The Ballad of Gregory Rigano


Tod Kelly

Tod is a writer from the Pacific Northwest. He is also serves as Executive Producer and host of both the 7 Deadly Sins Show at Portland's historic Mission Theatre and 7DS: Pants On Fire! at the White Eagle Hotel & Saloon. He is  a regular inactive for Marie Claire International and the Daily Beast, and is currently writing a book on the sudden rise of exorcisms in the United States. Follow him on Twitter.

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77 Responses

  1. Avatar Chip Daniels says:

    This Administration makes me feel like we are living in a scene out of Huckleberry Finn, or the Music Man, or Elmer Gantry, or any other description of the dark underbelly of our society where people have unbounded gullibility and credulousness and are the perfect prey of con men and charlatans.Report

  2. Avatar Saul Degraw says:

    His pick of schools is interesting. SUNY Binghamton is the flagship SUNY but still largely a second tier university. Not a mill but not a Cal, Michigan, William and Mary, or Virginia. Hofstra is a tier two or three law school in suburban New York. Not the worse school but there are many other superiors ones to it in the area. So it is not the obvious bullshit if he tried to present himself as a Harvard graduate with a Rhodes scholarship. He very well could have gone to those schools. Perhaps he had a hard time landing a job after law school or any level of graduation and just needed to branch on to anything to make his fortune. First it was crypto and now the useless drug for COVID.

    All of this gets aided by the fact that American politics has serious cases of people with Oppositional Defiant Disorder who rush in to defend charlatans just because libs are denouncing them.

    And this was all before Trump began urging people to inject disinfection. I can predict who is going to “well actually” this story even though the makers of Lysol and Detterol felt the need to release statements against injection of their products. But hey, doing anything besides “well actually” means agreeing with libs and you can’t have that right.Report

    • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      The defense seems to be that the President was merely babbling incoherently, and its unfair to extract a clear meaning from his gibberish.Report

      • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        Some defense.Report

      • Avatar JS in reply to Chip Daniels says:

        It’s moved onto “The President was being sarcastic” which is some ballsy gaslighting.

        Meanwhile, conservatives in general are going with “The President was really talking about [insert cutting edge cancer treatment about UV light] or [insert light therapy for closing wounds] or insert [chemo therapy is basically poisoning yourself slowly], so he’s really just synthesizing all these cutting edge treatments and asking for outside the box thinking!”.

        Which is just so sad. He wasn’t. His conception of the virus and it’s effect on the human body is equivalent to a stain on a counter. He was told sunlight or disinfectants could kill it , so he just openly wondered why no one had thought to wipe down someone’s lungs, and then said “Look into that”.

        He doesn’t understand cells. Or viruses. He does understand germs on surfaces — he’s a big germaphobe, which isn’t a bad thing to be right now. So that’s it. That’s the President. Briefed by the best people in the world, has the CDC on call, and he’s openly wondering why doctor’s haven’t tried giving someone’s lungs a good scrub, or injecting some lysol right into the problem since it kills the viruses.

        That’s the world we live in. That’s a President with 43.4% support. A man so dumb he openly wondered why we don’t bleach the lungs of people in the ICU.Report

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to JS says:

          and people are doing it. I saw a short story on one of the aggregators that authorities in Maryland had fielded 100 or calls within 24 hours of his remarks about people wanting to know what disinfectants and how much to dose.Report

          • Avatar JS in reply to Philip H says:

            Well, and I am deeply disturbed to find this out, bleach enemas are a thing.

            A supposed cure to autism.

