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Archive for the ‘Africa’ Category

The announcement comes as the first commitment to promises made at the G8 conference convened at Aquila, Italy last year. The talks, which involved representatives from Spain, Canada and South Korea, backed a US plan to establish a $20billion multi-lateral aid fund (Global Agriculture and Food Security Program).[1] Monitored by the World Bank, the fund would aim to help poor farmers in Africa increase productivity and reduce systemic problems of food insecurity.[2]

The project has not only gathered support from governments and institutional organisations (World Bank, UN, USAID), but has also been greatly shaped by its well publicised philanthropic investors. Through the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, the former Software CEO has already donated over $300m, and currently stands as the public face of what is becoming one of the largest international policy programs in recent years.

  The vehicle for the practical application of this investor capital is the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA). Launched by Kofi Annan at the World Economic Forum on Africa in 2007, the organisation is jointly managed by the Gates and Rockefeller Foundations.[3] Its stated goal is to improve the livelihoods of smallholder farmers by dramatically increasing African food production.  This aim would be achieved through an exchange of both technology and finance between stakeholders in the program.

  The primary strategies for achieving this expansion in agricultural productivity involve improved seed technology, increasing soil fertility and improving the efficiency of agricultural markets.[4] In delivering these objectives, AGRA argues that commercial partners with the necessary expertise and experience will be essential for success.

With their powerful publicity work and strong relationships with national governments, both the Gates and Rockefeller partners are hoping that they can entice businesses to invest in the continent’s agriculture another time around.

  The first Green Revolution, backed by the Rockefeller Foundation again, ran from the late 1960’s until the early 1970’s with the aim of using commercial crops and modern industrial techniques to transform the agricultural sector. This was combined with efforts to ‘liberalise’ the markets. In policy partnership with the IMF, the project sought to eliminate fixed exchange markets, farmers’ subsidies and national trade tariffs.[5] The aim was to make African agriculture ‘compete’ in international markets. The effect was that so-called ‘cash-crop’ production was incredibly unstable, responding too closely to market price falls. Pressures were exacerbated by the influx of cheap foreign food imports from the United States and Europe as a result of their farmers’ subsidy programs (Farm Income Stabilization and Common Agricultural Policy respectively). The first revolution effectively ended in failure, with many nations’ agricultural sectors devastated and with the countries themselves in enormous debt to the IMF for the ‘aid’ they had received.

  The next revolution proposed by AGRA purports to be different. It promises to, ‘make food supplies secure by working with smallholder farmers to achieve rapid and sustainable agricultural growth with their staple crops.’[6] It claims to focus on small-scale farmers and improving their productivity, rather than attempting to convert the continent to large scale commercial production.

However, this revolution also differs from its predecessor in that whilst it has the same institutional and government partners, it also has significant private investment. In delivering returns for its investors, the program appears to move away from international market sales to more thorough investment in African economies. Through ‘strategic partnerships’, AGRA aims to open up seed, fertilizer, food production and other associated markets to its private clients. The group has also not ruled out the need to ‘promote “land mobility” ‘; a euphemism for encouraging farmers to leave the land.

  The private clients lined up to invest in agriculture include leaders in the world of chemicals and industry. Both Monsanto and Syngenta, who between them control 30% of world seed markets, have aligned themselves with the project, along with the world’s largest chemical company, DuPont.[7]

Both Monsanto and Syngenta are specialists in GM technologies and in producing patented seed varieties. As the primary strategy of AGRA, these companies will assist in the dissemination of ‘knowledge and awareness’, research and sales of GM seeds in African markets. The Gates Foundation itself has offered US$5.4 million to the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, a US institute funded heavily by Monsanto, to promote GM advocacy in African arenas.[8]

  In India, the failures of GM variants have already been apparent, and their inefficiency in Western countries appears to be evidenced by their reliance on heavy subsidies. Quite apart from productivity concerns though, GM variants pose another problem for farmers. They herald a departure from independent ownership of crops and land as the seeds which are grown remain the intellectual property of the relevant private company. As such, the land whilst they are grown, together with the final product, become entities ultimately outside the farmers’ control.

