JUNE 2017

JUNE  2017
J.P. Morgan as a young man in his own words - "The Public Be Damned."

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Friday, May 13, 2016

"EQUO NE CREDITE " ( Never Trust the Horse)

I want to retell a story you've heard since childhood, a romance of brave heroes and young love crushed by cruel fate. It is the legend of the shining city of Troy, Helen and Achilles and the wooden horse. But this time I mean to wring as much of the myth out of the tale as I can. My version begins with the capricious, hot, dry Etesian winds, which for five months every summer for the last five thousand years have periodically roared without warning down the winding narrow straights of the Hellespont – the land gates to the Sea of Helen - for days at a time. Faced with such a fickle and relentless foe, crews of the square rigged ships, sailing from the Aegean Sea to the Bosporus and the Pontos Axinos (the Dark or Black Sea) beyond, risked their lives and their cargoes if caught in the straits by an Etesian wind.
A safe harbor close to the southern entrance of the dangerous straits, where a ship could safely wait for favorable winds, would surely prosper. For some 1,500 years there was just such a wealthy port on a broad bay at the mouth of the Scamander River, within ten miles of the Dardinelles, the   Hellespont. And to modern ears the cities' name sounds almost ethereal, as if whispered by the Etesian winds themselves – Wilusa.
Wilusa began as a fishing village, atop a 100 foot high limestone outcrop that jutted into the bay like a ship's prow. Over a thousand years the village became a royal palace and keep, five city blocks wide, with 25 foot high sloping walls. Eventually, as the town prospered, two ditches were dug, eleven feet wide and six feet deep, running out from the land side of the citadel. The earth from the ditches produced a 12 foot high wall,  encircling a city, eventually, of 6,000 people. A tunnel dug through the bed rock fed Wilusa with fresh water. And outside the walls, dotted with farms, was “The Troad”, the sea of grasses that made Wilusa famous for horse breeding.
The great crises for the city that would come to be called Troy began about the year 1275 B.C.E., when the guarantor of Wilusan royalty, The Hittite King Mursili III, was challenged by the resurgent Egyptians along his southern border in Syria.  Seeking to secure his opposite flank, Mursili III picked a dull but stable, younger son,  Piya Walmu, for the kingship of Wilusa. His name meant "gift from Wilusa". And for the Hittites he was a gift, supplying horses and chariots for the Hittite Army under Mursili's uncle, Prince Hattusili. It was the logical decision, but it short changed the older son, Piya Aaradu.  His name meant "gift of the faithful”. And his gift was a dangerous ego maniacal ambition.
The Battle of Kadesh in 1274 B.C.E. began when Hattusli's chariots caught a third of the Egyptian army by surprise, and came very close to sweeping it off the field and killing the Pharaoh. But Ramses kept his nerve and held his force together until reinforcements arrived. Nearly 4,000 chariots on both sides, the battle tanks of the day, swept back and forth across the Syrian plain, until the Hittites were forced to take refuge behind the walls of Kadesh.  Hattusli was saved only because Ramses' army was too weakened to put the city under siege.  Both sides' propaganda claimed a bloody victory, and both Ramses and Hattusli were labeled as heroes. But afterward both Hittite and Egyptian empires retreated to lick their wounds.
At the first word of Hittite troubles, Piya Aaradu murdered his bother and declared himself the new King of Wilusa. But Mursili knew he would not remain King for long if he was thought to be weak. And he felt his uncle Hattusli, the “hero” of Kadesh, looming behind his throne. So Mursili commanded Manapa-Tarhunda, the governor of the Seha River region , just south of Wilusa, to punish the usurper.  In about 1273 B.C.E., the Seha army marched on Wilusa.  But on the plains of The Troad,  Piya Aaradu ambushed the punitive force, and Manapa-Tarhunda was defeated. Now, suddenly, the Hittite western border was looking vulnerable, as well.
Mursili had no choice. In 1272 B.C.E. he dispatched a larger, fully Hittite force under a general known to history only as Gassus. Using a horsehide covered battering ram suspended from a rolling frame (above), the Hittites quickly breached the city walls of Wilusa.  Gassus allowed his warriors to sack the city, but prevented them from burning the entire place to the ground.  Afterward, Wilusa was no longer trusted enough to have its own king, but a local was named the new governor - Alaksandu. The only mistake Gassus  made, and perhaps the reason we do not know his full name, was that he allowed Piya Aaradu to escape.
