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Guild Takes Stephen A. Smith Case to Court

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Thursday, December 17, 2009
Updated December 20

Union Wants Inquirer to Pay $100,000, Publish Columns

Neo-Nazi Guilty, but Not in Threat to Leonard Pitts

Black Press Wants $10 Million from Census Bureau

Robert Garcia Named to Succeed Greg Peppers at NPR

"Death Panels" Claim Declared "Lie of the Year"

Obama Retains 73% Approval Rating Among Nonwhites

AP Writer Leaves Journalism to Teach High School

Groups Protest USA Today's Use of "Illegal Student"

Huffington Post Displays Its Diversity - or Not

Wall St. Journal Reports on "Deal" to Protect Tiger

Short Takes

Stephen A. Smith, shown in 2005, has been on television and radio. (Credit: Deadspin) 

Union Wants Inquirer to Pay $100,000, Publish Columns

The dispute between sports commentator Stephen A. Smith and the Philadelphia Inquirer escalated Friday when the Newspaper Guild of Philadelphia took the dispute to federal court, seeking an order that the Inquirer "publish and promote Stephen A. Smith's columns" and pay him $100,000 in back pay.

The Inquirer fired Smith in 2007 and now refuses to publish his work even though an arbitrator ordered the Inquirer to reinstate him with back pay. Meanwhile, Smith has been visible as a commentator on cable television, has signed a contract with Fox Sports Radio to host a morning drive-time radio show and broke stories that the Inquirer refused to publish.

"The employer complied with the award to reinstate Smith, but on his first day back, was told in order to publish his columns, Smith would have to pledge to agree to an Inquirer code of ethics, and wanted to prohibit Smith's outside work," Bill Ross, executive director of the Newspaper Guild-Communications Workers Association of America Local 38010, told Journal-isms last month. The Guild filed a grievance.

Ross said Friday via e-mail, "In 22 years of representing employees, I have never seen an employer defy an Arbitrators award, so willfully, and arrogantly, that the union is forced to file in Federal Court to have it enforced. Brian Tierney should be embarrassed as the Publisher of the Inquirer. I'm pretty confident, once Stephen's personal lawyers get done with him, he will be." Smith retained trial lawyer Willie R. Gary as one of his attorneys.

William R. MarimowInquirer Editor William R. Marimow has consistently refused to comment on Smith's situation, saying he cannot discuss personnel matters.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, recounts the history of the dispute, including an Oct. 27 award by arbitrator Richard R. Kasher that directed the Inquirer to reinstate Smith within 15 days "as a General Sports Columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer or the Philadelphia Daily News, and Mr. Smith shall have the option to declare his preference. Mr. Smith will occupy a 'protected beat.' "

He also directed the newspaper to continue Smith's salary at $225,000 and to "continue to promote Mr. Smith's columns to the best advantage of both parties,' as well as to continue Smith's health and dental benefits as a full-time Guild member. The lawsuit says the Inquirer has not reimbursed Smith for the cost of his medical and dental insurance.

It was Smith's salary that prompted Marimow to attempt to get rid of Smith, according to a Sept. 3 report in the Guild Reporter, a national Guild publication.

"Smith, a columnist with an unblemished disciplinary record for 13 years, was regarded so highly by the Inquirer that he became its best-paid staffer and was featured in its advertising campaigns," Andy Zipser wrote.

"Eventually he became a sought-after radio and television commentator, and when ESPN offered him a daily show in 2005, he approached management to negotiate an arrangement allowing him to continue his column on a more limited basis.

"The result was an agreement, signed by Anne Gordon, the Inquirer's managing editor, and Amanda Bennett, the executive editor, stipulating that Smith would write a minimum of 75 columns a year for an annual salary of $125,000. The arrangement was to run for one year, until February of 2006, at which time Smith had the option of resigning, of extending the agreement - or of returning as a full-time columnist, at a salary of $190,000. Moreover, if he returned as a full-time employee he would receive a salary increase to $205,000 that June and to $225,000 in June of 2007.

"But that was before the roof caved in on the newspaper industry. Bennett was out and William Marimow was in, as the editor responsible 'for overall news coverage,' when the Inquirer began the first in a series of newsroom layoffs in January, 2007. When Gordon told him a few months later that it was time to give Smith - who by that time was back on a full-time basis - a $20,000 raise, he was nonplused.

