Point of View Columns

A Failure of Imagination Can Be Dangerous

And now the nation will be subjected to more Trumpfoolery. From the man who brought you bankrupt casinos and Trump Steaks, we are now supposed to care if/when Trump will announce his candidacy for president in the 2024 election.

Of course, anyone with a shred of decency or shame – two items that are totally absent from the World According to Trump – would not subject this country to the madness and turmoil that will accompany another Trump campaign, much less a Trump presidency.

The fact that, after two impeachments and a failed coup attempt, there should be no way that this sad excuse for a human being could ever be a viable candidate for dogcatcher, much less president. But the sad truth is that he would be a viable candidate and a much stronger candidate than he ever was in 2016 or 2020.

And anyone who thinks that Trump cannot be elected in 2024 is either not paying attention or is suffering from a failure of imagination.

Consider that Trump endorsed candidates have won Republican primaries for Secretary of State, Governor, United States Senator, and Congressional Representative. There is a very real chance that a number of these men and women will be elected and will begin to lay the groundwork for the Restoration of Trump.

It is not hard to imagine Republican-led state legislatures making it even more difficult for people to vote. Certainly, Republican Secretaries of State will have no qualms about simply not counting ballots from majority-Democrat districts and we can expect that many of the vote tampering plots conjured up by John Eastman and Rudy Giuliani in 2020-2021 will just be the way electoral business will be conducted in 2023 and of course, in 2024 leading to the very real possibility that Trump will be re-elected despite losing the popular vote in three consecutive elections.

And for those people who think that the federal courts will reverse any wrongdoing, keep in mind that Trump has seeded the federal judiciary with hundreds of right-wing judges who are almost to a man or woman, Federalist Society acolytes. And, at the risk of pointing to the obvious, the 6-3 right-wing Supreme Court, which features three Trump appointees will not disappoint their benefactor if given the opportunity to grant him a second term.

And if the Republican wave tips the Senate and House into the hands of the likes of Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy, we can be sure that there will be Senate and House investigations of everything from the “real truth” about Hunter Biden to dredged up accusations against Kamala Harris. And, we can be sure that Joe Biden will not be able to appoint a single federal judge – not one.

Imagine a Senate Committee chaired by Rick Scott or Ted Cruz or Josh Hawley or a House Committee chaired by Marjorie Taylor Green and it is clear that we will be staring to an abyss over the next two years.

And then, with the election of Donald Trump, it will only get worse.

And anyone who would argue that these scenarios are not possible is suffering from a true failure of imagination.

And in these days and times that can be very dangerous.

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Point of View Columns

An Open Letter to Barack Obama

Dear President Obama –

I am writing to you to convey a sense of dire and urgent situation in which this nation finds itself and to ask you to strongly consider bringing your very special gifts of communication and sense of justice back to the political arena. Not with an occasional speech or podcast, not with an op-ed from time to time, but rather going back into the arena as if the life of this nation is at risk, because it is.

As someone who has counted himself as one of your most ardent supporters I certainly understood the need for you to take a respite from that arena after you had been a central part of all of the political and social battles in this nation and around for the better part of ten years. If anyone ever deserved to take some time for self-care for yourself and for your family, it was you.

But it is important to note that you decided early in your career that you wanted to be “somebody” in the socio-political movement and you pursued that goal with remarkable focus and tenacity. Only you know when you decided that you could become president, but you did become President of the United States in January of 2009 (I was there in Washington freezing with millions of others) and many in this nation were ecstatic at the historical import of your inauguration as well as the potential for existential change that your presidency represented.

You spent the next years not only as the Chief Executive of the federal government, you were literally the voice of Hope and Change – to quote one of your campaign posters. Millions of people believed in you and your message, and by any rational analysis your presidency was a success. After all, recovery from the financial crash of 2008 and the Affordable Care Act as well as the inspiration that you brought to a generation of Americans who truly did believe in Hope and Change are certainly indicia of that success.

After you left office we were glad to see that you and your family were doing well after enduring unprecedented and irrational hate and opposition not seen in American presidency since Abraham Lincoln. And we understand that you, as a person committed to respecting precedent, would retire gracefully as have your predecessors.

