TIME europe

Europeans Fear for the Security of their Rail System After Attempted Terrorist Attack

Free movement has been a cornerstone of European integration

For days, Europeans have hailed the courage of three American tourists — two of them off-duty military personnel — who tackled a lone gunman aboard a high-speed train in northern France last Friday, thwarting a terrorist attack that could have ended with dozens of dead and injured. But even that tale of bravery can not block out the worry: What about the next time?

For Europe, the details emerging about what happened on the Amsterdam-Paris train deepened the sense of vulnerability of the continent. And while European Union governments now vow to tighten security, the quick responses of citizens will likely be essential in averting more attacks. “It ultimately depends on the individual responsibility of men and women capable of doing the right thing under the circumstances,” French President François Hollande said on Monday, during a medal ceremony awarding the country’s highest distinction, the Legion of Honor, to the American train passengers Spencer Scott, Alek Skarlatos and Anthony Sadler, as well as British business consultant Christopher Norman, all of whom fought the gunmen. Standing in the ornate Elysée Palace, Hollande told the men that their actions were “an example, a sort of inspiration for all of us.”

Beyond inspiration, E.U. officials are grappling with how badly their security systems have failed — or whether the potential for an attack is due in part to the fact that 500 million E.U. citizens can cross the continent without any identity or passport checks. Ayoub El-Khassini, the 26-year old Morocco born suspected terrorist,was able to board the train at Brussels with a Kalashnikov rifle, a pistol, a box-cutter and more than 300 rounds of ammunition, without baggage or identity checks.

For years, the E.U.’s 28 governments have tried to balance the advantages of easy mobility around the continent — a core principle of the union — with the risks it entails. After the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris in January, which killed 17 people, France posted soldiers and policemen outside tourist sites like the Eiffel Tower and Louvre Museum, as well as in airport terminals and many major railway stations.

Yet Friday’s attempted attack suggested there are glaring holes, especially on Europe’s extensive high-speed rail network. Those trains — a source of great pride and affection for many Europeans — are crucial to the E.U. economy and to the continent’s lifestyle. They have made international travel routine for Europeans, who buy affordable tickets at the last minute, as if they were taking a short bus ride. Many French officials, for example, shuttle between Paris and the E.U. headquarters in Brussels, a 90-minute ride on the same rail line as Friday’s near attack. In Brussels, passengers can use their tickets for any scheduled departure that day. And unlike airline routes, some of the trains linking major cities stop at countless small towns along the way.

Imposing tight security on the system seems impossible to many officials, even though it exists for all flights in Europe and all trains between the continent and the United Kingdom, which opted out of the Schengen Agreements on free movement within the E.U. French transportation officials say they do not envision airport-style baggage or identity control, and that they are far more likely to begin random checks of bags and passengers. “Stations are public spaces,” Christophe Piednoël, spokesman for the French railway company SNCF said, quoted in Monday’s Liberation newspaper. “We cannot ask the French to wait one hour before boarding a train. And anyway, 15,000 trains cross France every day and traverse 3,000 stations.”

Then there is security within the stations themselves. Even if Khassini had decided not to launch his attack aboard the train, he could easily have slipped his weapons into Paris, once the train pulled into the city’s Gare du Nord terminal.

Since the January attacks in Paris, French soldiers have patrolled the Gare du Nord with rifles and sniffer dogs, part of the contingent of 7,000 soldiers the government has deployed in train stations since the Paris attacks. Yet their small numbers are virtually lost amid the huge crowds.

Extending strict security for travel around the continent seems unlikely. Instead, as Hollande suggested on Monday, Europeans will need to hope for the courage of people like Skarlatos, Stone and Sadler; for Skarlatos, an Oregon Army National Guardsman recently back from serving in Afghanistan, and Stone, a US Airman 1st Class, combat-ready reflexes seemed to kick in as soon as they spotted Khassini in their train car. “It was not really a conscious decision,” Skarlatos told reporters on Sunday evening. “We just decided to act… It was gut instinct.”

 

 

TIME France

French-American Professor Was Shot in Effort to Take Down Train Gunman

Mark Moogalian was shot when he rushed toward the gunman

The French-American professor who was praised by President Francois Hollande for trying to bring down an AK-47-wielding gunman on a high-speed train on Friday was shot during the scuffle, according to his wife.

