Fear of Clowns

"Faith may be defined briefly as an illogical belief in the occurrence of the improbable."
- H. L. Mencken

Saturday, January 31, 2004

So this probably explains a lot 

January 16, 2002:

January 27, 2004:

Friday, January 30, 2004

Trout Thursday 2004 photo story 

Defined as the Thursday before Groundhog's Day, Trout Thursday is a completely open holiday. There's no religious origins, there's no official ceremony, there's no preconceived notion of what you're supposed to do, feel, be, or say. The only rule is, you have to eat trout. After that, it's up to you.

Trout Thursday 2004 was again celebrated at the Leaning Tower of Pizza. Tremendous fun, as these pictures prove.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

New Hampshire Republicans in disarray, defecting? 

Yesterday in New Hampshire, eight percent, about 1 out of 12 Republicans wrote in a Democratic candidate's name as their nomination - for the Republican candidate. Compare this to the 103 Democrats - about 0.05%, or one out of 2,000 - who voted for Bush in their primary, and the Republicans have a problem in New Hampshire. (Thanks to Froz Gobo for pointing this out).

In New Hampshire, one can register to vote the day of voting, but noone withy a party affiliation can change it for the primary after October 23rd, 2003. A portion of the 8% of Republicans who wrote in a Democrat may have been confused first-time voters who haven't figured out the futility of voting for a Democrat in the Republican primary (if you're unregistered or a registered independent, you may change your registration on the day of the primary). However, comparing the 8% figure the 0.05% who wrote in Bush as their preferred nomination the Democratic primary, one can surmise that careless first-time voters were 160 times as likely to register Republican as Democrat. Or that Republicans in NH are 160 times as likely to be dissatisfied with the candidates on their party's ticket than are NH Democrats. That the reality is almost surely a combination of both is no condolence to what Republican party bosses surely see as a disaster.

Also interesting are the exit poll data. Compare Howard Dean and John Kerry on the "More Important to Your Vote" question: an equal percentage (29%) of people who thought issues were more important than being able to beat Bush voted for Kerry or Dean. But 4 times as many who's primary concern was finding someone to beat Bush voted for Kerry (56%) than Dean (14%). The only one that comes a bit closer to Kerry on the question is Clark. It's clear that Kerry was the preferred candidate for those in NH who primarily want Bush out.

Report: media biased towards tyrants and terrorists who threatened us 

The Media Research Center is a right-wing propaganda machine funded by Scaife money and employing Elliot Abrams, Mona Charen, and Rush Limbaugh in advisory capacities.

The MRC still finds a liberal bias in the media, which is explained in such sober and neutral terms as "the counter-morality of sexual progressiveness", a "reluctance to portray liberal Democrats as ideologues". With nutral even-handed lpanguage like that, who needs bias?

Particularly funny is their assertion that it is the "liberal media" "pushing for ever-expanding government" ... one could not write better satire.

Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Cream of the Intellectual Conservative Crop 

The creamed chowderheads correct themselves: "An earlier version of this article confused John Kerry's experience in Vietnam with Bob Kerrey's experience. IC regrets the error."

Now that "IC" has cleared up that it was Bob Kerrey, not John Kerry, that told the well known story of the slaughter of Vietnamese civilians, I humbly suggest the following:

When will the liberal wimps and weenies realize that post-invasion Iraq is going swimmingly? 

Thw WP has a teaser for a longer Atlantic Monthly article: "Twice -- in May of 2002 and January of 2003 -- the CIA held war game exercises designed to plan for postwar problems. Pentagon officials attended the early sessions but then their superiors in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) ordered them to stop going."

For an anecdotal inside view of the reconstruction foibles, check out George Packer's "War After the War" essay in The New Yorker. It's based on a series of interviews with Andrew P. N. Erdmann, the US occupation's first acting Minister of Higher Education: "You had Iraqis just showing up at work, hoping that someone from the coalition would stop at their ministry, and saying, 'Welcome. Take me to your leader,' ... No joke! It was like, 'I represent the Grand Galactic Federation.'" He cupped his hands around his mouth to make a ghostly echo. "'Who are you? And what is your position?' Then they’d tell you their job, and then it's like, 'What the hell is that?'"

Monday, January 26, 2004

He said that? 

