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First, the good news…

1) National: The annual public service medals have been given out to a wide array of government workers across many federal agencies. NASA’s Greg Robinson received the flagship award of Federal Employee of the Year for his work managing the construction and implementation of the James Webb Space Telescope.” Other awards were given to public servants who, e.g., transformed the Department of Labor’s technology to automate repetitive administrative processes, combatted HIV/AIDS, coordinated the largest resettlement of refugees in American history, curbed the use of hydrofluorocarbons, distributed hundreds of millions of COVID-19 vaccines to states and community health centers, leveraged U.S. resources overseas to educational opportunities for disabled children d youth, championed the use of whole genome sequencing and a public database to identify foodborne diseases that sicken millions of people every year, and much, much more. Read their compelling stories.

2) National: In a major victory for human rights campaigners, prisoners’ families, and incarcerated and detained people across the country, Global Tel Link, the for-profit company that operates prison telephone lines, has agreed to pay $67 million in refunds and credit to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by incarcerated people. And the Federal Communications Commission is proposing new and expansive guidelines to ensure improper seizure of users’ prepaid accounts does not happen again. “The details about GTL’s actions came to light as part of a class-action lawsuit brought by attorney Benson Githieya in Georgia. According to that suit, Githieya set up an account with GTL’s AdvancePay service and loaded it with funds so his cousin in a South Carolina prison would be able to call him. But after 90 days of inactivity, Githieya said GTL repossessed all the money left in his account. This policy played out across so many customers, that according to court filings, GTL brought in an average of more than $1 million a month from seized accounts over the course of eight years. ‘GTL has been unjustly enriched by its practice of converting to revenue any funds remaining in an account that GTL deems inactive,’ the complaint read.”

3) National: The U.S. Department of Labor has recovered $100K in wages for Oklahoma City rehabilitation program residents who were denied the minimum wage and overtime. The OKC Metro Alliance provides an opportunity for individuals to recover from substance abuse through programs leading to sobriety including Firstep, a residential work-therapy program. “OKC Metro Alliance placed recovery center residents within their Firstep Programs—a long-term residential drug and alcohol recovery program – in third-party employment and withheld wages—essentially acting as a joint employer. The employer agreed to change its business model to avoid future violations and paid back wages after entering into a compliance and settlement agreement with the department.”

4) NationalAFSCME is partnering with the nonprofit Student Borrower Protection Center to host webinars on the Biden administration’s public service loan forgiveness program. “If you are a public service worker and have outstanding federal student loans, join us and our partners at the Student Borrower Protection Center (SBPC) for an informational webinarthat will walk you through how to qualify for student debt forgiveness under the PSLF program and answer your questions about the temporary waiver. There are several opportunities to participate.” Webinars will be held tomorrow through October 25.

5) Arizona: Volunteers with Save Our Schools Arizona turned in 141,714 signatures in an effort to refer a school voucher expansion bill to the ballot. They needed 119,000. “State and county election officials will perform the first reviews to determine, after invalid signatures are eliminated, whether there are still 118,823 left in the petitions gathered by the group Save Our Schools to hold up enactment of the voucher law until the 2024 general election. That’s when voters would get to decide whether to ratify or reject the law. After that, however, supporters of what are formally known as Empowerment Scholarship Accounts will do their own examination of the petitions with an eye on disqualifying more signatures — and leaving the referendum petition drive short of the required number.” Pro-vouchers forces are being heavily backed by right wing organizations, Kathryn Joyce reports in Salon.

6) California/Wisconsin: The community school model is catching on across the country. In California, “excitement for the future is palpable in the Anaheim Union High School District, where 13 schools, serving approximately 20,000 students, are growing into community schools. After a swift application process closing in May, AUHSD received a $23.275 million California Department of Education grant distributed over five years, part of a $4.1 billion statewide commitment to community schools, the largest in the nation. The teachers union – the Anaheim Secondary Teachers Association  – parents, administrators, community partners, and the school board are working together to transform 13 schools through collective leadership and shared responsibility.”

