Americas

Colombian police accused of violence, torture and shooting against civilians
Americas

Colombian police accused of violence, torture and shooting against civilians

After the protests of September 9 and the following days, in which 14 people lost their lives, numerous videos have gone viral showing the violence and human rights violations by Colombian police forces: firearms aimed at height man, lynchings, kicks and punches against the civilian population, broken glass, damaged cars. Also, there are hundreds of reports of people arrested during the protests. Some claim to have seen their civil rights violated, to have been beaten and tortured during interrogation by the police. A young journalist affirmed that she was forced to undress in front of police officers and subjected to humiliating behavior.

There are hundreds of videos, testimonies, and complaints about violence and abuse of power collected by human rights associations and the municipality of Bogotà. The end of the lockdown imposed to combat the spread of the coronavirus in Colombia begins with an unpredictable explosion of violence.With the end of the health emergency, social protests flare up in Colombia. The death of the young lawyer Javier Ordóñez, killed by the police, has sparked a new series of violent protests. The United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (Cepal) predicts a 10% loss of Colombian GDP this year. Many small and medium-sized businesses went bankrupt during the lockdown. And many families have been living in hardship since the beginning of the pandemic.

The economic crisis adds to and aggravates a social situation that is already very difficult in itself: the reasons that led to the national strikes in November 2019 are unchanged, while anger and frustration have increased.According to data collected by the NGO Temblores, which since 2002 has been following and investigating cases of abuse of power by the Colombian police, 14 people lost their lives between 9 and 12 September last. Of the more than 300 wounded, 63 were victims of stray bullets.

Some very violent videos have gone viral on the web in which the Colombian police forces can be distinguished shooting at eye level at the demonstrators. In one of these, it is even possible to see the live death of a boy hit by a bullet. Given the nature of the events, it is difficult to think that it was not a precise order from the Government. But the Minister of Defense Carlos Holmes Trujillo ignores the square demanding his resignation, offers an official apology, and promises to open internal investigations.

Stimulus talks scrapped off unilaterally by Trump leaving millions of Americans gasping
Americas

Stimulus talks scrapped off unilaterally by Trump leaving millions of Americans gasping

President Donald Trump stirred up the country as he ordered his team of negotiators to step back from talks around new stimulus package. The move, that is as stunning and unbelievable as it can get, has put an end to the last minute efforts to pass the most essential and major economic relief package to provide support to millions of Americans who are struggling to reel through the coronavirus crisis. The two sides had been on struggling ends for months to reach a deal, but this announcement by the President has halted all the efforts.

Tuesday afternoon President Trump’s official Twitter account was in overdrive with a series of tweets. On one such tweet President wrote, “I have instructed my representatives to stop negotiating until after the election when, immediately after I win, we will pass a major Stimulus Bill that focuses on hardworking Americans and Small Businesses.”

The announcement took everyone by surprise, specially the lawmakers, since the Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had been working on negotiations and proposals for days in hope of coming to a deal with minimum disagreements. The decision of plugging the stimulus talks has jeopardized Americans who are struggling from the pandemic. The recovery package was initially passed by Congress in spring for $2.2 trillion. Most of that stimulus has been spent.

Jerome Powell, the Federal Reserve Chairman on Tuesday said in a plea for action that more support is very crucial and imperative in coming months.

The sudden ‘reckless’ decision by Trump has perplexed the Republicans who have been caught off guard. The deal was least threatening for upcoming elections, in fact could have been a plus point for Trump against Biden had the deal been finalized. Now with tanked stimulus talks, Republicans fear that it could be used by Democrats to pin blame on White House for halted talks as voters are anyways squirming for a relief in Washington.

House Speaker Democratic Nancy Pelosi slammed the President’s announcement and said, “Clearly, the White House is in complete disarray.” She continued, “Today, once again, President Trump showed his true colours: putting himself first at the expense of the country, with the full complicity of the GOP Members of Congress. Walking away from coronavirus talks demonstrates that President Trump is unwilling to crush the virus.”

Impact of Trump’s tweet on markets

President Trump’s tweet of single-handedly tanking the stimulus talks set the market on a roller coaster ride on Tuesday as the markets saw a sharp drop at the day’s closing, and then a pre-market bump later.

