Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Attorney Tom Cryer Wins Against the IRS

July 13, 2007
By Loresha Wilson

A Shreveport attorney who has challenged the government for years on the legality of filing federal income taxes has been acquitted on charges he failed to file returns.

A federal jury unanimously found Tommy Cryer not guilty this week on two misdemeanor counts of failure to file.

And according to Cryer, the prosecution dismissed two felony charges of tax evasion prior to trial.

Attempts by The Times on Thursday to reach U.S. Attorney Donald Washington or Bill Flanagan, first assistant U.S. attorney, were not successful. Calls made to the two were not immediately returned.

"The court could not find a law that makes me liable or makes my revenues taxable," Cryer said. "The Supreme Court has ruled that the government cannot impose an income tax on anything but the profits and gains. When you work for someone you give your service and labor in exchange for money, so everything you make is not profit or gain. You put something into it."

Cryer was indicted last year on two counts of tax evasion. The indictment alleged he evaded payment of $73,000 in income tax to the Internal Revenue Service during 2000 and 2001.

Cryer created a trust listing himself as the trustee, and received payments of dividends, interest and stock income to that trust, according to the indictment. He also was accused of concealing his receipt of the sources of income from the IRS by failing to file a tax return on behalf of that trust.

"I determined that my personal earnings were not 100 percent profits, some were income," Cryer said. "I refuse to file, I refuse to pay unless they can show me I have a lawful reason to pay."

"What I earned was my own personal labor. I am giving something in exchange. I'm giving my property and I don't belong to anyone else."

Cryer says he stopped filing returns more than 10 years ago after he investigated claims that income tax was a sham. He contends the law doesn't actually tax personal earning.

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Sunday, July 29, 2007

Eight Americans graduate from free Cuban medical school

HAVANA (AP) — Eight Americans who graduated from a Cuban medical school say they will put the education paid for by Fidel Castro's communist government to use in hospitals back home.
Four New Yorkers, three Californians and a Minnesotan, all from minority backgrounds, have studied in Havana since April 2001, forming the first class of American graduates from the Latin American School of Medicine.

One other American previously graduated from the school after transferring from a U.S. university, but the six women and two men graduating Tuesday were the first Americans to complete the entire six-year program since Castro offered the free medical training to U.S. students. The offer followed a meeting a delegation from the U.S. Congressional Black Caucus.

The students said that much of what they learned in Cuba matched the curriculum at American medical schools, but that instructors here placed a special emphasis on preventative care.

"I will be heading back to the United States with a great advantage over the American students who have stayed there," said Wing Wu, from Minneapolis, Minnesota.

"I've learned that medicine is not a business, it's social, it's humane," said Toussaint Reynolds, a graduate from Massapequa, New York. "I will be a better doctor in the United States for it."

The 80-year-old Castro has not been seen in public since last July 31, when he announced that emergency intestinal surgery was forcing him to step down in favor of his younger brother Raul, the 76-year-old defense minister.

Vice President Carlos Lage and other top Cuban leaders attended a graduation ceremony Tuesday evening at Havana's Karl Marx theater.

Wearing white robes, the Americans were among more than 2,100 students from about 25 countries who received diplomas. More than 10,000 students now attend the Latin American School, which opened in 1999 to provide free medical training to foreign students from disadvantaged families.

Washington's 45-year-old embargo prohibits most Americans from traveling to Cuba and chokes off nearly all trade between the countries. But the U.S. State Department has not opposed the medical school program, saying American policy hopes to encourage contact between ordinary Cubans and Americans.

U.S. authorities have suggested that it is unclear whether Americans who receive Cuban medical training can meet licensing requirements in the United States. The graduates will have to pass two exams to apply for residency at American hospitals, then eventually pass a third.

But the U.S. transfer student who graduated from the Cuban school recently began his residency at a New York City hospital. His experience gave hope to Tuesday's graduating class.

"Do I think there will be prejudices against us when we go back to the States and are looking for residences? Yes, it's inevitable," said Kenya Bingham, from Alameda, Calif. "I think there will be just due to the simple fact that there are political differences between the two countries."

