On The Way Out 6/4/14

Does War Have a Future?

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

National officials certainly assume that war has a future. According to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, world military expenditures totaled nearly $1.75 trillion in 2013. Although, after accounting for inflation, this is a slight decrease over the preceding year, many countries increased their military spending significantly, including China, Russia, and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, 23 countries doubled their military spending between 2004 and 2013. None, of course, came anywhere near to matching the military spending of the United States, which, at $640 billion, accounted for 37 percent of 2013’s global military expenditures. Furthermore, all the nuclear weapons nations are currently “modernizing” their nuclear arsenals.

Meanwhile, countries are not only preparing for wars, but are fighting them¾sometimes overtly (as in Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan) and sometimes covertly (as in portions of Africa and the Middle East).

Nevertheless, there are some reasons why war might actually be on the way out.

One reason, of course, is its vast destructiveness. Over the past century, conventional wars (including two world wars) have slaughtered more than a hundred million people, crippled, blinded, or starved millions more, consumed vast stores of nonrenewable resources, and laid waste to large portions of the globe. And this enormous level of death, misery, and ruin will almost certainly be surpassed by the results of a nuclear war, after which, as Nikita Khrushchev once reportedly commented, the living might envy the dead. After all, Hiroshima was annihilated with one atomic bomb. Today, some 16,400 nuclear weapons are in existence, and most of them are far more powerful than the bomb that obliterated that Japanese city.

Another reason that war has become exceptionally burdensome is its enormous cost. The United States is a very wealthy nation, but when it spends half of its annual tax-collected budget on the military, as it now does, it is almost inevitable that its education, health care, housing, parks and recreational facilities, and infrastructure will suffer. That is what the AFL-CIO executive council–far from the most dovish institution in American life–concluded in 2011, when it declared: “There is no way to fund what we must do as a nation without bringing our troops home from Iraq and Afghanistan. The militarization of our foreign policy has proven to be a costly mistake. It is time to invest at home.” Many Americans seem to agree.

Furthermore, a number of developments on the world scene have facilitated the abolition of war.

One of them is the rise of mass peace movements. Many centuries ago, religious groups and theologians began to criticize war on moral grounds, and non-sectarian peace organizations began to emerge in the early nineteenth century. Even though they never had an easy time of it in a world accustomed to war, these organizations became a very noticeable and, at times, powerful force in the twentieth century and beyond. Drawing upon prominent figures like Albert Einstein and Bertrand Russell, sparking new thinking about international relations and world peace, and mobilizing millions of people against war, peace groups created a major social movement that government officials could not entirely ignore.

Another new development¾one originally proposed by peace organizations¾is the establishment of international institutions to prevent war. The vast destruction wrought by World War I provided a powerful incentive for Woodrow Wilson and other officials to organize the League of Nations to prevent further disasters. Although the League proved too weak and nations too unwilling to limit their sovereignty for this goal to be accomplished, the enormous carnage and chaos of World War II led government officials to give world governance another try. The resulting institution, the United Nations, proved somewhat more successful than the League at averting war and resolving conflicts, but, like its predecessor, suffered from the fact that it remained weak while the ambitions of nations (and particularly those of the great powers) remained strong. Even so, the United Nations now provides an important framework that can be strengthened to foster international law and the peaceful resolution of international disputes.

Yet another new factor on the world scene–one also initiated by peace activists–is the development of nonviolent resistance. As staunch humanitarians, peace activists had pacifist concerns and human rights concerns that sometimes pulled them in opposite directions–for example, during the worldwide struggle against fascist aggression. But what if it were possible to battle for human rights without employing violence? This became the basis for nonviolent resistance, which was not only utilized in dramatic campaigns led by Mohandas Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr., but in mass movements that, subsequently, have challenged and toppled governments. Indeed, nonviolent resistance has become a new, powerful, and more successful tool for people to drawn upon in conflicts without slaughtering one another.

