Category Archives: Viva!

Eight thousand people for One Voice : The Free Movement Marathon runs for Palestine

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Thousands of Palestinians and internationals from 76 countries ran together for the 7th annual Free Movement Marathon on Friday morning in Bethlehem city and the surrounding areas.

The massive participation to this unique event, which is increasing its numbers of participants every year, seems to confirm the growing interest that brings internationals to the Holy Land to run in the name of freedom.

“We are proud to take part in the Palestine Marathon for the year 2019. Running for freedom, running for Palestine conveys a strong message from Palestinians to the world. In Bethlehem, you run in circles to avoid obstacles and barrier. At the Palestine Marathon, we run for Palestine”, said EU Representative Ralph Tarraf.

Whether participants run for the family race (5-kilometer race), the 10-kilometer race or the 21-kilometer race, the city life stops from the early morning turning the streets into one global itinerary that starts from the main square passing through the Aida Refugee camp and al-Khader village.

Since the occupied territories in the West Bank are facing a growing international tourism flow, the Marathon contributes to enlighten the international attention to the struggle of Palestine. Running freely out of the ordinary tourist tracks, breaking into a refugee camp and running alongside the separation wall, make internationals see through their own eyes how the territory is actually shaped from the occupation.

Furthermore, a group of Palestinians from the Aida Refugee camp and international volunteers joined the marathon through a pacific protest against the Israeli occupation, starting from one of the Israeli watchtower near the camp.

The right of movement is one of the basic human rights that every human should have. The illegal occupation of West Bank and Gaza is denying it to Palestinians that keep on raising their voices in the name of a free Palestine.

Singing for their prisoners, singing for their lands Palestinians demonstrate an immeasurable love for their homeland and the strength to keep on fighting for their freedom.

EU for Palestine: The EU and Member States join the Palestine Marathon

Runners from the European Union (EU), EU Member States and Norway yesterday joined thousands of Palestinians running the Palestine Marathon organized in Bethlehem. The EU team of around 600 participants ran under the theme “EU for Palestine”.

Europeans from Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Malta, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and the United Kingdom, joined forces to form one team with one theme: EU4Palestine. This is the second year an EU team participates in the Marathon to support Palestinians in shedding light on basic human rights, including the right to move.

“We are proud to take part in the Palestine Marathon for the year 2019. Running for freedom, running for Palestine conveys a strong message from Palestinians to the world. In Bethlehem, you run in circles to avoid obstacles and barriers. At the Palestine Marathon, we run for Palestine,” said EU Representative Ralph Tarraf.

The Palestine Marathon is organized by the Palestine Olympic Committee (POC).

The objective of the POC pursuit in the Palestine Marathon is to focus the lens on the basic right of freedom of movement in Palestine.













Egypt bans singer from performing over free-speech remarks

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Sherine Abdel-Wahab said during show that anyone who talks in Egypt is imprisoned

An Egyptian singer has been banned from performing in her home country after she suggested it does not respect free speech.

An online video clip shows Sherine Abdel-Wahab saying during a performance in Bahrain: “Here I can say whatever I want. In Egypt, anyone who talks gets imprisoned.”

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‘I’m fed up with hearing May talk about who voted to leave’

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Five voices from the ‘Put It to the People’ march

Brexit is disastrous for our country. I’ve not been on a march since 1962 when I marched out of the army. However, I felt very strongly that I had to come here today. This is a fantastic march – unbelievable numbers. I’m in favour of trying to work together rather than in opposition because the world is in a very dangerous situation and leaving Europe just fragments it further – that leads to disastrous politics. So I hope – though I doubt – that Theresa May will listen to this huge objection to her strategy. So many more people now are aware of what the issues are – the collapse of our car manufacturing industry, banks going everywhere and anyone with any money is getting it out of the UK. We have to stop this or it will be disastrous for our country, our children and our future.

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Egypt bans singer from performing over free-speech remarks

Sherine Abdel-Wahab said during show that anyone who talks in Egypt is imprisoned

An Egyptian singer has been banned from performing in her home country after she suggested it does not respect free speech.

