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Troy Davis and Jamey Rodemeyer: By A Jury Of Our Peers – Part II

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Please read Troy Davis and Jamey Rodemeyer: By A Jury Of Our Peers: Part I. This is part II.

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I am Troy Davis, I am Jamey Rodemeyer. I am Troy when I look at my black skin, I am Jamey when I recall being a gay teen. Most of my friends were girls too, and I was terrified while getting undressed for gym that there would be some telltale mark on me, some look that would alert the other boys that I was a “faggot.”

I am Jamey when I remember the new school I moved to in the fourth grade. One day some of us were playing touch football, and everyone was mad because I dropped the ball. One kid said the reason I was black was because my mother took a shit when I was born. Everyone laughed. The teacher saw the crowd surrounding me, saw me crying, and gave everyone a warning. She then asked me to stand beside her for the rest of recess until she rang the bell. I guess she was protecting me, but I remember I didn’t want to stand next to her. I hadn’t done anything wrong, but I felt that I was being punished.

That was a million years ago, ancient history that shouldn’t matter anymore. I’m 41 now. I dismiss the hurt — kids are kids, we were all just stupid nine-year-olds, I should be over it by now. And so, like most of us, I betray myself, becoming one of those adults who tie their childhood pain to blocks of cement, hoping it will stay at the bottom of the lake forever so I can get on with the business of life.

But childhood hurts have a way of surfacing; as alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders, and suicides. And you may forget, but your addictions remind you of the initial mortification, that first initiation into human cruelty. You deny how it felt to face a mob of other kids, being humiliated by your peers. You may even force your own children out of the house each day when they say they’re being bullied or they’re frightened; forgetting the feeling you once had that you would literally rather die than face another day at school.

And I wasn’t just an innocent victim; I, too, victimized. A girl at my school the following year developed breasts early. My best friend in 5th grade came up with the joke that every time we passed by her locker, we would pretend that we were holding two oranges and say, “Squeeeeze.”  (It wasn’t my joke, but I laughed anyway, so what’s the difference?) Clearly, at the age of 10, it was already clear to us, as boys, that we had a right to objectify her body, to insult her. By that time, I had already been secretly looking at my father’s Hustler magazines for two years. The message was already established; her body was there for our amusement and violation – we hadn’t started middle school, and already we’d learned the pornographic gaze. (If she is reading this now, I’d like to say I’m sorry.)

Then there were the kids that everyone hated. You gained your social status by hating them too, and could destroy that status by sitting with them at lunch, or walking home from school together. I’m friends with one of them on Facebook now. I look at his profile, the pictures of him as a parent, standing with his own kids, and I wonder if he still has the scars. I don’t see how he couldn’t; I still have the scars from watching him being bullied by others. I wonder if he worries about his own sons or daughters when he sends them to school, if he’s told them how he used to get humiliated when we played during recess, how he was picked last for teams, or how boys deliberately tried to hurt him, going for his head with the ball during “Smear the Queer”?

Does he still remember that when he asked, “Can I play with you guys?” someone would always tell him to ask Chris, and Chris would tell him to ask Phil, and Phil said talk to Pam, and eventually the bell would ring and we had to line up to go inside.  And he would cry, and say, “It’s not fair,” but he wouldn’t hate us, which made him all the more pathetic and despised, because he just wanted to be our friend.

Then there was the other kid we wouldn’t let play, who wasn’t afraid to hate us. He cried at first too, but then his face flooded with rage, he turned purple and said to all of us through clenched teeth, “One day I’m going to come back to this school and get the biggest gun in the whole wide world and blow your heads off.” We were in second grade.

I used to think about him from time to time, wondering if one day I’d open the paper or turn on the news and find him there; having unleashed his rage on someone.  But he’s a real estate agent; he’s married, two girls. His picture on his website doesn’t reveal his past. There are other men, however, taking their revenge on the innocent every day, and they are on the news. Perry Smith confesses about the murder of the Clutter family in Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood, published in 1966: “…And it wasn’t because of anything the Clutters did. They never hurt me. Like other people. Like people have all my life. Maybe it’s just that the Clutters were the ones who had to pay for it.” Straight boys kill others, gay boys kill themselves.

