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Anti-Palestinian Fliers Lead to Calls for Police Investigation; Police Say The Fliers Are Free Speech:

The University of Maryland Diamondback reports:

University of Maryland Palestinian students and supporters were confronted with malevolent opposition Tuesday in the form of posters bearing vivid anti-Palestine propaganda that students said made them feel threatened, though it did not stop Palestinian Solidarity Week from continuing Wednesday night....

One such flier depicted a woman, wearing a traditional Muslim burqa and holding an AK-47 in one hand and a bomb-toting baby in the other. "What did she teach her child today?" was written above the picture.

This poster and others like it were found after Tuesday's "What would MLK Say About Gaza?" event, which was hosted by several student organizations....

Senior dietetics major Gisica Abdallah was at Tuesday's event — which was held in Jimenez Hall — when her friends brought the posters to her attention....

"They were everywhere," Abdallah said. "The hatred that was portrayed, that was the most hurtful thing."

Abdallah then began tearing down as many signs as she could before running to the Stamp Student Union, where she brought the fliers to Vice President for Student Affairs Linda Clement.

"[The posters] made a number of our students feel very uncomfortable," Clement said. "We have been doing things all day to investigate the incident. ... We have people examining surveillance tapes in the union and will be working with University Police to try and figure out who did this." ...

A University of Maryland Police spokesman reports that the department concluded that, "Basically, these fliers were free speech, [p]lain and simple."

But the university administration seems to take a different view:

The fliers ... were in violation of the university's policy on free speech ....

"There's such a thing as free speech," [Vice President for Student Affairs Linda Clement] said. "But when you post things anonymously and make others feel threatened, that's not free speech."

A few thoughts:

1. If the signs were in violation of a valid and content-neutral posting policy (e.g., that one can't post signs on building walls), they might indeed be properly punished, and removed.

2. Likewise, if there was a policy banning anonymous postings on university bulletin boards, it might be constitutional. The government may not ban anonymous speech generally, but it's possible — though not fully settled — that the university may indeed restrict anonymous posting on property that it voluntarily opens up for student access. This wouldn't make the posters illegal (unless they were seen as some sort of trespass, which I doubt), but perhaps it might justify the removal.

3. But if those aren't the rationales, and the university views the posters as unprotected — and is willing to countenance their removal by students — because of the message they express, then the university may do so only if the speech really falls within the narrow First Amendment exception for threats. Judging by the newspaper account, and by the police department's conclusion, there seems to be no evidence of that here. If any of you can point me to the actual posters involved, I'd love to analyze them (and link to them so readers can make the judgment for themselves).

Of course, there's the now customary quote about the "difference between free speech and hate speech":

"There is a difference between free speech and hate speech," said government and politics and Spanish language and literature major Sana Javed, who helped to organize Palestinian Solidarity Week. "They were an irrelevant commentary on Islam, but we were talking about politics."

No, there is no such difference under First Amendment law. Nor does First Amendment law draw a distinction between "commentary on Islam" (or Christianity or Judaism or atheism or whatever else) and "talking about politics," since much commentary on religion is commentary on politics.

Harry Eagar (mail):
If irrelevant commentary is outlawed, a lot of blogs will go out of business
3.17.2009 5:30pm
Real American (mail):
to these crazy leftists, exposure to viewpoints with which you disagree is seen as a threat. These people live in a bizarro world, not in reality.
3.17.2009 5:38pm
J. Aldridge:
A University of Maryland Police spokesman reports that the department concluded that, "Basically, these fliers were free speech, [p]lain and simple."

Yes, but not because of the First Amendment, but because there was no established law or school rule preventing the display of such posters.
3.17.2009 5:46pm
Rock On:
Ah Maryland. Not that it impacts the outcome, but as background, I think the Palestinian folks are feeling overly sensitive because pro-Palestine advocates there tend to be treated extremely harshly by the large and very pro-Israel Jewish portion of the student body. At least that was my experience. That said, obviously free speech is free speech and that's the end of it.
3.17.2009 5:50pm
Guest101:

One such flier depicted a woman, wearing a traditional Muslim burqa and holding an AK-47 in one hand and a bomb-toting baby in the other. "What did she teach her child today?" was written above the picture.