An online video clip shows Sherine Abdel-Wahab saying during a performance in Bahrain: “Here I can say whatever I want. In Egypt, anyone who talks gets imprisoned.”

Continue reading…

You have the power to stop apartheid: An open letter to AIPAC

American Jews, who play such a central role in what happens in Israel, can put an end to the oppression of Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line. But only if they tell Israelis that enough is enough.

By Marzuq al-Halabi

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the AIPAC Conference in Washington DC, on March 6, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks at the AIPAC Conference in Washington DC, on March 6, 2018. (Haim Zach/GPO)

Dear AIPAC leaders,

In one of his most famous poems, “Think of Others,” Palestinian national poet Mahmoud Darwish asks the reader to keep the other in mind at all times. This, he writes, should apply whether we are preparing breakfast, paying our water bill, or declaring war. I wonder, then, whether you, as you take part in your annual conference next week think about us over here? Do you think about me or my 19-year-old daughter Shaden, who these days is head over heels in love?

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Jewish people across the world have much influence over what is happening in Israel, a fact that to a large degree also affects my fate. Thus, as the third wheel in your relationship with the state in which I live, allow me to ask a few simple, banal questions. Ordinary questions, like those in Darwish’s poem.

Before you invite Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to address the conference goers, ask him about the daily, unbridled incitement against Israel’s Palestinian citizens, people yearn for a decent life, as do all the people of the world — as do you, Jewish-American citizens of the United States. Ask him and his friends about who gave them the right, the power, and the justification to pass the Jewish Nation-State Law, which creates a hierarchy between communities and nationalists, and which is a gateway to a racist state?

When they come to Washington D.C. to speak about the right of the Jewish people in its homeland, ask them about the rights of people such as myself, non-Jews, in their homeland. Do you know of Jewish values that undermine values of universalism, human rights, and democracy? Would you accept a situation in which American Jews are prevented from having the same rights as other citizens?

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My questions, of course, pertain to citizens of Israel inside the Green Line. These are residents of the State of Israel whose land was expropriated and never returned, even if it was never put to use. These are citizens, a third of whom are internal refugees, uprooted from their villages and towns in 1948 and forbidden to return, even if they live just a stones throw away. This is the lived reality of 100,000 residents of the unrecognized villages in the Negev, living on borrowed time.

Bedouin women collect their belongings from the ruins of their demolished homes in the village of Umm al-Hiran, Negev desert, January 18, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

Bedouin women collect their belongings from the ruins of their demolished homes in the village of Umm al-Hiran, Negev desert, January 18, 2017. (Hadas Parush/Flash90)

These people are the indigenous minority from before the 1948 war and the Nakba, making up 20 percent of the general population that lives on 3.2 percent of this country’s land. A relatively quiet national minority compared to others living under similar circumstances. A population that gave its blessing to the peace process and the Oslo Accords, one which has always taken its citizenship seriously. This goes for the Druze community as well, which forged a blood pact with the Israeli state, at least until the passing of the Jewish Nation-State Law.

And what about the occupied territories, the Gaza ghetto, and the daily injustices that long ago have been transformed into an apartheid regime? My apologies, but there is no other term that accurately describes what happens every day, every hour, in the West Bank. Jewish-only roads, fences, walls, checkpoints, closure, collective punishment, military operations against a civilian population, and nationalistic settlers, who make the lives of the Palestinians miserable.

Recently, as I made my way to a meeting of the Global Forum of the National Library of Israel, I passed through the city of Modi’in, which was partially established on land conquered in June 1967. There I saw fenced-off Palestinian villages with only one or two entries, under the control of Israeli soldiers. I saw a terrifying wall, which dismembers not only the land but also the lives of those who are forbidden from traveling freely — an elementary right of all people. Speaking to one of the discussion groups, I told them exactly what I had witnessed.

