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Hometown: Xenia, OH
Member since: Tue Sep 19, 2006, 03:46 PM
Number of posts: 24,690

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I dare say that Assad's bombers, artillery, tanks and missles have attacked civilians way, way, way

more than 20 times. Most human rights organizations believe that his forces has killed more than 90% of the civilians who have died in Syria. Using bombers, artillery, tanks and Scud missiles in attacking urban areas leads to many civilian casualties - collateral damage perhaps in the eyes of the government.

Assad's position is exactly the opposite of Al Nusra: "You are with me or you are with the terrorists." (Kind of reminds me of our recent republican president.)

Juan Cole has written that the jihadists are the most effective fighter man-for-man but only represent 10-20% of opposition fighters in Syria now though that percentage increases as the civil war drags on. The Free Syrian army is composed of soldiers who defected and Syrian civilians who took up arms still represent 80-90% of opposition fighters according to Cole, but the civilians, in particular, are not very effective fighters.

Assad's government is based on a minority of the population, similar in percentages to the white government of apartheid South Africa back in the day. The majority (70%) of Syria's population is Sunni just as the similar percentage of South Africa's population was Black (70% Black, 20% white, 10% Asian and mixed.

I understand that for Assad's sect to continue to rule Syria, force is his only option. He never could, and cannot now, negotiate any opening up of the political system or he is history. I also understand the fear of retribution that his and other minorities in Syria have. Decades of repressing the majority has caused a lot of ill will and this last-gasp military campaign does not seem likely to lead to a happy ending. (The current civil war is something like what many predicted would eventually happen in South Africa. Fortunately, the minority government there was replaced without a civil war and subsequent retribution - thank you, Mr. Mandela and others.)

As you said, "No matter who wins, the people of Syria lose." I agree. If Assad wins, he has to rule by force as he (and his father before him) always has or he is gone. If the opposition wins, there jihadists are not going to go away quietly and the minorities in Syria will be endangered.

CAP: Republicans Ignore (and suppress) the Evidence About Higher Taxes on the Wealthy

My first thought is that "Republicans Ignore the Evidence About ..." is a useful beginning to any headline of a story about republican policies on anything.

Think Again: Republicans Ignore the Evidence About Higher Taxes on the Wealthy

Shortly before Election Day in November, The New York Times published a report about a Congressional Research Service study that had been withdrawn after publication due to demands by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY). The economic report, “Taxes and the Economy: An Economic Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945,” “found no correlation between top tax rates and economic growth.” This means that increasing taxes on the wealthiest Americans would not actually harm the economy in the way congressional Republicans have been asserting.

The study in question did not receive much attention before it was censored. Sen. Charles E. Schumer (D-NY) mentioned it in a speech at the National Press Club, but only after it was pulled. Speaking to The Times, Sen. Schumer objected to what he termed the “banana republic” aspects of the Republicans’ actions, referring to the idea of a ruling plutocracy making the politically important decisions for the entire nation: “They didn’t like a report, and instead of rebutting it, they had them take it down.”

The study findings then began to receive widespread media coverage. Among them:

The reduction in the top tax rates appears to be uncorrelated with saving, investment, and productivity growth. The top tax rates appear to have little or no relation to the size of the economic pie.

However, the top tax rate reductions appear to be associated with the increasing concentration of income at the top of the income distribution.
As measured by IRS data, the share of income accruing to the top 0.1% of U.S. families increased from 4.2% in 1945 to 12.3% by 2007 before falling to 9.2% due to the 2007–2009 recession. At the same time, the average tax rate paid by the top 0.1% fell from over 50% in 1945 to about 25% in 2009. Tax policy could have a relation to how the economic pie is sliced—lower top tax rates may be associated with greater income disparities.

You can read the entire report, authored by Thomas L. Hungerford, a specialist in public finance with a doctorate in economics from the University of Michigan, here.


As the story details, republicans did not just ignore the evidence about higher taxes on the wealthy; they actively suppressed this evidence.

Pew Poll: The Public Supports a Transatlantic Trade Pact – For Now

... the rising competitive challenge from China has increased the incentive for both Europe and America to develop common technical and regulatory standards for a $30 trillion transatlantic market to ensure that Western-style capitalism, not Chinese state capitalism, remains the global norm.

