Things are not as they seem

I was inspired by Joy of Lamusicjunkie to do a post today. Thanks for that Joy,  Well in. Funny how writers block is murdered so easily and effortlessly. Ive always been a curious one and nothing puts me in a binder more than being so sure of myself then being proven so wrong. It is always a hook that I always bite. I am definitely not alone in this as that kind of story telling seems to be the plot for just about all the movies and series I end up enjoying. Somebody cue Shutter Island,

Film poster for The Usual Suspects
Film poster for The Usual Suspects (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Usual Suspects .  . The attraction to these flicks is simply because I couldn’t predict the end, or rather that my predictions were so far from the truth. Mind F***s are also welcome as was seen on the (tiger on boat thing) So its evident am definitely a story kinda guy. A well told story is the best thing you could gift me.

And then last week happened. I was amongst the folk that was caught with their jaws on the floor as Donald Trump became the 45th President elect of the land of the free, home of the brave. I totally didn’t see it coming and I thought those who were afraid of his win were rather panicky. As he marched from one ridiculous statement to the next even being recorded talking about how he groped women, I didn’t think he stood a chance. but here we are.

speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on Februar...
speaking at CPAC in Washington D.C. on February 10, 2011. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I suppose we deserved it. Those that believed Hillary would win live in a bubble. A bubble that sees the way the world works to be ideal. A bubble that doesn’t exactly struggle to make ends meet. One where the tax increases that hurt are on beer and cigarettes, and only for a little while. This bubble is across the world. I see it in Nairobi all the time. I remember when buying a beer was 120/- and that was considered costly. This is barely 4 years ago. A regular beer now in a regular bar is upwards of 200/-. Ofcourse this can be attributed to the government layering on the sin tax on alcohol. Which is actually fine. What is interesting is that the rate of consumption doesn’t reduce at all with increase in price. Everything else is getting cheaper in terms of capital required to start a business or enterprise but the cost of living keeps increasing.

Its easy to get lost in the bubble and the echo chamber that is social media. You post what we think our friends will like, proceed to get 400 likes and believe this is a true reflection of what its like out there. I think our Presidential Social Media team has fallen for this. And its probably dangerous for all of us. To live in a bubble that thinks next years elections will be won by the incumbent just because they control the state, parliament and Twitter.

Geopolitics is amazing and in another life i will take it up as a study topic as I find it fascinating. Its especially very satisfying to spot a trend and predict outcomes correctly. It is also very educative to be proven so wrong so hard. I will not forget the Trump lesson and its implications locally.

Another prediction that I have had for ages is that the era of global wars is over what with mutually assured destruction being what it is. But when a guy like Putin starts talking like this and guys like Trump win elections. . . well what can I say. I hope I don’t get to eat my own words.

Boko Haram

Its not every day that you come across a terrorist outfit that falls over itself to identify its philosophy or rather pathology to ignorance and the disdain of education and development.

Boko Haram has gained infamy worldwide for its brazen acts of well. . terror. On April 14th 2014 230 girls were abducted from a high school by the goons and are yet to be recovered. The social media army went ham on the story even getting the first lady of the US to jump in on it but it seems Boko Haram aren’t on Twitter or they know that Hashtags don’t hurt unless you are a socialite. A Few days ago they murdered upwards of 2000 people in Baga, a northern city of Nigeria. The government says that we shouldn’t get our panties in a bunch as they counted 150 dead. As this happened, 12 journalists were murdered in their office by what is claimed to be muslim Jihadists.

These attacks were roundly condemned by all and sundry including the Nigerian President, Goodluck Jonathan. Leaving alone the unfortunate name, the irony was not lost on the observers. GoodLuck didn’t bother to comment on the 2000 citizens murdered in his own country but felt that the assault on the freedom of expression of an offensive magazine was better for the media to cover.

Some Africans or self appointed defenders of the same were very quick to start blaming the west for double standards in terms of mourning. The Baga massacre barely got coverage in the west but #jesuischarlie received wall to wall coverage. I personally see no problem in this. They are mourning their own. We should be mourning ours. Thats not happening though. The President of Nigeria doesn’t feel a need to talk about it probably because it has been happening for months. Nothing new there.

