Author: lafocus

Michael Jackson Estate’s $100 Million ‘Leaving Neverland’ Lawsuit Reaffirmed

HBO has suffered another loss in its goal to avoid arbitration with Michael Jackson’s estate in the $100 million ‘Leaving Neverland’ dispute after an appeal court on Monday granted the Jackson estate’s appeal to allow for arbitration.

The 9th Circuit U.S Court of Appeals has reaffirmed that the estate’s lawsuit against Leaving Neverland may move forward. The estate is suing, arguing that the Emmy winning documentary goes against a 1992 non-disparagement clause in a contract between HBO and Jackson.

“An arbitration clause can still bind the parties, even if the parties fully performed the contract years ago,” wrote the trio of judges on Monday, reaffirming a lower court decision of September 2019.

“HBO does not dispute the existence of a valid agreement, the included arbitration provision, or the incorporated confidentiality provision, but rather the ‘continuing validity’ of the agreement and the arbitration provision,” the appeal court added in the decision. “Thus, a valid arbitration agreement exists.”

HBO maintains that the 27-year-old clause from the 1992 concert film is irrelevant to the present dispute.

New Cal NAACP Chief Appoints Sac Woman Executive Director

Antonio Ray Harvey | California Black Media

The new president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) California-Hawaii State Conference is keeping in step with a national movement making strides to level the playing field for Black women — long underrepresented in both private and public sector leadership roles. Like organizations and companies around the country, California’s conference of the oldest civil rights organization in the country is leading by increasing professional opportunities and offering critical career support for Black women. 

Kickstarting his tenure, the NAACP State Conference President Rick L. Callender announced last week that Betty Williams has been hired as the organization’s executive director. 


Cal Safety Workgroup Endorses COVID Vaccine Ahead of National Rollout This Week

Quinci LeGardye | California Black Media 

With concerns still lingering about the safety and side effects, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine has passed the full approval process and it is ready for distribution in the U.S. The first doses will arrive at California hospitals this week. 

On Dec. 11, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued an emergency use authorization for the Pfizer/BioNTech coronavirus vaccine to be distributed to individuals 16 and older. In a statement, the FDA said that Pfizer’s clinical trial data showed that the “known and potential” benefits of the vaccine outweighed its risks. 

“Today’s action follows an open and transparent review process that included input from independent scientific and public health experts and a thorough evaluation by the agency’s career scientists to ensure this vaccine met FDA’s rigorous, scientific standards for safety, effectiveness, and manufacturing quality needed to support emergency use authorization,” said FDA Commissioner Stephen M. Hahn, M.D. 

On Dec. 12, U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the Pfizer vaccine. CDC Director Robert Redfield, M.D., accepted the recommendation on Dec. 13, passing the vaccine through the final step needed for distribution. On the same day it received CDC. approval, the first batch of vaccines was shipped out of a Pfizer plant in Portage, Michigan. 

“This is the next step in our efforts to protect Americans, reduce the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, and help restore some normalcy to our lives and our country,” Dr. Redfield said in a statement. 

In addition to governmental reviews, state officials and public health organizations are also reviewing the safety of the Pfizer vaccine. The Western States Scientific Safety Review Workgroup, made up of scientists and experts representing California and other states, independently reviewed and endorsed the vaccine’s safety on Dec. 13. 

“This morning, the Workgroup recommended the Pfizer vaccine as safe for public use. With shipments of the vaccine soon on their way to California, we are working hand-in-hand with local public health officials to get the vaccine out to the first phase of recipients. Their work will continue as data becomes available on other potential vaccines,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. 

The National Medical Association, the largest national organization representing African American physicians and patients, has also formed a COVID-19 task force to offer a recommendation regarding the vaccine. 

California state officials expect to receive 327,000 doses of the Pfizer vaccine in the upcoming week. The Moderna coronavirus vaccine is also expected to be approved by the FDA this month, and it’s expected that California will receive about 2.16 million doses of the Pfizer and Moderna vaccines combined by the end of December. 

The Pfizer vaccine is given as two shots, administered 21 days apart. FDA documents note that the vaccine seems to provide “some protection” after the first shot, but it takes both doses to reach an efficacy of 95 %. 

