Tag Archives: agency

Your previously worthless tweets could be used for science.

The state’s attorney general, Xavier Becerra, filed a lawsuit on Friday to get the agency to say how it plans to handle Administrator Scott Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest. Pruitt is now in charge of enforcing rules that he tried to unravel with numerous lawsuits as Oklahoma’s attorney general.

“Administrator Pruitt’s ability to serve as an impartial decision maker merits close examination,” Becerra said in a statement.

In April, Becerra filed a broad Freedom of Information Act request for documents tied to Pruitt’s potential conflicts of interest and efforts to follow federal ethics laws. Generally, agencies must respond to a FOIA request within 20 business days, though they have some wiggle room. But four months later, the EPA has yet to turn over anything.

Liz Bowman, an EPA spokesperson, told the Los Angeles Times that the agency had twice told Becerra’s office they were working on assembling the documents. She said the lawsuit was “draining resources that could be better spent protecting human health and the environment.”

The suit from the Golden State is just part of the legal backlash Pruitt’s staring down: He’s already been sued over ozone regulations and the suspension of methane restrictions for new oil and gas wells.

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Your previously worthless tweets could be used for science.

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More bad news for the coal industry with layoffs in Mississippi.

According to a new study from the nonprofit Environmental Integrity Project, the current presidential administration has collected fewer civil penalties and filed fewer environmental enforcement suits against polluting companies than the Obama, Clinton, and George W. Bush administrations did at the same point in office.

The analysis assesses agreements made in the Environmental Protection Agency’s civil enforcement cases. For abuses under laws like the Clean Air Act, the Trump administration has collected just $12 million in civil penalties, a drop of 60 percent from the average of the other administrations. Trump’s EPA has lodged 26 environmental lawsuits compared to 31, 34, and 45 by Bush, Obama, and Clinton, respectively.

The marked decrease in enforcement likely has to do with the EPA’s deregulatory agenda. Since confirmed, administrator Scott Pruitt has systematically tried to knock out key environmental regulations, especially those created during Obama’s tenure.

The Project notes that its assessment is only of a six-month period, so future enforcement could catch Trump up to his predecessors. Or he’ll continue to look the other way.

“I’ve seen the pendulum swing,” said Bruce Buckheit, who worked in EPA enforcement under Clinton and then Bush, “but never as far as what appears to be going on today.”

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More bad news for the coal industry with layoffs in Mississippi.

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It’s ‘Energy Week.’ Here’s how Trump could convince America to care.

On Monday, 38 of the EPA’s research advisers found out that their terms, set to end in August, would not be renewed.

One of them is Elena Craft, a senior health scientist at the Environmental Defense Fund. “It creates a huge void in terms of scientific capacity,” Craft told Grist. “Systematically gutting these committees is essentially cutting off access to some of the greatest science advisers really in the world.”

The purge will leave 11 members on the Board of Scientific Counselors’ subcommittees. The latest move follows sweeping cuts to federal agencies in April. The empty seats on the EPA’s advisory board are expected to be filled with a more industry-friendly bunch.

Craft said that after the announcement, Robert Kavlock, acting assistant administrator for EPA’s research arm, told the advisers in a phone call that he expected the board to pay less attention to climate change.

The board of experts has counseled the EPA on its research programs for two decades. Last year, the board’s subcommittees recommended that the agency work on engaging with communities in its clean-air programs and investigate environmental risks from toxic chemicals. All this advice comes free of charge.

“For an agency that is slated to have its budget cut fairly significantly, cutting out all of the free labor and free help doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense,” Craft said.

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It’s ‘Energy Week.’ Here’s how Trump could convince America to care.

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EPA cutbacks are real, and they’re here.

In seemingly choreographed lockstep with President Trump’s revelation that the U.S. would exit the Paris Agreement, the Environmental Protection Agency announced on Thursday a buyout program to begin the process of cutting its staffing levels. 

