The MGH Report

Michael G. Haran, Proprietor

About Joe

Posted by on Oct 20, 2020

As Trump continues his self-destruction and slide in the polls (even his base doesn’t like to be lied to in a crisis), it’s interesting to see how his reelection machine intends to attack Joe Biden. Right now, it seems that he only has two paths. One is Biden’s past relationship with China (which is really no different than Trump’s – some appeasement/some antagonism) and Biden’s cognitive abilities. Trump likes to call Biden “Sleepy Joe,” because of his soft rhetoric and occasional gaffes like the most recent “blacks who back Trump ‘ain’t black” which he admitted was a little too “cavalier.”

But that’s, Joe. If you listen carefully to how he talks he transitions back and forth between scripted talking points and “kitchen table” rhetoric which the “ain’t black” remark was. It’s obvious he favors the kitchen table talks. In doing some research for this article I came across one of the best ethnographies ever written about Joe Biden. It’s an article written by Jeanne Marie Laskas in 2013 for GQ, “Joe Biden Presidential Campaign 2016.” It’s so insightful of the vice president that you just want to hug him. And yes, regardless of what some less-empathetic have said, that’s a good thing.

Joe Biden is a remarkable individual. After reading Laskas article and coming from a large Irish catholic family I felt like Joe could be my brother. Also being prone to put my foot in my mouth, or as Nancy Pelosi would say “step in it,” I long ago realized that if you are honorable and don’t lie you don’t have to remember what you said because you will always have the moral high-ground. But with Joe he never has to worry about what he says because as John McCain said, “Joe Biden doesn’t have a mean bone in his body.” It doesn’t matter if what he says is gaffed, his heart is always in the right place.

Laskas wrote, “He will say foolish things he doesn’t quite mean, and he will say bluntly brilliant things that others long to say. It’s his charm. It’s his gift. It’s his political liability, and it’s part of an American conundrum. We beg for authenticity, and then when we get it, oh man, it’s hilarious and we love it. But Biden also can be fantastic when he’s on his game. At the 2012 Democratic National Convention, his speech got higher Nielsen ratings than either Bill Clinton’s or Obama’s. He killed the debate against Ryan, pumped air back into a campaign deflated after Obama’s miserable first performance against Romney.”

The reason Joe speaks slowly and softly when he talks (as opposed to his oratory) is that he was a stutterer. Like Annie Glenn, John Glenn’s wife who recently died at 100, Joe has had to battle the affliction his whole like. He worked hard at fixing it and, like the Demosthenes, put pebbles in his mouth and practiced talking to the outside back wall of his boyhood home. There are about three million stutters in the U.S. and Joe was teased and bullied throughout his youth. Because of it, Joe hates bullies and will always stand up for the downtrodden. It was that instinct that inspired him to want to take Trump “out behind the barn.” Good thing for Trump he didn’t because Biden was an accomplish halfback and it wouldn’t have been a fair fight against, again, as Pelosi put it, “a morbidly obese” Trump.

As far as Biden’s cognitive capacity is concerned, although I’m not a neuroscientist I have been trained in academic research and I have been working on a meta-analysis to bring the science and care of Alzheimer’s dementia closer together. As Dr. Thad Polk Ph.D. said in his lecture series “The Aging Brain” (2016), Alzheimer’s is NOT a normal part of aging. Aging is associated with subtle declines in some cognitive abilities, but not others and no two brains mature the same way. As a person ages they become a little more forgetful (“why did I walk into this room?” or “where did I put my car keys?”), get distracted more easily, and can’t process information quite as quickly as they once did. At the same time, however, knowledge, memory of cognitive skills, emotional processing, and many other aspects of mental life tend to remain stable or even improve with age.

Regarding Joe’s touching, all mammals, at an early age, need to be touched and to touch in order to develop the attachment needed for normal brain development. This is why hugging is such a strong impulse. Joe’s touching and hugging of people is a natural human response and most people not only respond positively to touching but also long for it. Some people and families are more huggers than others because of their genetic makeup. I’ll bet you a dollar to a hole in a donut that Joe comes from a family of huggers and as McCain said, “he can even hug Republicans.” And thank God he is, because when he becomes president, he will have to hug a whole nation as we go through the healing processes of this pandemic. Trump is absolutely incapable of hugging anyone but himself.