Kudos to South Knox Bubba for catching this:

Of course ...

Saturday, January 24, 2004

No retirement party? No sardine dip? Precrime makes a mistake? 

Today, I'm not reading any news other than headlines. No digging. Instead, I'm reading Phillip K. Dick short stories. The news from yesterday just depressed me, particularly the fact that nobody held a retirement party for Dr. David Kay. If I had an office on The Hill, I'd have made sure David was given the recognition and appreciation he deserved.

Perhaps I would have served a recipe I tried for dinner tonight:

Mix that stuff up, serve with raw vegetables and hot rice. Serves one.

I forgot to add the sugar and substituted vinegar, black soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce for fish sauce. It was OK. I found the recipe on a message board for Cambodian recipes which is occasionally humorous.

One of the Dick short stories I've read today is Minority Report. I can't say it was better than the movie: the movie is an entirely different story. The only similarities are the way the future is predicted, that crimes are stopped before they're committed, an important guy at "Precrime" is predicted to commit a murder and the prediction ends up being wrong. Come to think of it, both the story and movie have approximately the same set up and resolution as the Iraq WMD fiasco.

Friday, January 23, 2004

American health care: Access of Evil 

Pharmaceutical industry + insurance industry + doctors = The Access of Evil. That's all I have right now, but I just wanted to get it out there. Although google turns up many hits for "Access of Evil", none seem to refer to this unholy alliance.

Cranky President needs to get something in his stomach 

AND some money into ordinary American's pocket books ... this is truly surreal ... reproduced in full here:

Sun Myung Moon lightens God's burdon 

Cult leader Rev. Sun Myung Moon's wire service just revealed that God didn't have to be all that omnipotent to perform one of his Old Testament miracles:

Stand by for "Noah may have taken embryos on cypress ark, genetic theorist determines".

Newsmax reports the Office of Strategic Initiatives Propaganda reports 

Newsmax reports on new numbers from the Office of Strategic Initiatives:

I do find it funny that whoever compiled the list of poll results had to look at six polls to find eight results they liked. I can do better! I can pick results I like from only two polls (the CNN/USA Today/Gallup poll referenced above and the most recent CBS/NYT poll, released 1/18/2004, PDF).

(OK, I made the last one up)

Thursday, January 22, 2004

Judiciary Committee Republicans in a Pickle? 

A Reuters article from Tuesday, November 18, 2003 read,

Today's Boston Globe reports,

Wednesday, January 21, 2004

Republicans cheer for terrorist threat 

This 1.1 MB Quicktime movie is a must see segment of the SOTU address.

"Key provisions of the Patriot Act are set to expire next year. (PATRIOT act detractors applaud.) The terrorist threat will not expire on that schedule. (Bush and terrorist supporters applaud)."

The fact that act is called in full The Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001 (the expanded acronym for USA PATRIOT Act of 2001) is reason to give pause alone.

Some critics have said America has the best health care in the world ... 

Part of President Bush's State of the Union Address I wanted to agree with completely was "By keeping costs under control, expanding access, and helping more Americans afford coverage, we will preserve the system of private medicine that makes America's health care the best in the world."

I certainly agree that we should deal with out-of-control health care costs and expand access, but if America already has the "best" health care in the world, how can it be that the CIA Factbook ranks the following 28 nations as having both a lower infant mortality rate than the US and a longer life expectancy at birth than the US?

  1. Andorra
  2. Macau
  3. San Marino
  4. Japan
  5. Singapore
  6. Australia
  7. Switzerland
  8. Sweden
  9. Hong Kong
  10. Canada
  11. Iceland
  12. Italy
  13. Monaco
  14. Liechtenstein
  1. Spain
  2. France
  3. Norway
  4. Greece
  5. Aruba
  6. Netherlands
  7. Malta
  8. New Zealand
  9. Belgium
  10. Austria
  11. United Kingdom
  12. Germany
  13. Finland
  14. Luxembourg

Some critics have said a government-run health care system is the wrong prescription. This particular criticism is hard to explain to our friends in Britain, Australia, Japan, Andorra, Macau, Finland, Italy, Spain, Singapore, Switzerland, Sweden, France, Canada, the Netherlands (Applause) ... Norway, Iceland, and the 17 other countries where socialized medicine provides longer life-expectancies (Applause), and the 18 other countries where state run heath systems ensure a lower infant mortality rate than we enjoy. (Long Applause.)