The students held a news conference with the Rev. Lucius Walker, leader of the U.S. non-profit Pastors for Peace. He has worked closely with the graduates. He said about 100 other Americans are currently enrolled at the Latin American School, and another 18 are starting next month.

Michael Moore's hit documentary Sicko praised Cuba's universal health care system, featuring scenes where the filmmaker brought ailing Sept. 11 rescue workers to the island for treatment.

Graduate Carmen Landau, 30, of Oakland, noted in an e-mail that chronic shortages of medicine and equipment in Cuba — much of it caused by the embargo — make health care here far more complicated than Moore's documentary suggested.

"This is a highly flawed system," Landau wrote. "After six years here I could go on and on regarding things that I think should be different."

But she also praised Sicko, saying "it may be what we need to reform a system that is broken in the United States."

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Friday, July 27, 2007

Energy-Saving Light Bulbs Could Present Danger

Energy-saving compact fluorescent light bulbs that are supposed to last 10 times longer than conventional bulbs could put your family in danger, according to a Local 6 investigation.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Google Earth helps Argentina tax man uncover fraud

Tuesday July 24, 2007

Argentina's tax authorities are using satellite images generated on the Internet by Google Earth to track down fraud, local media said Friday.

According to Buenos Aires province tax official Santiago Montoya, images of properties from the sky can help square the actual size of properties with that declared by taxpayers to make sure the proper amount of taxes is being paid, the reports said.

The online Google Earth service, which assembles detailed satellite pictures together with maps so that users can view specific locations and buildings, is also used by the Buenos Aires authorities to check if taxpayers may have expanded their homes in ways that would increase their value for taxation.

Montoya said he is waging "a real war" on fiscal deficits, and has already taken several steps to reduce the widespread tax fraud in Argentina

OBM: If the government in Argentina is doing this....Hmmmmmm....I wounder who else....and what else is Google Earth being used for????

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Friday, July 20, 2007

Bush’s latest choice of scapegoat — Hillary Clinton — boggles the Mind


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Wal-Mart Selling Jesus, Religious Action Figures

Dolls Aimed At Christian Families

POSTED: 2:58 pm EDT July 18, 2007

BENTONVILLE, Ark. -- Wal-Mart said 425 of its stores will sell Biblical action figures aimed at Christian parents who prefer their children play with Samson, David or Noah rather than with a comic book character or Bratz doll.

Wal-Mart Stores spokeswoman Melissa O'Brien said the world's largest retailer believes there's demand for faith-based toys.

The toy line will be in some Wal-Mart shelves starting in August, mainly in the Midwest and South, but also in California and as far northeast as Pennsylvania.

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Welfare Recipients in San Diego Forced To Give Up 4th Amendment

Adam Liptak
NY Times
Wednesday July 18, 2007

In San Diego, poor people who want public benefits must give up their privacy. Investigators from the district attorney's office there make unannounced visits to the homes of people applying for welfare, poking around in garbage cans, medicine chests and laundry baskets.

Applicants are not required to let the investigators in. But they get no money if they refuse.

Lawyers who have sued on behalf of the applicants say that being poor should not mean having to give up the Fourth Amendment's protection against unreasonable government searches. So far, the courts have disagreed, saying that rooting out welfare fraud justifies the searches, but not without drawing some fierce dissents.

"This situation is shameful," seven dissenting judges wrote when the full federal appeals court in San Francisco refused to rehear the case a few months ago. "This case is nothing less than an attack on the poor."

Luis Aragon, a deputy district attorney in San Diego, said the county had struck a sensible balance.

"Whenever one goes into a home," Mr. Aragon said, "of course you have to be concerned. The dilemma San Diego faced was, either you say yes to everybody or you have some verification.

"As for intrusiveness," he continued, "you probably went to college. You probably said you were a pretty good student. And they said, 'Yeah, but we want to see a transcript.' Doesn't the government have the right to some level of verification?"

