Why Obama needs to ‘Build Baby Build’ the Keystone XL pipeline

Steele MMO_1368-EditIn a speech before the 2008 Republican National Convention, I unveiled the “Drill Baby Drill” battle cry to reduce our nation’s dependency on foreign sources of oil and to encourage more domestic oil exploration and increase oil refining capacity.

However, since the 2008 election, our nation remains dependent on foreign petroleum sources while the Obama administration continually blocked exploration and drilling which in turn would have helped lower the cost of gasoline.

Once the long-awaited State Department’s final environmental analysis of the $5.4 billion Keystone XL oil pipeline was announced, its positive report increased pressure on President Barack Obama to approve the 1,700-mile Canada-to-Texas pipeline. The fact that experts say the pipeline would ultimately employ about 20,000 Americans while working to achieve the bipartisan goal of energy independence makes not approving the pipeline a bit problematic for the president when the economy is still growing jobs at an anemic pace.

Release of the report has triggered a 90-day review period so Americans will know within that time frame whether the president is serious about immediate job creation and ultimate energy independence.

Politically, Keystone XL is supported by leading Republicans, Democrats and some of America’s largest labor unions. However, environmental progressives, a core constituency of the Obama political base, are promising acts of “civil disobedience” if the president signs off on the project and, in their eyes, undermine their “green agenda.”

Others, like former President Jimmy Carter have warned President Obama he risks standing on the wrong side of history should he approve the Pipeline. “You stand on the brink of making a choice that will define your legacy on one of the greatest challenges humanity has ever faced – climate change.”

But for all of the dire predictions and threats of political retribution, it is particularly noteworthy that more Democrat members of Congress, particularly the Senate, are finding their voice in support of the pipeline. As recently as last week, eleven U.S. Senators sent a letter to the President asking approval of the Keystone Pipeline by May 31st.

The letter was written by Sens. Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Mary Landrieu of Louisiana and co-signed by Sens. Mark Begich (D-Alaska), Mark Pryor (D-Arkansas), Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Joe Donnelly (D-Ind.), Claire McCaskill (D-Mo.), Mark Warner (D-Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), John Walsh (D-Mont.) and Kay Hagan (D-N.C.).

In it, the Senators pleaded “The time to act is now Mr. President. Please use your executive authority to expedite this process to a swift conclusion and a final decision so that we can all move forward on other energy infrastructure needs in this country. We ask that you bring this entire process to an end no later than May 31, 2014, and that your final decision be the right one, finding that the Keystone XL pipeline is in the national interest.”

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Why Obama needs to ‘Build Baby Build’ the Keystone XL pipeline

Erica and Matt Chua: Indonesia

baliIndonesia has a little something for everyone.  It is known for beaches, partying and diving, but there is so much more.  Heading east, the hard-partying ends in Lombok and the party gives way to nature’s best in Komodo, Flores and all the way to Papua.  Head north from Bali and Lombok and you’ll find much of the same in Kalimantan (Borneo) and Sulawesi.  In all of these places you’ll find one of the most diverse ecosystems anywhere.  This ecosystem extends to the sea, with some of the best diving in the world.  Culture buffs, don’t worry, there are thousand-year old temples and indigenous tribes that have had little outside contact.  If exploring and adventure isn’t what you’re looking for, don’t fret, there are thousands of miles of unspoiled beaches for you to enjoy.  Indonesia, a place with everything, to insure everyone leaves happy.


DON’T MISS: The Gili Islands off Lombok, it is what secluded beach dreams are made of.  There is lodging for everyone, from $10 beach huts to $200 five-star hotels, all close to quiet, beautiful, beaches. MUST SEE: Prambanan (Yogyakarta, Java), Ubud (Bali), Gili Islands (Lombok) MUST TASTE: Soto Ayam, chicken soup with spice


TRIP PLANNING: Indonesia is a vast archipelago.  A week is enough to enjoy the beaches and diversions of Bali and Lombok.  It takes at the very least two weeks to visit Komodo and Flores.  It takes at least a month to fully see Borneo, but two weeks in East Kalimantan will do for most. GETTING AROUND: Tourist buses and ferries are the easiest way to get around, including island-to-island.  Within cities only take the Blue Bird taxis as they are known to be the most honest taxis in Indonesia.


OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $58.44 COST OF A BEER: $3-4 KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: The budget accommodations can be very nice.  If you arrive and start looking for $20/night rooms you may find a comfortable room, free breakfast, wifi, a pool and gorgeous surroundings.


YOU NEED TO KNOW: Bali, especially the Kuta/Seminyak area is like Cancun for Americans or Ibiza for Europeans, there are loud, drunken parties.  However, there are plenty of places you can escape this, including northern Bali. IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would have stayed for two months in order to travel east through Komodo and Flores, then up to Sulawesi.  Travel takes more time and effort than expected, making long-distance travel difficult. HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: Travelfish, Wikitravel.  Please send us any sites you found useful and we’ll add them!



WE WERE THERE FOR: 4 weeks OUR HIGHLIGHT: A friend’s Javanese wedding in Jakarta WHERE WE WENT: Java, Bali, Lombok, Kalimantan WE REGRET MISSING: Komodo and Flores…we’ll be back.



Click here to learn more about Indonesia


Indonesia Highlights

Short on time? The highlight reel of our 4 week trip to Indonesia including ancient temples, a wedding, beautiful beaches, sunsets, dancing monkeys and more.  Tour Indonesia in 26 photos!

26 Photos


Ubud is the cultural capital of Bali offering a more laid back and cooler locale than the beaches of South Bali. Around Ubud are temples, ancient sites and whole villages producing handicrafts.  The lush rice paddies and huge coconut trees lend a village feel, however the boutiques remind you that you’re in a tourist center.  In many ways Ubud offers the best of both worlds, culture and comfort.

25 Photos

Northern Bali

The Central Mountains of Bali are dominated by the mighty Gunung Batur.  The slopes of this and the other peaks in the central part of the island hold some of the most verdant rice fields, especially in Jatiluwh, and tropical vistas you can imagine. Along the northern coast Lovina offers attractive beaches. The best way to see the area is by your own transport, which allows you to enjoy the views at your own pace and get lost in the villages along the way.

17 Photos

John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Key West

key westKey West, Florida… Forever and always the year ’round spring break city for ages 18 to 88–but a city that really isn’t a city at all and more like a narrow corridor off of an alcove off of some real city (but nobody is sure which one) that just happens to be located somewhere between an ocean beach and the end of the world.

It’s a real place where real characters like Ernest Hemingway once briefly lived but feels more like an imaginary place where imaginary characters like Jack Sparrow would permanently live, if he was real.

The daily rumblings of the town aren’t anything like back home and resemble instead something akin to an outdoor rave–the morning after the actual rave. And the evenings are like the night after a bad hangover after you have been resuscitated with a hair-of-the-dog concoction.

And as shady and delirious (even if you are sober, like me) as all this might sound, it is kind of wonderful and mysterious, too. And even restorative –in a kind of mischievous and decadent way.

Time seems to stand still –or at least move in slow motion– not because nothing is happening but because the locale is so disconnected from anyplace where workaday things are happening you forget the need to keep track of time. Which is such an unusual–and enlivening– sensation to experience in our hustle-bustle nation.

And so glad to have found a place where, for a few days, you can remember what life is like without the push and pressures of ticking clocks in this narrow corridor off of an alcove of some city in this mysterious but wonderful place somewhere between an ocean beach and the end of the world.

Things that can happen in Key West…

While waiting for a Cuban coffee you can overhear an older white-haired Irish-looking man introduce himself to the mail carrier as “Tip O’Neill’s nephew.”

jyb_musingsAnd you can wait for the mailman to leave and introduce yourself and tell the man you overheard him say he was related to Tip O’Neill and wanted to say how much you admired the personalized approach his uncle had to politics and think often of the story of President Ronald Reagan getting shot and the first person to visit him in the hospital was the democratic Speaker of the House, Tip O’Neill, and the two men talked and prayed together–and how you wish we could someday get back to those times in American politics.


