Triangulating On Truth – The Totalitarian State

The Guardian breaks a big story yesterday – a court document authorizing the FBI and NSA to secretly collect customer phone records. All of them, for all Verizon customers.

Then today the Washington Post breaks an even bigger story – a leaked presentation stating that the NSA is “tapping directly into the central servers of nine leading U.S. Internet companies” to collect information on users. The project is code-named PRISM.

These are the huge repositories of user information from Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, PalTalk, AOL, Skype, YouTube, Apple. Dropbox, we’re told, is “coming soon.” Twitter is noticeably absent.

Then the counter stories – most of the companies mentioned in the NSA presentation have denied that the NSA has access to their servers. And people are pointing out that the Verizon order doesn’t include actual phone conversations, just the metadata around those conversations.

On the WP story, that means one of these things must be true:

1. The NSA presentation is fake and the Washington Post got duped, or

2. Microsoft, Yahoo, Google, Facebook, Apple, etc. are lying, or

3. The presentation is real, and the companies are carefully drafting responses so that they aren’t technically lying.

I believe the third option above is truth.

The denials are all worded too similarly and too specifically:

Comparing denials from tech companies, a clear pattern emerges: Apple denied ever hearing of the program and notes they “do not provide any government agency with direct access to our servers and any agency requesting customer data must get a court order;” Facebook claimed they “do not provide any government organisation with direct access to Facebook servers;” Google said it “does not have a ‘back door’ for the government to access private user data”; And Yahoo said they “do not provide the government with direct access to our servers, systems, or network.” Most also note that they only release user information as the law compels them to.

How else could these companies be supplying the data? Easy, by simply sending a copy of all data to the NSA. Verizon’s court order, for example, required that they send call data daily.

The companies sending the data have both immunity from prosecution and are also prohibited from disclosing that the NSA has requested or received the data.

The truth of what’s going on becomes obvious.

The U.S. government is compelling companies to turn over all personal information of users to the NSA. They have immunity for this, and they are absolutely prohibited from admitting it.

The result is a massive NSA database that includes information about everything we do online, and everything we do offline that has any online ghost (checkins, photos, etc.).

If twenty years from now the government wants to listen to my phone calls from today, they’ll be able to, because they’re all being stored. Or see who I voted for, or who I associate with. A simple AI can parse all this and profile me. And a hostile government, intent on attacking political enemies, can target me (or anyone).

If you missed this story from May read it now. Former FBI counterterrorism agent Tim Clemente says that the U.S. government already has the ability to listen to past phone calls:

CLEMENTE: “No, there is a way. We certainly have ways in national security investigations to find out exactly what was said in that conversation. It’s not necessarily something that the FBI is going to want to present in court, but it may help lead the investigation and/or lead to questioning of her. We certainly can find that out.

BURNETT: “So they can actually get that? People are saying, look, that is incredible.

CLEMENTE: “No, welcome to America. All of that stuff is being captured as we speak whether we know it or like it or not.”

That’s why Mathew Ingram is totally correct when he says that we desperately need “a stateless repository for leaks” (such as WikiLeaks) to have any chance of fighting back.

But what I would like to see right now is for people at these internet companies to stand up and say the truth, all of it, about their dealings with the NSA.

It doesn’t matter if it’s the CEOs or lower level employees. It can be anonymous or on the record. Unless that Washington Post presentation is a fraud, then a lot of people in Silicon Valley know what’s going on, or parts of what’s going on. They have a duty to stand up to the government, and their employers, and tell the world the truth.

Because right now it certainly looks to me like we’re living in a totalitarian state. And the amount of control that state has over all of us, through intimidation and fear, will only grow over time.

Now is the time to stand up and talk, and be a hero.

Or not, and be complicit.

For my part, I don’t give a damn that Senator Feinstein and others in our government say that this is “called protecting America.”

It doesn’t, it’s Orwellian and it kills liberty and freedom on a scale never seen before. It’s not a way to stop terrorism. It IS terrorism.

The courts are allowing this. The government loves this. The only ones left to oppose it are us.

Printable Food To End Hunger? No.

jetsons13NASA and printable food. I can’t stop thinking about the Jetsons enjoying their utopian food pills. Which never happened, of course, because it’s a dumb idea.

