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Horrifying New Drugs! Does New Zealand's New Synthetic Drug Law Offer a Safer Way Forward? Time magazine warns "The World's Most Horrifying Drug May Have Claimed Its First U.S. Victim." The horror of this "new" drug, "krokodil," is that it "eats the skin" of those who use it.
Why would anyone use drugs with all their risks, let alone an untested new drug or a drug that reportedly "eats their skin?" Because the reasons that people use drugs are important to them. People use drugs to get high for various reasons (i.e. to feel good, to forget their troubles, to seek the "truth" or the "divine," for excitement or adventure, or to relieve boredom).They use drugs to ward off "dope sickness" (i.e. prevent withdrawal symptoms). They use drugs to enhance their performance of some task (such as studying, flying an airplane or driving a truck for many hours, or hitting homeruns). And people use drugs to fit in socially (to feel relaxed with strangers or to accommodate peer pressure). However, federal, state and international law recognize "medical use" as the sole legitimate reason one can use a drug (other than tobacco, alcohol and caffeine). These non-medical reasons are compellingly important to the tens of millions of Americans who use drugs knowing that their drug use is against the law and harshly punished. Laws and treaties that limit the legal manufacture of drugs only for medical purposes results in all non-medical drug use being more dangerous because it is unprotected by government or market-based regulation and inspection. Now New Zealand is changing that approach.
The dangerous drug du jour, "krokodil," is a version of desomorphine being made informally in Russia. It is a fast acting narcotic derived from codeine which is extracted from opium poppy. Desomorphine is reported to be 8 to 10 times more potent than morphine. (Huffington Post)
Taken -- Under civil forfeiture, Americans who haven’t been charged with wrongdoing can be stripped of their cash, cars, and even homes. Is that all we’re losing? On a bright Thursday afternoon in 2007, Jennifer Boatright, a waitress at a Houston bar-and-grill, drove with her two young sons and her boyfriend, Ron Henderson, on U.S. 59 toward Linden, Henderson’s home town, near the Texas-Louisiana border. They made the trip every April, at the first signs of spring, to walk the local wildflower trails and spend time with Henderson’s father. This year, they’d decided to buy a used car in Linden, which had plenty for sale, and so they bundled their cash savings in their car’s center console. Just after dusk, they passed a sign that read “Welcome to Tenaha: A little town with BIG Potential!”
They pulled into a mini-mart for snacks. When they returned to the highway ten minutes later, Boatright, a honey-blond “Texas redneck from Lubbock,” by her own reckoning, and Henderson, who is Latino, noticed something strange. The same police car that their eleven-year-old had admired in the mini-mart parking lot was trailing them. Near the city limits, a tall, bull-shouldered officer named Barry Washington pulled them over.
He asked if Henderson knew that he’d been driving in the left lane for more than half a mile without passing.
No, Henderson replied. He said he’d moved into the left lane so that the police car could make its way onto the highway.
Were there any drugs in the car? When Henderson and Boatright said no, the officer asked if he and his partner could search the car.
The officers found the couple’s cash and a marbled-glass pipe that Boatright said was a gift for her sister-in-law, and escorted them across town to the police station. In a corner there, two tables were heaped with jewelry, DVD players, cell phones, and the like. According to the police report, Boatright and Henderson fit the profile of drug couriers: they were driving from Houston, “a known point for distribution of illegal narcotics,” to Linden, “a known place to receive illegal narcotics.” The report describes their children as possible decoys, meant to distract police as the couple breezed down the road, smoking marijuana. (None was found in the car, although Washington claimed to have smelled it.)
The county’s district attorney, a fifty-seven-year-old woman with feathered Charlie’s Angels hair named Lynda K. Russell, arrived an hour later. Russell, who moonlighted locally as a country singer, told Henderson and Boatright that they had two options. They could face felony charges for “money laundering” and “child endangerment,” in which case they would go to jail and their children would be handed over to foster care. Or they could sign over their cash to the city of Tenaha, and get back on the road. “No criminal charges shall be filed,” a waiver she drafted read, “and our children shall not be turned over to CPS,” or Child Protective Services. (The New Yorker)
A Shuffle of Aluminum, but to Banks, Pure Gold Hundreds of millions of times a day, thirsty Americans open a can of soda, beer or juice. And every time they do it, they pay a fraction of a penny more because of a shrewd maneuver by Goldman Sachs and other financial players that ultimately costs consumers billions of dollars.
