Krugman sez: Debt non-explosion

August 31, 2011

Radio filled with talk about “the debt explosion?

Not so, Krugman’s charts say:

August 31, 2011, 6:36 pm

The Debt Non-Explosion

A conversation I had earlier today suggested that it might be worth pointing out a fact that isn’t as widely known as it should be: namely, that there has not been an explosion in debt over the past few years. There has been a big rise in federal debt, but this has gone along with a collapse in private borrowing, so that overall debt growth has been lower than it was in the pre-crisis years:

Source.

Bear this in mind when someone starts ranting about hyperinflation just around the corner thanks to explosive debt growth.

Which suggests, once again, that it will be up to the government to do the economy growing.  It’s not a question of whether we think, philosophically, that government should be the main driver of economic expansion.  It’s a question of, what do you do when private business is sitting on $1.5 trillion in cash instead of hiring, and businesses who lack the cash are not borrowing to hire either, despite record low interest rates?

Under these conditions, it might be considered unpatriotic NOT to support a massive stimulus program, yes?

Didn’t anybody take high school economics?


Education spending = increased wealth in the nation?

August 29, 2011

From The Condition of Education 2011, Indicator 38, Education Expenditures by Country.

A country’s wealth (defined as GDP per capita) is
positively associated with expenditures per student
on education at the combined elementary/secondary
level and at the postsecondary level. For example, the
education expenditures per student (both elementary/
secondary and postsecondary) for each of the 10 OECD
countries with the highest GDP per capita in 2007 were
higher than the OECD average expenditures per student.
The expenditures per student for the 10 OECD countries
with the lowest GDP per capita were below the OECD
average at both the elementary/secondary level and at the
postsecondary level.

Per pupil spending in the U.S. is inflated in these comparisons because it includes per pupil expenditures for college.  One might make a case that this spending could be reduced and efficiency maintained were investment in elementary and secondary education increased and made more effective.

Chiefly, here we should note that spending more on education correlates with a nation’s wealth — the more a nation spend, the wealthier it is, and vice versa.  This applies in the developed nations measured by the Organization for Economic Development, anyway.

In short:  We cut education spending at our national peril.

More data on this measure here.  Other indicators, and the complete text of the Condition of Education 2011, here.

Conflict of interest statement:  My office published these reports in my time at the Office of Educational Research and Improvement; I have no affiliation with these data any  more.


Quote of the moment: Diane Ravitch, history won’t be kind to those who attacked teachers

August 29, 2011

Attacking Teachers Attacks My Future

"Attacking Teachers Attacks My Future" sign carried by students supporting teachers at the Wisconsin Capitol Building, February 16, 2011. Photo by BlueRobot, Ron Chandenais

Of one thing I feel sure—history will not be kind to those who gleefully attacked teachers, sought to fire them based on inaccurate measures, and worked zealously to reduce their status and compensation. It will not admire the effort to insert business values into the work of educating children and shaping their minds, dreams, and character. It will not forgive those who forgot the civic, democratic purposes of our schools nor those who chipped away at the public square. Nor will it speak well of those who put the quest for gain over the needs of children. Nor will it lionize those who worshipped data and believed passionately in carrots and sticks. Those who will live forever in the minds of future generations are the ones who stood up against the powerful on behalf of children, who demanded that every child receive the best possible education, the education that the most fortunate parents would want for their own children.

Now is a time to speak and act. Now is a time to think about how we will one day be judged. Not by test scores, not by data, but by the consequences of our actions.

Diane Ravitch, writing at Bridging Differences, a blog of EdWeek, June 28, 2011

See more photos from Ron Chandenais, here.


Christie’s Auctions: Astonishing Pair of Matching Singing Bird Pistols

August 28, 2011

Aurel Bacs, International Head of the Watch Department, shares his passion and knowledge of the only known matching pair of gold and enamel singing bird pistols, to be offered at Christie’s Hong Kong Important Watches sale on 30 May 2011.

This is the only known pair of matching singing bird pistols, thought to have been created by Frères Rochat, a Swiss watch, toy and machine maker.  Several people have sent me links and alerts to this video over the past several weeks — it’s worth seeing, just to admire the craftsmanship, and inventiveness required to make these things.

