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Letters to the Editor for Feb. 25, 2013

Harry Reid doesn’t deserve to be a U.S. senator

I attended Congressman Greg Walden’s town hall meeting and was favorably impressed with some of the bills that the existing House has passed. However, it appears that most of them are being ignored by the Senate and therefore just sit with no action taken.

Obviously it is Senator Harry Reid who is dictating this refusal to bring these bills up before the Senate. The following information about Senator Reid is compiled from the February 2013 Judicial Watch publication. Senator Reid has been the Chinese ENN Energy Group’s most prominent advocate. His son Rory Reid is a principal in a Las Vegas law firm that represents ENN. He helped locate a 9,000-acre desert site in Clark County where Rory formerly chaired the county commission. Rory then put together a purchase for ENN that good old Harry brought to town. Purchase price $4.5 million. Two separate appraisals were for $29.6 million and the other for $38.6 million! However, this project seems stalled because there is no current market in Nevada for the green energy ENN claims it could produce.

 However, this is nothing new for the Reid family. The Senate majority leader secured $21.5 million to build a bridge over the Colorado River to connect Laughlin, Nev., with Bullhead City, Ariz., where Reid owns 160 acres of land. Senator Harry Reid has sponsored at least $47 million in earmarks that directly benefited one of his sons, Key Reid, who either lobbies for or is affiliated with these various organizations.

Whether one is a Democrat or a Republican, when is this political corruption going to stop? It is an absolute disgrace that one of the highest elected officials has all this power and continually flaunts it. Facts are facts.

He does not deserve to be a United States senator.

Gary McManus

Baker City


Online database a treasure trove of Baker’s history

By Jayson Jacoby

Baker City Herald Editor

I learned recently that a meteorite landed in Baker County during the Great Depression.

Or maybe it didn’t.

The surviving records on the matter fall somewhat short of conclusive.

Nonetheless, the lack of certainty about this possible extraterrestrial incident in no way detracts from the value of the digital treasure trove of which the meteorite story is but one glittering fragment.

I credit a couple of recent articles with leading me to this historical cornucopia.

Although to be honest, given that I have more than a passing interest in both history and geology I ought to have stumbled long ago across the online archives of the Oregon Department of Geology and Mineral Industries (DOGAMI).

I was looking for background first for a story about the new exhibit for the gold display at U.S. Bank’s Baker City branch, and later for an article about “Ghost Mine,” the Syfy channel series filmed last summer near Sumpter.

I didn’t dig up much that aided either story.

But I didn’t mind, because DOGAMI’s database is so rich in compelling detail that I could easily have dawdled half a day away poking around in photocopies of decades-old documents, some rendered in the rough scrawl of a long-dead geologist.

The website, by the way, is www.oregongeology.org/sub/milo/index-miningrecords.htm.

There’s a separate index for each county.

(Well, almost. Two of Oregon’s 36 counties — Benton and Clatsop — aren’t represented.)

Baker County boasts one of longer lists of documents, as you’d expect given the area’s extensive mining legacy.

One item caught my eye right off, in part because its title seemed to have little if anything to do with mining: “Baker Meteor Impact Crater Report.”

The one-page, typewritten report, dated April 23, 1968, bears the name of N.S. Wagner. That’s Norman Wagner, a DOGAMI geologist who was for many years in charge of the agency’s office in Baker City.

According to Wagner’s report, a meteorite supposedly landed during the winter of either 1933 or 1934 on a placer mining claim along Wilson Creek, about 10 miles southwest of Baker City.

The owners of the claim found the alleged impact crater when they arrived in the spring to start mining for the season.  Wagner, going off the miners’ story, describes the crater as a “trough some 10 feet wide by 15 feet long,” 

The miners also noticed that a large branch had been snapped off a tree beside the trough, and “chunks of frozen ground were reportedly nested in the branches of some small trees located adjacent to the end of the trough.” 

Wagner mentions a photograph of the scene that a friend of the miners supposedly had, but if the geologist obtained the photo, or learned anything more about the incident, it seems that no record of his findings survives.

Beyond the obvious lure of this tale — meteorites are pretty rare, after all — I was fascinated by a brief passage from Wagner’s report that seems to me a poignant, if unconventional, anecdote about why the Great Depression of the 1930s acquired its capital letter designation.

