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Sticks and Stones or Civility: Words Have Consequences


“The great masses of the people will more easily fall victim to a big lie than to a small one…I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator; by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf

As a society, we are in the habit of forgetting unpleasant historical events.  As a recent Harper’s Magazine article put it, an “American tendency… is that we like to imagine ourselves always making the right moral choice; hence we prefer to hear about times and places when people could do so.”

We are dismayed that everyone does not love Americans and shocked that some hate us. We develop a historical amnesia toward anything we don’t want to hear about.

The result is a lack of introspection that reinforces feelings of American exceptionalism. The act of forgetting prevents meaningful dialogue and induces a state of denial.

That is why I seriously doubt that we’ll learn much from the tragic events in Tucson, Arizona—I hope that I am wrong.  If no dialogue takes place, we will continue to delude ourselves that everything is okay and believe that Americans can’t make mistakes—God is guiding them.

One of the few lucid voices during the recent Tucson shootings was Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik who simply said that words have consequences.

Dupnik got clobbered by Conservative commentator, Michelle Malkin, who called Dupnik a “blowhard” and “the worst sheriff in America.” Rush Limbaugh seconds Malkin saying that the shooter, Jared Lee Loughner, has the “full support” of the Democratic Party.

We are all responsible for our words and actions. It is a no-brainer; we live in a complex society and we have the duty to be civil. We have entered the Twilight Zone where many believe the children’s chant “Sticks and stones will break my bones but names will never hurt me.”  However, tragedies, such as the one in Arizona, prove that words can provoke others to break your bones.

No one is saying that vitriolic rhetoric was the immediate cause of the shooting. What we are saying is that hate speech incites people, and it has been politically rewarding to Republicans.

In just four years, extremists have taken over the Arizona legislature and the majority of federal offices in the state. Currently moderates are being driven out of the Republican Party, forced to resign their posts.

Arizona is a free for all with no legal restraints. Slander and libel have become the norm.

In civilized states, we are protected from untrue statements – you have the recourse of suing the perpetrator.  However, this is not the case with elected officials in Arizona.

Politicians say what they want –true or not—and they are for all intents and purposes immune. The public follows their example and resorts to slander to get their way, or worse, get a quick adrenalin fix.

In this way the truth is obfuscated by the “big lie” that Adolph Hitler talked about. As I have said, in order for a correction to take place, a dialogue must be set in motion.  This dialogue has to go beyond opinion and emotion.

One of my main concerns is Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne’s use of the “big lie” about my book “Occupied America,” which he uses to justify his war on La Raza Studies.

Horne accuses me of lying because I said the U.S. invaded Mexico. Well, I guess Ulysses S. Grant, Abraham Lincoln and a consensus of historians are liars. Thus far the media has let him get away with it and not asked him to produce his sources.

Horne has said that I am unpatriotic. I am a Korean War veteran, who forfeited my student exemption, while Horne avoided military service in Vietnam.

Moreover, what credentials does Horne have in evaluating La Raza Studies?

For the past fifty years the Mexican American community has sought a solution to the horrendous dropout problem. It advocated bilingual education, and then Chicana/o studies as pedagogical tools to stem the dropouts.

The program has reversed the Mexican American dropout rate, which is about 60 percent nationally. For students in the program, the dropout rate is 2.5 percent with 66 percent of their students going on to college, versus 24 percent nationally.

Wouldn’t a serious educator want to know what they are doing right before eliminating this promising program? Why are Latinos being singled out?

Arizona Republicans should also know that Mexican Americans have feelings and are highly insulted by the persistent anti-immigrant rhetoric. Many of the things that they say about immigrants are racist and inflammatory.

There can be a solution only as long as it is based on dialogue, and not based on lies or assumptions.


  1. Racuna Jan 28, 2011

    Another thing: Your statement “Please do a little research on this site so that you can be enlightened since you’ve “never witnessed this level of irresponsible speech.” You owe it to your students to be informed on this issue.” We were talking about Arizona. Mixing apples and oranges? The you cite an ultra-right wing organization as your source. Come on. Talking about sloppy scholarship and trying to mislead people. You owe it to yourself to read. As to Pearce and Arpaio there is plenty of evidence, but you just do not want to see it. If you were a faculty member I would not be communicating with you. I would ask a faculty member for his or her vita.