In Wisconsin, Milwaukee Public Schools, the Milwaukee Teachers’ Education Association, and United Way of Greater Milwaukee & Waukesha County have announced the addition of Oliver Wendell Holmes School to the Milwaukee Community Schools Partnership (MCSP) for the 2022–23 school year. “In addition to O. W. Holmes School’s adoption of the Community Schools strategy this school year, three schools—Alexander Mitchell Integrated Arts School, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. School, and Grantosa Drive School—were added to the Community School Partnership during the 2021–22 school year. Sixteen MPS schools, about 10 percent of the district, have now adopted the transformational MCSP strategy.”

7) OklahomaPastors for Oklahoma Kids says “EXPOSED: ‘Failing Public Schools’ is a manufactured talking point from privatization lobbyists. How do parents really feel? 73% say their kid’s teachers are good/excellent!”

8) Oklahoma: State Attorney General John O’Connor and the Oklahoma Press Association are hosting five seminars across the state to teach people about open records laws. “Julie Pittman, General Counsel to the Attorney General of Oklahoma, and Thomas Schneider, Deputy General Counsel to the Attorney General of Oklahoma will both be featured at this year’s seminars. ‘These seminars are a great way for public officials to stay up to date on the state’s open record laws,’ Attorney General O’Connor said. ‘I encourage everyone who serves the public to attend and participate in these meetings.’ The seminars are free and open to anyone who would like to attend.”

9) WashingtonState interpreters have chosen to form a union through AFSCME. “AFSCME Interpreters United(WFSE/Council 28) won the representation election in late August for L&I spoken language interpreters with 81.5% of valid ballots cast. These interpreters now have a collective voice that will be heard in the legislature, at the bargaining table, and in the clinics. They are part of WFSE (the Washington Federation of State Employees), which represents more than 46,000 public service workers throughout the state, and AFSCME, a national union with 1.4 million members. The billionaire-backed Freedom Foundation – an anti-worker group – set up a rival “union” to run in the representation elections, but Interpreters United notched a convincing victory.”


10) National: “The *right* to bully is at the heart of the war over Title IX protections for LGBTQ students.” – Jennifer Berkshire.

11) CaliforniaCalifornia will see a resurgence in school bond measures on the ballot this November, breaking a cycle that saw fewer bond requests in the last two statewide elections, The Bond Buyer reports. “The state’s K-12 school and community college districts have 100 general obligation bond measures on the ballot Nov. 8, according to data from the Coalition for Adequate School Housing provided by John Baracy, a C.A.S.H. board member and managing director at Raymond James. ‘We are actually on a similar pace for the 2018 GO bond cycle in California, actually a little more in total par,’ Baracy said. (…) With federal funds and the additional state funding for construction projects, California school districts are generally fiscally healthy, Baracy said. ‘School districts are probably in the best position they have been in years, currently, but I don’t know if that will continue,’ he said. ‘We are seeing healthy fund balances at schools.’” [Sub required]

12) Florida/Think Tanks: A new report says school vouchers will divert more than $1 billion from public to private schools. “‘This enormous increase in the flow of public dollars to fund private education has happened so quickly that many Floridians are likely unaware of the financial impact being placed upon public school districts and the way these voucher programs are affecting the availability of their tax dollars for public education,’ the report reads in part. Private schools don’t have to comply with federal civil rights laws or state laws on standardized testingteacher certification or certain building codes in the way that public schools do.”

Leon Co. public school officials are speaking out against millions of dollars being funneled into private schools. “It amounts to nearly 9% of state funding for Leon County Schools. ‘Florida has done an abysmal job of funding its public schools,’ Leon Classroom Teachers Association President Scott Mazur said. Mazur says this is money that public schools desperately need. ‘We want to make sure that our public schools, the ones that are the foundation of our community, are there for those folks that need that resource,’ he said.” [Read the full report]

13) IndianaHamilton County parents are fighting back against the efforts of far-right Hillsdale College to set up a charter school in their district, as it is trying in Tennessee. “Some people who said they dug deeper into the curriculum and history of the school and didn’t like what they found. ‘The whole setup of this particular charter is really problematic for me and others I have been speaking with. It’s this tie to Hillsdale College in Michigan. It’s a religious school that promotes very alt-right types of thinking and invites speakers that say really extremist views,’ said Tomaska. Some Carmel Clay parents believe the better solution is to support the schools that are already there. ‘The solution is not to take your bat and ball and build your own private school with the curriculum you like. The answer is to get involved and engage rationally and reasonably with the people running your district,’ said McConnell.” [Watch video, about two minutes]

14) MissouriSchool privatization is on the ballot. Manny Abarca, a KCPS No. 3 school board member and candidate for Democratic nominee for the Jackson County Legislature says, “Enough cash to buy school board seats to rip them apart from the inside! School ‘Choice’ is just privatization of public schools. It’s 0 accountability, 0 equity requirements, it is the Wild West of education, not education ‘your way’ like Burger King. -ex charter board member [and Democratic Nominee for State Representative in MO HD1 Jess Piper].”

