American Elephants


Books to Enrich Your Life: Not Always the Newest Ones by The Elephant's Child

less-cov

I don’t know if you are familiar with the works of Richard Mitchell, the Underground Grammarian. He was a professor at Glassboro State College and wrote broadsides on the problems of our public schools under the title The Underground Grammarian. His four books are: Less Than Words Can Say, The Graves of Academe, The Leaning Tower of Babel, and the Gift of Fire. I recommend them all highly. Here’s a brief sample:

We are people who imagine that we are weighing important issues when we exchange generalizations and well=known opinions. We decide how to vote or what to buy according to whim or fancied self-interest, either of which is easily engendered in us by the manipulation of language, which we have neither the will nor the ability to analyze. We believe that we can reach conclusions without having the faintest idea of the difference between inferences and statements of fact, often without any suspicions that there are such things and that they are different. We are easily persuaded and repersuaded by what seems authoritative, without any notion of those attitudes and abilities that characterize authority. We do not notice elementary fallacies in logic; it doesn’t even occur to us to look for them; few of us are even aware that such things exist. We make no regular distinctions between those kinds of things that can be known and objectively verified and those that can only be believed or not. Nor are we likely to examine, when we believe or not, the induced predispositions that may make us do the one or the other. We are easy prey.

He also remarks that:

In fact, the destiny of this land, of any land, is exactly and inevitably determined by the nature and abilities of the children now in school. The future simply has no other resources. And, an even more dismaying fact, because it tells of us, not them, this land as it is today is the exact and inevitable result of the nature and abilities of the schoolchildren that we were. And the things that you think important, everything from the politics to the rapes and murders and fires, are what they are and have for us the meanings that they have precisely because of what we were.

Your Public Library should have them, and Amazon does, or your local bookstore may. Mitchell died in 2010.



History is What Happened in the Past. by The Elephant's Child

Former Vice President Joe Biden has clarified matters. Donald Trump caused the Corona virus, didn’t act on it promptly enough, didn’t do the right things when he finally did act, and thus caused all the deaths and misery and unemployment that have resulted. He has also caused all the riots and protests, is a thoroughly bad man and must be replaced as soon as possible by the aforesaid Joe Biden.

So naturally, the news today was entirely about Nancy Pelosi getting her hair done, cut and color, I presume. Partly it seemed to be about whether or not she wore a mask, (She didn’t). which was required. The salon didn’t open their doors, for they have been shut down by local laws. When Nancy became the object of the day’s news, she blamed it all on the salon which played some kind of dirty trick on her. She said she takes responsibility for allowing herself to be “set up” by the salon. I suspect she’s going to have to find a new salon after all this.They were not allowed to be open and opened just for her. Her haircut even trumped the news that the Stock Market today his the highest point ever. Go figure.

The Portland mayor, has been chased out of his home by rioters who broke into his condominium, but he has a number of other homes, so it is apparently not a big deal. Joe Biden, having demonized Donald Trump for going to Kenosha, is now going to go to Kenosha himself, but he will commiserate with the parents of the dead and be compassionate and kind and that will make all the difference.

Looks like we may have a covid vaccine this fall, by October or November. Dr. Scott Atlas, Presidential advisor has sharply dissented with media accusations that it is being rushed because of the election, and said the development is carefully following all the protocols. It is just going well.

The Covid crisis is just another weapon they want to use against President Trump. He’s done pretty well with a disease that we didn’t know anything about when it arrived. Trump shut down all air traffic from China immediately and acted quickly to get ventilators, masks, and all the supplies hospitals across the country might need. Even Democrat governors were praising him for his quick response to their needs.

Expect more. More riots, more shootings, more statue attackers. More demands for reparations. Some have even demanded that the Mayor of Washington D.C. tear down the Washington Monument because George Washington once owned slaves. If you have ever seen it, it is a rather large object.

History is what happened in the past. Changing names, altering buildings, tearing down statues does not change a thing. What happened in the past — happened. We can learn from the past, but we cannot change it. You might remind others of that simple fact.



What Do You Mean “Free” ? by The Elephant's Child

Americans put a lot of emphasis, when thinking about what being an American means, on being free. But what precisely they mean by “free” is not really all that clear. Socialism promises equality .If we just adopt Socialism we will all be “equal” which, of course is nonsense.  Whatever qualities you may possess, they are probably not the same as those the guy standing next to you possesses. So what is it we have in mind when we celebrate being “free”?

