Obama and Kenya: Request for Info

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I’ve been working through some information on Barack Obama’s diplomatic forays with Kenya’s political leaders — and his apparent campaigning for Opposition party leader Odinga.
This is a complicated story — and something where I think that there has been some overstatement about Obama’s role — but it may raise some interesting questions about judgment in meddling in the political battles inside other countries.
I’m still sorting this out — but if any of you have material or interesting insights into the Kenya situation and Obama’s seemingly unique profile in this situation, please email me offline.
— Steve Clemons

Comments

33 comments on “Obama and Kenya: Request for Info

  1. pat says:

    Is it true that Obama was born in Kenya and as soon as his mother left the hospital boarded a flight to Hawaii where she registered his birth? If he was, what is his citizenship? What are the laws in Kenya as regards this matter? Should be easy to check the birth certificate in Hawaii under the Freedom of Information Act. It would indicate if Obama was birthed at home, a scam that occurs frequently in Los Angeles.

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  2. Richmond says:

    Ambassador Joe Wilson: “How will Mr. Obama respond to charges made by the Kenyan government that his campaigning activities in Kenya in support of his distant cousin running for president there made him “a stooge” and constituted interference in the politics of an important and besieged ally in the war on terror?”
    http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/oped/bal-op.hillary12feb12,0,7566890,print.story
    Others have pointed out that, unless this matter is addressed, the Republican machine can seek to destroy his candidacy.
    http://www.dailykos.com/story/2008/1/31/132628/105/469/447013
    Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga has said he is a cousin of US presidential hopeful Barack Obama.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CBJouPhws1M
    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/africa/7176683.stm
    Odinga is said by one reporter to be an ally of Islamic extremists.
    http://www.jpost.com/servlet/Satellite?cid=1200572509823&pagename=JPost%2FJPArticle%2FPrinter
    “It is true that Obama, whose family is Luo, lent support to the opposition leader [Odinga] during a visit to Kenya two years ago — and that they have maintained contact ever since. While that gaffe infuriated the Kibaki regime, it proved only that Obama lacked diplomatic expertise.”
    http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2008/02/whats_waiting_for_obama.html
    “In August 2006, Mr. Obama visited Kenya and spoke in support of Mr. Odinga’s candidacy at rallies in Nairobi.”
    http://www.nysun.com/article/69273
    “Sen. Obama has to look at critically about where he’s receiving his advice from,” said government spokesman Dr. Alfred Mutua. “Just because somebody, somewhere wants to run for president and is using Sen. Obama as his stooge, as his puppet to be able to get to where he wants to get to.”
    http://cbs2chicago.com/topstories/Barack.Obama.Kenya.2.331658.html
    There is video of Obama and Odinga appearing together.
    http://cbs2chicago.com/topstories/Barack.Obama.Kenya.2.331658.html
    There also appears to be photographs of Obama appearing with Mr. Odinga.
    http://www.jaluo.com/wangwach/0806/obama/obama4.jpg
    http://cbs2chicago.com/topstories/Barack.Obama.Kenya.2.331658.html

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  3. JoeC says:

    Larry Johnson posted a summary of some international press on Obama/Kenya Election linkages at his “No Quarters” blog on January 31st.
    http://noquartersusa.net/blog/2008/01/31/obamas-african-hubris-2/#more-1441

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  4. Linda says:

    Seth and Steve,
    I really appreciate and like your exchange above. I surely do not have the foreign policy knowledge and background both of you do. And I appreciate
    Steve’s balance and reason and sharing openly when he has doubts, though sometimes he leaves himself wide open for being attacked.
    http://jurist.law.pitt.edu/ratner.htm
    I do end up agreeing exactly with your reasoning, Seth, on being for Obama. The above case is part of my reasoning too. It’s when Clinton was sued by members of Congress because he did not get their approval to use military in Kosovo. Look at the list of the plaintiffs. Also be aware that Tom Campbell was (still is) a very moderate Republican who was on Harvard Law Review and clerked for Whizzer White.
    I’d like to see much more balance between Executive and Legislative branches. I’m turning 69 years old later this week. We’ve had a lot of military actions in my lifetime, but the only one where Congress declared war was in 1941. When the Constitution was written, there wasn’t even telegraph or railroads. It would take a long time to gather Congress to declare war. It’s not that hard to do today–and to take the time for debate and questioning the evidence that military action is warranted.
    The charisma and hopes and dreams stuff wins elections–so Im glad Obama has that, but I’m hoping that his time being taught constitutional law by Laurence Tribe and being on Harvard Law Review, and then teaching constitutional law, will enable him to change back to ways more in line with the Constitution. I don’t know as much foreign policy as you two do, but I do know that the most important foreign policy decision a country makes is to send its military to fight and kill in another country.
    So my vote for Obama is having the audacity to hope that Obama will change this radically. I couldn’t have that hope with Hillary or any other candidate.

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  5. Seth says:

    A fair rebuttal, Steve — just as a writer needs to guard against blind spots in his writing, so too a reader needs to guard against blind spots in his own reading.
    Your criticism of the lack of imagination in the foreign policies of both Clinton and Obama strikes me as on the mark. But there have been a series of posts that do seem to either make mountains out of molehills (how many times has Obama been to Europe?) or else seem to imply a pretty premature reading (is Obama meddling with foreign governments?). I guess there are other questions about Obama that loom larger for me (e.g. his proposal to bulk the standing army, or how he balances the Samantha Powers strain versus the Brzezinski strain in his policy team). So what DOES tend to get attention strike me as lesser matters given unnecessary prominence. I might perhaps notice this less if there were also posts about, say, Clinton’s tears or her husbands detour to Khazakstan (which strikes me as more substantial line of query on the subject of foreign meddling).
    Anyway, I officially dial back my complaint about a lack of balance, but there do strike me as times when (…looking for a more appropriate word here) the *emphasis* on what receives critique seems a bit off.
    Now admittedly, I run the risk of reading too much into things since at this point in the race I favor Obama decisively. One’s biases an certainly skew one’s reading. But it’s been a slow and painstaking migration to my Obama support, and for the record I agree that the whole Kennedy/messiah thing is treacle and BS.
    Here are some more meta questions I’d be curious to hear your take on at some point…requests, if you will:
    1) The question of Presidential dynasties and the constitutional/legal implications of Bill Clinton in the White House, presumably driving some policy.
    2) The advantages of a Holbrooke/Berger/Albright/Clark reinstatement under Clinton, versus a clean(-ish) slate under Obama. Which is the greater risk: the return of decent bureaucrats who might merely pursue the same general policies of the last two decades but with greater competence? Or the risk of unspecified foreign policy helmsmanship that would nonetheless give a certain jolt to the system and *perhaps* offer space for a greater realignment of our apparati?
    Ok, I’ve really gone on here.
    Very best
    Seth

    Reply

  6. Steve Clemons says:

    Seth — appreciate your thoughtful comment, but I disagree with you in substance. I have to be own ultimate judge of balance and how I see these issues. I put up my comments about wanting to withhold an endorsement, etc. because I am sent several hundred emails a day trying to pull me this way or that — or emails pounding me for being a closet Hillary supporter or a closet Obama supporter. Did you read what I wrote about Hillary and her IRGC vote — or positions on Cuba — or my fear about her being a kind of president who might define her presidency through conflict?
    Many of you seem to skirt by those items in your critiques. I have very little patience for those who hit me with what my preferences appear to be despite the fact that I have gone after them both.
    Read Fareed Zakaria’s piece in the Wash Post today and then scroll back to my own commentary about Cuba and Obama. Was I unfair to Hillary Clinton then? unbalanced?
    Come on….I do things as I see I need to do them. My request for those who had done research on Obama was serious and sincere. I’ve talked with the Obama and Clinton campaigns today — other foreign policy experts, etc. . .and I will write what I wish to write and argue in the way I see it, when I am ready.
    You are a great guy — and appreciate your counsel, but the second-guessing of my intentions is bothersome and completely off target. If I supported Obama, or Hillary — I’d tell you.
    NEITHER yet meets my bar. I’m clear in what I want to see in a Presidential candidate. I don’t want a candidate who is an incrementalist or will make our current problems worse — and I dont buy the mystique/identity/gut stuff on Obama. I want to see evidence of seriousness and depth in the policy arena in foreign policy — and I see platitudes (Cuba being the exception).
    So, I’m clear as day on what I want — and I will applaud and criticize all candidates as I see fit.
    best regards,
    Steve Clemons

