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Question of the day

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* A Reuters lede

Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan lit a fire under the state’s tepid public pension reform efforts on Wednesday, introducing measures that would mean harsh changes for public sector workers.

One of Madigan’s amendments, which would’ve raised the retirement age to 67, received just a single vote today. Another amendment which would’ve increased employee contributions by five percentage points, received three votes. A proposal to eliminate COLAs until the pension funds are 80 percent funded got five votes.

* The Question: Tomorrow’s lede?

And, to be clear, I’m not trying to pick on Reuters here. They do good work. We’re just having a little fun, OK? Thanks.

- Posted by Rich Miller   48 Comments      


Today’s number

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* The Tribune totals up Mayor Bloomberg’s spending in the 2nd Congressional District special primary

Independence USA’s overall spending, which also included some direct-mail pieces, was equivalent to about $72.23 for each vote Kelly received, based on unofficial vote totals in the low-turnout election.

By comparison, a CNN analysis found that Obama and his allies spent the equivalent of $25.33 per vote to win the battleground state of Ohio last year, while Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his allies spent $30.60 per vote in that state.

Thoughts?

- Posted by Rich Miller   20 Comments      


Kass on Rauner

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* I’ve already told subscribers about likely Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner’s stump speech, which is pretty much the same things he told John Kass

“I think I’m going to be very dangerous to the people in Springfield,” he said. “I think they’re going to be scared. They should be. Because I can’t be bribed, influenced, intimidated, threatened. I just want the state fixed and I just want to do the right thing for the taxpayers. You’re right, I’ve done well in business. I’m very proud of it. I’ve got the resources to do whatever it takes to win, and to do what it takes to help fix the state. … And the powers down there that like the status quo, they should be very scared.” -

I highly doubt that the powers that be will be scared of him, no matter what he does. The governor has a lot of constitutional power, but that has prompted the General Assembly to manufacture its own powers via tradition, rules and statutes.

* Back to Kass

For weeks Rauner, the retired chairman of the private equity firm GTCR, has been meeting privately with Republican governors from Wisconsin’s Scott Walker to Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal to New Jersey’s Chris Christie, as well as former Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. He’s been traveling across Illinois, speaking at Lincoln Day dinners and so on, and is putting a team together.

He has indeed been riding the circuit. So much so that I’m wondering why he hasn’t yet filed any campaign finance reports, which kick in at $5,000.

* Kass

Republican consultants circle him, and the common wisdom is that they view him like a side of beef, eager to carve him up for dinner.

“These political consultants love business guys who’ve never been in politics to try and take advantage of them. I get that. What I’m going to do is try and study from the smartest governors. I’m a pretty disciplined investor and pretty disciplined buyer. I do my due diligence. I do my homework. I don’t waste money.”

You can do all the due diligence you want, but amateurs aren’t pros, and way more often than not end up being fleeced. We’ll see.

Discuss.

- Posted by Rich Miller   41 Comments      


Today’s map

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* From the DEA, we have a map of all calendar year 2012 “meth clandestine laboratory incidents,” including labs, dumpsites, etc. Click the pic for the national map…

Looks like Indiana and Missouri are out-doing us again.

/snark

- Posted by Rich Miller   55 Comments      


Pension roundup

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* As I told you yesterday, House Speaker Michael Madigan is holding yet another “weekly order of business” today, but this time on pension reform. He has four amendments, two each to HB1154 and HB1165.

Keep a close eye on our live session coverage post for updates.

The SJ-R summarizes the Madigan amendments

* End cost-of-living adjustments to pension benefits for anyone hired before Jan. 1, 2011. Retirees now receive a 3 percent compounded COLA annually. Other pension proposals have called for limiting COLAs, but not eliminating them.

* Stipulate that COLAs would be eliminated until the pension systems achieve an 80 percent funding level. The five state-funded pension systems now have a funding level of about 39 percent.

* Raise the retirement age at which a person could collect full pension benefits to 67.

* Increase working employees’ contributions to their pensions by 5 percent of salary, in addition to what employees already pay into the system. Other pension plans have called for higher employee contributions, but in the range of 2 percent or 3 percent.