According to an internal memo from Acting Deputy Administrator Mike Flynn (not that Mike Flynn), the EPA’s offer encourages “voluntary separations” that would cause “minimal disruption to the workforce.”

The workforce was plenty disrupted, however, by the budget proffered earlier this year by the Trump administration. It basically suggests taking a blowtorch to the agency — proposing a 31 percent budget cut and the elimination of 3,200 out of the EPA’s 15,000 jobs.

The proposed buyout will cost $12 million, and will first have to be approved by the Office of Management and Budget. The agency hopes to complete the cuts by September.

If approved, the buyouts may be popular. After Trump was elected, some EPA career staff cried, others set up rogue Twitter accounts, some quit, and others just waited anxiously for what would come next. Now we know: The newly arrived EPA honchos are sharpening their knives.

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EPA cutbacks are real, and they’re here.

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Europe is going all in for batteries.

Though the official release is planned for Tuesday, leaked versions of the 2018 budget proposal show dramatic funding cuts for environmental programs — even those supported by the president’s own party.

The budget, which still needs congressional approval, would cut the Environmental Protection Agency’s budget by 35 percent. It also slashes funding for cleanup programs like Superfund, but adds cash for water infrastructure.

After submitting an original budget blueprint, the Trump administration faced backlash from Democrats and environmental groups about the drastic cuts. But Republicans are wary of what President Trump might propose, too.

Lisa Murkowski, a Republican senator from Alaska, has said she opposes the elimination of programs like Energy Star and ARPA-E, which funds energy technology research. Both were cut in the draft budget. Republicans have also defended regional water programs that Trump proposed cutting.

Murkowski, along with five other Republican senators, urged Trump to set aside money for the Department of Energy’s research in a May 18 letter. “Governing is about setting priorities, and the federal debt is not the result of Congress overspending on science and energy research each year,” they wrote.

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Europe is going all in for batteries.

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In 2002, the IEA Predicted Solar Was Going Nowhere. And in 2003. And 2004. And 2005…

Mother Jones

Every year the International Energy Agency publishes the World Energy Outlook, which, among other things, forecasts the growth rate of solar PV installations. The 2016 edition even included a whole “special focus” on renewable energy. Presumably this means they took an extra careful look at their solar PV forecast. Here it is:

That looks…odd, doesn’t it? Solar PV has grown at a pretty fast clip over the past decade, but the IEA assumes the growth rate will suddenly level out starting this year and then start to decline. And this is their optimistic scenario that takes into account pledges made in Paris.

What can we make of this? Auke Hoekstra provides some context:

Every single year, the IEA projects that solar is a passing fad and its growth rate will level out that year. And every single year, solar continues to grow anyway. But the next year the IEA makes the exact same forecast. It’s almost as if they have some kind of hidden agenda here.

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In 2002, the IEA Predicted Solar Was Going Nowhere. And in 2003. And 2004. And 2005…

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Macron Campaign Hit With "Massive and Coordinated" Hacking Attack

Mother Jones

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A massive trove of documents purporting to contain thousands of emails and other files from the campaign of Emmanuel Macron—the French centrist candidate squaring off against right-wing nationalist Marine Le Pen—was posted on the internet Friday afternoon. The Macron campaign says that at least some of the documents are fake. The document dump came just over a day before voting is set to begin in the final round of the election and mere hours before candidates are legally required to stop campaigning.

At about 2:35 p.m. ET, a post appeared on the 4chan online message board announcing the leak. The documents appear to include emails, internal memos, and screenshots of purported banking records.

“In this pastebin are links to torrents of emails between Macron, his team and other officials, politicians as well as original documents and photos,” the anonymous 4chan poster wrote. “This was passed on to me today so now I am giving it to you, the people. The leak is massvie and released in the hopes that the human search engine here will be able to start sifting through the contents and figure out exactly what we have here.”