    Reply

  7. Seth says:

    Hey Steve – I’ve given you some guff in the past for what I see as, well, not really an anti-Obama bias, but definitely a noticeable lack of balance and perhaps objectivity in your political posts. I wouldn’t keep bringing it up if you didn’t seem to keep doing it.
    So again: no prob whatsoever with you holding and broadcasting an opinion. But you take pains every couple weeks to put up a post affirming your objectivity and lack of preference for any current candidate. But the way you cover politics often indicates otherwise.
    I’m hoping that this is just a fairly big blind spot for you in your writing, and one that maybe you can take a step back and correct. As is, the lack of balance in your political writing is beginning to summon questions about your foreign policy writing, which I’ve always found superior.
    Best –
    Seth

    Reply

  8. Karen T says:

    I am sure you know that Barack Obama’s father was a member of the Luo tribe in Kenya, also the tribe of Odinga. Maybe this explains his interest in what is happening there politically.

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  9. Dan Kervick says:

    Steve,
    As an Obama supporter, I think your effort to get solid empirical information on Obama’s positions, connections and involvement with Kenya are entirely appropriate.
    However, I do think that in recent weeks you have not been nearly as aggressive in pursuing information on Hillary Clinton’s foreign policy-related activities, and have not engaged with comments directed to this area. I’m wondering why, since for at least six years, Hillary Clinton has been supporting a Middle East foreign policy which tracks very closely with the Bush foreign policy, most often supporting that policy, and otherwise offering only token resistance confined to the low-hanging fruit of the most uncontroversially failed aspects of that policy – such as the corruption in private contracting and pointless diplomatic bridge burning. I thought the Bush Middle East policy was a policy you firmly rejected, so I am not sure why you are not more agitated about the prospects of a Clinton candidacy. When died-in-the-wool neoconservatives like Charles Krauthammer express support for Clinton in the foreign policy area, doesn’t that make you want to look into this matter further?
    I have been trying for weeks, with little success, to get people to revisit the issue of Clinton’s actions and reckless public statements during the Israel-Lebanon war in 2006. Clinton attended and spoke at a rally in New York in which a number of speakers, including Clinton herself, struck a highly belligerent posture. Several of the speakers, as I recall, spoke in bitterly hostile terms about the UN and our European allies, terms that would make even John Bolton blush. And I don’t recall hearing Clinton offer any objections or demurrals. The rally took place later in the same day that Kofi Annan and Tony Blair began a high-profile effort to end the war and get an international force into Lebanon, and yet Clinton offered no words of support for this effort, and instead engaged in some strident saber-rattling in the direction of Syria and Iran.
    You may recall that Israel was charged by many with using disproportionate force in the conflict, a violation of international law. Israel’s ambassador Dan Gillerman spoke at the rally did not even seek to defend Israel against that charge, but said instead something like “Are we using disproportionate force? You’re damn right we are!” And Clinton made not a peep in response.
    This is all important because at the time there was a very real chance that the conflict could have spread to Syria and beyond, dragging the US into a disastrous, expanded regional war. Clinton’s actions during that war go to the question of whether she can be trusted to look soberly after the US’s real security interests and the safety of the American people, or is instead so politically mercenary, and so in thrall to domestic pressure groups, that she will act irresponsibly and demagogically in a crisis. I think you are aware of the same disturbing demagogic tendency in her stance on Cuba policy.
    Despite the fact that this was a very high-profile rally, and was reported in many media outlets across the country, I have been unable to locate either complete video or full transcripts of Clinton’s statements or the statements of others at the rally, despite some extended internet searching. I am strongly beginning to suspect that the Clinton campaign has worked to scrub a number of internet archives clean of this embarrassing performance. Perhaps you could put out one of your calls for further information.