Publics on both sides of the Atlantic appear to be receptive to the idea.

The virulent European anti-Americanism of the last decade — owing to European opposition to the Iraq war and the policies of U.S. President George W. Bush — is ancient history. More than two-thirds (69 percent) of the French had a favorable view of the United States in 2012, compared with 42 percent in 2008, the last year of the Bush administration, according to Pew Research Center surveys. Fifty-two percent of Germans held a positive opinion of America, compared with 31 percent four years earlier. And 58 percent of the Spanish were favorably disposed toward the United States, much greater than the 33 percent who held such views in 2008.

There has been a similar, if less robust, rebound in American response to the European Union. In 2012, half the country had a favorable view of the EU, compared with only 39 percent at the nadir in 2004.

Moreover, contrary to the widespread assumption that protectionist sentiments are rising in the wake of the Great Recession, 58 percent of Americans say they support increased trade with the EU. The same feeling exists across the Atlantic. Three-quarters of the Italians, nearly two-thirds of the British (65 percent) and more than half of the French (58 percent) and Germans (57 percent) believe in deepening trade and investment ties between the European Union and the United States; 63 percent of Americans agree, according to a 2007 German Marshall Fund survey.


Sounds like this is more popular now that Bush is history. Europe did not trust him and his administration didn't think much of 'old Europe' either.

"Far-right principles: Anti-immigration, Euroscepticism, nationalism"

Golden Dawn (Greece): Halt all immigration. Promoting the slogan "Greece for the Greeks". Install bombs at borders to keep illegal immigrants out - Don't let tea partiers hear about this idea.

Northern League (Italy): Supports immigration from non-Muslim countries to promote the Christianity. - LN is one of Berlusconi's coalition partners and helped him win the most seats in the Senate in yesterday's election.

National Front (France): ... xenophobia is still one of the FN's trademarks. During a recent visit to the US, Le Pen met with Tea Party Republican Congressman Joe Walsh and with Ron Paul ... - Thankfully the FN lost last year's election to the Socialist Party.

Nationalism is the common thread uniting far-right groups. Being anti-immigrant, anti-EU (or anti-UN and other international organizations that limit national 'sovereignty') are a product of their nationalism.

IHT: How Syria Is Becoming Bosnia

Many analysts believe the Obama administration’s policy toward Syria is a failure. Many believe the time has come for the Obama administration to mount a new policy in Syria. But don’t expect one anytime soon. Repeating prior arguments, the official said the administration opposed supplying the rebels with anti-aircraft missiles out of concern that the weapons could fall into the hands of jihadists. ...rebels complained that the United States was blocking countries in the region from providing sophisticated anti-aircraft and anti-tank missiles to them.

Iran, Hezbollah and Russia are funneling more aid, armaments and diplomatic cover
to Bashar al-Assad. ...the White House official called the extent of Iranian assistance to Mr. Assad “stunning.” “They are all in,” the official said. “They are doing everything they can to support the Assad regime and putting in enormous amounts of arms and individuals.”

Across the country, pro-Assad forces use airplanes, Scud ballistic missiles and artillery to level rebel controlled neighborhoods. While Syrian insurgents fight with the tragi-comic “do-it-yourself" weapons” displayed in this Atlantic slide show.

And Syrian rebels who once hailed the United States now loathe it. ... In an incisive essay published last week in the London Review of Books, Ghaith Abdul-Ahad, a journalist with the Guardian, described the continued atomization of the Syrian opposition. ... “Why are the Americans doing this to us?” one rebel commander demands. “They told us they wouldn’t send us weapons until we united. So we united in Doha. Now what’s their excuse?”


The linked essay in the London Review of Books has a lot of information of events on the ground and the ebb and flow of the fighting.

I think the administration is right not to continue to refuse to send heavy weapons to the rebels. Refusing to do so (and preventing Turkey and others from doing it) hurts our 'leverage' with them but that is unavoidable.

On balance, things sound like they may be turning Assad's way. As long as he keeps receiving arms supplies from his allies it is hard to imagine him not 'winning' (although what the 'victor' - whichever side it is - is left with will be a shadow of what Syria used to be).

"They despised nationalism, racism, and Sophie herself was even something of an early feminist."