It should be pointed out that times are different now. At the end of his presidency Ronald Reagan was on his way to dementia and not likely to have participated in national debate on issues if he wanted to do so. When he left office George H.W. Bush had no real role in the development of the issues of the day and when he left office Bill Clinton was glad to have avoided impeachment and was focused on enriching Clinton, Inc. And of course, George W. Bush was happy to go back to Texas and become a painter.

But President Obama – the nation needs your vision and your passion and your unique ability to make people think their way through the clouds of fear and anger and hate and even more fear. The neoconservatives have claimed the high ground in the Supreme Court and they are aiming for the same result in Congress come November. We are at a tipping point in this country.

Your voice can be a counterpoint to that aspect of the Democratic Party that wants to defund the police. Your voice can be a counterpoint to the neoconservatives who are tearing down the democratic infrastructure of American government while pretending to preserve it.

You can make a difference because Americans will listen to you. You are needed to speak truth to power. You are needed to speak truth to lies. You are needed to change the political landscape so that nonsense no longer makes sense. You should have no doubt that many others will follow your lead.

Majoritarian democracy barely exists in America as this is being written. Republicans are a minority party yet they control 30 state legislatures and 28 governor’s mansions. Republicans are a mere single seat from controlling the United States Senate. Minority rule, when fully implemented will make this nation a 21st century version of South Africa in 1948. And as intelligent and observant and well-read as you are, you know that this is not an exaggeration.

There are many voices out there Mr. President, but your voice is special, it always has been. This country needed you in 2008. This country really needs you in 2022.

Unless and until this trend towards minority rule is stopped, our children will live in a country where they are no longer full citizens. You are not the Savior of America, but you can help to save America.

Please listen to all of the voices – Douglass, DuBois, King, Malcolm X and Lewis and so many more who raised their voices in the face of absolute adversity. You have to the power to do what they tried to do – change America for the better.

We need for you to speak and write and appear on all the media options as if you were running for office again, except this time you will be running to save this nation.

Please Mr. President – come back onto the playing field.

Team America needs you.

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Point of View Columns

The Republican Plan to Destroy America

It should be clear to all that Republicans actually mean what they say. They said that they would block progressives being appointed to the Supreme Court until they got a neoconservative super majority on the most important bench in the country. And they did just that.

Trump and the Republicans said that they would withdraw America from the nuclear treaty with Iran which would immediately drive the entire Middle East closer to the brink of some unthinkable Armageddon. And they did just that.

Republicans said that they would expand mineral exploration and drilling rights into nature conservancies all over the United States. And they did just that.

And now, the Republicans have discarded any veneer of decency or a fig leaf of concern for American human beings.

Enter Senator Rick Scott from Florida, the Sunshine State.

Before he was a United States Senator he was the governor of Florida. And before he was governor he was the co-founder and CEO of Columbia/HCA, at one point the largest healthcare company in the United States. And at another point it was adjudged to be the platform for the largest Medicare fraud case in American history – close to $2 billion of fraudulent business practices.

The company was ultimately liquidated after paying enormous fines. Scott has always claimed to be unaware of any fraud, an interesting defense from the CEO of the company that he had founded.

In a rational and just world Scott might just be getting out of prison instead of being the chair of the Republican Senate Election Committee which is charged with supporting the senatorial campaigns of Republicans all over America. And being the innovative and creative person that he is, Scott developed a platform which he is urging all Republican Senate candidates to incorporate into their campaign.

This is a platform that sounds like the Six Commandments from Hell:

  1. Slash Social Security funding and require the entire program to be renewed by Congress every five years. Given the sludge like pace of Congress in doing anything, this would be a death penalty for Social Security.
  2. Require all families, even the poorest, homeless and hungry families to pay a federal income tax. How someone is supposed to pay income taxes without income is a mystery.
  3. A national ban on abortion. There is no mention of exceptions for rape, incest or the health of the mother. That is probably not an oversight.
  4. Ending birthright citizenship. This would require the repeal of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution which states that anyone born in the United States is a citizen. It is not clear that this proposal would have some retroactive feature.
  5. Expanded gun rights is another plank in the platform. Considering that there are already more guns than people in this country, and that over 40,000 Americans die of death by gun every year, it is not clear how much more expanded gun rights could be.
  6. Reverse climate change initiatives. Considering that this country is already the largest producer of carbon emissions on the planet, this sounds like an order from a highly intelligent alien life form that wants to clear humans from the planet so that it can be converted into a huge farm for far more intelligent beings from another galaxy.

