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View Article  WTAE defends transinclusive coverage

In this week's City Paper, WTAE defends their coverage of a story involving the river rescue of a woman who happened to be trans.  They, along with just about every other local media outlet, were taken to task by local activists and allies for making the gender identity of the individual being rescued the story in lieu of the rescue itself.   In WTAE's case:

Over at WTAE, Janelle Hall reported: "The waters of the Allegheny started to rise and trapped that person. Ninety minutes into the rescue, paramedics pulled a 27-year-old transgender woman to safety."

Setting aside how incredibly stilted that sounds, I fail to see why the fact that Rebecca Hare was a transwoman had any bearing on her rescue.

Here's how WTAE's Roberta Petterson responds.

We came up with a plan aimed specifically at not sensationalizing the story and we executed that plan. In hindsight, we could have done some things differently, like edit some of the soundbites with rescuers, but we felt they helped tell a more complete story. Overall, our primary concern was finding a way to tell the story without focusing on Hare's "trans-ness," to use a quote from the University of Pittsburgh professor cited in your story.

Petterson fails to explain how the fact that Rebecca is a transwoman tells a complete story.  I don't believe WTAE contextualized her plight as a result of her identity as a transwoman.  In fact, Petterson clearly states that they didn't even interview Rebecca.  I haven't noted any follow up investigations on the plight of transwomen and transmen who are homeless in Pittsburgh.  What complete story did they tell? 

Each evening, the local news stations report on rescues and I have yet to see anyone identified as a "27 year old heterosexual, biological female" unless it has any direct relevance to the story.  Believe me.  I would notice any aberration from the "business as usual" coverage that presumes every yinzer and yinzerette in da burgh is straight as an arrow until it become sensational to drag out the stereotypical homo interviewees, ie. wealthy white gay men.

I like Roberta, but I still think WTAE dropped the ball on this story.  If they had simply reported on a story about a woman trapped in rising rivers, that would be fine.  The media created the story within the story. It doesn't matter how much effort you put into the decision -- Hall's report was flawed.  Rather than get defensive, it would behoove them to reach out to local advocates and experts to make sure it doesn't happen again.  Reach out to Persad and the GLCC and, yes, to the University of Pittsburgh professor quoted in the story (who happens to be a nationally renowned transadvocate). 

Hopefully, WTAE and other local media outlets will more forward as we gear up for PrideFest and focus on providing some LGBT-positive coverage for the planned festivities.  I know the temptation to highlight the stereotypes will be there, but surely a portion of the coverage could show some transpositive images as well.  Here's hoping.


View Article  Myron Cope - the Lesbian Connection

Yoi.  Ledcat caught the story on her way out the door this morning.  God rest his soul. 

There's a much loved family connection to Myron Cope.  My great-grandfather, Gil Remley, was the sports editor for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (and the business manager for the Homestead Grays).  Family lore has that he gave Myron his first job in the print media.  Myron's book "Double Yoi!" tells the story a bit differently, but does include a shout out to Da.

I met Myron at a work dinner speech function thing.  I told him I was Gil Remley's great-granddaughter and he laughed uproariously.  I hoped he would spontaneously offer me Steeler tickets, but alas no. 

I wonder what he would think about my association with John McIntire?

Rest in peace.

View Article  Lesbians MIA?

What a week.  I'm supposed to be on vacation.  So far, I've spent 8 hours in the ER with my grandma, 4 more hours in a skilled care facility (she's going to be fine).  I've had contractors zipping, sawing and hammering away for about 16 hours.  I spent 12 hours christening our new bathroom due to a very unpleasant encounter with a smoothie.  Then I spent another 16 hours asleep.  On top of the stuff we moved out from the room with the contractors.  I've spent at least 100 zillion hours on the telephone with various family member, the skilled care facility, home health care, the bank, and anyone else you can think of.  Literally, I'm on the cell phone and my home phone rings or vice versa.  I'm exhausted.  It is Wednesday.

I need to get back to work to get some rest. 

View Article  Local Presbyterian Minister Again Faces Charges for Lesbian Wedding

From today's Post-Gazette:

A Presbyterian minister whose 2006 church trial for conducting a lesbian marriage ceremony ended with dismissal on a technicality says she has again been brought up on the same charges.