The story of how this works begins in 27 industrial warehouses in the Detroit area where a Goldman subsidiary stores customers’ aluminum. Each day, a fleet of trucks shuffles 1,500-pound bars of the metal among the warehouses. Two or three times a day, sometimes more, the drivers make the same circuits. They load in one warehouse. They unload in another. And then they do it again.
This industrial dance has been choreographed by Goldman to exploit pricing regulations set up by an overseas commodities exchange, an investigation by The New York Times has found. The back-and-forth lengthens the storage time. And that adds many millions a year to the coffers of Goldman, which owns the warehouses and charges rent to store the metal. It also increases prices paid by manufacturers and consumers across the country.
Tyler Clay, a forklift driver who worked at the Goldman warehouses until early this year, called the process “a merry-go-round of metal.”
Only a tenth of a cent or so of an aluminum can’s purchase price can be traced back to the strategy. But multiply that amount by the 90 billion aluminum cans consumed in the United States each year — and add the tons of aluminum used in things like cars, electronics and house siding — and the efforts by Goldman and other financial players has cost American consumers more than $5 billion over the last three years, say former industry executives, analysts and consultants.
The inflated aluminum pricing is just one way that Wall Street is flexing its financial muscle and capitalizing on loosened federal regulations to sway a variety of commodities markets, according to financial records, regulatory documents and interviews with people involved in the activities. (New York Times)
Burning Man Vs. Superstorm Sandy Union Beach, New Jersey, like much of the state, is a mess thanks to Superstorm Sandy. Its residents who are sticking it out and hoping to rebuild have to figure out a way to clear their lots of debris and condemned structures. Regular relief groups don’t provide aid for this kind of work, and contractors aren’t going to cut a break for flood victims. It has left an altruistic void, one that has been filled by a bunch of people who are stereotypically known for heading out every year to the middle of a desert in Nevada to do a bunch of drugs, dress up like gay aliens, and light a bunch of shit on fire.
Yes, a small group of Burning Man enthusiasts have formed what appears to be an extremely efficient charitable organization that helps people in ways more bureaucratic organizations can’t.
Just because the typical view of Burners is that they're computer programmers who fantasize all year about wearing furry purple pants while tripping on 2CT7 and convulsing to dubstep, it doesn’t mean they don’t know their way around a construction site. These same people spend months and even years constructing elaborate psychedelic mutant robo-vehicles atop of which they party for a week like the world is going to end. And they really love demolition. “Going to Burning Man is like boot camp for disaster relief,” said Tom Price, one of several cofounders. "Dealing with food, water, and shelter in a harsh environment and building a community from scratch isn't a challenge, it's what we do for vacation." (Vice)
Oil Slicks and Sleazy Dealings: The BP Settlement The Deepwater Horizon oil spill of 2010 was the single worst man-made ecological disaster at sea. Due to the epic scope of the accident, one would believe it would have a lasting impact on the company responsible, or at the very least increased environmental regulations. One would be mistaken.
Approximately $100 Million worth of advertising, spent by British Petroleum following the Deepwater Horizon oil spill, essentially made the disaster a political and societal non-issue. The anger of gas consumers towards BP was short-lived, demonstrated by the company’s impressive third quarter gains of $5.4 billion.
As cars continued to line the company’s gas pumps, the focus of mainstream media shifted from the 9/11 of ecological devastation to something more sensationally substantial, like what those crazy Kardashians were up to. Without the continual news coverage, the public’s glaring disapproval was detoured in other directions. The unforgivable mistake British Petroleum had made was largely forgiven (or at least forgotten), even as tons of unrefined sludge were pumped into the Gulf of Mexico. (The Boston Occupier)
White House website deluged with secession petitions from 20 states How would Old Glory look with 30 stars instead of 50? As far-fetched as it may sound, the White House might soon be forced by its own rules to examine the question.
On Nov.7, the day after President Barack Obama was re-elected, the White House’s website received a petition asking the administration to allow Louisiana to secede.
