Wednesday, November 02, 2005

Perjury, False Statements, Obstruction

It is interesting how the Justice Department "keeps score" in criminal investigations. I read the indictment of Scooter Libby this morning and discovered that saying essentially the same things can result in a number of different crimes. Lying to the FBI can get you an indictment for making false statements. You can refuse to answer questions asked of you by the FBI thanks to the Fifth Amendment, but if you do choose to answer such questions you better tell the truth. If you get called to testify before a grand jury, you must swear to tell the truth, but as in the case of being interrogated by agents of the FBI, you can choose not to answer questions that might tend to incriminate you, but if you do answer them, you must tell the truth.

Scooter Libby was basically forced by his boss, George Bush, to answer any questions the FBI chose to ask him and to answer questions asked by the prosecutor or jurors when he testified before the grand jury. He didn't have the option of being a Fifth Amendment Crook. As a result, he got himself indicted and if you read the indictment, you will agree with me, I believe, that he stands a 99% chance of being convicted because his statements deviated from the truth by a very large margin.

What interests me here is the fact that making essentially the same false claims can get you indicted for "making false statements," "perjury," and "obstruction of justice." Since he is charged with two counts of making false statements and perjury and the different counts involve the same lies, we could argue that that the prosecutor managed, if I may be permitted a baseball analogy, to get three outs (types of charges) with just two pitches (two different lies). There is something about this that strikes me as unfair.

The fact is that it matters in how we go about using language who we are talking to. We tend to use more formal speech when talking to our bosses than our underlings and use more formal speech (by, say, banishing slang) with strangers than close friends. We can also use less polite speech forms (omitting "please" from requests, for instance) with our inferiors or our close friends than our bosses or strangers without giving offense. And, if we control more than one dialect (as many educated African Americans do), we tend to use the dialect we learned early in life with family, friends, and others in the community we grew up in, and more standard forms in our business dealings with the wider community. So, clearly, who we are talking to matters a great deal in our deciding how to say what we say. However, the idea that we can choose to tell the truth to certain people but not others is not widely approved even though we do tell so-called "white lies" to avoid revealing uncomfortable truths. Few young women will tell their grandmothers they are not virgins if asked even if they aren't. This would normally be an acceptable lie. Nevertheless, with the exception of contexts in which telling "white lies" is an acceptable practice, we do not normally think that it is okay to, say, lie to our bosses or strangers and reserve the truth for underlings and friends.

As the philosopher David Lewis noted in his book Convention there exists a convention of truthfulness we are all expected to abide by for if we routinely flouted it language would cease to be useful and surely cease to exist. Without this convention, there would be little point to communication. Imagine an army company that sends out scouts to find concentrations of enemy forces who come back and tell the truth about what they have seen only half the time. None of us would want to be in that company.

Cal Thomas, who, it seems to me, may be brain dead has columnized (if I may be permitted to compose a new word for your consideration) today that the prosecutor in the Libby case is politically motivated and that Libby shouldn't be prosecuted for lapses of memory. Interestingly, in today's Columbus Dispatch, the editor placed a column by NY Times reporter, Nicholas Kristof, under Mr. Thomas's column in which it is noted that the nature of the discrepancies between what Libby says happened in conversations with reporters and what they say happened are much too great to be mere memory lapses. I agree with Kristof as will you, I think, if you read the indictment. Either three journalists are lying or Libby lied. There are no two ways about it.

I have already convicted Libby of this crime and hope he rots in prison, for outing a CIA operative is a very bad thing. As a result, I wouldn't be a good jury member. Unfortunately, the prosecutor can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Libby deliberately outed this agent so he is forced to move on to things he can prove, namely that Libby lied. However, I am a bit troubled that telling exactly the same lie to FBI agents and to a federal grand jury should be different crimes. It is true that if I rob two houses that are right next to each other I will be charged with two crimes. But note, in such a case, I didn't steal the same exact things. I would have stolen different things. This is why I am a bit disturbed by the Libby indictment. If he were being charged with one set of lies to the FBI and a wholly different set of lies to the grand jury, I could see two different charges.

