ORGANIZER 4

 

PROFESSOR SAMI AL-ARIAN, TENURE, ATTACKS -- AND A PERSONAL NORTH DAKOTA MENTION [HUNTER GRAY  2/22/02]

 

ORGANIZER'S REFLECTIONS:  SDS -- AND LOCAL ORGANIZING AND NATIONAL OFFICES AND OTHER THINGS  [HUNTER GRAY  12/03/01]

''RED BAITING";  DON'T LET IT TAKE ROOT -- AND ALWAYS FIGHT IT  [HUNTER GRAY  11/22/01]

 

PROFESSOR SAMI AL-ARIAN, TENURE, ATTACKS -- AND A PERSONAL NORTH DAKOTA MENTION [HUNTER GRAY  2/22/02]

 

Note by Hunterbear:

This recent interview [I've posted a key paragraph and the Link] with
Professor Sami Al-Arian, University of South Florida, is via the Chronicle
of Higher Education -- essentially the "Army Times" of the  United States
college/university faculty and administration world . I know little about
the University of South Florida. My one long-standing and enduring friend in
that setting was Professor Jim Silver, History, the courageous, embattled
Ole Miss prof who was forced out of the Magnolia State after his "Closed
Society" speech and book in 1963-64 and who eventually wound up there.  Jim
died many years ago.

It seems obvious that Professor Al-Arian is a quite capable prof [computer
science] who has come under fire for his pro-Islamic views in a [to me]
rather strange state whose commitment to labor and liberalism and human
rights has never been reassuring -- and in a country presently caught up in
an extremely poisonous atmosphere of spontaneous and manufactured fear and hysteria.   Fortunately, he has tenure.

Tenure is critically necessary for any working teacher -- at any level. It's
the basic job security bulwark/dike against the rivers of intolerance and
bigotry and political hatchet jobs and economic reprisals. If, occasionally,
it shields shabby teaching, it's still far better to fight for the
preservation of its totality  [as with free speech] rather than allow or
tolerate a dangerous,  sinister precedent-setting breach.

Although relatively few teachers in the K-12 context nationally enjoy its
accessibility, tenure is -- thanks to union activism -- gradually pervading
that vast plantation.  It is essentially pervasive in the college/university
arena.

It doesn't come easily.  You have to be "successfully" somewhere for
awhile -- sometimes as many as six or seven years -- before you get it.  And
you don't always get it -- and the reasons can range from an administrator's
petty pique [a frequent reason] or vicious colleagues [not infrequent] or
the fact that you might not be cut out talent-wise for the "groves of
academe" [title of Mary McCarthy's charming '50s novel about cut-throat
Machiavellianism in a choice little private college.]

Wherever I've taught [and worked], I've always carried at least one and
generally two or even three union cards [as I have wherever I've worked and
I do carry three to this moment.] In the college/university setting, this
can usually mean AFT, NEA, AAUP  [or sometimes a coalition of two or more.]
For example, at Navajo Community College, I was president of the AAUP [and
we also represented staff employees] during an interesting period of  heavy,
perennial crisis -- generally thrust upon the college by the corrupt tribal
administration of Peter MacDonald.  We won those fights with  grassroots
solidarity and lawyers and  broad community support.  At University of North
Dakota, we had to constantly battle a "boss" type of administration [in the
Chicago sense], a consistently parsimonious state legislature, and pervasive
faculty and staff timidity and cowardice.

I was a popular [with the students] full Professor, sometime Indian Studies
departmental chair and also did a stint as chair of the Honors committee,
well-published always, and was a member of the graduate faculty.  I was also
very active on behalf of faculty and staff unionism at every point.  In the
latter 1980s and the early 1990s, we had to fight very hard on every front
to protect faculty and staff jobs -- and with the greatest intensity indeed owing to the fact that extremely important-to-education tax measures [even passed by the N.D. legislature! ] were defeated in December, 1989 in a state-wide referendum. The impact, internally and externally, on everything from Kindergarten to the N.D. colleges and universities was super-wicked and dangerous.  At the very point this exploded, I was president of the UND Higher Education Association [NEA.]