The separation wall in Shuafat refugee camp, in the background is Israeli settlement of Pisgat Ze'ev, East Jerusalem, January 24, 2017. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

The separation wall in Shuafat refugee camp, in the background is Israeli settlement of Pisgat Ze’ev, East Jerusalem, January 24, 2017. (Anne Paq/Activestills.org)

From a bird’s eye view, Israel has never had it better: Military, economic, political, and strategic superiority over the Palestinians and the neighboring Arab countries. It appears that the feeling of being drunk on power has far surpassed the euphoria that took hold of the Jewish community following Israel’s victory in June 1967. This new feeling has left Jews in a stupor, effectively legitimizing Kahanism, hyper-nationalism, racism, and belligerence. The Jewish Nation-State Law was born out of this very feeling.

We are on the verge of witnessing Israel turn from an ethnic democracy into a full-fledged apartheid state, and there is no one left to put the genie back in the lamp. Right-wing leaders are exploiting the situation they created in order to frighten Jews in Israel and across the world of even the slightest possible change in the status quo. Meanwhile, they have succeeded in delegitimizing not only Palestinians on both sides of the Green Line, but any Jewish citizen who believes in human rights. They have not succeeded in establishing a so-called Start-Up Nation, but rather a terrified citizenry subject to constant fear-mongering. The government takes advantage of this fear to justify the occupation’s crimes.

The feeling of total victory pushes Israelis to believe that the time has come to defeat the Palestinians once and for all. Yet life has its own set of rules. The fading relevance of the Green Line is creating a demographic balance between Jews and Palestinians between the river and the sea. To deal with this fact, the government will try to deepen its control over six million Palestinians. Oppression will lead to a cycle of resistance, subsequent greater oppression, followed by a popular uprising. More power will lead to expulsions, ethnic cleansing, and crimes against humanity. American Jews could end up paying the price for Israel’s actions, and the world may no longer be able to look you in the eyes.

Palestinian protesters seen at the Gaza border fence, during a 'Great Return March' protest, Gaza Strip, September 28, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun/Activestills.org)

Palestinian protesters seen at the Gaza border fence, during a ‘Great Return March’ protest, Gaza Strip, September 28, 2018. (Mohammed Zaanoun/Activestills.org)

We can move toward a process of historic reconciliation only after the sense of Jewish supremacy is replaced by generosity, out of the understanding that the Jewish question is intertwined with that of the Palestinian question — that both will be solved between the river and the sea in historic Palestine. And while reconciliation is naturally a long and arduous process, it is preferable to apartheid.

AIPAC leaders, you who live thousands of miles from here, must listen to the voices of those who are not invited to deliver speeches at your annual conference — those whose voices were silenced or purposefully distorted. Please, do not believe those who tell you how good we have it in the Land of Zion. At the very least, cast doubt on what they say.

You, who play such a central role in what happens in Israel, can prevent the worst from happening. Tell them “no more.” Perhaps then we can bring an end to the injustices.

Yours,

Marzuq al-Halabi

Jerusalem

Marzuq Al-Halabi is a jurist, journalist, author. He writes regularly for Al-Hayat. This article was first published in Hebrew on Local Call. Read it here.

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In Israel’s elections, only the far right is talking about democracy

A new campaign ad by Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked signals that this time around, only the far right is talking about democratic norms — and how to undo them. Does the opposition have a response?

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked's satirical campaign ad mocks the Israeli left for its opposition to her attempts to weaken the judicial system.

Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked’s satirical campaign ad mocks the Israeli left for its opposition to her attempts to weaken the judicial system.

Of all the aspects of political campaigns that voters love to hate, none is more maligned than the political advertisement. The term “30-second spot” has become synonymous with dumbing down, mudslinging, and manipulation of political campaigns ever since the Daisy Ad.

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But punchy ads are great. They can help de-code the strategy each party has chosen, and short scripts packed with narrative are enormously revealing about the country’s electorate, seen through the eyes of the candidates. Political campaigns are us, the voters, reflected back to ourselves – even if we don’t like what we see.