Far-right parties today still rely on "nationalism, racism" and misogyny. Some things never change.

The Scholls' actions were "truly awe-inspiring, incredibly brave during an incredibly dark time". "...an end in terror is preferable to terror without end." is a worthwhile reminder that dictatorships, then and now, rely on 'terror' for their continued survival. That 'terror' may be in the form of arrest, torture and execution (largely invisible if you live outside the country) rather than in the form of exploding bombs, falling buildings, etc., but it is 'terror' by any definition.

Thank you for the detailed post and all of the excerpts from the six pamphlets. "Freiheit!"

Republicans did not raise tariffs to starve government. Industry lobbyists wanted profit protection

for their corporations from foreign competition. You are right, though, that lowering tariffs has led to increase tariff revenues. Tariff revenues were at an all time high in 2010 at $25 billion. Of course that is only about 1% of total government revenue, thanks largely to the 16th Amendment and the income tax.

The Hidden Progressive History of Income Tax

The income tax was the most popular economic justice movement of the late 19th and early 20th century. This truly grassroots movement forced politicians to act in order to stay in office, leading to the 16th Amendment to the Constitution in 1913. That’s right, the income tax was so popular that the nation passed a constitutional amendment so that the right-wing Supreme Court couldn’t overturn it.

Income and Tax Inequality in the Late 19th Century

Everyday Americans hated the tax system of the Gilded Age. The federal government gathered taxes in two ways. First, it placed high tariff rates on imports. These import taxes protected American industries from competition. This allowed companies to charge high prices on products that the working class needed to survive while also protecting the monopolies that controlled their everyday lives. Second, the government had high excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol, two products used heavily by the American working class.

These forms of indirect taxes meant that almost the entirety of federal tax revenue came from the poor while the rich paid virtually nothing. This spawned enormous outrage. The poor had a model in creating an income tax—President Abraham Lincoln, who instituted the nation’s first income tax to pay for the Civil War. Lincoln’s Revenue Act of 1861 created a graduated tax on everyone who made at least $800 a year, allowing him to pay for the war. Although a grand success, Republicans pulled away from it as they backed off of racial equality in the late 1860s and it was overturned in 1872.

...grassroots organizations across the country began organizing around replacing the tariff with the income tax. He tells the story of Merlinda Sisins of Pickleville, Michigan, a mother of 16 who, despite a lack of education and poor spelling, began writing letters to the Journal of United Labor, where she demanded that working people nominate their own to Congress in order to pass legislation that would destroy the tariff and the monopolies.

The income tax became such an overwhelming political movement during the 1890s that Congress, despite so many members' close relationship with the plutocracy, passed an income tax law that would have forced the rich to begin paying income taxes for the first time since 1870. The Wilson-Gorman Tariff of 1894 placed a 2% tax on incomes over $4000 a year (approximately $88,000 today).

Corporations immediately organized against this. In a strategy we can recognize today, the Chamber of Commerce distorted the bill’s purpose, telling the public that the income tax would drive them into poverty, even though the bill did not affect working-class people. Yet the Chamber made little headway in the face of this overwhelmingly popular movement.


The opposition to high tariffs was much, much more widespread than simply from those who wanted an increase in government revenue. After the passage of the 16th Amendment in 1913 tariffs were a smaller and smaller part of government revenues (from 44% in 1913 to 1% today). The high tariffs that republicans enacted in the 1920's were protection for their corporate backers, rather than attempt to starve government since tariffs as a source of revenue were increasing irrelevant by then. And this was less than 10 years after the progressive victory over high tariffs represented by the 16th Amendment.

These days high tariffs seem like a progressive idea to some, but a hundred years ago - when we actually had high tariffs - liberals did not view them that way. Perhaps, as with love, absence makes the heart grow fonder with respect to tariffs.

"People tend to forget the 1920s was a "Boom" time for the US..." They were a boom time but not for everyone. It is true that the GDP increased and Wall Street rose swiftly - at least until 1929, of course - but it is also true that income inequality reached record levels during the 1920's (since surpassed during the Bush years) and unions suffered such that percentage of the work force in unions reached historic lows (since surpassed as well). (Apparently the GOP could kill unions with high tariffs or with low tariffs.) So the 1920's were a 'Boom' time for some but not for many.

