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December 5, 2016 / 5 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Election Aftermath: State Politics And Congress

Wednesday, November 16th, 2016

The brief narrative about last week’s elections on the state level is that everything remains the same moving into next year’s legislative session.

The Republican-controlled Senate picked up an extra seat in the Buffalo area but could lose a seat on Long Island when the absentee votes are counted next week. A mere 33 votes separate the incumbent from the challenger, with the challenger ahead.

Outright control of the Senate hangs in the balance until that race is decided. The Republicans have 32 seats, including Democrat Simcha Felder, of Boro Park, Brooklyn, who caucuses with the Republicans. The mainline Democrats hold 23 seats and the Independent Democratic Coalition increased its membership to seven seats after two members, Senator Jesse Hamilton (D – Crown Heights) and Senator-elect Marisol Alcantara (D – Washington Heights, Manhattan), have pledged their loyalty to the IDC when session begins anew in January.

The IDC has formed a coalition with the Republicans since 2012 that has tipped the balance of power in the upper house. The average age in the state Senate is 58 and the average tenure for a senator is 10 years.

In the Democratic-dominated Assembly, there will be 18 new faces in the lower house next year. While the final tally has the GOP with a net gain of one seat, the Democrats control the 150-member house with 107 members. The average age of Assembly lawmakers is 55 years old; the average tenure in the Assembly is 11 years.

In Congress, the 27-member New York delegation will have four new faces in Washington. The newcomers replace incumbents from their own party who retired.

One of the most watched races was that of Fordham University Associate Law Professor Zephyr Teachout (D – Clinton, Dutchess County) against attorney and former Assembly Republican leader John Faso (R – Kinderhook, Columbia County), who had two failed attempts at statewide office (comptroller and governor). Faso won the race.

Teachout is a left-wing supporter of the BDS movement against Israel as well as a higher minimum wage, increased spending on public infrastructure, a ban on fracking, an increase in manufacturing jobs, property tax cuts, campaign finance reform, increased investment in rural infrastructure, an end to Common Core and high-stakes testing.

Faso, on the other hand, captured the support of the observant Jewish community, including Agudath Israel of America and several local Chabad centers run by members of the Hecht family.

Rabbi Hanoch Hecht, spiritual leader of the Rhinebeck Jewish Center and director of Chabad of Dutchess County, quickly became a Faso fan.

“He’s a supporter of Israel, a supporter of Jewish values, and the relationship with the Hecht family goes back well over 20 years,” Hecht told The Jewish Press. “I have had many conversations with Faso about Israel and the Iran deal, which he opposed. He’s very upset with the relationship the current president had with Netanyahu and all that has gone over there. He keeps his word and follows through on his commitments.”

Chaskell Bennett, an Agudath Israel trustee, echoed the feeling about Faso. “For our community, not only was John Faso the right choice, he was the obvious choice,” Bennett told The Jewish Press. “He understands the issues we’re discussing locally, domestically and internationally. He was extraordinarily positive on the importance of making sure the American-Israel relationship remains one of the most important relationships America has. He understands the difficulties of tuition-paying parents. He understands the challenges faced by a religious community in terms of being able to practice our religion. He has expressed his support for our ability to live as Orthodox Jews without fear of incitement, without fear of hatred, without fear of anti-Semitism. He spoke about the contribution of the Jewish community to the economy of the state and the importance of the Jewish communities’ investment in the district and there is a sizeable representation within the district.”

Jake Koschitzki, a Flatbush resident who owns two nursing homes in Dutchess County, says Faso is “a mensch. A word by him is a word and he cares about the Jewish people.”

During the presidential primary, Faso was a supporter of Carly Fiorina. Now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, Faso has some advice for the New York real estate mogul:

“We have to be very clear-headed and cautious about what is said because what is said by the U.S. president is paid minute attention to by the rest of the world,” Faso told The Jewish Press.

Trump is said to favor moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, an action Faso supports.

“Moving the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem is something I’ve supported for a long time,” Faso said. “Each country should be able to designate its own capital and foreign countries with their embassies should respect that designation.”

Faso admits he has to get up to speed on foreign relations.