I don't recall any admissions officers going through my sock drawer, but it was a long time ago and I was a distracted teenager.

The main problem, Mr. Aragon said, is the "alleged absent parent." Applicants sometimes claim to be single mothers when there is a man around the house, and investigators are on the lookout for that man.

"They're looking for boxer shorts in a drawer," said Jordan C. Budd, a law professor who represented the plaintiffs when he was legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union in San Diego. "They're looking for medicine in a man's name."

But the investigators do not limit their inquiries to potential welfare fraud. If they come across evidence of other crimes, like drug use or child abuse, they pass it along to the police and prosecutors.

The program apparently did reduce welfare fraud, or at least save money. According to the county's statistics, the denial rate for welfare applications rose to 48 percent from 41 percent over five years, and there was 4 to 5 percent increase in withdrawn applications.

The San Diego program is the most aggressive one in California and perhaps in the nation, but the recent decisions have probably given governments around the country all kinds of ideas. An earlier home-visit program, instituted in New York in 1995 by Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, was largely dismantled as part of the settlement of a lawsuit in 1997.

Lawyers for the plaintiffs in San Diego said the money the county saved was not worth the price in privacy and dignity.

"The poor are presumed guilty, presumed lazy and presumed to be trying to gain something they don't deserve," said Professor Budd, who now teaches at the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H. "It's a general poverty exception to the Fourth Amendment."

The majority in a divided three-judge panel decision last year upholding the program made two basic points. The first was that people are free to opt out - by giving up their welfare benefits.

The dissenting judge called that a false choice for an applicant desperate to feed her children.

The majority also relied on a 1971 Supreme Court decision, Wyman v. James, which upheld a New York program involving scheduled visits from social workers, not surprise searches by investigators from a prosecutor's office. The Supreme Court said the main purpose of the New York visits was "rehabilitation."

At his deposition in the case, Mr. Aragon said his office's investigators were not in the rehabilitation business.

"I'm trying to imagine what rehabilitation would be," he testified. "Get off the couch. Get a job. I don't know."

The plaintiffs have until next month to decide whether to ask the Supreme Court to hear their case. They say they have not made a final decision, which is a little surprising given the importance of the issue and the volume and vehemence of the dissents. But they may have reason to fear what the current Supreme Court would say.

One of the dissenting judges, Harry Pregerson, writing for himself and six colleagues in April, suggested one sort of argument that might be promising. He said there was a double standard at work.

"The government does not search through the closets and medicine cabinets of farmers receiving subsidies," Judge Pregerson wrote. "They do not dig through the laundry baskets and garbage pails of real estate developers or radio broadcasters."

Only the poor, he said, must "give up their rights of privacy in exchange for essential public assistance."

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Proof Bin Laden Tape Is 5-Year-Old, Re-Released Footage

Here is a screenshot from the 2002 tape (right) compared to the new tape (left). Notice the sloping mountain in the left background.

Why did IntelCenter, the middleman between "Al-Qaeda" and the media, a group that has government and Pentagon ties, re-release old footage and why did the media report it as new when it had already aired twice before?

A videotape that was heralded as "new" footage of Osama bin Laden by many quarters of the press has been conclusively proven to be more than 5 year old re-released footage, leading to questions about why the government and the media continue to act as willing propagandists for the terrorists while striking fear into Americans by claiming an attack is inevitable.

In reality, the tape was being released for the third consecutive time, having first popped up in 2002 before re-airing again in 2003. The footage of Bin Laden was filmed six years ago in October 2001.

The footage was not new and any small amount of cursory research would have verified that fact, and yet the media went full board with the story, creating the illusion that it was new, while rabid Neo-Cons lauded the tape as another reason for keeping U.S. troops in Iraq while fearmongering about upcoming terror attacks at home.

The footage first appeared in May 2002, having been released by a Pakistani security official to the Al-Ansaar Islamic news agency, based in Birmingham, England. This CBS video clip clearly shows the same footage as the apparent "new" tape.