    1. (sigh…) Again, yes the subject was Arizona, however, YOU said that you’ve “never witnessed this level of irresponsible speech,” therefore taking the discussion beyond the Arizona shooting issue. I pointed you to a source that quotes the Left making all kinds of such statements; you then dismiss the MRC as an “ultra right-wing organization.” Regardless of your perception about the MRC, they cite the Left IN CONTEXT. If you want to say that the MRC is making this up, then please, show me your evidence. I challenge you to do so. I’m more interested in the truth than who says it.

      I’m either right or wrong; my vita (or your vita) doesn’t affect the truth–but my (and your) veracity does. And why would you not communicate with me if I were faculty, Mr. Acuña? Is it because you probably aren’t used to being challenged on your views here at CSUN.

      Students: Who’s misleading whom here?

      1. Racuna Jan 28, 2011

        You are not very discerning. When MRC cites instances such as Katie Kouric’s interview of Palin as a hate speech, the coverage of the NY Times evaluation of Supreme Court Justices, or a Democratic calling a Republican a Nazi, hate speech, well be my guest. I have never heard a Democrat invite the voters to shoot an automatic weapon as a fund raising gimmick. I am not saying that the MRC is making it up what I am saying is that its examples are lacking. I would not give Democrats as much credit as it does…they are wimps. I concede that. But let’s make it interesting, I’ll bet you what you want that I can name you one killing that was allegedly the result of hate speech by Democrats, I’ll give you the agreed amount. Then watch Fox News. MSNBC got rid of Obermann but Fox keeps its gaggle on the air. Hannity and Beck have been heavily criticized by multiple sources. The Anti-Defamation League as well as leading Rabbi’s have labeled Beck’s tirades as anti-semitic. I would hardly call the ADL a left wing organization. I’ll give you a nickel for every time someone calls the right a Nazi, if you’ll give me a nickel for every time right calls the left a communist. Usually libertarians are not so pro party. I have also talked to educated libertarians who abhor the Tea Party. You are probably right, I should not be discussing this with you. First of all, you don’t identify yourself as a student or faculty. Second, it is evident that you know nothing beyond your little island. You are like some of the people I argued with at the beginning of this century who defended the war. They would get furious when I would suggest that they drop out of school and join the army. If someone is truly patriotic they prove it. If you are so down on immigrants go to barrio, stand on a street corner and tell the people to go back to their countries. Third, one thing that I know, I have never knowingly told a lie. And when a person called me a liar, they would have to pay the price. If you believe in the MRC that’s your business. .. .

        1. With all due respect, conversing with you is an exercise in exasperation. You have the remarkable ability to respond to me at length and not address what I write. This will be my final post to you because I simply must move on. I’ll try to address everything in your last post but please, be my guest and have the last word.

          The MRC has literally hundreds of examples of hate speech by the Left, many supported by video or audio. I directed you to this resource and you responded with a single example of Couric’s interview with Palin, claiming that the MRC calls it hate speech. They don’t call it hate speech; they provide it as an example of media bias. I think you’re conflating the two because it seems that you consider anyone who is against your Leftist positions a hater.

          Democratic Senator Joe Manchin shot a bullet through the ObamaCare law for a campaign ad. You’re right, I guess that’s not exactly “inviting voters to shoot an automatic weapon as a fund-raising gimmick,” but surely you must be outraged over it. I found nothing wrong with it.

          As for you calling the Democrats “wimps,” I suspect that you do so because they aren’t nearly as far left as you’d like them to be. You’d like some real radicals to have political power, right? Was former Rep. Alan Grayson (D) to your liking or was he too vitriolic?

          So you’ll attribute a single murder to Democrats’ hate speech. I’d be curious to know which one as I’m not aware of it. Apparently, however the country has been littered with bodies because of something the Republicans and Fox News Channel hosts have said. Beck’s said a few “over the top” things over his many years on TV and radio and has apologized for or clarified his statements when appropriate. The man doesn’t call for violence or hate but yet he’s pilloried by the Left constantly without evidence. He points out the tactics and associations of the Left and they hate him for it and want him silenced.