We fought hard on all fronts and were reasonably successful in shoring up
and protecting faculty positions and most staff ones -- if the latter were
formally situated within the University setting [and not, say, peripherally
attached to a predominately private community hospital situation.] And we
won some key victories on other issues.  In time, administration et al.
attacks on me -- which had been frequent over the years -- mounted with
considerable intensity.  Although it was certainly tough for a long time, I
had tenure and, although there were efforts to crack that, it held --
fortunately for me and for every faculty person.  [That whole situation,
BTW, which also included important student, tribal, and community support,
is substantially discussed on two related pages on our large social justice
website  http://www.hunterbear.org/UND.htm   and
http://www.hunterbear.org/situations2.htm

[When I eventually retired from UND in the summer of '94, I was not,
however, given the usual "honorary" emeritus status by the University
administration.  That continues as an interesting little issue to this
moment and may -- I say, may -- be satisfactorily resolved soon.  We shall
see on that one.]

Professor Al-Arian's situation is far, far more personally dangerous than
mine ever was.  His tenure is obviously under a concerted institutional /
state / and Federal attack and he faces other, related threats as well.  If
his tenure status can be broken at the University of South Florida, it will
constitute not only a fundamentally serious wrong to him but a threat to
other college and university faculty persons -- in Florida as elsewhere.

As the Red Scare mounted in the late 1940s, various state "Un-American
activities" committees developed -- and joined their Federal counterparts
[HUAC, SISS, FBI] in witch-hunting attacks in various colleges and
universities.  In the state of Washington, the Canwell Committee played
havoc with tenure and academic freedom.  Decades later, Washington state
"apologized" to the surviving victims and/or their families and students. In
this context of "Red-hunting" in the Groves, many former academic
stalwarts -- such as Sidney Hook -- caved and surrendered to the slippery
slopes of relativism.  But many others did not.

Professor Sami Al-Arian's University of South Florida arena is a most
significant and critical one.  Fortunately, as this paragraph  from his
recent Journal of Higher Education interview indicates, he has, among other
dimensions, strong support from Labor.  And here, too,  is the link to the
full Chronicle interview:


http://groups.yahoo.com/group/professors_for_peace/message/2146


"Sami Al-Arian:
I'm very grateful for the outpouring of support I received from
many professors and academics from USF as well as from around the
nation. The USF faculty senate voted 4 to 1 against the dismissal.
The USF faculty union as well as the union's state chapter voted
unanimously to support my case. Other labor unions have also provided
their support. FIRE (The Foundation of Individual Rights in
Education), a prominent private foundation defending the rights of
higher education professors, has also given its support and is
mobilizing its resources. Most important of course is the position of
the AAUP, which said that it's extremely concerned about the
situation. It has also warned USF about a possible censure"


In Solidarity - Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
www.hunterbear.org





ORGANIZER'S REFLECTIONS:  SDS -- AND LOCAL ORGANIZING AND NATIONAL OFFICES AND OTHER THINGS  [HUNTER GRAY  12/03/01]

Note by Hunterbear:

First, heavy and extremely wet snow is falling all over this high-up area.
I've been "moving" it for the last couple of days especially -- and have
done much already this very, very early Idaho morning.  When I'm done with
this little writing piece, I'm going back out [so I may, to a point, take my
time on this,]  A thought:  the people in the "old time" -- whatever their
ethnicities and cultures -- never had to worry about "clock time."

Anyway -

I'm primarily an organizer by vocation -- [although I'd say it's an art.]
For me, it's always been full-time organizing and sometimes part-time
teaching -- or full-time teaching and full-time organizing. I generally look
at things from a working organizer's perspective.

Quite recently, on another list, there's been some discussion of the decline
and demise of Students for Democratic Society -- one of the genuinely bright
lights of activist organizing during the 1960s. [Some of this has been
stimulated by the recent Bill Ayers' book on the background and development of the Weatherman faction, Fugitive Days.] In addition, questions about the
relationship of local organizers to their national offices came up
occasionally.

I gave a short reflection on some of these things which I'm now expanding a
bit and giving here.


I have no formal background in SDS, would never presume to be an authority,
but I did know a number of people in it during the earlier years --
especially when I was deeply involved in Deep South organizing [1961-67.]  During that era, I maintained close and on-going connections with SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee] which, during its most
active period [1960-68],  did itself maintain some ties with some components
and people in SDS.

