Relevant and even prescient commentary on news, politics and the economy.

Monopoly Politics

“The national landscape in 2018 tilts in favor of Republicans with Republicans sitting on 208 safe seats, 10 seats away from a majority, and 22 additional and not projected seats leaning Republican(too close to call).” It would take Democrats casting 55% of the votes in a national two-party election to tip the House majority the other way. It is possible as it did happen in 2008 when there was a 57% turnout.

What makes the following projections disturbing is the accuracy of Fair Vote projections does not take into consideration polls, demographic characteristics of the districts, incumbent’s voting record, any scandals, or money spent. The basis for these projections are the presidential election results (both in the district and nationally) from 2016, and an incumbent’s performance in prior elections. The only changes incorporated are when incumbents announce they will not seek re-election or when a state redraws congressional district lines. The methodology in the report is in detail with the only overwhelmingly important factor being a district’s partisanship measured only by the relative presidential vote in that district.

I have advocated for much smaller congressional districts along the lines of what is in Article 1 Section 2 of the Constitution which would remove much of the ability to gerrymander, give greater representation to people, and make Congressional representations responsive to the interests of the district rather than a select group in power. Fair Vote advocates another way worth taking into consideration. Read more of the site for a explanation. The following is how they view the 2018 House election outcome

Rather than follow 538 or Princeton Consortium both of who made a mess out of the 2016 election, I picked up on Fair Vote Organization. With 435 House Seats being elected every two years, one could believe there would be a small number of incumbents reelected each cycle. It is safe to say, the percentage returning to office is projected at 86% by the Fair Vote Org. or 374 seats secured by incumbents. So much for a Blue Wave? Incumbents can feel relatively secure in returning to office regardless of the opponent, how much is spent, or type of partisan wave occurring. The following chart represents 2018 Projections including Toss-Ups.

Supporting their bold projections is a legacy of accuracy in 2012, 2014 and 2016 for 1,062 House races and missing only once (1). 99.9% correct is a good accuracy rate to have. The 2018 report shows the most ossified electoral landscape yet, being the first year we have projected more than 370 seats at this degree of confidence. Fair Vote does have a map on site showing each congressional seat as an equal area and which ones are in play (yellow seats). The purple seats are all safe enough to be projected with high confidence.

In addition to 374 high-confidence projections, Fair Vote also projects favorites for the other 61 seats with a lower level of confidence. 40 of the 61 seats favor one party over the other, not enough to warrant a projection, and leaves only 21 true “toss up” seats leaning slightly lean to one party.

Previous projections for all 435 seats in 2016 were remarkably accurate including those made for the lower confidence seats. Of the 56 seats Fair Vote did not project; but which favored one of the parties, Fair Vote was right in 50 picks or 89.3% correct. Of the 18 seats identified as “toss ups” with a slight lean to one of the parties; Fair Vote was right in 12 or 66.7% correct. In 2016 Fair Votes full projections were correct in 423 of 435 districts or 97.2% correct. The clincher was the projections were made more than two years before the 2016 elections. The following chart represents current projections, favored, and a breakdown of tossups.

Our ’18 House Projections: Monopoly Politics Remains in Place, Fair Vote Organization

Fair Vote Organization

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Cuomo: America ‘was never that great’

Gov. Andrew Cuomo at an event, where he signed anti sex-trafficking bills into law. “We’re not gonna make America great again. It was never that great. We have not reached greatness and we will reach greatness when every American is fully engaged.

We will reach greatness when discrimination and stereotyping against women, 51 percent of our population, is gone and every woman’s full potential is realized and unleashed. When every woman is making her full contribution . . . when that happens, this nation is going to be taken even higher.”

A Republican response? “America, with its imperfections, has always been great, our people, our principles, and our promises have been a beacon light to the world for 242 years and counting.”

Wow, reflections of Ronald Reagan.

“Governor Mario Cuomo (father) challenged President Reagan’s shining city metaphor and offered one of his own. He asserted that America is more a ‘Tale of Two Cities’ than it is a ‘Shining City on a Hill,’ and Republican policies such as trickle down economics ‘divide the nation into the lucky and the left-out.’”