" 'At the time that Anne [Ms. Gordon] told me we had to give Stephen a raise and I looked at the contract, I said to myself - I hadn't really known how much he was paid. And I said boy, we should really be getting better work,' Marimow testified in the arbitration hearing, held April 24 and May 14 this year. Under cross-examination, he further explained: 'I thought that it would be wrong to give a raise of that magnitude after all these layoffs, and I didn't want to do it because of the trauma that the newsroom had experienced.'"

Neo-Nazi Guilty, but Not in Threat to Leonard Pitts

A neo-Nazi and white supremacist was found guilty Friday of threatening people from Virginia Beach to Canada, but acquitted on a count of threatening syndicated Miami Herald columnist Leonard Pitts Jr., Laurence Hammack reported in Saturday's Roanoke (Va.) Times.Leonard Pitts Jr.

"In June 2007, after writing a column about black-on-white crime, Pitts, who is black, received an e-mail from an angry William A. White," as Hammack reported in an earlier story.

" 'You and your fellow black filth are quickly loosing ground, and I look forward to the rapidly approaching day when whites once again rise up and slaughter and enslave your ugly race to the last man, woman and child,' White wrote.

"Pitts said he viewed the e-mail as a threat - and became even more concerned after he realized that White had posted his home address and telephone number on [a] Web site frequented by fellow white supremacists."

When the Herald asked White to delete Pitts' contact information from the Web site, he allegedly replied: "We have no intention of removing Mr. Pitts' personal information," the Times reported. "Frankly, if some loony took the information and killed him, I wouldn't shed a tear. That also goes for your whole newsroom.' "

The next year, citing the death threats, the National Association of Black Journalists named Pitts Journalist of the Year. 

Pitts told the federal court jury, "I feel like I have been violated."

He told the Roanoke newspaper Friday night, "Frankly, I would like to have been part of the guilty verdicts and not the acquittals, because you would like the validation of what you went through.

"But having said that, I'm ecstatic that he was convicted."

Hammack wrote that "the exact reasons for the jury's verdict were not known Friday.

". . . For the past week and a half, the jury heard testimony about how he used the Internet and other means to terrorize total strangers with whom he disagreed.

"From the defendant's e-mails, letters, telephone calls and online postings, the jury heard time and time again the graphic and racist rhetoric that spewed from the 32-year-old's home computer and cellphone."

White asserted that the First Amendment should protect his incendiary speech. Of seven counts against White, the federal jury acquitted him of three, the Times story said.

"White, who will be sentenced later, could face up to 35 years in prison." [Added Dec. 19.]

Students at St. Louis' Gateway Math and Science Elementary School work on a census lesson during the launch of the Census in Schools program, which plans to reach all 118,000 schools and 56 million students nationwide (Credit: U.S. Census Bureau.)

Black Press Wants $10 Million from Census Bureau

The black press wants $10 million from the U.S. Census Bureau to advertise participation in the 2010 Census, but the government has been willing only to raise the allocation from $1.3 million to $2.5 million, Danny Bakewell, president of the National Newspaper Publishers Association, the trade group of black-community newspapers, told Journal-isms.

Bakewell, publisher of the Los Angeles Sentinel, spoke a day after he joined other African American leaders, including "The National Urban League, the NAACP, Revs. Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson," who "met with Commerce Secretary Gary Locke to voice their concerns the Census Bureau might not be doing enough to ensure an accurate tally," as Hope Yen reported for the Associated Press. "Roughly 3 million blacks were missed in 2000, while many whites were overcounted."

Bakewell said black broadcasters were similarly underfunded for the effort.

However, Michael Cook, a spokesman for the Census Bureau, told Journal-isms that paid media were only one part of a strategy to reach African Americans in communities with historically low response rates.

He said that during the early "awareness phase" of the campaign, the Census Bureau plans to reach 95 percent of its target audience 10 times through schools, paid media and "earned media," such as news stories. Later, each targeted person will have been reached 20 times with the message.

