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Armed Forces Court of Appeals Interprets RFRA In Military Context

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In United States v. Sterling, (US Armed Forces Ct. App., Aug. 10, 2016), the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces held that a Marine Lance Corporal failed to establish a prima facie case under RFRA in defending against charges growing out of her work space posting of unauthorized signs containing Biblical quotations.  Appellant, in the wake of other personnel issues, posted 3 signs reading “[n]o weapon formed against me shall prosper.”  The signs did not indicate that these were Bible verses. She refused orders to remove them and was court martialed.  The majority held in part:

while the posting of signs was claimed to be religiously motivated at least in part and thus falls within RFRA’s expansive definition of “religious exercise,” Appellant has nonetheless failed to identify the sincerely held religious belief that made placing the signs important to her exercise of religion or how the removal of the signs substantially burdened her exercise of religion in some other way. We decline Appellant’s invitation to conclude that any interference at all with a religiously motivated action constitutes a substantial burden, particularly where the claimant did not bother to either inform the government that the action was religious or seek an available accommodation.

The court spelled out its understanding of what must be shown to establish that the government imposed a substantial burden on appellant’s religious exercise:

[W]hile we will not assess the importance of a religious practice to a practitioner’s exercise of religion or impose any type of centrality test, a claimant must at least demonstrate “an honest belief that the practice is important to [her] free exercise of religion” in order to show that a government action substantially burdens her religious exercise…. A substantial burden is not measured only by the secular costs that government action imposes; the claimant must also establish that she believes there are religious costs as well, and this should be clear from the record….

In contrast, courts have found that a government practice that offends religious sensibilities but does not force the claimant to act contrary to her beliefs does not constitute a substantial burden…. We reject the argument that every interference with a religiously motivated act constitutes a substantial burden on the exercise of religion.

Contrary to Appellant’s assertions before this Court, the trial evidence does not even begin to establish how the orders to take down the signs interfered with any precept of her religion let alone forced her to choose between a practice or principle important to her faith and disciplinary action.

Judge Ohlson dissented, saying in part:

Unfortunately, instead of remanding this case so that it can be properly adjudicated by the court below, the majority instead has chosen to impose a stringent, judicially made legal standard in this and future religious liberty cases that is not supported by the provisions of RFRA. Contrary to the majority’s holding, the plain language of the statute does not empower judges to curtail various manifestations of sincere religious belief simply by arbitrarily deciding that a certain act was not “important” to the believer’s exercise of religion.  Neither does the statute empower judges to require a believer to ask of the government, “Mother, may I?” before engaging in sincere religious conduct. And further, nowhere in the statute are service members required to inform the government of the religious nature of their conduct at the time they engage in it.

You can learn more about this issue here.

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Speed cameras for Roosevelt Blvd. face hard road in Pa. legislature

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  Evidently Philadelphia is trying to install speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard.  Thankfully the efforts to install them may not be fruitful as described in the article below.

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Philadelphia planners hope speed cameras will play a significant role in the city’s effort to make streets safer, but first, the technology needs to be legalized. 

The path to legalization might be a rough one.

The effort was the focus of a panel Thursday morning at the Center City law offices of Montgomery, McCracken, Walker & Rhoads that was equal parts policy discussion, rally, and fund-raising event. The event was designed to boost support for pending legislation to allow the city to install speed cameras on Roosevelt Boulevard.

“It is absolutely necessary, and I don’t know another way to slow people down,” said Republican State Rep. John Taylor of Philadelphia, one of the bill’s sponsors.

Philadelphia has about 100 traffic-related fatalities a year (93 in 2017), and typically 10 percent happen on the Boulevard, she said. Of the nine fatal crashes on the Boulevard last year, seven involved pedestrians.

If authorized, cameras would snap an image of any vehicle driving 11 mph over the speed limit. The fine would be $150 for a first offense. The Boulevard would have up to nine speed cameras along nearly 12 miles, advertised by warning signs every two miles.