Once the vaccines arrive in California, they will be sent to hospitals and other facilities that can store them at around minus 94 degrees Fahrenheit. Storage facilities confirmed so far include Cedars-Sinai Medical Center and UC San Francisco Medical Center. 

Priority for receiving the vaccine will go to health workers most likely to be exposed to COVID-19, as well as residents and staff of nursing homes and long-term care facilities. According to public health experts, vaccines will most likely be available for the general public in spring or summer 2021. 

As of Sunday night, the COVID-19 death toll in the United States since the pandemic was declared in March reached nearly 300,000. An estimated 16.2 million Americans have been infected. In California, there have been an estimated 21,043 deaths and 1.5 million reported cases. 

According to FDA documents, the vaccine does have some common adverse effects, including pain at the injection site, fatigue, headache, chills, muscle or joint pain and fever. Long term effects of the vaccine are not yet known. 

The FDA has also warned against using the Pfizer vaccine for people who have had severe allergic reactions to ingredients used in this vaccine. Though severe allergic reactions to vaccines are rare, some participants in the Pfizer trial did experience adverse reactions, and the trial itself excluded people with a history of the severe allergic reaction anaphylaxis. 

In a Dec. 12 press conference, the FDA said it will continue to monitor severe allergic reactions associated with the vaccine.


From Forest to Faucet: The Health of Headwaters Determines Tap Water Quality

Dale Hunter | In Partnership with California Black Media 

Depending on where in California you live, some of the water from your faucet probably traveled hundreds of miles from its origins: either a melting snowbank in the high Sierra Nevada or a winter rainstorm that doused its foothills. 

That origin point, California’s headwaters, on average receive 60 % of the state’s annual precipitation falling as rain or snow. Californians consume roughly the same amount of water after it flows through streams and rivers into reservoirs, accounting for half of the state’s surface water storage. 

However, the harsh reality of destructive wildfires that mar every California warm season — especially this year — can also hit these headwater forests. When these catastrophic blazes, which are driven by climate change, burn through forests, they can affect water treatment because ash is washed into watershed streams and rivers. 

Intense heat from these fires bakes the ground into hardpan. Seasonal rains wash ashes off the surface into streams leading to reservoirs that feed water treatment plants. Water providers can still treat and deliver safe drinking water, but the ash makes the job more difficult because it adds sediment to the reservoirs. 

The good news is there are solutions within our reach. Work to achieve those solutions is underway in many parts of the Sierra Nevada and requires reversing a hundred years of well-intentioned, but ultimately destructive forest management. 

During most of the last century, wildland firefighting focused exclusively on preventing forest fires from starting. And When one did start, minimizing its size at all costs was the main priority. However, this strategy ignored the natural role of fire over millennia. Ignited by lightening or set by Native Americans who understood its value, natural fire kept forests thinned and healthy by removing excess undergrowth. These fires tended to creep along the forest floor and burn less hot and in more controlled patterns than today’s raging and record-setting conflagrations. 

However, large swaths of forests kept largely free from fire have overgrown. Instead of larger trees spaced apart, much of the Sierra Nevada headwater forests have become a thick carpet of smaller trees packed together and growing over dense underbrush. Years of severe and intermittent drought have cooked this vegetation into bone-dry kindling, explosive fire fuel that feeds all-consuming fires such as the ones that swept through California and the Pacific Northwest this year. 

Removing this undergrowth, thinning headwater forests back to their natural state and restoring the role of fire within the ecosystem represents a massive undertaking, but is not impossible. In California, public water agencies, environmental nonprofit organizations, as well as local and state agencies and the federal government are collaborating on many levels to enhance headwaters health, and in doing so protect the quality and reliability of our water supplies. 

Natural fire has partially returned through what are known as prescribed burns. Set outside of the height of fire season and closely monitored, this tactic has successfully cleared out overgrowth in limited sections of forest. There are risks, and these fires do affect air quality, but the alternative is far worse. Another tactic, although labor intensive, is employing work crews to manually thin sections of forests. These projects often use heavy machinery, such as masticators, which are tractor-mounted wood chippers. 

