Archive for April, 2011
30 Apr 2011

Smart Dog


Trapped for six hours in a house fire, a Belgian Malinois named Mia was able to open four doors by herself in order to find shelter in a bath tub. She survived unharmed to be reunited with her family.

Greenville (S.C.) News

2:10 video

29 Apr 2011

Royal Wedding: Hats

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Princess Beatrice Elizabeth Mary of York, elder daughter of Prince Andrew, Duke of York, and Sarah, Duchess of York, and fifth in succession to the throne, startled the world by wearing a hat that looked as if it had been designed by Dr. Seuss.

Princess Beatrice’s hat is, I’m told, the kind of thing called “a fascinator.”

The New York Times offered a slideshow featuring other ladies’ (more becoming) hats as well.

Hat tips to Walter Olson & Amy Alkon.

29 Apr 2011

Happy Verger

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Gratified that the royal wedding came off successfully, a Westminster Abbey verger turns celebratory cartwheels down the aisle.

0:33 video

Hat tip to Rafal Heydel-Mankoo.

29 Apr 2011

Bill Kristol Makes a Great Proposal

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Ryan-Rubio in 2012

Bill Kristol is perfectly right. Conservatives need to field serious candidates capable of debating the fundamental choices for this country’s future direction. 2012 is a potential watershed election in which the voters will be looking for a real alternative to deficits, inflation, and submission to national decline.

The current Republican field does not present many principled conservatives, and Sarah Palin has not, so far, demonstrated that she has the ability to debate Barack Obama and win.

There are no safe choices. And the 2008 election proves that the politics-as-usual conventional next-in-line approach to presidential nominations can be a certain recipe for failure.

Young, vigorous, and dynamic candidates have terrific voter appeal. Both Paul Ryan and Marco Rubio represent the best leadership of the Republican Party, and we should field that leadership in this time of national crisis.


James Pethokoukis, at Reuters, is also climbing on board the Ryan for President bandwagon.

It’s not just Bill Kristol, gang. There’s desire at the highest ranks of the Republican Party, according to my reporting and sources, to see House Budget Chairman Paul Ryan seek the 2012 presidential nomination. Here’s why:

1) Since Democrats are determined to hang Ryan’s bold “Path to Prosperity” budget plan around the neck of every Republican running for office in 2012, why not have its author and best salesman advocate for it directly vs. President Obama?

2) Ryan — to borrow a favorite Simon Cowell phrase — is “current.” He’s smack in the middle of budgetary and ideological clash between Democrats and Republicans and would immediately energize conservative and Tea Party activists.

3) Ryan is a strong national defense conservative, as well as pro-life.

4) Ryan is from a battleground state, Wisconsin, and a battleground region, the upper Great Lakes.

5) Ryan’s youth, vigor, likability and Jimmy Stewart persona — well, a wonky version of George Bailey — would be an immediate shorthand signal to voters that he’s a different kind of Republican. He also has a compelling life story to tell.

6) Obama suddenly and unexpectedly to Washington insiders looks beatable — by the right candidate.


Jon Ward, at HuffPo, pitched Kristol’s Ryan-Rubio trial balloon as a failure, but conceded that the idea has real appeal to some conservatives.

An attempt by conservative author Bill Kristol to excite interest in the idea of a presidential run by Republican congressman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) –- with Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) as his running mate -– fell flat with the conservative political establishment on Monday.

“Sounds like an idea my good friend Bill Kristol would float, but that is not the nominating process of the Republican Party,” said Mel Sembler, a major Republican fundraiser and businessman. “Paul Ryan has already stated he is not interested in running and Marco Rubio just got to town as senator.”

“I guess Bill Kristol will just have to stick to prognosticating,” Sembler told The Huffington Post. …

Yet a broad cross section of GOP political figures –- many of them in off-the-record conversations — echoed Sembler’s opinion, even as they sang Ryan’s praises. Some even admitted that Ryan is one of the few Republican politicians who they think could beat Obama in a debate, pointing to his exchange with Obama at last year’s health care summit.