Things one thinks to oneself while in Key West:
“Do you realize you are 50 years old and have never been to a transvestite show?”
10245415_10154030010180515_1283347388_nDolphin art show

What we did tonight instead of going to the transvestite show–next door

Dolphins are great and all, don’t get me wrong. But they aren’t fabulous!


New thing I learned tonight in Key West….

Even if you are a blissfully happily married 50 year old man, it is still nice to be checked out by a younger woman.

Even after you realize it is actually a younger man who is dressed up as a women.



Erica and Matt Chua: South Korea

south koreaSouth Korea is a testament to human will.  It is one of only a  handful of cultures that can claim 5000 years of continuous  civilization.  Of those 5000 years, the last century was one of the most  difficult; few populations have ever been put through so much, yet it  stands today as one of the world’s richest countries.  Walking through  its streets today it is hard to believe that just 60 years ago it was a  smoldering war zone, having been leveled twice: WWII and the Korean  War.  From a tourist’s point of view the country has few draws as it  seems like any modern country, until you look around and consider  everything you see around you represents a miracle for even existing.   South Korea jumped as many hurdles as any modern country ever has,  making it a worthy stopover en-route to other Asian destinations.


DON’T MISS: Busan.  Insert any positive superlatives about a gorgeous, modern, beachfront city here. MUST SEE: SpaLand (Busan), Beomeosa Temple (Busan), DMZ, War Memorial of Korea, Seoul MUST TASTE: A traditional Korean dinner, Hanjeongsik, composed of an array of small dishes (banchan, directly translates to “side dishes”).


TRIP PLANNING: A whirlwind weekend is enough to see either Seoul or Busan.  Add more time to visit Gyeongju or Jeju Island GETTING AROUND: Public transport is fantastic inside Busan and Seoul, with affordable  taxis everywhere else.  To get between Busan and Seoul, take a bullet  train and travel at 320km/hr (~200Mph).


OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $54.60 COST OF A BEER: $2-3 at a chicken and beer restaurant, make sure to try the fried chicken, South Korean fried chicken is delicious. KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: Cabs are cheap, but don’t try to cross the city in one as Seoul and  Busan are huge and the fare will sky rocket quickly.  Use public  transport to get as close to your destination as possible and then a cab  if needed.  In both Busan and Seoul you can get a transport card that  makes subway and bus riding hassle free.  Tourist information centers  can help you purchase these cards.


YOU NEED TO KNOW: Many/most of the young people know basic English.  They may not be  confident speaking, but if you need directions most can help you. IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would have spent less time in Seoul as it can be done in just a weekend. HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: Top things to do in Busan, Top 10 things to do in Seoul, Wikitravel.  Please send us any sites you found useful and we’ll add them!


WE WERE THERE FOR: 2 weeks OUR HIGHLIGHT: Couchsurfing with an American in Busan.  It was nice to have someone  that understood everything we said after months of broken English  conversations. WHERE WE WENT: Seoul, Gyeongju, Busan WE REGRET MISSING: Jeju-do (Jeju Island).  We’ve heard many great things.



Click to read more about South Korea


South Korea Highlights

Short on time? The highlight reel of our 3 week trip to South Korea including beaches, oceanside temples, fish markets, skyscrapers, fried chicken and more.  Tour South Korea in under 15 photos!

14 Photos


Busan is the largest port city in South Korea and the fifth largest port in the world. The city is located on the southeasternmost tip of the Korean peninsula and is a source of pride for Koreans.  As it should be, the wonderful beaches of Haeundae to the world’s largest department store in downtown this city should be a must-visit in Korea.

28 Photos


Gyeongju was the capital of the ancient kingdom of Silla (57 BC – 935 AD) which ruled most of the Korean Peninsula between the 7th and 9th centuries. A vast number of archaeological sites and cultural properties from this period remain in the city. Gyeongju is often referred to as “the museum without walls”.

26 Photos


Seoul is the capital and largest city of South Korea. A mega city with a population of over 10 million, it is one of the largest and most densely populated cities in the world.  Historic buildings are tucked in amongst the skyscrapers and apartment buildings are everywhere.  From the indoor markets to the arts district Seoul has many different sides.  While it may not be built for tourists you get a glimpse into the hustle and bustle of living in South Korea.

