Category Archives: News Brew

What’s Brewing? This Week’s Must Read Link Roundup

what's brewing

MTA fare and toll hikes go into effect today. NYC subway and bus riders will now have to pay $2.75 per ride, while Long Island Rail Road and Metro-North commuters will see about a 4.25% increase in their fares. You can get a complete breakdown of toll and fare hikes on the MTA's website.

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Mayor Bill de Blasio signed Intro 423-a into law this week. The law will require the Department of Small Businesses Services and the Mayor's Office of Contract Services to report on the number of contracts awarded to worker owned cooperatives and assess how the city can better support them. Green Worker Cooperatives' website has more on the benefits of this new bill.

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Despite having a state-appointed monitor overseeing them for a year, hedge fund-backed Castellan Real Estate Partners have been using intimidation tactics to remove tenants from rent-stabilized apartments in order to jack up rents in gentrifying neighborhoods. Juan Gonzalez has more on this over at the New York Daily News.

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New York City Housing (NYCHA) tenants from Brooklyn, Manhattan and the Bronx gathered in Brownsville to deliver a list of demands to NYCHA chairperson Shola Olatoye on Tuesday. According to Voices of NY, tenants spoke about serious issues that are not being addressed such as no heat or hot water, mold, slow responses to maintenance problems and a lack of senior housing, among many others. Organizers say if the city won't respond to their demands, they might have to take to the streets.

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City Councilperson Ydanis Rodriguez is planning a proposal that would turn a section of Inwood into a technology hub, as well as residential area that is mostly made up of affordable housing and possibly new educational programming focusing on STEM. From DNAinfo, "Rodriguez sees the development as part of the solution to several problems affecting the district, including high unemployment, a lack of affordable housing and struggling schools."

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Crooks and Liars has a piece from teacher Mindy Rosier. In it she shows how Governor Cuomo's position on teacher evaluations based on high stakes testing and his pro-charter education plan are an attack on special education students.

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In Governor Cuomo's budget proposal, he is pushing to defer pension payments for 5 more years. Critics say there is no reason to defer payments since the state will have a $5.4 billion surplus, and because deferring payments might hinder the state from meeting its financial obligations to pensioners in the future. Head over to Capital New York for more details.

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BONUS LINK: New Yorkers are planning to rally outside Gov. Cuomo's NYC office on March 28th at noon. Parents, students, educators, and communities in general are demanding the state fully fund public schools, cap charter schools, and ease up on high-stakes testing. Get more info right here at The BQ Brew!

New Yorkers to Rally for Public Education on March 28

pro education march 28 rally

NY Education Community Challenges the Cuomo Corporate Education Agenda


 

March 28 Rally in front of Gov's NYC Office To Support Public Education


 

New Yorkers to Demand Full Funding For Public Schools and a Cap on Charter Schools


Fed up with underfunded schools, overtested kids and overworked/underpaid teachers, New Yorkers are taking to the street to defend public education and challenge Governor Andrew Cuomo's corporate agenda for the state's schools. The recent Protect our Schools rally was just one part of the growing resentment and resistance against the corporate takeover, and destruction, of public education. On March 28, New Yorkers will once more gather to express their support for public schools, and their determined resistance against the corporate colonization of New York's education future.

And after a half-decade of evidence, the Cuomo Corporate Agenda for education couldn't be clearer: a two stage recipe for letting Wall Street leech off education for the profits it won't innovate or stimulate in other parts of the economy (like parts they have to build themselves).

One part of the recipe involves choking off possible successes, or at least simulating failure. The second part pivots on the first to line the pockets of high-finance do-nothings. With a complex set of media, legislative and budgetting bully tactics the Cuomo agenda proceeds in a morbid leeching,

  1. dismantle public education by overtesting (sometimes rigged-testing, always for-profit-testing) students while attacking their teachers, schools and funding
  2. use that forced or simulated failure as an excuse to privatize education, turning schools into profit-mills through the corporate "charter school" system  (which has the Cuomo-downside of having been shown to perform the same or worse than the public school system, despite massive advantages, but have the Cuomo-upside of enriching Cuomo-friends throughout the finance and business world)

Activists from around the city and state will be gathering on March 28, noon, at the Governor's office (633 Third Avenue, Near 41st Street). Many will be dressed in green to show their support for public school students.