If 25,000 people sign the petition by Dec. 7, it will “require a response” from the Obama administration, according to published rules of the White House’s online “We the People” program. (The Daily Caller)
FEMA wins praise, responds to anger about gas supply Seven years after a disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina, the Federal Emergency Management Agency is winning praise for how it's dealing with Superstorm Sandy.
"This is the all-new FEMA, and the leadership is very, very good, very focused," said Dr. Irwin Redlener, a pediatrician and director of the National Center for Disaster Preparedness at Columbia University's Mailman School of Public Health. "They're doing an excellent job."
Score one for FEMA's attempts to come back from its infamous failure after Katrina struck the Gulf Coast in August 2005.
But the post-Sandy reviews for FEMA aren't all moonlight and roses.
Photos: New York recovers from Sandy Photos: New York recovers from Sandy
As Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano -- whose department oversees FEMA -- is expected to visit the region Friday, many survivors in hard-hit places are angry. (CNN)
Emails expose BP's attempts to control research into impact of Gulf oil spill Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show BP officials discussing how to influence the work of scientists - BP officials tried to take control of a $500m fund pledged by the oil company for independent research into the consequences of the Gulf of Mexico oil disaster, it has emerged.
Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act show BP officials openly discussing how to influence the work of scientists supported by the fund, which was created by the oil company in May last year.
Russell Putt, a BP environmental expert, wrote in an email to colleagues on 24 June 2010: "Can we 'direct' GRI [Gulf of Mexico Research Initiative] funding to a specific study (as we now see the governor's offices trying to do)? What influence do we have over the vessels/equipment driving the studies vs the questions?".
The email was obtained by Greenpeace and shared with the Guardian.
The documents are expected to reinforce fears voiced by scientists that BP has too much leverage over studies into the impact of last year's oil disaster.
Those concerns go far beyond academic interest into the impact of the spill. BP faces billions in fines and penalties, and possible criminal charges arising from the disaster. Its total liability will depend in part on a final account produced by scientists on how much oil entered the gulf from its blown-out well, and the damage done to marine life and coastal areas in Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. The oil company disputes the government estimate that 4.1m barrels of oil entered the gulf. (The Guardian)
'Tightening noose' on Gadhafi, weighing more steps Pledging a relentless drive to kick Moammar Gadhafi out of power, President Barack Obama said Friday the U.S. and the world community are "slowly tightening the noose" on the leader of Libya and will keep up the pressure. But he would not commit to intervening at any cost, warning of potential perils in military action.
"It's going to require some judgment calls, and those are difficult ones," Obama said from the White House as Gadhafi's violent counteroffensive against rebels gained strength.
By choosing tough and even grisly language when questioned about Gadhafi at a news conference, Obama sought to show the United States would not simply stand by. Beyond the rhetoric, it was not clear which next steps Obama might be willing to take, but he said he was considering all options, including military efforts with NATO partners.
On Friday, Gadhafi's regime showed growing confidence after retaking a strategic near Tripoli. Government forces also captured a key oil town in the east and fought to dislodge rebels who took refuge among towering storage containers of crude oil and gas in nearby facilities. (Associated Press)
Coast Guard checks on discolored water near La. The Coast Guard said Saturday that an area of discolored water near a Mississippi River pass south of New Orleans appears to be an algae bloom, but another spot 10 miles away could be oil.
Jeff Hall, spokesman for the Unified Area Command, said tests could determine if the suspected oil is from the BP spill.
The Coast Guard sent two flights over the West Bay area near Venice on Saturday. Two boats also went out to check the waters. (Associated Press)
BP spill: White House says oil has gone, but Gulf's fishermen are not so sure Counsellors and lawyers are busier than seafarers in Louisiana, as some experts warn that fishing industry will never recover - High tide, and the remains of a late summer storm, and it is hard to tell on this strip of land between the Mississippi and the marsh where land ends and water begins. It was here – in the most southerly reaches of Louisiana on terrain that is slowly sliding into the sea – that oil from BP's Macondo well first started coming ashore, about a week after the 20 April explosion on the Deepwater Horizon. Eleven men were killed when the drilling platform blew up.
And it is here where local people will take the most convincing that the worst of the oil spill is behind them and that recovery is under way.
