Boots & Sabers

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Lotteries Didn’t Increase Vaccination Rates

Well, that was a waste of money. They shifted the timing of vaccinations, but not the overall rate.

Over the spring and summer, at least 19 states — including California, New York, Ohio and West Virginia — tried to incentivize unvaccinated individuals to get shots, offering cash prizes, free tickets, guns, college scholarships and trucks.

 

However, research from the Boston University School of Medicine found some of these prizes had little to no effect on convincing residents to get vaccinated against COVID.

 

For the study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the team compared vaccination rates between 15 states that offered lotteries with cash prizes and 31 states that did not between May 24, 2021 and July 19, 2021.

 

[…]

 

Vaccine lotteries had initially been deemed a success after reports that vaccination rates had significantly boosted, such as in Ohio, where officials said they saw a 55% increase in vaccinations for young adults following the state’s Vax-A-Million lottery.

 

However, it appears the boosts were likely temporary.

Teacher Arrested for Injecting Student with Vaccine

Insane

New York teacher has been arrested for allegedly injecting a minor with a Covid-19 vaccine without the consent of his parents, police have said.

 

Laura Russo, 54, was arrested on New Year’s Eve in Sea Cliff after police were informed that she had allegedly injected a 17-year-old boy with a vaccine, the Nassau County Police department said in a news release on Monday.

 

According to the department, the 17-year-old boy had visited Russo’s home, where she administered what was believed to be a Covid vaccine to him. It is unclear how she came to obtain the vaccine.

 

Police said that the boy’s mother called the authorities after her son told her he had gotten the jab.

 

“The mother had not given permission or authority to have her son injected with a Covid vaccine,” the department said.

Keep our schools open

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. Here’s a part:

Think back to your childhood. Maybe you were 6 years old and excited to get to school to play with your friends. Maybe you were 12 and learning that instrument that would spark a lifelong love of music. Maybe you were 17 and sweating through your ill-fitting suit as you danced with the girl who would become your wife. Those were formative years. They were important years.

 

Now go back into your memory, pick any year or two, and erase it. Replace it with a picture of yourself sitting at home – alone – staring at the world through a screen and trying to understand it. Hour after hour. Day after day. How many opportunities are lost? How many relationships are never formed? How is your life different?

 

As the omicron variant of COVID-19 sweeps through Wisconsin, some school districts are already thinking about closing their doors to pretend to do virtual learning. The Milwaukee Public Schools and the Madison Metropolitan School District, Wisconsin’s two largest school districts, have already decided to go virtual (read: abandon education) and delay opening for fear of omicron. Other school districts might soon follow.

 

This must stop. We are almost two years into our experience with COVID-19 and there are two things we know for sure: COVID-19 is almost no threat to kids, but closing schools is devastating to them on many levels. We must prioritize the education and mental health of our kids over the minimal threat of COVID-19.

Manhattan DA Absolves Cuomo of Killing of Thousands of Old Folks

Don’t be shocked if Cuomo is never held accountable.

Disgraced former New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has been controversially cleared of causing 15,500 COVID deaths in nursing homes by a prosecutor who insists no crime was committed, his lawyer said.

 

Elkan Abramowitz, Cuomo’s lawyer, said Monday that the probe by Manhattan District Attorney’s Office had been dropped.  The office, currently headed by DA Alvin Bragg, declined to comment. Its probe into Cuomo was launched by Bragg’s predecessor Cyrus Vance, although it is unclear which of the two men apparently chose not to pursue charges against Cuomo.

 

‘I was contacted today by the head of the Elder Care Unit from the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office who informed me they have closed its investigation involving the Executive Chamber and nursing homes,’ said Abramowitz.

 

[…]

 

Cuomo still faces separate state and federal inquiries into the nursing home scandal, which saw the facilities forced to accept COVID patients from hospitals in March 2020, causing the virus to spread like wildfire among elderly and medically-vulnerable residents.

 

UW-Madison Refuses to Accommodate Blind Professor

Good for UW. Organizations should do everything they can to accommodate people with disabilities to do the job. But in this case, it isn’t about her disability. She is demanding that students receive an inferior education to appease her irrational fears. She’s no longer cut out for the job and UW should get someone who is. The University doesn’t exist for the professors.

