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[From Bidinotto Blog] A Career Change


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#1 News Junkie

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 01:07 AM

As many of you are aware, Iíve served for the past three years as editor-in-chief of The New Individualist (TNI), a monthly magazine published by The Atlas Society (TAS). However, as all of us know, circumstances change constantly...Source: http://Bidinotto.jou...om/?entryid=795
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#2 Roger Bissell

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 01:40 AM

As many of you are aware, Iíve served for the past three years as editor-in-chief of The New Individualist (TNI), a monthly magazine published by The Atlas Society (TAS).

However, as all of us know, circumstances change constantly...

Source: http://Bidinotto.jou...om/?entryid=795


Wow! That is a shocker I really did not expect....

Robert (if you're still t/here), I wish you well in your new enterprise.

I can't see how this is good for TAS, but I guess we'll see.

REB
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#3 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 05:07 AM

Roger,

That is a shocker.

I consider Robert a friend, as I do the people at TAS.

I hope the separation was friendly.

Michael

Know thyself...


#4 Jerry Biggers

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 11:39 AM

from Bidinotto's statement....."I will no longer be working for The Atlas Society or writing for its publications.......email sent to my TAS email address will not be forwarded...." This does not sound to me like a completely amiable parting of the ways.

Robert Bidinotto dramatically improved the size and, most importantly, the quality, of The New Individualist. It was poised to replace (or already had) Reason magazine as the most prominent Objectivist/Libertarian national journal. (Regrettably, Reason had already jettisoned its origins as an Objectivist-oriented publication).
However, TAS recently announced that, due to budget restraints, they were reducing issuance of TNI from monthly to quarterly. This is a rather dramatic reduction, and probably was strongly opposed by Bidinotto. After all, TNI had recently won a national journalism award for its quality.
Not enough funding? Next paragraph, please.

Giving my free, totally unsolicited advice, TAS should have hired a professional fundraiser (or a better one, if they already have one - or send him/her to fundraising school) who could raise $$$$$$ from wealthy Objectivist-oriented businessmen and other professionals (there are some), using past issues of The New Individualist as excellent examples of what Objectivists and Libertarian journalists can do, when given the funds and opportunity. This is precisely the strategy used by conservative organizations/publications to expand circulation and influence. They did not rely on rank-and-file members or subscriptions. To cite just one of many examples, The American Spectator, which went from a college student-published sheet to an influential national magazine. Of course, liberals and socialists do the same thing. Even (some) "Objectivists"! Do you think someone just anonymously dropped over a million dollars upon ARI to distribute Atlas Shrugged to high school students? Without any solicitation efforts from ARI? Possible, but more likely, they actively sought out such contributions.

Of course, to get big bucks, you have to show big results from past funding. TAS could have showed many past issues of TNI. But now, how are they going to do that? They have some excellent publications, but no "blockbuster" to display. The much vaunted, long-awaited, Logical Structure of Objectivism, seems to be stuck in an interminable pre-publication limbo.

So now...where are we??

A series of calamitous catastrophies -


First, the housing market collapses

then Democrats nominate a Mr. Thompson (as interepreted by Che Guevara)......followed by a Republican Mr. Thompson "wannabe"

then the stock market/credit crunch meltdown

then the Feds nationalize financial institutions (as a warm-up exercise)...

and now, Bidinotto resigns from The New Individualist and TAS!

How much more of this can I take?


Who is John Galt?

#5 Ted Keer

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 09:08 PM

How much more of this can I take?


You omitted the folding of the New York Sun, the best newspaper in America.



Confession is always weakness. The grave soul keeps its own secrets, and takes its own punishment in silence.

#6 Barbara Branden

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Posted 15 October 2008 - 10:46 PM

I posted the following on Robert's blog:

"Robert, I have no doubt that you will be a great success in whatever you do; your many talents and your initiative ensure that. And I'll be part of your cheering section. I believe you are a man who should not be a part of any established organization; you are too independent a thinker to march in lock step. To quote Thoreau, 'If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.'

"I shall watch with interest as you step to the music which you hear, my friend."

Barbara

#7 jordanz

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 12:41 AM

Jerry - I'm feeling exactly as you are. I need a drink...
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#8 Chris Grieb

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 04:53 AM

Jerry; On the point about forwarding the e-mails this maybe a house-keeping matter. In conversations I had yesterday with the folk at TAS I detected no hostility.