Barack Obama's point man on the spill, the US Coast Guard's former commander, Thad Allen, said at the weekend that the well no longer posed any threat to the Gulf. Crews will begin the last few remaining operations needed to abandon the well this week.
People here live and die by the water. On a fine day the docks in Venice empty out, with seaworthy boats and able-bodied crew off to look for oil contamination, at sea and in the marsh grass.
No one, it seems, believes the assurances from the White House or government scientists that the oil is largely gone. And no one really believes BP when oil company executives say they will stay in Louisiana for the long haul. (London Guardian)
BP Oil Spill: On Day 100, Gulf Coast Has Some Reason to Hope Oil Slick Has Shrunk in Size, Marshes Remain Cleaner Than Expected - BP's oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico began 100 days ago, a spill that has changed the Gulf of Mexico, causing immense economic hardship and environmental disaster. At this milestone, though, it appears that the tide has turned and there's reason to hope.
Jeffery Kofman returns to the Gulf where the oil is quickly disappearing.
As of tonight, some 180 million gallons of oil have spilled into the Gulf of Mexico, but the leaky well remains capped, and crews are on track to complete the relief well that will plug it for good within the next few weeks. (ABC)
Leading Ocean Scientists Issue Consensus Statement to End Dispersant Use in Gulf Leading ocean researchers and conservation leaders have issued a joint Consensus Statement calling for the immediate halt of the use of chemical dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico. BP has used nearly two million gallons of Corexit chemical dispersants in the Gulf of Mexico as part of the cleanup effort with support from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The massive volume of dispersants and the way they have been applied—both on the surface and one mile below the surface —is unprecedented. Once oil is dispersed in deep water, it cannot be recovered. (1 Planet 1 Ocean)
Tropical Storm Bonnie Forms, Heading for Florida and BP's Gulf Oil Spill Tropical Storm Bonnie has formed south of the Bahamas and is on a track to move across the southern tip of Florida and into the oil-fouled waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the U.S. National Hurricane Center said.
The storm has maximum sustained winds of 40 miles per hour (64 kilometers), and is expected to build strength as it bears down on the Florida Keys tomorrow, according to a special hurricane center advisory issued at 6:15 p.m. Miami time. (Bloomberg)
Former BP worker speaks out This young man worked for BP clean up for about a month in late June, 2010. He asked to remain anonymous for fear of prosecution. First-hand witness to beach sharks trying to breath. (James C Fox)
Oil/Water samples from Gulf...VERY TOXIC Oil and water samples were taken from both the Shores of Grand Isle and from 20 miles out. The preliminary analysis was done at an academic analytical chemistry laboratory. Looking for the likely pollutants from the deep water Horizon Oil spill. It was focused on the detection of benzene and propylene glycol. Benzene and other highly toxic contaminants were very low however the concentration of propylene glycol was between 360 and 440 parts per million. Just 25 parts per million is know to kill most fish and propylene glycol is just one of many ingredients found in Corexit. In short, the Gulf is being poisoned by BP's usage of the dispersants even after the EPA asked them to stop back in May. We are willing to provide ANY respected/known laboratory these samples or provide them with more. This is very serious to all people and marine life in and around the Gulf. (James C Fox)
Cracks Show BP Was Battling Gulf Well as Early as February It took 10 days to plug the first cracks, according to reports BP filed with the Minerals Management Service that were later delivered to congressional investigators. Cracks in the surrounding rock continued to complicate the drilling operation during the ensuing weeks. Left unsealed, they can allow explosive natural gas to rush up the shaft. - On Feb. 13, BP told the minerals service it was trying to seal cracks in the well about 40 miles (64 kilometers) off the Louisiana coast, drilling documents obtained by Bloomberg show. Investigators are still trying to determine whether the fissures played a role in the disaster. (Bloomberg)
Another Gulf oil spill: Well near Deepwater Horizon has leaked since at least April 30 A nearby drilling rig, the Ocean Saratoga, has been leaking since at least April 30, according to a federal document. While the leak is decidedly smaller than the Deepwater Horizon spill, a 10-mile-long slick emanating from the Ocean Saratoga is visible from space in multiple images gathered by Skytruth.org, which monitors environmental problems using satellites. Federal officials did not immediately respond when asked about the size of the leak, how long it had been flowing, or whether it was possible to plug it. (Alabama Live)
BP chief Tony Hayward sold shares weeks before oil spill The chief executive of BP sold £1.4 million of his shares in the fuel giant weeks before the Gulf of Mexico oil spill caused its value to collapse. - Since he disposed of 223,288 shares on March 17, the company’s share price has fallen by 30 per cent. About £40 billion has been wiped off its total value. The fall has caused pain not just for BP shareholders, but also for millions of company pension funds and small investors who have money held in tracker funds. (London Telegraph)
Parish official: BP shipped in workers for president's visit Early Friday morning, "a number of buses brought in approximately 300 to 400 workers that had been recruited all week," Jefferson Parish Councilman Chris Roberts told CNN's "Situation Room." Roberts said the workers were offered $12 an hour to come out to the scene at Grand Isle and work in what he called a "dog and pony show." (CNN)
President Obama under fire for BP spill response President Barack Obama is on the defensive over his presidential multitasking, for refusing to scrub his schedule of events that seem peripheral — even trivial — compared with the unfolding catastrophe in the Gulf of Mexico.