That seems pretty clearly speech about politics, not about Islam as such.
3.17.2009 5:51pm
EricH (mail):
University of Maryland Palestinian students and supporters were confronted with malevolent opposition Tuesday in the form of posters bearing vivid anti-Palestine propaganda that students said made them feel threatened

Now that's a classic college newspaper lede.

"..were confronted with malevolent opposition..."?

The evil posters jumped out at the students?

"In the form of posters..."? Not posters, mind you, but the "form of posters". Even more malevolent than the real thing.

Okay, all of us cringe thinking about our writings in college but...
3.17.2009 5:53pm
Bored Lawyer:
What, pray tell, about the posters made the students feel "threatened" -- as in fear for their safety? Can't see anything threatening in any of the quoted messages.

(Unless one means "threatening to your political point of view.)
3.17.2009 5:58pm
trad and anon (mail):
Of course, there's the now customary quote about the "difference between free speech and hate speech":
"There is a difference between free speech and hate speech," said government and politics and Spanish language and literature major Sana Javed, who helped to organize Palestinian Solidarity Week. "They were an irrelevant commentary on Islam, but we were talking about politics."
No, there is no such difference under First Amendment law. Nor does First Amendment law draw a distinction between "commentary on Islam" (or Christianity or Judaism or atheism or whatever else) and "talking about politics," since much commentary on religion is commentary on politics.
Nothing in Javed's comment indicates that she was talking about the First Amendment. She could easily be (and I think probably was) expressing a normative view about what we should consider to be "free speech" worthy of protection.
3.17.2009 6:01pm
Oren:
I'm going to start feeling threatened by all sorts of things. Starting with fire extinguishers.
3.17.2009 6:12pm
Dan M.:
That's beside the point. The blabbering about some difference between "hate speech" and "free speech" is a ridiculous leftist meme that's used to shout down alternative viewpoints. Anyone who repeats it is an idiot, even if it's some equivalent sentiment uttered by a 'conservative.'
3.17.2009 6:18pm
Ex-Fed (mail) (www):
University leftists: they like big buts, and they cannot lie.

(Specifically, "I believe in free speech, BUT [confused, First-Amendment-ignoring rationale for censorship.]")

Hooray for the campus police for being the only ones in the mix showing that they had a junior-high-school level civics education.
3.17.2009 7:19pm
R:
I kind of like the idea of a "What would MLK Say About Gaza?" event.

Pretty sure MLK would advocate non-violent means for the Palestinians to achieve their goals. Perhaps if the posters with the lady and the bomb-baby had the words, "MLK would say, 'this blowing Israelis up thing might not be the best way to go'", written on them, the organizers of the even would take less offense.

Maybe not.
3.17.2009 7:27pm
arbitraryaardvark (mail) (www):
Art. 40. That the liberty of the press ought to be inviolably preserved; that every citizen of the State ought to be allowed to speak, write and publish his sentiments on all subjects, being responsible for the abuse of that privilege.
Did Gisica Abdallah commit any crimes or violate university policy in removing the posters?
Likewise, if there was a policy banning anonymous postings on university bulletin boards, it might be constitutional. The government may not ban anonymous speech generally, but it's possible — though not fully settled — that the university may indeed restrict anonymous posting on property that it voluntarily opens up for student access.
That's a very interesting question. I could see it going either way. For an easier case, Wisconsin just lost an anonymous speech case. http://www.jamesmadisoncenter.org/Finance/OrdergrantingSJ. pdf
3.17.2009 7:33pm
Lucius Cornelius:
I wonder what kind of anti-Israel posters are displayed on that campus. Arabs and Palestinians seem to have ultra-thin skins...they take offense at everything.

I've seen posters at campus rallies displaying the Star of David intermixed with swastikas. I've seen posters with vulger, exaggerated depictions of Jews as monsters...but that is not "hate speech" to the leftists.
3.17.2009 7:41pm
rosetta's stones:
Hmmmmm, so somebody feels threatened on a university campus in the US?

I wonder how this discussion would play out if it WAS to take place in Gaza? I put the OVER/UNDER on the body count at about a dozen.
3.17.2009 9:33pm
Humble Law Student (mail) (www):
Did anyone read the entire article by Kyle Goon? I love the quote at the end, "Christians, Jews and Muslims have a right to live in equality," Saalakhan said.