#9 Jerry Biggers

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 07:32 AM

Jerry; On the point about forwarding the e-mails this maybe a house-keeping matter. In conversations I had yesterday with the folk at TAS I detected no hostility.

Chris,
You may be correct, the mail-forwarding may just be too "difficult"(!!??) for the TAS webmaster to handle. And the parting of the ways in this case may really be "amiable." Let's see what happens....

HOWEVER, after watching forty-plus years of the Objectivist movement, and its propensity for "schismology," and other self-inflicting wounds, please permit my skepticism about this latest development.

I have pretty much "lost faith" in Objectivists and/or Objectivism "saving the world," or even giving it a gentle nudge away from the precipice. Objectivists cannot even make allies amongst themselves. They have not even been able to explain and/or extrapolate upon the philosophy among academia (with a few notable exceptions) and have had negligible infuence among others of an intellectual bent.

And in the popular culture? The influence of Rand's ideas is so negligible as to not even register on a cultural "Richter Scale." We find the two major party Presidential candidates engaging in a competitive orgy of collectivist proposals while sugarcoating it with the most nauseating display of altruist and group-think "justifications" that have ever been proposed outside of a totalitarian country.

Outside of a few Objectivists - who are (unfortunately) essentially "talking to themselves," I have seen virtually NO criticism at all in the general media of McCain or Obama that takes them to task for their altruist premises. Not even mentioned.
None. Zero. Nada. Whatever criticism there is of their proposals amounts to quibbling over details and issues of "expediency."

So where is this great cultural influence of Atlas Shrugged that we were so recently celebrating on its 50th Anniversary?

If Atlas Shrugged is really the "most influential book in America, next to the Bible," why do we not see any substantial evidence of this great impact? The answer, I am afraid, is all too obvious.

Edited by Jerry Biggers, 16 October 2008 - 07:45 AM.


#10 Chris Grieb

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 07:45 AM

Jerry; You are on to things I think about a lot. It seems to me that Objectivism influence has always been very small.

I suspect there are financial considerations in Robert's decision.



#11 James Heaps-Nelson

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 08:18 AM

Jerry; On the point about forwarding the e-mails this maybe a house-keeping matter. In conversations I had yesterday with the folk at TAS I detected no hostility.

Chris,
You may be correct, the mail-forwarding may just be too "difficult"(!!??) for the TAS webmaster to handle. And the parting of the ways in this case may really be "amiable." Let's see what happens....

HOWEVER, after watching forty-plus years of the Objectivist movement, and its propensity for "schismology," and other self-inflicting wounds, please permit my skepticism about this latest development.

I have pretty much "lost faith" in Objectivists and/or Objectivism "saving the world," or even giving it a gentle nudge away from the precipice. Objectivists cannot even make allies amongst themselves. They have not even been able to explain and/or extrapolate upon the philosophy among academia (with a few notable exceptions) and have had negligible infuence among others of an intellectual bent.

And in the popular culture? The influence of Rand's ideas is so negligible as to not even register on a cultural "Richter Scale." We find the two major party Presidential candidates engaging in a competitive orgy of collectivist proposals while sugarcoating it with the most nauseating display of altruist and group-think "justifications" that have ever been proposed outside of a totalitarian country.

Outside of a few Objectivists - who are (unfortunately) essentially "talking to themselves," I have seen virtually NO criticism at all in the general media of McCain or Obama that takes them to task for their altruist premises. Not even mentioned.
None. Zero. Nada. Whatever criticism there is of their proposals amounts to quibbling over details and issues of "expediency."

So where is this great cultural influence of Atlas Shrugged that we were so recently celebrating on its 50th Anniversary?

If Atlas Shrugged is really the "most influential book in America, next to the Bible," why do we not see any substantial evidence of this great impact? The answer, I am afraid, is all too obvious.


Jerry,

I rarely post here, but your post asked a very important question so I'll make a one time exception. The key to the problem TAS has can be found in its founder. David Kelley has strong interests in epistemology and political activism. TAS thrived early by being a hotbed of intellectual innovation. It's my view they they faced a choice between focusing on intellectual innovation and activism. If you focus on activism, you have to have results orientation, follow through and do organizational things that seem boring,mundane and inessential. TAS has never had enough of these kinds of people.

My feeling is that they should have given up on activism and concentrated on intellectual innovation. Intellectual innovation doesn't require a greatdeal of money and can have a huge impact long term. Activism requires money, a focused message and a ruthless focus on organization.

