From the World Conference in Nagasaki: For a Nuclear Weapon-Free, Peaceful and Just World

August 8, 2014
2014 World Conference in Nagasaki closing ceremony.

2014 World Conference in Nagasaki closing ceremony.

Note: On the 69th anniversary of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Gensuikyo and other partners in Japan convened the 2014 World Conference against Atomic and Hydrogen Bombs  in Hiroshima and Nagasaki from August 2 to 9, under the theme: “For a Nuclear Weapon-free, Peaceful and Just World”. Gensuikyo is one of the international and US organizations  we will partner with to organize  an international conference and march at the time of the United Nation’s 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference in NYC.

A Broader Consensus-Building Movement Heading to 2015 Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference (NPT)

By Sally Jones, Peace Action – USA 

August 8, 2014 World Conference – Nagasaki 

Konichiwa.  My name is Sally Jones from Peace Action USA.  I am from our New York affiliate and will be one of your hosts for the 2015 NPT.  Thank you to the Women’s Peace Fund, Shinfujin, Gensuikyo and everyone who helped make my first trip to Japan the experience of a lifetime.  It has been a wrenching experience to be here at ground zero of the A-bomb attacks.  With the crisis in Ukraine and the military build-up in Asia, we are living in dangerous times.  But it is also inspirational to be at the epicenter of the No Nukes! No War! Movement.

What I heard from activists from all over Japan at the conference in Hiroshima is that we need to make this movement a broader, consensus building movement, not just here in Japan but globally.  Anti-nuke activists here in Japan are showing us how.

The anti-nuke movement here has the spirit of the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 1960’s in the USA and you have even adopted its theme song:  We Shall Overcome.  The huge petition drive movement going on right now has resurrected some of the techniques of the 1980’s nuclear freeze.  Shinfujin is connecting to women by making the nuclear abolition movement a women’s movement.  It is connecting to youth by making this a youth movement.  It is connecting to people of faith by making this a spiritual movement.  It is seeking the endorsement of celebrities and putting their faces on flyers.  It is asking parents and grandparents to take their youngsters to peace walks and festivals and making the work creative and inspiring.  Japan’s movement is telling the world the compelling stories of the hibakusha with testimony and exhibits and it  connects their plight to the plight of the many victims in other countries who suffer because of nuclear accidents and testing.

Being a broad consensus building movement does not mean we are compromising our ideals of justice and equality. The Japanese No Nukes! Movement stands in solidarity with the Marshall Islands and their lawsuits against the U.S. and the nuclear weapons states.  It goes to Okinawa to help the struggle against US military base expansion.  You support the peace and justice movements from other countries – which is reflected in the international delegation you brought to this conference – from Korea, Guam, the Philippines, Vietnam, Nepal, India, Indonesia, Cuba, Malaysia, Portugal, France, Norway, the United Kingdom and the US and Russia.

As we approach the all important year of 2015 with the NPT Review happening on the 70 anniversary of the A-bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, we will be taking this broader, consensus-building movement to NYC.  In our planning of activities for NY, let us use the spirit of the Japanese Anti-Nuke movement and apply them to the streets of NY.

This is what I’ve heard from activists at this conference so far:

Let the women, families, youth, and persons of faith who are in our movement create their own actions so that every person who cares about our issues will want to be there with us – and make it clear that we are there for their issues, too.  Some of the ideas I’ve heard is a Tea Party in Central Park, a Youth Peace Walk, and perhaps even a Children’s March. Political and celebrity endorsements aren’t a bad idea, either.

Let the world be involved by choosing a global action at an agreed upon hour in every time zone around the globe. 

And, finally, bring the heart and soul of the No Nukes! Movement to NYC in the form of the Japanese delegations from every prefecture, every group, with their hundreds of thousands of signatures, exhibitions and stories of the hibakusha and let them spread that spirit as far and high as possible.

With the creativity of activists from all over the globe, let us go to NY and breakdown the stone walls of the nuclear weapons states’ intransigence, nuclear deterrence, militarism and injustice.

Thank you.


