Daily Blog for August 2020

Stories on or under the headlines for Aug 14

The new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who took office in June, has reportedly prohibited overtime, amid other changes that have raised fears about voting by mail. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
  • America Needs Its Own BBC to Restore Public Trust in the Press
  • Postal service changes pose threat to voting, says former USPS deputy / Donald Trump and His Postmaster General Are Sabotaging Democracy in Plain Sight
  • ‘Do you regret all your lying?’ White House reporter’s question startles Trump
  • FAQ: How to care for your face mask (and why you shouldn’t hang it from your rear-view mirror)

54 thoughts on “Daily Blog for August 2020

  1. America Needs Its Own BBC to Restore Public Trust in the Press

    Other countries have robust public media systems that produce high-quality journalism and increase political engagement. Why don’t we?

    imothy F. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

    Public trust in the media has reached an all-time low, according to a poll of over 20,000 people released last week by Gallup and the Knight Foundation. “Americans have not only lost confidence in the ideal of an objective media, they believe news organizations actively support the partisan divide,” the report stated. Those who suspect that the media has had a hand in inflaming partisanship aren’t wrong. The ongoing collapse of local news outlets and mass layoffs at publications across the country has sharpened political polarization among a public that has far fewer local news sources to consult—or, in some cases, none at all. “As local newspapers disappear, citizens increasingly rely on national sources of political information, which emphasizes competition and conflict between the parties,” a team of researchers wrote in Scientific American last year.

    As the commercial media ecosystem in the United States has crumbled and traditional sources of funding like print advertising and subscriptions have dried up in the digital age, publications have scrambled to find new, sustainable revenue models with little success. Venture capital briefly seemed like a viable option until it became clear that those V.C.s were quick to axe any publication that failed to materialize as a cash cow. Today, when a handful of billionaires owns or controls a significant portion of the media and more than 27,000 newsroom jobs have vanished since 2008, the industry is in serious crisis with very few means of survival.

    One partial solution to the decline of media that often gets ignored—yet has the potential to both alleviate the deepening crisis and also help restore public trust in the media as a whole—is for the government to create and finance a truly public media system. The idea of public media is often conflated with state-run media in the eyes of skittish libertarians, but public media systems in other democracies have proven entirely capable of retaining editorial independence despite being government-funded.

    The most famous of those institutions, at least in the Anglophone world, is the UK’s BBC, but countries including Canada, Norway, New Zealand, and Japan also have robust public media systems.

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  2. Postal service changes pose threat to voting, says former USPS deputy

    Ron Stroman, who stepped down as deputy postmaster general this year, warned new policies at USPS could disenfranchise voters

    The new postmaster general, Louis DeJoy, who took office in June, has reportedly prohibited overtime, amid other changes that have raised fears about voting by mail. Photograph: Spencer Platt/Getty Images

    A former top official at the United States Postal Service (USPS) has warned that recent changes at the agency, now led by a Trump ally, could “disenfranchise” voters as they are implemented just months ahead of an election in which a record number of Americans are expected to vote by mail.

    Amid reports of significant mail delays, Ronald Stroman, who stepped down earlier this year as the second in command at USPS, said he was concerned about the speed and timing of changes that appeared to be implemented after Louis DeJoy, the new postmaster general, took office in June. USPS faces a financial crisis and every postmaster general is interested in cost savings and efficiency, Stroman said, but the question was how to balance those changes with the public’s needs.

    “The concern is not only that you’re doing this in a pandemic, but a couple of months before an election with enormous consequences,” said Stroman, now a senior fellow at the Democracy Fund. “If you can’t right the ship, if you can’t correct these fast enough, the consequence is not just, OK, people don’t get their mail, it’s that you disenfranchise people.

    “Making these changes this close to an election is a high-risk proposition,” he added.

    Some delays this year have been because USPS workers have been unable to work during the Covid-19 pandemic. But fears increased after DeJoy, a major Trump donor with no prior USPS experience, took over the agency. Shortly after he started at the postal service, the Washington Post and other news organizations obtained internal documents saying the agency was prohibiting overtime and that postal workers should leave mail behind at processing plants if it would cause them to leave late.

