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(506) 2223-1327               Published Monday, Sept. 7, 2009,  in Vol. 9, No. 176              E-mail us
Jo Stuart
Real Estate
About us

Railroad locomotive
A.M. Costa Rica/Michael L. Fair
When bananas were a major export from southern Costa Rica, Locomotive 84 was among those engines that did the hauling in the Palmar Sur and Golfito line put in by what was then the United Fruit Co. The banana company
pulled out quickly in 1985 over labor and other issues, and now the engine, a piece of Costa Rican history, stands unprotected from the element and vandals at Palmar Sur.

Nation is a web of quake faults, UCR unit reports
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Although residents of the Nicoya Peninsula are reminded periodically that a major earthquake is likely there, Costa Rica has at least 150 local faults that can cause serious damage, an agency of the Universidad de Costa Rica has warned.

The Jan. 8 earthquake at Cinchona and the 1910 Cartago earthquake are examples of faults unrelated to the subduction of the Coco and Caribe tectonic plates, said the Red Sismológica Nacional of the university. The earthquake network published a report on risks last week in conjunction with the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad. It said nearly the entire country is vulnerable to serious quakes.

The report said that preparation and quake resistant construction are keys to reducing the financial and human toll when the earth moves. The Cartago earthquake took about 500 lives even though the magnitude was about 6.0, the report said. The reason for so many deaths was the collapse of so many structures, it said, noting that then-president Cleto Gonzláz Víquez immediately prohibited the construction of adobe buildings.

The Cinchona quake was just 6.2 but still took 25 lives and caused nearly $500 million in damage.
The report said that the Cinchona aftermath showed that the country lacks a clear policy on construction. Many of the deaths in Cinchona happened because the land gave way beneath structures.

The Red Nacional said that an important step would be having the nation implement a system of risk management. Such a proposal has been presented by the Colegio de Geólogos de Costa Rica to the central government and to the national
 emergency commission. The proposal contained advice from the Red Nacional, the university's Escuela de Geologia, the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad and the Ministerio de Ambiente, Energía y Telecomunicaciones, as well as private consultants.

The government ought to adopt this risk management plan regardless of any elections  for the benefit of the country, the Red Nacional said.

The risk management plan would mean that the government would look more closely at the vulnerability of construction to quake damage. There probably would be an impact on developers.

The Red Nacional said that the construction of buildings should be done under the supervision of the Colegio de Ingernieros Civiles y Arquitectos, as it is now, but with attention to quake mitigation. It also said that older structures should be inspected, reinforced and repaired.

The proposal also urged developers to verify that the land on which buildings are being placed is secure and unlikely to be susceptible to slides, collapses, liquefication during quakes and active faults. Geologists should be consulted, the Red Nacional said.

Finally the report said that residents should plan escape routes from homes and workplaces and make sure they carry adequate insurance.

The report said that the Pacific coast including San José in the Central valley was the most susceptible to quakes based on a 500-year analysis. The Caribbean is least active, despite the 7-plus magnitude 1991 quake in Limón.

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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 176

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Professional Directory
A.M. Costa Rica's professional directory is where business people who wish to reach the English-speaking community may invite responses. If you are interested in being represented here, please contact the editor.

Legal services

Burke Fiduciary, S.A.
Registered Escrow and Legal Services
Thomas A. Burke, LL.M, Glenda Burke, LL.M
Gloria Burke, manager
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We offer real estate law, due diligence and escrow services,residency status, business corporations, estate planning. English, Spanish, German and French spoken.
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The registration of Burke Fiduciary S.A., corporate ID 3-101-501917 with the
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business carried out by this company, nor its security, stability or solvency.
Persons contracting its services do so for their own account and at their own risk.

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Member: Cenpac, AmCham
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arrested truckers
Ministerio de Gobernación, Policías
y Seguridad Pública
Three men found in the container await transportation

Refrigerated container held
three men and suspected drugs

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Anti-drug police stopped a tractor-trailer Sunday and found three persons and some 110 kilos (242 pounds) of suspected cocaine in the refrigerated container the rig was hauling.

The Policía de Drogas said that the container came off the Southampton Star, a refrigerated cargo liner that usually transports bananas from Colombia and Costa Rica to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. Agents said the boat arrived from Colombia to the Moín docks about 7 p.m. Saturday.

Agents said they received a tip about suspected drugs.

The arrests were made near the docks. The driver was detained too. All four persons are Costa Ricans, drug agents said.

Search resumed for U.S. man
lost in Rincón de la Vieja

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Police and Cruz Roja searchers will be back at the Parque Nacional Rincón de la Vieja today checking out an image that turned up on photographs taken by investigators. Searchers suspect that the image might be the body of a U.S. citizen who has been lost since Aug. 11.