The Rev. Janet Edwards, parish associate at the inter-denominational Community of Reconciliation in Oakland, said that an investigating committee of Pittsburgh Presbytery informed her Monday that it will pursue the case against her for the 2005 ceremony.

The Rev. Doug Portz, acting pastor to Pittsburgh Presbytery, said he was not allowed to discuss church trials.

The Presbyterian Church (USA) says clergy may bless same-sex couples only if the ritual cannot be mistaken for a marriage ceremony. But Rev. Edwards has never denied that she conducted a marriage ceremony.

"I believe with my whole heart that my decision to perform Nancy [Cole] and Brenda's [McConn] wedding was faithful to my pastoral call," she said.

This was not unexpected.  As we reported in early march, a formal complaint had been issued or reissued one might say. Last time around, the charges against Edwards went nowhere based on technicalities.  Persistent anti-gay forces within the church have soldiered on, determined to pin the church down on gay issues.  See here for previous coverage on this.

View Article  Queerty on Obama's Gay Backers

In honor of my new friend Kris Rust, here's a look at what some prominent queers are saying about their support for Obama.  It is an interesting read.  But note that all three interviewees are men. 

I"m still looking for input from lesbian Obama supporters.

View Article  Untitled

This week, intrepid City Paper reporter and friend to the average queer, Melissa Meinzer explores the ramifications of Rebecca Hare's rescue from a rising river and the media free for all around her gender identity. 

While it is fairly self-evident that Pittsburgh's media botched coverage of this story and that Rebecca's gender was not relevant to her rescue, Meinzer explores the connection between her status as a trans woman and her decision to live under the Convention Center. 

If reporters were intent on discussing issues of gender, Lombardi and others say, they could have done so by focusing on a deeper question: whether Hare's trans status was a factor in her being homeless in the first place. Transgender people are often stigmatized and marginalized, and sometimes even homeless shelters struggle to find a place for them.

"We're not designed as a shelter system to make these accommodations," says Adrienne Walnoha, the executive director of Oakland-based Community Human Services Corporation. The private nonprofit social-service agency takes a special interest in the plight of transpeople accessing services.

In most shelters, people live in a congregate living situation, sharing space with the other residents. But residents, Walnoha says, can feel threatened by a person they perceive as different. Women in shelters are often victims of domestic violence and can "look at [a transwoman] as a sexually deviant man coming into their space," says Walnoha. In men's shelters, meanwhile, "the automatic assumption is that if someone's making a transition, they're gay, and that puts the person in a position of being victimized."

That puts shelter staff in a tough spot. "If you're working in a facility and the people staying there say, ?I don't want to stay with this person, I don't feel safe,' it's very difficult to make the decision of who is more important," says Walnoha. "You don't want to put the transperson in a position of being in a place where they're not wanted."

Well done.  Check out the full story for more details. 


View Article  Foundation for Moral Law to Challenge PA Hate Crimes Statute

Guess who is rolling into town?  Former Alabama Chief Justice Roy Moore and his posse of homo hatin' legal eagles.  Moore, you may recall, wanted to slather Alabama Courthouses with the 10 Commandments.  Ironically, he's narrowed his focus to homosexuals, a group noticeably absent from said Commandments.  Hmmm.  I guess he's moved on to Leviticus. 

Anyhoo, The Foundation for Moral Law is coming to Pennsylvania to posit that our hate crimes law violates the state constitution.  The issue centers around the provisions amending the hate crimes law to include sexual orientation.  This led to the arrest of homegrown religious wing nut Michael Macavage who was protesting at Outfest in Philadelphia.

Macavage filed suit and the Commonwealth Court agreed with his claim that the *process* by which the original ethnic intimidation law had been amended was flawed.  The process included an attachment to an agricultural bill.

Moore and his minions of hate celebrate the impending demise of the thought police. 

"The law can punish actions, not 'our thoughts.'  As we have seen in Philadelphia and in various states and countries, 'hate crimes' are used to prohibit Christians and anybody else from referring to homosexual behavior as immoral or a sin. 

