Category Archives: Abuse of public trust

Environmental abuse by major corporations

Christie OKs lead testing for school water but what about repairs?

drinking water
Source: app.com
In the almost eight years Christie’s been New Jersey’s governor he’s done more harm than good. Probably why his popularity rating is about 12% – OK, wait, I just checked that statistic and it’s actually 18%.

So now, Christie is desperately doing what he should have been doing all along – moving projects forward to help the people of the state he governs, including giving attention to lead in schools’ drinking water. But with his history of blatant lies, it’s hard to figure out what he actually intends to do, until he’s actually done it.

Now Christie, destroyer of everything public education in the Garden State, is suddenly concerned with lead in the pipes of the same schools he refused to release repair funds for. Concerned about testing, that is. What are the chances that between now and the end of his term, the governor will actually give over the money schools need to get lead out of our public school students’ drinking water?

I’m not holding my breath.

In 2nd agreement, Volkswagen recalls 83,000 diesel vehicles & settles on emissions cheating scandal

No more lies
Source: GreenPeace via Twitter
WASHINGTON – In a second partial settlement announced today by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the State of California, automakers Volkswagen AG, Audi AG, Porsche AG and related entities (collectively referred to as Volkswagen), have agreed to recall 83,000 model year 2009 through 2016 3.0 liter diesel vehicles sold or leased in the U.S. that are alleged to be equipped with “defeat devices” to cheat emissions tests, in violation of the Clean Air Act and California law. For the older vehicles, Volkswagen is required to offer to buy back the vehicles or terminate leases, and must also offer an emissions modification to substantially reduce emissions if one is proposed by Volkswagen and approved by regulators. For the newer vehicles, if Volkswagen demonstrates it can make the vehicles compliant with the certified exhaust emission standards, it will have to fix the vehicles and will not be required to buy the vehicles back. Volkswagen is also required to spend $225 million to fund projects that will reduce emissions of nitrogen oxide (NOx).

Today’s partial settlement does not resolve any pending claims for civil penalties, nor does it address any potential criminal liability. The settlement also does not resolve any consumer claims, claims by the Federal Trade Commission, or claims by individual owners or lessees who may have asserted claims in the ongoing multidistrict litigation. The state of California has secured a separate resolution for the 3.0 liter violations that addresses issues specific to vehicles and consumers in California.

The affected older vehicles (referred to as “generation 1” vehicles) are the 2009 through 2012 Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7 diesel models. The affected newer vehicles (referred to as “generation 2” vehicles) are the 2013-2016 Volkswagen Touareg diesels, 2013 through 2015 Audi Q7 diesels, 2013 through 2016 Porsche Cayenne diesels, and 2014 through 2016 Audi A6 quattro, A7 quattro, A8, A8L and Q5 diesel models.

“EPA has a public health imperative to hold Volkswagen accountable and remedy the illegal pollution their cars put into the air,” said Cynthia Giles, EPA’s Assistant Administrator for Enforcement and Compliance Assurance. “From the start, our team vigorously pursued this case to ensure these cars were fixed or taken off the road. Today we’ve secured another important settlement that delivers on EPA’s essential public health mission.”

“The settlement marks another significant step in holding Volkswagen accountable for cheating Americans out of the promise of cleaner air by selling vehicles equipped with defeat devices,” said Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden. “This consent decree provides a remedy for every affected vehicle which will be removed from the road or meet enforceable standards that will reduce emissions, and will also require VW to provide additional funding to address the harmful impacts to human health and the environment from VW’s violations.”

“This settlement highlights the fact that cheating to get a car certified has consequences for air quality and the public’s health — and that cheaters will be caught and held accountable, said CARB Executive Officer Richard Corey. “Because California is able to enforce its vehicle regulations, CARB was instrumental in uncovering the cheating in the 3-liter, and before that, in the 2-liter diesel engines. The mitigation in this settlement will now help California address its serious air quality and climate challenges with a focus on putting the very cleanest vehicles in disadvantaged communities where they are needed most.”