Christie’s Auctions: The Only Pair of Matching…, posted with vodpod

Bloomberg News reported the pistols fetched a price of $5.8 million at the sale on May 30.  The purchaser’s name was not reported, but a Bacs said it was an “epic bidding war” between two of the most ardent collectors of such treasures.

Will these pieces be seen in public again in our lifetimes?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Gil Brassard, and others.


How deep is the stupid in Tea Party and among their fellow travelers?

August 28, 2011

Barack Obama has managed to tack on a bit over a trillion dollars to the national debt, mostly in a successful effort to keep the U.S. and the world from plunging into a Greater Depression.  We haven’t shaken off the harmful effects of the Republican assault on capitalism during the previous years’ assaults on the Constitution, science, education and other American institutions.

But in the alternate universe of conservative thought, Obama’s put $15 trillion in new debts on the books.  Being off by a factor of 10 to 15 is an accomplishment worthy of someone wholly unconnected with reality.  That would be Victor Davis Hanson in this case.  Not sure why, but some search took me to a blog called The Clue Batting Cage — batting away clues to reality is a sport to them, I suppose.  There I found this post:

Here’s some excellent wording from Victor Davis Hanson.

Despite nearly $15 trillion in federal debt, the administration apparently wants to defy the rules of logic and do more of what made things worse in the first place, under the euphemism of “investments.” American popular culture has coined all sorts of proverbial warnings about such mindless devotion to destructive rote: “Don’t flog a dead horse,” “If you are in a hole, stop digging,” and “Insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.”

No matter: The administration still adheres to the logical fallacy that the toxic medicine cannot be proven to be useless or harmful, because there was supposedly never enough of it given. And the proof is that the worsening patient is still not quite dead.
:
That there is never enough spending is a seductive fallacy because it never requires any empirical proof: If millions of those supported by the state have lost their self-reliance and self-initiative, perhaps it is because millions supported by the state were not supported well enough, and so in response, some resorted to stealing things they could not afford.

How many others could possibly be with these yahoos, looking through the telescope backwards?

Looking through a telescope the wrong way

Looking through a telescope the wrong way

Here’s what I posted in comments:

It’s difficult to reconcile the idea of someone who recommends Bob Park’s blog, and approves of Victor Hanson’s blather at the same time.

But then I look closer. You missed the boat completely. You didn’t even recommend the right Bob Park, but some imposter named Parks. You missed reality by one letter.

Reality is not an opinion, not that I expect you’ll ever change your opinion on that.

Lay off of Morgan’s blog for a while, maybe read some science or something. You may not feel better in the morning, but soon, and for the rest of your life.

9:38 PM

Delete

The author complains that my comments are too acid, and that the National Science Foundation is a “government site.”

If you call a private foundation the government supports, independent from the government by design to keep its advice unbiased, does that make it a government site?

Or is it still a four-legged calf?

A wise person said that you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t get to by reason in the first place.  That’s the problem with the Tea Party in the first place.  It’s also the problem in the second place, and the third place, and on all issues.

To the Tea Party mindset, they are all five-legged dogs.

Tea Party's five-legged dog, by Esther Derby.com

Tea Party's five-legged dog, by Esther Derby.com


OK Go! and Muppets!

August 28, 2011

Together!  OK Go and the Muppets:

Oh, if only this meant the Muppet Show was coming back.


I get e-mail from MI-6 (a hoax, no doubt)

August 28, 2011

How many different forms can this scam take?   Is anyone taken in by it anymore?

FUND BENEFIT (LIAISON OF BRITISH GOVERNMENT)
From:
BRITISH SECRET INTELLIGENCE SERVICE (MI6) LONDON. <sis@ukgov.uk>
To: edarrell@obladeeobladah.uk.org

Office of the British Secret Intelligence Service Mi6
P.O Box 1300,Vauxhall – London SE1 1BD – United Kingdom.
Website: http://www.sis.gov.uk/output/sis-home-welcome.html
S.I.S Ref: LN/mi6/SIS/XX027

Dear Beneficiary,

BRITISH JURISDICTIONAL FUND LETTER:

As Britain’s Secret Intelligence Service (SIS) also known as Mi6, SIS provides the British Government with a global covert capability to promote and defend the national security and economic well-being of the United Kingdom. Regional instability, Financial Frauds, terrorism, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction and illegal narcotics are among the major challenges of the 21st century. SIS assists the government to meet these challenges. To do this effectively SIS must protect the secrets of its sources and methods.

http://www.sis.gov.uk/output/sis-home-welcome.html

In regards to Legislation and accountability, SIS like other British intelligence and security agencies, is subject to parliamentary, ministerial, judicial and financial oversight. Oversight is based on two pieces of UK legislation, the intelligence services Act 1994 (I.S.A) and the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000 (R.I.P.A).

