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A generation ago, campaign observers anticipated the “October Surprise” that presidential incumbents might spring to suddenly alter the political landscape just before Election Day. Today, with the media reflexively responsive to the corporate regime in power, manufactured “surprises” can occur at any time. Thus, when thoroughly politicized American generals in Afghanistan announced last week that they are confident of capturing Osama bin Laden before the year is out, the folks at the Intelligence Squad site broke out their graphics to chart the impact of such a “surprise.”

Under the headline, “Bush Shoots ‘Em Up To Pump Up His Popularity,” the Intelligence Squad presents Gallup Poll data on George Bush’s approval ratings from inauguration through September 11 to the present – then posits a mid-summer gift of bin Laden’s living or dead body. Bush’s numbers soar to Twin Towers-like heights.

In a rational world such exercises would be considered unworthy of serious journalism. Only the lunatic fringe would wonder out loud whether the Bush men “already know exactly where Osama is and have been waiting to time the capture just right.” Instead, recent history dictates that we must consider this possibility. The current administration strives to invent each day anew, by confronting the public with both fresh and stale layers of fiction and carefully calibrated “events.” There’s nothing lunatic or fringe about the Intelligence Squad piece or scores like it across the Internet. Bush’s crew definitely has many “surprises” in store for us. It is equally certain that the Corporate Power Media (CPM) will treat each contrived “crisis” or “victory” as genuine; they provide the blank slates on which Karl Rove writes Bush’s version of history. That’s their function in the corporate matrix – and they revel in it.

Sensing a potential hazard to the general corporate welfare and to their own particular interests, the CPM savaged Howard Dean’s presidential campaign with piranha-like ferocity. The breathtaking speed with which they halved his popular support is the direct result of years of media mergers, buy-ups, and bribery-sanctioned seizure of the public airwaves.

As we wrote in last week’s Cover Story, “The Awesome Destructive Power of the CPM,” Howard Dean has “joined the list of victims of U.S. corporate media consolidation.”

This commentary, however, is not about the merits of Howard Dean. If a mildly progressive, Internet-driven, young white middle class-centered, movement-like campaign such as Dean’s – flush with money derived from unconventional sources, backed by significant sections of labor, reinforced by big name endorsements and surging with upward momentum – can be derailed in a matter of weeks at the whim of corporate media, then all of us are in deep trouble. The Dean beat-down should signal an intense reassessment of media’s role in the American power structure. The African American historical experience has much to offer in that regard, since the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements were born in a wrestling match with an essentially hostile corporate (white) media. However, there can be no meaningful discussion of the options available to progressive forces in the United States unless it is first recognized that the corporate media in the current era is the enemy, and must be treated that way.

Despite our disclaimer regarding Dean’s candidacy, his stalwarts comprised the bulk of the huge response to the commentary.

Maddi Bee is a contributor to , from Dayton, Ohio.

Your editorial on the Corporate Power Media, its victims and victimization strategies was on the mark. That the media is the tool of the enemy is well-known by those who have felt its blows. The blows are like the lashes of the Plantation Overseers designed to keep people cowed and feeling powerless. The major media is now totally owned by the Plantation Masters, as you noted. The Overseers were previously called Journalists, Reporters, Hosts, and Commentators, etc. It is better to call them Overseers at this point, for they have been emasculated. They are now used by the Plantation Owners to do the dirty work. Some Overseers don’t realize they, too, are slaves because they’re drowning in a jar of honey called money.

We the People cannot continue to rely on the media for coverage of anything crucial to our lives. They are not on the side of the people.

The massive amount of energy created by widespread anger throughout society can be harnessed to devise new systems of spreading the word. Like 21st Century Paul and Paulette Reveres, we can sound the alarms. Like a new Underground Railroad, we can do end-runs around the power structure. Like Malcolm and Martin and countless others we can stand up at Town Meetings and in Church Pulpits and on Street Corners to tell our stories, to rally our people, to speak up. We can mimeograph broadsheets to pass around neighborhoods. We can start community News Sheets. We can link up through the Internet through sites like The Black Commentator, etc. Every voice needs to be heard now. Every voice is important.

We can counter the stinking thinking. Before the upcoming presidential election. We must get out the vote. We must monitor the vote closely. We must deny the war criminals and charlatans in the Bush administration and Congress and media a chance to keep us down on their Plantations any longer. 