According to the civil complaint against Volkswagen filed by the Justice Department on behalf of EPA on January 4, 2016, and amended on October 7, 2016, Volkswagen allegedly equipped its 3.0 liter diesel vehicles with illegal software that detects when the car is being tested for compliance with EPA or California emissions standards and turns on required emissions controls only during that testing process. During normal driving conditions, the software renders these emissions control systems inoperative or reduces their effectiveness, resulting in increased emissions. This is known as a defeat device. By using a defeat device, these cars meet emissions standards in the laboratory, but emit up to nine times or more above the EPA-compliant levels for NOx during normal on-road driving conditions. The Clean Air Act requires manufacturers to certify to EPA that vehicles will meet federal emissions standards. Vehicles with defeat devices cannot be certified.

Because Volkswagen cannot modify the affected 2009 through 2012 Volkswagen Touareg and Audi Q7 generation 1 diesel vehicles to meet EPA-certified exhaust emissions standards, the settlement requires Volkswagen to offer owners of generation 1 vehicles the option to have the company buy back the car and to offer lessees a lease cancellation at no cost. If a plan is proposed by Volkswagen and approved by EPA and CARB to substantially reduce emissions from the generation 1 vehicles, Volkswagen will also have to offer that as an option for consumers.

For the generation 2 vehicles, Volkswagen will recall and fix these vehicles so they meet their certified exhaust emissions standards, after the technical solution is approved by regulators. If after extensive testing the solution does not perform as expected and is not approved, Volkswagen must offer to buy back the vehicles. In that case, the company can also seek approval of an emissions modification plan to substantially reduce emissions and, if approved, can offer that as an additional option for generation 2 vehicles.

Under the terms of the settlement, Volkswagen must achieve an overall recall rate of at least 85% for each of the generation 1 and generation 2 vehicles recall programs or pay additional sums into the mitigation trust fund. The buyback and lease termination program for generation 1 vehicles will begin within 30 days following court approval of the settlement. Vehicle modifications will become available to eligible owners and lessees once the modifications are approved by regulators.

Vehicle owners and lessees will receive updated information from Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche concerning their available buyback or modification options after today’s settlement is approved by the court, and can also obtain information about these options at: www.VWCourtSettlement.com and www.AudiCourtSettlement.com.

The settlement requires Volkswagen to pay $225 million to fund projects across the country that will reduce emissions of NOx where the 3.0 liter vehicles were, are or will be operated. This funding is intended to fully mitigate the past and future NOx emissions from the 3.0 liter vehicles. That money will be placed in the same mitigation trust to be established under the partial settlement for the 2L vehicles. This $225 million is in addition to the $2.7 billion that Volkswagen is required to pay into that trust under the prior settlement. The mitigation trust will be administered by an independent trustee. Beneficiaries, which may include states, Puerto Rico, the District of Columbia, and Indian tribes, may obtain funds for designated NOx reduction projects upon application to the trustee.

The emissions reduction program will help reduce NOx pollution that contributes to the formation of harmful smog and soot, exposure to which is linked to a number of respiratory- and cardiovascular-related health effects as well as premature death. Children, older adults, people who are active outdoors (including outdoor workers), and people with heart or lung disease are particularly at risk for health effects related to smog or soot exposure. NO2 formed by NOx emissions can aggravate respiratory diseases, particularly asthma, and may also contribute to asthma development in children.

The provisions of the settlement are contained in a proposed consent decree filed today in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, as part of the ongoing multi-district litigation, and will be subject to public comment period of 30 days, which will be announced in the Federal Register in the coming days.

For more information: https://www.epa.gov/enforcement/volkswagen-clean-air-act-partial-settlement

In win for nature & native rights Obama halts Dakota Access Pipeline construction

Standing Rock protest
Source: http://michaelawoodjr.net
This weekend, 11,000 veterans including Cong. Tulsi Gabbard began their journey to join the Standing Rock Sioux and offer both solidarity and protection to indigenous Americans and allies who have been protesting the scheduled construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through sacred native lands. On Sunday, Pres. Obama announced that a final construction permit for the pipeline would not be issued:

The Obama administration said Sunday that it would deny a permit needed to complete the last leg of an oil pipeline across the Midwest, prompting cheers and whoops from opponents who have camped in the cold here … (and) the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it would deny the company the easement it needs. The agency also called for a full environmental review and re-evaluating whether the route of the pipeline should be altered.