Letter from the Haifa Conference

December 9, 2013


Posted on December 7, 2013 by  in CommentaryMAPA NewsOur People // 0 Comments

jjk130hI arrived in Ben-Gurion Airport via Rome on Wednesday night and had the most routine entry to Israel ever.  Not a single question, even after I asked not to have my passport stamped and told the agent I was there to attend a conference until Sunday.  The Haifa International Conference for a Middle East Free of Weapons of Mass Destruction (http://wmdfz.org/) began on Thursday morning at the Dan Panorama Hotel overlooking Haifa Harbor from the top of Mount Carmel.  I’m estimating around 150 registered delegates, with perhaps 100 or so in the room at any one time. Although the Conference was officially non-partisan it was clearly under the auspices of the Israeli far left, principally the electoral Front for Peace and Democracy (Hadash in Hebrew, Jabha in Arabic, “The Front”), which includes the Israeli Communist Party.In my experience, the Israeli Left is the only social space in Israel where Arabs and Jews mingle in cordial equality.  Here the Palestinians tended to speak Arabic among themselves, but they addressed the Conference in Hebrew.The crowd was a little on the “gray” side, but not so much as similar gatherings tend to be in the US.  And although the Israeli Left is regarded as a small radical fringe by most of the Jewish population, Hadash/Jabha has 4 Knesset members (out of 120) and a strong base principally in the Arab Palestinian communities; Meretz, also represented at the Conference (think DSA), has 5 Knesset members.  The mayor of Haifa welcomed the Conference.I’m staying at the apartment of two elderly Communists in their 80’s.  Colman Altman, who met me at the train station, was born in South Africa to Lithuanian parents and emigrated to Israel in he 1950’s. He’s a retired academic physicist.  His wife Janina, is a chemist from Lvov, now in Ukraine, but known as the Eastern Polish city of Lviv before the Second World War. (Earlier it was Lemberg in Austrian Galicia, the home of the novelist Joseph Roth.) Janina lost her entire family to the Nazis and came to Israel in 1950—where, ironically, she traded her parents’ Zionist ideal for revolutionary politics.  She said the inequality she experienced in Israel and especially the treatment of Arabs was her inspiration.There were delegates from a number of Foreign countries – perhaps a half-dozen  or more from the US, including three from the US Peace Council, two (including myself along with Madeline Hoffman from New Jersey) and a woman representing WILPF; others were from France, Francophone Africa (Senegal?) Germany, Belgium and perhaps other countries I may have missed.The morning program opened with a very moving address by Prof. Tadatoshi Akiba, the mayor of Hiroshima until 2011.  He was introduced by Naomi Chazan, an Israeli academic with a  long record of fighting for human rights. (When I spoke with Akiba later, he called Boston his “second home”, having studied for years at MIT.)Akiba pointed out that if “Official” Israel refused to participate in the movement toward the abolition of nuclear weapons in the Middle East, then is was up to political/progressive people to press the issue.  He said he spoke on behalf of the many thousands of “Hibakusha” or nuclear bomb survivors from Hiroshima and Nagasaki, who are demanding the complete abolition of nuclear weapons “in their lifetime. (Their average age is in the 70’s.)  Their slogan resonates tellingly here in Israel:  “Never Again should any people suffer as we did.”Akiba spoke about some hopeful signs in the struggle to eliminate nuclear weapons:In October 2013 there was a conference of 56 countries like Sweden, South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, “Able But Unwilling” to develop nuclear weapons.  That is, they possessed the technical ability and nuclear programs necessary to produce nuclear weapons but chose not to do so. They cited the influence of anti-war domestic politics as the key element opposing weapons development.In November of this year the signatory nations of The Red Cross/Red Crescent met in Sydney, Australia to reaffirm the same goal of moving the nuclear abolition goal of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.Finally, the international “Mayors for Peace” now has almost 6000 members and provides hope that urban and civil society will be able to push their governments. Akiba pointed out that cities, unlike nations, do not have armies.The goal of the 60,000 surviving Hibakusha is the elimination of nuclear weapons by 2020 – “While we are alive”.  Akiba said a goal is “A dream with a deadline” and that for the Hibakusha it meant success “within our lifetime.”Former Knesset speaker Avrum Burg spoke next about the politics of a Middle East WMDFZ.  I’ll report on that in a subsequent p