Printable food doesn’t sound all that much more appealing than those Jetsons food pills. But the stories deal with that issue – “If eating something spat out by the same kind of 3D printers…doesn’t sound too appetizing, that’s only because you can currently afford the good stuff.”

Meaning as real food becomes more scarce, people will happily eat printed food over no food.

Ok, I agree that people would eat printed food rather than go hungry. But I don’t understand how printed food will solve hunger.

The printer ingredients will be food with moisture removed – presumably dehydrated or freeze dried stuff. That exists today and has 30+ year storage life. Campers and hikers use it all the time because without the water weight this stuff is very easy to carry. You just add water and you get pretty tasty food.

It isn’t cheap, though. Freeze drying in particular is a fairly expensive process. And both freeze drying and dehydration remove nutrients from the food (particularly Vitamin C, I believe). It’s also quite hard to store fats long term. I assume long term space flights would focus on growing fats in plants for the trip, not packing them along from earth.

Bottom line, you still have to start with actual food for these printers, and then go through a costly process to dehydrate or freeze dry it, along with other processing. And then incur yet more costs (equipement and energy and service of equipment) to “print it out.”

Perhaps this gives astronauts more variety and precision in space over regular freeze dried/dehydrated food. But I don’t see why, anytime in our lifetimes, a food printer would make sense in our kitchens. It would likely taste worse than real food, and yet require the same amount of real food to produce.

The way to end hunger is to have less people, and to phase out meat in general over plant based foods. Ending corruption in food aid would also go a long way to ending hunger. Food printers? Not so much.

Salesforce Acquires Clipboard

Congratulations to Gary Flake and the rest of the team at Clipboard. They were acquired by Salesforce today. Proud to be an investor. I first wrote about them in late 2011, one of our first Crunchfund investments.

Response To Julia Allison Allegations In Gawker

Yesterday I posted a letter from my attorney discussing allegations made by Jennifer Allen against me. More responses are being prepared by my attorney for different parties as well.

In the meantime, I need to immediately respond to a new post by Gawker, their sixth of these allegations. In that post Gawker continues to make claims that I have been abusive towards Meghan Asha – claims that she has denied.

Here is what today’s Gawker post says:

Now we can report that Asha’s close friend Julia Allison has privately maintained that the incident happened as we reported it, that she “was there” when it happened, and that she won’t elaborate because, she told Gawker, she is frightened of Arrington. As we previously reported, during a late-night phone call in 2009, a close friend of Asha’s told the entrepreneur and former Arrington business partner Jason Calacanis that Arrington had thrown Asha against a wall. Numerous sources confirmed to us that friend was Allison, the well-known tech personality and fameball, who is a longtime friend of Asha’s. Asha was a founding member of Juila Allison’s tech lifestyle start-up, in 2008.

Despite Asha’s statement, Allison insists in private that the incident did happen, according to a text message conversation we’ve obtained.

“I don’t know why Meghan said it wasn’t true because it WAS,” Allison wrote in a text on April 9, three days after Asha released her statement. “I know because I was there. But I bet [Arrington's] threatening her.”

She continued: “He abused her and many others. That isn’t in question.”

When asked about the text messages, Allison confirmed their authenticity but declined to elaborate. “It’s not my place and it wasn’t my relationship,” she told Gawker. “And I don’t feel safe messing with Arrington.”

Compare this to text messages that Julia Allison has sent to Meghan Asha over the last few days.



Update: Julia Allison comments directly on the Gawker story:


Letter To Jennifer Allen Regarding False And Defamatory Statements

The following letter from my attorneys was delivered to Jennifer Allen this afternoon, in response to her previous claims. I believe the letter speaks for itself. The original PDF of the letter is here.

Eric M. George
Browne George Ross

Via E-Mail and U.S. Mail

Jennifer Allen
[Address Removed]
[Email Removed]

Re: Michael Arrington

Dear Ms. Allen :

I am counsel for Michael Arrington, and write you now on his behalf.

You have posted statements about Michael that are false and defamatory, and that have caused significant harm to his good name. It is my hope that you immediately will take corrective action, by retracting those statements.

I have examined your posted statements, and compared them with provable facts. This comparison shows without any doubt whatsoever that, among others, the following of your statements about Michael are false:

(1) You stated that “he was physically abusive [on] March 5th [of] last year” (April 1, 2013, 2d posting, Gawker.) “[H]e did rape me, on March 5 last year, when he invited me over to make amends from a major catastrophe a couple months prior.” (April 1, 2013, 3d posting, Gawker.)