The man,  David Gimelfarb of Illinois, was on vacation here and was last seen in the park. The image shows something suspicious in the crater of the  Volcán Rincón de la Vieja, said the Cruz Roja.

The search went on for three weeks without results. Gimelfarb's vehicle was in a parking area of the park, and a ranger had seen him Aug. 11. He had been staying in Liberia. His parents arrived to help with the search. They have since returned home.

Electrical rate reduction
continues to be frozen

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The electrical rate reduction remains frozen by court order.

The Tribunal Contencioso Administrativo and judge Grace Loaiza Sánchez extended the freeze Friday because a hearing on the reduction will be continuing today. The Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad a is challenging the Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos.

The Authoridad, the price regulating agency, wants to cut the electrical rates by an average of a little more than 7 percent. The institute, the main electrical generator, said that the reduction would cost it about $1 million.

Consumer advocates say that the institute had to purchase less petroleum last year to generate thermally and that the price for the petroleum it did by was much lower than anticipated.

 The tribunal will be accepting more testimony today. The freeze will endure until the judge issues a final decision.

If the judge rules against the former electrical monopoly, there is a strong possibility that the institute will appeal to another court.

Quake magnitude upgraded
by local seismologists

By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Local earthquake experts have upgraded the magnitude of the tremor that hit southern Costa Rica late Saturday night.

The Observatorio Vulcanológico y Sismológico de Costa Rica evaluated the quake at 5.4 magnitude. The U.S. National Earthquake Information Center had said 4.5 magnitude about 30 minutes after the quake took place and had been reviewed. A.M. Costa Rica published a news update shortly after midnight Sunday.

There still have been no reports of serious damage. The Observatorio said the quake was felt in  Ciudad Neily, Buenos Aires, Golfito, Rio Claro, Quepos, Cartago and San Jose. The Observatorio's seismographs on line show that the quake also was felt on the Caribbean coast. The epicenter continued to be reported to be at about  20 kms (10 miles) east of Golfito, according to the earthquake center. The Observatorio said the location was seven kms west of Coto 47.

The cause of the 11:03 quake was reported to be subduction involving the Coco and Caribe tectonic plates.

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Old pages

Each day someone complains via e-mail that the newspages are from yesterday or the day before. A.M. Costa Rica staffers check every page and every link when the newspaper is made available at 2 a.m. each weekday.

So the problem is with the browser in each reader's computer. Particularly when the connection with the  server is slow, a computer will look to the latest page in its internal memory and serve up that page.

Readers should refresh the page and, if necessary, dump the cache of their computer, if this problem persists. Readers in Costa Rica have this problem frequently because the local Internet provider has continual problems.


The A.M. Costa Rica search page has a list of all previous editions by date and a space to search for specific words and phrases. The search will return links to archived pages.


A typical edition will consist of a front page and four other newspages. Each of these pages can be reached by links near the top and bottom of the pages.


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But Internet is best.

-A.M. Costa Rica 

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Costa Rica
third newspage

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 176

Brenes law firm
Your Costa Rica

A North American tourist enjoys a view from the window of a decaying passenger car. Soon the car will be no more than a pile of lumber.

old passenger car
A.M. Costa Rica photos/Michael L. Fair

Remnants of the southern rail line get little protection
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

There could not be more of a contrast than a 1940s steam locomotive and several stone spheres made by pre-Columbian  Costa Ricans.

The products of these very different technologies can be found at Palmar Sur in a small park. The engine, No. 84, sits on a small length of track with its coal tender. The site is near the local airport.

"Over the past few years I've watched in dismay as the antique engine is dismantled by children and unconcerned adults," said expat resident Michael L. Fair. "For me this is a small piece of Costa Rican history being destroyed."

Fair thought enough of the rail cars to take photos, including a weathered passenger car nearby and another at  Rio Claro.

The basic job of the rail line was to carry bananas to the Golfito port. The United Fruit Co. experienced some serious financial and labor troubles and eventually became United Brands. The company abandoned southern Costa Rica, its holdings and its employees in 1985.

Although the area plunged into depression, many residents were happy to see the hated banana company leave. United Fruit had played a kingmaker role in Latin America since the 1880s and was first on the lips of those who talked about U.S. imperialism. The company now is Chiquita Brands International Inc.
metal being taken
No. 84 seems to be losing some metal parts.

