2016-03-23 / Political Page

Presidential Hopefuls Scramble For The Prize

Impatient Donald Trump is far closer to winning the Republican nomination for president than either opponents Ted Cruz or John Kasich, but all three were scrambling hard for the meager prize that was offered in yesterday’s primary fight.
The reason for that was that the winner of the Arizona primary battle would only be assured of 58 delegates up for grabs under the winner-take-all conditions that prevailed. Besides the Arizona prize, Trump, Cruz and Kasich were also competing in the Utah primary yesterday and 40 delegates that they would have to share when it was all over.
Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, who have been competing for the Democratic Party presidential nomination, face the same winner-take-all conditions that prevail in Arizona.
Whoever comes out ahead in the battle between the Democratic nominees in Arizona will benefit to the tune of all 75 delegates being added to his or her delegate total. Clinton has already won about 1,600 delegates and Sanders about 844. Each is fighting to accumulate the 2,383 delegate total needed to become the Democratic Party nominee for president.
Clinton and Sanders were also competing in primaries in Utah (28 delegates) and Idaho (24 delegates) yesterday.
Meanwhile, although the Democrats have primary actions scheduled beyond last night’s actions, the Republicans can only look forward to April 5th for their next scheduled primary in Wisconsin (42 delegates). And the next one after that is two weeks later on April 19th for the New York State primary.
However, that’s worth waiting for because the prize for that is 95 delegates.
Just to recap, Trump’s total delegate count going into last night’s primary was 678, leaving him 559 delegates short of the 1,237 he needs to get the Republican nomination.
So between last night’s election there was the possibility of winning Arizona (58 delegates) and Utah (40 delegates), then Wisconsin (42 delegates) and New York State (95 delegates). All these total 235 delegates, which is a respectable total, depending on what Cruz and Kasich can do.
Now let’s recap what kind of schedule Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, the Democratic combatants, will be facing; Saturday, March 26 – Alaska (18), Hawaii (31) and Washington (102) Wisconsin, April 5 (89); Wyoming, April 9 (17) and New York, April 19 (277).
For Clinton and Sanders last night, they had to contend with Arizona (75 delegates), Utah (28) and Idaho (24). They all add up to 661 delegates.
That many delegates (661) could give Clinton a healthy push closer to capping her Democratic nomination for president; or it could give Sanders a healthy push toward overtaking Clinton.
CROWLEY, SCA AGREE ON PS/IS 128 ADDITION: After advocacy from Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and the school community, the city School Construction Authority (SCA) has agreed to move forward with plans for an addition to P.S./I.S. 128, one of the most overcrowded schools in School District 24, New York City’s most overcrowded school district.
SCA President Lorraine Grillo, confirming Crowley’s announcement and heeding the lawmaker’s concerns, went forward with a feasibility study on an addition to PS/IS 128 itself, designated for the local school community.
Crowley (D–Glendale) stated that P.S./I.S. 128 is at 123 percent capacity and houses 1st and 2nd graders at an annex building across the street, in a building without a gym or a computer lab – some in a classroom without windows. This also makes families cross a busy and often unsafe intersection.
Crowley complained: “Since opening its new building in 2009, P.S./I.S. 128 could not contain its student population, forcing kids to use the annex across the street. I have continually called attention to the need for new schools and more education space in my district, and P.S./I.S. 128 was not provided the proper amount of seats from its inception. I am so pleased the SCA recognized this and will move forward with an addition, rightfully bringing all of the school’s students back into one building and alleviating burdensome overcrowding. I am looking forward to working with the school community on the details of this project so it can benefit everyone. When our children are in the best environment to learn, they are given the best opportunity to succeed.”
In September 2015, the SCA announced ground-testing for the construction of a self-standing Universal Pre-Kindergarten (UPK) center in the school’s playground. Crowley immediately wrote a letter in opposition to SCA President and CEO Lorraine Grillo, stating that the elementary school is already significantly overcrowded, and first needs the resources to alleviate that burden before bringing in new UPK students.
“We are committed to working together with all stakeholders to reduce overcrowding,” said Grillo. “This new addition will allow us to continue our work to address overcrowding in School District 24. We are proud of our strong partnership with local leaders that has enabled us to provide more school seats for our students.”