Added to this are issues of one-yield seed products, which require the farmer to return to the market each year to purchase more seeds, rather than being able to the sow seed from his previous crop. [9] The company has a well documented history of intimidating farmers who chose not to use their seeds, and of encouraging agricultural mono-cultures. [10] [11]

  The AGRA project is far from the only one being launched in the continent.  Recent years have seen foreign investment in Africa increase at a steady pace, with the food price crisis of 2008 greatly accelerating this. The issue of food security, as AGRA fails to emphasise, is not only one for Africans, but one that affects much of the developed world. Just as political turbulence in the past affected energy prices and the policies of nations seeking to secure their supply, similar patterns are beginning to emerge in relation to food. As states seek to secure their sources of supply, they are increasingly searching for non-market options. As such, the latest wave of investment has largely been characterised by private and foreign governmental partners.

  A South Korea company was embroiled in a scandal in early 2009, after their attempt to gain control of half of Madagascar’s agricultural land in a free one hundred year lease.  The situation climaxed in a presidential coup which saw the deal revoked.[12] In 2007 investment totaled $30 billion with some 2.5 million hectares being bought or leased by private investors.[13] Since then, investment has risen to $100 billion involving 30 million hectares of agricultural land in around 30 different African countries.

  The Tony Blair Foundation, and the former British Prime Minister himself, were integral in securing the opening of the market of Sierra Leone to foreign investment, particularly agribusiness. President Koroma praised the efforts towards, ‘building a legislative framework that provides the right incentives for investors.’[14] Throughout Africa, organisations and companies have been applying greater pressure on national governments to reform legislation as a necessary precursor for development.

With ‘development’ coming increasingly on the back of private investment, states are encouraged to ensure the legal environments which provide the necessary incentives for these investors. These include lowering tariff barriers, removing restrictions on holding assets offshore, and permitting foreign tenure or ownership of domestic goods and property.[15]

  Debates regarding development policies remain contentious, with many arguing that development of African economies, and agriculture specifically, will be impossible without the assistance of private foreign investors. However, ignoring past failures and the current issues regarding the nature of these investments, there remains a significant factor when considering their application.

The previous Green Revolution was criticised by many for its failure to consult with the African populations who were the recipients of its ultimately disastrous policies. This new wave of projects under the label of ‘development’ has also conspicuously avoided consultative measures with African groups. Whether or not the current interests eventually reap rewards for the continent’s poor, their policies will fail to gain consent as long as they fail to refer to those they primarily affect.

Chris Bowles


[1] Timothy Geitner and Bill Gates to launch agri-fund for the poor

http://ecodiario.eleconomista.es/noticias/noticias/2080306/04/10/USs-Geithner-Bill-Gates-to-launch-agrifund-for-poor.html

[2]Bill Gates in plea to “Farm Aid” donors

 http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/04f1d5da-4e34-11df-b48d-00144feab49a.html

[3] The Role of Business in Achieving a Green Revolution in Africa

http://www.weforum.org/pdf/BAACH/Business_Role_in_Achieving_a_Green_Revolution_for_Africa.pdf

[4] AGRA Strategy for a Green Revolution in Africa

www.agra-alliance.org/files/936_file_AGRA_Strategy_20090609.pdf

[5] Africa’s land and family farms up for grabs

http://www.grain.org/seedling/?id=666

[6] Strengthening food security

http://www.rockefellerfoundation.org/what-we-do/current-work/strengthening-food-security-alliance/

[7] AGRA, The return of the green revolution

http://www.globalpolicy.org/component/content/article/215/46148.html

[8] Africa’s land and family farms up for grabs

http://www.grain.org/seedling/?id=666

[9] Monsanto’s intellectual property seed policies explained

http://www.monsanto.com/seedpatentprotection/monsanto_patent_seeds.asp

[10] Patterns of agricultural privatization

http://www.foodincmovie.com/

[11] ‘Mirage’ of GM’s golden promises

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/3122923.stm

[12] Madagascar leader axes land deal

http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7952628.stm

[13] Land grab, or development opportunity?