The Macron campaign issued a statement Friday night saying it was the victim of a “massive and coordinated” hacking attack. That campaign said the leak included some fake documents that were intended “to sow doubt and misinformation.”

The Macron camp compared the document dump to last year’s hacking of emails associated with Hillary Clinton. The US intelligence community has concluded that Russia was responsible for the Clinton hacks. “This operation is obviously a democratic destabilization as was seen in the United States during the last presidential campaign,” the Macron statement said.

The timing of the leak is particularly noteworthy. Under French law, candidates and their campaigns cannot speak to the media or do anything in public in the 24 hours before the start of Sunday’s election. The Macron campaign’s statement was issued three minutes before the deadline.

It’s unclear when the files originally appeared on the internet. The official Twitter account for WikiLeaks—the group that released the Clinton emails last year—tweeted a link to a page where the Macron data was hosted at 1:13 p.m. ET.

“Fully analyzing the hacked documents to verify that they are genuine will take some time, but from what I’ve seen so far, it looks very serious,” said Matt Tait, a former information security specialist for the GCHQ (the United Kingdom’s equivalent of the National Security Agency) and CEO of Capital Alpha Security.

In February, Macron said he had evidence his campaign had “suffered repeated and multiple attacks from hackers” and that “many come from Ukraine.” At the time, the Macron campaign blamed the Russian government for the attacks, a claim the Kremlin denied. The campaign suspected the attacks were coming their way because of Macron’s tough stance on Russia. Le Pen, on the other hand, has taken a much more favorable stance toward Russia.

Earlier on Friday, according to the New York Times, the Le Pen campaign claimed in a statement that its campaign website had been the victim of “regular and targeted” attacks, and that a hacker “close to extreme-left circles” had been arrested.

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Macron Campaign Hit With "Massive and Coordinated" Hacking Attack

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This Year’s May Day Protests Aren’t Just About Labor

Mother Jones

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Following the election of Donald Trump, groups affiliated with the Black Lives Matter movement set out to expand their focus beyond criminal justice issues and build partnerships with outside advocacy groups. May Day will be the first big test. On May 1, International Workers’ Day, a coalition of nearly 40 advocacy groups, is holding actions across the nation related to workers’ rights, police brutality and incarceration, immigrants’ rights, environmental justice, indigenous sovereignty, and LGBT issues—and more broadly railing against a Trump agenda organizers say puts them all at risk.

This massive effort, dubbed Beyond the Moment, is led by a collective of racial-justice groups known as the Movement for Black Lives. Monday’s actions will include protests, marches, and strikes in more than 50 cities, adding to the efforts of the labor organizers who are leading the usual May Day protests.

Beyond the Moment kicked off officially on April 4, the 49th anniversary of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “Beyond Vietnam” speech. In that speech, delivered in New York City in 1967, King addressed what he saw as the connection between the war in Vietnam and the racial and economic oppression of black Americans. Both, King argued, were driven by materialism, racism, and militarization—and he called upon the era’s diverse social movements to work together to resist them. (Exactly one year later, King was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, where he’d traveled to meet with black sanitation workers organizing for higher wages and better conditions.)

Beyond the Moment adopted King’s tactics. Organizers intend to build a lasting coalition of marginalized groups that can be brought together for future actions. This past April 4, the Movement for Black Lives collaborated with Fight for $15, a national movement led by low-wage workers, for a series of marches, protests, and educational efforts. On Monday, they will be joined by countless other groups.

“We understand that it’s going to take all of our movements in order to fight and win right now,” said Patrisse Cullors, a co-founder of one of the Black Lives Matter groups involved. Beyond the Moment, she says, is “a reminder to this administration that you’re going to have to contend with us” over the long term. In Los Angeles, where Cullors will be on May 1, a march is planned from the city’s historic MacArthur Park to City Hall. More than 100 organizations will participate, Cullors says.