“The focus of our campaign was on rebuilding the economy and domestic issues but I’m someone who is deeply concerned about international matters and I expect that during the course of my term in Congress I will be able to become much more acquainted with various foreign policy issues,” said Faso.

Although Faso said on “The Jewish View,” a television program taped in Albany, that he has been to Libya and Lebanon, he has yet to set foot on Israeli soil.

According to Koschitzki , Faso is looking forward to making a trip to Israel in the next year or so.

Marc Gronich

Jewish Numbers Grow in Congress, Republicans Take Both Houses

Wednesday, November 9th, 2016

The number of Jewish lawmakers has grown in the U.S. House of Representatives from 19 to 23 in the wake of Tuesday’s election in the United States.

There are now two Jewish Republicans in the House, and five Jews in total who were newly elected. A Jewish Representative from Florida is stepping down to retire as well.

In the U.S. Senate, the number of Jews has dropped from nine to eight.

The GOP has swept both houses and for the first time in many years, the United States government will be controlled nearly entirely by the Republican party.

In addition, a former Navy SEAL became the first Jewish governor of Missouri, also from the Republican party.

Hana Levi Julian

Netanyahu: US Never Offered Us More than $38 Billion

Sunday, September 18th, 2016

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Sunday morning opened his weekly Cabinet meeting telling his cabinet ministers that despite reports to the contrary, the $38 billion military aid package Israel received from the Obama Administration for the next 10 years was the highest amount that had ever been suggested by the Americans.

“I hear all kinds of background noise and disinformation about the agreement,” Netanyahu said, noting, “I would like to make it clear: We were never offered more. We were not offered more money, not even one dollar, and we were never offered special technologies. These are distortions and fabrications by interested parties; either they do not have the facts or they are distorting the facts, and they are, of course, showing ingratitude, and in my view this is the saddest thing of all, ingratitude to our greatest and best friend, the United States.”

The reports that suggested Israel stood to receive as much as $45 billion over ten years came from opponents of Netanyahu, most notably prime minister wannabe Moshe Ya’alon, whom Netanyahu had removed from the defense ministry, and former Prime Minister and Defense Minister Ehud Barak, who served as Netanyahu’s defense minister before Ya’alon. The reports also suggested that Netanyahu’s refusal to accept the Iran nuclear deal, and the fact that he dared go behind President Obama’s back to speak directly to Congress against the deal, is what cost Israel the additional funds.

But Netanyahu denied all that, insisting “the support for Israel in the United States is stronger than ever. It crosses political parties and embraces the length and breadth of the United States and it finds expression in this agreement. This is the largest assistance agreement that the United States has ever provided to any country in its history, and this agreement proves the depth of the relationship, and the strength of relations, between Israel and the United States.”

In an earlier statement, last week, Netanyahu also stressed Israel’s strong ties with the US, saying the “agreement illustrates a simple truth: relations between Israel and the United States are strong and steadfast. This does not mean that we do not have disagreements from time to time, but these are disagreements within the family. They have no effect on the great friendship between Israel and the United States, a friendship that is expressed in this agreement, which will greatly assist us in continuing to build up Israel’s strength in the coming decade.”

JNi.Media

Ground Zero for the Iran Deal: Rosenthal Versus Nadler

Friday, September 16th, 2016

More Jews live in New York’s tenth congressional district than in any other district in the United States. Philip J. Rosenthal – the kind of guy who could easily be a character on television’s The Big Bang Theory – wants its citizens to elect him as their representative.

Jerry Nadler, however, has been representing that area of New York, first in Albany beginning in 1977, and for the past 14 years in Washington, D.C.

So, why not vote for Nadler? Nadler voted for the Iran Deal, that’s why.

And if you don’t recall, the Iran Deal was the one issue behind which nearly all of the organizational Jewish world united against. The Iran Nuclear Deal which many Americans, especially Jews, and most especially Jewish New Yorkers, realized at the time was a deal only for Iran but a disaster for the safety of the United States, Israel and much of the West.

And yet, thumbing his nose at his constituents, Cong. Jerrold Nadler came out in support of the disastrous Iran Deal. Many folks in his district felt badly betrayed by Nadler. Some saw him as bowing to the wishes of the Democratic administration while ignoring their wishes and their safety. Nadler was the only Jewish member of the New York delegation who came out in favor of the deal.

