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Prosser High School wee bit touchy
April 26, 2004 4:32 PM   Subscribe

Prosser High School teacher sees 15 year old student's war artwork depicting President Bush as a devil and another decapitated. Captions include calling an end to the war, and support for Ralph Nadar. Teacher hands artwork over to school administrators, who in turn bring in the Secret Service. Because that's what you do when you've handed out an assignment to kids "to keep a notebook of drawings depicting the war in Iraq".
posted by Feisty (58 comments total)

 
Hmm, so that Nadar dude (sounds middle-eastern to me, but hey, we're open minded here...) Is he running for prez?
posted by NewBornHippy at 4:37 PM on April 26, 2004


The drawings sound ridiculous, but it's pretty well known that no matter who is in office, the secret service are a bit over the top in checking up on any little thing. But then they've got a valuable asset to protect, so they do a surprisingly thurough job checking up on almost any little thing. I'm pretty amazed how well they get around, I assume the force is a lot larger than most people think.

In recent memory, there's the visit by the ss to the person that made ilovekarlrove.com (which makes no sense to me, there's nothing at all threatening about the joke site). And I remember just after September 11, some guy in a San Francisco gym was working out and saying to someone else how he thought the attacks might have been linked to the bad job Bush was doing and how much he hated Bush for it, which got him a visit the next morning.
posted by mathowie at 4:43 PM on April 26, 2004


I, for one, welcome my new neo-conservative fundamentalist overlords.

Wait - they're not new..?
posted by FormlessOne at 4:43 PM on April 26, 2004


phew. that was close. that 15 year old art student could have taken out the president. lucky he didn't slip under the radar.

For those of you who think this might have been a reasonable course of action, and a good use of the secret service, check out some of the essay's here.
posted by chunking express at 4:44 PM on April 26, 2004


How nice of the superintendent to assure everyone that it's not a freedom of speech issue.
posted by kenko at 4:45 PM on April 26, 2004


what's up with the reporting on this? out of the "several" pictures on question, the ones they chose to report on as evidence of the danger this student poses are:

1. Middle Eastern guy with gun and Bush efigy
2. Bush as a devil firing a rocket
3. Vote Green

One of these things is not like the others...

(Furthermore, how is caracaturing Bush as a devil a "depiction of violence"?)
posted by badstone at 4:58 PM on April 26, 2004


Hmm. Yes. Artistic depictions of violence lead to disciplinary action. Good job nobody asked him to paint the Battle Of Waterloo, he could have wound up expelled.
posted by kaemaril at 5:00 PM on April 26, 2004


Sheesh, and I thought the teacher who had a student thrown out the window was absurd.
posted by ilsa at 5:04 PM on April 26, 2004


Careful all of you or the SS Secret Service will be around your house tomorrow. Good thing I live in the UK, so I can say that Bliar & Shrub together with the Royal Family should all be lined up and shot, with no fear of any repercussions for speaking my mind.

Hmm, who's that knocking at my door? And why are they wearing white coats?
posted by cbrody at 5:15 PM on April 26, 2004


The drawings sound ridiculous, but it's pretty well known that no matter who is in office, the secret service are a bit over the top in checking up on any little thing.

It's not so much the secret service that I think was way out of line here. After all, they've got a job to do, one that they understandably take very seriously. It was the teacher and administration chain that overreacted.
posted by LittleMissCranky at 5:17 PM on April 26, 2004


*furiously draws pictures of the teacher and administrators of that school being shot in effigy*
posted by Ryvar at 5:22 PM on April 26, 2004


Boy I love my town.
I know most of the parties involved and I wish I could say it surprises me.

The art teacher who reported this initially is a politicking social climber who I’m sure was just shocked and outraged at the content of the artwork.

The police chief is a fascist whose goal is to have the entire town covered in by surveillance cameras with facial recognition software.

Sigh…

So drawing pictures with the messages "End the war -- on terrorism.", “End the War in Iraq” and “Vote Green” are “Warning signs of violent behavior”?

I need to move.
posted by Tenuki at 5:22 PM on April 26, 2004


Prosser is an especially small and rural area in a generally small and rural part of the state. Probably 8 out of 10 adults are Republican, and probably half of those are what I would call extremely conservative. My favorite thing to do when I go to that area to visit my parents is read the letters to the editor of the Tri-City Herald, to see all the crazy things people say.