Your twice-repeated allegation of rape/physical abuse by Michael is not only false, but factually impossible. On March 5, 2012, Michael was in Washington and you were in California. Michael’s whereabouts are confirmed by travel records and credit card statements in my possession, and your whereabouts are proven by a photo of you at a San Francisco party at 1:05 a.m. on March 6, 2012. This photo was posted online but has been removed in the past several days. (The photo, together with screenshots of your Facebook page in March 2012 before and after it was deleted, are appended hereto as Attachment A.)

(2) You stated that “March 5 last year . . . that was the last time I saw him. I reached out once to him in the past year to get my paintings back . . .” (April 1, 2013, 3d posting, Gawker.)

In fact, you attempted repeatedly to communicate with Michael – by telephone, text message and tweets comprising some 292 lines worth of data – after March 5, 2012, the date on which you have accused him of rape. (Notably, some of these items have been deleted. Given the strict privacy controls governing access to data on social networks, our access to Facebook data was consequently limited; we are confident that a complete forensic audit of your social network accounts, and those of relevant third parties, will yield further information that corroborates our timeline of events.) Just a few such communications are as follows:

• On March 6, 2012, the day following the alleged rape, you sent Michael three photographs of yourself, one with the subject line “For only you.” (See Attachment B.)

• On March 7, 2012, two days following the alleged rape, you emailed Michael proffering extensive advice about how he ought to landscape his property. (See Attachment C.)

• On March 22, 2012, seventeen days after the alleged rape, you asked Michael to invest in your start-up: “SO MUCH to do on this freaking site and app. I need to raise 3-5 Million to get this done right. Mother Fucker. You should invest, because I figured out I do have a strong business model but need the correct amount to advertise, PR, build, and make it work. Don’t even think about investing in another art startup without talking to me. I already did this better on my own than some 10 Princeton VC backed graduates . . . imagine what I could do investing the money the right way.” (See Attachment D.)

• On May 2, 2012, you asked Michael “do you want to go to a wedding with me on May 19 in Chicago? It’s also my birthday May 19.” (See Attachment E.)

• On October 3, 2012, you sent three successive SMS messages to Michael: (i) “How are you”; (ii) “o_O” (iii) “Hi”. (See Attachment F.)

(3) You stated that he engaged in “physical abuse” and “emotional abuse” of you, and “threaten[ed] to murder you if you told anyone about the physical abuse.” (March 29, 2013 posting, Facebook.)

The foregoing statements of yours, as well as those set forth below, paint a starkly different picture; they do not portray you as a victim of abuse or murder threats, but rather as a person who is distraught at a break-up, and angered that her ex-boyfriend entered into a new relationship:

• On April 21, 2012, you wrote to Michael that you “feel betrayed and slighted by you, and wish I wasn’t alone since you decided to be with someone else so quickly. Not sure how I’m going to teach myself how to love and trust again.” (See Attachment G.)

• On July 21, 2012, you wrote: “Thanks for the nebulous msg. I’ll be the change I want to see in those communications skills. You, Mike seem happy with the most boring arrogant fake personalitied person on the planet, who you treat the way I should have been treated. If you can’t treat me with respect publicly, still, then you fall into the selfish whorish male prostitute category that will always hurt me during and in the end. Hope you’re enjoying the weather.” (See Attachment H.)

• In August 2012, you tweeted: “Mike @arrington last chance to reconcile. I[sic] you’re not feeling what I’m feeling, with the same heart, than [sic] fuck you.” (See Attachment I.)

(4) You stated that “[h]e raped . . . a friend of mine 5 months ago” (April 1, 2013, 2d posting, Gawker.) “The other rape victim . . . came to me, and Mike knows exactly who she is because he called her a month after a New York conference last year conference [sic] to proudly confirm he did it.” (April 1, 2013, 3d posting, Gawker.)

Your allegation that Michael raped another woman is also false. In addition to categorically denying that Michael has ever been physically abusive (let alone that he committed a rape), there is no such rape victim. Indeed, we cannot even hazard a guess as to the supposed rape victim who you twice reference, but whom you do not identify.

