Author Archives: Bill Moulton

The Reagan Fetish II: Greed Versus Green

Arguably the most pernicious aspect of President Reagan’s environmental legacy was the 1987 decision by his Federal Communications Commission to repeal the Fairness Doctrine, a nearly 40-year-old effort to ensure that broadcasters were legitimately fair and balanced in their presentation of controversial issues. The Fairness Doctrine worked quite well for the mainstream media, allowing the Fourth Estate to honor its charge to keep the public fully informed about the day’s issues.

For reasons that can only be construed as ideological, Reagan’s FCC decided to tamper with something that was working just fine, throwing out the Fairness Doctrine and setting the stage for the right-wing domination of talk radio. Just a year after the Fairness Doctrine was abolished, Rush Limbaugh’s Sacramento, Calif.-based brand of far-right talk was syndicated nationally, allowing his demonization of Democrats and denial of scientific facts to shape public discourse for the next two decades. A series of denialist demagogues soon emerged in his wake, convincing millions of Americans that the Democratic Party was a clear and present danger — and that the greatest threat to civilization in our time, climate change, was nothing more than a left-wing anti-capitalist plot.

Five years ago, James Wolcott noted the severity of the damage Limbaugh inflicted upon America’s understanding of climate science:

On his TV show in 1994, he mocked, “Environmentalist wackos of the past three years have been talking about global warming, and they’ve been suggesting that the Earth is warming to the point that [mock crying] ‘we’re all going to die. We’re all going to melt. We’re going to burn,’ and we just got perhaps the coldest winter on record going on in many parts of the United States.” Flash forward to February 2007 and Limbaugh is still seizing upon every frigid snap as proof that global warming is liberal propaganda. “There is one [article] in the L.A. Times today: ‘Game Over on Global Warming?’ with a question mark after it. It has some interesting statistics in it, but not one story — not one story — will we see about global warming maybe not being real, in the middle of record cold.” He appears to think that if there were true global warming the earth would crisp evenly like a baked apple.

Hence he is unperturbed by the plight of polar bears, because he is as certain as any self-intoxicated know-it-all can be that there is no plight, only contrived melodrama. Most of you innocents in the noncombatant world may not be aware that right-wing ideologues have drafted polar bears as political pawns; they — the ideologues, that is, not the polar bears — understand that these creatures, like penguins, have an adorable, vulnerable appeal to average people, and can arouse more sympathy and calls to action than any sheaf of scientific studies.

“That’s how they intend to infuse you with guilt, and to make you feel sympathetic and sorry,” Limbaugh explained on his February 5, 2007, polar-bear broadcast, “so that you will sit around and the next time Hillary Clinton wants to take $40 billion of Exxon profits for global warming you’ll let her do it because you’ll feel guilty over having caused all this!” Therefore Rush and his confederates have been making a full-court effort to debunk photos of polar bears stranded on ice — as if the one photo they debunk invalidates all the other ones out there — and to contend that their number is thriving.

Limbaugh’s mockery of the threat climate change poses to us all has been drilled, baby, drilled into so many heads — hour after hour, day after day, amplified by his AM and FM acolytes, now repeated by an entire television network created in his ignorant image. A full 95 percent of all talk radio shows are hosted by “conservatives.” Is it really any wonder we’ve been losing the public opinion battle on action needed to combat climate change? By repealing the Fairness Doctrine, Reagan effectively censored the truth about climate change on the radio dial, allowing disinformation and denialism to deceive those who needed to hear reality most of all. (Not for nothing does young ex-conservative Jonathan Krohn note the role right-wing talk radio played in leading him down the crazed corridor of conservatism.)

I look back upon my 15-year-long fight to bring eco-awareness to the radio airwaves and realize that the folks who told me that a green radio show would not be successful were in fact telling me that Reagan would not approve of such a show, or any show that did not parrot the right-wing narrative du jour. I realize that the firewall that prevented me from telling talk radio fans about the walls of fire that could consume us (and nearly did in Texas last summer and most recently in New Mexico and Colorado, etc.) if we did not take action was constructed by the politician Don Henley so accurately described as the “tired old man we elected king.” Because of Reagan’s destructive decision of a quarter-century ago, lies became profitable and truth became objectionable.