Mark Moogalian saw a man walk into a bathroom with a suitcase for a suspiciously long time, said his wife Isabella Moogalian in an interview with Europe1 radio. Mark Moogalian then rushed toward the man after he emerged with an AK-47.

He then saw the suspect being “grabbed from behind by a different person,” his wife said. That person is thought to be a 29-year-old French banker who has chosen to stay anonymous, according to NBC.

“I did not see my husband get shot, it happened too quickly and I was pretty much hiding behind seats,” Isabella Moogalian said. “But I look at my husband through the seats at an angle and he looked straight at me and said, ‘I’m hit!’ … There was blood everywhere. I ran towards him and I could see that he a wound on his back, I then saw another wound by his neck.”

The gunman was finally subdued in the neighboring car by a British businessman and three vacationing Americans, one of whom sustained moderate injuries. Spencer Stone, a 23-year-old U.S. airman who was among the Americans called “heroes” by President Hollande, helped staunch the bleeding from Moogalian’s neck.

[Europe1]

TIME energy

How Low Oil Prices Have Affected Energy World So Far in 2015

oil-rig-ocean
Getty Images

Energy as a group and as individuals have collapsed in value

It has been a rough ride for energy stocks this year as almost all investors in the sector know. There are always extreme winners and losers among the thousands of publicly traded companies in the stock market, but broadly speaking stocks as a whole generally rise over time. This year has been an exception for energy stocks though.

Not only has energy as a group generally fallen, but the vast majority of individual energy stocks themselves have also collapsed in value. In fact, since the start of 2015, only 1 out of every 6 newly issued stocks or bonds in the energy space has appreciated in value. Most of the top performing energy stocks this year have still only managed to eke out modest gains on the order of 5-10 percent Year-to-date (YTD). Year to date returns are always a little odd though, since it’s hard to compare them to the typical mean annualized return of around 10 percent that has held for the broader market over the last 50 years. Because of that, it’s actually more useful to look at returns over the last year.

The list of the top performing U.S. energy companies with a market cap of at least $300 million is below.

chart1
Oilprice.com

* ALDW would also make the list, but is excluded here due to relationship with ALJ.

The notable point here is how low the returns are to make the Top 10 performers list. Most of the firms on the list are actually energy sector intermediaries involved in processing or transporting the product rather than drilling for it or servicing firms that do drill. Also, notably absent on the list are most of the well-known high growth names in the energy sector. That includes all the major frackers from Pioneer to Continental.

The best performing firms over the last month show a similar trend.

chart2
Oilprice.com

Stocks like Flotek and TETRA are bouncing after substantial declines all year, largely on investors finding good news after dissecting earnings season reports. PDCE is one of the few pure-play E&P firms that has truly been holding its own for most of the year and at least tread water. The success stories of the year are in refiners like PBF, HFC, and ALJ. The point here is that a lack of stock picking ability is not what has hurt E&P investors this year – no amount of stock picking ability would have helped as virtually no E&P firms have managed to stay above the water!

The list of worst performing stocks emphasizes that point and reveals how deep the carnage has been for investors.

chart3
Oilprice.com

With declines of this magnitude, it is clear that the macro-environment has exposed a lot of energy companies. This makes it extraordinarily difficult for investors to find and select companies with great growth prospects.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com

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TIME Budweiser

Budweiser Doesn’t Like This Brewer’s ‘Queen of Beer’ Campaign

Bottles of Budweiser beer sit on display at a pub in Hornchu
Bloomberg—Bloomberg via Getty Images Bottles of Budweiser beer.

There is a bit of a turf war brewing

Budweiser is an American lager that thinks (and markets) itself as the “King of Beer.” It also wants to dethrone a purported queen.

There is a bit of a turf war brewing between Budweiser brewer Anheuser-Busch InBev fortuneand a tiny California craft brewer named She Beverage Co., which last year registered “The Queen of Beer” phrase and began to launch sales at retailers and restaurants in April. Anheuser-Busch is opposing the use of the phrase, the Associated Press reported. Anheuser-Busch says the marketing that She Beverage is using is “virtually identical” to how it markets Budweiser.