McCain continued that, “as vice president Biden wasn’t prepping to be president. He put his political capital on helping Obama succeed. He wanted projects. Beginning, middle, and end projects (when he’s elected, he’ll have the mother of all projects). He’s unique in that he’s had some role in every major national-security crisis that his nation has faced in the last thirty-five years. I don’t know anyone like him in the U.S. Senate. Look at the number of times he’s been able to conclude agreements. I would say he’s been the most impactful vice president that I’ve known – certainly in modern times.

And then there is his roster of palace pals around the world. It would take a lifetime for someone to build an infrastructure of so much trust, so many avenues, in so many corners of the world. When an old man dies, the saying goes, a library burns to the ground. For Biden, it would be an entire global network.” And we are going to need these skills from him more than ever as we rebuild our country’s economy, the global economy and repair our world relationships so we can work together to combat climate change.

So, no, there is nothing wrong with Joe and so much that is right. He will use his four decades of political and governmental administrative experience to surround himself with bright and talent people as he leads us through the rebuilding of our economy, public healthcare system and public institutions. His decency and old fashion love of our country will help wash away the dark stain we now have on America’s soul.  He’s the right man for our times and we are lucky that we have him now more than ever.

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Understanding Trump

Posted by on Oct 20, 2020

By: Michael Haran


After Trump’s comments about ingesting toxic disinfectants many people are worried that Trump is going insane. Although it sure seems like it, sanity is not the issue. The issue is Trump, more than likely, has an under developed brain.

In the book, The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump, 37 psychiatrists and mental health experts weighed in on the profound public dangers of Trump’s manifest psychological disorders. Chauncey DE Vega’s AlterNet Interview with psychologist Dr. John Gartner does an in-depth analysis of “how” Trump’s mental disorders are manifested, but the “why” I think is more telling.

Trump is not Adolf Hitler but he shares many of Hitler’s disorders like addictions to lies, and the appeal to wounded followers through the dehumanization of target groups. In trump’s case those include African Americans, Muslims, women, Hispanics, and migrants. I agree with the assessment that Trump is a malignant narcissist but I believe the reason for why he thinks and acts the way he does is because he suffers from an under developed prefrontal cortex. The prefrontal cortex which is responsible for the so-called executive functions such as concentration/focus, organization, planning, self-control, self-confidence and empathy. The prefrontal lobe is the last part of the brain to develop and it develops later in males than females. This is why car rental companies won’t rent a car to anyone under the age of 25. When a male child or adolescent misbehaves it’s not that they don’t want to it’s because they can’t – their self-control isn’t developed yet. This is also why males enjoy juvenile humor more than females. In some people the prefrontal cortex never fully develops.

This is why Trump doesn’t read, even the president’s daily briefings, and leaves organization to others. This is why he can’t plan for the future and only lives in the moment. This is why he can’t show empathy for the thousands of people who have been killed by this virus or their families and, in fact, take a kind of joy in them. This is why he can’t control himself at his press conferences. This is why his inferiority and paranoia doesn’t allow him to accept responsibility and forces him to cast endless blame. This is why he is trying to strangle the Post Office as a way of getting even with Jeff Bezos, who’s Washington Post has exposed may of his mental illnesses, by increasing Amazon shipping costs never mind that it’s the consumer who will ultimately pay. This is why he would rather divide rather than unite. And this is why he is incapable of being an effective leader in a time of crisis.

Since Trump was elected, I learned many new words like narcissism, misogyny, hedonism – can you think of any others?

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LET”S DO IT in 2018

Posted by on Feb 12, 2018

By Michael Haran

The following link shows the counties that Trump won in an inter-active format. The site states, “At present count, Trump snagged 220 counties that voted for President Obama in 2012, while Clinton poached 17 that went for Mitt Romney.” Most of these counties are in the rust-belt swing states. California has 14 Republican Congressional House seats. If seven can be flipped to Democrats that would represent nearly a third of the 24 seats Democrats need to take control of the House. Nationwide, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee has identified 59 Republican-held districts they believe can be won by a Democrat.

