by Eric Resnick
Dayton--An attempt to pass a gay civil rights ordinance two years ago has been injected into the heated mayoral race.
Democratic candidate Rhine McLin says she was "targeted" with the issue by her opponent and his supporters.
McLin, who is African-American, says black ministers are now supporting her opponent, incumbent Mike Turner, because of her support of the ordinance. Turner, who is white, led the charge to defeat the measure in late 1999.
"It�s unfortunate," said McLin, "I�m getting pressured from all sides."
The ordinance was introduced in the city commission by openly lesbian commissioner Mary Wiseman. It was later withdrawn by Wiseman when the other three Democrats on the commission ended their support after pressure from a coalition of black ministers and white Christian fundamentalists.
Turner, a Republican whose strongest supporters are Christian fundamentalists, led the opposition to Wiseman�s bill, accusing her of "having a gay rights agenda." The mayor is the fifth member of the commission.
At the time, McLin, who is a state senator, criticized the three Democratic commissioners who told Wiseman they would support the bill, then backed down.
"The commissioners will pay a bigger price for flip-flopping than they would have for supporting the ordinance," McLin said in 1999, "because they have lost credibility."
An October 21 Dayton Daily News column said McLin had backed off her support of the ordinance.
"She resists being pinned down on whether she would support one, saying she'd have to see its specifics," wrote Daily News editorial board member Martin Gottlieb. "And she claims not even to have really decided that she favored the last one . . . If McLin doesn�t want to risk her election on this particular issue, that�s understandable. Wiseman never did demonstrate that the discrimination . . . was happening a lot."
McLin said she had not changed her stand, and would still support a gay civil rights ordinance. She pointed out that when she and Turner were questioned by the Daily News�s editorial board, she was asked about the ordinance while Turner was not.
"I told them I would not introduce the ordinance, but I support it," said McLin, "which is what I have always said."
McLin said she has no doubt that the Daily News will endorse Turner, and believes they brought in the gay equal rights issue as bait in order to find reasons to justify endorsing her opponent.
McLin said the civil rights ordinance was a "non-issue" in the campaign until the column ran.
According to McLin, the black ministers, who usually back Democrats, are supporting Turner for stopping the ordinance�s passage.
"That, and they know I went to the Pride dinner and Pride rally," said McLin.
"All I can do is pray it doesn�t get the reaction [Turner] wants," said McLin.
Regional event set for Cincinnati next summer
by Jeff Woodard
Cincinnati--For all its ethnic diversity and cultural variety, Cleveland doesn�t quite boast the je ne sais quoi that the Gay and Lesbian Association of Choruses seeks at this time.
The Washington, D.C. umbrella group for several hundred choruses announced October 19 that Montreal had edged out Cleveland and Minneapolis for the right to host their international Festival VII in 2004. The quadrennial event could draw as many as 8,000 participants from North America, South America, Europe and Australia.
"All three cities met all the requirements for the festival, and that was very exciting," said GALA Choruses interim executive director Jill Strachan. "All other things being equal, perhaps the internationalism aspect of going to Montreal made the difference. We�ve had Canadian members from the beginning , but in the last three years, there�s become a heightened discussion as to what it means to be an international organization."
"Internationalism is part of our diversity," said Amy Moore, membership services coordinator for GALA Choruses. "It felt like a very proactive decision in that regard." Moore emphasized that the board is "not just marking something off its PC checklist" by choosing Montreal. "We�re really expanding our capacity as a movement."
Before the late-afternoon announcement was made, representatives from choruses and convention bureaus of the three cities gave 45-minute presentations of impressive credentials, informative visuals and entertaining videos. The competition was so evenly matched that the GALA Choruses personnel who had visited each city last summer, and had hoped to make recommendations, were unable to suggest a front-runner.
Led by Michael Zaverton, a member of the North Coast Men�s Chorus, Cleveland hatched the idea for a Festival VII bid even before the final strains of Festival VI had been heard in San Jose in July, 2000. Within weeks, members of Cleveland�s other GALA choruses, Good Company and Windsong, joined North Coast brethren in forming an ad hoc committee to conduct a feasibility study. The group then began to collaborate with the city�s Convention and Visitors Bureau to make a bid for the 2004 event.