These Pacific and Atlantic trade negotiations are a good thing. There are major international trade problems and, as with global problems in general, it is a good idea to negotiate a global solution to them. We are right to be skeptical about the outcome, but liberals should not be afraid to negotiate on this issue or any other.

The reason for some optimism about them is that one of their main goals is to eliminate much of China's trading advantage by crafting standards on labor, the environment, etc. that China will not be able to comply with unless it transforms it society completely. If these standards could be included in WTO rules that would be great, but those negotiations have gone nowhere.

If our goal is not to put labor and environmental regulations into trade agreements, the Pacific negotiations make little sense. We already have 'free trade' agreements with most of the countries involved. Why would we include Canada, Mexico, Australia, Singapore, Chile and others in a trade negotiation, when we already have an agreement with them, unless we were including standards that will make it more difficult for China to compete with countries that have better labor and environmental laws?

And of course our Atlantic trade negotiation is with countries that already have better labor and environmental laws than the US has, so you probably would not apply tariffs on their products anyway ("...impose tariffs to reflect the lack of environmental and labor laws with other nations."

Indeed, we could 'walk away and take our ball with us'. That is precisely what the republican base here (and far-right parties in Europe like the National Front in France) want to do. They favor the US withdrawing from the UN, the WTO, the IMF, World Bank, Law of the Sea Treaty and about any other international agreement or organization that keeps the US from doing whatever it wants to do whenever it wants to do it. In that way republicans have not changed much over the decades. They kept the US out of the League of Nations after WWI, the International Trade Organization after WWII and the Kyoto Protocol within the last 15 years.

At least since Woodrow Wilson the Democrats have been the party that engages with the world; negotiates disagreements with other countries; and tries to solve global problems by involving as many countries as possible. Republicans have more often been the party of 'cowboy diplomacy' whereby the US can do whatever it wants to do and to hell with the rest of the world. Other countries had better join us or get out of the way.

I do not want the US to "take its ball and go home" on any global issue. I believe in multilateral negotiations on global problems, which lead to international agreements that are effective and enforceable so that countries cannot, after a treaty is agreed to, say "Never mind. We have the 'sovereign right' to pollute, invade, torture or do anything else we want to do. We are a sovereign nation and hereby walk away from any treaty that we previously agreed to."

GATT was "was built on the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act of 1934" which FDR pushed through

a Democratic congress.

In the 1940s, working with the British government, the United States developed two innovations to expand and govern trade among nations. These mechanisms were called the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and the ITO (International Trade Organization). GATT was simply a temporary multilateral agreement designed to provide a framework of rules and a forum to negotiate trade barrier reductions among nations. It was built on the Reciprocal Trade Agreements Act, which allowed the executive branch to negotiate trade agreements, with temporary authority from the Congress.


The ITO, in contrast, set up a code of world trade principles and a formal international institution. ... The ITO represented an internationalization of the view that governments could play a positive role in encouraging international economic growth. It was incredibly comprehensive: including chapters on commercial policy, investment, employment and even business practices (what we call antitrust or competition policies today). The ITO also included a secretariat with the power to arbitrate trade disputes. ...The ITO missed the flurry of support for internationalism that accompanied the end of WWII and which led to the establishment of agencies such as the UN, the IMF and the World Bank. The US Congress never brought membership in the ITO to a vote ...


GATT and the ITO were developed under Democratic presidents and congresses to 'expand and govern trade among nations'. As proposed by FDR and implemented by Truman was a temporary framework to reduce trade barriers. The ITO as envisioned by FDR and negotiated by Truman was to be a stronger trading body than the WTO is today with a strong dispute resolution mechanism removed from the control of national governments, antitrust powers and involvement in national employment and investment policy. Unfortunately republicans took control of the Senate in 1947 and rejected the ITO treaty on national sovereignty grounds.

"Now, FDR was tied in with the Breton Woods Accords of 1944:

"The Conference also proposed the creation of an International Trade Organization (ITO) to establish rules and regulations for international trade. The ITO would have complemented the other two Bretton Woods proposed international bodies: the IMF and the World Bank. The ITO charter was agreed on at the U.N. Conference on Trade and Employment (held in Havana, Cuba, in March 1948), but the charter was not ratified by the U.S. Senate. As a result, the ITO never came into existence.