The Hill, America Was Never that Great

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States Fight non-ObamaCare Health Plans

The Trump administration’s new policy of expanding the sale of “short-term” insurance plans as a cheaper alternative to ObamaCare is quickly running into opposition from state regulators.

The Department of Health and Human Services is urging states to cooperate with the federal government, but instead, insurance commissioners are panning the new plans as “junk” insurance and state legislatures are putting restrictions on their sales.

State insurance officials argue that, despite being less expensive than ObamaCare plans, the short-term plans are bad for consumers and aren’t an adequate substitute for comprehensive insurance.

“These policies are substandard, don’t cover essential health benefits, and consumers at a minimum don’t understand [what they’re buying], and at worse are misled,” California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones (D) said.

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Sunday Morning News Clips

Manual Transmission Foils Car Theft

“A press release from the Nashville police department said they arrested two teenagers last Wednesday aftr they attempted to carjack two women that day and failed. The teens ultimately failed both times, with the second being because the car had a manual transmission. They had to run away on foot.”

We Reserve the Right to Refuse Service . . .

A British woman tried to place an order at her local McDonald’s while on horseback, but was turned away.

Louise Carter, who lives in Powick, England, made the three-and-a-half-mile journey to nearby Malvern last month, but was rejected by staff citing a strict drive-thru policy.

According to McDonald’s UK, drive-thru lanes are reserved solely for motor vehicles, meaning that horses are out. Bicycles are also prohibited.

The Impact of Higher Temperatures on Economic Growth

“What happens to the economy when it gets hot outside? Despite long-standing assumptions that economic damage from rising global temperatures would be limited to the agricultural sector or developing economies, this Economic Brief presents evidence that higher summer temperatures hurt a variety of business sectors in the United States.”

Congressman Chris Collins arrested

Rep. Chris Collins, R-N.Y. was arrested Wednesday morning on federal insider trading charges, law enforcement officials said.

Why You Should Care About Unions

The average person in the United States has essentially zero power in society. That’s why millions have organized into unions over the years. But the slow decline of unionism in the United States should concern you even if you’re not in one.

Busting the Myth of Immigrant Crime

“My national analysis last year detailed the startling fact that Whites living in suburban, small-town, and rural areas surrounded by other Whites are in much more danger of violent and premature death, including suicide, homicide, gun fatality, drug overdose, and related “deaths of despair” than Whites living in or around multiracial cities. Whites show worse social trends than non-Whites, and Whites in remote exurban and rural areas show by far the worst trends and highest violent death rates of all. Despite Trump’s and Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ baseless condemnations, “sanctuary cities” that adopt pro-immigrant protections are especially safe for Whites.”

The Nastiest Feud in Science

“According to the fossil record, creatures were dying en masse. Mystery solved: An asteroid had crashed into the Earth, spewing iridium and pulverized rock dust around the globe and wiping out most life forms.

Gerta Keller argues that the mass extinction was caused not by a wrong-place-wrong-time asteroid collision but by a series of colossal volcanic eruptions in a part of western India known as the Deccan Traps—a theory that was first proposed in 1978 and then abandoned by all but a small number of scientists. Her research, undertaken with specialists around the world and featured in leading scientific journals, has forced other scientists to take a second look at their data. “Gerta uncovered many things through the years that just don’t sit with the nice, simple impact story that Alvarez put together,’ Andrew Kerr, a geochemist at Cardiff University, told me. ‘She’s made people think about a previously near-uniformly accepted model.’”

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Mid Week Clips

Sleepers in Hong Kong McDonalds

I have eaten at the McDonalds in Hong Kong over the years. Just smaller portions and only after I grew tired of fish and veggies. I think I told the story of coming off The Wall, making my way down a road with my Chinese associates towards a Chinese restaurant, and turning the corner to eat at a KFC (their choice). It back upped to The Wall. They loved it.

According to a survey, in just five years there has been a six-fold increase in so-called McRefugees in Hong Kong or residents who spend their nights sleeping in the 24-hour McDonald’s outlets across the city.

People Keep Shooting Up the Emmet Till Sign

Hate and bigotry dies hard in some places.