In withholding their support, they cited Ryan’s unwillingness to jump into the 2012 presidential race, his lack of executive experience, and a strong belief that the Republican primary should proceed methodically and traditionally, without the kind of disruption that a surprise candidate would bring.

“If people want to run, let them run and subject themselves to the rigor and scrutiny of the process,” said Jim Rickards, an economic analyst who works with top GOP politicos in Washington. “This business of anointing unvetted fantasy tickets seems a bit sophomoric.”

Nonetheless, Kristol’s second try at floating a Ryan-Rubio trial balloon –- after first doing so in early January -– is just another indication of how unsettled many conservatives are with the quality, or lack thereof, on the party’s 2012 roster of potential presidential candidates. …

Despite the pessimism among the political establishment, there are small signs that Kristol’s desire for a compelling alternative to the current field -– and to the other much-discussed dark horse candidate, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey –- is catching on, at least among conservative writers.


Jennifer Rubin, at the Washington Post, agreed with Jim Pethokoukis and added that the unattractiveness of the current field of candidates required a solution

With fewer candidates than expected in the race, there is plenty of campaign talent around. (And did anyone notice how professional and effective was the ‘campaign’ to roll out his budget?) And, I suspect, that should Ryan enter the race he’d have no problem raising the needed cash.

Ryan has said he doesn’t want to run, but sometimes the question of “want to run” is a luxury. There are times when the moment presents itself, the party and the country are receptive, and there is no one else quite as compelling. Think Bill Clinton in 1992. Ryan has some time, though not much, to decide whether he wants to fill the obvious gap in the GOP field. And if party activists, insiders, Tea Partyers and operatives think Ryan is the man, then they’d better start making their wishes known.

29 Apr 2011

Quotation of the Day

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If you voted for Obama in 2008 to prove you’re not a racist, you’ll have to vote for someone else in 2012 to prove you’re not an idiot.

From Amnon.

29 Apr 2011

Low Postings


I’m afraid that my Hughesnet satellite connection was useless yesterday and today during the morning hours when I usually post. Presumably the cloudy weather and recent storms had something to do with this.

29 Apr 2011

Goldberg on the Birth Certificate

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Jonah Goldberg, in his emailed newsletter which just arrived, shares pretty much my own perspective on Obama’s birth certificate.

Frankly, I’m perfectly happy Obama released his birth certificate. I always thought that the only thing worse than the birthers being wrong would be the birthers being right.

Igniting a whacky constitutional crisis because Barack Obama spent a few weeks or months in Kenya as an infant seemed like madness to me. Throwing out the first black president in the middle of his presidency would be absurdly difficult, painful, and counterproductive in every way, dredging up a level of biliousness this country has rarely if ever seen. And at the end of the process, even if a “birther Congress” could have successfully impeached and removed the guy for being ineligible, we would have . . . President Joe Biden.

(By the way, I’ve long pondered what a Biden presidency would look like. I think the Lloyd Bridges character in Airplane! gives us a good sense of what Biden’s presidential leadership style would be.) …

I got a lot of grief from the usual types for asking why Obama dragged this out as long as he did. I still think it’s a perfectly legitimate question.

It seems to me that if there was no “there” there this whole time, the responsible thing would have been for a junior deputy assistant press secretary to release the thing over two years ago.

Think about it. Liberal surrogates in and out of the press and the administration have been saying for two years that the birthers are discrediting the Republican party. They’re racist. They’re nuts. They’re trying to tear down the president and the country with their paranoia. And yet Obama could have put the whole thing to rest with five minutes of paper shuffling. The White House only asked Hawaii for the birth certificate last week. And this was after we’d been told incessantly that Hawaii couldn’t find or couldn’t release the long-form birth certificate.

(Never mind that we never heard anything like the same level of outrage and dismay over the “truther” conspiracy theories, which A) were more widely held on the left than birtherism has been on the right and B) were far, far more repugnant. One theory held that a politician was hiding something on his birth certificate for political reasons. The other theory held that the United States government from the president down systematically planned and carried out the worst terrorist attack in American history and then successfully covered it up with the help of nearly all of our elite institutions.)