Into the breach now steps Philip J. Rosenthal, a shiny example of a Bronx boy made and does good.

Rosenthal grew up facing a train yard and across the street from Bronx High School of Science, from which he graduated (“salutatorian, my father would want me to tell you,” he says.) Rosenthal went on to graduate from Yale University with a degree in Physics, “summa cum laude, phi beta kappa,” he says, sheepishly, again hearing his father’s voice echoing in his head).

Where next? The California Institute of Technology, where Rosenthal studied string theory and cosmology, garnering both a master’s degree and a PhD. Ouch.

When queried about whether he actually understood those topics, Rosenthal’s retort is pure Big Bang-ish: “Physics is beautiful, elegant, it’s the essence of everything; it’s politics that’s messy!” But back to that later.

As if Rosenthal’s resume wasn’t already impossibly impressive, after Cal Tech he went to work on a program dealing with Pluto. And this is when he began to realize that the American dream was no longer as assured as it had seemed.

“It used to be that America led the world in everything – today if you want to work in space, you need to hitch a ride with the Russians,” Rosenthal said.

“As a child I was inspired by the American space program, but now the greatest fundamental physics labs, the particle accelerators, they’re in Europe, at CERN labs, on the French/Swiss border.”  Rosenthal explained that is where the best research, the most exciting laboratories in the world are. That’s a huge economic and national security disaster for our country, he says.

Rosenthal wants America to again be the global leader. And the key to economic leadership and national security is for America to be second to none, Rosenthal insists. We need to focus on science, space and technology,” and, he says, we’re not doing that anymore.

Rosenthal’s sites began shifting away from science. In 1996 he graduated from Harvard Law School and went on to the venerable Washington, D.C. law firm of Covington & Burling, where he practiced, amongst other things, nuclear law.

Without access to legal research technology, Rosenthal recognized that individuals and even solo and small firm practitioners are unable to compete with the big guys. But legal research software is very expensive.

So Rosenthal, with a friend, created a new kind of legal research software that is far more affordable, faster and easier than the standard software packages. In addition, his company, FastCase, utilizes different kinds of tools which the old guard systems do not.

“There is a great lack of access to legal justice. We founded FastCase in order to democratize the law.” FastCase is being used by nearly a million lawyers today, and the FastCase legal app is both the first of its kind and absolutely free.

So what does Rosenthal want to do in Congress?

Though he’s been many places since his Bronx boyhood, Rosenthal still has the concern for the little guy that has long animated New York politics.  His focus on making the law more accessible to everyone also shows up in his platform — he’s a strong advocate of making sure poor Americans have access to the legal services they need to help them protect their rights, their homes, their jobs and their families.  And he’s strongly committed to helping the homeless in real ways — not just by feeding them today, but also by investing in them and their skills so they can become productive men and women tomorrow.

Last summer, when signing the anti-BDS legislation passed by Congress, President Obama announced that on his watch the U.S. would not be enforcing the provision of the law which prohibits boycotts of Israeli products in the disputed territories.

Rosenthal practically explodes: “Really? The President proudly tells everyone that boycotting certain Jews is acceptable? Where was our representative?” Incensed that Nadler didn’t make a peep about this, Rosenthal goes on to list the other ways in which this administration – without sufficient or any pushback from Nadler and others – has disrespected and mistreated Israel.

And he once again draws the conversation back to the Iran Deal. “This district is literally Ground Zero and our representative supported the Iran Deal? Is no one paying attention?”

Unlike many members of Congress, Phil Rosenthal has actually read every page made public of the Iran Deal. With his science and legal background, Rosenthal is confident we could have done much better, just as he knows America could and should be doing much better in the global economic arena.

“This is a wonderful year to run as an outsider. I haven’t been on Capitol Hill for the past dozen years, but,” he ticks off, “I have a background in physics, in law, I’m an entrepreneur, my dad was in manufacturing. I have experience in the real world.”

Most importantly, Rosenthal says he knows that the people in New York’s tenth congressional district deserve better representation than they have. And, he says, he’s ready to provide that.