The pouting prince sailed 300 miles down the coast of Asia Minor to the port of Millawanda, or Miletus in language of its Archean founders, the kings of Mycenea,  100 miles west across the Aegean Sea, in what is today Greece.   Here, Piya Aaradu was sympathetically greeted by Governor Atpa, who was also his son-in-law, and the brother of Akagamunas, the king of Mycenae. 
With this familiar support, Piya Aaradu led a mercenary raid against Hittite merchants on the island of Lesbos. The joint Achean and Wilusian raid captured 700 skilled artisans, who were then sold into slavery.  It seems likely Piya Aaradu split the profits with Atpa, and that Akagamunas also “got a taste”, to borrow a Mafia term from the 20th century A.D.  The “had been” and “would be” King of Wilusa, Piya Aaradu was now a pirate, with money to finance future raids, and a safe base to operate from.
Unfortunately for Piya Aaradu, his military alliance with the Mycenae was the final straw for the Hittites. About 1269 B.C.E. Mursili III was sent into exile by, his uncle, Hatusili.   The new king gathered an army and about 1267 B.C.E, marched on Miletus. 
Piya Aaradu tried talking his way out of the mess. He offered to swear allegiance to Hatusili if he was returned to power in Wilusa.  Hattusli responded by marching his army right up to the border with Miletus. Teetering on the brink of all out war between Mycenea and the Hittites, Hattusili demanded Akagamunas hand over Piya Aaradu for punishment.
Akagamunas was not eager to start a war. Pulling Hittite beards was fun, and Piya Aaradu's raids had even shown a small profit. But big wars have a tendency to wipe out small profits very quickly. So, as a show of respect, the Governor of Melitus, Atpa, invited Hatusili to visit Melitus , assuring him he would hand Piya Aaradu over to him. But once Hatusili was inside the city walls, Atpa informed the Hittite King that, oops,  Piya Aaradu had skipped town, some how.
Hattusili was not happy.  But he did not want a war, either. So after stomping around Mellitus for a few days, he headed home. And given the time and distance to think during his journey, and perhaps listen to his advisers, Hattusila decided on a new approach. The following year he offered to give Piya Aaradu everything he wanted, including the crown of Wiliusa. Swear fidelity to Hattusili and all would be forgiven.
Now, no one in their right mind would have believed such an offer. But was Piya Aaradu in his right mind? Or - more importantly - was Akagamunas?  And there were logical reasons for the King of Mycenea to be suspicious of the pirate prince.  It was one thing to finance Piya Aaradu when the Achaens had plausible denial  It would another if Piya Aaradu began to trumpet Mycenaean duplicity from the topless towers of Ilium. No matter how unlikely the offer from Hattusili was, the king of Mycenea could not risk the pirate prince taking the offer. It was a death sentence for Piya Aaradu.
It made little difference if the ego maniac was strangled in his bed, or stabbed by a trusted friend while leading another raid. His dead body may have even been handed over to Hattusili as a sign of good will. But as long as there was the possibility of Piya Aaradu switching sides again, he had to die.
In fact Hattusili followed a similar strategy later when his nephew Mursili escaped his exile and arrived in Egypt. First the Hittite King demanded his return. And then offered to welcome him back into the family. Both Mursili and Piya Aaradu simply, suddenly. disappeared from history. And they were far from the only ones who disappeared.
"Within a period of 40 to 50 years",  beginning abound 1206 B.C.E., according to historian Robert Drews, “...almost every significant city in the eastern Mediterranean world was destroyed, many of them never to be occupied again”  One of the first to be burned for the last time around 1200 B.C.E., was Wilusa. Almost the last to go was the Hittite capital of Hattusa, which was burned to the ground one night in 1180 B.C.E.  By then, every major city, from Greece to the Egyptian frontier, was violently destroyed, and often left unoccupied for generations.