Black Lives Matter groups have long collaborated with other groups locally, but only fairly recently have they sought to do so at the national level. Last summer, they sent organizers and supplies to assist the Native American protesters at Standing Rock. In January, in advance of Trump’s inauguration, the groups led a series of protests and educational efforts highlighting aspects of the Trump agenda that target immigrants, Muslims, and people of color.

Monday’s actions will follow a series of national marches defending the value of scientific research and evidence-based policy (a response, in part, to the administration’s efforts to gut the Environmental Protection Agency, slash federally funded research, and eliminate science advisers in government.

“We’re going to have to undo a lot of the policies that this administration is putting on us. And in four years, we don’t want another Trump. We don’t want another Jeff Sessions.” The organizers are laying the groundwork for a Trump-free world, Cullors said. “What you’re seeing is natural allies coming together to organize, to grow bigger, to get stronger, and to build power…This is a very dangerous time, and we’re taking it very seriously.”

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This Year’s May Day Protests Aren’t Just About Labor

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The Surprising Green Benefit of Living in the City

Were not in the 60s anymore, Toto. Seems young people these days (aka millennials) no longer dream of moving to the country to try their hand at communal living and organic farming. Instead, they are turning to another way to help green the planetcity living. Huh? Well, unless you live entirely off the grid, most folks have to work for a living, and most jobs tend to be located close to urban cores. City dwelling also offer more cultural diversity, educational institutions, art galleries, museums, and nightlife, often within walking distance. And walking, rather than driving, to work or play is one of the greenest lifestyle changes you could make. Learn more.

Save money.

For families living in suburban communities, the cost of transportation comprises 25 percent of total household expenditures, making it the second largest household expense, exceeded only by the cost of housing itself. Compare this figure to thebudget of urban dwellers, where the percentage allotted for transportation drops to only 9 percent.

Save time.

Theres been a trend over the past 40 years toward what theWashington Postdubs the mega commuteran individual who, in order to get to the job every day, faces a long haul of 90 minutes each way. Do the math and youll see that adds up to an annual total of 31.3 days gobbled up traveling to and from work, an activity that many people rank among their least favorite ways to spend time. One simple solution to an admittedly complex problem is to move closer to your workplace.

Save gasoline.

Although electric cars (and the public charging stations they need in order to drive long distances) are becoming available, most people still rely on gasoline to power their automobiles. Gasoline has a number of drawbacks. To start, gas is expensive. Whats more, as a fossil fuel manufactured from crude oil, it is a non-renewable resource. But the most compelling motivation to reduce gasoline use stems from the fact that it contributes heavily to your carbon footprint. Burning a single gallon of gas produces20 pounds of carbon dioxide.

Save the planet.

In recent years, theres been a lot of buzz about taking steps to make homes more energy-efficient:installing energy-saving HVAC systems, replacing worn-out appliances with Energy Star certified models, and sealing and insulating the house exteriors. However, the Environmental Protection Agency advises thatlocation efficiencyis even more important to the health of our environment thanenergy efficiency. By this logic, the most eco-friendly home of all would combine energy-efficient features with a very walkable location.

Think like a millennial.

Millennials (young adults born between the mid-1980s and the early years of the 21stcentury) prefer walking to driving by a whopping 12 percentage points according tosurvey results. When theyre not driving, they like to bike to their destination, whether it be work, shopping, or entertainment. Compared to older age groups, they are much readier to live in attached housing, rather than the traditional single-family detached home in the suburbs, in order to shorten their commuting time.

Check theWalk Score.

If you are planning a move, consult the Walk Score for any property you might want to rent or buy. Based on accessibility to such facilities as schools, grocery shopping, restaurants, cultural activities, and parks, the score is calculated based on an ideal of 100. Anything over 70 rates as very walkable, while 90 plus is considered a walkers paradise. Not surprisingly, homes in cities tend to score highest on the scale.

Push for green spaces.

