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Forbes and the "Self-Made" Label

by cactus

Forbes and the “Self-Made” Label

I’m kinda busy these days, but this topic is small pet peeve of mine: what the heck is up with Forbes and the “self-made” label? On occasion, I’ve gone through the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans and marveled at who Forbes manages to decide qualifies as self-made.

Case in point. Take Aubrey McClendon, head of Chesapeake Energy, the largest independent gas producer in the US. His great-uncle was a governor and a three-time senator, and also co-founded a large oil company. His father worked for the company for 35 years, and one imagines he wasn’t a janitor or nightwatchman.

McClenond himself will tell you:

I had some early financial advantages in life that probably let me take a chance or two that I wouldn’t have been able to

But to Forbes, McClendon is a self-made man.

A few spots up from McClendon is another self-made dude (according to Forbes), Paul Tudor Jones II. The “II” is not an automatic marker of wealth, but it should have been a tip-off to Forbes that perhaps it was worth visiting “teh google”, which would have been kind enough to guide them toward this interview:

I already had an appreciation for trading because my uncle, Billy Dunavant, was a very successful cotton trader. In 1976, after I finished college, I went to my uncle and asked him if he could help me get started as a trader. he sent me to Eli Tullis, a famous cotton trader, who lived in New Orleans. Eli is the best trader I know, he told me. I went down to see Eli and he offered me a job on the floor of the New York Cotton Exchange.

And the name “Dunavant” should have rung a bell to Forbes – after all, Forbes ranks Dunavant Enerprises as one of the 400 largest private firms in the US. Another thirty seconds of “research” would have told the folks at Forbes this:

His paternal grandfather, Colonel William P. Dunavant, was in the railroad business and created one of the main cotton transporting railroads of the time, a railroad that grew into the southern leg of the famous Frisco Railroad. Billy’s father, William Dunavant, began working for T. J. White and Company at the age of twenty-one. After White retired, the company was passed to William Dunavant; however, because of the untimely death of his father in 1961, Billy Dunavant took over the company at the age of twenty-nine.

I’ll concede that a stream of events where all this is true and Tudor Jones was none-the-less a penniless guy who pulled himself up by his bootstraps in a way that the rest of us were just too lazy to accomplish. It does seem unlikely, though. A more reasonable description of events is that this is another example (I’ve had a post or two on this in the past) that Forbes simply has a tendency label some very unlikely individuals as being self-made. And from what I can tell, this is a Forbes thing; most of the folks Forbes gives this label to that the rest of us might not don’t go around insisting they’re self-made. (I believe I recall one counter-example.) So what’s up with Forbes and the use of this label?
by cactus

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Same labels, same old stuff

One Salient Oversight sends some thoughts from down under on recycling labels:

Think of the common labels thrown out against political opponents these
days. What sort of political thinking would be labelled in the following

* The propagation of ideas like Darwinism, Marxism, the teachings of
Nietzche, Liberalism, Socialism, Communism and Anarchism.
* A focus on Utopianism that is actually unattainable because of the
underlying conspiracy within the group.
* A movement towards materialism.
* Supporting supranational entities notions such as World Government.
* A control of the media to promote these evil ideas, under the
guise of a “free press” (which is actually controlled by the conspiracy).
* Sexual licence.
* An opposition to Christianity and a promotion of secularism and
atheism – but with an actual evil religion under girding it.

All those descriptions can quite easily be seen as being directed by
conservatives against progressives. Consider the following:

* Conservatives often use progressive ideas as a pejorative, and
will quite easily label a progressive by a general term. Labelling them
as “communists”, for example, even though they don’t espouse Communism.
* An argument that progressive ideas are based upon a vision of a
“false utopia”.
* An argument that progressives cannot tolerate faith and are
inherently materialist.
* Complete opposition to any notion that supranational entities like
the United Nations and the European Union are useful. Such entities are
either threats to freedom or full of incompetents. Those who support
such entities are thus evil.
* That the “Mainstream Media” is inherently “liberal” and has an
agenda to promote a particular point of view under the guise of the
“free press”.
* That sexual licence promoted by progressives will end up leading
to the destruction of traditional marriage and enforced sexual
perversions (like paedophilia and bestiality).
* That a conspiracy of progressives is trying to destroy
Christianity and replace it with atheism, and that such a conspiracy
has, at its base, Satanic and pagan influences.