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  10. Steven Clemons says:

    HAS — sorry you are disappointed. As far as I know, I havent written anything about the subject — but Obama’s engagement with the Kenya disaster interests me — and deserves comment. I am carefully gathering material, as I tend to do, before commenting further. Others may have jumped on this already — but in ways that I find misleading. So, wait for what I write before you try and push me one way or the other. I’m disappointed in the number of Clinton supporters and Obama supporters who seem to be interested in spin that validates their views — rather than empirical work and informed commentary.
    best, Steve Clemons

    Reply

  11. Carroll says:

    I tend to think that the bombing in Syria was a classic shot across the bow at Iran.
    Posted by Dan Kervick at February 4, 2008 10:01 AM
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    That was Hersh’s conclusion too.

    Reply

  12. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Actually, Cee, I jumped the gun. After doing a google on it, it seems that it is only the one router that is down, and Iran still has connectivity….
    http://tinyurl.com/2sjcgu

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  13. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Cee….
    Iran has in fact lost all internet traffic.
    http://www.internettrafficreport.com/asia.htm
    Pretty “coincidental”, three cables being cut in the same week. “Dragging anchors” my ass. Of course, the cables feeding Israel are fine and dandy, as are the cables feeding Iraq. The odds of this are about as high as the odds of Bush announcing a new nuclear policy towards Turkey a week after Sibel spills the beans in a British newspaper.
    But enough of this inconsiderate deviation from the important events at home, so graciously outlined by our host. Hey, have you heard about Obama’s alleged drug use years ago? Or his important diplomatic efforts in Kenya?

    Reply

  14. Cee says:

    Steve,
    Want a real story? Look into who cut the undersea cables.
    Many readers are reporting that another undersea fiber optic cable has been cut, apparently caused by another wayward anchor. It looks like Iran has completely lost Internet connectivity.” http://hardware.slashdot.org/article.pl?sid=08/02/01/1912220&from=rss

    Reply

  15. HAS says:

    Steve,
    You’ve very quickly moved from a foreign policy realist to a foreign policy conspiracy theorist. Very disappointing.

    Reply

  16. Dan Kervick says:

    I tend to think that the bombing in Syria was a classic shot across the bow at Iran. Israel showed it could fly deep into Syria and accurately drop a bomb just 100 miles from the Iraqi border, without any obstruction from the Syrians. And obviously Israeli planes will have no trouble traversing US-occupied Iraq, where the US rules the skies.

    Reply

  17. Carroll says:

    Here is Hersh’s full article on the Syria bombing. It is things like this that give me that we are in deep doo-doo feeling because all we have to choose from for the next commander in cheif is probably MCCain who is truely insane, Hillary who on a war hawk scale of one to ten is siting at 9, and Obama who is still basically a question mark.
    http://tinyurl.com/yu9krk
    A Strike in the Dark
    What did Israel bomb in Syria?
    by Seymour M. Hersh

    Reply

  18. PissedOffAmerican says:

    Meanwhile, Bush intends to put Turkey on the road to nuclear nirvana, with Paul Wolfowitz’s able assistance.
    But shhhh, don’t tell anyone, its a secret. And someone tell that wackjob Edmonds to shut up, she’s muddying the waters.
    Now, lets move on to important things. Did anyone notice that nasty zit Hillary was trying to conceal last week during the debates? Perhaps Steve can get us the inside scoop on it.