As important as taking back the U.S. Congress is it is just as important for the Democrats to fare well in the 36 gubernatorial contests and thousands of state legislative races next year, where Republicans currently hold a 3,034 to 2,317 advantage. The past 10 years have eroded the Democratic base, as fewer ideas are percolating up from the states. Republican gerrymandering has cost at least a dozen House seats and hundreds in state legislatures. State governments also often serve as training grounds to develop candidates for higher office and provide national awareness.

In 1979 the Republicans were in the same boat the Democrats find themselves today. The Democrats controlled all three branches of government and the gloom of the post-Watergate era hung over them like a rural graveyard fog.  Then along came Ronald Reagan with his upbeat message. He projected a can-do optimism that was welcomed after a series of economic, military and political shocks, tailoring his conservative message to appeal to the gas station attendant, as well as the wealthy country club set. In 1980, Republicans won a majority in the Senate for the first time in more than 25 years and made major gains in statehouses as well.

Most political party comebacks are marked not by some innovative policy agenda, but by connective messages and powerful personalities like Bill Clinton, Barack Obama and Trump. It’s not about ideology or 17-point policy prescriptions. “In 2016, the problem was not about an agenda; we had that,” said Paul Begala, a leading Democratic strategist and close associate of Bill and Hillary Clinton. “The problem was message.”

Last month, Democratic congressional leaders put out a “Better Deal” agenda, a familiar litany of proposals like a higher minimum wage, lower drug prices, more job training and less corporate welfare. As stated by Albert R. Hunt in his article “Democrats need a fresh message to win in 2018,” for the Bloomberg View, “Although it does have its uses, bold or innovative it’s not. It’s a good organizing tool for candidates to be more than just anti-Trump,” said Stephanie Cutter, a former deputy campaign manager for Obama and a strategist in the successful 2006 Democratic campaign to win back a majority in the House. A much better slogan would be “LET’S DO IT!” This slogan works on many levels plus it sounds fun and exciting.

What I think would be a great idea, would be to put a number of cargo vans (like the Ford 250 Transit which you can stand up in) on the road in every Republican-held congressional district that has a chance of flipping to the Democrats in 2018. These vans, which will have LET’S DO IT! painted on the sides, should carry a team with the Democratic candidate into these counties and towns and hold a town-hall style BBQ and talk to people about how they feel about jobs, healthcare and education.

This program would target the areas where disenfranchised voters switched to Republican to tell them the truth about Trump (although most know it by now) and, by the time this project is rolled out (in time for the mid-term 2018 elections), Trump the fraud and con artist should have been well-cemented in people’s minds. The message would focus on retraining people to work in the service sector or tech sector since many of the jobs lost are not coming back because they were either replaced by more efficient green energy alternatives or were automated. The United States has the most advanced service economy in the world and there is no reason why people should not take advantage of it. From the commentary patterns that emerge, scripts would be written with enough flexibility to adjust to a particular community’s sentiments. This data could help determine the message on the local, regional, and even national levels.

The message should also be authentic and crafted in a way that avoids issues like abortion, uniformity on transgender soldiers, higher corporate tax rates, lower defense spending and impeaching Trump – all political poison policy proposals that won’t play well in closely-fought battlegrounds that Democrats need to win. The mistakes that Clinton made in saying to the coal country that, “your jobs are not coming back” or to the wealthy Democratic donors, “your taxes will be going up” have to be avoided. These issues may be true but you don’t state the obvious. The same has to be done when referencing Trump. Never state the obvious. Motivating and getting people to engage is a three-step process:

  • First, the issue presented requires an emotional response;
  • the second phase is reflecting or thinking about the particular phenomenon;
  • and the third phase is action

If successful, an authentic message will be sufficiently motivational to get people to engage to help reverse the true ugliness that has been unleashed by this administration.

This program can work on the state and local level too. Although the message would have to include local and regional issues (as Tip O’Neill said, “All politics is local.”), there will be plenty of Democratic contenders to help field-test the party’s message. The experiment will be successful if it yields messengers who best counter the failings of Trump. Starting at the lowest level of elected officials, like local school boards, candidates must know about governing without appearing to be elitist, who can be dignified as well as approachable, are persuasive in articulating Democratic themes like the dangers of income inequality and wage stagnation, and just might be able to create some local enthusiasm.