'But Israel has no more right to exist than the apartheid [had].'"


That's the true hate speech of the story.

The Palestinians for their part are well known to indoctrinate their children from a very early age that Jews are evil and should be killed whenever possible. The posters while inflammatory are only so vile because they mock the vileness that permeates much of the education system in Gaza.
3.17.2009 9:47pm
Bob from Ohio (mail):

pro-Palestine advocates there tend to be treated extremely harshly by the large and very pro-Israel Jewish portion of the student body


What harsh things do the Jewish students do?
3.17.2009 10:07pm
nohype (mail):
What is the difference between free speech and hate speech? Free speech is speech I like. Hate speech is speech I do not like.
3.17.2009 11:22pm
T.S. Jones:
The entire "hate speech" nomenclature is a pox upon civil discourse. Don't like what I say? Prove me wrong.
3.18.2009 12:13am
TruePath (mail) (www):
Yah, this is dumb but it's not like this problem is particularly limited to liberals. They just tend to be the dunces on college campuses which make the news.

The number of people I know who DON'T seem to find 1st ammendment exceptions whenever they really really find the speech offensive is tiny regardless of where they fall in the political specturm.
3.18.2009 12:43am
PlugInMonster:
Another reason why most universities should be immediately shut down and bulldozed. Send the instructors to Gitmo for immediate interrogations.
3.18.2009 1:16am
LM (mail):
PIM,

I'm confused. Either you really meant that, in which case... well, what can I say? On the other hand, if you were kidding, good one. It's funny. But then aren't you satirizing yourself?
3.18.2009 1:30am
whit:
this is how the left responds to ideas it "feels" uncomfortable about.

"it's a threat".

"it's hate speech"

the first is simply not correct. and the 2nd is great, but there is nothing illegal about hate speech.

thankfully, that's still true in the USA.

also, part of this "it's a threat" meme comes from the war on domestic violence, where criticism is equated with threats and violence.
3.18.2009 2:13am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Feigned offense is the--sorry Einstein--most powerful force in the universe. Or at least on campus.
3.18.2009 8:41am
Wells (mail):
I think trying to argue the case on its merits is not going to get you anywhere. This time, when they're trying to suppress their opponents, they will push some bogus "hate speech" rationale. Next time, when others try to do the same thing to them, they'll scream "free speech".

What we're seeing is only tangentially about the First Amendment. It's mostly about attacking the rule of law. As long as the authorities are on their side (and in this forum they certainly were), they can say and do whatever they want (and they know it). Meanwhile, their opponents can't say or do anything without official sanction.

It's right to push a single universal standard of law. But don't fool yourself; the anti-Israel demonstrators have absolutely no intention of reciprocating.
3.18.2009 9:13am
Ben Franklin (mail):
I think what the Palestinian supporters are feeling isn't fear but rather shame. It's rather easy to mix the two up when your prophet calls for the death of infidels and thinks nothing of waging war to expand Islam. Indeed, one of Mohammed's first acts was to wage war against his own tribe to force them into his cult after they rejected him and mocked him. This is the example which all Muslims are to follow. If Muslims project their own thinking onto their opposition then I can see how they would think they were being threatened instead of mocked or engaged in debate. It reveals more about their 7th century mindset than they realize.

Also, there is no difference between politics and religion in Islam like there is a separation between church and state in the West. That is a mostly foreign concept so at the very least it is disingenuous for them to argue that their religion was being criticized when they don't bother to separate it from politics in any other regard.

Frankly, I am deeply amazed and proud that someone actually was able to criticize Islam and/or the Palestinians on a college campus. I did not think such a thing possible. It does not surprise me that the authorities are looking for them but they are to be lauded for their efforts and they are very brave souls indeed. History is strewn with the corpses of those who mocked Islam or its adherents. Which I think is the point of trying to ban anonymous criticism. The axeman needs to know whose house to visit if intimidation is to work properly.
3.18.2009 9:29am
Desiderius:
"[The posters] made a number of our students feel very uncomfortable,"

Welcome to America. If you can't stand the heat, perhaps this kitchen's not for you.