And now we come to the obstruction of justice charge. What's up with that? You got it -- it was telling these same lies, the argument of the prosecutor being that Libby was engaged in a "corrupt endeavor" to

influence, obstruct and impede the due administration of justice, namely proceedings before Grand Jury 03-3, by misleading and deceiving the grand jury as to when, and the manner and means by which, LIBBY acquired and subsequentlydisclosed to the media information concerning the employment of Valerie Wilson by the CIA.
Of course, Libby was trying to impede the prosecutor's effort to nail his butt to the wall quite deliberately. No one could tell whoppers like Libby did by accident. But all of that was done in defense of his personal butt, not, say, the butt of his boss, the Veep. Now, lying about what he and the Veep may have said to each other in regard to the outing of Plame would be an entirely different thing. But you know that will never be charged because you can be sure that he and the Veep got their stories straight and since they would have been the only parties to their conversations, no lying about them could ever be proved. I don't know that the Veep directed or encouraged Libby to tell these lies but I wasn't born yesterday.

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Blogger concerned citizen said...

L. Guy I didn't want to be first, but this makes me think of some thing I read yesterday in the local paper. This guy killed one person & has 3 murder charges against him. I don't get it? How did the justice system get this way? I think it is very scary. I know it is a way for prosecutors to pin something on a person. But, i agree it is not fair. & if the law is supposed to anything it is fair. But, that could be just another assumption of mine? I mean what's the Lady w/ the scales all about, anyway?

11:57 AM

Blogger The Language Guy said...

If you have counts of felony murder (murder while commiting another felony), first degree murder, and second degree murder you will be convicted on just one, namely the strongest one the jury will go for if you are convicted. That's my guess.

Sometimes prosecutors go with just the highest count to force the jury not to come to a compromise verdict by going with a lesser included 1st or 2nd degree murder conviction.

12:45 PM

Blogger Tracy Lynn said...

Lovely. Thanks Mike.

8:36 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

The original intent of the constitution? what is that? as it applies here.
However noble it might be, it ain't going to happen.
What I see is power using 'language' to get what it wants. Justice, fairness, those words mean nothing to the powers that be.
P.S. I'd like to go one day w/out tripping up the word verification, aargh!

11:49 AM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

"If you have counts of felony murder (murder while commiting another felony), first degree murder, and second degree murder you will be convicted on just one, namely the strongest one the jury will go for if you are convicted."
LG, you are correct.

"Sometimes prosecutors go with just the highest count to force the jury not to come to a compromise verdict by going with a lesser included 1st or 2nd degree murder conviction."
Yes, but if the evidence would fit, and the defendant requests, he can get an instruction for the lower offense. Sometimes the court will be required to give an instruction on a lesser-included offense even absent a request by either party.

And finally, the prosecutors need to be able to charge all the different offenses, based on the same facts, because they may have some kind of technical defense. They want to be able to get them on at least one. And if they convict on all of them, any potential injustice that you see should be (and usually is) rectified by the court in sentencing. Regardless of how many of the crimes he is convicted on, the sentence will likely be the same in a situation like this.

Of course, it's different when you look at a conspiracy charge. In cases where the conspiracy was successful, they will likely prosecute both for the substantive crime and the conspiracy. And they will likely get a longer sentence. This is justified on the basis that we want to deter group crime even more than crime by individuals acting alone (it's more dangerous).

12:00 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have a feeling that I wouldn't want Language Guy as my prosecutor if I were a defendant. I think precision with language would salvage lots of bungled prosecutions.

l>t, I think we all use language to get what we want. That's why our language organ evolved the way it did (just tweakin' LG there). That's why we tune our language among friends, strangers, bosses and underlings. The underlying test LG is applying here is whether "truth" is the result of each modulation.

12:07 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

We would have to say that language is still evolving, right?

3:40 PM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I remember a few years ago I got tired of using the word dude. I felt it was being worn out and over-used so I started using the word "bro" instead. I've noticed "dude" is being used less and now "bro" has caught on as an acceptible alternative to "dude". Everybody is saying "bro" now.

3:57 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I guess that's some form of word evolution, huh?
By the way, that's really funny.