          I fail to understand why a libertarian would “abhor” the Tea Party, though libertarians aren’t a homogenized group. The Tea Party is all about a limited federal government that should concentrate on its constitutional duties. With this comes more liberty for everyone. Maybe your “educated libertarian” friends have a better way to achieve this?

          And what do you mean by this?: “You are probably right, I should not be discussing this with you.” Huh? You said it, I didn’t. Methinks you’re confused. I encourage you to debate anyone who disagrees with you on any issue.

          You then accuse me of being “down on immigrants.” I said no such thing throughout my exchange with you. The US assimilates some one-million legal immigrants per year. I’m fine with that. What I and most Republicans and conservatives are against are people entering the country illegally. Your tactical play on words is classic Leftism and doesn’t fool anyone.

          As for your Pearce/Arpaio Nazi claim, I’m certain that the left-leaning New York Times and Los Angeles Times would love to be able to put on their front pages a column detailing their alleged ties. Why didn’t they take advantage of this right before the election? Because they didn’t have the evidence, that’s why. They don’t want to pay out on a libel case.

          As for your nickel-challenge with regard to the left-right, Nazi/Communist debate, I’d love to take you up on it; however, we’d have to lay down some ground rules: The wager would have to address only ad hominem accusations. For example, if I were to call Van Jones, Obama’s former adviser for green jobs, a Communist, I’d be right–Because Jones said it himself. My guess is that we’d never be able to agree and you’d try to sue me for damages.

          I’m off to my “little island.” And you’re off to yours I presume….

          1. Racuna Jan 30, 2011

            Little L, I don’t think this discussion is taking us any place. I don’t like Democratic Senator Joe Manchin but do you really equate this with Jesse Kelly’s , “Get on Target for Victory in November. Help remove Gabrielle Giffords from office. Shoot a fully automatic M16 with Jesse Kelly.” Read the coverage of Manchin He was applauded by Republicans. I am not here to defend the NY or LA Times, neither are very progressive. However, both have mentioned the Pearce/Arpaio Nazi claim which has been reported in Arizona newspapers. Thus far they haven’t been sued.Arizona Republic and Phoenix New Times both Republican newspapers blogged: “Bottom line: Pearce in the past has supported and been supported by one of Arizona’s most visible neo-Nazis.” It said, “he Anti-Defamation League sponsored a forum at the state Capitol that explored connections between the anti-immigrant movement and extremist groups. In that forum, Ready was publicly identified as having posted a profile on a website called newsaxon.org, which is overtly racist and is affiliated with the neo-Nazi National Socialist Movement” The ADL identified Ready as a member of the National Socialist Movement (NSM).Ready was the leader of the Protect Arizona Now (PAN) — Pearce, Arpaio and other anti-immigrant activists have strong ties with Ready.Using your faulty logic the NY and LA Times would have been sued as well as the Arizona Republic, the Arizona Daily Star and countless newspapers. There has also been no attempt to contradict the ADL. .In all this white supremacists Glenn Spencer had rallied “side-by-side with minutemen leader Shawna Forde who was part of a home invasion that left a 9 year old Mexican girl and her father dead?”.I thought you were a serious student but evidently you are not. Therefore, I am ending this discussion. You are disjointed as Glenn Spencer who once questioned my patriotism. I asked him if he had ever served in the armed forces. He responded no because he had family obligations. Well I did too and I served. If you want to get rid of the immigrants I would suggest that you return to where your ancestors came from. So, end of discussion, the lesson is over.

          2. Why isn’t this news?: Headline: “University Professor Tells David to Go Back Where His Ancestors Came From”

  2. Racuna Jan 28, 2011

    Please read. I am not trying to censor free speech just promote intelligent speech and for you as a student to think. I have been to Arizona many times. My mother’s family was there in 1775. I have written two books on Arizona. Forde was with the Minutemen American Defense which has incestuous ties with the Minutemen
    “Shawna Forde, leader of Minutemen American Defense, is one of three individuals arrested June 12 by sheriff’s detectives in Pima County, Arizona, for the murder of a Mexican American man and his nine-year-old daughter.’
    “Shawna Forde, the founder of Minutemen American Defense.”
    “Shawna Forde, the head of a fringe anti-immigration patrol group called Minutemen American Defense, is charged with two counts of first degree murder.”