    Reply

  19. Carroll says:

    Off topic but since it was brought up in one of the first Dem debates a follow up is necessary.
    “Seymour Hersh has weighed in on the (Syria bombing) matter. Hersh appeared on CNN’s Late Edition on Sunday to discuss his upcoming article, “A Strike in the Dark,” which will appear in the Feb. 11 issue of the New Yorker.
    Hersh writes in that article, “Whatever was under construction, with North Korean help, it apparently had little to do with agriculture — or with nuclear reactors — but much to do with Syria’s defense posture, and its military relationship with North Korea. And that, perhaps, was enough to silence the Syrian government after the September 6th bombing.”
    “This is a wonderful sort of a complicated story,” Hersh told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “Here Israel bombs another country, basically an act of war. … They don’t say anything publicly about it. The Israeli great ally, the United States, says nothing. Syria doesn’t say much about it. They complain, but they’re very muted too. … Nobody talks about it.”
    Hersh went on to say that even though nobody was talking publicly, “there was tremendous sotto voce stuff. In other words, the Israeli government, the American government were leaking, telling newspaper people, particularly in America, but also in Europe, all sorts of wonderful, grandiose details about what happened.”
    Hersh finally concluded as a result of his investigation that the claims that “when you began to look at each part… they sort of fall apart.” He is not even convinced the plant was a chemical warfare facility but believes it may have been a missile plant. “Israel may indeed have some evidence that’s overwhelming,” Hersh stated. “But without that sort of evidence, what they’ve done is, they’ve simply bombed another country.”
    Hersh’s best guess as to the motivation of the bombing is that it was partly Israeli politics and partly “a message for the Iranians that we’re coming.”
    >>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>>
    I tend to take Hersh’s word over the government’s and think it is worth pointing out that Hillary in the debates stood by the story that Israel had bombed a nuclear facility in Syria…even went so far as to say she “had seen” the evidence. I wondered when she said that exactly how she had seen the evidence when the WH said is was restricted to only a few people and neither they nor Israel would “share” their “evidence” with any other agency.
    Not good Hillary. It smacks of the hokey yellowcake and nuclear rods in your vote to authorize war with Iraq.

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  20. Nobcentral says:

    You know Steve, people question your “secret loyalties” because of crap like this. Look at what you wrote. Shorter version:
    “I heard some rumors that Obama has campaigned for the Kenyan opposition leader and may be displaying bad judgement!”
    It’s so E-Hollywood Story it belies credibility.
    Here’s a hint: Don’t publish innuendo unless you have something to publish. Because, “You know, I heard once…” does more harm than good.

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  21. john somer says:

    In a BBC radio broadcast last week, one opposition member (not Odinga) said that he had had telephone conversation with Obama who, he said, was a distant relative

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  22. p.lukasiak says:

    While I’m no Obama supporter, I suspect that this “rumor” of Obama’s “campaigning” for the opposition candidate is less than substantive. It appears to be based entirely on a speech Obama gave at Nairobi University in which he was critical of government corruption and police misconduct in Kenya. But it appears that his remarks were cleared by the State Department…
    “In a speech at Nairobi University Monday afternoon, Obama called corruption a crisis affecting all levels of government in Kenya, and he defended the US State Department travel warning on the country, openly questioning public safety in Kenya.
    ‘I can talk to any young person walking down the street in Nairobi and they are worried about crime. They don’t feel anyone is looking after them, making arrests or prosecuting criminal activity. Women are especially vulnerable,’ Obama said.
    As Obama spoke at the newspaper and the university, the US ambassador to Kenya sat just a few feet away. The seating signaled that Obama was expressing America’s disappointment with the state of affairs in Kenya. ”
    http://abclocal.go.com/wls/story?section=local&id=4503806
    There is no evidence that Obama endorsed Odinga, or that Odinga even appeared at this speech.
    The wingnut blogosphere is trying to blow this way out of proportion — and I hope that Steve takes the time to correct the record on this one. Like I said, I’m not an Obama supporter at all, but I prefer facts to rumors and speculation — and IMHO Steve made a mistake by giving these rumors legitimacy by treating them as credible, when its coming almost entirely from the worst of the wingnut blogosphere.