IntelCenter issued a tacit warning that the footage may be re-hashed when they released the "new" tape to the media, but they failed to mention the fact that they released portions of the exact same clips in October 2003. The screenshots of Bin Laden which clearly correlate with the "new" tape were on their website all along, and yet they still labeled the footage as "significant". IntelCenter knew the tape was definitely old, yet their meandering uncertainty left doubts that the media exploited to the full in claiming the footage may be new.

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Monday, July 16, 2007

Banks make billions more on overdrafts

By Kathy Chu, USA TODAY

Banks are making it increasingly easy for you to overdraw your bank account. And the money they're reaping from your mistakes has likely hit a record high.

So says a new report from the Center for Responsible Lending, a consumer advocacy group. Its research shows that customers are paying $17.5 billion annually in fees for overdrawing their bank accounts, up 70% from the $10.3 billion they paid in 2004, the first time the center collected this data. The fees — assessed when banks pay for, rather than deny, an overdraft — exceed the $15.8 billion that consumers are overdrawing.

"My assumption is these are record highs," says Eric Halperin, a director at the center. "Consumers have never paid this many overdraft fees before."

Banks have long allowed you, for a small fee, to transfer money from a credit line or savings account in case you mistakenly overdraw an account. But you have to sign up for this protection.

In the late 1990s, banks began automatically covering overdrawn transactions — even if you didn't sign up for such protection. But there was a catch: They charged you a fee for doing so. These fees now average $34 per transaction, Halperin says, much steeper than the cost of the regular overdraft programs.

Banks adopted this policy because customers don't want their transactions to be denied, says Nessa Feddis of the American Bankers Association.

Does the policy provide "income to the banks? Clearly, it (does). But they're doing it to accommodate their customers," Feddis says.

Oliver Ireland of Morrison & Foerster, a law firm that consults with banks, said at a hearing Wednesday of the House Committee on Financial Services that banks allow, and charge for, these overdrafts because they don't know how "a failed transaction" will affect the customer. Still, he acknowledged that these fees can exceed "the value of the service."

Banks are making it easier for consumers to overdraw. Here's how:

•A growing number of banks are reversing their policies to deny debit card transactions when you don't have enough money in your account. Instead, they're approving these transactions and then charging you for each overdraft, the Center for Responsible Lending found. Nearly half of all overdrafts come from debit card transactions or ATM withdrawals, often for small amounts, the center says.

•Banks are increasingly clearing checks from highest to lowest dollar amount, causing consumers to overdraw more often — and to be hit with a higher total of fees, the consumer's group found.

If you have $100 in your account, for example, and you write three checks, for $15, $20 and $90, banks would clear the largest one first. You'd then be hit with two fees, rather than just the one you'd face if the bank had cleared checks from lowest to highest amount.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney, D-N.Y., has introduced a bill to require banks to get consumers' consent before covering overdrafts and to clearly disclose the fees for overdrafts.

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Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Black High School Students Charged with Attempted Murder for Schoolyard Fight After Nooses Are Hung from Tree

Last December, six black students at Jena High School were arrested after a school fight in which a white student was beaten and suffered a concussion and multiple bruises. The six black students were charged with attempted second-degree murder and conspiracy. They face up to 100 years in prison without parole. The Jena Six, as they have come to be known, range in age from 15 to 17 years old.

Just over a week ago, an all-white jury took less than two days to convict 17 year-old Mychal Bell, the first of the Jena Six to go on trial. He was convicted of aggravated battery and conspiracy charges and now faces up to 22 years in prison.

Black residents say that race has always been an issue in Jena, which is 85 percent white, and that the charges against the Jena Six are no exception.

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Artificial Sweeteners Lead to Overeating

ISLAMABAD: Consuming artificially sweetened foods and beverages may throw off your natural ability to monitor calories and increase your likelihood of overeating.

That’s the claim of a new study by two Purdue University researchers that appears in the July issue of the International Journal of Obesity.

Not surprisingly, a spokeswoman for the sweetener industry takes exception to the study, pointing out it was done only on animals and that previous research has found the use of artificial sweeteners actually helps weight-control efforts.