Tuesday, January 20, 2004

The State of the Union in Color 


Iraq had "Weapons of mass destruction-related program activities" 


Only other thing I have at the moment is that "No salary, sheep!" is an anagram for "Ashley Pearson."

Monday, January 19, 2004

My IA prediction: Dean 

  1. About 10% of registered voters in IA attend a caucus. The polls we see are of "likely voters", which means that the person has voted in one of the last few general elections - they didn't have to vote in a recent primary or caucus. The same people who are not likely to go to a caucus are the same ones who have not paid close attention to the candidates until recently, and are likely to have changed their mind recently. People that have been paying close attention to the candidates and are more likely to go to the caucus have probably chosen their candidate for some time.
  2. Of those why may have changed their mind recently, many have shifted from Dean to another candidate. Edward's meteoric rise was due to a recent endorsement by the Des Moines Register, IA's largest paper. When it comes time to stand at the caucus, people will think to themselves, "Gee, Edwards looked pretty good from that endorsement, but I've been thinking (candidate X) was my candidate for a while ... I'd better stick with my instincts."
  3. Dean's campaign has blown all the others out of the water concerning getting first time voters excited. Plus, many are used to going to Dean "House parties". They'll think of the caucus as another house party and will turn out in droves.
  4. No poll we've seen has included the force of the first-time voters Dean has supposedly got fired up: they haven't voted in any previous election, so are not considered "likely voters".

Update, after midnight: Well, I also stocked up on lentils and rice before Y2K.

I'm not as surprised that Dean came in 3rd as much as I am at how distant a third it was. I've no explanation for why Kerry did so well (you can easily become Governor of Minnesota with 38% of the vote in the General Election) - I'm guessing (hoping?) this will be an anomaly. I'm pleasantly shocked that Edwards did as well as he did: this could be explained by the high turnout of "anybody but Bush" Democrats, who took the nod to Edwards from Iowa's newspapers. At one point early on, Edwards was the most intriguing to me; I didn't pursue the interest after it was clear his poll numbers weren't rising ... perhaps with this amazing showing in Iowa and a good showing (or win) in South Carolina, I'll have to turn my eyes to Edwards once again.

Sunday, January 18, 2004

Mike Rowe: It's not their name, it's my name 

Microsoft is taking legal action against Mike Rowe, a 17 year old Canadian high school student who chose to use the name MikeRoweSoft.com for his part time web design business.

Friday, January 16, 2004

Jonah Goldberg, lying liar continues to lie 

One of the most pervasive misconceptions among Americans in the lead up to the invasion of Iraq was thinking the whole world believed Saddam "Coward in a Hole" Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction, however only the US and a handful of other countries were willing to go to war over it. Jonah Goldberg to this day continues to propagate this myth, or lie if you'd rather:

The position of most nations offering an opinion was one of agnosticism, that it was unknown if Iraq possessed proscribed weaponry or not. On January 14, 2003 France's Ministry of Foreign Affairs stated. "We believe, as Mr. ElBaradei said yesterday, that the inspections are a way for us to be sure of having the best chance of ascertaining whether Iraq has weapons or not. We want the assurance that Iraq has not acquired weapons of mass destruction."

In a February TIME magazine interview, prompted by a question whether Iraq had nuclear arms, Jacques Chirac responded, "I don't think so. Are there other weapons of mass destruction? That's probable. We have to find and destroy them. In its current situation, does Iraq-controlled and inspected as it is-pose a clear and present danger to the region? I don't believe so. Given that, I prefer to continue along the path laid out by the Security Council. Then we'll see."

Strangely enough, as late as February 2002, the United State's opinion was likewise agnostic, as represented by President Bush. In a February 16, 2002 appearance with the Turkish Prime Minister, President Bush told reporters, "I expect Saddam Hussein to let inspectors back into the country. We want to know whether he's developing weapons of mass destruction."