It seems to me the strategists around Obama liked it this way. They thought they could exploit the birthers the way Clinton exploited the militias. Keeping the story in the news by letting the birthers drive themselves nuts helped them. The press helped, too. Did you ever notice how whenever a Republican denounced the birthers or dismissed the issue, the press would often cast it as a tactical move to win moderates, not an act of conviction?

During the week of news coverage that Obama says was dominated by the birther issue, you were something like 35 times more likely to hear about the subject on CNN or MSNBC. Do you think those outlets framed the issue in a light favorable to the birthers or to the president? (Even now, the only media types really eager to prop up the birthers as a serious force are MSNBC hosts and their freelance producers at Media Matters & Co., who want to use the topic for guilt by association.)

Trump changed the equation. As odd as it is to me personally, Trump is a mainstream figure and his birtherism wasn’t discrediting the GOP because he’s not identified as a “real” Republican. And given the awful economy and the general pessimism out there, the birther thing had more salience culturally (which is unfortunate).

But also, Obama has been cultivating his image as the “grown-up.” The White House has been trying to position Obama as the adult in the room, above the squabbling parties. Releasing the birth certificate now and having the president denounce “silliness” and “distractions” was a great way to get that message out there.

Or at least it seemed that way. My hunch is that Americans are starting to figure who Obama really is — and the answer, as always, has nothing to do with his birth certificate.

The theory that he was born in Kenyan would have disqualified him from office on the basis of an alleged clause in a pre-1970 Naturalization Law, which apparently excluded from citizenship the child of an under-aged female American citizen by a non-American father who gave birth outside the US.

Jus sanguinis and the 14th Amendment would probably have caused such a clause to fail in a court test anyway, and Jonah Goldberg is perfectly correct in arguing that we want to remove Obama electorally, and not by a technicality in order to promote Joe Biden.

But it still makes no sense for Obama to have refused to release that long-form birth certificate.

28 Apr 2011

Now That’s Settled

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Frank Fleming has examined it and concludes that it must be real.


Tommy De Seno attempts (not very persuasively) to dispel skepticism provoked by the “layered birth certificate image” issue.

As I understand it, if you scan an image to a pdf, there are no layers. You basically get a photograph. However, if you use a software like Photoshop and change things, you get layers – the original image and the new image layered on top of one another.

Or so I thought.

I went online to read the 411 from folks who claim to know much about this sort of thing. I got lost in conversations about OCR and halos and other geeky things. All I accomplished was to become intimidated. Both sides sounded convincing, I assume because I know so little about computers that I’m easy to convince.

Before this thing gets out of control, the makers of Adobe and Photoshop need to come out with a joint statement and explain what is behind this “layered” business. Guys like me can’t figure it out.

Another point: Even if it is layered, it’s OK. What was released could be an aggregation of information from other sources of Hawaiian vital statistics, which is perfectly legitimate.


Robert Stacy McCain attempts to put the whole Birther controversy into the proper perspective.

Scarcely had the White House released President Obama’s birth certificate than the “Birther” skeptics issued statements expressing their continued doubts about other aspects of Obama’s biography. One oft-heard refrain was that the president had waited too long to release the document. Others moved on to demanding to see Obama’s academic transcripts. Donald Trump congratulated himself on having pressured the White House into finally putting an end to many months of mystery.

What will be the political impact of this? In the long term, likely none at all. Americans who don’t like Obama will continue not to like him. The president gave a sanctimonious press conference lecture — the nation was being “distracted by sideshows and carnival barkers,” he said — but Obama’s opponents have long since ceded his superlative gifts at delivering sanctimonious lectures. Where he fails is in delivering effective policies to address our nation’s manifold problems. By the time the 2012 election arrives, the Birther controversy will be long forgotten, while Obama’s failed policies will (or at least should be) front and center of the campaign debate.


And Fleming and Hayes parse the law to demonstrate that Barack Hussein Obama II, birth certificate or no birth certificate, does not meet Congress’s definition of a natural born citizen.

