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April 2012

Israel’s Secret Weapon(full)


29 June 2003

Israel declared over the weekend that it is cutting off ties with the BBC to protest a repeat broadcast of a documentary about non-conventional weapons said to be in Israel.

The program was broadcast for the first time in March in Britain, and was rerun Saturday on a BBC channel that is aired all over the world. The boycott decision was made by Israel’s public relations forum, made up of representatives from the Prime Minister’s Office, the Foreign Ministry and the Government Press Office.

It was decided that government offices won’t assist BBC producers and reporters, that Israeli officials will not give interviews to the British network, and that the Government Press Office will make it difficult for BBC employees to get press cards and work visas in Israel.

Before the broadcast Saturday, Israeli officials tried to pressure the BBC to cancel the broadcast, saying that the program was biased and presented Israel as an evil dictatorship

Jimmy Kimmel Hosts the 2012 White House Correspondents’ Dinner


See Stephan Colbert  in 2006

Ashtar Theatre from Ramallah @ The Shakespeare’s Globe

Friday, April 27, 2012 at 12:58AM Gilad Atzmon

Ashtar Theatre from Ramallah production of Shakespeare’s political play Richard II about dictators, regime fall and love.  Rave reviews and sell out performances in Palestine – now coming to London for two performances at The Shakespeare’s Globe

“the production probes the psyche of rulers doomed by the Arab Spring”

“Are you contented to resign the crown?” …”Yes, no. No, yes,” Richard stutters, igniting a roar of laughter from the audience too familiar with similar jibes aimed at Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Yemen’s Ali Abdullah Saleh

Richard 2nd at the Shakespeare’s Globe theatre

Friday afternoon  4th May (2pm)

Saturday night 5th May  7pm

tickets & directions:

“We were amazed how deeply the play delves into the psychology of people and this moment in history,” said actress and producer Iman Aoun.

“It’s as if people and politicians don’t learn. …and it makes us realise how much the play resembles the present,” she said.

Maysaloon : dialogue with Qunfuz

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Writing on his blog, Qunfuz expresses so well what I have felt for months:

But the written word, and in English – what use is it? To point out that the regime is barbaric, criminal and stupid? Anybody who doesn’t know this by now, after over a year of slaughter, will never know it. To change the minds of faux-leftists whose compassion ends at the borders of occupied Palestine? Such minds will not be changed. To predict the future? I see no future for Syria. I don’t mean the future is doomed, I mean my predictive powers have frozen entirely, except for the obvious, that there will be blood and chaos so long as this criminal gang remains at large. To discuss whether or not things which have happened inevitably, like the emergence of the Free Syrian Army, are good or bad things? Such a discussion would be an exercise in abstract idealism, and this is not the time for that. People are being murdered, right now, again and again and again.

Over the past year my writing stamina has ebbed and flowed, but it has never been as bad as it is these past few months. And yet I chide myself for feeling exhausted. For if I feel mentally exhausted and unable to keep writing about the murder and bloodshed in Syria, what would those people risking their lives over there be saying now? Perhaps Qunfuz is right. Perhaps this is just not our time, and we must preserve our energies for the long sprint to the finish line.

This is now a competition of the will. There is a regime prepared to dig in and wear down the population, and a people that refuse to live under a dictatorship any longer. These days I often find myself having a discussion with an invisible protagonist. He tells me, “What’s the point? The regime is not weaker, the people have suffered enough. It is hopeless.”

“No,” I reply, ” you are going about this the wrong way. Was it not just last year that the regime’s supporters were telling us that this would all be over in days? Weeks? Months? What is truly amazing is not that the regime is still there, but that the revolution still exists.”

“You are being naive”, he says. “Why do you still call this a revolution when it is quite clear that there is a foreign conspiracy against the country? And now that it is armed?”

“Please,” I say, “who are we kidding? There has always been a conspiracy against the country; always some foreign plot. That is not an excuse for shooting unarmed demonstrators, and arresting and torturing people. This is not an issue of mistakes being made, this is a disease that is endemic throughout this rotten system. And be honest, where the hell are these arms everybody is talking about when it’s clear that people are buying or stealing whatever arms they can get. There isn’t an opposition “army”, it’s just a rag-tag bunch of adventurers, deserters and desperate people, some good, some bad.”