Bananas were the reason that the Costa Rican rail line was a success. A locomotive from that operation sites at the Estación al Atlántico in San José protected from the weather by a steel roof. The Baldwin locomotive in Palmar Sur has no such protection. Much has been written about the Atlantic line and the complementary Pacific line that bisected Costa Rica. The history of the Ferrocarriles del Sur is less known

"I feel that if we might be able to draw attention to this bit of history we may be able to have it preserved by the Costa Rican government," said Fair. A major museum at Palmar Sur is being set up to feature the stone spheres and the cultural that scientists think made them. There maybe some spinoff for the rusting rail giants.

U.S. Labor Day provides unexpected boost to hotels here
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

Downtown hotel owners had a good weekend, thanks to a three-day holiday in the United States. Hotel after hotel reported that all the rooms were full. Some establishments actually were turning away travelers.

The happy condition did not extend to hotels and other lodgings all over the country, but the spike in visitors was a good omen for the coming high season.

A number of hotels had been reporting very low occupancy rates, and some had shut their doors temporarily, mainly in
areas outside major cities. The blame was placed on the world economic crisis.

An estimated 39 million Americans took vacations either inside the United States or outside for the Labor Day holiday, according to wire service reports. That number still is six million fewer than a year ago. The holiday is the traditional end to the North American summer.

A spot check of downtown hotels showed that from 20 to 40 percent of the visitors were single men. Some benefitted from lower air line prices and some special deals that some hotels had promoted.

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Medical vacations in Costa Rica

A.M. Costa Rica
fourth news page

Real estate
About us
San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 176

Two readers sing the praises of living in Costa Rica

He found American dream
right here in Costa Rica

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

 The first 25 years of my professional life were played by the rules taught by my parents, my religion, my schools, and most of all, my government.  For those who worked hard and smart, free market capitalism was seen as a path to a better life in a land where our government promised to be of the people, by the people and for the people.

After 25 years of blindly following these principles came an awakening.  Becoming a CPA to better understand and follow the rules, then a CFO for six different companies led to realization this way to a better life through economic freedom was little more than an illusion. The “fix” was in.

Then came the economic meltdown of the Carter years with 18 percent interest rates, 12 percent inflation, and 11 percent unemployment.  Haplessly, the average American could only watch as investments and retirement nest eggs dwindled; then disappeared.  Then came the savings and loan crash and bailout of the 80s. 

And where are the savings and loan companies today? The bailout was to save them and pay the money back to the taxpayers.  As they began to disappear, we could do nothing more than watch the deficit explode, inflation grow, interest rates rise with decline of the dollar and our purchasing power following close behind.  Does this have a familiar ring in light of current events in our motherland?

And following close behind was recession of the early 1990s as banks cut lending and credit dried up for almost four years. Remember this one? 

As credit returned, the pendulum again swung too far in the opposite direction.  Can we simply forget the bubble created by easy credit; along with its subsequent crash? Thank you, Chairman Greenspan. You quit just as your policies came crashing down.
As interest rates were lowered, we saw the genesis of our sub-prime mess; created and nurtured by new concepts such as “stated income” where a person need only state what they thought they would earn to qualify for 100 per cent financing.  And few of us understood the “credit default swap” where unscrupulous guardians of our way of life were able to purchase insurance on the failure of a company and force its ruin through stock market manipulation.

 Our entrusted leaders are no longer satisfied with wasting just our work product, they are gambling with that of our children and grandchildren.  As of this writing one in eight homes in the United States is either delinquent in payment or in active foreclosure as our banking and government systems play games to make us believe it is all better. 

We must ask ourselves; “What has changed”? The “Shell Game” is in full swing. Unemployment will be 10 percent by next month.

My decision was enough of this never ending cycle of economic roulette, to look elsewhere for a place to find and live the American Dream. Was there a stable, democratic government with a history of transferring power without bloodshed? Which held family values in high regard, which was not required to waste its resources supporting militarization, but rather chose peace with its neighbors and the world at large?  Was there a country which protected property rights and rewarded hard work, risk taking and success; without excessive taxation? 

Could this place also provide health care for the poorest of their people, while providing free education for every child?  Could it have a wonderful combination of healthful climate and biodiversity, replete with protected lush rain forests, and be bordered by oceans?  Was there a place where provision of food and shelter were virtually guaranteed regardless of one’s station in life, a place where the people are open, loving and kind, even to the “ugly” Americans who have attempted to soil its resources?  The only answer to these serious questions regarding quality of life came in two words: Costa Rica, where there is abundant health, peace, prosperity and happiness and where I have chosen to live the remainder of my life.  A country populated by the “happiest people in the world”

Is it perfect? Of course the answer is no.  There are growing pains.  There is corruption in government and public service.  There is too much poverty and petty crime, need for a larger middle class, far too much disparity between the haves and have nots.  There is homelessness and begging in the cities.  But, compared to the first 45 years of this life, there is no doubt Costa Rica is the land of opportunity; the new American Dream. 

