“You are not going out with that boy unless his parents are driving and that's that. I'm not just Spitting Grits here, young lady!”

. . . My father, John Thomas Cravey, USAF, to me in 1956.

Summer is Falling: What We Know and How We Know It

Can it be? Is summer 2015 really over? You promise?

A smorgasbord of ways to know if it’s really over muddles the real answer. There’s the Unofficial end of summer, the Fashion end of summer, the Astrological end of summer, the Meteorological end of summer, the Astronomical end of summer, and the Temperature end of summer. These are probably only a short list of the possibilities.
How you know summer is here -- ripe tomatoes. . .

Right now in Alaska, autumn is morphing, or already has morphed, into winter. I think Anchorage has already had snow.

At the other end of the Northern Hemisphere, many, many people in the American South pine for summer to end, for the obnoxious Dog Days to end, for the triple-digit temperatures to end. By the time it really ends, we are hot and sticky and the ants are too hot and sticky to show up at picnics and backyard cookouts. The pool and lake waters no longer refresh, since they are as hot as the outside air. The sugary white sand on our Gulf Coast is as hot as hot tar on a roof. And air conditioning units fall victim to the hot and sticky monster’s final insult.

In my childhood, we had window and attic fans running in summer. Soon enough all they did was suck in hot and sticky, thick air.

People who spend their summers in Alaska are really tired by the onset of fall, because the summer days stay light all night. People in the South, especially those with broken or no air conditioning, are exhausted by summer’s end because no one can sleep in molasses-thick air.
. . .and peaches

About the time the Dog Days arrive, one of the best parts of a Southern summer are over – when all the fabulous fresh vegetables and fruits that the sun and heat and rain and humidity have offered up are gone. Gone. You go to the farmer’s market and ride all over town looking for the fresh food stands in trucks and shaky wooden huts and you find nothing, so you throw your head onto the steering wheel and weep. Tomatoes gone, peaches gone. Lady- and black-eyed peas, Silver Queen corn, butter beans, limas, blackberries, figs, watermelon, cantaloupe – everything – poof – gone. Disappeared into thin. . . .no, thick, hot air. No more BLTs, no more peach cobbler, no more blackberry pie.

Then you go home only to find the kids moaning and whining about how bored they are and how they don’t want to go swimming because it’s too hot. In your emotional mind you’re screaming, “SHUT UP!”

Just add bread slathered with mayo and you've got BLTs

Then, finally, the end-of-summer signals start beeping: School starts. College and NFL football games replace baseball. Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer, demands you put up your white patent leather shoes, white cotton gloves, and light linen clothes. OMG, some relief is in sight.

(An aside: I wouldn’t wear white patent leather shoes or white cotton gloves for all the jobs in China. Furthermore, neither Alabama’s second-ranked Crimson Tide nor Auburn’s Tigers are doing very well on the gridiron. I think we’re both all in for a long season.)

Cobbler in an iron skillet

But the most definitive signal of all is tomorrow, Wednesday, September 23, at 3-something a.m.Central Time. There is a moment, an almost magical moment, an astrological moment, when our sun shines all the way across the Earth’s equator, giving both hemispheres equal amounts of day and night before slipping downward to the Southern Hemisphere – the Autumnal Equinox. You’ll find much more about it here: http://spaceweather.com/ gives you information about the aurora watch and autumn equinox. This site also tells you about near-encounters, geomagnetic storms, and much more happenings in space. Also see http://science.nasa.gov/science-news/science-at-nasa/2000/ast22sep_1/ for exciting visits into space.

Autumn is as slow getting to Alabama as a Southern drawl. But a couple of weeks ago we had a rare weather event – a late summer “cool” front slid all the way to the coast. Nighttime temps fell into the upper 50s, which we haven’t seen in a coon’s age. Three or four leaves fell onto my patio, heralding the avalanche of leaves to fall. The “cold” tap water coming out of my faucets got cooler; soon it will run cold again.

But summer is not lost. Before you know it, Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas will be over, thank goodness. Soon after, crocus and daffodils will pop up like Jack-in-the-boxes. The spring equinox will happen, somewhere around March 22, and summer will return with all its bounty.

It is sort of magical: It’s always summer somewhere.

Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Rod Stewart Rumored to be Teaming Up for a Mega-Concert in London

The ultimate concert in 70 years is barely a month away, unless that is, you think you might be around for the one in 2045. Rumor has it that the 70th anniversary of VE Day Concert will headline Paul McCartney, Elton John, and Rod Stewart. If true, they will perform May 9 at the Horse Guards Parade in London. The 100th Anniversary of the event in 2045 might outdo this one, but I wouldn’t bet a concert ticket on it.

In fact, good luck on tickets of any kind.

Could it be? All three at one concert?

In the U.S. a huge flyover of World War II aircraft is planned in Washington D.C. Free. No tickets to worry about, except maybe your airline ticket. According to that Warbirds.com announcement, the three-day events include a gala dinner at the Smithsonian on the Mall and lots more activities.

Events for this Anniversary will likely be held all over the U.S. and the world, including in your hometown. Watch for announcements in local news outlets in your area.

On May 7, 1945, two events happened: one event impacted me, the world, and probably you, somehow. The second was a revelation that occurred at my house in 1990.

The original of this historic document of Germany's unconditional surrender is in our National Archives in Washington D.C.

First, the unconditional surrender of the German Third Reich was signed before dawn on a rainy Monday, May 7, 1945 at “The Little Red Schoolhouse,” location of the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Expeditionary Force (SHAEF) at Reims, about 90 miles north of Paris. Present were representatives of the four Allied Powers—France, Great Britain, the Soviet Union, and the United States—and the three Germany officers delegated by German President Karl Doenitz—Gen. Alfred Jodl, who had alone been authorized to sign the surrender document; Maj. Wilhelm Oxenius, an aide to Jodl; and Adm. Hans-Georg von Friedeburg, one of the German chief negotiators. Lt. Gen. Walter Bedell Smith, SHAEF chief of staff, led the Allied delegation as the representative of General Eisenhower, who had refused to meet with the Germans until the surrender had been accomplished. Other American officers present were Maj. Gen. Harold R. Bull and Gen. Carl Spaatz.

In The Little Red Schoolhouse at Reims, May 7, 1945

Alfred Jodl was notoriously arrogant. A year after surrender, he was tried in Nuremberg, found guilty, and hanged for war crimes against humanity. Adolf Hitler was unable to be at the table in the Little Red Schoolhouse; he committed suicide in Berlin and had ordered his body to be burned. No trace has ever been found. A shame.

And second, that same day was my father’s 30th birthday.

At my house in 1990, we celebrated his 70th birthday. It was a beautiful May day and I had made his favorite: a homemade coconut cake. We were outside on the patio to east dessert.

I noticed he had become quiet and was staring out into space. Then he said it, out of nowhere. Or so it seemed that day, which today feels like all of my life ago.

“Forty-five years ago, on my 30th birthday, a friend and I were wandering around a town outside the POW camp begging for food.” Then his consciousness brought him back.

It was jarring.  I said, “Oh my God, dad.” I hoped he would continue. He didn’t. The memory of that birthday lunch stayed tucked away in my brain’s ridges, valleys, and synapses, as a stray piece, until it became part of a whole picture that I would never have known had it not been for a strange, wholly unlikely, improbable event in September 2012, well after dad’s death in 1995. He died in February 1995, missing the 50th Anniversary of the end of World War II, as well as his 80th birthday, by fewer than three months.

He had been liberated from Stalag VII, Moosburg, by General Patton’s army on April 29, but he wasn’t yet released to be taken to a camp in France to wait his turn to be shipped back home. The neediest prisoners had to be taken first. He arrived in New York in early June, skinny and glad to be heading to Atlanta to rendezvous with mom, who had no idea he had lived to make it back to U.S. soil, let alone to be on his way south.

While I can’t make to the London event, I am going to find something special to do this May 7.

Today, April 12, is also the 70th anniversary of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's death in Warm Springs, Georgia. He was 63. A few hours later, Vice President Harry S. Truman became the 33rd President of the United States.