I think perhaps the important point is the freedom to rise. We can strive to become whatever it is that we want to be or become, and work towards that goal, with whatever effort and skill we can muster. There are no guarantees that we will make it, but we are free to keep trying, or to change goals, or even to give up.  If you consider what life was like for ordinary Englishmen in 1620, they had a lot of incentive to try for something better, and were willing to risk a lot to try for it. Rising out of their station in life may have been possible for the elites or the educated, but inventions, new ideas, growing, prospering, not so much.

If I asked you to sit down with a pencil and paper and list the Americans who have risen from obscurity to unbelievable wealth, you would be able to come up with quite a few names. It’s commonplace. That’s why I was so taken with the story of the young black man in Columbus Ohio, who had walked three miles every day to the public library that offered homework help. Some sneered at the “3 miles every day” but that extra effort got him acceptance from 22 different colleges and universities for admission. That story didn’t seem to get much attention, but given a few years he will either be heading a large corporation or performing surgery in a major hospital. Whatever he wants. That is the real meaning of being free. If you are a parent of school children, you might want to point that out.



Good Ad. We Don’t See Very Many of Those! by The Elephant's Child



Are You Questioning Your Sanity a Little? by The Elephant's Child

Some days I just can’t decide whether it is the world around me that has gone crazy, or only me that has slipped a cog or two. The Democrats are having an online convention, and we don’t seem to be living in the same country. At least the one they describe is unfamiliar to me.

Donald Trump is daily committing terrible crimes, and must be stopped. Nancy Pelosi says we have to save the Post Office from the President Now.

“It is, to use the word volcanic. It has been explosive in terms of the response that members, Democratic and Republican, all over the country have received to this assault on this connection that they have, Americans have with each other. This matter of how we have access to health care. 1.2 billion prescriptions were sent through the mail in 2019 even before the coronavirus, that is. And way overwhelmingly, 82% or higher of VA drugs are sent to our veterans through the mail. So that’s just two examples of meeting the health needs of the American people. And when those medicines come a week, six days late— we keep hearing examples of how late that medication is coming. That’s just one connection. It’s about the health of the American people. It’s also about the health of our democracy as they do this to make an assault on the mail in terms of absentee balloting and the rest.”

What? Yesterday, we got some of the mail for our neighbors in the next block. Today we received some mail for the folks across the street. Sloppy postman, but no big deal. What the hell has she been drinking? There is no assault on the Post Office. They have declining revenues for several reasons, one of them is that people are apt to communicate more by email. Another is simply the pandemic. A lot of businesses are shut down, and people are stuck at home.  Joel Pollack wrote about their hysteria with the “Busted Mailbox Conspiracy Theory” yesterday.

What becomes immediately clear is that the Democrats believe the population of the United States is extremely unintelligent and will believe most anything they are told. I found a text version of Michelle Obama’s convention speech, which I will link to here, and you can scroll through to see the statements you find a little odd. She returns to the fact that people must have thought their votes didn’t matter, so they sent someone to the Oval Office who lost the national popular vote by nearly 3 million votes. ( yes, there’s that old electoral college they keep trying to get rid of.) She even has Trump putting children in cages. Trump?

They really want to make everything Trump has done criminal. He is the one who killed all the people with his pandemic because he so mismanaged it. You know, the one he kept demonstrating his racial prejudice with by calling it the Chinese virus. They have no shame. They choose the words and accusations carefully to influence those who are most likely to know nothing about what they are voting for anyway. It would be nice to have a tiny bit of honesty, but that is asking too much, I guess. It’s hard to solve problems when nobody will tell the truth about them. It isn’t this bad every four years, is it?



It Isn’t Really About Mail-In Ballots, But Your Right to Vote by The Elephant's Child

See the source image

Nancy Pelosi and Charles Schumer have made a big fuss about President Trump’s objections to a national vote by mail idea. They are even demanding that the United States Postmaster General, Louis DeJoy come testify to Congress immediately! The usual suspects, the New York Times, Washington Post, etc, have erupted with their usual horror to the idea that anyone could possibly object, and so on and so forth. Vote by Mail sounds good, until you look at the data.

