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A.M. Costa Rica

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San José, Costa Rica, Friday, June 3, 2005, Vol. 5, No. 109
Jo Stuart
About us
Canadian mom grabbed at airport while son, 11, watches
 By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police arrested a Canadian woman Thursday at Juan Santamaría airport and said she was traveling with heroin and cocaine hidden in her luggage.

She was arrested, and her 11-year-old son, a witness to the arrest, was turned over to officials for the Canadian Embassy to be returned to family members in Canada, 
officials said.

The arrested woman was identified by the last name of Haehnel. A spokesman for the Policía de Control de Drogas said she was 29. She remains in custody in Costa Rica.

Officials said that the woman carried more than a kilo of heroin and more than two kilos of cocaine in the luggage. 

The woman was on her way home to Canada after having spent some time in Panamá, officials said.

The U.S. is so polarized that conflict is possible
It has been more than two years since I was last in the United States. This year I am visiting family and friends in California. This means I will be as far south as Laguna Beach and as far north as Santa Rosa. After our visit in San Jose, my son drove me to Santa Rosa so I could spend some time with my friend Ellen.

Santa Rosa is a pleasant town, perhaps now a small city. Although it is growing fast, it still seems to be trying to find its center (at least Justin and I couldn’t find it). Some time back the new freeway split the city, which may be part of the problem. Still, it seems a gentle town — perhaps it is the presence of all those Charlie Browns. Some 55 of them are throughout the city. Different artists made them in honor and memory of Charlie’s creator, Charles Schulz, who lived in Santa Rosa. One I especially liked is made entirely of peanuts. Also, Santa Rosa is homogenous, politically speaking. It seems to be a steady-on Blue City, California style. 

And that brings me to the biggest change I have noticed from two years ago. It goes back to what the man on the train coming north said: "I don’t talk politics or religion with anyone . . . " Although I have been only in California, I talked to people from other states, and I find the American people are more polarized than I ever remember. 

It is not just the usual differences between the two main political parties. It seems to have come as a result of religious beliefs that are overriding the two parties’ political views on how this country should be shaped socially and economically. The most influential political views — coming mainly from the "Red States" — are being dictated by faith in what a fundamental Christian God (via organized religion) tells them regarding how one should live and behave and make decisions. The more fundamental the Christianity, the more dictatorial the beliefs. 

In my youth, growing up in a village in New York State, we had Protestant churches and a Catholic church. There was no mosque or temple that I recall. 

There was some hostility between the different churches. I remember hearing that the Catholic church had once been vandalized. But mainly people took the attitude, "This is my road to heaven and it is better than your road." In some cases, those of one sect were convinced that those of another were not even going to make it to heaven. But nobody proselytized within the community. We left that to the missionaries we sent to heathen Africa and other far away places. 

The new idea, even within the community seems to be "My road or no road." And this is 

Living in Costa Rica

. . .Where the living is good

By Jo Stuart

not all that new — historically when one religion becomes inordinately powerful, it also becomes inordinately repressive and demanding of compliance. (Let us not forget the Inquisition of the Catholic Church during the Middle Ages.)

Under communism there is the omnipresence of the state. In the U.S. there is now the omnipresence of Christianity, mainly fundamental Christianity. Moderates and nonbelievers who once relished discussion and debate are now finding that they, too, are responding with their own "take no prisoners" attitude. Americans are refusing to negotiate with one another. 

The definition of politics as the art of compromise no longer applies. And moderation in all things, an ancient concept, the wisdom of which has been proven again and again when it comes to eating, drinking, watching TV, you name it, does not apply when it comes to sharing the dictates of one’s religious beliefs.

Christian faith is beginning to affect seemingly unrelated matters. Ellen was in Dallas, Texas, lecturing on the dangers of diabetes to women. She mentioned Planned Parenthood among the other women’s groups that are members of the umbrella organization that sponsors her talks. 

After the meeting, she drove to and waited in the airport with another woman who had also spoken about women’s health. Calling herself a "woman of faith" this woman, who was a government employee, advised Ellen to never mention Planned Parenthood in her future talks because other women of faith would simply close their ears to anything further she had to say.

