.
The declaration, which appeared Sunday on a Web site used as a clearinghouse for statements by militant groups, said al-Zarqawi's Tawhid and Jihad group and al-Qaida had been in communication eight months ago and "viewpoints were exchanged" before the dialogue was interrupted.

"God soon blessed us with a resumption in communication, and the dignified brothers in al-Qaida understood the strategy of Tawhid and Jihad," said the statement, whose authenticity could not be confirmed.

The statement ran a Quranic verse encouraging Muslim unity and said al-Zarqawi considered bin Laden "the best leader for Islam's armies against all infidels and apostates."
So there were some discussions about eight months ago, then talks broke off, and now Zarqawi & Co. are agreeing to endorse and follow bin Laden and al-Qaeda. By my reasoning, this means that before we attacked Iraq, Zarqawi's group was not affiliated with al-Qaeda. And one could pretty much gather that there was one thing that brought the two together. And that's the war in Iraq. So not only does it seem to quash the idea that al-Qaeda was operating inside Iraq before the war (since the Zarqawi-bin Laden connection had served to be that link for the Bush administration in the past) but it also seems to prove that the war in Iraq has provided the opportunity for the terrorist community to network and grow. But, no, that's not what the Bush administration got out of the news:
"But we've always said there were ties between Zarqawi and al-Qaida, which underscores once again why Iraq is the central front in the war on terror," White House spokesman Trent Duffy said in Washington. "It's also proof positive of why the president's firm resolve to fight terrorists overseas so we don't face them in America's neighborhoods is the only clear way to prevail."
Yeah... that makes sense. Because there was an announcement today that the two were connected doesn't mean that there were always ties between the two. That's like reading a wedding announcement and saying, "We've always said they were married." You'd sound like an idiot. Furthermore, how many Americans had Zarqawi & Co. killed before we went into Iraq? I don't know the answer, but I bet it's a lot less than he's killed since we went into Iraq. So there's your proof positive. The treatment of logic by this administration as if it's some nuisance that should be ignored in all cases is going to make my head explode one of these days.

UPDATE: Juan Cole has more on this development on his site.

 

World Opinion

There is a very convenient section in today's Ha'aretz with links to ten newspapers around the world with polls and analysis reflecting popular feeling toward the US presidential election. Go to US elections: a global view to check it out.

Shmuel Rosner, who arranged the Ha'aretz poll, also has a piece in the Guardian about Israeli support for Bush. He writes:
Israel loves the US, and it loves the US president. This has been the case for many years now.
It loves George Bush, but it also loved Bill Clinton. It loved George Bush Snr a little less, but it certainly loved Ronald Reagan, and even Jimmy Carter. It remembered what each of them had done for the country - the peace with Egypt, the first Gulf war, the eulogy for Yitzhak Rabin.

Israel loves every US president not perceived as being demonstratively hostile towards it (the last such president was Gerald Ford, who called for a "re-evaluation" of the relationship between the countries).

Israel loves the US president because he holds the umbrella that protects it from its enemies. He symbolises the defense and economic support, and - above all - the moral support that Israel receives from the US. It is he who gives Israel the feeling that it still has one friend left in the world who can be trusted, even in times of great trouble. He is the symbol, and America is the friend.
Also from Sunday's Ha'aretz, an article on the negative international poll numbers for Bush explains:
Bush arouses opposition both because of his style - which is perceived as stammering, blunt, provincial and power-driven...
I couldn't have put it better myself (although for some reason this style also seems to be what draws so many Americans to him - hmmmm).

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