The legislation has been approved by the House transportation committee, which Taylor chairs. The challenge, he said, will be convincing House leadership to list the bill for a vote. That would need to happen by spring to give time for a vote in this legislative session, he said.

And there’s another deadline approaching: Taylor, who has championed the bill, is retiring when his term expires this year.

Taylor also noted the political landscape in Harrisburg, which just completed a grueling budget process. The Pennsylvania House speaker, Republican Mike Turzai, is running for governor, and the majority leader, Republican Dave Reed, is running for Congress.

In that environment, he said, getting legislators to focus on a bill that will result in more speeding violations for their constituents is a tough sell. Taylor has combined the  authorization for cameras on the Boulevard with another proposal for the cameras to be used on highway work zones to protect workers, something he thinks will be more palatable to legislators.

The Vision Zero Alliance, which is pushing safe streets efforts in Philadelphia, has hired a lobbying firm, Arena Strategies, to promote the bill and pitched to business leaders at Thursday’s session the need for $50,000 to fund the effort, said Jason Duckworth, a developer and member of the Delaware Valley Smart Growth Alliance.

One of the most horrific crashes on the Boulevard killed a woman and three of her children. Samara Banks, 27, was crossing Roosevelt Boulevard with her sister and four children in July 2013 when she was struck by a car that had been drag racing. The driver of that vehicle was found guilty of homicide by vehicle, involuntary manslaughter, and reckless endangerment, though convictions on third-degree murder were later reversed by an appeals judge.

“There’s people who don’t agree with the speed cameras,” said LaTanya Byrd, Banks’ aunt, who spoke at Thursday’s event. “We all want our lives to be safe. I just feel like we need to do this.”

Byrd noted that some call the road “the Killovard.”

Among the opponents is Thomas McCarey of the National Motorists Association, who says speed cameras are primarily a revenue generator for government. Making roads safer, he said, could be accomplished by timing traffic lights differently, adding more traffic enforcement, and putting crosswalks underground.

The Pennsylvania bill is written to keep the cameras from being a revenue generator, said Jana Tidwell, a spokeswoman from AAA. It ensures that the contractor responsible for the cameras would not make more money if more violations are issued, requires signs posted on roads to warn drivers that speed cameras are active in the area, and specifies that all revenue would go to the state’s motor vehicle license fund, she said.

The speed camera program would likely be operated by the Philadelphia Parking Authority, which is now responsible for the red light cameras in Philadelphia. Fifty of Philadelphia’s 134 red-light cameras are at nine Boulevard intersections, and violations have dropped there. Tidwell has said the cameras decreased right-angle crashes at those intersections.

The program, however, was marred by technical problems and mismanagement in 2016. Poorly calibrated cameras generated hundreds of thousands of false violations, which then had to be weeded out by PPA workers. That cost the agency $123,000 in overtime payments in 2016.

“Speed cameras will be an even bigger failure,” McCarey said. “Speed cameras won’t stop the 3 percent of wanton speeders endangering us all, only traffic cops can.”

Overtime costs were significantly lower in 2017 after adjustments made to the cameras, PPA officials said.

The National Transportation Safety Board studied the role of speed in fatal crashes and found it was a factor in almost a third of all traffic-related deaths nationwide from 2005 to 2014. The federal transportation watchdog recommended speed cameras as an effective way to slow down drivers, noting another study found the cameras reduced all crashes by 49 percent and serious injuries and deaths by 44 percent.

If the House passes the speed camera bill, it would need to go back to the Senate for a vote on amendments and then return to the House for a final approval before going to the governor.

By: Jason Laughlin, originally published on January 25, 2018 in the Philadelphia Inquirer and can be seen here.

