A group of Jews endeavors towards total domination of the blogosphere.

Saturday, March 27, 2004  

Richard Goldstein discusses the bestiality excuse for opposing gay marriage, and gets nowhere. What he ignores -- as does almost everyone arguing about slippery slopes and gay marriage -- is that bestiality is actually rape. A dog or horse or cow or what have you is simply incapable of approving a male's sexual advances. I'd seen an essay discussing this issue at length some time ago, but can't find any such essay now.
There is a dissimilar, but similarly important, barrier to a slippery slope ending in incest: we would be forced to disallow incestuous marriages up to and including first cousins owing to the significantly increased potential for birth defects.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:23 PM | is currently showing "Bandwidth Limit Exceeded.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:05 PM |

Friday, March 26, 2004  

Yada's got a series of fun celebrity quotes.

Actress Sarah Polley on why her zombie flick, Dawn of the Dead, beat out Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ at the box office. "It makes sense that we beat 'em out," she says. "I mean, we've got more people rising from the dead. They've got one. We've got thousands."
Embattled rocker Courtney Love is upset that she's being blamed for so many things these days. Her incredulous response? "Am I the one that killed Jesus too? I'm part Jewish."
Jewish playwright Tony Kushner on Jim Caviezel, the actor who portrays Christ in Mel Gibson's film: "Mike Nichols pointed out to me that Caveziel sounds like a Yiddish word, stop Cavezieling!" Two words: Oy vey.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:45 PM |

Gregg Easterbrook on the technology utilized in the assassination of Yassin.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:28 PM |

Male circumcision may protect against HIV-1. A good reason to be skeptical is this:

Worldwide, the rates vary widely, depending on culture and religion: in India, circumcision is uncommon among Hindus, Sikhs and Christians.
So there's a roughly similar correlation of religion to HIV as there is of circumcision to HIV.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:42 PM |

Earlier in the week, we wondered at the term "Flexidox." EphShap finds a definition over at EndTheMadness:

FLEXIDOX (adj.) An orthodox person of either gender who practices Kabbalistic Yoga and can bend themselves into an impressive pretzel.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:56 AM |

As part of an ongoing effort to push the dialogue on Jewish issues, media and blogging, Protocols is going to be hosting a musical-chairs guest-blogging slot in the coming weeks and months. I think you'll like who we've got lined up, a group of people coming from a wide range of experiences and backgrounds.
More info to come.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:50 AM |

Gizmodo on Israel's small UAVs.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:14 AM |

On "Pyramid" just now, the guy had to describe Israel, so he goes, "This country fights Arabs." Later, when he had to name airlines, his first choice was El Al.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:50 AM |

World Jewish Digest in Chicago seeks part-time associate editor.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:50 AM |

Thursday, March 25, 2004  

Harry catches a Shinui MK making much out of nothing, complaining of impropriety in a recent prayer service for the prime minister's office led by Chief Rabbi Meir Lau.
UPDATE: As Ira notes in the comments, it's actually Rabbi David Lau, son of the former chief rabbi, Meir Lau.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:25 PM |


8 a.m. -- Bush-Cheney '04 fund-raiser for under 40 supporters, sponsored by 5W Public Relations CEO Ronn Torossian; speakers include NYC Republican Party officials and Jewish-American supporters
10 a.m. -- The Anti-Defamation League and the NYU Jewish Students Association host conference and panel discussion on ``International Law and The Middle East Conflict''; New York University's Tishman Auditorium, 110 West 3rd St.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:10 PM |

"In 2004 the Jews will kill Christ." Not awfully funny, but censored, so, y'know.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:02 PM |

Odd story of a "Baruch Hashem" cult.
(Thanks, Josh)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:56 PM |

So Belle de Jew gets a crush on a rabbi...only to find out he's gay. Another case for FutureSimchas. Maybe she'll have as much luck as Toiveleh.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:48 PM |

Reader Marc sends in a link to a Neturei Karta representative's speech at a memorial for Yassin. I'd seen him on the news the other day, but there's a picture and full text there. Rabbi Yisroel Dovid Weiss wastes no time getting to his point:

As we gather our thoughts and attempt to again stand up to the evils of Zionism and the State of "Israel", we remind ourselves of one of the exceptional attributes of Sheikh Ahmad Yassin. He constantly drew a clear distinction between true Judaism and Zionism and between the practitioners of Judaism and Zionist perpetrators. The followers of Judaism were never considered by the Sheik to be an obstacle to true peace. [Emphasis added]
I don't know of Yassin ever making that distinction, but I don't know of him ever lumping Jews as a whole into the equation, either. The one quote anyone seems to have found that utilizes the terminology of "Jew" is this one:
Yassin also believes that ?reconciliation with the Jews is a crime.? (Filastin al-Muslimah (London), March 1995.)
That's one quote out of dozens we've seen around the Web, but more importantly, it lacks any context whatsoever and seems pretty questionable in light of the context provided to other quotations. This Slate piece pulls no punches on Yassin, yet it, too, fails to make him into someone who grouped anyone other than Israelis into his target.
It's no surprise that Neturei Karta is with the terrorists in this case; they're not like the "anti-war" protestors who often enough are really just on the other side. They burn the Israeli flag every year.
Are the NK's actions "obscene" as Reader Marc put it in his e-mail? Well, basically, they're supporting the terrorist killing of Israeli civilians, so yes.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:44 PM |

What do college administrators and students know about First Amendment rights? Instapundit links to this post citing the following from Richard John Neuhaus in the February issue of First Things:

Only 21 percent of administrators and 30 percent of students knew that the First Amendment guarantees religious freedom. Only six percent of administrators and two percent of students knew that religious freedom is the first freedom mentioned in the First Amendment. Only 41 percent of administrators and 32 percent of students believe that religious people should be permitted to advocate their views by whatever legal means available. On the other hand, 74 percent of students and 87 percent of administrators think it ?essential? that people be able to express their beliefs unless?and then come a host of qualifications, all amounting to the condition that their beliefs not ?offend others.?
First things first, let's note that it's terribly irresponsible of Neuhaus to fail to cite the source of the study, which is The Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. A simple perusal of FIRE's website shows that their mission will often be at odds with anti-discrimination laws and regulations. At the website, you can also find a whole bunch of stories from when the study came out back in November, as well as the press release announcing the study's results. Nowhere on the website is the full data of the survey, which is a shame.
To whatever degree the results implied are accurate, it's a huge shame, but some of the more fundamental questions of the study, regarding evangelicism, could easily run afoul of student groups funding rules.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:59 PM |

As always with SCOTUS cases, Dahlia Lithwick is your best resource on the pledge argument yesterday. To a person of religious sensibilities, it seems clear as day that the installation of "under God" into the Constitution by Congress in 1954 is a religious move; it seems equally clear to atheists. Just who, exactly, disagrees?
I've never understood how the amended pledge could withstand judicial scrutiny.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:46 AM |

Wednesday, March 24, 2004  

B'nai B'rith job listing to handle, "7-8 of B'nai B'rith's 17 bimonthly newsletters." 17 newsletters. Okay, so there can be jokes about this from several perspectives:
Orthodox: "Gee, that's one for each of the 613 commandments they still keep."
Evangelical Christian: "And all but one belonging to the ADL in its crusade against The Passion."
Reform: "They're not even willing to admit that those are written by many different authors."

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 4:20 PM |

So, um, Wrestling With God and Men, Rabbi Steven Greenberg's book on homosexuality and Judaism, is due out on March 31st. Lord knows, if I were trying to produce a book that'd be taken seriously in rabbinic circles, this is the cover image I'd choose:

Coolest part thus far is this blurb:

"Not only brings new and fresh thinking about our current debate over homosexuality but interweaves theology and history with Greenberg's own personal journey. . . . I heartily recommend this book to Christians who wish to take their Hebrew scriptures seriously and who are willing to examine their own responses to this raging debate."
—The Right Reverend V. Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:04 PM |