"Cleveland did a great job with its proposal," said GALA Choruses board member Lisette Schlosser. "The time, thought and energy that went into the presentation were apparent."
Through its disappointment, the Cleveland contingent maintains a strong sense of accomplishment.
"We built relationships between our three choruses that had not existed before," said Zaverton. "We educated the Convention and Visitors Bureau regarding the vitality of the local GLBT community and, perhaps, encouraged them to pursue other GLBT events. Rest assured, GALA Choruses and its members will view us with greater respect in the future."
While it will be four more years until the bid is awarded for the 2008 festival, GALA Choruses will hold interim regional festivals, small-ensemble workshops and leadership conferences, any of which could take place in Cleveland.
"We have planted the seeds for future opportunities by demonstrating Cleveland as a very capable and viable city," said David Toler, account executive for the Convention and Visitors Bureau. "We are ready to go to work again for our local GALA Choruses."
All Ohio GALA Choruses, including the Columbus Gay Men�s Chorus; Cincinnati Men�s Chorus; Muse, Cincinnati�s Women�s Choir; and Sing Out Toledo, are looking forward to GALA Choruses� 2002 Eastern Regional Festival in Cincinnati.
The event will run from July 3-7 and is expected to draw 1,400 participants from 35 choruses. The Western Regional will be held May 23-27 in Seattle.
by Eric Resnick
Cleveland--The second in a series of three candidate forums was held October 23 at Cleveland State University, giving the chance for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender voters to hear from candidates running for Cleveland mayor and city council.
The event was hosted by openly gay WEWS Channel 5 reporter Chris Hernandez, and organized by LGBT political groups including the Cleveland Stonewall Democrats and the Log Cabin Republicans.
A similar event was held October 17 in Cleveland Heights, and a third will be held October 30 in Lakewood.
The audience of 36 heard from incumbents Tim Sweeney of Ward 20, Jay Westbrook of Ward 18, Merle Gordon of Ward 15, and Joe Cimperman of Ward 13. Challenger Cordell Stokes of Ward 3 also appeared.
All of the council candidates spoke about HIV prevention funding and the need for Cleveland to continue to celebrate its LGBT diversity.
Cimperman also advocated for Cleveland to pass domestic partner benefits for city workers.
Cimperman was joined in that call by both mayoral candidates, Jane Campbell in person, and Raymond Pierce through spokesperson Bryan Adamson.
Hernandez pointed out that only five of the dozens of council candidates invited came to the forum. He closed the evening by telling the audience to "remember what these candidates told you here tonight, because the day after election day is not too soon to hold them to their word."
An empty chair in Cleveland Heights
The Cleveland Heights forum was notable for the absence of incumbent Jimmie Hicks, who had opted out of the Stonewall Democrats� endorsement process with a strongly worded e-mail. The message referred to Hicks� "beliefs and teachings from Jesus Christ," and said that he would not "support nor endorse any proposals to change laws, just to fit your lifestyle."
The thirty people in the upstairs meeting room at the Cleveland Heights-University Heights Main Library reacted vociferously to mention of Hicks, including moderator Janet Babin of WCPN 90.3 FM, who stressed Hicks� name every time she mentioned it.
The candidates were also outspoken about Hicks� comments, including incumbent Nancy Dietrich, who noted her dislike of mixing religion and city government, and Judith Botwin, who said she "abhorred the comments and attitude" and expressed her support for the separation of church and state.
The closest thing to a defense of Hicks came from Mayor Ed Kelley, who is running on a slate with Hicks and Dietrich. He said he accepted Hick�s difference in opinion, and they had agreed to disagree. Kelley is a strong proponent of gay and lesbian civil rights, and pointed to Lakewood�s failure to pass domestic partner benefits for city employees. He said the Lakewood benefit opponents� "crazy answers" were something to avoid when considering a similar measure in Cleveland Heights.
The only other city council candidate missing from the Cleveland Heights meeting was Bonnie Caplan, also an incumbent, due to a conflicting meeting.
The final forum, with Lakewood municipal candidates, will be held at the Women�s Pavilion in Lakewood Park, at Lake and Belle Aves., at 6 pm October 30.
Court denies child to gay couple, says they had no surrogate agreement
by Eric Resnick
Lima, Ohio--An appeals court has denied a Findlay gay couple custody of a two-year-old girl, awarding the child to her birth mother whom the two men say bore her in a surrogate-mother arrangement.