http://www.ifad.org/pub/land/land_grab.pdf

[14] Tony Blair praises Sierra Leone’s pro-business climate

http://www.tonyblairoffice.org/news/entry/tony-blair-praises-sierra-leones-pro-business-climate-and-encourages-intern/

[15] Infrastructure private-public partnerships in Africa

http://www.icafrica.org/fileadmin/documents/Tokyo/Public-Private_Partnerships-Tokyo_background_paper-_FINAL.pdf

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A 70-year gagging order, imposed on photographs and post-mortem records relating to the 2003 death of Dr. David Kelly, has been challenged by some of Britain’s leading medical experts who are seeking to challenge the official verdict of suicide. Michael Powers QC, a former coroner and expert in coronial law who has been working closely with the doctors in attempting to reopen the investigation into Kelly’s death, remarked that the suicide verdict is “so improbable as to demand a much more detailed investigation of what happened”.[1]

The decision to block the release of photos and the post-mortem and medical reports relating to Dr. Kelly’s untimely death was taken by Lord Hutton in his capacity as chairman of the Hutton inquiry, which concluded in 2004 that the leading microbiologist had died after cutting an artery in his wrist. Responding to criticism and disquiet over the revelation that the records had been ordered to remain classified for such an unusually long duration, Hutton affirmed that he had taken the decision to prevent the disclosure of the post-mortem report so as not to cause Kelly’s wife and daughters “unnecessary distress”.[2] Michael Powers QC expressed his amazement as news broke of the extraordinary length of the gagging order, and remarked, “I can’t think of anything that would justify these documents being treated any differently.”

The decision to classify the records for such a long period was not revealed when the Hutton inquiry declared its findings in 2004, and was only made public in January of 2010 when a group of leading medical professionals attempted to reopen the inquest into Dr. Kelly’s death at Oxford Crown Court. Trauma surgeon David Halpin, epidemiologist Andrew Rouse, vascular surgeon Martin Birnstingl, radiologist Stephen Frost and Chris Burns-Cox who specialises in internal general medicine were informed by letter that the relevant material had been classified for 70 years.

Michael Powers QC stated that it was, “truly remarkable that they should be kept secret for twice as long as the other documents”. Powers remarked that the decision to keep the existence of this gagging order secret “raises questions as to what else was withheld” by the Hutton inquiry. “The medical evidence doesn’t add up”, Powers continued, “I have yet to meet a doctor that will say it was even possible, let alone likely [that Kelly committed suicide]”.

Dr. Kelly was 59 when his body was discovered on 18 July 2003 at a wooded area of Harrowdown Hill in Oxfordshire, five miles from his home. The official verdict is that Kelly committed suicide by slashing his wrist with a blunt gardening knife, although medical experts have long questioned this conclusion. In July 2009, 13 leading British pathologists called for an official inquest into Kelly’s death, publishing a 12-page dossier which stated that “the bleeding from Dr. Kelly’s ulnar artery is highly unlikely to have been so voluminous and rapid that it was the cause of death”.[3] Martin Birnstingl, one of Britain’s leading vascular surgeons and one of those demanding a new inquiry into Kelly’s death said, “’I have never, in my experience, heard of a case where someone has died after cutting their ulnar artery”.[4]

The paramedics who were among the first on the scene following the discovery of Kelly’s body stated that the amount of blood at they saw at the location where Kelly lay and the injuries to his wrist were inconsistent with the suicide verdict. Paramedic Vanessa May remarked, “I just think it is incredibly unlikely that he died from the wrist wound we saw”, with her colleague Dave Bartlett concurring. “I would have thought there would have been more blood over the body if someone had bled to death“, he told The Observer.[5] In addition to these inconsistencies, the nearly-empty Co-Proxamol packet next to the microbiologist’s body indicated that he had consumed 29 painkillers, although an examination of his stomach revealed only one partially digested capsule.

