The day my inner liberal lost out to the anarchist in me.

This post is meant, partly as a response to George Monbiot’s latest piece of drivel in the Guardian. For those unfamiliar with George Monbiot, he is someone who has made a tidy sum becoming a spokesperson and writer about the environmental direct action movement. Since the movement has generally done very well without hierarchical organisation and self-appointed leaders, relying upon direct action, rather than lobbying MP’s and appealing for everyone to be nicer, Monbiot has had to pretend that this is exactly what is really needed. Like a Labour party member at an anarchist meeting he  is largely redundant, yet convinced that he has links to the powerful and so is the one to be listened to. He gets money writing about this and is, by some, seen as the voice of the voiceless.

Monbiot’s latest piece of writing for the Guardian is yet another attack on why anarchism doesn’t work.

In it he mentions a symbolic squat of st. Georges Hill as the basis of his example, no doubt raising the example of primitive communism and early attempts at anarchist organisation to back his call for rules. The crux of his piece is that it is the lack of rules and anti-social elements running amok who are the problem and that these elements need to be reigned in to be kept in order. It is more a liberal argument, where everything is for the equal benefit of all society, rather than a specifically bourgeois one but instead of showing the problems with anarchism it really shows the problem with liberals and the fetishism of those who are poor as being always lovely. The discovery that those at the edges of society will rip you off and rob from you is nothing new to anyone who lives in the real world but comes as a shock to anyone on the sheltered world of liberalism who try to set up community where no attempt is made to enforce security for the good of all.

Another version of this liberalism raised its head following last summers riots. It was the belief that the looters and scum who set fire to people’s homes were representative of some kind of underclass uprising building a new society, rather than people following their own interests at the expense of others.

Before I start, I should point out that I define liberalism as a philosophy founded on freedom and equal access to institutions for all, with everyone having equal rights no matter the circumstances. Institutions and systems are set up with this aim alone.

Anarchism is a  philosophy based social order through the restriction of man with another’s law. Organisation is based upon free association, rather than the imposing of laws through violence or other sanctions.

Both are idealistic and both can only work in certain circumstance, however, anarchism allows you to react if others are attempting to oppose order on you (or your community). This can be the state, another community, anti-social scum stealing from you and others on a St. Georges Hill commune re-enactment and so on. Liberalism is about equality under institutions and so it is only offending against institutions (rather than individuals) that matters. Even then you still have equal rights to everyone else! So law and order aren’t the problem, only being treated equally under law and order. Starvation and poverty aren’t a problem, only being treated equally when poor and starving and having an equal opportunity to the non-poor and starving is. Equality is substituted for equal rights.

Anyway. the experience I’m going to mention is, liked Monbiot’s, based upon experiences with Travellers. I was assisting with security for an Antifa benefit gig. It was taking place at a squatted Buddhist centre in London and some travellers were also based at the site and helping run the site. They had decided to also have their own party that night which was OK, but made matters slightly harder since we were steering people coming to the Antifa gig away from the first party and on to our benefit (and vice versa). Before it started we were warned by one of the travellers that some of their kids might get over excited and try to push things and not to over react. They were told that if they kicked off we would not give special treatment…

As the night went on, this did happen with a couple of travellers trying to start fights at the Antifa benefit (and unlike in Monbiots story, were removed) and them trying to intimidate people going to the Antifa gig by charging them money to get in (the traveller party was free, but they saw anti-fascists as not part of their community and so good game to rip off). As the night went on things got more strained but aq lid was kept on things. It wasn’t until the end (and after I left) that things really kicked off and the Travellers tried to attack people who had gone to the benefit gig. Antifa gave as good as they got and a strongly worded discussion began which ended in exhaustion and a few bruises.