The men appealed to the Ohio Supreme Court on October 18.
The three-judge appeals court handed down its unanimous decision September 28, saying that Robert Decker and David Pope of Findlay did not have a legal surrogate-mother agreement with Decker�s sister, Rebecca Lowd, also of Findlay, to take custody of a daughter born July 7, 1999.
The court reversed a Hancock County juvenile court decision granting custody to the couple.
Lowd was artificially inseminated by an anonymous donor because both Decker and Pope are HIV positive, and they believed that this would prevent them from adopting.
According to Kenton attorney Teresa Glover, who represents the couple, the men had been planning to become parents for four years.
The three came to an eight-point oral agreement on the conditions of the parenting arrangement, which became contentious during Lowd�s pregnancy.
Initially, the magistrate and juvenile court considered the oral agreement binding, but the appellate court did not.
The agreement was that Lowd, who was not married at the time and had three other children, would be artificially inseminated at her brother�s expense, and would always be known as the child�s mother.
Concerned for the possibility that they could become ill, Decker and Pope agreed never to adopt the child, but to take custody and raise her.
Decker attempted to formalize the agreement the day prior to the child�s birth, when he presented his sister with a document entitled "Custody Declaration." It said that Lowd "unconditionally relinquished the custody of the unborn child to the child�s father, David A. Pope."
Lowd signed that agreement before a notary.
Later, Lowd said she was on medication for an abscessed tooth, and was confused as to what the document was. She also said she asked the definition of the term unconditionally and was told it meant she would not interfere with the way Pope and Decker raised the child.
Pope and Decker chose the child�s name and wanted Pope to be listed as the girl�s father. But when a hospital social worker met with Lowd to discuss the birth certificate and insurance, she arranged for the child to be given the surname Lowd on the birth certificate, and for her then-fiance, Lance Lowd, to be listed as the father.
She also told the hospital to bill her insurance, not Decker, for her stay.
For the first two months of the child�s life, custody was shared by the men and Lowd, according to their agreement.
On September 7, 1999, Decker took the child to a doctor appointment, then refused to return her to Lowd.
Lowd filed a complaint for custody with the Hancock County juvenile court three days later. The case was initially heard by a magistrate in November 1999. The magistrate ruled that Lowd intended to give the child to Decker and Pope, and that Pope would be the child�s legal father.
Lowd appealed to the trial court, which affirmed the magistrate�s decision May 9, 2001 and ordered that Pope would legally be the child�s father and establish shared parenting with Lowd.
The appeals court last month overturned that ruling, calling the agreement Lowd signed "unilateral" and saying "the magistrate, in her decision establishing a father-child relationship . . . placed great weight upon the existence of an agreement between the parties . . . However, Ohio law requires much more than a meeting of the minds when it comes to disposition of a child."
The court said that since Pope did not provide any of the genetic material that created the child, he must adopt the child by proper procedures regardless of the agreement with Lowd, and that this adoption must be "supervised by the proper authorities."
The court also said that Ohio law gives an unmarried biological mother the right to determine a child�s last name.
According to the decision, the name of the father will only be included if the father and mother sign an affidavit acknowledging paternity. The court did not decide the validity of Lowd�s now-husband Lance Lowd�s listing as the girl�s father.
The court declared Lowd the child�s legal parent saying, "The law does not put any significance on Lowd�s original intentions . . . in custody disputes between a parent and a non-parent, the parent has the paramount right to custody unless that parent contractually relinquished custody . . ."
"I believe they had a contract for custody and care of the child," said Glover. "The trial court did, too."
Glover added that this case will be one of "first impression," meaning that it is unlike any custody case ever decided by an Ohio appeals court. She feels that is the strongest reson why the Supreme Court will want to hear the case.
"The legislature has provided no guidance here," she said, "so the court needs to."
The child is currently living under the temporary shared parenting plan agreed to earlier - one week with Lowd, the next with Decker and Pope.
Compiled from wire reports by Brian DeWitt, Anthony Glassman and Patti Harris.
Drive to repeal civil rights law falls short
Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.�Gay civil rights opponents have been dealt a severe defeat in their efforts to repeal Broward County�s anti-discrimination ordinance.