I can’t relate to the adoration and allegiance the right feels for Reagan. If only they felt as strongly about Teddy Roosevelt, a Republican who understood that true conservatism meant conserving our most precious natural resources that make all life possible! Notice how the Right’s Reagan reverence coincides with its incessant invective about his predecessor, President Carter, who tried to do something about our overdependence on foreign oil, who tried to move our country in a clean-energy direction.

Most strikingly, I admire Carter for moving solar panels onto the White House roof. And if there is anything I hold in lower regard than taking them off — which Reagan infamously did — I cannot imagine what it would be. What could be more stupid and short-sighted, even if only from a symbolic perspective, than removing objects which sole purpose is to save money and generate clean energy? The sad thing is that with the current crop of Republican leaders in Washington, and in this “climate,” such short-sightedness will happen again.

Sorry, my conservative friends, but Ronald Reagan is not my hero. I know you say he won the Cold War, but his actions caused our country — and our world — to lose ground in the war against warming. By abandoning President Carter’s commitment to clean energy, and by allowing the denialist right to dominate the airwaves millions of Americans trust, Reagan set us on the course to have a rendezvous with destiny, all right — a destiny that will mean undue suffering for my child, and the children of so many in this warming and worried world. This pain is avoidable, or might have been, if we had seen leadership grow, instead of retract, on our now mounting environmental challenges.

Ironic, isn’t it, that in his famous 1964 speech endorsing Barry Goldwater, he declared:

We’ll preserve for our children this, the last best hope of man on earth, or we’ll sentence them to take the last step into a thousand years of darkness.

Think about his actions as president, and try not to choke on your anger.

The Reagan Fetish

In his 2009 documentary Capitalism: A Love Story, Michael Moore noted that while the content of President Jimmy Carter’s July 1979 speech about our need to abandon fossil fuels for cleaner forms of energy was accurate, it was something that most Americans didn’t want to hear at the time. Most Americans preferred to hear the convenient lie that we would always have plentiful oil at low prices, and voted for the candidate who embraced that vapid vision—Ronald Reagan.

Moore argued in Capitalism: A Love Story that Reagan was, in essence, our first corporate president, hiding his devotion to the one percent behind his Hollywood smile. Certainly, his anti-environmental actions as president (remember Anne Gorsuch and James Watt, and his proclamation that trees were greater pollutants than cars?) revealed Reagan to be a man who chose to treat Mother Earth the same way he treated Angie Dickinson in his final film.

I’ve learned from fifteen years in the eco-trenches that the fight to protect our planet from pollution is more than just a fight against ExxonMobil or Charles and David Koch; it’s ultimately a fight against the Reagan legacy. In order to have any real chance of holding off the havoc that our best climate scientists have predicted, those on the green side of the aisle must tear down the walls of red-state Reagan glorification.

In 1975, Reagan told Reason magazine, “…I believe the very heart and soul of conservatism is libertarianism.” He certainly must have believed that, for “Reagan conservatism” was little more than a euphemism for corporate libertarianism—an ideology that sees the EPA as the ultimate enemy, and Big Oil as the ultimate friend.

Reagan sold millions of Americans on the fiction that we could all be masters of the universe—that we could have unlimited growth powered by cheap energy. This was the core of his November 1979 speech announcing his challenge to President Carter. Reagan rejected Carter’s assertion that American conspicuous consumption had to end for the sake of our economy and our environment. Though the term did not exist at the time, he suggested that Carter’s warning was just so much political correctness. Is it any wonder then that author and Stanford professor Paul Ehrlich recently noted that “…[S]tarting with Ronald Reagan, almost all the advances that have been made in environmental protection in the United States and the world have been reversed…”

However, Carter’s warning was correct. Our dependence on foreign oil continues to imperil our national security. Our military has embraced clean energy (much to the consternation of fossil-fueled Republicans in Congress) not only to combat the climate crisis, but also to avoid the expense in money and manpower caused by a over-reliance on oil. That the Republicans who have attacked, and voted against, the military’s clean-energy efforts purport to be patriots is an absurd and unfunny joke.

If you asked these Republicans which politician they admire the post, all of them would likely say Reagan. That’s the problem. There is a direct link between Reagan idolatry and hostility to the idea that we need to do anything about climate change. To take the climate crisis seriously is to seriously reconsider the way we use energy and the way we consume resources. If your political hero is someone who convinced Americans that consumption and unlimited growth were by definition good, you’ll never accept the need for climate action.