But this sounds more like an example of the ridiculousness of zero-tolerance policies. It looks to be only incidentally related to free speech. I doubt, for instance, that if he had just written "war sucks" or "impeach Bush" anything would have happened, but the inclusion of guns, bombs and the president sort of triggered an absurd chain reaction of bureaucracy.
posted by Hildago at 5:22 PM on April 26, 2004


"Nadir"
posted by Nelson at 5:29 PM on April 26, 2004


It was the teacher and administration chain that overreacted.

They also have their butts to protect as in repercussions if they failed to notify the Secret Service.

If the head on the pike was a teacher or parent or student what would be different?

It would remain a local matter, one that does not involve calling in the secret service.
posted by clavdivs at 5:30 PM on April 26, 2004


Somehow I'm thinking of the Daily Show episode in which the correspondent was sent to investigate the Islamic university ritual of the "Al Night-er"
posted by inksyndicate at 5:34 PM on April 26, 2004


I don't know, clavdivs. Still trying to fathom what the school ended up punishing the student for; perhaps the notebook was turned in late?
posted by Feisty at 6:09 PM on April 26, 2004


Wait, US high schools aren't bastions of intellectual freedom?! Next.

/troll
posted by hoboynow at 6:20 PM on April 26, 2004


I'd just like to thank the gods I'm past high school. I would've been relocated to Gitmo for my essays/dress code.

"They also have their butts to protect as in repercussions if they failed to notify the Secret Service"

that's special.

I've been watching the buck get thrown all over the place, now it's landing squarely in the laps of teachers who are already trying to figure out how to make their students pass a test to prove they can advance/graduate? Bollocks.

I think people need to realize that NOTHING they do is going to 'save their butts'

I could easily see Ashcroft speaking out about the evil of waiting, even for an instant, to report someone suspected of committing (here my vocab fails me, since I still don't understand what this student did to provoke such a response...)
posted by Busithoth at 6:22 PM on April 26, 2004


Aid who urges voting for Ralph Nadar (Nader) needs emotional help not the Secret Service...If he dislikes Bush, why urge voting for Ralph Ego Nader?
posted by Postroad at 6:24 PM on April 26, 2004


The school district took a disciplinary action, Tolcacher said. He refused to say what that was, but said the student was not suspended.

According to the local newscast, as of today the student in question no longer attends Prosser High School and is now attending classes at the ‘Alternative High School’ which is where they stick the reprobates and students with discipline problems.
posted by Tenuki at 6:25 PM on April 26, 2004


lucky he didn't slip under the radar.

Well, that Nadar sure slipped under the radar.
posted by y2karl at 6:34 PM on April 26, 2004


<american consumerbot logic mode>
clearly he deserved punishment, or he'd have not been punished.
posted by quonsar at 6:44 PM on April 26, 2004


Nadur. How many vowels left?

Thanks for the update, Tenuki.

I was hoping my second slip up, the school admins brought it to the attention of the police who called up the Secret Service, could pass unmentioned. But it bothers me that amongst the the teacher, school resource officer, school administrators, superintendent, local police no individual or entity could handle the call without deferring. Makes me ill to think it was done to protect their jobs, and/or because they really felt this was a significant act.
posted by Feisty at 6:49 PM on April 26, 2004


No child left behindunpunished.
posted by mr_crash_davis at 6:49 PM on April 26, 2004


I wonder what would have happened if he had drawn a picture of Saddam Hussein's head on a stick, Osama Bin Laden dressed as the devil and surrounded by men with machine guns and written "Vote Lyndon Larouche?" I propose that it probably would not have been handed in to school officials and certainly would not have resulted in a SS visit. When you are 15, that seems like a reasonable way to approach the world. You grow out of it with some guidance. Being booted out of school for it, however, is just nuts.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:53 PM on April 26, 2004


So let's make sure I've gotten this straight. The teacher gave an assignment to track the war in Iraq through pictures and the student chose to represent the view that the war is wrong and the perpetrators of it should be held accountable and the teacher freaked and called in the Secret Service? Does that about cover it?

And this isn't censorship? Is this education or brainwashing? Who in the hell are these people to try and censor this kid's views on the war?