This leads me to some conclusions. Boko Haram have been seemingly outsmarting, outgunning and basically dominating the Nigerian military. How this is possible in what is now the biggest economy on the continent leaves many questions unanswered. I tend to subscribe to Occam’s Razor. The explanation with the fewest assumptions is probably the truth. In this case, the simplest explanation is probably the correct one.

Nigeria managed to contain Ebola with world class efficiency precision and quite frankly impressive coordination. That there is professionalism within the ranks of government with the right political backing is without doubt. Why a rag tag bunch of militias are still running around blowing things up, abducting girls and generally embarrassing your entire regime with a seemingly helpless armed forces has only one explanation. The government lets them do it.

Its either they need the threat ongoing in order to keep receiving defence dollars from the US and its allies or its a political play to exterminate the threat just before the elections. Either way its pathetic. The other day Soldiers were run out of their barracks. As in where does that happen? Soldiers abandoning their post. I thought barracks were well stocked with food, munitions and the like to sustain a siege? Well what do I know ?

I wonder where this will end. Will the Americans deliver democracy to the Nigerians?

My take on the Israeli occupation

At the risk of getting permanently banned from Israel I will write about them and the Palestinians.

It is one of the most puzzling ‘conflicts’ of our time. watching the mainstream news networks you would think Hamas have tanks and rockets and could also possibly launch nuclear warheads at Tel Aviv. This is until you look at a map showing where the West bank and Gaza are. To think that Palestine basically occupied what is now normally called Israel just makes the jaw drop further.

I suggest you don’t listen to Benjamin Netanyahu talking about Israel’s right to exist as though they can pull a contract between the state and the neanderthals selling them the land.

There are no excuses for blowing people up in their own homes. That they have tossed a couple of rockets , which were intercepted, doesn’t mean that they deserve to have their homes destroyed.

Its quite frankly an occupational force in Palestine.

What I find rather puzzling is not what I see on the news but what I don’t see. Arab countries are very serious when it comes to protecting their values, traditions and greatest of all their religion. They had started off beautifully with the Arab league which seems to have collapsed for the most part. I suppose basing organizations on an ethnic basis is bound to fail. The UAE, Qatar, Yemen and the rest of the rich Arab nations are not doing much for Gaza or the West Bank. I am not talking military action but at-least publicly denounce these murders and maybe formally pressure the US to push Israel to back down.

The entire planet just seems content to watch in shock as the Israelis pound the Palestinians with no country willing to do anything about it. Just lots of sombre press conferences with a lot of baseless and empty rhetoric. This is puzzling to me. Its almost like there is a global voyeuristic movement that enjoys watching Arabs being killed. Please not that they are blown up in their houses not on some kind of war-front.

Another thing that is puzzling is how Hamas get missiles into their territory in the first place. The land they occupy is pitifully tiny, bordered by the sea and Israel on the rest of the side. I fail to see how you can sneak in anything of note with such a blockade still in active operation.

Strange doesn’t even begin to describe the kind of paranoia that surfaces when Israelis are questioned on their actions against the Palestinians. The universal act is that they are protecting the motherland or that they are the actual victims as they monitor their nuclear warheads.

Its rather ridiculous if you think about it. Granted I understand the maxim that the strong rule over the weak. it is however a foregone conclusion that our species prides itself in the idea that we are distinguished from the lesser forms of life by our nature of being humane and thus call ourselves Humans. This is totally ignoring that Dogs show more humanity than us and have no need for titles but I digress.

I have automatic contempt for anyone that attempts to display that they are superior to others because this is often a power play. The powerful do not need to prove their power. It will be evident. As Margaret Thatcher once said, ” If you have to tell people you have power, you don’t. ”

In Palestine, The Israelis have the power. They don’t say it and nobody admits it but everyone knows it.  Most of us complain about the unfair situation but do next to nothing about it.

This evening we drove by a lady with a stalled Vitz on Valley Road. She was surrounded by about 4 men possibly attempting to take advantage of her predicament. We drove away talking about it. Couldn’t help draw a parallel to the worlds reaction to what is happening in Gaza

Illicit brew

The US tried to outlaw booze for a while and the resulting criminal underworld that thrived due to its underworld trade nearly brought cities like Chicago to its knees neck deep in gang wars led by the likes of Al Capone.