29 Photos

Erica and Matt Chua: United Arab Emirates

uaeThe United Arab Emirates is a stage for the world’s super-rich to strut their stuff in pricey hotels, clubs and malls.  For example, mall’s include ski slopes, ice arenas, massive aquariums and more high-end shopping than could ever afford.  If the glitz and glam are too much, neighboring Abu Dhabi provides a taste of culture in the world’s most expensive mosque which puts the Taj Mahal to shame.  For speed addicts, Abu Dhabi’s Ferrari World boasts the world’s fastest roller coaster, while the traditional camel market in Al Ain provides a welcome counterpoint.  Even if you don’t have the money to roll with the Emerati, you can still enjoy their playground.


DON’T MISS: Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque in Abu Dhabi, it has to be seen to be believed. MUST SEE: The Burj al-Khalifa (Dubai), the world’s tallest building, Al Ain camel market, Dubai Marina, Dubai gold souk and Sheikh Zayed Grand Mosque. MUST TASTE: Possibly there are better choices, but after two years of traveling we indulged on New York’s famous Shake Shack burgers and other American delicacies.


TRIP PLANNING: See the highlights of Abu Dhabi and Dubai in a weekend, but plan for a week to include Oman. GETTING AROUND: Make use of the excellent buses.  Utilize airline’s free shuttles between Abu Dhabi and Dubai.  Getting around is substantially easier if you rent a car.


OUR COST PER DAY (2 ppl): $64.71 COST OF A BEER: $5-$12 USD, alcohol is available exclusively at international hotels and pubs. KEY MONEY-SAVING TIP: Use Priceline for the best hotel rates, you can score a luxurious hotel for a great price due to the over-supply of hotels in both Abu Dhabi and Dubai.


YOU NEED TO KNOW: Conservative clothing is required and shows respect for Emirati culture, revealing clothing worn by men or women can be quite offensive. IF WE KNEW WHAT WE KNOW NOW: We would have spent more time in neighboring Oman. HELPFUL LINKS TO LEARN MORE: The New York Times recommendations for spending a weekend in Abu Dhabi.


WE WERE THERE FOR: 7 days OUR HIGHLIGHT: Experiencing 1.7 Gs of force on the world’s fastest roller coaster at Ferrari World in Abu Dhabi. WHERE WE WENT: Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Al Ain WE REGRET MISSING: The view from the top of the Burj al-Khalifa.


UAE Highlights

Ferraris, gold, mosques and camels.  See the best of the UAE in only 23 photos!

23 Photos

Abu Dhabi

Called the “world’s richest city”, Abu Dhabi is more than money.  Rich with culture, entertainment and beauty it is a sight to behold.

17 Photos


“World’s _____” begins many sentences about Dubai.  Home to many of the world’s best, Dubai doesn’t disappoint, see why for yourself.

Erica & Matt Chua: A Buddhist View of Sri Lanka

Palm trees, surfboards, sandy beaches and seafood are the images that come to mind when someone mentions Sri Lanka. The tiny island is known for it’s beaches, however their cultural sights are stunning, if expensive.  The north of the country is definitely worth your time, maybe not all your money, but don’t let the ticket prices scare you away.While visiting Sigiriya, Anuradhapura, Polonnaruwa will all set you back a pretty penny, Dambulla is an easy and affordable day trip from Kandy.

If all these foreign names aren’t familiar, here’s a crash course: the ancient cities of Sri Lanka that lie north of hill country were formerly known as Rajarta, Land of the Kings.  For 1500 years this was the heart of Sinhalese culture and today offers a glimpse into the past.  In the last decade both Anuradhapura and Polonnaruwa were unearthed by archaeologists, revealing an incredible irrigation system.  The enigma of Sigirya has been studied offering both royal and military explanations for the huge rock structure jutting out of the desert as a result of an extinct volcano.  Possibly the oldest of the ancient cities are the rock cut Buddhist temples at Dambulla, which are thought to date back to the 1st century BC.

