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Trump deems churches ‘essential’ in coronavirus pandemic, calls for Memorial Day reopenings

CLOSE President Donald Trump is pushing the CDC to issue guidelines for opening churches during the coronavirus pandemic. Trump says churches are important to the American “psyche,” and warns of damage if they are not reopened. (May 21) AP DomesticWASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Friday called on local officials to reopen churches and other places…

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President Donald Trump is pushing the CDC to issue guidelines for opening churches during the coronavirus pandemic. Trump says churches are important to the American “psyche,” and warns of damage if they are not reopened. (May 21)

AP DomesticWASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Friday called on local officials to reopen churches and other places of worship beginning this weekend, but aides offered conflicting messages about how far the administration will go to ensure parishioners are allowed back in the pews.Trump described churches, synagogues and mosques as “essential” institutions and said that if governors decline to reopen them this weekend he would “override” them. But legal experts say Trump has limited authority to force changes to state coronavirus orders and White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany acknowledged minutes after Trump spoke that it is, “up to the governors.” The White House messaging was further muddied when Dr. Deborah Birx, the administration’s coronavirus response coordinator, said that people with secondary health issues “maybe … can’t go this week” to church if they live in areas with a high number of cases. On the other hand, Birx said there is “a way to social distance” in places of worship.The back and forth underscored the tension between Trump’s desire to quickly reopen businesses and other institutions and return to a sense of “normalcy” despite stubborn coronavirus caseloads in some parts of the country and fears of resurgence. “In America, we need more prayer, not less,” Trump said during brief remarks.  Few lockdown restrictions have stirred as much controversy as those applied to churches, repeatedly thrusting social distancing efforts into preexisting cultural and political conflicts. Trump’s Justice Department has sided with churches over state shutdown orders in several cases, arguing the orders violate constitutional rights.Vice President Mike Pence, an evangelical Christian, has been vocal in the past about attending church services remotely. Ahead of Easter weekend, for instance, Pence said he would attend the virtual services of his Indiana church from “right in the living room at the vice president’s (residence), where we have been attending for the last several weeks.”Monica Asitimbay prays at Holy Trinity Church in Hackensack, New Jersey, on Sunday, May 17, 2020, the first the day the church reopened during the coronavirus pandemic. (Photo: Amy Newman, USA TODAY Network)For several days, Trump has slammed Democratic governors for what he describes as moving too slowly to bring parishioners back to their pews, though his own Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had urged churches to modify their services.Trump on Friday argued that “some” governors have erred by allowing liquor stores and abortion clinics to remain open but not churches. If governors disagreed that churches are essential, Trump said, “they’re going to have to call me.”But in fact, it is state and local officials who decide which businesses are essential and who have signed enforceable stay-at-home orders. Trump has previously claimed he has the “absolute right” to change those orders, but has backed down from doing so.”No statute and no constitutional provision gives the president of the United States the unilateral authority (without statutory authorization) to override local and state shelter-in-place orders either in general or as applied to houses of worship in particular,” tweeted Steve Vladeck, a law professor at the University of Texas.Coronavirus:After church defies California orders, congregants exposed to COVID-19More: Trump accuses Democratic governors of keeping lockdowns because of ‘politics’ The CDC in recent days has issued detailed guidelines for reopening pools, schools and restaurants, but similar guidance on reopening churches, synagogues and mosques was put on hold.CLOSE

Draft guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention aims to help businesses such as restaurants re-open. Larry Lynch of the National Restaurant Association says restaurants already practice many of the guidelines. (April 28)