* AP

They include elimination of pension cost-of-living increases, an apparently extreme measure that Madigan put forth as a serious potential remedy because “there’s a huge problem,” spokesman Steve Brown said.

“Everything’s serious,” said Brown, “and it’s just, keep working on the issue until we can find a majority of the Legislature willing to pass a bill and send it to the governor.”

* Meanwhile, as we’ve already discussed, Rep. Elaine Nekritz and House GOP Leader Tom Cross have introduced a retooled pension reform plan…

But don’t expect any immediate budget savings

Cross and Nekritz said their legislation could save the state $2 billion a year. But it wouldn’t take hold immediately and help lawmakers with the budget they’re working to craft now.

“We still have enormous fiscal pressures,” Nekritz said.

* Senate President Cullerton is OK with the new language, but still wants his own plan to be part of the solution

Illinois Senate President John Cullerton is on board with the newest Illinois House pension solution plan.

Spokeswoman Rikeesha Phelon says the Chicago Democrat plans to amend his proposed pension fix with language from a bipartisan House plan announced Wednesday. But Cullerton would retain other provisions he says would ensure the plan’s constitutionality.

* Related…

* Speaker gears up test votes on pension proposals

* New pension reform plan surfaces in Springfield

* House GOP OK with new cost-shift on pensions

* Editorial: Illinois stands to run off road

- Posted by Rich Miller   40 Comments      


*** UPDATED x5 - No more free health insurance premiums *** This just in… Tentative agreement on AFSCME contract

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* 9:45 am - From AFSCME’s website

Tentative agreement reached on state contract

Last night at approximately 12:30 a.m., the AFSCME state bargaining committee reached a tentative agreement on a new contract with the Quinn Administration.

Congratulations to the bargaining committee for this achievement and thanks for all the hard work.

More information coming soon.

I’ve been calling around all morning about this and wasn’t able to get a confirmation. Well, it’s out now. I’ll let you know more when I know more.

* 10:04 am - I’m hearing that the deal tentatively includes 3 years of step increases plus a Fiscal Year 13 retroactive raise, and COLAs in years 2 and 3.

There’s also apparently a Springfield meeting at the Hoogland Center for the Arts tonight to go over details.

* 10:39 am - From the governor’s office…

GOV. QUINN, AFSCME ANNOUNCE TENTATIVE CONTRACT AGREEMENT
Negotiators send proposed three-year agreement to AFSCME members for ratification

The Quinn Administration and the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Council 31 have reached a tentative agreement on a new union contract covering some 35,000 state employees. Negotiations have been ongoing for more than 15 months.

“At a time when the state is facing unprecedented financial challenges, this agreement is fair to both hard-working state employees and all taxpayers of Illinois,” Governor Pat Quinn said. “I want to thank the women and men who have stayed at the table for more than a year for their commitment to reaching an agreement.”

“AFSCME is very pleased that we were able to reach an agreement that protects our members’ standard of living, and is fair to them and all Illinois citizens, even in these very challenging economic times,” AFSCME Council 31 executive director Henry Bayer said.

AFSCME members must ratify any contract negotiated by their elected bargaining representatives. The ratification process will get underway at worksites statewide during the week of March 4.

Details of the tentative agreement will be released after the union’s membership has had the opportunity to review it.

* 10:59 am - There are also several reports going around that some sort of movement has been achieved on AFSCME’s lawsuit regarding back pay.

* 11:18 am - There is, indeed, an agreement on the pay raise lawsuit.

Also, there’s an agreement that will produce hundreds of millions of dollars in savings that takes away free health insurance premiums for retirees.

* 11:52 am - From AFSCME…

The local union president asked me to make clear to you that this meeting [tonight at the Hoogland] is the regularly scheduled general membership meeting for AFSCME Local 2600. This is NOT a ratification meeting. In case union members are seeing this information on your blog, they should know that tonight’s meeting is a general membership meeting, and that ratification meetings to discuss the tentative agreement have not yet been announced.