Maybe the villeins were  invaders, or diseases, or volcanoes or climate change or perhaps even the replacement with bronze by iron tools and weapons. But whoever or whatever the cause, to a child growing up in Greece 3,000 years ago,  the past was a time of greatness and plenty, unlike the hunger and poverty of their today.  And leaders like Piya Aaradu (aka Priam), Akagamunas (or Agamemnon), Alaksandu (Alexander, aka Paris) were so famous for so long, they became myths. And Helen herself, the most beautiful woman in history, the face that launched a thousand ships and toppled the topless towers of Ilium (Troy) was Greece herself, and the new Hellenistic culture she would export to the entire world.
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Wednesday, May 11, 2016

BLOODY JACK Chapter Sixteen

I will, for convenience sake, date the beginning of Whitechapel the hunting ground of the so-called Jack the Ripper to March of 1643, when developers Thomas and Lewis Fossan foreclosed on a section of land outside the Old Gate (Aldgate, above)  of London. Not being farmers – Lewis was a goldsmith - they “plotted” a crazy quilt pattern of streets around what their maps labeled as Fossan Square and street – later to be “corrupted” to Fashion Street. In August of 1655, one of their 99 year leases was taken by a pair of ambitious bricklayers, John Flower and Gowen Dean. As only the living space produced revenue on their new Flower and Dean Street, the pair agreed their roadway between grand homes would be 16 feet wide at the eastern end, narrowing to just 10 feet wide at the west.
The Fossans now developed “George Yard” to connect Flower and Dean to Wentworth Street, and in 1658 (Henry) Thrall Street to connect George Yard to Brick Lane. By 1663 John and Gowen had subdivided their subdivisions and the street  was largely occupied by French Protestant Huguenots escaping religious persecution under Catholic Louis XIII. 
The newcomers brought silk weaving technology with them, and sought new fortunes and mansions faster rather than better. The London bricklayer's guild noted that Nicholas Higgins and Jacob Sewell had used “bad mortar” in their building on Flower and Dean Street, and worse, Samuel Twinn had hired “foriegners”. As early as 1704 the Twinn built mansion was said to be “decayed, ruinous and uninhabited”. And by 1750 most of the silk weavers had moved on and the mansions along the narrow street were being subdivided yet again into apartments, as English laborers, left unemployed by the switch from flax and wheat to sheep and wool, sought work and new homes in London.
As the 99 year leases ran out, the patchwork quilt of properties were bought up by corporations, which shielded their owners from financial risks and bad publicity. 
By the 1750's much of Spitafield's and large parts of Whitechapel – including Flower and Dean Street - was owned by poet and artist George Keate (above), of Bloomsbury, West End, London.  Under Keate's disinterested tenure the run-down subdivided mansions were subdivided again and again, with courts and alleys cut into the center of blocks to increase square footage without increasing space, and rebuilt only when they collapsed into the street. When George Keate died in 1797, the rents from the 250 buildings he owned in Spitafield and Whitechapel produced £700 a year in rents– a fortune in the day.
The trustees of the Keate estate noted in 1805 that many of the rental properties were “very old, and in a bad state of repair”. And yet the incomes kept coming. The estate was inherited by George's daughter, Georgina Keate, now Mrs Henry Henderson, of Number 1 Gutter Lane, London. Henry Hendreson's  profession in “Who's Who” was listed as Silk Manufacturer, because Slum Lord sounded too common. 
 It was under the Henderson family that the slums of Whitechapel were sublet yet again, to further shield the owners from the stench produced by the source of their income. As French writer Honre de Balzac wrote just about this time, “The secret of a great success for which you are at a loss to account, is a crime that has never been found out, because it was properly executed.”
This crime was magnified in 1844 with the clearing of slums for the construction of the 100 foot wide Commercial Street (above), as a north/south direct route to and from the London Docks – the investment that fueled a century of British empire.
In the first stage, only as far as Christ Church Spitaflield,  more than 1,300 people - now mostly Irish peasants escaping the potato famine - were thrown out of their homes,  with only the twin traps of doss houses and public house to catch them. The overcrowding in the side streets created “The Wicked Quarter Mile”, where there existed “the riot, the struggle, and the scramble for a living".
Augustus Mayhew - in his 1861 book “London Labor and the London Poor” - explained how men like Henry Henderson grew richer selling coffin sized beds at 4 pennies a night. Mayhew's example lived in “a country house in Hampstead”, but was supported by the 6 doss houses he owned on Thrall street. Each house was run by a “deputy” responsible for paying operating expenses and collecting the nightly fees. The less spent on maintenance, the greater the deputies' income. 