The halted stimulus package talks mean that no federal relief is coming for unemployed, small business owners in a loss, airlines who are bearing huge loss, service sector, any time soon, at least not until the elections are over.    

In the United States minority voting is an obstacle course
Americas

In the United States minority voting is an obstacle course

On 22 September in the United States, thousands of volunteers took to the streets for National Voter Registration Day, an initiative that since 2012 has been involved in convincing as many Americans as possible to register on the electoral roll. In the same days, Snapchat also launched a new tool that allows users to register on the electoral lists via the application, which reaches more than 400,000 people. Online and offline, the goal remains the same: to increase American voter turnout ahead of the November elections.

 The United States is one of the democratic countries with the lowest electoral turnout in the world: in 2016, only 65% of registered voters went to the polls. The reasons are many, and depend above all on the nature of the US electoral system: Election Day, for example, is always a weekday, and many citizens cannot take leave to vote. Furthermore, voluntary registration on the electoral roll is the sine qua non for voting: a bureaucratic procedure which, however, puts the least educated sections of the population in difficulty.

And if, due to an antiquated system, voting is therefore not easy for any American, it is even more so for minorities. And it is not a case. By voter suppression, we mean that set of strategies used to influence the outcome of the elections, making it very difficult – or often, impossible – for specific segments or groups of the population to go to the polling stations. In America, these measures appeared – paradoxically, or perhaps not – shortly after the extension of the right to vote to former slaves, which came in 1870 with the approval of the Fifteenth Amendment.

Only five years later, the Democrats launched the Mississippi Plan, a political battle of intimidation to take back a state where the overwhelming majority of former slaves had voted for the Republican party that supported their emancipation. At the time, paramilitary organizations such as the Red Shirts not only limited themselves to putting economic pressure on fledgling Republican voters, but went so far as to whip and kill political opponents. Since 1890, Democrats in power in Mississippi have passed a new constitution that included electoral taxes and literacy tests, two measures aimed at targeting the black, poor, and badly educated electorate. Until 1964, this kind of legal restriction was adopted by various Southern states, along with local and individual state laws on racial segregation, the Jim Crow.

 Meanwhile, polling violence in these states has continued to spread. To the point that black veteran Maceo Snipes was killed in 1946, at the age of 37, for voting in the Democratic primary, in Georgia. Maceo was the only black person to go to the polls in his county, despite being warned that the vote would be “the last thing he would do.”However, events began to take a different turn in 2013, shortly after the election of Barack Obama, when the frightened conservative majority of the Supreme Court amended the Voting Rights Act, leaving, among other things, a free hand to individuals states on electoral rules.

 Former judge Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who passed away on September 18, strongly opposed this sentence, affirming that abolishing a law because it works “is like throwing away an umbrella during a storm because you’re not getting wet. “Since that time, Republicans at all levels have made it increasingly difficult for minorities to cast their votes through a wide range of gimmicks: Texas, for example, was the first state to introduce the requirement to show an identity document accompanied by a passport photo, a “bureaucratic nightmare” for many voters, especially if they are poor, elderly, black or Latino. To date, 35 US states have adopted this measure. Another example of voter suppression is the so-called electoral purges, or the elimination of voters from the lists in the event of death, change of residence, and other more or less controversial reasons.

Due to the pandemic, in 2020, the option to vote by post is increasingly plausible, although in five States, it is not allowed if there is no “valid reason.” Trump himself has opposed this prospect, stirring up the bugbear of election fraud and delays in counting votes. In reality, voting by mail would restore the voice to those millions of victims of voting suppression, while only 1 in 5 Republicans say they are willing to use this system. In short, without traps and more or less legal subterfuges, Trump and the Republicans know they do not have much hope: it is since 1988 that the majority of the popular vote has gone to the Democrats. The only exception: the 2004 presidential elections. The next four years of the Grand Old Party in the White House are at stake on the vote by post and the recent Supreme Court issue.

Is El Salvador’s government in partnership with the country’s brutal MS-13 gang?
Americas

Is El Salvador’s government in partnership with the country’s brutal MS-13 gang?