Some municipal governments are beginning to fund out-of-the-box oases such as green roofs and linear parks. Push your locality to add more and maybe even create your own community vegetable plot or roadside guerilla garden. Urban green spaces improve the air quality, soak up stormwater, and may evenreduce crime ratesin the area. Besides, they provide a pretty view when youre out walking.

By Laura Firszt, Networx.

Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of Care2, Inc., its employees or advertisers.

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The Surprising Green Benefit of Living in the City

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Trump Has Okayed a Pesticide That Terrifies These Families

Mother Jones

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This story was originally published by the Guardian and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

A white cloud of pesticides had drifted into Fidelia Morales’s back yard, coating her children’s swing set.

The 40-year-old mother of five gestured toward the citrus groves that surround her house in California’s Central Valley as she recounted when an air blast sprayer sent chemicals floating onto her property last year – landing on her family’s red and blue jungle gym.

“We know this is dangerous for the kids, but what are we supposed to do?” she said on a recent afternoon, speaking in Spanish through a translator. Morales said she fears that these kinds of drifts, as well as long-term exposure to a variety of chemicals in the air, have hurt her children, ages 9 to 20, who have struggled to focus in school and have suffered from bronchitis, asthma and other chronic illnesses.

Under Barack Obama, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) proposed an agricultural ban on chlorpyrifos, one pesticide widely used in her region, based on the growing body of research documenting the risks for farm workers and communities, including links to brain damage in children.

Donald Trump’s administration, however, has rejected the science, announcing a reversal of the ban. That means that despite recent victories for families and environmentalists who have fought for more than a decade for protections from the insecticide, widespread use will continue in California, where a majority of the fruits and nuts in the US are grown.

“There’s a sense of helplessness,” said Luis Medellin, a 30-year-old dairy worker, sitting with his three younger sisters at his family’s home in the small agricultural town of Lindsay. “I’m being poisoned and I can’t do anything about it. It’s like a slow death.”

More than a dozen Latino residents in Tulare County, a rural farming community three hours north of Los Angeles, shared stories with the Guardian of direct pesticide poisonings from drifts and the long-term health challenges that they believe are linked to chronic exposure. They described children vomiting, suffering painful skin irritations, debilitating headaches and dizziness, as well as developing autism, learning problems, attention deficit disorders and respiratory ailments.

It’s difficult to conclusively determine how chlorpyrifos may have contributed to individual children’s conditions, but epidemiological studies have found links between the pesticide and a number of health conditions – research that led EPA officials to recommend the ban in 2015. Manufacturers and growers continue to assert that the chemical is safe and say that the studies are flawed.

Pregnant women who lived near fields and farms that use chlorpyrifos experienced an increased risk of having a child with autism, according to a University of California at Davis study. Low to moderate levels of chlorpyrifos exposure during pregnancy were also linked to lower IQs and memory problems, according to researchers at Columbia and UC Berkeley. Studies have further raised concerns about decreased lung function and reduced fertility.

Chlorpyrifos – a neurotoxic pesticide widely used to kill insects in almond, walnut, orange, grape, broccoli and other crop farming – was banned for residential use in 2000 because of environmental and health concerns.

The EPA’s prior move to prohibit the pesticide in agriculture stemmed from a decade-long legal fight with environmental groups, which are continuing to push for the ban in court. Under the new policy, the EPA won’t have to re-evaluate health risks of the chemical for another five years and its use will continue.

In California, Latino children are 91% more likely than white students to attend schools near heavy pesticide use, according to state data. Tulare County is also located in a region considered to have the highest poverty rate in the state and the worst air pollution in the US.

“We are very sick,” said Irma Medellin, community organizer with El Quinto Sol de America, a Lindsay-based advocacy group that has studied chlorpyrifos exposure and advocated for the ban. “Everyone who lives in this community is affected.”