To those that find "the left" behind such happenings, what is your evidence? Seems like the same folks who bring us "zero tolerance" and in loco helicopterus parentus - i.e. non-ideological coddling.
3.18.2009 9:32am
Joe T Guest:
University leftists: they like big buts, and they cannot lie.

True, but other suckas would that deny.
And if you got guns son, then they don't want none, hon.
3.18.2009 10:18am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Desi,
If it's non-ideological, the right will be able to get the same admin response for their infantilization. But, as we have seen repeatedly, it doesn't happen that way.
As one poster said, the left/palis don't have the slightest intent of reciprocating.
And the admin doesn't have the the slightest intention of making sure it goes both ways.
This is supremely ideological.
3.18.2009 10:19am
Korla Pundit (mail) (www):
Islamists and their apologists in the media, academia and the Democratic Party are true champions of the First Amendment.

They disagree with what you say, but they will defend to the death the terrorist who beheads you for saying it.
3.18.2009 11:29am
Korla Pundit (mail) (www):
By the way, it's true what they say about "hate speech."

They "hate speech."
3.18.2009 11:31am
RJO (www):
Anyone curious to see the level of analysis of this kind of issue that goes on among Student Affairs people on campus might like to read this recent post on a Student Affairs blog:

"Facilitating discussion on campus"

Please note that this is written by a graduate student and not a senior administrator, but it is a grad student in a program in Student Affairs administration.

"Free speech is not as clear on a college campus. There are multiple court cases that I will spare discussion of in this venue, but colleges in general are not protected by the same free speech rights as everywhere else. Most colleges try to maintain some sort of open forum in the name of fostering academic discussion and student development."
3.18.2009 11:32am
Michael K Pate (www):
"If there be time to expose through discussion the falsehood and fallacies, to avert the evil by the process of education, the remedy to be applied is more speech, not enforced silence." - Justice Louis D. Brandeis in Whitney v. California, 1927
3.18.2009 11:46am
jtb (mail):
Leftists are all dhimmi anyway... craven wretches willing to surrender to anything but the threat of the truth being told...
3.18.2009 11:51am
Mark Buehner (mail):
Here's a little video of the Anti-Israeli speaker, Mauri Saalakhan, that spoke at Palestinian Solidarity Week.

Check in about 3:40 for his Darfur denial, and of course accusing Israel of genocide is par for the course.

Is this clown any less 'threatening' than the posters?

Anybody who has seen an anti-Israel rally would agree these posters are mild.
3.18.2009 12:20pm
drinkthec00laid (mail):
Having known enough students who went to UoM, I can tell you that some of the actions and speeches by the Pro-Palestinian faction go way beyond mere posters.
3.18.2009 12:27pm
Borealis (mail):
It is funny that the time when I felt the most limited in my speech was when I was in college and law school.
3.18.2009 12:32pm
submandave (mail) (www):
"They were an irrelevant commentary on Islam, but we were talking about politics."

Well, considering that Islam is either explicitly enshrined as the official religion in most Muslim states or implicitly deferred to through Sharia, one could reasonably conclude that commentary on Islam is, by default, political discussion concerning these very same Muslim states (or wanna-be states).
3.18.2009 12:54pm
Terp Mole (mail):
What's worse is that University Police were compelled to listen as MSA hosted the hateful venom of an unrepentant cop-killer apologist and al-Qaeda hugger. Perhaps MSA can explain why they think it wasn't hate-speech to host El-Hajj Mauri Saalakhan considering his ongoing efforts to promote the cause of convicted cop killers Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin and Mumia Abu Jamal.
In the case of Al-Amin, Saalakhan has published numerous articles in his defense, even though Al-Amin was convicted on all charges by a Georgia jury and was identified as the shooter by the partner of the murdered police officer, who was also severely injured in the attack. The weapons used in the ambush of the officers were recovered at the time of Al-Amin's arrest.

Saalakhan has also published a number of articles in defense of the following convicted terrorists: Zacarias Moussaoui (the "20th 9/11 hijacker"); Abdurahman Alamoudi (discussed earlier as a conspirator in the plot to kill Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah); Jose Padilla (al-Qaeda "dirty bomber"); the "blind sheikh" Omar Abdel Rahman (currently serving life plus 70 years for his involvement in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing); and the members of the Northern Virginia Jihad Network.

