Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for December 1st, 2007

The public doesn’t trust campaign coverage

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Smart of them, don’t you think? Here is the finding:

Nearly two-thirds of Americans do not trust press coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign, according to a new Harvard University survey, which also revealed four out of five people believe coverage focuses too much on the trivial — and more than 60% believe coverage is politically biased.

The findings were among those in Harvard’s Center for Public Leadership National Leadership Index. The survey, which included interviews with 1,207 adults nationwide in September, focuses mostly on leadership issues. But a portion of the findings asked about views on the media in relation to leadership, with some troubling results.

“Our survey finds a pervasive lack of confidence in the leadership of many sectors of society,” the report states. “But Americans give their lowest marks to leaders in the press. Americans are particularly dissatisfied with press coverage of the 2008 presidential campaign.”

When asked if election coverage was politically biased, 40% believed it was too liberal; 21% too conservative; and 30% found it neutral. Nine percent of those responding were not sure.

Key among the findings:

• 64% of those polled do not trust press coverage of the presidential campaign.

• 88% believe that campaign coverage focuses on trivial issues.

• 84% believe that media coverage has too much influence on American voting choices.

• 92% say it is important that the news media provide information on candidates’ specific policy plans, but 61% say the media does not provide enough coverage of policy plans.

• 89% say it is important to hear about candidates’ personal values and ethics, but 43% say there is not enough coverage of personal values and ethics.

Instead, those surveyed claimed they were getting “exactly the type of campaign coverage that they want the least,” the report found.

Seventy percent of those polled said coverage of negative ads was not important and 65% said the media provided too much coverage of them; 67% say that coverage of “gotcha” moments — candidates’ embarrassing incidents and mistakes — was not important and 68% say there was too much coverage of those moments.

“The survey also indicates that Americans believe the media focuses too much on the polls and candidates’ personal lives,” the report said.

Most of the survey, however, dealt with basic views on leadership, finding that more than three quarters of those polled now believe there is a leadership crisis in this country, up 8% from 2006 and 12% from 2005.

Other findings revealed 79% of those surveyed were confident the next president would be “good for the country,” while 76% were confident that the next president would be a good leader.

The full report, released Wednesday, is available here (PDF). 

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 9:29 pm

Posted in Election, Media

People are going to lose faith in the World Bank

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And that may be a good idea:

Malawi hovered for years at the brink of famine. After a disastrous corn harvest in 2005, almost five million of its 13 million people needed emergency food aid.

But this year, a nation that has perennially extended a begging bowl to the world is instead feeding its hungry neighbors. It is selling more corn to the World Food Program of the United Nations than any other country in southern Africa and is exporting hundreds of thousands of tons of corn to Zimbabwe.

In Malawi itself, the prevalence of acute child hunger has fallen sharply. In October, the United Nations Children’s Fund sent three tons of powdered milk, stockpiled here to treat severely malnourished children, to Uganda instead. “We will not be able to use it!” Juan Ortiz-Iruri, Unicef’s deputy representative in Malawi, said jubilantly.

Farmers explain Malawi’s extraordinary turnaround — one with broad implications for hunger-fighting methods across Africa — with one word: fertilizer.

Over the past 20 years, the World Bank and some rich nations Malawi depends on for aid have periodically pressed this small, landlocked country to adhere to free market policies and cut back or eliminate fertilizer subsidies, even as the United States and Europe extensively subsidized their own farmers. But after the 2005 harvest, the worst in a decade, Bingu wa Mutharika, Malawi’s newly elected president, decided to follow what the West practiced, not what it preached.

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Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 9:25 pm

Posted in Government

How America Lost the War on Drugs

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Very good article in Rolling Stone. It begins:

On the day of his death, December 2nd, 1993, the Colombian billionaire drug kingpin Pablo Escobar was on the run and living in a small, tiled-roof house in a middle-class neighborhood of Medellín, close to the soccer stadium. He died, theatrically, ­ridiculously, gunned down by a Colombian police manhunt squad while he tried to flee across the barrio’s rooftops, a fat, bearded man who had kicked off his flip-flops to try to outrun the bullets. The first thing the American drug agents who arrived on the scene wanted to do was to make sure that the corpse was actually Escobar’s. The second thing was to check his house.