When they didn't want to make this choice, the only person I thought could help them was Robert Bidinotto. Robert is very skilled at both activism and intellectual innovation and I don't think they will find someone else like him. They should have just hitched their horse to him and given him what he wanted.

The future of Objectivsm is not dim. ARI has become skilled at activism and various other individuals will handle intellectual innovation. However, I think the vision of an effective, institutionalized, organized movement of open system Objectivists has passed us by.

Jim

Edited by James Heaps-Nelson, 16 October 2008 - 08:50 AM.


#12 Chris Grieb

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 10:44 AM

Jim; I think you are too pessimistic about TAS.

I plan to attend an event at the National Press Club with Yaron Brook and I am curious to see what the turnout for it will be. Will it be the "usual suspects" or will others be there.

One of great things about the Atlas 50th was the people I didn't recognize.



#13 Michael Stuart Kelly

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 11:36 AM

Here is what I posted earlier on Robert's blog. He moderates all comments, so I decided to wait until it got through before posting it here. Now I see it has.

I have been trying to formulate a reaction to this news since I am stunned. I admire you and your work enormously (even when we disagree) and this was totally unexpected. I consider you a friend.

Barbara nailed what is in my heart. You shine from an individual source, not from belonging to any group. May your brilliance illuminate long and far. I, for one, will be near and watching.

Michael

Know thyself...


#14 Jerry Biggers

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 12:33 PM

Jim; I think you are too pessimistic about TAS.

I plan to attend an event at the National Press Club with Yaron Brook and I am curious to see what the turnout for it will be. Will it be the "usual suspects" or will others be there.

One of great things about the Atlas 50th was the people I didn't recognize.


Jim and Chris,

TNI was the best thing that TAS had done in the last several years, and it directly coincided with Robert Bidinotto becoming its editor. Apparently, they are willing to risk everything that they have gained through this publication, by losing its editor.

At the same time, they seem to be losing membership support and their Summer Seminars have consistently drawn fewer and fewer attendees. How many attended this summer's meeting in Oregon? The ARI Summer institute had close to 500! The year before, in Baltimore, the TAS Summer institute claimed over 100 attendees, but was closer to 60, if you exclude the TAS staff and the featured speakers.

I have the greatest respect for the breadth of knowledge that their leaders have about Objectivism, as a philosophy. For some inexplicable reason, they appear to have been unable (or unwilling) to attract a growing list of supporters.

ARI, unfortunately, is totally unacceptable as an alternative, given their policies to exclude or refuse to cooperate with other Objectivists and libertarians. Even more reprehensible is their "airbrushing" of Objectivism's history and even rewriting or editing-out portions of Ayn Rand's own writings. It is hard to come up with any tactic that could damage Objectivism more than what ARI has done.

Meanwhile, the country is becoming an economic disaster, and is on the verge of electing a man who is an amalgam of the villains from Ayn Rand's novels (as interpreted by Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers). As an "alternative," we are offered a "maverick Republican" whose pronouncements sound like they were written by Ellsworth Toohey (in a bad mood).

And what will be ARI's response? Well, let's see. Maybe they will step up their distribution of free copies of Ayn Rand's novels to high school. 2) Write more letters to the editors of newspapers. 3) Suggest the country can be saved if only inquiring young minds buy lots and lots of the highly-priced CD sets of lectures from our ARI gurus ("Hey, who needs books? It takes too much intellectual discipline to edit lectures for publication. "Let'em eat plastic!.").

And what will TAS do? You know, I haven't a clue. I certainly hope they do.

#15 Roger Bissell

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 12:59 PM

I posted the following on Robert's blog:

"Robert, I have no doubt that you will be a great success in whatever you do; your many talents and your initiative ensure that. And I'll be part of your cheering section. I believe you are a man who should not be a part of any established organization; you are too independent a thinker to march in lock step. To quote Thoreau, 'If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured or far away.'

"I shall watch with interest as you step to the music which you hear, my friend."

Barbara


Barbara, I'm very glad you posted this. It really speaks to me.

Though my contribution is of an order or two of magnitude smaller than Robert's, I think your comments could just as well have been addressed to me. I struggled for a while to "find a place" at TAS, and I concluded, sadly, that what I considered my most important work was not welcome there. (Thankfully, it ~is~ welcome elsewhere. See JARS.) I most definitely ~do~ "hear a different drummer," and, for better or worse, I ~am~ "too independent a thinker to march in lock step."

Anyway, I echo your encouraging words to Robert, and I thank you for its collateral encouragement to me!