 

 

 

RFRA Does Not Impact Bankruptcy Code’s Denial of Discharge

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

The Bankruptcy Code, Sec. 727(a)(2)(A) provides that a bankruptcy court should deny a discharge if the debtor has within one year of filing for bankruptcy transferred property with the intent to hinder, defraud or delay a creditor.  In In re Crabtree2016 Bankr. LEXIS 2922 (MN Bkr., Aug. 8, 2016), a Minnesota federal bankruptcy judge held that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act does not prevent applying this provision to a family’s donation of a box of 500 silver coins, valued at $12,000.00, to their church, Firestarters Worship Center.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Football Coach Sues Seeking Right To Pray At 50-Yard Line

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

Yesterday Bremerton, Washington, High School assistant football coach Joe Kennedy who was placed on paid leave for insisting on praying at mid-field at the end of games (see prior posting) filed suit against the Bremerton school district alleging free exercise, free speech and Title VII violations.  The complaint (full text) in Kennedy v. Bremerton School District, (WD WA, filed 8/9/2016), contends that Kennedy is compelled by his sincerely held Christian religious beliefs to engage in brief private religious expression at the conclusion of school football games. He offers a prayer of thanksgiving as part of a covenant he made with God.  The complaint argues that the school district’s directive which bans any “demonstrative religious activity” that is “readily observable” to students or members of the public is unconstitutional. The suit seeks declaratory relief as well as an order reinstating Kennedy and granting him a religious accommodation that allows him to pray at the 50-yard line at the conclusion of games.  Seattle Times reports on the lawsuit.  First Liberty has also created a website with details of the case.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Sikh Center Sues Under RLUIPA After Work On New Temple Is Ordered Stopped

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

NBC News reports on a federal lawsuit filed in the Eastern District of New York last week by the Guru Gobind Singh Sikh Center against the Town of Oyster Bay, New York.  In July– almost 17 months after approving the Center’s site plan for its new gurdwara– the town issued a stop work order and ordered an environmental review, saying that the construction departed from the site plan. Claiming that the town’s actions were taken to appease some residents who are hostile to the temple and its worship, the suit alleges violations of RLUIPA as well as the 1st and 14th Amendments. The new building, which replaces an older one that was on the same site, is already 82% complete. The Center has spent over $3 million on construction and on costs subsequent to the stop work order.

You can learn more about this issue here.

The Process of Subsidiarity

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:

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Many critics of distributism claim that what we want to achieve would require the expansion of state power and that we really want an all powerful state. What we actually advocate is the decentralization of government power. We want to distribute the various powers of government as close to the local level as can be practically achieved. This is because we promote the principle known as “subsidiarity.” Subsidiarity states that,

“A community of a higher order should not interfere in the internal life of a community of a lower order, depriving the latter of its functions, but rather should support it in case of need and help to coordinate its activity with the activities of the rest of society, always with a view of the common good.”                                      – Pope St. John Paul II

That sounds great, but how would it work?

Subsidiarity goes beyond the typical “states’ rights” argument put forward by the political conservatives of the United States of America. While some in the USA who argue for states’ rights might regard it as a necessary first step to further decentralization of government authority, others voice a “let the states decide” attitude which seems to indicate that their only real objection to certain government laws is the fact that it is the federal government imposing them. Their statements suggest that the same laws would be fine if imposed at the state level without any further decentralization of authority. Listening to some of their arguments seems to give the impression that they don’t really recognize that the centralization of power, even to the state government, makes government less democratic. The more power gets centralized, the more undemocratic the government becomes. They only seem to be concerned when the exercise of power crosses the line from state to federal authority. In reality, however, it is only at the local level that the average citizen really has a voice. Therefore, the more localized the authority, the more democratic the society.

The sad truth is that so many of us have become too accustomed to the idea that the higher levels of government is where problems really get solved. We pay more attention to state and federal elections than to local ones precisely because the authority which naturally belongs at the local level has been usurped by state and federal governments. “I will write my congressman,” and “I’ll take this all the way to the Supreme Court” became the reaction, and the reality, of how we view the political process. While we in the USA believe ourselves to be a bastion of democracy, we have allowed (and assisted) the gradual stripping of our democratic voice. This has gone beyond the making of our laws and the defending of our rights, but even to how we assist those in need. As a society, we have gotten to the point that we automatically look to higher and higher levels of government to resolve even local issues. It is sad, but it seems that most people believe that the higher the level of government, the broader its scope of authority.