Shot-up Emmett Till Memorial

Kroger To Stop Accepting Visa

A California subsidiary of Kroger will stop accepting Visa credit cards next month in a dispute over swipe fees.

“Foods Co. Supermarkets said it would no longer take Visa credit cards beginning Aug. 14. The ban will cover 21 stores and five fueling centers in central and northern California. Shoppers will still be able to use Visa debit cards, as well as cards from other networks such as Mastercard, Discover and American Express.”

The cost of swiping using a debit card and computerized systems are getting out of hand. In 2014, Walmart filed suit against Visa alleging it cost $350 million in fees from 2004 to 2012.

Trump Admits to Meeting

“President Trump said on Sunday that a Trump Tower meeting between top campaign aides and a Kremlin-connected lawyer was designed to “get information on an opponent” — the starkest acknowledgment yet that a statement he dictated last year about the encounter was misleading.”

Too Little Too Late’: Bankruptcy Booms Among Older Americans

For a growing number of older Americans, traditional ideas about life in retirement are being upended by a dismal reality . . . bankruptcy.
The signs of potential trouble such as vanishing pensions, soaring medical expenses, inadequate savings have been building for years. Now, new research sheds light on the scope of the problem. The study found the rate of people 65 and older filing for bankruptcy is three times what it was in 1991 and the same group accounts for a far greater share of all filers.

Steel Giants With Ties to Trump Officials Block Tariff Relief for Hundreds of Firms

“Charlotte-based Nucor, which financed a documentary film made by a top trade adviser to Mr. Trump and Pittsburgh-based United States Steel which has previously employed several top administration officials have both objected to the 1,600 exemption requests filed with the Commerce Department.

To date, their efforts have not failed and resulted in denials for companies based in the United States but rely on imported pipes, screws, wire and other foreign steel products for their supply chains.

The ability of a single industry to exert so much influence on the exclusion process is striking even in Mr. Trump’s business-friendly White House, given the high stakes for thousands of American companies that depend on foreign metals. The boundaries of trade policy are being tested by the scope of Mr. Trump’s multifront trade war with allies and adversaries alike, which includes tariffs on up to $200 billion worth of goods from China and possible tariffs on automobiles and auto parts.”

Commerce Department: 59% of the denials come in cases where United States Steel, Nucor, or a third large steel maker AK Steel Holding Corporation have filed an objection. Nearly all of the rest were in cases where the company applying for an exclusion erred in its submission.

Economy Adds 157,000 Jobs in July, Little Evidence of Pick-up in Wage Growth Mark Thoma cites Dean Baker’s Report

“In spite of the healthy pace of job growth and the low unemployment rate, there continues to be little evidence of accelerating wage growth. Over the last year, the average hourly wage has risen by 2.7 percent. There is a very small uptick to 2.87 percent if we annualize the rate of wage growth for the last three months (May, June, and July) compared with the prior three months (February, March, and April).

Interestingly, there was a modest fall in hours in July, which led to a decline in the index of aggregate weekly hours from 110.0 to 109.8. As a result, the average weekly wage actually declined slightly in July.

The leading sector for job gains in July was manufacturing, which added 37,000 jobs, all but 5,000 of which were in the durable goods sector. Employment in the sector is up by 327,000 over the last year, an increase of 2.6 percent.”

NDD has covered similar in his posts at Angry Bear.

Notes On A Butter Republic

Paul Krugman: Denmark, where tax receipts are 46 percent of GDP compared with 26 percent in the U.S., is arguably the most social-democratic country in the world. According to conservative doctrine, the combination of high taxes and aid to “takers” must really destroy incentives both to create jobs and to take them in any case. So, Denmark must suffer from mass unemployment, right?

Yep, Danish adults are more likely to be employed than their U.S. counterparts. They work somewhat shorter hours, although that may well be a welfare-improving choice. But what Denmark shows is that you can run a welfare state far more generous than we do – beyond the wildest dreams of U.S. progressives – and still have a highly successful economy.

Indeed, while GDP per capita in Denmark is lower than in the U.S. – basically because of shorter work hours – life satisfaction is notably higher.

