emotion-laden batch of mail arrived in response to "The
2 million-person Gulag," our April 10 treatment of
news that the U.S. prison and jail population had reached "another
numerical benchmark in its unique saga of racial oppression."
African Americans comprise about half of U.S. inmates. We wrote:
States has long been a world leader in imprisonment, having
virtually invented the modern penal system, and Blacks have
always been disproportionately represented behind bars. White
America's answer to the Black assertiveness that sprang from
the movement of the Sixties and early Seventies was to create
a Gulag, a system of social death that expands, relentlessly.
In a little over a generation, Black America has been purposely
deformed in uncountable ways.
after deadline did we get a letter from Eco Man, a conscientious
person who had taken extra time to check the statistics. "There
is an error on that page," wrote Eco Man. "This quote
has way-low stats."
the demography of the American prison landscape. Maine has
the lowest incarceration rate, at 137 inmates per 100,000
residents. Louisiana is the most enthusiastic incarcerator,
at 799 per 100,000. Race makes all the difference.
are contained in the U.S. Justice Department's Bureau of Justice
Statistics Bulletin (posted, below), the basis for the press
release on the 2,019,234 "benchmark." The problem
is built into many statistical stories, as we explained to Eco
Man. The Justice Department report does not include juvenile
detention, U.S. territorial lockups, Indian jails, and other
forms of incarceration. However, the Justice Department announcement
was the "news" hook. (We described the stats as "understated.")
If one dwells on the statistical anomalies, at some point the
story becomes a statistical analysis piece, rather than a commentary
on the nature of the U.S. criminal justice system.
statistics present similar difficulties. We all keep track of
joblessness through the U.S. Labor Department's monthly statistics.
However, it has long been recognized that Black unemployment,
especially, is much higher than the official stats indicate,
since huge proportions of African Americans have given up looking
for work or labor in the underground economy. Nevertheless,
we must lead with the official stats in order to remain in the
general conversation, while noting that the figures do not reflect
the true picture.
For a pdf
version of the mid-year 2002 Bureau
of Justice Statistics Bulletin report: http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/pub/pdf/pjim02.pdf.
See page 11, tables 13 and 14 for raw numbers and rates per
100,000 by race.
access, Eco man recommends a state-by-state incarceration map
by the International Center for Prison Studies, King's College
School of Law, University of London: http://www.kcl.ac.uk/depsta/rel/icps/worldbrief/usa.html
here's the site Eco Man calls "my main stats page":
This site adjusts for juvenile detention, U.S. territories,
Indian jails, and other forms of incarceration.
We were wondering when someone would address the stats issue.
We're glad Eco Man showed up.
co-publisher Glen Ford delivered a commentary on The Black American
Gulag on NPR's Tavis Smiley show Wednesday, April 23. The broadcast
is archived at http://www.npr.org/programs/tavis/.
Theories and Depraved Indifference
events in Baghdad marred the Pirates' unilateral declaration
of victory, creating a temporary perceptual dissonance that
seemed to flash a glimpse into the delusional world where the
Bush men live. It is a scary place. Rumsfeld's eyes saw the
same bedlam that everyone else on the planet witnessed. But
his mind constructed a totally different Iraq. "They're
free. And free people are free to make mistakes and commit crimes
and do bad things."
turf, this constitutes a whip lashing revelation. In "Depraved
Indifference to the Species," we explored Rumsfeld
Thought to its logical conclusion: Black Americans have engaged
in looting and rioting at the wrong time (colored people's)
and for the wrong reasons, " we realized.
Americans may now intelligently plan their next riot. It must
coincide with a happy occasion. If by some miracle George
Bush is defeated in November 2004, we will wreck the joint
and, this time, not a single building or institution of value
will be left intact. Churches will empty immediately into
the streets in righteous plunder, so uncontainable will be
our joy! The sick and infirm will trash their own wheel chairs
and intravenous tubes in rapturous celebration of Bush's demise.
Two million inmates will burn the prisons down around themselves,
forgetting to first unlock the place - Oh Happy Day! After
the subways of New York have been stripped of wiring, the
Black masses will gather in Harlem, where crowds will dance
deliriously as the Schomburg Center for Research in Black
Culture goes up in flames, its new Malcolm X museum section
reduced to ashes. Sweet victory!
