Archive for the “U.S. Politics” Category

Politics in the United States

Apostolic Nunciature Washington DCWhen the media initially reported that Pope Francis had met the gay-hating Religious Right aspiring martyr Kim Davis, clerk of Rowan Cty, KY, while he was in Washington last week (WebCite cached article), I admit having been skeptical. At first, only she and her people (i.e. the Christofascist outfit called Liberty Counsel, led by her attorney Mat Staver) had made this claim. The Vatican and its nunciature (aka embassy) initially wouldn’t confirm or deny it. This was just the sort of thing Staver and his cadre might try to cook up in an effort to make their client appear saintly. So I was suspicious.

My skepticism was proven wrong when they confirmed a meeting took place, but said nothing about its nature (cached). That seemed pretty odd, since Ms Davis and Staver had painted a rather rosy picture of how the Pope had told her to soldier on for Jesus in her crusade against marriage in her county, because gays. After continued questions, the Pope’s people finally had to say more about it. And what they did say, as the New York Times reports, didn’t exactly match Ms Davis’ contention (cached):

Pope Francis’ encounter with Kim Davis last week in Washington, which was interpreted by many as a subtle intervention in the United States’ same-sex marriage debate, was part of a series of meetings with dozens of guests and did not amount to an endorsement of her views, the Vatican said on Friday.

The church distanced itself on Friday from the case of Ms. Davis, the Rowan County, Ky., clerk who defied a judge’s order and refused to grant marriage licenses to same-sex couples. It said “the only real audience” Francis gave in Washington was to a former student of his.

The Times hosts a copy of the Vatican’s statement (cached), which says, among other things:

The Pope did not enter into the details of the situation of Mrs. Davis and his meeting with her should not be considered a form of support of her position in all of its particular and complex aspects.

What’s odd about this is that the one personal audience the Pope’s office admits occurred in Washington wasn’t just with any old former student of his. This person, the Times explains, was gay, and he’d brought his long-time partner along:

Contacted by phone, a former student of Francis, Yayo Grassi, said he had been granted a meeting with the pope. Mr. Grassi is an openly gay man living in Washington, and he said he had been accompanied by his partner of 19 years, Iwan Bagus, as well as four friends.

CNN has also reported on this part of the story (cached). I find it incredibly odd that Pope Francis would have arranged his own meeting with a former student who was gay, on the one hand, yet also met with — and supposedly encouraged — an anti-gay crusader for Jesus on the other. It all seems improbable on its face.

A possible explanation for this incongruity may lie in a report by a LGBT advocacy group, the New Civil Rights Movement, with new details on how Ms Davis’s meeting was arranged (cached):

The New Civil Rights Movement has learned through a source within the Apostolic Nunciature, the Vatican embassy, that Kim Davis’ meeting with the Pope was arranged – contrary to theories espoused in the media – by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The USCCB is led by President Joseph E. Kurtz, the Archbishop of Louisville, in Davis’ home state of Kentucky, and by the Archdiocese of Washington led by Cardinal Donald Wuerl. Both institutions have actively opposed same-sex marriage. In 2009, Cardinal Wuerl signed the Manhattan Declaration, an ecumenical statement calling on Evangelical, Orthodox, and Catholic Christians to defy laws permitting same-sex marriage and other issues they claim challenge their religious freedom.

The USCCB has ties to organizations designated as hate groups by the Southern Poverty Law Center, including the Family Research Council and the Center for Family and Human Rights (C-FAM).

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, the papal nuncio (aka ambassador) to the US is, according to some reports, a conservative within the hierarchy who’d participated in an anti-gay-marriage rally in Washington earlier this year (cached). As nuncio, Viganò very well could have arranged to insert Ms Davis and her goofy hick husband into a receiving line for the Pope, and possibly have done it with only a few people aware of who she really was. In other words, Viganò may well have blindsided his own boss, in the name of pushing an anti-gay crusade and promoting Ms Davis’s desired martyrdom, at the behest of the very-conservative American bishops.