The last time Escobar had hastily fled one of his residences – la Catedral, the luxurious private prison he built for himself to avoid extradition to the United States — he had left behind bizarre, enchanting ­detritus, the raw stuff of what would ­become his own myth: the photos of ­himself dressed up as a Capone-era gangster with a Tommy gun, the odd collection of novels ranging from Graham Greene to the Austrian modernist Stefan Zweig. Agents from the Drug Enforcement Administration, arriving after the kingpin had fled, found neat shelves lined with loose-leaf binders, carefully organized by content. They were, says John Coleman, then the DEA’s assistant administrator for operations, “filled with DEA reports” – internal documents that laid out, in extraordinary detail, the agency’s repeated attempts to capture Escobar.

“He had shelves and shelves and shelves of these things,” Coleman tells me. “It was stunning. A lot of the informants we had, he’d figured out who they were. All the agents we had chasing him — who we trusted in the Colombian police — it was right there. He knew so much more about what we were doing than we knew about what he was doing.”

Coleman and other agents began to work deductively, backward.

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Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 8:33 pm

Compacter (and mercury grabber) for CFLs

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We like compact fluorescent lightbulbs (CFLs), but they do have small amounts of mercury in them, which really should not go into a landfill. So this development is good:

CFL compactor

The wonderfully-named town of Carefree, Arizona, is offering a new way for residents to safely scrap their fluorescent light bulbs, a move that could bolster the sale of the energy-saving bulbs, especially if more towns and cities follow suit. Carefree has installed the newest version of a “vapor vacuum lamp compactor,” which captures the mercury vapor inside discarded fluorescent bulbs as they are crushed. The push to encourage increased use of compact fluorescent bulbs is not without an environmental downside – mercury is a toxic metal and. Carefree’s new recycling device shreds the bulbs and traps the vapors.

“Four years ago, nobody was doing this anywhere in the country,” said machine inventor Edward J. Domanico, a technical consultant for Florida-based PestWest Environmental. The company markets the device at LampCompactor.com.

An estimated 500 million CFLs have been sold this year in the U.S. They’re growing in popularity because, while they cost more up front than incandescent bulbs, CFLs pay for themselves over time by using up to 75 less energy and lasting up to seven years.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 8:08 pm

Deutsche Grammophon on-line music store

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Download the tracks you want—no DRM junk. MP3 320kbs recordings. Very nice. Deutsche Grammophon has an extensive catalog and high-quality recordings.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 3:27 pm

Posted in Music, Software, Technology

Relativity still matches evidence

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Some careful new measurements show relativity is still consistent with observations and evidence. In science, nothing’s ever “proved.” In fact, the direction of effort is a continuing effort to find evidence that will show holes in the current theory. (Rather a different approach than used by creationists.) Here’s the story:

By tracking the moon’s location to within 1 centimeter, astronomers have put general relativity, Albert Einstein’s theory of gravity, to a stringent new test. The theory stood up. In a separate experiment, physicists reconfirmed Einstein’s older predictions on the stretching of time.

While both general relativity and quantum theory so far fit experimental data very well, their incompatibility makes physicists believe that at small scales either one of them or both must be wrong. Scientists constantly work to improve the sensitivity of their experiments to violations that might point to a new “theory of everything.”

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Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 3:11 pm

Posted in Science

Why do-gooders do bad

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Bottom line: pride, I would say:

Morally upstanding people are the do-gooders of society, right? Actually, a new study finds that a sense of moral superiority can lead to unethical acts, such as cheating. In fact, some of the best do-gooders can become the worst cheats.

Stop us if this sounds familiar.

When asked to describe themselves, most people typically will rattle off a list of physical features and activities (for example, “I do yoga” or “I’m a paralegal”). But some people have what scientists call a moral identity, in which the answer to the question would include phrases like “I am honest” and “I am a caring person.”

Past research has suggested that people who describe themselves with words such as honest and generous are also more likely to engage in volunteer work and other socially responsible acts.

But often in life, the line between right and wrong becomes blurry, particularly when it comes to cheating on a test or in the workplace. For example, somebody could rationalize cheating on a test as a way of achieving their dream of becoming a doctor and helping people.

In the new study, detailed in the November issue of the Journal of Applied Psychology, researchers find that when this line between right and wrong is ambiguous among people who think of themselves as having high moral standards, the do-gooders can become the worst of cheaters.

The results recall the seeming disconnect between the words and actions of folks like televangelist and fraud convict Jim Bakker or admitted meth-buyer Ted Haggard, former president of the National Evangelical Association, an umbrella group representing some 45,000 churches.

“The principle we uncovered is that when faced with a moral decision, those with a strong moral identity choose their fate (for good or for bad) and then the moral identity drives them to pursue that fate to the extreme,” said researcher Scott Reynolds of the University of Washington Business School in Seattle. “So it makes sense that this principle would help explain what makes the greatest of saints and the foulest of hypocrites.”