Thursday, January 15, 2004

20/20 foresight 

Everybody loves the documentary Uncovered: The Whole Truth About the Iraq War. It is a worthwhile watch. A particularly poignant part is a segment documenting how the claim of Iraq seeking "significant quantities of uranium from Africa" made it into President Bush's January 2003 State of the Union address when in October, the CIA told White House speech writers and senior staff not to mention the claim in the Cincinnati speech. Meet the Press' Tim Russert asked Condoliza Rice how the claim got back into a presidential speech. Rice replied, "It's not a matter of getting back in, it's a matter, Tim, that three plus months later people didn't remember that [CIA Director] George Tenet had asked that it be taken out of the Cincinnati speech."

Uncovered does an excellent job of exposing many of the fallacious claims about nuclear, biological and chemical weapons that made up the backbone of the case for war.

However, 20/20 vision need not to have been acquired in hindsight; the claims presented by those pushing for war were subject to rational analysis before as well as after the fact. Here's two examples:

At a joint press conference on September 7, 2002, both George Bush and Tony Blair cited a "new" IAEA report which supposedly claimed Iraq has restarted it's nuclear weapons program:

The IAEA immediately issued a press release stating there was no such new report. It was fiction. Here is an actual IAEA report:

A second example of a clearly faulty claim regards a former chemical weapons facility in Fallujah, claimed to have been rebuilt to resume chemical weapon production:

Reality: There was nothing nefarious going on at the Tareq plant (alternately spelled "Al-Tariq"):

Glen Rangwala complied an exhaustive analysis of such faulty claims made in the case for invading Iraq. Before the war. It's too bad Congress and the American public paid so little attention to what was being said by persons not in the Executive Branch of the US government before deciding that "Saddam Hussein still has chemical and biological weapons and is increasing his capabilities to make more."

Wednesday, January 14, 2004

President Bush takes a flying leap at the moon 

President Bush Announces New Vision for Space Exploration Program. Dennis Kucinich reacts, "Maybe he's looking for the weapons of mass destruction still".

Monday, January 12, 2004

Y2K lentils are gone 

I just cooked the last of my Y2K lentil stockpile. Still some rice left, though.

I have several older items:

Sunday, January 11, 2004

Nobody listened to the Secretary of the Treasury for two years 

The Washington Post reports that "A senior administration official said [former Secretary of the Treasury Paul] O'Neill's 'suggestion that the administration was planning an invasion of Iraq days after taking office is laughable. Nobody listened to him when he was in office. Why should anybody now?'"

I'm not sure whether to believe that or not. It would make sense either way.

Saturday, January 10, 2004

US invades Iraq to aid Danes in archeological dig 

From atrios: "Weapons of mass destruction have to a) be a weapon, b) be capable of mass destruction."

1/14/2003 Update: COPENHAGEN, Denmark  — Mortar shells found in southern Iraq by the Danish military do not appear to contain chemical weapon agents as originally suspected, Fox News has learned.

Friday, January 09, 2004

Imminent or greatest and most immediate threat? 

While I'm on the topic of bringing up the past, it might be worthy to note that in a September 19, 2002 presentation to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Donald Rumsfeld didn't say Iraq was an "imminent threat", but the greatest and most immediate threat: "no terrorist state poses a greater or more immediate threat to the security of our people than the regime of Saddam Hussein and Iraq."

Still, I think it's funny that supporters of the invasion and occupation have tried to justify the invasion by making much noise that Iraq wasn't claimed to be an "imminent" threat. Never mind that the White House's National Security Strategy urges that "We must adapt the concept of imminent threat to the capabilities and objectives of today's adversaries."

Powell reverses warnings of "sinister nexus" between Iraq and al-Qaida 

Yesterday, when asked about a link or lack thereof between Saddam "Coward in a Hole" Hussein and al Qaeda, Colin Powell denied having seen any hard evidence, saying, "I have not seen smoking-gun, concrete evidence about the connection."

This seems a stark reversal from the information he claimed in his February 5, 2003 presentation to the UN Security council outlining the supposed threat posed by Iraq, which contains thirty-two (32) warnings of a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network" (Powell's own words).

Compare the times Powell mentioned al-Qaeda in Iraq (32) to the times he refereed to the following weapons, supposedly in Iraq:

Can one assume Powell thought he had seen no concrete evidence of chemical, biological or nuclear weapons or "weapons programs"? Seems reasonable if the amount he spoke about them can be an indication.