How the RTAA was different from other trade agreements

Before the RTAA, if Congress wanted to establish a lower tariff for particular imports, it would act unilaterally, taking the foreign country’s tariff rate as fixed. Congress would choose a tariff rate that was either a little higher or lower than the median preferred tariff, depending upon the composition of the Congress. Generally, a Republican controlled Congress would prefer higher tariffs and a Democrat controlled Congress would prefer lower tariffs. Thus, tariffs were chosen based on the domestic politics of the United States. Individual members of Congress were under great pressure from industry lobbyists to raise tariffs to protect them from the negative effects of foreign imports.

After the Civil War, Democrats were generally the party of trade liberalization, while Republicans were generally for higher tariffs. This pattern was clear in congressional votes for tariffs from 1860 until 1930. Democrats were the congressional minority in the majority of Congresses between the Civil War and the election of Roosevelt. During their brief stints in the majority, Democrats passed several tariff reduction bills. Examples include the Wilson-Gorman Act of 1894 and the Underwood Tariff Act of 1913. However, subsequent Republican majorities always undid these unilateral tariff reductions.

By the Great Depression, tariffs were at historic highs. Members of Congress commonly entered in informal quid pro quo agreements where they voted for other members’ preferred tariffs in order to secure support for their own. At no point did anyone take into account the aggregate toll on American consumers or exporters. This practice is commonly referred to as logrolling. President Roosevelt and key members of his administration were intent on stopping this practice.

Democrats voted for trade liberalization far more often than Republicans...


I agree with the background on the reasons that the US promoted the Marshall Plan, strong unions, the VAT and progressive government in general in Europe was out of fear of a communist takeover rather than out of a commitment to strong unions and progressive government per se. (Of course, Democratic administrations could have supported unions and progressivism on principle and Eisenhower was not anti-union like current republicans are.)

It is perhaps ironic that the USSR brought progressive social democracy to the European continent - not directly through military or political victories - but indirectly by scaring the US into supporting strong unions and progressive policies for Europe that have survived the demise of the Soviet Union itself.

You referred several times to GATT as if it still exists. For better or worse it is long gone, replaced by a much stronger organization - the WTO (itself a version of the ITO that Truman negotiated but was repeatedly rejected by a republican Senate).

We probably share some common ground that the importance of the WTO is fading. The current Doha round of negotiations has gone on for 12 years and is going nowhere:

The WTO launched the current round of negotiations, the Doha Development Round, at the fourth ministerial conference in Doha, Qatar in November 2001. This was to be an ambitious effort to make globalization more inclusive and help the world's poor, particularly by slashing barriers and subsidies in farming. The initial agenda comprised both further trade liberalization and new rule-making, underpinned by commitments to strengthen substantial assistance to developing countries.

My reading is that Obama is consistent with Democratic presidents (like Wilson, FDR and Truman) throughout history in favoring low tariffs and (like FDR and Truman) is committed to a multilateral approach to international issues including trade but also climate change and other issues. He is much less of a unilateralist than his republican predecessors and unlikely to go down a "the US can do whatever it wants to do" policy whether that involves higher tariffs or anything else.

But he also sees that the WTO is headed nowhere good with outdated rules and a proven inability to update them. Rather than withdrawing from the WTO (an action favored by much of the republican base and tea party types) he is negotiating two major trade deals with Asia/Australia and Europe to circumvent the WTO while using the WTO to penalize China when possible.

As you say "the US, Japan and Western Europe are still in the Driver's seat of the world Economy". The countries involved in these trade negotiations represent 3/4 of the world economy and trade. (This will not always be true because these same countries represent only about 20% of the world's population.) Obama seems to want to take advantage of this fact to negotiate treaties that will supersede the WTO and make its outdated rules much less important.

Likely components of the administration's economic policy towards China

The first will likely be more complaints about Chinese subsidies and trade practices filed with the WTO, given the president’s campaign promises and his record during his first term. Washington has been relatively successful with such cases in the past, and pursuing multilateral dispute settlements has the added advantage of avoiding a direct bilateral confrontation with China.