Since I was privileged to become a legal resident of this precious little jewel of four million kindred spirits, there has been prosperity for me here during a time when the poor citizens of the U.S. have suffered through three recessions and as many wars.  In spite of the economic problems of our homeland to the North, Costa Rica has continued to experience an economic miracle, all of which is in its infancy.  Throughout the world, this little fiefdom is gaining brand name stature for all the things we love and enjoy here daily. The secret is out, creating vast economic opportunities for those who believe and are willing to seek something better in this world and their lives.

Have you lost half of your retirement?  Do you sense there is prospect for much higher losses before things improve at home?  As the cost of living here is less than half that of the United States, a move here now will restore your wealth to the approximate level it was prior to the current economic debacle in the U.S.  Where will you invest what is left of your life’s work? 
Will it be the United States stock market?  You all know the “correction” in coming. How about the U.S. housing market?  Certainly, there are good buys in those markets, but where is the bottom, where is the end of the huge financial burden the government is placing on every taxpayer?  How long will it take to restore the equity which has been lost, if ever?

Can you rely on a money market account?  With certain continued deflation of the value of the dollar, high rates of taxation, soon to be high inflation; the value of your savings will continue to erode at a record pace. 

Our money is here invested in ocean front and ocean view property, and we are buying more as quickly as we can afford to.  Title is secure and can be insured by all major U.S. title insurance companies.  Completion of our transnational highway will come soon and the positive economic impact related to this is immeasurable, albeit certain.   Where else in the world can you purchase a fully titled luxury beach front condominium for under $350,000 or luxury ocean view home for under $500,000?
Where else can you get in on the ground floor of the new Latin America Riviera?  Where else can one successfully shelter investments and profits?  Where else can one keep a fair amount of their profits?  Where else are property taxes on valuable properties paid in hundreds, not tens of thousands of dollars per year? 

Bienvenido! You are welcome to join us.  There are plenty of opportunities.  First, do your homework; then locate a reputable broker, find a good, honest lawyer/consultant/advisor. These are the reasons we live, invest and prosper and made the leap of faith.  We did and have found the Latin American Dream, right here in Costa Rica.
Leo D. Plumley
(formally of California)
Hermosa Beach, Costa Rica

This is a freer country
where options are greater

Dear A.M. Costa Rica:

I applaud the candor of Garland's article in a world where everyone feels a need to be politically correct and God forbid we speak our truths.  There are, however, a few points I wish to refute.  In my 16 years of living in Costa Rica and with a psychology background, I seek more to comprehend than condemn.  I sense the frustration and resentment in the article and have often share the same feelings.  Try being a woman and building a house, a business, a life.
Short-sightedness is a product of their environment and the way they have been raised.  Generally speaking, most Ticos live at home until they are married.  When they got married, generally a room was built on to the family home to accommodate the young couple or a little house was built on the family property.  When I arrived in 1993 apartments to rent were scarce, that of course has changed, but the average Tico never had to worry about rent/mortgages.  Most of their disposable income was spent all at once, on clothes, entertainment, makeup, jewelry, or the latest gadgets on the market.  Prices have always been unreasonable but without the Internet, Wal-mart or ready passports, who knew? 

When I tried to impart to them the costs of similar items in other countries, they were in shock.  They have been held hostage by their own government and their elected officials; the same families that have always run the country, politically or fiscally.  Poverty is control.

That, too, is changing.  To be fair they don't need to be independent nor do they want to be.  They enjoy a very close bond with their family members and they truly support each other through it all, something we could all learn from.  Short-sightedness or "living in the moment" an adage quite popular these days.
As far as education is concerned they have a higher literacy rate  than the United States and Canada.  They study and are groomed to be lawyers and doctors with the aim of high income potential, hard to be passionate about that.  Careers built from following your passion are a luxury afforded more in our North American culture.
Just as we critique their folkways and mores, we must also understand their frustration and bewilderment at our own characteristics.  I live in a barrio where very few Gringos exist.  They ask me why perfectly wealthy people insist on wearing holes in their jeans?  How can all those foreigners with their big fancy cars and houses  be broke and in debt?  Why do they shout and speak so loud all the time?  Why don't they dance and enjoy the music?  Why is working hard all the time, and rushing so important?  Why do they want everything NOW, and how come they live here for so long and never learn how to speak Spanish? They can't comprehend families scattered all over the globe having no without contact with each other
Yes I have my gripes about this culture, but when I tally the sheet, I know I live in a freer country now than I ever have.  I can remodel my house and not need a permit, keep chickens in my backyard and have the freedom to live with low taxes, be an entrepreneur and create business in a culture where there is less competition than my homeland.  You don't have to be rich to have a maid, a gardener or employees.  Yes I am fed up with crime, potholes, lousy lawyers, crooked cops, illogical tramites, and I don't wear rose colored glasses. I would never say, "so you don/t like Costa Rica, go home!"
I live my life, change what I can, grateful for what Costa Rica has made me, and learn.
Judith Kent
San Joaquin de Flores

