The Constitution, though it dates from the founding of the Republic, has powerful meaning and vital relevance to our own times. The constitutional protections that this case involves are protections of structure. Structural protections—notably, the restraints imposed by federalism and separation of powers—are less romantic and have less obvious a connection to personal freedom than the provisions of the Bill of Rights or the Civil War Amendments. Hence they tend to be undervalued or even forgotten by our citizens. It should be the responsibility of the Court to teach otherwise, to remind our people that the Framers considered structural protections of freedom the most important ones, for which reason they alone were embodied in the original Constitution and not left to later amendment. The fragmentation of power produced by the structure of our Government is central to liberty, and when we destroy it, we place liberty at peril. Today’s decision should have vindicated, should have taught, this truth; instead, our judgment today has disregarded it.
As part of the Obama administration’s furious spin of the president’s decision to withhold the documents regarding the Fast and Furious cover-up, Jay Carney dusted off the bogus claim that Gunwalker began during the Bush administration. Pressed on it, he admitted that the operations didn’t, but maintained that the “tactic” did:
As I’ve pointed out here several times before, there is no comparison between Operation Wide Receiver (which Carney is alluding to) and Fast and Furious. There are lots of important differences, but the only one you need to remember is this: The aim of Wide Receiver was to track gun trafficking, in order to stop it. The aim of Fast and Furious was to supply guns to Mexican drug cartels, for reasons the administration has never seen fit to reveal.
But don’t take my word for it, here’s Eric Holder admitting there’s no comparison between the two:
Officials at the CIA, FBI and other intelligence agencies will be given expanded polygraph tests under a new Obama administration directive aimed at stamping out national-security leaks.
Except it’s not, if this story is complete. There’s no indication here that White House officials will be getting the polygraph tests. Since we already know that the leaks are coming from the White House, this whole thing is a charade.
With the Gunwalker scandal getting prominent media attention for the first time, many people will be hearing about modern America’s worst political scandal for the first time. In light of that, I thought it might be useful to list the key facts:
No effort whatsoever was made to track the guns that the ATF trafficked to Mexican drug cartels. In fact, agents who wanted to track the guns were ordered not to.
The Justice Department has never explained what Fast and Furious was intended to accomplish. This has led many to assume that it served no legitimate purpose.
No one was ever fired or disciplined for Gunwalker. In fact, most of the principals were promoted. On the other hand, agents who blew the whistle on the operation were punished.
Justice Department officials have made numerous material false statements to Congressional investigators, some of them under oath.
White House officials were informed about gunwalking. The Justice Department in Washington not only was informed, but signed off on it, in writing, in wiretap applications submitted to federal courts. Eric Holder was personally notified in at least five memos; he says he never read them.
Neither the operation nor the “tactic” behind it began during the Bush administration. Operation Wide Receiver was completely different: It was conducted with the approval of the Mexican government, agents attempted to track the the weapons, and the operation was terminated when some weapons got away.
In addition to refusing to produce documents under subpoena, the White House has also refused to allow officials to testify before Congress.
Guns trafficked in the operation have been linked to over 200 murders, including a US Border Patrol agent.
There’s much more, but but those are the key points.
If a foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, the New York Times’s editors must be great minds indeed. Yesterday:
A Pointless Partisan Fight
The political feud between the White House and Congressional Republicans has now culminated in a House oversight committee vote to cite Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. for criminal contempt. His supposed crime is failing to hand over some documents in an investigation of a botched gunrunning sting operation known as “Fast and Furious.” The Republicans shamelessly turned what should be a routine matter into a pointless constitutional confrontation.
The House Judiciary Committee did its duty yesterday, voting to cite Harriet Miers, the former White House counsel, and Joshua Bolten, the White House chief of staff, for contempt. The Bush administration has been acting lawlessly in refusing to hand over information that Congress needs to carry out its responsibility to oversee the executive branch and investigate its actions when needed. If the White House continues its obstruction, Congress should use all of the contempt powers at its disposal.
POSTSCRIPT: The Times is also being dishonest when it describes Fast and Furious as a “sting operation”. It wasn’t a sting, even a botched one, as there was never any intention to sting anyone. They were simply trafficking money and weapons to drug cartels, for reasons that have never been explained.