This week, Israelis looked into the campaign mirror and saw Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked, with the ad that launched a thousand memes and at least as many headlines. In just 44 seconds and with only five essential words, Shaked redefined democracy in Israel.

In a mock-up of the familiar “Obsession” perfume ads, a vixen-voiced narrator lists the minister’s policies to weaken and restrain the Israeli justice system. “Judicial revolution,” she purrs, “reducing [judicial] activism, appointing judges, governance, separation of powers, reigning in the Supreme Court.” The ad sarcastically refers to these policies as bottled “fascism.” Shaked then lifts a bottle of perfume towards her face, sprays and utters the five critical words: “Smells like democracy to me.”

The ad crystallizes a bitter divide of this election that has bubbled below the surface for years. Shaked didn’t just say “the court needs to be restrained” or “I’m against judicial activism.” She said that these positions are democracy itself.

On one side of the divide lies Israelis who believe that the Supreme Court is among the most important state institutions, an essential check on other branches of government. They view the assault on the court by right-wing governments of recent years as an attack on democracy itself.

The other camp views the court as an unelected leftist group of elites, who uphold human and civil rights of minorities – even Palestinians. This side is not necessarily against human rights – there are few complaints when the court rules against accepting evidence of Jewish suspects whose rights were violated in the process. It’s the universal bit about human rights that makes them angry.  And in fact, Israel’s Supreme Court has upheld the country’s policies of occupation at least as often as it modifies them. Yet the image that the court helps Palestinians endures.

And for these voters, judicial activism itself tramples the will of the majority — Jews. Their antidote is policies that favor the majority, manifested by the elected legislature; hence Shaked’s quest to give the Knesset greater control over the courts. For the justice minister, and in Israel more broadly, democracy is being redefined as minimally-restrained majority rule, based on constitutional anchors such as the Nation-State law, and accompanied by national triumphalism.

With her ad, Israel’s justice system is on trial and Shaked is the prosecutor.

On this issue, the jury is not divided by typical left/right/center lines. In my December survey for Israeli anti-occupation organization B’Tselem, a plurality of moderate right-wingers gave the court a “favorable” rating. Among the hard-right-wing respondents, twice as many gave the court a negative rating compared to positive. It’s clear which side Shaked is vying for.

Her New Right party is fighting to wrest votes from The Union of Right-Wing Parties (which includes the Kahanist Jewish Power party). That far-far right party is also fighting over the judiciary: Rafi Peretz, leader of the Union, said on Wednesday that his party would demand the Justice Ministry in a future government, so that the “Supreme Court will know its place,” while his Kahanist consort Itamar Ben-Gvir vowed to “put an end to the government of the Supreme Court.”

Otzma Yehudit party member Michael Ben Ari (right) and party member and attorney Itamar Ben Gvir seen at court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, March 13, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

Otzma Yehudit party member Michael Ben Ari (right) and party member and attorney Itamar Ben Gvir seen at court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem, March 13, 2019. (Noam Revkin Fenton/Flash90)

The New Right and Union of Right-Wing parties are both poised to enter Knesset; they might even become leading coalition partners. If so, one is likely to get the Justice Ministry. Aggressive policies will follow – most prominently, the “Override Bill,” which will make it easier for the Knesset to override judicial review. The right-wing is convinced the court only rules against legislation that they believe favors Jewish national interests; violating the will of the legislature – a reflection of the Jewish majority.

Given the stakes, surely defenders of Israel’s democracy are putting up a fight. But judging by the ads, it’s a one-sided battle.

Netanyahu’s closest challenger, Benny Gantz’s Blue and White party, has focused primarily on, well, replacing Netanyahu. Their ads attack the Likud for corruption, without connecting this to the larger issues of governance or democracy. In fact it’s hard to pinpoint any national issue as the heart of the party’s agenda.