With notice, SIS has litigated a group of apprehended UK-based multimillionaire financial fraudsters who dubiously perpetrated fraudulent acts with first degree ulterior motives against you through your e-mail over the internet in the United Kingdom.

By court order, prior to 12 years prison sentence charged upon them by the Lord Chief Justice and President of the Courts of England and Wales (R.H, The Lord Judge: Igor Judge, Baron Judge), the culprits were placed on a bail by way of compensation to you in a sum of 2,350,000 (Two million, three hundred and fifty thousand British Pounds Sterling) in lieu of British International Fundamental Human Rights Ordinances of 1997, of which your benefited fund has been brought in cash to our Head Office by the culprits’ Legal councils prior to their inception of jail term.

Click on your ”REPLY” to contact the British Secret Intelligence (MI6) Chief of Operations indicating your names, phone contact, age, current residential address & a valid identity card.

Caution: Do not recopy this letter or publicize the above Britain’s secret agent or the secret email identity above. For SIS diligence & effectiveness, it must protect the secrets of its sources & methods.

The Management,
British Secret Intelligence Service
London, United Kingdom.

You gotta wonder what these guys would do if they thought anyone would publicize their letter, say, like posting it on a blog.  If it were important to keep it secret, you can imagine how the letter-writer might fear that someone from MI-6 would learn what the letter-writer did, and come after him.  I mean, what e-mail scammer could stand up to MI-6?


Propaganda posters: J. C. Leyendecker’s Uncle Sam at bat

August 28, 2011

 

Get in the game with Uncle Sam, WWI poster by J. C. Leyendecker, Museum of Play image

“Get in the Game with Uncle Sam” poster from World War I, by J. C. Leyendecker — image from National Museum of Play

No matter how much the Texas State Board of Education wishes to run away from America’s heritage, we can’t.

Nor should we want to.

Propaganda is not a bad word.  There is bad propaganda, stuff that doesn’t work.  There is propaganda for bad purposes, stuff that promotes bad policies, or evil.  But good propaganda is stronger, long-lasting, often full of great artistic merit, and instructive.

Images of Uncle Sam provide clear pictures of what Americans were thinking, from the oldest versions to today.

This poster above is a World War I poster designed to convince Americans to get involved in the war effort.  J. C. Leyendecker, a noted illustrator, casts Uncle Sam as a baseball player up to bat.  The poster says simply, “Get in the game with Uncle Sam.”  Perhaps uniquely, this poster showed Sam in yellow-striped pants, instead of the more traditional red-striped.  Could an artist take such liberty today?

Nicolas Ricketts at the Strong Museum of National Play offered a good, concise description of the politics and history of the poster at the blog for the Museum:

Meanwhile, then-president Woodrow Wilson, who had won reelection in 1916 on an anti-war platform, faced the need for American participation in the terrible “Great War” raging in Europe. He and his cabinet knew that American involvement loomed. But how could the government convince the American public that this was necessary? One idea was to create a poster that urged Americans to metaphorically “Get in the Game,” along with their patriotic national symbol, Uncle Sam.

Artist J. C. Leyendecker (1874-1951) designed the poster, commissioned by the Publicity Committee of the Citizens Preparedness Association, a pro-war organization with federal support which also sponsored “preparedness parades” and other nationalistic activities. Leyendecker himself emigrated from Germany at age eight and was approaching the pinnacle of his career in 1917 when he created this work.

The poster just preceded James Montgomery Flagg’s famous “I Want You” image of Uncle Sam, which later became the best-known likeness of the country’s unofficial symbol. Leyendecker’s version, in spite of his baseball bat, is possibly less affable to contemporary eyes than Flagg’s friendlier Sam. But the bat he holds connected him to many Americans, who perhaps then decided that America should “get in the game.”