How does one conquer the cult of Reagan? This is arguably the eco-challenge of our time. How do we convince our fellow conservative citizens that Reagan sold them a bill of goods? Is it even possible? Rather than reason with people who see Reagan as a quasi-deity, doesn’t it make more sense to simply defeat the Republicans these people support at the ballot box?

I can certainly understand being pessimistic about convincing Reagan admirers that their guy was wrong on energy and the environment. Perhaps the best way to reach out to them is to encourage them to follow Reagan’s famous advice: “Trust, but verify.”

The next time they tell you about a senior fellow at a conservative think tank who denies manmade climate change, ask them if they know the oil-based sources of that think tank’s funding. (Remind them of the controversy surrounding ExxonMobil’s donations to the denialist Competitive Enterprise Institute.)

The next time they tell you that Rush Limbaugh (or Sean Hannity, or Glenn Beck, or Mark Levin, or Laura Ingraham, or any other nationally syndicated talk-radio multi-millionaire) has insisted that it’s all a hoax, ask them if that host has ever acknowledged Margaret Thatcher’s warnings about global warming.

The next time they tell you that Reagan would have never embraced “cap and tax,” ask them why it has never been mentioned in conservative media that “Ronaldus Magnus” actually did.

And the next time a Reagan acolyte reels off another tired climate crock—“it stopped in 1998,” “Climate-gate was real,” “all the scientists predicted global cooling in the ‘70s”—just give them a big smile, and in your best faux-Ronnie voice say, “There you go again…”

A Challenge on Mother’s Day

There were several developments last week on the climate front that left me deeply disheartened and angry. As a broadcast news journalist turned green radio activist, I am dismayed by these ominous tidings. As a mother, I am outraged, and you should be too.

Whether or not you have a child, grandchild, nieces or nephews in this world, you should know there is an all-out war underway to harm their future and the future of all life on the planet. If that sounds apocalyptic, well, it is, according to James Hansen, NASA’s top climate scientist. Dr. Hansen recently wrote a gripping op-ed piece about the Keystone pipeline signaling “game over” for our climate. If presidential approval is given to allow oil to be extracted from Canadian tar sands and piped down to Texas oil refineries, the energy intensive extraction process will release enough greenhouse gases into the atmosphere to help move us into the danger zone. As you might guess, Hansen means “game over” not in any sports context but in terms of the ultimate American challenge: Will we do what is necessary to avert climactic disaster for generations to come? This reality is unfolding now but the drama will not be broadcast on any station near you: Our planet’s fate is a little TOO real for prime time.

Those of us watching the planet’s ecological emergencies grow exponentially more serious — and working to help change our course — are accustomed to this type of daily doomsday commentary from the experts. We only wish it were not true, but we know better. If you’ve been living under a rock, somehow missing reports of all the record weather events — and ensuing death, damage and destruction — you should start subscribing to Climate Progress or The Daily Climate and you too, will soon wake up and smell the carbon.

The events that sparked the ire of many are so disgusting and discouraging as to give me pause in committing to this work of eco-consciousness raising. It is now painfully clear that our biggest obstacle is not just a matter of informing a distracted multitasking public about our environmental urgencies — a daunting enough challenge since the clock is ticking. A far darker monster has raised its ugly head and it’s growing more legs everyday. First the ultraconservative Heartland Institute posted a Chicago billboard equating climate change believers with extremists like Unabomber Ted Kaczynski. It was taken down after an outpouring of outrage, but that trial balloon was enough to burst my bubble in not believing fossil fuel funded deniers were that evil — misguided, yes, but evil no. Actually, unequivocally, yes, given what happened later in the week.

As seeming proof of the effectiveness of the lobbyist’s disinformation campaigns, on Tuesday came word from Stanford researcher, Jon Krosnick, Ph.D., that public support for curbing climate change has slipped significantly in the past two years, particularly among Republicans. Support for various steps to cut greenhouse gas emissions has dropped an average of ten percentage points since 2010 from 72 percent to 62 percent, according to Krosnick, who notes that most of the 62 percent “hate the idea of consumer taxes to do it.” If that sounds like public opinion influenced by radically “conservative” politicians, libertarians and right wing media, you guessed… right. While nobody loves to pay taxes, given the scope of the planetary emergency posed by climate extremes, it will take attacking the problem on all fronts. It must include voting for eco-savvy leadership to help Americans understand the need for all of us to contribute to the solution, and not just monetarily. Why not start diverting a fraction of the millions going to military purposes to address the war on warming? Simply put, not doing so will doom us, and mostly our offspring.