“And besides,” I continue, “how on earth can you justify turning entire cities into war zones? This is nothing less than a war of attrition by the dictatorship and its militia, once mistakenly referred to as the country’s national army, to wear down the people, crush their spirits, and return the country into the shadows.”

He gets annoyed now. “Yes, but don’t you see. These people are not going anywhere. They live here. And you know, as well as I, what Machiavelli says about those who occupy a land not just with soldiers, but who go to live there themselves. It is next to impossible to remove them.”

“I know that” I reply, “and I’ve thought about it often. But it occurred to me, don’t the protesters and their families also live there? And are the economic hardships not suffered by all the longer this continues? If the people are also there, and the people also refuse to submit, then what use is force? What use is a tank if you just keep pounding the same piles of rubble, and if the people keep returning at night when the soldiers leave? You cannot fight ghosts. You cannot fight a swarm of bees with your fists. At some point you must learn how to behave in each other’s presence, and the oppressor must learn that they only oppress themselves when they stamp their boots on their fellows and that when they dehumanise another person they are actually turning themselves into beasts.”

“Yes, but look at the refugees” he says, “look how many have left the country. And that’s not counting those people who have flown out and are now living abroad, and those business people and rich people who have already taken their money out of the country. That is only the tip of the iceberg. Do you propose emptying the country?”

“No, I don’t…” I say, “but what kind of life is this if they return to the way things were before? What use is it if this man and his family still rule the country like their personal farm? Is it not better to seek a better life elsewhere? What use to a king is a kingdom without subjects?”

“You’re being unpatriotic now,” he says, “if you cared about our country you would know that it is better to die there than live in exile.”

“Not at all”, I reply, “I belong to this country out of choice, not necessity. I take no pride in belonging to a country which treats its people this way. Besides, being patriotic and loving your country is not just about missing having tea and manakeesh on the balcony in the morning and listen to Fairouz on the car radio. I can do that anywhere. In fact, your real country never leaves you, because you carry it in your heart. And patriotism is not singing some ridiculous national anthem or waving a silly flag. The whole point about a country is that it is a place people can call home, where they feel safe and can speak their mind without fear of repression. It is a place where the guest is always welcome, and where you can protect yourself from your enemies. That is a country for me, and it can be anywhere.”

“You’re right, but, well, I don’t know any more. He’s not going anywhere” he says, “the bloodshed will not end any time soon. And I don’t know what the future holds but I don’t feel optimistic”.

“No.” I say, “No I don’t know what the future holds either. But we cannot give up hope, even if it is a fool’s hope.”

“No, we cannot”, he says.

“No, we cannot”, I say.


Not Writing About Syria


Robin Yassin-Kassab

with 3 comments

picture by Paul Klee

I haven’t been writing about Syria at my previous pace. The time is not right.

This is a time for Syrian internet activists, those still surviving, to send us their videos. It’s a time for gathering evidence – although no more evidence is needed.

It’s a time for reporters to write, for committed foreign journalists to smuggle themselves inside and tell the tale. (You could call the murdered journalists martyrs, because they chose to go to a place where they knew they might die, and they did so for the sake of the truth.)

People who have specific human stories to tell should tell them. I hear the occasional story, and I might relay some of them; but I am not there. I am observing from Scotland.

This time is the beginning of a long process of creative mulling for those who will eventually produce novels and films concerned with the tragedy.

Most of all it’s a time in which people scream and suffer and die, a time to wait for the next explosion, or the next kick at the door, or for the return of the rapists, or for the next shriek of pain and humiliation from the neighbouring cell. It’s a time for burying children at night, hastily, in silence. And the suffering continues with glacial inevitability. Fate doesn’t seem to plan an end to it, not yet.

In such a context, I wonder what the use of words is. It’s not a cerebral questioning – I know words have as much or as little use today as yesterday or tomorrow; an unquantifiable amount – but a physical doubt. Words appear as pretty imposters. Today guns speak. Mortars, rockets, Scud missiles, helicopter gunships, tanks, the foul mouths of the torturers, the opened mouths in their victims’ chests – all these speak. To be specific about it, they don’t speak, they act. Trucks and cars. Sticks and whips. The wires which deliver electric shocks. And the men of the armed resistance also act. While the world outside watches and sometimes speaks froth.