New York State Democrats are hard at work on the people’s business, making sure that teacher evaluations are never made public:
The state Legislature is likely to pass a last ditch bill that would prevent the release of teacher evaluations, while letting parents see the ratings only of their kids’ instructors. The measure, introduced by Gov. Cuomo just before midnight Monday, could pass before lawmakers head home for the year tomorrow, sources said yesterday.
This makes sense, because limiting accountability is always one of the best ways to improve performance. . .
The bill would allow parents to see the evaluations of their own children’s teachers, but — as the educrats are surely well aware — that’s essentially worthless without the ability to compare with other teachers.
The selective-memory practitioners across the left-wing are up in arms over the Daily Caller’s Neil Munro interrupting President Obama with a question at a no-questions event. They call it “unprecedented”. For example, here’s Julian Epstein (who writes for the extreme left The Nation) on MSNBC:
This is just so unprecedented and outrageous, that you have to ask the question, would the right-wing be doing this if we had a white president there? The fact that the first African-American president . . .
Bonus points for playing the race card! It always comes down to that with this bunch, doesn’t it? Well, we needn’t speculate on whether a white president would ever get interrupted (via Treacher):
And that’s just one incident. Sam Donaldson was notorious for this, but it wasn’t just him. In fact, the practice was so common that the Associated Press ran an article on it:
Grown men and women are shouting at President Reagan at the top of their lungs. They do it for a living.
Demonstrators? No, reporters.
It’s become the standard closing scene at Reagan’s infrequent news conferences.
The good-natured chief executive gets the official closing, “Thank you Mr. President.” from a wire service correspondent, but before he can retreat out the door of the East Room at the White House, the reporters are on their feet, shouting, badgering Reagan for one last word. It even takes place at ceremonies.
The explanation Monro offers (also this) for his interruption is nearly identical to the one offered by the reporters of yesteryear:
The reporters themselves wince at the negative image created by such scenes . . . but they say the blame rests with Reagan and his aides, who have sharply curtailed opportunities for the press corps to engage the president under more civil circumstances.
It’s not at all unprecedented for reporters to interrupt the president. What upsets the left is when it happens to a Democrat.
A graphic prepared by Mike Bloomberg in support of his proposed ban on large sodas lies about the sugar and calorie content of various sizes. The graphic doesn’t specify what the beverage is, but nevertheless the sugar/calories per unit volume ought to be constant among various sizes. Instead, Bloomberg’s numbers imply 12.2 calories per ounce in a large size, and 11.3 in a small size.
It’s not just rounding either, because 748 most naturally rounds to 750, not 780.
President Obama has decided to exert executive privilege over all the documents under subpoena by the House committee investigating the Gunwalker scandal. Eric Holder justifies his withholding of the documents thus:
They were not generated in the course of the conduct of Fast and Furious. Instead, they were created after the investigative tactics at issue in that operation had terminated and in the course of the Department’s deliberative process concerning how to respond to congressional and related media inquiries into that operation.
I believe Holder’s description is accurate. More to the point, the documents under subpoena are not about the original Gunwalker malfeasance, but about the Justice Department’s cover-up. Rep. Issa wants to know who decided to lie to Congress in the DOJ’s February 2011 letter denying that any gunwalking had taken place.
UPDATE: John Hinderaker looks at the case law on executive privilege and finds that Obama’s claim is unlikely to hold up.
By placing these documents under executive privilege, President Obama is essentially saying that lying to Congress is an executive prerogative.
The protesters popping up at Mitt Romney’s rallies throughout Michigan Tuesday look like run-of-the-mill grassroots liberals — they wave signs about “the 99 percent,” they chant about the Republican’s greed, and they describe themselves as a loosely organized coalition of “concerned citizens.”
They’re also getting paid, two of the protesters and an Obama campaign official told BuzzFeed.
Politifact can’t bring themselves to write that Speaker John Boehner has kept his promise to fly commercial (in contrast to Nancy Pelosi’s extravagant abuse of military transportation), calling it “in the works”.
It turns out President Obama and I have at least one thing in common, we are both bad at basketball:
We’ve assumed he’s good—biographer Jodi Kantor and NBA stars have said so—but an upcoming biography by David Maraniss begs to differ, Politico reports. As a prep school student in Hawaii, Obama made the team “more because of his intense passion for the game—his will—than anything else,” writes Maraniss in Barack Obama: The Story. “The reality was that Barry, as skilled and intelligent a player as he was, could not stand out in this group.”