Lori Lowenthal Marcus

Analysis: Obama $38 Billion MOU Designed to Shackle Congress, Fight Not Over

Thursday, September 15th, 2016

Late Wednesday night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu released a statement regarding the memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the US, saying: “In a short while, in Washington DC, a historic agreement will be signed between the United States and Israel. This agreement will ensure an unprecedented level of security assistance to Israel over the coming decade. This is the largest military assistance package that the United States has ever given to any country.”

A few lines down, Netanyahu wrote: “I would like to thank President Obama and his administration for this historic agreement,” and, “I also thank our many, many friends in the American Congress and among the American people for their great support, which crosses party lines and embraces the length and breadth of the United States.”

There, in the cross-section between the President and Congress, is where the drama over the US aid package to Israel will be taking place in the coming months. It also explains why the PM has embraced a deal that is, clearly, a step back in terms of Israel’s ambitions for US military aid.

According to Ha’aretz, citing senior defense ministry officials, as recently as last July US Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter and then Defense Minster Moshe Ya’alon have reached an agreement in principle on a $45 billion aid package over ten years. Why is Israel now willing to settle for $7 billion less? Ha’aretz, typically, blames the cut on Netanyahu’s refusal to toe the line on the Iran nuclear deal, and his insolent battle against the President in Congress over it. But that doesn’t explain why Sec. Carter was offering the larger amount months after Netanyahu’s March 3, 2015 speech in Congress.

Like all deals, the $38 billion MOU must still be confirmed in the Senate, first by the Appropriations Committee and then by the full Senate. One key member of the committee is Senator Lindsey Graham (R – SC), who earlier this week told the Washington Post: “The Israeli prime minister told me the administration is refusing to sign the MOU until I agree to change my appropriation markup back to $3.1 billion. I said, ‘Tell the administration to go [expletive] themselves.’”

The 10-year aid package reaching its conclusion in 2017 was set at “only” $31 billion, but, in addition, Congress has been awarding Israel additional funds: $729 million in 2014 to help with the acquisition gaps caused by the Gaza War, as well as to help the development of the Iron Dome system. In 2015 Congress gave Israel $620 million in addition to the aid package, and this year the estimates are around $600 million. So that the aid Israel currently receives from the US is pretty close to the MOU’s $38 Billion. Israel will only benefit from an additional $100 million annually. For a country boasting a $300 billion annual GDP, this is the definition of chump change.

Why, then, did Netanyahu agree to an MOU that compels Israel to pay back whatever amount Congress adds in military aid, which would include an attempt by, say, Senator Lindsey Graham, to tack on an extra $7 billion to the proposed package?

“I’m offended that the administration would try to take over the appropriations process. If they don’t like what I’m doing, they can veto the bill,” Graham told the Post. “We can’t have the executive branch dictating what the legislative branch will do for a decade based on an agreement we are not a party to.”

The MOU awards the Israeli missile defense development effort $500 million per year, more than the $487 million Congress gave it in 2016, but less than the Senate appropriations bill for 2017, which gives Israel $600 million. By the way, Obama asked for only $145.8 million in the budget. So, should the MOU go through the Senate, Israel would lose $600 million right off the bat. And Israel signed a letter, as part of the MOU, that any amount tacked on to the aid package in later years, Israel would be obligated to give back.

A White House official said this is better for Israel, since “the fact that under our offer Israel can count on the administration’s commitment to provide a substantial level of missiledefense assistance for a 10-year period is substantively different from the missile- defense support it has received in previous years.” There’s some truth to it — rather than go lobbying every year for that money, Israel is guaranteed a moderately lower sum, it’s already in the bank.

“You know the White House pressured them into writing that letter,” Graham said. “It is a level of antagonism against Israel that I can’t understand.”

Graham is irate because the MOU was a White House attempt to neutralize the Republican Congress’s ability to forge an independent relationship with the Jewish State. They can continue to invite Bibi to talk to them against the next president, if they so wish, but they can’t give him a penny. Vindictive? Probably. But also understandable. This President spent much of his two terms in office fighting Congress over foreign policy. He’d like to leave his successor a cleaner slate, at least when it comes to dealing with Israel.