REB
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#16 Roger Bissell

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 01:08 PM

The key to the problem TAS has can be found in its founder. David Kelley has strong interests in epistemology and political activism. TAS thrived early by being a hotbed of intellectual innovation. It's my view they they faced a choice between focusing on intellectual innovation and activism. If you focus on activism, you have to have results orientation, follow through and do organizational things that seem boring,mundane and inessential. TAS has never had enough of these kinds of people.

My feeling is that they should have given up on activism and concentrated on intellectual innovation. Intellectual innovation doesn't require a greatdeal of money and can have a huge impact long term. Activism requires money, a focused message and a ruthless focus on organization.

When they didn't want to make this choice, the only person I thought could help them was Robert Bidinotto. Robert is very skilled at both activism and intellectual innovation and I don't think they will find someone else like him. They should have just hitched their horse to him and given him what he wanted.

The future of Objectivsm is not dim. ARI has become skilled at activism and various other individuals will handle intellectual innovation. However, I think the vision of an effective, institutionalized, organized movement of open system Objectivists has passed us by.

Jim


Jim, I agree with you. Sadly, the evidence I have seen all indicates that they (TAS leaders) shy away from intellectual innovation. It seems to make them, at the very least, nervous and skittish.

I agree with you also that ~organized~ open-system Objectivism is not in good health at present, to put it mildly.

But who knows? Maybe DK & Co. have a rabbit or two up their sleeves. We'll see.

REB
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#17 Roger Bissell

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 01:40 PM

Jim; I think you are too pessimistic about TAS.

I plan to attend an event at the National Press Club with Yaron Brook and I am curious to see what the turnout for it will be. Will it be the "usual suspects" or will others be there.

One of great things about the Atlas 50th was the people I didn't recognize.


Jim and Chris,

TNI was the best thing that TAS had done in the last several years, and it directly coincided with Robert Bidinotto becoming its editor. Apparently, they are willing to risk everything that they have gained through this publication, by losing its editor.

At the same time, they seem to be losing membership support and their Summer Seminars have consistently drawn fewer and fewer attendees. How many attended this summer's meeting in Oregon? The ARI Summer institute had close to 500! The year before, in Baltimore, the TAS Summer institute claimed over 100 attendees, but was closer to 60, if you exclude the TAS staff and the featured speakers.

I have the greatest respect for the breadth of knowledge that their leaders have about Objectivism, as a philosophy. For some inexplicable reason, they appear to have been unable (or unwilling) to attract a growing list of supporters.

ARI, unfortunately, is totally unacceptable as an alternative, given their policies to exclude or refuse to cooperate with other Objectivists and libertarians. Even more reprehensible is their "airbrushing" of Objectivism's history and even rewriting or editing-out portions of Ayn Rand's own writings. It is hard to come up with any tactic that could damage Objectivism more than what ARI has done.

Meanwhile, the country is becoming an economic disaster, and is on the verge of electing a man who is an amalgam of the villains from Ayn Rand's novels (as interpreted by Jeremiah Wright and Bill Ayers). As an "alternative," we are offered a "maverick Republican" whose pronouncements sound like they were written by Ellsworth Toohey (in a bad mood).

And what will be ARI's response? Well, let's see. Maybe they will step up their distribution of free copies of Ayn Rand's novels to high school. 2) Write more letters to the editors of newspapers. 3) Suggest the country can be saved if only inquiring young minds buy lots and lots of the highly-priced CD sets of lectures from our ARI gurus ("Hey, who needs books? It takes too much intellectual discipline to edit lectures for publication. "Let'em eat plastic!.").

And what will TAS do? You know, I haven't a clue. I certainly hope they do.


Jerry, your unremittingly pessimistic take on O-movement issues and U.S. politics sounds a lot like thoughts I've been having in the past few weeks/months.

One suggestion: if ARI has all those millions of $$ to pump into "growing the philosophy's influence," I think they should use a healthy amount of it each year to buy HUGE billboards in major metropolitan areas (on the freeways), saying: "Why is America in such a mess? Read Ayn Rand's ATLAS SHRUGGED!"

I realize that this would put the results largely out of the hands of ARI -- as contrasted with their much more hands-on projects of books for high school kids (where ARI runs essay contests for the kids). I'm sure the bean-counters would frown on a billboard campaign -- or a similar, full-page ad campaign for ATLAS in major newspapers. (How could you quantify the results of this -- not nearly as well as tabulating which schools had how many kids writing essays for the contests.) Plus, they would point out, the billboards or ads target a very general audience, while the school book project targets the very group that must be approached to change the culture: late teenagers and young adults.