"will understand the 'context' of our actions, and agree
that even a brief respite from nearly 400 years of oppression
demands a suitable orgy of celebratory destruction."
may record the second week in April as the beginning of the
unraveling of the U.S. hegemonic lunge. (It is a universal privilege
to arbitrarily dissect time in order to make a point.) We felt
it a good time to discuss the already evident, worldwide recoil
that will smother the Pirate offensive-against-all. We called
the piece, "Conspiracy
States is about to be redlined by the international community,
and there is nothing that Americans, pro- or anti-war, can
do about it.... The effect will be as devastating as redlining
the ghetto, a place that is depressed because nothing good
and the domestic repercussions will destroy not only Pirate
dreams, but some of our own:
of real economic recovery in the United States becomes nil.
It is difficult to imagine that a wounded, mostly delusional
America will not resort to massive scapegoating of minorities,
especially the Permanent Enemy, Black America. Someone will
have to pay for the political choices of the pro-war supermajority.
show that a very large proportion of visitors read both "Conspiracy
Theories" and "Depraved Indifference" - with
the result that we sometimes cannot tell which piece our correspondents
are referring to. Fine with us - it's all good, as persons of
a younger age say.
We get the
distinct impression that Dianne Lobes, Ed.D., of Eugene, Oregon,
read both pieces.
Masterful. I wish I had written your most recent, trenchant,
beautifully skewering Issues article, but that discomfort
is minor, compared to the relief of finally reading Rumsfeld
get his just due. Thank you for your unwavering perception
(nondelusional, I might add) and reporting on the dismantling
of any semblance of a humanitarian society. You are just the
best, and I read w-i-d-e-l-y. I send you out to everyone,
and insist that they read and partake of the wisdom of your
analysis. I hear back from many that they do, and I'm thankful.
got a pretty weak economy," said John T. Dillon, the
chairman of the Business Roundtable. "We all feel great
about the war," he added, in an interview with the New
self-consumed are the Pirates and their racist constituency,
they saw love for "America" in the fires that ravaged
so much of Baghdad. (If extra-terrestrials ever send Earth a
message from light-years away, the Bush men will take it as
a letter from a secret admirer.)
ruminates on the rulers' long road to depravity.
but not taking for granted, your work is not only superb,
but as far above the basic sludge as the sun is different
from the moon (and no offense meant to the moon!). In recent
conversations with various friends, two things have come to
be quite plain to me. First, as far as I can tell from scripture,
the only wars God sanctioned had to do with terminating the
contracts of the worshippers of other gods. The first commandment
was simple and basic: Thou shall have no other gods before
me. Since it is the worship or obedience to other gods that
leads to the other transgressions, it is obvious why this
is the first commandment.
are no wars sanctioned by God for any other purpose. It seems
needless to point out the obvious private interpretation of
the Bushites. The second thing is analogous to the first Caucasian
American genocide when they made express laws prohibiting
the sale or trade of firearms to the Native Americans. A typical
scene in the old westerns involved some decrepit white man
on the make who had a few high tech rifles to sell to the
Lakota or Apache, and then the news of this getting out, enraging
the "settlers" (land thieves), resulting in their
clamoring for "liberation" (protection) from the
"savages". Then you have Custer or some other self-righteous
commander riding up to save the day. Of course, there were
only ever a handful of these guns, most often without ammunition.
But the point is always: "How dare these (pick one: savages,
barbarians, Indians) have the effrontery to stand up to us
and fight for their, OOPS, our land?"
Iraq, you have the Caucasian American claiming the Iraqis
have a few high tech bombs but finding none, they turn to
blame the next native Arab nation (Syria) of abetting a crime
(ostensibly receiving Iraqi weapons sold to them by... you
guessed it, some decrepit white - French, Russian - man on
the make) to rationalize why Custer's old unit, the 7th Cavalry
(have you noticed how prominently they've been featured during
this latest aggression?) has been sent to liberate the wild
East for the exploitation and occupation of the range. It
certainly helps to do a Rome on the Iraqis (recall how the
Romans under Augustus burned the library of Alexandria and
then blamed that on the disaffected Egyptian?) and allow for
the destruction of their history. But, this is an old ploy
of the ravenous thief. Everywhere he has gone on the planet,
he has destroyed the history and linkage to the past of the
native people, to later appear and attempt to define that
people's history as his own. And, so, you have the abomination
of desolation in the appearance of Rumsfeld proclaiming: Rioting,
looting... is fine. It's part of democracy.
one thing is known to any who know the true Word: the enemy
has 3 characteristics - to kill, to steal, to
destroy. Where you see this, that is the enemy. Wake
up you blind "Christians"! A man claiming to be
in the name of God is not the same as a man being of God.