Sounds terrible doesn’t it? Or maybe it sounds true. Or maybe, just
maybe, someone came up with the same sort of thing during the late
nineteenth century (Protocols of the Elders of Zion) and directed it towards a societal group that they
thought was destroying the world?

In the case of the late nineteenth century, these beliefs were outright
lies that were fabricated with the intention of creating ill-will and
hatred towards their “enemy”. It therefore gives you an idea of how
these people – even those today – think.
This one by reader One Salient Oversight

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Mike sends a response to rdan on off-label drugs

It is evident that this will lead to less pressure on the Drug Companies
to get their drugs approved by the FDA. I would suggest that we consider
letting the market help. i.e.

1) If a drug is prescribed off-label, then the patient be permitted
to return it to the drug store for a full refund, no questions asked. —
Obviously many people might be helped, and others would not bother to try to
get a refund, but it would encourage the Drug Company to test the drug to be
able to sell it without the possibility of having ineffective drugs being

2) If a drug is being prescribed off-label, with the cooperation of
the Drug Company, then the patient can go to court and have a presumption
that the drug is the cause of any reasonable harm to the patient. Obviously
one would want a judge to eliminate unreasonable cases, but if it is
reasonable that the off-label use of the drug might have caused the damage,
then the encouraged off-label use would lead to an assumption of guilt until
proven by the preponderance of evidence otherwise.

Obviously the details of these can be adjusted to make them more
reasonable, but their purpose is to let the Drug Company have some reasons
for testing their drugs and for not encouraging their off-label use unless
they feel they are safe and effective.

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Off label drug pushers

FDA doesn’t just approve drugs, it approves drugs for specific uses. However, doctors can prescribe drugs for unapproved, or “off-label,” uses.

Under a law that expired in 2006, pharmaceutical reps were legally able to distribute journal articles touting the benefits of off-label uses. But, according to the Associated Press, FDA maintained some regulatory oversight: “Under the expired law, companies had to submit reprints of articles to the FDA before sending them to doctors. That way, the articles’ accuracy could be reviewed.”

If FDA chooses to finalize this policy, which it published today as “proposed guidance,” drug companies would be able to use journal articles to market off-label uses willy-nilly. The AP article continues, “Under the new proposal, drug companies don’t have to submit articles.”

Off-label use of drugs is big business. According to The Wall Street Journal, “[FDA] is stepping into a high-stakes business issue, because off-label uses of prescription drugs are a mainstay of the industry — an estimated 21% of drug use overall, according to a 2006 analysis published in the Archives of Internal Medicine.”

According to Merrill Goozner at the GoozNews blog, the pharmaceutical lobby pushed for FDA to go forward with the policy which will be a boon for the industry:

So what was in today’s proposed guidance? It pretty much gives industry everything it was looking for. It would allow drug salespersons to drop off article reprints as long as they came from a peer-reviewed journal that had a conflict-of-interest disclosure policy. Articles from industry-funded supplements would not be allowed…

Note what isn’t in the policy: It doesn’t say that the studies of unapproved uses must be from randomized controlled clinical trials, which is the gold standard of medical research.

Rep. Henry Waxman(D-CA) caught wind of this policy last November and asked FDA to refrain from going forward.

We probably will get exactly what we wish for, and then get blamed for the result. I call it sneered at..”Suckers!!”

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Thoughts on the War on Terror as a Label

I have a vague recollection of GW saying something to the effect that if we change our behavior or lifestyle, the terrorists have won. (Anyone have the quote?) As I was waiting, barefoot, for my carry-on, my flip-flops (the easiest thing to travel in these days), my laptop and my cell-phone to clear the X-ray machine, I looked over at the octogenarian lady standing next to me waiting for her belongings. Then I reflected on the fact that GW has not flown commercially since at least the year 2000.