Anheuser-Busch, which filed a notice of opposition last week, wasn’t immediately available to comment on the case.

Five beers are sold under the She Beer label, including a “Red Head” Red Intense Lager, and a “Dirty Blonde” California Citrus Amber.

TIME Iraq

Meet the American Who Went to Iraq to Fight ISIS But Ended Up Taking on Iran

Ryan O'Leary thinks the Kurds face a greater threat than ISIS

When Ryan O’Leary went to war for the third time, he was expecting to fight the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS), the militant group that has captured vast swathes of Iraq and Syria. After serving with the Iowa National Guard in Iraq in 2007-8 and then in Afghanistan in 2010-11, he went back to Iraq earlier this year of his own volition. The intention, he told the Des Moines Register in June, was to train Kurdish soldiers — the Peshmerga — to drive ISIS out of its northern Iraqi strongholds. “ISIS isn’t just a fight for them,” he said then. “It’s a fight for all of us.”

But the 28-year-old’s journey took a slightly different direction once he got to Iraq. Now, O’Leary is patrolling the border between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan embedded with a faction of the Kurdish Democratic Party of Iran (KDPI) deep in the Qandil mountains. And he’s training the soldiers not to fight ISIS, but Iranian forces he says are repressing Kurdish minorities in the region. “I’ve pretty much changed my view,” he tells TIME in a telephone interview. “There’s no difference between Iran and ISIS, they do the exact same thing to these people. It’s just not reported as much.”

The KDPI is one of several political organizations representing Iran’s Kurds, an ethnic group of about 7 million people living both in Iran and in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq. The party has been outlawed in the Islamic Republic for decades, as it advocates for greater independence and European-style social democracy. The unit O’Leary is with patrols the mountainous border ostensibly to defend Kurds against Iranian aggression.

So how did O’Leary get involved? He says he felt rootless after returning from Afghanistan in 2011, and itched to serve again in some way despite suffering some symptoms of PTSD. “I felt a bit lost when I got back,” he says now. “I didn’t have a purpose.” A Kurdish translator for his National Guard unit put him in touch with a British former soldier who was training Peshmerga, who gave him some contacts in northern Iraq. Against the advice of his family — and the U.S. government — he flew out in June.

When O’Leary arrived in Erbil, the capital of Iraqi Kurdistan, he said he went looking for a Peshmerga unit “that wouldn’t allow me to get babysat.” He met with an official with a faction of the KDPI who convinced him the bigger threat to the region’s Kurds was not ISIS, but Iran. “ISIS isn’t a permanent threat to Kurdistan or even the region,” O’Leary says. “But the influence from Iran in this region is getting insanely huge. It’s a hardline religious view.”

So he teamed up with KDPI soldiers in the border region northeast of Erbil, becoming “basically the first Westerner they’ve ever let in,” he says. He claims to be teaching the soldiers tactics picked up from his own days in the military, using what little Kurdish he has picked up; how to mount an ambush, how to observe troop movements, how to give basic first aid. His trainees aren’t like the battle-hardened Peshmerga, who are fighting ISIS in northern Iraq; there’s no rank structure, and the men can be as old as 60.

Tensions have indeed been rising between Iranian Kurds and the regime in recent months. In May, thousands of Iranian Kurds took to the streets in the Iranian city of Mahabad and elsewhere in a series of sometimes violent protests against the regime. Armed Iranian Kurdish parties threatened to send militia to Tehran if the Islamic Republic wouldn’t grant them autonomy. O’Leary claims Iran has shelled border villages and executed civilians on the border and that Kurdish groups have made raids on Iranian outposts.

He won’t talk about current operations but said the troops he is with are “trying to avoid direct conflict.” Instead, O’Leary says, the focus is on preparing to defend the border during an Iranian incursion he believes will come once the U.S. approves a nuclear deal. Without military sanctions the country will finally feel emboldened to crack down on its rebel minorities, he says. “I think this will escalate to armed conflict, and when it does I’ll be there for it.”