We can do this. Yes we can.

Bob Fleischer was in a funk when he wrote to us from Groton, Massachusetts.

After watching Bill Moyers last night, I realize that there is no democratic (small-d) way out of this mess.

The situation on Moyers' program was the media ownership cap.  Millions of Americans took an active part in the process to object to the FCC's lifting the ownership cap.  The FCC lifted the cap anyway.  Congress voted to retain the cap.  That gets overturned by back-room manipulation of the omnibus spending legislation.  The senate then votes to disapprove the FCC rule, and when that gets sent to the House, Tom Delay kills it.

Democracy is dead, get used to it.

I think it is possible, in principle at least, to establish alternative media.  But to bring alternative media to a prominence where it reaches a majority (or even a large minority) of our population is hard to conceive – especially if it is rightly perceived not just as competition but as a threat to the very existence of the corporate media.

I despair. Got hope?

Democracy is not dead until the people become inert. However, it is necessary to strike directly at the corporate media, which now actively suppress the processes of popular decision-making.

Even if popular forces were able to halt and marginally roll back the process of media consolidation, the political character of the corporate media would not change, and it would remain dominant for the foreseeable future. Therefore, it is necessary to de-legitimize the corporate media's messages – to pull back the curtain on the lie-creation machine.

For obvious reasons, this cannot be accomplished through strategies that are themselves dependent on corporate media favor. Rather, organizers will find that they must confront corporate media in order to accomplish anything worth doing.

Candidates in mass electoral campaigns are ill positioned to educate the public about the evils of corporate media. That's a task for activist organizations. For models, look to the history of the anti-war and civil rights movements, and then add corporate media to the permanent list of targets.

Of course there is cause for hope. But progressive leadership is not yet, in general, prepared to break with corporate media-dependent organizing practices. Unfortunately, in a high-velocity world, inertia can be fatal.

Brian LeCloux was already thinking along these lines. He writes from DeForest, Wisconsin.

Your analysis of how the corporate media smashed Dean is awesome!   This is the best I've read.  You nailed every key point with fact and argument.

And, you're on to something when you point out toward the end that we have to take on the media.  Most of America's shopping mall voters are still going to always get their infotainment from the corporate networks.  They are using our property, the public airwaves to pollute the public mind. On that basis alone we should be legally and nonviolently challenging big media.  

Thanks for your great analysis.

DLC: the enemy within

Ruth Henriquez-Lyon rightly takes to task for downplaying corporate influence within the Democratic Party.

Thank you for publishing this excellent article.  The writers clearly stated a feeling I've had for many months, but have been unable to articulate so well in discussing it with others.  There was one point, however, upon which I disagree, and it is this:  "Media apologists offer fictions about press vs. power, when in reality corporate media = corporate power, just as Bush = corporate power.  The Democrats are no part of this equation." 

However, in truth a very influential segment of the Democratic party is indeed part of this; it is the Democratic Leadership Council, or DLC.  The DLC describes itself (on its website) thus: "The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC) leads the New Democrat movement, a national network of elected officials and community leaders whose innovative ideas are modernizing progressive politics for the 21st Century."

However, their politics are not progressive.  They are closely tied with corporate contributors, and their whole reason for being is to bring the party rightward.  Their attacks on Howard Dean have been every bit as vicious as those of the press.  I believe that progressives of all ethnic groups and races need to come to grips with the re-shaping of the party which the DLC promotes and executes.  It, as much as the right-wing Republicans and the press, stands in the way of a free flow of progressive political energy.

has been trying to purge the DLC from the Democratic Party for so long, we sometimes treat the corporate faction as if it is not there. But of course, it is. The DLC was originally created to slow white voter and corporate dollar flight from southern state parties in the face of growing African American influence, and gained control of the national party machinery under Bill Clinton and Al Gore. As Associate Editor Bruce Dixon has pointed out, “The only masses the DLC cares about are massed dead presidents, stacked high.” More from Dixon’s June 12, 2002 Cover Story:

The DLC's mission is to erase the last vestiges of social democracy from the Democratic Party, so that the corporate consensus will never again be challenged in the United States. Acting as a Republican Trojan Horse in the bowels of the Democratic machinery, the DLC claims the "real" party lives somewhere off to the right, where George Bush dwells, and that minorities, unionists, environmentalists, feminists, men and women of peace – virtually every branch of the party except corporatists – must be purged or muzzled.”