15) New York: Long Island Republicans are denouncing state government requirements that Yeshivas give their students an education that is “substantially equivalent” to what students in public schools receive. “The rules set forth last week do not impose a minimum requirement for the amount of time devoted to secular subjects, the New York Times reported. It allows schools to operate under no penalty if education officials think the school is making a good-faith effort to improve, the Times said.”

16) Oklahoma: Candidates for Oklahoma State Superintendent are weighing-in on school vouchers. “Logan Phillips, Republican lawmaker from Tulsa, broke down what it would cost each county if the Oklahoma Empowerment Act became law. ‘If you don’t take any population change from a rural communities or rural schools or move anyone from private [public?—ed.] education to private education, you still lose hundreds of millions of dollars out of our educational budget,’ said Phillips. He estimates that rural schools, an example being Okfuskee County, would lose up to $350,000. The total cost for public education would be around $132 million, according to his analysis. The reason being, the money contributed from each county would go into a fund to pay for the vouchers.”

17) Tennessee: Sumner County parents back up their school board’s rejection of a charter school at the state Public Charter School Commission. “Wes Duenkel, Sumner County parent and public school advocate, started by saying that public education is America’s greatest innovation and the tide that raises all boats. He expressed concern that charter schools that are approved by the State Commission and not the local school board, do not have an appropriate amount of accountability, yet they use local taxpayer dollars that should be sent to local community schools. ‘Accountability is a major factor of why I’m personally opposed to charter schools. This charter school is unaccountable to parents and taxpayers, yet we as taxpayers will be forced to funnel money to this charter but will have no input on how the funds are spent, who is teaching those children, and what those teachers are taught. […] This charter school will only answer to an unelected commission handpicked by the governor. There is zero local control.’”

18) TennesseeParents are urging the Tennessee Supreme Court to end the school voucher program. “The plaintiffs, Davidson and Shelby County parents and community members, argued that the voucher program illegally diverts taxpayer funds meant for public schools in those counties to private schools. They added that the program also violated the Tennessee Constitution and state law by treating residents in those counties differently from their counterparts across the state. (…) The plaintiffs went on to say that the voucher program would exclude participating private schools from complying with the academic, accountability, and governance standards that apply to public schools.”

19) VermontK-12 Dive reports that the state has issued private school funding guidance following the U.S. Supreme Court’s Carson v. Makin ruling. “School districts must pay for students who live in districts without secondary schools to attend religious school alternatives, according to guidance put out by the Vermont Agency of Education in the wake of a recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling on a religious schools case. The alternatives must meet state standards or be approved by the state, the Vermont department said. The state guidance comes three months after the Supreme Court’s ruling inCarson v. Makin, which held that Maine violated the First Amendment by restricting religious private schools from using public tuition assistance programs. The decision made it easier for private schools to access public subsidies.”

What is the big picture situation on church-state law under the current U.S. Supreme Court? Listen to the interview of Andrew Seidel of Americans United for Separation of Church and State a few days ago by Georgia State College of Law professor Eric Segall. [Audio, about an hour].

20) International: In opening remarks yesterday at the British Labour Party’s conference, a crackdown on outsourcing and major move toward insourcing was announced by the deputy leader. “Angela Rayner has announced a Labour government would crackdown on government outsourcing. A new rule would be put in place, stating that public bodies would have to show that work cannot be done in-house before they are allowed to outsource it. She said: ‘The Tories have become too dependent on handing away our public services on the cheap, and now we are paying the price. We will oversee the biggest wave of insourcing for a generation. Today I can announce that before any service is contracted out, public bodies must show that work could not be better done in-house.’” [Sub required]


21) National: Financing public works and budgets at the state and local level is about to get much more difficult. The municipal bond rout undoubtedly has implications for infrastructure development at the state and local level. Bond prices are way down, and there is a relentless rise in rates, though it will take some time to sort out how serious this will be for public issuers over longer term projects (the ten years are doing OK as of now). Downgrades of corporates are widely forecast, and some weaker or more exposed public structures may face downgrades as well.