Distributism, on the other hand, argues that the higher the level of government, the narrower its scope of authority. The question is how this can be applied in a practical and workable way. While there may be variations in application due to cultural differences in different regions, a basic outline can be presented as a starting point. The foundation of this outline is to understand the “orders of society” and their relationship to each other.

The “lowest” order of society is the family, not because it is the least important but because it is the most. It is the very foundation of society. Above that are religious, occupational and social groups which are free institutions for the mutual support and benefit of their members. The remaining “orders of society” would refer to the different levels of government starting with the local community and moving up from there, each fulfilling only those functions that, by their nature, cannot be fulfilled by the level immediately below it. From the distributist perspective, local issues should be handled as locally as possible. Even if an issue exists across a larger region, each locality should be left to direct how to handle it within its jurisdictional boundary to the greatest extent possible, even if assistance is needed from higher levels of society. This is a fundamental concept to understand about subsidiarity.

When an issue arises that needs to be addressed, the level of society where that issue arises is the natural point where the issue should be addressed. In cases where it cannot be addressed there, the members of that level would petition the next higher level of the orders of society for assistance. Therefore, if a family is in financial need and needs immediate assistance, they should naturally turn to those societal organizations like church, work association (guild) or other social organizations for assistance. If a particular vocation needs a school to provide training in the skills it needs, it should first look to the members of that vocational guild. If it cannot provide for itself, it can look to other guilds of the same vocation, or even discuss combining resources with other guilds to establish schools to meet their combined needs.

It is only if these first attempts cannot resolve the issue that governmental bodies should get involved, and then only by petition of the immediate lower level. If, for example, a lot of families in the community needed assistance and churches and other local associations found themselves unable to adequately provide that assistance, they could raise the issue to the city or to related organizations in other areas. If a city was not able to address an issue, it could ask nearby cities for assistance or raise the issue to the county. In this way, each level of society would render assistance based on the need asserted by the level immediately below it, and that assistance would not usurp any functions of the lower orders of society even if the higher order needs to coordinate the activities of the lower orders due to the nature of the situation at hand, like a natural disaster.

This process keeps as much authority as possible at the local level and, by doing so, preserves the ability of citizens to effectively curtail the usurpation of authority by higher levels of government. Because the greatest level of influence is the most local level, and because the individual citizen’s vote has its greatest influence at the most local level, this process preserves the greatest level of democracy for all.

Tactical Retreat: Lonely Man II

My friend and co-worker Brian M. Lambert has founded an online sketch comedy project called Tactical Retreat which you can find here on Facebook and here on Youtube.

As Tactical Retreat releases new videos, I will post them here.  So far, I have found them rather funny and clever and they seem to get better with each release.

Here are the links to Tactical Retreat‘s previously released sketches:

Some women don’t want reproductive rights. I’m one of them.

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in The Week which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Many women are disgusted with the Republican Party, for not-so-mysterious reasons. That has left many liberals hoping for landslide victories in 2018 and beyond. They should moderate their expectations. As much as Republicans’ behavior offends many women, there will always be some women who find the Democrats more unpalatable still. And abortion is the biggest reason why. Some women simply won’t consider supporting a party that trumpets its commitment to “abortion rights.”

I should know. I’m one of them.

Pro-life women are not especially rare. About 38 percent of American women believe that abortion should be illegal in most or all cases. Women have long been central to pro-life activism, marching in rallies and running crisis pregnancy centers. This can all be quite difficult for progressives to understand. Why would anyone want to be forced to bear children against her will? Why aren’t pro-life women interested in retaining control of their own bodies?

Too often, the left simply dismisses pro-life women as pawns of the patriarchylazy elitists, or victims of internalized misogyny. It’s tough to gain insight into anyone’s perspective if you begin from such unflattering starting points. So let’s approach the issue another way and ask: What do pro-life women actually value?

Virtually everyone appreciates that pregnant women have needs that must be considered when we’re crafting policy on abortion. There are significant differences, however, between a stance that looks to balance those needs against the interests of the developing child, and one that prioritizes the mother’s autonomy absolutely. However much they soft-pedal the gorier details, defenders of abortion rights are mostly committed to the second. That becomes pretty evident when they oppose any and all restrictions on abortion, and regularly decry the injustice of denying a woman her “right to choose.”

