Another Dead President Heard From

Hey, all the cool news agencies are doing it. Why not MfBJN?

    Hussein had problems with Bush Iraq policy

    BAGHDAD(AP) — Former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein questioned the Bush administration’s rationale for the U.S. invasion and war in Iraq in interviews he granted on condition they not be released until after his death.

    In his embargoed July 2004 interview with The Daily Mirror, Hussein said the Iraq war was not justified, the Mirror reported Saturday night.

    Hussein “very strongly” disagreed with the current president’s justifications for invading Iraq and said he would have pushed alternatives, such as continuing the lucrative, er, punitive sanctions, much more vigorously, the Mirror’s Peter Arnett wrote. The story initially was posted on the newspaper’s Internet site.

    “I don’t think I would have gone to war,” Hussein told Arnett a little more than a year after President Bush launched the invasion.

    In the tape-recorded interview, Hussein was critical not only of Bush but also of Vice President Cheney and then-Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld.

    “Rumsfeld and Cheney and the president made a big mistake in justifying going into the war in Iraq. A sovereign leader should never justify; they should merely invade their neighbors and execute any dissidents,” Hussein said. “And now, I’ve never publicly said I thought they made a mistake, but I felt very strongly it was an error that they should justify what they were going to do.”

    In an interview given with the same ground rules to the New York Daily News last May, Hussein said he thought Bush had erred by staking the invasion on claims he had weapons of mass destruction.

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The Persistence of MGM

A number of years back, I signed up for the MGM newsletter as part of a contest entry or something. Every so often, one of the newsletters hit my e-mail box, and I deleted it without reading it. Finally, I decided to save myself the step of manually erasing the unread by unsubscribing to the marketing missive.

I clicked through the unsubscribe link and entered my e-mail address. A thank you page displayed and assured me I would be removed.

Meanwhile, a pop-under displayed:

MGM's pop under

An invitation to subscribe to the newsletter from which I just unsubscribed.

Those kids at MGM are ever the optimists, ainna?

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Thank You, Kelo

St. Louis proves that it owns all land, and private “owners” are just squatters. In its eyes, anyway.

St. Louis’ redevelopment agency sued a convent, a saint, a nun and an elderly woman in a wheelchair who has a 999-year lease on Friday, seeking to use eminent domain to condemn a property in the Ice House District north of Soulard.

City officials hope the area will be a hip entertainment district one day, but first they have to remove stubborn landowners and tenants.

St. Louis city officials have no shame. Starting with Rodney Crim, Executive Director of the St. Louis Development Corporation (314-622-3400 extension 300), to Mayor Francis Slay (contact), the overreaching, power-mad political class is the blight upon St. Louis that no land seizures for hip venues will solve.

Stripping a convent of land for nightclubs. EVICTING THE ELDERLY AND THE INFIRM FOR NIGHTCLUBS.

Nightclubs that might not come, for a redevelopment effort that will probably fail.

No shame.

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Saddam Gets The Date Graphic

CNN, reporting on Saddam Hussein’s execution, gives Saddam the dark date graphic saved for statesmen and celebrities:

Saddam Hussein death graphic

Me, I’m trying to figure out how a tyrant gets this. Pinochet didn’t when he died a couple weeks ago. Is this reverence reserved for cause celebres that one in the media would hope reflected badly on America, or the Bush administration?

I am so cynical.

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You Say Tomato, I Say Tomato, Post-Dispatch Says Victim

Police shoot 15-year-old. The headline leads one to think that just maybe the police do this routinely to keep in practice. Perhaps the officers were mistaken and were scheduled this week to shoot a 16-year-old, but they all look so adult these days.

Any precipitating circumstances. Not really, if you’re a Post-Dispatch reporter:

St. Louis police shot and killed a 15-year-old after the kid jumped out of a fleeing truck and pointed a handgun at an officer Friday afternoon, said Chief Joseph Mokwa.

Just a normal kid in the street, cut down by an insensitive police force.