Among New Yorkers' demands for a just educational system will be:

  • full funding for the public education system (as opposed to, for example, governor cuomo's failure to comply with the Campaign for Fiscal Equity ruling which require billions of funding be restored to underfunded schools throughout the state, including $2.6 billion to New York City schools)
  • a cap on charter schools
  • an end to high stakes testing (which turns classtime into test-prep instead of education)
  • increased support for struggling schools

In a broad front approach reaching dozens of groups across the state, students, parents, teachers and community activists are also asking the general public to stand up for the future of education in massive letter-writing campaign to both Cuomo and New York State Legislators demanding full funding of public schools, instead of the current attacks and privatizations.

pro education march 28 rally

The March 28 Rally will challenge Cuomo to stand up for public education and the future of New York City's children.

 

New Yorkers are also gathering signatures for a petition directed towards the Governor, and other state leaders, demanding full support of public schools (instead of de-funding and disruption).

-MJalonschi

What’s Brewing? This Week’s Must Read Link Roundup

what's brewing

According to the Gotham Gazette, New York State Assembly Democrats have been championing the De Blasio Agenda in their state budget proposal. The budget includes increases to the city's education budget without the "reforms" that Governor Cuomo recently demanded.

At the Diane Ravitch blog, she features a Juan Gonzales discussion about the connection between corporate profits, "corporate reform" and charter schools. Visit Democracy Now! for video of the discussion.

You can read Juan Gonzales' report on just how much money hedge fund managers and other finance big shots are investing in charter schools over at the New York Daily News.

While Governor Cuomo continues to push for more charters, his administration has yet to make good on a court decision from nearly a decade ago that stated Albany had underfunded various school districts throughout New York State by $5.9 billion. $2.6 billion of that is owed to New York City. More details can be found at Gothamist.

That funding is sorely needed. One of the issues it could help alleviate is the unreasonable amount of overcrowding in New York City public schools. At DNAinfo, a map is available showing just how overcrowded schools are in each district of the 5 boroughs.

Education in NY is being attacked on more than one front. Alexandra Miletta, a teacher educator from the Bronx, breaks down a few of the problems with the teacher certification process on her blog.

Parents, educators and students are not taking the attacks on public education lying down, though. On March 12, rallies took place all across the City, with activists surrounding their schools in order to symbolically protect them from education deformers. The NYC Public School Parents blog has some in-depth coverage of the Citywide #ProtectOurSchools Rallies.

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Have you ever checked out a Wikipedia entry on one of the hundreds of instances of police brutality committed by the NYPD? It turns out the NYPD has been surreptitiously editing wikipedia pages to make them fit the NYPD's version of events.

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City Limits takes a look at the multiple steps that must be taken to alleviate the financial woes of many New Yorkers.

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BONUS LINK: Vanessa Martir's most recent blog post, This Is Not My Brooklyn, has struck a cord with people who were born and raised in NYC's outer boroughs in the 1980s.

"I say, 'I’m from Brooklyn' like there’s a grenade exploding from my mouth."

 

Lobbyist Had Undisclosed Role In Cuomo Financial Crisis Investigation

cuomo property of wall street

cuomo property of wall streetThe Albany Times Union co-published a version of this story.

Previously undisclosed emails by a mortgage industry lobbyist doubling as a consultant for then Attorney General Andrew Cuomo show the lobbyist played a self-described "critical role" in one of Cuomo's signature financial crisis investigations.

The emails from 2007 and 2008 detail how the lobbyist, longtime Cuomo confidant Howard Glaser, was involved in an investigation of mortgage industry players that included Glaser's own clients.

In one email, Glaser touted his influence over a Cuomo deal that weakened rules to prevent misdeeds in the mortgage market. That deal, with mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, reflected Glaser's "significant, critical, and current input," he wrote in an email, "a fact to which current [Fannie and Freddie] employees and the NYAG's office are prepared to attest." Fannie and Freddie were both Glaser's clients.

The emails contradict Glaser's previous account of his involvement in Cuomo's investigations.

ProPublica and the Albany Times Union reported last year that Glaser was working simultaneously as a consultant for the attorney general's office and for a bevy of mortgage industry firms. Glaser said at the time that he only gave general advice to Cuomo's office, that he did not represent clients with the attorney general, and that he was "not involved" in specific mortgage industry cases.

According to the emails, however, Glaser was involved in mortgage industry cases and traveled to Cuomo's office repeatedly over the course of nearly two years while investigations related to Glaser's clients unfolded.

"Oy. I Spent the last 48 hrs at the NY AG's office and am glad to give you an off the record briefing and my observations," Glaser wrote in a Nov. 7, 2007, email to the federal regulator of Fannie and Freddie. That same day, Cuomo announced subpoenas of the two mortgage giants as part of an investigation into fraudulently inflated home appraisals.

"These emails on their face indicate a serious conflict of interest, a conflict that could very well have influenced enforcement actions by Cuomo, much to the benefit of Glaser's clients," said Craig Holman of the government watchdog group Public Citizen.