Some of this older propaganda had a humorous twist I think is too often missing from modern posters.  It was more effective for that, I think.

The image of Sam at bat shows up in many places in the internet world, but most often stripped of its identifying links to Leyendecker.  That does disservice to the art, to history, and to Leyendecker, who was one of our nation’s better illustrators for a very long time.

Visit the National Museum of Play in Rochester, New York.

 


Boston University: Writing history, a guide

August 26, 2011

AP history classes worry about writing more than most history classes.  But we really should do more writing in history class, both as a tool to learn about history in the past, and as an exercise in actually writing history.

Searching for something else, I stumbled on a guide published by thBoston University’s Department of History.  It’s not dull at all, but lively, and therefore quite useful, even though it starts out in French:

Raison d’être

Good, clear writing is, for most historians and professional writers, more of a process than a God-given talent. It begins with a blank piece of paper (or computer screen) and ends with a clearly organized and persuasive argument
in the form of a research paper, a published article, or a book manuscript.

History as a discipline is in its essence the discovery and interpretation of signs of the past as well as conventions of how to cite such evidence. It thus combines research (the search for historical evidence) and the organization of data into a convincing argument. Historical writing is one variety of written expression which seeks to inform and persuade the reader through the use of evidence organized around a central thesis or argument.  Good historical writing is not merely description, though it may employ illustrations and appeals to the reader’s imagination.

AP history teachers may find it useful for their classes.  Students working on National History Day projects may find it useful.  You may find it fun to read.  Check it out:  Boston University Department of History Writing Guide (in .pdf).


Ronald Banks: Keep EPA’s regulation

August 26, 2011

In a letter to the editor of the Leavenworth (Kansas) Times, July 11, 2011, Ronald Banks makes the case simply, succintly and quite accurately, for keeping regulatory agencies that protect our health and the environment:

Ronald Banks
Leavenworth

To the editor:

As an independent, I often find my political opinions “between a rock and a hard place.”

A big concern is cutting or defunding programs or agencies to save money. I can’t say much about SEC, FDA, or any other alphabet agency, except the EPA. As a retired Registered Environmental Manager, I have some experience dealing with those pesky, business-busting regulations.

I would like to persuade the spending hawks to reflect on why the regulations were enacted in the first place. Pesticides were abused and found in our water, air and accumulated in our food as described in the seminal 1962 book, “Silent Spring” by Rachel Carson.  Hazardous waste dumps were uncovered at Love Canal.

A dump site was also found in Leavenworth.  Water contamination as shown in the movie, “Erin Brokovich,” from PG&E plants in California; not to mention BP’s oil spill.  E. coli bacterial contamination in hamburger, produce and water, lead in paint, smog/particulate smoke in the air, acid rain, constant oil/gas/ diesel spills on land and sea, have been caused by ironical business cost-cutting on environmental compliance.

Just today I learned Massey Energy compromised safety in its coal mine accident that killed 29 workers.

Don’t get me wrong, I know environmental up-keep is expensive; but it is a public good that must be placed in the fixed costs of a business.

It is not that this information is not known to be true, most would agree they want safe water, air and food. Maybe a reason is in our own psychology? I have recently learned in the latest “Scientific American Mind” that a study by psychologist Ullrich Ecker showed that “our memory is constantly connecting new facts to old and tying different aspects of a situation together, so that we may still unconsciously draw on facts we know to be wrong to make decisions later,” (p12).

In a more political way we also like to see the other party hurt, it feels so good that the feeling unifies a party, even if it hurts us all. As long as the EPA is cut and you are passionate for the cuts factual consequences of the cuts and the emotional consolidation of cheer-leading, may overshadow the good of not cutting.  Remember, cuts at the top filter down to our state, county and city; our water, air and food.

Face it. If there isn’t someone guarding the environment, we won’t have a safe and clean environment.

So, what I have said above will be a “hard sell” no matter how good my argument. Let’s not jeopardize the nation’s health for lobbied cost-cutting budgetary reasons.

Copyright 2011 Leavenworth Times. Some rights reserved

Do you agree?


2nd day of school in Dallas: Student asks, “Do you believe in me?”