4:30 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

P.S. By the way fellas you can't flirt w/me on L.Guys site. he gets jealous. Come see me at my 'Hillbilly Ritual' post, O.K.?

4:59 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

Perhaps it would be beneficial to ask ourselves whether or not, collectively, we actually value integrity. I can't recall which study it was, but while reading a book on emotional intelligence, there was a reference to a study/survey of employers throughout the U.S. that found that the most valued trait which employers look for in employees is loyalty. Integrity wasn't even in the top 5 desired traits. As you noted, and I tend to agree, there seems to be some level of socially acceptable deception; though, I think this is part of the underlying cause of the cancer eating away at society. If you can't tell your best friend that their haircut looks like "shit," what kind of a friendship do you really have? Are you really valuing each other's being when you can't accept an opinion which you can't accept or agree with? And, in turn, we righteously loath people for stating the obviously true fact about someone when they say, "you're fat." In fact, there was a recent case where a doctor was being sued by a patient because the health care provider told her she was fat and it was endangering her health. Imagine what would happen to the integrity of professional opinion if a doctor could no longer tell a patient the cold hard truth of reality.

After some study and consideration, there seems to be an underlying, "end justifies the means," type of thinking that has permeated the very nature of our society, with the end being our status in society and the means being any which way we can find within the rule of law, or without getting caught.

Though I hate to admit it, perhaps humans are largely motivated by self interest (I refuse to assume that most self interest is inherently rational); and, if it is in our self-interest to lie in order to help build the heaven on Earth we paint in our minds, then, so be it - we spread disinformation so long as we think it leads to the furthering of God's agenda. On that note, I say God's agenda because the grand majority believe in such and the rest of our self interest generally falls within the confines of what God says is "right." But, for some reason, we seem to have forgotten that lieing was one of the first forbidden things. Maybe humans came to realize just how difficult it is to change the mind of another human (even in the face of the most stark evidence) and subsequently decided that if it was necessary to lie in order to manipulate, that it would just have to be done, after all, God is forgiving - he'll understand, it was for him, in his name.

Alas, I'm getting long winded. But, as always, I will say this problem can be easily fixed if we can only fix one thing - public education.

peace n whatnot,


7:14 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Hear! Hear! But, Public education? Can a social morality issue be fixed in the public education arena?

7:37 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

I'm not so sure the subject of truth is a morality issue. It was brought to my attention the idea that to invoke ideas of morality is to invoke the very foundation of our subjective view on reality, which, in turn would create an incomplete and false picture of reality itself if we seek to condition a moral code within human behavior.

That's not to say that all of our ideas about morality are false or that they serve no good purpose. Contrarily, that is said to suggest that if we allow humans truly free will, they will naturally choose good. They may not choose "good," in a christian sytem of morality, they may not choose "good," in any type of currently constructed system of morality. However, generally speaking, it seems that many folks, regardless of which system of morality they believe in, are content to allow others the right to live in their own system, so long as they don't attempt to force their system upon ours. However, this is not what we practice in most cases.

In most cases, especially in rearing children, we tend to impose our system of morality upon them under the assumption that it is the "correct," or "right," system of morality. If we realize, for but a moment, that a system of morality is a "belief," structure of right and wrong, then we would realize, in that moment, that when we ascribe that system to ourselves, we are not only forcing a subjective view of reality upon our children, but ourselves - which, I believe, is the cause of our inner contradictions of thought.

It seems (and, I'm open to critique or suggestion for refinement) that the only "system of morality," that can hold true in the logic of our language is that based on the idea of freedom. As a definition of freedom, I submit a quote by John Stuart Mill,

"The only freedom which deserves the name is that of pursuing our own good, in our own way, so long as we do not attempt to deprive others of theirs, or impede their efforts to obtain it."

That definition considered, it seems self evident that nearly every American has been trained to denounce that very definition and work against it. Rather, we have a whole system of morality, intertwined in government, which demands that we adhere to specific beliefs as to the "right," and the "wrong," way to live - and, should we fail to accept or conform to it, we lose our right to seek our own good in our own way.