Our latest, published by The Hill, on the absurd nuclear weapons budget: Days of blank checks are over for the nuclear weapons establishment

April 26, 2013

http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/296397-days-of-blank-checks-are-over-for-nuclear-weapons-establishment

By Kevin Martin, Peace Action and Jay Coghlan, Nuclear Watch New Mexico – 04/26/13 11:20 AM ET

Many of America’s Cold War weapons are in the hands of one of its most obscure government agencies. It’s called the National Nuclear Security Administration, and it was the subject of a senate budget hearing this week. The agency’s obscurity to most taxpayers is exceeded only by its astonishing failure to acknowledge political and fiscal reality.

Two decades after the Cold War, the U.S. is reducing the number and the role of its nuclear weapons, and is committed to providing international leadership on nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Meanwhile, the federal budget is extremely tight; cuts are being proposed in all manner of government programs, including, unwisely, Social Security, Medicare and veterans’ benefits.

The National Nuclear Security Administration, apparently indifferent to federal belt-tightening, thinks it needs a big raise. Stuck in the Cold War, the hey-day of nuclear spending, the agency in charge of the nation’s nuclear weapons is calling for more spending in almost every category.

The nuclear weapons budget request is $7.87 billion, in real terms a 16.7 percent increase above last year’s levels, virtually unheard of in all other federal agencies given our nation’s fiscal constraints. That large increase is especially ironic given the agency’s chronic cost overruns and mismanagement in both construction projects and nuclear weapons programs. The agency also plans to increase its nuclear weapons budget to $9.29 billion by 2018, an 18 percent increase.

In a time when the U.S. nuclear arsenal is shrinking and the Obama administration seeks further mutual arms reductions with Russia, this overreach by the National Nuclear Security Administration is hard to understand. The nuclear weapons laboratories and production facilities have long enjoyed a privileged existence, thanks to powerful supporters in Congress, presidential administrations, and weapons corporations. Any large, powerful bureaucracy will naturally resist, vigorously, attempts to reduce its budget or weaken its clout.

But there seems to be something more here in nuclear overseers’ chutzpah in proposing lavish budget increases when the rest of the government, and many Americans, face harsh austerity.

The nuclear weapons establishment has, for decades, woven a cloak of secrecy around nuclear weapons technology. Nuclear insiders enjoyed a serious lack of accountability on how funds are spent and programs are run. “The nuclear priesthood” is a good shorthand for this dynamic, and one need not conjure visions of a bunch of Dr. Strangeloves running around our nuclear weapons laboratories to understand they fear their time is past, as it should be if we are to move toward a nuclear-weapons free world.

Nuclear administrators serve the country’s national security interests, not their own. This budget request is just a wish list; Congress, acting on behalf of we taxpayers, doesn’t have to fund any of it.

Congress needs to very carefully scrutinize the budget requests for exorbitant, controversial, and failing programs. The National Ignition Facility, Uranium Processing Facility and MOX (mixed oxide) fuel program are just a few examples of nuclear programs that are both mismanaged and unnecessary. Most Americans have never heard of these programs, yet American taxpayers will spend more than half a trillion dollars over the next decade on these and other nuclear capabilities that irrelevant in the 21st century.

NNSA and its managers won’t like congressional oversight or fiscal responsibility. They should remember that they work for us, and Americans would rather invest our tax dollars in education, health care, job creation, and local law enforcement – the people who protect us everyday, not the people who watch over Cold War relics. The nuclear priesthood’s blank check days are over.

Martin serves as executive director of Peace Action. 

Coghlan serves as executive director of Nuclear Watch New Mexico.

Read more: http://thehill.com/blogs/congress-blog/economy-a-budget/296397-days-of-blank-checks-are-over-for-nuclear-weapons-establishment#ixzz2RaSALJZe
Follow us: @thehill on Twitter | TheHill on Facebook


Kansas City MO anti-nuke ballot initiative – vote is tomorrow!