Other blog posts detailing dad’s World War II ordeal:
June 22, 2009, Father’s Day

February 20, 2013

Feb. 21, 2013

Nov. 9, 2013

A Cold Day in Italy

In Memoriam: Keith Bullock


Keith M. Bullock
Mils bei Imst, Austria
d. 11 March 2015

Although I never met Keith Bullock, either in person or by correspondence, I owe him a debt of gratitude, albeit indirectly. An unexpected request and photograph that he received in 1992 propelled him into a determined and dedicated pursuit to uncover the facts and historical data surrounding crash sites of U.S. Army Air Forces air craft downed in his area, any eye witnesses, and any survivors or family members of airmen attached to the aircraft. In the years of his aircraft archaeology and research of details, he became a mentor to others who continue his work in the same relentless, selfless, and exacting manner.

Because of Keith Bullock, I now know precise details of my father’s downed P-51 and his unlikely survival. One of Bullock’s students, Roland Domanig, of Lienz, Austria, became aware of the crash site of the P-51 on Ubetal Glacier in the South Tirol, did extensive research, and pursued the story for nearly a decade until he found me on the Internet.

This past summer, I, my sister, Susan Cravey, and my granddaughter, Joanna Leigh Hutt traveled by way of Munich and Innsbruck to meet Roland and travel on to the village where my father emerged after descending the mountain where he landed with his parachute. Many times Roland has named Keith Bullock as his mentor and inspiration.

Indeed all of us who have benefited from the precise research and determination of those whom Bullock mentored ultimately owe Keith Bullock.

And so, I thank him; and I thank those who followed him, including Roland Domanig, Jakob Mayer, and many others who learned from him. Bullock did not feel his task was finished until he made every effort humanly possible to find survivors or family members of those airmen who were MIA or KIA. One of those stories is STORY SULLIVAN CREW #49 - RICHARD SULLIVAN, told by the airman’s son, who went to visit Bullock and his father’s crash site.

After serving in the British RAF during World War II, Bullock eventually decided to live in Mils bei Imst, Austria, where he met and married his wife, Helene.

In the early 1990s he was asked about a bomber crash site near the village where he lived: would he try to find out how many of the airmen had been killed, how many had survived, and were any of them alive, This project and the research it would require so intrigued him that he spent all the rest of his years before his debilitating stroke in 2002 in search of answers. The fruits of his labors are recorded on his web site: http://www.bullock.at/tl_files/texu748.pdf.

His research took him to every Veterans organizations in America, numerous government departments, including the Secretary of the Air force, the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, The Maxwell Air Force Base Military Records Office, Veterans Administration for the Records of living and deceased Veterans and other branches of government.

He compiled records containing many Missing Aircrew Reports (MACRs) and a listing of more than seven thousand heavy bombers shot down over Europe during WW II; he visited many crash sites and was instrumental in determining the names of the men KIA or survived, and those who were POWs in Germany. He recorded eyewitness accounts of downed bombers; he has traveled to many church cemeteries to try to find any record of the airmen KIA. And he contributed closure and peace to many American families.

And so, Keith Bullock, may you rest in peace.

NOTE: Chrome's Translator app does a passable job in translating Bullock's web site pages.

ALERT: Superfish is on the Prowl

Yep, the hijacking crapware Superfish is after us. It is relentless. So I went to the Microsoft Store.

Wait, there’s more. I rarely tackle technology on Spittin’ Grits, but Superfish and hijacking crapware must be outed. This grotesque piece of work called Superfish is boring its way deep into your computer, and the consequences include your on-line identity and safety. I’ve spent several days reading about this menace because it is that serious a threat. So here goes.

Like most of you, I am an ultra-ordinary computer user, so I subscribe to a readable techy site, How to Geek; I owe those geeks a serious Thank You. It began for me with the most horrible-est piece of junk that I was aware of: The ethically challenged Ask toolbar. You’d better see if you have it. Look at the toolbar of your browser, located just under the URL line. If you have it, go here to read about it on How to Geek. That step led to reading several articles on horrible add-ons and adware. That led to an article that really caught my eye: it contained words like “Windows,” “Lenovo” (an up-to-now maker of highly rated computers), “hijacking” adware, “browsers,” “https,” “SSL” (which I had never heard of), “root certificate” (which I had never heard of), “scary,” “fake,” and “hacker.” The headline read Download.com and Others Bundle Superfish-Style HTTPS Breaking Adware, located here.

That article sounded ominous, with all those words together in the same sentence, ominous enough that I went looking for what this stuff was, because I was in the market for a new computer; I was looking at a Lenovo computer.