The Young Turks reports on the administration’s decision.

Overwhelmed protestor Katie Robinson writes with joy

This is the most amazing news!!! I’m up here in Standing Rock. Our front line is celebrating. Tears of joy are streaming down faces. It was just announced the easement for the Dakota Pipeline was denied, which basically means the Pipeline CAN’T go through their Native land!!!! The Pipeline construction has STOPPED. There’s over 4,500 veterans here currently in support of the Water Protectors and more have been arriving non-stop all night and day. I couldn’t be prouder to be standing here with my brothers and sisters.

Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii)

tulsi-gabbard
Source: WikiMedia

..took to the House floor Thursday in an impassioned plea to stop the Dakota Access Pipeline… (She) is one of the .. veterans planning to join the ongoing pipeline protests … (and) blasted the Army Corps of Engineers for granting permits for the pipeline’s construction without input from the communities most likely to suffer in the event of a spill or explosion.

The pipeline issue has been settled for now but other concerns will soon need to be addressed. Angel L. Matos writes,

If indeed the #NODAPL permit has been denied, we thank the administration for yet another better late than never action. The next order of business would seem to be identifying all those in law enforcement that abused their authority and bring their asses to justice. The amount of savagery they unleashed on these peaceful demonstrators makes me ashamed and angry. The least we can do is make sure some measure of dignity is served to those that suffered at their sadistic hands.

And the WSJ cautions that President-elect Trump supports the pipeline’s construction.

More:
CNN coverage

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White land terrorists get free pass while government attacks Native Americans on their own land

Stand Strong Against DAPL graphic
Source: IndigenousRising.com

This report is from an email sent out today by the Center for Biological Diversity. Its content highlights the disturbing, pervasive and systemic racism at the heart of government practices even today, after having a Black president at the helm of our country for a full eight years:

A Stunning, Dangerous Verdict After Oregon Standoff

Like almost everyone, we were stunned by last week’s “not guilty” verdicts for the Bundy brothers and other defendants following the 41-day armed takeover of Oregon’s Malheur National Wildlife Refuge earlier this year.

“This is an extremely disturbing verdict for anyone who cares about America’s public lands, the rights of native people and their heritage, and a political system that refuses to be bullied by violence and racism,” said Kierán Suckling, the Center’s executive director. “The Bundy clan and their followers peddle a dangerous brand of radicalism aimed at taking over lands owned by all of us. I worry this verdict only emboldens the kind of intimidation and right-wing violence that underpins their movement.”

Particularly galling was the juxtaposition of the Oregon verdicts, which involved armed militants, with the brutal treatment of unarmed activists fighting the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.

Watch Kierán’s recent interview on DemocracyNow! and read Taylor’s McKinnon’s op-ed on the far-reaching implications of the Bundy verdicts.

Graphic from http://indigenousrising.org/yankton-siouxihanktonwan-to-host-government-to-government-consultation-with-us-army-corps-on-bakken-pipelinedapl/

If you don’t want Monsanto to own the world’s apples and apple trees, submit a comment

GMO apple
Source: Inquistr
Monsanto and companies like it that produce GMO (aka GE) seed want to own all the food produced in the world. They are working towards this goal bit by bit, using GMO seeds as an inroad to accomplish it. Don’t let them! If you believe in people owning our food supply as opposed to major corporations owning it and deciding when, where and how much we can eat then you need to submit a public comment saying so by 12 Sept 2016.

Submitting a public comment has become a very easy process and is fast. You can feel free to speak from your own heart or to use any part of my statement that you like. Additional information and facts are also available at Food Safety News.

Submitted by Kimi Wei on 27 August 2016:

Dear Sirs and Mesdames,

It’s absurd to even think of giving in to the whims of a public which, due to ignorance, concern themselves more with appearance than their own health and the consequences of being deprived of the right to eat good, healthy food and build communities around this simple human need.

GMO products give control over food sources to major corporations, as they control the sales of GMO seed and eventually, can even prevent farmers from using traditional seed – this is happening in several countries around the world. GMO seed also is much costlier than traditional seeds are.