    “Shawna Forde and members of Minuteman American Defense — an anti-illegal immigration vigilante group charged in the double homicide of an Arizona man and his 9-year-old daughter and the attempted murder of the man’s wife — shared a stage, if not their vigilante streak, with former U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo.”
    Jan Brewer, Neo-Nazi J.T. Ready, Joe Arpaio, Russell Pearce, All Star in Dennis Gilman’s Latest Video http://blogs.phoenixnewtimes.com/bastard/2010/06/jan_brewer_joe_arpaio_russell.php
    Finally just read Arizona newspapers.

  3. So far, no one has offered a shred of evidence that anything that Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin or ANYONE, including those on the left, has said or posted influenced Loughner to shoot Giffords and the bystanders. Sheriff Dupnik used the shooting irresponsibly as an opportunity to express his liberal views within hours of the crime with nothing to support them, and the leftist talking heads followed suit.

    Mr. Acuña conveniently implies that only Republicans are responsible for “hate speech.” Democrats, the liberal media and leftist pundits (e.g., the defunct Air America) say some pretty hateful things, including death wishes, against Republicans and others who disagrees with them. And, Barack Obama, during his campaign for president said of the Republicans, “If they bring a knife to the fight, we’ll bring a gun.” Hateful speech? The Democrats had their own “target map” in 2004: http://www.verumserum.com/?p=13647 Is this a call to shoot people as the left has accused Palin?

    In 1969, UFW leader Cesar Chavez led a march to the Mexican border to protest the use of illegal aliens by growers because they were bringing down the wages of US citizen farm workers. Sound familiar? Surely, Mr. Chavez wasn’t a racist–but the rest of us who are against illegal immigration are, right?

    I’d also like for Mr. Acuña to expound on his claim of normative “slander and libel” by elected officials in Arizona. Was he referring to Sheriff Dupnik?

    1. Racuna Jan 26, 2011

      Come on, you can’t equate the two. I would fault the Democrats for being too passive. It is the level of rhetoric that I was referring to. Giffords shooting is one consequence. However, there have been dozens of others. The alleged shooting of 9 year old Brisenia Flores and her father by minutemen last year. I have been around a long time and I have never witnessed this level of irresponsible speech. It is impossible to give every example in 800 words but another observation is that in Arizona this rhetoric is being driven by outside money. The so-called tea party is funded by the Koch brothers, the US Chamber of commerce and others. The US Nazi party has allege ties with Arizona Senator Russell Pearce, Sheriff Joe Araipo and others in Arizona. As a libertarian with a small “l” I would be offended. Cesar was initially anti undocumented worker but he recanted as the facts came out and he corrected his position, I have met Sheriff Dupnik and have read his statements and I find nothing slanderous about them.It is a stretch.

      1. Sean Jan 27, 2011

        Of course you can compare the two. If you’re going to blame political discourse for the shootings then you have to blame both sides. Ignoring one side is nothing more than partisan bias and further

        1. Sean Jan 27, 2011

          plits the margin.

        2. Racuna Jan 27, 2011

          Come on. Make a list and just look at Arizona and calculate how many people have been killed as the result of political rhetoric in the past four years. Who was killed? The motivation. There have been at least five separate killings or shootings. The Los Angeles Times this morning carried a piece on a trial of former minutemen. Two years ago a Mexican American was shot and killed by a neighbor who called him a wetback. There has not been one hate crime committed by a Mexican American during this time period. In this tabulation I am not counting the Gifford shootings. I suggest you view the Ox Bow Incident, you can get it on YouTube. Words create mobs. For the record, I am neither a Democrat or a Republican. What I blame the Democratic Party for is not forcing a debate on the immigration issue and letting it get out of hand. Democrats lack principles. My friend the libertarian and you are guilty of not being probative. A long time ago when I went to Loyola High and then Loyola University we had to take Latin and Logic. Your reasoning is devoid of this type of rigorous examination. Libertarianism takes a lot from the old positivist theory which believed in laissez faire which was based on social Darwinism. However, there were brakes such as the use of reason. Very few positivist thinkers, for example, would have defended the notion God. Libertarians also owe the anarchist a debt and rejected all government. However, they also wanted to do away with capital because they realized that you could not have freedom or liberty as long as institutions were controlling you, as Wall Street and bankers do itoday. So it is not that I am ignoring both sides, it is just that I see the Tea Party differently than you do. It purposely causes chaos to do the bidding of oil and banking. The NRA also plays a role and makes a bundle of cash, no matter if people are killed. So let’s grow up and read..