Calling it a “War on Terror” means one day, when we win, we’ll be able to go back to the days when we weren’t fighting. Put another way… one day we’ll be able to go back to the days before our carry-on items were scrutinized this carefully. That day will never come, even if every last islamofascist is rounded up and GW has Osama’s testicles in a jar of formaldehyde sitting on the mantle. Calling it a “War on Terror” is just silly.

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NY Times Calculator Mislabels Salaries as Wealth

Dean Baker has a lot of praise for this calculator:

The NYT has a very nice feature in today’s paper, a calculator that allows you to see how wages have grown over the last four decades. You can make comparisons for a wide variety of demographic characteristics, occupations, and industries. You can even plus your own info in and see how you’re doing compared to your peers. This is nice, it’s giving people real information. That’s what newspapers are supposed to do.

I agree but I have one nitpick with the title which talks about “wealth” whereas the calculator graphs real salaries. Their instructions continue the error in terminology by calling this salary calculator a “wealth calculator”. Could someone let the New York Times know that stocks and flows are different concepts.

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Pork Barrel Spending Labeled “Fiscal Responsibility”

An AP story carried by CNN shows that the White House was paid many visits by “Republican activists Grover Norquist and Ralph Reed” over the past 6 years. White House spokeswoman Dana Perino had an odd way of excusing the visits by Mr. Norquist:

He is one of a number of individuals who worked to advance fiscal responsibility, which is one of the key aspects of the president’s agenda

I seriously doubt Mr. Norquist asked Karl Rove if the pork barrel spending for his clients could be reduced.

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Punctuality Today v. GDP per Capita Tomorrow; A Look at a Few Countries

Authored by Mike Kimel

In this post, I want to demonstrate the importance of a specific cultural trait, namely punctuality, on the economy.  The difficulty, of course, is coming up with a good measure of punctuality, and in particular, one that isn’t regularly gamed.

Digging around, I found a paper entitled The Pace of Life in 31 Countries by Robert V Levine and Ara Norenzayan in the Journal of Cross Cultural Psychology in 1999.  For the purposes of this post, the most interesting thing about this paper was this measurement:

As a sample of concern with clock time, the accuracy of 15 clocks, in randomly selected downtown banks, were checked in each country. The criterion for the correct time was that reported by the telephone company.

The 31 countries span the globe, and seem to encompass every inhabited continent, though it should be said, the list is Europe-heavy; unless I miscounted, 14 of the 31 countries are in Europe.  The clock accuracy results for the countries, as well as several other measures of less relevance to this post, are returned in a table in the paper.  I then compared those results (compiled in or before 1999, I remind the reader) with the real GDP per capita in US dollars for those same countries in 2015.  That data was pulled from World Bank tables.  The World Bank data excluded two of the countries in the Levine & Norenzayan paper, Taiwan and Syria.

Here’s what the data looks like, graphed:

clock inaccuracy 1999 v gdp per capita 2015

I took the liberty of highlighting and labeling the three points at either end of the curve.

The figure shows that the correlation between the natural log of clock inaccuracy, as measured in average seconds of clock error in or before 1999 and real GDP per capita in 2015 is -0.56.  That is, countries with more accurate clocks in or before 1999 tend to be wealthier in 2015.  Note also that the correlation is a bit lower (-0.50) when data from the year 2000 is used.  This suggests that if there is a causation, it isn’t running from wealth to clock accuracy.

Frankly,  there are a few anomalies with the graph, and they tend to be where my intuition doesn’t match the accuracy ranking provided by Levine and Norenzayan.  Having stated that, I should note that my intuition is informed primarily from having lived abroad for about a decade and a half, and from having a fair number of interactions (professional and personal).  For example, Italy ranks second in clock accuracy, but my experience is that there are a fair number of Italians who tend to be relatively tardy to meetings, etc., relative to people from a number of other European countries.  My admittedly snide hypothesis is that the Italian post office’s clock is simply just as late as the clocks in private Italian banks.  Not surprisingly (to me, anyway), Italian GDP per capita is 9th among European countries included by Levine and Norenzayan, not 2nd.  

Nevertheless, despite the anomalies, at a high level, this data seems right to me, and it provides a bit of confirmation to the idea that punctuality is tied to positive economic outcomes.  