The MOU is also better for the Pentagon, which, together with the White House, can keep all the money going to Israel inside one, manageable package. Should the need arise for additional funds, Israel would have to go to the President, not Congress, and when Israel asks for something, Israel also has to give something. Also, in six years, according to the MOU, Israel will lose the right to spend any of the aid package on its own military industrial complex — all the money must stay in the US. Of course, by then Israeli manufacturers would follow Elbit and Rafael and forge partnerships with US corporations, but the jobs in Israel would be lost.

“I’m not pleased with a provision in the MOU which prohibits Israel from using American defense assistance on Israeli defense suppliers,” Senator Graham wrote on his website. “Israel’s homegrown defense technology is some of the best in the world.” He added, “Under our old agreement Israel was allowed to develop cutting-edge military technology and was required to share this technology with the United States. I’m proud to say that many of these advancements helped protect the lives of American service members in uniform. I do not believe this new provision will serve the interests of the United States or Israel. I do fear it will be Americans wearing the uniform of our nation who will pay the price for this short-sighted change in policy.”

So, it’s obvious why the MOU represents a good deal for the Administration. But why was Netanyahu “duped” into signing the MOU? There are two possible explanations, and they both have to do with the coming lame duck session of Congress. Since last summer, there have been persistent rumors in Jerusalem and Washington that, once the November 8 election is over, the Obama Administration would spend its last breath on squeezing a 2-state deal out of Israel. To do that, the rumors went, Obama would join the majority in the UN Security Council to pass resolutions that push Israel against the wall. It would be ugly, it would be painful, there would be no support for the move from either the Democrats nor the Republicans, but it won’t matter. It would be a move that can’t be stopped by Congress, and Israel would, at last, bow to the pressure.

Did Netanyahu sign the MOU in return for an Obama promise to leave him alone between Nov. 9 and January 17? Perhaps. Of course, the above nightmare scenario is not something we would expect from any US president, except for the fact that President Obama has been so capricious and unpredictable about his bizarre “Arab Spring” campaign, that if anyone would dream up something like that it would be him.

The other point has to do with the conversation Netanyahu had with Senator Graham earlier this week, in which, we understand, Graham did most of the talking, and only part of it was taken up by expletives. The Senator from South Carolina, with Bibi’s blessing, can bury the MOU. He has at his disposal several parliamentary means of delaying it until after the start of the new year. It won’t be simple, and there are members on the Democratic side of the Appropriations Committee who are decidedly not friendly to Israel (Senator Patrick Leahy, Dem – Vt comes to mind) who would attack Graham viciously. But if Graham can drag this deal long enough, he could get it tossed and rewritten by the next Administration.

JNi.Media

Clinton Aide Skips Subpoena, IT Specialists Cite Fifth Amendment at Clinton ‘Emailgate’ Hearing

Tuesday, September 13th, 2016

A former State Department employee and two IT specialists from the company that maintained the private server for Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton while she was Secretary of State, all refused to testify Tuesday before a Congressional committee hearing on the matter of the former Secretary’s deleted emails.

Clinton aide Bryan Pagliano, who received a subpoena to appear before the House Oversight Committee, was actually a no-show at the hearing.

Lawmakers were amazed at the temerity of the former State Department employee who had been ordered to appear to testify on the deletion of some of Hillary Clinton’s emails.

Pagliano was the one who had set up the Democratic presidential candidate’s private email server.

But the aide chose not to testify, and didn’t show up for the meeting, instead allegedly exercising his Fifth Amendment right under the Constitution, not to testify against himself.

The committee members argued about the matter, with their views split straight down party lines.

Committee Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) said, “He should be here. When you are served a subpoena by the United States Congress, that is not optional.”

That view was supported by Florida Republican Congressman John Mica, who suggested the committee consider ‘contempt of Congress’ as an option.

But committee member Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA) argued the subpoena placed Pagliano under threat of criminal prosecution: Chaffetz had already asked the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia to investigate deletions from the server, thus raising the possibility of a criminal probe. “It puts him in jeopardy coming before this committee while that criminal referral is in existence,” Lynch said. “He’s an American citizen. I know the Constitution gets in the way of this committee sometimes,” he added with heavy sarcasm.