As far as how public education relates, it is the place where the majority receive their first indoctrination to a specific system of morality that goes far beyond teaching children how to pursue their own good, their own way, without depriving others of their efforts to do the same. In fact, we've developed a grading scale that rates just how well an student conforms to somebody else's system of morality, one where obedience, discipline, and loyalty are valued far more than integrity. If integrity were valued as a trait to be attained, then we would teach the truth of American history. This is not the case. Instead, in order to further promote traits like loyalty, we instill pride and vanity which only further impedes the progress of integrity; because, to turn away from the proud and vain teachings would be to first admit that we are not as great as we were led to believe, which brings pain to the heart. If, on the other hand, our public education told the glorious and the painful truth of our past, we may gain a more objective view of the present. And, maybe, just maybe we'd see behavioral changes perpetuated by changes in perception. Instead of glorifying our mistakes as victories, we explain that our freedom was earned through others' misery, not just our founding fathers, but the misery of those who were willing to share the land and had it stolen from them by vicious men. Perhaps if we were led to believe that we never deserved this freedom in the first place, we might be more inclined to "give back," in general, in an attempt to make up for our ancestors, and our own, mistakes.



p.s. forgive the haphazard attempt to explain, it was not well thought out, but the effort has been made!!! : )

9:06 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Well, being human is complicated but not that complicated. I choose to believe we inherently know what is right for ourselves, at some point, & what is right for ourselves is also right for mankind in general. Morality is tricky, truth is not. Morality is relative, truth is concrete. When people say truth is relative, I don't believe it.
Talking about choosing good; you know that christians think man is inherently bad & he will choose the wrong way. That is why we need Christ(they say) because, only he is good.
Anyway, I don't want to get off the subject. Where is the truth in word manipulation? Manipulation in itself implys deception as far as I am concerned.

12:32 AM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

Calling it word "manipulation" assumes that there is a way that you can use words which is not manipulative. Doesn't any way you phrase any sentence show certain biases and prejudices and a certain view of the universe?

10:46 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

No. You are a lawyer, that's why you think that. I don't believe language was meant to be that way. Of course, It reflects who you are. It's coming out of your mouth after all. But' it is not always intended to manipulate.
using this definition:
To manage or controll artfully or by shrewd use of influence. esp. in an unfair or fraudulent way. as 'The political boss mannipulated the voting.'
Gosh, I always have to be so specific w/you guys.

10:59 AM

Blogger Dusty said...

Perjury: Is a lie that is a key factor in proving the case.

False statements: Is willfully lying but not about facts crucial to the investigation.

Obstruction: Is lying while being questioned by investigating officers.

These are three separate offences, it is well within the bounds of the law to prosecute or persecute him.


11:04 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Hey, did we stymie you?

11:29 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Giving this issue more thot, I'm thinking that sometimes maipulation is used to get to the truth. This seems like a contradiction, but maybe not. For instance, our word game here, I say, "Did we stymie you?" because I really want to know. You don't answer because, either:
1. you are stymied
2. you are waiting for me to say something stupid.
L. Guy if I'm doing a bad thing again tell me, O.K.?
Sometimes i just can't shut-up.

7:11 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Oh yeah, j-g they should grow up to be just like you. Then we'd all want to go to heaven.

9:17 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

Since my words carry no meaning...

"Loyalty to petrified opinion never yet broke a chain or freed a human soul."

"Loyalty to the country always. Loyalty to the government when it deserves it."
-Mark Twain

"My honour is my loyalty."
-Heinrich Himmler

Those three quotes considered, I'll throw in my meaningless words again,

"I just had a brilliant thought....let's juxtapose J_G's ideas to those of Hitler, just to see where this country is headed if we don't change our ways, remember, J_G said that,

"there is only a problem when the anti Christian secularist tries to remove our traditions and beliefs to fit their own selfish needs to feel as though they are in control and they obviously know they are not."

