The World and Everything in It - July 29, 2021
WORLD Radio - The World and Everything in It - July 29, 2021
Why the government continues to track Unidentified Flying Objects; the U.S. military role in Iraq; and a man who’s devoted his life to preserving steam-driven tractors. Plus: commentary from Cal Thomas, and the Thursday morning news.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Good morning!
U.S. pilots have filed so many reports about encounters with UFOs that the Pentagon launched an investigation.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: We’ll tell you what they think is behind these aerial phenomena.
Also a change of direction in Iraq. We’ll find out how the U.S. military shift could affect political stability in the country.
Plus the story of an 84-year old man, and his life-long hobby.
And Cal Thomas on taking climate predictions with a grain of salt.
BROWN: It’s Thursday, July 29th. This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Myrna Brown.
BUTLER: And I’m Paul Butler. Good morning!
BROWN: Up next, Kent Covington has today’s news.
KENT COVINGTON, NEWS ANCHOR: Senate votes to advance infrastructure bill » Members of the U.S. Senate voted last night to move forward with debate on a bipartisan $1 trillion infrastructure package.
AUDIO: On this vote the yeas are 67. The nays are 32.
That procedural vote moved the ball down the field, bringing a bill one step closer to passage.
It followed President Biden’s announcement hours earlier that the White House and lawmakers had ironed out many of their differences on the spending package.
BIDEN: Looks like we’ve reached a bipartisan agreement on infrastructure, a fancy word for bridges, roads, transit systems, high speed internet, clean drinking water.
The president heard there at an event in Pennsylvania.
The lead GOP negotiator Sen. Rob Portman told reporters at the Capitol…
PORTMAN: We look forward to moving ahead and having the opportunity to have a healthy debate here in the chamber regarding an incredibly important project for the American people.
Still, the agreement only pushes the package toward consideration by the full Senate. It’s unclear if enough Republican senators will support final passage.
Fed notes improving economy, a step toward easing support » Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell said Wednesday that the U.S. economy continues to bounce back from the pandemic recession.
And he hinted that the Fed might begin to dial back its ultra-low-interest rate policies, perhaps later this year.
POWELL: Indicators of economic activity and employment have continued to strengthen. And GDP this year appears to be on track to post its fastest rate of growth in decades.
Powell acknowledged that the delta variant has COVID-19 cases on the rise. But he said with each new surge—quote—“there has tended to be less in the way of economic implications from each wave.”
He said it is reasonable to expect that the delta wave will not derail the rebounding economy.
For now, the central bank is keeping its benchmark short-term rate pegged near zero. The Fed will also continue to buy $120 billion in Treasury and mortgage bonds each month.
Some states, businesses scramble to change mask guidelines after CDC reversal » Some states and businesses are scrambling to change course on mask guidelines after the CDC Tuesday called on even vaccinated Americans to once again wear masks in public—including in schools.
White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said she understands that many aren’t happy about the CDC’s announcement but…
JEAN-PIERRE: This needed to happen, right? They are following the science. We have to listen to public health experts.
Nevada and Kansas City were among the locations that moved swiftly to re-impose indoor mask mandates.
In Florida, about two dozen protesters staged a mask burning outside a Broward County school board meeting as the board considers requiring face coverings in schools.
In a handful of Republican-led states, lawmakers have made it illegal for schools to require masks.
The CDC said the delta variant is a game changer, spreading easily, even among vaccinated people. And that, it said, was one of the main reasons for changing its mask guidance.
Data: Pfizer vaccine efficacy fades gradually but remains strong for six months » Pfizer has revealed new data about the long-term effectiveness of its COVID-19 vaccine. It suggests that the vaccine loses its effectiveness slightly over time, but it remains strongly protective for at least six months. WORLD’s Kristen Flavin has details.
KRISTEN FLAVIN, REPORTER: The new data come from the 44,000-person study of the Pfizer vaccine that persuaded the FDA to grant emergency authorization. The company has tracked the participants of that study for six months and counting.
Researchers found the efficacy against any symptomatic illness dropped gradually every two months. A couple of months after vaccination, protection peaked at 96 percent. By month four, efficacy was 90 percent, and by six months, 84 percent.