            As one might expect, the results start with “horrific and torturous” into move right into “lethal”. Shredded intestinal lining, internal chemical burns, all the stuff any person who has so much as gotten a whiff of bleach when opening a bottle could predict.Report

        • Avatar Stillwater in reply to JS says:

          And in a classic “Trump bites man” story, Breitbart got out front of the disinformation campaign by arguing that Trump never said what he in fact said only to be undercut by Trump himself, who admitted he said it but only meant it sarcastically.Report

          • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to Stillwater says:

            In all the essays and histories I’ve read about the reign of Stalin, there is a common refrain about how there is that instant when the party line switches, and every peasant has a terrible moment, wondering exactly when it will be safe to discard yesterday’s truth and embrace today’s, but not too warm of an embrace and not too quickly, for fear that tomorrow’s truth will mark him as a traitor.Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      Every day my respect for the NYT and WaPo go down because of sh!t like this. And yet they are still orders of magnitude ahead of other outlets in terms of actual New Reporting.Report

    • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

      You need to stop outsourcing your critical thinking to Scott Lemieux, because he’s really not very good at it. Here’s the tweet:

      At a White House briefing, President Trump theorized — dangerously, in the view of some experts — about the powers of sunlight, ultraviolet light and household disinfectants to kill the coronavirus

      The phrase “dangerously, in the view of some experts” modifies “President Trump theorized.” That is, some experts say that it was dangerous for Trump to say what he said. Nothing in this sentence suggests any controversy over the safety or efficacy of bleach injections.

      The New York Times has been pretty aggressively flushing its credibility down the toilet in the past few years, but this isn’t really an example of such.

      Anyway, let me know if you need help diagramming any other sentences.Report

  3. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Saw this, thought it apt:

    What I’m worried about is “what if there ain’t no miracle cure?”

    Like, off-brand drugs don’t help.
    Ventilators don’t help.
    The only things that help are masks and handwashing and they only delay the inevitable.

    Then what?Report

    • Avatar Philip H in reply to Jaybird says:

      Then we learn how to live with this thing short term and we ramp up a vaccine development program.

      And we make sure both sides elect a better administration next time.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Philip H says:

        I’ve seen a number of arguments over the number of successful coronavirus vaccines we’ve discovered.

        It seems like the people who argue that there has never been a successful coronavirus vaccine are overstating things, it seems like they’re using a baseline such as the poliovirus vaccine’s success rather than the success of the flu shot… which is successful using a very different baseline.

        I saw a little chart that showed the benefits of wearing a mask versus the other guy wearing a mask versus both people wearing masks and, yeah, it’s great to see percentages of percentages… and if a SARS2 Vaccine turns that into percentages of percentages of percentages, that’s even better.

        But the WHO (among others) argued for a while that “masks don’t really work” using a particular baseline.

        And seeing that baseline of “success” constantly move doesn’t give me confidence.Report

        • Avatar Philip H in reply to Jaybird says:

          That’s how science works. We start with the hypothesis, test it, then revise and test again then develop a new hypothesis and so on. 99% of the time its done hidden away from society in labs and universities and such so the messy sausage making isn’t visible, only the final product. But its still more or less this way none the less.

          Good news is we are a LOT better at the process, and it takes a lot less time. Jonas Saulk took started working on a polio vaccine in 1948 that he didn’t announce until 4 years later which then took another 2 years to develop and implement, The oral polio vaccine took 6 years after that.

          If current work holds we will likely go from no coronavirus vaccine to full approved vaccine in 18 months. Call me old fashioned but that’s really good.

          Meanwhile interim measures like masks will go though an evolution of “success.” Just don’t confuse that with lacking knowledge or something you shouldn’t have confidence in. You need to get in the habit of having more confidence because it means really smart people are working hard to get to a better answer.Report

          • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Philip H says:

            “If current work holds we will likely go from no coronavirus vaccine to full approved vaccine in 18 months.”

            And if we put nine women on the job we’ll have a baby in one month.Report

          • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Philip H says:

            I know plenty of smart people. Like, up close. I’m not sure how much confidence that ought to give me.

            When it comes to “full approved vaccine”, I’d kinda like to know what that means for the vaccine itself. If I understand the virality of this particular virus, it’s that each person who gets it is likely to infect 3 other people. Vox, of all places, had an amazing visualization of this sort of thing.

            If the vaccine works as well as social distancing? I’m on board.

            If it works as well as the flu shot?

            Well, then we’re talking about changing 3 to 2.

            Which is good! It’s part of a complete breakfast!