The words used by the demonstrators are not drowned out. This is because their words have become deeds. Each sound they make is a defiance – defying not only the regime but the rules of reality as previously established. Each sound they make is amplified a thousand times by their astounding, ridiculous courage. To dare to chant while the killers surround you is to have made a spiritual commitment, or perhaps it is to have gone mad. (Bertolt Brecht says: “He who fights can lose, but he who does not fight has already lost.”)

But the written word, and in English – what use is it? To point out that the regime is barbaric, criminal and stupid? Anybody who doesn’t know this by now, after over a year of slaughter, will never know it. To change the minds of faux-leftists whose compassion ends at the borders of occupied Palestine? Such minds will not be changed. To predict the future? I see no future for Syria. I don’t mean the future is doomed, I mean my predictive powers have frozen entirely, except for the obvious, that there will be blood and chaos so long as this criminal gang remains at large. To discuss whether or not things which have happened inevitably, like the emergence of the Free Syrian Army, are good or bad things? Such a discussion would be an exercise in abstract idealism, and this is not the time for that. People are being murdered, right now, again and again and again.

Back to Daraa

Syria under lockdown
We travel back to Daraa, where the nation’s uprising began, to find a city under complete military control
By and , GlobalPost

In this image made from amateur video released by the Shaam News Network and accessed Wednesday, April 18, 2012, smoke billows an impact following purported shelling in Khaldiyeh district, Homs, Syria. (AP Photo/Shaam News Network via AP video) (Credit: AP)

A GlobalPost journalist, whose name has been withheld for security reasons, reported this story from Daraa, Syria. Hugh Macleod contributed reporting from Beirut, Lebanon. This article originally appeared on GlobalPost.

DARAA, Syria — In the heart of Old Daraa — the tough, tribal, farming community on Syria’s southern border with Jordan — the Omari Mosque once stood as a symbol of resistance, a gathering point for those demanding the end of the regime, and a field hospital for when they received their reply.

Global PostToday, a year after GlobalPost first visited the city where Syria’s uprising began, the mosque has been transformed into a military base. Cement rooms have been built around its walls, home to dozens of soldiers.

The snipers who picked off civilians during the siege here last year are still posted atop the highest buildings and the headquarters of the ruling Baath Party and the regime’s many security agencies.

Tanks and armored vehicles remain deployed not only inside the main city itself — in violation of the UN-Arab League cease-fire plan — but around most towns and villages where anti-regime protests have taken place.

On road signs, bridges, schools and clinics the graffiti slogan that children first scrawled back in March 2011 still stands: “The people want to topple the regime.”

Dozens of checkpoints still ring Daraa and divide its streets and neighborhoods. Soldiers and secret police mete out arbitrary humiliation, residents said, often abusing women or making locals wait an hour in the blazing sun while they leisurely finish their cigarettes and tea.

Locals said government services are running at a minimum and state employees now regularly work only one or two days a week. The shops are open again, but night markets are a thing of the past as shutters come down promptly at 7 p.m., just before the regular nightly clashes between regime troops and armed rebels of the Free Syrian Army.

Exactly one year after first visiting this city, which gave birth to the Syrian uprising, a GlobalPost reporter described Daraa as “dying,” a “demolished battlefield” where residents complain bitterly about the destruction of their livelihoods and discuss international military intervention, finding arms to fight and other means to bring down the regime.

As the first major city to suffer a full military assault, the situation in Daraa could foreshadow the fate that likely awaits Homs, Hama and other major protest centers if the regime re-exerts long-term security control over urban opposition strongholds.

“We know that if we give up now the regime will finish us later,” said Abu Rami, a member of the Zuabi tribe, one of the four big tribal families that dominate Syria’s south, a land of black basalt rock, known to locals as the Houran.

“To keep our revolution going now costs less than if we stay at home until the army or security men come and slaughter us like sheep.”

One of Abu Rami’s cousins was among the 15 schoolboys whom security forces arrested last March for spray-painting anti-regime graffiti. The boys were tortured, sparking the mass protest movement. A year later, the 40-year-old said that security forces have killed at least 70 members of the Zuabi tribe. Each one — under the local system of tribal law — represents a blood feud between the tribe and the regime.