It’s become passé now to say that the Iraq war was wrong, but how do you tell kids not to bully when the baddest motherfuckers on the block were in the White House, on their television screens? Dick Cheney leading the pack, with Bush, Rumsfeld, Rove, Rice, at his side; Cheney has said in recent interviews he has no regrets about the Iraq war. It is arguable that the high school bullies that helped kill Jamey Rodemeyer are the progeny of the George W. Bush years and the Defense of Marriage Act. Whether they understood the act or not, their parents did, and that created a climate where discrimination against gay people was okay, government-sanctioned. These are the children raised onSouth Park and Family Guy. While these shows may have their moments of gay tolerance, they are also mean-spirited, vicious, and at times pathologically cruel to difference. We’re raising sociopaths.

These kids watched us tear Iraq apart; they saw the unimaginable violence of 9/11. Did anyone explain these events to them? How do we explain? And Jamey’s story is not over, apparently. On September 27, Tim and Tracey Rodemeyer appeared on NBC’s Today show with a story about their daughter, Alyssa, who attended a recent dance at her school to take her mind off her brother’s death. (Alyssa was the one who found Jamey’s body hanging in the family’s backyard.) “We thought it would be great to be with all of her friends, then all of a sudden a Lady Gaga song came on and they all started chanting for Jamey, all his friends and whatever,” Tracy Rodemeyer said. “Then the bullies that put him into this situation started chanting ‘You’re better off dead, we’re glad you’re dead.'” His sister left the school in horror, as the bullying of her brother continues even after his death.

I’m angry that Troy Davis is gone, killed by our government with all the remorse afforded a fly swatted at a family picnic. I’m angry that another gay child is dead, when things are supposedly “so much better” these days for gay people. I watch Michelle Bachmann on The Tonight Show, legs crossed, giving Sarah Palin “fabulousness” to disguise the Sarah Palin vacuity and tininess of spirit. When Leno asks about Bachmann’s “Christian Counseling Clinic” and about  “praying the gay away,” Bachmann makes a joke about midlife crisis and that she originally thought the line was “pray thegray away.” She deflects the question, without even the slightest twitch of her facial muscles, clearly coached by handlers on how to discuss the “gay thing.” Not a single person in the audience laughs and Leno won’t let her off the hook.

Leno: To me, when I was a kid, they used to try to teach me to be right-handed. ‘You’re left-handed, that’s the hand of the devil.’  And to me it’s the same thing with gay. I don’t get why – like gay marriage….why be against it? I’ve been married 31 years, first wife, very happy… two gay guys get married, how does that affect my marriage?….Why is that even an issue?

Bachmann:…Well, because the family is foundational.  And marriage between a man and woman is what the law has been for years and years and years.

Leno:  I know, I tried it myself, it works great for me. 

Bachmann: Well, there you go!

Leno: I got to admit, that’s the part I don’t get.  I know gay families that are married, they have children, and they’re wonderful people.  I don’t see why they shouldn’t be allowed to be happy.  I’m not going to change your mind on that one.

History isn’t always kind to the people who obstruct social justice – and it won’t be kind to Mrs.Bachmann (married, as she announced to Jay Leno, 33 years.) I hear the apologists: the woman is entitled to her opinion. But as Desmond Tutu once said, “If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.”

And that’s the problem, we’re still seeing gay people, and gay lives, as something one can have an opinion about — like people used to have opinions about slavery or whether blacks were equal in humanity to whites, whether women deserved the right to vote. You can argue whether checkers is more fun than chess, whether Chinese food is tastier than Italian, but you can’t “argue” gay people — we exist. Denying someone their human rights because of their orientation is not an opinion, it’s the hate that leads to hate crimes, murder and suicides.

Michelle Bachman and her gang of bullies may not be aware of this, but Jamey Rodemeyer was her child too, he needed her, because he was an American, and she’s a politician and a mother. She had a responsibility to protect Jamey, and she failed him. We all failed him.