It may not come to that, says Martin van Bruinessen, professor of the comparative study of contemporary Muslim societies at Utrecht University. Although there have been Iranian military incursions into Kurdish areas in the past, he says, the regime has long agreed to forgo military action on the border so long as Iraqi Kurds prevent Iranian exiles from mounting attacks. As for the pending nuclear deal, “the Iranian Kurds are in fact rather hopeful of a liberalizing impact,” he says.

There’s little doubt who is the more serious regional foe, he adds. “The confrontation with ISIS, in which Iranian proxies are playing a significant part and Iran’s influence in general appear to be increasing, represents a more serious threat to the KDPI.”

So what do the U.S. authorities make of a U.S. citizen inserting himself into a decades-old conflict between Iran and its Kurdish minorities? Rasheeda Clements, a spokesperson for the State Department, tells TIME that the U.S. government does not support any U.S. citizen traveling to Iraq or Syria to train soldiers for the KDPI. “Any private U.S. citizens/civilians who may have traveled to Iraq or Syria to take part in the activities described are neither in support of nor part of U.S. efforts in the region.”

O’Leary says he’ll stay in the country until he feels he has made a difference. His goals are to make the international community aware of the threat posed by Iran to Kurdish minorities, he says, and to prepare the troops for whatever fighting there is to come. Finally he has a purpose, he says. “I’m not just out here running around with a gun, I’m trying to change things.”

TIME energy

Oil Price Collapse Triggers Currency Crisis in Emerging Markets

oil-pumpjack
Getty Images

The more emerging market currencies lose value, the more concern there is about their health

Emerging market currencies are getting slammed by the collapse in commodity prices, a downturn that has accelerated in recent weeks.

The health of many middle-income and emerging market economies has been predicated on relatively strong commodity prices. A whole category of countries achieved strong growth by exporting their natural resources. For example, Brazil’s impressive economic expansion since the early 2000s, and the huge number of people that were able to jump into the middle class, was made possible by exporting oil, soy, iron ore, beef, and a variety of other resources. High prices for these goods led to more growth, a strengthening of the currency, and a real estate boom in cities like Rio de Janeiro.

The same story unfolded in many other commodity-driven economies, from Latin America, to Africa, to Central and Southeast Asia.

However, with commodity prices down dramatically from a year ago, growth in these countries has slowed, and their currencies are sharply weaker than they have been in the past.

In fact, the fall of Brent crude below $50 per barrel has sparked a sudden downturn in emerging market currencies across the globe.

But it isn’t just oil prices slamming currencies. The worries over the Chinese economy, including the plunge in its main stock market this summer, have raised concerns about the vigor of emerging market economies. Worse yet, China’s surprise devaluation has sent shock waves through currency markets around the world.

Other countries now feel pressure to let their currencies depreciate, and if they have adhered to a currency peg up until now, some are being pushed to float. Kazakhstan decided to scrap its currency peg last week, and the tenge promptly lost 23 percent of its value against the dollar. Vietnam also devalued the dong.

The devaluations tend to have a cascading effect, with other emerging markets coming under increasing pressure from their competitors.

Nigeria’s naira is under fire following Kazakhstan’s move, and Nigeria’s central bank vowed to fight off speculative attacks on its currency. “We haven’t seen any reason so far to institute a change in the foreign-exchange policies,” a spokesman for the Central Bank of Nigeria, told Bloomberg in an interview. “The preponderance of foreign currency in the country has led to speculative attacks on the naira. People who have done it in the hope we’ll devalue will be hurt.”

Russia’s ruble fared worse following the move by Kazakhstan to float its currency. It is now at its lowest level in six months, and could soon blow through the record low seen earlier this year when Russia suffered a brief currency crisis. Unfortunately for Moscow, the run on the currency comes on top of brewing fiscal problems, as the budget deficit has ballooned to its largest level since 2010, following the financial crisis.

However, Kazakhstan’s decision to float the tenge made sense given China’s devaluation and Russia’s own action to allow the ruble to lose value over the last year. Kazakhstan was seeking competitiveness for its economy. But one devaluation begets another.

The list of currency problems stretches long. South Africa’s rand is at its weakestin over a decade. Turkey’s lira has lost 19 percent so far in 2015. Mexico peso haslost about a quarter of its value since August 2014. The more emerging market currencies lose value, the more concern there is about their health.