A blind UW-Madison professor requested to teach online this fall semester. She had the support of her department, documentation from her doctor and a long history of receiving disability accommodations from the university.

 

UW-Madison instead offered English professor Elizabeth Bearden an N95 mask to wear while teaching.

 

“It was just so heartbreaking,” she said. “I feel betrayed by my institution.”

 

The accommodation, she said, didn’t address her concerns about being unable to tell whether students were following the campus mask mandate nor alleviate her fears about an infection leading to a loss of taste or smell, which the blind rely on more than those with all five senses.

Declining to risk her health, Bearden spent the semester on medical leave, earning 60% of her salary. She also filed a discrimination complaint last month with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, alleging UW-Madison violated her rights under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Violence Against Government Ever Justified?

While this story is a rather comically exaggerated story about the January 6th kerfuffle last year, this struck me.

WaPo’s poll, taken between December 19 and December 19, asks US adults: ‘Do you think it is ever justified for citizens to take violent action against the government, or is it never justified?’

 

Thirty-four percent of respondents said it could be, while 62 percent believe it’s never justified.

The response to that question should have been 100% that violence against government could be justified. Our nation was founded on violence against government. In fact, our nation was founded on the principle that it is a citizen’s duty to violently throw off government when that government no longer protects our rights. The Declaration of Independence lays out this principle as:

That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long train of abuses and usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object evinces a design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their right, it is their duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future security.

No, it should not be done lightly, but to say that it is NEVER justified is downright unAmerican. And the fact that this poll indicates that 62% of the people polled think that violence against government is never justified makes me weep for our future. Docile cows led to slaughter…

Governments Rationing Healthcare Based on Race

These are the actions of an apartheid government. It is also what happens when we surrender our healthcare to government.

The agency responded the same day, the Post reports, and informed Nasti that they  are prioritizing neighborhoods flagged by the city’s Taskforce on Racial Inclusion and Equity – which has identified 31 underserved neighborhoods to receive preferential COVID treatment from the city.

 

The task force said names were picked based on a DOHMH analysis of ‘health status, living conditions, social inequities, occupation and COVID-19 Wave 1 impact,’ though it did not release the methodology the agency uses to weigh the different factors.

 

The latest revelation comes as reports surfaced that non-white people are receiving priority from the state Health Department to receive monoclonal antibody treatments and Pfizer’s new pills because of nationwide shortages.

 

A representative from the Health Department defended the priority given to minority communities because they have ‘borne the brunt of this pandemic due to structural racism’ and that tests were being distributed through community-based organizations in the selected neighborhoods.

 

According to city data, blacks and African Americans have had 12,808 residents per 100,000 people test positive for the virus since the pandemic began, Hispanics have had 15,309 residents per 100,000 people test positive for the virus and white people have had 13,095 residents per 100,000 test positive.

A prayer for the new year

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News this week. May you all have a joyous 2022.

As I sit here contemplating my final column of 2021, there is no shortage of contentious political and cultural issues about which to write. But resting in the warmth of family and the quiet wheezing of a year in its final moments, writing about one of the many societal frictions seems indecent. You don’t want to read it. I don’t want to write it. Instead, I offer a fervent prayer for the new year.

 

Lord, thank you for another year living in your grace. Thank you for your son, Jesus Christ, who lived amongst us to die to atone for our sins. Thank you for reminding me that while 2021 was a very tough year for so many, we are transients on this planet and destined for an eternity in your everlasting light of pure joy. May this knowledge comfort and salve the wounds, seen and unseen, inflicted in this world.

 

Lord, I know that you are with the poor and the oppressed; the cold and the infirm; the lonely and the sad; the hated and the haters; the hungry and the hurt; the lost and the elderly; the children and the wanderers. You are with all without reserve or deserve. May I open my heart to those who struggle as your son taught me to do.