Mauri Saalakhan has even come under fire from segments of the Muslim community, such as New Trend Magazine, for failing to disclose the details of the funds he has raised in his various activities, particularly the extensive fundraising he conducted all over the country in support of Jamil Abdullah Al-Amin's defense...
3.18.2009 1:11pm
inmypajamas:
I missed the part where they actually identified the origin of the posters. This smells pretty fishy to me. Like the professor who vandalized her own car to "prove" racism or the noose incident. I wouldn't put it past the organizers themselves to provoke an "event" that would bring publicity and sympathy.
3.18.2009 1:31pm
jj08 (mail):
Censorship is a low-cost high-return form of ideological warfare, which explains its popularity in academia. Universities - particularly state-run universities - have very deep taxpayer-funded pockets and can win simply by outlasting the opposition. Those who would challenge university administrators' and professors' growing itch to squash points of view they don't like often have to go at it alone, or with the backing of groups and organizations who cannot hope to compete financially. And any significant actions opposing the decisions of "intellectuals" runs into a near-universal wall of media hostility.
3.18.2009 3:26pm
Assistant Village Idiot (mail) (www):
Desiderius makes a fair point. While the pro-Palestinian and censor-hate-speech POV is most usually associated with the left, such oversensitivity on campus is hardly limited to that group. Additionally, some leftists have thick enough skins to stand up to the challenges. Making blanket statements is unnecessary.
3.18.2009 3:27pm
malclave (mail):

"[The posters] made a number of our students feel very uncomfortable,"

Some elements of President Obama's speeches have made me uncomfortable. Can we impeach him based on that? He's a hate criminal, and surely that's unconstitutional. Right?

Or, just maybe, I can act like an adult, read the Constitution (though I'm only a layman), and realize that I do not have a right to not be made uncomfortable, or even offended. My right to free speech does not trump anyone else's.
3.18.2009 3:38pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
mal.
The use of feigned offense, or its weaker sister, feigned discomfort, is only available to the left.
Despite Assistant's points about thick skins and other nonsense on campuses, only left/pali or other Accredited Victim Groups actually get any help from their respective admins on this.
Conservatives need not apply. They can pretend to be offended, scared, uncomfortable, hold themselves up in public as puling, whining, ineffectual children as the lefties do, but the admin will ignore them.
3.18.2009 3:45pm
Desiderius:
Aubrey,

"They can pretend to be offended, scared, uncomfortable, hold themselves up in public as puling, whining, ineffectual children as the lefties do, but the admin will ignore them."

And a true conservative would want them to, and to further advise those puling and whining to grow up already. The pro-Palestinians/lefties (the two groups do not exactly intersect, by the way) are perceived, rightly or wrongly (I'd say the latter), as the poor little underdogs and thus are in some sense dehumanized, or at least infantilized thereby, to no one's benefit.
3.18.2009 4:07pm
Carl the EconGuy (mail):
I HATE CENSORS. I HATE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO SUPPRESS FREE THOUGHT AND EXPRESSION. I HATE PC CONFORMISTS. I HATE BULLIES TRYING TO STOP OTHERS FROM EXPRESSING THEIR POLITICAL OPINIONS. I HATE THEM SEVERALLY, JOINTLY, AND COLLECTIVELY.

What I just wrote is pure hate speech. So, now sue me.
3.18.2009 4:20pm
Yankev (mail):

This smells pretty fishy to me. Like the professor who vandalized her own car to "prove" racism or the noose incident. I wouldn't put it past the organizers themselves to provoke an "event" that would bring publicity and sympathy.
Certainly a possibility, but if I were designing a poster to provoke outrage I would not have gone with something so defensible -- I would go for something that went a lot further.
3.18.2009 4:22pm
submandave (mail) (www):
"To those that find 'the left' behind such happenings, what is your evidence?"