With the mini-history lesson out of the way we can jump right into photos of the phenomenal Buddhist caves in Dambulla.  There are five separate caves containing over 150 Buddha images.  Most of the paintings in the temples date to the 19th century, however the just barely ten year old structure at the base of the caves is your welcome to this ancient worship sight.  If a spiritual place can be kitschy the entrance to the Golden Temple is just that.  Although the enormous golden Buddha perched on top of the building claims to be the largest Buddha in the world (later research found it wasn’t even the largest one in Sri Lanka).

Past the kitschy entrance, several flights of stairs and hoards of feral monkeys carry visitors to the first of the caves.  Devaraja Viharaya, the Temple of the King of the Gods, features a massive reclining Buddha.  At the Buddha’s feet is Ananda, the Buddha’s loyal disciple.

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Erica & Matt Chua: A Buddhist View of Sri Lanka

Erica & Matt Chua: How to Visit Tibet Without a Permit

Are you interested in Tibetan culture, want to meet the Dalai Lama, do monks make you shutter happy?  Then I have news for you, Leh is the place, not Tibet, to get your fix.  Why head to India instead of Tibet you ask?  It’s much more affordable and less restricted.  Here is a quick comparison of Tibet vs. Ladakh

Having your own transportation makes Leh much more accessible than Tibet, our choice the iconic Royal Enfield Bullet motorcycle


The biggest barrier to visiting Tibet are the requirements for entry including a guide and permit.  It took us a painstaking 10 days and many sleepless nights to obtain the appropriate papers and arrange guides for Tibet.However, Leh requires nothing more than a long bus trip or short flight.  Leh is the perfect place to visit for non-planners, the budget conscious and independent travelers.  There’s nothing like the magic of discovering the charms of Tibetan culture at your own pace with your own transport in contrast to being tied to a guide’s schedule.  (Want to learn how to visit Tibet?  Click here to learn how we did it).

The gigantic Sakyamuni Buddha at Thiksey Monastery


The history and culture in Tibet are incredible, Potala Palace’s gold and gem encrusted stupas alone are worth the trip.  However, the monasteries in Ladakh are stunning.  Thiksey Monastery in particular not only looks similar to Potala, but offers a 14 meter high Buddha that the Dalai Lama himself purports to be the most beautiful statue he has seen.  In addition, you have plenty of time to explore the monasteries rather than being ushered through with a guide.

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Erica & Matt Chua: How to Visit Tibet Without a Permit

Erica & Matt Chua: Superlative-Worthy Salar de Uyuni

LivingIF is filled with “world’s ____” sights.  We’ve covered the superlatives and self-professed rankings time and again, highlighting local pride points, and sometimes even writing about the world’s largest something, just to visit an even larger one somewhere else (i.e. the 17+ world’s largest Buddhas we’ve seen).  Most of the time, these sights are pretty impressive, even if they are not as world class as they claim.  The lucky few are actually the world’s biggest/tallest/deepest/highest-altitude and beautiful enough to write about.  The Salar de Uyuni, the world’s biggest salt flat, does not disappoint in size, spectacle or superlatives.

EPIC.  Situated on the Bolivian side of the Bolivia-Chile Border, the vast Salar de Uyuni separates more than just countries.  It separates cultures, with progressive and relatively-rich Chile on one side and indigenous, impoverished Bolivia on the other.  It also separates geology, with the world’s driest desert on the Chilean side and the rugged crest of the Andes on the Bolivian side giving way to the Amazon Basin.  Due to the location, geology and history, traveling through the salt flats, usually en route from one country to another, is an epic 3-day trip.

UNIQUE.  Having seen photos and heard stories from friends that had visited previously, I thought I understood how unique the Salar is.  Seeing it was another matter.  I really don’t think there is anything quite like it.  From the size to the surprising variety of colorful sights, I was thoroughly in awe.  Arriving from Chile the first days are spent crossing the high-altitude Atacama Desert.  This area is one of the world’s richest mineral producing regions with copper, silver, gold and lithium deposits, creating unexpectedly colored lakes and rock formations.  The uniqueness of the Salar will cause those who think geology is boring to rethink their disinterest.