Although Dr. Kelly was left-handed, the cut from which he allegedly bled to death was made on his left wrist, meaning he would have had to awkwardly make the incision using his right hand. Although Kelly was not wearing gloves when his body was found, the knife he is said to have used had no fingerprints on it whatsoever. Trauma surgeon David Halpin, one of the pathologists seeking a fresh inquest into Kelly’s death, observed of the discrepancies in the official verdict that, “The idea that a man like Dr. Kelly would choose to end his life like that is preposterous. This was a scientist, an expert on drugs.”

Kelly, who had worked for the United Nations as a weapons inspector in Iraq, had been implicated in the run up to his death as the source of a BBC report which questioned the grounds for Britain’s role in the 2003 invasion of the Middle Eastern nation, and much of the attention surrounding his suspicious death has focused on this fact, however other information has since surfaced which casts the microbiologist’s passing in an entirely different light, and shows Dr. David Kelly to be but one piece of a much larger puzzle.

One of the world’s leading germ warfare experts and head of microbiology at Porton Down, home of Britain’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory, Kelly had a considerable reputation within the international intelligence community. His prominence is underlined by the fact that on one occasion he was tasked with debriefing Russian biochemist Dr. Vladimir Pasechnik – who would also die in suspicious circumstances attributed to suicide – who had defected from the Soviet Union. The Daily Mail noted in July of 2009 that Kelly had access to “some of the state’s most sensitive information and worked closely with the intelligence services of all the major industrialised countries”. Indeed, Kelly had worked as an advisor to Israel’s Mossad intelligence agency since 1995 with the full knowledge of the British government.

With years of experience handling sensitive and above top secret material behind him, Dr. Kelly was certainly aware of information that could prove damaging if released. Author Gordon Thomas stated that Dr. Kelly, “had explored with two or three writers [including myself]… the possibility that he could write a book, about his life. I said to him at the time, ‘you know, David, you signed the Official Secrets Act’, he said ‘I know, I’ll need somebody else to write it with the information I provide’, and I said ‘but you know, you won’t get away with it David.’”. The Daily Express reported that Kelly had been planning to disclose information regarding “his own secret dealings in germ warfare with the apartheid regime in South Africa”.[6]

South African cardiologist and head of the apartheid-era chemical and biological warfare programme Project Coast, Wouter Basson, confirmed in an interview – his first for several years – featured in CBC’s The Passionate Eye – Anthrax War documentary that he had met Dr. Kelly “three or four” times.[7] Basson stated that he had liaised with Kelly in order to exchange information, and refused to answer when questioned as to whether or not he had met the microbiologist at Britain’s highly secretive and well-guarded Porton Down research facility in Wiltshire.

Wouter Basson did however confirm that he had personally visited the site, along with Fort Detrick, Maryland in the United States, another notorious biological weapon research facility. The Ames-strain anthrax used in a series of highly publicised attacks in the United States shortly after the September 11th attacks in 2001 is confirmed to have been developed by the U.S. military at Fort Detrick.[8] Incredibly, the FBI’s principle suspect in the anthrax case – Bruce Ivins – also committed ‘suicide’ in extremely dubious circumstances in August 2008, allegedly overdosing on Tylenol and codeine.[9] Dr. Kelly also had experience working with anthrax, which Porton Down had received from Fort Detrick in the 1980’s, with the Daily Mail confirming that Kelly had, “tens of thousands of documents and photographs; some [showing] human victims of anthrax poisoning” at his Oxfordshire home.

When probed as to whether or not he was involved in the development of ethno-specific biological agents, Basson stated on record that, “What happened is we had the objective to synthesise a certain protein that was in sperm for contraceptive purposes. The objective was that if you could immunise a woman, against sperm, then you would make her infertile.” The scientist elaborated: “We were asked to do this by another country that had a population explosion problem, as part of an exchange of technology. They were giving us other stuff, they asked, well we haven’t got the time or the place to do that, will you guys do that”.