U.S. health officials will weigh those findings as they consider whether booster shots may be needed down the road.
Pfizer estimates that getting a third shot more than six months after vaccination will greatly boost protection against the delta variant. The company said it does plan to seek authorization for boosters.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Kristen Flavin.
Biden administration moves to harden cyber defenses » The Biden administration wants to harden America’s defenses against cyberattacks.
Officials on Wednesday announced new performance goals and a voluntary public-private partnership to help protect infrastructure and core sectors.
President Biden said this week he believes a cyber attack against America could one day spark a military war.
BIDEN: If we end up in a war with a major power, it’s going to be as a consequence of a cyber breach of great consequence, and it’s increasing exponentially, the capabilities.
The White House says the cyber attack back in May on the nation's largest fuel pipeline highlighted America’s vulnerabilities.
The president signed an executive order Wednesday. It directs departments of Homeland Security and Commerce to develop more uniform cybersecurity performance goals for critical infrastructure.
I’m Kent Covington.
Straight ahead: tracking UFOs.
Plus, doomsday climate predictions that don’t come true.
This is The World and Everything in It.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: It’s Thursday the 29th of July, 2021.
Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Mryna Brown.
First up: UFOs!
Not the flying-saucer-little-green-men kind of UFO. Well, not that we know of, anyway. These are flying objects caught on tape that not even the U.S. military can identify. Are they rogue weather balloons? Foreign drones? Or something else?
BUTLER: The Pentagon drew up a report analyzing 144 confirmed sightings and delivered the results to Congress last month. WORLD’s Anna Johansen Brown reports now on what all the fuss is about.
AUDIO: There’s a whole fleet of them, look on the ASA.
ANNA JOHANSEN BROWN: Lieutenant Ryan Graves started seeing UFOs in 2014.
AUDIO: They’re all going against the wind. The wind’s 120 knots west.
Graves was a Navy pilot flying an F/A 18 Super Hornet off the coast of Virginia. His plane had just gotten a radar upgrade, and something kept showing up on it. The infrared targeting camera caught it too: An unassuming disc-shaped blob. But it didn’t act the way flying objects are supposed to act.
AUDIO: Look at that thing. It’s rotating.
Graves says he saw objects like that every day for a couple of years. Another pilot almost collided with one. The squadron filed an official mishap report.
In the wake of those sightings—and hundreds of others like them—Congress commissioned a report in 2020. It directed the Pentagon to assess these objects, figure out if they pose any threat to the United States, and determine whether the Department of Defense is equipped to handle them. The report came out last month, accompanied by lots of hype and speculation.
Mark Rodeghier is the scientific director at the Center for UFO Studies. It’s a research group that analyzes UFO sightings and often identifies what those objects really are. Rodeghier says the report got a lot of attention because nobody expected UFOs to be a serious subject.
RODEGHIER: The government has said that UFOs weren't a subject worthy of investigation. They weren't scientifically interesting. And they weren't a threat, definitely not a threat.
But now it seems that’s changing. The government report detailed 144 verified sightings of UFOs or—as the government calls them—UAPs: Unidentified Aerial Phenomena. And it tried to make sense of them by identifying what they might be.
Typically, UFO sightings have pretty boring explanations. People see the moon or a bird or a distant plane or an airborne plastic bag and report them as UFOs. Mark Rodeghier says 95 percent of sightings can be easily explained. But the objects in the Pentagon report were a little more slippery.
Like the Nimitz encounter. In 2004, Alex Dietrich and David Fravor were pilots based on the USS Nimitz off the coast of California.
New advanced radar on a nearby ship had detected “multiple anomalous aerial vehicles.” According to the radar, the objects descended 80,000 feet in less than a second. Dietrich and Fravor took to the skies to investigate. Here’s Fravor describing the encounter on 60 Minutes.
FRAVOR: So as we’re looking at this I said, Do do you, do you see that thing down there?
The two pilots saw a white object, about the size of a fighter plane, shaped like a Tic Tac. Alex Dietrich says they saw no wings, no exhaust plumes, no means of propulsion. But the object was moving around erratically.