I am saddened to see what is happening in this great country. When one half of the people insist that the other half think and behave as they do, the groundwork is laid for a civil war with brother against brother and sister against sister. It is too scary to think that the United States may be facing the same threat that hangs over Iraq. As too many countries, including Costa Rica, know, civil wars are the most vicious and devastating of all wars. And the scars they leave are the most long-lasting.

I hope the future is not going to be blue states and red states, the way there were once slave states and free states.

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Our readers' opinions

Free market likened to sports

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

In a truly free market economy the playing field is by definition a level one, and that’s where the most equitable wealth is created. That’s where the best rise to the top, and the rules are followed and are fair. 

Where is the best soccer played, the wealth of the game? At the World Cup. Those teams that compete in it are the best. The rules are clear and obeyed, thus the field is level — and the spectators (the consumer) get their money’s worth. 

The countries that didn’t make it last time are working on improvement. They want to be in the next. And so it is in the competition of a free market economy. Everyone comes to the marketplace to offer their best goods. The fundamental criterion to be able to be successful in a free market is price and quality. Same is true with services. 

This level playing field applies whether the marketplace is the local farmers market or on a global scale. Admittedly the equation gets more complicated as the size of the market increases, but the rules remain the same. Is not minor league baseball played with the same rules as major league? Of course it is. You just have to be better to play in the majors. 

As the world marches toward a global economy, each country, if it is to prosper in the future (The past doesn’t count anymore) is — or should be — preparing its people to compete and that may mean sacrifices. Because if they don’t, it will be stagnating or descending or impoverished that describes them, but certainly not wealthy. The greater the market size, the greater the potential for wealth. After all, that’s why countries make trade agreements with other countries — the creation of expanded markets. What could be a bigger market than the entire globe? 

When the free market or the soccer match is on a global scale, you, as a country, enter the game conserving for political reasons as much of your existing in-house set up as possible, but soon discover that a free market economy or the match officials are not interested in your merits or problems back home. It does not care if you pay a minimum wage or a miserable wage, if your laborers or players have a 35 hour week or  a 70-hour one, if they are insured or not, a nifty workplace or practice field or not, if they are college grads or not. The interest is only in what you have to offer. If you can compete the way you are, welcome to the game. If you can’t, the rules say you stay at home and work on your game or product. 

You might even decide not to compete. If you are large enough in area with an abundant population and natural resources, like the United States, China or Brazil, that might be an option. You build a tariff wall around yourself to protect the jobs of the local manufacturing workers from that "cheap" imported stuff.  To keep your lowest level workers from having their jobs taken away from them, you round up all the illegal foreign workers and deport them, while erecting another wall, this one out of concrete, along all the borders. 

No more worrying about being cut off from foreign oil. You can drill more and deeper in your own territory.  Be warned, you might not like the final outcome, but at least these are some of things you could do if playing on an international level field means too many sacrifices right now to be competitive. 

But if you are minuscule Costa Rica, you have to be out there in the marketplace. You have to hawk your best wares to the world. Can you imagine what the consumer prices would be when the scale of economy doesn’t kick in until you are about 10 times the size? 

If a true free market world economy ever becomes a reality, there will be changes — and major ones — in every single country to adapt to the level playing field. That just may not happen. Societies before have been known to march off the cliff rather than make adjustments. 

Economic laws are there for a country’s benefit. If a country doesn’t want to heed them, it only punishes itself. A level playing field has an additional advantage: settling problems over the dialogue table instead of the battlefield.

Walter Fila
Ciudad Colón

World Bank ‘translation’

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

The World Bank and International Monetary Fund have left in their wake little more than permanent debt to the world bankers and control over countries from outside via the Bank of International Settlements and The World Trade Organization, both in Switzerland. Everywhere they go, poverty increases, and international organizations move in and take over. Yet they have the nerve to come to Costa Rica and tell the people that more loans are needed to speed up our entry into the globalization movement.

I used my newspeak translator on your story of Tuesday entitled "Monetary Fund chief cites region's vulnerabilities" and this is what comes out:

The Rat [Managing Director Rodrigo de Rato] says Latin America is managed by corrupt idiots who do what we tell them, but still they have not sold us all their national industries which they must soon so that debt slavery will be the norm in the region.