I haven’t seen any other reports definitely linking this strange meeting with the USCCB. But other outlets, such as The Atlantic, have mentioned oddly cagey comments by Archbishop Kurtz (cached):

Joseph Kurtz, the archbishop of Louisville, Kentucky, and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, wouldn’t comment on the meeting itself and how it came about, noting that he stayed about a mile away from the nunciature where Pope Francis stayed during his visit to D.C. But “I can comment on the fact that in Kentucky, I had said that I’m not a lawyer or a politician, but I had certainly hoped that room could be made for people of conscience,” he said on Wednesday. The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops was the primary coordinator of the pope’s schedule during his visit to the United States.

The more I read about this, the more I smell a rat. And that rat stinks like episcopal incense.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Jesus Facepalm: He gave up too so please stop this foolishness (Demotivators; defunct)Honestly, although I’ve posted many stories along these lines, it brings me no joy to do so. It’s not as though I like heaping derision on people like the one I’m about to mention. But at the same time, the topic I’m addressing here isn’t something that can be ignored. You see, Christians love to say that morality comes only from belief in God, and more specifically, from their God. They say that the more people believe in their God, the better off everyone will be, because everyone will be morally upright. Religious Rightists in particular often demand that Americans turn to God (or return to God) in order to alleviate all of society’s ills.

The problem with this sort of thinking is that it’s just not fucking true! Believers in deities, which includes Christians, are not — as it turns out — any more or less moral than any other segment of the population. Yet, they keep on bellyaching that more Americans need to be Christian, usually their own particular variety of Christian, as though this reality weren’t the case. And they use their assertion of moral superiority in order to rationalize imposing their religion on everyone.

Hence, when notable examples that run contrary to this trope come up, I must mention them. Because they’re object lessons in the reality of both religion and human nature that shouldn’t be ignored, merely because they’re inconvenient.

The latest politician-crusader for Jesus who turned out not to be very morally upright after all, as the Indianapolis Star reports, is Judson McMillin, floor leader of the Indiana House (WebCite cached article):

Rep. Jud McMillin, a rising star in the state’s Republican Party, abruptly resigned Tuesday.

The Indianapolis Star has learned that the surprise resignation came after a sexually explicit video was sent via text message from McMillin’s cellphone. It’s unclear who sent the text or how broadly it was distributed.

The Brookville Republican sent a separate text message apologizing to his contacts for “anything offensive” they may have received after he said he lost control of his cellphone.

McMillin claimed his cellphone had been stolen in Canada. But it remains unclear if it actually had been stolen, or who sent out the video in the first place.

The reason this is significant is that McMillin was a chief among the Indiana legislators who’d campaigned to legalize discrimination against gays and others, in the name of “religious liberty,” earlier this year. He did this because, apparently, the Christians of Indiana were being ruthlessly oppressed by gays. Or something.

As the Star mentions, though, this sexting scandal shouldn’t really have been a surprise:

In 2005, his career as an assistant county prosecutor in Ohio came to an end amid questions about his sexual conduct. He admitted to a relationship with the complainant in a domestic violence case he was prosecuting, but he insisted the relationship began after he stepped off the case, according to the Dayton Daily News. He resigned a week after he stopped working on the case.

As something of a counterpoint, the Star article closes by mentioning that another Indiana legislator, this one a Democrat, was also involved in a sexting scandal. Which brings me around to my original point: Christians, including outspoken crusading Christians, aren’t any more morally upright than any other kind of person. They have the same impulses as everyone else. And their religious beliefs simply aren’t sufficient to change them.

Which brings me to a corollary point to consider: If being a Christian isn’t enough to make one change one’s behavior, then really, what value can it have? How truly “divine” can it be, if it carries no power to change people for the better? If moral behavior is something people need to work on, regardless of whether or not they’re Christian, then does being Christian really matter, where morality is concerned? Where, exactly, is the connection between Christianity and morality, if Christians are not — as seems to be the case — any more moral than any other type of human being?

If Christians were honest with themselves and everyone else, they’d admit being troubled by this. They’d admit their beliefs don’t make them morally superior. And they’d stop telling everyone else that they’re immoral because they’re not Christians. Because all those things are lies — and they fucking well know it, even if they won’t admit it.