According to the Gatestone Institute, the federal election assistance commission keeps tabs. Their data shows that 28 million ballots mailed since 2012 just vanished. Counted? forgotten? discarded? nobody knows. Hundreds of thousands did come back, but had defects that prevented them from being counted, and the voters who sent them have no idea that their ballots were not counted.

Democrats believe firmly that they are meant to be in charge. They were certain that Hillary, former First Lady, former Secretary of State, First Woman, would win the election against the TV celebrity and New York builder. They didn’t really consider any alternative. The fact that Hillary was soundly disliked, a compulsive liar, at State had killed her ambassador, his assistant and two Special Forces guys with her negligence escaped their notice. The unthinkable happened, and they have been trying to get rid of him ever since, something to impeach him for, Russian influence, anything, with the full cooperation of the media. It is hardly surprising that President Trump feels as if he is under constant attack — he is.

Mail-in voting is the current lightning rod, with some justification. Many different networks have accused President Trump of disrupting USPS operations for political gain, even going so far as to claim that he is carrying on a political crusade against the postal service in an effort to rewrite history. Nancy Pelosi announced that “The President has explicitly stated his intention to manipulate the Postal Service to deny eligible voters access to the ballot in pursuit of his own re-election. Alarmingly, the Postmaster General – a Trump mega-donor – has acted as an accomplice in the President’s campaign to cheat in the election, as he launches sweeping new operational changes that degrade delivery standards and delay the mail,” according to a press release from Ms. Pelosi.

The Postal Service is not required by the Constitution, USPS was created to be a financially independent and sustainable agency, responsible for gaining and maintaining it’s own revenue. Postmaster Louis DeJoy was not simply appointed for his Republican ties, but he has also made a fortune in shipping and logistics and had a company that was a contractor of the Postal Service for many years. He was unanimously chosen in May by the USPS Board of Governors who are “appointed by the president with advice and consent of the senate.” They have the capacity to adjust their nationwide processing and delivery network to meet projected Election and Political Mail volume.

There are many examples of recent voter fraud in the United States. In one local special election in Paterson, New Jersey, the “Postal Inspection Service found hundreds of ballots in one mailbox” as well as ballots that were “stolen (completed and empty) and filled out fraudulently, or were otherwise altered.”

People have confused the Postal Service’s picking up mailboxes with a truck and taking them away with some misdeeds, when they do it regularly to clean and repair mailboxes. Once you have decided on a conspiracy, everything looks like a conspirator.

Most countries ban mail-in ballots because they have seen massive vote fraud problems. Democrats may be to blame for the cuts at the Postal Service that are threatening their vote-by-mail scheme. The covid-lockdown has meant an induced reduction in overall mail volume.  USPS 3rd quarter results show First-Class mail revenue decreased by 6.4%. There is an enormous amount of vote fraud. Many people maintain more than one home, and vote in both places. Democrats are engaged in vote harvesting, when they go around and collect ballots from people who really can’t be bothered to vote.

As imperfect as it is, voting is one of our most important benefits or duties. Let’s fight to keep the process honest. Rejecting mail-in voting seems to be one of the questionable parts. We have mail-in voting here in Washington State, and Oregon does too. I am not at all convinced that it is working honestly. but then not much seems to be working correctly these days.



Consequences Are How We Learn by The Elephant's Child

Rioters who do property damage need to be arrested, prosecuted, and to have a police record that follows them around and makes it hard to find employment. Consequences work both ways. If you do bad things and there are no real consequences, you’re quite apt to go out and do it again, because it’s fun to do real damage and get away with it. It is simply human nature, and the founders, when they were struggling for independence from England, thought long and hard about human nature and how it works.

If you struggle and work hard and are well rewarded for your efforts, the consequences are that you want to do it again, and maybe those who saw your success will struggle as well.

Yes, I know, some people firmly believe that we put people in prison simply because of the color of their skin, which is nonsense.

Democrats loathe the Electoral College and intend to abolish it at the first opportunity. Yet the founders carefully established it to protect the smaller, less populous states, so that every state would have an equal voice in the union. Democrats just want to be in charge permanently, and don’t really care who they have to step on to get there.

Human nature is kind of a mess. People are selfish, generous, mean, cruel, thoughtful — a mix of all the possible qualities out there. We always remain hopeful that the better nature will win out, but hope remains eternal.