As oozing oil fouls Louisiana’s marshes, Obama has committed to maintaining the semblance of a regular schedule, adhering to his walk-and-chew-gum style of crisis management even as criticism of his administration mounts. (Politico)
In Gulf Spill, BP Using Dispersants Banned in U.K. The two types of dispersants BP is spraying in the Gulf of Mexico are banned for use on oil spills in the U.K. As EPA-approved products, BP has been using them in greater quantities than dispersants have ever been used in the history of U.S. oil spills.
BP is using two products from a line of dispersants called Corexit, which EPA data appear to show is more toxic and less effective on South Louisiana crude than other available dispersants, according to Greenwire. (ProPublica)
Oil spill: BP had wrong diagram to close blowout preventer Frank Patton, a drilling engineer for the government's Mineral Management Service, which oversees offshore drilling, told a separate inquiry in Kenner, La., that drilling mud "is the most important thing in safety for your well." He said that any alteration to the blowout preventer would have required both BP and MMS approval. (McClatchy Newspapers)
BP's Worsening Spill Crisis Undermines CEO's Reforms When Mr. Hayward took over BP's leadership from John Browne three years ago this week, the company was at one of the lowest points in its history: badly run, accident-prone and accused in the aftermath of a deadly explosion at its Texas City refinery of putting profits before safety. Mr. Hayward turned BP around, boosting production, cutting costs and significantly reducing on-the-job injuries. Last month, he was confident enough to talk of an irreversible "change of culture" at BP. (Wall Street Journal)
US Orders Blackout Over North Korean Torpedoing Of Gulf Of Mexico Oil Rig A grim report circulating in the Kremlin today written by Russia’s Northern Fleet is reporting that the United States has ordered a complete media blackout over North Korea’s torpedoing of the giant Deepwater Horizon oil platform owned by the World’s largest offshore drilling contractor Transocean that was built and financed by South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries Co. Ltd., that has caused great loss of life, untold billions in economic damage to the South Korean economy, and an environmental catastrophe to the United States. (European Union Times)
Mercenaries training US local police a new trend There are many police and law enforcement officials who are concerned with the growing trend of using military-experienced mercenaries to train and work with local police officers in the United States, but there are many who believe the events of September 11, 2001 dictate the need for this new paradigm (Examiner)
FEMA National Level Exercise 2009 (NLE 09) is scheduled for July 27 through July 31, 2009. NLE 09 will be the first major exercise conducted by the United States government that will focus exclusively on terrorism prevention and protection, as opposed to incident response and recovery. NLE 09 is designated as a Tier I National Level Exercise. Tier I exercises (formerly known as the Top Officials exercise series or TOPOFF) are conducted annually in accordance with the National Exercise Program (NEP), which serves as the nation's overarching exercise program for planning, organizing, conducting and evaluating national level exercises. The NEP was established to provide the U.S. government, at all levels, exercise opportunities to prepare for catastrophic crises ranging from terrorism to natural disasters. (Federal Emergency Management Agency)
Brigade homeland tours start Oct. 1 3rd Infantry’s 1st BCT trains for a new dwell-time mission. Helping ‘people at home’ may become a permanent part of the active Army - The 3rd Infantry Division’s 1st Brigade Combat Team has spent 35 of the last 60 months in Iraq patrolling in full battle rattle, helping restore essential services and escorting supply convoys.