The ‘long form’ birth certificate that the White House released confirms that Barack Hussein Obama, Sr. was our president’s father. Obama Sr., a Kenyan by birth, was a citizen of the British Empire. While his mother, Stanley Ann Dunham, was an American citizen, his father never emigrated to the United States, or married her. … [should be: “validly married her” as Barack Obama Sr. was already married in Kenya, his marriage to Stanley Ann Dunham was bigamous and therefore invalid. — DZ]

While the definition of ‘natural born citizen’ was never made by the founding fathers, in 2008 then Senator Obama co-sponsored Senate Resolution 511 which was drafted to address the status of senator and presidential hopeful John McCain’s status as a natural born citizen, having been born in the Panama Canal Zone.

The resolution states,

    Whereas there is no evidence of the intention of the Framers or any Congress to limit the constitutional rights of children born to Americans serving in the military nor to prevent those children from serving as their country’s President;

    Whereas such limitations would be inconsistent with the purpose and intent of the `natural born Citizen’ clause of the Constitution of the United States, as evidenced by the First Congress’s own statute defining the term `natural born Citizen’;

The reference this bill makes is to,


    An Act To establish an uniform rule of naturalization
    Approved March 26 1790 US Statutes at Large Vol I pp 103 104


    …And the children of citizens of the United States that may be born beyond sea or out of the limits of the United States shall be considered as natural born citizens. Provided That the right of citizenship shall not descend to persons whose fathers have never been resident in the United States.

This distinction drawn between ‘citizen’ and ‘natural born citizen’ is at the heart of the debate over Obama’s eligibility to continue serving as the President of the United States.

It’s this issue that the members of the ‘birther’ movement should have been behind since day one, instead of concocting theories about Kenya midwives and Indonesian home births.

27 Apr 2011

Breaking News: Barack Obama Is Really a Natural Born American Citizen!

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Barack Hussein Obama II’s long-form Hawaiian Birth Certificate

Only 30 months after the November 2008 election which won him the presidency, Barack Hussein Obama II, stung by repeated criticism by Donald Trump, suddenly abandoned the dogged struggle he had fought in the courts of at least 8 states at a cost estimated to approach close to $2 million and finally released a copy of his long-form birth certificate from the state of Hawaii.

When one glances over the fabled and mysterious document, alleged recently not even to exist as a form of Hawaiian document, on the one hand, one is comforted with the knowledge that the occupant of the chief magistracy of the United States is actually apparently eligible to hold the office he currently occupies. But, on the other hand, one remains perplexed as to why he did not simply release this bland and uncontroversial document long ago.

I think the country is still due a rational explanation of why it was that the president wanted to avoid releasing this.

Nonetheless, NYM congratulates the President of the United States on this bold gesture in the direction of transparency.

Special thanks are obviously due to Mr. Donald Trump, who personally assumed the responsibility for articulating public concern and forcing the disclosure of a fundamentally significant source of data.

27 Apr 2011

Independents: “A Clueless Horde”

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Michael Kazin contemplates with horror the fundamental contradiction of American democracy: the fact that most Americans are indifferent pragmatists who care practically nothing about politics. How did he suppose liberals ever got into power in the first place?

No group in American politics gets more respect than independent voters. Pundits and reporters probe what these allegedly moderate citizens think about this issue and that candidate, major party strategists seek the golden mean of messaging that will attract independents to their camp and/or alienate them from the opposing one. Presidential nominees and aides struggle to come up with phrases and settings that will soothe or excite them. But what if millions of independents are really just a confused and clueless horde, whose interest in politics veers between the episodic and the non-existent?

That is certainly the impression one gets from dipping into the finer details of a mid-April survey of 1,000 likely, registered voters conducted by Democracy Corps. …

The results are mildly hilarious. …

Almost 50 percent agreed first with the GOP positions, and then, with those of the other party. As the pollsters observed, “[I]ndependents … move in response to the messages and attacks tested in this survey.”

To a sympathetic eye, this result might connote a pleasant openness to contrasting opinions, perhaps a desire to give each group of partisans the benefit of the doubt. But I think it demonstrates a basic thoughtlessness. At a time of economic peril, when one party wants to protect the essential structure of our limited welfare state and the other party seeks to destroy it, most independents, according to this poll, appear to be seduced by the last thing they have heard. Scariest of all, come 2012, they just might be the ones to decide the future course of the republic. …

As former Rep. Richard Gephardt once put it, only half-jokingly, “We have surveys that prove that a good portion of the American public neither consumes nor wishes to consume politics.”

