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Trump’s New ‘Birth Tourism’ Policy Is A Way To Control Women

On Friday, a new policy to stop pregnant women from traveling to the U.S. for “birth tourism” will go into effect. Consular officers can now deny visitor visas to women who they have “reason to believe” will give birth in America in order to get their child U.S. citizenship. 

The policy is already controversial because it gives officers, who are not medical experts, broad discretion to determine whether or not someone is pregnant. If an officer thinks a woman is likely to have a baby in the U.S., they can automatically conclude that a person’s “primary purpose” for travel is birth tourism, and prevent them from entering the country.

Women’s health advocates and experts said the rule is a blatant attempt to control women and that it could prevent expecting mothers from receiving life-saving medical care.  

“It’s hugely discriminatory and also is putting women’s lives at risk,” said Nora Ellmann, a research associate for women’s health and rights at the Center for American Progress. “The rule is positioning pregnant women as a national security threat.” 

The Trump administration has a history of stomping on reproductive rights, especially regarding women of color. While Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) largely stopped detaining pregnant women under a President Barack Obama directive, Trump reversed that order and the number of expecting mothers in detention has jumped by 52% since he took office. Scott Lloyd, the former director of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR), blocked pregnant immigrant teenagers in ORR custody from getting abortions, and allegedly tracked their menstrual cycles. And Trump has talked about using an executive order to end birthright citizenship, to stop immigrants from having what he calls “anchor babies.”  

The rule is positioning pregnant women as a national security threat.
Nora Ellmann, research associate for women’s health and rights at the Center for American Progress

The topic of “birth tourism” recently made headlines after a woman traveling from Hong Kong to Saipan, a United States territory in the Pacific, was forced to take a pregnancy test before boarding the flight. She had to sign a medical release form that said she had “a body size/shape resembling to a [sic] pregnant lady,” according to a blog post the woman wrote. Though there are no credible statistics on how widespread birth tourism is, media coverage usually focuses on women from China and Russia

The new policy does not apply to the 39 countries whose citizens can travel to the U.S. without a visa — like France, Ireland and New Zealand — and it’s unclear how it will work for foreign travelers from other countries. 

In an email to HuffPost, a State Department spokesperson said officers would only raise the topic of pregnancy if “they had a specific articulable reason to believe a visa applicant may be pregnant and planning to give birth in the United States.” The spokesperson did not answer HuffPost’s question about how an officer would determine whether or not someone is pregnant, how far along they are, and if a medical professional would be involved in a screening. 

Women’s health advocates worry the dystopian process will involve an officer behind a glass window sizing up a woman’s body, which could result in discrimination based on gender, age and size. 

“It’s clearly a huge violation of a woman’s privacy and dignity,” said Sung Yeon Choimorrow, the executive director of the National Asian Pacific American Women’s Forum. “There is so much room for subjectiveness in this. What types of questions are you going to ask? The whole thing is just so absurd.” 

The rule also makes the false assumption that pregnant women only travel to give birth in another country, when they might be going overseas for business or vacation, Choimorrow added. 

Even more concerning is that an officer with no medical background now has the power to decide if someone is pregnant and if they deserve medical treatment in the U.S., said Dr. Carolyn Sufrin, an obstetrician-gynecologist who teaches at Johns Hopkins University. “It’s just completely outside of the realm of what they can and should be doing.”

Though the rule specifies that pregnant women seeking medical treatment in the U.S. can be granted visas if they have the means to pay for their medical bills, the policy also states that pregnant women have to prove, “to the satisfaction of a consular officer,” that they have a “legitimate reason” for seeing an American doctor. This phrasing leaves serious, potentially life-saving decisions up to people with no medical background, according to Ellmann.

“They may say, ‘Well, we don’t think that’s a sufficient basis, because you can get the treatment, which may or may not be that good, right outside of the United States,’” said Jeffrey Gorsky, a lawyer who worked in the State Department’s visa office for 36 years.

Dr. Sufrin said that even if the State Department does plan to involve medical professionals, it would be highly unethical for any doctor to be involved in a process that denies medical care to someone based on factors such as their nationality, citizenship status, or for any other reason.