A lot of uncertainty reigns for emerging market currencies. All eyes are on Washington for what comes next. The Federal Reserve is weighing an increase in interest rates for the first time in years, a milestone as the central bank seeks to (slightly) withdraw its heavy hand in the U.S. economy. However, an increase in interest rates would strengthen the dollar.

That would make the currency problems in emerging markets worse, both from the comparative devaluation against the dollar and from a potential further weakening in commodity prices. The global concerns could convince Janet Yellen to wait.

This article originally appeared on Oilprice.com

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TIME Australia

Tourist Rescued Thanks to SOS Message in Sand

He wandered through the bush and got lost

A British man trying to take a shortcut through the bush back to his camp soon found himself lost in Jardine National Park in north Queensland, Australia, and was only rescued after he wrote for help in the sand.

The man, Geoff Keys, wrote on his blog that he realized he was lost after going for a long swim. “And here is where I made one of the stupidest decisions ever. Instead of turning round and swimming back upstream I decided to take to the bush and cut across to the track. It was nearly dark. I had no shoes. What was I thinking of? Well, I was convinced the track was nearby and walking back would have been easier than swimming. So I took a bearing off the setting sun and the rising moon and headed north, back the way I’d come.”

After he continued to wander lost into the night, Keys realized that he would have stop for the night. After the sun rose, Keys heard the sound of a distant helicopter and sent out an SOS message, writing “HELP 2807” in the sand. The helicopter, which had been searching for him after his friends reported him missing, spotted his sign and Keys was rescued.

Keys also wrote on his blog, “It’s safe to say that I’m very grateful to everyone involved in my rescue. Their skill and professionalism is incredible. I feel stupid but lucky,” before reassuring his friends and family that he wouldn’t try a similar shortcut again.

[ITV]

TIME europe

Human Wave of Refugees Surges Through Southern Europe for E.U.

Some 7,000 migrants crossed into Serbia over the weekend

MIRATOVAC, Serbia — In a new human wave surging through the Balkans, thousands of exhausted migrants from the Middle East, Asia and Africa crossed on foot Monday from Macedonia into Serbia on their way to the European Union.

The rush over the border came after Macedonia lifted the blockade of its border with Greece, after thousands of migrants stormed past Macedonian police who tried to stop their entry by force.

Some 7,000 migrants, including many women with babies and small children mostly from Syria, crossed into Serbia over the weekend by Monday morning. Some were pushed in wheelchairs and wheel barrows or walked on crutches. Hundreds more entered Macedonia from Greece on Monday.

The new migrant tide that has hit the Western Balkans has worried EU politicians and left the impoverished Balkan countries struggling to cope with the humanitarian crisis.

After entering Serbia, the migrants, fleeing wars and poverty, head toward EU-member Hungary from where they want to continue further north to richer EU countries, such as Germany and Sweden.

“I am from Iraq, I want to go to Germany,” said Ali, barely speaking with exhaustion as he sat on a dusty field with columns of migrants heading for an overcrowded asylum center in the Serbian border town of Presevo.

After they formally ask for an asylum, they have three days to reach the border with Hungary which is rushing to build a barbed wire fence on its border with Serbia to block the migrants.

In a separate development, Greece’s coast guard is searching for at least five people missing at sea after the dinghy they were using to cross from Turkey overturned off the coast of the eastern Aegean island of Lesbos.

The coast guard said it had rescued six people and recovered the body of two men, and was searching the area for the missing. It was alerted after a fishing boat picked up one person off the island’s eastern coast Monday morning, and a second managed to swim to the island. The two told authorities they had been in a boat carrying about 15 people when it overturned.

Greece has been overwhelmed by an influx of mainly refugees reaching its islands from Turkey.

The Greek coast guard said it had picked up 877 people in 30 search and rescue operations from Friday morning to Monday morning near the islands of Lesbos, Chios, Samos and Kos. The figures do not include the hundreds to manage to make it to the islands themselves, mostly in inflatable dinghies.

TIME U.K.