The backstory, for those interested:

A few weeks ago, I had a post showing that at the national level, over the past few decades, there is a negative correlation between immigration and subsequent job creation.  In a more recent post, I looked at state level data to determine whether states with a greater percentage of immigrants created more or fewer jobs for the native born population. The results showed that outside the old Confederacy, the more immigrants as a share of the population, the less jobs were created for the native born population.  In between the two posts, I tried to provide a few explanations for why the observed relationship exists.

In the “explanations” post, I mentioned cultural traits as issues that make a difference in whether immigrants contribute positively or negatively.  In the comments to the post, I mentioned timeliness (i.e., punctuality) as one such trait.  That statement met with resistance from other commenters.  It was even suggested that such a view might be racist.  This post is intended to support my comment.

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Who ARE those other people, Mr. Trump? Do tell.

I am now going to the brand new Trump International Hotel D.C. for a major statement.

– Donald Trump, twitter, Sept. 16 at 9:23 a.m.

And so he did, as all the world will remember.  That’s when, and where, he made his trumpeted “birther”-renouncement statement—er, his internationally televised ad for his new D.C. hotel.

The “where” being the operative word in that sentence.  And the “for his new D.C. hotel” being not an accurate reflection of who actually owns it.

At a campaign appearance in North Carolina on Tuesday, in comments that should have received wide attention, not just from the news media but also from Clinton, Trump elaborated on whom the Trump International Hotel D.C actually belongs to: “other people”.  Here’s how CNN began its online text report on that campaign appearance:

Kenansville, North Carolina (CNN)Donald Trump bragged Tuesday there’s “nothing like” using other people’s money, hours after a report said he used more than $250,000 from his charitable organization to litigate lawsuits against his business interests.

Trump, while calling for building safe zones in Syria financed by Gulf states, vaunted the benefits of doing business with “OPM.”

“It’s called OPM. I do it all the time in business. It’s called other people’s money,” Trump said. “There’s nothing like doing things with other people’s money because it takes the risk — you get a good chunk out of it and it takes the risk.”

Simply pointing out, again and again, that Trump is breaking with four decades of tradition in refusing to make public any of his or his company’s tax returns; simply pointing out Trump’s companies’ six bankruptcies; pointing out that his comments about Putin (not least that he has a reciprocal-compliments relationship with Putin, and Putin’s relationship with Russia’s oligarchs who invest in Trump real estate (or whatever it was that Donald Jr. was saying at the 2008 seminar)?  These, independently, don’t register with most of the public, apparently.

But how about running ads in swing states tying all these together with the bowtie called OPM, and Trump’s Sept. 16 personal ad for the new hotel that bears his name but to which the in-name-only label applies?  Russian oligarchs, after all, could tie President Trump in knots—should they threaten to, say, pull their financing from “his” real estate properties.

Unless of course the other people’s money comes without strings attached. Or balloon loan repayments that can be called at any time.

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The New York Post and Citizens United’s executive vice president say Republican administrations magnanimously hire liberal Democrats to fill positions in their Cabinet departments. Someone should educate them that this is not accurate.

Hillary Clinton’s current campaign manager kept a list of people who were not to receive State Department jobs being doled out — just as the new secretary of state entered the Obama administration — The Post has exclusively learned.

“We are beginning the process of separating people we may want to hire from people we do not want to hire at all,” Robby Mook, the wunderkind 36-year-old campaign manager, wrote in an email to various Clinton officials. The email was sent Feb. 23, 2009, just two weeks after Clinton assumed the job as secretary of state.

“Below is a list of people we are proposing NOT to hire (the ‘no-offer’ list), along with the name of the person who submitted their resume,” Mook added.

Mook’s email was released by Citizens United, the conservative group that obtained the message through a Freedom of Information Act request from the State Department.

The email was sent to Clinton confidants Minyon Moore and Tamzera Luzzatto, as well as close Clinton aides and State Department officials Cheryl Mills, Capricia Marshall and Huma Abedin, among others. Tina Flournoy, Bill Clinton’s chief of staff, was on the email chain as well.