The Labor Party, head of the opposition, has presented only “strategic” voting messages focused on the makeup of the future coalition and attacking Blue and White as an accomplice of the right. Their latest ad is slightly scary (in a fun, Thriller-like way), but the message is what I call the politics of politics, not national issues.

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Voters might have expected smaller parties to lead the charge but for one reason or another, they are not. Tzipi Livni’s campaign launched with a strong, explicit focus on defending democracy, but she exited the race. The Arab-Palestinian-Jewish slate led by Hadash and Ta’al, are wisely preoccupied with trying to get Arab voters to turn out. The left-wing Meretz party is barely finding its way to my feed — an absence that mainly shows poor targeting skills.

In the battle over essential national issues, the right-wing parties seem to be the only ones on the field. This week’s Shaked ad for the New Right drove the nation’s attention to her indictment of Israeli democracy. And in this trial, the defense attorney is MIA.

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Hay Una Crisis ‘Fabricada’ y Otra ‘Verdadera’

Por Manuel Ocaño

El intento del presidente Donald Trump de apropiarse de fondos para construir el muro fronterizo mediante la idea de una supuesta crisis en los límites con México se perfila para llegar hasta la Corte Suprema de justicia, pero mientras fabrica un caos que afectará la convivencia fronteriza a menos que el congreso resuelva de manera bipartidista detener al mandatario.

Esas son conclusiones a las que llega en conversación con La Prensa San Diego, el dirigente Pedro Ríos, director del Comité de Servicios Amigos Americanos en San Diego desde el 2003, y encargado desde el 2005 del Proyecto Fronterizo de esa misma organización cristiana quáquera.

La Prensa San Diego.- Pedro, ¿hay realmente una crisis en la frontera; si la hay, de qué manera se percibe?

Pedro Ríos.- En la frontera no hay una crisis con las características de esta idea que presenta el presidente Donald Trump; no es una crisis de seguridad por una invasión de gente peligrosa y drogas que atenten contra la seguridad de los estadunidenses, no en la forma en que el presidente desea que esto se vea.

Sin embargo, sí hay una crisis pero tiene características distintas: tenemos los índices más bajos de detenciones de indocumentados que se han registrado desde 1971, y no obstante esto, tenemos el mayor número de patrulleros fronterizos, más de 19 mil, y de oficiales en las garitas. Sabemos que cada patrullero consigue detener en promedio a uno y a veces dos migrantes por mes de trabajo. Sin embargo aquí surge la otra parte de la crisis:

El Departamento de Seguridad Nacional, del que depende la patrulla fronteriza, acaba de reconocer que a la frontera llega un flujo sin precedentes de familias que buscan asilo, especialmente desde los países centroamericanos, y que la infraestructura fronteriza no está diseñada para mantener bajo custodia temporalmente a estas familias, porque fue diseñada para sancionar a hombres jóvenes indocumentados que buscaban trabajo, no a madres con niños pequeños que buscan asilo.

De esta forma la crisis en la frontera es humanitaria: las familias se entregan se ronden a los patrulleros para expresar que piden asilo, como primer requisito para solicitarlo, y los patrulleros cuentan a esas familias que se entregan como si fueran arrestos de indocumentados que fueras detenidos al intentar huir.

Entonces, por un lado hay una crisis fabricada, irreal, con la que el presidente trata de impresionar a su base electoral; y por otro una crisis humanitaria, causada por la propia administración, al tratar de ignorar el derecho constitucional de asilo, y de convertir a las familias que buscan asilo en indocumentados y delincuentes, a quienes separa tras criminalizar.

En San Diego y el resto de la frontera hay un intento de militarización fronteriza y la verdadera crisis es humanitaria, porque ignora las necesidades de ayuda humanitaria de los migrantes.

La Prensa.- Pero en este contexto, México queda en una difícil posición, por respetar el derecho de las personas y tener que considerar la posición de la administración Trump

Pedro Ríos.- De acuerdo con analistas y académicos, la relación nunca había estado tan tensa entre los dos países. Puede haber respeto, pero eso no desaparece la tensión.