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Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 176

Casa Alfi Hotel

Chávez and Iran plan to be
nuclear energy partners

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez has met with his Iranian counterpart Mahmoud Ahmedinejad as a part of his two-day visit to Tehran. Upon his arrival, he said there is no proof that Iran is building a nuclear bomb and that he hopes to build a nuclear partnership with the Islamic republic.

Exiting his plane, Chávez was all smiles as he arrived in Iran as a part of his world tour. It was his seventh official visit to the Islamic republic.

Chávez said he is certain that Iran will not back down in its effort to obtain what he says is a sovereign right of the people — to use atomic energy for peaceful purposes.

He said the mission of his visit is to create a nuclear village between Iran and Venezuela. He said his pursuit in a nuclear partnership would be for a peaceful nuclear energy program.

This comes in the wake of U.S. President Barack Obama's call for Tehran to initiate multilateral talks over its disputed nuclear issue by late September or face further sanctions Iran denies that its nuclear program is a cover for a military nuclear program and insists that it's for energy purposes.

 Mahmoud  Ahmadinejad responded that Iran will be pressured to meet any deadline. The Iranian president added that Iran and Venezuela's aim is to support revolutionary nations and form anti-imperialist fronts. The Iranian leader said expanding anti-imperialist fronts and helping oppressed nations are the main missions of Iran and Venezuela.

Chávez is scheduled  to continue on to Belarus, Russia, Turkmenistan and Spain.

The Venezuelan president was the target of protest marches in his own county and in other Latin capitals. The bigest was in Bogotá, Colombia. Chávez has been critical of the Colombian leadership for allowing the United States to resume anti-drug flights from bases there. The United States has been asked to leave Ecuador.

There also were protests in New York and in Spain.

Venezuela plans to close
29 more local radio stations

By the A.M. Costa Rica wire services

Venezuela's telecommunications chief says the government will soon close another 29 radio stations — on top of the 34 broadcasters ordered off the air in July.

Diosdado Cabello said Saturday the 29 unnamed broadcasters would soon face closure.

Cabello also said the government has opened a new investigation into Globovision, the country's most prominent anti-government television network. Cabello says Globovision broadcast messages calling for a coup against Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

Venezuela's government has clashed with private media outlets Chávez accuses of conspiring against him.

In August, supporters of President Chávez fired tear gas at the Globovision facility.

Media groups and human rights activists accuse Chavez's government of trying to stifle dissent.

The government denies it is targeting media for political reasons, saying the stations have violated broadcasting regulations.
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday, Sept. 7, 2009, Vol. 9, No. 176

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U.N. helps Ecuadorians
to market their guinea pigs

Special to A.M. Costa Rica

Poor families in central Ecuador have received a boost in their income and food security thanks to an innovative initiative supported by the U. N. Development Programme in which they farm guinea pigs, a centuries-old delicacy for the people of the Andes.

The Cevallos district, where most people live off the land farming fruit, has been hit hard by the continuously falling ash from the nearby Tungurahua volcano which has destroyed crops and ruined the soil, the U.N. said.

For the past three years, over 100 families have banded together to modernize the production of guinea pigs, in a move backed by the U.n. agency.

“Raising small livestock can also be a very profitable business, especially for small farmers,” said Jeannette Fernandez, the agency’s director for risk management in Ecuador.

Farming guinea pigs has not only generated jobs for vulnerable groups such as women and disabled groups, but the animals – which have high nutritional value – also serve to significantly improve people’s everyday diets, she added.

Since 20 per cent of guinea pigs eaten in Ecuador are imported, raising them domestically has high-growth potential.

But 70 per cent of all guinea pig production in the country is in the hands of small and medium-sized farmers, most of whom lack the technology and resources needed to meet growing demand.

The U.N. agency is supplying part of the seed money, with 22 producers’ associations set up to improve the genetic quality of livestock, properly handle and feed animals and market the guinea pigs to consumers.

“The guinea pigs develop better. I’ve seen the difference in just one month,” said Soledad Bayas, who runs one of the pilot operations. “Now even their weight has completely changed thanks to the improved way we are raising them.”

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