In addition, the modern world has produced many other alternatives to mass violence. Why not expand international exchange and peace studies programs in the schools? Why not dispatch teams of psychologists, social workers, conflict resolution specialists, mediators, negotiators, and international law experts to conflict zones to work out settlements among the angry disputants? Why not provide adequate food, meaningful employment, education, and hospitals to poverty-stricken people around the world, thus undermining the desperation and instability that often lead to violence? Wouldn’t the U.S. government be receiving a friendlier reception in many countries today if it had used the trillions of dollars it spent on war preparations and destruction to help build a more equitable, prosperous world?

Of course, this scenario might depend too much on the ability of people to employ reason in world affairs. Perhaps the rulers of nations, learning nothing since the time of Alexander the Great, will continue to mobilize their citizens for war until only small bands of miserable survivors roam a barren, charred, radioactive wasteland.

But it’s also possible that people will finally acquire enough sense to alter their self-destructive behavior.

Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com), syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is “What’s Going On at UAardvark?” (Solidarity Press), a satirical novel about campus life.

 

Faculty Plight 5/28/14

University Presidents Are Laughing All the Way to the Bank While the People Who Work for Them Are on Food Stamps

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

Is economic inequality growing in American higher education?

A report just issued by the Institute for Policy Studies―The One Percent at State U―indicates that it is. Surveying public universities, the report finds that the 25 highest-paid presidents increased their income by a third between fiscal 2009 and fiscal 2012, bringing their average total compensation to nearly a million dollars each. Also, the number of these chief executives earning over a million dollars in 2012 more than doubled over the previous year. In 2013, the best-paid among them was E. Gordon Gee of Ohio State University, who raked in $6,057,615 from this employment.

The lucrative nature of these positions appears to have had little to do with the intellectual distinction of the universities. For example, in 2013 the second most lavishly-rewarded public university president (paid $1,636,274) headed up Texas A&M University at College Station and the eighth (paid $1,072,121) headed up the University of South Alabama, two institutions that are not usually considered the acme of intellectual achievement. By contrast, the presidents of some of the nation’s most respected public universities―the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of California-Berkeley, UCLA, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst―received total annual compensation that ranged from $400,664 and $467,699.

Nor is it at all clear that the top income recipients at universities merit their extraordinary compensation. Graham Spanier, the highest-paid public university president in 2012 (Penn State, $2.9 million), was fired from his post for his apparent role in the cover-up of sexual abuse of children by his university’s assistant football coach. E. Gordon Gee, the highest-paid public university president in 2013, resigned his position amid a trustee uproar over his disparaging remarks about Catholics.

Meanwhile, as the incomes of the 25 best-paid public university presidents soared, the livelihoods of their faculty deteriorated. This deterioration resulted largely from the fact that tenured and tenure-track faculty were replaced with adjuncts (part-time instructors, paid by the course) and contingents (temporary faculty). Median pay for adjuncts in the United States is reportedly $2,700 per course, forcing them to cobble together enough courses or jobs to ensure their survival. Many have incomes below the official poverty level and receive food stamps. As for contingents, they face low pay, few if any benefits, and no job security. In recent years―as the income of the 25 best-paid public university presidents grew dramatically―their hiring of adjunct and contingent faculty far outstripped their hiring of regular faculty at their institutions. Consequently, although tenure and tenure-line faculty at these 25 universities outnumbered contingent and part-time faculty prior to the fall of 2009, the situation was reversed by the fall of 2011.

Of course, this change in the working conditions and economic circumstances of college and university faculty is not unusual. In 1969, tenured and tenure-track faculty comprised 78 percent of all instructional staff in higher education. Today that situation has been turned on its head, and the American Association of University Professors estimates that 76 percent of college and university instructors are contingents, adjuncts, and graduate students. Consequently, most college and university teachers are now in an economically marginal status. The plight of the faculty is particularly remarkable at the 25 public universities with the highest-paid presidents, where its growing marginality occurred in the context of soaring incomes for the top administrators.