The second will be the pursuit of trade agreements that notably do not include China. One of these is the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), a trade agreement among a growing list of nations bordering the Pacific. It is the Obama administration’s avowed aim to construct a TPP with standards so high — especially rules regarding behavior by state-owned enterprises — that China could never join without transforming its economic system. At the very beginning of the negotiation, the United States reminded other members that the U.S. Congress would not accept a TPP without strong labor and environmental measures. Obviously, the United States aims to lower the comparative advantages of developing countries so as to create more job opportunities for itself.

The 2013 launch of a U.S.-European Union free trade negotiation — effectively a Trans-Atlantic Partnership, a bookend for the TPP — primarily reflects majority (58%) sentiment in the United States that increased trade with Europe would be a good thing for the United States. But it can also be seen as an attempt to establish U.S.-European, rather than Chinese, technical and regulatory standards as global business norms.

The Obama administration is unlikely to label China a currency manipulator, which is something Mitt Romney promised he would do on his first day in office. In Obama’s first term, the White House had multiple opportunities to do so and declined, even though the renminbi was weaker against the dollar than it is now.


Obama's policy seems to be that successful negotiation of these trade agreements will change global trading rules to include labor and environmental standards that will favor the US, Europe, Japan and other countries with strong labor and environmental laws to the detriment of low-cost, low-regulation countries. (Of course, the US may have to then upgrade its own labor laws which are the worst in the developed world.)

Thanks for the detailed post, happyslug.

Unions hope US-EU trade talks can be lever to change US labor laws

Unions want to use negotiations on a U.S.-European Union (EU) trade deal as leverage to win stronger labor laws here in the United States.

Germany and other European nations have stronger union protections than does the U.S., and labor believes the trade talks could pressure U.S. officials into strengthening U.S. laws. “People in labor see this as an opportunity, not as a threat,” said George Kohl, a senior director at the Communications Workers of America (CWA).

European trade union representatives will be lobbying EU negotiators to pressure the U.S. to strengthen its labor laws in the context of the trade talks, said Owen Herrnstadt, director of trade and globalization for the International Association of Machinists. And with a labor-friendly White House, unions would have a president predisposed to helping them improve labor standards working on their side. Herrnstadt said he “fully expect[ed] that the European trade unions will voice their position with EU negotiators.”

“Now we get to benchmark against a more progressive economy and raise up labor engagement here in the United States,” said CWA's Kohl. “We would hope that the U.S.-EU trade discussions would make improvements to how corporations treat their workers here.”


Defending the latest representative of the Assad royal family is not the same as defending Syria.

If the latest Assad family ruler were mainly interested in the 'independence and sovereignty' of Syria he could have negotiated with other Syrians for a peaceful transfer of power to other Syrians and a non-royal form of government when Syrians took to the streets in massive peaceful protests 2 years ago.

He chose the path of repression (always a favorite path of dictators who have large armies and a desire to hold on to the personal power that he inherited from his father) gambling that his military could win a civil war if it came to that. The king (a non-Sunni in a majority-Sunni country) is smart enough to know that a civil war in Syria, if it happened, would not be a quick victory for professional soldiers with tanks and planes over civilians learning how to shoot a rifle and a few military deserters. It would be long, ugly and sectarian. That is what has happened. Après moi le déluge.

Most of those opposed to Assad's royal dictatorship are not 'religious terrorists' (though the longer the civil war goes on the more true that becomes). Most of the opposition to the king comes from Syrians who see a chance to escape from life under a repressive regime.

An argument can be made that Syrians are going from the 'frying pan' to the 'fire', but that argument has rarely stopped revolutions in the past. The French Revolution overthrew Louis XVI but got the Great Terror a few years later. Russian overthrew the Tsar but got Stalin a few years later. People rebel against the repression of royal rule even though there is no guarantee of what will come after it. That is why royal families do not rule forever. (If you or I lived under the repressive rule of a royal family for a few decades we might well take to the streets in protest its continuation.)

To portray a dictator as a great protector of national 'independence and sovereignty' against 'religious terrorism' is precisely the 'logic' offered by Bush in 2001. Perhaps Syrians should be 'smart' enough to have accepted continued royal rule because the alternatives might be even worse, but history shows that is not how people think.
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