The Rat gleefully noted that the region is falling into impossible debt to the world bankers by following their evil regulations.

We still have some hold-out presidents, like Chávez in Venezuela. But if Latin America takes on more international debt and sells off all public utilities and services, full slavery of the masses should be expected shortly.

Rato ordered the region to go deeper into debt. Other actions to take are reducing labor costs, opening bank records to outside review, and selling off public companies.

The IMF is committed to bring poverty and debt slavery to the region at any cost.

Bob Jones 
Costa Rica

Rich Canadians will be leaving

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Canadians are not taxed on worldwide income, same as the Brits, so many rich Canadians pensionados will leave probably for Mexico.  I predict only 20 percent of the estimated tax revenue will come to the Tico treasury and probably less. 

Bill Huebert 

An idea to beat taxes here

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

Ralph Antonelli's letter brings to mind an idea to avoid living in the U.S. and paying more taxes in Costa Rica. Two families could get together and buy two homes and cars, one in Panama near David and the other in Guanacaste, Costa Rica. Every 3 months they could drive to Paso Canoas and swap cars and houses. A little variety is good for retirement. 

Joe Lassiter 
Playa Hermosa
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Our new five-star food and restaurant page
with the observations of Dr. Lenny Karpman
Click HERE!

All the reviews are right: This is a great place to eat
If I were to believe what other reviewers have written, Bakea on 7th Street and 11th Avenue in San Jose’s Barrio Amón would be unparalled in our entire country. Frommer’s Guide, the New York Times, Jeffrey Van Fleet’s "Three perfect Days in Costa Rica" and Eliot Greenspan’s guide glow so effusively in such similar phrases, that you might suspect that all four were written by the same reviewer. 

Savvy grades alphabetically and gave Bakea an A for food, service, hospitality, etc. with a C only for value. No other restaurant did as well. So off four of us went, all with enthusiasm, and I with a little skepticism. My skepticism was completely unfounded. What a jewel! Among Barrio Amon’s old coffee baron posh residences, Bakea is right at home.

Inside the entrance, you feel as though you have crossed the threshold of the house of an art collector with a sharp eye for pleasing, if a little off-beat, modern art. Small, separate dining rooms branch off the corridor in both directions with one or two tables in each, adding to the feeling of privacy and personalized attention. One room is a cozy lounge, another leads to a small, street level al fresco ivy clad terrace. The corridor ends in the largest dining area, fronting the kitchen. The dominant piece of art is a whimsical painting of a table setting, a knife and fork surrounding a black shoe.

We shared our non-smoking room with two diners at a second table across the room. Both tables had their own attentive server. With our drinks, we were served complimentary mushroom toasts to sooth us as we read and reread the menu’s bountiful, mouthwatering choices. We lingered over our selections, not for a lack of appealing choices, but for the frustration of having to skip so many enticing options. 

We settled for smoked salmon carpaccio (¢ 3,100) and Camembert triangles served with a sauce of blackberry puree and reduced port (¢ 2,500) first, then thick pork steak in a vanilla flavored port sauce over roasted mini potatoes (¢ 6,700), scallops in an incredible dark curry over saffron and mascarpone flavored risotto,
(¢ 5,500), grilled chicken breast on a bed of two colored taglierini bathed in an orange and ginger sauce (¢ 3,600) and tilapia atop dark angel hair pasta sauced with a mango, coconut, vegetable curry (¢ 6,200). All of the fabulous sauces were innovative, superbly balanced, yet never overwhelming the flavor of the main ingredient. Each of us left nary a drop on the plate. The colon at this writing is 473 to the U.S. dollar.

Curries are spice blends that vary from family to family around the world and are as distinctive as signatures. For the scallop dish, the chef uses her uncle’s spice blend that he ships from Durban, South Africa, with a little balsamic vinegar and orange juice to make a simple, subtle, clean, intoxicating sauce that compliments the scallops and perfect risotto. Anything more intrusive would have diminished the other two mainstays. The ginger and orange sauce was more dominant, but perfectly suited to the less subtle and blander chicken and pasta. 