Each week a company man arrived to check the register of filled “beds” against money's taken in. And from this the company took their “dues” -  the lions share.  Mayhew also reported the company employed “poor fellow … to go and lodge in … his houses, and report the number present” to keep the deputies honest.
By 1880, a commentator wrote,  the Wicked Quarter Mile was ’one of the most crime-infected districts in the whole metropolis. There are Flower and Dean and Keate-street, and innumerable other neighboring narrow ways, and courts, and alleys that afford standing room for a terribly wicked lot of common lodging-houses.’ 
Wrote another, “...if I examined the courts which ran out of Flower and Dean Street (above) and the houses in its alleys and lanes...I had seen the very worst that London is capable of producing".  By 1881 there were 20 “doss” houses on Flower and Dean Street alone, in each of which over 200 people slept every night. And such crowding allowed Henry Henderson to move his family to a new mansion at 5 Stanhope Street, Hyde Parkgardens, and to make substantial donations to the Conservative Party.
The political connections came in handy when the widening of Commercial Street south of Christ Church was begun. Once again the government bought out the slums. But the slumlords  had learned, and the new programs allowed them to keep collecting rents until the day the crews arrived to tear the buildings down. As that scandal was brewing, the piecemeal construction was found to be driving up property values  ahead of the work, especially south of Whitechapel High Street,  where the road jogged south and east a mile, toward the Limehouse basin, and the larger newer India Docks  By 1860 the entire project had become so expensive and politically unpopular, that further widening was stopped.. But the decision to not allow low cost housing along the new Commercial Street and Road, also drove up the cost of available housing for the working poor, worsening their plight.  
Thus there was a connection between one of the wealthiest families in England and a Swedish immigrant named Elizabeth Gustafsdotter , a.k.a. Elizabeth Stride.
Long Liz (above) spent most of her last day on earth, Saturday, 29 September, 1888, cleaning two rooms in the doss house at 32 Flower and Dean Street,  for the grand salary of 2 ½ pence, handed to her by Elizabeth Tanner, who worked - through several intermediaries – for the Henderson family estate. 
And before 12 hours had gone by,  Liz Stride would be dead on the pavement between Numbers 40 and 42 Berner Street, Whitechapel – south of the Commercial Road extension, and well outside the killer's previous hunting ground.
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Tuesday, May 10, 2016

NO COMPROMISE

I guess the lesson should have been obvious even before John Milton (above), the uncompromising Confederate Governor of Florida, decided that “death would be preferable to reunion” and shot himself on April Fools Day, 1865. The date was appropriate. But what actually drove the old slave master to suicide was not the approach of a vengeful Union Army, or even a slave uprising, but a desperate band Confederate deserters seeking to exchange the Governor for ransom.  Milton took advantage of the crises  to make a theatrical exit. In his dramatic wake, he left a state flat broke, its treasury filled with worthless bonds issued by other bankrupt rebel states, and reduced to paying its employees with play money. And the guy who got stuck with Milton's unpaid bills was a newspaper man from Wisconsin who eventually showed greater political savvy than a whole room full of secessionist thespians like Governor Milton.
When Harrison Reed (above) took the oath as Governor on 8 June 1868, Florida was so broke it tried to sell the port of Pensacola to Georgia. But Georgia was too broke to meet the price. As if things were not bad enough, Governor Reed was facing the additional annoyance of his Lieutenant Governor, William Henry Gleason. Gleason was a businessman who, like Reed, had entered politics because there was a sudden shortage of professional politicians in Florida. This was because the 1867 Military Reconstruction Act had disenfranchised everyone who had served in the rebel governments. This reduced Florida Democratic legislators to just 23. And that left control of the legislature to the 38 Republicans - 13 recently liberated slaves which the Freedman Bureau had registered as Republicans, and the white carpetbagger do-gooders (like Reed) who were on a moral mission to assist the Freedmen, and the rapacious white Republican carpetbagging businessmen (like Gleason) who were in Florida to feast on the destitute south. And this fractured ruling party functioned in a leadership role for only five months, until Tuesday, 3 November, 1868, when all 76 members of the legislature met in special session to vote the Federal Presidential election.