If you don't wish to review Powell's whole presentation to the UNSC, you can read the State Department's news release summarizing his claims of Iraqi WMD and al Qaeda connections, titled "Powell Draws Picture of Iraqi Deception, Links to al-Qaeda."

Thursday, January 08, 2004

FOX News finds WMD! 

March 24, 2003: 'Huge' Suspected Chemical Weapons Plant Found in Iraq

Coalition forces discovered Monday a "huge" suspected chemical weapons factory near the Iraqi city of Najaf, some 90 miles south of Baghdad, a senior Pentagon official confirmed to Fox News.

March 25, 2003: Chemical Suits, Gas Masks Are Some Signs Iraq Planning Chemical Strike

Thousands of chemical suits found at Iraqi positions, gas masks abandoned in trenches. The items, strewn across the desert road to Baghdad, could be clues that Saddam Hussein's Republican Guard may be plotting to unleash a deadly chemical strike.

April 4, 2003: Coalition Discovers Suspicious Sites Near Baghdad

NEAR BAGHDAD, Iraq  — U.S. troops on Friday found thousands of boxes of white powder, nerve agent antidote, unidentified liquid and Arabic documents on how to engage in chemical warfare, U.S. military officials said.

April 7, 2003: Preliminary Tests Show Chemical Weapons at Iraqi Site

KARBALA, Iraq — U.S. forces may have found banned chemical weapons stored in huge drums at a military training camp in central Iraq. Pentagon sources told Fox News a prisoner of war gave U.S. forces information directing them to a specific site outside Karbala, near a camp described as a military facility, and that preliminary field tests on substances found at the site suggest they contain several banned chemical weapons, including deadly nerve agents and blister agents.

April 7, 2003: Rush Limbaugh Confirms

"Our troops have found dozen of barrels of chemicals in an agricultural facility 30 miles northwest of Baghdad ... The discovery of these weapons of mass destruction doesn't surprise me."

April 11, 2003: Weapons-Grade Plutonium Possibly Found at Iraqi Nuke Complex

BAGHDAD, Iraq — U.S. Marines may have found weapons-grade plutonium in a massive underground facility discovered beneath Iraq's Al Tuwaitha nuclear complex, Fox News confirmed Friday.

April 11, 2003 Army Testing Trucks for WMD

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Anywhere from seven to 15 vehicles are being tested for possibly containing biological or chemical weapons and for serving as mobile weapons labs, Fox News has learned.

April 21, 2003: Officials Find Materials to Make Chemical Weapon

U.S. weapons experts in Iraq have discovered ingredients and equipment that can be used to make a chemical weapon, U.S. military officials confirmed Monday.

April 27, 2003: Troops Find Evidence of Sarin, Blister Agents

BAIJI, Iraq — U.S. troops found about a dozen 55-gallon drums in an open field near this northern Iraqi town, and initial tests indicated one of them contained a mixture of a nerve agent and mustard gas, an American officer said Sunday.

Wednesday, January 07, 2004

President Bush proposes crazy and unrealistic compassion 

Last week, the White House announced it's intention to merge or eliminate job training and employment programs. Today, the President announced that "Our government will develop a quick and simple system for employers to search for American workers." Huh? Oh, I see it's part of immigration reform - "immigration laws should serve the economic needs of our country." What about the economic needs of unemployed Americans? The craziness of the plan doesn't stop there ....

Employers who utilize illegal labor are already violating existing labor laws. There's no incentive in the President's plan for employers to embrace a newfound desire to legitimize their labor - to begin paying Social Security on the wages they pay, pay state unemployment insurance tax on wages, follow OSHA requirements, pay overtime - or begin to follow any of the existing laws they're criminally circumventing - far less follow those as well as the new laws the White House proposes.

One has to question whether illegal workers will see any great advantage to follow any new laws, when they too are knowingly breaking existing laws. For one thing, Bush suggests that illegal workers pay a "one-time fee to register for the temporary worker program." Myself, I'd pay a one-time fee to get out of paying Social Security.

How about this idea for compassion: increase existing quotas and temporary work permits to reflect the actual labor needs of our economy and start to actually enforce existing laws?