            But it also means that things are never going back to the way they used to be.Report

            • Avatar Philip H in reply to Jaybird says:

              At a first order approval will mean it meets some defined level of efficacy – as in XX% of the population has immunity for YY period of time following innoculation. It also means it has minimal side effects and we know what they are and can recommend mitigation.Report

              • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Philip H says:

                If X is 2, that’s one thing. If it’s 5, that’s another.

                I’m hoping 7 isn’t too much to hope for.

                And the whole issue of whether YY is measured in months rather than years.

                Edit: in the last minute, this came across my timeline:


    • Avatar Aaron David in reply to Jaybird says:

      Well, its kinda like any other virus throughout time immemorial. We develop a herd immunity as people get sick, don’t die and we move on. But, a positive attitude and good cleanliness are certainly good. Staying out of cities and big crowed events wont hurt. Driving a car and living in the suburbs, good. Telecommuting. Recognizing the actual dangers (old people and the very sick) while not hindering the least likely cases (children, the young and healthy.) Using logic to keep things going, and not fear to shut things down. Making sure the rest of the people have enough food to eat and good exercise to stay healthy.

      Panic and hate? Not helping.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to Aaron David says:

        Well, one thing that keeps bubbling up but also seems to be stomped down quickly is that the overwhelming majority of people who have died from the virus so far have had co-morbidities.

        And then I think “if I wanted a disease that would attack rich people in poor countries and poor people in rich countries and pretty much devastate any service-based economy…”

        Well, I’d want a disease that attacked fat people and the elderly and people with Blood-Type A.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Jaybird says:

      What would you expect from Trump? He is a charlatan that inherited dad’s money and company. He is deeply lazy and stupid. He wants to be a mafia don. His own gift is for being a carnival barker and bullshit and he has finally run into a problem that he can’t back out of by spewing bullshit and being a carnival barker.

      We are not going to be on lockdown forever but yes, COVID might become endemic instead of pandemic and we might have COVID season. The 1918 pandemic’s cautionary measures lasted about two years. The 1920s were not known for social distancing.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to Jaybird says:

      Everybody forgot that “flattening the curve” wasn’t about changing the total number of cases.Report

    • fillyjonk fillyjonk in reply to Jaybird says:

      I don’t know. I’ve written and deleted about five responses as being “too dark,” but I admit there are days that I wonder if we’re witnessing the beginning of the extinction of the human race.Report

      • Avatar Jaybird in reply to fillyjonk says:

        It’s just the next step in the evolution.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to fillyjonk says:

        Humans have survived far worse then this. And this sucks. It may suck for years and we are certainly just in the beginning. But we got this. This isn’t WW1 and a world wide flu pandemic. This isn’t bubonic plague or something like that. And this is bad enough. People survived living in dictatorships for decades and came out at the end. This isn’t that. Despite the silly protesters and such most people are always better at hanging together, being strong and surviving.Report

        • Avatar Chip Daniels in reply to greginak says:

          This is very true, and we should remember that.

          I think we Americans who came of age in the second half of the 20th century just don’t have the experience of something like this, where there aren’t any easy answers.

          Its entirely possible that the virus will become a long term crippling drag on our lives and economy, and our lives, the lives of our children will be poorer than they were until recently.

          We will certainly survive, but its possible that Americans will need to grow accustomed to the difficult lives that other people have always known.Report

          • Avatar CJColucci in reply to Chip Daniels says:

            A few days ago,a 100-year-old man named Philip Kahn died on Long Island of COVID-19 complications. He was alert and had been talking at length about our shameful lack of preparedness. He had his reasons.
            He lost his twin brother to the 1918-19 Spanish Flu pandemic, and noted the irony of his situation in his last days.Report

  4. Avatar North says:

    Great article my Todd! Great to see you about as well!Report

  5. This is an excellent write-up!Report

  6. Avatar greginak says:

    Hearing this guys claims of degrees sounds like how 10 year olds talk about being an adult when they are playing. “First i’ll become a SEAL then a fighter pilot for while then a doctor!!.” His boasting really should have been a clue to anyone with a basic knowledge of higher ed and careers.