Gorsky said the rule seems extremely hard to implement, especially given the fact that women interested in “birth tourism” can apply for long-term travel visas years before they are pregnant. He thinks the new policy is more symbolic than practical ― a muscle flex for Trump’s anti-immigration base. 

“I think the political motivations are what’s driving this,” he said. “This administration does not have a record of caring for the needs of people who are not U.S. citizens.”

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Susan Collins asked Justice Roberts to intervene after Nadler late-night ‘cover-up’ accusation

Sen. Susan CollinsSusan Margaret CollinsThe Hill’s Morning Report – House prosecutes Trump as ‘lawless,’ ‘corrupt’ Tensions between McConnell and Schumer run high as trial gains momentum No. 2 GOP leader eyes Wednesday of next week for possible votes on witnesses MORE (R-Maine) wrote a note to Chief Justice John Roberts on Wednesday morning, moments before he admonished the House impeachment managers and President TrumpDonald John TrumpMnuchin knocks Greta Thunberg’s activism: Study economics and then ‘come back’ to us The Hill’s Morning Report – House prosecutes Trump as ‘lawless,’ ‘corrupt’ What to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial MORE’s defense team for a fiery exchange between Rep. Jerrold NadlerJerrold (Jerry) Lewis NadlerNadler gets under GOP’s skin Restlessness, light rule-breaking and milk spotted on Senate floor as impeachment trial rolls on Republicans take aim at Nadler for saying GOP senators complicit in ‘cover-up’ MORE (D-N.Y.) and White House counsel Pat Cipollone around 1 a.m. 

Collins later revealed in an interview with the press that she wrote the note to the justice asking him to make sure that the Senate rules on what she believed were unsettling comments apply to the House Judiciary Committee chairman. The rule would strike the words of a senator, should they impute a colleague. 

Nadler accused Republican senators of participating in a “cover-up” after voting against amendments that would have allowed them to bring witnesses to the trial.

CNN first reported on Collins’s note to Roberts, and most reactions from Republican senators were less discreet.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) — a fellow moderate Republican — told reporters she took offense to the comments.  

“As one who is listening attentively and working hard to get to a fair process, I was offended,” Murkowski said.

In an interview with reporters after the Tuesday night hearing on rules, Collins said she was “stunned” by Nadler’s accusation and revealed why she had sent the note to Roberts.  

“Well, I was stunned by Congressman Nadler’s approach, and it reminded me that if we were in a normal debate in the Senate that the rule will be invoked to strike the words of the Senator, for imputing another Senator in this case, so I did write a note raising the issue of whether there had been a violation of the rules of the Senate, and I gave that note to Laura Dove, and well shortly thereafter the Chief Justice did admonish both sides and I was glad that he did,” Collins said, according to a transcript an aide provided to The Hill. 

It’s unclear if Collins’s note prompted Roberts’s admonishing comments to both parties shortly afterward. The Supreme Court did not immediately respond to an inquiry from The Hill.

Eyes have been on Collins since impeachment proceedings reached the Senate. She and a handful of other moderates are seen as potential swing votes for impeachment, or at least allies in bringing in witnesses like former national security adviser John BoltonJohn BoltonWhat to watch for on Day 3 of Senate impeachment trial Nadler gets under GOP’s skin ‘Emotion’ from Trump’s legal team wins presidential plaudits MORE

A recent poll released last week showed that Collins dropped 10 points in her approval rating in her home state since the end of September, another sign that the senator is will face a tough reelection this year. 

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Watch: Opening Statements In President Trump’s Impeachment, Day 2 Of Trial | Video

The Senate will reconvene Wednesday at 1:00 pm ET for opening statements on the second day of President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial, after voting on rules at the end of a marathon 13-hour session on Tuesday.

Until the second day of proceedings begins, PBS will air highlights from past coverage of the impeachment process above.