“Decades later, a story emerged that his nickname was Barry O’Bomber, playing off his last name and a propensity to fire away from long range, but few team members recalled that nickname.”
Of course, I’ve never felt any need to hide it. . .
POSTSCRIPT: By the way, Maraniss’s biography is, by all accounts, relentlessly positive.
Remember when, after the Tucson shooting, the left thought we needed to be civil in politics? When they said that designating targeted districts with cross-hair-like symbols on a map was unacceptable violent imagery?
Immigration is not an issue I’m passionate about. To some degree my sympathies are with the open-borders folks. But I’m appalled by his recent announcement that he is going to disregard immigration law and implement his own policy instead. John Yoo gives the new policy a look that is all the more damning for his caution, but I think IBD sums it up well:
The chief executive who swore to faithfully execute the nation’s laws picks those he’ll ignore and makes up others through regulation and executive order. He sees no need for a Congress or Constitution.
The president is not king; he doesn’t get to make the rules by himself. This president (despite having sort of taught constitutional law) doesn’t seem to understand that.
On the day it closed, Solyndra said it was laying off 1,100 full-time and temporary employees.
But 1,861 workers lost their jobs as the solar panel manufacturer shut its doors, according to U.S. Labor Department documents provided to The Bay Citizen under the Freedom of Information Act.
The documents also show the Fremont-based company increased production in 2011, even though it failed to sell all the panels it made the previous year.
I’m not so exercised that Solyndra laid off 700 more people than they admitted. (Politicians often forget that it’s better to work for a year and get laid off than not to work at all.) It is interesting that they lied, though.
However, it telling that they increased production despite not selling their inventory. Whatever these people were doing, it wasn’t running a business.
The feminist-socialist party in Sweden (say what you want about Sweden, you’ve got to give them credit for their diverse niche parties) wants to require that men sit to urinate. They also want to ban single-sex lavatories.
Okay, I guess that’s nothing more than one should expect from a Swedish feminist-socialist party, but here’s the part that tickled me:
Viggo Hansen, a substitute council member who authored the motion, told Sveriges Television that that the move does not represent an attempt to meddle in the bathroom habits of citizens.
Oh good. If he hadn’t explained, I might have thought that was exactly what he’s doing.
MSNBC wants to make this Mitt Romney’s visit to Wawa (a convenience store chain) into his supermarket scanner moment (referring to the apocryphal incident in which President Bush Sr. was impressed by a supermarket scanner):
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with being impressed by a well-run business, and (from what I hear) they do run a good operation. In fact, I seem to recall Mitt Romney in particular having an affection for well-run businesses.
Second, this whole attack is a lie, Romney wasn’t amazed by the Wawa operation, as becomes clear when you watch his speech without the MSBNC edits (cue to 2:10):
Romney was contrasting the incompetence of the government (exemplified by a 33-page change of address form) with the effectiveness of the private sector (exemplified by Wawa). They actually cut him off mid-sentence: “Touch this, touch this, touch this, go pay the cashier, there’s your sandwich. It’s amazing: [MSNBC ends here] people in the private sector learn how to compete; it’s time to bring some competition to the federal government!” Then they glue that together with some other stuff about WaWa from elsewhere in his speech, and voila, you have an ode to Wawa that Romney never gave.
Don’t believe anything you see or hear from the legacy media. Any reporting they do anymore is incidental; their main job is to lie to you.
POSTSCRIPT: On a completely different note, there’s something I noticed in watching Romney’s stump speech: just how good-natured it is. This guy has a positive outlook on America. When was the last time President Obama delivered a positive speech about America. Has he ever? I haven’t seen it. Obama, at best, likes what he thinks America could be, not what America is.
Lauren Skowronski, a spokeswoman for NBC, which owns MSNBC, denied that any deceptive editing took place. “MSNBC did not edit anything out of order or out of sequence and at no time did we intend to deceive our viewers,” Skowronski said.
Oh, is that the standard now? You can edit however you want as long as you don’t take anything out of order? I guess this is fair, then:
“MSNBC did . . . intend to deceive our viewers,” Skowronski said.