The new emails also show how Glaser briefed industry players about Cuomo's investigation while Glaser was involved in it.

In early November 2007, Glaser gave details to analysts on a conference call hosted by the investment bank Keefe, Bruyette & Woods about Cuomo's investigation of inflated appraisals. Glaser gave the investment bank briefing just a couple of days after he had "spent the last 48 hrs at the NY AG's office."

Asked last year about that call, Glaser said he had relied strictly on public information. "I understand you will want to imply I had some special information due to the history w cuomo but that is horseshit," Glaser emailed ProPublica last year.

It had been a busy month for Glaser. He also provided an update on Cuomo's appraisal investigations to the National Association of Realtors, which was later identified in press reports as a Glaser client.

Glaser recently told ProPublica he stands by his comment last year that he did not "represent any clients with the AG's office." He did not elaborate on his email trumpeting to a client his influence "in the matter of the New York Attorney General's investigation."

Asked about the reference to the "48 hours" at the attorney general's office, Glaser said in an email he had been "making my annual Election Day visit to NY." He declined to comment further. He also declined to provide the dates for which he was working as a consultant for the attorney general's office.

Glaser has declined to provide a list of his clients. But a professional bio from the period identified some as "mortgage insurance companies, real estate and housing trade associations, mortgage bankers, and investment research companies."

A spokeswoman for Cuomo did not respond to requests for comment.

The emails, obtained through a public records request, were sent by Glaser to the general counsel of the Federal Housing Finance Agency. The agency regulated Fannie and Freddie and took more direct control of the companies during the financial crisis in September 2008.

Some of the email traffic concerned a billing dispute in which Glaser describes his work for Freddie on Cuomo's appraisal standards investigation and settlement.

In early 2008, Cuomo struck a deal with Fannie and Freddie that was designed to stamp out conflicts of interest in appraisals. But several industry groups and banks fought the settlement. In a June 2008 email, sent when Cuomo's appraisal deal was facing industry pushback, Glaser wrote: "I am heading up to NY AG tomorrow plan to have some informal discussion re appraisal and how to close this down."

That August, he updated the FHFA general counsel about his work on the appraisal negotiations. "I have the 4 major financial institutions ready to adopt the [appraisal] code," he wrote. (Glaser recently told ProPublica, "I never had the banks as clients in any matter.")

In December 2008, Cuomo announced a revised deal, weakening rules that had been meant to ensure the independence of appraisers. That's the deal Glaser said he played a "critical role" in.

Steven Cohen, who was Cuomo's chief of staff in the attorney general's office, said he stood by earlier comments that Glaser had "served as a general consultant on the industry overall. He did not provide advice on specific investigations." Cohen declined to comment on the new emails that show Glaser's dealings with the attorney general's office.

Glaser went on to serve as state operations director after Cuomo became governor in 2011; he left the administration last summer. Both Cohen and Glaser now work for billionaire businessman Ron Perelman, a generous supporter of Cuomo's campaigns.

The new emails leave some questions unanswered about Glaser's dealings with the attorney general's office. As we previously reported, another of Glaser's clients, the mortgage due diligence firm Clayton, received immunity from Cuomo as part of a cooperation deal. Glaser has said he did not represent Clayton in its dealings with the attorney general's office.

Glaser's years-old emails also show the importance of email preservation at a time when the Cuomo administration is under fire for instituting a policy that purges emails after 90 days unless they're actively retained. If the emails had been sent to or from Cuomo's current office or a state agency under the new policy, they likely would have been lost.

If you have information related to this article, or other tips related to New York, email justin@propublica.org.

Related stories: For more coverage of Andrew Cuomo and Howard Glaser, read ProPublica's previous reporting: After Pledge of Sunlight, Gov. Cuomo Officials Keep Their Email in the Shadows and Cuomo's Office Denies Using Private Email Accounts. But it Does. This article was originally published by ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

 

What’s Brewing? This Week’s Must Read Link Roundup

what's brewing

At Free Speech Radio News, Peter Rugh takes a look at the recent exoneration of 10 activists involved in last year's Flood Wall Street action.

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A school in the Eastchester section of the Bronx has found alternatives to suspending students for insubordination. From News 12 the Bronx, "Cornerstone Academy Principal Bowman says they have been able to make the change without incident because teachers and staff focus on relationships with their students, reducing the need for suspensions. The principal says it is time that the entire school system does the same."