Death Toll Expected to Rise to 20 After British Air Show Crash

Emergency services and crash investigation officers continue to work at the site where a Hawker Hunter fighter jet crashed onto the A27 road at Shoreham near Brighton
Luke MacGregor—Reuters Emergency services and crash investigation officers continue to work at the site where a Hawker Hunter fighter jet crashed onto the A27 road at Shoreham near Brighton, U.K., Aug. 24, 2015.

The exact number of fatalies is still unknown after a fighter jet crashed into a busy highway when an air show display went wrong

Authorities are expecting the death toll to rise to around 20 after a Hawker Hunter fighter jet taking part in a British airshow, near Brighton, crashed into a busy main road and burst into flames.

The initial death toll reported on Saturday was reported to be seven people with more than a dozen others injured. On Monday, the BBC reported that at least 11 people are believed to be dead, but authorities are expecting to recover more bodies after the jet is removed from the crash site. In addition to vehicles on the road, Sussex Police’s assistant chief constable, Steve Barry, told the BBC that there were many cyclists and onlookers along the busy stretch of road where the jet crashed, which has made determining an exact number difficult.

Barry told the BBC, “The number of highly likely dead remains at 11, but may rise. However, we do not expect that figure to be greater than 20, probably fewer.”

An onlooker told the BBC that the crash took place just after the jet pilot had began his demonstration. “He’d gone up into a loop and as he was coming out of the loop I just thought, you’re too low, you’re too low, pull up,” Stephen Jones told the BBC. “And he flew straight into the ground either on or very close to the A27, which runs past the airport.”

A crane is expected to remove the jet wreckage from the highway.

[BBC]

TIME India

India, Pakistan to Proceed With Border Talks Despite Breakdown of Dialogue, Officials Say

SCO Summit in Ufa
Anadolu Agency—Getty Images Pakistani Prime Minister Muhammad Nawaz Sharif (L) and India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi (R) meet during Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) summit in Ufa on July 10, 2015.

A meeting between the National Security Advisors of both countries was nixed over a disagreement on the agenda

India and Pakistan will proceed with bilateral border talks as scheduled despite the latter calling off a meeting between the two countries’ National Security Advisors over the weekend, official sources said Monday.

The meeting between the head of India’s Border Security Force and his Pakistani counterpart of the Rangers paramilitary force in order to discuss the international boundary between the two countries could take place as early as Sept. 6, the Indian Express newspaper reported.

A scheduled meeting between the adversarial neighbors broke down on Sunday after an impasse over the agenda of the talks, with India saying that cross-border terrorism should be the only item included and Pakistan insisting that the fate of the disputed Kashmir region, which is claimed by both countries, would have to be included.

Pakistani officials had also expressed an intention of meeting Kashmiri separatist leaders in the Indian capital New Delhi, prompting India’s foreign minister Sushma Swaraj to serve an ultimatum saying the talks would not proceed if separatist groups were involved. A separatist leader who landed in New Delhi to meet Pakistan’s NSA Sartaj Aziz was detained at the airport.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to Swaraj’s ultimatum by calling off the talks, saying the “preconditions” set by India were not acceptable and the meeting between the officials “would not serve any purpose,” the New York Times reported.

This is the second time since Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power last year that scheduled dialogue has been derailed between the two countries, which have fought three wars since they were first formed in 1947 — two of them over the Kashmir dispute. Modi’s meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif at the SCO Summit in Ufa, Russia, last month, where Sunday’s scheduled talks were decided, was hailed as a success but soon came under pressure due to an escalation in the perennial cross-border skirmishes that each country accuses the other of initiating.

The separatist leaders, meanwhile, blamed India for the breakdown of the talks and said no dialogue could proceed without taking into account the viewpoint of the people of Kashmir.

“A message has gone to the world that Kashmir issue is not a bilateral territorial dispute between India and Pakistan and that people of Jammu & Kashmir are the principal party to it,” Ayaz Akbar, the spokesman for the hardline Hurriyat Conference separatist group, told the Times of India newspaper. “The fanatic approach adopted by government is not practicable. How long will New Delhi pursue this policy?”

India’s Home Minister Rajnath Singh, however, pointed out that it was Pakistan and not India that had canceled the talks.

“Pakistan should not have deviated from the agenda decided during the meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif [in Ufa in July],” he said.

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