Why would a person who thinks of himself as honest cheat? The researchers suggest an “ethical person” could view cheating as an OK thing to do, justifying the act as a means to a moral end.

As Reynolds put it: “If I cheat, then I’ll get into graduate school, and if I get into graduate school, then I can become a doctor and think about all the people I’m going to help when I’m a doctor.”

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Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 1:54 pm

Posted in Daily life

Tagged with ,

Retrevo.com for the gadget freak

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A site new to me—Retrevo.com—offers many sorts of help to the gadget-happy:

How to use Retrevo depends on what you want to do. We can help you find that right product, new usage tips or troubleshooting and support answers – including taking you directly to the specific page in a pdf manual! Our goal is to give you answers for all your electronics needs from before you buy to after you’ve had the product for years, and everything in between. Retrevo is the place to help you enjoy the experience of electronics products.

Staying with our philosophy if keeping things simple for everyone, we’ll focus on some of the key features of the site and include a couple common use cases. We’re confident you’ll be able to take it from there.

Click the names below to view the appropriate guide

Shopping Related Activities

Support Related Activities

 

Shopping for a new product

Looking for support

Read user reviews for a product

Looking for tips and tricks

Read expert reviews for a product

Compare store prices

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 1:37 pm

Can you juggle three balls?

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I suppose whether you say “yes” or not depends on whether you really know juggling. For example:

To start to learn to juggle, check out this video.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 1:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Video

Tagged with

Edition 1.02

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If you look at the Cooking Compendium cover at the right, you’ll see that it has a new title: Leisureguy’s Cooking Compendium; or, Cooking Deconstructed. The only other change is in the first few paragraphs of the introduction, which better define how to approach the book and what to look for from it. It took me a while to realize exactly what I was getting at, but I think now it’s stable. (Okay to buy, in other words. 🙂 )

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 11:57 am

Chess thoughts

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Staunton design

A guy recently decided to take up chess, and asked for advice. I weighed in with my thoughts, which I thought I’d share here.

First, the set: wood is my preference, and nowadays I like red and natural pieces more than black and natural—YMMV. The traditional Staunton design, because other designs don’t wear well over time: they’re interesting at first, but as you play over the months and years, that initial appeal doesn’t hold up.

I particularly like the sets made by the House of Staunton, which manages to get the base just right: as if the wood had turned molten for an instant and settled in a graceful curve—click the thumbnail and look at the bases to see what I mean. They also make the queen’s crown very pointy.

A king height of 4.0″ turns out to be best, in my opinion: larger and the usual boards won’t fit; smaller, and the pieces lack sufficient heft.

Regarding books, my only recommendation is to start with algebraic rather than English notation—that is, look at the way games are recorded. If the first move is shown as, say 1. e2-e4 (or, more tersely, simply e4, since the pawn at e2 is the only piece that can move to e4), that’s good. What you don’t want, these days, is a book in which the first move looks like this: 1. P-K4. Reason: all chess books these days use algebraic notation. It won.

The book that was highly recommended for a beginner is Play Winning Chess, by Yasser Seirawan. Check the library.

Most chess players are men, which I believe is mostly a matter of social conditioning. There are some very strong women players, but women are scarce in chess clubs, and are sometimes made to feel out of place (or feel that way on their own). And one interpretation of the game is quite Oedipal: the goal being to kill the king. (Reuben Fine has an essay about this someplace.)

Another aspect of social conditioning is a taste for competition: generally speaking, boys are raised (by social mores) to be competitive, and girls are raised to be cooperative. I’m sure that plays in there as well. Alfie Kahn has a very interesting book titled No Contest: The Case Against Competition, which talks about competition vs. cooperation.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 11:32 am

Posted in Books, Daily life, Games

Tagged with

Very true about Rightwingnuttia

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John Cole, in Balloon Juice, nails it:

If ever you were under the illusion that Greater Wingnuttia was anything other than a bunch of partisan goobers wholly uninterested in the truth and wedded only to the needs of the Republican party, surely the last week has shed you of that illusion. As I write this, only one fringe nutter has even mentioned the emerging Rudy Giuliani financial scandal. None of them has mentioned the fabulist at NRO. How can this be? Where are our brave truth detectors?