– Clinton’s campaign manager kept blacklist of potential hires, Daniel Halper, The New York Post, yesterday.

This, folks, is labeled “News Exclusive”.  Just so you won’t confuse it with, say, “Non-Newsworthy Information, Because It Falls Into the Category of ‘Staffing the New Administration’s Cabinet Departments in Accordance With the Election Results’”.

The article does point out that Mook was not working for Clinton.  Uh-oh.  Specifically, it says:

At the time, Mook does not appear to have been employed by Clinton. He had worked on Clinton’s unsuccessful 2008 presidential bid and then managed the campaign for Jeanne Shaheen, the New Hampshire Democratic senator. A few months after the email was sent, Mook went to work for the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

It also appears that Mook, unlike Mr. Halper and his editors, knows the difference between Civil Service positions and, y’know, positions that are not Civil Service positions, wanted to be fair and not mistake a non-enemy for an enemy who as an enemy had the audacity to submit a resume and job application for a non-Civil Service position.  So he wrote in that email:

WE RECOGNIZE THERE MAY BE MISTAKES IN THIS LIST, which is why we are circulating it for comments. If you believe someone on this list should be considered for a position, please send their name to If you do not send to, we cannot guarantee that we will get the information processed,” Mook implored.

“Please keep in mind when editing this list that we have over 1,300 applications and less than 180 jobs to slot — we must be selective. Pretend you work for the Harvard admissions department,” the email concluded.

But don’t think Mr. Halper is an incompetent journalist.  He’s clearly not, since he does know an illegal political blacklist when he sees one, and also has the contact information of Citizens United executive vice president Michael Boos and can get a good quote from him conflating the decision to reject employment applications of ideologically or politically unfriendly applicants for jobs normally filled in White House administrations by people who are friendly to the administration ideologically or politically with Richard Nixon’s Enemies List listing the names of unfriendly journalists and others whose tax returns should be reviewed by the I.R.S. and who should have dossiers about them opened at the F.B.I. and the C.I.A.

In an appropriately breathless tone, he writes:

The names on the blacklist were redacted upon their release from the State Department to Citizens United.

The blacklist.  Got it? And he follows that with the money quote, writing:

Hillary Clinton’s similarities to Richard Nixon are more striking than anyone could have imagined,” Michael Boos, Citizens United executive vice president, told The Post.  “Now we’ve learned she even maintained a secretive blacklist while heading the State Department. The American people deserve to know who is on that list,” Boos added.

I’m sort of relieved about this, now that the polls are tightening.  At least we can be sure that if Trump wins the election he’ll stop soliciting and accepting advice from Robert Mercer, his daughter Rebeka, John Rakolta Jr., Sheldon Adelson, and the other far-right billionaires whom Trump is accepting advice from and making tacit promises to in exchange for their extensive financial support for his campaign.  Including during meetings in The Hamptons. Which is strange, considering that according to the news media no major-party presidential nominee this year other than Clinton is allowed to enter for the purpose of seeking campaign contributions.

I guess Trump is violating those municipal ordinances, and is attending fundraisers there—as are a few of his billionaire donors, who are violating the ordinance sections proscribing contributing to the delinquency of a presidential candidate not named Hillary Clinton.

At least according to the Washington Post’s terrific Matea Gold, who reported on this, in-depth, all the way back on Sept. 1.  And whose reporting no one but me noticed.  Certainly the Clinton campaign didn’t.

Down the road,  when an Establishment Republican is nominated as the party’s offering for president—Paul Ryan, say—we progressive Democrats will be able to take comfort in knowing that his cabinet heads won’t discriminate against progressive Democrats in staffing their departments.  Maybe I’ll apply.

Okay, look.  I bow to few other progressive Democrats in the intensity of anger at Bill and Hillary Clinton for, beginning in 2013, commandeering the mechanism by which the party chooses its presidential nominee and foisting upon us a standard bearer whose husband received exorbitant secret payments from companies with interests potentially touching upon normal State Department concerns when she was Secretary of State.