Dixon calls the DLC “a candidate shakeout mechanism for big business, a clearinghouse for betrayal.”

An astute blogster named Zagg writes:

I thought the piece you did on Dean and media was excellent and in general am a huge fan of the site.

I have a similar analysis of what occurred with Dean, though I think a key aspect in the process was the establishment of the Democratic Party itself. They have played a role in influencing the media to marginalize the most progressive candidates. And they took Dean down not because of how he stood on any issue, but because he did an end-run around the Party's leadership to jump to the top of the race. And the fact that there was a grassroots campaign associated with Dean (even if he's done all he can to distance himself from that campaign) was also a threat. The last thing the Democrats want to see is a rebuilding of social movements in this country. Even the Dean campaign, as little of a threat as it represented in comparison to a new civil rights movement or a rejuvenated anti-war movement, apparently concerned them enough to smash. Remember too how in 2000 the Democratic Party called off protests in Florida taking up the issue of the systematic disenfranchisement of black voters and opted instead to fight the result in court on the issue of chads in predominantly rich counties. In that case they punted on the real issue and went for a safer one and it cost them the White House. I believe in large part it was because the Democratic Party does not want to see a rebirth of social movements in this country.

One more observation: Notice too that now that Kerry is the frontrunner he is not being subject to the same attacks (either from the media or from the other candidates) as Dean was when he was the frontrunner.

Anyway, keep up the excellent work.

Corporate media frat brats

We were pleased to hear from Dr. Janice Moulton, of the philosophy department at Smith College in Northampton, Massachusetts.

What a good analysis of the media!  Thank you.

However, I do still harbor the hope that individual journalists would behave better if they were shown the way.  Some of them actually half-apologized to Howard Dean (like fraternity boys who had broken a pledge's leg during hazing and said, "Oops!").  I also think that incompetence is always a more likely explanation than deliberate malevolence.  Those Corporate Media "journalists" hang out together, feed off the hearsay they pick up at the bar or coffee shop, are trained to go after ratings instead of news, and forget that they might be an inspiration instead of a destructive force.

The worst thing, I think, is that their behavior convinces so many people that there is no point in learning about the candidates, no point in getting involved, and no point in voting.  The Dean supporters have written hundreds of letters complaining of the misleading news stories and perhaps it had some effect.  We can do something, together. Let's not put up with it anymore.  Let the Civil Rights movement be our inspiration.  Let your article be the starting point.


Your frat boys example is a good one. If you take that logic further, however, you will get closer to the truth, which is that the corporate media guys and girls "just happen" to go after the same people their employer's hate. (Just as the frat boys bully the pledges simply because they can.) News producers would get even higher ratings if they went after bigger fish, like Bush, Cheney, etc. – but that is not allowed.  

The lower newsroom ranks pick up quickly on the cues given from the top – or perish. As for the Executive Newspersons, they hang with the other execs, not in the "coffee shops and bars." They also hire and fire.

All of them know exactly what they are doing. They are among the most cynical people you will ever meet.

The Civil Rights and Black Power movements confronted a hostile white media that alternately censured and reviled Blacks (the southern press) or attempted to select and contain Black leadership (the national corporate media). Black print media, churches and informal networks attempted to keep the movement in touch with itself. Nowadays, however, corporate voices dominate in Black America. As we wrote:

[M]edia consolidation has had the same strangulating effects on Black radio as in the general media. Radio One, the largest Black-owned chain, recently entered into a marketing agreement with a subsidiary of Clear Channel, the 1200-station beast. Both chains abhor the very concept of local news.

There is no question that Blacks and progressives must establish alternative media outlets, and not just on the Internet. However, there is no substitute for confronting the corporate media head-on, through direct mass action and other, creative tactics. The rich men’s voices must be de-legitimized in the eyes of the people, who already suspect that they are being systematically lied to and manipulated. African Americans have an advantage in this regard, since we are used to being lied to and about.

Susan Shropshire got the point.

Thank you for the well-written and incisive article on the power of the corporate media.