AP DomesticThe Trump administration initially shelved the documents, according to the Associated Press. Last week, a Trump administration official speaking on the condition of anonymity told the Associated Press that there were concerns about the propriety of the federal government making specific dictates to places of worship.”Ordering houses of worship to be opened without robust guidelines around necessary safety precautions flies in the face of medical and scientific advice, including advice originally administered by the CDC,” said Rabbi Jack Moline, president of Interfaith Alliance, which advocates for the separation of church and state.The CDC released a report this week highlighting the spread of the coronavirus at a rural church in Arkansas in March. Among 92 attendees, 35 developed confirmed cases of the virus and three died, according to the agency. Another 26 cases linked to the church took place in the surrounding community, the agency said, leading to one death.Others applauded the move. “The discrimination that has been occurring against churches and houses of worship has been shocking,” said Kelly Shackelford, president of First Liberty Institute, a religious liberty-focused law organization. “Americans are going to malls and restaurants.They need to be able to go to their houses of worship.”President Donald Trump holds a mask as he speaks during a tour of the Ford Rawsonville Plant in Ypsilanti, Michigan on May 21, 2020. (Photo: BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI, AFP via Getty Images)Trump’s Justice Department sided with a Virginia church this month in its challenge to a state shutdown order limiting the size of religious gatherings. Federal authorities filed notice of their support for the Lighthouse Fellowship Church in the resort town of Chincoteague Island after the pastor was cited last month by local police for hosting a service attended by 16 people – six more than allowed for such in-person gatherings amid the coronavirus pandemic.The intervention follows a warning issued recently by Attorney General William Barr that the Justice Department was reviewing shutdown orders issued by the states to guard against overly restrictive policies.Earlier this week, the department warned California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, that the state’s plan for a staggered re-opening discriminates against religious groups and a return to in-person worship services.Assistant Attorney General Eric Dreiband, chief of the department’s Civil Rights Division, said churches were being forced to take a back seat to a gradual resumption of operations at schools, restaurants, offices and shopping malls.’Go their own pace’:Iowa churches try to find balance, regain normalcyAutoplayShow ThumbnailsShow CaptionsLast SlideNext SlideContributing: Kevin Johnson, The Associated PressRead or Share this story: https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2020/05/22/coronavirus-trump-share-guidelines-churches-places-worship/5242780002/Find New & Used CarsNew CarsUsed CarsofPowered by Cars.com
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Nagorno-Karabakh: Armenia-Azerbaijan fighting rages in disputed region