We can debate when exactly human life begins — but we cannot debate that it naturally begins inside the female body. Every one of us was, at some early point in our personal history, dependent on a human woman for physical survival. How then should we think about the rights and obligations of the “bonded” mother and child?

We could see them both as precious human beings deserving of legal protection. Our laws and mores could then try to balance those interests, valuing the developing child while still recognizing the mother as a person with her own rights.

Alternatively, we might note that the dependency relation only goes in one direction. The developing child is physically dependent on his mother, but she’s not dependent on him. Must she accept an involuntary relationship that potentially lays serious burdens on her?

Abortion-rights advocates note that only women can be saddled with these burdens, which hardly seems fair. Thus, it seems fitting to them that a woman be guaranteed access to abortion-providing facilities. It’s her body, and her right to choose.

The positions I’ve outlined above are clearly different. Nevertheless, defenders of legalized abortion seem anxious to combine them. In the ongoing debate over 20-week abortion bans, we are told again and again that late-term abortions are rare, emotionally fraught, and sought for serious reasons (probably involving a severe fetal abnormality). It’s easy to appreciate the rhetorical value of these reassurances. If women can simply be trusted to make morally serious decisions about their own pregnancies, the gulf between the autonomy-based approach and the balancing approach becomes inconsequential.

But pro-life women look at America’s abortion rate and simply don’t believe that the unborn are adequately protected by the wisdom of mother-knows-best. Here are the latest stats from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention:

In 2014, 652,639 legal induced abortions were reported to CDC from 49 reporting areas. The abortion rate for 2014 was 12.1 abortions per 1,000 women aged 15–44 years, and the abortion ratio was 186 abortions per 1,000 live births. [CDC]

Most pro-life women understand that some pregnant women are in emotional turmoil, and may have grossly inadequate networks of support (perhaps in part because their connections largely assume that they can avoid the burdens of pregnancy through abortion). But we also know that women can simply be selfish, prioritizing personal goals over the very life of another human being. In light of those factors, it’s clear enough that the autonomy-based approach has costs. Pro-lifers deem those costs unacceptable. They aren’t fooled by casual references to abortion as “health care,” as though only one of the involved persons really counted.

Pro-life women tend to have strong convictions (both political and personal) about the preciousness of babies and children. They view themselves as having real and serious obligations to their offspring that extend well before birth. Many are mothers, perhaps to sizable families. They find tremendous meaning in their role as perpetuators of the species, and defenders of the weakest and most helpless of human beings. To these pro-life women, the language of “reproductive rights” is not empowering. It’s degrading and belittling.

It’s remarkable how little pro-choice feminists seem to appreciate this. The point shouldn’t actually be so confusing, given liberals’ sustained interest in identity as a foundation for self-worth. Choice can be pleasant sometimes, but it can also be maddening or insulting if the ostensible “options” ignore serious constraints or commitments. Are gays and lesbians typically delighted when traditionalists suggest that they could choose to marry someone of the opposite sex? Do the indigent enjoy being reminded that they are nominally free to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, or get their finances in order? To someone with grave moral or material concerns, assurance of a “right to choose” can seem positively flippant. It just comes across as a callous reminder that they and their concerns are not taken seriously.

Progressive feminists aren’t likely to embrace this more traditional perspective on femininity. To them, the vocational view of maternity will always be “biologically determinist,” unacceptably centered on the body, and unreasonably restrictive to women. Even so, liberals might do well to reflect more deeply on a perspective that motivates millions of their female compatriots. For one thing, it’s just more polite to show respect for the things other people value. For another, it may turn out that women across the political spectrum really do have some widely shared interests, which might become more evident if the left stopped alienating so many with their aggressive stance on abortion.

By Rachel Lu and originally published in The Week on February 14, 2018 and can be found here.