But back to the research and on to the real outrage. As if it’s not disturbing enough that during a period of unprecedented changes in the atmosphere, oceans and the world’s disappearing rainforests, public opinion has gone in exactly the wrong direction (and for that you can thank the DIC, or “Denial Industrial Complex,” according to Joe Romm of Climate Progress). While the right wing controls 95 percent of talk radio and shows on the Fox network continue to dismiss climate change as a hoax, too many busy Americans are not tuning in to their environment, our life support system. That trend – just as Mother Nature appears to be trying to tell us something — is reason enough to despair, for those of us who know what it portends. However, the other development is the one that put this mother over the top.

On Tuesday the Guardian reported that “a network of ultra-conservative groups is ramping up an offensive on multiple fronts to turn the American public against wind farms and Barack Obama’s energy agenda.” The article goes on to report that “a number of right wing organizations, including Americans for Prosperity, which is funded by the billionaire Koch brothers, are attacking Obama for his support of solar and wind power. The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which also has financial links to the Kochs, has drafted bills to overturn state laws promoting wind energy.” There is more, including mention of a new loose coalition of fossil fuel industry interests linked to — you guessed it — the Koch brothers.

There are no words for just how outrageous, sinister, greedy and evil these efforts and people are — proof positive they will stop at nothing to destroy the future to protect their own short term interests (to hear what happened when we found words to describe this atrocity, and hear from Peter Kelley of the American Wind Energy Association, check out this week’s show at

And as if the cognitive dissonance was not making my head scream enough, to put a point on all this madness, Friday came word that Saudi Arabia is unveiling a $100 billion plan to make solar “a driver for domestic energy for years to come.” So even the world’s largest producer of oil understands the value of developing renewable energy (while America’s fossil fools declare war on it). This coming a few months after Saudi Arabia’s oil minister called global warming “among humanity’s most pressing concerns.” It looks as though we’ll continue to be energy dependent on Saudi Arabia in the future. While they bask in the sunshine they’ll be happy to sell us their oil, thereby increasing our debt and further decreasing our chances of a stable ecology and robust economy.

On the positive side, Thursday brought good news from Progressive Democrats Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Keith Ellison (D-MN). They unveiled a bill to end subsidies to the oil, coal and natural gas industries. The bad news is that the bill reportedly doesn’t stand a chance in hell of passing.

So, on this Mother’s Day, falling as always just weeks after Earth Day, I ask all of you mothers (and others) out there, just how much do you love your kids? What about your country and planet? Enough to stand up and let your voices be heard, to take a break from the daily activities to take some action? I, for one, am “steamed” enough to consider launching a Green Tea Party to raise the volume on the outrage more Americans would feel if they truly understood what was at stake. While Tea Partiers — all of whom have proudly declared that climate change is not a problem — were angry about high taxes, we should be angry about high (greenhouse) gases! Why?

Because — like it or not, America — we are in hot water and before we reach the boiling point, we should ‘steep’ ourselves in science, infuse ourselves with information, and together come up with a solution that will ensure we do not damn our children, and theirs, to a future too hot to handle.

Happy Mothers Day and if you want to make my day, email me at
and tell me “you are in” on a Green Tea Party. And while you’re at your computer, please write your representative and tell them to start showing some love for Mother Nature, or leave it.

The Eco-evolution Will Not Be Televised!

This is Earth Week, that brief period once a year, when you might actually see an in-depth green story, series, or panel discussion about an environmental topic on TV, or hear a few on the radio. Newspapers and magazines can be counted on to do an eco-themed article in late April, but that’s about it.

Sadly, that’s about all the consistent coverage we’ve gotten from mainstream commercial media over the past 15 years. That’s how long I’ve been focused on this odd programming void. While that reality remains unchanged, ecologically and meteorologically speaking, there’s been a groundswell of dramatic events.

