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The Story of Asset Sales – In Very, Very Simple Terms.

16 December 2011 Comments off

National’s plan’s to sell of our state assets – starting with Mighty River Power – doesn’t have to be complicated. In fact, it’s very simple to explain…

Once upon a time…

… our Dear Leader was being driven through his Kingdom of New Sheepland. He decided to stop and address his loyal serfs  subjects,

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He had a very busy day, but he still found time to do lotsa nice prime ministrary stuff with us. What a luvly Dear Leader he is. He is so kind, he  even gave his empty coffee cup to a nearby serf  subject, to take home for the little subject-children to play with. What a jolly nice Dear Leader he is,

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Once inside the vast ‘Moonbeam’ auditorium, named after Dear Leader’s favourite pet, he  was welcomed by his adoring serfs  subjects, with rapturous applause,

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"Huzzah! Huzzah!"

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Dear Leader greeted them all,  with a gentle smile and wave,

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Dear Leader then told the excited throng that he had an announcement to make,

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"I have an announcement to make!"

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The good, simple serfs folk of New Sheepland waited in anticipation. After so many decades, was the much-promised wealth about to trickle down upon them?

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Dear Leader then said,

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"My loyal serfs, er, I mean subjects! I have decided that the power generators that you have all slaved, er, worked so hard to build, can now be yours!"

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The loyal serfs  subjects erupted with rapturous applause! The wealth they had worked all their lives to build, would now belong to them. Everyone was happy,

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"Hooray!"

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Dear Leader then cheerily added,

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"Yes, for only a week's wages, you'll be able to buy your very own SHARES in Mighty River Power! How cool is that, my Loyal Subjects!"

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The serfs Loyal Subjects paused, stunned, and one brave mud-caked fellow timidly asked,

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"Wha-?!?! But, Dear Leader - "Mighty River Power belongs to us, already! We built it!"

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Dear Leader dismissed the serf’s  loyal subjects concerns with deep, heartfelt, empathy,

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"Shhhh! Now, now, muddy little man! This will be your chance to own it. Otherwise, the Big Bad Ogres from a far away land will come and take it away for themselves!"

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Another serf Loyal Subject spoke up,

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"What 'ogres'?"

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Dear Leader replied (just ever so little crossly, because he had other places to visit and other  muddy serfs  Adoring Loyal Subjects to talk down to) ,

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"The Big Bad Ogres from far away! That's all you need to know! So if you don't buy Mighty River Power, they will!"

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The muddy serf Loyal Subject pressed the point with Dear Leader,

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"Oh really? Well here's an idea, Flash Harry! Don't sell the bloody thing! We already own it!"

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Dear Leader was not amused,

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{"Christ-on-a-stick, why do I bother...?"}

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Another even-more-muddy serf Loyal Subject spoke up,

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"Well, why sell it at all? What'll you do with the money?"

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Dear Leader beamed and replied authoritively to the mud-caked serf Loyal Subject,

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"Tax cuts, my little muddy Subject! Tax cuts!"

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To which, all of Dear Leader’s Loyal Serfs Subjects gave a resounding cheer,

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"Huzzah! Huzzah!!"

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But the Muddy Little Serf Peasant woman Loyal Subject seemed suspicious,

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"What tax cuts? How much do we get?"

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Dear Leader smiled benignly, making a mental note to place this woman on the International Terrorist WatchList. She was just too damn lippy.  He said in a very patient, almost (creepy) uncle-sort of way,

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"Everyone will get a tax cut, Good Lady! Whether you're a serf, er, worker or a Lord! Everyone!

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The Muddied and Quite Smelly Serf Peasant Lady Loyal Subject raised an eye-brow in a very Spock-like fashion, and asked,

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"Oh yeah?! And how much do the Lords get, then, eh?"

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Dear Leader replied, sternly, and hoping that one of his Diplomatic Protection Squad would “accidentally ” taser this woman,

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"The Lords and Ladies of the Manors of the land will recieve 100 bars of gold, and a bushel of emeralds, rubies, diamonds, and sapphires. Also, several million in US dollars, deposited into their Swiss Bank accounts. Anything else, peasant woman?"

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The Peasant Woman’s boyfriend,  Barry, looked up and asked,

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"Yeah? What do we get?"

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Dear Leader replied,

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"If you behave, you'll get a balloon."