If this were an 80s film by Robert Benton (Places In the Heart), Troy and Jamey would meet in a Hollywood heaven, perhaps standing in line next to each other. In my fantasy Troy would put an arm around Jamey and guide him, helping him figure out where he needed to go. To some this may be a despicable fantasy, but it brings me comfort, and the generosity on Troy’s part isn’t inconceivable. Before his execution, and after proclaiming his innocence a final time, Davis said, “For those about to take my life, God have mercy on your souls. And may God bless your souls.” The scene may recall something out of Janet Langhart Cohen’s play, Anne and Emmett, in which Emmett Till and Anne Frank meet– other victims of intolerance and hate. Perhaps, as teenagers, they would welcome Jamey, they would understand his pain.

The state of Georgia has made Troy Davis a martyr. He is now the face of the death penalty as the ultimate racist act. The question still remains whether a black person can get a fair trial in America, and whether the people who tried him, from the bullies in Georgia to the ones on the Supreme Court, were really his peers?

Troy and Jamey may not stand in line together in heaven, but they stand together in history; tried, convicted, and ultimately bullied and betrayed.

Bullying is about entitlement; who belongs and who doesn’t, who can be “othered.” I was ganged up on that day in 4th grade because I was new to the school; I didn’t belong. The image of Troy and Jameystays in my mind, and begs the question: Who is the face of America? One of the reasons that MichelleBachmann can be so smug, despite what was once considered the fringe politics of the Tea Party, is that in her whiteness and privilege, her belief is unshakeable that she is America. She owns; blacks and gays are renting. The only way out of this hell is for those of us who have been marginalized to insist on visibility, to find solidarity and stand together.

In his 1984 address to the Democratic National Convention, Jesse Jackson recalled the making of his grandmother’s quilt:

“When I was a child growing up in Greenville, South Carolina… grandmama could not afford a blanket, she didn’t complain and we did not freeze. Instead she took pieces of old cloth, patches, wool, silk, gabardine, crooker sack…barely good enough to wipe off your shoes with.  But they didn’t stay that way very long. With steady hand and a strong cord, she sewed them into a quilt, a thing of beauty, and power, and culture.

Now…we must build such a quilt. Farmers, you seek fair prices, and you’re right, but you cannot stand alone.  Your patch is not big enough. Workers, you fight for fair wages, you’re right, but your patch, labor, is not big enough.  Women, you see comparable worth and pay equity, you’re right, but your patch is not big enough. Women, mothers, who seek Head Start, and daycare, and prenatal care on the front side of life, rather than jail care and welfare on the backside of life, you’re right, but your patch is not big enough. Students, you seek scholarships, you’re right, but your patch is not big enough. Blacks and Hispanics, when we fight for civil rights we are right, but our patch is not big enough. Gays and lesbians, when you fight against discrimination and a cure for AIDS, you’re right! But your patch is not big enough. Conservatives and progressives, when you fight for what you believe, right wing, left wing, hawk, dove, you’re right, from your point of view.  But your point of view is not enough.

But don’t despair, be as wise as my grandmama.  Pull the patches and the pieces together.  Bound by a Common Thread, when we form a great quilt of unity and common ground we’ll have the power to bring…hope to our nation.”

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On this morning, Troy Davis haunts us from the posters in my neighborhood; now it is clear: someone is refusing to take them down. Perhaps if the posters stay up, somewhere in our consciousness, Troy Davis hasn’t been executed yet. Which means that in our denial, there is potential and hope. Not hope for Troy, but for us.

The same hope makes me wish someone had saved Jamey Rodemeyer from harming himself.  Even for those who say that Jamey killed himself to make a statement; he believed he was worth more dead to us, than alive, which still makes him tragic.  I want some gay superhero to climb in his window and to tell him he has everything to live for, that his life will be different in a few years (might be different next week!); and that when he gets to be 41, like me, he’ll see that the bullies grow up and lose their hair, hate their jobs, and have kids that they turn into bullies too, or have to protect; and that he’ll have a partner one day who loves him, he’ll have his own kids to raise. And life goes on. But only if you live.