The mention of collaboration with another country is an apparent reference to Israeli cooperation, which was instrumental in the apartheid regime’s quest to procure nuclear weapons. As Chris McGreal writes in The Guardian, “Israel provided expertise and technology that was central to South Africa’s development of its nuclear bombs”.[10] In return, apartheid South Africa worked with Israel and shared research about race-specific biological agents. In November 1998 The Sunday Times reported that “Israel is working on a biological weapon that would harm Arabs but not Jews, according to Israeli military and western intelligence sources”, and although there is now no trace of the article on the newspaper’s website, it has been republished at several other locations.[11]

The Sunday Times reported that “Israeli scientists are trying to exploit medical advances by identifying distinctive genes carried by some Arabs, then create a genetically modified bacterium or virus… The scientists are trying to engineer deadly micro-organisms that attack only those bearing the distinctive genes”. This work is reportedly conducted at Israel’s Nes Tziyona chemical and biological research facility, one of the most secure locations in the country. The Israeli scientists who revealed this information to the London newspaper stated that the agents could be transmitted by “spraying the organisms into the air or putting them in water supplies”.

The article points out that such research “mirrors biological studies conducted by South African scientists during the apartheid era and revealed in testimony before the truth and reconciliation commission”. It was at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearings in 1996 that the existence of Project Coast first came to light. Scientists who had worked on the project testified that they had worked on developing targeted assassination tools engineered to leave no trace, as well as mass-sterilisation techniques designed for use against the country’s black population.

Wouter Basson, who was called before the Commission, did not admit to any involvement in the aforementioned programmes and thus did not earn the immunity from prosecution guaranteed to all those who acknowledged and admitted to their apartheid-era wrongdoings. In 1999 Basson was indicted in South Africa on charges of murder, fraud and drug smuggling, but was acquitted following a 30-month trial due to insufficient evidence. It was at this trial that it emerged that Project Coast, which had employed over 200 scientists in South Africa and benefitted from extensive international intelligence connections, had supplied anthrax and cholera to the South African military and police.

“Unnamed South African sources” also disclosed to Jane’s Foreign Report, a publication specialising in ‘security and defence matters’, that “Israeli scientists have used some of the South African research in trying to develop an “ethnic bullet” against Arabs”, according to the Sunday Times article. According to Foreign Report, Israeli scientists were able to pinpoint certain elements of Arab genetic make-up by carrying out tests on “Jews of Arab origin, especially Iraqis”.

This revelation is reminiscent of the 1950’s radiation experiments carried out by the Israeli state, during which over 100,000 Sephardic children were exposed to radiation 35,000 (thirty-five thousand) times over the recommended maximum dosage as part of an experiment paid for by the United States government. The children were selected from the darker-skinned elements of the Israeli population, many of whom had emigrated to Israel having been expelled from Morocco, and were told they were to receive head lice examinations before being subjected to devastating radiation exposure to the head. 6,000 died shortly after the experiment was conducted, and the survivors suffered from a range of debilitating conditions as a result of the experiments, with many still alive today. Their story is told in the award-winning Israeli documentary The Ringworm Children.[12]

A confidential Pentagon report from 1997 confirmed that biological weapons could and were being engineered to target specific genotypes. U.S. Defense Secretary from 1997 to 2001, William Cohen, stated that “certain types of pathogens that would be ethnic-specific” were being developed by some countries, with a senior western intelligence source confirming that this list of countries included Israel, for whose intelligence services Dr. David Kelly was working as an advisor at the time. The infamous Rebuilding America’s Defenses document published in September 2000 by the Project for a New American Century think tank, whose membership included prominent figures from the administration of George W. Bush such as Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfowitz, remarks that “advanced forms of warfare that can “target” specific genotypes may transform biological warfare from the realm of terror to a politically useful tool”.[13]

Liberal Democrat MP for Lewes Norman Baker has repeatedly called for a new and independent inquest into the circumstances surrounding Dr. David Kelly’s alleged suicide. “Any reasonable person looking at the evidence would, at the very least, agree that further investigation is necessary,” Baker said in a 2006 interview. “If it wasn’t suicide, then clearly Dr Kelly was bumped off. My aim is to find out exactly what happened. Frankly, there is more than enough cause to reopen the inquest.”[14] Michael Powers QC put it succinctly, “There should be a full inquiry. We need a proper answer.” The implications are far greater than the fate of just one man.