The miners, Wagner writes, were initially intrigued by the possibility that a chunk of interstellar stone had crashed into their placer claim.

But rather than devote their summer to digging around for strange-looking rocks, the miners apparently got back to business. Wagner wrote: “they didn’t do very much digging because of the need of offsetting the prevailing Depression conditions by getting hard cash from the mine.”

In other words, times are tough, bud, so get the stars out of your eyes and find some gold.

Gold, of course, is the metal that lured miners in their thousands to plumb Baker County’s placers and lodes. And DOGAMI’s records for the county are dominated by reports and newspaper clippings dealing with the search for, and extraction of, gold.

But the voluminous written history also includes a few unusual nuggets.

“John Hunter Coal Mine,” for instance.

I was no more aware of the presence of coal in Baker County than I was of a purported meteorite impact crater.

And as it turns out, the county never came close to becoming the Pennsylvania of the West.

But there is some coal out there.

The Hunter mine was discovered in 1937, according to a report written the following year by John Eliot Allen, another eminent Oregon geologist.

Allen, who died in 1996, joined DOGAMI in 1937 and later started the geology department at Portland State University. He wrote a geology column for The Oregonian in the 1980s and later co-authored “Hiking Oregon’s Geology” with Ellen Morris Bishop. Allen’s autobiography, “Bin Rock and Dump Rock: Recollections of a Geologist,” was published posthumously in 1997.

The Hunter coal deposit, according to Allen’s report, is about 500 feet south of the Powder River near Boulder Gorge, about midway between Baker City and Sumpter.

After confirming by map that the site is on public land, I figured I’d strap on snowshoes and try to find the place and see if any remnants remained. Allen mentioned in his report a “blacksmith shop, mine car, and track, small hoist, a good cabin on property.”

It is purely coincidental that the date of my hike, Jan. 19, was just three days short of 74 years from the day Allen collected ore samples from the 200-foot-long tunnel that had been dug (presumably by Hunter and his associates) into the surrounding basalt.

Allen makes no mention of how he got to the prospect.

But at least he made it, which is more than I can say for myself.

The biggest problem is the river.

Or, rather, the lack of a bridge.

I distrust the solidity of river ice, even in the midst of a long cold snap, so I drove to the nearest public bridge, which is about two miles upriver at the Powder River Recreation Area.

My topographic map implied a straightforward route, but I’m forever falling for its promises, like a oft-jilted lover, or a man who can’t resist the siren call of the roulette wheel.

Anyway, once I had slogged through the sugary, thigh-deep snow — even with my Sasquatch-like appendages I was plunging clear through to the ground — to a point I thought was pretty close to the old prospect, there was a 100-foot gorge in the way and it was getting near to lunch time so I turned back.

I suspect Allen was more determined than I am. Besides which he had a coal sample to hack out of the tunnel.

Of course miners, often as not, didn’t find what they were looking for either.

The haphazard nature of their enterprise is captured quite nicely in a report for the Tom Paine Mine, an operation in the Elkhorns west of Baker City.

In a letter dated April 30, 1938, Albert V. Quine, a mining geologist at DOGAMI’s Baker City office, describes the digging going on at the Tom Paine as being “in the same manner as one would consult a ouija board — it wanders all over the country here and there....”

In a separate report, dated three days earlier, Quine wrote that work at the Tom Paine “seems to start nowhere and evidently heading for the same place.”

Quine’s analysis of the miners’ methods is a trifle harsh, I suppose.

But it’s also refreshingly straightforward, a quality that has not distinguished government documents in the ensuing decades.


Letter to the Editor Feb. 22, 2013

Eighth-graders at BHS poses too great a risk

I read the Feb. 13 editorial in the Baker City Herald applauding Judge Greg Baxter, D.A. Matt Shirtcliff and me for raising awareness about the legal difficulties that could occur if a 16- to 19-year-old “has sex” with a 13-year-old eighth-grader. Allow me to further raise this awareness.