In the midst of the Republican victory, the inexperienced politicians presented the Governor with a bill authorizing reimbursement for their travel expenses to make the vote. Reed responded by informing the members that while he was happy to pay their travel costs to Tallahassee, he could not authorize a per Diem payment for lodging and food. So he vetoed the bill. It was a rookie mistake, and it convinced the rapacious Republicans like Gleason, and the man in charge of the Freedman's bureau, Thomas Ward Osborn, that Reed was a naive fool who could be quickly eliminated.
Reed was vulnerable. Osborn pointed out to “his” Freedmen that Governor Reed had no blacks in his administration. Clearly, the Governor was not their true friend. That made it easy to convince enough Freedmen in the Florida house of Representatives to impeach Governor Reed on trumped up charges. The house Democrats were, of course, happy to depose any Republican governor, for whatever reason. But when the case was then transferred for trial to the Senate, presided over by Lt. Governor Gleason, things got really interesting.
Senate Democrats chose this moment to throw a tantrum and were refusing to take their seats. Without a quorum, Gleason simply graveled the senate adjourned. And then, since Governor Reed was under a charge of impeachment, Gleason declared himself Governor. It seemed a perfectly obvious solution, at least to Mr. Gleason and Mr. Osborn, and to Secretary of State George Alden, who slipped into the Governor's offices in the state capital (above) and stole the official Florida state seal.  Gleason could now issue proclamations and instructions to state employees with the official stamp of approval.
But now Governor Reed and his ideological Republicans finally woke up to his perilous situation and took bold action. On 6 November, 1868,  he fired Alden. The Secretary of State was an appointed office, and the Governor could do that. Better yet, Reed replaced his disloyal man with John C. Gibbs (above), a carpetbagging African-American,  and well qualified for the post. Reed now had an African-American in this cabinet. Alden was so stunned he actually showed up at his old office in the state house, to watch his replacement being sworn in. When Freedmen blocked his way, Alden whined that “All of us are true Republicans, my colored friends.” But this time the Freedmen were not buying it, and Alden slunk away. Now with Freedman support, on Saturday, 7 November, Reed issued a new memo addressed to Gleason. “I am, under the Constitution and laws of this State, the rightful Governor thereof, and shall continue to exercise the power and authority, and discharge all of the duties belonging to the office of the executive Department until the Judicial tribunals of the State shall determine otherwise.” Seal or no official seal, that sounded like a real Governor talking.
Observed a local newspaper, “Thus the matter stands...Governor  Reed occupying the executive chamber, and Johnathan C. Gibbs, occupying the Secretary of State's apartment in the state house, and Governor Gleason and Secretary Alden preforming their official duties at the city hotel.”  Then, on Monday, 9 November, the Attorney General filed a writ pro warranto with the State Supreme Court, alleging that Gleason had not been a resident of Florida for the two years required under the Florida constitution, and was thus ineligible for public office. This was true, but then everybody had known that before he was elected.  But because of a shortage of qualified Republican politicians, nobody had brought it up before. But Gleason had now made it worth the effort for Reed. Gleason felt required to respond, but he waited a week. On Monday, 16 November 1868, he issued yet another proclamation declaring Governor Reed was “Under arrest and disqualified” from preforming any official duties. Nobody but Gleason's business allies paid much attention to him or his memo.
A professional politician would have backed down, licked his wounds, apologized to Reed and hoped to fight again another day. Instead Gleason over-played his hand. He crossed Monroe street, and all alone, walked into Governor Reed's offices in the capital, removed his fancy beaver hat and sat down in the waiting room. He spoke to no one. He answered no questions. He made no statement. He delivered no ultimatum. He simply sat down on a chair in the waiting room, and...well, he just waited. It was a one man sit-in. Was he expecting Governor Reed and his staff to go home at five o'clock, leaving him to occupy the rooms?  Was he expecting them to all retreat from the building with their tails between their legs? Was he expecting that one of the assistant Attorneys General, one George Carese, would try to strangle him? Well, probably not. But that is what happened. Carese, who was on his way to speak to the Governor, spotted Gleason in the waiting room, and blew a gasket. Now, when Carese attacked, he may or may not have had a pistol in his right hand, but there is no doubt about the intent of his left hand, grasping for Gleason's throat.