Now, how would this flow of though sound coming out of Hitler's mouth?
Something like this:

"there is only a problem when the Jews try to remove our traditions and beliefs to fit their own selfish needs to feel as though they are in control and they obviously know they are not."



peace n whatnot,


10:16 PM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

lol...i just realized that J_G has officially removed the option for others to comment on her blog, which is, very "American" of her; I find that refusing to open one's self to others' opinions and ideas is the perfect way to promote that which we seek, a friend of mine named Adolf gave me that advice a while back - He said he just had his propaganda machine rearrange various items of information so that the people focused on the ideas he wanted them to focus on and then he simply shut out the opportunity for dissent. Alas, my damn conditioning keeps me thinking that others' should have the right to think as they wish to think, so, I can't seem to actually put into place this system of deliberate manipulation and censorship...but, hopefully, with the help of "great americans" like J_G, our political system will eventually shut up all the detractors and get on with the business of being more like the furor.

10:24 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Ha! L. Guy & you thot I was bad. I'm a pussy-cat compared to that.
Come on you guys, mellow out. Whatever you're disagreeing about it not that important in the whole scheme of things.
jennifer, you are O.K. even if you have weird ideas.
Sean, lay off & go smoke a joint or something.
Jeez, L. Guy lets sneak off some where & conjugate.

11:19 PM

Blogger Mrs. Geezerette said...

Thank you, |>t, for coming on and attempting to be the peacemaker here. I hope that it results in a truce between these two and that future exchanges will be polite and respectful. The truth doesn't have to be compromised in order for one to be civil.

I like some of Sean's ideas. He's not entirely off base. I see that he is a young person with a lot of mental energy that needs to be expended. I like that in him.

I also like some of Jennifer's ideas. She's not entirely off base either.

But back to the discussion at hand. I was wondering about something. Is persuasive speech necessarily manipulative speech?

12:18 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

susieq and others, thanx for the concern...

understand it may very well be necessary, whatever the reason, for everyone to take the position and approach that they make; and, this is the reason for my position. everyone perceives reality differently. our founding fathers understood the truth contained in the previous proposition. our founding fathers wrote an entire constitution and bill of rights based on the idea that everyone, being given free will by God, had the right to act according to their individual perception of reality so long as those acts did not infringe upon other individual's right to do the same; loosely, they called this concept "freedom."

Our founding fathers were considered patriots because they fought for the "freedom," of this act. Britain, at that time, no doubt saw our founding fathers' actions as "unpatriotic," since the definition of patriot implies a devout love of country and cessation coupled with declaration of independence hardly says, "I love you Dear Queen."

However, because we love freedom, we appreciate what our founding fathers died for. Our founding fathers gave us the right, and the duty, as Americans to change our government any which way we please so long as we abide by the above concept of freedom and gave us the tools with which to do this.

J_G claims to believe in all this. J_G is a hypocrite, much like the rest of the republican party. If I should lose access to some random website for starkly expressing the truth, so be it. It wouldn't be the first time somebody revoked a priveledge, discriminated against, physically assaulted, slandered, jailed, or generally attempted to punish me for exercising my right to free speech. I don't have enough fingers to count the times my right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness has been spit on, stepped on, or rubbed in the dirt.
I can't begin to count the number of times some self-labeled, self-righteous, PROUD AND LOYAL, "American" has outright violated the most basic rights they claim to be proud of, claim to defend, claim to love. I'm frequently accused of being "un-American" because I realize the true nature of our government; quite often, I'm told to leave the country.

So, you'll have to excuse me if my communication sounds somewhat angry. If I could, I would make it raging. But, I'm sure that would POSITIVELY get me booted out; so, I'll continue my attempt to "walk the line."

peace, whether you like it or not,


3:24 AM

Blogger The MetaKong said...

Oh...I forgot....the reason I'm going to "walk the line," forever, is because I'm fed up with hypocrites who flat out lie in order to justify their position; I'm sick of false saints and false moralists capitalizing on anyone who has a paltry income....

For my nature, I will not apologize.

For my lack of desire to appease anyone, I do apoligize; but, that's my most American trait...



3:26 AM

Blogger Dusty said...

Whoa kiddies.... Time out.

Sean you are young, head strong and believe with every fiber of your being in your opinion. It is, however just an opinion. J_G has as much right to hers as you do.

That was the basis of our country.

BTW, we betrayed a king not the queen.