Your Bush is a deceiver and a thief and a liar. He loves to
be nice if there were an effective opposition to the prevaricators
that have a stranglehold on what used to be America. But the
democrats are too spineless to ever stand against their own.
After all, this is the range, and "the only good Arab
is a dead Arab", to paraphrase the old racist war cry.
it should come as no surprise that the Bush men's morality condones
"looting in a good cause," since that is what they
see as their own, global mission.
found our article useful.
of today (April 17) is superb. We can only understand the
moment in which we exist - a time of such madness that it
beggars analysis - through analogy to other times. But from
my buckra perspective, analogy has failed, because I see the
looting of Baghdad and I can only liken it to events in distant
history. You have cleared this problem up by comparing events
in Iraq to events in the black experience in America. To view
this "aministration's" staggering hypocrisy in its
full form and detail, one must compare Baghdad to South Central.
compare the slaughter of brown civilians there to the slaughter
of black civilians here. The degree of relativism is what
is thrown into starkest contrast: Rumsfeld and his ilk grinning
like madmen and spouting the idea that all them dune coons
should have the unimpeded right to bust the joint up after
a couple generations of oppression, just as long as they destroy
their own country, not ours, while a whisper of discontent
from America's own despised black population is met with the
full force of law and arms and ringing declamations.
weakness in the Pirate's offensive against world order [is]
their inability to see the world as it is." The Bush men
challenge a world they cannot understand, and compound each
mistake with another. They fail to comprehend events, such as
the "celebratory" burning of Baghdad - more an invention
than a simple distortion of reality. Such men cannot possibly
win a protracted struggle with the planet-at-large.
Levis gets the picture.
issue is amazing. Great cover story this week, all too true.
The pirates act out of desperation, not strength, I tell that
to everyone who thinks this is the start of some 200-year
empire. Bulldada. It's the end of their power, like the song
from Lori Anderson, "O Superman", ..., "when
justice is done, there's always force. And when force is done,
there's always mom..." Right now, all they have left
is force, and they've never been less bothered with covering
up what monsters they really are. Their faces say it all.
All we the people have to do is keep fighting and survive
it. They are going down on their own.
to say, Apr. 3 '68 was as amazing as any of King's speeches,
but the one you should be constantly reminding people of -
I'm sure you realize this - is from Apr. 4, '67, "Beyond
Vietnam," as prophetic and clear-sighted and complete
and still entirely contemporary a document about this country
as anyone has ever written. He saw it all, one year to the
day before the assassination. Perhaps the date was no coincidence.
Dr. King's full Riverside
Church speech during the week of his birthday, and agree
that it is among the most relevant to our present situation.
Regarding the Pirates "going down on their own," this
is inevitable, given global conditions and their own fatal deformities.
However, Hitler's fate was sealed after 1943, yet that did not
save most of the remainder of European Jewry. The American internal
scenario is problematical, to put it vaguely.
an internal illogic supported by imagined facts, the Pirates
dance to a tune that must be inferred, rather than heard, by
others. Their racism, however, is easy to read. Diana Tolton
I am astounded
at the apparent insidious disease of superiority that runs
through the Bush Administration. When I read this article
I could only assume that Bush is attempting to insure that
the rapidly growing groups of minorities in this country don't
usurp the white families in positions of power. What better
way to insure that the opportunities that exist in this country
are held out of reach of black Americans?
is an American who has stepped outside the bubble to see her
country more clearly.
an excellent article. I am a white female. I have lived several
years overseas and enjoyed living in many different cultures.
I never could understand why Americans always thought that
the United States was Number 1. Number 1 in what? Highest
standard of living? Equal division of wealth?
I think that it was appropriate to call the Bush men the Pirate
Class. You are right - it is their extreme racial and cultural
bigotry that will be their undoing.