Photo credit: Demotivators (defunct).

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'Veracicat has checked your facts and is not impressed with your lies' / PsiCop graphic, based on Davis, the anti-gay-marriage county clerk from Kentucky, having contrived to martyr herself is still angling for a second career as a Christianist pundit/lecturer/author. Toward that end, as Raw Story explains, she had an interview on (where the fuck else?) Fox News, with Megyn Kelly (WebCite cached article):

“When the legal challenges ended up not going in your favor, many people have asked, why not just resign at that point?” Kelly asked.

“If I resign I lose my voice,” Davis replied.

Thus, we see why Ms Davis has remained both defiant and on the job: She doesn’t want to lose the spotlight. It’s the only way she can spread her gospel of anti-gay hatred.

While this is quite a revelation … and it demonstrates how truly selfish she’s being … that’s not the part of her interview I’m most concerned about. There’s another little snippet (emphasis mine):

“It has been about upholding the word of God and how God defined marriage from the very beginning of time,” [Davis] insisted.

Please take note of this. It’s a commonly-repeated Christianist canard that God has “always” defined marriage as only “one-man-&-one-woman.” They love to say it over and over and over again.

There’s just one tiny little problem with it: If you look at their own scripture, you easily see that it’s not fucking true!

You see, as I noted long ago, marriage in the Bible comes in more than one form. The following Biblical figures all had marriages decidedly not of the one-man-&-one-woman variety:

Abraham: Married Sarah (Gen 16:1), then took as additional wives Hagar (Gen 16:3) and later Keturah (Gen 25:1).

Jacob: Married Leah (Gen 29:23), then Rachel (Gen 29:28), then Bilhah (Gen 30:4), then Zilpah (Gen 30:9).

Moses: Married Zipporah (Ex 2:21), then an unnamed Ethiopian woman (Num 12:1).

David: His named wives were Michal (1 Sam 18:27), Abigail (1 Sam 25:39), Ahinoam (1 Sam 25:43), Eglah, Abital, Haggith, & Maacah (2 Sam 3:3-5); and Bathsheba (2 Sam 12:24); there were an unknown number of other wives as well (2 Sam 5:13).

Solomon: Had 700 wives plus 300 concubines (1 Kg 11:3)

There are many more I could have listed, but didn’t. Yes, folks, Biblical marriage included polygamy and even concubinage! Granted, all of this is in the Old Testament, which some Christians will say doesn’t apply to them any more. (Except for the parts of it they say do still apply.) But really, whether it not it applies to them personally, cannot and will never make Ms Davis’s statement that “God defined marriage from the very beginning of time” as being only one-man-&-one-woman. It is, quite simply, flat-out untrue. A lie. A big fat fucking lie, in fact, since it’s so easy to verify as untrue! All one has to do is open up a fucking Bible and look at the words, fercryinoutloud.

However, as they like to say in infomercials, “But wait; there’s more!”

Looking at the New Testament, we see a pair of interesting admonitions. In 1 Tim 3:2 we see that overseers (aka bishops) must be men married to only one woman. Just ten verses later, in 1 Tim 3:12, we find that deacons also must be men married to one woman. The reason I call these instructions “interesting” is not just in what they say, but in what they don’t. That is, these requirements don’t apply to all Christians. They apply only to deacons and bishops. It’s quite possible, then, that some of the men in early Christian congregations — like many of the patriarchs and Hebrew monarchs before them — might have had multiple wives. The only problem for them was that they couldn’t be deacons or bishops. Otherwise they were Christians in good standing.

This, too, shows Ms Davis and her militant Christianist cohorts are lying when they said their deity had always declared marriage to be only of the one-man-&-one-woman sort. It’s just not true … not for the Biblical monarchs and patriarchs, and not even for the first few generations of Christians.

Now, that these presumably-devout Christians would lie for their Jesus is understandable, and par for the course. They lie for Jesus because they think they have to, because they should, and because they think they’ve got a special license to do so. They have no problem with it. But … I don’t understand why people in the media to whom they speak never summon the courage to challenge them on it. As I point out above, that’s remarkably easy to do. All that’s needed is a handy copy of the Bible to show them chapter-&-verse in which there were polygamous marriages, then ask them how they can say their God “always” defined marriage as one-man-&-one-woman. Megyn Kelly may work for the Religious Right’s house organ, but that isn’t really a justifiable excuse for her not to do her job. And it certainly can’t explain why journalists and interviewers from other outlets never issue the same challenge.