Cada medida que toma la administración Trump para la frontera, para esta idea de una crisis que no corresponde con la realidad, eleva más la tensión en la región.

El envío y despliegue de miles de soldados a una región que no está en guerra, las operaciones en unas garitas llenas de alambre de púas peligrosas, con agentes fuertemente armados; todo esto son imágenes que la administración quiere presentar al electorado estadunidense que sigue al presidente pero que a quienes vivimos en la frontera nos afectan directamente.

Esto también afecta la imagen de México, significa que México no respondería a una emergencia de seguridad tan peligrosa que Estados Unidos ha tenido que recurrir a esas medidas. Pero lo que pasa es que México se extraña de que la administración Trump perciba una crisis de seguridad donde no la hay e ignore una crisis humanitaria.

La Prensa.- Hay sin embargo personas que, por lo menos en comentarios en redes sociales, piensan que los migrantes no debieran atravesar México para llegar a la frontera.

Pedro Ríos.- No debieran permitir que les manipular con la noción de que son los migrantes los que generan los problemas fronterizos o que son quienes crean una crisis. La crisis ha sido creada por los gobiernos que no tienen la voluntad de remediar la otra crisis, la humanitaria. Las familias migrantes necesitan de apoyo humanitario, no de una respuesta militar y una criminalización.

La Prensa.- Entre quienes ya no creen en la crisis que dibuja el presiente ahora parece contarse un creciente número de legisladores estadunidenses, el congreso rechazó la declaración de emergencia de Trump porque tanto congresistas como senadores reconocieron que no hay tal emergencia, Trump vetó para reimponer su voluntad y ahora enfrenta presión incluso de republicanos.

Pedro Ríos.- Lo importante es que tanto congresistas como senadores son los representantes del público estadunidense, y esta vez incluso hay cada vez más republicanos que desean hace un trabajo responsable como representantes y no dejar que el presiente imponga su voluntad o su capricho al tomar fondos de programas importantes que benefician a la gente para financiar la construcción de un muro simplemente porque lo prometió en campaña a sus electores.

Aquí lo importante es que a dos meses de que entró el nuevo congreso ya vemos un cambio de actitud de legisladores republicano dispuestos a encontrar respuestas bipartidistas.

Al rechazar la declaración de emergencia del presidente, le han dicho que no hay tal crisis de seguridad fronteriza, y que por lo tanto no se amerita una declaración de emergencia y mucho menos tomar fondos como los destinados a responder a catástrofes naturales para construir un muro que satisfaga a los electores del presidente.

La Prensa.- Sin embargo será difícil que congreso y senado tengan dos terceras partes de legisladores, con lo que anularían la declaración de Trump. El asunto está entonces en manos de las cortes.

Pedro Ríos.- Sí, ya hay docenas de demandas contra la declaración del presidente, quien no va a poder demostrar que hay una crisis en la frontera, que justifique que se apropie de presupuesto para construir el muro.

Creo que lo que va a pasar es que veremos demandas que proceden, apelaciones, y al final el caso va a llegar a la Corte Suprema de justicia, que por cierto tiene mayoría republicana, pero será interesante ver si el cambio que ya inició en senadores republicanos se expresa también en el juicio independiente de los magistrados.

‘A nightmare’: flight attendant with Daca status detained after traveling for work

Donald Kremlin’s racism river rolls on and on and on…

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Selene Saavedra Roman, who came to US when she was three, released after Hillary Clinton drew attention to her plight

For six weeks, Selene Saavedra Roman has been living what her husband describes as “a nightmare”. In February, in the first few weeks of a new job as a flight attendant with Mesa Airlines and on a turnaround flight from Mexico, she was detained at George Bush intercontinental airport in Houston.

Saavedra Roman entered the US from Peru 25 years ago, when she was three, with parents who did not have documentation. As such she is a Dreamer, a recipient of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals status, or Daca. Therefore, under Trump administration rules implemented in 2017, she is barred from traveling outside the US.

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