What message does this send? Feel free to express your beliefs but only if they are in perfect alignment with the current government? Freedom to do as you like as long as its exactly what they want you to do?

The teacher should be deported to Cuba, the superintendent should be demoted to janitorial service and the student should receive a public apology from the both of them for attempting to subvert his right to freedom of expression (and yes, that does include dissent).

I utterly fail to see how this kid is or could be any threat to Bush or his pet oil war.

What if the kid had had an older brother who had died in Iraq? Would they have been more understanding? What if he's worried that the war will last until he's old enough to be drafted and he has to go and fight for a cause that he knows is wrong?
posted by fenriq at 7:12 PM on April 26, 2004


It's stories like this that really make me think home schooling is the best option. What a bunch of conformist little drones the education system is trying to create.
posted by dejah420 at 8:26 PM on April 26, 2004


one thing's for sure, this kid and all of his friends are gonna be liberal for life.
posted by mcsweetie at 8:30 PM on April 26, 2004


Insane, absolutely insane. But hey, I guess they made an example of him and the rest of the kids at that school won't ever draw anything disturbing or remotely controversial again, will they? Maybe someone needs to change the calendars in that school so they don't all read 1984 at the top.
posted by dg at 8:34 PM on April 26, 2004


Does the SS have a permanent parking spot in front of Drew Curtis' house? Worse things are done to Shrub on Fark on a daily basis than this kid did.
posted by m@ at 8:43 PM on April 26, 2004


By sitting in the alcove, and keeping well back, I've been able to remain outside the range of the telescreen, so far as sight goes.

That speck of dust isnt gonna help.
posted by Satapher at 9:18 PM on April 26, 2004


It would remain a local matter, one that does not involve calling in the secret service.

Yes, but celebrities and famous people are not real human beings. They are characters and images. They deserve to be permutated and made fun of and have their heads stuck thru bloody poles.

Whether you are for or against the war, do you really think it has anything to do with you? Youre the audience, and Russell Crowe is untouchable.
posted by Satapher at 9:35 PM on April 26, 2004


lets face it : the war on terrorism/Iraq is america's favorite reality tv series and nothing more.

Now go buy those tickets to the Temptation and Kill Bill and get reaaaaal comforatble with them.
posted by Satapher at 9:45 PM on April 26, 2004


Somebody hand that kid the phone number of the local ACLU office ...
posted by kaemaril at 1:04 AM on April 27, 2004


It's telling about the local culture, I think, that we're not hearing a lot about the reaction of the other students. If this happened at the high school I went to, which is in a conservative area but fosters critical thinking and diverse social types...well, I think a significant part of the student body would have gone apeshit. There would be sit-ins. Other kids would start turning in increasingly controversial artwork, trying to top each other with who could get in more trouble.

Then again, we managed to make the national news for confusing the mercedes symbol with the peace symbol on "hippie day"...
posted by bingo at 4:24 AM on April 27, 2004


friends are gonna be liberal for life.

librool4life? Wasn't that that Leftistz With Attitudes' last album?
posted by jonmc at 6:39 AM on April 27, 2004


I don't know, clavdivs. Still trying to fathom what the school ended up punishing the student for; perhaps the notebook was turned in late?

did you read the article? huh.

I could easily see Ashcroft speaking out about the evil of waiting, even for an instant, to report someone suspected of committing (here my vocab fails me, since I still don't understand what this student did to provoke such a response...)

thats clever, heres a cookie.

Makes me ill to think it was done to protect their jobs, and/or because they really felt this was a significant act.

yeah, curse them for following the law. go read up on it, better yet go rent that Clint Eastwood movie where he says "Its' against the law to even joke about harming the president"

Yes, but celebrities and famous people are not real human beings. They are characters and images. They deserve to be permutated and made fun of and have their heads stuck thru bloody poles.

neato, nice take there. would you be included in that list of "famous people". Has the Secret Service charged him...no, most likely not. They had a job to to do because of these teachers and admins who all want to keep there jobs and not lose it because of some kids twisted little fantasy image, his little 'lets poke a stick at authority'. Fine, by all means but one must accept the consequences of their actions. Hardly anyone in this post has questioned anything about this kid and thats sad. Do any of you know him, know his school record? Perhaps he is troubled, maybe he is pissed. Here are some nice faqs for you to absorb.
posted by clavdivs at 9:05 AM on April 27, 2004


Hey, if it's LAW it must be right! Everyone quitchyerbitchin!

did you read the article? huh. Yeeessssss. Do you need a /facetious after to understand it?