What a sorry state of affairs we live in. Obviously the fact that they got away with lying to and about black Americans on a massive scale is part of what gave them the arrogance to try it on everybody in the country.

I have watched every one of the Democratic debates and it is clear (and shameful) the way the media act toward progressive candidates (and last night I swore I saw Bill Clinton on the stage, he was mentioned so many times).

The only thing that gives me hope is that every time Kucinich or Sharpton lay a smackdown on the moderators the audience goes wild.

JoAnne is a Dean supporter from Sag Harbor, Michigan.

Yours was the most cogent, incisive analysis of the "corporate/media" problem that I have read to date.  Perhaps because of our history of being savaged by the media, African-Americans are keenly aware of the danger.  This essay should be required reading for all Dean supporters.  It certainly gave me renewed hope that the   Democratic Party will realize that Howard Dean has got it right.  It is my hope that Rev. Sharpton will throw his support to Dean at some point.  Sharpton is politically savvy and can make a real difference to the Dean campaign.

Christine Hayes writes from the State of Washington:

I would like to commend you on your article about corporate media squelching the Howard Dean movement.  It was an eye-opening piece.  I think it really put it in its proper perspective to bring out the point that if it can happen to middle class white America, we are all in trouble. 

I believe our country is in a dire situation at present and you are certainly doing your part to bring this to the attention of a sleeping America.  Unfortunately, by the time they wake up, it may be too late. 

Mass disillusion   

In the early to mid-Sixties, opposition to the Vietnam War marked one as a radical. Then, white liberals swelled the ranks, some of whom became radicals. Who knows what the corporate media’s beat-down of Howard Dean may trigger among his millions of supporters? There’s lots of rage out there. Here’s a letter from Joy Farmer, from Kennesaw, Georgia.

Thank you for your excellent analysis. I find the image of Howard Dean screaming inaudibly in that Iowa room to be a metaphor for every American who is screaming to be heard above the right-wing din and whose voice has been deliberately distorted and decontextualized by the corporate media. We all cried, "Foul," at the media's unfair and biased treatment of Al Gore four years ago, but our scream began in earnest when the Supreme Court appointed Bush president, even though the 2000 election manifested so much malfeasance that democracy was fully, and perhaps permanently, compromised. Yet the media refused to investigate – not just in this circumstance, but in every shady instance that has characterized the Bush presidency. Instead, the media consistently diverts the public's attention from such scandals as Bush's National Guard disservice, the phony rationale for the Iraq war, the Halliburton contracts and other White-House related corporate irregularities, the Plame outing, and the Administration's shameful stonewalling on the 9/11 investigation by endlessly spinning every mote in the eye of a Democratic candidate. At the same time, the corporate media characterize our wail of outrage as unpatriotic. Some have even called us traitors, and most have scoffed at our liberalism – synonymous with weakness, atheism, moral turpitude, and a desire to foster similar characteristics in our fellow citizens.

In destroying Howard Dean, the corporate media have destroyed a decent individual, a viable candidate, and a man who could have changed the course of American politics for the better. In November, God willing, we will vote George W. Bush out of office. Sadly, we have no such opportunity to vote out the corporate media, which will continue to limit our choices and warp our civic judgment. I fear that you are a voice crying in the wilderness; nonetheless, you have articulated my scream, and I am grateful.

Carl E. Hartung wants to put in the classroom.

I am writing to commend you on a beautifully written, highly insightful and compelling article should be required reading in every high school freshman civics course.  Thank you and well done!

Denis Wright works with Count The Vote, in Atlanta, Georgia.

I just read your fantastic column on the Corporate Media and their ability to crush anyone who dares speak the truth. Thanks so much for your insights.  

Voting law praised, denounced

Democratic Party strategist Donna Brazile managed Al Gore’s 2000 campaign. Last week she contributed a piece to titled, “African Americans Crucial to Democratic Victory.

The way in which Democrats reach out to African American voters in 2004 is critically important. Drive-by campaigning, in which candidates spend months courting white voters and independents and then spend the last two weeks courting African American voters, is simply not acceptable. Democrats must reach out to African American voters and community leaders now and engage them not just for their votes but to get their opinions about how our future should be shaped. Registering and turning out African American voters is simply vital to the success of the Democratic Party in 2004….