We shared a bottle of Chilean merlot and finished with a dessert sampler and rich coffee. With an extra 10 per cent for seamless service, the bill for four reached
¢ 53,000. A comparable meal in New York or San Francisco, if you were so lucky as to find one, would cost three to five times the price.

My dilemma for a second visit was the number of guests. The more diners, the more courses to sample, 

Dr. Lenny Karpman

we eat


but such exquisite preparations require a level of attention that becomes difficult in the noisy party atmosphere of a large group. I opted rather to return with only Joan, to savor other main courses, a pair of appetizers and desserts. I would also forego my anonymity this once for a chance to talk to the chef.

We returned at the end of a weekday lunchtime as a score of well dressed French men and women were attacking their main courses with gusto and murmurs of praise. Every seat was occupied except our corner table for two. We opted for the daily special, a bargain for a starter, main course and beverage for ¢ 3,000. Joan had a house salad with a delicate dressing of oil, a dash of balsamic vinegar and citrus zest. I began with silky pumpkin soup, upon which floated a drop of home made cayenne pepper oil. 

Our main courses were grilled chicken breasts, done only moments beyond the disappearance of pink centers, tender and juicy, atop a ragout of portobello and porcini mushrooms and roasted sweet red peppers. The lick-the-plate sauce was mustard, honey, thyme, rosemary and rice vinegar perfection. We mopped up every last drop with lightly toasted herbed focaccio. Then came two remarkable desserts. Joan had caramelized figs with mild rosemary ice cream
(¢ 1,800), and I had hot-out-of-the-oven rich chocolate tart filled with mashed ripe banana, surrounded by macadamia nut brittle and adorned with a scoop of butterscotch ice cream (¢ 2,800). The by-the-glass red table wine was a full bodied fruity Italian (¢ 1,000).

Chef Camille Ratton-Perez came to our table before dessert. She is charming, articulate, youthful and as attractive as her presentations. She trained at Cordon Bleu in Paris, worked in a restaurant in Lyons and a patisserie in Aix before returning to her native Costa Rica. 

Her style incorporates those of Paris, the south of France, the greater Mediterranean basin, Costa Rica and the currently, very chic Basque region, plus select ingredients from French Polynesia, Southeast Asia, South Africa, etc. 

If it weren’t for our system’s maximum four star system I would give her a well deserved fifth and hang a gold medallion on a red, white and blue ribbon around her neck. There are many more expensive restaurants around, but none finer. How fortunate we are that she practices her art where we live. I can hardly wait to see what she does next when she changes her menu soon.

Rating: ´´´´

Price: $$-$$$

Two more bodies of skydivers located in the Pacific
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The bodies of two skydivers turned up Thursday adrift in the Pacific, and rescue workers even managed to find parts of the fuselage of a single-engine plane that went down Tuesday.

The two males are presumed to be the two skydiving companions of William Slater, who was rescued Tuesday after spending nearly a day in the Pacific.

Slater and the two other skydivers bailed out when their small plane began to experience trouble over the Pacific in turbulent weather about 4:45 p.m. Tuesday. The pilot and two other skydivers are believed to have gone in with the plane.

There was no identity of the two men whose bodies were recovered. One was found about 10 a.m. and the second was located about 1 p.m., according to rescue officials. Both were connected to parachutes which had been deployed. Autopsies will show if they died in the fall or from exposure in the sea.

The bodies were found far from the scene of the crash, 

some 16 kms. (about 10 miles) west of Playa Herradura on the Pacific coast. The mishap is presumed to have happened just about two or three miles from the coast.

The Cessna 206 single engine aircraft is rated for the six persons who were aboard. It was flown by Jorge Meléndez, a Costa Rican with extensive aircraft experience.

The plane was owned by Milton Burton, a Canadian who owns a hotel and skydiving operation at Esterillos in the vicinity of Parrita. He was aboard along with Emanuel Sánchez, a Mexican, and James Simplicio, believed to be a U.S. citizen. The sixth occupant was a Costa Rican identified as Jean Moisés Román.

The aircraft is a popular one for skydivers because it accommodates a maximum of six persons.

The search for other victims will continue, although hopes of finding another survivor are dim.

Slater was found Wednesday afternoon, and the story of the crash had been the dominate one in the local news. He was hospitalized at Hospital México.