Over the past ten years I’ve watched California State Senator Mike McGuire (D-Healdsburg) come of age. At 19 years old, he was the youngest person ever elected to the town school board.  He studies the issues and listens to constituents. He suffers fools graciously and will listen to anyone until one of his aides drags him away. I think Mike has learned many of his campaign sensibilities from successful senior elected officials. If structured correctly, I think this program might have the potential to help hone the skills of the next generation of Democratic leaders.

If there is one lesson learned from the Trump phenomena, it is that people want to be heard; they do not want to be neglected; they do not want to be patronized. If you want their vote, people have to truly feel that they are cared about – even loved. If necessary, this literally has to be accomplished one person at a time. The best elected officials know this instinctively. At a recent Democratic dinner meeting Congressman Jared Huffman (D – San Rafael) was excited at the potential up and coming crop of new Democratic candidates.

I think this is a solid way of getting boots-on-the-ground in contested national, state and local districts to reintroduce the Democratic Party as the working man’s party, an image that got away from us in the 2016 election. So, fire up those burgers and LET’S DO IT!




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Mike McGuire – 100,000 Doors and Calls

Posted by on May 19, 2017

By Michael Haran


On the Saturday before the Super Bowl we all met at the Carpenter’s Hall on Lindaro Street in San Rafael. We were there, all 42 of us, volunteers to walk and talk and to introduce Marin voters to Mike McGuire who is running for the 2nd District State Senate. Mike is Sonoma County’s 4th District Supervisor and has this thing for knocking on doors.

First off he treated us to a continental breakfast of pastries and coffee and then we all gathered in the hall’s conference room for roll playing. Mike played himself and one of the experienced “walkers” played a homeowner. Mike’s campaign, uses a computer software program that identifies past voters, Democrat, Republican and “Decline to State” (independents), in a neighborhood.

McGuire Tailgate Walk 2014 004Mike uses a “one to five” system for homeowner response with “one” being “yes, I’m voting for you” to five being “they chased me away with a broom!” The more interesting simulation came from the “two,” “three” and “four” responders. The twos’ were “I like what I hear and I will definite consider voting for you;” the threes’ were “I like what I hear but at this point I’m undecided;” and the fours’ were mostly Republicans. Most Republicans in Marin, a very liberal district, are “moderate” Republicans and not the more extreme tea party types. For the most part they are informed and care about the issues.

Mike then went over the voter talking points. For being so young (he’s 34) Mike has quite impressive resume of accomplishments:

  • Mike united Sonoma County around a jobs plan that made Sonoma County first in California jobs growth;
  • He has made strategic Sonoma County budget decisions which have created a $10 million surplus;
  • Mike, at 19 years-old, was the youngest ever Healdsburg school board president and who built a coalition that helped improve and strengthen local schools in response to state budget cuts;
  • As vice-chair of the Eel-Russian River Commission, Mike has protected and preserved thousands of acres of open space and our pristine coast;
  • Mike is a Democrat who is a pro-jobs and pro-Economic Development and has always been endorsed by the Farm Bureau and the Business Groups in Sonoma County;
  • Mike has been endorsed by Congressman Jared Huffman, Congressman Mike Thompson, State Senator Noreen Evans, State Senator Mark Leno, Novato Mayor Eric Lucan former Assemblywoman Patty Berg, former opponent Chris Lehman, California League of Conservation Voters, as well as the majority of the Eureka City Council.

McGuire Tailgate Walk 2014 025We all then picked our tote bags which contained water, maps, voter lists, talking points, door hangers and pens. Mike then gave one of his patented “Now let’s all get out there…” pep talks which I think came from is time as Student Body President and Rally Commissioner at Healdsburg High School. Mike has a very ingratiating personality. He always has time to talk to someone. This is why people are attracted to him and why he has so many volunteers. His mom, Sherry, says he’s always been that way even as a little kid.

Everyone then scattered to their assigned neighborhoods some working alone others in teams. I went with Mike and his mother-in-law Carol Fremault (yes, it is all in the family) to a Terra Linda neighborhood. The homes there are Eichlers which were built in the 1950s and 60s. They were very futuristic for their time and most have been updated.  Mike and I took one side of the street and Carol took the other.