Its rather daft to ban a popular drug/drink or substance that has desirable effects when consumed. Especially when these desirable effects include ignoring how badly the incumbent government is screwing you over. A short history of how we got to the state we are in in Kenya can be found here.

As I write this there are over 130 people admitted at hospitals around central Kenya and a whopping 60 + DEAD after consuming laced unregulated alcohol. I refuse to use the word illicit because it seems to legitimize expensive poison and demonize the cheap variety.

Kenya and in particular Central Kenya is not surprised by scenes of  relatively young men staggering around in drunken stupors in the middle of the day. There have even been protests by the women with complaints that they are not getting satisfied conjugally. This means that both the Husbands and the Mpango wa Kandos are all too drunk to deliver the goods. This is actually very worrying and should not be tolerated.  Kazi kwa vijana indeed.

Accompanying the staggering men are instances where the brewing was hastened or the concoctions added did not balance out very well and unfortunately some of our brothers(Invariably its males) bite the dust or go blind. At most its about 2 or 3 guys in isolated cases and we communally shake our heads, wag our fingers and take another sip of our beers as we change the channel.

This has however become too real and too serious for life. My campus class was composed of some 30 guy and guyettes. So a full 2 classes of peeps are no more in pursuit of happiness.

Mututho will of-course gloat in the aftermath asking for more money to annoy us with ineffective messages of un-cool teenagers trying to sell the anti-booze message.

In my opinion the indulgence is not the problem. Its the regulation and the buggers who sit between the law makers and the law abiders, the Police. Anyone who has sat at a local bar knows the drill. At a particular hour just like clockwork, the police will come by and collect protection money from the bar owner. Swanky joints I am told send directly to the OCS if they have all their documents in order.

Smaller seedier joints have to deal with the guys on patrol. Whether you are cooking Busaa, methanol, ethanol or a witches brew so long as you pay up and keep your head down, no cop gives a f***. And I place this squarely at the Executive’s feet. The laws are there and the courts work fine. Zero enforcement of the law on the ground when it doesn’t involve extracting money from the public.

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Why the new IDs have nothing to do with security

As is becoming rather regular with our government, roadside or podium side declarations are the order of the day with no clear or predictable policy direction. The latest one is the decision to issue everyone with a new ID card.

Every one is to get a new fangled ID with your full biometric features along with NHIF,NSSF,PIN no. and possibly your MPESA no.

Ofcourse the last bit is less emphasized and the need to get on top of the security situation is the most publicized trait. This is all well and good but they plan on using the birth certificate to prove citizenship or as the base document to prove your claim as a son/daughter of the soil. The same document used for the old IDs. Not too sure what is supposed to change.

English: Kenyan passport
English: Kenyan passport (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Now kids as old as 12yrs of age will be given IDs. I still don’t know why this is necessary but I trust there are very smart bureaucrats and this requirement is somehow security related.

Either way I doubt the drive to get new fangled IDs with supposed full proof Biometric details is based on security threats. Alshabab do not need IDs to throw grenades. And as far as I can tell they have my face and fingerprints already. Infact since I lost my ID and had to get a replacement, they have a another full set. I have full faith in the record keeping abilities of the authorities and am sure they have even Mzee Kenyattas prints, along with all the other Random Mau Mau guys who got booked by the British.

So the story that they need to beef up their bio-metric records is hogwash unless they want to start collecting DNA samples. So whats the point you ask? Well as I always say, follow the money. Having your bio-metrics tied to your NHIF, KRA etc makes it damn easy to push new taxes on you and to milk you properly in the event that you have somehow been forgetting to fill your income tax forms. Of course they can tie your ID to all these systems already but we all know how lazy our dear government is. They would rather create a whole new system as opposed to trying to make the existing ones talk. Like the President wanting us to report directly to him whenever we see corruption. Report to the President not the Ethics and Anti-corruption Commission. You cant make this stuff up.