(5) You stated that “he already went to court for sexual harassment and/or rape while at his first law firm. . . . Mike told me stories in person about how he had a Stanford connection with the judge in his rape trial . . . .and he said he [sic] ‘I got out of my reputation being ruined thanks to a Stanford connection with the judge.’” (April 6, 2013, 4th posting, Gawker.)

Your allegation that Michael raped yet a third woman is also false. Again, and in addition to categorically denying that Michael has ever been physically abusive, there is no such rape victim. Nor is there any truth whatsoever to any element of this fantastical story involving a rape, a trial, connections with a judge, or anything else you have suggested in your posting.

The falsity of the foregoing (among many other statements) is confirmed by four people who lived or worked at Michael’s house during the time period that you and he were dating. Heather Harde has publicly stated: “I would have detected patterns of abusive physical behavior if they had been present. . . . I simply do not believe any of the allegations to be true. . . . It’s important we set the record straight.” Nik Cubrilovic has publicly stated: “I lived in the same house as Arrington for the entire time he dated Jenn. I never once saw even a hint of physical abuse.” Gabe Rivera has publicly stated that he had “[n]ever seen physical threats or harm.” Nick Gonzalez has publicly stated: “Mike was never physically abusive to anyone.” (See Attachment J.)

Nor can there be any question as to your foregoing statements’ defamatory nature. Each such statement purports to describe facts that, if accepted by a reader as true, injure Michael’s reputation so “as to lower him in the estimation of the community or to deter third persons from associating or dealing with him.” Right-Price Recreation, LLC v. Connells Prairie Community Council, 146 Wash. 2d 370, 382 (2002).

Very regrettably, your actions here appear all too similar to your actions on May 18, 2011, when you emailed Michael that you were pregnant and were planning on having an abortion the following day (which was your birthday). You subsequently told Michael that you feigned the pregnancy and abortion in order to get him to communicate with you. (See Attachment K.)

Sadly, while making false allegations of rape, your response to statements made by disinterested third parties in Michael’s defense include an irrational attack on an actual rape victim who you accuse of “hurt[ing] women and victims of violence.” (See Attachment L.)

Please consider this letter to constitute a demand for an immediate retraction by you of each of the previous statements. I would appreciate the courtesy of your written response to this demand no later than close of business Monday, April 15, 2013. Indeed, failing a response by you that unconditionally retracts your false and defamatory statements, you will have left us with no choice but to proceed with legal action against you. Litigation is an absolute last resort for Michael, but we will pursue all options to undo the reputational injury caused by your misconduct. As that is our sole objective, to the extent any legal proceedings become necessary, Michael has pledged to donate to charity all amounts recovered.

I look forward to hearing from you.


Eric M. George


































There have been some extremely serious and criminal allegations against me over the last week. All of the allegations are completely untrue, and I’ve hired a law firm to represent me in the legal actions against the offending parties.

I know this isn’t, for now, much information. I will have a full and complete response to these allegations sometime later this week. My goal will be to direct as much sunlight as possible on the issues so that the absolute truth can be known and I can begin to put my life back together.

I’ve also asked my attorneys to contact appropriate law enforcement agencies about these false allegations. Given the gravity of the claims, I think it’s important that the police be involved in this now.

Update: First letter from my attorney is here.

“There Really Couldn’t Be A More Stupid Idea”

Newly elected President of Cyprus Nicos Anastasiades on 3/3/13, his first day in office:

I want to be absolutely clear. Absolutely no reference to a haircut on public debt or deposits will be tolerated. Such an issue isn’t even up for discussion.

Finance Minister Michael Sarris also said this on depositor haircuts:

Really and categorically—and this doesn’t only apply in the case of Cyprus but for the world over and the euro zone—there really couldn’t be a more stupid idea.

Two weeks later, Anastasiades agrees to what he said wasn’t being considered, and engages in outright theft from the people of Cyprus to ensure unsecured and uninsured debt obligations are paid.

If I lived in Europe, particularly if I lived in Ireland, Greece, Spain, Portugal or France, I’d withdraw every cent I had in any bank account as soon as the banks re-open and put it in Hong Kong, possibly the last place to secure assets from grabby governments. Or under my mattress.