 

Lord, the clouds lurking in the predawn of 2022 are dark and ominous. I hear the drums of war thumping in faraway lands. I see the worrying signs of potential economic ruination. I have been made all too aware of the power of disease to disrupt society. I know the evil purposes of some to use the fear of all these things to abuse and oppress. Please grant our leaders wisdom, restraint, patience, resilience, and humility to make the correct decisions to guide us through these turbulent times.

 

Lord, this year saw a huge increase in the number of people being victimized by criminals. Many criminals are broken people who struggle with addictions or mental illnesses. Please heal them that they may fully participate in our society. For those criminals who are simply evil, please protect the rest of us from them. Please protect those police officers who bravely stand a watch to maintain our civil society from those who would ravage it. May 2022 bring with it the peace of a lawful society.

 

Lord, with the pandemic and our misguided public policy responses, more people are suffering from forced or voluntary isolation. You made us to be social creatures and the isolation is unnatural. It foments depression, anxiety, and loneliness. Please bring comfort to the isolated with the knowledge that even when alone, they are loved. Even if they don’t love you, you love them.

 

Lord, like many others, even when I am with other people, I feel the emptiness of those who are no longer with me. Grief is the price paid for love, so as I grieve, let me reflect on the price that you paid for your love of me. May my faith turn grief to joy as I celebrate that my loved ones feel no pain; shed no tears; carry no burden as they sing your everlasting praises.

 

Lord, while my powers to change the world are limited, your power to change me is infinite. May your power swell my heart, wither my pride, heal my wounds, and give me the courage to fix a few pieces of this broken world before my time on it is done.

 

If life is the childhood of our immortality, as Goethe contends, then let me live as a child. Laugh without trepidation. Trust without doubt. Help without expectations. Give without taking. Love without reserve.

 

Lord, thank you for 2021. May 2022 be a year of growing closer to you.

Madison Schools Go Virtual

Once again, government schools are prioritizing the teachers’ fear over the education and mental health of kids.

MADISON, Wis. — The Madison Metropolitan School District is going virtual, delaying its return from winter break due to the rising number of COVID-19 cases in Dane County, the district said Thursday evening.

 

In a news release, the district said instruction is now set to begin on January 6. Classes had been set to resume on Monday.

“Thursday’s return to instruction will be virtual, as planning continues for the district’s intended transition from winter break back to in-person learning,” the release reads. “All MMSD staff will return to their work spaces, schedule, and routines on Monday, January 3.”

Biden and Putin Cross Swords

Do you have confidence in President Biden to deal with Russia? I don’t.

Don’t you wonder if the Russians have leverage on Biden given Hunter’s and Joe’s history of selling influence? I do.

Kremlin officials said President Putin warned Joe Biden that new sanctions would lead to a complete breakdown in relations between the two countries, during a 50-minute phone call to discuss the crisis over Ukraine on Thursday.

 

Both sides have accused the other of provocations while tens of thousands of Russian troops have been moved close to the Ukrainian border.

 

And both sides used the call to warn of dire consequences if the current impasse over Ukraine is not resolved.

 

[…]

 

For its part, the White House stressed that Biden urged his Russian counterpart to deescalate tensions, hours after it emerged that the U.S. Air Force had flown a second spy plane over the region.

 

‘He made clear that the United States and its allies and partners will respond decisively if Russia further invades Ukraine,’ said White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki.

 

A senior administration official added: ‘The tone of the conversation between the two presidents was serious and substantive.’

 

Russia has alarmed the West by moving more than 85,000 troops close to the Ukrainian border but officials deny they are planning to invade.

Biden Adopts Trump’s More Balanced Approach to Pandemic

Even CNN is grudgingly admitting that Trump’s pandemic approach was more correct than Biden’s.

But the evolving administration approach is also one that could eventually point to a sustainable path back to something closer to normality for many Americans once the winter surge abates — a future in which Covid-19 will always be in the background and not eradicated.

 

[…]

 

It’s fair to ask whether the Biden administration is beginning to prioritize economics over science, just as Democrats once blasted Trump for doing.
As the ex-President agitated in spring 2020 to get Americans back to work, even with high viral rates, he was rightly accused of putting his election-year goals before public health. Members of the Trump administration might be forgiven, therefore, for wondering whether the current President, faced with a tough midterm election year, is attempting something similar.

