These Students Are Adopting The Climate Goals That Trump Dismisses

These Students Are Adopting The Climate Goals That Trump Dismisses

Huffington Post Politics

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Two days after President Donald Trump ’s stunning election victory in November, about 80 high school students crammed into the classroom of a suburban Seattle science teacher for an emergency meeting.

The students from Tesla STEM High School were worried that Trump, an occasional climate change denier , would follow through on his campaign promise to abandon the 2015 Paris Agreement on reducing global carbon emissions, and cause irreversible harm to the environment. Rather than wait for the newly elected president to show a commitment to fight warming global temperatures and rising sea levels, the students opted for a more grassroots approach.

The teens would hold their school to the same tough standards on greenhouse gas emissions that the accord had set for the U.S., even if Trump wanted to walk away from the agreement. With any luck, they figured, other schools and institutions would notice and follow their lead.

Today, between 80 to 100 of the around 600 students attending the Tesla STEM High School in Redmond, Washington, have joined a project to enforce the agreement. They’ve called their group “Schools Under 2C,” a reference to the Paris deal’s stated goal of capping global warming at 2 degrees Celsius.

“This is our future that’s being affected,” said the group’s president Anne Lee, a 16-year-old junior. “We wanted to show that kids care about climate change.”

In December 2015, representatives of 196 countries gathered in Paris agreed to a landmark environmental agreement that would help reduce the effects of global warming by preventing the earth’s temperature from rising 2 degrees Celsius, or 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit, above pre-industrial levels. The countries agreed to reduce the use of fossil fuel and to set targets for greenhouse gas production for each country. The United States committed to cutting its emissions by 2025 to 26 percent to 28 percent below their 2005 level.

But those goals appear to be at risk under a Trump administration, as the president campaigned to abandon the landmark treaty. He had also claimed that global warming was “an expensive hoax ” perpetuated by China.  

Tesla STEM science and engineering teacher Mike Town had begun including the Paris agreement in his curriculum last year and knew that many teenagers felt passionately about its prospect for staving off worldwide disaster. Now, the hopes for the accord are in the hands of Trump, who had said he’d “cancel” the deal .

“This is something they want to see and it gets taken away so fast,” Town said. “They were just devastated by the results of the election.” He organized the first student meeting about the Paris climate goals under Trump and what they would do.

“The idea was that our students would do something that would be productive and get actual results,” said Town, who now serves as the group’s adviser.

The students won faculty support with a Powerpoint presentation showing plans to reduce the school’s carbon emissions by targeting some of the largest sources of inefficiency and greenhouse gas emissions: food waste, lighting, transportation and heating.

While drafting the program, the students began measuring energy usage and waste at the school. They learned there was lots of room for improvement by making simple behavioral changes. For example, about 75 percent of the school’s garbage could actually be recycled or composted, the students said.

After three months of preparations, the green reforms took effect at the start of February. For the first time, the school has a composting program that reduces the quantity of trash hauled long distances to a landfill in Oregon. Electricity use is down as teachers have pledged to shut the lights when classrooms are not in use.

Thanks to the composting and lighting conservation, the students estimated they could reduce their school’s emissions in those areas above their initial goal of 28 percent. That translates into 2 fewer tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere this month, according to their calculations. Plus, they say they’re saving the district money.

“I’m really amazed at how this is going and how much we can do to help solve this issue,” said 17-year-old junior Fred Qin, who maintains the group’s data.

University of California, Davis professor Kurt Kornbluth, who’s working to make the 35,000-student university campus carbon-neutral by 2025, applauded the Tesla STEM students for making an environmental impact, and, more importantly, for taking action themselves.

“You get them the information and then they can do something about it,” Kornbluth said.  

To make an even bigger dent in the school’s carbon footprint will require coming up with more efficient heating and transportation options.

And the Tesla STEM students are hoping to do just that. They are working with local transportation officials to develop an app to encourage carpooling, biking, walking and taking the bus to school. Rayan Krishnan, 15, who is involved in developing the app, said students may get incentives to participate from local shops. He hopes the app will foster competition among schools to have green transportation.