- Posted by Rich Miller   131 Comments      


*** UPDATED x3 - “All heck breaks loose” *** Senate rebukes Quinn over SIU spat

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

*** UPDATE 1 *** I’m told that all heck broke loose at the SIU trustee meeting today. “Herrin and Poshard allegedly had a heated shouting match in front of the media in which four letter words were used,” said one local.

Wow.

So far, just a simple story in The Southern

The Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees failed to establish a quorum for its scheduled meeting Thursday in Edwardsville, one day after the state Senate rejected three new appointees by Gov. Pat Quinn to the group.

Trustee Marquita Wiley was not in attendance for Thursday’s meeting. Since the board has lost former trustees John Simmons, Ed Hightower and Mark Hinrichs and the Senate rejected new appointments Sandra Cook, Melvin Terrell and Lee Milner, there weren’t enough members left to conduct regular business.

*** UPDATE 2 *** The Alton Telegraph has more

In addition, a growing board dispute spilled more into the open during an exchange between SIU President Glenn Poshard and trustee Roger Herrin, in which Poshard accused Herrin of engineering this week’s departure of the board’s general counsel. SIU announced Wednesday that General Counsel Jeff McLellan has announced that he will retire effective March 1.

During the exchange, Poshard and Herrin, of Harrisburg, were openly hostile to each other.

Poshard accused Herrin of “rigging” the vote for general counsel.

Herrin responded: “If you’re going to accuse me of rigging the vote, you better have something to back it up. That’s going beyond the pale,” Herrin said.

Poshard said Herrin’s pick for general counsel was 11th on the list. A selection committee narrowed the field down to three.
“I have the e-mails (to prove it),” Poshard said.

*** UPDATE 3 *** The Southern has updated

The argument got particularly heated after Herrin said Poshard was once a good friend of his. Poshard said that when people ask him to rig elections, for the general counsel, it doesn’t matter if that person is “a friend or anything else.”

Herrin then responded that Poshard had crossed a line and said if Poshard thought he did something illegal then he should “put on his big boy pants and go after it.”

[ *** End Of Updates *** ]

* Not a good day for Gov. Pat Quinn

In a rare move, the Illinois Senate on Wednesday slapped down Gov. Pat Quinn’s latest appointments to the Southern Illinois University Board of Trustees.

Just two days after Quinn nominated new members to the board, senators used their appointment powers to send a strong message to the governor that they don’t approve of his tinkering with the makeup of the board.

The governor’s proposed appointments of Sandra Cook of Collinsville, Dr. Melvin Terrell of Chicago and Lee Milner of Springfield received zero “yes” votes, 23 “no” votes and 32 “present” votes.

The smackdown marked just the latest tussle involving Quinn’s attempt to install current Trustee Roger Herrin of Harrisburg as chairman.

The three trustees targeted for replacement by Quinn — John Simmons of East Alton, Mark Hinrichs of O’Fallon and Ed Hightower of Edwardsville — had been part of a coup to oust Herrin as chairman in 2011 after board members and university President Glenn Poshard complained of Herrin’s management style.

Not a single Senator voted for Quinn’s nominees, with 23 voting “No” and 32 voting “Present.” Most of those voting “Present” were Democrats, while Republicans and some Downstate Dems and some Black Caucus members voting “No.”

* Sun-Times

Herrin, a Quinn appointee and one-time SIU board chairman, has clashed sharply with Poshard over his management of the university, blaming the 1998 Democratic gubernatorial nominee for not stemming declining enrollment and doing a poor job of overseeing university finances.

Herrin owns nursing homes and banks and has donated more than $27,000 to Quinn, state records show.

In a blistering floor speech Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader James Clayborne (D-Belleville) accused Herrin of not making minority enrollment a priority and questioned the desire to put him back in charge of the SIU board.

“It concerns me there’s a push to make this individual the chairman of the board. What direction are we going? What message are we sending by appointing or placing an individual on this board, who does not believe that everybody should receive an opportunity to go to college, that we’ll close the doors on those individuals not because of their merit, not because of the hard work they put into it, but because they’re a minority?” Clayborne said. […]

Sen. William Haine (D-Alton), whose district includes SIU’s Edwardsville campus, said he knew little about the Quinn appointees’ backgrounds and questioned the governor’s desire to see three pro-Poshard trustees driven from the board.