More expensive interest on existing debt will hit budgets, especially for non-investment grade government bonds. As for new projects, these trends in the capital markets will drive up capital costs but we don’t know by how much. The P3 element in the Biden infrastructure bill just became more expensive too. This also takes place against a background of shifting patterns of ownership of municipal bonds, which may affect the political environment in this sector. [Sub required]. On the other hand, “the 10yr+ muni bond issuance calendar is gonna be huge,” and school bond issuance is still relatively strong (see above).

22) National: Journalist Hadas Their sat down for an interview with three knowledgeable people to discuss water privatization, “two participants in the Our Water campaign, Anna Coleman and Caitlin Schroering, and Marcela González Rivas, an associate professor of public and international affairs at the University of Pittsburgh. González Rivas’s research focuses on water governance and equity, and she authored, along with Schroering, the paper, ‘Pittsburgh’s Translocal Social Movement: A Case of the New Public Water.’”

They covered the situation in Jackson, Mississippi, the Pittsburgh Our Water campaign, and the other recent victory in Bucks County. “It’s an example of what organized people power can do,” Caitlin Schroering said of the Bucks County campaign. “That people power can change the trajectory of something, and that corporations don’t have all the power. We have to organize to fight, and we can win. I think it’s important to have victories also for the hope they lend to other struggles. It is a really important victory and sends a clear message to companies: You can’t just come in unopposed; there is going to be resistance.”

23) Maryland/District of ColumbiaThe Washington Post reports that the private consortium building the toll lanes on I-270 has chosen a lead construction contractor, Los Angeles-based Tutor Perini Corp., which will design and build the first 14-mile segment of toll lanes. “First, however, Transurban would need to clinch a 50-year contract with the Maryland Department of Transportation for the private consortium to finance, build and operate the toll lanes in exchange for keeping most of the toll revenue. Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has said adding privately financed toll lanes for motorists who want to buy their way out of congestion is the only way the state can afford to provide significant traffic relief. Meanwhile, opponents say widening the highways would cause too much environmental damage and give short shrift to mass transit, while arguing the tolls would be too expensive for many motorists…

“The project got a significant boost in August, when the Federal Highway Administration approved its environmental study. Opponents have said the analysis is flawed and have threatened to sue. Project supporters would need to get a 50-year deal to the state’s Board of Public Works, which must approve major contracts, before term-limited Hogan leaves office in January. Otherwise, a new governor could block, change or slow the toll lanes plan. Democratic gubernatorial nominee Wes Moore and Republican nominee Dan Cox have said they would consider major changes to the plan.”

24) Michigan: The ugly side of corporate water privatization battles is being exposed in Michigan, where the company sued over Flint’s water crisis waged a digital PR war during the trial. “Veolia North America’s advertising has sparked criticism from the plaintiffs’ attorney and raised concerns with legal and digital marketing experts who question whether the timing of the digital advertising targeted the prospective jury pool or the judge, or if it otherwise sought to influence the outcome of the trial from beyond the courthouse walls—accusations the company rejects. Although experts have expressed serious concerns about the practice, they add it might be protected by the First Amendment. (…) ‘Not only did Veolia play a significant role in poisoning a community, but they’ve now put my clients, as well as honest witnesses, a federal judge and the legal system as a whole at the center of a well-orchestrated corporate disinformation campaign,’ said Corey Stern, an attorney at the New York law firm Levy Konigsberg.”

In another development, reports that “attorneys for four Flint children who sued two city water consultants won’t be required to turn over the PowerPoint slide presentation they used during closing arguments last month. U.S. District Judge Judith E. Levy said in an opinion and order this week that Veolia North America and Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam are not entitled to the presentation and it won’t be made a part of the record in the court case that ended with a hung jury and mistrial in August.”

25) Mississippi: Drew McKevitt has a reminder: “Having cities with infrastructure that regularly collapses in severe weather is a choice.”