Through all the “Black Lives Matter” protests and demands for reparations and payback, there were some plaintive voices out there that didn’t get enough attention. Jason Riley, who is black, and writes for the Wall Street Journal, has a book out with the rather intriguing title “Please Stop Helping Us.”

Oddly, a few months back a young black high school senior was written up in the national news for walking 3 miles every day to a public library that offered homework help. His efforts earned him letters of acceptance from over 20 colleges and universities, including the one he most hoped to attend. No further notice, no celebration.

Shortly after that, a young black woman who was valedictorian of her class with perfect attendance got a brief article in the media, because she was awarded something like $450,000 in scholarship money. Nobody bothered to report that’s the way the world works. You work hard and put your soul in it, and you are often rewarded by accomplishing your goals.

Neither of the stories got any particular attention as far as I know, but there’s a real lesson there.



Chicago, Chicago, That Toddlin’ Town by The Elephant's Child

One gets used to noting the death toll in Chicago over the weekend. Which is pretty disgusting as a matter of fact. An article at Fox News caught my eye. The Chicago Chamber of Commerce president called for a “serious response” to looting. As well he should. He was urging former president Barack Obama to come back to Chicago and use his influence to help, instead of gamboling on Martha’s Vineyard when his home town that made him, needs him.

Here are the shocking numbers: “So far this year in Chicago a total of 2,058 people have been shot and wounded, and 435 have been shot and killed.

America — indeed Chicago — spawned the success that became Obama. Now with ill winds blowing, Chicago needs him more than ever. If anyone should abhor the blood in his old ’hood, it should be Barack. The senseless killing is as surreal as Spike Lee’s “Chi-Raq” and as bone-chilling as the damp winds that blow off Lake Michigan every winter. And yet there is deafening silence from the 44th president.

Chicago’s adopted son has a debt to pay. He owes America a bit more than a feel-good legacy of being “first” or shimmering cameos at marquee events, however cool his gait. He should leave behind more than a league of loyalists who profited from his presidency in lieu of legions who are the least of these.

Interesting. I don’t know why Obama’s presence would help, but I didn’t believe that he was a very good president. Apparently the Cook County State’s Attorney is accused of being soft on criminals and failing to do her job, so crime soars as a consequence. It’s sad to see cities fall. And there will be consequences. People will move and business will move. Will the crime move with them, or stay on in a declining Chicago. You get the feeling that there is going to be a massive realignment in the country. Does anyone learn the lessons so vividly on display? The media which is still prattling about “peaceful protesters” have clearly not learned anything at all, nor do they understand how consequences are and will be playing out.

For example: The Post Office is in trouble. Revenue down, volume of mail down. Locking mailbox sales way up, mail theft vastly increased. That is a consequence of several things. Our public schools are not managing to teach kids to write easily and well, nor teaching kids the history of their country. Somebody’s out there being “peaceful protesters,” and they seem to be of the appropriate age. People aren’t writing letters, but sending emails or tweeting or facebooking.’

I email family, but write some long business letters. Computers are not just changing our lives, but changing us. Think how astonished our great-grandparents and great-great grandparents would be were they to reappear in our midst today. And what would they have to say!

 



File Under Useful Hints: by The Elephant's Child

You may or may not have noticed my new favorite word: feckless. I probably saw someone else use it, and though I knew (sorta-kinda) the meaning, looked it up to be accurate.

Feckless: lacking initiative or strength of character, irresponsible. synonyms: useless, worthless, incompetent, ineffective, inept, good for nothing, ne’er do well, lazy, idle, slothful, indolent, shiftless, apathetic, aimless, unambitious, unenterprising, no good, no account, lazy.

With elections coming up, it may be a remarkably useful word, at least to tuck in the back of your brain when deciding whether to support a candidate or a city council or not.



A Few Thoughts on the Coming Elections by The Elephant's Child

I wander around the internet to websites I consider to be reasonably responsible, but dang, it’s discouraging. Portland continues to be a major source of news and violence. It would seem that a responsible governor would have called out the national guard, cleaned up the protesters and put them away to cool off, and restored some sense of sanity to the city. Not happening. Across the country we seem to have vast numbers of people in positions of authority who do not understand what their jobs are and what they should be doing.