So Serikali wants to track you properly or rather track your transactions properly. more control of your accounts= more revenue for KRA = more money to buy jets to bomb the Alshabab = increased brownie points with the public = reelection for incumbent = more looting by political types = more taxes to close the deficit. Get where am going with this?

Am rather sad though that my new shiny ID is going to have such a short life. I wonder who gets these contracts for printing IDs. I never see any advertisements.

Do you?

 

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Margaret Thatcher

The Iron lady is dead.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher
Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’ll be the first to admit I know very little of her seeing as she ruled before my time. What I can glean from the media though gives me a good idea about what she was all about. She seems like Martha Karua on steroids without the affectionate dancing side.

She called Nelson Mandela a terrorist for crying out loud and thought the Apartheid regime was pretty rad. Now this was the 80’s so such sentiments were rather archaic & jarring even in her time.

English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gaute...
English: Nelson Mandela in Johannesburg, Gauteng, on 13 May 1998 (Photo credit: Wikipedia). The backdrop many british lovers like to use is that she was protecting british interests and it is quite possible that she decided to be the fall guy(or girl in this case) to absorb all the bad press.

But years, nay, Decades later it is especially her countrymen that despise her. I gather that she devastated the mining communities and by extension the working class and precipitated lts of suffering for them. A documentary I watched a while ago insinuated that the whole global warming fiasco was started by her and others to popularize use of nuclear energy for power generation so as to reduce the influence of coal workers unions. This would make her a highly intelligent leader if true and the effects of her decisions are reverberating to this day. Now that is influence.

The reaction to those that are happy to see her go is however what is most amusing to me. We generally(Africans) avoid speaking ill of the dead but a line can be drawn somewhere right? I mean the Americans nearly called a national holiday when Obama murdered Osama and dumped him in the sea. This was blatant happiness over an individual’s death. Why should this be any different for those who suffered under the iron lady’s rule?

I am personally indifferent to her death or influence if it still exists seeing as she is no longer a shot caller and I doubt whether her policies to Kenya were to Kenya’s benefit. The right for people to be glad she is dead should be protected though same as an entire country can be proud of itself for murdering a supposed terrorist and celebrating it.

 

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Justice & Political Flexibility

Aside from the communal baying for the IEBCs blood over the past week for having the audacity to make Kenyans wait for the conclusion of the elections, another interesting piece of news has slipped by mostly unnoticed.

English: International Criminal Court (ICC) logo
English: International Criminal Court (ICC) logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The hearing of the cases against Uhuru Kenyatta and Francis Muthaura have been postponed to July on the requests of the two suspects.

This has been happening parallel to the ominous statements issued by the United Kingdom and the United States about the consequences of making bad decisions a.k.a voting in the UhuRuto duo.

With the dreaded candidates poised to win, the movements from the two powers will be interesting in the immediate future what with the views that China doesn’t really mind who runs a country so long as they are ready to do business. The paltry bargaining power that the west and Europe are increasingly finding themselves wielding must be disconcerting and may explain why armed responses seem to be the only card they have left.

The relaxation of the terms and conditions of the cases against the suspects emphasizes the fact that legal and economic decisions are not independent from the political situation in the particular time frame. Obamas decisions must be timed and weighted by the mood on the ground in kenya lest the rejection winds up causing more harm than good by way of govt cooperation and having a regional ally.

It is instructive that the US is not a signatory to the rome statute on which the ICC is based so the moral authority to actually make other nations adhere to it is not exactly intact. But what do we expect from the largest exporter of weaponry and by extension war.

My basic premise is that court processes that are meant to be impartial and use the law as their holy text are undetachable from the prevailing political climate.  The ICC being an international independent body should be the least to be concerned by the nuances of a national election in which the suspects are top contenders but we see a very measured approach to how the cases are handled and the media briefings issued by the prosecutor.

This is also illustrated by the happenings in the southern states of the US at the prime of and decline of slavery in the United States of America. It seems preposterous that what is considered the land of the free or the brave just a couple of years ago felt that counting niggers like cattle and considering them to be assets was perfectly legal. This was considered lawful within the context of the political climate and I dare say it was legal as a consequence of the political climate as opposed to existing next to it in a symbiotic relationship.