To travel from his home in Old Daraa’s Arbaeen quarter into the city center means Abu Rami must pass through three checkpoints, his every movement monitored by snipers.

Protests still go on across the Houran most Fridays, but they are now usually small and unable to join together as they did this time last year.

And every weekend, Syrian activist groups report the endless morbid toll: Reem Abdul Rahman, 17, killed in Giza yesterday, a day after her brother; Adel Ghaleb al-Zuabi, died of wounds untreated in Taiba; Ali al-Turk, tortured to death after being arrested in Al Karak al-Sharwi eight days ago; an unknown male from Heet, detained and tortured to death; Mahmoud al-Badawi, also from Heet, whose body was discovered in the village of Sahm, bearing the scars of torture.

All of these fatalities were from Daraa, just one area of Syria. The respected Syrian Network for Human Rights (SNHR) confirmed their deaths on Sunday. All told, the SNHR found 25 people killed on Sunday in Syria, a modest toll by the standards of the past month.

Against this backdrop of everyday long-term violence, even overtly non-political residents of Daraa appear to be becoming increasingly radicalized against the regime.

Ali is a 45-year-old engineer who works for the state and lives comfortably in a big house with his wife, four children and elderly parents in Daraa’s Qusour district. For the past year, however, Ali’s middle-class status has taken a serious hit: With regular electricity blackouts lasting between 12 and 14 hours, Ali can’t keep fresh food in his fridge, and his children have to study by candle or flashlight.

If his parents need medical treatment they can no longer seek it for free at the state-run Daraa National Hospital because Ali said the facility has been taken over by the military for the treatment of injured soldiers, secret police and armed pro-regime thugs.

Instead, they must travel to Damascus and endure the one aspect of the regime’s vice-like grip on Daraa that irks Ali the most: checkpoints.

“I am an engineer and earn a good income and have no problems with the government. But when I cross any checkpoint, the security men deal with me as if I am an armed fighter,” Ali said. “They don’t respect anyone: The elderly, women, the educated, they see all people as nothing.”

Last week, as he was trying to cross a checkpoint, Ali said a young member of the secret police took his ID and slapped him in the face with it.

“He said, ‘I’ve seen you before.’ He was joking and making fun of me. I felt so angry, but what can I do? It is very easy for him to shoot me and say that I am an armed fighter. No one will investigate or hold him accountable.”

As well as IDs, residents of Daraa wishing to travel north to the capital must now show security men at checkpoints their recently paid electricity, water and phone bills, a move by the regime to counter the spread of civil disobedience in protest centers like Daraa and Hama where residents began burning their municipality bills.

With so many checkpoints choking it off, Ali said many large food companies no longer send their trucks to Daraa, creating spiraling inflation on basic commodities.

Many of Ali’s neighbors have moved to the slum-like illegal housing areas that have sprung up around Damascus over the past decade. Ali chose to stay in Daraa to continue working his government job but makes regular trips to Damascus to buy dry foodstuffs rather than pay exorbitant local prices.

And every time he travels he faces the same checkpoint humiliation.

“The military and security crackdown pushed the people to be more angry and radical but without solving any problems,” Ali said. “Personally, I used to be very supportive of Bashar al-Assad, but today I am not.”

More GlobalPost

  • Syria: How it all began

    A single act of brutality by Assad’s secret police ignited protests that swept the country
    Hugh Macleod and a reporter in Syria April 23, 2011
  • source

Harvard Israel conference presents ‘innovation’ to hide occupation

by on April 23, 2012 20

(Image: Facebook)

As a response to the highly successful One State Conference at Harvard held last month, a number of Harvard undergraduate and graduate students recently organized the Israel Conference. According to its website and an op-ed by the conference’s organizers, the conference is meant to showcase Israel’s innovation – in a way that is palatable to all parties involved in activism around the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Speakers at the conference included Harvard history professor Niall Ferguson, Governor of the Bank of Israel Stanley Fischer, the author of the book “Start-Up Nation” Dan Senor, Dennis Ross and a number of other panelists and entrepreneurs.Unfortunately, the Israel Conference brought to campus individuals whose disregard for international law raises questions regarding the conference’s dubious educational quality.