/mother tone
posted by Feisty at 10:10 AM on April 27, 2004


clavdivs, "twisted little fantasy image"? He was told to depict his take on the War in Iraq, it was a school project and he felt that Bush was a devil launching missiles and that maybe the country could benefit from a different leader.

How is that twisted or fantasy?

I asked about the kid, whether he'd lost someone in the war, whether he was worried about his own life as he approached the age at which we're "allowed" to be drafted and die from some president's twisted screwup.

Are you entirely unfamiliar with Freedom of Speech? Or just willfully ignorant of its repercusions?
posted by fenriq at 11:25 AM on April 27, 2004


uh huh
and having someone be the devil is not twisted? perhaps it is a "metaphor" like how extremists view others as "the devil"

His depiction is fantasy because Bushs head will never be put on a pike, it may be his wish but the massive security around the president renders this fantasy.
IMO.
are we allowed to express ourselves without censorship, yes for the most and thank god. But he does not yet have the full rights as an adult. What do you think of adults selling coloring books in oaklahoma in the 90's depicting and describing how to kill israelis and americans...free speech, hate speech? perhaps but look at the target audience...children.

In high school, I was almost suspended once for saying "hell" in context because of the teachers cursing policy. I did not go off on anyone and adhered to the rules. And 5 years later i went back to thank that teacher for his good work.
When the kid grows reaches 18 he can draw all the pictures he wants, depicting what ever he wants, until then he is subject to certain rules.

Feisty (heh) I'm not shutting anyone up, i am exercising my opinion.

what is really "odd" is that we do not have the pictures in question in order to form a better view of the situation...unless there is a link. Why? I would imagine it is to protect this kids rights.

im stopping here because this site is so unstable today.
posted by clavdivs at 11:53 AM on April 27, 2004


clavdivs, I would like to the the pictures too. But supposing the reporting's correct and they've described the worst of it, I still fail to see the hubbub.

But he does not yet have the full rights as an adult. What do you think of adults selling coloring books in oaklahoma in the 90's depicting and describing how to kill israelis and americans...free speech, hate speech? perhaps but look at the target audience...children.

This makes me think that it's the teacher who should be disciplined. I can see a possibility where there's a general rule for all assignments that violence and profanity are off-limits regardless, but even then I would fault the teacher for the topic. If they want bland responses, they need to keep the subject matter bland too.
posted by Feisty at 12:05 PM on April 27, 2004


the books were on sale at a convention held weeks before the OCB in 95'. The government, at the time was not allowed to even attend, nor compile info because "hate speech" was (and i guess still is) protected....for adults.

the hub-hub, IMO, is a newsfilter like presentation here at this site. It is worth talking about but I guess no one or few are concerned with that. The hub-bub is that this kid has issues that should be addressed and wether or not it was dealt with correctly. The secret service HAS to follow up on this stuff if reported. The school reported it because that is their job wether it is to save there butts or just follow the strict sense of the law. we know nothing of how this played out. maybe the kid remained defiant (surprise coming from kids right?) and the school wanted to "scare him". who knows?
posted by clavdivs at 12:44 PM on April 27, 2004


Yes, it is the job of schools to scare our children.

You're WAY out in left field (or perhaps right field?) on this one, clavdivs.

Teens are people too.
posted by rushmc at 1:10 PM on April 27, 2004


well rushmc, I'm sorry my speculation does not meet to your liking...notice the "scare him"...quote marks. Do i advocate this...no. Who knows the situation. But I see your just reacting, which should not warrant a response as this could be construed as trolling. Feisty is willing to talk about it?
posted by clavdivs at 2:03 PM on April 27, 2004


this kid has issues that should be addressed

I'm uncertain of what you mean. You go from questioning whether he's troubled or pissed to asserting he has issues. I don't see anything to indicate that. Or are you saying that because of this incident he now has issues with which to deal? If that's the case, I agree. And I hope he's still motivated to improve this country.