April 1, 2013

Peace activists and groups in Kansas City, Missouri, including our Peace Action affiliate PeaceWorks KC, have been waging an impressive local struggle around the oddball government-corporate (Honeywell – don’t buy their products!) partnership that was concocted to build a new plant in KC that will manufacture the non-nuclear components of U.S. nuclear bombs (why such a thing is needed as we downsize our nuclear arsenal is quite a head-scratcher). They succeeded in getting an initiative on tomorrow’s municipal ballot to prevent such shenanigans from being repeated or expanded in the future. The local NPR affiliate ran a story on the issue this morning, give it a listen and if you have friends or relatives in KC, make sure they vote yes on Question 3!

Here’s the text of the story on KCUR radio:

The National Nuclear Security Agency contracted that work to a company called Bendix (after a merger, it’s now called Honeywell).  At the height of the Cold War, in the 1980s, the factory employed some 8000 workers.

That was when psychologist Rachel MacNair first got involved in the movement against nuclear weapons.

“Back in the 1970s and 80s, people were really afraid the world was going to end in a nuclear holocaust,” MacNair says.

She joined a group in Kansas City that advocated converting the Bannister facility to a factory that made some other product.

“At the time it was a pie-in-the-sky, starry-eyed idealist,  easily-dismissed kind of idea,” MacNair says. “And then the Cold War ended. And the Cold War has been over for a couple of decades.  And nowadays we have retired military people, we have military experts, we have the same people who set up mutually assured destruction saying that it’s time to get rid of nuclear weapons.

According to The Kansas City Star, the Honeywell plant currently employs about 2000 workers, who “maintain the W76 missile warhead, a submarine-based weapon which is seven times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb.”

The factory is getting old, though, and Kansas City officials were afraid of losing the plant, and the jobs, to New Mexico. So, they offered tax incentives to a private developer. And in 2010, ground was broken on a $1 billion new facility.

MacNair thought the project made no sense, since the Obama administration is talking about reducing nuclear arsenals.

“I just could not stand the idea of building a whole new plant as if we were going to be making new parts for decades.”

Anti-nuclear weapon activists in Kansas City tried to stop the incentives with previous petitions. And two years ago, some 50 people were arrested in a protest at the construction site.

The building’s complete now. The NNSA and Honeywell have been transferring operations already. It’s supposed to go online in August of 2014.

The question on the ballot isn’t about shutting down the new plant down, but rather, it prohibits the city from offering any futures incentives to “facilities that produce or procure components for, assemble, or refurbish nuclear weapons.”  This would apply to companies that work exclusively with Honeywell or any future nuclear weapons plant.

According to city councilman Scott Taylor, this makes Kansas City look like an unappealing place to do business.

“A company, regardless of the size, is looking to locate a new facility.  They will usually have a site selection process, that has multiple sites,” Taylor says. “And if one of those sites happens to have something that’s different from all the others, that’s a little strange and  really might require some additional legal work, or research to see if they have some legal issues, they’ll just take us off the list and move to the other options because it will be a lot easier for them.”

Taylor is the at-large councilman in District 6, where the new plant is located.  He says the new building has already helped bolster Kansas City’s construction industry through the recession. And he’s hoping it will anchor development in a struggling part of town.

‘Specifically in South Kansas City, we’ve really been fighting hard for the Three Trails re-development, the old Bannister Mall,” Taylor says. “We’ve had an incentive package on all that property; it’s already in place, we’ve already done that. If a company has any ties to this facility there’s a question as to whether they can even locate there if they wanted to. If they can’t locate there, it’s just as easy for a lot of these companies looking to locate near this plant to locate in Overland Park, Leawood, Grandview and other areas.  I’d rather have them in South Kansas City.”

Taylor says the old Bannister facility is on federal land, so it doesn’t generate taxes for the city and the school district.  The new plant is on private land, so despite the incentives, it will bring in property taxes for Kansas City, Missouri, as well as the Grandview school district, which dips into KC at that spot.

Taylor says he understands the intent behind the ballot question.

‘We all agree that it would be nice if all countries would disarm nuclear weapons,’ Taylor says. “But that’s not the world we live in and quite frankly the language of this doesn’t address disarmament or doing anything with the federal government specifically.  My concern is that the unintended consequences of this would be very dramatic for our local economy.”