Independents vote in lower numbers than do party loyalists, but, in close elections, they nearly always cast the deciding ballots. As in other recent polls, the one conducted by Democracy Corps shows President Obama in a neck-and-neck race with Mitt Romney; it finds the same result for a hypothetical contest between a generic Republican and a generic Democrat running for Congress. This means that, unless the political dynamics change fundamentally over the next 18 months, independents will be critical again in 2012.

Of course, the dynamics could change, giving one party or the other a landslide victory. But I wouldn’t count on it. Indeed, the Democracy Corps poll reveals that our next holders of state power might end up being chosen by a minority that seems to stands for very little—or, perhaps, for nothing at all.

Hat tip to Stephen Frankel.

27 Apr 2011

Australian Spider Story


Robert Pickles, who is moving back to Britain, in the Telegraph, shares an Australian spider story.

One evening last year I thought I’d play a little trick on my better half, with a plastic replica of a Huntsman spider. It was about the size of a child’s hand, complete with fangs, hair and big scary eyes. While she was watching telly, I sneaked into the bedroom, placed it on her pillow and pulled the covers over the top. I ran a bath and was happily soaking away the day’s toils when I heard a high-pitched scream. A few seconds later, the bathroom door flew open.

“Robert, you’ve got to come and see this spider.”

“Spider, what spider?”

“It’s huge, you have to come and see.”

I feigned my interest. “Yeah I’ll be out in a bit.”

“No, you have to come now. It’s on the ceiling and it’s the biggest one I’ve ever seen.”

“On the ceiling?” I grabbed my towel.

I had seen some big ones in the past, but this was the mother of them all. It was as big as an outspread hand. I stood mesmerised, in awe of the hairy beast. It looked quite capable of inflicting a good deal of pain before deftly chewing on fingers and limbs. Sometimes I would hear them in the shed, scuttling through the steel infrastructure like mice, which was a good indication of their weight and size. Other times they would hide behind the sun visor in the car and give me an unsuspecting fright. They have been known to drop onto driver’s laps and cause fatal accidents. By the look of this one, it had eaten quite a few mice itself. Its hairy body was a similar shape, size and colour. More worrying was the fact that, a) there had never been a Huntsman in the bedroom before, b) Ali had not yet seen the plastic one on her pillow, and c) maybe the real one had.

With smaller ones, I would catch and release them by plopping a glass or bowl over the top before sliding a piece of card underneath and throwing them out into the garden. This one needed a 12-bore to kill it and a Bobcat to take it away.

Ali explained that she had been lying on the bed reading a book. Harley was dozing between her legs. She noticed him looking upward with big white nervous eyes. When she looked up, she got the fright of her life. I’m just glad she noticed it before lights out.

When I showed her the plastic version on her pillow, she hit me. I had to agree that it wasn’t one of my better pranks, but it still perplexes me that as we had never seen a Huntsman in the bedroom before; had the real Huntsman seen the plastic spider and thought that he or she was in for a bit of hanky-panky? Ali thought I was talking nonsense, but I still think it was spooky and I’m convinced something weird happened that night.

Huntsmen spiders are representatives of the family Sparassoidea which has numerous individual species. They are very fast and do bite, but (unlike certain other Australian spiders) their bites are not lethal.

A lady finds one in her shower

26 Apr 2011

No Representation Against Left-Wing Causes

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Demonstrators outside King & Spalding offices.

John Hinderaker was appalled at the way the leading Atlanta law firm King & Spalding‘s caved in to pressure.

One of the saddest stories in the news today is King & Spalding’s withdrawal, after only a week, from its representation of the U.S. House of Representatives in connection with the Defense of Marriage Act.

In February, Barack Obama’s Department of Justice announced that it would not carry out its constitutional and statutory duty of defending the Defense of Marriage Act in federal court. This itself was disgraceful: DOMA was passed by the House and the Senate and signed into law by President Clinton. No administration should abandon the defense of a properly enacted statute that is, at a bare minimum, arguably constitutional, simply because the political winds have shifted. (DOJ did defend the act in 2009.)