When asked, “What do you want people to take away from what happened to Jamie?” Tim Rodemeyer said to Anderson Cooper, “One is the message of Jamie. His message was that people should be treated the same no matter how different they are, no matter if they’re black, white, gay, bisexual, disabled, fat, skinny…that was his big thing. He treated everyone equally.”

Troy Davis and Jamey Rodemeyer are dead, both killed at the hands of the State, and the sad news, beyond the fact that no one saved them, is that no one is going to save us, either. And as horrifying as it is to consider, we all know: Troy Davis will not be the last person executed on Death Row who may be innocent, Jamey Rodemeyer won’t be the last gay child to take his life. And the bullies will thrive, and will continue to thrive until gay white men and women will say, “I am Troy Davis”; and blacks — rich and poor, Christian and secular — step out front and say, “We won’t allow you to bully our gay children anymore. I am Jamey Rodemeyer”.

In an online video created before his death, Jamey said:

“I always got made fun of because I virtually have no guy friends….and it bothered me because people would be, like, “faggot”….and they caught me in the hallways and I felt like I could never escape it…and people would constantly send me hate, telling me that gay people go to hell…And I just want to tell you that it does get better…You were born this way. Hold your head up and you’ll go far. Because that’s all you have to do. Just love yourself…”

Everyone is essential. There is no one who can be thrown away. And we who are called different will not be “othered” any longer. We stand together. We are America. And the day will come when we all realize there is no “Them”; there never was. It always is, and always will be, “Us.”

Max Gordon is a writer and activist. He has been published in the anthologies Inside Separate Worlds: Life Stories of Young Blacks, Jews and Latinos (University of Michigan Press, 1991), Go the Way Your Blood Beats: An Anthology of African-American Lesbian and Gay Fiction (Henry Holt, 1996) and Mixed Messages: An Anthology of Literature to Benefit Hospice and Cancer Causes. His work has also appeared on openDemocracy, Democratic Underground and Truthout, in Z Magazine, Gay Times, Sapience, and other progressive on-line and print magazines in the U.S. and internationally.

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OPINION

‘By Design’: Johnson Falsely Claims Democrats Are Trying to Turn ‘Illegals’ Into Voters

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Embattled Republican Speaker of the House Mike Johnson traveled nearly 1000 miles on Friday afternoon to appear with Donald Trump in a live joint press conference at Mar-a-Lago to promote legislation banning non-U.S. citizens from voting, which has been a federal law, and a felony, since 1997.

But Johnson used the event to attack Democrats, falsely accusing them of a conspiracy to increase the number of undocumented immigrants in the U.S. for the direct and distinct purpose of pushing them to vote illegally in U.S. elections.

The Speaker offered no proof of the existence of this conspiracy.

“We only want U.S. citizens to vote in U.S. elections,” Johnson said, standing next to Trump (video below), “but there are some Democrats who don’t want to do that. We believe that one of their designs, one of the reasons for this open border, which everybody asked all around the country, why would they do this? Why would they allow all this chaos? Why the violence? Because they want to turn these people into voters.”

READ MORE: ‘Staged Photo Op’ of Trump With Black Chick-fil-A Patrons Was ‘True Retail Politics’ Says Fox News

Non-citizens voting in a U.S. election is punishable by deportation, massive fines, and/or numerous years in prison.

“Right now the administration is encouraging illegals to go to their local welfare office to sign up for benefits,” Johnson, one of the top election deniers in the country, claimed as he explained his conspiracy theory. He did not state how the Biden Administration is communicating with undocumented immigrants, nor did he offer proof of these communications.

He also did not state that the vast majority of undocumented immigrants are ineligible for any government welfare program.

“Well, guess what? When you go to a welfare office, they also ask you if you would like to register to vote, and so many people, we think are going to do that.”

Again, Johnson offered no proof of undocumented immigrants doing that, and in fact, as the Brennan Center for Justice reported just this week, that is not happening.

“States have multiple systems in place to deter noncitizen voting. Those who violate the law face prison time and deportation,” the Brennan Center reported.

If you were undocumented, the Brennan Center asked, “Would you risk everything — your freedom, your life in the United States, your ability to be near your family — just to cast a single ballot?”