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The peasant woman (her name was Susan), demanded,

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"A balloon?! How is that fair???"

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Dear Leader smiled; his special, somewhat menacing shark-smile, and replied slowly,

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"It's not. But you voted for me. Any other questions, Loyal Subject?"

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Clutching at a sod of earth,  Susan said,

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"Yeah. I have one."

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"What is it?"

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"Can I have a yellow balloon?"

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Moral: If you voted National – what did you expect? Just be happy with the balloon you got.

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Additional

Gordon Campbell: Ten Myths About Asset Sales

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Haere ra, Carmen

16 December 2011 1 comment

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Full Story

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You got my vote, Carmen. You were one of those special people; unique and your own person.

The world is a slightly lesser place because of your passing.

Farewell…   

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Categories: People Being People Tags: ,

Good onya, mate…

16 December 2011 1 comment

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Full Story

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The problem I have with these “Honours” is that the public have no say in the matter.

As far as I can see, they are issued to politicians and wealthy businesspeople – not exactly community-minded, and often on dubious grounds.

I’d be more inclined to offer these Honours to the folks working in our community, helping the vulnerable; mentally unwell; troubled children; abused women and families… the ones who pick up the pieces from negligent government policies.

For example, Women’s Refuge which this year suffered an $800,000 cut from government – whilst the NZ Defence Force received $20 million funding for advertising. “Advertising“?!?!

Personally, I’d rather see an Honour given to Bryan Bruce who recently produced the excellent documentary, “Inside NZ: Child Poverty“. Bruce has earned our respect for his diligence in reminding us that NZ faces some seriously critical problems surrounding  poverty.

If that doesn’t merit recognition – what does?

As for Ritchie McCaw – I wish him a long and successful career. He’s an excellent role-model for our young folk. (And a good sportsperson as well.)

Sometimes, the best recognition doesn’t need a title.

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Once Were Warm-hearted…

16 December 2011 14 comments

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Source

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Once upon a time…

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1935 First Labour government takes office

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The first Labour government assumed office as a result of its landslide victory in November’s general election. Led initially by the charismatic Michael Joseph Savage, it is best remembered for its landmark social welfare reforms.

One of the most significant aspects of this welfare policy was the 1938 Social Security Act, which has been described as ‘the greatest political achievement in the country’s history’. The Act combined the introduction of a free-at-the-point-of-use health system with a comprehensive array of welfare benefits. It was financed by a tax surcharge of one shilling in the pound (5%). The family benefit was extended to all mothers irrespective of the family’s income, increasing the number of allowances overnight from 42,600 to 230,000. This policy, which was often described as looking after New Zealanders from the ‘cradle to the grave’, was a key factor keeping Labour in power until 1949.

nzhistory.net.nz

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Which led to the beginnings of our modern society – a society which placed a high value on fairness; healthy families; and giving children every opportunity to grow up healthy. It truly was a concept of “no child left behind” – but put into practice and not just empty rhetoric,

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The family in the 1930s and ’40s

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The need for the New Zealand government to promote national interests during the Depression and the Second World War created a renewed appreciation of the role of the family within society. From 1935 the Labour government’s social policies supported young families with children, and from the 1940s there was an emphasis on preventative child welfare.

Much of this concern for children and their families stemmed from the perceived need to maintain a healthy nation: one capable of providing robust workers and, if necessary, soldiers for defence. It was also felt, in the spirit of egalitarianism, that everyone should have access to the nation’s resources.

Housing

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By the early 1940s there was a serious shortage of adequate housing in inner-city areas. A ‘needy families’ scheme, administered by the Child Welfare Branch, was set up in 1941. This provided assistance, primarily by re-housing large or poor families to maintain the household unit. By 1946 the scheme had helped over 900 families and more than 5000 children.

The Family Benefit

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In October 1945, Deputy Prime Minister Walter Nash introduced legislation for the Universal Family Benefit. The maternal figure of the family was to be sole beneficiary. William (Bill) Parry, Minister of Internal Affairs, explained: ‘We have to create such enthusiasm for the service the mother renders, that it will be lifted to the highest pinnacles of service in the nation.’ This benefit and other measures such as cheap housing and a well-funded health system did much to contribute to stability of household income and, in turn, to raise living standards.

nzhistory.net.nz

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Which in turn led to this, perhaps one of the most ambitious programmes to lift the health of our nation’s children,

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1937: Free Milk Every Morning

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Young New Zealanders once lined up for a free bottle of milk at school every morning. This scheme was introduced in 1937 to help children who had become undernourished during the Depression. It was also enthusiastically supported by famous dramatist, George Bernard Shaw, when he visited this country in 1934. And so, for the next 30 years, school children sat down for their daily half-pint. Crates of bottles were carried into the classroom by official milk monitors, who were also responsible for collecting up the empties after the session. Occasionally, an older amber glass bottle would arrive with the morning delivery and prove an attraction for keen consumers.