MENG ANNOYED SHORT-TERM AIRPLANE NOISE BILL PASSES: U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D–Queens) recently expressed disappointment over passage of a short-term Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) bill that contains no provisions to combat airplane noise over Queens.
The House approved the Airport and Airway Extension Act (H.R. 4721) last week that extends the operating authority of the FAA through mid-July. However, Meng would have preferred a long-term renewal with measures to mitigate aircraft noise. Since 2012, the amount of airplane noise over Queens has increased significantly due to the FAA’s implementation of new flight patterns over the borough, Meng charged on March 15.
“Passing a short-term extension of the FAA bill does nothing to mitigate the blistering sounds of airplane noise over Queens – noise that continues to ruin the quality of life in our borough,” said Meng. “This is the second time in five months that the House has passed a short-term measure without any anti-noise provisions, and the delay only continues to kick the can down the road. Relief can’t come soon enough for Queens residents. Something must be done to mitigate the barrage of airplane noise over our communities. I urge the House to bring up a long term-bill that provides solutions to aircraft noise as soon as this temporary extension expires in July.”
This past summer, Meng – and other members of the Congressional Quiet Skies Caucus (of which she is a founder and Co-Chair) – sent a letter to House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee Chairman Rep. Bill Shuster and Ranking Member Rep. Peter DeFazio calling for noise mitigation to be part of the FAA bill. The specific recommendations included the following:
• Mandating a robust community engagement process, including pre-decisional public hearings, for new flight paths or procedures or changes to existing flight paths and procedures.
• Requiring the FAA to use supplemental noise metrics when considering the impact of aviation noise on affected communities, and lower the acceptable noise threshold for affected homes and businesses.
• Clarifying that airport operators are legally allowed to implement – and should strongly consider – noise mitigation options in communities experiencing aircraft noise levels below the current noise threshold.
• Reforming Section 213(c)(2) of the FAA Modernization and Reform Act of 2012, which allows FAA to short-circuit the environmental review process when implementing new flight paths.
• Mandating independent research on the health impacts of aviation noise.
To view the full letter, go to meng.house.gov/sites/meng.house.gov/files/Quiet Skies
The FAA’s current operating authority expires on March 31. The last short-term extension began on October 1, 2015.
CROWLEY ANNOUNCES 2016 CONGRESSIONAL ART COMPETITION: Rep. Joe Crowley (D–Queens, The Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, announced the start of the 2016 Congressional Art Competition for high school students in New York’s 14th Congressional District. The artwork selected as the winning piece will be displayed in the U.S. Capitol for an entire year beginning this summer.
In addition, the winner of the competition will be invited to attend an annual reception in Washington, D.C. as well as the opening of the exhibit which will also include artwork from other contest winners nationwide.
“The Congressional Art Competition is a unique opportunity for artistic discovery that also gives our most creative students a platform in which to showcase their talent with people from across the country,” said Crowley. “Each year, I’m always excited to walk through the halls of the Capitol and find our district represented by such inspiring work. I encourage all young, aspiring artists to apply and I look forward to once again being impressed by the creativity in our district!”
Last year’s top honors went to Shayla Monserrate, a junior at the Collegiate Institute for Math & Science in the Bronx.
The Congressional Art Competition is a nationwide high school art competition that provides an opportunity for Members of Congress to promote and recognize the artistic talents of their young constituents. Over 650,000 high school students nationwide have participated in the competition since 1982.
Entries for the competition are now being accepted and must be received by Rep. Crowley’s Queens District Office by Tuesday, April 19, 2016 in order to be considered. Crowley’s Queens District Office is located at 82-11 37th Avenue, Suite 402, Jackson Heights, NY 11372.
For more information, please visit Rep. Crowley’s website, the official Congressional Art Competition website, or contact Rep. Crowley’s office at 718-931-1400.