And the inequality may be even greater at private universities, where a great many more presidents have outlandish incomes. According to the data provided by the Chronicle of Higher Education, there were fourteen times as many private as public university presidents receiving more than a million dollars each in 2011 (the latest year for which statistics seem to be available). Consequently, the enrichment of top administrators, coupled with the shift to adjunct and contingent faculty, means that economic inequality is thriving on private campuses, as well.

Students comprise another university constituency that is faring poorly. The rapidly-rising tuition at public and private institutions has sent student debt climbing to unprecedented levels. In 2012, students owed a staggering $1.2 trillion, an amount that surpassed Americans’ credit card debt. Indeed, it is estimated that, in 2013, 71 percent of college seniors who graduated had student loan debt, with an average of $29,400 per borrower. Meanwhile, university spending on scholarships lagged far behind spending on non-academic administration, such as executive administration, general university administration, legal and fiscal operations, public relations, and development. Between fiscal 2007 and fiscal 2012, the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities reduced spending on scholarships by 55 percent while increasing spending on non-academic administration by 44 percent.

Looked at in the framework of individual campuses, it is a disturbing picture.

From fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2012, Ohio State paid its president a total of $5.9 million. Student debt soared, rising 46 percent from summer 2006 to summer 2011. From fall 2005 to fall 2011, the number of adjunct and contingent faculty increased 62 percent―nearly three times faster than the national average.

In fiscal 2012, Penn State awarded $2.9 million in salary and severance pay to its disgraced president. From fiscal 2006 to fiscal 2012, it provided another $4.8 million in executive compensation, while student debt grew by 49 percent.

From fiscal 2010 to fiscal 2012, the University of Michigan paid its top executive more than $2.6 million. The number of its adjunct and contingent faculty grew by 1,777, or 64 percent, between fall 2005 and fall 2011, and by the summer of 2012 student debt was well above the national average.

Overall, then, higher education seems to be following the general pattern of modern American life―one that favors the wealthy at the expense of everyone else.

Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com), syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is “What’s Going On at UAardvark?” (Solidarity Press), a satirical novel about campus life.

Seven Times Russia 5/14/14

The Limits of Military Power

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

Is overwhelming national military power a reliable source of influence in world affairs?

If so, the United States should certainly have plenty of influence today. For decades, it has been the world’s Number 1 military spender. And it continues in this role. According to a recent report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the United States spent $640 billion on the military in 2013, thus accounting for 37 percent of world military expenditures. The two closest competitors, China and Russia, accounted for 11 percent and 5 percent respectively. Thus, last year, the United States spent more than three times as much as China and more than seven times as much as Russia on the military.

In this context, the U.S. government’s inability to get its way in world affairs is striking. In the current Ukraine crisis, the Russian government does not seem at all impressed by the U.S. government’s strong opposition to its behavior. Also, the Chinese government, ignoring Washington’s protests, has laid out ambitious territorial claims in the East and South China Seas. Even much smaller, weaker nations have been snubbing the advice of U.S. officials. Israel has torpedoed U.S. attempts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace settlement, the embattled Syrian government has been unwilling to negotiate a transfer of power, and North Korea remains as obdurate as ever when it comes to scuttling its nuclear weapons program.

Of course, hawkish critics of the Obama administration say that it lacks influence in these cases because it is unwilling to use the U.S. government’s vast military power in war.

But is this true? The Obama administration channeled very high levels of military manpower and financial resources into lengthy U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and ended up with precious little to show for this investment. Furthermore, in previous decades, the U.S. government used its overwhelming military power in a number of wars without securing its goals. The bloody Korean War, for example, left things much as they were before the conflict began, with the Korean peninsula divided and a ruthless dictatorship in place in the north. The lengthy and costly Vietnam War led to a humiliating defeat for the United States — not because the U.S. government lacked enormous military advantages, but because, ultimately, the determination of the Vietnamese to gain control of their own country proved more powerful than U.S. weaponry.

Even CIA ventures drawing upon U.S. military power have produced a very mixed result. Yes, the CIA, bolstered by U.S. military equipment, managed to overthrow the Guatemalan government in 1954. But, seven years later, the CIA-directed, -funded, and -equipped invasion at Cuba’s Bay of Pigs failed to topple the Castro government when the Cuban public failed to rally behind the U.S.-instigated effort. Although the U.S. government retains an immense military advantage over its Cuban counterpart, with which it retains a hostile relationship, this has not secured the United States any observable influence over Cuban policy.