If he were an attention seeking brat, wouldn't he already have multiple news conferences set up? His silence does have me speculating that there's more to this than meets the eye. But at face value, he's acting more like an American than the hyper folks he's had run ins with.
posted by Feisty at 2:53 PM on April 27, 2004


Hey, here's question - how is one supposed to keep a journal of images about the war in Iraq without depicting violence?

Is he the only one who had images of violence in his journals? I mean, if this is an issue of the school worried about a kid depicting violence, then all of the kids who depicted violence should have been subjected to the same discipline.

I concede that, perhaps, a hyper-sensitive school board might decide this is a matter for the secret service. However, I have 14-16 year old students who, during the last two administrations, have said things like "somebody should just shoot Clinton/Bush." Should I have made call to the Secret Service about them, too?
posted by Joey Michaels at 3:13 PM on April 27, 2004


how is one supposed to keep a journal of images about the war in Iraq without depicting violence?

Only pictures of Iraqi children handing flowers to American soldiers are allowed.
posted by Tenuki at 3:27 PM on April 27, 2004


I just described this situation to a coworker of mine, as simply as possible:
"Tell me what you think of this. A school kid drew pictures about an unpopular war, and made the leader of his country look like the devil, and voiced support in a picture for an alternative political candidate and party. The art teacher notified the school administration, the school administration notified the local police. The local police immediately notified the national government agency responsible for the security of the President, and agents responded and investigated the kid immediately. The kid has been removed from the school and sent to a disciplinary education center."
She said:

"My God, that's the KGB, or the Stasi. When did this happen?"

I told her, last Friday in Washington State here in America.

She said, "I can't believe it. This is what used to happen all the time in Russia in the Soviet Union."

I sent her the link so she could read it herself. She is still frightened by it.

Because you see, she is a Russian Jew who was born in the former Soviet Union, who left there because of happenings just such as this. She is now horrified to hear that it can, indeed, happen here as well.

The point made well above here about the "repercussions" that would happen should the teachers/school administration NOT report this to the government is EXACTLY the situation that existed in the former Soviet Union (and probably now in places like North Korea too). The kind of fear for your livelihood that makes you so afraid of what a 15-year-old draws in his or her notebook that you will turn him or her into the State, THAT is the motivator that turns people into spies, all watching each other.

So clavdivs, when you say "The school reported it because that is their job wether it is to save there butts or just follow the strict sense of the law" you are, in my opinion, supporting that mindset. There should be no need for the school staff to need to "save their butts" from government scrutiny and repercussions if they don't report a single incident of a teenager expressing a personal opinion about some government action. That anyone would feel so motivated by fear or "righteousness" in the "strict sense of the law" that they would need to turn a MINOR in to the SECRET SERVICE because he expressed an opinion in a drawing that was contrary to "official position" or even a "mainstream opinion" is horrifying, in the Land of the Free.

Are we not still the Home of the Brave? So brave that we have to call in the Feds when a kid draws a picture that doesn't agree with the President? Sounds like Home of the Paranoid to me.

This is America. This needs to bloody well stop, right now. We have no need of such fear, such craven buck-passing to higher authority. We, by definition, should resist anything like this happening here.

The fact that a lot of Americans have forgotten this is terrifying to me.

"Your papers, please."

It can happen. This incident shows it plainly.
posted by zoogleplex at 4:17 PM on April 27, 2004


Should I have made call to the Secret Service about them, too?

that is your call, seeing there is no evidence of the threat (verbal) I doubt much could be done if anything at all.

Hey, no problem with depicting images of violence but the head of the president on pike is another matter. IMO. wether the kid has issues is unknown to us, he does now though.

His silence does have me speculating that there's more to this than meets the eye.
you are entitled to your opinion but how do you know there is nothing more.

The family also declined to talk about what happened.
perhaps this is why the kid has not set up a press conference.

This is America. This needs to bloody well stop, right now. We have no need of such fear, such craven buck-passing to higher authority. We, by definition, should resist anything like this happening here.

The student is not named because he is not charged with a crime
He has not been charged with a crime so with all due respect to your friend, it seems that the issue is at rest concerning the Secret Service. As far as this setting a precedent, that is another matter. I would refer to the Gau system in Hitlers Germany to parallel what your friend went through.

Sounds like Home of the Paranoid to me.