DIETRICH: No, no predictable movement, no predictable trajectory. FRAVOR: Yes. It was just it was just like a ping pong ball, no acceleration very, very random.
Fravor tracked the object for about five minutes.
FRAVOR: So it’s climbing still, and when it gets right in front of me. It just disappears. Disappears. Like gone.
A few seconds later, the USS Nimitz picked up the object on radar again—this time, 60 miles away.
The Nimitz encounter is one of the most well-documented UFO sightings. Despite the Pentagon’s scrutiny, no one has been able to identify it for sure. In fact, out of all the encounters detailed in its report, the Pentagon was able to identify just one. It was a large, deflating balloon. The rest? No idea.
ANDREW FRAKNOI: We all wish we had more data. For most of the incidents, we just don't have enough data.
Andrew Fraknoi is an astronomy professor at the University of San Francisco. He says the Pentagon was very honest in admitting it just didn’t have enough information. And that’s normal, especially because of the nature of UFOs: They happen quickly. No time for proper study. Sometimes, an object might appear to be moving at superhuman speeds, but maybe it’s not.
FRAKNOI: There's a lot of discussion about whether the cameras were moving, and the aircraft was moving or the other flying thing was moving. You have to know the speed of everything to figure out how fast the unknown object was moving.
Mark Rodeghier says UFOs are the hardest scientific problem he’s ever encountered.
RODEGHIER: And one of the main reasons is we can't predict where they're going to occur. So how do you study something that you don't know when and where it's going to happen?
But the military has a vested interest in figuring out what these objects are. Many UFO sightings have been near U.S. training or testing sites. And if they’re some kind of new breakthrough technology from another country, the government wants to know about it.
But if this is new tech from Russia or China, it’s far, far beyond anything the United States has. The objects appear to maneuver abruptly at speeds hundreds of times faster than our fastest jets.
The report also left open another possibility: a catchall “other” bin. Here’s Mark Rodeghier.
RODEGHIER: They don't use the word aliens. But we all know they really mean aliens.
There’s no proof these objects are extraterrestrial, but the report left the door open for further investigation. Rodeghier says that’s a reasonable way to do it.
RODEGHIER: The thing we keep in mind is that we don't know a lot about the universe. You know, and, and we don't know a lot about our brains. We do know some things. But to think that we know, even most of what there is to know is actually crazy.
Regardless of what the objects are, the Pentagon report concluded they do pose a safety threat to pilots.
So the report calls for extra training for military personnel. And a reporting system for when pilots encounter anything they can’t explain.
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Anna Johansen Brown.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Up next: the United States enters a new chapter in the middle east.
“New phase” is the exact phrase that President Biden used this week to describe changes to the U.S. military’s mission in Iraq.
BIDEN: It’s just to be available to continue to train, to assist, to help, and to deal with ISIS as it arrives. But we are not going to be by the end of the year in a combat mission.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: The president heard there after a White House meeting with Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. No word yet on what that might mean for U.S. troop levels in Iraq. About 2,500 U.S. service members are currently stationed there.
So what exactly does this announcement mean for American troops, for the Iraqi people, and for stability in Iraq and the Middle East?
Here to help answer those questions is Behnam Ben Taleblu. He is a Senior Fellow with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Behnam, good morning!
BEHNAM BEN TALEBLU, GUEST: Good to be with you. Thank you.
BROWN: Well, when the president announced ending the combat mission this year in favor of a support role, that may have surprised some people. Some may be asking “Wait, didn’t that happen a long time ago?”
So what is the U.S. military’s role in Iraq right now? What combat operations are they carrying out?
TALEBLU: Well, the U.S. military returned to Iraq, as we know, to fight the Islamic State. When the U.S. left Iraq in 2011, it was forced to come back because of strategic and political vacuums in that country that led to the rise of the Islamic State. So, most of the U.S. military mission actually was geared—when it returned in 2014—towards fighting off that entity and then eventually helping train, equip, stand up and support Iraqi forces wherever necessary. They would engage in joint operations together, be co-located at different bases together. And I want to stress that when the US did return, it returned under a multinational auspices because there was, again, a coalition fighting the Islamic State.