After 1967, I was in several parts of the country, including the
Pacific Northwest -- and regularly encountered SDSers who were still
involved in effective grassroots community organizing, anti-War work, and campus battles for democratic rights.  But the ideological conflicts were becoming very heavy storms -- centered more and more around increasingly exotic, on-the-far-edges variants of Marxist-Leninism  as well as on violence-prone anarchism. And these  wars were literally engulfing the organization.

 For anyone in SDS,  all of this was obviously becoming
 inescapable -- indeed,  totally unavoidable -- and seemed to friendly
outsiders like myself, at least, to be flowing downward in a peculiarly
two-dimensional  fashion: a stifling and diversionary atmosphere vis-a-vis
bona fide organizing on the one hand and, on the other,  an extremely
stimulating and ever-proliferating one for what I call "abyss factionalism."

When I arrived in Chicago in June, 1969, to spend the next four years
directing a  very large-scale grassroots social justice community organizing
project on the increasingly bloody South/Southwest Side, the SDS controversies  were boiling to the fore.  Much of the fighting in and around the once far-flung and vital and now cracking/splintering organization was centered at Chicago.

But, by this time,  it  all seemed totally internalized and none of it seemed to have much grassroots meaning at all. A  Packinghouse  [UPWA] strike was underway in Back of the Yards and environs. On another front, old Southern colleagues of mine -- Rev C.T. Vivian and Rev A.I. Dunlap, then  based at the Chicago Urban Training Center -- were organizing dramatic demonstrations designed to open up construction trades to minority workers. We supported all of that and other things such as the anti-War campaigns. Writer/activist Staughton Lynd was gathering extremely valuable historical data on Left organizing in Steel -- and  was into his own very solid social justice endeavors.  The Black Panthers were doing some good work -- and were very much in the sights of every fink in the region -- as shown so hideously
that Fall in the cold-blooded "murders under color of law" ["law" both local
and Federal] of Fred Hampton and Mark Clark.

In fact, much was going on all over -- but SDS seemed  totally out of all of
that -- and  completely enmeshed and trapped in its nightmare of unending
and fast-deepening  ideological wrangling which, increasingly, took on the
inevitable personal connotations.

I remember visiting the huge Amphitheatre [or whatever] on the Near South
Side around this time,  at a point where the SDS factions were having their
Armageddon -- their convention shoot-out -- inside.  I saw literally no one
that I knew from the old days and the turgid leaflets seemed to me totally from and within another world.

Old radical buddies -- e.g.,  a  former student of mine and, always, an
old friend despite a few political differences, Mike Bayer of CPUSA [ then
the Party's Indiana organizer out of Gary], agreed with me that the internal
SDS wars were pulling the multi-splintering SDS and all of its components
right over the rim of a Grand Canyon and down into the Inner Gorge.

The Mountains of Challenge we all faced were very steep, formidable. And, of
course, they certainly continue to be!  There is an old Mississippi saying
that might pertain to the extreme frustration  and increasingly polarized
factionalism that plagues so many Left organizations:  "A rabbit can't fight
nobody but a rabbit."

By the time the really violent SDS split-off -- the Weatherman faction --
launched its Days of Rage very briefly on Chicago's Near North Side in
the Fall of '69,  the whole kaleidoscopic SDS-related scene was for most of
us "another picture show." For all practical purposes, this once great
organization/movement was gone.

Our own Chicago South/Southwest Side organizing got off to a very good start
and moved very well.  In that four year period [1969-1973] , we helped
grassroots people organize about 300  multi-issue block clubs in two large umbrella organizations -- plus a number of related advocate organizations.

Our turf was the whole sweep from 28th down to 63d, and from the Dan Ryan
Expressway westward and far across South Ashland Avenue and beyond --
working almost completely with Black, Puerto Rican, and Chicano people. That
was our major thrust, but we had, across our rough and rugged geography, some other concurrent projects as well.

In one of those, we organized Chicanos and Anglos together against a major,
people-strangling urban renewal scheme aimed at the 45th and South Ashland
area -- heart of  the old Back of the Yards. [Our organization in that
campaign was completely integrated and, from the outset, had a Chicano
president for one year and an Anglo president for the next on an on-going
basis.] And, although we had to fight the Richard Daley machine, a slew of
corporations, the old and corrupt Back of the Yards Neighborhood Council
[the first Saul Alinsky organizing project of decades before, now hopelessly
"gone wrong"], and much more -- we-all won the prolonged campaign. The
grassroots people stayed in their neighborhood.