On Aug. 15, 2012, a Grant County grand jury indicted a man on a Measure 11 offense — sexual abuse in the first degree — for kissing a girl under the age of 14. Sexual abuse in the first degree is a crime that would require a person, if convicted, to register as a sex offender for life and go to prison for 75 months without early release for any reason. A colleague of mine is currently defending a man on a sexual abuse in the first degree charge for touching the knee of a 13-year-old. I frankly don’t know whether these charges will “stick,” but the fact that a prosecutor got a grand jury to indict a citizen on the charge is enough for me to want to further clarify that it does not require “sex” to face ghastly Measure 11 consequences and of the legal perils older high school students may face if we put eighth-graders in BHS.

The editorial points out that teenagers don’t restrict their socialization to school. While it may be true that relationships can develop anywhere — not just at school – I am pretty sure the vast majority of teen relationships start when the two meet at school.

Kids mature much quicker these days than when I grew up. If you don’t believe me, pay the Middle School a visit at take a look at the eighth-graders. Putting them in the same corridors where perhaps a third of the students they see are more than three years older than they are (and thus can be charged with Measure 11 offenses if they so much as kiss) is too great a risk.

J. Robert Moon

Baker City


Letters to the Editor for Feb. 20, 2013

Don’t devalue sacrifice, but keep airport’s name

Thank you, Baker City Council, for delaying a decision on the name change of our local airport.

The bravery in battle, and the ensuing loss of Mabry J. Anders, touched us all, and I do not devalue in any way his sacrifice.

However, I prefer the name of Heilner Field to remain as is. Those of us that knew the Heilner family recall their donation of land and monetary assistance to develop this historic entity. Let’s keep the honor bestowed earlier.

Phyllis Badgley

Baker City

Superintendent puts personal spin on school proposal

The governor’s plan states that by 2025, Oregon will ensure that: (1) 40 percent of adults will have earned a bachelor’s degree or higher; (2) 40 percent of adults will have earned an associate degree or post-secondary credential; and (3) 20 percent of adults will have earned a high school diploma, modified high school diploma or the equivalent. Which means Salem will “ensure” 80 percent of Baker County residents will have a college degree by 2025, and 100 percent with a high school diploma. This requires an annual compact agreement from each of Oregon’s 197 school districts, 17 community colleges, and 19 education service districts. The compact is a nonbinding agreement with the state regarding our plans to accomplish the 40-40-20, and would carry no financial rewards or penalties.

I personally feel this plan has good intentions, but unrealistic goals. Oregon would have to send about 650,000 Oregonians back to school to reach 40-40-20 by 2025. Be advised the 40-40-20 plan is not funded or set in stone.

Sending eighth-graders to the high school for advanced high school credit is the superintendent’s plan, not the governor’s plan. Exploiting parents by encouraging them to send eighth-graders to the high school is completely spinning the 40-40-20 plan. Wegener saying “it’s part of the governor’s plan to reform education in Oregon” is spinning the truth. Eighth graders’ taking high school credit is not required by law, it is allowed by law. Sending numerous amounts of eighth-graders to the high school for advanced credit is unwise, unsafe, and unrealistic.

Our primary focus in the 40-40-20 should be 100 percent graduation from high school, not graduating high school with a college degree. Setting quotas and pressuring unprepared students to take college credits may be “financially” rewarding to the district, but damaging to the student.

The superintendent’s attitude in relation to these changes is disheartening, recently stating “I have a personal spin, of course, about cause, effect and results.” The community deserves honest information, not a personal agenda. I encourage the community to research the 40-40-20 plan, and not rely on biased information from the school district.

Kyle Knight

Baker School Board member

Baker City

Choose another local site to honor Mabry Anders

A proposal may come before the Baker City Council on Tuesday, Feb. 26, to rename Heilner Field (Baker City Municipal Airport)  to honor US Army Spc. Mabry J. Anders, who was killed last August while on active duty in Afghanistan. 

Baker County has had many soldiers who have made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our freedom, including U.S. Army Cpl. Jessica Ellis in Iraq in 2008, and Medal of Honor winner U.S. Army Sergeant John Noble Holcomb during the Vietnam War. There are many others, as evidenced in the listing of war dead at the Baker County Courthouse and in our local cemeteries.

I wish in no way to diminish the sacrifice of Spc. Anders.  But I feel it would be more appropriate for our City Council to designate a currently unnamed street, grove of trees, or other site after Spc. Anders than to override the Heilner name which has deep ties in our community and our local heritage. 