What, you accuse me of hyperbole? Here’s how the Post-Dispatch characterizes the urchin in the last paragraph:

Mokwa said the truck had been rented in outstate Missouri, but police were unclear why the victim was inside it. Police were still seeking the driver of the truck.

Perps who pull guns on the police are victims to our friends at Lee Enterprises, apparently.

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Question: How can I tell if I’m going to get a new bunch of anonymous comment spam?

Answer: You get a Yahoo! Site Explorer hit for from an ISP in India!

Okay, it’s not much of a riddle, but most of the comment spam I’ve gotten in the last couple months comes through this avenue. I’d expect it’s actually some poor Indians typing anonymous comments and hand-keying the captchas, but it’s odd that they’re very, very consistent in looking for blogs that refer to Free Will Blog.

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Another Wisconsin Community Prepares For War

We hope the last minute diplomacy works:

In the season of good will, the Mukwonago village president has approached the town chairman with a new proposal for a town-village boundary agreement, attorneys say.

After years of failed negotiations, Mukwonago Village President James Wagner has met for breakfast in recent weeks with Vernon Town Chairman Alan Kunert to discuss a possible permanent boundary, Village Attorney Shawn Reilly said Wednesday.

We all know how disputes between small Wisconsin communities often turn out: War.

But at least it breaks up the long winters.

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Discordance In Normalcy

In a story entitled Woman, 57, is shot, killed on her porch, we have these rich nonsequitors:

A neighbor said he had heard a gunshot about that time but didn’t see anything unusual.

“This is a very quiet neighborhood,” Capt. David Dorn said. “This is very unusual for this neighborhood.”

Neighbor hears a gunshot. In this very quiet neighborhood. Nothing unusual.

I wonder what my neighborhood rates on the very quiet neighborhood scale.

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All Journalism Is Creative Writing Now

Kudos to AP, who found a way to turn Gerald Ford’s death into a means to flog the Bush administration:

Former President Gerald R. Ford questioned the Bush administration’s rationale for the U.S. invasion and war in Iraq in interviews he granted on condition they not be released until after his death.

In his embargoed July 2004 interview with The Washington Post, Ford said the Iraq war was not justified, the Post reported Wednesday night.

That takes skill and effort. Or lack thereof.

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Some Pretext Not Necessarily Better Than None

In Alaska, a woman suspected that a package had been delivered to her old residence by mistake, so she called the current resident. Current resident said he didn’t know anything about it. So the woman called the state police, and they searched the man’s home.

Sure, the troopers found a cornucopia of drugs in the man’s home, but that leads me to think he might have been under suspicion and the misdirected package provided a mere pretext for a search. But still, we’ve lowered the bar to the point where suspicion of a misdirected package can lead to a police search warrant.

Aw, who am I kidding? The police do this sort of thing based on the uncorroborated tips of informants.

The story seems to indicate that the woman got her Avon samples back, though. Well, she will, after they’re done being evidence in a trial.

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Year’s Reading In Review

With the last post, I’m calling an end to this year’s enumeration of reading. 2006ish stands at 89 books, which is probably far less than I bought at book fairs.

These books include:

  • The Empty Trap by John D. MacDonald
  • The Executioners by John D. MacDonald
  • Mine the Harvest by Edna St. Vincent Millay
  • Johnny Mnemonic by Terry Bisson
  • The Museum of Hoaxes by Alex Boese
  • Suspects by William J. Cannitz
  • Wild Pitch by Mike Lupica
  • The Olympics’ Most Wanted by Floyd Conner
  • Peking Duck by Roger L. Simon
  • 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America by Bernard Goldberg
  • The American Private Eye: The Image in Fiction by David Geherin
  • Sea Change by Robert B. Parker
  • Pet Sematary by Stephen King
  • Collected Stories by Franz Kafka
  • Under the Grammar Hammer by Douglas Cazort
  • The Wealthy Writer by Michael Meanwell
  • Planning and Remodeling Family Rooms, Dens & Studios by Sunset Books
  • The Brass Cupcake by John D. MacDonald
  • The Substance of Style by Virginia Postrel
  • Blood Relatives by Ed McBain
  • The Hanged Man’s Song by John Sandford
  • Servant of the Shard by R.A. Salvatore
  • Gerald’s Game by Stephen King
  • How to Break Software by James A. Whittaker
  • Slightly Chipped by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone
  • Warmly Inscribed by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone
  • The Case Against Hillary Clinton by Peggy Noonan
  • The Stainless Steel Rat for President by Harry Harrison
  • Bosstrology by Adele Lang and Andrew Masterson
  • Bump & Run by Mike Lupica
  • Blowback by Bill Pronzini
  • Everybody’s Guide to Book Collecting by Charlie Lovett
  • His Affair by Jo Fleming
  • Sharky’s Machine by William Diehl
  • The Baby in the Icebox by James M. Cain
  • Biblioholism: The Literary Addiction by Tom Raabe
  • Aftermath by LeVar Burton
  • Expecting by Gordon Churchwell
  • Poison by Ed McBain
  • The Life of Charlemagne by Einhard
  • Escape from Reason by Francis A Schaeffer
  • California Roll by Roger L. Simon
  • Ice by Ed McBain
  • You Might Be A Redneck If by Jeff Foxworthy
  • Existentialism and Human Emotions by Jean-Paul Sartre
  • Vespers by Ed McBain
  • Blue Screen by Robert B. Parker
  • Lloyd What Happened by Stanley Bing
  • Sinbad’s Guide To Life (Because I Know Everything) by Sinbad with David Ritz
  • Big Trouble by Dave Barry
  • In Someone’s Shadow by Rod McKuen
  • Stars and Stripes Triumphant by Harry Harrison
  • And Then She Was Gone by Susan McBride
  • The Mystery of Edwin Drood by Rupert Holmes
  • I Ought To Be In Pictures by Neil Simon
  • The World’s Most Infamous Crimes and Criminals
  • RPG World Wolume One by Ian Jones-Quartey
  • How to Break Software Security by James A. Whittaker and Herbert H. Thompson
  • Barrier Island by John D. MacDonald
  • The Golden Gate by Alistair MacLean
  • Shopgirl by Steve Martin
  • Executive Blues: Down and Out in Corporate America by G.P. Meyer
  • Small Felonies by Bill Pronzini
  • TV Now: Stars and Shows by Dorothy Scheuer
  • The Priest-Kings of Gor by John Norman
  • The Nomads of Gor by John Norman
  • An Alien Heat by Michael Moorcock
  • Unsolved Mysteries of the Past Reader’s Digest
  • Kings and Queens of England and Great Britain by Eric R. Delderfield
  • The Way to Dusty Death by Alistair MacLean
  • The Two Minute Rule by Robert Crais
  • The Night Crew by John Sandford
  • Hundred Dollar Baby by Robert B. Parker
  • Whodunits
  • Assassin of Gor by John Norman
  • The Spy Who Never Was & Other True Spy Stories by David C. Knight
  • The Mystery Reader’s Quiz Book by Aneta Corsaut, Muff Singer, Robert Wagner
  • Nice Girls Do And Now You Can, Too by Dr. Irene Kassorla
  • Emma by Jane Austen
  • Sons of Sam Spade by David Geherin
  • Ballroom of the Skies by John D. MacDonald
  • Thunderball by Ian Fleming
  • As Long As You Both Shall Live by Ed McBain
  • Twice in Time by Manly Wade Wellman
  • Word for Word by Andrew A. Rooney
  • Selections from Stars! by Daphne Davis
  • Ancient, My Enemy by Gordon R. Dickson
  • The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction Fourteenth Series by Avram Davidson (ed)
  • Nature Noir by Jordan Fisher Smith

I’ll not trouble you with hyperlinks, gentle reader, but if you want any of the reviews, you can do a Google search using and get what you want.