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Poll: 51 percent of Americans say Senate should convict and remove Trump

A majority of Americans say that the Senate should vote to convict and remove President TrumpDonald John TrumpTrump rails against impeachment in speech to Texas farmers Trump administration planning to crack down on ‘birth tourism’: report George Conway on Trump adding Dershowitz, Starr to legal team: ‘Hard to see how either could help’ MORE, according to a new CNN poll conducted by SSRS

The survey, which was released on Monday, a day before the Senate impeachment trial convenes, found that 51 percent of Americans are in support of the Senate voting to convict and remove Trump. Forty-five percent of respondents said the Senate should vote against conviction and 4 percent said they had no opinion. 

Opinions on Senate removal divide strongly along party lines, with 89 percent of Democrats endorsing conviction and removal and 89 percent of Republicans saying they oppose it. Forty-eight percent of independent respondents said the Senate should vote to convict Trump, while 46 percent said they should not. 

Meanwhile, 69 percent of respondents said that the impeachment trial should include testimony from witnesses who did not testify amid the House impeachment inquiry. Just 26 percent of respondents said that the trial should not include new witnesses. Republicans were divided on the issue with 48 percent saying the trial should include new witnesses. 

The survey also found that a majority of Americans — 58 percent — believe Trump abused the power of the presidency to obtain an improper personal political benefit. Fifty-seven percent of respondents also said that it was “true” that Trump obstructed the House impeachment inquiry by defying lawful requests from Congress for testimony and evidence. 

CNN noted that poll is the first national telephone survey conducted since the articles of impeachment were formally transferred from the House to the upper chamber. The survey was also conducted in the days after Lev Parnas, an associate of Trump’s attorney Rudy GiulianiRudy GiulianiGOP senator ‘open’ to impeachment witnesses ‘within the scope’ of articles Sunday shows – All eyes on Senate impeachment trial Trump Jr.: If ‘weaker’ Republicans only call for certain witnesses, ‘they don’t deserve to be in office’ MORE, claimed that Trump knew everything about the pressure campaign on Ukraine. 

The House in December voted to impeach Trump of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, making him just the third sitting president to face Senate removal. The vote took place following an inquiry into allegations that Trump used military aid and a White House meeting as a source of leverage in his push to get Ukraine to open politically beneficial investigations. 

House Democrats and the president’s impeachment defense team released briefs arguing their case over the weekend. Democrats argued that the evidence gathered establishes that Trump is an “immediate threat to the Nation and the rule of law.” Trump’s lawyers, meanwhile, argued that the impeachment articles are “invalid on their face” because neither one is codified as a federal crime.

The CNN poll was conducted from Jan. 16-19 among a a random national population of 1,156 adults. It has a margin of error of 3.4 percent.  

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Thousands Gather Across U.S. For 4th Women’s March

WASHINGTON (AP) — Thousands gathered in cities across the country Saturday as part of the nationwide Women’s March rallies focused on issues such as climate change, pay equity, reproductive rights and immigration.

Hundreds showed up in New York City and thousands in Washington, D.C. for the rallies, which aim to harness the political power of women, although crowds were noticeably smaller than in previous years. Marches were scheduled Saturday in more than 180 cities.

The first marches in 2017 drew hundreds of thousands of people to rallies in cities across the country on the day after President Donald Trump was inaugurated. That year’s D.C. march drew close to 1 million people.

In Manhattan on Saturday, hundreds of people who gathered at separate events in Foley Square and Columbus Circle planned to converge at Times Square as part of a “Rise and Roar” rally.

“Today, we will be the change that is needed in this world! Today, we rise into our power!” activist Donna Hill told a cheering crowd in Foley Square.

In Denver, organizers opted to skip the rally after the march and instead invited participants to meet with local organizations to learn more about issues such as reproductive rights, climate change, gun safety and voting.

Several thousand came out for the protest in Washington, far fewer than last year when about 100,000 people held a rally east of the White House. But as in previous years, many of the protesters made the trip to the nation’s capital from cities across the country to express their opposition to Trump and his policies. From their gathering spot on Freedom Plaza, they had a clear view down Pennsylvania Avenue to the U.S. Capitol, where the impeachment trial gets underway in the Senate next week.

In Washington, three key issues seemed to galvanize most of the protesters: climate change, immigration and reproductive rights.