    Mark Jamison, a former postmaster in North Carolina who retired from the agency in 2012, said the idea of leaving first-class mail – which includes letters with a regular stamp – was anathema to the culture of USPS.

    “The rule has always been you clear every piece of first-class mail out of a plant every day, period,” he said. “There has never been, never, in the 30 years I worked for the post office, there has never been a time when you curtail first-class mail.”

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    1. Donald Trump and His Postmaster General Are Sabotaging Democracy in Plain Sight

      The president blurted out his determination to undermine voting rights in a Fox Business Network interview.

      A United States Postal Service (USPS) carrier in New York City in August 2020 (Spencer Platt / Getty Images)

      The post office has been, since before the founding of the United States, an essential service. So essential that when it came time to write a Constitution, Article I, Section 8, Clause 7 gave Congress the power and the responsibility to “establish Post Offices and post Roads.” Yet, at precisely the moment when the country has begun to recognize the vital role of essential workers, postal workers have been under attack and the United States Postal Service has been undermined at every turn. The coronavirus pandemic should have been the moment when the Postal Service was finally accorded the respect and support it deserves. Instead, it is threatened by a White House wrecking crew that has coalesced, for reasons of short-term political strategy and long-term financial interest, to exploit a crisis.

      This is Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine with a brazen twist: Donald Trump is fessing up even as he commits the crime.

      Desperate to secure a second term, the president now openly admits that he is messing with the Postal Service because mail handlers and letter carriers make it possible to hold elections that rely on absentee ballots and universal mail-in voting. Voting by mail produces high-turnout elections in normal circumstances, and it provides a vital assurance for democracy in extraordinary circumstances—such as a pandemic moment when voters are encouraged to shelter in place rather than stand in long lines to cast ballots in crowded polling places. Trump, an unpopular president even before he mangled the response to Covid-19, recognizes the threat high turnout poses to his reelection bid.

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  3. ‘Do you regret all your lying?’ White House reporter’s question startles Trump

    SV Dáte takes the president to task for repeated untruths but is quickly cut off

    V Dáte had waited five long years to ask Donald Trump one question: “Mr President, after three and a half years [of Trump’s presidency], do you regret at all, all the lying you’ve done to the American people?”

    Confronted with Dáte’s question at Thursday’s White House briefing, Trump responded with a question of his own. “All the what?” he said.
    ‘Soulmates’: Michael Cohen describes his life as Trump’s fixer in new book
    Read more

    Dáte: “All the lying, all the dishonesties.”

    Trump: “That who has done?”

    “You have done,” said Dáte, who is the Huffington Post’s White House correspondent. “Tens of thousan–”, he began to say, before Trump cut him off and called on another journalist, who asked a question about payroll tax.

    In July, the Washington Post reported that Trump had told more than 20,000 “false or misleading claims” over the course of his presidency.

    Speaking to the Guardian, Dáte said that he asked the question because it was the first time that he had had the chance.

    “I don’t know why he called on me, because I’ve tried to ask him before [in March] and he’s cut me off mid-question. Maybe he didn’t recognise me this time,” he said. “You know, he has this group of folks that he normally asks questions of.”

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  4. Update on mask safety

    FAQ: How to care for your face mask (and why you shouldn’t hang it from your rear-view mirror)

    Make sure clean masks are stored in places where they cannot potentially be exposed to contaminants, or spread any contaminants already on them. (Antonio Bat/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock)

    With a majority of states and businesses mandating face coverings to prevent the spread of the novel coronavirus and more research emerging that supports wearing them, masks have become an essential commodity.

    Now, masks of all shapes and styles as well as other types of reusable coverings can be easily purchased online and in a number of stores nationwide.

    But the increased dependence on the coverings has sparked countless questions. Chief among them: How do I take care of my mask so it continues to be as effective as possible?