The research, carried out by scientists Susan Swithers and Terry Davidson, involved rats.

"What we are actually suggesting from our study is not that artificial sweeteners are going to make people gain wait," said Swithers, an associate professor of psychological sciences. "They are actually losing an unconscious ability to measure their food intake when they consume artificial sweeteners."

So if people do consume artificial sweeteners, they have to be more conscious of the calories involved when they do eat sweet things, she said.

In the first of two studies by Swithers and Davidson, two groups of rats were given two different sweet-flavored liquids. For the first group, both liquids were sweetened with natural high-calorie sweeteners so the relationship between taste and calories was consistent. For the second group, one of the two flavored liquids was artificially sweetened with saccharin, making the relationship between sweet taste and calories inconsistent.

After 10 days, the rats were allowed to eat a sweet, high-calorie, chocolate-flavored snack. The rats that had had the artificially flavored liquid were less able to compensate for the calories in the snack -- at mealtime, they ate more. The animals given artificially sweetened drinks ate about three times as many calories as those that didn’t get artificially sweetened drinks, Swithers said.

In the second study, two groups of rats were fed a high-calorie dietary supplement plus their regular food every day for 30 days. The supplements given to each group were the same in calories and nutrition; however, one group’s supplement was like thick chocolate pudding while the other was like chocolate milk.

Those given the milk gained more weight than those given the pudding-like supplement, leading the researchers to conclude that the rats were less able to estimate the calories they were eating in liquid foods than semi-solid foods. This may help explain why people who drink regular soft drinks may put on weight, the researchers said.

But the sweetener industry objects to the new research. Artificial sweeteners can play a positive role in weight loss and weight control, although "sweeteners aren’t a magic bullet," said Beth Hubrich, a dietitian. She’s also associate director of the Calorie Control Council, an international nonprofit association that represents the low-calorie and reduced-fat food and beverage industry. "But they certainly can be a useful tool."

In a formal response to the study, the council noted the small sample size of the research -- 10 rats per group -- and added that the research is "mainly speculative in nature."

"Not all rat studies are applicable to humans," Hubrich said. There is no reason to limit the use of artificial sweeteners, she added. "They’ve all been thoroughly tested. The Food and Drug Administration has approved them."

Hubrich also pointed to a study published in 1997 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition in which researchers found that the use of artificially sweetened foods not only helped with weight loss but also with long-term weight control.

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Cloned Meat on Sale 'within Two Years

Daily Mail
Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Cloned red meat could hit British supermaket shelves in just two years, according to scientists linked with Dolly the sheep.

And American authorities are expected to approve meat from offspring of cloned livestock being sold before the end of the year - without any extra labelling.

The move raises the prospect of British tourists in the US being served such meat without knowing.

"Labelling needs to be handled very carefully, as public acceptance is key to this technology," said Chris Warkup of Genesis Faraday, a governmentfunded research institute based at the Roslin Institute, where Dolly the sheep was created.

"Thousands of UK tourists will be eating cloned meat at McDonald's when they are on holiday in America within two to three years, whether they know it or not," he said.

"But there are some real consumer benefits to this. Hypothetically we could, for instance, create cows that produce more milk, live longer and are more environmentally friendly, producing less methane."

Experts plan to clone animals that are the top 0.5 per cent of breeding stock and then to farm their offspring commercially as meat. But it is likely to be two years before a full decision is made.

Professor Keith Campbell, of the University of Nottingham, who worked on the original Dolly research, said he was in favour of the cloned meat getting the go-ahead. "Cloning is just another technique. And we will not be eating cloned animals as such, but their offspring."

EU discussions over the issue have just begun and are expected to take up to two years before a decision is reached.

But animal welfare groups and food safety organisations have opposed cloning, saying it poses unnecessary risks to the animals, and humans that consume the produce.

Lord Melchett, policy chief of the Soil Association, said the prospect of cloned meat entering the food chain would "horrify" British consumers.