One example can be found in the Northern Sierra Nevada. The Placer County Water Agency (PCWA) is leading a public-private partnership that treated more than 1,000 acres of forest in the Lake Tahoe area during 2019. Over 10 years, this single project aims to restore health to 22,000 acres of forest within the headwaters of the American River, a major source of water for the Sacramento area. 

Making those forests less vulnerable to catastrophic wildfires will require a long-term financial commitment, as well as determination. However, as with many challenges with California water, collaboration involving water agencies has opened a clear path toward a more resilient future for our state’s water supply. 

About the Author 

Dale Hunter is Executive Director of the California African American Water Education Foundation (CAAWEF). It is a nonprofit water education organization focused on the African American community in California. Formed in 2019, CAAWEF is based in Sacramento. 

The information in this article is brought to you in partnership with the Association of California Water Agencies (ACWA), a non-profit statewide association of public water agencies whose more than 450 members are responsible for about 90 % of the water deliveries in California.


U.S. Congressman Jim Clyburn Says Gov. Newsom Must Appoint Black Woman to U.S. Senate

Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌ ‌|‌ ‌California‌ ‌Black‌ ‌Media‌ 

 U.S. Rep. Jim Clyburn (D-South Carolina), the Majority Whip of the U.S. House of Representatives and highest-ranking African American in Congress, said Gov. Gavin Newsom must appoint a Black woman to replace Sen. Kamala Harris in the U.S. Senate.  

 “Black women play a critical role in everything I do and say, and I would love to see a Black woman replace our Vice President-elect Kamala Harris,” he said. “I’ve made that known to everybody.” 

 Clyburn, who has represented South Carolina’s 6th District in Congress since 1993, said Congresswomen Barbara Lee (D-CA-13) and Karen Bass (D-CA-37) are both qualified and prepared to be California’s next junior Senator.  

 “I’ll go a little bit further. I’ll mention two Black women in Lee and Bass,” he continued. “Two outstanding women, either one of whom would make outstanding Congresspeople.”   

In February, as President Elect Joe Biden’s campaign began to sputter due to lukewarm support among Democrats, tough competition from Michael Bloomberg and sharp criticisms in the African American community, Clyburn endorsed the former Vice President.  With that nod, Clyburn — highly regarded in his home state and across Democratic Circles — set Biden up for a critical win in the South Carolina Democratic primary. That victory gave Biden’s now-successful run for the presidency new life.  

 Clyburn was speaking Wednesday afternoon during a Zoom conference with journalists, including California Black Media.  

 The meeting was held to mark the 150th Anniversary of Joseph Rainey’s swearing-in to Congress. Rainey, who was also from South Carolina, became the first Black person to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives when he was elected in 1870.   Speaker of the House of Representatives and California Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi also attended the virtual tribute and news conference.  

 Clyburn said his decision to support Biden’s candidacy for president was influenced by Black women, his wife Emily (who passed away in 2019), and three daughters, including Mignon Clyburn, who was appointed to the Federal Communications Commission by President Barack Obama.  

“All three of them are active politically. So, I know the value of Black women,” Clyburn said of Mignon Clyburn, Jennifer Clyburn-Reed, and Angela Clyburn. “The endorsement that I made — it was Emily Clyburn speaking through me. She told me three or four weeks before she passed away that our best bet to win this election was Joe Biden.” 

After Jan. 20, 2021, when Harris is sworn in Vice President of the United States, there will be no Black woman in the U.S. Senate. The loss of the presence and perspective of the only Black woman in the highest governing body in the country has been a  major point of concern for Black women in California, across the nation and at all levels of Democratic Party membership and leadership ranks.  

Gov. Newsom can either appoint a replacement to complete Harris’s term, which ends in 2023, or he can call a special election. Harris was elected to the position in 2017 after former Sen. Barbara Boxer decided not to run for another term. Boxer held the seat from 1993 to 2017.  

According to several media reports and sources close to the governor’s office, California’s Secretary of State Alex Padilla is at the top of the list of people being considered for the job.  But Black women and African American organizations in California and around the country have been adamant that African American women should continue to have a voice in the Senate.  They have organized a nationwide campaign, #LetsKeepTheSeat, to urge Gov. Newsom to appoint Bass or Lee.  