Other opponents say that the ballot question would not stop the production of nuclear weapons, anyway, that it would just shift the jobs elsewhere.

But proponents say they want to raise awareness that the nuclear weapons plant is here, and that it’s controversial.

This story was produced for KC Currents, which airs Sundays at 5pm with a repeat Mondays at 8pm. To listen on your own schedule, subscribe to the KC Currents podcast.


Cuban Missile Crisis + 50 Years – please share your memories or lessons learned

October 25, 2012

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

For me, the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Missile Crisis has a very personal angle. On this day fifty years ago, I was still in my mother’s womb, and she, like many people at the time, thought a nuclear war might well be imminent. She was afraid she’d never get to see her first child be born. Luckily, the crisis passed (and many government officials do in fact attribute luck, as much or more than any smart decisions by Kruschev or Kennedy, with averting catastrophe).

I was born several weeks later (a month premature, but stress about possible nuclear war didn’t cause that, according to my mom, Linn Martin), and, perhaps fittingly or ironically, I grew up to be a peace and disarmament activist. (Maybe my Mennonite and Quaker heritage, and outrage at Ronald Reagan’s sabre-rattling foreign policy, had as much to do with my career choice as did my being born after the missile crisis.)

While the Cold War never should have justified the insane nuclear weapons buildup between the U.S. and Soviet Union, people at the time (and now, looking back) would have said there was a substantive reason for it, namely the global competition of idealogies and geo-strategic interests between the two superpowers. Yet it was, in large measure, the mere existence of the weapons themselves (and their placement, by both the U.S. and Soviet Union, dangerously and provocatively close to the other’s territory) that caused the crisis.

Today, that fact is even worse. While we have far fewer nuclear weapons in the world, the U.S. and Russia still have thousands of warheads poised to be launched against the other, or some other country, on a moment’s notice. Why? There is no good reason to continue to hold humanity hostage with these grotesque weapons, other than the other side has them. So there is no “strategy” behind our nuclear arsenals, they have become, through inertia and apathy, self-justifying. Why do we have ‘em? Because they do. Why do they have ‘em? Because we do.

Peace Action, of course, does not accept this situation, and will initiate some exciting new campaigns early in the new year to press the case for the global abolition of nuclear weapons. For now, I’d love to hear your reflections on the Cuban Missile Crisis, both remembrances and lessons learned, or not, and their applicability for today. (So one need not to have been born at the time to share your comments.)


Honor Nuclear Weapons Treaty

August 13, 2012

Salt Lake City Tribune

By Christine Meecham And Deb Sawyer

Published August 9, 2012 1:01 am

 

For much of this year, the prospect of Iran becoming a nuclear weapons state has been a major international concern. As members of the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons, we have a perspective we’d like to share concerning the potential proliferation of nuclear weapons.

We both grew up in Utah during the Cold War, when the threat of mass annihilation was very real. As young adults we were hopeful when the Non-Proliferation Treaty was put into force in 1970. The grand bargain of the NPT was simple: Nations that did not have nuclear weapons agreed never to acquire them, while the five nuclear states, China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States, agreed to share the peaceful benefits of nuclear technology as they pursued the elimination of their nuclear arsenal. Making sure that both ends of this agreement are honored is essential to the long-term viability of the NPT.

Now the countries with nuclear weapons also include Israel, India, Pakistan and North Korea. Unlike the Cold War, today our greatest national security threats come from the breakdown of the non-proliferation regime and nuclear terrorism. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, there are at least 40 other nations with the capacity to develop nuclear weapons, which brings us back to the current conflict with Iran.

Despite the censures, sanctions and embargoes, Iran continues its nuclear program claiming that it is within its rights to develop nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and threatening to withdraw, as did North Korea, from the Non-Proliferation Treaty. If Iran withdraws from the NPT, efforts to ensure that its enriched uranium not be diverted to develop nuclear weapons would no longer be subject to oversight by the UN nuclear agency. In addition, it would bring us one step closer to another war in the Middle East.

We believe it is time to take another tack. Many of the NPT non-nuclear states believe that the nuclear-weapon states have not complied with their side of the bargain. In an attempt to reassure the non-proliferation regime, President Obama, in his Prague speech in April 2009, outlined a series of initiatives that would honor our disarmament commitment and lead to a nuclear-weapons free world. One of the first steps toward this end is putting a permanent ban on nuclear weapons testing.