 

 

 

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Spoilt Votes Issue

There is a brewing issue that may force the ongoing Kenyan elections go into the runoff stage.

As of last night, based on the provisional results that were on all TV screens, the no. of rejected votes were upward of 300,000.  This is a disturbingly huge amount and if it was attributed to a candidate, he/she would be the 3rd highest in the presidential running. The debate is on what to do with this category of votes. Both of the front runners are nervous that it will erode their percentages in the total pool and thus ruin their shots at winning in the first round. Not including them in the final tally for cast votes would make the chances that a first round win is possible.

Here is a post I found by a good friend on Facebook breaking down what the legal situation is like.

50 +1 OF THE CAST VOTES MYSTERY

The constitution provides that that a candidate shall be declared elected as president if the candidate receives more than half of all the votes cast in the election and at least twenty five per cent of the votes cast in each of more than half of the counties. Either Uhuru or Raila requires 50 + 1 and at least 25% of all votes cast in 24 counties. Whereas there is no contention as to whether both have met the county votes requirements, there is an emerging debate as to whether the requirement on the 50+1 of the votes cast includes the spoilt votes and/or the rejected votes. 

A ballot box is defined as a transparent container with a slot on the top sufficient to accept a ballot paper in an election or in a referendum but which prevents access to the votes cast until the closing of the voting period. The law further stipulates that the ballot boxes should be fairly transparent or translucent and be colour coded prominently and distinctively to identify the respective elective post and shall correspond with the colour of the ballot paper for that elective post. 

IEBC is required to ensure that that the voting method/ system is simple, accurate, verifiable, secure, accountable and transparent. IEBC is also required under the constitution to ensure that the votes cast are counted, tabulated and the results announced promptly by the presiding officer at each polling station and that the results from the polling stations are openly and accurately collated(emphasis mine) and promptly announced by the returning officer and to ensure that appropriate structures and mechanisms to eliminate electoral malpractice are put in place, including the safe keeping of election materials. The word collate means to compare critically, sort, analyse. I do not think that IEBC has exhausted its mandate on collation of cast votes in relation to the rejected votes.

Votes cast

The phrase votes cast has not been defined in the Kenyan law. However, to cast one’s vote means to place one’s ballot paper in the ballot box. A ballot paper means a paper used to record the choice made by a vote and shall include an electronic version of a ballot paper or its equivalent for purposes of electronic voting.

Is a rejected vote a cast vote?

We did not vote electronically, so the votes or choices were expressed in the ballot papers and voting was completed the moment the papers were placed in the ballot boxes. If the rejected votes were cast in ballot boxes, then they form part of the votes cast. Noting that to cast a vote means to place a ballot paper in a ballot box by a voter as an expression of choice, my view is that rejected votes are votes cast and should be factored in the 50+1 requirement.

Rejected votes and valid votes

Under the elections regulations, at the counting of votes at an elections, a ballot paper or a vote can only be rejected for the following reasons:-
a) For the reason that it does not bear the security features determined by IEBC e.g serial number or stamp, or size, or marks etc;
b) Where a person has voted for more than one person in the same ballot paper;
c) Where something is written or so marked in the ballot paper which makes it uncertain for whom the vote has been cast;
d) A vote which bears a serial number different from the serial number of the respective polling station and which cannot be verified from the counterfoil of ballot papers used at that polling station; or
e) A ballot paper which is unmarked.

There is no requirement that these ballots should be put in the right ballot box for them to count. Further, IEBC is given the power to interpret the intention of voters. A ballot paper which is not marked in the right place but clearly expresses the intention of the voter should not be rejected. For example which someone puts a mark which runs out of the box in the paper but does not run to another person’s name is valid. Even if a person puts a tick and X and even writes a name that does not necessarily identify the voter against one person only, that vote is valid. Accordingly, out of the cast votes, a valid vote is one which bears a clear intention of expression of choice in favour of only one candidate.