Clyburn also said that he is pleased that  Biden has appointed California Attorney General Xavier Becerra Health and Human Services Secretary. He considers Becerra (who was also a U.S. Congressman from 1993 to 2017) a colleague and friend. 

“Xavier Becerra will be coming here as a part of this administration. So now I have no conflict except for these two outstanding Black women,” Clyburn said. 

A poll released earlier today found that, among California voters, Bass is the top choice to replace Harris.  The survey was commissioned by the Washington, D.C. political consulting firm Strother Nuckles Strategies and conducted by Public Policy Polling an organization based in Raleigh, North Carolina.


LAPD Budget Reallocation Finalized, Councilman Curren Price’s District 9 to Receive $21 Million

By Dianne Lugo 

In July, Councilman Curren Price introduced a motion, alongside Council President Nury Martinez and Councilman Herb Wesson, to identify and cut $100-$150 million from the Los Angeles Police Department’s proposed 2020-2021 budget. That money, they proposed, would instead be reinvested into Black and Brown communities to fund youth work programs, local hire efforts and other social services. 

The motion passed on a 12-2 vote and last week, on Dec. 9, the City Council finalized and approved the blueprint for how the $150 million should be reallocated. 

A report released on Dec. 3 identified the recommended apportionment of the former LAPD funds and determined that Price’s District 9 was the region with the “highest need” for the funds. The district will receive $21 million of the funds, the most compared to other districts. 

City Council District 8 and 15 followed in need. They will receive $16 and $12 million respectively. 

“The action taken by the City Council today demonstrates a firm and ongoing commitment to equity and social justice. The proposed $21 million will go far to address some of the most critical needs in my District such as adding a substantial number of gang intervention workers from our community that will help to reduce crime and save lives,” Price said in a statement. “We will also use these resources to increase youth employment opportunities, support small and microbusinesses, expand homeless multidisciplinary teams and other social service programs” 

“This presents a tremendous opportunity to elevate communities like the one I represent that suffer much of the brunt of despair felt during these perilous times in our City. Over the next few months, my Office will put together a strategic plan with the voices of the community leading the way, taking into account how we can address some of today’s biggest challenges and better meet the needs of individuals and families in the District.” 


Governor Newsom Launches “Vaccinate All 58” Campaign As First Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine Arrive


California received its first shipment of vaccine doses on Sunday. On Monday, Governor Gavin Newsom launched a new campaign named “Vaccinate All 58” with the goal to bring the vaccine in a “safe, fair and equitable” way for all 58 counties in the state. 

The campaign acknowledges that initial supplies of the vaccine are very limited and first doses will be provided to frontline health care workers and workers in long-term care settings who are most vulnerable. Next will be essential workers and others at the highest risk of being exposed to COVID-19 or those at most risk of becoming severely ill. 

A full breakdown of distribution guidelines is still in the works but the campaign promises to determine the guidelines “in an open and equitable fashion.” 

“What impresses me most about this campaign is the awareness that we must focus on communities that have sometimes been neglected, whether the reasons involve race, language, ethnicity, or something else,” said Speaker Anthony Rendon in the statement announcing the campaign. “We can succeed only by sharing information with these communities and making them partners in the task of getting California vaccinated. The Legislature looks forward to partnering with community leaders as we spread the word about stopping the spread.”

Distribution will be determined by two workgroups. 

The Drafting Guidelines Workgroup is in charge of developing the state-specific guidance for the prioritization and allocation of the vaccine while the Community Advisory Vaccine Committee will provide the input and feedback on those planning efforts. They will also be the ones to resolve any barriers to “equitable vaccine implementation.” 

“Hope is here. As our first doses of vaccine arrive, the promise of ending the pandemic is on the horizon. By taking collective, inclusive action across all 58 counties to get people vaccinated, we can get through to a healthier future for all,” said Governor Newsom. 

“This is a moment for hope, and it is also a time to remain vigilant as we face the most intense surge yet. While we have prepared for this surge with beds and equipment, staffing shortages are real and impact our medical system. There’s light at the end of the tunnel and I am calling on all Californians to do our part to get us through this – wear a mask, reduce mixing, stay home, stop the spread and save lives. Together we will get through this.” 