Twenty years ago in 1992, President George H. W. Bush signed a moratorium on nuclear testing and other states followed. In 1996, the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty was signed, but the Senate failed to ratify it in 1999.

What if the United States surprised the world and ratified the test ban treaty? Since our experts maintain that we don’t need to test nuclear weapons to keep them viable, doesn’t it make sense to make this moratorium permanent? Wouldn’t it go a long way in affirming our commitment to nuclear disarmament?

One thing is certain, if we continue to bolster our nuclear capabilities, no amount of persuasion or sanctions will keep non-nuclear states, particularly our political foes, from eventually acquiring these weapons of mass destruction. In contrast, if we honor our commitments under the Non-Proliferation Treaty, we will be leading the global community towards a greater security for all.

Christine Meecham and Deb Sawyer are members of the Utah Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons. Both live in Salt Lake City.

(Note – the Utah Campaign is an organizational member of Peace Action.)


Kev’s Summer Reading List

July 9, 2012

Here are four books on Peace Action related issues I’ve read recently, all written by colleagues (okay maybe I need to balance these now with some non-political books!). What are you reading this summer? Please share your favorites, whether political or peace-related or not.

–Kevin Martin, Executive Director

Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control by Medea Benjamin, co-founder of Code Pink: Women for Peace and Global Exchange

Medea Benjamin, an indefatigable drum major for peace and justice, provides a real eye opener to how U.S. Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV’s) or “drones” are not only killing innocent civilians in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other countries (most of whom the U.S. is not at war against), but how drones are lowering the bar for warmaking and spying on Americans. Clear, concise, well-argued and passionate, featuring interviews with drone victims and activists working to limit the proliferation of drones and other robotic warfare technology, this book is a must-read for peace activists wanting to learn more about this pernicious threat to peace and our civil liberties and how to stop it.

Working for Peace and Justice: Memoirs of an Activist Intellectual by Lawrence Wittner, Professor Emeritus at the State University of New York at Albany and a member of the Peace Action national board of directors

Perhaps because I admire and like Larry Wittner so much,  I really enjoyed this coming of age story of a shy, intellectual boy from Brooklyn who went on to become a civil rights, labor and peace activist, and the authoritative scholar of the global nuclear disarmament movement. While I enjoyed that “political” part of the book, Larry’s personal journey is very compelling too, as he overcame numerous serious personal and professional obstacles to become a much-respected and well-liked stalwart in the fields of academia and activism.

Here is the blurb I wrote for the book:

Larry Wittner’s life and work are inspiring on their own, but he recounts them in such a frank, open manner that he has crafted a real page-turner. Working for Peace and Justice takes you along on a joyful ride of discovery through the life of a model citizen/scholar/activist.”

The Peacekeeping Economy:  Using Economic Relationships to Build a More Peaceful, Prosperous, and Secure World by Lloyd “Jeff” Dumas, Professor at the University of Texas at Dallas

If you are looking for a Marxist screed about war and capitalism, Jeff Dumas’s latest work is not the one for you. But if you like practical ideas on how a more just U.S. and global economy could work better for everyone, and how a more peaceful world is possible with more equitable economic policies, then you will dig into this book, part of “an unintended trilogy” by Dumas. For good measure, he throws in a fascinating chapter on nonviolence. It’s a bit of a serious, somewhat academic read, but very rewarding, even to someone who was not very strong on Economics in my academic career! Dumas’s aim is true, and he aims to make a difference, not wow you with economics wizardry.

 Prophets of War: Lockheed Martin and the Making of the Military Industrial Complex by William Hartung

Okay I only got to read part of this book, but it was great, as everything Bill Hartung writes always is. It’s a fascinating history of how Lockheed began as a small airplane company and then metastasized into the largest merchant of death on the planet. As anti-corporate organizing grows, we need to sharpen the focus on some of the worst corporations, those who profit from and lobby for endless wars, bottomless weapons contracts and gargantuan military budgets. This book is an invaluable resource for doing just that!


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