    Daily mask wear comes with a slew of irritations and annoyances. Here are solutions for mask acne, ear pain and fogged up glasses. (John Farrell, Sarah Parnass/The Washington Post)

    We interviewed three medical experts to get their recommendations for what the general public should and should not do when it comes to wearing masks and disinfecting them.

    “If you’re reusing a mask over and over again without caring for it in between, that becomes just as dirty as you touching something dirty and then putting it back on your face,” said Jade Flinn, a nurse educator for the Biocontainment Unit at Johns Hopkins Medicine.

    What are the general guidelines for proper mask care?

    For cloth masks, which have exploded in popularity in recent months, all three experts say daily washings are a must.

    Read more – The Washington Post provides this story for free

  5. The Democratic Convention Is Shaping Up to Be a Centrist Hoedown

    The recently released list of speakers at next week’s convention shows just how scared Democrats are to make a serious policy argument.

    Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden speaks during a campaign event at the William “Hicks” Anderson Community Center in Wilmington, Del., on July 28, 2020. (Andrew Caballero-Reynolds / AFP via Getty Images)

    Now that Joe Biden has announced that he’s tapped Senator Kamala Harris as his running mate, we know the full lineup of speakers for the Democratic National Convention next week. From where I sit, the choice of Harris was inspired. It’s the rest of the convention that leaves much to be desired.

    To the extent that a convention speaker list is a way for a party to highlight its priorities, the Democratic National Committee list, which was released Tuesday, shows that the Democratic Party’s priorities include shamelessly begging for the approval of moderate-Republican white men, knowing full well that nobody can hear progressives boo while locked on the other side of a Zoom presentation.

    The DNC announced 34 speakers who will address the country over four nights in the lead-up to the formal nomination of Biden and Harris. On the surface, the convention contains something for everybody. Bernie Sanders leads off the speeches on Monday, and Republican John Kasich also speaks that same night. I can imagine a bunch of people at Democratic Party headquarters slapping themselves on the back about their “big tent” coup of having Sanders and Kasich speak on the same night. I can imagine the Political Optics 101 class that led them to give Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms a spot right ahead of former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg on Thursday night. I can imagine the rejected tagline for this convention: “Democrats! We Don’t Really Know What We Stand For!”

    When you look at the speakers list, you’ll see that the Democrats largely got the optics right. This is a list that looks like the United States: It’s multiracial, features more women than men, and highlights the diversity of the party. But when you delve deeper, when you peer beyond the optics, what you’ll see is a party that is afraid to make an argument based on policy. It doesn’t want to fight Republicans in the trenches over the decades-long evisceration of the social safety net or the Republicans’ unwashed bigotry toward people of color and the LGBTQ community. It just wants to offer character paeans to Joe Biden and hope the country’s general disgust with Donald Trump will do the rest.

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  6. In choosing Kamala Harris, Biden may have found the anti-Trump

    Biden’s VP pick ‘makes America look more like America’ – and now Harris is better placed than anyone to be the first female president

    Kamala Harris and Joe Biden during a campaign stop in Detroit, Michigan, on 9 March. Photograph: Brendan McDermid/Reuters

    Joe Biden may have just chosen the anti-Trump as his running mate – and, if he wins, as his successor.

    The selection of California senator Kamala Harris for the Democrats’ vice-presidential nomination puts a woman of colour on a major party ticket for the first time in America’s 244-year-old history.

    It also comes loaded with symbolism in an era that has seen the election of a president roared on by white supremacists, the dawn of the #MeToo movement and a mass uprising for the cause of Black Lives Matter. Tuesday shows how the picture is changing.

    “It makes it look more like America,” Eugene Robinson, a newspaper columnist, told the MSNBC network. “It makes it more like the America that we are becoming than the other party which looks more like the America we once were, or the America that many think we once were.”

    Just when it seemed the contrast between these national visions could not be more vivid, it became even more so. The moment of racial reckoning became even more acute.

    And given Biden’s age – he will be 78 years old on inauguration day – and his lack of clear commitment to serving a second term, Harris is now better placed than anyone to be America’s first female president, a glass ceiling that Hillary Clinton did not manage to shatter in 2016.