This is so incredibly stupid, so destructive to markets psychologically, that it can’t possibly be anything other than a trial balloon, to see if it can be pulled off in a tiny market before moving to the bigger ones.

The Department Of Homeland Security Is Now Bitching At Me On My Blog

Update to yesterday’s post. A day after Buddy was seized by DHS I now have my boat in my possession and at my slip.

This all happened while I was still trying to sort out a lawyer and had nothing to do with anything I did. Coastal Craft, the builder, took extraordinary steps (and expense) to get possession of Buddy from DHS.

I sat down to write this quick update just to let everyone know that things worked out.

But when I logged in to WordPress I saw a really curious comment from someone claiming to work for DHS in the same office that I dealt with. And the comment includes enough specific information that I’m inclined to believe him.

The comment:

Okay all, the rest of the story(I was there). 1. The amount on both invoice and CBP form were in U.S dollars correctly completed on the form. 2. Just because someone has $$$ and posts something first on the web, doesn’t make them true. 3. The officer in question did not act gleefully, in fact SHE called back to the office and vessel manufacturer several times to verify the stated value. 4. The officer in question vilified by this rich individual now has to endure all the grief posted here and elsewhere by Mr rich guy and explain why she followed the LEGAL document value and wouldn’t cow to his brow beating. 5. Coastal Craft ended up paying for a broker to perform what should have been a personal importation and guess what The value on that entry was EXACTLY the same as on the CBP presented form. 6. Mr. Rich guy will probably post everywhere now that HE was right due to the fact that he has his boat and did not sign anything, but the fact is that the company took the high moral ground and due to ALL the false posting by Arrington, they paid for the paperwork to be processed. 7. We are all at the mercy of individuals who feel (right or wrong) that they can put out whatever they feel and get hundreds of all of you all worked up about the big bad government, fact is the is/was correct and all of us had to jump thru hoops due to arrington’s posts and written falsehoods. 8. I am proud to work with this office/officer and all of you should be ashamed for vilifying her/DHS without knowing the facts. 9. Most working folds have bosses and we are no exception sadly we had to answer many questions for correctly performing our sworn duties due to all the bad press put out by someone who feels entitled or above the public servant. Shame on you.

My response:

Just a few questions.

1. You state you work for DHS, correct? And you work in the office I had to deal with?

2. You say you were there. Are you claiming you were actually at the boat when this happened? Or do you just mean you were “there” in general (back at the office)? Because you were most definitely not on the boat (where everything happened) at any time I was there.

3. If you do, you really feel “vilified” when the net result was your office seized private property? I mean, hey, you got my boat. That had to be some consolation.

4. Is it appropriate for you to post private information about Coastal Craft? I won’t ask about my information since I started the debate and hey, I’m just a fucking schmuck citizen. But them? Do you see this as an abuse of your position?

5. You say “all of us had to jump thru hoops due to arrington’s posts and written falsehoods” – what hoops were jumped through exactly?

6. You say “she followed the LEGAL document value.” You realize she was holding an invoice in CA$ in one hand and the DHS document in US$ in the other, and seemed to have no understanding that they were two different currencies, right?

7. Did she tell you how she wouldn’t face me or look me in the eye or let me speak? Did she tell you how she wouldn’t let me speak with her superior to explain things? It was just “sign this or we’re done. Actually, we’re just done. Give me the keys.”

You have to realize how angry I had to be to write this. First, I don’t like talking about my personal business. Second, I had to take a lot of negative feedback from people over this, too. And third, for fuck’s sake, you are the Department of Homeland Security. What happens to me the next time I got through TSA at the airport, or try to cross the border into Canada? Do you think I may perhaps be on a “list” and have some difficulties? Do you understand that I am so upset about how the government is treating its citizens that I was willing to accept that I’ll now be subject to further abuse?

I’m terribly sorry that I upset you and your office over all this. But all I did was post what happened on my personal blog. I have the right to do that under the Constitution. That thing you’ve sworn to uphold and protect.

And a follow up:

And one other thing I missed the first time. You say “The amount on both invoice and CBP form were in U.S dollars correctly completed on the form. 2.”, suggesting that the form your office created was identical to invoice. This is just another outright lie. The invoice was in CA$.

For you, the government, to outright lie like this, and engage in a personal attack, and discuss private information, is disgusting.