 

Church Meeting Not Totally Immune From Judicial Examination

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Barrow v. Living Word Church, (SD OH, July 25, 2016), an Ohio federal magistrate judge refused to apply the ecclesiastical abstention doctrine to dismiss a suit by a former volunteer pastor who was removed from his position and from church membership, saying in part:

The Magistrate Judge agrees that the Free Exercise Clause requires this Court to abstain from judging the legitimacy of any Living Word decision about who is or can be a member or a clergyperson of their church or about whether it is proper to remove a person from either position on the basis of church moral judgment of that person’s behavior. If this were a case about those issues or indeed about interpreting church doctrine in any way, we would be required to abstain.  But the Free Exercise Clause does not shield church people from any secular court consideration of what happens in church meetings just because of where it happened. If a church meeting is used as a place to plan to commit torts involving third parties – which is what is alleged here regarding Living Word interference with Barrow’s book deals – ecclesiastical abstention will not shield the occurrences in the meeting from secular court consideration.

You can learn more about this issue here.

Sexually permissive societies always fall, anthropologist says

Every now and again I come across a fantastic article the warrants posting here; I recently came across one in Tremer which, I thought, was pretty insightful. Be edified.

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Published in a highly underrated 1934 book called “Sex and Culture,” the anthropologist J.D. Unwin found a universal correlation between monogamy and a civilization’s “expansive energy.” His aim in the book was to test the Freudian thesis that advanced civilizations were founded upon repression of sexual desire, and a re-channeling of this energy through a defense mechanism Freud called “sublimation.”

A non-Christian, and as relativistic as any modern anthropologist, he insisted that he offered “no opinion about rightness or wrongness” concerning sexual norms. Nevertheless, among the 86 different societies he studied, he not only found monogamy to be correlated with a society’s strength, but came to the sobering conclusion that “In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence.”

In other words, once a society loosened its sexual mores and abandoned monogamy, it began to degenerate and would eventually dissipate away. So much for ‘permissive’ sexual attitudes being “progressive”; the complete opposite of the sexual regression described by Unwin in his research on his study of a society’s regression.

In his own words:

“These societies lived in different geographical environments; they belonged to different racial stocks; but the history of their marriage customs is the same. In the beginning each society had the same ideas in regard to sexual regulations. Then the same struggles took place; the same sentiments were expressed; the same changes were made; the same results ensued. Each society reduced its sexual opportunity to a minimum and displaying great social energy, flourished greatly. Then it extended its sexual opportunity; its energy decreased, and faded away. The one outstanding feature of the whole story is its unrelieved monotony.”

Sumerian, Greek, Roman, Babylonian, Moorish, Anglo-Saxon, and many other societies, all fell shortly after they abandoned sexual chastity. Sexual permissiveness would cause societies to decline unless and until their sexual mores became more rigid.”

The famous writer Aldous Huxley summarized Unwin’s research:

“Unwin’s conclusions, which are based upon an enormous wealth of carefully sifted evidence, may be summed up as follows. All human societies are in one or another of six cultural conditions: zoistic, manistic, deistic, rationalistic, expansive, productive. Of these societies the zoistic displays the least amount of mental and social energy, the productive the most. Investigation shows that the societies exhibiting the least amount of energy are those where pre-nuptial continence is not imposed and where the opportunities for sexual indulgence after marriage are greatest. The cultural condition of a society rises in exact proportion as it imposes pre-nuptial and post-nuptial restraints upon sexual opportunity.”

“In human records there is no instance of a society retaining its energy after a complete new generation has inherited a tradition which does not insist on pre-nuptial and post-nuptial continence.” For Roman, Greek, Sumerian, Moorish, Babylonian, and Anglo-Saxon civilizations, Unwin had several hundred years of history to draw on. He found with no exceptions that these societies flourished during eras that valued sexual fidelity. Inevitably, sexual mores would loosen and the societies would subsequently decline, only to rise again when they returned to more rigid sexual standards.”

You can find the original article here.

https://www.tremr.com/Duck-Rabbit/sexually-permissive-societies-always-fall-anthropologist-says

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