In possibly the most impressive display of political chutzpah ever, President Obama is actually claiming to be the most fiscally responsible president in decades:
This absurd claim adopts an asinine line of argument invented in a post on the MarketWatch web site. How do they make the most fiscally reckless administration in history out as the most responsible? They simply disregard Obama’s first year in office. No, worse than that, they charge the entire year to President Bush.
So Obama’s entire Brobdingnagian stimulus package (about $800 billion) gets charged to Bush. Then they use the stimulus (which, as “stimulus”, was supposed to be a one-time expenditure) as the baseline for future spending, and that just shows up as continuing the [must maintain straight face!] Bush spending levels. And even after all that, he still increases spending in later years.
There’s also TARP, which, at $750 billion, was still considered an astonishing amount in 2008. That’s legitimately a Bush outlay, but recall that TARP was a loan program and was supposed to be repaid. In fact, most banks did repay their TARP loans. But Democrats turned that money around and respent those repayments. Measured against the baseline, all that TARP re-spending doesn’t appear at all, whereas a sane accounting would credit the repayments to 2008 and charge the re-spending to the Democrats in 2009.
But wait, merely charging all of Obama’s reckless first-year spending to Bush still doesn’t get to their number! They also have to include the projected drop in spending in 2013, which obviously hasn’t happened and probably won’t.
Bottom line: Sure, Obama is the most fiscally responsible president in decades, provided you discount about $1.5 trillion in new annual spending, and also credit him for 2013 budget cuts that won’t happen.
POSTSCRIPT: Both Bush and Obama submitted 2009 budgets to Congress. The Congress, Democratic at the time, never acted on Bush’s budget, but it’s still instructive to compare them. Bush’s budget proposed to overspend revenue by 15%. Of course, the economy took a dive; if enacted it would actually have overspent revenue by 46%. Ouch. Then there’s Obama’s budget, which — as proposed — overspent revenue by a staggering 80%.
The Obama administration keeps talking about President Obama’s “gutsy” call to take out Osama Bin Laden. (Joe Biden even called it the most audacious operation in 500 years!) That is a strange perspective, since our last president would not have even hesitated to order the operation.
I’ve tended to view this as just politics, but a revelation in Ed Klein’s new book (I heard Klein interviewed on the Hinderaker-Ward show) casts the braggadocio in a different light: perhaps he thinks it really was gutsy! Klein reveals that Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s closest adviser, recommended against the operation, saying it would politically damaging if it failed. Obama disregarded her advice (possibly for the first time, Klein says) and ordered the operation anyway.
From Obama’s perspective, disregarding political advice from a key adviser probably is the height of gutsiness.
Democrats attempting to spin the results of the Wisconsin recall election have settled on three points: (1) Governor Walker outspent his opponents 8-to-1, (2) Citizens United v. FEC made it possible for him to do so, and (3) the exit polls showed a big lead for Obama in Wisconsin. Let’s debunk these, shall we:
Walker did not outspend his opponents 8-to-1. True, he raised $32 million to Barrett’s $4 million, but Barrett was just one of his opponents, and not even the leader of the effort. When you include the unions — the instigators of the recall — Walker’s opponents spent $25 million, six times the figure for Barrett alone. Walker did outspend his opponents, but only 1.28-to-1.
Citizens United was about speech; it said nothing at all about fundraising. Furthermore, Wisconsin law authorizes unlimited fundraising for recall elections anyway. Citizens United had no impact on the race whatsoever.
Michael Barone looked at the Wisconsin exit polls, and observed that if you adjust for Democrats’ historical overperformance in exit polls (about 4 points), Romney leads 49-47.
The New York Times has an article about an outfit called Nerd Wallet, which ranks colleges according to various criteria. It found that the top program in the country in terms of starting salary for graduates is my program, Carnegie Mellon computer science. MIT was third.
Joey Fishkin, an Obamacare supporter, wants to see the Supreme Court leave the entire thing in place except remove the “exhortation”, so that those who violate the mandate aren’t doing anything wrong, but still have to pay the same penalty. Basically, he wants to strike the word “mandate” but change nothing of consequence.