He said the $2.5 million will go to 55 designated markets and 140 newspapers. "53% of the total national media buy is being spent on local, ethnic, in-language audiences across 28 languages. This is compared to 2000 when only 40% of the total buy was for local/ethnic audiences. The spending for 2010 is a 125% increase over 2000," he said in an e-mail.

All sides stress the importance of the count.

"This is not the normal advertising campaign," Bakewell said. There's only one chance, between January and April, he said, noting the importance of the census in allocating federal funds to states and localities and helping to determine how many members of Congress will represent a given area. He added that the newspapers are already running free public service ads.

The bureau has a $320 million advertising campaign, the Seattle Times has reported.  It officially kicks off Jan. 17 during the telecast of the Golden Globes Awards, Cook said, although some early promotion has already taken place on Black Entertainment Television and Telemundo.

Locke issued this statement Wednesday after the meeting: "African Americans and other minority communities have been consistently undercounted in past censuses so we’re grateful to the respected leaders we met with for their commitment to achieving an accurate count. The ongoing conversation we continued today will be valuable as Census Day approaches and we progress toward our goal of ensuring that every U.S. resident is accurately counted." [Updated Dec. 23.]

Robert Garcia Named to Succeed Greg Peppers at NPR

Robert GarciaNational Public Radio announced Friday that news executive Robert Garcia, a former chair of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, will succeed Greg Peppers, a black journalist whose firing as executive producer of NPR's newscast unit precipitated questions about the diversity of NPR's news management.

Garcia is relocating to Washington from New York, where he has been executive director, news and sports, for ABC News Radio, NPR said. He assumes his new job on Feb. 16. Garcia was among those laid off staff cuts in October, though he remains at ABC Radio until Jan. 31.

Garcia served as Washington bureau chief for ABC News Radio, vice president at CNN Radio and executive producer of CBS Radio’s Washington bureau.

Peppers, a 22-year NPR veteran, was one of two black men in newsroom management at the network. His firing prompted inquiries from the National Association of Black Journalists about NPR's diversity commitment, which were followed by a meeting.

This week, NPR named Keith Woods, one of the foremost trainers and educators in journalism diversity and the No. 2 administrator at the Poynter Institute, the school for professional journalists, to be vice president of diversity in news and operations. He starts Feb. 1.

President Obama, right, was the target of many of the year's biggest lies. He sat down with Charles Gibson Wednesday as Gibson wound down his tenure as anchor of ABC-TV's "World News." Gibson broadcast from the White House that day and left the show Friday. 

"Death Panels" Claim Declared "Lie of the Year"

"Of all the falsehoods and distortions in the political discourse this year, one stood out from the rest," Angie Drobnic Holan of the fact-checking Web site wrote on Friday.

'Death panels.'

"The claim set political debate afire when it was made in August, raising issues from the role of government in health care to the bounds of acceptable political discussion. In a nod to the way technology has transformed politics, the statement wasn't made in an interview or a television ad. Sarah Palin posted it on her Facebook page.

"Her assertion — that the government would set up boards to determine whether seniors and the disabled were worthy of care — spread through newscasts, talk shows, blogs and town hall meetings. Opponents of health care legislation said it revealed the real goals of the Democratic proposals. Advocates for health reform said it showed the depths to which their opponents would sink. Still others scratched their heads and said, 'Death panels? Really?'

"The editors of, the fact-checking Web site of the St. Petersburg Times, have chosen it as our inaugural 'Lie of the Year.' "

The runners up:

  • "With 12.3 percent of the vote, a claim by conservative talk show host Glenn Beck that John Holdren, President Barack Obama's top science adviser, 'has proposed forcing abortions and putting sterilants in the drinking water to control population.'
  • "With 8.7 percent of the vote, a claim by Orly Taitz that a birth certificate showed that President Obama was born in Kenya.
  • "With 7.1 percent of the vote, President Obama's statement that 'preventive care saves money.'
  • "5.8 percent: The shout of "You lie!" by Rep. Joe Wilson, R-S.C., in response to President Obama saying health reform would not insure illegal immigrants.
  • "3.2 percent: The claim that Page 92 of the House health care bill 'says specifically that people can‚Äôt purchase private health insurance after a date certain,' said by Rep. Michele Bachmann, R-Minn.
  • "1.7 percent: The claim that 'When one person sneezes, it goes all the way through the aircraft,' said by Vice President Joe Biden, when fears of swine flu were prevalent.
  • "0.5 percent: The claim that an amendment to the House health reform bill 'puts new restrictions on women's access to abortion coverage in the private health insurance market even when they would pay premiums with their own money,' said by Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y."