County officials revealed October 18 that a petition drive to put a repeal of the ordinance on a special ballot fell short by 7,852 signatures.
Equal Rights Not Special Rights, the organization behind the petition drive, turned in 66,304 signatures, 4,410 more than required to represent 7% of the county�s electorate. However, the county�s board of elections disqualified 12,013 signatures as either being duplicates or those of people who were not registered voters.
The defeat comes shortly after a report that Equal Rights Not Special Rights had raised $116,473, four times as much money as their pro-gay opponents, Americans for Equality. The bulk of Special Rights� contributions, $83,509, came from two anti-gay churches. One of the churches, D. James Kennedy�s Coral Ridge Ministries, also gave the group $50,000 in professional signature-gathering services.
Berlin elects gay mayor
Berlin--Klaus Wowereit, city�s openly gay interim mayor, led the Social Democrats to victory in city elections October 21. His party received about 30 percent of the vote, up from 22.4 percent in the last election in 1999, according to official projections with most precincts counted.
Wowereit became interim mayor in June after Social Democrats, Greens and ex-communists in the city legislature joined to vote out a long-serving conservative mayor weakened by a scandal at a city-controlled bank.
Wowereit chose to come out voluntarily when threatened with outing by a German newspaper. He called his landslide victory in the election a victory for tolerance.
"The signal from this election is that Berlin is a tolerant city, an international city, and it doesn't matter which skin color or religion or life orientation a person has," the Reuters news service quoted Wowereit as saying after the election results were in.
Wowereit is the world�s second openly gay mayor of a major city. Paris� Bertrand Delanoe, elected last March, is the first.
Navy says bomb slur was wrong
Washington, D.C.�An anti-gay slur written on one of the bombs used in the strikes on Afghanistan was inappropriate and commanders have been directed to prevent similar incidents, a top Navy official said.
Pilots or crews of U.S. warplanes often write messages on bombs, either taunting the enemy or praising America. Messages written on bombs during the Afghanistan air strikes have included references to the Sept. 11 attacks.
A news photograph of a plane on the USS Enterprise aircraft carrier showed one bomb with the message, "High Jack This, Fags."
The Human Rights Campaign, a gay civil rights group, complained to the Navy about the bomb�s message. Rear Adm. Stephen Pietropaoli, in an October 17 letter to the group, said the Navy does not tolerate discrimination and the bomb�s message was an "isolated incident."
"We immediately notified Navy commanders involved with Operation Enduring Freedom to ensure steps were taken to prevent a recurrence of this unfortunate incident. They have done so," Pietropaoli wrote.
Dead woman�s children go to partner
Helsinki�Finland�s Supreme Court ruled October 19 in favor of a woman seeking custody of her dead partner�s two children.
The 12- and 14-year-old children had been living with their mother and her partner since 1993. The children�s biological father lived out of the country.
When the children�s mother died, the father sought custody of them. Lower courts ruled in his favor.
The Supreme Court, however, based its ruling on the wishes of the children, who asked to remain with the mother�s partner.
In September, Finland became the final Nordic country to allow gay couples to formalize their relationships with a domestic partner registry, granting many marital rights to same sex couples.
Teen pleads innocent in fatal beating
Durango, Colo.�A New Mexico teen-ager accused in the fatal beating of a 16-year-old Cortez boy has pleaded innocent to first- and second-degree murder charges.
Shaun Murphy of Farmington, N.M., entered the plea October 18 in Montezuma County District Court. His trial was scheduled for March 4.
Murphy is accused of beating Fred Martinez Jr. to death. Martinez, whose body was found June 21 south of Cortez, Colorado sometimes dressed as a girl and was considered transgendered.
Advocates have raised the question of whether he was killed because of his sexual orientation. Authorities, however, have declined to call his death a hate crime.
During a preliminary hearing in September, Murphy�s defense lawyer, Pamela Brown, said her client did not deny fighting with Martinez and striking him in the head with a rock the night of June 16. But she contended Murphy was fighting in self defense, and Martinez was alive when the two parted.
Martinez was last seen by family members at his home June 16, when he left to attend a carnival at the Ute Mountain Roundup Rodeo.
State bias law includes TG people
Boston�The Massachusetts Commission Against Discrimination issued two decisions on October 10, ruling that transgendered people are protected under state law prohibiting discrimination based on sex and disability.