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Linton schoolboys delivering the school milk c. 1941.

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School milk bottles in the 1950s had cardboard tops which had a small hole for the straw and were often put to further use. Lengths of colourful wool were wound tightly around a pair of these cardboard discs to produce a decorative pom-pom.

In the 1960s 3,500,000 gallons of milk was distributed to the schools of New Zealand each year, but the value of the scheme was now being questioned. There were mixed views on the matter; some felt it had become unnecessary and was a disruption to the class, while others claimed that a number of New Zealand children still came to school without an adequate breakfast…

kiwianatown.co.nz

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1967: End of free school milk

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…  The scheme was a world first. Each day, milk monitors supplied a half-pint (284 ml) of milk to each pupil. By 1940, the milk was available to over 80% of schoolchildren. For a few years during the Second World War, pupils also received an apple a day.

The scheme lasted until 1967, when the government dropped it on cost grounds — and because some people were starting to question the benefits of milk…

www.nzhistory.net.nz

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I’m of the age where I can vaguely recall the crates of milk left in the concrete “pill-box” at my Primary School. I recall the “powerful” position of the Milk Monitor… and using the straws as make-shift blow-guns to fire small paper darts at my near-by class-mates.

It is interesting to consider that by 1967, the government-of-the-day decided that school milk was no longer required. Perhaps Keith Holyoake, the Prime Minister of the day, considered that it was a relic from a by-gone age of Depression, poverty, and extreme childhood health-problems that by the mid-1960s were but a distant memory.

New Zealand in the 1960s was healthy; single-incomes were sufficient to live on; and the country exported more than it earned because of our special relationship with Great Britain. But all this was to change…

  • Britain entered the EEC in 1973, impacting on our sheep-meat trade with that country. Suddenly we had lost our  major export market.
  • The oil shocks of 1973 and 1979 drove our balance of payments into the red, as we struggled to cope with  higher and higher fuel-prices.
  • Property prices skyrocketed in 1979, as people abandoned the outer suburbs and satellite-towns, in favour of inner-suburbs, to cut down on fuel costs.
  • Inflation soared, unemployed rose.
  • And in 1984, New Zealand elected a Labour Government with a secret agenda to implement neo-liberal “reforms” to create a free-market; reduce and eliminate trade trariffs; implement a  massive programme to sell state assets; and “reduce government expenditure” (ie; cut services).

We were assured that the implrementation of these “reforms” would generate wealth and that this would “trickle down” to lower socio-economic (ie, poor people) groups in our society.

The rest, I think, we can all remember without too much trouble.

“Trickle down” has proven to be a singularly poor joke – without much of a punch-line.

Wealth has certainly been generated – at the top.

We went from one income to double-incomes to maintain a household. Now even that is insufficient for many families.

Seven tax cuts have benefitted mainly high-income earners and the wealthy.

And wealth disparity has become so bad that even the OECD has taken notice and commented on it, in a recent report.

The Prime Minister, meanwhile, has his own thoughts on why we having worsening poverty in our once egalitarian country,

But it is also true that anyone on a benefit actually has a lifestyle choice. If one budgets properly, one can pay one’s bills.

“And that is true because the bulk of New Zealanders on a benefit do actually pay for food, their rent and other things. Now some make poor choices and they don’t have money left.” – John Key, 17 Feb 2011

Thank you for that, Dear Leader.  By the way, how is your  pay increase of $11,000 p.a. that you were recently given?

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How is it that we have arrived at a situation where, once again, we are returning to 1937 – and having to resurrect milk-in-schools?

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Full Story

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Full credit and kudos to Fonterra for going ahead with this plan.  There are many low-income families that find it hard to buy sufficient quantities of good, wholesome, nutritious food for everyone. After rent, power, rates, phone, etc, is paid for, food is usually at the bottom of the list.