The Cold War confrontation between the U.S. and Soviet governments is particularly instructive. For decades, the two governments engaged in an arms race, with the United States clearly in the lead. But the U.S. military advantage did not stop the Soviet government from occupying Eastern Europe, crushing uprisings against Soviet domination in Hungary and Czechoslovakia, or dispatching Soviet troops to take control of Afghanistan. Along the way, U.S. hawks sometimes called for war with the Soviet Union. But, in fact, U.S. and Soviet military forces never clashed. What finally produced a love fest between Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev and ended the Cold War was a strong desire by both sides to replace confrontation with cooperation, as indicated by the signing of substantial nuclear disarmament agreements.

Similarly, the Iranian and U.S. governments, which have been on the worst of terms for decades, appear to be en route to resolving their tense standoff — most notably over the possible development of Iranian nuclear weapons — through diplomacy. It remains unclear if this momentum toward a peaceful settlement results from economic sanctions or from the advent of a reformist leadership in Tehran. But there is no evidence that U.S. military power, which has always been far greater than Iran’s, has played a role in fostering it.

Given this record, perhaps military enthusiasts in the United States and other nations should consider whether military power is a reliable source of influence in world affairs. After all, just because you possess a hammer doesn’t mean that every problem you face is a nail.

Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com), syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is “What’s Going On at UAardvark?” (Solidarity Press), a satirical novel about campus life.

The Golden Rule 4/16/14

America’s Peace Ship

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Is there an emotional connection between the oceans and the pursuit of peace?  For whatever reason, peace ships have been increasing in number over the past century.

Probably the first of these maritime vessels was the notorious Ford Peace Ship of 1915, which stirred up more ridicule than peace during World War I.

Almost forty years later, another peace ship appeared― the Lucky Dragon, a Japanese fishing boat showered with radioactive fallout from an enormous U.S. H-bomb explosion on March 1, 1954, in the Marshall Islands.  By the time the stricken vessel reached its home port in Japan, the 23 crew members were in advanced stages of radiation poisoning.  One of them died.  This “Lucky Dragon incident” set off a vast wave of popular revulsion at nuclear weapons testing, and mass nuclear disarmament organizations were established in Japan and, later, around the world.  Thus, the Lucky Dragon became a peace ship, and today is exhibited as such in Tokyo in a Lucky Dragon Museum, built and maintained by Japanese peace activists.

Later voyages forged an even closer link between ocean-going vessels and peace.  In 1971, Canadian activists, departing from Vancouver, sailed a rusting fishing trawler, the Phyllis Cormack, toward the Aleutians in an effort to disrupt plans for a U.S. nuclear weapons explosion on Amchitka Island.  Although arrested by the U.S. coast guard before they could reach the test site, the crew members not only mobilized thousands of supporters, but laid the basis for a new organization, Greenpeace.  Authorized by Greenpeace, another Canadian, David McTaggart, sailed his yacht, the Vega, into the French nuclear testing zone in the Pacific, where the French navy deliberately rammed and crippled this peace ship.  In 1973, when McTaggart and theVega returned with a new crew, French sailors, dispatched by their government, stormed aboard and beat them savagely with truncheons.

During the late 1970s and early 1980s, peace ships multiplied.  At major ports in New Zealand and Australia, peace squadrons of sailboats and other small craft blocked the entry of U.S. nuclear warships into the harbors.  Also, Greenpeace used the Rainbow Warrior to spark resistance to nuclear testing throughout the Pacific.  Even after 1985, when French secret service agents attached underwater mines to this Greenpeace flagship as it lay in the harbor of Auckland, New Zealand, blowing it up and murdering a Greenpeace photographer in the process, the peace ships kept coming.

Much of this this maritime assault upon nuclear testing and nuclear war was inspired by an American peace ship, the Golden Rule.