While people may choose to be ignorant of the facts, there’s no excuse for government officials to fail in this area. You need to ensure that Americans continue to enjoy food sovereignty; that we not risk planet and personal health crises by using GMO products which may cause unforeseen negative long-range impacts; that food production is not turned over to entities concerned with profit at the expense of humanity; and that the planetary and natural protections offered by small-holder farmers who practice natural planting and growing are not replaced with Big Ag monoculture crops that are always highly destructive to planet and people.

Furthermore, in the United States GMO seed and plant producers have used GMO seeds as an excuse to steal away smaller farmers’ lands by claiming that seeds that invade adjacent farms by the wind or birds carrying them over are in fact being stolen by the smaller farmers. Successful legal claims have been made stating that the only remedy for this theft is for the GMO planters to take possession of farmers lands that were invaded by their seed. The fact that the farmers didn’t want GMO seed and were advocating for it to be blocked from invading their land, meant nothing to the GMO plant growers, or the courts.

To submit a comment by USPS mail (snail mail), send to:
Docket No. APHIS-2016-0043
Regulatory Analysis and Development
PPD, APHIS, Station 3A-03.8
4700 River Road Unit 118
Riverdale, MD 20737-1238

Thanks Howard Vlieger for sharing the opportunity to comment.

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State Sens. Gordon & Weinberg ask why NJ did not get most of the Sandy recovery funds HUD wanted to give us

Sandy impact
Source: NJ National Guard. New Jersey National Guard in flooded Hoboken following Hurricane Sandy
State Senators Bob Gordon and Loretta Weinberg are deeply concerned that Christie’s administration failed to submit a disaster resilience grant application to the federal government which would have empowered HUD to give us hundreds of millions of dollars they had earmarked to help New Jersey residents.

For New Jerseyans, who suffered more heavily from the ravages of superstorm Sandy than the residents of any other state, last month’s announcement of federal disaster resilience grants by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development hit like a nor’easter.

Of the $1 billion being awarded by HUD in Natural Disaster Resilience Competition grants, a minimum of $181 million had been set aside for New Jersey and New York thanks to the hard work of our congressional delegation.

That’s why it was so shocking when New Jersey received just $15 million.

New York City and New York State received a total of $212 million, but New Jersey ranked 14th on the grant list, just ahead of the city of Springfield, Massachusetts. The last time we looked, Springfield didn’t have much of a coastline.

The state’s failure is just the latest example of New Jersey coming in way behind New York in obtaining federal aid to rebuild after superstorm Sandy. New York City and New York State received $8.6 billion in Community Development Block Grants — twice as much as New Jersey’s $4.2 billion — and the $1.7 billion we received in Federal Emergency Management Agency grants is dwarfed by the $7.7 billion that went to New York.

That is why Senate President Stephen Sweeney asked our Senate Legislative Oversight Committee to open hearings on why New Jersey has consistently failed to obtain the funding needed to protect residents from Bergen County to Cape May from the ravages of coastal and inland flooding, and on what we should be doing to protect the state against sea-level rise and climate change.

Our first hearing earlier this month started to get some answers, and we will have a fuller understanding when officials from HUD, the state Department of Environmental Protection and the Rockefeller Foundation, which was retained by HUD to advise applicants, appear before the committee at a future hearing.

NorthJersey.com reports on the NJ Legislative Oversight Hearings held on 11 February 2016:

Several witnesses … raised questions about what New Jersey chose to include and not include in its application, including a bus station in the Meadowlands.

“One of the things about this application that really astonished me and I still don’t understand and I just wished someone could explain it to me in a way that makes sense, is how building a bus station in the Meadowlands protects anybody from flooding?” said Bill Sheehan of the Hackensack Riverkeeper environmental group.

Sheehan, after the hearing, questioned whether requests like that had less to do with flood control and more to do with the fact that the state’s Transportation Trust Fund is nearly out of money.

This is not a partisan issue. As Republican Sen. Joseph Kyrillos, who represents the Monmouth County Bayshore that suffered some of the most severe damage from Sandy, said at the hearing, it is the responsibility of the Legislature to hold federal and state officials accountable.

What we learned so far is just the beginning of that process.

