Tag Archives: council

The Feds are leaving Puerto Rico — and offering to take Maria survivors with them.

Kathleen Hartnett White, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stammered through her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

When Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat, asked if she believes climate change is real, she wavered but settled on the right answer: “I am uncertain. No, I’m not. I jumped ahead. Climate change is of course real.”

That’s a surprise. Hartnett White, a former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has a long history of challenging climate science and promoting fossil fuels. Notably, she has said that carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant.

But that’s not to say she’s made peace with established science. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, quizzed Hartnett White over how much excess heat in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans. “I believe there are differences of opinions on that,” she said, “that there’s not one right answer.” For the record, the number is about 90 percent.

Then things got bizarre. Appearing frustrated with equivocating answers, Whitehouse pressed her on basic laws of nature, like whether heat makes water expand. “I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate-change issues,” she said.

Watch below, if you dare:

After the hearing, Whitehouse tweeted, “I don’t even know where to begin … she outright rejects basic science.”

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The Feds are leaving Puerto Rico — and offering to take Maria survivors with them.

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Nearly all of Puerto Rico is without power AGAIN after a line repaired by Whitefish fails.

Kathleen Hartnett White, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stammered through her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

When Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat, asked if she believes climate change is real, she wavered but settled on the right answer: “I am uncertain. No, I’m not. I jumped ahead. Climate change is of course real.”

That’s a surprise. Hartnett White, a former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has a long history of challenging climate science and promoting fossil fuels. Notably, she has said that carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant.

But that’s not to say she’s made peace with established science. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, quizzed Hartnett White over how much excess heat in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans. “I believe there are differences of opinions on that,” she said, “that there’s not one right answer.” For the record, the number is about 90 percent.

Then things got bizarre. Appearing frustrated with equivocating answers, Whitehouse pressed her on basic laws of nature, like whether heat makes water expand. “I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate-change issues,” she said.

Watch below, if you dare:

After the hearing, Whitehouse tweeted, “I don’t even know where to begin … she outright rejects basic science.”

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Nearly all of Puerto Rico is without power AGAIN after a line repaired by Whitefish fails.

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Trump’s pick for environmental adviser got grilled on climate change. It was a trainwreck.

Kathleen Hartnett White, President Donald Trump’s nominee to lead the White House Council on Environmental Quality, stammered through her confirmation hearing on Wednesday.

When Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland, a Democrat, asked if she believes climate change is real, she wavered but settled on the right answer: “I am uncertain. No, I’m not. I jumped ahead. Climate change is of course real.”

That’s a surprise. Hartnett White, a former chair of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, has a long history of challenging climate science and promoting fossil fuels. Notably, she has said that carbon dioxide isn’t a pollutant.

But that’s not to say she’s made peace with established science. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a Democrat from Rhode Island, quizzed Hartnett White over how much excess heat in the atmosphere is absorbed by oceans. “I believe there are differences of opinions on that,” she said, “that there’s not one right answer.” For the record, the number is about 90 percent.

Then things got bizarre. Appearing frustrated with equivocating answers, Whitehouse pressed her on basic laws of nature, like whether heat makes water expand. “I do not have any kind of expertise or even much layman study of the ocean dynamics and the climate-change issues,” she said.

Watch below, if you dare:

After the hearing, Whitehouse tweeted, “I don’t even know where to begin … she outright rejects basic science.”

Source:

Trump’s pick for environmental adviser got grilled on climate change. It was a trainwreck.

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Trump Is Now Lying to His Own National Security Staff

Mother Jones

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In his NATO speech a week ago, Donald Trump declined to explicitly endorse Article 5, the provision that says an attack on one is an attack on all. I’m on record as suggesting that reaction to this was sort of overblown, but Susan Glasser provides some behind-the-scenes context to suggest it was quite a bit worse than I thought. It turns out that Trump’s entire national security team wanted him to offer a public endorsement:

National security adviser H.R. McMaster, Defense Secretary James Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson all supported Trump doing so and had worked in the weeks leading up to the trip to make sure it was included in the speech, according to five sources familiar with the episode. They thought it was, and a White House aide even told The New York Times the day before the line was definitely included.

….The frantic, last-minute maneuvering over the speech, I’m told, included “MM&T,” as some now refer to the trio of Mattis, McMaster and Tillerson, lobbying in the days leading up to it to get a copy of the president’s planned remarks and then pushing hard once they obtained the draft to get the Article 5 language in it, only to see it removed again. All of which further confirms a level of White House dysfunction that veterans of both parties I’ve talked with in recent months say is beyond anything they can recall.