In review, this year’s total includes:

  • 5 John D. MacDonald books
  • 5 Ed McBain books
  • 3 Robert B. Parker (the new ones this year)
  • 3 John Norman Gor books
  • 2 Roger L. Simon Moses Wine novels
  • 2 Alistair MacLean novels from the 1970s
  • 2 Bill Pronzini novels featuring the Nameless Detective
  • 2 David Geherin nonfiction books about crime fiction
  • 2 Harry Harrison novels of science fiction
  • 2 James Whitaker books about software testing
  • 2 John Sandford novels, neither of which featured Lucas Davenport
  • 2 Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone books about book collecting
  • 2 Mike Lupica books
  • 2 Stephen King books

So I guess I trend toward crime fiction, or at least I hover around crime fiction books I like. I read two bits of classical fiction (Emma and the works of Kafka) and some smart nonfiction (Existentialism and Human Emotions and The Life of Charlemagne).

This year, I can break my books down in my memory into several comfortable reading locatons:

  1. In my blue recliner in the old Casinoport house, with a cat on my lap and a gas fire roaring.
  2. In that blue recliner in the lower level of the new Old Trees home, listening to jazz with a cat on my lap.
  3. On the sofa on the main level of the Old Trees home, in the early months of Ferris Drooler’s life amid his frequent feedings.
  4. In the living room of the upper level of the Old Trees home, after Dr. Fussamongstus has gone to bed for the evening.

Many of these books prompts a distinct memory that books in 2005 and 2007 will not.

Still, my collection of unread books is large and varied. I don’t know what to tell you about 2007, D, but I’ll probably read a bunch of John Sandford’s Lucas Davenport novels and some Søren Kierkegaard.

As for my other 2006 goals, suffice to say I didn’t do as well as I did on reading. But there’s always tomorrow.

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Book Report: Nature Noir by Jordan Fisher Smith (2006)

I bought this book at Webster Groves Book Shop for full price, gentle reader; yea, verily, I spent $13.95 plus tax on this book whereas I could have bought it online for the low, low price noted below or some smaller price at a chain bookstore because I live in a smaller town now (surrounded by St. Louis suburbs) and need to support the local merchants. Why, my very wife suggested I write down the ISBN numbers of books I was interested in so we could order them online, but I resisted, because I don’t think that’s playing fair to the small content stores we were frequenting that day. I did, however, put down most of the $60 in books I’d picked up since I already own thousands of unread books already.

But I did buy this one, especially since its back cover promised:

A nature book unlike any other, Jordan Fisher Smith’s startling account of fourteen years as a park ranger thoroughly dispels our idealized visions of life in the great outdoors. Instead of scout troops and placid birdwatchers, Smith’s beat–a stretch of land that has been officially condemned to be flooded–brings him into contact with drug users tweaked out to the point of violence, obsessed miners, and other dangerous creatures. In unflinchingly honest prose, he reveals the unexpectedly dark underbelly of patrolling and protecting public lands.

That and the title promised me something the book was not.

For starters, allow me to say that the writing is good. It’s vivid, it describes something that I haven’t seen well enough that I want to see it. However, it’s themetically vapid.

It sounds as though the book is designed so that it will describe a lot of encounters with bad men and thrilling pursuits in the wilderness. The first chapter itself lends itself to that, with an encounter with a drug-addled badman who, after a party on the beach, tries to throw a baby through a car window after an argument with the baby’s mother (driving the car). After a brief search, the rangers find the man when he wanders back onto the beach and collapses of an overdose. This, the first chapter, provides most of the excitement of the book.

Afterwards, the chapters include incidents that serve as springboards into the author’s opinion on environmentalism as filtered through the California state bureaucracy. The actual noir incidents occur in the flashbacks of reports to which author had access, and the book presents them in reverse order of their excitement. The author talks to someone who is following up on a cold case featuring a sheriff’s deputy who might have killed his wife and buried her in the park. The author goes on into the history of his current station, scheduled to be underwater when they build a new dam, and then the chapter is over, with nothing resolved. He only talked to the guy opening the cold case and looking for the grave of the missing wife.