Short Term Healthcare Policies

Good Discussion at Kaiser on Trump/Republican Compliant Short Term Policies and what they will and will not cover.

The Affordable Care Act (ACA) exempted short-term policies from market rules that apply to most major medical health insurance policies sold to individuals in the non-group market: rules that prohibit medical underwriting, pre-existing condition exclusions, and lifetime and annual limits, and that require minimum coverage standards. By contrast, short-term policies:

• are often underwritten with pre-existing medical conditions in mind. Applicants with health conditions can be turned down or charged higher premiums, without limit, based on health status, gender, “age,” and other factors;
• exclude coverage for people with pre-existing conditions – policyholders who get sick may be investigated by the insurer to determine whether the newly-diagnosed condition can be considered pre-existing and excluded from coverage;
• do not have to cover essential health benefits – typical short-term policies do not cover maternity care, prescription drugs, mental health care, preventive care, and other essential benefits, and may limit coverage in other ways;
• can impose lifetime and annual limits – for example, many policies cap covered benefits at $2 million or less;
• are not subject to cost sharing limits – some short term policies may require cost sharing in excess of $20,000 per person per policy period, compared to the ACA-required annual cap on cost sharing of $7,350 in 2018 ; and
• are not subject to other ACA market requirements – such as rate review or minimum medical loss ratios.

In comparison, an ACA Catastrophic plan covers all essential benefits, allows 3 PCP visits per year, and will cover certain preventative services at no cost for people under 30. If your income is that low for either Trump’s plan or the ACA plan, you are better off to get a Bronze or Silver plan as you will be eligible for a subsidy. The new version by Trump and Azar is a ripoff.

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The Birth of a Bomb and the Rebirth of a City

1945 and 2018

On August 6, 1945; The US dropped an atomic bomb (Little Boy) on Hiroshima destroying much of the city and instantly killing 80,000 of its citizens. 60,000 more would die later

On August 6, 1945; The Enola Gay dropped the first atomic bomb ever used in military combat on Hiroshima. A second atomic bomb was dropped on Nagasaki August 9, 1945.

On August 6, 2018; On the 73rd anniversary of dropping of the first atomic bomb, the residents of Hiroshima will pause to remember the 80,000 residents and the destruction which changed the course of history. Church bells will ring at 8:15 AM, the moment the bomb was dropped from the Enola Gay.

Later on August 6, 2018 and in the evening, Toro Nagashi Lanterns will be floated down the Motoyasu river and past The Atomic Dome (Prefuctural Industrial Promotion Hall). First held in 1946, the Toro Nagashi (literally, “flowing lanterns”) ceremony was first held in Tokyo. Participants Float glowing paper lanterns down a river to commemorate the souls of the dead.

Today, Hiroshima is a prosperous manufacturing city.

Hiroshima Today, Laura McCamy, “Business Insider,” August 6, 2018

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Saturday Night News Clips

Rude Tipping

How to torment the wait staff for their tip. A fun game to play on a night out with your wife or friends. The diner shared the experience on Facebook claiming his methods resulted in “the best service experienced.”

Explaining at the beginning of the meal, he would place five single dollar bills on the table for the server to see and not say anything to them. If they messed up, he would take a dollar away and so on. At the end of the dinner, whatever was left was their tip.”

Wait staff would keep looking at the money with a puzzled look on their face. Once he took away a dollar because of forgotten table bread. He replaced the dollar when the waiter brought extra bread later. “Ha ha all in all a great evening of fun with my love and a good dinner experiment we both wanted to see play out. Try it, you will be surprised!” he wrote.

One waiter’s comment: “I served for years putting myself through college – i would have ignored you most of the night for the satisfaction of letting you know your condescending $5 means absolutely nothing to me while i racked up $10-$20 tips from people that can actually afford to go out to eat.”

NRA alleges financial difficulties

The National Rifle Association (NRA) is alleging it is facing financial danger after the state of New York pressured financial institutions to cut ties with the gun group.

Obtained and first reported by Rolling Stone, the NRA claims in a lawsuit, the state of New York sought to hurt the organization by urging financial institutions and insurers not to work with the gun group.