This is…astonishing. MM&T had to lobby just to get a copy of Trump’s remarks? And then, after getting the wording in, it was removed behind their backs? WTF?

“They had the right speech and it was cleared through McMaster,” said a source briefed by National Security Council officials in the immediate aftermath of the NATO meeting….“They didn’t know it had been removed,” said a third source of the Trump national security officials on hand for the ceremony. “It was only upon delivery.”

….The episode suggests that what has been portrayed—correctly—as a major rift within the 70-year-old Atlantic alliance is also a significant moment of rupture inside the Trump administration, with the president withholding crucial information from his top national security officials—and then embarrassing them by forcing them to go out in public with awkward, unconvincing, after-the-fact claims that the speech really did amount to a commitment they knew it did not make.

Holy shit. It’s one thing to lose a battle about what goes into a presidential speech—that happens all the time—but it’s quite another to agree to include something and then remove it without telling your top national security advisors. And then send them out to face the press.

This isn’t a case of Trump listening to the last guy in the room. It sounds more like Trump being unwilling to tell his national security team to their faces that he disagrees with them—and then screwing them behind their backs. How long can you keep working for a guy like that?

The bizarre thing is that what Trump did wasn’t entirely indefensible. It’s obviously not what I (or McMaster or Mattis or Tillerson) would have done, but Trump could have made the case that asking NATO partners nicely for increased defense spending hadn’t worked in the past, and he wanted to tighten the screws. The way to do it is to make everyone just a little nervous by saying nothing about Article 5 one way or the other.

MM&T would have disagreed, but Trump is president and he could have overruled them. Trump took office promising to disrupt the status quo, so they could hardly have been surprised if he had told them he wanted to play a little hardball and that they should be prepared for some blowback. At least then they would have known what to say afterward.

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Trump Is Now Lying to His Own National Security Staff

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In 3 Months, 3 Immigrants Have Died at a Private Detention Center in California

Mother Jones

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A Honduran immigrant held at a troubled detention center in California’s high desert died Wednesday night while in the custody of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Vincente Caceres-Maradiaga, 46, was receiving treatment for multiple medical conditions while waiting for an immigration court to decide whether to deport him, according an ICE statement. He collapsed as he was playing soccer at the detention facility and died while en route to a local hospital.

Caceres-Maradiaga’s death is the latest in a string of fatalities among detainees held at the Adelanto Detention Facility, which is operated by the GEO Group, the country’s largest private prison company. Three people held at the facility have died in the last three months, including Osmar Epifanio Gonzalez-Gadba, a 32-year-old Nicaraguan found hanging in his cell on March 22, and Sergio Alonso Lopez, a Mexican man who died of internal bleeding on April 13 after spending more than two months in custody.

Since it opened in 2011, Adelanto has faced accusations of insufficient medical care and poor conditions. In July 2015, 29 members of Congress sent a letter to ICE and federal inspectors requesting an investigation into health and safety concerns at the facility. They cited the 2012 death of Fernando Dominguez at the facility, saying it was the result of “egregious errors” by the center’s medical staff, who did not give him proper medical examinations or allow him to receive timely off-site treatment. In November 2015, 400 detainees began a hunger strike, demanding better medical and dental care along with other reforms.

Yet last year, the city of Adelanto, acting as a middleman between ICE and GEO, made a deal to extend the company’s contract until 2021. The federal government guarantees GEO that a minimum of 975 immigrants will be held at the facility and pays $111 per detainee per day, according to California state Sen. Ricardo Lara (D-Bell Gardens), who has fought to curtail private immigration detention. After that point, ICE only has to pay $50 per detainee per day—an incentive to fill more beds.

Of California’s four privately run immigration detention centers, three use local governments as intermediaries between ICE and private prison companies. On Tuesday, the California senate voted 26-13 to ban such contracts, supporting a bill that could potentially close Adelanto when its contract runs out in 2021. The Dignity Not Detention Act, authored by Lara, would prevent local governments from signing or extending contracts with private prison companies to detain immigrants starting in 2019. The bill would also require all in-state facilities that hold ICE detainees, including both private detention centers and public jails, to meet national standards for detention conditions—empowering state prosecutors to hold detention center operators accountable for poor conditions inside their facilities.