    Reply

  23. Michele says:

    See Obama-Kenya coverage by PBS Frontline World dated 1/25/08
    Election 2008
    Obama: The Kenya Connection
    BY: Edwin Okong’o

    Reply

  24. ... says:

    very important as without a policy of foreign intervention and meddling, i don’t know where the usa would be…
    world as game of monopoly..

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  25. Dan Kervick says:

    All I know is that the Chinese have been making great strides in Africa to the detriment of US interests, so it will be good to have a President who is able to engage there in a credible and active way, has a good grasp on African political dynamics, and and will no doubt be extremely popular on the continent.

    Reply

  26. Kathy K says:

    Thank you, antiphone.
    The Khazakstan caper might be tip of the iceberg..how many other ‘buddy trips’ like this one has he made?
    Hillary sez she’s ‘vetted.’ Has her wannabe co-president been vetted?? Gee, why don’t I think so?
    See, e.g. NYT front page Friday.
    Was the $131.3 million, contributed by Clinton’s buddy, Frank Giustra, to Bill’s foundation = 10% of the value of the uranium deal?
    Could Bill now be “Mr. Ten Percent” ??
    This is scary. Do Hillary fans out there know what’s waiting, if this isn’t the only such deal, and she’s the nominee??
    For example: “As Mrs. Clinton’s presidential campaign has intensified, Mr. Clinton has begun severing financial ties with Ronald W. Burkle, the supermarket magnate, and Vinod Gupta, the chairman of InfoUSA, to avoid any conflicts of interest. Those two men have harnessed the former president’s clout to expand their businesses while making the Clintons rich through partnership and consulting arrangements…”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/us/politics/31donor.html?scp=1&sq=Clinton+uranium&st=nyt
    Not pretty.

    Reply

  27. Maxwell says:

    Given that the nature of Obama’s recent “meddling” into Kenyan affairs seems to be chiefly non-partisan and done in concert with Ambassador Mike Rannenberger, I think it a tad premature and tendentious to frame his activities as you do. He’s apparently had a five-minute phonecall urging peace talks, and given a radio address urging reconciliation, return to rule of law and adherence to civil rights:
    http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/news/politics/blog/2008/01/obama_urges_path_of_peace_in_k.html
    Isn’t this to be championed, rather than derided? I find it rather irresponsible to try to quiet the voices that are trying to stop mass death and civil unrest from accelerating, especially when they are working with the current US administration to do so in a sensible way.
    It’s not the first time Obama has tried to act as a pacifier and benevolent change agent in Kenya. Let’s remember this from 2006, well before he became a candidate:
    http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2006/08/26/ap/health/mainD8JO4QQO0.shtml

    Reply

  28. antiphone says:

    I seem to have missed any post on this blog about Bill Clinton’s excellent adventure in Kazakhstan, a cautionary example of bad judgment in meddling in the political battles inside other countries if there ever was one.
    ………………………………………
    ”Mr. Nazarbayev walked away from the table with a propaganda coup, after Mr. Clinton expressed enthusiastic support for the Kazakh leader’s bid to head an international organization that monitors elections and supports democracy. Mr. Clinton’s public declaration undercut both American foreign policy and sharp criticism of Kazakhstan’s poor human rights record by, among others, Mr. Clinton’s wife, Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York.”
    http://www.nytimes.com/2008/01/31/us/politics/31donor.html?scp=1&sq=Giustra+Clinton&st=nyt

    Reply

  29. ... says:

    on 2nd thought, bill burton is the guy you want to talk with..
    http://www.news24.com/News24/Africa/News/0,,2-11-1447_2248462,00.html

    Reply

  30. Bill R. says:

    “Meddling”…… seems like you have already prejudged the situation. I know he was asked to speak with leaders on both sides to bring down the violence at the request and in consulation with Sec. Rice. Sheesh.. Steve! Did you ask Obama’s people for an explanation or are you simply broadcasting misinformation?

    Reply

  31. antiphone says:

    “…there has been some overstatement about Obama’s role…”
    Are you referring to that smear job Taylor Marsh was fronting? I think it came straight out of Belmont Club or Little Green Footballs.

    Reply

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