    That is why this vice-presidential pick is way more important than usual. John Adams, the first person to hold the job, called it “the most insignificant office that ever the invention of man contrived or his imagination conceived”. John Nance Garner famously said it “is not worth a bucket of warm spit”. Walter Mondale said: “The office is handmade for ridicule and for dismissal. In the nature of it, you always look like a supplicant, a beggar, a person on a string.”

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  7. Kamala Harris, Gen X’s Moment, and the Fall of House Boomer

    By elevating the California senator as his running mate, Joe Biden has opened up a path for the transformation of the Democratic Party that can’t come soon enough

    California Sen. Kamala Harris at a rally launching her presidential campaign on January 27th, 2019, in Oakland. Noah Berger/AFP/Getty Images

    As a candidate in the Democratic primaries, Kamala Harris stood astride the fault lines of the Democratic Party. The Californian presented herself as an establishment politician (reaching the Senate after serving as San Francisco’s DA and California’s attorney general) whose platform was responsive to the idealism of the party’s grassroots. Harris backed the Green New Deal, a version of Medicare for All (albeit with some vacillation on the details), and marijuana legalization. Harris embodied a classic Gen X straddle: She’d navigated a path to power through a system controlled by older, whiter, more-conservative politicians, and then proposed to wield the levers of that power in the service of ideals she shared with the enormous, diverse, and progressive millennial and zoomer generations coming of age behind her.

    In the Democratic primary race, Harris’ attempt to transcend the party’s ideological and generational divides briefly sizzled, with a masterful debate performance targeting Joe Biden as a creature of the Democratic Party’s old white-guy past. But as the race bifurcated into a struggle between the stalwart (Biden) and the insurgent (Bernie Sanders), Harris’s once-promising straddle became an untenable split. She was caught between Democrats seeking safety and progressives seeking purity, and her campaign collapsed.

    Yet today, the same promise of center-left synthesis makes Harris a powerful choice for vice president. And as a woman who owns her power, Harris is now poised to sweep the party into the future — past the boomers who once promised “Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow,” but who’ve mostly thought of preserving their own political influence. Biden-Harris is the first Democratic presidential ticket in a generation not to feature a bona fide boomer. Biden, born in 1942, is a member of the Silent Generation, and would be the first of his cohort to serve in the Oval Office. Likewise, Harris, 55, promises Gen X its first taste of executive-branch power. (While many demographers mark 1965 as the beginning of Gen X, that’s, culturally speaking, horseshit. Harris was born in late 1964, the same year as Eddie Vedder, Courtney Love, Chris Cornell, Eazy-E, Sandra Bullock, Lenny Kravitz, and Keanu Reeves.)

    In the present moment, Harris balances out Biden. She brings a sense of youth and vitality and a razor sharpness to the ticket. By selecting a black woman as his running mate, Biden has kept faith with the most important constituency in the Democratic Party, and rewarded the confidence black voters placed in his primary campaign. By choosing his most successful debate antagonist as his governing partner, Biden is telegraphing his ability to make peace with fierce rivals and move forward — the essence of his political pitch to America.

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  8. Kamala Harris Is the Right Pick for Every Reason That Should Matter

    Biden chose perhaps the most incisive interrogator in Congress, who stood out in the campaign by making the case against President Trump

    Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) makes a campaign stop in Detroit in July, 2019 Brian Snyder/REUTERS

    When Joe Biden declared in March during a debate with Bernie Sanders that “there are a number of women who are qualified to be president tomorrow” and that he “would pick a woman to be my vice-president,” many celebrated it as a feminist victory. Sadly, as became evident within the last month, the search itself, along with the coverage of it, descended into a political game show complete with a healthy dose of chauvinist vocabulary.