An identical bill passed last year but was vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. “I have been troubled by recent reports detailing unsatisfactory conditions and limited access to counsel in private immigration detention facilities,” Brown wrote in his veto message last September. But he deferred to the Department of Homeland Security, which was then reviewing its use of for-profit immigration detention. In that review, the Homeland Security Advisory Council rejected the ongoing use of private prison companies to detain immigrants, citing the “inferiority of the private prison model.” Yet since President Donald Trump took office, the federal government has moved to expand private immigration detention, signing a $110 million deal with GEO in April to build the first new immigration detention center under Trump.

Nine people have died in ICE custody in fiscal year 2017, which began October 1. Meanwhile, private prison stocks have nearly doubled in value since Election Day.

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In 3 Months, 3 Immigrants Have Died at a Private Detention Center in California

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Trump Just Picked a Contraception Skeptic to Head Federal Family Planning Efforts

Mother Jones

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After appointing the former president of a powerful anti-abortion group to head public affairs at the Department of Health and Human Services, the Trump administration plans to bring another anti-abortion advocate into the ranks at HHS—this time to oversee the Title X program, which allocates nearly $300 million per year in family planning funds to providers across the country and shapes policy and regulation about topics like contraception and teen pregnancy.

Politico reported on Monday that the administration has tapped Teresa Manning, a law professor and former employee of two anti-abortion groups, to be the deputy assistant secretary of the Office of Population Affairs, the department within HHS that oversees Title X. Manning is currently listed in the HHS employee directory, although the White House did not confirm the appointment to Politico. Manning, an adjunct professor at the Antonin Scalia Law School at George Mason University, was formerly a legislative analyst at the conservative Family Research Council and a lobbyist for the National Right to Life Committee, the largest US organization opposing abortion.

Manning has questioned the efficacy of contraception in preventing pregnancy, and also said the government shouldn’t play a role in family planning—the foundational ideas behind the federal family planning program she will now be tasked with overseeing. In a 2003 radio interview, Manning noted that pro-choice advocates “promote contraception and birth control as a way to reduce the incidence of abortion. There really is no evidence to support that. In fact, the incidence of contraception use and the incidence of abortion go up hand in hand.” She also said that pro-choice advocates view abortion as a backup form of contraception for when birth control fails (oral contraception is effective over 99 percent of the time when taken properly): “Of course, contraception doesn’t work. Its efficacy is very low especially when you consider over years,” she said. Manning continued: “The prospect that contraception would always prevent the conception of a child is preposterous.”

Manning (who at the time had the last name Wagner) was quoted in a 2001 press release opposing the distribution of the morning-after pill over the counter, claiming the pills are abortifacients that “destroy the human life already conceived.” (Medical consensus disagrees, as the pills only prevent fertilization.) Manning also authored a 1999 article for the Family Research Council titled “The Empty Promise of Contraception.” The head of Trump’s HHS, former Georgia congressman Tom Price, also has a long history of opposing contraceptive access, including Obamacare’s mandate that health insurance cover birth control costs.

“I always shake my head. You know, family planning is what occurs between a husband and a wife and God,” Manning said during a 2003 panel about a book she edited. “And it doesn’t really involve the federal government, much less the United Nations, where we hear about family planning all the time. What are they doing in that business?”

In her new job at HHS, Manning will oversee a program that provides funding for contraception, STI testing, and other reproductive medical care for low-income and uninsured men and women across the country. According to the Guttmacher Institute, which provides research on reproductive health care, in 2015 Title X-funded clinics helped women avoid 822,300 unintended pregnancies.

“It is a cruel irony to appoint an opponent of birth control to oversee the nation’s only federal program dedicated to family planning,” said Dawn Laguens, the executive vice president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, in an emailed statement. “We are at the lowest rate of unintended pregnancy in 30 years and a historic low for teen pregnancy because of access to birth control. Someone who promotes myths about birth control and reproductive care should not be in charge of the office that is responsible for family planning at HHS.”

By law, Title X cannot fund abortion services, but the program has been swept up in the new administration’s efforts to signal a hard anti-abortion stance. Trump signed a law last month that would allow states to withhold Title X funds from reproductive health care providers who also offer abortions.