ADDABBO WELCOMES MAYOR’S SELECTION OF ROCKAWAY FERRY OPERATOR: “Mayor de Blasio’s decision on a Rockaway Ferry operator is a critical point in the process to bring back a vital service that many Rockaway residents are counting on to resolve decades of insufficient public transportation. While I could criticize the decision to go with an out-of-state service provider, who has minimal experience in navigating large numbers of individuals in our city waters, I must also work towards a reliable ferry service that is desperately needed by my constituents. I remain cautiously hopeful that Hornblower Cruises will be able to provide new, appropriate boats and other important resources the Mayor promised for this initiative. I intend to keep a watchful eye over the company and the process to resurrect the ferry to ensure my constituents get what they rightfully deserve. As I have stated before, the Rockaway Ferry can only be as successful as its chosen operator allows it to be. The future of transportation in the Rockaways now lies in the hands of the Mayor's administration and its selected operator Hornblower, and we must make certain they run this service adequately.”
NEW CITY FERRY SERVICE LAUNCHED: The comment made by Addabbo comes following the announcement made by Mayor de Blasio last week that the city had hired a San Francisco-based ferry operator, Hornblower Cruises & Events, to operate NYC’s expanded ferry service program.
Under the program, Rockaway and Astoria in Queens and southern Brooklyn will be serviced. The Rockaway to Wall Street line, about an hour’s ride, will commence in the summer of 2017, the mayor said, as will the Astoria-East 34th Street, Manhattan route, about 22 minutes one-way. There will also be an Astoria-to-Wall Street route, approximately 38 minutes.
The projected fare would be equal to the regular cost of a subway or bus ride, the mayor said.
Among other details announced were the following: transfers between the ferry and other modes of transportation will not be free, although free transfers will be the goal, the mayor said. The mayor also noted that discussions on this aspect with the MTA had not yet started. The cost to the city for the service, including Brooklyn and Bronx routes, would be $30 million annually under a six-year contract.
Overall, the new ferry service will reach about 500,000 New Yorkers at full capacity, officials said, serving 21 neighborhoods.
In signing on with Hornblower, the current ferry operator, New York Water Taxis, was bypassed.
SIMOTAS’ IDEA: OFFER TAX BREAK TO PROMOTE CLEAN ENERGY: The budget resolutions passed by both the State Senate and Assembly on March 14th,  provide tax exemptions for fuel cell technology, formerly proposed in a bill by Astoria Assemblywoman Aravella Simotas.
Following the language of the bill, the legislature’s Fiscal Year 2016-2017 Budget proposals would give state tax exemptions for the sale, installation and use of a wide range of commercial fuel cell electricity generating equipment. It would give municipalities the option to eliminate local taxes.
“By removing sales tax burdens we make the use of fuel cell technology more affordable and create incentives for its use.  The benefits are environmental and economic. This measure has the potential to reduce our reliance on foreign oil, create green jobs and move New York closer to meeting clean energy goals,” said Simotas.
Simotas’s bill, A7236 of 2015, passed both houses of the legislature but was vetoed by the Governor with the recommendation that the issue be considered in the state budget.
“Fuel cells can operate on hydrogen, which is renewable and also on propane and natural gas. The technology is highly efficient, durable and reliable and can provide supplemental power for homes, schools, universities, hospitals, office buildings and landfills. In addition, fuel cells can be a critical source of back-up electricity during power outages,” said Simotas.
“Fuel cells emit significantly less carbon dioxide than other combustion systems and virtually none of the harmful pollutants associated with burning fossil fuels,” she continued.
“High costs are a barrier to the widespread use of fuel cell technology and tax exemptions are an important tool to encourage increased use of this promising energy resource,” Simotas concluded.
CUOMO; FILL RX ELECTRONICALLY: Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced on March 18 that beginning March 27, all prescriptions written in New York State must now be transmitted electronically from the prescriber directly to the pharmacy. This requirement is a key component of New York’s I-STOP initiative that is focused on helping curb the abuse of prescription medication throughout the state.
“This reform will improve patient safety, reduce the number of fraudulent or stolen prescriptions, and help combat prescription drug abuse across New York,” Cuomo said. “Addiction can affect anyone from any walk of life and this administration will continue to use every tool it can to combat this epidemic and provide help to those in need.”