“I teach a lot of immigrant students, and in political times like this I want to make sure I’m using my voice to speak up for them,” said Rochelle McGurn, 30, an elementary school teacher from Burlington, Vermont who was in D.C. to march. “They need to feel like they belong, because they do.”

Peta Madry of New London, Connecticut, was celebrating her 70th birthday in D.C. by attending her fourth Women’s March with her sister, Cynthia Barnard, of San Rafael, California. Both women were wearing handknitted pink hats that date from the first march. With pained expressions, they spoke about Trump’s determination to reverse the policies of his predecessor Barack Obama and his treatment of women.

“Look what he’s doing to Greta Thunberg,” Madry said, referring to the teenage climate activist. “He’s the biggest bully in the world.”

Melissa McCullough of Georgetown, Indiana, said when she recently turned 50 she promised herself that she would get more involved politically. “I’m here to protest Trump, as a woman,” she said.

Her daughter, 19-year-old University of Cincinnati student Elizabeth McCullough, chimed in to say that most women’s issues are human issues, and they talked about the need to protect immigrants.

“You have to push to protect everyone or no one’s safe,” Melissa McCullough said.

The protesters planned to march around the White House, but Trump wasn’t there. He is spending the holiday weekend at his resort in Florida.

Organizers of the Washington march faced criticism from some local African American activists for failing to focus on local issues and damaging the ability of local activists to organize.

“Local D.C. is a domestic colony and the actions of national organizers have to recognize that,” Black Lives Matter D.C. wrote in a letter this week to Women’s March organizers. “Here in D.C., these unstrategic mass mobilizations distract from local organizing, often overlook the black people who actually live here and even result in tougher laws against demonstration being passed locally.”

Associated Press reporter Michael Hill in New York City contributed to this report.

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Trump chooses high-profile but controversial legal team

President TrumpDonald John TrumpLev Parnas implicates Rick Perry, says Giuliani had him pressure Ukraine to announce Biden probe Saudi Arabia paid 0 million for cost of US troops in area Parnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president MORE on Friday unveiled a legal team for the upcoming impeachment trial that boasts a roster of high-profile and in some cases controversial attorneys to make his case on the Senate floor.

Ken Starr, Alan DershowitzAlan Morton DershowitzTrump’s legal team gets set for impeachment trial Figures to watch as White House mounts impeachment defense Trump chats with attorney Alan Dershowitz at Mar-a-Lago MORE, Pam Bondi, Robert Ray and Jane Raskin will join White House counsel Pat Cipollone and Trump personal attorney Jay SekulowJay Alan SekulowParnas claims ex-Trump attorney visited him in jail, asked him to sacrifice himself for president Seven things to know about the Trump trial White House predicts Senate trial will last less than two weeks MORE in representing the president.

The team includes multiple individuals with ties to former President Bill ClintonWilliam (Bill) Jefferson ClintonDemocratic group plans mobile billboard targeting Collins on impeachment Political science has its limits when it comes to presidential prediction Walsh plans protest at RNC headquarters over ‘nakedly anti-Democratic’ primary cancellations MORE’s impeachment and reflects Trump’s emphasis on including media-tested attack dogs he’s familiar with and views as sufficiently loyal.

It also features a few figures who will bring baggage that might distract from Trump’s case as he seeks exoneration from charges he abused his office and obstructed Congress.

Cipollone and Sekulow will be the driving forces behind the president’s defense, the substance of which has been closely guarded leading up to the trial. But each of the attorneys announced Friday are expected to have a speaking role once the White House has a chance to present its case. 

The addition of Starr, Dershowitz, Ray and Bondi — fixtures on cable television in recent months — addresses one glaring concern those close to the White House expressed in recent weeks: that Cipollone, a former commercial lawyer, lacked experience on television and in the public realm ahead of what is sure to be one of the most watched events in years.

“It shows a very smart acknowledgement of the fact that the real jury here is the American public,” said Jason Miller, a former Trump campaign adviser and co-host of a radio show devoted to defending the president on impeachment.