 “Plan for Territorial Control” is the new hard line policy of El Salvador’s government headed by President Nayib Bukele, that led to stricter and more inhumane conditions in the maximum security prisons of the South American country. El Salvador’s prisons director Oris Luna Meza had said in April referring to the new policy that jailed gang members will see “not one ray of sunshine.”

Under the new policy phase would lead to shutting out the natural sunlight from the inmates’ cells, banning family visits and the rival gangs of El Salvador, MS-13 and Barrio 18 whose members are imprisoned would be housed together in already overcrowded cells. As coronavirus pandemic spread across the world, images of hundreds of prisoners, half naked, with shaved heads shackled together in jam-packed cells sparked outrage among international human rights groups. Now the government isn’t shying away from the reality and is instead inviting global journalists to film the appalling state of the unsanitary prison cells in the country.

El Faro, El Salvador’s high profile online journal, released stark revelations regarding secret negotiations that Bukele’s government had with the mortal rival gang members in jail. El Faro has alleged, citing information in a series of leaked government documents, that jailed members of MS-13 gang have received special benefits like fast food and have not received the usual harsh treatment in exchange of keeping peace in El Salvador’s streets. These prisoners have ordered their gang members outside to pace down violent crime like murder and extortion in El Salvador’s communities. The journal also has made an explosive allegation against Bukele administration of striking a deal with gang for next year’s legislative elections.

President Bukele went on to Twitter, his most trusted mode of communication, and rejected the El Faro’s allegations. He tweeted “Show me one privilege, just one.”

El Faro also claimed that prisons director Meza was also present during these meetings along with unidentified masked man. Prisons Director Osiris Luna Meza denied these allegations saying, “I have not and will not participate in any such meeting. I have always been very consistent with my political activities. These kinds of activities aren’t who I am.”

The government has been consistently denying all allegations of any deal with the MS-13 gang but has not openly denied the authenticity of leaked documents. Mr. Meza has assured of his resignation if Attorney General’s office confirms allegations against him through ongoing investigations. President Bukele has on the other hand have had a history of strained and rugged relationship with the press, specifically El Faro. He has said that he would not take up the criticism of human rights violations earlier in April for the inhumane treatment of prisoners and on the flip side being accused of shaking hand with the same gang members now.

Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis turns election on its head
Americas

Trump’s COVID-19 diagnosis turns election on its head

President Trump is down with the coronavirus just as campaigning kicks into high gear, adding a cloud of uncertainty over elections that were already tumultuous.

United States President Donald Trump, fresh out of the first presidential debate, had a very busy week during which he visited six states. At the end of it, came the shock announcement that he and First Lady Melania Trump had contracted the coronavirus. This effectively puts his campaign on indefinite hold. Not only is the 74-year-old in the high-risk category but his family, senior administration and campaign officials who had been in close contact with him have to now self-isolate.

The election schedule is unlikely to be affected by this news. In fact, early polling has begun in some states. Trump’s participation in the next town hall debate on October 15 is in doubt, however. In a tumultuous election year that was beset by challenges like the pandemic, the resulting economic slowdown, race-related demonstrations and violence, Trump has been trailing behind his opponent Joe Biden and the opportunity of him to close this gap was already tightening. His absence from the scene altogether is not going to help his prospects.

He has consistently been under attack for his cavalier approach to the pandemic that has killed more than 200,000 Americans so far. He has been a source of misinformation and has shown scorn and derision for those who stressed aggressive mitigation measures and caution in reopening the country. With his diagnosis, the focus is squarely on the disease and his handling of it, something his team had been trying to avoid so far. There will now be more questions about whether he took the crisis seriously enough, both in the country and closer to home.

The Democrats have so far not shown any drastic course correction to the news. Biden tweeted that he is prayed for Trump’s recovery. Until now, he has mostly kept a low profile and was only just starting to pull his campaign into high gear. It is left to be seen how he will take advantage of this lull in the Republican campaigning by stepping up on activities like door-to-door canvassing. Another uncertainty is around the appointment of the Supreme Court judge to replace the late Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Democrats had already been trying to delay the process of electing Trump’s nominee into the top court and this news probably makes it more likely that it won’t happen till after the elections. The markets too have reacted badly to the announcement, disrupting economic recovery.