As of March 27, prescriptions will no longer be handwritten or called in to the pharmacy, except in limited situations such as during disasters, technological or electrical failures, and other exceptional circumstances. In exceptional circumstances requiring written prescriptions, prescribers must still use Official New York State Prescription forms and document the reason for use of the paper prescription each time. Prescribers with waivers are exceptions to the e-prescribe mandate. Patients seeking the best prices for their medications can still comparison-shop before asking their doctor to send their prescriptions to their preferred pharmacy.
More than 60,000 prescribers are already e-prescribing and prescribers continue to register their certified software with the New York State Department of Health. Understanding that extra time was needed for some to make the switch from paper to electronic, Governor Cuomo signed legislation in March 2015 granting a one-year extension for these prescribers to comply with the requirement.
New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “Digital securities such as e-prescribing and prescription monitoring promote safe and efficient medication administration that both providers and their patients will appreciate. These policies demonstrate that DOH’s priority is always the safety and well-being of patients.”
I-STOP requires prescribers to consult the Prescription Monitoring Program Registry when writing prescriptions for Schedule II, III, and IV controlled substances. The Registry provides practitioners with direct, secure access to view dispensed controlled substance prescription histories for patients in real time. It is available 24 hours a day/7 days a week via an application on the Health Commerce System. The data is further used to identify potential sources of prescription drug diversion or abuse, including prescription fraud. As of the end of 2015, I-STOP has led to a 90 percent decrease in the number of ‘doctor shoppers” or patients who visit multiple prescribers and pharmacies to obtain prescriptions for controlled substances within a three-month time period.
Patients with questions about e-prescriptions can access information here: www.health.nygov/publications/1098.pdf
CROWLEY BILL ADDRESSES DOCTOR SHORTAGE: Ahead of what is known as “Match Day,” where medical students across the country learn where they will go for their next stage of training, Rep. Joe Crowley (D–Queens, The Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, called on Congress to bring up his Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act to alleviate the bottleneck in doctor training that is standing in the way of addressing the looming doctor shortage. The bill has over 114 co-sponsors in the House of Representatives.
After graduating medical school, future doctors are required to complete a residency in their chosen specialty. Medical school enrollment is growing, yet the number of residency positions is still subject to an outdated cap, meaning that many of these medical school graduates will have no place to finish their required training. In 2015, nearly 1,000 U.S. medical school graduates did not initially match to a position, a number that is likely to increase in coming years.
“Match Day should be a time to celebrate the future of medicine, yet year after year,we see too many graduating medical students left without a residency position simply because there are not enough slots available,” said Crowley. “The outdated limit on the number of doctors that can be trained each year ties the hands of our medical schools, our teaching hospitals, and, quite frankly, our future. I urge my colleagues to take up this important legislation so we can take steps now to address the looming doctor shortage.”
According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, the U.S. is expected to face a stunning shortage of 90,000 doctors by 2025, including shortages in both primary and specialty care. Additionally, last year, an investigation by the Department of Veterans Affairs concluded that many VA hospitals do not have enough primary care doctors, contributing to long wait times for care, Crowley warned.
Crowley and Rep. Charles Boustany, Jr., M.D. (R–LA) reintroduced the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act in 2015. The bill would increase the number of Medicare-supported hospital residency positions by 15,000 (3,000 slots per year, over five years), bringing the total number of slots available to approximately 102,000. The legislation also places an emphasis on expanding residency slots in primary care and other specialties necessary to meet the needs of a growing civilian and veteran population.
Crowley first introduced the Resident Physician Shortage Reduction Act in 2009 and again in subsequent Congresses. The legislation is supported by over two dozen leading national organizations, including the American Hospital Association, American Medical Association, American Osteopathic Association, American Association of Colleges of Osteopathic Medicine, and Association of American Medical Colleges, as well as numerous physician specialty groups.
CROWLEY SLAMS REPUBLICAN ANTI-IMMIGRANT MOVE: Rep. Joe Crowley (D–Queens, The Bronx), Vice Chair of the Democratic Caucus, released the following statement after Republicans voted to pass H. Res. 639, a partisan resolution to give the Speaker of the House the extreme power to file on behalf of the full House of Representatives an anti-immigrant amicus brief with the Supreme Court  against President Obama’s lawful executive actions to help fix our nation’s broken immigration system:
Crowley declared: “Every time I think Republicans have sent the worst possible message to hard-working immigrant families, they establish a new low. In an unprecedented move, House Republicans are doubling down on their attack on immigrants, and on the President. It is alarmingly audacious to force the entire House onto an amicus brief opposing fair and reasonable enforcement actions – actions which mirror those taken by previous presidents of both parties. Equally offensive is the fact that Republicans won’t even share what language may be in the brief itself – essentially forcing members to guess what kind of hateful rhetoric might end up on the House’s letterhead.