    It was unfortunate that the Biden campaign allowed sexist slander to carry the narrative when such a historic moment lay in the wings. Though Karen Bass, Susan Rice, Elizabeth Warren, and others were certainly caricatured in their own ways, it was Kamala Harris, the eventual selection, who was attacked most directly by those claiming to be the former vice-president’s “allies.” She’s too ambitious, they said. That fair and severe blow that Harris landed on him during a primary debate, the one about school choice and her personal experience with busing? To them, it showed that she isn’t loyal. She’ll be after your job, Joe, they said, as if the White House is some corporation. Pardon the junior senator from California; she was just trying to win the presidency herself. That is allowed, yes? And don’t you want a vice-president who trained to be ready for the big job, especially when the nominee would be 78 years old on Inauguration Day?

    A man is going to be president again, one way or another. We’re a little too used to that. But Biden’s age, plus his commitment to picking a woman as his running mate, are why we ended up pondering again whether America is ready for female authority, four years after Hillary Clinton’s loss. But Harris is the correct pick for Biden for every reason that should matter, including the fact that she is black and Tamil Indian. Despite the misogyny involved in how the pick was handled, the selection of Harris herself points to a specific difference between Biden and Trump that has ramifications far beyond the two men.

    Consider why President Trump couldn’t understand the pick. He was “surprised,” he told reporters not long after the choice was announced, that Biden picked Harris after she had been so “nasty” to him, using one of his favorite insults. What the president couldn’t comprehend is why Biden, who may not serve two full terms in the Oval Office, would possibly want to prepare America for the possibility of Harris as his successor. Unlike Trump, who can’t deal with a woman challenging him from even the White House press corps, Biden recovered from the blow surely better than his “allies” did. While I surely don’t want to go anointing Biden in regards to his past behavior or attitudes toward women, it is important to note that he recognized the importance of this opportunity in selecting Harris. Harris would likely be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination in 2024 if Biden chose not to run again — and, at his age, it’s possible that she’ll be called on even before that. Biden may have well selected the first female president of the United States on Tuesday. While it would have been more heartening to see one elected outright, frankly, America may have needed the push.

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    1. Maya Rudolph Reacts to Kamala Harris Being Named Joe Biden’s Vice President Pick

      “Oh shit,” Saturday Night Live alum who impersonated the senator says

      Maya Rudolph discussed reprising her role impersonating Kamala Harris on ‘SNL’ following Joe Biden naming the senator as his VP pick.
      Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP

      Maya Rudolph, who was nominated for an Emmy earlier this month for her impersonations of Senator Kamala Harris on Saturday Night Live, will likely be reprising that role more often following the announcement that presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden has named Harris as his running mate.

      Rudolph, an SNL alumni who has frequently returned as a guest following her departure as a full-time cast member in 2007, was serving on a panel for Entertainment Weekly when the news broke on Tuesday. “Oh shit,” she exclaimed upon being informed of the news.

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  9. The Unlikely Bond Between Joe Biden and Kamala Harris

    She’s a natural talent at American politicking, just like he is.

    Scott Olson / Getty Images

    What many forget about Kamala Harris’s presidential campaign was that, for the most part, she was a happy warrior. Sure, her slash-and-burn attack on Joe Biden over busing in their first debate last June has become seared in our brains through constant repetition on cable TV.

    But that was the exception.

    What I remember is a different and more upbeat candidate on the campaign trail, a senator who gleefully laughed at her own jokes. In a speech to a largely Black audience in Florence, South Carolina, in early July of last year, Harris talked about how everyone was “going through individual and group therapy,” trying to grasp what Donald Trump was doing to America.

    Instead of rage, Harris offered her own version of hope: “We’re going to be fine.” She harked back to the Founding Fathers and their concept of checks and balances as she stressed, “This is a nation that was founded anticipating a moment just like this.” And her dramatic example was the late John McCain casting a crucial Senate vote to break with Trump and Republican orthodoxy to save the Affordable Care Act.

    This is a view of politics that Biden shares. They believe that not all Republicans are beyond salvation—and that our democracy and our values can be saved through individual acts of courage like McCain’s.

    Many volumes will be written about why Biden chose Harris. But the truest bond between them may be the simplest: They are both politicians in the best sense of the word. They understand elections, Capitol Hill, and how to be tough without losing your sense of humor.