          1. TheAntiV Jan 28, 2011

            There’s also a significant characteristic lacking in your childish perception of what caused the massacre in Tuscan. It’s called evidence. Do we have any evidence the shooter was influenced by the current political rhetoric? No. Do we have any evidence he was a fan of the Tea Party or Talk Radio? No. Do we know he was influenced by Sarah Palin’s “cross hair” map? No. What was the cause of violence was simple yet also complex at the same time. It was mental illness. It’s true that words have consequences, but why should we all live in fear because a few nuts may take their words out of context? Do you think they wanted their words to be used for violence? Was JD Salinger telling his readers to assassinate John Lennon or Ronald Reagan? Was Daniel Quinn telling people to hold individuals hostage at the Discover Channel building in DC? Of course not.

            Another problem is your obvious loose use of the word “hate speech.” It seems that you’re just blindly using it against individuals whose politically ideas you don’t like instead of confronting those ideas with honest debate like a mature individual.

            One more thing, I realize you may have a misplaced notion of self-importance because of your age and you wrote a book, but that doesn’t justify having a condescending attitude.So please act your age and drop it.

          2. Yes, “hate-speech” from the Left’s perspective is pretty much whatever they don’t agree with. And of course if you’re white and you say it, you’re frequently also a racist. It’s an invective meant to shut down dialog. And finally, if you say it and you’re not white you’re a self-hating Mexican or an Uncle Tom. I’m pretty certain that if you’re Asian, you’d be considered white for the purposes of being accused a racist. Did I leave anyone out?

          3. Racuna Jan 28, 2011

            It is Tucson not Tuscan. Tucson is in Arizona not Italy.Using your reasoning, or lack of reasoning, words are innocuous. Hitler’s speech was not inflammatory. Joseph McCarthy was a reasonable man. I did not like William Buckley but I respected his intellect. Leading conservatives have condemned Sarah Palin. If she is what you aspire to be, great, it is your choice. However, if someone says you are irresponsible and not too bright then that is their opinion. I am being far from condescending I am giving you the respect of exchanging viewpoints. If I was condescending I would give you the sign of the cross and pronounce you dead.

          4. TheAntiV Jan 28, 2011

            Sorry, I didn’t realize I was talking to the Grammar Police. Apparently, you’ve never heard of a typo. I don’t know if you haven’t been using the internet for very long but correctly someones spelling on the net isn’t known as one of the best strategies.

            Also, that has to be the most poorly constructed analogy I’ve ever come across. First of all, Hitler was openly racist and expressed violence against groups of people for the purpose of causing violence. And I never said McCarthy was a reasonable individual or that anybody who says anything is reasonable. However, I highly doubt he was referring to open violence against others. I don’t aspire to be Sarah Palin nor do I even agree with her on every matter but I believe these recent criticisms against her are unfair. True, if they say that she is irresponsible and not too bright that is there opinion, but it is also my opinion that they are wrong and these insults towards her are nothing more than baseless ad-hominems.

      2. Mr. Acuña:

        You’re either being dishonest or you’re uninformed: Prosecutors say that the Minutemen group reported Shawna Forde, who’s standing trial for Flores’ murder, to the FBI after she told two members about her plan which ultimately ended in the little girl’s murder a month later. It’s right here in this LA Times article: http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-na-minutemen-murder-20110126,0,4235852.story . This had nothing to do with the Minutemen. I hope you’re not telling this to your students.

        The Media Research Center (http://www.mrc.org) has compiled what appears to be hundreds of examples of hate speech from mainstream left-wing radio, TV hosts and personalities. Please do a little research on this site so that you can be enlightened since you’ve “never witnessed this level of irresponsible speech.” You owe it to your students to be informed on this issue.

        And yes, assuming it’s true, I would denounce any elected official who consorts with the likes of the American Nazi Party. I’m not certain that’s been proved about Pearce or Arpaio.