Early on in this situation, in the immediate aftermath of the collapse of
SDS, some very nice, but naive kids from Progressive Labor [Maoist], who had SDS connections, came to the edges of our developing urban renewal battle.

Completely unaware that the old Back of the Yards Council under
Joe Meegan had moved 180 degrees from Alinsky's  altruistic vision
[unavoidable,  given the top-down "elitist" Alinsky style of organizing],
they now moved to support the infamous Meegan and "attack" us!  I
immediately met with them, wised them up pronto,  and they were quite OK
after that -- but they soon drifted on and beyond [and probably out of
things altogether.]  They seemed to me shell-shocked and lost --
disoriented.

There are always many victims  and casualties along the Trail  to the Sun.
In the '60s, there were certainly many of all kinds and in all sorts of
situations  -- and SDS was  one of them. Very much indeed one of them.  If
SDS had continued its original focus of steady, systematic social justice
grassroots organizing, things may well have gone differently.

But bona fide grassroots organizing is, frankly, the hardest, toughest and
most demanding work there is.  It's also the most satisfying.

On the relationship of local organizing to national offices, it has always
been my experience, frankly, that the local organizers and their
constituencies are always "where it's at" -- no more, no less.

But, given the oft-geographical distances -- even in these days of
instantaneous computer witch-craft communication -- there are always
dichotomies and mutual mis-readings vis-a-vis the organizer "at the point of
production" and the far-off central office.

These varied readings at varied levels were true, for example, even in such
solidly committed Left unions as the now gone but legendary International
Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers [Mine-Mill.]  An example was stress
around tactics between the excellent local organizers and  excellent local people on the one hand, and, on the other, the excellent International Office and the excellent Secretary-Treasurer [Maurice E. Travis] -- during one of the Union's most well-known and historic strikes:  the prolonged, October 1950 into January 1952  "Salt of the Earth" struggle against Empire Zinc on which the very fine, enduring and classic film is based. [You'll note, I'm sure, that I've used "excellent" four times in one sentence.]

But there was always a very basic and enduring intra-union solidarity at all
levels -- encompassing and nourishing mutual respect -- in that episodic
situation and in the other Mine-Mill struggles.

I  and others, much involved in the Jackson, Mississippi NAACP -- as well as
the state-wide organization --  did very heavy and intensive grassroots
organizing in and around Jackson. Out of that came, of course,  the
tremendously massive and historic Jackson Movement of 1961-63 -- climaxing in May and June of '63 with extremely large non-violent demonstrations.  Repression was brutal, bloody.  But that was not our only foe.

 At virtually every point we had to fight -- as soon-to-be-martyred [June
11, '63]
NAACP Field Secretary, Medgar Evers, had had to fight for years -- the
conservative, foot-dragging National Office of NAACP: tied politically and
completely to the Democratic Party, fiscally conservative, and badly
frightened of Southern turbulence.

When our Jackson Movement really hit its high water stride, the National
Office worked covertly and desperately and finally openly with the Kennedys et al. to undercut and try to kill the Movement.

I was Advisor to the Jackson Youth Council of NAACP, a member of the Board
of Directors of the Mississippi State Conference of NAACP Branches -- and
Chair of the Strategy Committee of the Jackson Movement. I've told that
whole epic story in great -- and to this very moment, unchallenged -- detail
in my book, Jackson, Mississippi: An American Chronicle of Struggle and
Schism [under my original name of John R Salter, Jr.]

After the Jackson campaign, as Field Organizer for the hard-fighting and
radical Southern Conference Educational Fund  [grassroots civil rights organizing and anti-Klan work] during a very  substantial and solid stretch of quite productive time, I always had the firm backing of our excellent  executive
director, Jim Dombrowksi of New Orleans, a veteran radical -- who
consistently supported me all the way. But he and I didn't always agree by
any means on tactics.  I was hot-eyed as hell and he more seasoned. But, again, it was all in the context of solidarity and mutual respect -- and Jim, always a very solid guy, had no basic problems with my going my own way, following my own organizer's star.   We respected each other enormously.