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Trump Just Picked a Contraception Skeptic to Head Federal Family Planning Efforts

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Texas Is About to Crack Down on Undocumented Immigrants

Mother Jones

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Texas is about to become the second state to outlaw sanctuary cities, jurisdictions that refuse to fully comply with federal enforcement of immigration laws. On Thursday, lawmakers in the Texas House of Representatives gave approval to legislation that would make it a misdemeanor crime for local law enforcement to not cooperate with federal immigration authorities, with penalties of up to $25,500 in fines for local governments and jail time for individual law enforcement officials who maintain sanctuary cities. The legislation would also allow local police officers to inquire about someone’s immigration status during routine encounters such as traffic stops. A slightly different version of the bill already passed in the state senate, and Republican Gov. Greg Abbott, who has made passing legislation banning sanctuary cities a top priority this legislative session, will likely sign the final measure.

Texas became one of the battlegrounds in the national debate over sanctuary cities when Travis County Sheriff Sally Hernandez, after taking office earlier this year, instituted a new policy for her department to not fully cooperate with federal immigration authorities. Gov. Abbott cut off funding in retaliation and even threatened to oust the sheriff. In a parallel effort, the Trump administration is also trying to cut off federal funding to jurisdictions that refuse to fully cooperate with federal immigration officials.

Thursday’s vote followed an initial 16-hour overnight hearing on the House floor. State Rep. Mary González, a Democrat who was once an undocumented immigrant herself, told her colleagues that she was a victim of sexual assault, and that the proposal would actually make Texas less safe by discouraging immigrants from talking to the police when a crime has been committed. “We aren’t exaggerating when we say the people empowered by this piece of the amendment will be criminals,” Gonzalez said. “We aren’t exaggerating when we say the people who will feel the biggest effects of this are the most vulnerable—the women and children who are victims of rape, sexual assault, human trafficking.”

González also beseeched other lawmakers to limit questioning about immigration status to those who were under arrest. “If you ever had any friendship with me, this is the vote that measures that friendship,” González pleaded during the hearing.

According to the Texas Observer, hundreds protested in the Capitol rotunda, where their chants opposing the legislation could be heard during the marathon debate. The protest didn’t dissuade Republican Rep. Matt Schaefer, who added language to the bill that would allow police to check someone’s immigration status during routine “detainments” like traffic stops. “This was about making sure that our law enforcement officers can continue to do what they have a duty to do, which is to make sure that we’re safe,” he said. “That means using every reasonable tool available under the law to inquire about criminal activity.”

State Rep. Ana Hernandez, a Democrat who was also undocumented as a child, fought back tears as she described her fears growing up. “I knew I wasn’t a U.S. citizen, and I feared the reactions from my classmates if they knew I wasn’t a citizen,” Hernandez said. “I see myself in many of those students now that share the same fear of being deported, or having their parents deported.”

Sanctuary city legislation is expected to head to the governor’s desk soon, but local leaders and civil rights advocates opposing the bill say the fight is only getting started, and they plan to file lawsuits challenging the legality of the measure. “The legislature is attempting to blackmail cities into violating our own resident’s constitutional rights,” Austin City Council member Greg Casar said on a press call. “I believe we have no responsibility to follow an unconstitutional law, and we should not be complying with a law that is so discriminatory and dangerous in its mandate.”

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Texas Is About to Crack Down on Undocumented Immigrants

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Trump Just Appointed a Chemical Industry Honcho to Protect Us From Chemicals

Mother Jones

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The American Chemistry Council represents the interests of the chemical industry—companies that “make the products that make modern life possible,” as the group’s web site somewhat haughtily puts it. Member companies include Big Oil subsidiaries Chevron Phillips Chemical and ExxonMobil Chemical, the Saudi chemical giant SABIC, pesticide behemoth Bayer and its pending merger partner, Monsanto, as well as DuPont and its pending merger partner, Dow Chemical.

In a bold move, the Trump administration has named the ACC’s senior director of regulatory science policy, Nancy Beck, as the deputy assistant administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency office that regulates the chemical industry. It’s known as the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention, and it exists to “protect you, your family, and the environment from potential risks from pesticides and toxic chemicals.”

Beck’s new post marks her return to government work. Before moving into her post at the American Chemistry Council, where she started in 2012, she served as toxicologist/risk assessor/policy analyst for the US Office of Management and Budget, a job she started under President George W. Bush in 2002. A 2009 investigation by the House Science and Technology Committee criticized Beck by name for her role in what it called a “recurring problem in the Bush Administration’s term in office”: “White House staff re-writing the ‘science'” around important policy issues.