  4. Kevin Mayers Jan 25, 2011

    Dear Mr. Acuña, I hereby invoke Godwin’s Law. Google it!

    1. Racuna Jan 26, 2011

      If that is the extent of your research, be my guest.

  5. unPC Jan 25, 2011

    Professor Acuna tells us that speech he doesn’t like should be silenced, because it causes people to commit murder in the streets. Too many college faculties accept that kind of reasoning, and impose speech codes to control what gets said. The Foundation for Equal Rights in Education gives students a resource when they’re having that administration sock shoved in their mouths: http://thefire.org/

    1. Racuna Jan 26, 2011

      This is ridiculous. I don’t belief in irresponsible speech. “Targeting” someone is not responsible as Congresswoman Gifford pointed out

  6. Anonymous Jan 25, 2011

    Did Mr. Acuna denounce Delores Huerta at TUSD for saying that ‘Republicans hate Latinos’? Isn’t that meant to incite impressionable minds?

    Or did he speak up when a film maker made a movie title ‘Death of a President’ which depicted the assassination of George W. Bush? Don’t tell me that Republicans are profiting politically off of hate speech when Democrats for the entire Bush era were whipped into a frenzy with Bush hatred and now Palin hatred.

    Get off your throne, Mr. Acuna.

    1. Racuna Jan 25, 2011

      Let’s not take Dolores’ remarks out of context. She said based on a history of anti-immigrant Republican Party legislation that Republicans had an Latino agenda. I would agree with that statement. I have pointed out that although I do not and did not agree with the politics of George W. Bush, he was not a racist as some have charged. It is fair to say that Bush’s policies favored the rich and that going into Iraq was irresponsible. Palin is another matter. Her many statements are irresponsible and her use of bull’s eyes targeting opponents verges on criminality. Bush was not a racist but palin is..

      1. Racuna Jan 25, 2011

        I would appreciate people identifying themselves. Anonymous seems so undemocratic.

        1. Sean Jan 27, 2011

          Condemning free speech due to the fear that someone may be harmed because of it may also be considered undemocratic.

      2. Anonymous Jan 25, 2011

        Mr. Acuna, in your view, is it possible to support SB 1070 while not having an anti-Latino agenda? I don’t know if you are aware, but 21% of Latinos in Arizona support SB 1070. That’s a significant amount of Latino support for an so-called anti-Latino agenda, wouldn’t you agree? How do you reconcile your beliefs with such facts?

        Second, I’m indifferent as to whether or not you agreed with Bush’s policies. My point was that the left has amnesia when discussing civility in politics. Do you not remember all the protests comparing Bush to Hitler?

        And calling Palin a racist is an outrageous one. You could say she is unfit for the White House…but racist? You editorial decries those that get away with slander and libel, so I’m interested in seeing your evidence.

        And finally, you say her use of the crosshairs “verges on criminality.” How? It might border on poor taste, but it is clearly within the boundaries of free speech. Under your standard for acceptable speech, would “Cop Killer” by Ice T also “verge on criminality?” Or for that matter, would the movie “Death of a President” depicting the assassination of a sitting president “verge on criminality”?

        Thank you for your earlier response.

        1. Racuna Jan 26, 2011

          Please continue your education, it might help. As for Latinos that are for 1070, I am not going to apologize for them. You had Jews that supported Hitler in the first years. You have all kinds of people. Latinos are no different. We have plenty of self-hating Mexicans. I can tell you one thing: I have been to Arizona five times during the summer and 1070 is driven by racism whether you want to accept it or not. If I were you I would open my mind and study.

          1. Anonymous Jan 26, 2011

            My education never ends. We may not agree Mr. Acuna, but I appreciate the dialogue with you. Thank you.

          2. TheAntiV Jan 27, 2011

            To equate SB 1070 to the policies of Nazi germany is not only incredibly unrealistic, it’s also downright ridiculous. Arizona’s border has been in shabbles for a while now but the reaction to such chaos is no where as brutal of vile as Nazi Germany’s. Also, accusing Latinos who support SB 1070 of being “self-haters” is an old and baseless accusation that is nothing more than childish. I have studied and I do have an open mind and I can tell you this accusation of racism is nothing more than a knee-jerk reaction.

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