Metro East members were mainly upset that two of their folks were booted from the board, including Simmons, a hugely successful (and politically active) asbestos attorney, and Hightower, the superintendent of Edwardsville’s school district who is widely feared in the area.

* Poshard and Quinn have been fighting for a few years now, and it enraged Quinn when Poshard moved the governor’s hand-picked chairman out of the spot and installed Simmons. Some background

The big move by the governor resulted from turmoil that erupted on the board about a year ago, according to the Southern Illinoisan newspaper, based in Carbondale.

Poshard has been a consistent critic of Herrin, according to the paper. Hinrichs said he and the other trustees who opposed Herrin were told they would be replaced if they did not go along with him.

Despite the threat, they replaced him as chairman with Simmons. Hinrichs said in a telephone interview Tuesday that the Southern Illinoisan’s account is correct.

* The Senate essentially forced Quinn back to the negotiating table with Poshard. This round goes to the southerner. But I wouldn’t expect Quinn to give up anytime soon. Check out the official response

“The students of Southern Illinois University’s three campuses deserve better than they got today,” Anderson noted. “Instead of playing politics, the members of the Senate should give Sandra Cook, Dr. Melvin Terrell and Lee Milner a fair hearing.”

* Meanwhile

State Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Collinsville, introduced legislation in the Illinois House Rules Committee on Wednesday proposing to split the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses.

House Bill 3389 would amend the Southern Illinois University Management Act, abolish the board of trustees and create separate boards for the Carbondale and Edwardsville campuses.

The legislation also proposes the SIU School of Medicine in Springfield would be associated with the Edwardsville campus, not Carbondale. […]

SIU President Glenn Poshard said he previously convinced legislators that the SIU campuses are healthier as a system.

Poshard said there is a lot of anger in Metro East about the lack of SIU Edwardsville representation on the board of trustees, other than the campus’ student trustee.

“I’m sure he (Hoffman) is upset,” Poshard said. “People in the Metro East have a lot of pride in that school.”

- Posted by Rich Miller   45 Comments      


*** UPDATED x1 - Club For Growth responds to Schock *** Schock responds to Club For Growth attack

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

*** UPDATE *** From a press release…

Washington, DC – In response to Illinois Republican Congressman Aaron Schock’s defensive reaction to www.PrimaryMyCongressman.com, Club for Growth Action today sent Congressman Schock an open letter from Club for Growth President Chris Chocola. The content of the letter can be found below:

Congressman Aaron Schock
U.S. House of Representatives
328 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Congressman Schock,

It’s notable that you have chosen to respond to Club for Growth Action’s new website, www.PrimaryMyCongressman.com, with a desperate attempt to hide your liberal voting record. The fact is that any empirical analysis proves that you have consistently voted against policies that would limit government and increase economic growth since you entered Congress.

If you were truly the fiscal conservative you claim to be, you would have no problem answering the following questions:

    • When you voted against cutting all of the spending from President Obama’s failed “stimulus” bill, was that because you are a big spender at heart? (RCV #42, 2009)

    • When you voted to increase the debt ceiling by $2.1 trillion, was that because you wanted to give President Obama more money to spend? (RCV #690, 2011)

    • When you voted for a budget extension that funded ObamaCare, was that because you secretly like ObamaCare and want to implement it? (RCV #579, 2012)

    • When you were one of only 13 Republicans who voted against blocking funding for a National Labor Relations Board lawsuit that would have infringed on a worker’s right to a secret ballot in union elections, was that for the benefit of your friends in big labor, or the people of the 18th Congressional district? (RCV #229, 2012)

    • Speaking of your pro-labor union voting record, how do repeated votes for Davis-Bacon wages on government projects, which are nothing but giveaways to Big Labor, benefit the hard-working taxpayers of Illinois’s 18th Congressional District? (RCV #122, 2009; #414, 2011; #395, 2011; #144, 2011; #585, 2011)

    • When you were one of only 41 Republicans to vote against cutting $1.2 million from the budget of the U.S. Botanic Gardens, located in Washington, D.C., did you mistakenly think it was located in Illinois’s 18th Congressional District? (RCV #371, 2012)