Obama Retains 73% Approval Rating Among Nonwhites

Public opinion about President Obama and his major polices continues to be divided as the year comes to a close, the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press said on Wednesday, but the center said Obama was holding onto his base.

The president's total nonwhite approval rating was 73 percent [PDF], with 20 percent disapproving.

Non-Hispanic blacks give Obama an 88 percent approval rating, compared with 39 percent of non-Hispanic whites. Only 6 percent of non-Hispanic blacks disapproved of Obama, compared with 48 percent of whites.

"His overall approval rating is 49%, which is largely unchanged from November (51%)," the center said. "However, the percentage expressing at least a fair amount of confidence in Obama to do the right thing when it comes to fixing the economy has slipped from 59% in October to 52% currently. Smaller percentages express confidence in Obama on health care reform (44%) and reducing the budget deficit (41%).

"Yet there [are] a number of indications, aside from his approval ratings, that Obama retains strong support from his Democratic base. In particular, there is little evidence that liberal Democrats are becoming disillusioned with Obama.

"When those who approve of Obama’s performance are asked if there is anything that disappointed them, just 29% of liberal Democrats who approve of Obama’s job say there is something he has done to make them unhappy; two-thirds of liberal Democrats (67%) say they cannot think of anything that has disappointed them."

AP Writer Leaves Journalism to Teach High School

Monica Rhor After "a very long, very rewarding career as a journalist," and three years in Texas for the Associated Press, Monica Rhor is becoming a high school English teacher. Her last day at AP is Dec. 23.

"The story? Well, the short version is that after a very long, very rewarding career as a journalist, I wanted to do something else and this seemed like the right time to do it," Rhor told Journal-isms on Friday.

"I've been thinking about making the switch to teaching for a long time. There are a lot of teachers in my family, including my grandfather who taught English in my native Ecuador.

"Plus, I've covered education off and on for years and loved seeing the magic that takes place in a classroom. But the real tipping point came as I've become more and more involved with the student newspaper projects at the NAHJ, NABJ and UNITY conventions.

"The more I worked with the students, the more I realized how much I loved teaching. It's been so rewarding to see the students grow and learn and blossom, then go on to do amazing work not just in journalism but in their lives. I realized that I wanted to do that full-time. As journalists, we make differences on a societal level. We can and do change lives and hearts, but sometimes it's hard to see those changes. As a teacher, those changes are tangible and personal."

Rhor starts Jan. 4 at Atascocita High School in Humble, Texas, just outside Houston, where she works in the AP bureau.

"Before AP, I worked at the Orange County Register, the Boston Globe, Miami Herald, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Sun-Sentinel in Fort Lauderdale," Rhor said by way of background. "I've covered immigration, education, urban affairs and criminal justice — and loved every minute of it."

Groups Protest USA Today's Use of "Illegal Student"

USA Today, once a target of critics of "political correctness"for its diversity efforts, is under fire from some Latinos for its use of the term "illegal student."

"One particular undocumented student, Prerna Lal, first noticed USA TODAY's usage of the term and called them out on it," Marisa Trevi?±o wrote Friday on her Latina Lista blog. "She got the following response from the reporter who used the term:

" 'At USA TODAY, we use the term "illegal immigrants" to describe foreign nationals in the country illegally. If you're interested in finding out more about our style, or would like to hear a broader discussion about the terminology that reporters use to describe illegal immigrants, please take a look at a webcast I hosted this summer about this issue. It involved 14 journalists from around the country, plus a representative from NumbersUSA and the National Council of La Raza (NCLR).' "

Trevino wrote, "Considering that USA TODAY's style is several months after the fact of when NAHJ requested that mainstream media outlets refrain from using the term given the sensitivity of the Latino population, it further exemplifies how little value Gannett, the parent company of USA TODAY, and other mainstream news media place on their relationships with Latino readers.