We must demand that states comply with the new Help America Vote Act (“HAVA”) and ensure that minorities are not systematically disenfranchised in 2004. As 2000 indicated, states have a variety of methods of doing just that – by purging voter roles, by discriminatory distribution of antiquated voting machines, and by intimidating voters at the polls. There must be a vigorous voter education campaign, training of poll watchers, and an army of lawyers ready to monitor the elections to ensure that African-Americans are not denied their constitutional rights in 2004.

Steve Cohen enjoyed Ms. Brazile’s article – until she championed the “HAVA” voting law. That’s when “she lost me,” said Cohen.

The Help America Vote Act is not a friend to African Americans or anyone else interested in seeing a fair vote count.  I don't have any quarrel with Ms. Brazile's wholly justified complaints about purging voter rolls, or intimidating voters at the polls, but when she complains about "discriminatory distribution of antiquated voting machines" she appears to have been taken in by the snake-oil salesmen of Diebold and other manufacturers of the new electronic voting machines which are less secure, more prone to tampering, provide no feasible means of recount and are a real nightmare – which is becoming more and more noticed.  Yes, "hanging chads" were a problem in 2000, but they were a problem dwarfed by purging and intimidating African American voters.  The cure proposed in HAVA is worse than the disease.

Here is just one of the many articles that have appeared on this subject:

”Bipartisan Request Seeks Halt to Internet Voting,” Washington Post, January 30.

While I can agree with Ms. Brazile that there may some discriminatory intent in the distribution of these antiquated voting machines, ironically, they probably provide a fairer chance of getting a correct count than do the newfangled and insecure monstrosities that are being foisted upon us by people who have too much faith in technology.  See this link where technologist Robert Cringely tells why such technology is not well applied in this context:

Follow the Money,” PBS, December 11, 2003

Thanks, as always, for being here. 
is a very useful antidote to conventional wisdom.

Wal-Mart brand schools

The Walton Family spends vast sums to pollute American political discourse with ideas crafted to help the super-rich get richer. In addition to manufacturing front groups to push their agenda, the Wal-Mart billionaires have taken a hands-on role in making New Jersey a testing ground for school privatization notions. The New Jersey Education Association (NJEA), the state’s largest teachers union, has identified Walton family fortune heir John as Sugar Daddy for local voucher activists. In last week’s , NJEA President Edithe A. Fulton warned of “The Wal-Martization of Education.

For years, Walton has been an active supporter of the national voucher movement, spending millions on voucher initiatives and pro-voucher organizations. He is intimately allied with the ultra-right Bradley Foundation of Milwaukee, which used its political and economic clout in that city to launch the nation’s first publicly funded voucher program in 1990. Bradley is also a major funding source for the national voucher effort.

Fulton urges folks to “follow the money” – the real source of the Hard Right’s phony “movements.”

Leutisha Stills is a frequent correspondent from Oakland, California.

Blacks should become familiar with the many methods the Hard Right uses to co-opt the public school system and deprive our children of quality public education.

If your school system is "failing" the state will bring in a "hired gun" who takes control of the entire school district and proceeds to start closing schools.  In Oakland, the hired gun's name is Randolph Ward. They brought him in from Southern California, since he did such a wonderful job in "cleaning up" the Compton Unified School District.  Now the kids in Compton are going cross town to school – long commutes outside of their own districts to get educated.  So they brought him to Oaktown to do the same thing.  Only Oakland wasn't Compton – and Mr. Ward soon "got served".

Two weeks ago, at an Oakland School District Meeting, Mr. Ward proceeded to present to a capacity-crowd of angry parents, children and teachers, a list of elementary schools he proposed to shut down, since they weren't cutting it under the "No Child Left Behind" requirements.  There were 11 schools on that list, the majority in predominantly Black or Latino communities.  By the time the teachers, parents, students and the civil rights group BAMN got finished with Mr. Ward, that list was scaled back to five schools instead of eleven.  Oakland wasn't having none of that Hard Right Agenda nonsense and told Mr. Ward to @$%# with his proposal!

However, we still have our work cut out for us. This is the starting point towards discussions about school vouchers – first they shut down the schools.  For this reason, plus the way Wal-Mart treats its workers, I have boycotted them ever since.

Freedom Rider

Margaret Kimberley’s Freedom Rider column is an inspiration to many of our readers. Last week’s piece was particularly eloquent, titled “A Glass Half Empty and Half Full.