    This is truly the Age of the Grifter. I’ve been told so many times by clients of mine that the other party ( their ex wife/husband) is such a good liar that i really have to watch out. They are so afraid i’ll be conned by their expert liar ex. In almost every case their ex came off like a really bad liar or said the same thing about them. And both were right. Ugh.Report

    • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to greginak says:

      We’ve done quite well at sucking all the hope out of life, and people are so desperate to get it back that they’ll give all their money to someone who promises it to them.Report

      • Avatar greginak in reply to DensityDuck says:

        I hadn’t noticed all hope being sucked out of life. But that is just me. Sure this time sucks and blows. But the grifters have been doing pretty well for years now so it isn’t just this moment. Quick fix miracles almost always leave you poorer in the long run. Usually in the short run to.Report

        • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to greginak says:

          After telling people that love is exploitation, that working just means you’re working for the man, that no matter what you do you’ll always be a racist, that we’re all going to die from the climate change caused by old people…what hope is left? Why be good, why do anything, why strive, why try?

          And along comes someone who says “give me ten bucks and I promise things will be better tomorrow”. You’re surprised that’s happening more, now? You’re surprised that it works so much better now than it did before?Report

          • Avatar greginak in reply to DensityDuck says:

            Who said this and why did you believe them? Did you? I don’t believe any of those things myself. There is hope all over the place. Gosh knows i look for it and want it especially in dark times. In fact i don’t even think most people, even liberals/D’s believe those things. You can find climate fatalists but they are wrong and are generally derided. People seem to find a lot of hope in religion, so good for them. Not me, but it seems good for them. It seems like you are picking the harshest statements of people you disagree with and taking them as some truth everybody must believe. That makes no sense.

            If people fall for grifters that is ultimately on them. I usually feel for them since many pro grifters are good at it and know how to play on people. But it’s still on them to learn and listen and sometimes bad things happen to good people. That sucks and it’s also why i dislike grifters/liars/ cheats so much since they prey on peoples weaknesses and fears. We all have fears and vulnerable times. Those that prey on people at those times are bad people and i dont’ have much sympathy for them. They know what they are doing.Report

            • Avatar veronica d in reply to greginak says:

              See this:

              That video is about the response to a video game, but I think the point generalizes. It is fake outrage.

              DD is upset not at what the left believes, but what he has been told the left believes, told by those who want men like him angry and unsatisfied. It comes from reading Brietbart or watching Fox (or various similar outlets). It is deliberate and calculated.

              On the latter point, after the whole “gamergate” debacle, a series of emails were leaked from Brietbart that revealed how they directly perceived the usefulness of “white dude grievances” and how these could be manipulated toward right wing goals. This strategy has been in play for a while. It is clearly very effective.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to veronica d says:

                Very true. Not just the fake outrage and what people are told the left believes but that excuses and validates any reaction.

                I’ve listened to about 11 minutes of that vid. Epic example of this. Crimany. Gamers are really something.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to greginak says:

                Hey! I play video games!

                You’re oppressing me.Report

              • Avatar greginak in reply to veronica d says:

                I had a Pong home console game so i am the most OG of all OG gamers ever. So i think i know about being oppressed for being a gamer.

                Watched the rest of that vid. Very good stuff. Dude really knows what he is doing.Report

              • Avatar Michael Cain in reply to greginak says:

                Got me beat, I didn’t play any sort of video games until 1974 when my undergraduate school got a PLATO terminal. OTOH, it supported MMOGs (for sufficiently small values of massive).Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Michael Cain says:

                Out of curiosity, what types of M*MOGs did you have back then? Are you talking about early MUDs, or something else?Report

              • There was at least one dungeon crawl, and a free-for-all aerial dogfight. The first semester killer game was Empire: conquer the (very small) galaxy by tending to your planets’ economies, invading your neighbors, etc. Hideously limited in numbers of players, the game state didn’t persist across reboots, standard miserable PLATO IV graphics (512×512 monochrome bitmap). The games were all written by students, so the code never progressed beyond “mostly works.” Empire was written by some guy at the University of Iowa or Iowa State, I think. Still, students would queue up in the basement of the CS building all night to get their one-hour time slot.