When the author has a woman claim rape from a miner in the park, and the miner is beaten within inches of his life by the woman’s boyfriend, the author goes into the history of mining and the impact of the gold rush on the natural area around the park. Oh, yeah, the woman’s boyfriend might be making meth in an abandoned mine. The author fills in the appropriate papers and turns it over to the sheriff’s deputies, but he doubts anything will be done.

And so on, and so forth. About 100 pages in, I realized that the book I’d expected, based on the title and the back cover, were not forthcoming. I turned to the acknowledgements and saw someone told the author he could make a good essay out of his experiences. Hell, yes, he could have, but it’s a heck of a stretch in a memoir termed noir and promising encounters with bad men. Instead, I was treated to a number of chapters describing the history of the particular park and a subtle indictment of civilization for impacting the beauty of nature.

Aw, screw it. Or so I think the author said about chapter 10 (“Weak as Water”). Following some reminisce of accompanying parents of a drowned boy to the site where he drowned (not actually the drowning itself, which the author was nearly present for, but the accompanying of the parents to the site later), the author writes chapter 11 about a trip to an abandoned camp of a miner who was ornery. Before the camp was abandoned. Never mind, the scenery is lush and the trip to the camp mildly exciting as we read about damming upstream and its impact on the whitewater river impacted by miners in the previous century. But the camp is abandoned. And then we get the unvarnished rant.

In chapter 11, the ranger gets Lyme disease and abandons his dentist and job, and not in that order. Or maybe in that order. Lyme disease mucks with the narrative, and I was skimming. I mostly skipped the Epilogue, whereing the Mighty Heroes of California Environmentalism blocked continuation of the dam (putting Sacramento at risk, but from the chapter where the author recounts his fruitless search for a missing woman and the history of a flood that threatened Sacramento, I know he’d rather Sacramento drown than The Wilderness be spoiled). Maybe it did. I don’t even think I skimmed the last bit of the epilogue.

Well, there you have it. The book disappointed me greatly. I expected some dynamic tension of the ranger as a hallmark of civilization in the wild, cognizant of the folly of modern man and sentimental for the disappearing wilderness, but this fellow seems to root against civilization. Period. Also, let it be said that the Mariners trade paperback edition is on cheap paper and oddly enough smells of a freshly sharpened pencil every time I open it. I’m savaging this book especially on the account of the publishers who sent me into a genre I wouldn’t like. I liked the sound of the book from its title and its back cover so much I almost bought the book next to it at Webster Groves Book Shop because it sounded similar, but with a different bent. But thanks to this book, I’m leary of dabbling in this genre again. I bought this book in late November and bought it a month later–that’s phenomenal by MfBJN standards. But this one tome might have killed my interest in the genre of modern ranger novels.

In a personal note for Jordan Fisher Smith when he Googles himself: Dude, you write well, and I hope your Lyme disease is better. I didn’t like your book.

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Finally, AP Gets Its Headline

U.S. Toll in Iraq Surpasses That of 9/11

Now, with that Grim Milestone™ out of the way, can we get on with continuing to win?

Not so that you’d know it from AP reports.

(Thanks to Ann Althouse for the direct link, since the St. Louis Post-Dispatch has a different story linked from the home page with that headline, so I couldn’t direct you there.)

UPDATE: James Joyner provides other useful metrics.

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Life Imitates MfBJN Satire

MfBJN, September 2, 2006:

The two figures on the right; they’re falling forward, arms splayed out and in a grimace of pain as though they’ve been shot in the back by unknown assailants while trying to flee.

Life, Christmas 2006:

A security guard for MetroLink is reported in serious but stable condition today with a gunshot wound suffered at the Delmar Station, police say.

It brings miscreants to quiet suburbs, offers a locus for gunfire, scares off the normal people, and costs tax money for subsidies. Is there anything light rail cannot do?