Now they’re training for the same mission — with a twist — at home.
Beginning Oct. 1 for 12 months, the 1st BCT will be under the day-to-day control of U.S. Army North, the Army service component of Northern Command, as an on-call federal response force for natural or manmade emergencies and disasters, including terrorist attacks.
It is not the first time an active-duty unit has been tapped to help at home. In August 2005, for example, when Hurricane Katrina unleashed hell in Mississippi and Louisiana, several active-duty units were pulled from various posts and mobilized to those areas.
But this new mission marks the first time an active unit has been given a dedicated assignment to NorthCom, a joint command established in 2002 to provide command and control for federal homeland defense efforts and coordinate defense support of civil authorities. (Army Times)
D.C. Madam: Suicide Before Prison Deborah Jeane Palfrey, known as the "D.C. Madam," once implied that suicide was cowardice but, in the end, she seems to have chosen that same path herself. "She wasn't going to jail, she told me that very clearly. She told me she would commit suicide," author Dan Moldea told TIME soon after news broke of her body being found in Tarpon Springs, Florida, an apparent suicide. Palfrey's body, along with a handwritten suicide note, was discovered by police in a storage area attached to her mother's mobile home. Palfrey contacted Moldea last year to provide her help writing a book. "She had done time once before [for prostitution]," Moldea recalls. "And it damn near killed her. She said there was enormous stress — it made her sick, she couldn't take it, and she wasn't going to let that happen to her again." Palfrey had been free pending her scheduled July 24 sentencing on a series of racketeering and money laundering charges as part of running a prostitution ring that had as clients many prominent Washingtonians, including Senator David Vitter of Lousiana. She faced as many as 55 years behind bars (though sentencing guidelines could well have limited her prison time to a maximum of 71 months.)
When a former employee of Palfrey's, Brandy Britton, hanged herself before going to trial, Palfrey told the press, "I guess I'm made of something that Brandy Britton wasn't made of."
Palfrey's trial, which concluded in mid-April with a conviction, is one of very few such cases prosecuted in the federal courts. Most prostitution violations are dealt with at the state or municipal level, and attract little publicity. In the Palfrey case, prosecutors obliged a string of obviously embarrassed clients and employees of the escort service to appear on the witness stand and testify under oath. Nearly all testified that they had engaged in sexual acts in exchange for money, a version of events that contradicted Palfrey's claims that she had been running a high-end sexual fantasy service — and that any actual sexual activity was against the rules, and clearly stated when employees were hired. (Time Magazine)
Katrina Update: Poor People Lose Again When Hurricane Katrina hit, poor people in Louisiana and Mississippi bore the brunt of it — they lived in the most vulnerable areas and structures, and they were in the worst position to escape the storm and deal with the aftermath.
When Congress voted relief money, it specified that half of it was to go to help low-income victims.
Guess what? As Leslie Eaton reports in today’s Times, Mississippi has spent $1.7 billion in federal grant money, and most of that has gone to programs that have benefited big businesses and well-off individuals.
Only $167 million, or about 10 percent, so far has gone on programs dedicated to the poor. It’s a scandal, or it should be. (New York Times)
White House Received Dire Warnings Pre-Katrina Newly released documents show the White House and other officials received more dire warnings than previously thought about Hurricane Katrina's potential impact. One Homeland Security report predicted hours before the storm hit that New Orleans would likely be submerged by flooding for weeks, and even months. - Senate Homeland Security Committee Chairwoman Susan Collins said today that one failure was a lack of follow up to a 2004 government exercise in Louisiana involving a make-believe storm called Hurricane Pam. That exercise exposed many of the problems that eventually occurred during Hurricane Katrina. But Collins noted that the drill was repeatedly delayed. - Still other witnesses said the Hurricane Pam exercise, which projected more than 60,000 deaths from the storm, added to the urgency with which officials responded to Katrina, encouraging far more people to evacuate than had been predicted. The committee hopes to finish its investigation in March. (National Public Radio)
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