Fishkin is apparently a law professor (at least he’s writing on a law blog), but this is crazy. He seems to believe that the only issue here is whether the government is casting moral aspersions on people’s actions. I’m not a lawyer, but the oral arguments made clear that the Court was wrestling with weightier matters (such as limiting principles for government power) than whether the government thought well of people.
Moreover, this assumes that the mandate passes muster as a tax. Many are assuming that, but the Court didn’t even hear arguments on the subject. Some scholarship has suggested that it can’t stand as a tax either.
UPDATE (6/28): Well, I guess it’s not crazy after all.
President Obama says it’s offensive to suggest that his administration is leaking classified information for political purposes.
To be sure, we have no evidence that the administration is behind the series of leaks. Just because there’s been a never-ending series of leaks that cast the administration in a good light doesn’t mean that the administration is necessarily responsible for them.
But, is it really so outrageous to speculate? This is an administration that allowed the ATF to traffic guns to Mexican drug cartels in order to promote its domestic gun-control agenda. (Or, at least, that has never offered any alternative explanation.) It is not hard to believe that the same people might leak classified information for political purposes.
UPDATE: Alexander Kazam points out that the NYT story on Stuxnet includes a first-hand account from the White House situation room:
The culprit may not be a “White House official,” but the leaks came out of a White House meeting — directly from the president’s top national-security advisers. This is not some guy in the bowels of the State Department passing e-mails to Julian Assange; it is one degree removed from the president.
Perhaps not a White House official per se, but certainly a high administration official.
The whole thing is a farce. . . TheTimes tells you who its sources are. At the very beginning of the 6300-word kill-list epic, it says: “In interviews with The New York Times, three dozen of [Obama’s] current and former advisers described Mr. Obama’s evolution since taking on the role, without precedent in presidential history, of personally overseeing the shadow war with Al Qaeda.” The account goes on to quote, for example, former White House chief-of-staff Bill Daley, who not only confirms the existence of a kill-list but describes the considerations behind adding names to it. Current and former national security officials are quoted, in many instances by name (e.g., national security adviser Thomas Donilon and former national intelligence director Dennis Blair). And when names are not given, the Times quotes, for example, “one participant” in the approximately weekly meetings — videoconferences run by the Pentagon but involving national security officials across the administration — who describes some of the criteria for adding or removing terrorists from the kill-list.
The NYT told us everything except the leakers’ actual names. All of them are high-ranking administration figures. Moreover, Michael Ledeen adds that you can nearly always find the leaker:
“We always found the leaker(s),” he said, “but then nothing happened.” Why? “Because most of the time the leaker was so high-ranking that there was no desire to prosecute or punish.”
Bottom line: if no one is punished (for the leak itself — Ledeen also adds that a scapegoat is often picked who committed some ancillary offense), we know that the President either authorized the leak or chose to let it slide.
Among the bombshells Judicial Watch found in the documents, and there are several, is the fact that Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Michael Vickers disclosed the true identity of SEAL Team 6′s commander to those Hollywood producers.
I’m sure that everyone who was exercised about the disclosure of Valerie Plame’s identity will be equally upset about this. Ha ha! Just kidding.
Okay, seriously, this is why I found it so hard to take the sanctimonious indignation from the left and the legacy press over the Plame-Armitage affair. As we’ve seen so many times, they don’t care one bit about leaking sensitive information, including the identities of covert agents. They just found a weapon — a hugely hypocritical weapon — to wield against the Bush administration.
Canada is dismantling its “human rights tribunals” whose primary purpose is to suppress politically incorrect speech. It’s a travesty that they existed so long. Their purpose was expressed perfectly by this passage in a 2008 decision imposing a lifetime speech ban:
The Attorney General argues that freedom of expression is subject to a limitation. Further, that if people were allowed to simply hide behind the rubric of political and religious opinion, they would defeat the entire purpose of the human rights legislation.
A new poll finds that 68% of Americans want the Supreme Court to overturn Obamacare, at least in part. (And that’s a NYT poll, so the real number is probably at least three-quarters.) Less than a quarter want it to stand.
Why Wisconsin’s public-sector unions are so desperate:
Already, there are signs Walker has succeeded in crippling Wisconsin’s unions, whose membership has sharply declined since his reforms made it easier for workers to opt out and harder for the groups to gain recognition. In just over a year, the union representing state workers has seen its membership drop by two-thirds, while the American Federation of Teachers has lost more than a third of the 17,000 members it formerly claimed in Wisconsin, according to the Wall Street Journal.