He said: "I cannot think of anything more likely to destroy the public's confidence in British food."

However, the pro-cloning lobby has argued that cloning could help animals develop a resistance to diseases such as foot and mouth.

Experts have said that it will be inevitable that Britons will be consuming meat from cloned animals by the end of the decade as the practice becomes more common.

• Scientists have been told to find a way to cut methane emissions from cows and sheep. Livestock account for a quarter of the harmful greenhouse gas methane released into Britain's atmosphere. Most of the gas escapes through belching so scientists must find cows a diet that causes less wind.

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Tuesday, July 10, 2007

70 Year Old US Woman Arrested Over Dry lawn

A 70-year-old US woman has been left bruised and bloody after an unexpected clash with police who came to caution her for not watering her lawn.

Trouble flared when Utah pensioner Betty Perry, 70, refused to give her name after being upbraided because her garden breached local regulations.

She says the officer hit her with handcuffs, cutting her nose, although police insist she slipped and fell.

Ms Perry said she was "distraught" after the incident.

She denied accusations she was resisting arrest, maintaining that she only turned to go inside to call her son to fix the confusing dispute.

"I tried to sit down and get away from him [the police officer]," she told Utah newspaper the Daily Herald.

"I don't know what he's doing. I said: 'What are you doing?' And he hit me with those handcuffs in my face," she said.

"He's just trying to cover his tracks, as far as I'm concerned."

Set free

The officer had judged that Ms Perry's "sadly neglected and dying landscape" breached an Orem city guideline and was attempting to issue a formal caution when the 70-year-old was injured.

She was treated in a local hospital for the cut to her nose and for other bruises before being taken to jail.

But she was let go when police realised there were "other ways" of finding out her identity without jailing her, a police spokesman said

The arresting officer has not been named but has been placed on administrative leave, he added.

Ms Perry, who says she has never had a run-in with police in the past, has been offered help by local church leaders to clean up her garden.

"I'm very distraught over all this," she said.

"I can't believe this happened. Do you ever just wish you could start your day over and it would all be different?"

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Monday, July 09, 2007

Judges OK warrantless monitoring of Web use

Privacy rules don't apply to Internet messages, court says
Bob Egelko, SAN FRANCISCO Chronicle Staff Writer
Saturday, July 7, 2007

Federal agents do not need a search warrant to monitor a suspect's computer use and determine the e-mail addresses and Web pages the suspect is contacting, a federal appeals court ruled Friday.

In a drug case from San Diego County, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco likened computer surveillance to the "pen register" devices that officers use to pinpoint the phone numbers a suspect dials, without listening to the phone calls themselves.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the use of pen registers in 1979, saying callers have no right to conceal from the government the numbers they communicate electronically to the phone companies that carry their calls.

Federal law requires court approval for a pen register. But because it is not considered a search, authorities do not need a search warrant, which would require them to show that the surveillance is likely to produce evidence of a crime.

They also do not need a wiretap order, which would require them to show that less intrusive methods of surveillance have failed or would be futile.

In Friday's ruling, the court said computer users should know that they lose privacy protections with e-mail and Web site addresses when they are communicated to the company whose equipment carries the messages.

Likewise, the court said, although the government learns what computer sites someone visited, "it does not find out the contents of the messages or the particular pages on the Web sites the person viewed."

The search is no more intrusive than officers' examination of a list of phone numbers or the outside of a mailed package, neither of which requires a warrant, Judge Raymond Fisher said in the 3-0 ruling.

Defense lawyer Michael Crowley disagreed. His client, Dennis Alba, was sentenced to 30 years in prison after being convicted of operating a laboratory in Escondido that manufactured the drug ecstasy.

Some of the evidence against Alba came from agents' tracking of his computer use. The court upheld his conviction and sentence.

Expert evidence in Alba's case showed that the Web addresses obtained by federal agents included page numbers that allowed the agents to determine what someone read online, Crowley said.

The ruling "further erodes our privacy," the attorney said. "The great political marketplace of ideas is the Internet, and the government has unbridled access to it."

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