Joyce Badgley Hunsaker

Baker City


Impaired drivers are all a danger

So who’s the bigger road hazard, the driver who just guzzled a six-pack of beer, or the driver who’s high on legal, synthetic “bath salts?”

The answer, of course, is neither.

Or, rather, both.

Oregon’s goal should be to keep all intoxicated people from driving; the substance that causes the intoxication isn’t relevant.

Except it is, under current state law.

Oregon is one of five states that limits the substances that can be considered in a case when a driver is suspected of driving while intoxicated.

House Bill 2115, which the Legislature is considering this session, would broaden the current definitions, which include alcohol, controlled substances and inhalants, to include any drug, including prescriptions, “that adversely affects a person’s physical or mental faculties to a noticeable or perceptible degree.”

We urge lawmakers to pass the bill, and to join the 45 states which recognize that a variety of substances can render a person unfit to drive a motor vehicle.

Critics contend the bill is too broadly written.

But the legislation does allow drivers accused of being intoxicated to claim, as a defense, that they properly used a medication and that it caused a reaction that “could not reasonably be contemplated.”

The bottom line for us is that when an impaired driver veers across the dotted line and collides with another car, it’s of no consequence whether the driver at fault was drunk, or groggy from cold medicine.

The purpose of the law should be to discourage people in either condition from getting behind the wheel.


Letter to the Editor Feb. 18, 2012

Letter writer attacks messenger, not the message

When I was in college, we were taught that when you are in a debate with someone, you should pay attention to your opponent’s points and show that what he is saying is incorrect. Recently I wrote a letter to the editor, discussing some of the inherent difficulties wind-generated electricity has to deal with. One fellow disagreed with me strongly enough to write his own letter. However, he did not use the above debating tactic.

My letter began with the statement, “Electricity from wind farms costs around four times as much as that produced by conventional electrical generators.” Now is this statement true or false? My critic never says.

A second statement was, “…once the towers are in place, their fuel is both free and inexhaustible.” My critic claims that I said, “once … the windmills are churning, the power is free.” He has misquoted me.

Another statement was that the wind is variable; sometimes it does not blow, and when it is blowing, it has both gusts and lulls. Anyone doubt that this statement is true?

My fourth point was that because the wind is inconsistent, a wind farm must be paired with a set of conventional generators. Again, my critic doesn’t say if that statement is true or not.

He does offer the example of acquaintances that depend upon wind and solar power. These “doughty pioneers” use batteries to smooth out their uneven generation of electricity. And this technique does work quite well for individual households. Unfortunately, it’s not an option for wind farms, as there is no practical way to store large amounts of electricity.

And so on.

The tactic my critic does use is ancient: If you don’t like the message, shoot the messenger. His letter is filled with unflattering comments about me. But how accurate are his statements? He claims, for example, that I own a rundown deli. Now my wife did operate a successful deli for a number of years, but it was sold when we retired in 2006. The building now is home to Canyon Creek Candle Company.

’Nuff said.        

Pete Sundin

Baker City

Cell tower could deface area, affect pilot safety

Coyote Peak has a cement foundation on it that is left over from a beacon that was secured upon it. This beacon is long since gone.

It lined up with the main runway No. 30 at the Baker Airport. Depending on how planes leave or approach the landing strip, any structure could affect their safety.

From this high point is one of the best views of Baker Valley that is easily accessed by car. This was/is old Baisley Elkhorn mine property.

Most important, the people of Haines and surrounding area should not have their area defaced by anything, let alone 199 feet of tower.

Keith Best

Baker City

Soroptimists say thank you to assistance programs

Regarding the article printed Jan. 30, 2013, we would like to say “hats off” to the Domestic Violence Intervention Program offered by the Northeast Oregon Compassion Center and Andy Micka. Those involved, including Baker County Parole and Probation officers, MayDay, and the Compassion Center have helped those struggling with outside influences, salvaging their lives.

As Soroptimist International of Baker County strongly endorses and supports these efforts, we would like to say thank you to the volunteers and supporters and all others involved who are not ever mentioned. You do so much for our little community.

Thank you all.