Johnson went on to state, “there’s so many millions of illegals in the country, that if only one out of 100 voted, they would cast potentially hundreds of thousands of votes in the election. That could turn an election.”

It could, but it isn’t happening.

RELATED: Johnson Moves for Trump Protection Against Greene With Mar-a-Lago Joint Press Conference

“President Biden has created a catastrophe and he did it by design,” Johnson alleged. “Why invite everybody from around the world to come here, including hardened criminals and dangerous persons?”

Neither President Biden nor his administration invited “everybody from around the world to come here,” but what if he did? Why shouldn’t he, if America is the greatest country on earth, why shouldn’t the President invite, urge people from other countries to lawfully come to America, the land of opportunity, the land of the free, the home of the brave, where immigrants have been called the “backbone” of the nation.

Federal laws can help keep “hardened criminals and dangerous persons” out, and federal border agents could do a better job if Donald Trump had allowed a vote on the Senate bipartisan border bill.

Johnson also claimed that immigration “has all sorts of terrible effects on the American people. We know that fentanyl is the leading cause of death for Americans aged 18 to 49.”

Most of the fentanyl flooding the country is smuggled in by Americans, not “across the border” but through U.S. ports of entry. Nearly nine out of ten fentanyl smugglers are U.S. citizens, according to the right wing Cato Institute.

Watch a portion of Speaker Johnson’s remarks below or at this link.

READ MORE: ‘Bless Those Who Persecute You’: Johnson Invokes Bible Amid Greene’s Ouster Threat

 

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OPINION

‘Staged Photo Op’ of Trump With Black Chick-fil-A Patrons Was ‘True Retail Politics’ Says Fox News

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As Donald Trump continues to try to make inroads with Black voters, his allegedly spontaneous viral visit to an Atlanta Chick-fil-A on Wednesday came at just the right time for the indicted ex-president as the patrons and staff, mostly young Black women, appeared to gush over him.

Fox News went wild over the encounter, calling it a “surprise visit.

Video showed Trump casually declaring in the middle of the restaurant, with his arms opened wide, “Let me give you a hug,” and a young woman running over into his arms.

“Fox & Friends” co-host Lawrence Jones the next morning called it, “such an organic moment because you had all these people that obviously knew the president was there but were Trump supporters as well. Minorities.”

Jones then painted the stark “contrast” between President Joe Biden’s State Dinner with the Prime Minister of Japan on Wednesday evening, and the ex-president who just happened to walk into a Chick-fil-A and ordered 30 milkshakes. Jones appeared agitated by the Biden State Dinner, saying, “You got the current president, the ‘smoozing,’ State Dinner, you got the Clinton – why does another former president have to do a State Dinner with the current president? I think that’s strange.”

But it had not taken long for some to say it seemed staged.

READ MORE: ‘Extremely Concerned’: School Board’s ‘Christian Values’ Candidate Search Sparks Criticism

“The odds of Trump walking into a Chick-Fil-A in a big city like Atlanta, and every single customer in there just happening to be a supporter, are infinitesimally small. The whole thing was obviously staged to ensure that only his supporters were inside,” observed the social media account for The Palmer Report just hours after the Chick-fil-A visit took place.

MeidasTouch Network on Friday reports, “Trump’s Viral Hug At Chick-fil-A Was With a MAGA Operative,” and notes the woman Trump supposedly spontaneously hugged, Michaelah Montgomery “is a ‘political consultant’ and former Georgia GOP intern.”

Former CNN commentator Keith Boykin, the co-founder of the National Black Justice Coalition, wrote: “I knew it! Trump’s Chick-fil-A stop was a staged photo op with Black Republican supporters. Michaelah Montgomery, the Black woman who told Trump that ‘we support you,’ actually runs a conservative group and worked with Candace Owens’s Blexit Foundation.”

Ron Filipkowski, editor-in-chief of MeidasTouch, explained, “Just like his fake union rally & lie about calling Ruby Garcia’s family, the Trump excursion to Chick-fil-A was a staged op with a political consultant who has done work with the GOP, Charlie Kirk & Candace Owens’ orgs.” Linking to their report, Filipkowski, an attorney and former Republican calls it a “pattern of fraud.”