The remarkable story of the Golden Rule began with Albert Bigelow, a retired World War II U.S. naval commander.  Appalled by the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, he became a Quaker and, in 1955, working with the American Friends Service Committee, sought to deliver a petition against nuclear testing to the White House.  Rebuffed by government officials, Bigelow and other pacifists organized a small group, Non-Violent Action Against Nuclear Weapons, to employ nonviolent resistance in the struggle against the Bomb.  After the U.S. government announced plans to set off nuclear bomb blasts near Eniwetok in the Marshall Islands―an island chain governed by the United States as a “trust territory” for the native people―Bigelow and other pacifists decided to sail a 30-foot vessel of protest, the Golden Rule, into the nuclear testing zone.  Explaining their decision, Bigelow declared:  “All nuclear explosions are monstrous, evil, unworthy of human beings.”

In January 1958, Bigelow and three other crew members wrote to President Dwight Eisenhower, announcing their plans.  As might be expected, the U.S. government was quite displeased, and top officials from the State Department, the Atomic Energy Commission, and the U.S. Navy conferred anxiously on how to cope with the pacifist menace.  Eventually, the administration decided to ban entry into the test zone.

Thus, after Bigelow and his crew sailed the Golden Rule from the West Coast to Honolulu, a U.S. federal court issued an injunction barring the continuation of its journey to Eniwetok.  Despite the legal ramifications, the pacifists set sail.  Arrested on the high seas, they were brought back to Honolulu, tried, convicted, and placed on probation.  Then, intrepid as ever, they set out once more for the bomb test zone, were arrested, were tried, and—this time―sentenced to prison terms.

Meanwhile, their dramatic voyage inspired an outpouring of popular protest.  Antinuclear demonstrations broke out across the United States.  The newly-formed National Committee for a Sane Nuclear Policy went on the offensive.  Moreover, an American anthropologist, Earle Reynolds, along with his wife Barbara and their two children, continued the mission of the Golden Rule on board their sailboat, the Phoenix.  In July 1958, they entered the nuclear testing zone.  That August, facing a storm of hostile public opinion, President Eisenhower announced that the United States was halting its nuclear tests while preparing to negotiate a test ban with the Soviet Union.

Even as test ban negotiations proceeded fitfully, leading to the Partial Test Ban Treaty of 1963 and, ultimately, to the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty of 1996, the Golden Rule dropped out of sight.  Then, in early 2010, the vessel was discovered, wrecked and sunk in northern California’s Humboldt Bay.  Contacted by historians about preserving the Golden Rule for posterity, officials at the Smithsonian Museum proved uninterested.  But peace activists recognized the vessel’s significance.  Within a short time, local chapters of Veterans for Peace established the Golden Rule Project to restore the battered ketch.

Thanks to volunteer labor and financial contributions from these U.S. veterans and other supporters, the ship has been largely rebuilt, and funds are currently being raised for the final stage of the project.  Veterans for Peace hope to take the ship back to sea in 2014 on its new mission: “educating future generations on the importance of the ocean environment, the risks of nuclear technology, and the need for world peace.”

As a result, the Golden Rule will sail again, restored to its role as America’s most important peace ship.

Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com), syndicated by PeaceVoice, is

Lawrence Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is “What’s Going On at UAardvark?” (Solidarity Press), a satirical novel about campus life.

 

Bad New From Your Doc 4/16/14

Your Doctors Are Worried

By Lawrence S. Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

Lawrence Wittner

Your doctors are worried about your health, in fact, about your very survival.

No, they’re not necessarily your own personal physicians, but, rather, medical doctors around the world, represented by groups like International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).  As you might recall, that organization, composed of many thousands of medical professionals from all across the globe, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1985 for exposing the catastrophic effects of nuclear weapons.

Well, what seems to be the problem today?