Sometimes I feel like Rip Van Winkle -- hearing about things that are supposed to (or should) happen, then 15-20, even 40, years later, finally they happen. An unexpurgated version of Nathaniel's BPO lectures WILL appear soon, that much I know (and thanks for your help on that, Jerry!). That will be a worthy alternative followup for ATLAS readers (since Peikoff's Objectivism book has such a snarky attitude, right from the Preface).

And ARI ~is~ doing good quality intellectual work, contrary to the carping and dissing by sundry critics. Just a random example: in Mayhew's edition of essays on The Fountainhead, there is a VERY important essay by Tore Boeckmann (whom I have roundly criticized for his hatchet job on Rand's fiction writing lectures) touching on the topic of "core combinations." A related essay by Boeckmann on Romantic painting appears in a recent issue of Craig Biddle's journal, The Objective Standard. This is going to influence me (for one) in future writing I do on music aesthetics (if one of the ARI bunch doesn't beat me to it).

As for the political scene, we have had gloom and doom many times before. I fondly (NOT!) recall the grotesque events of the 70s, and all the feverish urgings to buy gold and silver coins and freeze-dried food, in preparation for the BIG COLLAPSE! And here we are again. I take a more moderate view of what is happening. I look at it more like 1964 or 1992. Johnson got a Democratic Congress and drastically expanded government; that is the most likely model of what is going to happen if Obama gets in. Or, he and Congress may overreach, and we may see Congress become Republican again in the 2010 off-year elections. In any case, we will get more government, with or without tax cuts. Eventually, the hard medicine will have to be taken, and we will have to strip government back to smaller levels, or we WILL go down the tubes. But it is not easy to project the date for "eventually."

In the meantime, why not enjoy your life the best you can? And support your philosophical and political values the best you can? And let go of what you cannot change? A fully free society may be 200 years away, give or take 50 years. If we do the best we can, even while loving life and living our lives to the fullest (and being a good role model of a happy Objectivist/individualist), then we may help tweak that date a bit toward the nearer-term. But if we retreat into pessimism and inaction (especially intellectual inaction), those ripples will push it further away.

Or, we could pray for the BIG COLLAPSE. In which case, who the hell knows what remnants of civilization and reason will remain...

REB
Objectivism, properly used, is a tool for living, not a weapon with which to bash those one disagrees with.

#18 Jonathan

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 02:57 PM

A related essay by Boeckmann on Romantic painting appears in a recent issue of Craig Biddle's journal, The Objective Standard. This is going to influence me (for one) in future writing I do on music aesthetics (if one of the ARI bunch doesn't beat me to it).


Roger,
Would you mind giving a brief explanation of what it was about Boeckmann's essay on Romantic painting that you found valuable and why it will influence your future writings on music? I haven't read the essay and I'm not going to subscribe to The Objective Standard just to read it.

J

#19 Chris Grieb

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 03:42 PM

Roger & Jerry; Let me tell two little stories that suggest to me that Atlas maybe having more influence than we think. I was at an event talking to a woman I had just met. I commented that the past week seemed like something out of Atlas Shrugged. She did not ask "Atlas what?"

Another is response to the Dr. Helen blog to a column suggested that Atlas would shrug after the election. She received a huge number of responses. Almost all favorable.


Edited by Chris Grieb, 16 October 2008 - 03:44 PM.


#20 Greybird

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Posted 16 October 2008 - 06:01 PM

[...] ARI, unfortunately, is totally unacceptable as an alternative [to TAS], given their policies to exclude or refuse to cooperate with other Objectivists and libertarians.

Completely true, of course, as well as your pithy summation of Objectivists' foremost tactical blunder: "Let 'em eat plastic!"

Yet how is TAS's behavior genuinely different? In regard, for example, to portraying Ron Paul as — literally — a cadaverous cretin, on the front cover of their magazine? That kind of viciousness is actually worse than what ARI has done. (Peter Schwartz's historically and rhetorically absurd ravings, now largely out of their spotlight, excepted.)

As for Bidinotto himself, and his departure, I'd like to think that some TAS donors actually balked at his demonstrated proficiency — not on every matter, but on far too many of them — in The Art of Smearing, to borrow from one of Rand's essay titles. Yet I tend to doubt it.

Edited by Greybird, 16 October 2008 - 06:13 PM.





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