They seem to err on the idea of “peaceful protests”, but I haven’t seen a “peaceful protest” yet. All the ones I have seen, admittedly online, are resulting in shattered windows, looting, boarded-up businesses and lots of property damage. The peaceful protesters are not paying for the damage they have caused. Aside from that, it is extremely unclear just what they are “peacefully protesting” about. It’s clearly not George Floyd, it’s not racism in general. It may be the police, and the poor protesters will have to learn that there is a real reason for policing, and why most people depend on that protection. Across the country, unappreciated policemen are retiring in record numbers. Take that one to heart.

The Covid crisis has meant a societal shutdown, but the protesters are not out there with masks, but mask-less, and spreading the virus around, as is attested by a rise in cases wherever there are lots of protests.

The Civil War is being re-fought, with any evidence of the existence of anyone on the Confederate side (statues and names) to be obliterated, along with Christopher Columbus who had nothing to do with the Civil War. 1492 is a long way from 1860.

The remedy for a shutdown economy is assumed to be giving everybody a little extra cash, which it is assumed that they will rush out and spend to buy something they want but could not previously afford, and thus start the economic engine humming again. Since the overriding rule of the American Economy is “the federal government has no money of it’s own, every dime comes out of the taxpayer’s pockets” seems like some rather fuzzy economics. But that’s the way things work, or fail to work.

The simple fact that this is an election year makes every comment and every action more important as we try to sort what we are told by an irresponsible press out into real information, which is difficult. Reporters want readers. To attract readers, they act as press agents, using celebrities’ statements as enticements. Are you more apt to read an article about politics if the headline includes an outrageous statement by some Hollywood dummy? Apparently we are.

Eventually the vaccines will be developed and distributed. The Covid crisis will ebb, possibly to occur again next year. Schools will open, and the “peaceful protesters” will have something to do besides protesting.

Before we get to the elections this fall, consider the vast amounts of evidence we have on the capabilities of current office holders, and vote accordingly.



What To Do About Back to School? by The Elephant's Child

It is now August, and attention has turned to the back to school problem. Nobody seems to know what to do. So far online lessons have not been a rousing success. Some kids do them, some refuse, and some have not done any. Not every family has a computer. As the school year gets closer, the battle is heating up. Avik Roy writes in the Wall Street Journal: (There may be a subscription barrier.)

The second-largest teachers union, the American Federation of Teachers, is preparing for its members to go on strike if schools reopen without their assent. President Trump has expressed a desire to “cut off funding” for schools that don’t reopen. It doesn’t help that the debate is taking place during the 2020 presidential campaign and a late-summer rise in coronavirus-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths.

Teachers contracts are mostly school district matters, and what happens and what they are supposed to do and whether or not they get paid for teaching or not teaching is supposedly in the contract. Some teachers, naturally, are terrified they will get the virus in the classroom. Small children don’t seem to transmit the disease. Governors don’t know what to do, kids really do need to be in school, many parents (both) work outside the home. Teachers are not trained or skilled in creating online classes, and who makes sure the kid does the lessons anyway? Kids do not joyfully tackle a new lesson, at least mine didn’t.

We do know that school closures cause significant damage to children, damage that videoconferences cannot repair. Boston reported that one in five public school children dropped out. Many children from poorer families depend on reduced-price or free meals at school. The social science journal SSRN reported that school closures led to a 27% decline in reports of child abuse, because teachers may be the first ones to notice signs of maltreatment.

Other industrialized countries: the Netherlands, Belgium, Denmark, Norway, Austria, Germany, Finland, Iceland and  France reopened schools in April and May, and their experience has largely been positive.  Timing varied. Denmark was careful, requiring children to stay 2 meters apart whenever possible. Children were grouped into “bubbles” of 12, and required to wash their hands every two hours but did not wear masks. Denmark concluded that according to data from the European CDC, you could not see any negative effects from the opening of schools.

Children do not seem to play a significant role in the transmission of the virus. France started with a social distancing of four square meters and reduced it to one linear meter and they made attendance mandatory for primary and middle schools.

It sounds as if the greater danger to teachers is other teachers and staff. More and better information can be found at the CDC, the think tanks like Hoover.org, AEI.org, CATO.org, Reason.org and others. Here is an article titled “Open the Schools–or Kiss the Economy Goodbye” by Allison Schrager from the Manhattan Institute.