Not every Republican senatorial candidate is totally wedded to this platform. But the fact that, in the third decade of the twenty first century, we have a major political party advocating a return to the time of famine, plagues and the workhouse as a reasonable political strategy.

It is to be expected that many Americans will not take these proposals as being serious. We should be clear; the Republicans and their billionaire class neoconservative supporters are serious.

And, as Maya Angelou said, when people show you who they are, believe them.

It is time to stop wishing that it isn’t true. It is time to believe and to act.

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Point of View Columns

When Zero Plus Zero Plus Zero Equals Sixty

There can be no serious argument regarding the fact that law enforcement and criminal justice have been race-based since colonial times in North America. And some 400 years nothing has changed – and because we know more about more travesties of justice – it has gotten worse.

Consider the following:

  • A young white man by the name of Dylan Roof shot and killed 9 Black worshippers in church in which he had been welcomed. He evaded the police for several hours and when he was captured not a single shot was fired by any law enforcement officer.
  • A white teenager by the name of Kyle Rittenhouse arrived at a Black Lives Matter demonstration and shot and killed two demonstrators and wounded another. Rittenhouse then surrendered to the police and not a single shot was fired by any law enforcement officer.
  • Another white teenager by the name of Payton Gendron drove 200 miles to a Black community in Buffalo, New York where then shot and killed 10 Black patrons of a supermarket. When the police arrived, he put down his weapon of mass destruction and surrendered peacefully. Not a single shot was fired by any law enforcement officer.
  • A 26-year-old Black man by the name of Jayland Walker was pulled over for a traffic violation by the Akron police. For reasons unknown at this date, Mr. Walker drove away and led the police on a chase for a few miles, got out of his car and began to run. When told by the police to stop running he turned around whereupon the Akron police shot him 60 times and killed him. The police claimed that Mr. Walker turned in a “firing position” although no weapon was found on or near him.

It is not difficult to see a prevailing theme in these stories. Clearly, young white men, even those who are known to have committed horrible crimes are permitted to surrender peacefully without any physical harm whatsoever. A young (or not so young) Black man is subject to a lethal encounter anytime he is stopped by the police. No questions asked.

Such is life in America and the numbers don’t lie – Zero Plus Zero Plus Zero Equals Sixty.

Clearly justice in America is a Black and white affair.

There is nothing more to be said.

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Point of View Columns

A Chance to Do the Right Thing

If history books are being written fifty years from now – not a guaranteed expectation if current events in America are to be any kind of a guide – the name of Cassidy Hutchinson may end up being remembered along with the names of Robert Welch and John Dean.

We might remember that Robert Welch was the Special Counsel to the U.S. Army during the so called “McCarthy Hearings” in 1954 which were meant to uncover nonexistent communists infesting the American government.

Welch became the first person to confront McCarthy by saying, “Have you no sense of decency” after McCarthy attacked a member of Welch’s firm implying that he was a homosexual.

That moment in American history should be remember because that was when the bully named McCarthy was revealed for the venomous buffoon that he had always been.

And within a few years McCarthy was dead and all but forgotten.

Nineteen years later the White House Counsel, John Dean testified during the 1973 Watergate scandal. He told the truth about Richard Nixon’s role in using the federal government to attack his political enemies and within a year the entire Nixon Administration crashed and burned, ending in Nixon resigning in disgrace and becoming a textbook illustration of what not to do as President of the United States.

And now, 49 years later a 26-year-old Republican true believer by the name of Cassidy Hutchinson recounted to the January 6th Committee the utter depravity and recklessness of Donald Trump and his whole cast of enablers. Working as the Special Assistant to Trump’s Chief of Staff, Mark Meadows, she had a front row seat to the entire debacle that culminated in the attempted coup of the United States government.