                I was just starting to be a part-time futurist at the time (without knowing what that was). Empire was the first time I remember thinking something like “Imagine this only with a thousand times the bandwidth and a million times the computing power…”Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                “DD is upset not at what the left believes, but what he has been told the left believes, told by those…”

                hey remember all those conversations you had with LeeEsq, where he said he was sad that nobody wanted to date him, and you told him that he probably deserved it?

                I’m upset at what the left believes because you’re my example of what the left believes.Report

              • Avatar veronica d in reply to DensityDuck says:

                It’s kind of bullshit to bring Lee into this when he didn’t ask for it. But whatever.

                I’ve said many thing to him over the years. Here’s the short version: there are aspects to his situation that aren’t his fault. There are, however, many that are his fault. In any case, his circumstance doesn’t justify any broad resentment toward women.

                You can try to summarize that as “he probably deserved it,” but it’s way more complicated than that.

                That said, I do think that a lot of contemporary right wing thinking is generated by sexually resentful men.Report

              • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to veronica d says:

                “It’s kind of bullshit to bring Lee into this when he didn’t ask for it.”


                “no fair to bring him into this! I will proceed to talk about him for two more paragraphs.”

                Also, you ask why I think what I think, and I tell you, and then you tell me that I’m wrong to think that. And then you cry about people gaslighting you.Report

              • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to veronica d says:

                That video is about the response to a video game, but I think the point generalizes. It is fake outrage.

                We’ve been over this before. Here’s the original piece. The author kind of dances around it, and avoids explicitly saying “Cuphead is racist,” but there’s a clear insinuation that the creators of Cuphead did something wrong by emulating the style of 1930s cartoons without putting in the Social Justice™ messages needed to ritually purify it.

                Here’s former Ordinary Gentleman Ethan Gach reinforcing that message with a steaming pile of Kotaku.

                You can say it was blown out of proportion, sure. It’s the Internet. Everything gets blown out of proportion, and not just by people you don’t like. But it would be super cool if you could stop gaslighting by saying it was made up out of whole cloth.Report

            • Avatar DensityDuck in reply to greginak says:

              so I told you, and your response was to yell at me for being such a downer and then yell further that anyone who gets scammed should have known better, so, i guess that’s my answerReport

      • Avatar Philip H in reply to DensityDuck says:

        That’s the most pessimistic – and most not reality – comment I think I’ve ever seen you write. And you write some really not real stuff.

        And though I will regret this – why do you say that?Report

  7. Avatar Jaybird says:

    Vermin Supreme weighs in:


  8. Avatar superdestroyer says:

    Many of the Trump supporting punditry tried to sell hydroxychloroquine as a prophylactic in that one could take the drug to prevent being infected. It is clear that President Trump believed this. Those drugs wanted it to be protective so that there would be no lockdowns and so Covi19 reponse would not hurt the economy. Remember the rumors that physicians were prescribing it for their families.

    Then hydroxychloroquin went through a phase when it was given to inpatients in intensive care but was being paired with zinc and azithromycin. Of course this caused shortage of the antibiotic, azithromycin, and zinc. At some places, hydroxychloroquine was also paired with Vitamin C as part of the medical cocktail.

    What the media has been bad at reporting is that there is an unofficial playbook for viral outbreaks when there is no vaccine or effective treatment. The playbook includes using drugs off label, speeding up producing of experimental drugs, and finding old drugs that might work. Also, using antibodies from recovered patients is part of the plan.

    This was all done during the Ebola outbreaks in Africa but most Americans did not pay attention. to include anti-viral drugs, experimental vaccines, and antibodies from recovered patients.

    If one is paying attention, remdesivir and monoclonal antibodies like (sarilumab are next in cycle and some Fox pundit will be overselling them just like hydroxychloroquin.Report

  9. Avatar Burt Likko says:

    Harmonizing with @superdestroyer above, mass media has ALWAYS done a bad job of reporting on and explaining science.

    Single studies are constantly presented with big splashes of attention that this or that food or drug has just been found to be a cure for this or that disease, condition, or malady. In fact, the studies typically only indicate some suggestion that there is some quantum of beneficial effect and typically have not yet made it through double-blind independent-party verification, much less governmental certification and approval (if applicable).