“We’re going to be the ones who inherit this country,” Rayan said. “We can’t vote, but we can have an impact.”

In some respects, the students’ initial fears over a Trump victory became realities. Soon after the election, Trump sought ways to withdraw from the Paris agreement. He’s since said he has “an open mind” about the climate agreement. Then, Trump picked former Oklahoma attorney general Scott Pruitt to head the Environmental Protection Agency despite a record of opposition to environmental regulations and the agency.

The Tesla STEM students’ actions fit in with the Pacific Northwest’s reputation as a hotbed for pioneering environmental causes. They’ve learned about former Seattle Mayor Greg Nickels, who in 2005 declared the Emerald City would meet the Kyoto Protocol goals even though then-President George Bush opposed the precursor to the Paris agreement.

Town, had previously created an environmental challenge when he taught at neighboring Redmond High Schoo. The program, which won an EPA award and is now a program offered to 5,000 schools by the National Wildlife Federation.

We’re going to be the ones who inherit this country.
Rayan Krishnan, student

There’s also an ongoing lawsuit in the state filed by eight young people, 12-year-old to 16-year-olds, who allege that state officials have failed to protect them from pollution .

Starting locally makes sense, according to Cooper Martin, program director of the National League of Cities’ Sustainable Cities Institute. He said that city and town officials are more responsive to environmental concerns than politicians in state and federal government.

“It’s become an issue that local elected officials have to respond to like education and public safety,” Martin said, emphasizing that student activism pushes local environmental initiatives.

The Tesla STEM students are doing what they can. The group developing the transportation app is hoping to launch before May, which is National Bike Month. Each day, student monitors check that teachers have switched off the lights before leaving their rooms. And after school, a team weighs what’s been tossed into the compost to tabulate the day’s carbon savings.

“People think climate change is scary, but really you just need to make small changes,” Rayan said.

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There’s A Bold New Plan To Make Ocean Trash A Thing Of The Past

There’s A Bold New Plan To Make Ocean Trash A Thing Of The Past

Huffington Post Politics

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The way things are going now, our oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. An ambitious United Nations campaign aims to stop this from happening.

On Wednesday, UN Environment announced its #CleanSeas initiative at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, Indonesia. The campaign focuses on two major sources of marine litter: single-use plastic bags and microplastics in cosmetic products. The goal is to eliminate these major sources of marine litter by 2022. 

“We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse,” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said in a statement. “It must stop.”

Each year, more than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans. Much of it can’t be broken down and will remain in the oceans for centuries. The debris injures and kills fish, seabirds and marine mammals. It also causes fish to be smaller and slower than those raised in clean water.

There’s also a concern that it could be harmful for humans to consume fish that have ingested plastic, but more research needs to be done on the issue. 

Plastic pollution costs $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems each year, according to UN Environment. 

Ten countries, which are considered pioneers in addressing the issue, have joined the #CleanSeas initiative. They include Indonesia, Uruguay, Belgium, Costa Rica and France. The United States hasn’t yet joined in.

It’s up to the participating countries to find ways to reduce the amount of plastic being introduced to the oceans. 

Indonesia, for example, has committed to slashing its marine litter by 70 percent by 2025. Uruguay said it will tax single-use plastic bags later this year.

Major companies are also getting involved.

Dell Computers announced that its product packaging will incorporate plastic that has been fished out of the sea near Haiti.

The UN also hopes to target the personal care industry’s use of microplastics, which are tiny plastic particles that are found in toothpaste and skin care products. In many cases these plastic beads have replaced natural ingredients. Waste treatment facilities don’t always trap microbeads after they’re flushed down the drain, allowing the beads to find their way into the oceans.

“On bathroom shelves around the world sit products that are destroying life in our oceans,” actress and advocate Nadya Hutagalung said in a statement. “No beauty product is worth destroying the world’s beautiful oceans, not to mention our own human well-being.”

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Trump Is Right On Palestine: A Two-State Solution Is No Longer Viable

Trump Is Right On Palestine: A Two-State Solution Is No Longer Viable

Huffington Post Politics

Just because Trump said it doesn’t mean it has to be wrong.

During Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s recent visit to Washington, U.S. President Donald Trump publicly stated that he could support a divergence from a two-state solution in Palestine. He is the first United States president in recent memory to question that sacred article of U.S.-Middle East policy. But while the announcement came as a shock to many, indeed, a serious rethink is long overdue in recognizing the defunct “two-state scheme.” 

Many honorable people have dedicated the bulk of their professional lives to the tedious minutiae and sad diplomatic history of the Palestinian-Israeli morass. Sadly, none of those efforts have brought any resolution whatsoever to a gangrenous issue ― in many respects one of the major roots of so many of the Middle East’s contemporary ills.

The trouble is that, apart from a few dedicated diplomats and scholars who had hopes of one day truly accomplishing something, the two-state solution in practice is essentially a fraud . Yes, a few wiser Israeli leaders in the past just possibly might have believed in that ideal, but for decades now the “two-state scheme” has simply been cynically exploited by newer Israeli leaders, especially by Bibi Netanyahu ― one of the longer-serving and most right-wing prime ministers in Israel’s history.

The two-state solution in practice is essentially a fraud.

Netanyahu has been backed by a formidable and wealthy pro-Zionist cheering section in the U.S. The goal is to conceal their true agenda ― the ultimate Israeli annexation of all of Palestine. They themselves as hard-line Zionists have been subtly but systematically torpedoing the two-state solution  behind the scenes to that end.

None of my observations here on the hoax of the two-state solution are new or original. Many liberal Israeli observers I met while working in the region have been stating the self-evident for years now. But those voices never get heard in the U.S. where it constitutes an unmentionable. But there should be no doubt: the concept of a “two-state solution” ― a Palestinian and an Israeli state sharing historical Palestine and living side by side in sovereignty and dignity ― is dead. It is almost inconceivable that it can now ever be resuscitated: nearly all the operative forces within Israel are systematically working to prevent it from ever coming about.

The harsh reality is that Israel, through a relentless process of “creating facts on the ground ,” is now decades deep into the process of taking over illegally , step-by-step, the totality of Palestine. Israel has scant regard for any international law in this respect, and never has had any. Washington, apart from a few periodic pathetic bleats, has ended up functionally supporting this cynical scheme all the way, perhaps unwilling to confront the painful reality of what is really taking place, along with its dangerous political repercussions at home.

Israel is extending day by day its control ― indeed ownership ― of Palestinian lands through expansion of illegal Jewish settlements and the dispossession of the rightful owners of these Palestinian lands. Put simply, there is little left of Palestinian land out of which ever to fashion a “two-state solution.”

That leaves us with only one alternative: the “one-state solution.” Indeed, Israel’s actions have already created the preconditions that make the one-state solution an unacknowledged but virtual fait accompli.

Honest observers know full well that the mantra of preserving “the peace process” for the two-state solution is now little more than a cover by hard-line Zionists for full Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands. The sooner we all acknowledge this ugly reality, the better. That will then require Israel, the Palestinians and the world to get on with dealing with the complex challenge of crafting the binational state ― the one-state solution.

Honest observers know full well that the mantra of preserving ‘the peace process’ for the two-state solution is now little more than a cover for full Israeli annexation of Palestinian lands.

The calculations of some hard-line Zionists ― who are now largely in control of Israeli state mechanisms ― are often unyielding. After years on the ground, I’ve found that the rationale is more evident with each passing year. It goes something like this:

1) Israel should functionally take over all of Palestinian territory and permit full Jewish settlement therein.

2) Israel should still play the “two-state solution” game with visiting foreign diplomats to reduce pressure on Israel, to play for time while it quietly establishes the irreversible facts on the ground that shut out any possible viable Palestinian state.

3) Make life harsh enough for Palestinians that, bit by bit, they will grow bitter and weary, give up and go elsewhere, leaving all the land for Zionist settlers.

4) If Palestinians stubbornly resist, predictable periodic military and security crises in Palestine over the longer run will enable Israel to rid Palestine of all Palestinians ― a gradual process of ethnic cleansing (or restoration of the situation that God wills as they would refer to it) that returns all the land promised by God to the Jews. 