Holly McKim

President, Soroptimist International of Baker County

Honor heroes in a way other than renaming airport

I think renaming Heilner Field is a bad idea. He represents quite a large community of Jewish citizens and merchants from our past. If we remove all the reminders of them (with the exception, of course, of Leo Adler) I fear people will forget their history here, which would be a shame. I dealt with a good number of them and was always treated fairly and warmly. I’m sorry they are no longer a part of our community. I miss them and feel we should never fail to honor their contribution to our city.

 I suggest instead, that we name a school or park for our fallen heroes.  A school, in particular, would give teachers an opportunity to tell the children about them and what they contributed to our lives. There could be an annual “recognition day” to name several of our servicemen and women who have made the supreme sacrifice for their country. Their names are all posted on the memorial in front of the Baker County Courthouse. This could give a real chance to honor our heroes in a meaningful way.

Alberta Bailey

Baker City


Don’t let Lanza have last laugh

Editorial from The (La Grande) Observer:

From hell somewhere, Adam Lanza is having the last grotesque laugh.

Lanza, as everybody knows, was the craven individual who used an assault rifle in December to kill 20 children and six teachers at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., all after he shot and killed his own mother. 

Going in, he had his mind made up to take as many lives as he could, then die by his own hand. Though sane people may never completely understand why a person like him thinks an act like that is worth it, he thought it was. He set a goal, no matter how evil, and achieved it. For him, it was mission accomplished.

But Lanza’s victory, if victory it can be called, is larger than that. It extends far beyond the city limits of Newtown, or the borders of Connecticut. It’s doubtful he thought much about it when he was planning his deed, but in addition to the carnage he caused he has managed to polarize the nation. It’s easy to imagine him laughing out loud in the afterlife.

Fanning flames of gun control debate

We’ve seen debate and controversy over gun control before, but never quite like this. In Washington, D.C., there is talk about a ban on assault rifles and high capacity magazines. Some people, most especially those affected by gun violence, agree. In many other places, including Union County, hot-blooded patriots are crying out that a ban is a trampling of our right to keep and bear arms. 

Lanza has inspired fear and distrust and anger among us. He has turned us against each other and made a bad situation infinitely worse. The moment the gun control debate ignited, there was a general stampede to gun stores by people convinced that sometime soon they will not be permitted to buy weapons, magazines or ammunition. 

We’re that much more armed than before, and at the same time, many of us are viewing our government — and our neighbors who think differently from us — with hostility.

As the debate continues, we need to remember that Sandy Hook is no one’s fault but Adam Lanza’s. We need to adhere to our own beliefs whatever they are, and speak out accordingly so democracy can take its course. But we also need to remember that law-abiding people, in government and out, gun control advocates and gun control opponents, involved in the debate care deeply about the future of the country and are indeed our fellow Americans.

Unlike Adam Lanza and his kind, they’re not out to get us. Each in their own way is searching for something that will make our country a better, safer place to live.

The less angry our talk and the more carefully we listen to one another, the better chance we have to come to solutions that work. And if someday we solve the problem of blind hatred and evil in our society, we and not Adam Lanza have the last laugh.


Hearts go out to Binghams

In the early hours of Thursday at the Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., Dr. Katz Meada did something that, even in this era of miraculous medical procedures, we scarcely can believe is possible.

Just a few hours after he was photographed with his arm around 9-year-old Lindsey Bingham’s shoulders, the surgeon reached into Lindsey’s chest, extracted the diseased heart the Baker County girl was born with, and replaced it with a healthy heart.

That Lindsey’s life was saved on Valentine’s Day, the holiday most directly associated with hearts, is of course a mere coincidence, though indeed quite a happy one.

It was fitting, too, that the most jubilant response was from Lindsey herself, who, on learning that her 239-day ordeal of depending on a mechanical device to keep her alive was ending, screamed her joy in a moment her dad, Jason, captured on video (you can watch the video, and get updates on the Bingham family, on their blog, www.jasonandstacybingham.blogspot.com).

But for the Bingham family, this landmark event is neither the first of its kind, nor, sadly, is is guaranteed to be the last.

Lindsey suffers from the same malady, dilated cardiomyopathy, that afflicted her older sister, Sierra.

Sierra, now 13, who is the eldest of the Binghams’ five children, received her new heart in 2006.

Each of the three other children — Gage, 4, Hunter, 6, and Megan, 11 — has been diagnosed with potential heart problems, although it’s not known whether any will need a transplant.