And I’ve wondered from time to time in the last few months how many of those Establishment folks who were Ready for Hillary back in 2013, 2015 and the first five months of 2015 feel regret.  Or maybe even remorse.  Partly because our party now has a presidential nominee who along with her husband was unwilling to choose between great riches and power of another presidency, rejecting mere ordinary riches and opting instead for far more than that, risking so much for so many of the rest of us when they decided to muscle other potential candidates, and actual candidate Bernie Sanders, out of their way because they not only wanted extraordinary wealth but also the White House or a second time.  And partly because we have a presidential nominee whose idea of a terrific campaign strategy in 2016 is to court endorsements from Henry Kissinger and Meg Whitman, on the apparent theory that the more uber-Establishment celebrities who endorse you the better this particular election cycle.  At least if they’re Republican.

And partly because we have a nominee who thinks that the way to effectively attack her opponent is to constantly remind people of what they already know about him and haven’t forgotten, and be sure not to tell them about the stuff they don’t already know about him but really should learn of.  Like that he’s soliciting policy promises—er, policy advice—from the Mercers and his other billionaire donors.  And that the Mercers live in … the Hamptons.

And who thinks it’s a good idea to spend most of her time at the height of the campaign season cocooning with her extremely wealthy friends, and with the extremely wealthy friends of those friends, none of whom will sit out this election or vote for her opponent or a third party candidate. And who wouldn’t be caught dead actually campaigning on her policy proposals to rallies or audiences whose votes she thinks she has but may actually not have.  They’re not mainstream Republicans, so why bother to address them, right?

I can’t stand Hillary Clinton.  But I’m absolutely sure that her domestic-policy proposals, if actually enacted, would make a significant difference to a lot of people—in a good way—and that this country would be a meaningfully better place.  And I won’t even mention Supreme Court and lower federal court nominees—although I will ask whom the Mercers would recommend for appoint to the Court and to the courts.  Anyone who favors overturning Citizens United?  Or who thinks people who don’t have driver’s licenses or passports should be allowed to vote?  Or who favors plaintiffs’ access to federal court in consumer cases, employment cases, habeas corpus cases, or constitutional-rights cases that don’t concern religious freedom (loosely defined), gun ownership rights, or reverse discrimination by state universities or some such?  Didn’t think so.

I do acknowledge that her cabinet members probably would discriminate against job applicants who may be hostile ideologically or politically to Clinton or to the cabinet member.  But if so, there’s always the option of impeachment.  Just as there was for Nixon.

Clinton is saddled with a political media that can’t distinguish between normal, expected and trivial special, often meaningless, access, and even appropriate favoritism, on the one hand, and meaningful pay-to-play.  Or maybe a political media that thinks that the propriety of what has gone on in the respective professional lives of Clinton and Trump, and what promises to go on in a Clinton, or instead in a Trump, administration depends not on what is likely to go on but rather on whether it will be going on in a Clinton or instead a Trump administration.  The Clinton Foundation is just a distraction, in my opinion.  Bill Clinton’s half-million-dollar payments here for this no-actual-work activity, a whole million and then some for that no-actual-work activity–those are problems.  But they’re problems that fade into the landscape, or should, in comparison to Trump’s appalling, breathtaking decades-long career of breathtaking immoral greed.

These two men are stunningly, pervertedly greedy.  But Bill Clinton’s greed probably didn’t directly hurt anyone. by contrast, Trump’s very business model was, to a dismaying extent, to hurt people, some deliberately, some as casual collateral damage.  Neither Bill nor Hillary Clinton is a sociopath.  Donald Trump is.  Yet it is the Clintons’ pattern of greed that the news media details and obsesses about, upon the pretext that these constitute conflicts of interest.   A few do, most don’t, and none reaches anywhere near the level of casual, deliberate harm to others and clear violations of law that Trump’s very modus operandi has caused and has constituted.

We, for our part—those of us who support this Democratic nominee, extremely grudgingly or otherwise—are saddled with a candidate who is running a god-awful campaign, apparently thanks mainly to campaign decisions by the candidate herself and her husband, both of whom mistake the 2016 campaign cycle for the 1988 one.

Those old enough to remember the 1988 campaign will get my drift.  It’s a double entendre.

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