In Tulare County, growers applied more than 1m pounds of chlorpyrifos in a five-year period, according to state data. A 2014 state report found that in one year, farmers applied more than 750 pounds of the pesticide within one-quarter of a mile of four different public schools.

Zenaida Muñoz, a 32-year-old mother of three, said she used to walk through the orange groves on a daily basis for exercise when she was pregnant with one of her sons, who is now nine years old. After he was born, he struggled to speak for several years and he had behavioral problems at home and in school. He was later diagnosed with autism.

Chlorpyrifos is frequently used on oranges.

“I never realized these chemicals could potentially cause harm,” she said, seated in her house in a small town called Cutler, as she clutched her newborn baby. Her son, now in the third grade, ran up to her with a squirt gun, begging to go play outside.

Muñoz said she now avoids the local orchards, especially when she can smell recently sprayed pesticide – a stench that makes her want to throw up.

Families that live across from the crops should consider moving, she added: “Even if it seems like they’re not impacted, they are.”

Domitila Lemus, 68, recalled an episode when a pesticide spray drifted toward a group of students on a school playground, including her eight-year-old granddaughter.

“They were out of breath. Some were throwing up,” Lemus recalled. “The children had teary eyes … It’s a strong smell that gets into your head and hurts your brain.”

Jannet Rodriguez, whose husband works in citrus, said workers were afraid to speak up: “They feel they’ll lose their jobs.” When she worked in agriculture, she said posted warning signs about the dangers of pesticides were never clear to her and other Mexican immigrants, many of whom don’t speak English. “They never told us what these signs meant.”

When Trump’s EPA head, Scott Pruitt, undid activists’ efforts one month after his confirmation – with a statement praising a return to “using sound science in decision-making” – families in Tulare County were devastated.

“It was pain in my heart,” said Amy Huerta, a 20-year-old college student who grew up in a trailer park in Lindsay where pesticides would often drift into their home. “Now we have to start all over again.”

One study detected chlorpyrifos in three-quarters of air samples in Lindsay – 11% above levels deemed “acceptable” by the EPA for 24-hour exposure by children.

Huerta recalled sharing a bed with her younger sister who would scratch herself bloody. Huerta said it was because of pesticides irritating her skin.

Morales said her nine-year-old son has trouble concentrating in school and staying seated in class—and that she suspects chlorpyrifos is likely to blame given the family’s proximity to citrus fields. Marianna Santos, pesticide supervisor in the Tulare County agricultural commissioner’s office, said the drift incident Morales described was under investigation, but that it did not appear chlorpyrifos was involved in that spray.

Bob Blakely, vice-president of California Citrus Mutual, a Tulare County industry group that supports chlorpyrifos, said growers were dependent on the chemical and claimed that its application is highly controlled in the state. “We’re very heavily regulated. I’d be more concerned about children not eating fresh fruits and vegetables.”

Dow AgroSciences, which manufactures the pesticide under the name Lorsban, has consistently argued that studies raising concerns are flawed and that Carol Burns, a Dow epidemiology consultant, criticized the UC and Columbia studies in an email, claiming that other research suggests there are “no significant associations between possible exposure to chlorpyrifos and any health effects in the children”.

The EPA did not respond to requests for comment.

Angel Garcia, El Quinto Sol community organizer and founder of the Coalition for Advocating for Pesticide Safety, said organizing against powerful agricultural interests was difficult in California and particularly in Tulare County.

“Money is the law here,” the Lindsay native said as he drove past a row of citrus groves. He and other activists are pushing California to be a leader in the resistance to Trump and ban chlorpyrifos in the absence of EPA’s inaction.

But it’s unclear if the state will take on that role. Asked about the calls for state prohibition, Charlotte Fadipe, a spokeswoman for the California department of pesticide regulation (DPR), said the agency was “looking at how this pesticide is used and if further restrictions on its use are warranted”.

“But,” she added, “that is not the same as an all-out ban.”

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Trump Has Okayed a Pesticide That Terrifies These Families

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