See this is where it gets interesting.  Moore and Macavage hide behind claims that this is about controlling their thoughts or their religious beliefs, but they aren't challenging the law on those grounds. They are challenging it on procedural grounds.  Why? Because they know the law doesn't interfere with their hate thoughts. 

They neglect to point out that Macavage and his Repenters were arrested for their actions.  They were not peacefully protesting or handing out tracts or carrying some "homos are demon spawn" signs. They were intentionally disrupting a lawful gathering of the gay community.  Their actions were disruptive, belligerent and intentional.  Their free speech does not give them the right to tramp all over the rights of the objects of their protests. 

So, I wonder why the legislation was part of the agricultural bill?  If it is overturned on procedure, does that mean it can be reintroduced on its own merits?  Assuming we can take care of this pesky marriage amendment and get our human relations definitions expanded.  It would be like the trifecta of legislative years.  Or something.

(h/t the man called Potter)

View Article  "Marriage Protection Amendment" revitalized in PA Senate

It is back.  According to Equality Advocates, the legislation to start the constitutional amendment process roared back to life on Valentine's Day. 

Just yesterday, SB 1250, the "Marriage Protection Amendment," was published and referred to the Judiciary Committee in the Senate.  There are 17 co-sponsors, the same number as last time.  Four Republican Senators who co-sponsored similar legislation last time, are NOT co-sponsoring it this time around.  Also, last time around, there were no Democrats as co-sponsors and this time there are two.

This legislation would embed anti-gay marriage protections into the constitution of our Commonwealth by defining marriage as between a man and a woman.  Pennsylvania, as you may recall, has existing legislation which does that very thing and there are no attempts on the horizon to challenge that legislation.  To my knowledge.

We had a bitter struggle over this in 2006.  Many Southwestern Pennsylvania Democrats in the House voted in favor of the amendment.  The Senate did some fancy footwork by introducing a watered-down version of the amendment (would not outlaw civil unions), counting on the fact that the Repubs would never go for it and they were right.  So everyone walked away claiming they voted for it and against it.  It all boils down to the fact that very few of our legislators were willing to publicly stand up against discrimination and homophobia. 

Fast forward to 2008.  Legislation in the House and the Senate to expand the Human Relations Act to include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender presentation are gaining momentum and co-sponsors.  Pittsburgh elects an openly gay City Councilperson.  PA Human Relations Commission Chair Steve Glassman, an openly gay man, is reappointed in spite of attempts by the AFA of PA to oppose the appointment.  Philadelphia is not allowing tax payers to foot the rent for the openly discriminatory Boy Scouts.  Presidential candidates participate in a televised debate sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign.

We have made progress.  We cannot afford to let this push us back to the "I voted for it because I was against it" political survival mentality. 

Here's the sponsorship breakdown, courtesy of Equality Advocates.  I've noted the Western PA folks and the two Democrats.  Note that no Democrats supported this legislation last time it was in the Senate.  Let's ask ourselves who is making the most contacts in those districts.

Brubaker                                                                                                                      Musto (D),                                                                                                                     Gordner,                                                                                                                  Scarnati,                                                                                                              Kasunic (32nd - Fayette, Somerset, Washington, Westmoreland counties AND a D),
Armstrong,                                                                                                            Corman,                                                                                                        Eichelberger,                                                                                                         Folmer,                                                                                                                  Regola (39th - Westmoreland Co.)                Madigan,                                                                                                              Robbins (50th - Mercer and Crawford counties),                                                            Piccola,
Waugh,                                                                                                                       Rhoades,                                                                                                                    Punt                                                                                                                            and Wonderling

The good news is that four co-sponsors last time around have opted to NOT co-sponsor the legislation this time.Three of those individuals are from Western Pennsylvania.  If you live in their districts, call them or email them and affirm that decision, asking them to focus on issues more important to your district than marriage protection overkill.  Tell them about  the economy and health care and road infrastructure and taxation issues that are having a real impact on your family right now. 

Pippy (37th - Moon, Mt. Lebanon, Peters, Sewickley, etc),                                        White (41st - Indiana County)                                                                                     and Janie Orie (40th - Pittsburgh's North Hills)

The 4th individual is Senator Rafferty from the Berks County region.