We already know that HUD Secretary Julian Castro said New Jersey received less funding not because the state did not have great need for storm resilience projects, but because our application was weaker than most other states. In fact, we just made the minimum cutoff to receive any funding at all.

While most winning applicants identified significant matching funds and were working closely with regional nonprofits on climate change initiatives, New Jersey received just 1 point out of a possible 10 for “leveraging” other funding. Furthermore, we also got marked down on “scalability” for failing to present proposals that could be implemented even if we only received partial funding.

We need to find out if the state received adequate feedback from HUD and the Rockefeller Foundation that deficiencies in our proposal could jeopardize our chances to win the needed funding. But there are clearly questions at the state level as well.

New Jersey’s two main proposals were for a $231 million grant for construction of a berm and pumping stations to protect towns in the Meadowlands from flooding and for a $75 million satellite bus garage in Secaucus.

What our initial hearing showed was that the Meadowlands berm project was controversial — and indeed was opposed by environmentalists. And, as we pointed out, a proposal for a $75 million bus garage seems less like a proposal to protect the Meadowlands against climate change than an attempt to get the federal government to pay for a new bus garage because the Transportation Trust Fund is out of money.

The most disconcerting part of the hearing was the heart-wrenching testimony by Monmouth and Ocean County Sandy survivors who rightfully questioned why New Jersey did not apply for any funding for projects to protect homeowners in the Jersey Shore counties that sustained the lion’s share of Sandy damage.

Questions also were raised about whether New Jersey’s reluctance to embrace climate change gave HUD “political reasons” to deny our application. While New York State has developed a comprehensive mitigation and adaptation plan, is mapping for climate change and sea-level rise, and is increasing its green building and energy efficiency standards, New Jersey is the only state bordering either the Atlantic or Pacific Ocean that does not have a plan to deal with climate change and sea-level rise.

As a coastal state that relies so heavily on tourism to drive our economy and boost state revenues, we cannot afford to ignore the challenges posed by climate change and sea-level rise, and we certainly cannot afford to lose out on federal grants designed to protect our citizens against the ravages of future megastorms.

We need to know why we fared so poorly on federal Sandy grant funding, and we need to know how we can do better in the future. The victims of Sandy deserve no less.

Sen. Bob Gordon, D-Bergen/Passaic, and Senate Majority Leader Loretta Weinberg, D-Bergen, serve as chair and vice-chair of the Senate Legislative Oversight Committee.

Additional Sandy recovery coverage available at Asbury Park Press

Report on hundreds of millions of plastic particles found in the Hudson River

Washed up plastic debris in Keysport NJ
Source: NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Plastic Collection Report – NY/NY Baykeeper Feb 2016
plastic particles in Hudson River Water
Source: NY-NJ Harbor Estuary Plastic Collection Report – NY/NY Baykeeper Feb 2016
There is an astonishing amount of plastic floating around in the Hudson River Estuary – 165,840,512 particles are in the water at any given time. The particles make their way into the digestive systems of wildlife, fish and birds and it’s fair to assume that a good number of them end up in our bodies too.

Landowners near Scranton & activists set to face off against Pipeline builders who will clear cut their trees

protecting the land
Source: The Times-Tribune
Ted Glick reports on the environmental horror that’s about to begin in Northeast Pennsylvania:

Very possibly as early as tomorrow, chain-saw-armed tree cutters hired by Williams Partners, a powerful pipeline-building corporation for the gas and oil industry, will try to cut down sugar maple trees on the property of Maryann Zeffer, Cathy and Megan Holleran and their family. For 65 years they have lived on this land, and for the last ten or so they have been producing delicious, pure, Pennsylvania maple syrup from those trees.

This destruction won’t happen without a big fight. Nine days ago as I write, after FERC gave approval to Williams’ request to start tree cutting in Pa. even though Williams does not have all of the necessary approvals to build their Pa. to NY Constitution pipeline, an encampment was set up on the Zeffer/Holleran land. Every day since people have been there.

The implacable Williams Partners pipeline builders aka land destroyers and water polluters, has obtained the go-ahead from FERC to begin clear-cutting more private land on 160 Pennsylvania properties than they need to lay a pipeline for transporting fracked fuel through Pennsylvania to New York. Williams got the red light to proceed even though they lack all the necessary permits and have not paid for some of the land they plan to access. They acquired some of the land through eminent domain seizure and will cut down more trees than the pipeline requires to give themselves “working space”.