“Even though the formal Senate hearing will be conducted between noon and 6 p.m. six days a week, the public debate will be going on 24/7 on the cable news channels, and the eyes of the world will be watching every single word that’s spoken,” he added.

Jonathan Turley, a George Washington University law professor who was a Republican witness during the impeachment inquiry, described the legal team as one withan impressive level of legal firepower.” 

But Turley pointed to a slight risk in bringing in such a large team, saying it could complicate the defense’s ability to adhere to a coherent narrative. He also argued it would be unwise for the lawyers to present a defense with “sensational elements,” suggesting it would be unwelcome in the Senate given the restraint and decorum expected on the floor. 

“The president is known to prefer aggressive advocacy with sensational elements. He tends to prefer lightning-rod lawyers, which is not a good fit for this forum,” Turley said. “This is not the place for brass-knuckled advocacy if you want to maintain your core among Republicans and seek to peel away a few Democrats.” 

A few of the most high-profile additions come with controversial pasts that will provide fodder to Democrats and could foster unease for some Republicans.

Starr investigated a range of matters related to then-President Clinton as independent counsel, including the sex scandal that ultimately led to Clinton’s impeachment. Some legal experts suggested his positions on the Clinton impeachment could conflict with his defense of Trump. 

More recently, Starr resigned as president of Baylor University in 2016 in the wake of a damning investigation that found the school had failed to respond to several reports of sexual assault involving football players dating back several years.

Bondi, who joined the White House in November in a communications role, was caught up in controversy in 2013 when the Trump Foundation donated $25,000 to aid her reelection campaign for Florida attorney general. Critics suggested the donation influenced Bondi’s decision not to pursue an investigation into the now defunct Trump University, a claim Bondi has denied.

Dershowitz’s list of former clients includes some of the most infamous cases of the last 25 years. He worked on the defense team during O.J. Simpson’s 1995 murder trial; defended Jeffrey Epstein in 2008 amid allegations he had sex with underage girls; and advised Harvey Weinstein’s legal team in 2018 after multiple women accused the Hollywood mogul of sexual abuse.  

“He has a long history of doing a lot of cutting-edge criminal defense work,” said Carl Tobias, a professor at the University of Richmond. “He’s a smart person. He’s got a long track record. He’s represented a number of controversial clients. He likes being in the public spotlight.”

Some close to the White House suspected Dershowitz —  who had been spotted in recent weeks at the White House and at the president’s Mar-A-Lago resort in Florida — would not play a formal role on the defense team because of the scrutiny he could invite.

The Harvard law professor, who has filed opinion columns to The Hill as a contributor, said in a statement Friday that he was participating in the trial to “defend the integrity of the Constitution and to prevent the creation of a dangerous constitutional precedent.” 

He later sought to downplay that his participation in the trial amounted to a formal role in defending Trump.

“I will be there for one hour, basically, presenting my argument,” Dershowitz told Dan Abrams on his SiriusXM radio show. “But I’m not a full-fledged member of the defense team in any realistic sense of that term.”

While the White House’s legal arguments are expected to be detailed in a written brief submitted to the Senate by Monday, several members of the defense team have been outspoken in their views on Trump’s impeachment and have been quoted on the president’s Twitter feed.

Dershowitz, who is adamant that he is not a political supporter of Trump, has argued in television interviews and opinion pieces that the articles of impeachment against Trump do not meet the constitutional standard of high crimes and misdemeanors. 

Ray has similarly argued in Fox News appearances that the impeachment articles are overly partisan and fail to produce evidence of a crime committed by Trump.

And Starr, who until Friday was a contributor for Fox News, appeared on the network as recently as Wednesday when he opined that Speaker Nancy PelosiNancy PelosiOvernight Defense: GAO finds administration broke law by withholding Ukraine aid | Senate opens Trump trial | Pentagon to resume training Saudi students soon Hillicon Valley: FBI to now notify state officials of cyber breaches | Pelosi rips ‘shameful’ Facebook | 5G group beefs up lobby team | Spotify unveils playlists for pets Hill.TV’s Saagar Enjeti on impeachment: ‘CNN can see through this nonsense’ MORE (D-Calif.) “chose well” in selecting impeachment managers.