At least two panelists – Asaf Bar Ilan and Michael Eisenberg – are involved in illegal settlement activities. The first owns a farm in the occupied Golan Heights – territory that belongs to Syria and has been occupied by Israel since 1967. The second sits on the board of a religious and military school in the Gush Etzion settlement bloc in the West Bank. Both of these cases are a direct affront to the Geneva Conventions, which explicitly forbid the expropriation and settlement of occupied land by citizens of the hostile state – in this case, Israel. Sustainable innovation that deserves praise does not stem from illegal activities. The involvement of two panelists who violate international law in their daily lives proves the conference’s lack of credibility, and reflects quite clearly the inextricability of Israeli “innovation” from the occupation of Palestinian land and violation of Palestinian rights.  (Screenshots:


As troubling as the presence of settlers coming to speak at a university is (we’ve been long since sadly habituated by the presence of both IDF and US military officials as a regular presence), so too is the attempt by the conference organizers to recast Israel purely as an “innovation state” an undeniable propaganda effort.

After being called out for their whitewashing efforts in an op-ed by fellow Palestine Solidarity Committee member Alex Shams, being faced with the facts of Israel’s innovation-Occupation duo in another op-ed, and being faced with a counter-campaign whose posters you can see below, the conference organizers published another op-ed defending their enterprise using the tattered shield of “we self-sacrificing Israelis only want peace but get nothing but rockets in return.” Aside from the fact that any kind of terrorism directed at civilians is a war crime and is never condoned, depicting the so-called peace process as an Israeli-only enterprise blindly buries the efforts of thousands of Palestinians (and citizens of other countries) who have dedicated their lives to achieving a solution for this conflict. It seems, however, that in addition to trying to conceal the unpleasant matter of the Occupation underneath Israeli success stories, the conference organizers are also trying to bury decades of global peace struggle in the same casket where Israel apologists have interred nonviolent Palestinian resistance and where they are trying to (metaphorically) entomb pro-peace Israeli activists and NGOs.


This poster was part of a media campaign run by a number of independent individuals at Harvard to challenge the assumptions and publicity of the Israel Conference and instead present the public with a different perspective on the roots of Israeli innovation: ethnic cleansing, the Occupation, and foreign subsidies.

The text says: “Come learn the exciting secrets of the vibrant ‘start up nation’ & the realities of Israeli innovation. After ethnically cleansing 700,000 Palestinians in 1948, we demolished their homes and built farms and parks on top. Or as we say, ‘made the desert bloom!’

Since occupying the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, we have explored diverse and exciting new ways to start wars against our neighbors. Indeed, Israel is forever optimistic about its ability to never be held accountable for its crimes under international law!

Is it sustainable? Since 1949, Israel has received about $109 billion in US aid, including $3 billion in 2011, despite being one of the most developed countries on Earth!”

An image of Mr. Fischer’s presentation.

At the conference itself, a friend of mine who attended told me how Niall Ferguson, Harvard history professor and one of the keynote speakers, engaged in the classic game of listing Arab versus Jewish inventions, proving the point (as if that needed to be done) that the conference is nothing but a political propaganda tool. Stanley Fischer, Governor of the Bank of Israel and other keynote speaker, decided to focus instead on the demographic threat posed by Arab population growth rates – another Zionist trope and indication that the main course “innovation” comes with a side of fear politics and demagoguery.

At the end of the day, no one asked – or rather attempted to coerce – Harvard University to shut down the Israel Conference or dissociate itself from it, as was done by vocal pro-Israel groups for the One State Conference. Instead we hope that all attendees, both Harvard-affiliated and not, will see through this hasbara wall engraved with upward-trending NASDAQ arrows and understand what it hides: the legitimization of the settler movement, a distortion of the history of the “peace process”, a decades-old colonial establishment, and “sustainable innovation” based on extensive foreign aid and lack of legal accountability.

About Giacomo Bagarella

Giacomo Bagarella is a Government and Psychology undergraduate student at Harvard. He is one of the co-chairs of the Harvard College Palestine Solidarity Committee. Giacomo has spent the last two summer in the Middle East, studying Arabic in Jordan and working for a human rights organization in Cairo.

More Secrets on Growing State Surveillance: Exclusive Part 2 with NSA Whistleblower, Targeted Hacker


AMY GOODMAN: We turn to part two of Democracy Now!’swhistleblowerwilliam”>national broadcast exclusive on the growing domestic surveillance state and the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to spy on dissident journalists, whistleblowers and activists.