Mike knocked on the first door and no-one answered. He wrote a sorry I missed you note and left a door hanger. The next house had a “no solicitor” sign and so Mike again left a note and a door hanger. The third house was the charm. An older woman answer and Mike introduced himself with “Hi, I wanted to introduce myself I’m Mike McGuire and I’m running for 2nd District State Senator.” Mike handed her a door hanger and told her that she could read about his qualifications. She wanted to talk about senior healthcare and Mike got right into it talking about Medicare and what it has meant to the lives of California’s senior citizens. She thanked us and Mike thanked her – I think she was a “two.”

McGuire Tailgate Walk 2014 028 McGuire Tailgate Walk 2014 034The next person was a “four.” He kind of grumbled and took the campaign literature. The next lady was a campaign worker’s dream. She was so excited to listen to Mike and said that she was glad such a young person was running for office. She was a “one” as she said she was definitely voting for Mike.

After a few more “not homes” Mike knocked on Mark and Kay Woodburn’s door. Kay is a retired librarian and is involved in several non-profit organizations and even worked on a past San Rafael City councilman’s campaign. She was very up on the issues and talked to Mike about education and the environment. After we left I said they were definitely a “one” at which Mike surprised me by saying they were a” three.” He said I mistook their enthusiasm in talking to Mike as a commitment. Having talked to thousands of people, Mike new differently. I still think they’re a “one.”

We moved along knocking on doors and talking to people. Mike talked about pension reform, the drought and the projected state budget surplus. The reason Mike is so up on the issues is that he is a tireless reader getting up at four a.m. to start his day. I think it’s the farmer in him.

The most touching moment came when Mike knocked on a door and several small dogs started to yap. The door was answered by a Downs Syndrome young adult girl. Mike introduced himself and asked her what kind of dogs she had. She lit up talking about her dogs and Mike said that he has a pug. She said she loves pugs. Mike’s affection for animal is not forced as he grew up on a farm where he raised pigs, a turkey (called Gregory Peck), a “million” pigmy goats, 14 cats and four dogs.

She then asked Mike what he is doing to help handicapped people. Mike mentioned the handicap accessibility infrastructure that has been installed in Sonoma County since he has been supervisor and his support for “Mainstreaming” which is the practice of integrating students with special needs in regular classes. She then gave Mike a big hug. This is a trait of Downs’s kids and if we could all be like that the world would be a much more loving place.

Along the way Mike would texted entries to his Mike-for-Senate Facebook page to let everyone know about his morning activities – “Going the extra yard in San Rafael – Super Saturday is off and running! Over 40 are walking neighborhoods this morning (big thank you to all volunteers)!”

So the knocking and walking ended (we only had couple of “fives” and they were family dogs that weren’t too happy so see us walking up their driveways). Back at the Carpenter’s Hall, Mike’s wife Erika and her crew stayed behind to prepare a Super Bowl type BBQ “tailgate” party for the volunteers. Everyone turned in their numbers and over 3,000 doors were knocked on that day. Mike then gave out prizes for homes walked, the most successful volunteer recruiter and the best Super Saturday selfie! The prizes were an “I Like Mike” t-shirt; a Starbucks gift card; and a jar of peanut butter.  The peanut butter was so random but that’s one of the reason we all love Mike.

Mike’s co-campaign manager Chris Rogers said, “Today puts us over 25,000 doors (they have now knocked on over 60,000 doors) and there are still seven more weeks until the June 3th vote. We are moving ahead … right through till November 4th. Others may be saying the race is over, but Mike never takes anything for granted and will always work his hardest, right up until the end.”

With 1,075,000 people in the Seven County 2nd District, and 2.23 people per dwelling, Mike only has about 450,000 doors to knock on. Knowing this man he would knock on every one of them if he could but don’t be surprised if he reaches 100,000 knocks and call by June 3rd. So if you hear a knock at your door or a call on your phone, answer it, it just might be your next state senator.

Michael Haran is a freelance writer who lives in Healdsburg.

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A Town Treasure on a Bagette

Posted by on Jun 4, 2015

A Town Treasure on a Baguette


With all of this ebb and flow on the Seghesio project I thought I’d check in with one of the most respected local merchants in the community, Will Seppi, general manager of the family owned Costeaux French Bakery in downtown Healdsburg.