August 23, 2011

It’s the second day of classes here in the Dallas Independent School District (Dallas ISD, or DISD).  Already we experience great trials from the loss of funding across the board in Texas education, as Gov. Rick Perry encouraged the state legislature to cut more than $4 billion from schools.  Cuts will be larger next fall.

At Molina High School we have about 25% more students, with 10% fewer teachers.  Classes strain the seams of the school — classrooms are crowded, desks and chairs are in short supply.  Computers promised for teachers, supposed to be delivered eight months ago, still are not delivered.  Printers, printing supplies, and paper, stand in conservation mode.  There are so few technical support people that those few new computers delivered often are not set up to operate yet.

Teachers need encouragement.  Here’s a bit of it.

What follows is mostly encore post, from 2008.

_____________

Taylor Mali is one of my usual suspects for inspiring teachers. He does a great job, with just a tinge of profanity (appropriately placed, many teachers argue – if they ask for it, you have to give it to them).

This year’s inspiration for Dallas teachers comes from Dalton Sherman, a fifth grader at Charles Rice Learning Center. Here’s a YouTube video of the presentation about 20,000 of us watched last Wednesday, a small point that redeemed the annual “convocation” exercise, for 2008:

Sherman’s presentation rescued what had been shaping up as another day of rah-rah imprecations to teachers who badly wanted, and in my case needed, to be spending time putting classrooms together.

(By the way, at the start of his presentation, you can see several people leap to their feet in the first row — Mom, Dad, and older brother. Nice built-in cheering section.)

Staff at DISD headquarters put the speech together for Dalton to memorize, and he worked over the summer to get it down. This background is wonderfully encouraging.

First, it makes a statement that DISD officials learn from mistakes. Last year the keynote was given by a speaker out of central casting’s “classic motivational speaker” reserves. As one teacher described it to me before the fete last Wednesday, “It was a real beating.”

Second, DISD’s planning ahead to pull this off suggests someone is looking a little bit down the road. This was a four or five month exercise for a less-than-10 minute presentation. It’s nice to know someone’s looking ahead at all.

Third, the cynical teachers gave Dalton Sherman a warm standing ovation. That it was delivered by a 10-year-old kids from DISD made a strong symbol. But the content was what hooked the teachers. Superintendent Michael Hinojosa provided a death-by-PowerPoint presentation leading up to the speech, one that was probably not designed solely as contrasting lead in. In other words, Dalton Sherman’s speech demonstrated as nothing else the district has done lately that someone downtown understands that the teachers count, the foot soldiers in our war on ignorance and jihad for progress.

The kids came back Monday, bless ‘em. School’s in session, to anyone paying attention.

Resources:

Read the rest of this entry »


Sideshow of DDT and malaria

August 23, 2011

Not exactly a DDT/Malaria carnival.  Just enough for a sideshow.

First, the controversy over use of DDT in Uganda continues, even as DDT is applied daily there.  This demonstrates that DDT remains freely available for use in Africa.  It also demonstrates that Africans are not clamoring for more DDT.

Uganda offers a key proving ground for the propaganda campaign against environmentalists, against scientist, against medical care officials, and for DDT.  Though malaria plagues Uganda today and has done so for the past 200 years at least, it was not a target of the World Health Organization’s (WHO) campaign to eradicate malaria in the 1950s and 1960s, because the nation lacked the governmental structures to mount an effective campaign.  DDT was used to temporarily knock down mosquito populations, so that medical care could be improved quickly and malaria cured among humans.  Then, when the mosquitoes came roaring back as they always do with DDT, there would be no pool of the disease in humans from which the mosquitoes could get infected.  End of malaria problem.

Plus, for a too-long period of time, Uganda was ruled by the brutal dictator Idi Amin.  No serious anti-malaria campaigns could be conducted there, then.

Uganda today exports cotton and tobacco.  Cotton and tobacco interests claim they cannot allow any DDT use, because, they claim, European Union rules would then require that the tobacco and cotton imports be banned from Europe.  I can’t find any rules that require such a ban, and there are precious few incidents that suggest trace DDT residues would be a problem, but this idea contributes to the political turmoil in Uganda.  Businessmen there sued to stop the use of even the small amounts of DDT used for indoor residual spraying (IRS) in modern campaigns.  They lost.  DDT use continues in Uganda, with no evidence that more DDT would help a whit.