Ms. Hutchinson certainly entered the Trump White House knowing him to be anathema to most things in which she believed, but working in the White House satisfied both her ambition and, in her view, an opportunity to serve her nation. And it appears that her desire to serve her nation outweighed her ambition.

She is already the recipient of threats and, of course, a torrent of lies and insults from one Donald J. Trump. But it doesn’t matter now- the record is clear, Trump attempted a coup which would keep him in office even though he knew that he had lost a free and fair election – straight out of the Autocrats Playbook.

We may not know exactly how the Trauma of Trump will ultimately impact these United States – the prognosis is not encouraging at the moment – but it is good to know that there are men and women like Welch and Dean and Hutchinson who, when given the opportunity, have at least given this nation a chance to do the right thing.

Only time will tell.

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Point of View Columns

Sorting Through the Rubble

As you are reading this, if you are 49 years old or younger, you are about to enter into a new reality here in these United States. If you are 49 years old or younger there has never been a time when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not in effect and enforced. There has never been a time in your life when the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was not in effect or enforced. There has never been a time in your life when a woman’s right to an abortion was not a Constitutional right.

What we have learned from the right wing of the right-wing Supreme Court is that whether you are 49 or 89 or 19, America has now changed – and not for the better. Because this Supreme Court is just getting warmed up and we should all prepare for the wreckage that will ensue in the coming years.

Justice Clarence Thomas may not be an admirable character in modern American history, but no one can say that he has been dishonest. Consider that in his separate opinion supporting the demolition of Roe v. Wade and the attendant rights that it had articulated for almost half a century he clearly stated that there were other rights and entitlements that are on his hit list.

Among them, the rights to the use of contraception, consensual sex, same sex marriage and gender equity are all on the Thomas Chopping Block. The federal power to protect the environment, affirmative action and generally accepted civil rights in hotels, restaurants and any other private setting are also going to be in serious jeopardy as there are now six Supreme Court justices hell-bent on returning this country where rights are limited and those limited rights do not belong to all of us.

And so now we sort through the rubble that was once an infrastructure of rights that, while imperfectly protected and advanced, provided this country with a roadmap that led towards something that was starting to look like justice for all. That roadmap has been trashed by Thomas & Company with the knowing and active support of the minority of right-wing ideologues in this country who believe that liberty and justice for all actually means liberty and justice only for themselves.

And so now we sort through the rubble and wonder what next?

The answer is not an easy set of 1-2-3 steps. The future has never been guaranteed and the present is rarely perfect. But there are lessons to be learned from the past that will provide us with the strength and fortitude to persevere and overcome – just not right away.

It is important to remember a few lessons from history:

  1. Great change rarely comes about in an instant. The sun may rise quickly but we forget that it has traveled around the earth to greet us in the morning. We will need to persevere if we are to overcome.
  2. The opposition will not change and will never be converted. Persuasion is not only futile it be self-defeating if the goal is to change the minds of those who believe that stripping men, women and children of their rights and expectations is a just result.
  3. The opposition has used the last half century to its advantage using the tools of government and communication to gerrymander its minority status into minority rule.
  4. Unless there is a realization that long term strategy and collective strength is key – constructive collaboration may be imperfect but it is far preferable to failure in search of perfection. The opposition learned this years ago, culminating in people holding their noses just so long as they could get someone in the White House who would accelerate the dismantling of the framework of rights and expectations that too many of us saw as sacrosanct while the opposition saw it as sacrilegious.

There have been many lessons learned during the past few weeks. Now it is time to put all that has been learned into action.

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Point of View Columns

Overturning Roe v. Wade – Lessons To Be Learned

As you are reading this America is reeling from the nightmarish scenario brought on by the Supreme Court overturning Roe V. Wade. However, there is no time to howl with outrage when it is critically important to learn lessons from this decision – how it came about, what it means and what can/should be done.

Lesson #1 – Elections do matter. When Roe V. Wade was decided in 1973, anti-abortion forces coalesced in a virtual crusade to overturn the Supreme Court decision which established a woman’s right to abortion. An ecumenical coalition of religious zealots which encompassed representatives of virtually all faiths collaborated with right wing conservatives to abolish the right established by Roe.