California Ponzi bookkeeper gets 21 months for faking statements
Special to A.M. Costa Rica

The bookkeeper for a Santa Barbara, Calif., con man who ran a $600 million Ponzi scheme has been sentenced to 21 months in federal prison for obstructing a Securities and Exchange Commission investigation into Reed Slatkin's fraudulent investment activities.

The bookkeeper, Jean Janu, 58, of Santa Fe, New Mexico, was sentenced this week by United States District Judge Margaret M. Morrow in Los Angeles. Ms. Janu pleaded guilty in January 2004 to obstructing the SEC's investigation and for concealing Slatkin's scheme to deceive the SEC regarding the authenticity of Slatkin's account statements.

From 1986 until May 2001, Slatkin operated a Ponzi scheme in which he solicited more than $593 million from approximately 800 investors. Slatkin, 56, of Santa Barbara, is serving a 14-year sentence after pleading guilty to eight fraud counts, six counts of money 

laundering and conspiracy to obstruct the SEC.

Slatkin portrayed himself as a successful financial adviser and provided investors with fictitious account statements which purported to show that they were achieving, on average, approximately 24 percent annual returns on their investments. Slatkin used the bulk of investor funds to pay some investors "returns" made up primarily of funds raised from other investors. He also used investor money to purchase real estate, corporate jets, automobiles, artwork and other luxury items for his personal benefit and to pay those who assisted him.

Ms. Janu assisted Slatkin's investment activities from her office in Santa Fe from approximately 1993 until his scheme collapsed in May 2001. Ms. Janu's duties included preparing investor account statements and communicating with investors. Prosecutors alleged that she prepared false statements purporting to show that Slatkin has $500 million invested with a Swiss brokerage company.

EU states struggle with handing voter rejection
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The European Union is facing a crisis of confidence, after Dutch voters joined their French counterparts in rejecting a new constitution for the 25-member bloc. The decisive "no" votes in two of the EU's founding members could stall the bloc's expansion plans and disrupt decision-making on vital economic issues.

After the French "non" on Sunday, came the Dutch "nee" three days later. And the twin rejections of the EU's road map for further integration have left the bloc's leaders wondering what to do next.

Analysis on the news

The official line out of Brussels, as expressed by Josee Manuel Durao Barroso, the head of the European Commission, is that the ratification process should continue, despite the constitution's rejection by the French and the Dutch.

"All the member states should have the opportunity to express themselves, to say what they want, what is their opinion," he said. "I think that's fair. All member states should be treated equally."

That view is certainly shared by Latvia, where lawmakers Thursday gave their decisive approval to the constitutional treaty. That means 10 member states representing about half of the EU's population of 454 million have now ratified the treaty.

Latvian Foreign Minister Artis Pabriks does not agree with those skeptics who say the constitution, which must be approved by all 25 EU countries, is dead as a result of the French and Dutch votes.

"We are an independent country, one of 25, and we think that this treaty, which was negotiated for two years, is the best compromise that we could find," he said. "We know it's not a perfect treaty, but we have to go on, and this treaty offers a little bit better opportunities for smaller countries, and for an enlarged European Union in global competition."

Pabriks and other EU leaders say that, if four-fifths of the member states ratify the constitution by the end of next year, the bloc can then decide how to deal with the problems of those countries that have rejected it.

Some type of strategy is likely to emerge at an EU summit in Brussels in two weeks, but only after a range of options is explored. Most leaders will likely press for ratification in other countries. Some will propose extracting parts of the constitution and placing them in another, lesser treaty, so that the EU can function better than it does now. The British, who want to avoid a referendum of their own, in which the constitution would be rejected, may suggest privately that the charter be scrapped.

Meanwhile, EU leaders are wondering why The Netherlands, traditionally a champion of European integration, voted so decisively against the constitution. Yes, there was anger at the price rises that followed the introduction of the euro single currency. And, yes, there was concern that The Netherlands is the biggest per

capita contributor to the EU budget. But Frans Weisglas, a leading member of the Dutch parliament, says his fellow citizens felt that they were losing control over their lives.