Desiderius, I consider it to be of little contraversy that the following "causes" are fairly stongly aligned with specific political leanings:

Democrat/Left: pro-choice, pro-gay marriage, pro-affirmative action, pro-Palestine, anti-Iraq War, pro-'social safety net"/anti-free trade, pro-union

Republican/Right: pro-life, pro-traditional marriage, anti-quota, pro-Israel, pro-victory in Iraq, pro-free trade/anti-welfare, pro-worker choice

As for "evidence," please provide specific example of those on "the right" claiming hate speech to try and get opposing views removed from the conversation, as AVI insinuates has happened. Bonus points if you can find examples of "the right" doing so in defense of pro-Palistinian groups. IANAL and I know this wouldn't stand up in court, but based upon historical precedence I feel it is a more than logical assumption.
3.18.2009 5:26pm
LM (mail):
Dietetics major?
3.18.2009 5:46pm
Desiderius:
submandave,

There's two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and...

"As for "evidence," please provide specific example of those on "the right" claiming hate speech to try and get opposing views removed from the conversation"

I'd imagine there isn't any. Good on the "right" - one of the reasons I don't hate them.

It does not follow, however, that the remainder of the population which is not right is therefore left and that therefore the "left" is responsible for the coddling they consistently receive from well-intentioned but none too bright careerist adminstrators trying to avoid controversy or stick up for the "little guy".
3.18.2009 7:18pm
hattio1:
Terp Mole,
Where's your evidence that Saalakhan is a cop-killer? Just supporting those convicted is not the same...not that I support Saalakhan, but learn some logic skills.
3.18.2009 8:10pm
neurodoc:
hattio1, Terp Mole, who you call upon to "learn some logic skills," called Saalakhan a "cop-killer apologist," as well as an "al-Qaeda hugger" because Saalakhan defended Jamil two convicted cop killers, Abdullah Al-Amin and Mumia Abu Jamal, and a convicted al-Qaeda terrorist, Moussaoui. You didn't understood that, thinking instead that Terp Mole was asserting that Saalakhan himself was convicted of killing a police offer rather than that he was an apologist for those convicted of killing police officers?
3.19.2009 12:04am
Ryan Waxx (mail):

"As for "evidence," please provide specific example of those on "the right" claiming hate speech to try and get opposing views removed from the conversation"

I'd imagine there isn't any.


This is teh internetz. We haz fiv3 of 3v3rything.
3.19.2009 12:16am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
desi.
Yeah. The lefties pretending to be anguished by some argument they can't handle with facts are considered, by those who pay attention, as beauzeaux. So what?
The exception is the college administrators. Which was my point.
3.19.2009 12:50am
submandave (mail) (www):
Desiderius, this dichotemous thinking strikes both ways. (Damn, there's another duality, when will it ever end!) I thought I was clear (what I said was certainly clear to me), but I did not mean to imply that all people can be split into left/right camps, but that the vast majority of those I see agitating for pro-Palistinian causes do seem to fall into the left. I concede that those in this particular circumstance may be solely concerned with the Palistinian issue instead of supporting it as part of the left pantheon of causes, but given that the event happened on a college campus I find it entirely reasonable to assume that several of the supporters were from a central casting call for crunchy chix with hairy armpits and dreadlocked skinny white kids who own more than one bong and still think "The Prophet" is deep.
3.19.2009 10:09am
Richard Aubrey (mail):
sub.

"The Prophet"? What happened to Rod McKuen and all that pretentious white space on the pages?
3.19.2009 10:12am
Yankev (mail):

There's two kinds of people in the world: those who divide the world into two kinds of people, and...
An IT engineer friend of mine claims there are only 10 kinds of people -- those who understand binary and those who don't.
3.19.2009 10:33am
Desiderius:
subman,

No doubt there is heavy overlap. Still, the problem is spineless admins who often coddle students not because the admins are particularly left, but because they perceive the lefties/Palestinian advocates to be the underdogs and they perceive themselves as sticking up for them.
3.19.2009 3:06pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Desi.
You are too charitable.
The admins perceive the lefty/palis as most likely to break stuff and beat people, so they get the breaks.
It's an expanded version of the heckler's veto.
Oh, yeah. Both groups have perfected the art of pretending to be persecuted while, sometimes in the same sentence, threatening violence. Hell of a trick.

You know. Like we leave Islamberg alone and go after Waco or the LDS offshoot last year on vague charges.
3.19.2009 3:28pm
Desiderius:
"Desi.
You are too charitable."

Thank you.
3.21.2009 10:34am

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