The difference between this and Monbiot’s story is that we manged to organise something. get it working through free association and then had the guts to defend it from others imposing their order. Anarchism can only work in any form if people are willing to defend their free association from others imposing order. It is not a question of allowing others freedom and then tolerating their anti-social behaviour. It is a question of freely associating and then taking responsibility for your actions and if necessary defending this. You do not impose order, but you don’t allow others to impose order on you. Monbiot has got to the point where he believes others have rights, but also believes others should impose order and then everyone have equal rights. He was never an anarchist. The ability of antisocial thugs to impose their will and steal from others at St. Georges Hill (and then allowing the police to re-impose order) was not anarchism but liberalism. If Monbiot and others had defended their community and free association from others who did not share their ideal, then he might have had anarchism. Others might disagree with me and say I’ve got anarchism all wrong (and I admit it is a very specific kind of anarchism) but for me this is the difference between anarchism and liberalism. Free association and a willingness to defend this association because it is the will of the community not the imposed will of a minority.


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Two weeks of of being Sodexo’ed about…

The last two weeks marked the start of Sodexo’s ( new £15million a year contract with the Royal Sussex County Hospital. They took over portering, cleaning and catering services on the Brighton site (and other Brighton and Sussex University Hospital sites). It also marked an increase in the usual problems that are experienced with these services and caused by the under staffing in order to save money.

While it is not unusual to wait for long periods (normally around half an hour) for patient transfers, Sodexo have managed to increase these problems with a queueing and job allocation for porters and the time a porter can spend with a patient is dictated by central control, rather than according to the needs of a patient. I have heard of incidences of patients being left on trolleys in the middle of bays in the Acute Medical Unit since the porter brought them there before a bed was available and then refused to take them back (basically abandoning the patient). The control then refuses to re-assign a new porter as priority. I have also heard of patients having scans and other investigations delayed due to no portering service being available to transfer the patients. As I have said above, there is always delays due to short staffing, however at least previously the portering services were controlled by hospital staff as opposed to an outside company.

Likewise, problems with catering are making patients suffer. It is reported to me that simple things, such as giving a patient apple juice between meals, is no longer allowed since Sodexo will not fund it. Apple juice can only be given out with meals and there is only enough for one portion per patient. Likewise, there is no longer snacks or sandwiches freely available for patients who have missed meals (for whatever reason) or will not eat a big meal but may wish to eat (and there for get the vital nutrition while ill) between meals.

However, despite not being able to afford to give these bits of foods, Sodexo have been able to afford Ipads for their supervisors, in order to monitor and control the performance of their staff. These staff have been brought within the Sodexo corporate structure, being placed on Sodexo contracts (rather than Brighton and Sussex University Hospital contracts) and have had the way they are paid adjusted accordingly. Some staff have suffered as a result of this, having to cope with being moved from a weekly pay contract to a monthly pay contract, suddenly having to cope with a month of no money.

To top it all, Sodexo have now announced that despite appearing not to have enough staff to do the most simple of jobs without long waits, they plan to sack up to 100 staff. This week they began a thirty day consulting period on this issue. The further deterioration of services that will result from this is obvious. If your already struggling to do a job, how can you then do it better with less staff? Yet it is the human cost that is most sickening. The repercussions of which will be felt round a small city like Brighton and Hove as 100 less incomes in its economy and 100 more people are written off and their lives are made harder. Even if a sacked person finds new work almost immediately, the months spent unemployed will affect their life well into the future.

These changes are, of course, not just teething problems. While the above might be sorted out, the introduction of Sodexo is simply the latest in the deconstruction and altering of the NHS, changing it to a market place for private companies. This started with Anthony Giddens and his belief that the way forward is to have private companies running social schemes (see his books ‘Beyond Left and Right’ and ‘The Third Way’ for details). New Labour began putting it into practice, giving the clear argument that under the current system and due to escalating costs of the world-wide health market, we could no longer afford to fund Health care entirely from the public budget and so had to introduce private firms. It should be noted that this argument was also used, less convincingly, for other public services and increasingly looks shaky when applied to these services. However, the basic argument ia that the state infrastructure should be funded by private firms who then work in public interest and they then have the control and loyalty of their employees and community’s that was previously given to the state.

After Labour lost power, the policy of giving state services to private firms, contracted not to discontinue these services, continued with the Conservative/ Liberal Democrat alliance. On the surface it looks as if it is a way of guaranteeing the continued funding of public surfaces. However it has one bi flaw which is essentially based upon Anthony Giddens ignoring class politics and overlooking the idea of how corporations can never represent the interests of society, they can only persuade society that the corporations interests are the same. It is a direct rejection of the principle of democracy and the idea that the only way of moving forward is increasing control by the people for their interests and the merging of civil society with political society and the removal of separate class and replacement of this with oe class.