Gleason came to the spontaneous conclusion that Carese meant to kill him. The beaver hat went flying in one direction, and Gleason went flying in the other, out the door, down the stairs and across the red mud of Monroe Street. He did not stop until he was safely ensconced again in his rooms in the City Hotel (above). After that everything was over except for the court cases, which all went against Gleason. On Tuesday, 24 November  Chief Justice Randall of the state Supreme Court, ruled that “without the actually-expressed consent of both houses, there has not been an effective impeachment and the suspension from official duties.” Gleason had been a little too anxious to adjourn the Senate. Oh, and Gleason was not qualified to be Lt. Governor, ruled Justice Randall. The amateur Gleason would appeal all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court, but nobody was willing to help out yet another stupid politician who had cooked his own goose.
All of which left the ravenous Thomas Ward Osborn (above) hungry for revenge. And on 5 January, 1869, when the new session of the legislature convened, Osborn quickly reassembled his forces. The Freedmen could still be a dependable voting block,  but as Osborn himself had recently assured friends the Freedmen were smart enough to recognize their own self interest, and their price to do Osborn's bidding had gone up.  Also Osborn worked hard to cultivate the dozen or so white southern Democrats who willing to work with carpetbaggers -  meaning to be bought.  Osborn took several rooms at the City Hotel, and there entertained the pliable legislators.  A Democrat observed the gathering and wrote, “The poorest and the most shabby carpetbagger could be seen drinking the sparkling champagne and wearing fine beavers”  The House Democrats again voted with Osborn, and Reed was again impeached on trumped up charges, by a vote of 30 to 5.  Representatives of Osborn warned the governor that if he did not resign within 24 hours the entire legislature would surely vote to convict him.
However, by the time the legislature started considering the trial, Reed's allies had spread details of the goings on at the City Hotel, and they were being reported in the local Florida newspapers. The Representatives started getting nasty telegrams and letters from the voters. The politicians responded by opening an official investigation of the bribery and vote buying. The Osborn faction suddenly had to start spending more time covering their own tracks. And on Tuesday, 26 January 1869, both house voted down Reed's second impeachment, 43 to 5.
The Republican Party was losing what little respect it had with white voters in Florida, and pressure from Washington convinced the rapacious Republican to publicly swear fidelity to Governor Reed. But in private Osborn plotted and planned. And two years later, in February of 1872, the Republicans did it all again. Reed was once again impeached by the house, and his Lt. Governor, now an opportunist named Samuel Day, waited until the impeachment trial had begun before adjourning the legislature, and declaring himself Governor.
Then, amazingly, Day left town along with the other conspirators. Quickly, Reed was back in Tallahassee, and announced that he was re-assuming the role of Governor. Once again the issue went before the state Supreme Court. But this time Chief Justice Randall sided with the opposition. The trial had started, said Randall, and Reed was out as governor, at least until it was completed. However, added Justice Randall, Lt. Governor Day was “in no sense” the new Governor.  The weary Governor Reed (above) later wrote to a friend, “I have not suffered for four years, to now be willing to see my glorious work overthrown and freedom cheated of her triumphs”. It was debatable just how glorious Reed's work was, but that is another story.
As a disgusted Democrat observed, “This gypsy politics degrades the character of all who are concerned.” And it certainly degraded the Republican party. Public disgust drove the legislature back to work just a month later, and on 4 May, 1872, Justice Randall, who had presided over the trial, could inform Reed that he had been cleared of all charges, by a vote of 29 to 21.  In January of 1873 Reed finished his 4 year term as Governor, during which he had been impeached 3 times and cleared 3 times.  Reed The Carpetbagger stayed on in Florida, living outside of Jacksonville with his new wife, until his death in 1899.
The Jim Crow era in Florida began with the end of Reconstruction in 1877.  In 1881 it became illegal in Florida for a white to marry a negro,  in 1885 for white and "colored" children to be educated in the same building. Another African-American would not be elected to the Florida legislature until 1968 - Joe Lang Kershaw from Dade County.  And still, the voters of Florida seem incapable of learning the lesson that refusal to compromise, about race, sex, language or religion, leads to nothing but drama. And not even good drama.
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