The commission ruled that, following the U.S. Supreme Court ruling in Price Waterhouse v. Hopkins, enforcing sexual stereotypes is a form of sexual discrimination. In that 1989 case, Ann Hopkins, an associate at the accounting firm, was denied partnership in the company because a number of the partners thought she was too aggressive, macho and masculine.
The commission also went against federal court rulings, saying that the state�s protections on the basis of disability do not exclude transgender status as long as he or she is "a qualified individual with a handicap."
The case codifies gender dysphoria as a health condition requiring treatment, therefore placing it under the aegis of the disability non-discrimination cause.
"This is a tremendously important decision for transgender people," said Jennifer L. Levi, a staff attorney for Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders of Boston. "The decisions acknowledge there is no principled reason, legal or otherwise, to grant an exclusion onto non-discrimination laws for transgender people."
First intersex candidate seeks office
Melbourne, Australia�The Greens, the political party of Australia�s first openly gay and lesbian lawmakers, announced that they will field the country�s first openly intersex candidate.
Tony Briffa is running for office in a Melbourne district. He was born with both female and male genitalia, but was castrated by doctors shortly after birth and raised female. He has since begun living as a man.
Briffa insists that the Greens are not using him to gain attention and that he is a viable candidate with alternative views on health care, education, human rights and other issues.
The Greens claim openly gay senator Bob Brown and Western Australia state parliament legislator Giz Watson, the country�s first lesbian legislator to come out.
Bush protesters sue city
Tampa, Fla.�Three protesters who were ejected from a public rally for President George W. Bush in June have notified the city that they will be filing a civil rights lawsuit.
Lawyers for Sonja Haught, Jan Lentz and Mauricio Rosas, in keeping with Florida law, sent notice to the city that they intend to sue it for $100,000 each, for viewpoint discrimination.
The trio was arrested during a June public rally at the city-owned Legends Field. They had signs that read "Investigate Florida Votergate" and "June is Gay Pride Month" and were being harassed by other people at the rally.
Republican staffers called police to the scene. The police told the protesters that they could stay if they put down the signs.
When the three refused to relinquish their placards, police arrested them on trespassing charges. The charges were later dropped.
The suit is expected to be filed within six months.
Workshop taper seeks money
Boston�Brian Camenker, a conservative activist who illegally taped a teen AIDS prevention workshop in March 2000, has sent out over 40,000 letters in an attempt to raise funds for his legal defense.
Camenker and Scott Whiteman secretly recorded a workshop sponsored by the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network where a state Department of Education instructor, Margot Abels, described sexual techniques in response to a question from one of the teens present. The teens were guaranteed confidentiality at the workshop.
Camenker sent the tape to radio and television talk shows. Abels was fired; she has recently been reinstated with back pay.
Gay and Lesbian Advocates and Defenders of Boston sued the two men, claiming they violated Abels� civil rights and state wiretapping laws.
The lawsuits against the two men and their organization, the Parents� Rights Coalition, are still pending, and Camenker�s legal fees are expected to top $100,000.
Not for the weak of heart
�L.I.E.� entrances audiences as it angers them
by Kaizaad Kotwal
The opening shot of the film L.I.E. is a mesmerizing metaphor for what is to follow. A pair of sneakered feet, framed by baggy jeans, are precariously balanced on the railing of an overpass that crosses the Long Island Expressway. The film�s tense opening, as the feet walk along that thin piece of metal with cars zooming underneath, heralds the balancing act of the film�s young protagonist, Howard.
Every so often a movie comes along that will entrance and madden you at the same time because it goes were very few films dare to go. L.I.E. is such a film, intelligent, astute, and defiant. The film has raised a lot of eyebrows, in audiences and the Motion Picture Association of America alike.
At the center of this film is Howard, a fifteen-year-old who is mature beyond his years. He knows about esoteric artists, he can recite lengthy verses from Walt Whitman�s oeuvre, he can speak French. Yet he is just a boy at heart, yearning for his dead mother, longing for his absent father to come home and wrap the lost boy in his strong arms, and awakening to an unrequited love for his troubled best friend Gary.
The antagonist at the core of the film is a pedophile, someone who one hates instinctively. Yet, the complexity with which he has been created will tear at one�s heart because one is drawn to him, just as the boys in the film are.