Some liberal Israelis actually do accept the idea of a one-state solution in their own liberal vision of a future Israel ― one in which Israelis and Palestinians live as equal citizens in a secular, democratic, binational, multicultural state enjoying equal rights, rather than the increasingly religiously dominated state that it is. And the liberal ideal makes sense: the country is already well on the way to becoming bilingual ― and Hebrew and Arabic are closely-related languages. Both are Semitic peoples with ancient ties to the same land.

The problem is, ardent Zionists don’t want a binational Palestinian-Jewish state. They want a “Jewish state” and demand that the world accept that term. Yet, in today’s world isn’t the term “Jewish state” strikingly discordant? Who speaks of an “English” or “French” state? The world would freak out if tomorrow Berlin started calling itself “the German State.” Or Spain a “Christian state.” So what do we make of a state that is dedicated solely to Jews and Judaism? Such concepts are remnants of 19th century movements that promoted the creation of ethnically and/or religiously pure states. Modern states no longer define themselves on either an ethnic or religious basis. Indeed it was precisely that kind of ugly religious and ethnic nationalism that caused Jews to flee from Eastern Europe in the first place to find their own homeland.

The true historical task of Israel, with the support of the world, is now to begin the challenging work of introducing the range of major reforms that will transform Israel into just such a multi-ethnic and bilingual state of equal citizens enjoying equal rights under secular law. It is not a question of “allowing Palestinians” into Israel, they are already there and have been for millennia, initially in far greater numbers than Jews. Palestinians now seek full legal equality of treatment under secular law in Israel.

So let’s acknowledge the useful truth that Trump has blundered onto. Let’s abandon the naive and cynical rhetoric about the “two-state solution” that will never come about ― in any just and acceptable form. Half of Israel never believed in it in the first place. It has served only as a facade for building an “apartheid Jewish state” ― a term used frequently by some liberal Israeli commentators I have encountered. 

[Ardent Zionists] want a ‘Jewish state’ and demand that the world accept that term. Yet, in today’s world isn’t the term ‘Jewish state’ strikingly discordant?

Netanyahu and the right-wing Zionists clearly want all of Palestine. But they’re not ready yet to admit it. They want all the land, but without any of its people. But despite Zionist hopes, the Palestinians aren’t going to abandon their lands. And so the logical outcome of Israel’s takeover of all of Palestine leads by definition to an ultimate single, binational state.

The challenge to Israelis and Palestinians is huge. It entails a deep Palestinian rethink of their options and their future destiny in a new order, and the need to fight for those democratic rights in a binational state. It involves Israeli evolution away from “God-given rights” in a state solely for Jews and Judaism that can only be forever oppressive and undemocratic as it now stands. The process will be a slow and difficult one. But it also represents an evolution consonant with emerging contemporary global values.

We expect a democratic multicultural state from Germany and France, or from Britain, Canada and the United States ― why not from Israel?

Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official and author of numerous books on the Muslim world. His latest book is “Breaking Faith: A novel of espionage and an American’s crisis of conscience in Pakistan.” A version of this piece first appeared on GrahameFuller.com

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Sandra Cisneros Calls Trump Administration’s Immigration Initiatives ‘Barbaric’

Sandra Cisneros Calls Trump Administration’s Immigration Initiatives ‘Barbaric’

Huffington Post Politics

Sandra Cisneros moved to San Miguel de Allende in Mexico three years ago, where she observed President Donald Trump’s rise from the other side of the border. 

The Chicago-born author of The House on Mango Street has always been an important figure in the Chicano community, and she recently spoke with Univision about Trump, how he’s portrayed Mexicans and the recent uptick of deportations by his administration.

Cisneros recounted witnessing first hand the Civil Rights movement unfold as a young girl. And the author expected the Latino community to be in a better place by 2017. 

“It gives me chills because I grew up seeing the progress we made as a people and I thought we would improve,” she told the news site in Spanish . “But this year we’ve been demonized: I never thought we would reach a point where ‘Mexican’ would be a bad word.”