Trump and Melania positive for coronavirus, now the election campaign is at risk
Americas

Trump and Melania positive for coronavirus, now the election campaign is at risk

Coronavirus also flies on board of the Air Force1. It infected the president of the United States, Donald Trump, and First Lady Melania. That was announced on Twitter by the head of the White House himself. “The First Lady and I tested positive for Covid-19. We will begin our quarantine and recovery process immediately. We will get through this TOGETHER!”. The president’s doctor confirmed the news of Donald and Melania’s positivity, stating that they are fine. Donald will continue to carry out his duties “without any interruption,” he added. But the White House announced that the president canceled the trip to Florida scheduled for today as part of his electoral campaign.

A few hours before the test result, Trump also confirmed that Hope Hicks, one of Donald Trump’s most trusted advisors, tested positive on Thursday. A news that worried a lot, because both Tuesday and Wednesday, he had flown alongside the president – without a mask – accompanying him first to Cleveland to participate at the first televised debate of this 2020 campaign. Then to Duluth, Minnesota, where Trump had held one outdoors. The discovery of positivity took place on Thursday evening: an anonymous source first revealed it to a Bloomberg reporter.

Then it was confirmed by Trump, announcing on Twitter that he had done the test, together with Melania, and that he had quarantined himself: “Hope Hicks, who worked very hard without ever taking a break, is also positive for COVID. One terrible news. The First Lady and I are waiting for the test results. In the meantime, we begin the quarantine process.” Soon after came the most feared result: the presidential couple is positive. In his eighth decade of life, Trump belongs to the age group deemed most vulnerable to the virus. Eight out of 10 deaths in the United States were among those over 65 and older.

 Trump has always opposed allowing details of his health to go public, raising doubts about his general condition. In November, he made an unannounced trip to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, which prompted several speculations that he had an illness. But the White House insisted that he just underwent routine testing.

Hicks, a 31-year-old former model, was the White House chief of communications. Except leaving the scene in 2018 after admitting lying to intelligence to protect the president. Very faithful of the first hour, a close friend of the “First Daughter” Ivanka, in the past, she had dealt with the public relations of the Trump Organization, and in 2016, she had been the spokesperson for the first presidential campaign and then director of strategic communications. For some months, Trump had called her back to his side, precisely to help out in the new campaign. And she was always by his side last week.

US Elections 2020: First Presidential Debate proved to be a mockery of democracy with Trump and Biden spat
Americas

US Elections 2020: First Presidential Debate proved to be a mockery of democracy with Trump and Biden spat

Four decades ago when John F Kennedy and Richard Nixon appeared in first televised presidential debate, the world watched the two candidates engage in a meaningful and intelligent discussion. Usually when two presidential nominees face each other in presidential debates, it is usually a display of intelligence, respect and composed discussions. But not this time. This year the world watched in complete dismay the unfolding of democracy hitting rock bottom of a nation which is known to be world’s biggest democracy. Presidential nominees, former VP Joe Biden and President Donald Trump faced each other in the first presidential debate of this election in Cleveland, Ohio and world saw a huge spat between these leaders.

The vicious encounter between the leaders on September 29, saw Trump and Biden trade insults, and showed a sitting president trash and neglect norms of a behavior suitable to be ‘presidential’ during a primetime telecast. The debate was a real-time rendering of how the US is heading for a decline. Never had politics in America sunk so low – it was a reminder how the country is in a midst of calling for reforms related to shootings, racism, white supremacy, Antifa, economic turmoil, pandemic, racial rift and political chaos.

Throughout the 90 minute debate session, Trump constantly bullied and interrupted Biden and also the moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News. He ignored blazing questions and Biden’s arguments around policies and facts. Instead he stooped low and took aim at Biden’s son who was relieved from military over consumption of cocaine. Biden initially seemed bothered by Trump’s constant interruptions, but then came in sync with the tempo of his opponent and responded by calling him a “clown”, a “racist” and “the worst president America has ever had.” Biden criticized Trump of his failure to take control of the pandemic and criticized his handling of the coronavirus crisis, his failure to come up with a solid healthcare plan and his response to racial protests and injustice.