"The usage of the term 'illegal student' is seen as being just as bad, if not worse, than using the term 'illegal immigrant.'"

The headline "Groups step forward to delay deporting illegal students" appeared Wednesday over a USA Today story by Emily Bazar.

The immigration-reform Web site America's Voice carries a petition to USA Today alongwith this quote from Erin Rosa at Campus Progress: "What’s next? Will there be 'illegal Church goers,' or 'illegal Guitar Hero players?'”

John Hillkirk, editor of USA Today, did not respond to a request for comment.



Happy holidays from the Huffington Post (enlarged photo). (Credit: Huffington Post)

Huffington Post Displays Its Diversity — or Not

The Huffington Post Thursday displayed this photo of its staff, "gathered on Wednesday night for our annual holiday party at Manhattan's Merc Bar. Hors d'oeuvres were inhaled, quite a few drinks were drunk, sweaters were presented, and then this picture was taken."

Spokesman Mario Ruiz did not respond to a question Friday about the extent of diversity on the staff, but when asked the question in June, told Journal-isms that the site had five paid staffers, none of whom was of color. 

"But of course we have many bloggers who are people of color, and whom we post prominently, including, Trey Ellis, Carlos Watson and John Ridley," he said in response to a question. In July, the site hired away Jose Antonio Vargas from the Washington Post to become its technology and innovations editor. He is of Filipino background.

Wall St. Journal Reports on "Deal" to Protect Tiger

Following up on a similar story by Keith J. Kelly in the New York Post and a reference this month in their own paper, Reed Albergotti, Vanessa O'Connell and Russell Adams wrote Friday in the Wall Street Journal that Tiger Woods had agreed to appear in a cover shot and photo spread in Men's Fitness magazine in return for the National Enquirer squelching a story and photographs purportedly showing Woods "in a liaison with a woman who wasn't his wife, according to people directly involved in the arrangement."

The story says American Media Inc., the owner of both Men's Fitness magazine and the National Enquirer tabloid newspaper, "denies there was any deal to quash photos of Mr. Woods in a compromising situation."

Golf Digest magazine was mystified, the Journal story said. "Under Golf Digest's contract with Mr. Woods, the monthly, which is owned by Cond?© Nast Publications Inc., spent as much as $1 million annually on donations to the Tiger Woods Foundation, printing the charity's annual report and sponsoring many of Mr. Woods's preferred tournaments, according to a person familiar with the terms. In return, Mr. Woods agreed to contribute monthly articles on golf techniques and limit his appearances in competing publications."