Anthony Giddens arguments was sold as a revitalising of the social democrat project and the production of a society that is working together. Labour certainly believed this when they adopted his theory as the new basis of their policys’. However like the previous social democracy policy’s put into action around the world, there was a fatal flaw. It was the dependency on the exsisting state and there for was characterised by the shoring up of the existing state and the institutionalisation of the inequalities present. Previous policys’ that have risen from social democrat theory, such as the welfare state, have the immediate effect of making life easier for those at the bottom and ensuring the continuance and smoothness of existing society. However they also institutionalize the fact that there are people at the bottom and does nothing about eradicating poverty, only making sure that life is not too hard for the poor. It is a liberal policy that accepts there must be rulers and the ruled and there for it is the job of the rulers to make life not too hard for the ruled.

The introduction of private corporations into social democracy is an acceptance that corporations must have more power than the majority of people and there for must be subservient. the corporations will always exist and so must be encouraged to be good masters and have a social conscience. Direct control is not possible. It is basically liberalism in action, mixed with conservatism, with the belief that the institutions of society have provided some benefit and peace and so must be defended and used in the interests of all, even if this marks an acceptance of inequality and some people having a markedly reduced freedom and level of power in society. All power goes to corporations, the trick is to get them to exercise this power in the interest of the whole of society. When looked at in these terms, social democracy and Labours introduction of private corporations is not that different from the aims of the Conservatives (and Liberal Democrats) and explains their continuance of what were basically policies started by the Labour party.

There is, as I mentioned, a major flaw in this thinking. While it represents a belief in corporate power, it also represents the exclusion of the majority of people from power and the rejection of class politics and the rejection of the notion that corporations will work in their own interest and the interest of their own class, while everyone else has different class interests. A corporations chief interest is the continuance of their role in the cycle of capitalism and the renewal of markets. The renewal of markets provides the guarantee of more capital which can be reinvested and so keep the corporation functioning. All money invested is regained and, providing there is not some kind of market crisis, a surplus as well. Any company investing in public services, whether they are health care, railways, refuse collection, education etc. must have this cycle continuing to guarantee a return on investment.

The return investment for a company can only be achieved through the company changing the form of the economic expression and dictating how the area they are invested in is run. In healthcare the decisions are no longer made by medical staff or even the bureaucratic managers. It is made according to the corporation investing. mealtimes, the way portering is run and the amount of cleaners on wards are not decided according to patient need or by the clinical staff working with patients, it is decided by Sodexo, the company who, in order to return what they have invested in their product, must decide how it is presented and how it is used. In essence the power lies with the company and the company decides both how a product is presented and how it used by the people they are selling to and this is decided by how to return capital already invested.

Markets are not decided by consumers or service users, they are told what to buy by producers who are interested in returning their investment. The idea of consumer power is a myth, it is simply a question of taking the choices of things you are told you want. Health reforms and Anthony Giddens third way was simply a case of removing power from public services and putting it in the hands of corporations. Sodexo in Sussex is simply the latest example of the removal of power from the people who actually keep a hospital running and giving this power over to a corporation who will then run it in the interests of renewing their profit. What started with portering services, cleaning staff and catering staff will soon be done to clinical staff with more corporations being handed the management of these staff. They will then have a say over what decisions can be made (they will have to be profitable and insure the continuance of corporate control) and will reduce the power of people who actually work with patients!

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Fertility and the constitution.

So once again we have the royal distraction being placed at the base of British politics, with Kate  Windsor now being pregnant with the heir to the throne. Like most distractions it has little real relevance to real life, other than to remind us of how little power we have. Yet it is also worth looking at how basing the British constitution on something that was considered out of date in 1812 demeans everyone.

Kate Middleton is no longer considered a person, only a barer of the next in line for the throne. She becomes symbolic of the widely held mistake that the only importance of a person is to produce children and ensure the next generation, giving up your life for something yet to come. Just as a person is looked down on if they don’t produce children. Kate and any real love they might have is secondary to her fertility. Only the production of a new generation is important, only her womb is important. A system, that of the family, is all that matters once again, the system of the family. Months of speculation are finally put to rest and Kate is now a worthy member of the royal family because she has now guaranteed its future. Her life is no longer her life, it is the life of the next generation and we are meant to celebrate this.