Let’s compare:

– When a 12 year old kid had the nerve to state that he benefited from a government program and thinks other kids should too, a massive orgy of ‘Truth detecting’ took place. Counters were examined. Houses were visited. Property records were scrutinized. Statements were parsed. – When a private in the army writes some tales with a few anecdotes about what he has experienced in the war in IRaq, and a few disagreed, no grain of sand was left unturned. Scale models of armored vehicles were built. Experts were called, emailed, and interrogated. Myspace accounts were looked up. Entire fields of Cray Supercomputers had to be brought online just to handle all the “debunking” and commentary from the wingnuts.

But now, a Republican front-runner FOR THE OFFICE OF PRESIDENT has clearly played fast and loose with the public’s money to hide/finance his extramarital dalliances, and the truth detectors on the right are silent. With an NRO columnist admitting straight-up to making shit up to radically overstate a military threat to a key ally, perhaps to agitate for American military involvement, and our fact-checkers snooze. The sum total of the response can be summed up as a a giant yawn.

Crickets. Not even a “heh, indeed” can be found on these topics from our brave and intrepid citizen journalists. Hell, they are behind all the traditional media, who are cranking out tons of stories about Giuliani.

Greater Wingnuttia should change their motto from “We’ll fact check your ass” to “We’ll fact check your ass, if you aren’t a Republican.” At least that would be honest.

*** Update ***

The Captain weighs in, only to downplay and all but dismiss the charges and then brushes off the brewing scandal as ‘marital woes’:

While I believe this to be a minor issue for Giuliani in terms of ethics—it tells us nothing new about his relationship with Judith Nathan before their marriage that didn’t already make contemporaneous headlines—the Giuliani team has not handled it very well. They should acknowledge that they made mistakes in handling the billings in 2000 and 2001 and apologize for the errors. The longer they issue threadbare rationalizations, the longer this will stick to the campaign.

Allegedly misusing public funds to drive around your girlfriend and engage in all sort of accounting shell games to hide your behavior is, according to the Good Captain, no big deal.

Can anyone imagine the stories if this was, say, Hillary Clinton instead of Giuliani? By now, they would be investigating all state and local laws to see if they could indict her for adultery. All together now- IOKIYAR.

After reading Captain Ed it is pretty obvious how the right wing blogosphere will handle the Giuliani business, as it will be Plame redux. The same group of folks who were able to scour fonts in the Dan Rather case, make the most intricate arguments about bullet casings in Baghdad with Beauchamp, example every aspect of health insurance policies in maryland for the Frost family, will all of a sudden become “confused” by all the accounting numbers. The virtual certainty about all things divined from anonymous Free Republic investigators will be replaced with assertions of “confusion” and “trickiness” and complaints about “complicated accounting.” It will be “difficult” to come to a conclusion whether he has done anything wrong, and it will not be “clear” if he violated any laws. Just take the phrase “Was she really covert” and replace it with “Did he really do anything wrong” and you have your blogospheric talking points from Greater Wingnuttia for the next two weeks.

The same folks who got degrees and a Nobel Peace Prize in neurosurgery during the Schiavo affair will, by the end of the week, be forced to pretend they can’t balance a checkbook. It should be pretty funny to watch. That is if they don’t just manage to ignore it altogether.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 10:38 am

Posted in GOP

Gerry Mulligan: 1927-1996

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GMQ

I vividly recall when I first heard Gerry Mulligan: it was a 45 rpm record from Pacific Jazz, a California company, and the Gerry Mulligan Quartet, with Chet Baker, was playing Bernie’s Tune (click “Preview All” at the link to hear a bit). It was so cool that even I could tell. Wonderful new sounds, called (my friend told me) West Coast Jazz. This was about 1954, with the record recorded in 1952, when he was 25. The Quartet’s other personnel were Bob Whitlock on bass and Chico Hamilton on drums—no piano. You can still get (on 2 CD’s) the 42 tracks recorded by this first quartet. Great stuff.

Here’s a later quartet (Gerry, Art Farmer on trumpet, Bill Crow on bass, and Dave Bailey on drums) playing in 1959, when Gerry was 32:

BTW, I highly recommend Bill Crow’s wonderful book Jazz Anecdotes, if you enjoy jazz. Extremely interesting and entertaining.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 10:00 am

Posted in Daily life

More believe in the Devil than in Darwin

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Darwin

Odd people, we Americans:

More Americans believe in a literal hell and the devil than Darwin’s theory of evolution, according to a new Harris poll released on Thursday. It is the latest survey to highlight America’s deep level of religiosity, a cultural trait that sets it apart from much of the developed world.