"They are afraid of Brussels," he said. "Too much decisions being taken in Brussels. So, that's the thing. They're not against Europe. But it's going too far, too fast, and it's too complex."

That message is backed up by Thomas Rupp, of the European "No" Campaign. He says the constitution is a symbol of the push by European leaders for an ever-closer union that ordinary citizens are not yet ready to absorb.

"And it is quite obvious that they definitely said 'no' to the new constitution, not to Europe," he said. "They just do not want to lose control. They do not want to give too much power to Brussels."

Europe now finds itself at a difficult crossroads. With complaints being expressed by French and Dutch voters about the consequences of its enlargement to the east, what happens now to the candidacies of Bulgaria and Romania, which are due to join the union next year? And what about Turkey, due to begin membership talks in October?

EU enlargement commissioner Olli Rehn acknowledges that enlargement fatigue played a role in the French and Dutch votes, but says the bloc's expansion will go on.

"In my view, the best response is to underline the need to respect the criteria of accession as strictly as possible, and that is, in fact, my main message to the candidate countries," he said. "As regards Turkey, we have defined very strict and clear conditions, which Turkey has to fulfill, before we can start the negotiations. They are related to the rule of law, to comprehensive legal reform, and, once Turkey meets those conditions and continues to normalize its relations with Cyprus, then the European Union has a commitment to open the accession negotiations with Turkey."

The defeat of the constitution in France and The Netherlands has sent the euro to its lowest level in eight months against the dollar. Former European Central Bank chairman Wim Duisenberg says that is a consequence of the political uncertainty on the continent.

"There are three lame duck governments in France, in Germany and Italy," he said. "That creates uncertainty. And that's always bad for a currency. The political uncertainty created will hamper the efforts in Europe to introduce more structural reforms, which are so very, very necessary."

If the most immediate issue facing Brussels is what to do about the constitution, the most pressing long-run challenge the EU faces is how to reconcile its need to create economic growth and jobs, and the desire of voters, especially in France, Germany and Italy, to preserve their generous, but unsustainable, welfare state. That is the real question Europe's leaders must grapple with, if the continent is to regain confidence.

Hemingways' Cuban retreat listed as endangered
By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

The National Trust for Historic Preservation has placed the Cuban home of American writer Ernest Hemingway on this year's list of 11 most endangered historic sites. 

Richad Moe, National Trust president, said this is the first time the group has listed a site outside of the United States.

"This is Finca Vigia, on the outskirts of Havana, Cuba. This was Ernest Hemingway's home, from 1939 to 1960, the period during  which he wrote The Old Man and the Sea, For Whom the Bell Tolls, and many other great works," he said.

Cuba and the United States do not have formal relations. Also, there are U.S. government restrictions on Americans traveling to and spending money in Cuba.

This state of affairs could present problems, but Moe says so far Washington and Havana have offered good cooperation.

"Both governments have seen this as part of our shared cultural heritage that deserves to be preserved. That is why the U.S. government granted us a license, in exception to the present policy, that allows a survey team to go down. I should say that we do not yet have a license to take financial resources to Cuba, but the door is open for us to come back and re-apply  for that," he said.

Some of the historical sites on the National Trust's 2005 list are endangered by encroaching urban sprawl. 

Others, like a 1924 house in California designed by  American architect Frank Lloyd Wright, have been ravaged by time and bad weather.

Moe said one listed site, King Island, sits 64 kilometers off the west coast of Alaska. "This island, in the Bering Strait, is the traditional home of the Inupiat Eskimoes,"  he said.

The Bureau of Indian Affairs forced the Inupiat off the island in 1954 and relocated them to the mainland. Since then, the homes and ceremonial buildings that remain on the island have had little maintenance and are in danger of collapsing.

Marilyn Koezuna-Irelan, whose parents are from King Island and who heads the corporation that owns the island, says the Inupiat see the deterioration because they still return to the island as often as possible.

"We go back to the island during the spring and summer, to the walrus hunting. And, as we speak, they are actively doing walrus hunting now," she said.

The non-profit National Trust has been compiling annual lists of endangered historic sites since 1988. Its designations are not binding on the U.S. government, but Moe warns that if action is not taken to preserve U.S. heritage "America's past will not have a future." 

Jo Stuart
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