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Publishedduration39 minutes agomedia captionTanks ablaze as fighting erupts over disputed regionFierce fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces is raging on in the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region, with each side claiming an upper hand.The region is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is run by ethnic Armenians.The separatist authorities there said 31 of its soldiers had now died, and some lost positions had been retaken. Azerbaijan said 26 civilians had been injured in heavy Armenian shelling. It earlier reported at least five deaths.Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have already declared general mobilisation and martial law in some areas.The fighting is the heaviest seen in the long-running conflict since 2016, when at least 200 people were killed in clashes.It has sparked international calls for diplomacy, amid fears that regional powers could be drawn into the conflict in the strategically important Caucasus region.Turkey has already declared its support for Azerbaijan, while Russia – which has military bases in Armenia – called for an immediate ceasefire.The territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh is one of the world’s oldest conflicts.When Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s, tens of thousands died in fighting, and many ethnic Azerbaijanis were forced to flee their homes.It is now a de facto independent region, relying heavily on support from Armenia. But it is not recognised by any UN member, including Armenia.Nagorno-Karabakh – key factsA mountainous region of about 4,400 sq km (1,700 sq miles)Traditionally inhabited by Christian Armenians and Muslim TurksIn Soviet times, it became an autonomous region within the republic of AzerbaijanInternationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but majority of population is ethnic ArmenianAn estimated one million people displaced by 1990s war, and about 30,000 killedSeparatist forces captured some extra territory around the enclave in Azerbaijan in the 1990s warStalemate has largely prevailed since a 1994 ceasefireTurkey openly supports AzerbaijanRussia has military bases in ArmeniaWhat’s the latest from the battlefield?On Monday, authorities in Nagorno-Karabakh said another 15 of its soldiers had been killed. It had reported 16 fatalities among the military on Sunday.More than 100 people have been wounded.image copyrightEPAimage captionArmenia published photos of what it said were destroyed Azerbaijani tanksThe self-proclaimed republic also said its forces had destroyed four Azeri helicopters, 36 tanks and armoured personnel vehicles, according to the Armenpress news agency.It also said it had killed many Azerbaijani troops, but this could not be verified.image copyrightEPAimage captionAzerbaijan released images of what it said were damaged Armenian armoured vehiclesAzerbaijan’s defence ministry confirmed the loss of one helicopter but said the crew had survived, and reported that 12 Armenian air defence systems had been destroyed. It denied other losses.Azerbaijan said 26 civilians were injured in Armenian shelling, accusing Armenia of targeting densely populated areas. On Sunday, Azerbaijan said five members of the same family had been killed by Armenian shelling.In July, at least 16 people died in border clashes, prompting the largest demonstration in years in the Azerbaijani capital Baku, where there were calls for the region’s recapture.The international reactionUN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said he was “extremely concerned”, urging both sides to stop fightingRussia’s foreign minister held urgent talks both with the Armenian and Azeri leadershipFrance, which has a large Armenian community, called for an immediate ceasefire and dialogueIran, which borders both Azerbaijan and Armenia, offered to broker peace talksPresident Donald Trump said the US was seeking to stop the violenceWhat’s the background?In 1988, towards the end of Soviet rule, Azerbaijani troops and Armenian secessionists began a bloody war which left Nagorno-Karabakh in the hands of ethnic Armenians when a truce was signed in 1994.Swathes of Azeri territory around the enclave are also under Armenian control.Negotiations have so far failed to produce a permanent peace agreement, and the dispute in the region remains one of post-Soviet Europe’s “frozen conflicts.”Karabakh is the Russian rendering of an Azeri word meaning “black garden”, while Nagorno is a Russian word meaning “mountainous”. Ethnic Armenians prefer to call the region Artsakh, an ancient Armenian name for the area.Over the years both sides have had soldiers killed in sporadic breaches of the ceasefire. Landlocked Armenia has suffered severe economic problems due to the closure of borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan. Russia, France and the US co-chair the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe’s Minsk Group, which has been attempting to broker an end to the dispute.
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Military suicides up as much as 20% in COVID era

WASHINGTON — Military suicides have increased by as much as 20 percent this year compared to the same period in 2019, and some incidents of violent behavior have spiked as service members struggle under COVID-19, war-zone deployments, national disasters and civil unrest. While the data is incomplete and causes of suicide are complex, Army and…