I’m happy to introduce Ms Davis to membership in my “lying liars for Jesus” club. She has lots of friends there already, so I know she’ll be happy. But she and her fellow Christofascists shouldn’t be granted carte blanche to lie as often as they want by the media. That’s got to fucking stop. Journalists need to grow up, and grow a pair, then do what they should. Period.

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On the heels of presidential candidate Ben Carson’s idiotic Islamophobic yammering, and my release of a static page on this blog explaining what the Great Neocrusade is and what’s wrong with it, the furious Christofascist Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council repeated that Muslims don’t have freedom of religion in the US. Right Wing Watch reports on his claim, and includes audio (WebCite cached article):

On his “Washington Watch” radio program yesterday, Perkins repeated his claim that Islam is not protected under the U.S. Constitution.

While discussing GOP presidential candidate Ben Carson’s recent statement that he would never support a Muslim candidate for president, along with the claims of Kim Davis’ critics that a clerk would never receive such praise from the Religious Right had she been a Muslim, Perkins railed against media commentators for “interjecting” Islam “into all of these discussions.” He said that the media is using Islam as a “wedge” to divide conservatives, suggesting that Kim Davis’ decision to impose her Christian beliefs onto her county office was different because Islam is not protected in the Constitution, while Christianity is.

“Religious freedom and our liberty is ordered liberty under the Constitution,” Perkins said. “And as Dr. Carson pointed out, and I know this is driving the left crazy, that Islam is not just a religion, Islam is an economic system, it is a judicial system, it is a compressive system which is incompatible with the Constitution. That’s what Dr. Carson said and he happens to be correct.”

This isn’t the first time Tony-boy has said something like this. I noted he said pretty much the same thing just about a year ago. He hasn’t changed his tune a bit since then, I see. But just as was the case back then, Tony-boy is a blatant fucking hypocrite, decrying Islam as “an economic system” and “a judicial system” in addition to being a religion. He conveniently ignores that his own Religious Right movement is simultaneously religious, political, economic, and judicial. For Tony-boy to say Muslims can’t be granted religious freedom because their religion has certain features, but not admitting to them within his own religion — which he says does enjoy religious liberty — is hypocritical. Which he’s not allowed to do, since his own Jesus clearly, unambiguously, and explicitly forbid his followers ever to be hypocrites, at any time or for any reason. He simply can’t do it!

As I’ve noted repeatedly, the problem here is that the Religious Right views Islam as its main rival, on a global scale at least. That it’s a small minority religion here in the US, and that it does seem to have a propensity for violent extremes at the moment, makes Muslims here a convenient and ready target. That doesn’t mean all Muslims are dangerous, even though Tony-boy and his fellow Neocrusaders keep insisting that’s so. They forget there is such a thing as Christian terrorism, too. So yeah, that’s another example of Religious Right hypocrisy … condemning Islam as a “terrorist” religion, but ignoring the terrorists within their own faith. Nice, eh? Fucking hypocrites.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Friendly Atheist.

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Godfrey in his siege tower at the Assault on Jerusalem, July 15, 1099. By Anonymous ([1][2]) [Public domain or Public domain], via Wikimedia CommonsI’ve just posted a static page on what I call the Great Neocrusade, a movement which comprises a large part of the Religious Right in the US and whose goal is to eradicate Islam from the country, and then the rest of the world. I first called attention to it — and gave it that name — some five years ago. Since then, this foolish and childish effort hasn’t abated one bit.

Along the way, Neocrusaders have done a lot of idiotic things, such as passing laws forbidding shari’a (or Islamic) law, even though the US Constitution already forbids imposing religious law on Americans. They’ve also done some much more harmful things, such as destroying mosques, and even threatening churches under construction merely because they appear to be mosques.