Short Takes

  • "At least 68 journalists worldwide were killed for their work in 2009, the highest yearly tally ever documented¬†by the Committee to Protect Journalists, the organization said in its year-end analysis. The record toll was driven in large part by the election-related slaughter of more than 30 media workers in the Philippine province of Maguindanao, the deadliest event for the press in CPJ history," the organization said on Thursday.
  • "The House has passed the Local Community Radio Act on a voice vote. The bill would clear the way for potentially hundreds of new low-power FMs," Radio Ink reported on Thursday.
  • The Daily Sound in Santa Barbara, Calif., "would like to take this time to apologize¬†for publishing a guest opinion article on Thursday, Dec 10 written by Gina Perry titled 'Watch out for ‚ÄòObama Thumpers,' " Jeramy Gordon, president and CEO of the parent NODROG Publications, wrote on Wednesday. "Even if the assassination of our president wasn‚Äôt Perry‚Äôs intended meaning ‚Äî which she claims ‚Äî it‚Äôs a conclusion that many highly educated people came to."
  • "Racist body language comes through loud and clear on television, even when the sound is off, a new study shows," Joseph Hall reported Friday in the Toronto Star. "Through a set of ingeniously concocted experiments, reported Friday in the journal Science, researchers show that white characters in television series display far more negative body language toward their black peers than to members of their own race."
  • "While Facebook is under fire for disclosing more data about its users to the public, Facebook is also touting that data about its users shows that they are increasingly diverse, with a racial and ethnic breakdown that nearly mirrors the overall diversity of the U.S. population, according to a blog entry posted on the social networking site on Wednesday," Marisa Taylor reported Friday in the Wall Street Journal. "While Facebook users in the U.S. were primarily white and Asian in the beginning of 2006, blacks and Latinos are increasingly joining the site, and now comprise 11% and 9% of Facebook users, respectively. And 6% of U.S. Facebook users are Asians, down from about 8% four years ago."
  • "Georgetown University students are slamming a humor magazine for an online satirical piece they say is racist and not funny," Brett Zongker reported for the Associated Press. "The story in The Georgetown Heckler describes the official campus paper, The Hoya, holding a fictional cross-burning on campus and refers to 'dark, human-shaped pinatas.' A photograph with the story shows what appear to be Ku Klux Klan members in front of a burning cross. The Heckler was poking fun at troubles The Hoya ran into earlier this year when it published an April Fool's issue that students criticized as racist and sexist."
  • Michel Martin, host of National Public Radio's "Tell Me More," is scheduled to substitute on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for Diane Rehm on "The Diane Rehm Show," which broadcasts from Washington's WAMU-FM and is transmitted over NPR. A substitute host will fill in on "Tell Me More." Martin job-shadowed Rehm in 2006 when preparing to launch her own show.
  • "When/if the long-seen demise of the major metro paper is a fact, what will happen to this sort of large-bore story¬†of several thousand words, reported over many months, edited by several sets of keen eyes, written in a professional manner, and prominently displayed with an engaging large graphic presentation across three pages for millions of eyes in a Sunday morning broadsheet?" Thomas F. Mulvoy Jr., a former editor at the Boston Globe, wrote for the Dorchester Reporter, a community newspaper in Boston. The Reporter turned over to the Globe information about an alleged neighborhood scam because it did not have the money to pursue it.
  • Isiah ‚ÄúIke‚Äô‚Äô Jesse Williams, who founded both the Jacksonville Advocate and the Northeast Florida Advocate newspapers, both "famous for sharing positive news about African-American accomplishments, events and global issues," died Nov. 25 at age 78. He was diagnosed with Alzheimer's disease six years ago, the Florida Courier reported. As a New York lawyer, Williams was one of the pallbearers at Malcolm X's funeral in 1965.
  • Mohamed Olad Hassan, a reporter for the BBC and the Associated Press, "narrowly escaped death after a suicide bomber killed at least 23 people on December 3 at the graduation ceremony at Hotel Shamo" in Somalia, the Committee to Protect Journalists reported on Thursday. "Three journalists were killed in the attack. Hassan described the experience for readers: "During the rescue operation at the hotel, people concentrated on the dignitaries while injured journalists were left bleeding for some time. It helped us realize that we needed to create our own support, so we started the Somali Foreign Correspondents Association. We formed this union to establish a permanent office that will help journalists in times of emergencies. Our dream is to have at least one ambulance at our disposal to transport wounded colleagues to hospitals and to arrange evacuations if needed."
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Black Press Wants $10 Million from Census Bureau

In one of my many forays from journalism, I was a member of the 1990 Decennial Census > Promotion Office. My job was to go around the nation, appear on media and > use other strategies to get African-Americans to "answer the census." > > So, from that vantage point, I read the article with interest. > > Mike Cook told you the truth. Then, and now, this is the strategy the > bureau uses. It's not just about going out and buying space and air time in > Black media [which a number of us don't read], because the real issue is not > about whether the bureau is or is not doing enough to ensure an accurate > tally, as charged by those civil rights leaders the other day. > > I can't tell you how many times I got into arguments with Black citizens > around the country who despite being told the importance census data played > in congressional appropriations for programs affecting our community, simply > stated that they refused to be counted - either with the form or by > enumerators at their doors - because they didn't "want to be spied on by the > man" or "I don't want the government to know my business." I'm serious. All of my assurances that under the law census data is > kept confidential for decades was met with the same crap. Rich, I got sick > of the ignorance. Who are you that the government wants to or needs to spy > on, I used to ask? Do you really think if the goverment were spying on you > that they would use a census form? > > Yes, I know historically we have reason to leery of the government, but not > to the point of paranoia where it hurts our own interests. These civil > rights leaders need to get out there and push the "answer-the-census" message > to their constitutents, and why, and maybe the bureau will get > a complete count.

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