Seppi #2

Will Seppi

Costeaux has been around for some 92 years, first as the French American Bakery, which was owned by Octavia and Ricardo Cassaza. In 1927 the bakery was sold to J. Sarzotti and A. Viari who featured breads, panettone, pasties and grissini (breadsticks). They delivered twice a week to customers in Dry Creek and Alexander Valleys who would pay after the annual harvest.

From 1930 to 1971 the bakery had several different names and owners including Tom Alexander who changed the name to Alexander’s Modern Bakery. In 1959 the bakery was bought by Fred Loupi (still a Healdsburg resident), who changed the name to, what else, Fred’s Bakery. During Fred’s tenure there was a rumor around town of a bakery truck spinning “donuts” on the plaza lawn but Fred doesn’t know anything about that. In 1972, the bakery was bought by Jean and Annie Costeaux from Reims, France and gave the bakery its current name.

In 1981, the Seppi family bought the bakery and kept the name. Karl and Nancy often visited Nancy’s great aunt, Mary Zandrino, who lived on a ranch in west Dry Creek. It was Mary who knew the bakery was for sale and suggested that Karl and Nancy buy it. Karl, who was a golf pro, was taught how to bake bread by Jean Costeaux. Karl didn’t seem to have much of a handicap switching to the bakery business as Costeaux won the only gold medal for bread at the Sonoma County Harvest Fair that first year and they have been winning gold medals, and even national acclaim, ever since.

Seppi #4


After graduating from Villanova University and a stint in accounting for a Silicon Valley finance company Will took over the business full time in 2004. He and his three sisters (one of which, Karla, along with her husband Rob Lippincott own the popular Healdsburg Parish Cafe) grew up in Healdsburg where Will still lives with his wife Brandy and their three kids ages 3, 2, and 8 months. Under Will the company has kept growing. They now sell their wide assortment of baked good in not only Sonoma County but also in Mendocino, Napa, Marin and San Francisco. They produce from three to five thousand loaves of bread per day which can go to ten thousand or so with special events. Even though they now have over 85 employees (50/50 retail and production) you can still see Will delivering bread to places like Big Johns.

The bakery and restaurant on Healdsburg Avenue is a beautiful facility reminiscent of a French villa. With an eye on ecology Will recently put in solar panels and to save water he put in a brown colored wood floor instead of tile that needed to be mopped daily, also the crumbs blend in better. Their annual events including Bastille Day (the replica guillotine was made for them by Aristocrat Wood Products and Redwood Auto Body) and Christmas Eve celebrations are a lot of fun and Nancy’s spirited homemade eggnog is very popular. Their in house promotions include a December 24th “secret envelope” where you can win a gift certificate, complimentary bread, desserts or cookies and a “coffee coin” can get you a croissant, cookie or loaf of bread.

Seppi #6

Costeaux Interior

But it’s not the in-house promotions that define the Seppi family. When it comes to giving back to the community Will seems to be everywhere. Each year the bakery donates money and products to an astounding 500 community events including Northern County Services, the Healdsburg Senior Center’s Christmas dinner, Redwood Gospel Missions Great Thanksgiving Banquet, FFA and more. They contribute to the KZST Secret Santa Christmas gift program; the Algebra Academy and internship programs at Healdsburg area schools and have sponsored family ESL literacy programs for their employees. And the list goes on and on. The Seppis’ may not be the Triones’ but their philanthropic mind-set sure is.

Seppi #3

Costeaux Solar Installation

So what’s Wills’ take on the Seghesio project? He says that Pete Seghesio, like Will grew up in Healdsburg, and loves the town and community and can understand why Pete was a little shocked at any negative reaction to the project. The business will generate jobs and tax revenue and if the meat market does well it will become a popular local venue not unlike Costeaux. As far as the upscale restaurant goes most locals, even though most couldn’t or wouldn’t spend that kind of money on a restaurant meal, thought it was fun having Cyrus’ in town. It’s like the downtown wine tasting rooms; if there is a demand they will stay in business, if not they’re gone.

But one thing is for sure, the Seghesio have and will give back to the community and, like the Seppis’ they are part of the fabric of the Healdsburg community.





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