I am 60
years old. I hope I live long enough to see, at least, the
beginnings of a truly multi-racial, multi-cultural democracy
with an equitable distribution of resources and wealth. Once
we have achieved this, then we will look forward to interacting
with and sharing with the global community.
of world living standards are readily accessible to every American.
Yet the national reality of comparative early death, overwork,
and material insecurity is resisted - as if the mere knowledge
of U.S. inferiority is an overt, unpatriotic act.
may not set you free right away, but Californian A. Locke is
going to tell it, anyway.
you for a brilliant article. In these days of "real TV,"
white-bread news stories, I am forwarding this article to
my students, my children and all my friends. Brilliant. Someone
In the U.S.,
the truth can lose you clients, who prefer to deal with flag-waving
liars rather than honest people bearing facts. Let William F
Smith tell it.
was absolutely fabulous! Bravo, thank you for filling in the
spaces to my idea of what is happening. I had an idea, but
few answers. You have provided the only answers that make
sense and add up to the current situation. Please keep the
info flowing. And you are right about the racism. I am a white
businessman who has to deal with it on a daily basis with
my peers. It makes me sick, but I know if I am to deal with
these people and survive, I keep my mouth shut. I support
you in every way.
from Milwaukee, is a longtime
reader (considering we've only been publishing for a year.)
what else is there to say? A remarkable political analysis
and overview relating to present Middle East, world and U.S.
piracy. "Pirates." That's a real classic! Keep up
the great work.
the Bush men "Pirates" because they share with the
old buccaneers a predatory relationship to the domestic and
world economies, waylaying ships of state (in the Straits of
Florida, November 2000) in order to convert them into engines
a "loyal reader from Jamaica Queens," likes it when
we talk like that.
love your publication. Honestly if it wasn't for you, corporate
media would have driven me mad. I cannot believe nor fathom
the American populace's level of ignorance. The American people
are suffocating themselves with their arrogance and what's
amusing is that which they are proud of is all an illusion.
In chat rooms, where the true intentions of mainstream white
Americans are free to mingle about, it all revolves around
the same theme - 'We kicked sand nigger ass, and we will do
it again.' Isn't it scary to think that the people running
this nation have the same intentions as mainstream white America?
originally disappointed that Iraqis didn't put up much of
a fight, but then after reading your editorial entitled 'a
murderous culture,' I realized how foolish I was to have expected
Iraq to stand any chance against a nation that is King of
WMD, aka United States of Aggression. But it made me proud
to see that over 20,000 Iraqis protested after the ousting
of Saddam Hussein. It shows that they are not gullible fools
blinded by a false sense of liberty but a people who are very
much aware of the true intentions of America among which are
to liberate the "Iraqi" oil and secure Israeli invincibility
from any resistance left in the Mid East. As reward the Iraqi
people will have a choice of Mickey D's or KFC's to choose
from...what better freedom than that?
is an optimistic sort of fellow
powerful, insightful arguments. However, perhaps if the opposition
to the neocons can get organized, it will be possible to nudge
the nation onto other, more democratic and socially acceptable
paths. After all, Bush and company have destroyed the economy
and that was poppy's undoing.
that no one gets the impression that
believes American activism is irrelevant to the international
resistance to the Pirates. In fact, the only way that Black
and progressive networks will survive this period of dramatic
U.S. failure and decline is through the most intense mobilization.
Models for the future must be put forward amid spreading ruin.
There is an urgent need to present plausible alternatives for
domestic development and popular empowerment.
repression - it will descend with vicious intensity whatever
we do, initiated by the Pirates as a reaction to their own failures.
Better to be organized, than not.
pleased to learn that the rock group The Savage Rose are readers
Bandleader Thomas Koppel writes from across the water.
you, Black Commentator, for your brilliant analysis titled
Conspiracy Theories. These are the thoughts we have been trying
to give words for some time now, and here it is. Wonderful.
The clearest analysis of what is really going on right now.