26) New York: The Wall Street Journal has a paean to the developers who worked on the LaGuardia upgrade. “The Team That Fixed LaGuardia—Every business can learn tactics from the elite group keeping Terminal B at the New York airport running. (…) They identified risks so they could mitigate them. They reduced uncertainty. They worried about the failure of little things, which ensured the success of bigger things. The leader of this team was a Canadian engineer named Frank Scremin. He had never been to LaGuardia.” [Sub required]

27) Pennsylvania: The Sentinel has a powerful editorial summing up the battle over the Bucks County water privatization, which resident won. “Time to repeal the law that allows sale of municipal water systems,” they say. “More than 2 million people in the United States today don’t even have running water. Access to clean, safe, and affordable water will only worsen as increased demand and climate change stress water systems. Letting profit-driven companies sort out water policy is a recipe for disaster. Of course, public systems aren’t perfect. Many cities, counties, and towns have failed to properly maintain their aging infrastructure, leading to water-main breaks and pollutants seeping into leaky pipes. The mounting costs from the deferred maintenance are driving governments to unload their water and sewer systems. Much of the problem stems from the federal government. Federal funding for water utility improvement projects has been slashed for decades. From 1977 to 2014, federal support for water utilities decreased by 74% even after factoring for inflation. Funding for wastewater treatment has faced even steeper cuts,” but “selling off publicly owned water and sewer assets is not the answer.”

28) InternationalP3s are coming to Ukraine.

Public Services

29) National: In the Public Interest’s Jeremy Mohler says privatization has set the stage for rising far-right populism. “In Sweden, argues journalist and author Elisabeth Asbrink, high levels of political and economic inequality leaves people looking for answers to why they’re suffering and who is to blame—and far right leaders are happy to provide them. ‘It was better in the good old days, [those leaders] say, and people believe them,’ Asbrink writes. ‘Back to red cottages and apple trees, to law and order, to women being women and men being men.’ Sound familiar? As we have documented, the privatization of public schools, water, and other public goods increases inequality. Government contractors create new fees for things like delinquent tax payments and probation. They lower wages and benefits for workers. Privatization also has helped shred crucial parts of the social safety net, like Medicaid. Scholars have argued along these lines for some time now. ‘Neoliberalism creates a failed democracy,’ says cultural critic Henry A. Giroux, ‘and in doing so, opens up the fascists’ use of fear and terror to transform a state of exception into a state of emergency.’”

30) National: “Municipalities with professional management and weak mayors are less likely to outsource public services,” writes Wenchi Wei, Assistant Professor and Associate Director of the Institute of Public Finance and Public Policy at Renmin University of China. “We find that the statutory council-manager municipal form, the existence of a professional manager, a weak mayor, and nonpartisan and at-large elections of council members all mean that government service outsourcing is less likely. Second, professional managers within municipalities can moderate the influence of key contextual factors, such as population size and fiscal stress, on local outsourcing decisions. Third, a municipal structure that is more political or less administrative in nature positively affects government service outsourcing, especially outsourcing through interlocal cooperation. Fourth, the driving factors are distinct across different forms of public service outsourcing, including outsourcing to private firms, nonprofit organizations, and other governments.” [See the original paper, ‘Local Institutions and Public Service Outsourcing: Managerial Professionalism, Mayoral Strength, and Electoral Rules’ in Public Administration Review; $12 paywall].

31) National/Thinks Tanks: How did the train wreck of the original website launch 10 years ago contribute to a learning process that helped the federal government do much better with its online COVID-19 response? Justin Martin has some ideas. “In the moment of the crisis and its aftermath, several problems were identified: years of outsourcing technological needs had left the federal government unable to avert or resolve a crisis, and without the expertise to engage technological innovation proactively. As a result, the crisis marked a major turning point in the relationship between technology and government. Technological capacity could no longer be outsourced and technology could no longer be a mere accessory to achieving policy objectives; both would now be essential components of the federal government.”