Vaccines Arrive In California, First Does Given to L.A Healthcare Workers As ICU Capacity Reaches Worrying Low

Dianne Lugo, Staff Writer

COVID-19 vaccinations have begun in the United States. The first to receive the vaccine in the country, outside of the trial, was a New York ICU nurse named Sandra Lindsay at Long Island Jewish Medical Center. I

Vaccinations also began in California after the first shipment landed at Los Angeles International Airport Sunday night. Among the first to receive the doses were L.A healthcare workers; five people were vaccinated at Kaiser Permanente in East Hollywood. 

Overall, the state will receive 327,000 doses of the vaccine in the first batch. 83,000 of those doses will come to Los Angeles County over the next week. 

The doses come as the state faces record cases of COVID-1 and a record number of patients being hospitalized with the disease. In Los Angeles, 4,203 people were hospitalized with COVID-19 on Saturday. 

Those are worrying numbers as space in intensive care units continues to shrink across the state. 

In Southern California, there remains only 4.2% capacity in the units. Statewide, the Department of Public health reported a total of 7.4% ICU capacity. 

Garcetti’s Failed Police Commission Says Black Lives Matter

Stephen Oduntan, Staff Writer

Jamie Garcia and Baba Akili of Black Lives Matter issued the following statement to LA Focus on Saturday after weeks of protests outside the mayor’s house aimed at blocking him from any role in the new administration:

Garcetti’s residence has been the site of daily morning protests in recent weeks by activists drawing attention to his record as mayor in a bid to derail any possible role in the Biden administration. Trump supporters upset over stay-at-home orders have also been demonstrating there at night.

Mayor Eric Garcetti’s list of failures is long, with the housing crisis and failure to address the demands of the Black Lives Matter movement at the top. The city’s houseless population, the majority of which is Black, continues to rise despite billions of tax dollars to address the problem.  Garcetti has also failed to take seriously the millions of people who joined this summer’s Black Lives Matter protests.  This Black-led movement has not been calling for more police bureaucracy and oversight but demanding a fundamental change in city priorities: invest in communities and divest from criminalizing Black people, by defunding the police. 

Garcetti’s appointed Police Commission is a perfect example of his continual failure. Garcetti chooses to pack this body with individuals who do not represent the communities most impacted by police violence and who have little understanding about how modern policing operates. Garcetti thinks merely appointing Black faces to high places counts as racial justice. Time and again, he uses the commission as a facade of oversight while empowering police through reform. Time and again, he picks commissioners committed to the status quo.  

Every member of the commission is appointed by the mayor and reflects his priorities. Currently there is Eileen Decker, formerly one of Garcetti’s deputy mayors; Steve Soboroff, a real estate developer; Lou Calanche, executive director of a nonprofit that takes funding to partner with LAPD; and Dale Bonner, who runs a firm that invests in public infrastructure. Garcetti’s newest nominee is William Briggs, an entertainment lawyer. 

The commission is notorious for approving every policy and funding increase that police propose. It is a rubber stamp body. After a summer of rebellion that featured tens of thousands taking the streets of LA, Garcetti sidestepped the call for defunding the police by appointing a “Police Commission Advisory Committee” to give the Police Commission recommendations for police reform. A special committee to advise an oversight body: the irony is telling. 

Special commissions to “investigate” LAPD and provide “recommendations” are nothing new. Instead, they reflect the same failed oversight approach of the Police Commission, which was established in 1926. Over the last 50 years there have been several “independent” commissions established to investigate LAPD corruption, violence, conspiracies, and murder of predominantly Black and Brown people. After the Watts uprisings, Governor Pat Brown rushed to establish a commission. It was led by former CIA director John McCone. In the 1990s, the acquittal of officers who brutally beat Rodney King led to the Christopher Commission. Then in 2000, a Department of Justice investigation uncovered a pattern of unconstitutional corruption and racism at every level of LAPD. Now in 2020, we are given yet another “advisory” commission. 

Like the Police Commission, the singular purpose of these committees is acting as shock absorbers for an institution that constantly unleashes racial violence, lies, and killings of Black and Brown Angelenos.  Now Garcetti has the opportunity to appoint a new commissioner, following widespread community protests against LAPD violence. Yet again he refuses to engage the broader community for input. 