But when President Biden recently talked about a potential drawdown of troops and the changing of the mission, it's in recognition—at least in his administration's eyes—of the need to draw down the U.S. force presence in the region.
And ultimately, the U.S. will be retaining the troops—that very minimal troop presence, I should say—to support those Iraqi forces that it does want to support from a distance and continue to advise and assist. I think this is a fool's errand, however, because ultimately, it will leave the state open for predation from Iraq's neighbor, Iran, and it fundamentally misreads the nature of U.S. forces there, which is an economy of force mission.
BROWN: We know that the Obama administration made the controversial decision to pull out of Iraq rather precipitously, and many analysts say that contributed to the rise of ISIS. How does what President Biden is planning differ from President Obama’s decision?
TALEBLU: It's an excellent question, but in short, I think we're preparing for the same mistake, preparing to make the same mistake. Political timetables for drawdowns—while I absolutely understand the imperative of that, and to be frank with the American people about any changing scope of mission that the troops there themselves have the proper defenses and support, but that ultimately that their deployments, that the blood and treasure spent is not in vain. And I think a time-based withdrawal would not learn from the lessons of history from the Obama era withdrawal. And, ultimately, could also be missing the forest to the trees here, which is, are you willing to commit marginal resources for maximum gain?
Because while the point of strengthening the Iraqi security forces is to be able to stand up the Iraqi state better, to prevent armed terrorist and violent extremists from running amok in that country as ISIS did, there are other armed terrorists, violent extremists that fall under the auspices of this group called the Popular Mobilization Forces or the Popular Mobilization Units, which are mostly but not exclusively Shia militias, mostly loyal to the Islamic Republic. And over-focusing on the threat while missing this rising Trojan horse in the country is something I think the U.S. military posture is getting ready to do. And again, it's kind of like watching a car accident in slow motion. I guess the fast motion version is what's happening in Afghanistan.
BROWN: How stable or unstable is Iraq right now and what does the power dynamic look like in that country right now?
TALEBLU: It really depends on how you define stability. Is it relative relative to progress made in that country from some past prime ministers, there's no doubt that Kadhimi is better, but every opportunity for a crisis is really manifesting itself for him and manifesting itself for the U.S. relationship—whether you talk about water, electricity shortages, whether you talk about major political protests in 2019, that was a huge phenomenon we can't ignore, as well as you talk about the politics of the U.S. force presence in that country, because lest we forget, there is a contingent inside the parliament that is trying to use the cycle of violence, the cycle of violence that is begotten by the pro-Iran backed militias firing rockets, mortars, and really since this April, more advanced drones. They're trying to use that cycle of violence to evict America and to enshrine a narrative of “We kicked the Americans out the door as we did in 2011.” So there are very major fault lines. There are very major cleavages. There are very real issues, and lest we forget, of course, COVID has exacerbated these very real issues. The Iraqis need money. The Iraqis need support. And they really do feel like they're between a rock and a hard place sometimes between the U.S. and Iran.
BROWN: Okay, Behnam Ben Taleblu with the Foundation for Defense of Democracies has been our guest. Behnam, thanks so much!
TALEBLU: Thank you. It's a pleasure.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Argentine Olympic fencer Maria Belen Perez Maurice lost her only fencing event at the Summer games. Hungary’s Anna Marton beat her 15-to-12 in the women’s saber.
But she still’s coming home with gold. As she was being interviewed by Argentina’s TyC Sports after the match, her coach and boyfriend, Lucas Saucedo sneaked in behind her holding up a sign.
It read (in Spanish) “Will you marry me, please?”
Saucedo then dropped to one knee to await her answer.
And as you can probably guess from her reaction, the answer was a resounding “yes.”
A happy ending to her 2021 Olympic journey! En guard!
It’s The World and Everything in It.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: Today is Thursday, July 29th.
Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.
Good morning. I’m Myrna Brown.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: connecting with the past.
Technological progress has improved efficiency just about everywhere, including train travel and farming. But efficiency isn’t everything. One man in North Central Illinois says the old ways still have a lot to teach us.