    • When you voted against 40 out of 45 amendments to cut spending in the last Congress, was it because you think all government programs are necessary and that there is no waste to be cut out of the budget? (LINK)

    • When you claim you voted for a tax cut in the “fiscal cliff” tax increase deal, do you think that the other 151 Republicans who voted the other way voted for a tax increase? (RCV #659, 2012)

Congressman Schock, your liberal record speaks for itself. You understandably would like to hide the reality that you are a pro-stimulus spending, pro-ObamaCare, pro-debt limit increase, pro-tax increase, pro-labor “Republican”, but all the evidence points to that very fact. Your actions as a member of Congress matter, and because of you and your votes, taxes and debt are higher, ObamaCare is funded, labor bosses receive their handouts and both your constituents and Americans have less economic freedom.

Congressman Schock, please stop pretending to be a fiscal conservative. The voters of Illinois’s 18th Congressional District are not blind: they can tell when someone is pretending to be something they’re not.

Sincerely,
Chris Chocola
President – The Club for Growth

[ *** End Of Update *** ]

* In case you missed it yesterday, the background is here.

From a press release. All emphasis in the original…

Statement from Steven Shearer, Schock chief of staff, on Club for Growth attacks

Club for Growth’s endgame is for Congress to become even more strident and gridlocked.

They are targeting nine Republicans with conservative voting records, for the sole reason of winning the arms race of what interest group can be furthest to the right. That helps in fundraising. Few people are going to agree with a Congressman who has cast over 3,000 votes. All conservative AND liberal national organizations rate Aaron Schock as a mainstream conservative—except the Club for Growth and Heritage Action. They are loud, but not an accurate reflection of Congressman Schock’s record.

Among his recent scores from longtime conservative organizations:

    The National Federation for Independent Business (NFIB), 92%.
    Americans for Prosperity, 89% lifetime rating.
    The National Tax Limitation Committee, 87%.
    U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 93%.
    National Association of Manufacturers, 97%.
    American Conservative Union, 81% lifetime rating.

There are organizations on the far left and right that believe members of Congress should reflexively vote in accordance with their precise vote recommendations and submit to their demands to co-sign letters and other measures. If that should be the case we could install robots instead of having elected representatives.

Aaron Schock however, believes he was elected to represent the people of the 18th District, not the board of directors of Club for Growth. He will not cede his responsibility to represent all the people of the 18th District to any self-anointed guardian of the economic interests of the district.

The number one reason Aaron Schock is in public service today instead of using his degree in Finance to pursue business interests is his passionate commitment to economic growth. Economic growth is the only way to sustain a path toward a balanced budget. Growth is the only way the middle class and working poor will be able to prosper.

Unfortunately, many of Club for Growth’s rigid policies would damage economic growth.

If Congress listened to Club for Growth this past New Years Day, our country would have gone off the fiscal cliff resulting in:

    Higher marginal income tax rates.
    Higher capital gains tax rates.
    Higher interest and dividend tax rates.
    An alternative minimum tax that would have gouged millions more people
    a higher death tax
    Doctors would have been reimbursed far less than the cost of treatment in many instances for treating Medicare patients, forcing them to choose between covering Medicare patients or going out of business.
    The Farm Bill would have expired damaging Illinois agriculture.

With the sequester kicking in at the same time as the expiration of the Bush tax cuts and the payroll tax cut, our economy would have suffered a tremendous blow that would have destroyed hundreds of billions of dollars of private wealth by reducing both stock market equity and home values. Governments would have then racked up even more debt as pension systems’ equity values would have also been further damaged.

One of the bills Club for Growth faulted Congressman Schock on his vote for the Paul Ryan budget to put our country on a SUSTAINABLE path to a balanced budget, instead of the so called “RSC” budget which would have required immediate cuts to CURRENT Medicare and Social Security benefits. That is not acceptable to the American people and therefore unsustainable. Aaron Schock has not supported showy and elusive quick fixes for show, which seek to do too much, too fast that risk losing all progress on getting spending under control.