This is what the US needs to know, and the world too. We will
definitely spread this article as far as we can - in the US
and in Europe and elsewhere through our international network
of friends and fans, and progressive organizations.
originating from Denmark, we could add this:
the US 'pirates', the popular, anti-racist movement for peace,
justice, & social progress is facing yet another enemy,
which would become clearly visible as the US economy loses
terrain: European imperialism. The powers controlling Germany,
France, et cetera have objectives not too different from the
'pirates'. For decades they have had aspirations for Europe
to regain her strong, imperialist military power, and readied
an all-European, racist police state. Let's not forget European
colonialism and the savage brutality of, for example, France
progressive superpower, the only power able to stop this whole
global mess, is testing the temperature of the waters. That
is the peoples of the world, as expressed by the global anti-war,
anti-racist, anti-globalization movement, and every power
not totally controlled by US or European superpowers, e. g.
the non-aligned nations. How this popular power is going to
develop will be the decisive factor in the shaping of the
future of this planet. Unless, of course, the tragic stupidity
of imperialists turns us all into charcoal before we even
see the future.
Rose website is
http://www.savagerose.com. We recommend their "anti-war
soul-R&B-oldschool-hiphop-rocker" cut, World Aflame
(Not In our Name). It's good to get the party started and the
factions in action.
the British War Party has no problem being associated in the
public mind with pirates. Jorge Mariscal, director of the Chicano/a
Arts and Humanities Program at the University of California,
San Diego, sent us a link to a story in The
Independent (UK), noting the arrival of one of Her Majesty's
ships back from the Persian Gulf:
the submarine HMS Turbulent returned to Plymouth, flying
the Jolly Roger, the pirates' emblem. How appropriate.
This nuclear-powered machine fired some 30 American Tomahawk
cruise missiles at Iraq. Each missile cost £700,000:
a total of £21m. That alone would provide desperate
Basra with food, water and medicines."
authored the January 16
Guest Commentary, "A
Chicano Looks at the Trent Lott Affair."
who prefers to be known simply as "III" sent us the
Black Americans and other minorities, I feel like I should
let my voice be heard. I must state however that many, many
people in this country are unfortunately drunk with nationalism.
As you know, all "isms" are negative. Unfortunately,
most of the American public seems either unaware or dismissive
of it. Well, I have written a piece about George Bush and
his cabinet. I would appreciate it if you would post it.
The Merchant of Death
the land he spreads his power like a shower of
razors coming down. His troopers of death merely
following orders, slay upon command. The stench of
rotting corpses, the cries of wounded souls, these
things are like whispers in the wind of yesterday and
days to come.
At one time they called him Fuhrer, a demon in the
form of a man, a butcher of eloquent regard to those
under his command. The wondrous inventions, the
marvelous minds, all these things created those
monstrous times. Those who lived used to say, 'We
should not forget this day.' Yet, much time has
passed and now we see, the merchant of death coming
from the sea.
From the only superpower left on Earth arises a
presence of selected tongue and stolen wealth. He
wraps his armor with Christian values and carefully
chosen words. Upon his throne he is drunk with power.
Those who sit by his side are the angels of death.
They whisper into his ears of kingdoms yet to be. The
massive murders they commit are a side issue you see.
In his family tree there was a man who helped the
Fuhrer get the upper hand.
So, blood rites and offerings to Lucifer are made.
From country to country the blood will flow. The
broken bodies, the twisted limbs, the mutilated souls,
reluctantly leave the physical world. The did not ask
to be sacrifices.
Onward the troops will go, slaughtering in their
wake. They follow the sweetened tongue of the
incarnation of death.
after publication of last week's issue featuring "Conspiracy
Theories," a reader named Robin did us a great service.
just discovered your publication and find it very thought
provoking. Definitely a site I will visit again and again.
I have passed the current front page editorial on to others,
one of whom has asked a question I can't answer. In the article,
the author writes:
economy has surpassed Japan's and remains a command system,
able to move as a body to favor or disfavor the United States
if her political will is tested."
that China's economy has not surpassed Japan's.
in part: "Whew! We are so glad you exist." We are
not sure how China rose from number six economy in the world
to number two in our text, and can only guess that a conflation
of thoughts conspired to create an erroneous sentence that escaped
detection during less than vigilant proofing by the person who
wrote it. The sentence should have read:
has surpassed Japan as the country with which the U.S.
has the largest trade deficit and remains a command system,
able to move as a body to favor or disfavor the United States
if her political will is tested.
embarrassment was commensurate with the enormity of the distortion.
Readers who printed or sent out the Thursday version should
avoid the taint through corrective action. The text was corrected,
Friday, April 18.