Tom Kavanagh


[1] Gagging order on David Kelly records could be lifted, http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/27/hutton-gagging-order-david-kelly

[2]Hutton inquiry closed David Kelly medical reports for 70 years,  http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2010/jan/27/hutton-gagging-order-david-kelly

[3] 13 doctors demand inquest into Dr David Kelly’s death, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1199109/13-doctors-demand-inquest-Dr-David-Kellys-death.html

[4] Did MI5 kill Dr David Kelly?, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-1200004/Did-MI5-kill-Dr-David-Kelly-Another-crazy-conspiracy-theory-amid-claims-wrote-tell-book-vanished-death.html

[5] Medics raise Kelly death doubts , http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/4089729.stm

[6] KELLY’S BOOK OF SECRETS, http://www.express.co.uk/posts/view/111971/Kelly-s-book-of-secrets

[7] CBC – The Passionate Eye – Anthrax War, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=shsQFGGU6uk&feature=related

[8] George Monbiot – Riddle of the Spores, http://www.counterpunch.org/monbiot0521.html

[9] Fort Detrick Scientist “Commits Suicide” as Anthrax investigation closes in, http://www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=9730

[10] Brothers in arms – Israel’s secret pact with Pretoria, http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/feb/07/southafrica.israel

[11] Israel Planning ’Ethnic’ Bomb as Saddam Caves In, http://www.bibliotecapleyades.net/sociopolitica/esp_sociopol_depopu17a.htm

[12] The Ringworm Children, http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=6118144849760405404#

[13] Rebuilding America’s Defenses, http://newamericancentury.org/RebuildingAmericasDefenses.pdf

[14] Why I believe David Kelly’s death may have been murder, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-397256/Why-I-believe-David-Kellys-death-murder-MP.html

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Following the turbulent patterns of world commodity markets over recent years countries have come under increased pressure to provide basic services to their populations. Especially in the far east, where limited land masses are combined with extremely high population density, governments are susceptible to sudden increases in food prices as were witnessed last year. In a move to combat the threat of unsustainably high prices, and to ensure a food supply elastic to possible expanding demand, South Korea made a significant move to guarantee its supplies. In a controversial deal with the regime of Madagascar under President Marc Ravalomanana, the South Korean firm Daewoo logistics secured the rights to farm one half of all the arable land in the country. Not only was this lease secured for ninety-nine years, thus endangering future population expansion in the country, but it was established virtually free of charge. The only recompense the country would stand to gain would be, ‘jobs, roads and experience of advanced agricultural techniques.’ Similar comparisons can all too easily be made with the ‘farming’ of Nineteenth century Ireland. The prospect of not only impoverishing, but potentially starving the people seems not at all unlikely considering the scale of the deal and its focus entirely upon export. The ‘jobs’ created to work this vast colonial farm would be about the only benefit created for future generations, under the lengthy lease.

 

Domestic politics during March of this year have brought an abrupt end to the pretensions of the South Korean firm as Andry Rajoelina ousted Ravalomanana from office in a popular coup. He declared that the deal with Daewoo was illegal under the terms of the constitution which stipulates that Madagascar’s land is, ‘neither for sale nor for rent.’ Although he did not rule out the possibility of a future deal, he maintained that this would require a change of the constitution following popular consultation.

 

South Korea is not a lone conspirator in this modern scramble for Africa. China’s energy and market expansion throughout the continent has received attention, most notably for its tendency to be the donor of choice for regimes with reproachable human rights records. A U.S. firm too has recently acquired a 400,000 hectare stretch of fertile land in the Sudan to begin food export. All these developments appear little different from the rampant colonialism of the Nineteenth century, and one wonders whether they will be remembered as such. With the burgeoning dominance of the corporation however as a theoretically apolitical and amoral entity, it is concerning that they are not even limited by the same degree of public scrutiny which still failed to prevent the worst excesses of Western imperialism.

 

 

Sources:

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7952628.stm

 

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/agriculture/3487668/South-Korean-company-takes-over-part-of-Madagascar-to-grow-biofuels.html

 

http://thebrowser.com/content/africas-biggest-land-deal-blas-and-wallis-ft

 

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/africa/7086777.stm

 

Chris Bowles

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