Though there is a continued presence at the Commission by community members led by Black Lives Matters-Los Angeles, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, and White People for Black Lives, each new appointee comes to the public’s surprise. William Briggs appears to have very little expertise in matters of policing, working primarily as a trial lawyer and litigator in the entertainment industry. Though Briggs publicly claimed his experience as a Black man inspired him to accept the role, he quickly extended an olive branch toward LAPD, echoing their commitment to reform to build community trust. 

Regardless, any reform Briggs might commit to would only be symbolic. Last Tuesday, the Commission voted to approve LAPD’s proposed budget of a $106 million budget increase for next year, with zero deliberation. Commissioner Bonner asked if the commissioners could adjust the budget in any way, and the commission president responded that the commission has no power to add or take away from the budget. The question confirmed that the commission was a powerless entity.  Garcetti participates in this facade and has appointed eight commissioners who can only sit and watch the LAPD’s budget and power grow unchecked year after year. 

This dedication to superficial reform is at the core of Garcetti’s approach to policing, more failing to acknowledge that police violence is a public health crisis. Every chance he gets, Garcetti refuses to shift the city’s priorities to what the people are demanding: defund the police.


Demonstrators End Block Mayor Eric Garcetti Protest

By Stephen Oduntan

For the twenty-third day, they assembled outside Mayor Garcetti’s residence, cardboard signs and megaphones in hand. The air was crispier than when they began the crusade to “Block Garcetti” last month, but the unrelenting chant from the crowd on this warm December morning was familiar.

But when President-elect Joe Biden named former 2020 rival and South Bend, Indiana Mayor, Pete Buttigieg as his choice for the Department of Transportation yesterday, the news was welcomed with a mixture of cheers and measured triumph.

“Black Lives Matter South Bend have been criticizing Buttigieg for not having done enough as mayor to enforce accountability for police officers but as bad as he is, he’s still better than the useless mayor we have out here in Los Angeles,” said Baba Akili, an organizer with Black Lives Matter-LA.

The 72-BLM longtime activist said in an interview this morning that considering Biden did not select Garcetti for either the secretary of transportation or housing and urban development, it’s highly unlikely he’ll be picked for any cabinet position in the new administration.”

“But we have to keep up the pressure to make sure that he doesn’t get an appointment of any kind,” Akili said. 

The demonstrations have been slamming the mayor’s record on transportation, homelessness and policing and that he shouldn’t be in charge of those policies let alone any other for that matter at a federal level.

Carrying signs and waving Black Lives Matter flags, the protesters sang “Middle fingers in the air, Garcetti ain’t going nowhere,” and chanted, “We Blocked Garcetti.” 

Several of the demonstrators stood in front of the crowd of about roughly one hundred people and celebrated everyone’s contribution to the significant milestone.

Doowop Ashi, a demonstrator who identified herself as a “lone wolf out to protect the peaceful protesters of Los Angeles said her contribution to the Block Garcetti demonstration for the 17 of the 23 days she’d attended has been providing security.

“My contribution is doing what I can do in making sure that the protesters are kept safe from outside forces who are angry about our movement. They’re many people out there who are jealous and want to harm us, and so my job is to make sure everyone is safe coming and going from these protest,” she said.

“We’re not done. We’re going to continue to fight and continue to win until we reach the ultimate victory,” said Melina Abdullah to the crowd.

Abdullah, a co-founder of BLM-LA, told LA Focus that today’s gathering was the last “Block Garcetti” demonstration.

Protesters first showed up on Nov. 24.

Each day, the protesters were met by a line of at least 22 masked police officers outside the mayor’s home. 

The demonstrations were always peaceful.

But then Garcetti would later come under fire from lawmakers after viral footage circulated on social media on Sunday morning Dec. 6 showing LAPD officers swinging their batons, and striking at least two unarmed demonstrators.

In the ensuing days, LAPD officers in riot gear were no longer seen standing guard outside the mayor’s house and the surrounding street.

“This is a testament to the power of our people, to the power of being consistent and being courageous in our vision and standing up every day,” said Abdullah. “Think about the power of that. That for 23 days people gathered and met up at 8 AM, every morning in the midst of a pandemic. We stared down white supremacy in the face. We blocked this white supremacist liberal from getting a cabinet position.”


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