That was essentially true throughout SCEF during that great era.  Shared
vision, mutual respect.

And so it goes in the Save the World Business.  I can tell many other
stories -- of good national and central offices and some not so good -- but,
if you're a committed organizer, you just have to keep at it.

If you're lucky, the "top brass" backs you up. If not,  you try to keep them
out of the way and, in the end, you  may well get "burned"  -- but   you keep
right on keeping on.  You may be eventually fired for "insubordination." That's happened to me -- i.e., when I was fired from my position as director of social justice activities for the Rochester, NY Catholic Diocese by Church officials
frightened by our militancy -- and very likely, too,  by our many tangible grassroots accomplishments.

And, if and when you're axed, you then simply find another good horse to
ride for
the next great stretch of the way. If you're a good person -- and certainly a good organizer -- you'll find a good mount.

The best grassroots organizers in SDS -- and I can name
a number -- gave up on it and went into other far more solidly
effective  activist endeavours,  union organizing, or back to academia.   And
some of those were certainly leaving by '67 and '68.

Every Movement is built on the wreckage and the lessons of its predecessors.

The basic  struggle for a full measure of social justice -- for socialist
democracy, as many of us see the Vision -- continues. It always continues.
In that context,  hard, tedious grassroots social justice organizing is
Genesis.

Always has been, always will.

In Solidarity --


Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]


Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]
www.hunterbear.org (social justice)

Left Discussion Group
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/Redbadbear




''RED BAITING";  DON'T LET IT TAKE ROOT -- AND ALWAYS FIGHT IT  [HUNTER GRAY  11/22/01]

 

Note by Hunterbear:  Ed Whitfield is a highly respected person --
everywhere -- and very much on our RedBadBear discussion list.  These
comments of mine to the SNCC [Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee]
List speak for themselves:

[And, as soon as I posted this on SNCC, Casey Hayden [Tom's ex] e-mailed me, strongly agreeing with my sentiments,  Hunterbear]

=====================================================================

From Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]:

Sisters and Brothers on the SNCC List et al. -

We're  now entering the first great epoch of American [and it's reflected
globally, to be sure] social justice Movement since Death Valley Days began
at some point 'way back in the '70s [perhaps after Wounded Knee, '73.]  Old
Movement soldiers are buckling up and oiling the tools of the trade.
Youthful idealism and enthusiasm are pouring forth like currents of fresh
water flowing down a Western mountain after decades of stifling, lethal
drought.  And now, more and more visibly and audibly, the grassroots are
stirring.  An increasingly bloody and broadening War, domestic repression,
racism and other anti-people "isms," a sinking economy, the eternally urgent
and compelling call for peace with justice / justice with peace -- all of
these and much much more fuel the tributaries of committed and courageous
social justice activism that are now steadily and consistently flowing into
what is becoming a Very Great and Good River.

Given this, as we enter once again the green oases of positive, substantive
social change, it's sad to see some of the old alkaline poisons -- e.g.,
Redbaiting -- blowing in via a few dark clouds.

Mendy Samstein's unabashed Redbaiting attack on Ed Whitfield constitutes one of  the most disturbing things I've read on this SNCC list since I signed on
many, many months ago.  His attack  goes far beyond reasoned and principled
discourse over extraordinarily complicated  issues -- the background and
genesis of the Bush "War" and the general Middle Eastern tragedy and the
myriad of collateral challenges on every front.  Admittedly, I haven't
followed each intricacy of the spirited  War-and-related-issues debate
involving Ed and Bill Mandel  on the one side and those of  others on the
other.  But I most certainly know [and very well]  Ed Whitfield and Bill
Mandel to be thoroughly honorable and principled people in every respect:
human beings whose commitment to social justice has consistently been
fearless and effective and always will be. That holds true, I'm sure, for
virtually everyone on this SNCC list.