Gage had a pacemaker installed last summer.

Sierra continues to do well with her “new” heart.

And of course we hope for an equally happy outcome for Lindsey.

But we also hope this is the last time one of the Binghams has to celebrate the arrival of a new, healthy heart.


Letters to the Editor for Feb. 15, 2013

Citizens’ militia could be an invaluable defense

There is an argument against gun control that is largely being ignored and should be put on the table for serious discussion. Most of the current arguments focus on personal defense. The other position is, in the event of an invasion or loss of civil authority, weapons in the hands of a citizens’ militia is invaluable. Civilians could organize under the leadership of local law enforcement or the National Guard and provide for the common defense of the area. The value of this position far outweighs the danger of the occasional nut job shooter.

When the Second Amendment was written, it was musket vs. musket. Technology has taken us to a different level. Let’s not let the government limit us to single-shot or six-shooter technologies.

Jon Sallquist

Baker City

Renaming airport for Anders doesn’t diminish Heilner

On Tuesday, Feb. 12, at the regular City Council meeting, a member of the Airport Commission presented a proposal to rename Baker City Municipal Airport, Heilner Field, to Baker City Municipal Airport, Mabry J. Anders Field. The Commission wishes to do this to honor Army Spc. Mabry J. Anders of Baker City, who was killed this past summer in Afghanistan. Mabry’s mother and stepfather, Troy and Genevieve Woydziak, are the fixed base operators at the airport, where Mabry spent a lot of his time working and enjoying flying before joining the Army.

A concern was raised that a name change would diminish the legacy of hard work and dedication put forth by Mr. Heilner in the early formation of the airport. I don’t believe that would be the case. Mr. Heilner’s name is on the road at the junction of South Airport Lane and Heilner Road, which leads in to the hangars of the airport and the business offices of Baker Aircraft. There is a road sign at this junction, proudly displaying “Heilner Road.” The address of Baker Aircraft is 43769 Heilner Road. Literally thousands of pieces of mail go in and out of Baker Aircraft annually, all bearing Heilner Road on the address or the return address. Dozens of periodicals and magazines arrive at Baker Aircraft offices, all bearing the Heilner Road address on them. Parcel delivery and freight companies all bear shipments with Heilner Road as their destination. Letterheads, e-mails, business cards, etc., all give a testimony to the man who was instrumental in the early development of our airport. Oddly enough, there seems to be no outward sign anywhere at the airport designating it as Heilner Field. It may be somewhere, but I haven’t seen it.

Another concern was presented that why honor just Mabry, and not any other fallen heroes of our community. I believe the family of loved ones lost in the military deserve and have the right to have their loved ones remembered in the way they see fit and, if they so desire, will seek that opportunity when they wish to.

I don’t know any of the Heilner family, but from research done, I don’t think Mr. Heilner would object to honoring our Mabry.

Greg and Ellie Woydziak

Baker City

Editor’s Note: The authors are the stepgrandparents of Mabry J. Anders.


The advantages of growing up close to an ash tree

Every kid ought to grow up in a neighborhood graced by at least one ash tree.

There was a fine specimen of the species just two houses down from mine and I thought it was the best thing in the world.

Well, maybe not better than a set of foam pads for my BMX bike, or watching a corpulent man in a singlet pretend to puke on “Portland Wrestling,” or that game where you slammed a plastic football player’s helmet as hard as you could to kick a plastic football through plastic uprights or possibly into the side of your younger sister’s head.

But the ash tree was pretty awesome just the same.

Its greatest attribute — actually its only attribute, as the tree wasn’t tall enough to make climbing it worthwhile, nor stout enough to build a fort in — was that it produced each year a veritable bonanza of berries.

I believe this to be a common trait of ash trees, although I’m no botanist.

These fruits were about the size of blueberries, this being the only thing they had in common with blueberries, except for the word “berries.”

The ash berries grew in clumps as big around as a tennis ball, and they were an alarming shade of yellowish orange that on a sunny day could sear your retinas.

Which is nothing compared to the damage, ocular and otherwise, that the berries could cause when you hucked a handful at somebody riding by on a bicycle at a rate that only a 10-year-old kid pedaling a one-speed can muster.

A velocity best measured in parsecs per hour, in other words.

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