I don't' know, perhaps. But I do recall when I was living in Flint Mi., that a 6 year old girl was killed by another child of the same age when he brought a hand gun to school. It made the nightly news three nights in a row. I still remember the helicopters hovering the city. There were no reprisals for this tragic act (as in people going nuts in retaliation) that i know of, if anything, it brought a divided city together. It is a violent city one of the most violent in my country and is the reason I moved. (i had a neighbor killed and the next morning the killer was my first patron in the store i worked in.) I have stared into the face of more then one killer. I am glad your friend is safe now, this story has brought me some hope.
Ms. Clavs father defended a man during the 53' red scare so i know full well the implications of a paranoid society. But the kicker is that same man tried to recruit me for a right-wing organization. (politician to be precise which i will not name)

There is an element of responsibility that seems lacking in the school system. This means students, parents and the schools.

thank you feisty for at least addressing me with a semblance of respect. and bless you zoogelplex for sharing that story with me. (us i guess)
posted by clavdivs at 5:28 PM on April 27, 2004


His silence does have me speculating that there's more to this than meets the eye.
you are entitled to your opinion but how do you know there is nothing more.


strike what i said there. I agree there may be more then meets the eye.
posted by clavdivs at 6:04 PM on April 27, 2004


clavdivs: Hey, no problem with depicting images of violence but the head of the president on pike is another matter. IMO. wether the kid has issues is unknown to us, he does now though.

All right, point taken. Assuming that the student was telling the truth that he was depicting an effigy of the president's head, is it not possible that he was depicting the sort protest images that have been associated with Iraq. Like this one? Or this one? Or this one?

IMO, depicting an image of a protest with an effigy of the president is not the same thing as depicting the president being decapitated. Perhaps it doesn't look like an effigy because the kid wasn't such a hot artist...

Anyhow, I concede that there might be much more going on here than meets the eyes. However, I still think that calling the SS about an art journal picture is overkill and was more designed, by the local officials, to supress thought than prevent violence. As I wrote before, if you are going to assign kids to draw pictures about the war in Iraq, some of them are going to depict images of violence. And, if depicting the violence is the problem, then... etc. etc.
posted by Joey Michaels at 6:27 PM on April 27, 2004


I think it's fairly simple. If the teacher really, truly, thought that the kid's drawing was an indication of some imminent criminal act, then that teacher had an obligation to report the incident to the authorities.

However, if the teacher called the authorities for any other reason (for instance, he/she was personally offended), and not for the above reason, then the teacher is a slithering bag of shit who should be locked away in the Bastille without access to sunlight for the remainder of his/her days.
posted by bingo at 7:22 PM on April 27, 2004


I guess teacher forgot to tell you the Bastille was torn down and sold as souvenirs?

(not) sorry Bingo but I will not let a troll ruin the discussion taking place in this thread.
posted by clavdivs at 8:35 AM on April 28, 2004


I think you know I didn't literally mean the Bastille. For your gentle sensibilities, replace "locked away in the Bastille..." with "spit upon by all who know him/her."
posted by bingo at 9:20 AM on April 28, 2004


Weak follow up in Seattle Times; I think an attempt for the SS to distance themselves from the idiocy.

The SS was presented with a potential threat. I have no problem with their actions. The adults working with the school are the mindless twits. I'd love to see the kid's drawings since all this began.

"The drawing in itself is not the threat," (agent) Shields explained. "It's the intent behind it and the capability of the person to act upon it."

"Cravens (family friend) said the boy's real problem is that he just doesn't fit in with the Prosser crowd. The boy sports a Mohawk and plays in a punk-rock band, and that isn't exactly the norm out in Benton County, he said."

The ACLU is investigating whether to become involved.

"As for the boy, Cravens said, 'He thinks it's all funny.

"This is just a kid with some stupid cartoon.'"

This comment from the family friend disappoints me. Why belittle it?
posted by Feisty at 9:22 AM on April 28, 2004


Detailed follow up in Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The art was confiscated and he's got Saturday school. I'm chuckling over the appropriateness of the typo, "End the War -- on errorism."
posted by Feisty at 10:01 AM on April 28, 2004


Goofyy bows to by zoogleplex. Well said.

Clavdivs: you're such a Flintoid. (drop me a line)
posted by Goofyy at 11:29 AM on April 28, 2004


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