Howard is a privileged boy, materialistically at least. In many other ways, his life has been a string of misfortunes, the untimely death of his mother being the one seeming to weigh the heaviest on his skinny adolescent shoulders. His father is a wealthy construction contractor who has gotten into trouble with the feds for some shady dealings. This man, obsessed with his looks and his body, has filled his scarcely cold bed with the wild lovemaking of a buxom woman, a abomination in Howie�s eyes.
Virtually an orphan, Howie must find refuge and comfort where he will be welcome, even if it is for all the wrong reasons. He gravitates towards Gary, a brash boy from the wrong side of the tracks, who comes into Howie�s life and, instead of offering stability, brings more chaos, quandaries and confusion to their relationship.
Gary and his two hoodlum friends rob houses during the day in the affluent neighborhoods of Long Island. Gary convinces Howie to tag along. Even though Howie has no interest in crime, the fact that he is wanted by anyone is reason enough to take a wild walk on the wild side.
At first the robberies go well, and Howie is hooked. However, one doesn�t go as planned and the victim catches the perpetrators in the act. They escape, but leave evidence.
The botched robbery was at the home of Big John, a pedophile who has a past with Gary. Big John catches up with him, and Gary quickly puts the blame on Howard, then runs away from home to California.
A vindictive man, Big John turns to Howie to get even. What follows, as these two duke it out, is at the core of the film�s story. The twists and turns in this bizarre relationship are the craft of a talented set of writers, director and performers.
The film is brutal in its raw depiction of the strange realities of relationships created by life�s circumstances. It is not so much an exploration of pedophilia as it is an examination of a social system that abandons its youth and turns them over to the random forces of evil, debasement and detachment. Howard, like many youth who turn to prostitution or become the unsuspecting prey of pedophiles, is searching for a father figure. He has a biological father but sorely lacks a spiritual, nurturing and protecting father.
Big John starts as an unsympathetic character. Yet, as he develops a friendship with Howie and realizes that he cannot go with him to the depths to which he has gone with other boys, we begin to see the portrait of a complex man who is as broken as the young men he brutalizes.
This is perhaps why the film invokes such strong reactions. People are thrown off balance when they realize that they can�t completely hate this pedophile. The film is in no way an ode to pedophilia, nor does it in any way condone such behavior. Rather, it simply examines that debasement in our humanity and places the blame squarely on the shoulders of those who abuse and those who knowingly and unknowingly drive the abused right into the arms of their abusers.
The film gets its title from the Long Island Expressway. The road is dangerous, fast and furious, a connective tissue that is the life force of America today. The country would go nowhere without the interstates. In this film, the L.I.E. becomes a metaphor for the alienation and annihilation that pursues its central characters with such persistent force and destructive damnation.
The film opens and ends with Howie�s voice over: "This is the Long Island Expressway. Where some lanes go east. Other lanes go west. And some lanes go straight to hell."
Dark as the film is, it ends on a hopeful note. One of Howie�s last lines is, "But, I�m not going to let that road get me." Somehow, someplace he will find a way to get off that perpetually looping hell that is L.I.E.
This cast rivals any in recent contemporary cinema. Billy Kay plays the wayward and troubled Gary with a disturbing sense of self-annihilation. Veteran actor Brian Cox takes on the challenge of playing Big John with ease and finesse. Cox allows us to see behind the bravado and pestilence that has ravaged his soul and this is perhaps why people are so disturbed with this character.
The actor who gives Cox a run for his money is the very young Paul Franklin Dano, who gives Howie a wide array of emotions and motivations in a performance rarely attained even by actors with much more experience.
The cast is well served by an tacit and insightful script by Stephen M. Ryder and Michael and Gerald Cuesta. Like Todd Solondz�s Happiness and Alan Ball�s American Beauty, it takes a hard, close look at myths about suburbia and the American Dream.
Director Michael Cuesta deserves the ultimate kudos for creating a film that is unrelenting in its honesty and one that is unapologetic for telling the harsh truth that most would rather see buried.
This is not a film for the weak of heart, but it is certainly not a film to be missed.
L.I.E. opened October 12 at the Cedar Lee in Cleveland, the Drexel East in Columbus and the Esquire in Cincinnati.
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