The organization is suing New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D), the state’s Department of Financial Services (DFS), and Maria Vullo, New York’s superintendent of financial services. An amended version of the complaint was filed in U.S. District Court in New York last month.

The lawsuit stems from a May decision by New York financial regulators over “Carry Guard,” a-NRA marketed insurance policy for members who face legal costs after firing a gun legally. The DFS determined that the policy was illegal under New York state law, and the insurers who provided it must stop selling the policies and paid a $7 million fine.

Trump commission did not find widespread voter fraud
Republican President Donald Trump convened a commission to investigate the 2016 presidential election after he made unsubstantiated claims of 3 million to 5 million ballots were illegally cast. Maine Secretary of State Matthew Dunlap and other critics rejected Trump’s claims of widespread voter fraud.

The Trump administration last month complied with a court order to turn over documents from the voting integrity commission to Matthew Dunlap. The commission met just twice and had not issued a report.

Dunlap’s findings received immediate pushback Friday from Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who acted as the vice chair of the commission with VP Mike Pence serving as the chair.

“For some people, no matter how many cases of voter fraud you show them, there will never be enough for them to admit that there’s a problem,” said Kobach, who is running for Kansas governor and has a good chance of unseating the incumbent, Jeff Colyer, in the Republican primary Tuesday.

“It appears that Secretary Dunlap is willfully blind to the voter fraud in front of his nose,” Kobach said in a statement released by his spokesman.

Kobach said there have been more than 1,000 convictions for voter fraud since 2000, and that the commission presented 8,400 instances of double voting in the 2016 election in 20 states.

“Had the commission done the same analysis of all 50 states, the number would have been exponentially higher,” Kobach said.

In response, Dunlap said those figures were never brought before the commission, and Kobach has not presented any evidence for his claims of double voting. He said the commission was presented with a report claiming over 1,000 convictions for various forms of voter misconduct since 1948.

“The plural of anecdote is not data,” Dunlap said in his Friday letter to the shuttered commission’s leaders.

Federal judge says Trump must fully restore DACA

A federal judge ruled Friday that the Trump administration must fully restore the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.

In his 25-page opinion, Judge John Bates said the Trump White House had “again” failed to provide justification for its proposal to end the Obama-era program, under which nearly 800,000 people brought to the country illegally as children, known as “Dreamers,” have received work permits and deferral from deportation.
The judge also said in his opinion that he has agreed to delay his ruling to give the Trump administration 20 days “to determine whether it intends to appeal the Court’s decision and, if so, to seek a stay pending appeal.”

There Are Still a Lot of Men Without Jobs

The prime-age employment-population ratio which is the most straightforward of job market measures hit a new post-recession high of 79.5 percent in the U.S. in July, according to today’s jobs report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. However when looking at a separate analysis for men and women, the measurement for men still falls short for men.

For prime-age women, the employment-population ratio is back to its peak from the previous business cycle, and within 2 percentage points of its all-time high in March 2000.

For U.S. prime-age men, meanwhile, the employment-population ratio is still almost 2 percentage points below its peak from the last business cycle, and nearly 10 points below its all-time high (the data series goes back to 1948) in March 1953. Countless studies have addressed the possible causes of this disappearance of prime-age men from the workforce, and I’m not going to go into them here. It just seems worth noting that, even with the unemployment rate dipping to levels last seen on a sustained basis in the 1960s, there are still a lot of prime-age men out there without jobs (8.6 million in total, according to the BLS) who could conceivably be put to work.

Colbert “Daddy’s Little Contradictor” Perhaps, feckless is too weak a term to describe the lady?

To Close Saturday Night . . . Dan Rather on Trump’s attack on Lebron

“This is apparently what the President of the United States feels the need to share with the world at what should be long past his bedtime?

It’s a disgrace. It’s racist.

And it’s the product of petty but dangerous hatreds. I repeat this is the PRESIDENT??!?”

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“Paid Off” A Noir Style Game Show to Pay off Student Loans

I do not know what generation Maxwell Strahan of Huffpost is of; but if he is of the Millennials, he has it correct in his HuffPost article. . . “The Greatest “Crisis of My Generation is Now a Dystopian Show.” The crisis? Student Loan debt, the penalties associated with it, and the inability to declared bankruptcy are the greatest crises facing younger generations and will also be for this nation when millions of them default. The Show? “Paid Off!