Malaria campaign posters from World War II, South Pacific - Mother Jones compilation

Much of the anti-malaria campaign aimed at soldiers, to convince them to use Atabrine, a preventive drug, or to use nets, or just to stay covered up at night, to prevent mosquito bites. Mother Jones compilation of posters and photos.

Second, the website for Mother Jones magazine includes a wonderful 12-slide presentation on DDT in history.  Malaria took out U.S. troops more effectively than the Japanese in some assaults in World War II.  DDT appeared to be a truly great miracle when it was used on some South Pacific islands.  Particularly interesting are the posters trying to get soldiers to help prevent the disease, some done by the World War II-ubiquitous Dr. Seuss.  Good history, there.  Warning:  Portrayals of Japanese are racist by post-War standards.

Third, a new book takes a look at the modern campaigns against malaria, those that use tactics other than DDT.  These campaigns have produced good results, leading some to hope for control of malaria, and leading Bill Gates, one of the biggest investors in anti-malaria campaigns, to kindle hopes of malaria eradication again.  Here is the New York Times  review of  Alex Perry’s Lifeblood: How to Change the World One Dead Mosquito at a Time (PublicAffairs, $25.99).   Perry is chief Africa correspondent for Time Magazine.

This little gem of a book heartens the reader by showing how eagerly an array of American billionaires, including Bill Gates and the New Jersey investor Ray Chambers (the book’s protagonist), are using concepts of efficient management to improve the rest of the world. “Lifeblood” nominally chronicles the global effort to eradicate malaria, but it is really about changes that Mr. Chambers, Mr. Gates and others are bringing to the chronically mismanaged system of foreign aid, especially in Africa.

These three snippets of reporting, snapshots of the worldwide war on malaria, all diverge dramatically from the usual false claims we see that, but for ‘environmentalist’s unholy and unjust war on DDT,’ millions or billions of African children could have been saved from death by malaria.

The real stories are more complex, less strident, and ultimately more hopeful.


Class warfare and tax cuts for the rich

August 21, 2011

This claim that 51% of Americans don’t pay taxes — does anyone know where they fit in the economics scheme of things?

I wonder, partly because it’s mentioned over at Disaffected and It Feels So Good, and partly because in the light of what else is said over there, it’s relevant.

What is that blog saying?

The Heritage Foundation’s 2001 report proclaimed if the Bush tax cut legislation were to pass, it would:

1) Effectively pay off the federal debt;
2) Reduce the federal surplus by $1.4 trillion;
3) Substantially increase family income;
4) Save the entire Social Security surplus;
5) Increase personal savings;
6) Create more job opportunities.

Everyone of those claims did not happen and in fact the exact opposite occurred. But, what did happen was a massive transfer of wealth to the Ultra-Wealthy, which were the true goals of the Bush Tax Cuts.

Be sure to see the clip from Jon Stewart’s program about how America’s poor are really rich, and we could balance the budget on that demographic alone.

Who pays taxes, and is it fair?  Odd to me that the assumption is it’s the poor who don’t pay taxes, and that it’s unfair to the rich because the poor are living so high on the hog.

Evidence, anyone?


Hey Obama: Defend the social safety net, win big in 2012

August 20, 2011

Historian Rick Perlstein told Chris Matthews on MSNBC’s Hardball that President Obama needs to go powerfully on the defensive, defending the social safety net Republicans are working hard to shred.

You’ll note Matthews opened up the discussion showing FDR’s defense of Social Security from 1936, the same one carried here at the bathtub a few weeks ago.

Good advice, I think.  I hope Obama and his advisors pay attention.

(You can watch it at Hardball’s site, here — better quality video.)

One of the triggers of this piece was Perlstein’s article in Time Magaizine’s Swampland, “How Democrats Win:  Defending the Social Safety Net.” 

Tip of the old scrub brush to Harold Pollack at the Reality-based Community.


Bill Clinton: Want a good economy? Gotta have good, working government

August 19, 2011

Talking Points Memo billed it as a dig at Rick Perry’s not-grounded campaign platform, but we’d all do well to listen to former President Bill Clinton’s larger point here:  A good economy for a great nation requires a good, working government, regulations and all.

The video came from Azi Paybarah, attending Monday’s breakfast of the International Association of Firefighters convention in New York City, via Politicker NY, from The Observer.


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