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An Arthur C. Brooks Christmas Moment

I’m sure it’s only tangentially related to the Albert C. Brooks-described mindset (Who Really Cares: The Surprising Truth about Compassionate Conservatism), but as I walked relatives out of our house after Christmas dinner, I saw that the house down the block with the “Invade Iran! No” bumper stickers and the “Invest in Peace Instead of War” yard signs had one of the local bus service’s Call a Ride program vehicles out front.

Did someone call a taxpayer-subsidized, bureaucrat-operated van came to take one of the elderly or disabled guests home after Christmas dinner instead of, you know, taking that guest home?

I mean, damn.

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Book Report: The Best from Fantasy and Science Fiction 14th Series edited by Avram Davidson (1965)

After reading Ancient, My Enemy, I was in the mood for some more science fiction short stories from the silver age of science fiction. This collection, apparently the 14th from the heydey of Fantasy and Science Fiction magazine (now back in print, apparently).

Okay, the book collects 17 short stories into 251 pages of reading, not counting the introduction that explains why it’s all relevant. It’s good enough short stories, and as I look over the titles, I can remember them after a week. Only one, “The House by the Crab Apple Tree” by S.S. Johnson, will stick with me at all.

Each story also includes what I suspect is the original intro bio bit from the magazine. It’s interesting how many of the writers really were journeymen, dashing off short stories for a tolerable existence. A couple of them are remembered today, but most aren’t. Probably only one or two of them made a really comfortable life of it. Such is the life of a real writer who has to do it for a living and not some dilettante writing short stories for fun. Today, those journeymen are working as business writers, copy writers, and technical writers, so their fame and recognition will be far more fleeting than the sales circulars and software manuals they’re producing as their life’s work.

Don’t get me started on the life of backwater bloggers whose daily hit totals have dipped under 100 again.

Thanks for reading, and come back tomorrow for more Christmas cheer the MfBJN way!

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Not Like Herding Cats At All

Check showtimes near you for Yuri Kuklachev and his Moscow Cats Theatre:

In the current Cats Theatre show, Kuklachev makes a hilarious initial entrance. Standing in a small, low wagon, he is pulled on stage by a cat walking on its hind legs. The production’s lone dog, also on its hind legs, pushes the cart from the rear.

When Kuklachev steps out of the wagon, the dog hops in and is pulled off stage by the kitty.

A 75 minute show of cats trained to do tricks. How can a culture that can train cats not dominate the world?

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Friday Hooch Musings

Everyone has covered this study already:

Moderate drinking may lengthen your life, while too much may shorten it, researchers from Italy report. Their conclusion is based on pooled data from 34 large studies involving more than 1 million people and 94,000 deaths.

According to the data, drinking a moderate amount of alcohol — up to four drinks per day in men and two drinks per day in women — reduces the risk of death from any cause by roughly 18 percent, the team reports in the Archives of Internal Medicine.

I have consulted my own Personal Liquor consultant, who notes that drinking is like an IRA; if you didn’t contribute when you were young, you can contribute more each year until you catch up. Which explains why I’m on the 12 a day program. To catch up for my toddler years.

Meanwhile, we have this story: Alcohol consumers turn to the good stuff:

Indeed, the St. Louis area falls into the national trend of drinkers buying better.

“It’s happening across all retail channels,” said Barbara Insel, managing director of MKF Research of St. Helena, Calif. “People have become more quality conscious.”

One paid muser muses:

Hagnauer theorized that the trend toward pricier alcohol might be linked to an increase in disposable income.

“A lot of it is the economy, but people are becoming more educated, too” Hagnauer said.

If one were a conservative sort of fellow, one would want to start up with some sort of line of snark that begins with “Oh, the disappearing middle class with its stagnating wages are suddenly buying $20 bottles of wine every night instead of a $4 six pack of beer? Oh, really?

But I understand this really only means a quality-conscious consumer needs better liquor to dull the pain of a continued Bush administration and that the better education is no doubt product of the compassionately profligate No Budget Left Behind act.

Which leads me, circularly, to my sixth drink of the morning.

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