This year I caught NBC’s Today Show — as part of their “Green Is Universal” week (if it were truly “universal” shouldn’t we see coverage more than once a year?) — doing the obligatory eco-friendly products display, featuring bamboo plates, doormats woven from used lobster twine and purses made from aluminum can tabs and candy wrappers. Nice and feel-good, but is this the most useful and deepest offering on a once a year occasion? We’ve come a long way since recycling was our biggest environmental concern, no?

Earth Day Lite, as I call it, is almost a Hallmark holiday — expressed on recycled content cards of course. It’s as predictable as the climate has become UNpredictable. With glaciers melting, sea levels rising and freak storms taking lives and livelihoods at a record rate, why have we not progressed in our coverage of the environment, our life support system, and the tenor of these topics, that for the most part, remains unchanged?

Is it because Americans have short attention spans, low tolerance for disturbing news, are just too busy to bother, and programmers fear such content will be a turn-off? I suspect it’s a little of all the above.

The environmental threats facing our country and planet have deepened, grown exponentially in number and complexity — which is what usually happens when problems are ignored — and yet, media coverage has, as anemic as it was, actually decreased.

According to Media Matters of America, the major networks — ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox — significantly decreased their coverage of climate change between 2009 and 2011 while spending twice as much time discussing Donald Trump as our worsening climate. If they compared how often Kim Kardashian “made news” vs. climate change, she would also likely come out on top. Perhaps if we called it Kim Kardashian’s climate change more Americans would tune in?

Funny, but not so funny, when you consider that we cannot address what we don’t fully understand. And therein lies the Catch 22 of climate change — the great eco-exacerbator. By the time we fully grasp what we’re up against, it will be too late to slow and reverse the destructive momentum of “global weirding”. During the same two year period that Trump trumped climate coverage, heat records were broken and devastating “freak” storms, droughts and floods reached near biblical proportion.

On the bad news/good news side, researchers at Yale’s Environmental Studies Department have just released new data indicating, that by a 2-1 margin, Americans say weather in their communities is getting worse, not better. A strong majority is beginning to link extreme weather events to evidence of climate change.

That’s why relevant and regular mainstream coverage of these multiple and interconnected matters is key, starting now. If people don’t see newscasters doing stories or hear elected representatives talking about peak oil, species extinction, ocean acidification, climate caused crop shortages and the like, how will they know these are developments they should be concerned about, and with a sense of growing urgency?

Fluctuating gas prices ARE making headlines because it’s a pocketbook, more than a planetary issue, in this country. The steadily rising cost of crude gives political pundits something with which to fill their talk tanks — but like so much of the daily coverage, that energy story merely reflects a tip of the melting iceberg.

This confluence makes for an ideal moment to get some seasoned green talent on general interest — not niched — channels to bring in eco-experts with solutions, keep out the nonsense (climate change is a hoax) and lead intelligent, engaging, even entertaining, discussions that will help move the green ball forward. But it in order to have the full impact needed, such a show should be aired five days or evenings a week, not buried in the weekend public affairs programming ghetto.

Perhaps this is the “wake-up and smell the carbon dioxide moment” we’ve been waiting for. In an interview on my program this week, Yale’s top climate communications expert, Dr. Anthony Leiserowitz, said their poll signals a new window of opportunity to educate a potentially more open — and concerned — public about climate change realities and what each of us can do to be ‘part of the solution.’

These reports come on the heels of an announcement from the Discovery Network that they are obliterating their Planet Green channel, which launched to high hopes in the environmental community four years ago. Although this development is not entirely surprising — given their programming was never deep green and over the years has been diluted down from light to pale green — it is yet another setback for the planet, which of course we each have a stake in.

But that wasn’t all. I didn’t know whether to cry or laugh upon hearing David Zaslav, Discovery’s CEO, announce the channel would be replaced with one highlighting Americana, featuring an anchor show about the best fast food restaurants in the U.S. With both an obesity epidemic and environmental crisis on our hands, that news goes down with no small amount of indigestion. America needs to go on a crash low carb diet!

When we have hundreds of channels on broadcast radio and cable television, not one of which has a dedicated green talk format, there is truly something wrong in America. Among the many ironies here: concern that green programming will be filled with gloom and doom — thus to be avoided — will only help ensure there is more, not less, misery ahead for all earthlings. There’s also the paradox that our national eco-IQ will remain low without such programming and without knowledge of what’s happening to our environment — and what we can do about it — demand for such programming will remain sluggish. That’s a seemingly endless loop that makes me loopy!