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WASHINGTON — Military suicides have increased by as much as 20 percent this year compared to the same period in 2019, and some incidents of violent behavior have spiked as service members struggle under COVID-19, war-zone deployments, national disasters and civil unrest. While the data is incomplete and causes of suicide are complex, Army and Air Force officials say they believe the pandemic is adding stress to an already strained force. And senior Army leaders — who say they’ve seen about a 30 precent jump in active duty suicides so far this year — told The Associated Press that they are looking at shortening combat deployments. Such a move would be part of a broader effort to make the wellbeing of soldiers and their families the Army’s top priority, overtaking combat readiness and weapons modernization. The Pentagon refused to provide 2020 data or discuss the issue, but Army officials said discussions in Defense Department briefings indicate there has been roughly a 20 percent jump in overall military suicides this year. The numbers vary by service. The active Army’s 30 percent spike — from 88 last year to 114 this year — pushes the total up because it’s the largest service. The Army Guard is up about 10 percent, going from 78 last year to 86 this year. The Navy total is believed to be lower this year. Army leaders say they can’t directly pin the increase on the virus, but the timing coincides. “I can’t say scientifically, but what I can say is — I can read a chart and a graph, and the numbers have gone up in behavioral health related issues,” Army Secretary Ryan McCarthy said in an AP interview. Pointing to increases in Army suicides, murders and other violent behavior, he added, “We cannot say definitively it is because of COVID. But there is a direct correlation from when COVID started, the numbers actually went up.” Sign up for the Early Bird Brief Get the military’s most comprehensive news and information every morning (please select a country)United StatesUnited KingdomAfghanistanAlbaniaAlgeriaAmerican SamoaAndorraAngolaAnguillaAntarcticaAntigua and BarbudaArgentinaArmeniaArubaAustraliaAustriaAzerbaijanBahamasBahrainBangladeshBarbadosBelarusBelgiumBelizeBeninBermudaBhutanBoliviaBosnia and HerzegovinaBotswanaBouvet IslandBrazilBritish Indian Ocean TerritoryBrunei DarussalamBulgariaBurkina FasoBurundiCambodiaCameroonCanadaCape VerdeCayman IslandsCentral African RepublicChadChileChinaChristmas IslandCocos (Keeling) IslandsColombiaComorosCongoCongo, The Democratic Republic of TheCook IslandsCosta RicaCote D’ivoireCroatiaCubaCyprusCzech RepublicDenmarkDjiboutiDominicaDominican RepublicEcuadorEgyptEl SalvadorEquatorial GuineaEritreaEstoniaEthiopiaFalkland Islands (Malvinas)Faroe IslandsFijiFinlandFranceFrench GuianaFrench PolynesiaFrench Southern TerritoriesGabonGambiaGeorgiaGermanyGhanaGibraltarGreeceGreenlandGrenadaGuadeloupeGuamGuatemalaGuineaGuinea-bissauGuyanaHaitiHeard Island and Mcdonald IslandsHoly See (Vatican City State)HondurasHong KongHungaryIcelandIndiaIndonesiaIran, Islamic Republic ofIraqIrelandIsraelItalyJamaicaJapanJordanKazakhstanKenyaKiribatiKorea, Democratic People’s Republic ofKorea, Republic ofKuwaitKyrgyzstanLao People’s Democratic RepublicLatviaLebanonLesothoLiberiaLibyan Arab JamahiriyaLiechtensteinLithuaniaLuxembourgMacaoMacedonia, The Former Yugoslav Republic ofMadagascarMalawiMalaysiaMaldivesMaliMaltaMarshall IslandsMartiniqueMauritaniaMauritiusMayotteMexicoMicronesia, Federated States ofMoldova, Republic ofMonacoMongoliaMontserratMoroccoMozambiqueMyanmarNamibiaNauruNepalNetherlandsNetherlands AntillesNew CaledoniaNew ZealandNicaraguaNigerNigeriaNiueNorfolk IslandNorthern Mariana IslandsNorwayOmanPakistanPalauPalestinian Territory, OccupiedPanamaPapua New GuineaParaguayPeruPhilippinesPitcairnPolandPortugalPuerto RicoQatarReunionRomaniaRussian FederationRwandaSaint HelenaSaint Kitts and NevisSaint LuciaSaint Pierre and MiquelonSaint Vincent and The GrenadinesSamoaSan MarinoSao Tome and PrincipeSaudi ArabiaSenegalSerbia and MontenegroSeychellesSierra LeoneSingaporeSlovakiaSloveniaSolomon IslandsSomaliaSouth AfricaSouth Georgia and The South Sandwich IslandsSpainSri LankaSudanSurinameSvalbard and Jan MayenSwazilandSwedenSwitzerlandSyrian Arab RepublicTaiwan, Province of ChinaTajikistanTanzania, United Republic ofThailandTimor-lesteTogoTokelauTongaTrinidad and TobagoTunisiaTurkeyTurkmenistanTurks and Caicos IslandsTuvaluUgandaUkraineUnited Arab EmiratesUnited KingdomUnited StatesUnited States Minor Outlying IslandsUruguayUzbekistanVanuatuVenezuelaViet NamVirgin Islands, BritishVirgin Islands, U.S.Wallis and FutunaWestern SaharaYemenZambiaZimbabwe Subscribe × By giving us your email, you are opting in to the Early Bird Brief. In this March 19, 2020, file photo Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, left, accompanied by Gen. James McConville, Army chief of staff, right, speaks at a news conference at U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command at Fort Detrick in Frederick, Md. (Andrew Harnik/AP) Preliminary data for the first three months of 2020 show an overall dip in military suicides across the active duty and reserves, compared to the same time last year. Those early numbers, fueled by declines in Navy and Air Force deaths, gave hope to military leaders who have long struggled to cut suicide rates. But in the spring, the numbers ticked up. “COVID