That follow up comment really addresses the whole crazy in his comment. He’s saying there was no problem at all with the paperwork. So why wouldn’t I sign? And why would it be necessary for her to apparently call all these people to verify the value?

And another thing he doesn’t mention is this whole broker business. The reason Coastal Craft had to hire a broker (which is something like $10,000) was because DHS told them they had to do it to get the boat out of seizure. That’s what Coastal Craft told me today, and that’s what officer Marr told me yesterday on the phone.

I can’t wait until the next time I have to cross a border or go through TSA at the airport.

The Department Of Homeland Security Stole My Boat Today


I live a fairly simple life and that didn’t change much after I sold TechCrunch in 2010. I didn’t buy a new house or even a new car. The one thing I did splurge on was a boat.

Nothing too fancy or large. I live near Seattle and there’s a big boating culture up here. I found a small company that builds boats specifically for this area called Coastal Craft. I ordered it in 2011 and planned on writing about the experience after it was delivered.

I named her Buddy. It has state of the art electronics and a fairly new highly efficient propulsion system that the TechCrunch audience would be interested in.

Today was the day that Buddy was going to be delivered. That didn’t happen, because the Department of Homeland Security seized the boat.

Buddy has to clear customs, part of the DHS, since she was built in Canada.

My job was to show up and sign forms and then leave with Buddy (WA sales tax and registration fees come a week later).

DHS takes documents supplied by the builder and creates a government form that includes basic information about the boat, including the price.

The primary form, prepared by the government, had an error. The price was copied from the invoice, but DHS changed the currency from Canadian to U.S. dollars.

It has language at the bottom with serious sounding statements that the information is true and correct, and a signature block.

I pointed out the error and suggested that we simply change the currency from US $ to CAD $ so that is was correct. Or instead, amend the amount so that it was correct in U.S. dollars.

I thought this was important because I was signing it and swearing that the information, and specifically the price, was correct.

The DHS agent didn’t care about the error and told me to sign the form anyway. “It’s just paperwork, it doesn’t matter,” she said. I declined.

She called another agent and said simply “He won’t sign the form.” I asked to speak to that agent to give them a more complete picture of the situation. She wouldn’t allow that.

Then she seized the boat. As in, demanded that we get off the boat, demanded the keys and took physical control of it.

What struck me the most about the situation is how excited she got about seizing the boat. Like she was just itching for something like this to happen. This was a very happy day for her.

So now I have to hire a lawyer to try to figure all this out. And I will figure it out, eventually.

My point in writing this isn’t to whine. Like I said, this will get worked out one way or another.

No, it’s to highlight how screwed up our government bureaucracy has become.

A person with a gun and a government badge asked me to swear in writing that a lie was true today. And when I didn’t do what she wanted she simply took my boat and asked me to leave.

What would you have done? Maybe most people would have just signed the form. The U.S. and CA dollars are almost the same value right now (although they weren’t when I made most of the payments on the boat), so what’s the bother?

Well, to me it’s the principle involved, being told to sign and swear to something false, or else.

And it would have been SO FUCKING EASY to just correct the form so that I wasn’t swearing to something that was false.

As usual, I took the “or else” option. And the bastards stole my boat.

I’ll probably get droned now, too.

Opportunity And Death In Singapore

Article in the SF Chronicle today talking about Singapore’s attempts to foster entrepreneurism. Fails to mention what happened recently to one American who ventured there to work in tech.

Shane had died a week before he was to return to the US. The police said he had drilled holes into his bathroom wall, bolted in a pulley, then slipped a black strap through the pulley and wrapped it around the toilet several times. He then tethered the strap to his neck and jumped from a chair. Shane, 6ft 1in and nearly 200lb, hanged himself from the bathroom door, the autopsy report said.

So the Todds, along with two of Shane’s younger brothers, John and Dylan, were unnerved by what they didn’t see as they crossed the threshold. The front door was unlocked and there was no sign of an investigation – no crime-scene tape, no smudges from fingerprint searches. “The first thing I did was make a beeline for the bathroom,” Mrs Todd recalled. She wanted to see exactly how Shane had died – and she saw nothing that fitted the police description. The marble bathroom walls had no holes in them. Nor were there any bolts or screws. The toilet was not where the police had said.

If you start a company in Singapore, good luck. Just don’t, under any circumstances, rock the boat.


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