READ MORE: ‘Spoiler’ Questions Swirl as Trump Says He Would Vote for RFK Jr. ‘If I Were a Democrat’

The liberal PAC PatriotTakes reposted a Trump campaign video, added screenshots, and wrote, “These Trump photo ops are pre-staged with supporters prior to his arrival.”

Despite all this evidence, Friday afternoon Fox News continued to hype the two-day old “viral” event, with host John Roberts telling viewers, “That was a true retail politics moment there. Biden goes in to get ice cream, he grabs himself a double scoop and walks out. Trump goes in and buys everyone lunch.”

Watch the videos above or at this link.

READ MORE: Trump-Johnson Mar-a-Lago Meet to Push Ban on ‘Non-Citizen’ Voting – Which Is Already a Felony

 

 

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News

‘Extremely Concerned’: School Board’s ‘Christian Values’ Candidate Search Sparks Criticism

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Wisconsin’s Cedar Grove-Belgium School District Board of Education postponed a scheduled public event to share with the community its narrowed-down list of candidates to become the next superintendent of schools after a former schools superintendent raised concerns about the process. The school board cited a “shift in the timeline” as the reason for the delay.

Retired St. Francis Superintendent Carol Topinka pointed out the Cedar Grove-Belgium School District’s job posting listed “Christian values” and “conservative politics” as desired characteristics for candidates to be considered by the board, as Wisconsin Public Radio (WPR) reports.

“Help me understand how a public school district can legally limit its hiring to people who are Christians?” Topinka wrote in an email to the Illinois-based firm hired to conduct the search for the schools superintendent, WPR reported. A friend of Topinka who applied for the job pointed out the “desired characteristics.”

“My mentee is not a Christian and is frankly gobsmacked that a public school district can blatantly and prejudicially flout the law,” Topinka wrote.

“Thanks for your email,” responded Mike Richie of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. “That was a comment made during the focus groups and you are correct that should not have been in the report. It will be removed. Thanks.”

School Board President Chad Hoopman “said as part of the process of hiring the superintendent focus groups met and ‘any characteristic mentioned by any participant in attendance is recorded and appears on the list of traits for that particular focus group for complete transparency to any potential candidates to review.'”

An undated post on the school district’s website announcing the search states, “base salary range expected to be $140,000-$180,000 (based on experience).”

It adds, “As the district looks ahead, it seeks a leader who aligns with its values and shares a commitment to preserving the traditional principles that have made Cedar Grove-Belgium a unique and cherished educational community.”

The ACLU is raising concerns.

“The Civil Rights Act of 1964 makes it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of religion, including in the recruitment phase,” Ryan Cox, legal director with ACLU of Wisconsin told WPR. “The ACLU of Wisconsin is extremely concerned that a public body might be attempting to apply a religious test as a condition of employment, or even as a preferred ‘qualification.’”

Wisconsin Democratic U.S. Congressman Mark Pocan called it, “a complete disregard for the Civil Rights Act of 1964. You can’t hire based on religion for a public position.”

Meanwhile, the chair of a Wisconsin chapter of Moms for Liberty, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled an anti-government extremist group, falsely claimed Christians are now being excluded from the search.

“In the era of woke ‘inclusive’ paganism, everyone is welcome… except for Christians,” Scarlett Johnson wrote on social media. Stating the ACLU “plans to investigate” the district “for their heresy,” Johnson added, “Imagine stating that ‘Christian Values’ in a superintendent might be good! How dare this community in Sheboygan, WI, stray from the qu-er gender-bending multicultural god to whom leftist wing radicals worship and sacrifice!”

Johnson also claimed ACLU attorneys “will investigate and deconstruct whiteness wherever they find it and look into past actions taken by the board as well.”

“Don’t worry, folks,” Johnson continued. “Christians will not have a voice in YOUR public school. The WPR and ACLU will be sure to take appropriate action. Rest easy and watch a drag show with someone else’s kids.”

 

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