    Thus it has been since at least the 1970s, and I simply have no living memory going back further than that to speak to earlier times but little reason to suspect they were any different then.

    Add to that the deeply-baked-in hucksterism inherent in right wing media, evidenced by not only its breathlessly partisan reporting, and portrayal of commentary as news, but more importantly the actual commercial sold for broadcast to the audience — miracle cures have been staples of their commercial content and therefore the financial lifeblood of FOX News from its very beginning in the mid-90s.

    This metastasized in the Trump political campaign, a veritable traveling feast of massive rallies where there is A LOT of stuff being sold, everything from the trademark red cap to flags to t-shirts to, you guessed it, allegedly medicinal products of questionable provenance and dubious efficacy. The substantive content of a Trump rally is a steady flow of distilled salesmanship, emotional manipulation, exaggeration and shading of truth, and sometimes outright falsities.

    The only thing to really wonder about hydroxychloroquine is whether someone in the Trump family somehow had a financial stake in an entity that manufactured and stood to make a ton of money selling the stuff. What they really wanted to sell was a placebo, and I can only hope they thought it would be as harmless as a placebo rather than, as we now know, actually dangerous to a significant portion of the population.

    In a way, it’s the Trump Administration in microcosm: based upon nothing more than sales talk from a spokesperson who is much less than he represents himself to be, a gravely serious and complex problem is assigned false but simple and fast seeming solution, which is then touted relentlessly by the President of the United States and everyone politically, physically, or financially near him — to be sold at a profit and to somewhere between actual harm and no effect whatsoever.Report

    • Avatar Saul Degraw in reply to Burt Likko says:

      You forgot to add the people who might not like the right-wing hucksterism and think Trump is wrong for promoting this but like to exhibit Oppositional Defiant Disorder whenever a Democrat or liberal states a belief.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Saul Degraw says:

        “When I joined the Calling Out Bullshit Party, I never thought that my bullshit would get called out!”

        Trump and his supporters say a lot of incredibly stupid things. That doesn’t mean that you and your fellow travellers deserve a pass on the incredibly stupid things you say.Report

  10. Avatar Brandon Berg says:

    In an interesting turn of events, the New York Times is telling men to inject female hormones to cure COVID-19:

    I mean, yeah, they’re just saying that there’s some evidence that it may be helpful, but the new consensus among Right-Thinking People seems to be that it’s totally reasonable to characterize this as telling people to do it themselves.Report

    • Is there evidence that mainlining Lysol might be helpful?Report

    • Avatar Dave in reply to Brandon Berg says:


      Where does the article tell men to do this?

      Being in a fitness subculture where self-medication of hormones is openly encouraged, I’ve probably forgotten more media sources on that subject than “Right Thinking” people will see outside of this in their entire lives unless they themselves are exposed to the same interests.

      That informs my idea on what encouraging self-medication looks like. Compared to that, the NYT article doesn’t even come close, but I don’t expect clear thinking from “Right Thinking” people when it comes to the NYT or any other left-leaning media for reasons that have been obvious for the 30 years I’ve been aware of this kind of BS.

      Saying something can work doesn’t mean people should just go out and do it. I don’t care if it’s progesterone, estrogen, testosterone, hydrochloroquine or aspirin.Report

      • Avatar veronica d in reply to Dave says:

        As an aside, Julia Serano has some thoughts on this:

        tl;dr — antiandrogens might actually be better, and it’s kinda weird that “everyone” is is focussed on estrogen/progesterone rather than antiandrogens.

        For purely selfish reasons, I hope the gender differences are hormone related rather than genetic, given that I have female-typical hormones and (I’m guessing) male genetics. (I’ve never had my genes tested, but it seems almost certain.)

        This is assuming the gender differences in covid-19 are physical rather than behavioral. There remains so much we don’t know about how this disease works.

        In any case, the right-wing response to this is borderline pathological.Report

      • Avatar Brandon Berg in reply to Dave says:


        They’re not. I’m just making fun of the “tRUmP TolD PeoPle To InjEct lySOl” meme. The thing he actually said was stupid enough; people don’t need to lie about it.Report

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