“This House is capable of doing much more than voting to rubber stamp Donald Trump’s incendiary anti-immigrant agenda. House and Senate Democrats recently filed our own brief in support of the President’s actions to help keep families together. While Republicans stand with Donald Trump, Democrats will continue to champion the comprehensive immigration reform our nation needs”.
STAVISKY APPLAUDS SAFETY IDEA FOR SHELTERS: Senator Toby Ann Stavisky (D–Flushing) issued the following statement in response to Mayor Bill de Blasio’s announcement of a new measure to improve safety in homeless shelters:
“I am very happy with Mayor de Blasio’s plan to improve safety in our city’s homeless shelters,” Stavisky said. “Since the Pan American shelter opened, I have encouraged more communication between the NYPD, the Elmhurst community and shelter staff members; something I feel is vital in maintaining a stable and safe facility for families. I am especially happy the domestic violence program in DHS shelters is being brought back. In the past year or so, the 110th Precinct reported sending officers to address domestic disputes at the Pan American seven times a month, on average. That is unacceptable and makes for a stressful environment for the hundreds of children residing there. If these families are to overcome the tremendous obstacle that is homelessness, we must provide a safe space for them to do so.”
MENG FAVORS NO SALES TAX ON TAMPONS: U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) today applauded the New York State Assembly for passing legislation to eliminate the sales tax on tampons and pads. The vote comes a week-and-a-half after Meng called on the chamber to repeal it (Meng.house.gov/media-center/press-releases/meng-urges-nys-assembly-speaker-and-senate-majority-leader-to-eliminate).
“The Assembly’s vote to eliminate the sales tax on tampons and pads is a giant step forward in making essential feminine hygiene products more affordable to women,” said Meng. “It also helps to change the way our society views menstruation. Feminine hygiene products are not luxury items. These products are costly and necessary items that women must pay for over much of their lifetime. I thank the Assembly for recognizing this, and I renew my call on the State Senate to approve the bill as well. Congratulations to the legislation’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Linda Rosenthal for this terrific accomplishment.”
In addition to advocating for the elimination of sales tax on tampons and pads, Meng has spearheaded several efforts on the federal level to make feminine hygiene more accessible to women. She recently convinced FEMA to add feminine hygiene products – such as tampons and pads – to the list of items that homeless assistance providers can purchase with federal grant funds. She is also pushing legislation that would allow Americans to buy feminine hygiene products with money from flexible spending accounts.
LAWMAKERS JOIN IN RAIN BARREL GIVEAWAYS: As part of an ongoing effort to help the community conserve water, State Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., Assemblymembers Mike Miller and Cathy Nolan will host a rain barrel giveaway for residents of their legislative districts. The event is being held in partnership with the city Department of Environmental Protection.
The giveaway will be held from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, April 10, at the Greater Ridgewood Youth Council, located at 59-03 Summerfield Street.
The legislators and DEP officials will give out 55-gallon rain barrels to residents of the 15th Senatorial District and the 37th and 38th Assembly Districts. These barrels are designed to catch excess rain water that can later be used for things such as washing a car or watering plants. By using rain water for these tasks instead of water from a hose or another household device, residents can do their part to help make sure clean water is not being wasted, while saving money in the process.
“Using rain water for simple tasks like washing a car or outdoor cleaning is an easy and effective way for all of us to do our part to conserve water,” said Addabbo. “These barrels give residents a free way to collect rain water and recycle it for other uses and, in turn, participate in the vitally important cause of helping our planet. With the help of Assemblyman Miller, Assemblywoman Nolan and the Department of Environmental Protection, this event will give my constituents the peace of mind of knowing they can carry out their everyday household tasks without wasting clean water.”
To register to receive a rain barrel or for more information, contact Assemblyman Miller’s office at 718-805-0950.