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For all his boasting of transparency, New York Governor Cuomo's administration has a consistent record of hiding their official public activities from the public that pays for them. For just a recent example, Cuomo's new state employee email deletion policy is being received by transparency experts as a seedy and dangerous assault on public oversight and accountability. ProPublica takes a definitive look at some "Shady Moments During New York’s ‘Most Transparent’ Administration"
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Columbia University's graduate students are fighting for a labor union. Inspired by NYU students who persuaded the administration to recognize their students' union, Columbia's graduate teaching and research assistants are trying to join the United Automobile Workers. They are hoping that, with the power of strong union representation, they can negotiate for better working conditions, fair wages that are paid on time, better benefits and more. The New York Times has more on this story.
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Hundreds of students went to Albany to demand more investment from state politicians. Check out this detailed report from Alex Ellefson at The Indypendent's Indy Blog.
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New York's homeless population is starting to feel the benefits of De Blasio Administration's policies. Jarrett Murphy at City Limits explains what's behind the improvements, and how backdealing in Albany could undo the progress. In fact, the February drop in homelessness was the single largest one-month drop for NYC in four years.
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Residents of North Brooklyn are demanding the City make good on their promise of more park space along the East River waterfront. After a decade of waiting, residents have learned that 11 acres of the promised 28 acre space could be sold and developed. There is a rally planned for Thursday, March 12 at City Hall. More info can be found at bushwickinletpark.org.

New York Legislation Would Make It a Felony to Film Patients Without Prior Consent

operatingroom

Newly proposed legislation would make it a felony in New York to film patients receiving medical treatment without prior consent.

State Assemblyman Ed Braunstein, a Queens Democrat, filed the bill last month in response to a ProPublica article, published in January with the New York Times. The story detailed how the TV show "NY Med" aired the final moments of Mark Chanko's life while he was being treated at NewYork-Presybterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center.

Neither Chanko nor his family had given the show permission to film him. Although Chanko's face was blurred on the broadcast and his voice altered, his widow immediately recognized him when the episode aired in August 2012.

"You can imagine what the family went through when they witnessed their loved one dying on TV," Braunstein said in an interview. "After watching the story and finding out that they were really without any recourse, we decided we should introduce something to fix the problem. In the future, if someone is going to be filming medical treatment, you have to get a signoff from the patient or the patient's power of attorney or health care proxy."

Chanko's family filed suit against the hospital, ABC News (which aired the show) and the doctor who treated him, but an appellate panel dismissed the case last year. The family has asked for that decision to be reviewed.

ABC declined to comment for this story. The hospital did not respond to requests for comment. The parties do not dispute that they lacked consent from Chanko or his family. In court filings, they say he was not identifiable to the public. The network also has asserted that "NY Med" is protected by the First Amendment. Lawyers for New York-Presbyterian have argued that the state does not recognize a common law right to privacy and that any privacy right Chanko had ended upon his death.

Braunstein's bill has 10 co-sponsors and has been referred to the Assembly Health Committee. He plans to amend the bill to allow filming for legitimate purposes, such as education or security. He also plans to propose a private right of action allowing patients and their families to sue for damages. Existing federal patient privacy law does not permit patients to sue for violations and neither does New York State's Patients' Bill of Rights.

Kenneth Chanko, Mark Chanko's son, said his family is glad to hear about the legislation. "Any law that would prevent what happened to my father and to our family is something that we would support and that we think is necessary," he said. "Although we're still hoping for some justice for ourselves through our lawsuit, it's just as important, if not more important, that no one else has to experience what we experienced over this."

Joel Geiderman, co-chair of the emergency medicine department at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles and chairman of the ethics committee of the American College of Emergency Physicians, opposes filming of patients without prior permission.

"It's sad that someone would have to pass a law to prevent hospitals from allowing something that is so clearly morally wrong," he wrote in an email. "But at this point, that may be one of the only choices left."

Interested in patient privacy? Read our story about how rarely federal health watchdogs fine organizations that don't protect the privacy and security of patient records. And share your story if your privacy was violated.

Republished through CC license via ProPublica, a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