First I came to a tech article on arstechnica with the headline Lenovo PCs ship with man-in-the-middle adware that breaks HTTPS connections [Updated].

Uh-oh. I was going to buy a Lenovo computer at a retail store. What a close call that was.

“SSL” stands for “Secure Socket Layer.” Without this technology on web servers hackers/criminals can steal all your personal information, your ID, and rob you blind in a heartbeat. Yikes! This IS the “root certificate.” And Superfish bored into it.

Some people and almost all businesses, most importantly, your financial institution, apply for an SSL certificate. The granting agency verifies all the information about the persons or businesses to ensure they are who they say they are: Microsoft, Google, Amazon, Bank America, Best Buy, most retail stores, credit unions, pizza franchises, everything you can think of have the SSL certificate to ensure users’ safety. After being thoroughly verified, these places are sent the SSL "root" certificate to put on their servers. Some businesses, of course, like Amazon and Facebook and Twitter and on and on have a gazillion servers. The servers are the internet’s skeletal make up. The rest of us ordinary users ride the servers like riders on bikes, skates, trains, boats, planes, anything mobile, and up to now we’ve enjoyed a relatively free ride, since others were looking out for our safety and privacy.

No more. Once Superfish and other hijackware bored their way into servers, the “Private: Keep Out” door is opened wide, to all manner of hackers and criminals, and there we stand naked behind that door.

Those hijackware borers are not to be confused with the “normal” obnoxious, sometimes dangerous, crapware, malware, and adware that come on Windows’s operating system and are picked up by the major browsers: Explorer, Chrome, Firefox, and search engines like Yahoo.

They are the repulsive pop-ups and worse. Those are bad enough, and the major players like Microsoft, Google, and others have been complicit in this ethically challenged behavior; it makes your PC run like molasses in the winter of 2014-15 and opens you up to hackers/advertisers. That’s why when you open your browser to go somewhere, ads pop up that have been following you, recording you, and know what you like.

So how do you know if a business or financial institution has a secure SSL root certificate?

When I go to my financial institution via Explorer, Chrome, or Firefox, I first see on the address bar that it turns green, although it doesn’t stay green. Then I see https://, and the ‘s’ is significant. Then on the far left of the URL bar I see a small padlock. The site is “secure,” that is unless something like Superfish bored into the root certificate.

My own view of American businesses, as unpopular as it may be, is that they are inherently amoral, right out of the box. Too many, including the “too big to fail” Wall St. banks, are immoral and may be into illegal stuff. Many are at least unethical. They all depend on consumers, but they want consumers, lots of them, who don’t know or don’t want to know what they are getting. Thank goodness for the watchdogs. They are the ones who discovered the ton of crapware, adware, malware, and most importantly, the hijackware. I would no more go to a retail store to buy a PC right now than I would believe that the big banks are not into sub-prime loans -- again.

But I need a trustworthy computer. That’s why I went to the Microsoft store, to buy one of their guaranteed “sterile” computers. Their sterile “Signature” line of PCs are free of any viruses, adware, crapware, and hijackware. If they don’t do what they advertise, I have recourse.

The only recourse current PC users with a Windows operating system have against the bad stuff inside their computers is to go to a Microsoft store and have them remove the crap. And we must put pressure on the computer giants; no one will do it for us.

In fairness, Google has pledged to make some changes regarding crapware. You can read about this here on How to Geek. On the other hand, there’s Yahoo. Here’s what the HTG geeks have to say:

Contrast this [the Google page] with searching for “vlc download” [a software] on Yahoo… Every single thing you see on the screen is an ad for crapware, some of which is pretty much malware. In fact, you can keep scrolling, because there are even more ads for crapware when you scroll down, and you have to scroll near the bottom to find the real download location. In order to get all the ads in a single screenshot, you have to use a tablet in portrait mode.

The moral of this techy tome is that we will have to look out for our interests, including knowing more about what is under foot and listening to the watchdogs’s barks.

Seventy Years Ago: Pushing into History

By January 1945 the Allies were beating back Hitler’s forces in the Ardennes, what history would call the Battle of the Bulge. Winston Churchill asked Joseph Stalin if the USSR forces could take over the offensive forces into Poland to relieve the beleaguered Allied Forces on the western front pushing toward Germany. It worked: by mid-January, the Soviets had freed Poland from Nazi control. (In clearing out the Nazi scourge, the troops came upon Auschwitz, which was the first discovery of the horror the Nazis levied on Europe’s Jews and others. See the previous post.) 