Kennerson, of Lafayette, Louisiana, writes, "I don't know
exactly how you format responses to your stories, but I will
try to give some random thoughts on some stories that have graced
your excellent website as of late." He then proceeds to
cover the map, but so entertainingly that we felt compelled
to share (nearly) the whole letter:
off, on the "Skeeza" smack of Condi Rice: Personally,
I happen to think that that remark was a gratuitous insult
and highly offensive...to all true "skeezas", that
is. Actually, speaking as a thinking sex-positive radical
and a regular Black progressive citizen, I have far more respect
for true prostitutes and self-respectful whores - who actually
tire their trade under the most insurmountable odds and under
the greatest of surveillance by the "authorities"
(the very same authorities that are kicking regular Black
folks' shins too, BTW) for the promise of a few minutes of
genuine sexual pleasure - than I have for that criminal, self-hating,
of a woman. It is so amazing that our educational system and
our history could produce the likes of her (and Uncle Clarence
Thomas, and Colin "Where's My Forged Essay?" Powell,
and their pseudo-Democratic cousins like Donna Brazile), who
always seem to turn up whenever real Black folk emerge to
speak the truth. But, then again, I guess that's why God (and
Goddess) developed irony and satire.
on the Democratic Party and their little issue with Al Sharpton
and the Left as a whole: I tend to be an Independent myself
who has basically abandoned the Dems as hopelessly conservative
and committed to a kinder, gentler fascism; nevertheless,
I'm actually rooting for the Reverend with the whack perm
(no offense intended, Rev. Sharpton), if only for the hairs-on-end
scare that he gives to the national Dem leadership. As you
so plainly and eloquently put it, the Democrats will either
reclaim some degree of progressive heritage and acquire some
backbone for social and economic justice - and real soon,
guys, before Dubya and the gang pass Patriot II and suspend
what's left of the Constitution - or they will fade and wither
like the lapdogs they are. But since Rev. Al stands no chance
of getting past the DLC corporate whores and actually getting
the election, I recommend that he and some like-minded independent
progressive folk consider the option of forming another progressive
party which will stand on its own for real principles. I do
know that most Blacks are still totally committed to the party
of jackasses, but considering that they have continuously
gotten their booties kicked for so long, there might
be an opening for a true second party. (Sorry, Greens and
Libertarians, but Black folk have been and always will be
the true anchor of the Left in America; and to ignore them
and the fundamental issue of white racism is to assure your
doom. Besides, nothing else has seemed to work.) Keep up the
great work, and keep on speaking truth with power.
Maaloumi's note is much more concise than Mr. Kennerson, but
just as welcome.
have to say I love what you do at .
keep up the great work and thanks for telling it like it is.
Washington sends greetings on 's
anniversary, and good wishes.
you for the enlightening information published in
every week. Your articles are definitely eye-openers and attention
grabbers. Every black person in America should have the opportunity
to read the information you provide on a weekly basis.
on beginning your 2nd year of publishing. Long may this information
be heard and read - knowledge is power. With information like
this at my fingertips, I am beside myself, and always anxious
to share it with others.
Whitmyre shares with us his abundant enthusiasm.
give you a "Right on" above all Right Ons!! Can
I get a witness!? Keep on keeping on!
Gagnon is Coordinator of Global Network Against Weapons &
Nuclear Power in Space. He writes from Gainesville, Florida.
to write and say thanks for your weekly gifts of truth telling.
I read each issue with a mixture of emotions, sadness and
delight. Mostly though I am proud at how you tell your readers
the truth about the world the Pirates are now creating at
home and abroad.
We've put several of your pieces and cartoons on our web site
and will keep doing so. Many thanks for the real journalism.
network does exemplary work. Their address is http://www.space4peace.org.
look towards Connecticut and you will see the light shining.
issues keep getting better and better, and, hopefully, setting
a lot of Black folks free. For as the Good Word states: "...and
the truth shall set you free." Our Creator has certainly
given you a gift, part of which is the ability to discern
and the other part of which is to write/articulate, as well
as the capacity to impart wisdom. If I haven't said it before,
let me say it now. I will add you to my prayer list, as well
as ask the Lord to keep His angels encamped around you. For
we need you to be around for a long time to come.
gratefully acknowledges the following organizations for featuring
our commentaries during the past week:
Sons of Afrika
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