Aaron Schock supports far reaching Farm Bill reforms such as ending “direct payments,” but he could not support suddenly gutting most farm programs such as crop insurance. That would not be representing the economic interests of the 18th District, whose number one employer is agriculture.

Club for Growth faults Aaron Schock for supporting federal spending on building roads, bridges and other vital public infrastructure, essential for GROWTH. Building infrastructure is a legitimate role of government for all but the most extreme ideologues, and Aaron Schock isn’t going to stand by while our roads and bridges crumble, leading to economic decay.

Going over the fiscal cliff this past New Years Day would have caused massive wealth destruction and radically higher tax bills for everyone, which would have savagely damaged economic growth.

Spending money attacking nine Republicans that are impure in their eyes, rather than working to expand our slim 15 seat majority is counter-productive. They ought to join Congressman Schock in going above and beyond in helping to win more seats from Democrats to bolster the Republican House majority. If Nancy Pelosi becomes House Speaker again, federal spending would again explode. That would be catastrophic for economic growth.

Congressman Schock has strongly supported trade expansion, tax simplification, lower marginal tax rates, lower capital gains taxes, the Paul Ryan budgets, and voted against President Obama’s stimulus, Cap and Trade, Cash for Clunkers, Obamacare and other big spending bills.

Congressman Schock was elected by—and works for—the over 700,000 constituents in the 18th District—not unelected special interest groups based in Washington. He regularly meets with constituents throughout the district and is far more in tune with their values and their economic interests than organizations inside Washington’s beltway.

Having out-performed all Republicans in the 18th District in the 2012 election with 74% of the vote, Aaron Schock needs no lesson in representing the 18th District from Club for Growth. He is proud to be in tune with the vast majority of people in the 18th District.

If the House majority followed Club for Growth’s dictates, we would have lower economic growth and Nancy Pelosi as House Speaker again.

You can never be too pure for those few who make a buck on rabble rousing to differentiate themselves from other stellar conservative organizations.

* Meanwhile, this new ad buy report is from Comcast…

Jobs and Progress Fund
Targeting IL CD 18
Agency: Pierce Communications, Columbus, OH
$6,170
2/25 – 2/28/13
Networks: FXNC
Dayparts bought: 5a-9a, 9a-4p, 4p-7p, 7p-12m
Syscodes / Zones:
7919 Jacksonville $376
0316 Springfield $1,809
7827 Peoria INT $3,985
Total Order: $6,170

- Posted by Rich Miller   90 Comments      


*** LIVE *** SESSION COVERAGE

Thursday, Feb 28, 2013

* Blackberry users click here

- Posted by Rich Miller   4 Comments      


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* Randi Weingarten’s secret meeting with Steve Bannon.
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* Keeping retirement weird. Our Miss Brooks.
* SportsMonday: Peak Bears
* Trump FCC Opens Corporate Media Merger Floodgates


* Illinois Awarded Funds to Offer Advanced Training on Detecting Impaired Driving
* Illinois EPA Announces Upcoming Household Hazardous Waste Collection Events
* IEMA Highlights Emergency Preparedness for People with Access and Functional Needs in May - Ready Illinois website offers preparedness tips for people, caregivers
* First Lady Launches Illinois Family Connects
* Governor and Lt. Governor Unveil 2016 Journal of Local Government Shared Service Best Practices

  
* [Sponsored] Take advantage of Tomtop’s electric treadmill flash sale!
* NFL may expand match livestreaming away from Verizon phones
* Razer Hammerhead USB-C earbuds designed to compliment Razer Phone
* Honor V10 specs reportedly include headphone jack, slightly smaller battery
* The Razer Phone is now available at select Microsoft Stores
* HomePod unceremoniously delayed until early 2018
* Project Fi wants you to “Fi it Forward” for the holidays

* Sporcle Saturday: Top player performances
* LIVE: MLB Awards unveiled on Network
* White Sox face roster call on Clarkin, 6 more
* Thyago Vieira brings missing heat to White Sox bullpen battle
* MLB Awards grand finale (7 CT, MLB Network)
* White Sox trade for hard-throwing Vieira
* White Sox acquire prospect Vieira from M's


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