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Erica & Matt Chua: Superlative-Worthy Salar de Uyuni

Erica & Matt Chua: The Passage of Time

I always marveled at the way time sped up and slowed down while we were traveling.  A few days could easily feel like a century and a few weeks in a new country could in retrospect seem like only a couple days.  It seems that the mystery of time has caught up with me again as I realize we have been back “home” for six months.  The blog has gone silent and the trip feels like decades ago rather than just half a year.  What have I been doing and why haven’t I written?

The short answer is catching my breath, and pinching myself (did this all really happen?).

The long answer is, processing.  I have been decompressing from the rush of the last three years. During our travels, we packed up our bags and moved every three to four days. So, it has been quite an adjustment to be in one place for the last six months. As we catch up with friends and family it’s hard to explain the lapse of time and all that has happened in our lives and theirs.

Reconnecting with friends and family after so much time away is the best part of being back. Me and my brother as we biked 300 miles across our home state of Minnesota just one week after I returned home.

I often yearn for my traveling life, I miss the extreme freedom, the anonymity and the constantly changing tomorrows with an unknown around every corner. However, operating in my native language, having a comfortable bed to sleep in with a
refrigerator of familiar food in the next room is not a bad trade off. What I miss most from the road is the child like wonder and excitement in achieving even the smallest of goals.

Perhaps never again in life will getting on the right bus or receiving the dish you thought you had ordered be considered a victory. However, when you are navigating in a foreign language and have little to get your bearings these small achievements are the equivalent of winning the lottery. It’s also possible that never again will an 18 hour bus ride be as fascinating and eye-opening as it was when we were on the road. The prospect of a new place when the bus stopped often made the time pass much faster.

Without these experiences on a daily basis I spend much of my time wondering “what’s next”, but also celebrating our journey.  Time is once again playing tricks on me as I try to stay in the present moment, but seem to be caught in processing the past and planning for the future.  A wise friend of mine, whom lived abroad, shared the following with me as I prepared to come home, I couldn’t have possibly known at the time how true her words were:

“The question you will be asking yourself after your return will become “what would my life be like if I hadn’t done what I did?” We can only imagine … I’ve done it dozens of times, but only with true appreciation that I actually did step out of the mold and do something different. Your life will be so rich because of it … and you will enjoy the memories for the rest of your lives.”

I share these same words with you to remind you that no matter how you pass your time, you will always be glad that you lived life on your terms by making conscious decisions and chasing your dreams rather than by looking back and regretting what you did with that time.

Gary Yarus: Defining the Left

the leftIt seems, there are many people, who contribute or frequent the RP website, who claim to be progressive Democrats or politically define themselves as “on the left”.  I have my    doubts!

Here’s is my test to see if you really are operationally and ideologically “the left”

You can test yourself for compliance using my 12 Point Platform:

1. A Living Wage
2. Medicare for all
3. Tax the Rich
4. Job or Income Guarantee
5. Debt Jubilee
6. Retirement Security
7. Post Office Bank
8. Enforce the Bill of Rights
9. End the Wars
10. Food Sustainability
11. Clean Air and Water
12. Carbon Negative Economy

Supporting the 12 Points, and necessary to pass, implement, and sustain them, are 12 Reforms:

1. Net Neutrality
2. Fairness Doctrine
3. Local Ownership of Media
4. Public Campaign Financing
5. Electoral Integrity
6. Self-organized web-based citizen deliberation
7. MMT Macro-economic Policies
8. Preserve and Expand the Commons
9. More Co-operatives, Fewer Corporations
11. Fiat Justitia. Ruat Caelum
10. Strategic Non-Violence
12. Points and Reforms Are Indivisible

gary-yarus-1953e8f7beFinally, to explain, revise, or extend the 12 Points and 12 Reforms,    One value:

The One Value
1. Public Purpose.

My test is a work in progress. Google searching may be required to   answer. What are your results? Suggestions for list improvement are welcomed.

Gary Yarus is a freelance writer, a student of political movements,  an escapee from the duopoly, a progressive populist, a Green Party pro-democracy advocate, who is committing a revolutionary act as the    publisher/editor/curator of an online magazine, devoted to democracy, ecology, peace and social justice called “The Beacon” (http://bit.ly/TheBeacon ). Email: garyyarus@yahoo.com

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