 

The issue is steeped in complexity that runs deeper than politics. The new CDC approach has some support from physicians worried about hospitals running short on doctors, nurses and support staff when Omicron hits its peak. But some epidemiologists are concerned that the isolation period is too short and could lead to more infections. Worker advocates like flight attendant unions have warned against forcing people back to work when they are sick.

The isolation issue is not the only one causing political controversy.

 

Walensky explained to reporters that negative rapid antigen tests were not required at the five-day mark because such methods were not always accurate in showing whether someone could transmit the virus at that point. Yet after Biden admitted this week that his team should have done better in foreseeing a huge shortage in such tests, it would be politically impossible for the CDC to require them when changing the guidance.

Former Trump administration surgeon general Dr. Jerome Adams — who was among officials often accused of putting politics before science or appeasing Trump’s goals — criticized the change in guidance on a long Twitter thread Tuesday.

 

“If it’s to keep the economy open, own it. But don’t claim science based, yet ignore the most important science (ie value of negative tests + high quality masks),” Adams wrote.

 

He appears to have a point. Yet the current circumstances of the pandemic are far different from those that prevailed when the former President downplayed its significance, despite knowing how serious it was, in an apparent effort to shield his reelection prospects.

“Mandates have curbed almost everything except COVID-19 cases”

Some of us have been saying this for well over a year. Welcome to the club. Mandates not only don’t work. They are counterproductive.

Mandates have curbed almost everything except COVID-19 cases

Someone has to say it, and I derive no pleasure from doing so. But here goes:

 

The Omicron wave is exposing the limits of COVID-19 restrictions, which are clearly failing. These include ferociously debated vaccine passports and masking policies that have done little, if anything, to tame skyrocketing numbers throttling the Northeast.

 

Hard-hit travel, leisure and small businesses — especially restaurants — are bearing the brunt of questionable protocols that clearly need rethinking, if not scrapping outright. And for the record, it’s not just America. China’s aggressive zero-COVID policies that have exacerbated global supply chain problems aren’t doing much to curb the spread there, either.

 

“At this point, vaccine mandates are more disempowering to business than empowering,” Denise Graziano, CEO of Graziano Associates, a marketing communications firm, told the Morning Brief in an email.

 

“Policies, tools and communication must adapt to where we are now two full years into the pandemic, Graziano added. “Vaccines have been invaluable to bring us to this point, but mandating drives away customers, good employees, job candidates, and creates more division inside (and outside) of organizations.”

Evers Grants More Pardons than Any Other Modern Governor

Given the crime raging in Wisconsin, I’m not sure this is something to brag about.

MADISON — Gov. Tony Evers announced today that he has granted another 30 pardons, bringing his total number of pardons granted to 337 during his first three years in office. Gov. Evers has now granted more pardons during his first three years in office than any governor in contemporary history.

CDC Lessens Quarantine Time Recommendations

Science

US health officials have halved the recommended isolation time for people with asymptomatic Covid-19 from 10 to five days, amid a surge in cases.

 

The measure is expected to alleviate disruption caused by staff shortages in many areas because of infections.

 

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) says most transmissions happen in the two days before and three days after symptoms develop.

 

[…]

 

The CDC also shortened the quarantine period for people exposed to someone infected. Unvaccinated people will be required to quarantine for five days after exposure, down from 14.

The CDC is supposed to give recommendations based on the actual science. This decision is based on a balance of the science and the larger policy implications of their recommendations. But the CDC is supposed to be just about the science. The policy makers are supposed to take that recommendation, balance it with other considerations, and make public policy. Where we have lost our minds with COVID is that we have surrendered policy making to the CDC and now made them into an agency that decides public policy instead of makes recommendations to inform public policy.

A prayer for the new year

My column for the Washington County Daily News is online and in print. It’s a little something different. Here’s the intro:

As I sit here contemplating my final column of 2021, there is no shortage of contentious political and cultural issues about which to write. But resting in the warmth of family and the quiet wheezing of a year in its final moments, writing about one of the many societal frictions seems indecent. You don’t want to read it. I don’t want to write it. Instead, I offer a fervent prayer for the new year.