Here’s WORLD Intern Josh Schumacher with his story.
AUDIO: STEAM WHISTLE
JOSH SCHUMACHER, INTERN: This steam whistle isn't on a train. It's actually from a tractor—a tractor in North Central Illinois. That tractor belongs to Neal Drummer.
SCHUMACHER: How old are you?
DRUMMER: I'm 84. Almost 85 But we don't talk about that.
Drummer may be the most youthful octogenarian you’ll ever meet. He’s lively and enthusiastic—and it probably has something to do with the fact that he hangs out with something older than he is.
SCHUMACHER: So, what is this right here?
DRUMMER: Oh, it's a 1920 Port Huron steam traction engine. The word tractor comes from that expression.
These Port Huron steam engine tractors were used primarily for farming. Everything from plowing, threshing grain, cutting wood, and baling hay. The steam can be diverted to boil corn, steam mushrooms, and even help mix asphalt—all activities this tractor has participated in over the course of its hundred-year life.
SCHUMACHER: How long have you been doing this?
DRUMMER: Well, in a sense, ever since the day I was born. I was being born in the house when they were out in the yard with one of these engines threshing grain. And I got my first whiff of cold smoke through the open window...I tell people that.
When Drummer was a boy, his family farm had a steam engine just like this one.
DRUMMER: And of course the steam engine itself is just to me was a source of fascination from the time I was able to walk, scared to death of it, but I couldn't stay away from it either. At that time it was rather overwhelming to little guys.
Neal Drummer lived through the transition from steam power to diesel—both on the farm and along the tracks. Diesel might be more efficient, but the new engines lack the romance of steam. Drummer mourns the loss.
As a child, he used to ride around in the caboose of those steam trains to the neighboring towns with his friends. The engineers let the boys explore the steam engine whenever they ran off to grab a bite to eat. That’s when Drummer discovered what he wanted to be when he grew up: a train engineer on one of those steam engines. But when steam power largely disappeared from the railroads during the 1950s, so did that dream.
However, in 1971, Drummer found a new outlet for his love of steam engines: a 19-horse Port Huron steam tractor for sale in Ewing, Missouri.
DRUMMER: Got to bring the engine home, got to take the plunge. It was $3,000 at that time which was a chunk of change for me at that point.
Drummer bought it, and he’s never looked back. In fact, it’s become a part of his family. He’s got photos of it in his house. And he speaks of it affectionately. He insists the tractor isn’t just a lifeless “object.”
DRUMMER: They're almost like they're alive when they're fired up, they wake up, and they go to sleep. And, and even when they're sitting still, and they’ve got a full head of steam, you may think it's just a dead piece of equipment, but it isn't. It's wide awake even when it’s not moving or making any sound.
And that sense that they’re alive doesn’t end there.
SCHUMACHER: It seems like this is kind of like a combination between like driving a truck and riding a horse.
DRUMMER: Almost, and they don’t call them iron horse for nothing. There's no two are exactly alike in the way they feel, when you get used to them, which is one of the characteristics of a horse. And a few other things.
Like horses, steam engines require more care the older they get.
DRUMMER: The firebox, most of it is original stuff. And, it’s got to have some work done on the bottom, sometime in the next couple of years…
Drummer’s been refurbishing and restoring this tractor for about 50 years now. It’s hard work, and he has the scars to prove it.
DRUMMER: You get scarred up and burnt and everything else. I learned that hard way.
SCHUMACHER: Yeah? What's the story there?
DRUMMER: Just things that you touch, or you get splinters your hands handling all this stuff and things like that. Or hit the side of the door and then it jams your hands. Yeah, that’s always fun.
DRUMMER: I smashed my finger, putting the grates in. Oh, that did hurt! And that finger there has been like that ever since it's been so I did some damage. Things like this. But that was not the fault of the engine that was my own. But right then I was gonna junk this steam engine, get rid of this thing, enough is enough. [laughter] You say lots of things.
SCHUMACHER: Yeah, like what?
DRUMMER: Well you wouldn't want to record it. A couple of things. Yeah. “You dirty, rotten, low-down…” and some other things.