32) National/Puerto Rico: Writing in The New Republic, Kate Aronoff says Puerto Rico can blame its total blackout on predatory companies and poor decisions in Washington. “The privatization of Puerto Rico’s electricity was pitched as a panacea for the island’s troubled grid. But it hasn’t delivered on that promise so far. (…) The privatization push has been a breeding ground for grifters looking to make a quick buck. Before full privatization, PREPA’s leadership courted a series of disastrous private-sector contracts. (…) Anger at LUMA—already simmering—is now boiling over. In Fiona’s wake, calls have proliferated for Governor Pedro Pierluisi to cancel the company’s contract before November 30, after which the island could be saddled with a $1.5 billion penalty for severing ties. Public officials there are reportedly considering it, according to The Wall Street Journal. The weeks, months, and years after Hurricane Maria saw companies descend on the island in search of lucrative contracts and cheap assets they could flip for a profit. In Fiona’s wake, the vultures might be circling again.”

Longtime municipal bond analyst Cate Long, who closely follows the Puerto Rico crisis, asks the key questions: Does Luma, the company that privatized electric transmission and distribution, have sufficient knowledge and resources to restart electrical service? Is bankruptcy a problem?

33) CaliforniaWho should write Santa Ana’s policing policies, private companies or the public? Brandon Pho covers the issues in the OC Weekly. “What was supposed to be a routine contract renewal this week for Lexipol – a private company that tells Santa Ana police officers when to use deadly force and conduct body searches – became a public push for community-driven department policies instead. A police oversight commission has yet to form in town, yet crucial questions are already materializing in Santa Ana about who should author police officers’ procedural guidelines: The public, or a private company?”

34) California: It may take a combination of state and worker action for Kaiser Permanente to provide the state-mandated level of care to its own mental health patients, reports Capital & Main. “The department is also empowered to move on to enforcement, including “requiring corrective actions, assessing administrative penalties, using cease and desist orders, or suspending/revoking a license,” said DMHC spokeswoman Rachel Arrezola. But those are extreme measures that would evolve over a period of years, hardly conducive to the urgent need for improved mental health services right now.”

35) New MexicoAlbuquerque Public Schools thanks their Community School Coordinators by name. “They help facilitate collaborative leadership, ensuring a culture of professional learning, collective trust, and shared decision-making and responsibility are built to include families, students, teachers, principals, and community partners.” They “They help provide expanded learning time and opportunities through enrichment activities emphasizing real-world learning and community problem-solving. This can include after-school, weekend, and summer programs.” And more.

36) International: It has been four years since the disastrous collapse of Carillion, the British government services outsourcing conglomerate. The Institute for Government held a discussion of its significance and relevancy for today as rising interest rates and inflation are posing challenges to companies that sign those government contracts. Could it happen here? Panelists included Sally Guyer, Global CEO, World Commerce and Contracting; Matthew Rees, Director of the NAO Commercial Hub; Gareth Rhys Williams, Government Chief Commercial Officer; Kate Steadman, Group Strategy & Communications Director at Serco, [Video, about an hour].

Everything Else

37) National/Think TanksPrivate militias, public police. Are the lines getting blurred? What’s on the horizon? The Claremont Institute’s fantasies of insurrection and repression were the subject of a timely and well researched article by Jessica Pishko in Slate. “In the wake of Trump’s election lies, sheriffs are demanding more leeway to surveil ballot boxes and have encouraged vote vigilantes to snitch on their neighbors regarding alleged-but-never-proven ‘voter fraud.’ Unlike the brains behind Claremont, sheriffs who are currently serving can act independently from other elected officials to fight this nonexistent fraud with the force of an army and relative impunity. Now, thanks to the Claremont Institute, they can justify such violent and anti-democratic schemes with the patina of intellectual firepower.”

38) Think Tanks: Good Jobs First, the leading corporate violations tracking think tank, is seeking a research analyst to work on their subsidy tracker.

39) Useful Resource: MultiState Associates has released a paper on What to Expect in State Legislatures Next Year (Top Policy Issues in 2023). “This blog series will explore the following major policy areas where we expect significant state legislative activity: Reproductive Health Care; Corporate Social Justice and ESG; Budget & Taxes; Infrastructure and Broadband; Public Safety; Inflation Relief; Alternative Energy and Electric Vehicles; Health Care; Data Privacy and Cybersecurity; and Web3, Blockchain, and Crypto.”

40) National: Unite Against Book Bans says the right to read is on the ballot in November. Be prepared.


Photo by Allison Shelley for EDUimages.

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