Trump dodged and declined to condemn white supremacists

Biden repeatedly called Trump a racist saying, “This is a President who has used everything as a dog whistle to try to generate racist hatred, racist division.” During debate moderator Chris Wallace asked if he could directly condemn white supremacists. To this Trump flatly refused to condemn the White Supremacy directly and said “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by.” This is being projected as direct endorsement of the all men white supremacists group Proud Boys.

Election dispute

President Trump unleashed a series of misinformation around elections and mail-in ballot voting but failed to confirm if he would encourage his supporters to practice order and peaceful proceedings during and after November 3 elections. Trump said, “I’m encouraging my supporters to go into the polls and watch very carefully.”

Complete denial of coronavirus pandemic

The best strategy opted by President Trump in last days of campaign seems to be override all the questions and confrontations related to coronavirus pandemic. Trump seems to be eager to move on from the blazing topic, the one that can actually cost him the White House.

Trump openly called the vaccine topic to be political and mocked his opponent Joe Biden of wearing mask. Instead of acknowledging the severity of pandemic in US, Trump maintained that he did the best and Joe Biden would have done far worse. Biden repeatedly mentioned the 200,000 Americans who died during pandemic.

Supreme Court – the highlight of the debate

Dominating issue of debate night was Trump’s Supreme Court justice nomination of Amy Coney Barrett as replacement of late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The opening topic was lost amid the chaos right in the beginning. Biden tied to diverge the topic of Affordable Care Act while Trump tried to pin Biden on proposals to end Senate’s filibuster and expansion of Supreme Court. Nothing substantially came out of these points as Trump continued to interrupt Biden.

When Trump attacked Biden’s son Hunter Biden, the former VP snapped back and said, “My son had a drug problem, but he’s overcome it and I’m proud of him.” This can be a powerful connection between Joe Biden and thousands of Americans who are themselves or someone in their families are facing alcohol and drug addiction.

The clear winner after first debate night was Joe Biden who’s campaign raised $10 million in three hours after debate. This is smashing fundraising records, clearly indicating the leading opponent in the most high profile elections in United States of America history.

RELATED NEWS: United States, Biden and Harris lead in the polls by ten points

PBO Predictions Of Slow Revival Of Budget Deficits By 2022
Americas

PBO Predictions Of Slow Revival Of Budget Deficits By 2022

Canada’s “barely” sustainable $328.5 billion deficit is set to decline significantly by 2022- this has been confirmed by the Parliamentary Budget Officer. However, others differ on this assertion saying that this does not include the budget that Ottawa has promised to use for itself.

Released recently, the new deficit projections are not showing a promising picture.  The independent office’s economic and fiscal outlook assessment is for policy-makers to consider, including the new deficit projection for the fiscal year 2020-2021 which is lower than the government’s estimate of $343 billion.

 But the Ottawa situation could lead to a change in scenario.

The PBO’s report included an estimated $225 billion in Covid-19 pandemic spending measures as well as initiatives announced by the government up to September 1. However, it does not include new spending measures announced in the Liberal government’s throne speech such as universal pharmacare and national child care programs.

According to the state report, the increase in spending should be looked at as a temporary move.  The current projections will also hinge on whether the interest rates remain low.

The PBO report stated that for the first half of 2020, real GDP, the value of all goods and services produced in Canada, was 13.4 per cent below pre-pandemic levels. But by the third quarter of 2020, “we estimate that the rebound in real GDP will have recouped about two-thirds of the decline in economic activity,” the report said.

“We project that the level of real GDP will reach its precrisis level by early-2022,” said the report.

Post 2021, the federal government’s budgets will increase to $40billion year on year.  However all these predictions depend on three major assumptions. One is that the country will continue to spend on public health for the next 12-18 months. The second is that emergency spending measures will stop as planned through 2020-2021 and that new programs aren’t introduced; and finally, and the third is that the Bank of Canada keeps interest rates low.

Despite US sanctions, Iran sends fuel to Venezuela, second shipment after May
Americas

Despite US sanctions, Iran sends fuel to Venezuela, second shipment after May

In a blatant violation of US sanctions imposed on Iran and Venezuela, on Monday Tehran sent vessel Forest carrying oil tankers to Venezuela’s El Palito refinery port. Iran set off not only one, but three vessels containing thousands of barrels of fuel to the South American country to meet its fuel demand. The other two, Fortune and Faxon, would be reaching at Venezuelan shore in the coming days.