At the end of January, General George Patton’s Third Army crossed the Our River. The Allies by this time were in push-back mode, and it would not be long until World War II would be on its way into history.

The U.S. Army Air Forces were finally on the offensive, and February ended with what would soon become the Allies’ victory in Europe.
On February 22, George Washington’s birthday, seventy years ago today, my father left San Severo in Italy in his P-51 Mustang as wingman to the flight leader, Capt. Roger Zierenberg. It was a fateful day for him -- and his family, including two yet-to-be-born children. That story is here.

An almost unbelievable twist of fate occurred twenty years ago, in 1995, when Anton Volgger, living in the South Tyrol in northern Italy, went exploring on the √úbertal Glacier in the Stubai Alps above his village of Ridnaun (Ridanna in Italian). He stumbled onto the crash site of dad’s plane. It was about almost a decade later, in a second twist of fate, that this exploration came to the attention of Roland Domanig, part of a group of air crash archaeologists, in Austria; then it was another half-a-decade and another twist of fate before he found me and sent the cold-contact e-mail in September 2013 asking me to replay if I were indeed the right person. (That story is here.)

Dad survived and returned home in 1945. Several years later he was stationed in Munich, Germany, as part of the Allied Occupational Forces that were sent to help Germany rebuild itself. It appears that one of the first things dad and mom did, maybe it was 1949, was to return to the village where dad ended his descent from Zuckerhutl, where he landed in his parachute.

In looking for and finding the 35mm slides that dad took during his assignment in Munich, we found many that he took in Ridnaun/Ridanna. One of them is this, of my mother leaning on the Woodie and looking down into the Ridnaun Valley. The 11,000 foot Zuckerhutl is the center peak in the distance. Others photos can be seen here and here.
My mother leaning on the Woodie that she and dad rode in
on their trip into the Ridnaun Valley in 1949.

The day dad went down, he was several months away from his 30th birthday on May 7. He would spend that birthday wandering the streets of Moosburg begging for food. General Patton liberated his POW camp only a few days before, April 29, 1945. Today he would be several months shy of 100. That story is here and here.

Below are several sites for posts dealing with dad’s World War II ordeal:
June 22, 2009, Father’s Day
February 20, 2013
Feb. 21, 2013
Nov. 9, 2013
A Cold Day in Italy
* The details of his February 22, 1945, mission are housed at the Air Force Historical Research Agency at Maxwell AFB, in Montgomery, Alabama, which holds more than 500,000 historic Air Force documents: http://www.afhra.af.mil/. I drove there to see these original records on microfilm after e-mailing in advance a request for mission reports from that date. The staff had made copies and had them on the reading desk when I arrived. I am especially grateful for their help and support. [AFHRA’s IRISNUM call numbers for these documents were 00248401 and 00248402].
The AFHRA database is searchable on the web at: http://airforcehistoryindex.org/
The Lt. Col. John Thomas Cravey WWII USAAF and USAF Careers Collection© is the copyrighted property of Joanna Cravey Hutt and Susan Rebecca Cravey for their sole use. The collection includes but is not limited to the contents of three scrapbooks displaying letters, pictures, icons and other visual matter; 35 mm slide transparencies contained in the original storage tins; black and white photographs related to Lt. Col. Cravey’s USAAF and USAF careers; e-mails and letters donated to, given to, or addressed to the owners regarding the careers; private records; and other visual and audio materials.

Too Big to Forget: World War II Anniversaries

On the cold first day of January 2015, I stood on the tarmac at the Birmingham, Alabama, airport at 10:24 a.m. Like a colt in a bare, winter meadow, the wind blew freely around the runways. The Delta personnel on the ground passed around earplugs to each of our small group of about 10, explaining that when the plane turned off the runway to pull into its slot, it would be loud. We spotted the plane coming in for a landing from the east. My sister was on that flight in order to join our group; when she boarded in Atlanta, she introduced herself to Major Choi as instructed. They would be the only passengers to exit the plane until the ceremony ended.
The flight was bringing the remains of my father’s first cousin, Major Peyton Mathis, Jr., home at last after being MIA and presumed dead for 70 years. Major Choi was on the flight to escort those remains, to be transferred to the family with the Honor Guard on the ground, in a formal ceremony, as the Delta passengers watched from their windows. (See the previous post for details leading to this Homecoming.) This formal military ceremony was structured, yes, but very moving and emotional; members of our small group were not the only ones to fight back tears.