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  10. What If Trump Won’t Leave?

    Trump is prepared to do whatever it takes to keep power. Can he be stopped?

    Illustration: Daniel Greenfeld for The Intercept

    Unfortunately, rational debate, rule-following, and conflict avoidance don’t work against autocrats.

    Events in Charlottesville, Lafayette Square, and Portland have shown the country that President Donald Trump is prepared to do whatever it takes to keep power, including embracing militant white supremacists and using federal troops to tear gas and arrest peaceful protesters. His noxious proposal to postpone the elections is not the real threat to democracy. He has openly declared that he may not abide by the election results in a nationally televised interview on Fox News. Trump has a lot of tools at his disposal to steal the election if he loses, many of which he’s already putting into motion. Can he be stopped? We believe that he can be, but only if most Americans are willing to put their trust in people power — rather than courts, norms, and elites — to save democracy.

    The evidence of the risk we face is impossible to ignore. Trump is questioning the legitimacy of an election that will rely on mail-in ballots, even though he himself has often voted absentee. He has threatened to withhold funding from states that are trying to make it easier for people to vote, and he is undermining the U.S. Postal Service, both of which are essential, especially in a pandemic. His Republican allies around the country have been passing voter ID laws, purging voter rolls, and cutting the number of polling places in urban areas, forcing people to stand in line for hours to exercise their right to vote. This is a war on voters who lean Democratic, specifically Black people, Latinos, Asian Americans, Native Americans, naturalized immigrants, poor people, and young people. We’ve already seen in Georgia and Wisconsin how these tactics play out on Election Day.

    Trump’s administration has downplayed foreign interference in the elections that benefit him. He has given succor to white nationalist groups, and the Republican Party has deputized 50,000 “poll watchers” to intimidate minority voters on Election Day. This will be the first election since 1980 during which the Republican National Committee will not be bound by a federal consent decree that prohibited “ballot security” efforts whose real purpose was to intimidate and disenfranchise minority voters. Let’s be clear: Trump and the Republicans are already trying to steal the election.

    Trump is already crying fraud with absolutely no proof and could use the days after the election to stoke hysteria, rage, and violence among his supporters.

    If all that chicanery fails and Trump still loses, most people assume that his only option is to concede defeat and leave — especially if he loses by a big margin. But let’s picture what things could look like after Election Day. The new voting procedures implemented in response to Covid-19 will make this election feel different to many voters, and will also delay the counting of ballots well past November 3. New York was still counting ballots over a month after its June 23 primary election. Most people expect a “blue shift” — meaning that Trump may be ahead in the count of votes cast on Election Day ballots but that mailed ballots will skew Democratic. Trump is already crying fraud with absolutely no proof and could use the days after the election to stoke hysteria, rage, and violence among his supporters.

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  11. How Donald Trump is driving Americans to renounce their citizenship

    The US president’s mishandling of the coronavirus crisis has helped cause a 1,200% increase in people abandoning their US citizenship this year

    If President Trump is re-elected, we believe there will be another wave of people who will decide to renounce their citizenship.’ Photograph: Alamy Stock Photo

    He may not have built his “beautiful wall”, but Donald Trump is doing an A+ job of keeping people, including his own citizens, out of the US. Record numbers of people are giving up their US citizenship, according to analysis by a New York accountancy firm. More than 5,800 Americans renounced their citizenship in the first six months of 2020, Bambridge Accountants reports, a 1,210% increase on the six months to December 2019.

    The US’s global tax reporting requirements are a major reason why many people decide to cough up the $2,350 (£1,775) fee required to officially cut ties with the US. Boris Johnson, for example, renounced his US citizenship in 2016 after complaining about the “absolutely outrageous” US tax demands. Nevertheless, it seems that Trump is sending an increasing number of expats over the edge.

    “What we’ve seen is people are over everything happening with President Donald Trump, how the coronavirus pandemic is being handled and the political policies in the US at the moment,” a partner at the firm explained to CNN. “If President Trump is re-elected, we believe there will be another wave of people who will decide to renounce their citizenship.”

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