“She is going to, I think, continue to be guiding this process, which is above all, all about witnesses on the Senate side,” Starr said.

Raskin is less of a presence in the public sphere, but Trump is still familiar with her. She worked on the president’s defense team during former special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerSchiff: Trump acquittal in Senate trial would not signal a ‘failure’ Jeffries blasts Trump for attack on Thunberg at impeachment hearing Live coverage: House Judiciary to vote on impeachment after surprise delay MORE’s nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election.

There remains some uncertainty surrounding the process of the trial, most notably on whether witnesses and new evidence will be admitted. But the White House will likely make its opening arguments late next week, providing the first glimpses at how the newly assembled team works together and chooses to defend Trump.

“We’ve been hearing for a while that the White House was thinking about putting a lot of its defense in the hands of House members who had defended the president in some really over the top language,” said Gregg Nunziata, an attorney and former GOP Senate aide. “And I think the decision to go with this team instead of some of the House figures really does suggest a more fine-tuned and sober approach to this.”


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Sen. Kennedy: Pelosi “Swollen With Partisan Rage” | Video

Senate Judiciary Committee member John Kennedy (R-LA) said Wednesday that House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is “swollen with partisan rage,” after watching the California Democrat shepherd the articles of impeachment against President Trump to the Senate through her formal “engrossment ceremony.”

“You don’t have to be Mensa material to see that Speaker Pelosi is swollen with partisan rage. The whole process in the House was rigged,” said Kennedy.

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The Equal Rights Amendment Just Cleared A Key Hurdle For Ratification

Women’s rights activists were jubilant Wednesday after Virginia became the 38th state to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment, finally clearing a key hurdle needed for it to be included in the Constitution.

Many more obstacles lay ahead, however, including a hostile Trump administration and a lawsuit from anti-ERA Republican attorneys general.

The ERA would amend the Constitution to give women equal standing under the law. It was first conceived of nearly a century ago, but first passed in the U.S. Congress in 1972. It then went out for ratification to the states, three-fourths of which must ratify in order to amend the Constitution.

Clearly, that’s taken a while.

After a flurry of states ratified back then, a backlash kicked in ― and by the time the congressional deadline came and went, the ERA had fallen three states short of what was necessary.

Jessica Lenahan, center, a domestic violence survivor, and Carol Jenkins, right, of the Equal Rights Amendment Task Force, at

Jessica Lenahan, center, a domestic violence survivor, and Carol Jenkins, right, of the Equal Rights Amendment Task Force, attend a news conference at the House Triangle in Washington, D.C., on the need to ratify the ERA on June 6, 2018.

Then, about five years ago, women’s rights activists picked the effort back up. In 2017, Nevada became the 36th state to ratify. Illinois followed in 2018.

On Wednesday, Virginia’s House and Senate both voted to ratify ― a huge victory. Last year, the ERA fell one vote short of moving out of committee. The blue, women-infused wave of last year’s Virginia elections changed the dynamics this time around.

Technically, the House and Senate votes will need to be reconciled before the ERA is officially ratified in the state, but for all intents and purposes it’s official.

“It’s a big day; truly tremendous,” said Carol Jenkins, the CEO of the ERA Coalition, a group of more than 100 organizations that have been pushing the amendment for the past five years. “There are other steps that need to be addressed, but this was a clear victory after so much hard work on the part of the activists in Virginia and across the country who supported them and the legislators who’ve fought to get the ERA ratified.”

The next problem for activists is that pesky deadline. When Congress initially passed the ERA, it set a deadline for states to approve. It eventually extended the deadline to 1982. Opponents argue that was the end of the road.

Trump’s Justice Department made that case in a written nonbinding opinion earlier this month, arguing that the process to ratify the ERA needs to start back at square one.

ERA proponents are pushing back against this in two ways: Some ERA activists are trying to get Congress to pass a bill extending the deadline. Others say the deadline itself is unconstitutional.

Either way, expect a big constitutional battle to come.

“There will be lawsuits filed,” said Jenkins.

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