After DOJ stopped defending the act, the House of Representatives retained former Solicitor General Paul Clement, a partner in King & Spalding, to represent it in upholding the constitutionality of DOMA. Predictably, this enraged certain homosexual activists:

    Before the firm announced its withdrawal, Human Rights Campaign and Equality Georgia were planning a protest Tuesday morning at King & Spalding’s offices in Atlanta. In addition, a full-page ad denouncing the firm was set to run Tuesday morning in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, one person familiar with the plan said.

King & Spalding promptly folded. ..

The law firm’s action was unusual, to say the least. No doubt there is precedent for a law firm abandoning a client because it comes under political pressure, but I can’t think of one offhand. Most lawyers think they are made of sterner stuff than that.

Clement, outraged, resigned from King & Spalding and fired off a letter to the firm’s management:

    “I resign out of the firmly held belief that a representation should not be abandoned because the client’s legal position is extremely unpopular in certain quarters. Defending unpopular clients is what lawyers do,” Clement wrote to Hays. “I recognized from the outset that this statute implicates very sensitive issues that prompt strong views on both sides. But having undertaken the representation, I believe there is no honorable course for me but to complete it.

    “Efforts to delegitimize any representation for one side of a legal controversy are a profound threat to the rule of law. If there were problems with the firm’s vetting process, we should fix the vetting process, not drop the representation.”

As Clement noted, defense of DOMA is “extremely unpopular in certain quarters.” But lawyers represent unpopular clients and unpopular causes all the time. Many of America’s most prominent law firms lined up to represent terrorists, including those associated with the September 11 attacks, in various legal proceedings. On the left, it is apparently fine to advocate for mass murderers, but not for the House of Representatives or the traditional definition of marriage.


Greg Sargent, in the Washington Post, talked to the spokesman of the group responsible, who was gloating over a successful intimidation job.

I just got off the phone with the Human Rights Campaign, the gay advocacy group that’s in the right’s crosshairs. The group’s response, in a nutshell: Deal with it. …

Far from being abashed about this campaign, Fred Sainz, a spokesman for the Human Rights Campaign, shared new details about it. He confirmed to me that his group did indeed contact King and Spalding clients to let them know that the group viewed the firm’s defense of DOMA as unacceptable.

Sainz said his group did not ask any of the firm’s clients to drop the firm in retaliation for taking the case, as is being assumed by conservatives who are alleging an untoward pressure campaign. Rather, he said, his group informed the firm’s clients that taking the case was out of sync with King and Spalding’s commitment to diversity, which it proudly advertises on its Web site.

“King and Spalding’s clients are listed on its web site, so we did what you would expect us to do,” Sainz told me. “We are an advocacy firm that is dedicated to improving the lives of gays and lesbians. It is incumbent on us to launch a full-throated educational campaign so firms know that these kinds of engagements will reflect on the way your clients and law school recruits think of your firm.”

“We did all of this, and we’re proud to have done it,” added Sainz.


Jennifer Rubin identifies the key hypocrisy.

It is worth recalling the passionate words of an all-star lineup from the Brookings Institution when some conservatives objected to the Justice Department employing lawyers who represented detainees:

    Such attacks also undermine the Justice system more broadly. In terrorism detentions and trials alike, defense lawyers are playing, and will continue to play, a key role. Whether one believes in trial by military commission or in federal court, detainees will have access to counsel. Guantanamo detainees likewise have access to lawyers for purposes of habeas review, and the reach of that habeas corpus could eventually extend beyond this population. Good defense counsel is thus key to ensuring that military commissions, federal juries, and federal judges have access to the best arguments and most rigorous factual presentations before making crucial decisions that affect both national security and paramount liberty interests.

    To delegitimize the role detainee counsel play is to demand adjudications and policymaking stripped of a full record. Whatever systems America develops to handle difficult detention questions will rely, at least some of the time, on an aggressive defense bar; those who take up that function do a service to the system.

But, you see, the rules are entirely different when the principle at issue is a pet position of the left.

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