Drummer’s hands are one of the few things that do betray his age. They shake as he plays the organ—which he does for his church every Sunday. And he has a hard time writing with a pen. Beyond that, he insists they're fine. His firm handshake is proof enough.
AUDIO: SOUNDS FROM THE THRESHER EVENT
The 84 year old Drummer stays busy all summer long. He says it’s a tiring and expensive hobby, but he sees the tractor as a means to an end. It’s about connecting with our past, and with each other:
AUDIO: DRUMMER TALKING WITH PEOPLE AROUND THE ENGINE
He hopes his tractor will keep steaming along, even after he’s gone. And he hopes that new generations will appreciate it the way that he has. But in the meantime, Neal Drummer and his tractor will keep on keeping each other young.
AUDIO: STEAM ENGINE AND WHISTLE
Reporting for WORLD, I’m Josh Schumacher, in LaMoille, Illinois.
BUTLER: This weekend Neal Drummer is in Iowa, displaying his tractor at a steam event as he celebrates his 85th birthday.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Today is Thursday, July 29th. Good morning! This is The World and Everything in It from listener-supported WORLD Radio. I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
If you need a reason to dismiss the worst-case scenarios peddled by climate change activists, commentator Cal Thomas has you covered.
CAL THOMAS, COMMENTATOR: We have had them among us from the beginning: fortune tellers, diviners, readers of palms. Charlatans, all. They attempt to convince the gullible they have unique powers to accurately predict the future.
When it comes to “climate change,” modern soothsayers are declared legitimate by the media, even when their predictions turn out to be wrong.
The latest is President Biden’s climate envoy, John Kerry. His scientific credentials are nonexistent. Nevertheless, he recently predicted we have only “100 days” to save the planet from climate disaster. He made that “chicken little” prediction at the UN Climate Summit a few days ago, so we had better subtract the days that have followed.
In February, Kerry told CBS This Morning that the world has “nine years” before doomsday. What happened in the last five months to advance his forecast? He doesn’t say and reporters won’t ask him.
These kinds of apocalyptic climate predictions are nothing new.
In 1967, Stanford University biologist Paul Ehrlich claimed, quote—“It is already too late for the world to avoid a long period of famine.” He also declared the U.S. population “too big.” He suggested the government might need to impose involuntary birth control through sterilizing agents put into staple foods and drinking water.
Today, Americans are far from starving to death. In fact, obesity is a major health problem! And last year, the annual U.S. population growth rate dropped to its lowest level in 100 years.
Ehrlich also predicted in 1969: “Everyone will disappear in a cloud of blue steam by 1989.” To quote from a Stephen Sondheim musical, “I’m still here.”
In 1970, a scientist named James P. Lodge, Jr. predicted “a new ice age” by the 21st century. Here we are 21 years into the 21st century and some “experts” are saying the opposite. No wonder critics call it “junk science.”
Apologists claim scientists like Ehrlich and Lodge based their predictions on information available at the time. Yet they want to make changes that would affect our lives and lifestyles, perhaps for all time. It’s all about control, not individual freedom.
In 1972, two members of the Department of Geological Science at Brown University wrote President Richard Nixon with another dire warning. Their letter said, “The main conclusion of the meeting was that a global deterioration of climate, by order of magnitude larger than any hitherto experienced by civilized mankind, is a very real possibility, and indeed may be due very soon.” Nearly 50 years later we are still waiting on the sky to fall.
And those are just a few of the climate predictions that haven’t come true.
Little has changed since these ludicrous statements were made a half-century ago. And now they are being repeated in new ways by today’s climate fear-mongers.
When will we learn to stop believing these worst-case scenarios?
I’m Cal Thomas.
PAUL BUTLER, HOST: Tomorrow: Culture Friday. The Mississippi attorney general is challenging the constitutionality of Roe v. Wade. She’s hoping to not just make abortion illegal but unthinkable.
And, a popular streaming series about a thief who uses his questionable skills to right past wrongs.
That and more tomorrow.
I’m Paul Butler.
MYRNA BROWN, HOST: And I’m Myrna Brown.
The World and Everything in It comes to you from WORLD Radio.
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Go now in grace and peace.
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