We play more of our interview with National Security Agency whistleblower William Binney. He was a key source for James Bamford’s recent exposé in Wired Magazine about the NSA, how the National Security Agency is quietly building the largest spy center in the country in Bluffdale, Utah. Binney served in the NSA for close to 40 years, including a time as technical director of the NSA’s World Geopolitical and Military Analysis Reporting Group. Since retiring from the NSA in 2001, he has warned the agency’s data-mining program has become so vast it could, quote, “create an Orwellian state.” In 2007, the FBI raided Binney’s house. An agent put a gun to his head. His appearance on Democracy Now! on Friday marked the first time Binney spoke on national television about surveillance by the National Security Agency. He revealed the agency collected vast amounts of data on communications between U.S. citizens.

Juan González and I also interviewed two people who have been frequent targets of government surveillance. Laura Poitras is the Oscar-nominated filmmaker, and Jacob Appelbaum, a computer security researcher who has volunteered with WikiLeaks. Poitras is the director of documentary films, My Country, My Country, about Iraq, and The Oath, about Guantánamo and Yemen. Both Poitras and Appelbaum have been repeatedly detained and interrogated by federal agents when entering the United States. Their laptops, cameras, cell phones have been seized. Presumably, their data has been copied. The Justice Department has also targeted Appelbaum’s online communications.

’60 Minutes’ profiles Palestinian Christians, Michael Oren falls on his face

The above story ran on 60 Minutestonight. It’s a powerful piece showing life under occupation, and a damning portrait of Michael Oren as the chief spokesperson for Israel’s unjust control over the West Bank. On the onerous permit regime that limits freedom of movement and defines Palestinian existence in the occupied territories Oren says, “It’s their inconvenience, it’s our survival.” Oren tries to blame the dwindling Christian community in the West Bank on Islamic extremism, and Palestinian Christians interviewed nearly break out laughing. Not surprisingly, Oren calls Israel’s Christian critics anti-Semites.But perhaps the most revealing part of the show was Bob Simon sharing that Oren had complained to CBS News head Jeff Fager before the segment had even been aired, calling it “a hatchet job.”From 6o Minutes:

For Israel, there could be serious economic consequences. According to Israeli government figures, tourism is a multi billion dollar business there. Most tourists are Christian. Many of them are American. That’s one reason why Israelis are very sensitive about their image in the United States. And that could be why Ambassador Oren phoned Jeff Fager, the head of CBS News and executive producer of 60 Minutes, while we were still reporting the story, long before tonight’s broadcast. He said he had information our story was quote: “a hatchet job.”

Michael Oren: It seemed to me outrageous. Completely incomprehensible that at a time when these communities, Christian communities throughout the Middle East are being oppressed and massacred, when churches are being burnt, when one of the great stories in history is unfolding? I think it’s– I think it’s– I think you got me a little bit mystified.

Bob Simon: And it was a reason to call the president of– chairman of CBS News?

Michael Oren: Bob, I’m the ambassador of the State of Israel. I do that very, very infrequently as ambassador. It’s just– that’s an extraordinary move for me to complain about something. When I heard that you were going to do a story about Christians in the Holy Land and my assum– and– and had, I believe, information about the nature of it, and it’s been confirmed by this interview today.

Bob Simon: Nothing’s been confirmed by the interview, Mr. Ambassador, because you don’t know what’s going to be put on air.

Michael Oren: Okay. I don’t. True.

Bob Simon: Mr. Ambassador, I’ve been doing this a long time. And I’ve received lots of reactions from just about everyone I’ve done stories about. But I’ve never gotten a reaction before from a story that hasn’t been broadcast yet.

Michael Oren: Well, there’s a first time for everything, Bob.

This was the 60 Minutes gotcha moment. Be sure to watch it, the reaction shots of Oren are priceless.

There are also supplemental videos available on the 60 Minutes website including this on Palestinian Christian support for BDS: (Kairos, see Mondoweiss)

See also this :
Before ’60 Minutes’ piece aired, Jewish Federations called for ‘flood’ of ‘discourse’ to CBS (what’s next, locusts?)

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