Tuesday, January 06, 2004

Paul Wolfowitz: Sending troops to Baghdad is wrong 

Paul Wolfowitz's opinion sharply differed from the White House's on U.S. Policy Toward Iraq ... in 1998, anyway:

"Administration officials continue to claim that the only alternative to maintaining the unity of the UN Security Council is to send U.S. forces to Baghdad. That is wrong. As has been said repeatedly in letters and testimony to the President and the Congress by myself and other former defense officials, including two former secretaries of defense, and a former director of central intelligence, the key lies not in marching U.S. soldiers to Baghdad, but in helping the Iraqi people to liberate themselves from Saddam."

Republicans launch anti-Bush ad campaign 

Enraged by three straight years of double-digit increases in federal spending, Republicans launched an ad campaign to ensure the next president will take fiscal responsibility seriously. A transcript of a representative ad:

Announcer: Two point two trillion dollars. That's a lot of money. $8,000 for each American.

It's our government's projected surplus the next 10 years.

Al Gore plans to spend it all. And more.

Gore is proposing three times the new spending President Clinton proposed ... wiping out the entire surplus and creating a deficit again.

Al Gore's big government spending plan threatens America's prosperity.

Monday, January 05, 2004

Robert Novak on the patriotic White South 

NOVAK: You know, you can give that old -- that old -- those talking points any time you want, Paul. But the fact is, your party is in bad shape in the White South. And


BEGALA: Why is that?


BEGALA: Why is that?

NOVAK: It's because it's a conservative, patriotic area.


Saturday, January 03, 2004

Liberal Reich-wing NY Times reports on Bush's 2004 budget 

"... the president's proposed budget for the 2005 fiscal year, which begins Oct. 1, would slash housing assistance for the impoverished control the rising cost of housing vouchers for the poor, reduce veteran's healthcare benefits require some veterans to pay more for health care, rollback funding for health and disease research slow the growth in spending on biomedical research and chop job programs which strengthen the workforce and help Americans find work merge or eliminate some job training and employment programs."

Reported by the NY Times.

Friday, January 02, 2004


Is this the end of his quest?

Is this the object of his quest?

Thursday, January 01, 2004

The misdisestimated doctrine part I: Economics 

Economic philosophies are easiest placed on a continuum, with advocates of an absolute free-market on one end and those of complete state ownership of industry on the other. At the free-market end, the state does not involve itself in economic issues, at the other the state itself is the economy. Such is the linearity on which most political speech takes place.

The Bush administration's policies can't be placed on such linearity: they believe government should generally allow the free-market to thrive on it's own, but that it's the government's role to create and expand the very space for markets to maneuver within.

Iraq was a wet dream for this philosophy: The US could completely gut a state run economy, leaving an entirely new space for capitol investment to flow into, markets freely moving within the space government had created for it. Such a view was eloquently expressed by Iraqi interim administrator Paul Bremer on June 21, 2003 when he spoke of "the wholesale reallocation of resources and people from state control to private enterprise, the promotion of foreign trade, and the mobilization of domestic and foreign capital."

The same philosophy is also apparent in a November 13, 2001 joint statement on the relationship between the Russian and American economies by George Bush and Vladimir Putin. The statement emphasizes a government created space for global capital to work and thrive within: "We are committed to creating conditions that will enhance our trade and investment relations and help Russia reach its economic potential as a fully integrated and leading member of the world economy."

Domestically, one can see the same philosophy at work: Changes to Medicare are in line with their "creating space for markets to thrive within" philosophy. The bill is a government earmarking of hundreds of billions in capital - $400 billion in the first decade and over $1 billion in the next - to inject into the healthcare and pharmaceutical industries. At the same time it expressly prevents government from playing a role in drug price negotiation. The bill creates a multi-billion dollar playpen for drug and healthcare markets to freely operate and thrive within.

In summary: the Bush administration's view on the economy is that it's the government's job to create markets, but not meddle with them. This is neither a free-market, nor state controlled economy viewpoint; neither can it be placed on a continuum between the two extremes. It's off that linear map, and when you try to force it on to a two dimensional line, some will place it more on the "left", some will place it more on the "right". If you realize it's a new, radical philosophy, you can see it for what it is: neither right-leaning or left-leaning, but radicalized in a different, third dimension.

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