The Chicana author also said Trump is “a man who behaves like a 15-year-old” and that his administration’s recent immigration initiatives, which have resulted in separating families via deportation, are cruel. 

“I think one of the most horrible things we’ve seen is the possibility of losing your family, a member of your family,” Cisneros told Univision in reference to recent deportations. “I think the destruction of families is something barbaric we haven’t seen since the time of concentration camps.” she added. “I think it’s a savage thing.” 

In 2015, Cisneros also criticized Trump for his temperament a few months after he announced his presidential campaign. 

“I think Donald Trump is a very frightened man because anyone who is frightened has to bluster and yell and shout,” she told Fox News Latino. “And people who are wise and visionary don’t need to raise their voice and be Mr. Macho.” 

Read Cisnero’s full interview with Univision, in Spanish, here

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Facebook Donates Some $100,000 To CPAC, Reminding Users Again That It’s Not Liberal

Facebook Donates Some $100,000 To CPAC, Reminding Users Again That It’s Not Liberal

Huffington Post Politics

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Facebook and the Conservative Political Action Conference are in a relationship.

It’s complicated.

A Facebook spokesperson confirmed to HuffPost Wednesday that it is helping to underwrite the prominent conservative gathering next week in Washington.

This isn’t the social network’s first year at CPAC. But the 2017 event follows an election year in which Facebook drew fire from the right and the left over the role its vast platform plays in politics.

This year CPAC offers panels  like “If Heaven Has a Gate, A Wall, and Extreme Vetting, Why Can’t America?” and “Armed and Fabulous: The New Normal.” And it was all set to give a speaking slot to Milo Yiannopoulos and his racist, sexist and transphobic views before the far-right provocateur appeared to condone sex with 13-year-olds.

Facebook will contribute $62,500 in cash to CPAC 2017 and roughly the same amount through in-kind donations like tech trainings, lounge areas and the like. The tech behemoth said it will also sponsor some events with conservative groups next week that are not officially part of CPAC.

Despite CPAC’s politically charged nature , Facebook insists on its own political neutrality.

“Facebook participates in events hosted by organizations across the political spectrum,” a spokesperson told HuffPost in an emailed statement. “Our presence allows us to facilitate an open dialogue where people can share their views and create content to engage their audiences, just as we did during other political events such as the Republican and Democratic Party conventions.”

“Our involvement is not an endorsement of any particular position or platform,” the spokesperson said.

As evidence of that neutrality, Facebook pointed to its support for Netroots Nation , an annual gathering of progressive activists, and the Personal Democracy Forum , which investigates how politics and technology work together.

The past year saw the social network repeatedly defending that neutrality.

Facebook sought to appease conservative groups after accusations last spring that it was suppressing news favorable to the right  in its “trending” topics. Though an internal investigation found no evidence  of bias, the company fired all the trending editors .

Since then, Facebook has struggled to address the spread of deliberate falsehoods on its site, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg dismissing as “pretty crazy” the idea that fake news circulated on the site could have influenced the November election in favor of Republicans.

Last month, critics slammed the company’s new plan to combat fake news , which includes steps like redesigning the trending module, as inadequate. MediaMatters President Angelo Carusone called Facebook’s actions “at best a marginal improvement.”

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Build Lasting Progressive Change. Elect Keith Ellison Chair Of The DNC.

Build Lasting Progressive Change. Elect Keith Ellison Chair Of The DNC.

Huffington Post Politics

In this perilous and challenging new era, Democratic Party officials are scrambling to catch up with the progressive grassroots resistance and demands for real change. Activists, organizers, and engaged citizens across the country have been channeling major dam-bursting energy and creativity into opposing the Republicans’ cruel agenda, and have already racked up some initial successes.

That’s what makes Saturday’s election for the chair of the Democratic National Committee so critical. There’s only one candidate who’s been ahead of the political curve and is best positioned to turn this unprecedented, people-powered momentum into electoral victories for Democrats across the country: Keith Ellison.