The report specifically noted Beck’s role in assessing the EPA’s characterization of a highly toxic class of chemicals called polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs), which were widely used as flame retardants in furniture but have since been phased out. The report found that Beck attempted to edit an EPA statement on PBDEs in ways that “appear to enhance uncertainty or reduce profile of the harmful effect being discussed.” The report called one of her edits “very disturbing because it represents a substantial editorial change regarding how to characterize the science.”

And now, after her stint working directly for the chemical industry, Beck will have a direct role in shaping chemical policy at the EPA.

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Trump Just Appointed a Chemical Industry Honcho to Protect Us From Chemicals

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President Trump Just Ordered Military Strikes Against Syria in Response to Chemical Attack

Mother Jones

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The United States fired more than 50 tomahawk cruise missiles at Syrian government targets on Thursday night in response to the Syrian government’s chemical weapons attack on civilians earlier this week, according to multiple news reports. The target of the US strike appears to be the Syrian regime airbase where the chemical attack is said to have originated.

President Donald Trump made a televised address to the nation Thursday night from his Florida resort, Mar-a-Lago. He said that the strike was in “vital national security interest to the United States” and called on “all civilized nations to join us in seeking to end the slaughter and bloodshed in Syria and also to end terrorism of all kinds and all types.”

The Trump administration spent much of Wednesday developing potential military responses against Syria, according to multiple reports.

The chemical attack, which took place Tuesday and killed as many as 100 people, including at least 11 children, is thought to be the deadliest use of chemical weapons since August 2013, when more than 1,000 people were killed in a chemical weapon attack carried out by the regime of Bashar al-Assad on the outskirts of Damascus. At the time, President Barack Obama stated he would seek congressional authorization for the use of force against Syria. But then-Secretary of State John Kerry issued an ultimatum: Assad could turn over chemical weapons stockpiles and avoid military strikes. No congressional vote ever took place.

NBC News reported Wednesday that US military personnel saw Syrian aircraft appear on radar at the time of the latest attack, and then saw them drop bombs on civilians in Khan Sheikoun in rebel-held Idlib in northern Syria. Soon after, the US radar system detected flashes from the attack.

“It crossed a lot of lines for me,” Trump told reporters on Wednesday. “When you kill innocent children, innocent babies, babies, little babies, with a chemical gas that is so lethal people were shocked to hear what gas it was, that crosses many, many lines, beyond a red line.”

But in previous days, the Trump administration signaled multiple times that removing Assad from power was no longer a long-term priority. On Monday, Nikki Haley, the American ambassador to the United Nations, stated, “Our priority is no longer to sit there and focus on getting Assad out. We can’t necessarily focus on Assad the way that the previous administration did.”

Nikki Haley, the US ambassador to the UN, shows pictures of Syrian victims of chemical attacks at a Security Council meeting on Wednesday. Bebeto Matthews/AP

Late last week, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said that Assad’s future “will be decided by the Syrian people,” which, as The Daily Beast puts it, is “a euphemism used by Damascus, Moscow, and Tehran to indicate that he isn’t going anywhere.”

Trump’s previous approach to Assad’s crimes could perhaps best summed up by his campaign statement: “I don’t like Assad at all, but Assad is killing ISIS. Russia is killing ISIS, and Iran is killing ISIS.”

ISIS isn’t located in the area where the chemical weapons fell this week.

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President Trump Just Ordered Military Strikes Against Syria in Response to Chemical Attack

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Tens of thousands of teachers are getting climate-denying propaganda in their mailboxes.

That’s the outcome of an agreement to settle a lawsuit that sought to force the state of Michigan to provide door-to-door delivery of bottled water to homes in the city. Flint’s drinking water was deemed unsafe in 2015 due to high lead levels.

The suit was filed last year by a coalition that includes the Natural Resources Defense Council, Michigan’s ACLU, and a local resident. A judge approved the settlement on Tuesday.

Under its terms, $97 million will be set aside to replace lead or galvanized steel water pipes going into Flint homes with copper pipes. The state has three years to assess the piping and swap it out, if need be, in at least 18,000 area residences.

The deal allows the state to avoid delivering water to homes, and it provides a timeline for shutting down nine distribution centers in Flint that offer free bottled water and filters. If monitoring finds that lead levels are below an EPA-set threshold for the first half of 2017, Michigan can close those stations in September.

“For the first time, there will be an enforceable commitment to get the lead pipes out of the ground,” said Dimple Chaudhary, an NRDC attorney. “The people of Flint are owed at least this much.”

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Tens of thousands of teachers are getting climate-denying propaganda in their mailboxes.

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