So, three Western Pennsylvania Senators have opted not to participate in a fear-driven attempt to scapegoat homosexuals while residents of Pennsylvania struggle with actual problems like the Birmingham Bridge suddenly breaking or the inability of multiple rich people to get a decent grocery store into an urban, predominantly African-American community or the shooting death of two teenagers due to gang violence.  Oh hey, how about this one -- the media is filled with analysis on how to help mentally ill people stop killing college students, but once again there's no cost of living allowance in the state budget for mental health providers.  Nice.  How about fixing that little problem? 

Truth be told people, your family is much more likely to drive across a failing bridge and fall to the river below than to suffer a single consequence of my relationship with Ledcat. Hey, we are actually going out to spend money buying a new vacuum cleaner today -- we are putting money into the economy.  Isn't that what all good citizens should be doing?  Then, of course, we'll come home to modify it as part of our plan to destroy our neighbors' marriages - oh, wait a minute, we live by two single mothers, an unmarried hetero couple, a single man, a widow, a grandma raising three grandkids and a gay couple.  Well, there goes that plan.

Here's the final rundown of what you need to know and what you can do about it.  The legislation is in the Judiciary Committee.  There are several local Senators sitting on that committee.  If you live in their districts, please pick up your phone and ask them not to vote this legislation out of Committee (see all reasons above).

Senator Jay Costa is the minority chair.   Senator Wayne Fontana sits on this committee. Senator Stout (Washington County) sits on this committee. Senator Earll from Erie County sits on this committee. Senator Orie sits on this committee.

Equality Advocates should have a link up by the end of the day Monday so you can just click and email.  Be careful when forwarding email alerts because they sometimes contain your personal information --- I discovered that when I clicked a link someone sent me last time and her address popped up in the "auto-fill" box on the webpage. 

In summary, please take action in these ways.  The links take you to contact information for each Senator.

1.  If your Senator co-sponsored the legislation, please contact them and share your displeasure.

2.  If your Senator sits on the Judiciary Committee, please contact them and ask them not to vote the legislation out of committee.

3.  All others, contact your Senator and ask them to vote against the legislation. 

More scripts and talking points will be coming.  But I trust that you, homo and hetero alike, can eloquently identity at least three or four other issues that are more immediately pressing for your family (especially the voters!) than defending heterosexual marriage. 

Please don't wait for someone else to make the call. 

View Article  Local Trans Advocate Pens Letter to the Post-Gazette

Here's further evidence of the "Pittsburgh is a good place to be queer" mantra that I've oft repeated.  In response to the recent media coverage of the rescue of Rebecca Hare, longtime trans advocate Dr. Emilia Lombardi shares her thoughts with the readers of the Post-Gazette.  Lombardi praises Pittsburgh's first-responders for their sensitivity to Hare's status as a transwoman. 

I wish to thank Chief James Holman and the City of Pittsburgh's Emergency Medical Services, River Rescue Unit. The professionalism and respect they showed Rebecca Hare as they rescued her from the cold river Feb. 7 makes me proud to live in Pittsburgh ("Rescue in River Tunnel a Dangerous Challenge," Feb. 8).

This is a stark contrast to other cities where their treatment of transgender people has been horrendous and may have actually led to further harm. This is another sign of the support the city has toward its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender population.

I agree that Holman and his crew should be lauded for exemplary work and, hopefully, Public Safety Director Michael Huss will take note of this when reviewing the performance of other first responders.  There's room for improvement, but we need to recognize when things go well. 

As noted in this blog, media coverage of the entire rescue was abysmal.  Clearly, the major outlets should put in a call to Mr. Potter (and presumably Mr. Scaife) for some guidance on responsibly covering the LGBT community. 

However, I was disappointed in the media's reporting of this incident. Their reference to Ms. Hare as a man in initial reports was a blatant form of disrespect to her and to the transgender men and women living in Pittsburgh.

The only reporting agency that showed some respect was the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, and for that I do thank them.

Lombardi's letter also appeared in the Trib

On a related note, I like to highlight letters to the editor pertaining to the LGBTQ community as I believe it is important that we stay abreast of the messages being put out by John Q. Public himself.  When I first began writing this blog in 2005/2006, I was kept busy nearly every day analyzing letters to the editor from the PG, the Trib, the Beaver County Times, and others related to the attempt to "protect" heterosexual marriage by amending the Pennsylvania commonwealth.  That attempt failed, but another battle is on the horizon. 