This collaboration was manifested in decades of political and electoral initiatives at the local, state and national levels with the ultimate focus being Congress and the Supreme Court. And while it has been highly unlikely that Congress would pass a law abolishing abortion, the Supreme Court was another story. The goal was just to get five like-minded justices. And thanks to Donald Trump (and all of the people who didn’t vote for Hillary Clinton because it wouldn’t make a difference), they got what they wanted.

And during all this time Democrats, progressives, liberals and moderated refused to believe that the sky would ever fall and never made abortion rights a critical article of faith and a critical campaign issue. And so now we have all learned that elections do matter.

Lesson #2 – No rights are permanent. In the history of the United States and its imperfect democracy, there has never been a moment where an established right has been withdrawn. Historically rights not specifically articulated in the Constitution have been established over the past two centuries – emancipation from slavery, birthright citizenship and the right of women to vote are just some of the rights that have been established by Congress and the courts. This makes sense in light of the fact that in 1787 the Constitution could not have contemplated the right to drive a car or the right to not have one’s electronic communications put under surveillance.

However, until now there has never been judicially established constitutional right that has been taken away. And if that right can be taken away then any right established since the Constitution was ratified can be taken away – same sex marriage, interracial marriage, the unconditional right to vote, contraception, gender-based rights – are just some of the rights that could be at risk.

The lesson is that it is important to learn and pay attention to how government works and how it impacts on our lives whether we pay attention or not.

Lesson #3 – Elections do matter.

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Point of View Columns

It is Time to Wake Up Before It is Too Late

It should be clear to anyone who has been paying the least bit of attention is that the right wing of the right wing of American politics is dead serious about taking control of these United States and imposing its will on the majority of Americans who are in favor of gun control, the abolition of civil rights and abortion rights and voting rights and gender rights. While too many of us have been preoccupied with internecine battles within the so-called liberal/progressive/moderate majority of this country, the right wing of the right wing has been busy, consider:

  1. With the knowledge that the Constitution embedded significant governmental power in the states – more so than in any other democratic country in the world – 28 of the 50 governors are Republican.
  2. Additionally, 30 of the state legislatures are controlled by Republicans.
  3. With the possible exception of Larry Hogan in Maryland, none of the other Republican governors would be thought of as moderate.
  4. Republican legislatures throughout the country are responsible for some of the most draconian laws in recent history on issues like voting rights, gender equity, abortion rights, gun control and criminal nonjustice
  5. The right wing has successfully taken over the United States Supreme Court and a huge swath of the federal judiciary for at least the next two decades, populating the judiciary with right wing advocates that only the Federalist Society could love.
  6. And, by the way, thanks to the anti-majoritarian non-wisdom of the Founding Fathers, the Senate is represented by two senators from each state regardless of the size of population. As a result, the 50 Republican senators who are currently strangling the Biden agenda (along with a majority of Americans) represent only 43.5% of the population

Getting out of the weeds, it should be clear that this country is well on its way to minority rule and if the Republican right-wing strategy seizes control of both houses of Congress in 2022 and the presidency with Trump or Trump 2.0 in 2024, it would seem that the majority of this country is going to endure a lot of pain.

Pain at an unprecedented level because rights which have been guaranteed and taken for granted will be pared back or taken away.

How could this happen? The answer is clear and complicated. The majority is not unified around any clear set of principles. The right wing of the right wing is and has been.

The majority battles over achieving the perfect rather than the achievable good – resulting too many times with nothing. The right wing was so unified around its clear set of principles they were willing to accept a lying, profane braggart of a self-centered egotist named Trump to achieve its principles surrounding abortion, states rights, and most of all the continuation of minority rule.

It did not have to happen this way. But too many were not paying attention to the strategic effort that began with the Koch Brothers and their billionaire boys club of protofascists decades ago who, along with the evangelical zealots, have managed to take this country to the brink of a mean and noxious version of minority rule.

If this particular scenario plays out we can look to only a few examples in recent history where minority rule has played out in plain view – the Republic of South Africa in 1948 comes to mind.