The military Honor Guard, with Major Choi, transport Mathis’s remains from the plane, to be transferred to the waiting family.
I wondered, “This is the first day of the 70th anniversary of the end of World War II. Could this New Year’s Day ceremony for Peyton be the first event of this anniversary year?”
Many Alabama news outlets ran this bitter-sweet story of a U.S. flyer returning to his home to be laid to rest after 70 years hidden on Guadalcanal; it also ran in a few national print publications. But none remarked on its place in the context of this year’s anniversary.
Oh, yes, anniversaries of all stripes come and go and come and go. Some anniversaries go out with a whimper; some, like one’s birthday, simply end. Some are simply too big to be ignored; they should arrive as a supernova, having built up over the eons like those mega-dense white dwarf stars in our Universe that carry a dense mass disguised by its camouflaged power. I hope that the next five years of World War II anniversaries do not pass unwatched until we look around only to realize we have lost all those veterans and sufferers and survivors and wives and support workers who link us to such a monumental history lesson. I hope fervently that my granddaughters, who will be young adults when the 100th Anniversary of World War II arrives, will feel deeply their direct connection to that history.
To have even childhood memories of World War II, you have to have been born before about 1938. My father returned home in 1945; I was short of two. Even Baby Boomers, born between 1944 and 1964, could have only indirect memories, and it’s frightening to think how few of that group will still be around to celebrate the 75th and 100th anniversaries.
World War II -- its history, its lessons for humanity, its survivors and its fallen -- is simply too important to fade into a misty past.

If only one event could stand for all the lessons the War holds for humanity, it would be this one:
On January 27, a weather event in the northeast captivated the media and their viewers/listeners for hours and days while a truly monumental event was taking place in Poland. That day marked the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz and Birkenau Nazi death camps. Some 300 survivors were there, and many expressed their sorrowful recognition that fewer and fewer will be able to attend future anniversaries. Many expressed their greatest fear – not that they would not be able to attend future anniversaries, but that humanity could forget.
Seventy years ago that day, a contingent of the Russian Army arrived at Auschwitz not knowing what they were going to find. What they found was beyond gruesome, beyond horror, beyond human.
Survivor Roman Kent presented his moving account of his experience with his call to remember:
I am often asked how long I was in Auschwitz. My answer is I do not know. But what I do know is that one minute in Auschwitz was like a day; a day was like a year; a month, an eternity. How many eternities can one person have in a single lifetime. I don’t know that either.
“Remember”: this was the work my father frequently uttered to me during the Holocaust. . . . How can I ever forget. . .? I wondered if the cries from youngsters [torn from their mothers] ever penetrated Heaven’s Gate. . . .We survivors DO NOT WANT OUR PAST TO BE OUR CHILDREN’S FUTURE. . . .
Kent quoted from Primo Levi’s excruciating Survival in Auschwitz (1947), as he repeated the need to never forget.
Levi defined how Auschwitz should be remembered in a 1986 interview with The New Republic:
The war can be explained, but Auschwitz has nothing to do with the war; it was not an episode in it, nor an extreme form of it. War is always a terrible fact, to be deprecated; but it is in us, it has its rationality, we “understand” it. There is no rationality in the Nazi hatred. It is a hate that is not in us; it is outside man, it is a poison fruit sprung form the deadly trunk of fascism, although outside and beyond fascism itself. If understanding is impossible, however, knowledge is imperative, because what happened could happen again. Conscience can be seduced and obscured again: even our consciences.
Other Resources:
The 2005 PBS “Frontline” presentation Memory of the Camps, created from footage found in stored in a vault of London's Imperial War Museum, can be viewed on line here.
HBO’s “Night Will Fall,” made from the original footage taken by British film makers, under the direction of Alfred Hitchcock, is currently running; check for local airing times. We must remember.

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