ADDABBO EXPLAINS BUDGET BUILDING: Now that the New York State Senate and State Assembly have both put forth their own specific visions of a 2016-17 State Budget through their respective one-house budget resolutions, “The real work of coming to an agreement on a final state spending plan truly begins,” according to Senator Joseph P. Addabbo Jr. (D–Howard Beach).
“With the presentation of these budget proposals, both houses of the State Legislature have now staked out their basic positions on how they want the final State Budget to look,” said Addabbo. “They have proposed changes and additions to the Governor’s proposed 2016-17 Executive Budget, which was released in January, all with the intent of adopting a final spending plan by the April 1 deadline. Over the next few weeks, budget negotiations swing into high gear, and we will work to find compromises on a variety of remaining issues so that we can devise a final spending plan that will pass muster with a majority of the Senate and Assembly members, and ultimately, the Governor.”
Since Governor Cuomo presented his proposed 2016-17 Executive Budget in January, the Senate and Assembly have been holding joint public hearings on all aspects of the spending plan to solicit input from the public, non-profit organizations, union members, the business community, local governments and other New York State stakeholders. Once these hearings are completed, the numerical majority political parties in the Senate and the Assembly develop and pass their own one-house budget proposals, which are used as blueprints for final negotiations.
“While the one-house budget resolutions don’t include everything that everyone wants, the different proposals included in them become the focus of discussions by Senate-Assembly Conference Sub-Committees,” said Addabbo, who served one year as the Senate Democratic representative on the Education Conference Sub-Committee. “The various committees then provide their recommendations to the lead Conference Committee, often known as the Mothership. This lead Conference Committee makes the ultimate decisions on what will and will not be in the final spending plan proposed by the Senate and Assembly and put to a vote by the full Legislature.”
In the end, the agreements reached by the two houses of Legislature are included in a series of budget bills that outline both appropriations and language specifically indicating how funding will be used.
Addabbo noted that he has personally identified a number of priorities that he wants to see addressed in the final 2016-17 New York State Budget, including the adoption of a paid family leave program, increased funding for education, ethics reform, additional aid for senior citizens and public health programs, tax relief for low- and middle-income families, adequate funding for environmental protection programs, assistance for veterans and support for small businesses such as community pharmacies.
“It’s not over ‘til it’s over, and there is still time for my constituents to influence the process before a final vote on the spending plan is taken,” said Addabbo. “In the end, I look forward to enacting a 2016-17 New York State Budget that will meet the most pressing needs of our state’s residents, and particularly our most vulnerable populations, in a compassionate but fiscally responsible manner.”
KATZ PROCLAIMS MARCH 20TH FRESH AIR FUND DAY: In recognition of The Fresh Air Fund’s 140th summer of serving New York City youngsters with free summer experiences and academic programs, Queens Borough President Melinda Katz has proclaimed March 20th “FRESH AIR FUND DAY” throughout the borough. This summer, The Fresh Air Fund will once again allow thousands of boys and girls to enjoy the simple joys of summertime fun in the country.
“Participants are given the opportunity to explore new environments, meet people from different cultures, and have enriching experiences,” said Fatima Shama, Executive Director of The Fresh Air Fund. “On Fresh Air visits, children may visit a farm, milk a cow, engage in the arts, go swimming, learn about the wonders of the nighttime sky, and pick vegetables from a garden. Our participants discover and learn in an outdoor setting, building skills that can be utilized year-round, and unlock their limitless potential.”
Katz said, “This year, we are looking for more families in Queens to celebrate our 140th summer and sign their children up for one of The Fresh Air Fund’s safe, free and fun programs.” “I have noticed my daughter, Veronica, is much more outgoing after visiting her volunteer host family for the past three summers. She had a chance to visit a farm and she loved the animals,” says Fresh Air parent Mark.
The Fresh Air Fund will be holding free registration for families on Thursday, March 24th from 2 pm to 6 pm at Empire Blue Cross Blue Shield located at 136-52 39th Avenue, Flushing. For more information, please call The Fresh Air Fund at 800-367-0003 or visit The Fresh Air Fund online at www.freshair.org/FAFWeek.

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