New Hampshire State Party Chair Ray Buckley, a leading contender for DNC chair, added new vitality to Ellison’s bid when he recently dropped out of the race to endorse him. Buckley highlighted “Keith’s commitment to the states and a transparent and accountable DNC,” and his ability to “successfully unite and grow our party.” But he concluded his endorsement of Keith with the most crucial point of all: “we need an organizer who has won elections.”

Given the day-to-day organizing, coordinating and outreach needed to be a successful DNC chair, Keith’s record in Minnesota is instructive. Within his congressional district, Keith’s team has led massive door-knocking campaigns—not during election seasons but during off years—to generate thousands of face-to-face conversations with constituents that show , in Keith’s words, that “we don’t just care about you when we want your vote. We care about you and want to have an ongoing, durable relationship with you.”

Building the nuts and bolts of small-d democracy—through pizza parties, coffee klatches, and Labor Day picnics—“isn’t just about winning elections,” he adds . “It’s about building community. It’s a way for neighbors to talk about stuff, when neighbors don’t usually talk.” Keith is that rare policymaker who’s just as comfortable developing bottom-up political culture at a picket line, a public school, or a VFW hall as he is advancing legislation.

Why does this matter for the Democratic Party’s progressive future? Ellison’s grassroots organizing brings his constituents together, and the ideas and concerns that they co-develop through that process rise to the top of his own policy agenda. That’s the foundation of the political force he has built, which has amassed stunning electoral victories. By raising the number of people who voted for him from 150,000 to 250,000, Keith helped create a Democratic political firewall that has prevented any statewide Republican from taking office in Minnesota in recent years. 

This commitment to the interplay between grassroots organizing, good policy, and electoral victories—Ellison believes “you need all three” for real political change—gives him the foresight and public service commitment that so many of his peers in the Beltway have lacked. Famously, while most pundits were laughing off Trump’s candidacy, Keith was trying to warn people to take the threat seriously, astutely recognizing Trump’s momentum.

And while Keith was a strong, early backer of President Obama in 2008 and 2012, he took a principled stance against the Trans Pacific Partnership, a pro-corporate trade deal that may have inadvertently cost Hillary Clinton the presidency. As Bernie Sanders’s appointee to the DNC’s platform drafting committee, Keith fought valiantly but unsuccessfully to enshrine opposition to the TPP in the party’s agenda, knowing how important the issue was to working people’s concerns and the turnout that Democrats needed.

As it turned out, Trump’s margin of victory in the election-deciding states of Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania was far less than the number of workers in each state whom the U.S. government had certified as having lost their jobs due to trade.

The reasons behind Ellison’s political success and prescience is simple : “I don’t care about odds,” he said. “I care about what’s right and what’s wrong.” Anyone who was involved in the struggle against South African apartheid—as Keith and I were—can attest to the power of this course of action. At a moment when so many voters have expressed their disapproval with a political establishment that they don’t trust, it is time to allow Keith’s refreshing principles help rejuvenate the entire party.

For decades, I have been fighting for workers internationally, and over the past four years, alongside the United Auto Workers in America’s Deep South. We’re standing with ordinary people who want good wages, workplace safety and the right to organize the local Nissan auto plant in the majority-black town of Canton, Mississippi. It’s these folks, in the crosshairs of the Republican agenda, who are on Keith’s mind and policy agenda every day. Keith’s diverse background as a Black Muslim Midwesterner, combined with a lifelong commitment to dignified livelihoods for all, will contribute to a DNC that can empower Canton’s multiracial rank-and-file workers.

Ellison’s vision for a Democratic Party is the only tried-and-true approach to building lasting progressive change—there are no shortcuts. Only a genuine dedication to building a fair economy will galvanize the Democratic Party’s grassroots and bring together millennials, blue-collar workers, and people of color, drawing many millions more into the political process.

Keith “was born to organize,” explained civil rights legend Rep. John Lewis. “We need his leadership. We need his vision. We need his commitment and his dedication now more than ever before.”

In order for Democrats to succeed in taking on Republicans and their destructive agenda at the local, state and national levels, we need fresh and energetic leadership with a deep connection to the grassroots. In short, the DNC needs Keith Ellison.

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