It also helps explain many of its political battles which Europeans find bewildering, such as efforts to have “Intelligent Design” theory — which holds life is too complex to have evolved by chance — taught in schools alongside evolution.

The poll of 2,455 U.S. adults from Nov 7 to 13 found that 82 percent of those surveyed believed in God, a figure unchanged since the question was asked in 2005.

It further found that 79 percent believed in miracles, 75 percent in heaven, while 72 percent believed that Jesus is God or the Son of God. Belief in hell and the devil was expressed by 62 percent.

Darwin’s theory of evolution met a far more skeptical audience which might surprise some outsiders as the United States is renowned for its excellence in scientific research. Only 42 percent of those surveyed said they believed in Darwin’s theory which largely informs how biology and related sciences are approached. While often referred to as evolution it is in fact the 19th century British intellectual’s theory of “natural selection.”

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Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 9:54 am

Posted in Religion, Science

Why the Right hates national healthcare

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In a nutshell: because it will work, and the American public will say, “How long has this been going on? Why didn’t we have this 40 years ago?” Krugman:

“The Grim Truth” — That’s the title of an article in National Review. What they mean, of course, is the grim possibility of a Democratic sweep next year. (Hat tip to Daily Kos.)

NR warns its readers that

It’s almost impossible to exaggerate the Democratic advantage on domestic issues: If it’s an issue, they lead.

And their greatest fear is that if the Democrats do win,

It would probably also mean a national health-insurance program that would irrevocably expand government involvement in the economy and American life, and itself make voters less likely to turn toward conservatism in the future.

I think that sentence contains a grim truth for progressives: the right will fight any health reform tooth and nail. They believe — and so do I — that the implications of universal coverage would extend far beyond health care, that it would revitalize the New Deal idea. And so they’ll do anything to stop it.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 8:52 am

Harsh judgment of Alan Greenspan

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“An arsonist and a fireman combined” — harsh words. The story:

Alan Greenspan, who led the U.S. Federal Reserve for 18 years and was revered in the financial markets, was a “very bad” Fed chairman.

That’s the blunt verdict of Patrick Artus, chief economist of Natixis SA and one of France’s most listened-to pundits: He is an economic adviser to the French government.

In his latest book (Les incendiaires: Les banques centrales depassees par la globalisation; or The Arsonists: Central Banks Overtaken By Globalization), Artus, 56, blames Greenspan and other central bankers for being so focused on inflation that they failed to prevent real-estate and stock-market bubbles which, in turn, burst and caused pain.

Artus joined me for a candid telephone conversation.

Nayeri: Do you really mean what you say in this book, or is this just a provocative pamphlet?

Artus: Oh no, this is a serious book. It’s not provocation.

What I’m saying is that there’s no point setting central-bank targets in stone, until the end of time.

It was perfectly legitimate for central banks in the 1980s and 1990s to have price stability as their target. Inflation was the problem back then.

Maybe in the future, say by 2010, with the rise in commodity prices, inflation will become our main problem again. But since the mid-1990s, inflation in the classical sense is not the problem. The problem now is asset-price inflation, and indebtedness, the reason being that globalization has wiped out inflation risk.

Nayeri: Joseph Stiglitz went on the record on Nov. 16 as saying that Greenspan had “made a mess” and that the U.S. now faced a recession. Do you agree?

Artus: Yes. Greenspan was an arsonist and a fireman combined. He derived all his glory from his reaction to the savings-and- loans crisis, to the collapse of Long-Term Capital Management LP, and to Sept. 11, 2001. But LTCM and the savings-and-loans crisis were his doing. He absolutely failed to see where the malfunctions in the U.S. economy were.

Greenspan came up with a phrase, “irrational exuberance,” in 1997, but he didn’t do anything about it.

Nayeri: How would you sum up his track record, then?

Artus: He was a very bad Federal Reserve chairman. He created four major crises: savings and loans, LTCM, new-technology shares, and subprime mortgages.

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Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 8:48 am

Good game for kids

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And with wonderful Scottish accents: My Sust House. Go play a while and enjoy the accents. 🙂

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 8:37 am

Back to the Method

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And a perfect shave once again. The Cube, the Shavemaster, the Shaving Paste—all worked together in perfect harmony. The Edwin Jagger ivory-handled Chatsworth with its Astra Superior Platinum blade: easy and smooth. Marvelously smooth, in fact. And then Castle Forbes Lavender aftershave balm. It feels very nice.

Written by Leisureguy

1 December 2007 at 8:35 am

Posted in Shaving

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