Long, long before I got to Mississippi in the summer of '61, I was a Left
socialist, strongly influenced by the traditions of the anarcho-syndicalist
Industrial Workers of the World  in the Far West and by the very radical and
egalitarian Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers  in my native Arizona and New
Mexico -- and I held those views all the way through the Southern campaigns,
after I left the South as a full-time Dixie resident in 1967, and
consistently to this present moment. I'll always hold that quite radical
position which, to me, seems ever more vigorously validated with each epoch
of human history I encounter.  "Better to be called Red than be called
Yellow," was the old Wobbly adage that I heard as a kid and it continues to
make damn good sense  today. And it always will.

Others can certainly -- and will -- hold whatever views they wish.  History
and  the free minds of humanity can and will sort truth from error.

Every one of us who was significantly involved in the Southern Movement
encountered  continual Red-baiting at every point.  Remember, folks, Jimmy
Ward of the always consistently strychnine-laden Jackson Daily News -- or
his counterparts across the length and breadth of  Burning Dixie as it moved
ever closer to the 20th Century and beyond?  And a million other haters who
tried to frighten and divide the Movement -- including some of the so-called
"liberal" Red-baiters?

We didn't let them get away with that. We pulled together -- as we always
did -- and we kept right on going. The same divisive efforts are going on
today.  And, if we let that affect us -- if we begin demanding "loyalty
oaths" and worrying about "Marxist-Leninism" and "measuring Americanism", we let all of the destructive and repressive currents epitomizing and
symbolizing the genuinely sinister forces of Bush and Ashcroft et al. pull
this country closer and closer to a kind of fascism -- a word I do not use
loosely -- and the world closer and closer to  massive [indeed, global]
catastrophe.

I've been called a "Communist" ever since I was a Teen.  That doesn't bother
me -- but I certainly draw the line at being called  a "Stalinist" or a Bin
Laden sycophant [as Mendy has called Ed]  In fact, on another discussion
list -- that of the Democratic Socialists of America to which I've belonged
via its antecedents since 1978, I've been called a "Stalinist" by  several
right-wing "social democrats" [not, I should add,  all that   representative
of DSA] who also seek to interpret my anti-War position as one of total
support for Bin Laden et al.!  If these vilifying finks weren't in New York
City and I in Idaho, well, I'd be tempted . . . .

Demonstrably sharp and courageous people like Ed Whitfield and Bill Mandel
can speak for themselves very, very capably -- and do and always will.  So
do many others on the SNCC list -- and countless others to and from the Four
Directions.  Sensible and effective debate is one thing -- but hatchet jobs
are another.

"An injury to one is an injury to all" made damn good sense as the Labor
movement gathered  significant momentum  more than a hundred years ago, it
made eminently good sense as social justice bloomed in the '30s and the
'60s -- and it made damn good sense in every year in between and preceding
and following those great epochs.

And, today, with the national and global challenges and their accompanying
stakes mounting higher than any of us have ever known, we need  -- for
earnest and honest and  depthy consideration -- every thoughtful perspective
we can get.  Those of us who signed on a long time ago in what I sometimes
presumptuously call the "Save the World Business" can certainly debate and
even fight with one another -- and we surely well.

But, sisters and brothers, let us always do that within the context of
Solidarity as we move ever closer to the Sun.

Nialetch.         [ Mendy's comments are attached.]

Hunter Gray [Hunterbear]    Democratic Socialists of America, Socialist
Party USA, Committees of Correspondence for Democracy and Socialism  -- and
several labor unions


====================================================================
Mendy's comments:

Ed Whitfield speaks with the voice of a true Stalinist.  Like the Stalinists
of the forties and fifties, his ideologically driven hatred for capitalism
and the American system blinds his perception of reality and leads him to
see everything through fogged ideological conceptions.  Would he have been
among those who rationalized the Soviet crushing of the Prague Spring or its
invasion of Hungary or its murderous domestic purges?  Would he have
sympathized with Hitler, as he does now Bin Laden, because, after all, who
were the allied powers fighting him if not the leading
capitalist-imperialist countries of the world?

He assumes that most people on this list share his ultra leftism. I don't
know the extent of his participation in SNCC and the Civil Rights movement,
but had he been in the South for any extent of time he'd be aware of how
much the movement repudiated the occasional Marxist-Leninist who drifted in
and tried to make converts.  When SNCC stood up to the established Civil
Rights leadership and rejected McCarthyism and its legacy of redbaiting it
did so with the firm belief that the movement represented an unreproachable
form of American oppositionalism.

Mendy

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