The hereditary principle reinforces the idea that life should be based upon children at all costs and those without children should give up their lives and are less important than those with a family. it is based upon the idea that institutions and systems are more important than any individual life. What matters is giving yourself up for its survivial, your role in reproduction of any system is your role in life and you don’t matter. A woman is basically a womb and is selfish if she doesn’t use it. The fetishism of the royal family and the adoration of Kate and William is based upon this and we stupidly let our state and politics be formed around this!

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In Sussex 3% of voters actively reject all candidates.

Just over 3% of voters, 5,982 people actively spoilt their ballot papers in the Sussex Police Commissioner elections. This was on top of the fact that the election had a record low turnout, with it nationally being the lowest turnout ever for an election.

Some politicians have previously argued that low turnouts stop an election’s legitimacy. Priti Patel, MP for Witham, has previously said that “any election in which more than half of those eligible to vote do so, should be ruled invalid. Damien Green MP and Matthew Hancock MP have said similar things. Of course they were talking about union ballots, not ballots concerning the legitimacy of the police to police us or for them to rule over us. Things work differently for them. They will continue to rule us whatever we vote for or don’t vote for!

Some right wing bloggers, journalists and political cops have interpreted the result as being a victory for those who argue we don’t need more say in our lives. Political policemen in particular, who hate the fact that the people they police might ever have a say in what they do, have been ecstatic at the result. yet the result was a rejection of the choices, not a rejection of choice. It was a rejection of pretending that three identical political parties tell us what to think, not a rejection of being consulted on important matters. The high number of spoilt ballot papers are specifically a sign that people did care, but did not care for the choice or how the election had been run!

It also opens up the possibility of the use of this tactic to undermine politicians messages in the future. While the three main parties monopoly on pushing only their message continues, an organised refusal to blindly support it is suddenly a viable tactic. If they continue to not even vaguely represent us we can just not support them. Spoilt ballot papers are more powerful than boycotts, but either way it allows new politics to thrive in the vacuum created by the loss of faith in the ruling parties. Instead of hoping that labour will finally stop supporting the interests of the rich and pushing capitalism, we can start giving an alternative message backed by the simple statement that we should not support politicians we hate at election. If there is an alternative vote for it, but if there is not, don’t vote or spoil your ballot paper!

For the record, in Sussex the conservative candidate Katy Bourne won, beating Geoffrey Daniel (Labour) on second choice votes. David Rogers (Liberal Democrat) came last with only 11% of the vote! I could not really make out any difference between their policy statements, other than Katy Bourne promises to attach a PCSO to every Sussex village (as if that will have any impact on anti-social crime or actually build up community spirit.) The 3% who, like me, spoilt our ballot papers would have had no effect on the election outcome, but made a powerful statement that can be built on.

The full results can be seen here:

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Police Commissioners, voting and Martin Wright on the accountability process.

In a moment I’m going to go out and spoil my ballot paper for the ‘Police commissioner’ election. The reason I’m going to spoil my ballot paper is because I have not been asked which issues concern me, informed about the election or given a choice. Like a South American dictatorship I am being told what the issues are and expected to get out there and support them. I have a choice between the three main parties saying the same thing, UKIP basically saying the same as the three main parties and a right-wing christian who amazingly says basically the same as the other parties.

It is of course questionable about whether I should bother voting at all, however in this case, not voting shows two things. Firstly a low turn out allows the government to argue people are not interested in more democracy, despite having avoided publicising and debating issues around this election or having allowed the free standing of candidates. It also supports the police argument that they should be allowed to police as they want without being answerable to the public. In a way the election is a missed opportunity and so by spoiling my ballot paper, I’m registering an interest but also making the point that I will not blindly vote for the political oligarchy’s prefered choice of candidate. A quick look back through the posts on this blog shows that I have an interest in issues around policing. However I have not even had a chance to raise them in this election, let alone find a candidate who supports them. If this is the case, then I’m not going to support any of the candidates. If they can’t be bothered to represent me or even talk about the things that effect my life, then they are not going to claim either legitimacy by getting my vote or my disinterest.