There is a certain degree of cynicism and blackness to this show which places it in a “film noir” category or show noir (if such a category existed) to be precise. Young students saddled with a life time of debt from profit and non-profit institutions to which there is no escape unless disabled or dead. The blackness to this show comes when the indebted contestants turn to answering zany questions taken from stranger categories in the hope of eliminating their student loan debt which should not be such a burden if they could work in the field they were trained or educated in and make enough to pay off the debt. If delinquent, the burden increases, and rather than capitalize the accrued interest, the student must pay the interest before they can pay down the principal which acquires more interest. It is a vicious cycle created by a Congress favoring financial institutions over constituents.

If an 18 year old student received the right advice and chose the correct education with adequate funding; they were probably successful, courted by others, and can now sit back and critique those who were less fortunate. If the 18 year old was not so fortunate to have had the right advice, direction, and low-cost financing or a paid-for education; they potentially ended up saddled with a lot of debt, indentured to a life time of payments, and a degree which possibly will do little for them. Having a college education has turned into a crap-shoot for many as it may not offer the expected monetary returns. Or as the Knight (Robert Eddison) guarding the Holy Grail in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” said; “He (or she) chose poorly.” Or chose poorly because of a lack of knowledge, being sold a worthless product by hucksters, and a lack of jobs.

The “Paid Off,” show is a take-off of Jeopardy (see the clip below) except instead of winning money, the contestants gets a chance to eliminate student loan debt. The “Paid Off” host Michael Torpey asks each x-student-player a series of Jeopardy-style questions from selected categories which each must win. Each player clicks on a button and whoever is first and answers correctly wins that question and receives multiples of $100. At the end of the game, the person with the most $dollars goes to the final round and must answer 8 questions in 60 seconds. If they are successful, the show pays their student debt in total. If Michael Torpey is a familiar name to you, he is best known as the Corrections Officer Thomas Humphrey of “Orange is the New Black.”

A clip of the show

Here, Maxwell Strahan describes the intensity of the show.

“The darkness (my emphasis) and most excruciating minute of the series premiere of ‘Paid Off’ ― truTV’s new game show offering contestants the possibility of a life free of student debt ― comes near the end. Madeleine, a graduate of North Carolina’s Davidson College, walks up to the middle of the stage as the only player to make it to the show’s final round.

Saddled with $41,222 in debt, Madeline has the chance to wipe it all away in an instant should she answer eight trivia questions correctly in a 60-second period. Before the final round begins, Michael Torpey of pauses to ask Madeline what her dream life would look like if she were to magically rid herself of the tens of $thousands she owes.

‘Right now, I live in a tiny little loft apartment with my boyfriend and my dog, I would love to marry my boyfriend and move into a home with a yard.’ (Sound familiar to all who have reached that point in life? Rather than funding bank profits, a couple starts to be more productive in their community and funds it).

If ‘Black Mirror’ is a dystopian glimpse at where society is headed, ‘Paid Off’ is an even more horrifying peek at where it already stands. Maybe on another game show in another era ― say, the ‘Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?’ of the early 2000s ― Madeleine would have dreamed of a McMansion, or a fancy car, or a trip around the world on a luxury cruise. But this is the United States of America circa 2018 and it is much simpler and less exciting. Madeleine is one of the more than 40 million Americans struggling to get out from under a collective $1.5 trillion in student loan debt.

For Madeleine and the millions of other people like her, just getting back to zero would be a reason to celebrate.” Hence the noir quality of the show.

Oh and did Madeline succeed in wiping out her student loan debt? Unfortunately; she answered 7 of 8 questions in the 60 seconds, won $24,211, and not enough to pay off the $41,222 she owes.

“I know it’s not everything,” a consoling Torpey says to her.

“It’s a lot,” Madeline replies . . . just getting back to zero is a reason to celebrate and move on while young in life.

Madeline’s Full Episode “Paid Off” The show and Mike Torpey hit it on the head.

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