J_G he has a right to disagree. Sorry you felt personally attacked. That's what happens when you have differint opinions. It was however uncalled for to attack him on his own blog. That is where it is safe for us to voice our frustrations. And that is all it is he is frustrated because you can't see his side as well as yours.

You don't have to be best friends what you both are doing is not only unChristian but just ugly.

8:25 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

Couldn't wait to get up this morning & survey the battle field.
Speaking of the constitution, don't forget it wasn't so great at the time if a person wasn't white. Nothing is perfect for everybody. The constitution was not written by 'God', or a slave, or an Indian or a woman. It was written by Idealistic educated land owners. (not that ther's anything wrong with that)You must see it for what is was, though. & I'm not attacking it, just trying to see past the Bias.

9:41 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

I guess what I'm really trying to say is that the Constitution is not sacred, unless you worship it, of course.

9:46 AM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

suzieq? had a good question back in the frey. Is persuasive speech, manipulive speech? Persuade: 1.to prevail on a person to do something.as by advising or urging. 2.to induce to believe; convince. I would say persuasion sounds like a friendier way to get someone over to your side. Consider:
"I would like to persuade you to see it my way."
"I will manipulate you untill you agree with me."
I suppose you could persuade by violence. Like my Father used to do when he spanked us. It all depends on the context. So, persuasive speech is not necessarily manipulative. Could we even say, not generally?
L. Guy How am i doing? Have i learned anything yet? Don't look at the grammer or spelling, O.K.?

2:30 PM

Blogger Ripple said...

Some people cannot debate, Sean. They can only criticize. They close their minds because of their own self-righteousness. They are pure egomaniacs and devoid of any ability to hold intellectual conversations with any liberal or unlike-mided person who doesn't ascibe to their narrow view of the world. This may be due to prejudism, bias and pride in ones own wittiness. To some you are just a young person with a lot to learn about the world, therefore, how can you possibly say anything that "they" need to hear and contemplate and reflect on.

11:53 PM

Blogger Full Metal Attorney said...

#1: Stop using LG's blog as a flamewar message board. If you want to insult each other go somewhere else, or do it on your own blog.
#2: [I insulted someone's word use here, and decided to remove it before posting]
#3: Why is it, paul f., that only conservatives are incapable of true debate?
#4: Whoever made the observation that manipulation can be used to find the truth, that is an excellent observation, and one that any police officer or attorney will tell you is correct.

10:53 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry for my outburst, but, since you asked, Kelly, just take a good hard look at j__g's first comment posting and you will understand why I indirectly commented on her comment towards Sean. I think there are a lot of conservatives worth debating. I've debated my uncle Bill many times. Now we don't talk anymore (ha ha). Just kidding. I don't really consider myself a liberal or conservative being that I have conservative views in some areas and liberal views in others, but more or less I lean towards the left. Later, and Language Guy....dig your blog!

11:11 AM

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hold on... I like the conversation about persuasive vs. manipulative. They seem to me to be at their essence, one and the same. If you are persuading or manipulating, you are attempting to change something to your will and desire. The difference is that one term has a percieved negative connotation. So I agree with Phil that we all use language to get what we want. We choose words with different connotations to say the same thing but with different emotional impact. Knowing your audience can affect your word choice because a different term may have a greater impact than it would on a different audience. Even on this board where it seems people frequently get into arguments. The comments are specific. When one person takes offense, it is easy for the commenter to throw up their hands in innocence and proclaim, "You're mis-interpreting me, or the information, or so on." However, the words used are meant to garner a certain reaction. Whether through manipulation or persuasion...

12:44 PM

Blogger concerned citizen said...

very true but, i would always prefer to be persuaded, Unless I wanted to lay blame for my stupidity on someone else, then I would say I was manipulated. & I would rather my children, for instance, thought I raised them using persuasion & not manipulation.

3:07 PM

Blogger algore said...

Once you raise Val to the status of "CIA operative", I figured you were on an expansive literary license. If you can determine her employment from a cocktail discusion with her I don't think she is that afraid of being outed. More like a guy at a party telling girls he is a secret agent to get laid.


4:34 PM


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