adds stress,” said Gen. Charles Brown, the Air Force chief, in public remarks. “From a suicide perspective, we are on a path to be as bad as last year. And that’s not just an Air Force problem, this is a national problem because COVID adds some additional stressors – a fear of the unknown for certain folks.” The active duty Air Force and reserves had 98 suicides as of Sept. 15, unchanged from the same period last year. But last year was the worst in three decades for active duty Air Force suicides. Officials had hoped the decline early in the year would continue. Navy and Marine officials refused to discuss the subject. Civilian suicide rates have risen in recent years, but 2020 data isn’t available, so it’s difficult to compare with the military. A Pentagon report on 2018 suicides said the military rate was roughly equivalent to that of the U.S. general population, after adjusting for the fact that the military is more heavily male and younger than the civilian population. The 2018 rate for active duty military was 24.8 per 100,000, while the overall civilian rate for that year was 14.2, but the rate for younger civilian men ranged from 22.7 to 27.7 per 100,000, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. James Helis, director of the Army’s resilience programs, said virus-related isolation, financial disruptions, remote schooling and loss of child care all happening almost overnight has strained troops and families. “We know that the measures we took to mitigate and prevent the spread of COVID could amplify some of the factors that could lead to suicide,” said Helis, who attended department briefings on suicide data. Army leaders also said troops have been under pressure for nearly two decades of war. Those deployments, compounded by the virus, hurricane and wildfire response and civil unrest missions, have taken a toll. Soldiers’ 10-month deployments have been stretched to 11 months because of the two-week coronavirus quarantines at the beginning and end. McCarthy said the Army is considering shortening deployments. Gen. James McConville, Army chief of staff, said there’s new attention to giving service members “the time that they need to come back together and recover.” “We were very focused on readiness four years ago because we had some readiness challenges, and we did a great job. The force is very, very ready now. But I think it’s time now to focus on people,” he told the AP. McConville and Army Sgt. Maj. Michael Grinston said units have begun “stand-up” days, where commanders focus on bringing people together, making sure they connect with each other and their families and ensuring they have strong values in how they treat each other. The isolation is also taking a toll on veterans, particularly the wounded. Sergio Alfaro, who served in the Army for 4 ½ years, said fears associated with the virus intensified his PTSD and suicidal thoughts. “It’s definitely something that’s made things a bit more chaotic, trying to plan for the future, do things together,” said Alfaro, who deployed near Baghdad in 2003, facing daily mortar rounds, including one that killed his commander. “It’s almost like adding more trash on the heap.” While he once feared that strangers passing by might hurt him, now he fears people may have COVID and not show symptoms. Others in support groups, he said, “are just sick of living this way, worried about what’s coming over the next hill, what next horrible thing are we going to be confronted with.” Roger Brooks, a senior mental health specialist at the Wounded Warrior Project, said veterans are reporting increased suicidal symptoms and anxiety. Between April and the end of August, the group saw a 48 percent jump in referrals to mental health providers and a 10 percent increase in mental health calls and virtual support sessions, compared to the previous five months. Brooks said there’s anecdotal evidence that the pandemic has made wounded warriors like amputees feel more isolated, unable to connect as well with support groups. He said injured vets have seen disruptions in medical visits for pain management and other treatments. Within the Army, Helis said the virus has forced an increase in telehealth calls and online visits with mental health providers. That has generated some positive results, such as fewer missed appointments. “And we also think there was a reduction in the stigma of seeking behavioral health because you can do it from the privacy of your home,” he said. Military leaders also are encouraging troops to keep a closer eye on their buddies and ensure that those who need help get it. That message was conveyed in a remarkable public statement this month by Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. He said he sought help while heading U.S. Strategic Command from 2016 to 2019. He didn’t reveal details but said he saw a psychiatrist — a rare public admission by a senior officer. “I felt like I needed to get some help,” Hyten said in a video message. “I felt like I needed to talk to somebody.” He encouraged others to do the same, if needed, without fear of hurting their career. Need help? Call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (1-800-273-8255) Military veterans press 1. Individuals can also go to: https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/talk-to-someone-now and veterans can go to woundedwarriorproject.org or call the project’s resource center at: 888-997-2586.