As a student of the Middle Ages, I know quite well how the original Crusades worked out. In short, they didn’t — at all! They were a sequence of expeditions that spanned two centuries, which collectively ended in dismal failure. Yes, I said a failure … in spite of the fact that the First Crusade had apparently succeeded, with the capture of Antioch in 1098, Jerusalem in 1099, and Tripoli in 1109. (The Crusaders also seized Edessa in 1098, but that had long been a Christian city under Armenian leadership, and they got it via betrayal rather than war. Woops!) Edessa had fallen by 1144, Jerusalem by 1187, Antioch in 1268, and Tripoli in 1289, and were at last driven from the Holy Land in 1303 with the fall of their last fort on the island of Arwad.

Undertaking a modern version of a Crusade … albeit not as overtly military as before … seems stunningly foolish — at least, to those who haven’t done what the Religious Right has done, which is to redefine the medieval Crusades as a glorious and morally-upright effort to save Christendom from annihilation (cached) by attacking Saracens thousands of miles away and who were no threat to them. Really, there’s no way a religion with as large a worldwide presence as Islam has could be eradicated from the United States. Not only is it unconstitutional even to try, it simply can’t work! No sane person ought to attempt any such thing.

But clearly we’re not dealing with people who are altogether “sane.” They’ve been driven mad by their rage, and they’re not capable of thinking clearly. They naïvely think that getting rid of Islam will get rid of terrorism and thus make them safe; but this reasoning ignores the uncomfortable reality that there’s terrorism within the ranks of Christianity in the US, which will continue even if the Neocrusaders somehow manage to toss all Muslims out of the country.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

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Ben CarsonThe laughable religiosity on display in the 2016 GOP presidential primary continues apace. Retired surgeon Ben Carson, darling of the Religious Right since he used an invitation to the National Prayer Breakfast to go after President Obama in person, is one of the candidates trying desperately to get ahead of Donald “it’s my own hair” Trump in the polls. Toward that end, as Politico reports, during an appearance on Meet the Press, Bennie decided to make Islam, of all things, an issue in the election (WebCite cached article):

The president of the United States should not be a Muslim, Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson declared during an interview airing Sunday morning. And Islam, a faith professed by some 3 million Americans, is not constitutional, the retired neurosurgeon said.

Carson has some very high-minded reasoning for this:

Asked whether his faith or the faith of a president should matter, Carson said, “It depends on what that faith is.”

“If it’s inconsistent with the values and principles of America, then of course it should matter. But if it fits within the realm of America and consistent with the constitution, no problem,” he explained, according to a transcript.

Todd then asked Carson, whose rise in the polls has been powered in large part by Christian conservatives, if he believed that “Islam is consistent with the Constitution.”

“No, I don’t, I do not,” he responded, adding, “I would not advocate that we put a Muslim in charge of this nation. I absolutely would not agree with that.”

Bennie went on to say — quite strangely, given the broad and dire philosophy he’d just stated about Muslims and the Constitution — that it’s acceptable for Muslims to be in Congress. Whew! For a moment there, I’d wondered if Carson would demand that André Carson (cached) and Keith Ellison (cached), resign from the House because they’re Muslims who can’t or won’t follow the Constitution.

Let’s get a few things cleared up right away: First, no Muslim is going to be elected President of the United States any time in the foreseeable future. So this is not something any American of any religion (or of none) needs to be concerned with. Period.

Next, this was clearly Bennie’s appeal to the Great Neocrusade being waged by the Religious Right. As I’ve blogged for a few years now, this is an effort to eradicate Islam from the United States, and is the result of the Christian Right’s fear and hatred of Muslims, because worldwide, their faith is the chief rival of Christianity. Of course, there’s the terrorism factor, too, which Neocrusaders use to good effect — and not without reason. But what they forget is that there’s also such a thing as Christian terrorism, some of which emerged from the ranks of their own political faction, so they’re hypocritical when they condemn Islam as a terrorism-generating religion while conveniently forgetting that their own is sometimes guilty of that, also. (That their own Jesus explicitly and unambiguously forbid them ever to be hypocritical is also something they conveniently forget.)