Two employees of Platte River Networks, the Colorado-based company that maintained the server – Bill Thornton and Paul Combetta – were also subpoenaed to testify before the committee. Both arrived for their appearances but neither was willing to talk: each repeatedly exercised his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions.

Questioned on the security of the server and deletions of certain emails from it, Chaffetz was forced to excuse them both after endless repetitions of the same response: “On advice of counsel, I respectfully decline to answer and exert my Fifth Amendment right.”

Justin Cooper, an IT specialist and the Clinton advisers who set up the email address, did respond to questions from the lawmakers about cyberattacks on the server, as well as who had access and how it was protected.

With two more hearings to go, the Congress members have yet to see an unedited, unredacted copy of the “unclassified” material from the server, let alone a redacted copy of classified reports.

Democracy in action?

Hana Levi Julian

US 2nd Circuit Appeals Court Reverses Anti-Terror Verdict Against Palestinian Authority, PLO

Wednesday, August 31st, 2016

The U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Manhattan has overturned a landmark $655 million verdict made in February 2016 against the Palestinian Authority and Palestine Liberation Organization, in favor of victims of terror and their loved ones.

The federal appeals court reversed the decision this Wednesday (August 31, 2016), finding that United States courts had no jurisdiction in the case in the first place due to the limited contacts of the PA/PLO groups with the U.S. and Supreme Court.

The three-judge panel did not question the terror under which the plaintiffs had brought the lawsuit, nor did they deny the moral right of the claim.

“The terror machine gun attacks and suicide bombings that triggered this suit and victimized these plaintiffs were unquestionably horrific,” the judges said in the brief. “But the federal courts cannot exercise jurisdiction in a civil case beyond the limits prescribed by the due process clause of the Constitution, no matter how horrendous the underlying attacks or morally compelling the plaintiffs’ claims.”

On April 24, the U.S. district court imposed a $10 million bond on the defendants during their appeal of the February verdict. They were also to make $1 million monthly payments during the duration of that appeal process.

Judge George Daniels presided over Sokolow v. PLO in the U.S. District Court in the Southern District Court of New York, accepting a recommendation made by the defendants and by the U.S. government, which intervened in the case earlier this summer. The government claimed that a standard bond amount would bankrupt the Palestinian Arab organizations.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs, who included the Israeli law firm Shurat HaDin, had requested a $30 million monthly bond be paid into an account until the case is resolved, arguing there was plenty of evidence that Arab coffers are in no danger of collapse.

After the appeal was upheld and the February verdict was overturned, attorneys for the plaintiffs contended that the decision contradicted the spirit of the Anti-Terror Act under which the lawsuit had been filed, and which had been passed following the terrorist murder of Leon Klinghoffer in 1985.

Attorney Kent Yalowitz said in a statement, “The very terrorists who prompted the law have now hidden behind the U.S. Constitution to avoid responsibility for their crimes.”

He added that the plaintiffs may consider requesting a review by the full Second Circuit or possibly file an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This cruel decision must be corrected so that these families may receive justice,” he said. “No one denies — as the federal jury has found — that the Palestinians carried out these attacks and killed and injured these American citizens, who will not give up seeking justice from the courts.”

He also called for intervention by Congress and the State Department.

Attorney Gassan Baloul, representing the PA and PLO, meanwhile praised the decision, saying in a statement, “We are very gratified that the court fully accepted our clients’ consistent position that the PA and the PLO are not subject to the jurisdiction of the United States courts in these matters.”

The PA and the PLO pay high salaries to the family members of terrorists who are convicted of carrying out attacks against Israelis and Jews; the higher the number of dead and/or the longer the prison sentence, the higher the salary to the prisoner and/or his surviving family. Upon his release, he is greeted as a hero and presented with a lump sum, along with assistance in resuming life in society. Terrorists who die in attacks are lauded by the Palestinian Authority government as “martyrs” and heroes, with public squares, streets and children’s events named in their honor.

Hana Levi Julian

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/us-2nd-circuit-appeals-court-reverses-anti-terror-verdict-against-palestinian-authority-plo/2016/08/31/

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