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Anxiety symptoms increased during the pandemic, Google Trends show

A new study has found a significant rise in people searching Google for anxiety symptoms during the pandemic.New research found that in the United States, Google searches for ‘worry,’ ‘anxiety,’ and therapeutic techniques to manage worry and anxiety have increased during the pandemic.The research, featuring as a commentary in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research,…

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A new study has found a significant rise in people searching Google for anxiety symptoms during the pandemic.New research found that in the United States, Google searches for ‘worry,’ ‘anxiety,’ and therapeutic techniques to manage worry and anxiety have increased during the pandemic.The research, featuring as a commentary in the journal Psychological Trauma: Theory, Research, Practice, and Policy, highlights the burden the COVID-19 pandemic has placed not only on people’s physical health but also their mental health.COVID-19 has had a profound effect on people. The world is approaching one million recorded deaths from the disease. And, some of those who recovered from the initial virus effects continue to suffer long-term symptoms that are yet to be fully understood.Once the knock-on effects of the disease factor in — for example, overwhelmed critical care units prolonging treatment times for people with other serious illnesses — then it is clear that the pandemic has had a devastating effect on people’s health around the world.However, as well as people’s physical health, it is also becoming clear that the pandemic is significantly affecting their mental health.Early in the pandemic, there were anecdotal reports that people’s mental health was worsening, including those with pre-existing mental health issues and those whose mental health was normally well. As time has gone on, more research has started to corroborate these reports.In the present study, the researchers wanted to explore an alternative way of determining the pandemic’s effects on mental health: analyzing Google search requests.Google Trends allows anyone to see the search terms that people use for various populations, globally and locally. As Dr. Michael Hoerger, Assistant Professor of Psychology and Psychiatry at Tulane University Cancer Center, New Orleans, and his co-authors note:“Although by no means a ‘window into the soul,’ people’s search terms reflect relatively uncensored desires for information and thus lack many of the biases of traditional self-report surveys.”Previous health science research has made use of Google Trends data in studies, and the present study’s investigators wanted to see how effective it could be in the context of mental health in the current pandemic.To do this, they accessed weekly U.S. search terms from April 21, 2019 to April 21, 2020.By comparing the pre- and post-pandemic search terms, the researchers were able to identify four relevant themes.Firstly, following the announcement of the pandemic, search terms related to ‘worry’ increased significantly. These terms included ‘worry,’ ‘worry health,’ ‘panic,’ and ‘hysteria.’Secondly, people shifted to searching for anxiety symptoms, which spiked after the initial flurry of worry-related search terms.Thirdly, the researchers did not see a significant increase in other mental health search terms, such as depression, loneliness, suicidal ideation, or substance abuse. Rather than interpreting this to suggest that these issues did not increase, the authors speculate that people’s searches relating to these issues may occur later, or that they may be better at utilizing self-care techniques concerning these.Finally, the researchers noticed that not only did people understandably search for more online therapy rather than face-to-face therapy, they also searched for therapy techniques for dealing with anxiety symptoms. Users did so with search terms such as ‘deep breathing’ and ‘body scan meditation.’For Dr. Hoerger, “[o]ur analyses from shortly after the pandemic declaration are the tip of the iceberg.”“Over time, we should begin to see a greater decline in societal mental health. This will likely include more depression, PTSD, community violence, suicide, and complex bereavement. For each person that dies of COVID, approximately nine close family members are affected, and people will carry that grief for a long time.”– Dr. Michael HoergerThe researchers suggest that by continuing to track Google Trends data, public health bodies may be able to better identify people’s mental health needs promptly, reducing the pandemic’s psychological effects.
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