President Trump wants to see the kids in school. Some Governors just don’t know what to do. Many doctors have said they see no problem with sending their own children to school. Keep in mind that it is small children that don’t seem to spread the virus. Older children are another matter. I don’t know what the cut-off age when you start to worry is.  My three kids are long grown, so I am not affected, but I understand the concern. More knowledge will help.



The Covid Virus is Testing Our Elected Officials by The Elephant's Child

Human beings are kind of a mess, but so far we seem to be the brightest of living creatures available. Unfortunately, that still leaves a great deal to be desired. Behold:

Students at Northwestern University, the University of Chicago, DePaul University, Roosevelt University, Loyola University of Chicago, the University of Illinois at Chicago, Columbia College, and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have formed a coalition called Solidarity Street that aims to abolish policing on campus.

The group (says) “Cops aren’t workers and the city needed to stop negotiating with them years ago. August 1st we’re demanding y’all cut ties and divest from this white supremacist cult sooner rather than later,” one Instagram caption reads.

In another post, the group argued that cops only exist to defend wealthy Americans. “Cops are not workers. A worker is someone that sells their labor to make ends meet. Cops do not do this,” the post reads. “They defend the interests and property of the wealthy. Cops do not need a pay raise. They need to be defunded. They are the armed wing of the American capitalist state.”

In a statement, Chicago Police Department Supt. David Brown said that they will continue their efforts to reduce violence in the area.

If you can read this without laughing, or conversely, shedding a few tears, these are the students that are the future of our beloved country. It seems that a surprising number of our citizens are going to have to learn about police and policing the hard way. When they are getting beaten to a pulp by someone who wants their smart phone and their money, or when someone is breaking into their house, and they are frantically trying to call 911 with no response, and no one comes to their rescue.

California, it is reported today, is releasing almost 18,000 prison inmates including a convicted murderer, because of the Covid virus.  Almost 8,000 inmates have been sickened by the virus, and eight have died. So let them out to spread it around?

There is way too much talk about “White Supremacy” today. There are significantly more white people in America than those of other races. The population of the U.S in 2000 was 393,745,538 at the time of the 2000 census. 196,817,552 or 63.7% were white.  37,685,848 or 12.2% were black. 14.465.164 or 3.6% were Asian. 50,477,694 or 12.5% were Hispanic, and 2,247,058 or 1.9% were American Indian or Alaska Native. Efforts to make sure that everybody is included have been continuous, with varying degrees of success. There are undoubtedly many people in charge of something or other who are white, and organizations that do not include a representative of a particular race.

I have read statements by many members of Congress, presidents of one organization or another, some of them fairly stupid, and many embarrassing. Should we test for IQ, historical knowledge, legal understanding, and basic common sense before allowing anyone to run for an important position? We’re stuck with ordinary human beings, fallible as they are, and we need to be generous or demand changes as the case may be.

Here in Seattle, it is apparently getting too expensive to “peacefully protest”. Protesters have, if I understand the radio correctly, filed a lawsuit to require the county to outfit them in protective gear to protect then from the depredations of the police in their protective gear so they can “peacefully protest” as is their constitutional right. (told you that was where this was going).

I have written previously about the Seattle City Council’s effort to defund the police and turn over the policing function to a “civilian-led department of community safety & violence prevention”.

Carmen Best is the first Black Woman Police Chief in the United States, and she has done a fabulous job, it is widely agreed. She dared to speak out about the City Council’s error in the civilian-led nonsense, and the City Council just decided to defund her. They reduced her salary by about $100,000. Don’t know how this will all play out, but Chief Best deserves far better.The Seattle City Council is an embarrassment.

People are out of work, cooped up at home, chafing at being confined, masks, shutdowns, and doing without the things they need. Elected officials are required to step up and do what needs to be done. A surprising number have demonstrated that they are not only not capable of doing so, but some of the most notable are making a mess of it all too.

ADDENDUM: I apparently messed up with my numbers here. The U.S. population in 2000 was 281,421,906. In 2010, it had increased to 309,349,689. I went to the U.S. Census Bureau for the numbers. And they reminded us that if you have not yet answered the census, do it now. You can do it online, only a few simple questions.  Thanks to reader Counter for catching my error.




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