If more Americans truly knew what was at stake, and the groundbreaking alternatives within our grasp, more would be interested in this content. There is also a well-funded disinformation campaign, which can be neither overlooked nor understated.

Certainly mainstream broadcast outlets and newspapers have run stories on global warming, which is what we called it a few years ago, but not on any ongoing basis and too often — when it comes to the dominant conservative outlets — it is only to discredit scientists and their nearly unanimous view that climate change is a clear and present danger. Having appeared on Fox’s Sean Hannity show to spar with their resident “deny-o-saur,” Chris Horner, I can tell you it is idiocy personified when it comes to ‘debating’ climate realities.

I call it the “Inanity Show” but it’s not funny because millions of Americans get their ‘news and information’ from ultra conservative radio and television sources. When on, I love asking them how it is that they know more than 98 percent of the world’s climate scientists and watching them squirm. They must like it too since they’ve had me on a half dozen times over the past few years. Like bullies who like to pick a fight, they retaliated by calling me a name: “earther” (this was during the Obama “birther” story sideshow). The mother in me wants to send these bad boys to their rooms, but with the millions they’re making, those rooms would be way too comfy.

It was while prepping for one of those appearances, exactly one year ago this week, that I came across a brilliant blogger by the name of Devone Tucker, or D.R., for short. The story of his conversion from being a climate skeptic to a true believer — so much so that his eco-epiphany nudged him to the left a notch, politically — was a direct result of his party’s active denial of climate change science (Tucker went from being a conservative Republican to a moderate). After mentioning him on Hannity, and the fact that Tucker had taken time to read the 2007 IPCC report and was stunned to discover he and most of his party’s right-leaning leaders were wrong, I invited D.R. on my Internet show, The Green Front, and a fast friendship was formed. We hope to co-host the first Red and Blue Green show!

Programmers concerned that such content could be neither popular nor profitable should consider this; when my program was on Air America, we had some 50-thousand listeners each night, according to network executives. That was with zero marketing of the show and five years ago, before the ‘green wave’ arrived. While green-leaning sponsors were hard to come by back then, they are out there now, no doubt in search of some credible eco-themed programming that can reach a wide audience to help grow the green marketplace. Target demographics for such a show? All those who eat, drink, or breathe!

My favorite “reason” given for not taking a chance on groundbreaking green programming? I’ve heard some media types speculate that there might be a ‘fatigue factor’, that people are tired of hearing about green this and that. I have to laugh since cable TV — and broadcast networks to a lesser degree — have programming throughout the day and night too often focusing on the same few stories, with different talk hosts and guests putting a slightly different spin on them. I find that rinse and repeat cycle boring, even insulting, as the stories that will have much greater impact on all of us are ignored. When the commercials come on — and the majority are promos for the fossil fuel industry’s airbrushed, Disneyland version of our energy future — I have to turn it off.

For all the political junkies out there and those who feel the economy is all that matters consider this; there’s NO good jobs, nor politics, nor anything worthwhile, on a dangerous and dying planet. I frequently find myself talking back to the TV pundits droning on to say, “It’s the environment stupid — try going one day without it!” And to politicians who vote against everything remotely progressive for preserving the planet, I say, “love it or leave it!” Bottom line is we simply cannot wait until we address all other issues du jour to get around to protecting our life support system. Mother Nature won’t wait for us to get off our (g)asses!

Patriotic Americans should be angry that other countries are leaving us in the dust, most notably Germany and China who are leading the way in producing solar panels and other cutting-edge green technology. If nothing else awakens the slumber of a complacent and preoccupied public, it should be the specter of growing reliance on Chinese imports, not just clothing and computers but clean tech as well. Americans are nothing if not competitive. At least we used to be. Maybe we’re too busy watching “reality shows” to concern ourselves.

So the question remains, what will it take to build a critical mass of support for programming that helps us navigate these rough and rapidly changing waters wisely and well? I fear the answer may be when we reach a critical mess. The good and bad news is we’re getting close. But until then, it appears the eco-evolution will NOT be televised. Happy Earth Week.


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