The families of Cathy and Megan Holleran and Maryann Zeffer fought the pipeline builders in court for well over a year. With tree felling now about to begin, they’ve taking their battle to the public. Anti-fracking/anti-pipeline and clean water activists, environmentalists and the press have been summoned to witness the Holleran/Zeffers take a stand against the usurpation of their land rights and the destruction of their beautiful maple syrup kingdom and stand with them, if they’re willing to risk being arrested. These people’s little slice of Paradise is a 1/2 hour drive north of Scranton, PA.

The family loves these 22 acres that Catherine Holleran’s parents bought in the late 1950s, when they escaped to the Endless Mountains from Long Island.

Sturdy maples, cherries and other hardwoods rise from their property’s steep eastern hillside. A small creek-fed lake lies at the bottom of the gentle valley. Across a strip of trees, a grassy field rises to the north. It’s a place for syrup making and snowmobiling in the winter, lake parties and off-roading in the summer.

Constitution’s designs call for a 30-inch pipe laid in an S-shaped strip across 1,670 linear feet of their land. The permanent easement would be 50 feet wide, but the company would fell timber in a wider area to create work space. The family doesn’t want to lose the trees or the quality of their lake, which they fear could fill with sediment despite the company’s stated policies of controlling erosion.

The five Zeffer siblings — Ms. Holleran’s maiden name — want to pass the land on to their children the way it is, “without a big stupid pipeline,” Ms. Holleran said.

If you wish to join or support the resistance, here’s the information you need:
Holleran property is at 2131 Three Lakes Road, New Milford, PA. But use these coordinates to find the location where people have gathered to stop the tree cutting: 41.8272387, -75.7585062

Contacts: Megan Holleran 570-709-3268 and Alex Lotorto (after 5PM) 570-269-9589

Visit Stop the Constitution Pipeline Facebook group

Hat tip to Theresa Lam for the share

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Michael Moore reports from Flint on the Flint Water Tragedy

Michael Moore on Flint Water Tragedy
Source: michaelmoore.com

Flint native and film maker Michael Moore arrived in the city a couple of weeks ago and went right to work gathering information about the origin and extended impact of what’s being nationally referred to as the “Flint Water Crisis”. He has released his article 10 Things They Won’t Tell You About the Flint Water Tragedy. But I Will.

Michigan AG seeks to block Flint from turning off poisoned people’s water altogether

Water shut-off notice Flint MI
Source: peopledemandingaction.org
Yet another nightmare has surfaced in the Flint, Michigan tragedy where residents are being systemically poisoned by city-supplied drinking water. The city is planning to shut-off water for unpaid bills, despite the fact that the water Flint has served is literally unfit for human consumption – and isn’t safe even for bathing.

The city’s top officials switched from clean water supplied by Detroit for a source that has corroded pipes and led to horrific health effects. The reason for the switch was not motivated by money.

Now, Attorney General Bill Schuette has launched an investigation and he hopes to provide relief to the beleaguered community. NBC reports:

Michigan’s top prosecutor said Monday that it’s an “outrage” that residents of Flint are being forced to pay for water that’s unsafe to drink — and his office may take action to stop the billing.

“Words can barely describe this tragedy. Things went terribly wrong,” AG Bill Schuette said. “I would certainly not bathe a newborn child or a young infant in this bad water and if you can’t drink the bad water you shouldn’t pay for it.”

Flint Residents Are Still Being Forced to Pay for Contaminated Water 0:19
Schuette said his office has begun investigating what steps it could take to provide financial relief to the people of Flint, who were subjected to chemical byproducts, E. coli, Legionnaires’ disease and lead after the city’s water source was switched to the corrosive Flint River in 2014.

It was unclear if Schuette could stop Flint from shutting off water to families who don’t pay their bills … Schuette’s office has launched a criminal investigation into the water emergency to see if any laws were broken, and he announced Monday that a former FBI chief and an ex-prosecutor will lead the probe and report directly to him.

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