We don’t want to discuss anything that gives credence to negative stereotypes perpetuated about us. The impulse is understandable, but not particularly helpful when confronting difficult issues. Why are so many black children born not only to unmarried parents, but to parents who have not even formed committed relationships? Because of DNA testing there are men paying child support to women whose middle names they don’t even know. That behavior doesn’t speak well for men or women and renders moot the old, tired arguments seen in the headlines of black publications and heard in conversation. “Whose at fault, men or women?” “Do black men treat women right?” “Do black women support their men?” We need uncompromising introspection, not worthless tabloid headlines, to improve our family lives.

It is important to remember our loyalty to one another despite the many problems that black people face in dating and maintaining marriages. Point out that the glass is full the next time someone says that black men and women can’t get along. But it is equally important to speak up when the more complicated and sensitive issues are also raised. The time for platitudes has passed as well.

Thelonius Massai’s words are as compelling as Ms. Kimberley’s. He writes:

Looking at statistics from a negative perspective does create the impression that we Black folks are the most messed up people in the world.  We tend to internalize that impression and use it to define ourselves.  I used to be guilty of that even though I knew in the back of my mind the stereotypes we sometimes play into aren't that accurate.  Based on statistics I'm supposed to be in or have been in prison, dropped out of school, can't read, unemployed, an absentee father, on drugs, have AIDS, etc.  But I'm not and neither are most of the guys on my block or at my job or in my family.  A lot of our young brothers are confused because they don't see themselves reflected in these statistics.  I started seeing the glass half full after attending the Million Man March in 1995, every kind of brother under the sun was there, I didn't see any looking like the picture the statistics paint.  We have problems but there's more good about us than not.

In our corner

Carol Asberom, of Dayton, Ohio has an interesting way of introducing herself.

I sometimes think that I am insane. That is, my thoughts and observations of the current times seem out of step with what I see and hear around me. I hear myself thinking, "Am I the only one who thinks this way?” Then once a week "The Black Commentator" arrives and reassures me that there are others like me out there.  You are a strong voice of enlightenment. You see, I live in the hinterland of Ohio and we have been blinded. People here work hard, go to church, play a little, but don't do much independent thinking. You do excellent work and I wish more people knew about you.  Be strong and be encouraged for there are many unknown and unseen warriors out there that can be called into action once you awaken them from the hypnosis of materialism and entertainment.

John Harshaw sends greeting from Chattanooga, Tennessee.

I started reading Black commentator in 2003. I am impressed by the intellectual commentary written for every willing reader. When many Black males have been reduced to the discussion of the last "piece" they had or would like to have, it is refreshing to have a website where honest, hard hitting commentary is shared.

I know the best is yet to come.  

Pat Humphrey describes herself as a “devoted reader” of . She writes from Little Rock, Arkansas.

I would fight before I cancelled my privileged access to The Black Commenter. I have enthusiastically shared the web site with many of my friends, both locally, and with others far away. You deserve supporting in any way we can. Be advised that everyone I have forwarded the to were really amazed that we had not yet heard of it, and worse, were so late to hear of it now. I prefer the positive! The more we can stay informed and help educate each other the better off we African Americans are in terms of being more involved in our communities, etc. Keep up the good fight and do an article some time about how we can proactively support your very noble efforts. Every issue just blows me away with the depth of your analysis of what is happening in our country. It certainly confirms the views I have long held but brings, more importantly, facts and names of those filled with greed and self-hate. Thank you for being there for all of us!

Loretta Renford is our favorite activist in Buffalo, New York.

Thanks for your commitment to the education and hopeful enlightenment of the African American Community.

You know, I hope our folk understand and appreciate the push for excellence, and where we ought to be as thinking and positive functioning adults. It is required of us that we think critically, and for ourselves. How else can we pick and accept leaders if we are unable to discern their attributes and separate personal vested interests from the collective concerns and issues critical to our needs and well being?

Keep writing.

gratefully acknowledges the following organizations for sending visitors our way during the past week:

Liberal Oasis

Black Electorate

Daily Kos

Buzz Flash


Information Clearing House

All Facts and Opinions

Axis of Justice



February 5, 2004
Issue 76

is published every Thursday.

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