OF course, today should provide an opportunity to discuss policing and the way a community should be policed (or as I would argue, should be able to police it’s self). This has not happened with the media simply not even bothering to debate the issues and the government refusing to promote what the candidates claim to represent. As a result, I thought I would try to promote such a debate by putting this link from veteran Anarchist Martin Wright. In it he discusses the accountability process and basically what a community should do in order to police its self. He is attacking one possible model, seen as an answer to sexual violence. I have to say I agree with his criticism, although I think the problem  stems from both the dream world that some (although by no means all) anarchists live in, cut off from the real world. His criticism also shows the problem with anarchists, in that they think the way they organise, which is separate from the rest of the world, somehow magically represents the whole class and the debates with in anarchist groups will some how magically reach across to the rest of the working class. The anarchist and squatting scene is small and a subculture with in the working class. Wether someone is expelled from it or made to take part in the ‘accountability process’ has no relation on the real world (although it can plant a seed  for change in the real world). Any predatory scum can then just move on to prey on people outside of the anarchist scene, making any solution theoretical at best. Yet it does, as I mentioned, provide seeds for how we can work problems out in the future, once the separation and individualism that is a necessary bi-product of capitalist society is overcome.

Martin Wright can be seen at

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Anti-squatter MP finally meets the public!

Reports are coming in that Hove and Portslade MP, Mike Weatherly, was confronted by an angry demonstration at Sussex University. Although accounts are varying, it is reported that he was pelted with missiles and Mike Weatherly is claiming that his entourage was pelted with rocks!

While any MP who feels they need bring an entourage to speak on a university campus is deserving of protest (although not necessarily deserving of being pelted with missiles) it is his role in introducing the criminalization of squatting residential property’s that has earned him the anger of protesters. While there is roughly 950,000 empty homes in Britain and 500,000 homeless people, the locking up of people for occupying property left lying empty is sickening. people have already been sent to prison as a result of this law which is aimed at protecting property prices and ownership by making those who can’t afford homes continue to support the housing market and the wealth of landlords and multiple home owners.

A real solution to the housing crisis, people dependent on housing benefit and the over expensive rents imposed by greedy landlords and parasites getting rich through by to let schemes, would be the passing of a law that any property left empty automatically becomes public property and is allowed to be used by people with no home or those struggling to afford local rents. Not only would it remove dependence on housing benefit (and undermining the overpriced renting market) it would mark the beginnings of a change in attitude to property, making property something belonging to community’s and one of their assets, rather than it belonging to individuals.

I should also mention that Mike Weatherly also deserved confrontation and challenging for his attitude to democracy. He has regularly attacked people’s right to protest and called for violent breaking up of gatherings such as the ‘Occupy’ protest, stating that such attempts to get opinions across should be criminalised (or more criminalised…) and that they have nothing to do with democratic change. He has consistently refused to engage with anyone who has attempted to challenge such views and refused to give replies to private emails on the matter. Maybe he should visit the history department next time he is at Sussex University.

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Politics wins, victims forgotten.

This weekend the slowly surfacing scandal over paedophilia took a new turn. I outlined my views concerning the role of institutions and how they are greater than any individuals below. With this in mind, it came as no surprise that the scandal became a political weapon used between  institutions to gain the upper hand, where the victims of child abuse are completely forgotten and in one case now face a smear campaign from a right-wing newspaper.

It is perhaps worth going through what the events of the past few days to get an understanding of the political posturing and reactions which have shifted not only the emphasis of the scandal, but allowed the government to use the suggestion that leading politicians were involved in the abuse of children to their advantage.

It all started with Philip Schofield. Well Ok it didn’t, but Philip Schofield’s attempt to ambush David Cameron on Thursday morning. On the face of it Cameron was put onto the back foot, with Philip Schofield, a former childrens’ TV presenter who worked while Saville was still a BBC asset in childrens’ TV, presenting a list of politicians who had allegations against them to Cameron. The point was that the allegations were out there, true or false, and the government doing nothing, except call inquires into already failed inquires, was not changing anything. Confidence was low and the government was beginning to look stupid. Cameron, bizarrely, attempted to deflect by mention that he did not a gay witch hunt, despite the fact that no one was engaging in a gay witch hunt or a heterosexual witch hunt. They were simply saying that they were sick of institutions allowing people’s lives to be wrecked because one person was more important to the BBC or Thatcher’s government (for example!) than many peoples’ lives. They were restating that child abuse is wrong.