This is especially so for the 90,000+ people who have lost their jobs in the last four years as the global recession hit our economy and impacted on communities.

However, ingrained poverty has been with us since the 1980s, and many of the gains of the last century have been lost.

Little wonder that Bryan Bruce’s recent documentary, “Inside NZ: Child Poverty” generated such a heavy, nationwide response.  Bryan Bruce laid it out for all to see, that poverty had returned to this country and that governments had no idea how to address this growing crisis. Or were unwilling to.

Clearly, we have a choice in front of us. Do we continue down our present course, and keep hoping for the best? Or admit that policies over the last thirty years have been a failure;  change tack; and proactively address the root causes of wealthy disparity and income gaps?

If the latter, then we have the wrong government in power to make good on three decades of failed economic policies.

Bill English was interviewed on Radio NZ this morning (16 December), and his responses to Kathryn Ryan’s questions were not reassuring,

Bill English and the new ministerial committee on poverty

This excerpt from the interview was most telling,

RYAN: “It’s to report every six months, the committee. What measures will it use?”

ENGLISH: “Well, look, we won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures, there’s any number  of measures out there ranging from gini co-efficients  to kind of upper quartile [and] lower quartile incomes. Lot of of that is already reported in the MSD social report that it puts out each year…”

If the Committee doesn’t monitor itself, how will it be able to measure it’s success (or fail) rate?

Why has the government not set measures in place – that it expects of every other government department to assess what value they give back to taxpaters?

And how does English’s rejection of measures compare with the National-ACT coalition agreement which stated, in part,

Key features of the agreement are:

• Continuation of ACT’s focus during the last term on publicly monitoring progress on improving the country’s economy wide performance using international benchmarks, and building on the work of the 2025 Taskforce, with a requirement for Treasury to report annually on the progress being made to improve the quality of institutions and policies, raise productivity, and reduce the income gap with Australia.Source

So the “country’s economy wide performance” will be measured using “international benchmarks” – but the Ministerial Committee on Poverty “won’t  spend a lot of time arguing over measures“?

Ok, got it.

We’ve got that, if anything, it is apparent that the so-called “Ministerial Committee on Poverty” is simply going to be another talk-fest, along the lines of the “Jobs Summit” in early 2009. Does anyone recall how many jobs came out of that “summit”? Perhaps this many.

At most, the so-called “Ministerial Committee on Poverty” appears to be little more than a sop to  Maori Party members, to justify the decision of party leaders to coalesce with National.

So here we are: New Zealand, circa 2011A.D.  Poverty. Low incomes. School milk. Growing wealth gap. New Zealanders migrating en masse to Australia. And paralysis/inertia in  our political leaders.

Seventysix years after Michael Joseph Savage implemented radical, bold, policies to create a new, egalitarian society – we are back at Square One.

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SAD STATISTICS

Children who go to school without breakfast – 17 per cent.

Households with children which run out of food – 22 per cent.

Households with children who use food banks – 10 per cent.

Source: Ministry of Health 2003 survey of 3000 children aged 5-14

Source

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Postscript

To all the food-faddists, right wing reactionaries and Me First people – your negative reaction to Fonterra’s plan to reintroduce milk to low-decile schools is simply apalling. Your knee-jerk hostility is not only unhelpful – but is a stark illustration as to why this once healthy and wealthy country is slipping further down on nearly every international and local  indicator-ranking.

Food faddists:  If you think milk is evil – fine. Don’t drink it. But leave our kids alone. They have the rest of their lives to live, whilst your particular food-fetishes come and go with the latest seasonal-fad. Their growing bodies need the calcium, vitamins A, D, etc, and other nutritional benefits of this simple food. Children cannot live on fresh air and sunshine  alone.

Right wing reactionaries: New Zealand has been the experimental “hot house” for neo-liberal, free market policies, since 1984. That’s about 28 years. In that time, the top income earners and 150 Rich Listers have increased their wealth. The rest of society has stayed still or gone backwards.

Latest reports confirm that the wealth-gap continues to widen – and you can’t dismiss  the OECD as some dastardly socialist satrap.

How much longer before this experiment is labelled a failure?

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Additional

Govt likely to back milk inquiry

Minister seeks parliamentary milk price probe

Woolworths lifts NZ supermarket earnings

Special inquiry into milk prices opens today

Soft drinks win in milk debate

Rolls Royce sales rocket as super-rich drive in style

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