I cannot emphasize enough how important it is to move from grumbling about an issue to taking action.  Our legislators do pay attention to public sentiment and it does make a difference when they get a feel for the sentiments of their constituents.  You can have an impact by contacting your legislators and by writing letters to the editor.  If your letter isn't published b/c another similar letter is, rejoice that at least two peole cared enough to write in the first place.  Then write again on another issue.  Don't be discouraged. 

More details on the impending amendment push soon. 

View Article  Steel-City Stonewall 2008 Slate and Board Elections

Now is the time to get involved.  Go to www.steel-city.org for information on how to join so you can vote for the new members of the Board AND the slate for 2008.  I just like to rhyme slate and 2008.  It has been a long day.  What can I say?

Here's the press release for the Board elections.  I personally know only one of these people and can say without hesitation that I fully endorse Dr. Emilia Lombardi for a seat on the Board.   Ledcat knows Toeknee Bailey and plans to vote for her.  The rest of the crew is a pretty diverse bunch, always a good thing.  So check them out here, let me know if you have any insight and plan to be there on Sunday, February 24, 2008.

 the 2008 Board Elections & Democratic Primary Endorsement Vote

Sunday, February 24

3 ? 5:30 PM

First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh

605 Morewood Avenue in Shadyside/Oakland.

This event will serve to elect candidates to the Steel-City Stonewall Board of Directors and to endorse Candidates running in the Democratic Primary.

3:00 - 3:30 Informal Meet & Greet.

3:30 - 4:00 Nomination & Introduction of Candidates for Board, Introduction of Candidates for Public Office, Explanation of Voting Procedures.

4:00 - 5:30 Informal Meet & Greet.

5:00 Voting for Board of Directors will close.

5:30 Voting for the Endorsements will close.

Board elections ? The out-going Board will present a slate of candidates for the incoming Board.  Write-ins and nominations from the floor will also be allowed. Biographies of the slated Board Candidates are listed below and will also be on hand at the event for all to review.  Individuals nominated from the floor will be allowed to speak briefly at the meeting.

Endorsements for political office - Candidates for a variety of state and national offices are expected to attend, including the Pennsylvania Legislature, the United States Congress, and surrogates for the Presidential Candidates.  Questionnaires from the candidates will be posted in advance at www.steel-city.org  and will be on hand at the event for all to review.  This is a great time to ask questions of both the Board Candidates and Endorsement Candidates.   For a full description of rules and procedures for voting, please visit our website: www.steel-city.org

Light refreshments and beverages including beer and wine will be served.  Members in good standing will be admitted free of charge. Non-members will be required to pay a nominal entry fee of $5.00 to help cover costs of the event. Non-members will not be eligible to vote in either election. 

In order to insure your eligibility to vote in our Board Elections and the 2008 Primary Endorsements please join SCSD or renew your membership for 2008 in advance of our Board and Endorsement Votes.  Family Membership, which includes votes for two individuals, is $50.00. Individual Membership is $35.00, and a student/low income membership is $15.00.  Membership in Steel-City Stonewall Democrats includes membership in National Stonewall Democrats.

You can renew or join via PayPal on our web site: www.steel-city.org , or by sending a check and contact information to:

Steel City Stonewall Democrats

SMC 1015

5032 Forbes Ave

Pittsburgh, PA 15289

Thank you and we look forward to seeing you on February 24, 2008.

Biographies of Board Candidates

Toeknee Bailey ? A native of Pittsburgh, Toeknee has served on the boards of Persad, PAAR, and the Renaissance City Choirs.  She currently works as a legal assistant for Neighborhood Legal Services and is a drumming performer and instructor.  In addition, Toeknee enjoys writing, singing and theater arts.

Joanne Bostjanick retired from teaching in the Pittsburgh Public Schools where she taught at the Elementary Gifted Center and at A. Leo Weil School in the Hill District.  Prior to teaching in Pittsburgh, Joanne taught in Butler and in Houston, Texas.  She worked on the campaigns of Judge Kathryn Hens Greco and County Councilman Jim Burn and has served as Judge of Elections in Shaler for the past few years.  Joanne enjoys yard work and traveling with her partner Lee Marcuzzi.  Some of their favorite destinations have included Alaska, the Panaman Canal, the Mediterranean, Kenya and Zimbabwe.