Biden Admin Pushes Race Marxism in Medicine

With COVID, we have already seen a growing acceptance from some people to abandon our long-held medical ethos to treat all patients equally irrespective of lifestyle choices, race, career choice, etc. As we erode this ethos, there are those willing to step in and establish a new ethos. For those in the “wrong” ethnic, political, or gender classification, our healthcare system is being weaponized against them. Marxists have a long history of using public policy to starve out their enemies.

The move to pressure healthcare professionals to repeat the claim that racial health disparities are caused by racism and not lifestyle choices is part of a broader, years-long push to hardwire “race Marxism” into the medical field. The effort stretches from medical schools and research institutions to patient care and medical administration, with potentially devastating effects for patients and the healthcare system as a whole.

“Race Marxism,” analogous to “anti-racism” as popularized by Ibram X. Kendi, seeks to promote equal outcomes across racial groups, as opposed to a “colorblind” approach which favors equal opportunity and does not take race into account.

Dr. Erica Li, a pediatrician, told the Daily Caller News Foundation that “race Marxism” — a phrase for which she does not take credit — pits “classes” of people against each other on the basis of race, gender or sexuality rather than economic class, as classical Marxism did.

The ideology’s newfound popularity caused a frenzy in the medical community in 2020 as doctors, researchers, medical schools and other medical institutions sought to infuse “anti-racist” practices into their work.

Doctors and medical institutions are questioning how they allocate limited resources in crisis situations in light of unequal health outcomes for different racial groups. Specifically, some medical professionals have advocated for prioritizing black and Latino patients on the basis of race when rationing limited, life-saving medical resources.

Robot Servers

The labor shortage and increasing cost of available labor is going to drive more and more of this. It’s not necessarily a bad thing – unless you are that 16-year-old kid looking for your first job.

Elliana chose Shanghai Bistro in Eau Claire in part because she loves its sushi, but mostly because she adores the Asian restaurant’s new “employee”: Jonny 5.

The 3½-foot-tall robot server, named after a fictional robot in the 1980s “Short Circuit” films, has been delivering plates of sushi, fried rice and pad Thai to diners since the end of October.

Jonny 5 has been a valuable addition to the staff and helped Shanghai Bistro navigate a labor shortage that has hit restaurants particularly hard, said owner Henry Chan.

“It’s definitely proven itself,” Chan said. “It’s working out really well.”

Chan’s goal in leasing the robot is to improve efficiency by having Jonny 5 do a healthy portion of the running back and forth between the kitchen and the tables, so servers can focus on offering personal service, filling drink orders faster and chatting with customers.

“It’s a huge benefit to us. Our efficiency just shot through the roof because of how fast food goes out,” Chan said, noting that the robot already has helped things go smoothly on days when the restaurant was short-staffed or someone called in sick.

Fauci Objects to Unmasking on Planes

As a general rule, if this idiot says something, I assume that the correct response is the opposite.

Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious diseases expert, told Americans on Sunday that removing masks on airplanes is ‘not something we should even be considering,’ as hundreds of flights in the U.S. continue to be canceled due to the spread of the Omicron variant across the country.

 

Appearing on ABC’s This Week, Fauci made the comment while answering Jonathan Karl’s question on the possibility of introducing a vaccine mandate for domestic air travel.

 

‘We want to make sure people keep their masks on. I think the idea of taking masks off, in my mind, is really not something we should even be considering,’ Fauci said.

Here’s the thing… as someone who has flown multiple times this year… the only time the vast majority of people wear a mask anymore is when flying and in the rideshare cars on the way to and from the airport. These same people get off the plane, take off their masks, and mingle in hotels, restaurants, resorts, stores, and homes. Even if you thing stupid cloth and flimsy paper masks work, their effectiveness ends at the airport doors. Masking on planes is useless as a means of mitigating the spread of the virus as witnessed by the rapid global spread of Omicron despite universal masking on planes.

But the evidence never mattered to Fauci and the government tyrants like him. It’s about the power. It’s about the control.

Eliminate the state income tax

Here is my full column that ran in the Washington County Daily News earlier this week.