Unsolicited advice to IEBC

In my view, the votes placed in the wrong ballot papers should not be rejected. They were validly cast votes. My advice is that IEBC should sort all the rejected votes under all categories to ensure that the valid votes placed in any ballot paper is sorted, placed in the right category and counted. If 350,000ballots were erroneously placed in the presidential ballot box, if this is multiplied by the 6 categories for argument’s sake, we end up with an alarming 2,100,000 ballots or choices which were cast in the wrong ballot box. I think IEBC should take the responsibility of sorting out all the rejected votes and include them in the final tallies. This could change the fortunes of many candidates. IEBC should exhaust its mandate in law and sort out the good votes in the wrong ballots and add them to the provisional results. 

Josephine Kogweno
Nairobi based Lawyer

Ahmednasir Abdullahi of the Nairobi Law Monthly fame is breathing fire and brimstone  as a result of this debacle. I fail to understand though why he is quoting American laws, we ain’t American and any precedent set would not necessarily apply here right?

I am watching this closely and the outcome or precedent set here should be history making.

 

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How to bungle an election

Well this has gone to shit fast.

The Coat of arms of Kenya
The Coat of arms of Kenya (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Here we were with an expensive electronic system that was supposed to guard against rigging, gerrymandering and all sorts of irregularities that are the staple of Kenyan elections. All that is until the whole damn thing collapsed with so many issues that it was fully abandoned and now we are back to the 19th century with manual counting. Atleast we have calculators. That should help.

Some say, the issue was the server running out of harddisk space, others that Safaricom collapsed under the traffic (which was pitifully little, only hashed text was being sent from the Returning officers.) Others speculate that the server (vulnerable like anything else connected to the internet) was hacked to bits and a permanent 400,000 lead in favour of Uhuru Kenyatta was coded in.

The conspiracy theory in me tells me this is more a human problem than a technical one. Someone/some people are trying to rig themselves in and the ripple effects of these actions are the visible events at Bomas of Kenya. I say this at the risk of being branded a warmonger or unpatriotic kenyan ad nauseam but I stand by it. There is nothing normal about the Chairman of the IEBC insisting on the fact that the law gives him a week to announce the presidential results. That signals a big problem that has required a recount or in depth audit of the results filed by the Returning officers. The slow rate at which the results are bing announced is also disheartening. & constituencies since morning. What possible issue could justify such a rate?

A useful site has been put up by Eric Hersman  to investigate the internals of the system and the flow of the electoral information from the polling centers to the National     Tallying center. Here is the site (http://iebctechkenya.tumblr.com/). This should be the start of the investigation into how a Ksh. 10 Billion plus election that has spent extremely heavily on tech has proceeded to dump the tech.

As is the Kenyan style, the biggest problem that the public has is with the PR department of the IEBC. Everything was fine 5 hrs after tallying began until the incrments slowed down to a painful trickle. All through the communication style of the commission was unsatisfactory with all manner of quotations of the law with less and less of what the public actually wanted. Actual results!

Speculation without evidence is generally shunned in my circles so I avoid it. But with scanty information coming from the authorities, throwing stones in the dark tends to get a response.

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The Swing Vote

As predicted or as expected, most citizens here have collapsed into the tribal conclave and are shouting themselves for their favorite politician who can speak their mother tongue.

I have no problem with this. Preferring a tribe-mate is just as natural as being loyal to your family members accepting all their flaws and warts. No-one is perfect anyway and being pretentious and judgmental is rather goody two shoes.

As was infamously intimated by the prime minister a while back, the Kenya elections are a two horse race and the rest just stretching their legs. This is of-course largely true and the most the others can expect to gain from this escapade is to gain exposure, reputation, and some clout back home being a potential presidential contender.

The potential benefit of having a couple of parliamentarians and being the defacto leader (or party owner) of the group helps with post election negotiations for appointments and power share. In the event that there is a runoff, the swing vote is controlled by the lesser candidates who have the loyalty of the voters that would not have voted for the two horses anyway. This is a good position to be in if you know you have no chance of making it to statehouse but want some power nonetheless.

As it stands Mudavadi has the most conspicuous swing vote and yes this is based mostly on tribal numbers. We may lie to ourselves all we want but tribe is king when it comes to politics in this part of the world.

Lets see how things go on the 4th.

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