And just because that is a jarring and obscene analogy doesn’t mean that it can’t be true.

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Point of View Columns

CLARENCE AND GINNI THOMAS – AN AMERICAN POWER COUPLE

It seems that it may be time to start connecting the dots regarding the promotion of the Big Lie. For example, John Eastman was one of the key Trump attorneys focused on making the Big Lie legitimate through a tortured set of legal arguments that failed in over sixty court decisions. John Eastman was a law clerk for Justice Clarence Thomas.

Ginni Thomas, a key influencer in the proto-conservative movement, was also a key figure in the Trump Big Lie movement and it appears that she was also an enthusiastic advocate of the January 6th insurrection. Ginni Thomas is also the wife of Justice Clarence Thomas.

When the Supreme Court finally had an opportunity to make a definitive decision on the Big Lie cases, it ruled against the Big Lie by a vote of 8-1.

The one dissenting vote was Justice Clarence Thomas.

When even right wing of the right wing justices like Gorsuch, Barrett, Kavanagh and Alito could not hold their noses long enough to confirm the Big Lie, Justice Clarence Thomas clearly savored the smell of the dumpster fire that would accompany the imminent collapse of the American democracy.

And while democracy in America is possessed of multiple flaws, it is a good bet that it is better than anything that Justice and Mrs. Clarence and Ginni Thomas might envision.

And anyone who thinks that it can’t get any worse is just not paying attention.

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Point of View Columns

The Trump Insurrection – A Clear and Present Danger

The January 6th Committee hearings have not produced a lot of “new” news. But it has been revealed that Trump and his minions were trying to implement a conspiracy that was a lot worse than anyone could have imagined.

To be clear, taking cues from the playbook written by the likes of Trujillo, Idi Amin, Francois Duvalier, Saddam Hussein and so many others, Trump attempted to overturn over two centuries of peaceful transfers of power in America so that he could remain as president even though he did not win the popular vote or the Electoral College results.  

To be clear, there were scores of government officials, beginning with Trump and pinballing through federal, state and local officeholders all of whom, so it seems, knew from the start that the whole effort was based on the Big Lie and Trump’s naked grab for power even though he lost.

And while Trump did not succeed, one gets the impression that the entire episode involved the Keystone Cops version of political co-conspirators. Still, the Trump and his Keystone Cops might get some better collaborators before November 2024 comes around this time with the support of co-conspirators seeded throughout local, state and federal governments as well as all of 200+ Trump appointed judges who are seeded throughout the federal judiciary for the rest of their lives.

As the January 6th Committee hearings there are a few more things to keep in mind as you watch with a combination of horror, terror, disbelief and fear:

  • It is doubtful that anyone who believes that the election was stolen from Trump is even watching, much less willing to consider the possibility that the Big Hoax is actually the Big Lie.
  • We can be hopeful that there are enough members of Congress who are willing to understand that the demolition of the American democracy – as flawed as it might be – is simply not a good idea.
  • We should be very concerned regarding the election results in 2024 – the seeds have been sown and America may end up reaping the whirlwind.

In closing we should wonder at why there is not a greater sense of danger pervading the political discourse in this country. Too many Americans seem to believe that the political traditions and governmental institutions are too strong to be overthrown no matter how much they may be abused. But belief does not make it true and history does not lie.

Consider that at one point in Germany there was something called the National Socialist Party which, while espousing a certain amount of racist vitriol, also spoke to the real and imagined grievances of many German people.

This National Socialist Party also had a loosely organized paramilitary arm called Storm Troopers who participated in occasional violence and made a big show of marching around and scaring people – even to the extent of trying to overthrow an election in Munich which led to the arrest and conviction of their leader, one Adolph Hitler.

But there was a great deal of public sympathy for Hitler and he escaped a death sentence, served a short time in prison and within a few years he was Chancellor of Germany and the National Socialist Party became known as the Nazis and the Storm Troopers begat the Gestapo.

We should be concerned as to whether the Republican Party and the Proud Boys/Oath Keepers and Donald Trump become the 21st century version of what was inflicted on Germany and the world less than one hundred years ago.

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