In my last column before Christmas in 2013, I climbed back on my old hobby horse to once again advocate for eliminating Wisconsin’s income tax and replacing some of the tax revenue with an increase in the sales tax. Eight years later almost to the day, former Governor Scott Walker is leading the charge with a group of tax reform groups to do exactly that. Armed with a study by Noah Williams at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Center for Research on the Wisconsin Economy, Walker and fellow reformers say that it is time for Wisconsin to become the 10th state without a state income tax.

 

Our government extracts money from all of us in myriad ways. Most state governments get the majority of their revenue from the income tax and the sales tax. In Wisconsin, those two taxes account for 84% of general purpose revenue in the state budget with the income tax filling 52% of the state’s general purpose revenue bucket.

 

The model used in Williams’ study shows that state government could maintain the same intake of revenue after eliminating the state income tax if it increases the state sales tax from the current 5% to 9.43%. But the sweet spot for the overall benefit of the state is to increase the state sales tax to 8% after eliminating the income tax. While this would result in a 12.55% decrease in state revenue, thus requiring spending cuts, it would increase economic output by 7.93%, employment by 6.87%, consumption by 7.19%, and, perhaps most importantly, increase average after-tax income by 9.35%.

 

One of the primary reasons cited by the study for eliminating the income tax is to make Wisconsin more competitive with other states. Our society is more mobile than ever — particularly for the middle and upper classes. People weigh a lot of things when deciding where to live, where to work, or where to start a business. Whether or not there is an income tax is one of those important factors. People are voting with their feet as Wisconsin exports people to states like Florida, Texas, and Nevada. Wisconsin already has an uphill battle to attract workers, retirees, and entrepreneurs with brutal winters, high taxes, and a steep regulatory burden. Eliminating the state income tax would encourage people to take a harder look at Wisconsin when deciding where to live, work, and play.

 

Beyond attracting more people to move to and stay in Wisconsin, the sales tax is fairer than the income tax. By its very definition, the income tax is only paid by people who earn an income. It is a tax on earning a living that the idle rich, the idle poor, and the intentionally unemployed do not have to pay. It is a tax that only those people who jump out of bed every day to go to work have to pay to support state government.

 

The sales tax, on the other hand, is paid by anyone who spends money on goods and services. It is paid by the rich lady who buys her fourth home, the middle-class family buying a used car, and the unemployed twenty-something buying beer for the weekend. Everyone pays, which spreads the tax burden more equitably across all Wisconsinites.

 

Furthermore, it is much more difficult for politicians to manipulate the sales tax to favor or punish people. With the income tax, politicians have created a labyrinth of a tax code that gives breaks to the people they like and punishes those who they do not. Other than exempting particular goods or services, the sales tax is more resistant to political maneuvering.

 

While I strongly support eliminating the state income tax for a hundred reasons, such a move does not correct the biggest problem with state funding. The question of how we fund state government is less important than what we are funding. Wisconsin state government taxes so much because it spends so much. Every single state budget in my lifetime has increased spending from the prior budget.

 

Irrespective of the economic cycle, which political party is in power in Madison, population trends, or the ability of Wisconsinites to pay, state spending always goes up. It is more predictable than the tides. Until we control state spending, we will never take meaningful steps to lower the tax burden. All we are doing is finding better ways to pay.

 

*** For my fellow Christians who are celebrating the Birth of Christ this week, I wish you all a very Merry Christmas.

Chinese Remove Tiananmen Statue in Hong Kong

It’s difficult for me to cast stones against a government who chooses to erase the public remembrances of its history.

A famous statue at the University of Hong Kong marking the Tiananmen Square massacre was removed late on Wednesday.

The statue showed piled-up corpses to commemorate the hundreds – possibly thousands – of pro-democracy protesters killed by Chinese authorities in 1989.

 

It was one of the few remaining public memorials in Hong Kong commemorating the incident.

 

Its removal comes as Beijing has increasingly been cracking down on political dissent in Hong Kong.

The city used to be one of few places in China that allowed public commemoration of the Tiananmen Square protests – a highly sensitive topic in the country.

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