Cameron seemed to be saying that gay people were more likely to be paedophiles and so gay people would become the victims of any witch hunt. At best this was clumsy concern, mixed with a failure to understand the issues. Concern from the leader of the party that brought you ‘clause 28’ and on successive occasions (with the support of labour) refused to allow people to sleep with who they wanted by having an unequal age of consent. At worst this was cynical deflecting by a man put on the spot by Philip Schofield. I’m guessing the Pri-Minister couldn’t get an interview from John Snow or Jeremy Paxman that day so had to settle for Philip Schofield holding him to account on his policies. And even then he was caught out and couldn’t hold his own.

That evening on BBC Question Time the outrage from the politicians was obvious. How dare the media not play their game. They decided not to look at the real point of the list (that allegations are out there, the public don’t have confidence and inquiry after inquiry won’t alter this fact!) Instead they decided to moan about journalists refusing to play their game.

By the next day the story had become how the person who alleged he was raped by a senior conservative minister had mistaken the person’s identity. The journalistic team who had dared give a voice to a child abuse victim had not properly checked their facts. The other bits of the story were quietly forgotten (in the space of two days!) Details about how the original inquiry had protected some people and refused to look at certain allegations were no longer mentioned. The big story was wrong and there for the BBC were at fault. They had even encouraged Philip Schofield to question the Pri-Minister. A suitably meek Philip Schofield apologised and the Tory press were full of talk of damaged reputations.

One wrong allegation had enabled the government to target the BBC and investigative journalism in general. The top COnservative in charge of the BBC upped the pressure and demanded blood which then came on saturday night. The Director General, George Entwistle, resigned because of the mistake. What had started as a questioning of institutions was turned, through the BBC’s failing and eagerness to impress, into a battle of institutions with the government gaining a bit of power over the slightly weakened BBC. From a completely detached perspective, it was a skillful bit of politics on behalf of the government. Machiavelli’s ideas being put into practice.

Yet just incase people got ideas that the whole scandal was bigger than one allegation, the governments allies decided to put the boot in. A smear campaign was started against the person who falsely named the ’80s politician as his abuser. The Mail on Sunday wrote a despicable article outlining how he was unreliable and had no integrity, including emphasising how he lost his temper with a barrister who questioned his honesty about being abused. While it would be extremely surprising if anybody lived through a childhood of abuse to become a well-balanced individual, David Rose, a known repeater of state misinformation, and his article basically set out to destroy a victim of child abuse.

Meanwhile Chris Patten, a former Conservative Party Chairman, is doing his best to neuter what is left of the already weak investigative side of BBC reporting and ensure that the next chairman will be someone who will not attempt to go up against the government or use the institution to question politicians to harshly. (I can’t see David Cameron being asked why he wastes his time being interviewed by Philip Schofield instead of by journalists who are able to tear his policy’s apart while highlighting his record of failure).

The victims of child abuse, whether they are Saville’s victims who the BBC turned a blind eye to, or victims from Welsh children’s homes who were not even listened to, let alone believed, when they mentioned that they were being abused and some of the abusers were the rich and powerful. These stories are being quietly pushed underground while the political balance gets its new bearings. These people are the true losers.

I think that the story might still flare into life in the next week and cause more problems for either the government or the BBC, but it is more likely it will die off. Any one who wants a story of abuse to be heard has now got an even more uphill battle thanks to the incompetence of BBC journalists and the protective walls based around character assassination that are being built up. It is in part the fault of the public too. The thirst for sensational stories in the wake of Saville’s posthumous outing as a paedophile has enabled the government and BBC to cast doubt on anyone who comes forward. Any story of childhood abuse needs to be heard and tested outside of the glare of publicity to enable the truth to be found out before reputations are destroyed or inconsistencies are used to destroy the reputation of the victim and all future victims. The past few weeks and the playing of politics has ensured that this has once again not happened.

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