Gary Taubes has an op-ed piece in the New York Times blasting the war on salt. As I’ve noted before, the anti-salt campaign is far out in front of the actual scientific evidence, and has been for decades. One key quote:
When I spent the better part of a year researching the state of the salt science back in 1998 — already a quarter century into the eat-less-salt recommendations — journal editors and public health administrators were still remarkably candid in their assessment of how flimsy the evidence was implicating salt as the cause of hypertension.
“You can say without any shadow of a doubt,” as I was told then by Drummond Rennie, an editor for The Journal of the American Medical Association, that the authorities pushing the eat-less-salt message had “made a commitment to salt education that goes way beyond the scientific facts.”
An N.I.H. administrator told me back in 1998 that to publicly question the science on salt was to play into the hands of the [food] industry. “As long as there are things in the media that say the salt controversy continues,” he said, “they win.”
I should add that the war on salt has been personally detrimental to me and my family. Some people (like me) need more salt than most, and the anti-salt warriors have sometimes made it difficult to obtain.
POSTSCRIPT: The anti-salt campaigners were happy to tell us that the science was settled, when it wasn’t remotely settled. That’s something to keep in mind when other campaigners tell us the same.
Democrats are upset about the latest leak of sensitive classified information:
Senate Democrats on Tuesday blasted leaks to the press about a cyberattack against Iran and warned the disclosure of President Obama’s order could put the United States at risk of a retaliatory strike. . .
Feinstein and Kerry, however, rejected charges from Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) that the leaks were made deliberately in an attempt to boost President Obama’s reelection bid. . . The White House has denied that it was an authorized leak.
I don’t know if it was an “authorized leak”, but this keeps happening. We blow the identity of Shakil Afridi, the doctor who helped us identify Osama bin Laden, and he goes to prison for 33 years. We leak the fact that we’ve infiltrated al Qaeda, and it blows the agent’s cover. (Plus, it turned out that the leak, to the extent that it credited US intelligence, wasn’t even accurate!)
I’m tired of debating each time whether the White House authorized the leak, or whether the leak — which cast the administration in a good light — was a lone wolf. It doesn’t matter. The White House’s acquiescence sends the message that this is acceptable. They need to make a very public effort to get to the bottom of it.
Compare the full-court press when the Valerie Plame’s identity was leaked to the press. That information was not closely held, and its leak wasn’t damaging, and the White House still launched an investigation that dogged it for years. Here we have a series of leaks that are actually damaging, and aside from a few remarks from Senate Democrats, it’s crickets.
UPDATE: The White House says it takes the leaks “very seriously”, but they won’t authorize a special prosecutor, or — as far as they are willing to say — any action at all. Well then.
The chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee on Tuesday said new documents show that senior Justice Department officials in Washington, despite their previous denials, were given “specific information about reckless tactics” in the botched “Fast and Furious” gunrunning investigation. . .
“The wiretap applications show that immense detail about questionable investigative tactics was available to the senior officials who reviewed and authorized them. The close involvement of these officials — much greater than previously known — is shocking,” Mr. Issa wrote.
The wiretap applications are under seal and can’t be made the public, so we have to rely on Issa’s account for now. However, the applications have been forwarded to the minority party, so if he’s misrepresenting them, we will hear about it almost immediately.
But if his description is accurate, it proves that the DOJ was fully informed of Gunwalker and must have acknowledged that awareness to a judge. Andrew McCarthy explains that the wiretap applications must include:
a full and complete statement as to whether or not other investigative procedures have been tried and failed or why they reasonably appear to be unlikely to succeed if tried or to be too dangerous.
That, obviously, requires a more-than-superficial analysis of those procedures; gunwalking in this case.
Two similar stories: David Axelrod is “appalled” that Romney might raise more money than Obama. And Media Matters is upset about media bias against Obama.
I’m reminded of the gangster in Miller’s Crossing who exclaimed, “It’s gettin’ so a businessman can’t expect no return from a fixed fight. Now, if you can’t trust a fix, what can you trust?” (The situations aren’t exactly parallel, but it’s the indignation that tickles me.)
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