Michael Braxton is a major gift officer for Carnegie Mellon University.  Prior to joining Carnegie Mellon in 2004, he practiced law for 8 years in Pittsburgh law firms.  Michael has served as a member of the board of directors of the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force and as that organization?s two-term president. He was a vestryman of Calvary Episcopal Church, a member of the board of the City Theatre, the Pittsburgh Symphony New Leadership Board and Blind & Vision Services of Western Pennsylvania.  He was also involved locally with the Howard Dean campaign ? volunteering in Iowa prior to the 2004 Iowa caucuses and helping to organize with fundraising.  Michael currently sits on the board of Conservation Consultants, Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting efficient energy use in homes.  Michael is a graduate of Princeton University and Columbia Law School where he was a notes editor of the Columbia Journal of Law & Society.

Nachum Golan is a native of Israel, but has lived in Pittsburgh over 40 years.  He is active the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network and was instrumental in bringing to the Jewish Community Center an exhibit about homosexuals in the holocaust. In addition, he has been involved in the Persad Center, the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force, the Sheperd Wellness Center, and Bit Tikvah.

Mike Haye has worked in health care administration for the past 25 years, after earning his master?s degree from Trinity University in San Antonio, Texas.  Originally from Virginia, Mike did his undergraduate work at Clemson University in South Carolina.  He now enjoys Pennsylvania and has lived and worked in the Pittsburgh area for the last 15 years.  He has been involved politically with campaigns in Texas for governor Ann Richards.  In Pennsylvania he worked for the ?get out the vote? effort for Gore and Kerry through Move On and participated in the Casey campaign for Senate.   

Emilia Lombardi, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Graduate School of Public Health, Dept of Infectious Diseases and Microbiology at the University of Pittsburgh. She received her degree (in sociology) from the University of Akron in Ohio in 1997.  She had served as the principal investigator of a study entitled "Substance Use and Treatment Experiences of Transgender/Transsexual Men and Women.? She currently works on a project studying HIV-prevention, and she is currently working on a research study that will examine the social and medical process of transitioning from one gender to another.  Dr. Lombardi is also a member of the University of Pittsburgh's Center for Research on Health and Sexual Orientation.  She has been a transactivist for over ten years and has been involved in many groups focused on transgender issues (Akron, Oh; Los Angeles, CA, Pittsburgh, PA).  She has also chaired the West Hollywood Transgender Task Force.     

Jay Molluso is a 63 year old lawyer, formerly a senior deputy attorney general, who now services as general counsel for a private tax collection company.  He and his partner of 15 years Bill Volbrecht reside in Mt Washington.   Jay has volunteered for PERSAD as well as the Pittsburgh AIDS Task Force over the years and was previously a Stonewall board member. 

Kris Rust has been a member of Steel City Stonewall Democrats for several years and served on its board as interim Co-chair since August 2007.  In the past he has been involved with MoveOn.org and the judicial campaigns of Kathryn Hens Greco and his partner Hugh McGough.  Kris is musician and teacher.  He has been involved with the Renaissance City Choirs, the Pittsburgh chapter of the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, the First Unitarian Church of Pittsburgh, the Nine Mile Run Watershed Association and the Western PA Conservancy.

Janis Williams, a Democratic Committee woman in the City of Pittsburgh, currently serves as the Steel-City Stonewall Political Director. Engaged in politics since 2003, Janis was very active in the Presidential Campaign of John Kerry, organizing outreach and voter registration drives. She went to the Democratic National Convention in 2004 as a member of the Platform Committee, and has been the Political Director for Steel-City Stonewall since 2005.  The Stonewall National Convention, featuring DNC Chairman Howard Dean, was held in Pittsburgh in 2005, and Janis worked extensively on the Organizing Committee. Janis believes that Steel-City has unlimited potential to make equality a forefront issue and to give a voice to the GLBT community. Further, she feels that the organization needs to set aggressive goals for 2008 in order to bring focus, and to rally around the issues that are most crucial to our members and their families.


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