What’s Brewing? This Week’s Must Read Link Roundup

what's brewing
New York's tipped workers got news they'll be receiving a minimum wage increase by the end of 2015. The city made the announcement his week, with restaurant and bar workers scheduled for an increase in minimum wage from the current $5.65/hr to $7.50/hr in 2015. BKMag has details, and you can also read the Wage Board Order here (via NYC.gov) in PDF format.
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A study shows that the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) has had a positive affect on the number of babies born with low birth rates. City Limits has more on that story. You can also read the study done by the Political Economy Research Institute (PERI) at the University of Massachusetts (PDF).
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On Feb 25th, CUNY-TV's Independent Sources focused in on the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, examining the terrible human impact of developers bullying the neighborhood for a fast-buck via gentrification (a process whereby poor communities are displaced for and by wealthier and more privileged ones). Read a brief synopsis or check out the full episode here at Voices of NY: "Independent Sources: Bedford-Stuyvesant : The Gentrification Frontier."
(Bonus link! Not necessarily New York City specific but still very relevant, please read 20 Ways Not to Be a Gentrifier from Alternet)
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Once again, NY State Governor Andrew Cuomo is proving he can't practice what he preaches. While on one hand he advocates for more transparency regarding legislators disclosing outside incomes, he doesn't seem to think he should be held to the same standard.
"Cuomo has so far raked in more than $188,000 from HarperCollins, a News Corporation subsidiary. That is part of a book deal that could ultimately net him more than $700,000. With Albany’s transactional politics now the subject of a federal probe, the context of that April 2013 book deal is particularly significant: An International Business Times review of New York state documents reveals that News Corporation gave Cuomo a book contract after Cuomo’s administration backed a series of state initiatives that benefited the media giant." Read more of International Business Times' review of state documents here.
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The New York Observer noted this week that the Department of Buildings has been "bombarded" by new building applications, which has slowed the progress of new permit application reviews.
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Results from the Census Bureau's Housing and Vacancy Survey show the painfully obvious need for more, real, affordable housing in New York City. The New York Times has more details.
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While New Yorkers are clamoring for affordable housing, a 36 story building in Midtown that has been operating as a hotel was shut down this week. Why? Because the building was supposed to be affordable housing. Head over to Gothamist for more.

NYC To Reform Rules for Restraining, Suspending Students

NYC To Reform School Discipline Rules (art by Andre Minduka)
The following republished from Pro-Publica via CC license

New York City Lays Out Limits on Restraints And Suspensions

by Annie Waldman ProPublica, Feb. 25, 2015, 8 a.m.

New York City educators will face new restrictions on handcuffing students or suspending them from school, as part of regulations proposed earlier this month by the city's education department. If the proposals are adopted as expected, schools will also have to begin tracking the number of times students are tied down or otherwise restrained.

Last year, an investigation by ProPublica and NPR showed that restraints are frequently used in schools across the country. Hundreds of students are injured each year. Our reporting also found that many of the nation's largest school districts, including New York City, do not report the number of restraints to authorities despite being required to do so by the federal government. Los Angeles and Chicago, the country's second and third largest school districts, also reported zero restraints.

New York City's new regulations would require school safety agents to file monthly reports with the mayor's office on the use of restraints. It would also aim to reduce schools' reliance on 911 calls to manage disruptive students. The city's education department plans to give de-escalation training to more than 1,500 educators across the city.

"We need to try to establish a system that both improves safety for teachers and kids in schools, and increases decency and learning," Vincent Schiraldi, senior advisor to the Mayor's Office of Criminal Justice, told ProPublica.

Restraint practices would change, as well. The city's specialized school safety agents and police officers would no longer be able to restrain students under 12 in handcuffs, except as a last resort. For children of all ages, school security agents will not use any restraining device when alternatives are sufficient.

New York's reforms are part of a wider nationwide move to decrease the use of restraint in public schools. Over the past several months, a number of states have proposed changes to their schools' discipline policies.

In late 2014, Massachusetts set new limits on the use of restraint and seclusion in schools. By the end of this year, state educators will be prohibited from holding students facedown on the ground in all but the rarest instances and they will need permission from principals to give students "time-outs" that are longer than 30 minutes.

Virginia legislators also approved a bill earlier this year that will require state leaders to set limits on the use of restraint and isolation in public schools. If approved by Virginia's governor, the state education board will be required to enact new regulations that align with the federal guidelines on these behavioral interventions.

Aside from restraints, New York City's proposed code would also reform suspension policies, requiring schools to get permission from a central office before suspending a kid for "defying authority." During the 2013 school year, more than 8,800 kids were reportedly suspended for defying authority, which can include talking back to a teacher or missing several days of class.

The city has committed over $5 million dollars to support the reforms. The Department of Education expects the changes to go into effect soon after a public hearing in early March.

Education attorney Nelson Mar of Legal Services NYC2013Bronx told ProPublica that while he applauded the reforms, their value will depend on how they are implemented.

"You can put a lot of good things on paper but at the end of the day, if there are no structures put in place to ensure compliance or enforcement, it could be meaningless," said Mar.

Related stories: For more, read our investigation into the widespread use of restraints at public schools across the country. And meet the players fighting to keep the tactics legal.

ProPublica is a Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative newsroom. Sign up for their newsletter.

(Featured art via Andre Minduka)

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