The problem, as a new IPPNW report indicates, is that the world is showing growing symptoms of a terminal illness.  In a nuclear war involving as few as 100 weapons anywhere in the world, the report noted, the global climate and agricultural production would be affected so severely that the lives of more than 2 billion people would be in jeopardy.  Even the use of the relatively small nuclear arsenals of India and Pakistan could cause terrible, long lasting damage to the Earth’s ecosystems.  The ensuing economic collapse and massive starvation would throw the world into chaos.

And this is just a small portion of the looming nuclear catastrophe.

Today, some 17,300 nuclear weapons remain in the arsenals of nine nations, and their use would not only dramatically exacerbate climate disruption, but would create almost unbelievable horrors caused by their enormous blast, immense firestorms, and radioactive contamination.

The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), founded by IPPNW in 2007, reports that a single nuclear weapon, detonated over a large city, “could kill millions of people in an instant.”  Subsequently, many additional people would die of burns and other injuries, disease, and cancer.

Residents of the United States and Russia, two nations currently engaged in an international brawl, might be particularly interested in the fact that their countries possess over 16,000 nuclear weapons, including about 2,000 of them on hair-trigger alert, ready for use within minutes.  According to the ICAN report, if only 500 of these weapons were to hit major U.S. and Russian cities, “100 million people would die in the first half an hour, and tens of millions would be fatally injured.  Huge swaths of both countries would be blanketed by radioactive fallout.”  Furthermore, “most Americans and Russians would die in the following months from radiation sickness and disease epidemics.”

These unnerving reports from IPPNW and ICAN are reinforced by warnings from the World Health Organization (WHO).  “Nuclear weapons constitute the greatest immediate threat to the health and welfare of mankind,” that respected international organization has reported.  “It is obvious that no health service in any area of the world would be capable of dealing adequately with the hundreds of thousands of people seriously injured by blast, heat, or radiation from even a single one-megaton bomb.”  The WHO went on to declare:  “To the immediate catastrophe must be added the long-term effects on the environment.  Famine and diseases would be widespread, and social and economic systems would be totally disrupted.”

Despite the warnings from the medical profession that, in the words of ICAN, “nuclear weapons are the most destructive, inhumane, and indiscriminate instruments of mass murder ever created,” the nine nuclear powers seem in no hurry to get rid of them¾or at least to get rid of their own.  The United States has possessed nuclear weapons for almost 69 years; Russia for almost 65.  Despite their repeated promises, in the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) of 1970 and in later circumstances, to engage in nuclear disarmament, they still possess about 95 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.  Both countries, in fact, are now engaged in nuclear “modernization” programs, with the Obama administration proposing to upgrade nuclear weapons and build new nuclear submarines, missiles, and bombers at an estimated cost of somewhere between $355 billion and $1 trillion over the next 30 years.

Although the other kinds of weapons of mass destruction are banned by treaty, there are no plans by the nuclear powers to negotiate a treaty banning nuclear weapons.  Indeed, given the current U.S.-Russia confrontation, it seems unlikely that there will be progress on much smaller-scale arms control and disarmament agreements.

That’s the bad news from your doctors.

The good news is that you and other people around the world aren’t dead yet and that there’s still time to change the destructive behavior of your national leaders.  Actually, some opportunities are opening up along these lines.  At a February 2014 conference in Mexico drawing official representatives from 146 nations (but boycotted by the nuclear powers), there was strong support for a treaty banning nuclear weapons, and the Austrian government will host a follow-up conference later this year.  Also, an international NPT Preparatory Conference will begin in late April and an international NPT Review Conference will be held the following spring.  Meanwhile, two pieces of legislation have been introduced in the U.S. Congress¾the SANE Act in the Senate and the Rein-In Act in the House¾that would cut the bloated U.S. nuclear weapons budget by $100 billion over the next ten years.  So who knows?  If you and others take some preventive action, you might even avoid the terminal illness that now awaits you.

Anyway, good luck with it.  You deserve a chance to survive.  In fact, we all do.

Lawrence Wittner (http://lawrenceswittner.com), syndicated by PeaceVoice, is Professor of History emeritus at SUNY/Albany. His latest book is “What’s Going On at UAardvark?” (Solidarity Press), a satirical novel about campus life.

 

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