Oh, and as for Islam supposedly not being “consistent with the Constitution,” let’s not forget that the Religious Right is prone to treating the Constitution as fungible when it’s convenient for them to do so. Because they dislike gay marriage and say it’s against their religion, for instance, they want it outlawed for all Americans, of any religion or of none. They don’t seem to care there are religions — including some Christian churches — which accept gay marriage (cached); they simply can’t tolerate that it exists anywhere.

An illustrative parallel for the Religious Right’s approach to gay marriage would be to compare them to Orthodox Jews who want the sale and consumption of pork and shellfish outlawed for everyone, because it’s against their religion and they object to the idea that anyone might be having pork or shellfish. If Orthodox Jews were to advocate such a thing — which they haven’t, and I doubt they ever will — no one would take that effort seriously. Which is why no thinking American ought to take the R.R. seriously on this issue, either.

What’s more, a significant portion of the Religious Right — including Bennie’s rival candidate Ted Cruz, and erstwhile candidates Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann — are dominionists (cached) or Christian Reconstructionists (cached). These folk want the federal government more or less disbanded, and each of the states converted into an Old Testament-style Christian theocracy. Maybe it’s just me — cynical, godless agnostic heathen that I am — but I don’t see this sort of thinking as being even remotely “consistent with the Constitution,” either. Guess I just don’t have all the lofty spiritual insights that would allow an insolent creature like myself to comprehend all these important, sacred considerations.

I wonder if Bennie will summon the courage to call out any of his dominionist friends over their philosophy, too? Why do I not think he will?

Photo credit: Gage Skidmore, via Flickr.

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US Courthouse at CovingtonI was sure Kim Davis, the anti-gay clerk of Rowan county, KY who was briefly jailed for defying a federal judge’s order to issue marriage licenses, wasn’t done trying to derail the process. And it turns out, I was right: She isn’t done! As the Associated Press reports, she may have disobeyed the judge’s orders once again (WebCite cached article):

A Kentucky county clerk may have again defied a federal judge’s order regarding gay-marriage licenses by altering license forms to remove her name, an attorney who represents one of the clerk’s employees told the judge Friday in a court filing.

In a separate filing Friday, attorneys for the gay couples who sued Davis appear to agree.…

[A]ttorneys for the American Civil Liberties Union said in a court filing that the changes on the form require [deputy clerk Brian] Mason to issue the licenses “in his capacity as a ‘notary public’ rather than a deputy clerk of the Rowan County Clerk’s Office,” changes that “do not comply” with the court’s order to not interfere with her employees who issue the licenses.

“These alterations call into question the validity of the marriage licenses issued,” the attorneys wrote in a footnote to a motion asking the judge to certify the case as a class-action lawsuit. “Plaintiffs are exploring legal options to address these material alterations.”

State law requires marriage licenses to be issued under the authority of the county clerk. Someone else, a minister or other officiant, then performs the ceremony and signs the license. The clerk then files the license with county records.

I can’t help but view Ms Davis’s behavior as that of a toddler who, when given an instruction by an adult, creatively searches for ways to manipulate or circumvent the instruction, repeatedly pushing the boundaries of what she’s allowed to do. It really is very childish.

I note, too, that the judge in this case — despite his willingness to jail Ms Davis for a few days — hasn’t been very helpful regarding the licenses themselves:

[David] Bunning, the federal judge, has said he does not know if the licenses are valid and it was up to the gay couples to take that chance.

This waffling aligns with the fact that he caved in to Religious Right pressure and released her. How nice.

This is all very typical of how the Religious Right operates. Even when they know they no longer have any legal leg to stand on, they consistently and repeatedly refuse to bend to reality. They cannot and will never cave in … not willingly, anyway. No matter what happens, they resist … and they resist some more … and they resist even more after that … and they just keep on resisting, resisting, and resisting, forever more. They’ll never stop, until they either get their way, or die off. This is one of the reasons for their success … they wear down their opponents, who eventually get tired and surrender to their demands. So one can hardly fault them for using a successful tactic. Still, that they’d continue waging fights like this one, even after they’d lost the war, shows how irrational and childish they are.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Hat tip: Talking Points Memo.

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