Venezuela’s drastic lack of fuel not only caused major drop in its food output, but also impacted supply chain with millions of buses, trucks and emergency vehicles being unable to run and deliver products to different cities. The country has been witnessing one of its worst economic and political crises.

On Sunday, Tehran’s semi-official news agency, Mehr news reported that General Yahya Rahim-Safavi, a military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said Iran sent oil shipments to Venezuela in exchange for gold bars. He said, “We gave Venezuela gasoline and received gold bars, and we took the gold to Iran on a plane so that nothing could happen to it along the way.”

This is the second time that Islamic republic gave gasoline to Venezuela since the end of May. In May, Iranian fleet of five vessels carried nearly 1.5 million barrels of gasoline and fuel additives, as well as parts for local refineries to Venezuela. The two nations established strong bond over US sanctions and hard pressed isolation. Iran’s foreign ministry said that any action regarding US sanction to stop them would only push the Islamic country towards “a swift and decisive response.”

Iran tried to send another shipmentcontaining four vessels with 1.1 million barrels of gasoline in August, but got seized by the US forces. The US government called it “largest-ever seizure of fuel shipments from Iran” by the Department of Justice. It added that Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, designated as a terrorist organization, was responsible  for the shipment.

US imposed sanctions on Venezuela preventing it to import oil from international market. The US special envoy to Venezuela and Iran, Elliot Abrams said that US sanctions on Venezuela even pulled away Russia and China from sell gasoline to the Latin American country. US has been trying create pressure to oust President Nicolas Maduro, who with his corrupt and mismanaged way of working, have been draining the country for past 6 years.

United States, Biden and Harris lead in the polls by ten points
Americas

United States, Biden and Harris lead in the polls by ten points

A little over a month after the presidential election, the pair Biden-Harris remain ahead of Donald Trump and Mike Pence in the polls. According to the latest survey, the Democratic ticket collects 53% of the votes against 43% of the opponents. Two conventions, the coronavirus numbers continue to rise, the economic chaos, the racial riots were not enough, and not even the recent appointment of an ultra-conservative judge to the Supreme Court. In America more divided than ever, polls say, nobody changes ideas.

The latest survey, made by Washington Post-ABC News, continues to record Democratic candidate for the White House Joe Biden firmly ahead of incumbent President Donald Trump. The first detaches his opponent by 10 points 53 to 43 among the registered voters, those who certainly intend to vote. Fork that does not change even among the likely voters where Biden dominates 54 to 44.

Attention: the margin reduced to six points among probable voters, from 49% to 43%, and among those registered – where it even goes from 47% to 41% – when there are also third-party names on the ballot, such as those Libertarian Party candidate Jo Jorgensen and Green candidate Howie Hawkins. Parties that are not present everywhere. That can prove to be particularly insidious in uncertain states and therefore more at risk, where elections will be won by a handful of votes.

Trump continues not to convince the women of the suburbs, the ones who will make a difference in the current state of the race. If Trump likes 55 to 42 male voters, Biden has a more advantage among women: where he wins even 65 to 34. With the difference that if Trump’s advantage among men is more or less the same as in 2016, when opposed Hillary Clinton, Biden’s advantage among women is even double that of Clinton then.

So, is Biden winning? In America, it is not the popular vote that makes the president, but the number of constituencies that are obtained. In uncertain states, the fork narrows, the challenge remains tight in Florida and Arizona, while Biden has a slight advantage in Wisconsin and a larger one in Minnesota. A sign, however, of the president competitiveness.

Donald Trump continues to fuel tensions, repeating that “he cannot guarantee a peaceful transition of powers.” The New York Times reports that the Pentagon fears will be drawn into the political confrontation. The president could contest the results, perhaps in some key states, sparking protests and street riots. At that point, Trump could order the military to intervene. The commanders of the Armed Forces, however, would not accept and would resign rather than mobilize the soldiers against the demonstrators

It is good to clarify that we are talking about indiscretions and hypotheses. In Washington, the Republicans themselves appear bewildered. The day before yesterday, all conservatives voted on the motion presented to the Senate by Democrat Joe Manchin, which warns the president to “engage in behaviour that subvert the will of the people.”

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