Jewschool has more York links, and it continues to seem to be the case that both groups screwed up and both got punished equally. It's somewhat telling that the Jewish community of Toronto's protest against anti-Semitism seemingly makes no mention of anything going on at York. One commenter noted earlier:

the Hillel engages in other activities on campus which are necessary for the Jewish population, and it doesn;t seem like that is the case for the Palestinian group here.
Which is why students there should be sure to act more prudently when representing the entire Jewish student body. Sure sucks for the kids who didn't break the rules, huh?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:40 PM |

Was Sharon looking to get out of his commitment to evacuate the settlements? The Head Heeb discusses the possibilities.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 1:28 PM |

Michael Brenner has notes on yesterday's "Democracy and Israeli Law" speech.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:23 PM |

Is John Kerry a descendant of the Maharal? It'd certainly help to have a golem who could keep him from harm on the ski slopes.
Either way, now we know which foreign leaders are endorsing Kerry: The Czechs.
(via The Revealer)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:06 PM |

Head of Moroccan Jewish community calls Yassin assasination, "An act of bestiality." Something's surely getting lost in the translation there.
(Thanks, Josh)

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:00 PM |

Tuesday, March 23, 2004  

Radosh has moved.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:15 PM |

One thing I'm wondering about this Maimonides conference is how/why/if it is different from that held at Queens College in November. That one drew 650 people, and in discussing it with Warren Zev Harvey, he said it was specifically targeted at the public. But what makes it targeted at the public? Why did 650 people show up in Queens, and relatively few attendees show up at this conference? There were often the same speakers, with similar topics, and it doesn't seem that either was advertised with any significant amount of effort.
Why do more people show up to one Jewish studies event than another?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 3:26 PM |

[R-L] Robert Chazan speaking as Gerrit Bos, Gad Freudenthal and Tzvi Langermann look on.
Gerrit Bos' presentation on "Maimonides' Medical Works and their Contribution to his Medical Biography," was generally informative of Maimonides' development of medical theory, but the best example of the relevance of his speech came during q&a. Lawrence Schiffman asked if Maimonides utilized Talmudic writings at all, to which Bos responded, "In his medical writings, I have found no reference whatsoever." He says the entirety of Maimonides' medical thought comes from Arab works. Gerald Blidstein notes that this shouldn't be taken as a surprise, since, "The Geonim had already said that Talmudic medicine shouldn't be used." Blidstein notes further that, "Maimonides in Mishneh Torah, where he's writing as a Jew, doesn't use Talmudic remedies," and that therefore in his strictly medical writings, as an Arab physician, it's yet more likely that he wouldn't use Talmudic remedies. Gad Freudenthal says that since Maimonides' audience is Arab princes, they wouldn't be interested in Talmudic cures, to which Schiffman replies, "Unless they cure them." Cute.
Gad Freudenthal is presently delivering an interesting paper on, "Maimonides' Medical Works and their Contribution to his Medical Biography," which he says he might have called something like "All Men Are Created Unequal According to Maimonides," if he wasn't afraid of being politically incorrect. He says that Maimonides felt that there were hardwired differences in "Intellectual capacities." He then ties in the fact that intellectual capacity and biological constitution were inextricably intertwined for Maimonides with the fact that intellectual achievement is the pass for entrance into the world to come for Maimonides, and continues, "The sense that humans are born unequal extends to the idea that they are unequal both in this and the next world, not by choice." Whereas Maimonidean contemporaries/predecessors would point to the cause of such inequality, Maimonides, "Says next to nothing in how they are determined." The difference according to Maimonides, "Can be encapsulated in two words: divine gift." A significant amount of discussion during q&a was devoted to Maimonides' view of women and their potential -- or lack thereof -- to reach perfection; it was inconclusive. Tzvi Langermann raised the interesting question of whether Moses could be said to be, in light of these theories, entirely unique and, thus, entirely unsurpassable, in coherence with "traditional beliefs." Zev Harvey raised a question which Marc Shapiro asked better in noting the relevance of the 13 Principles to this discussion, saying, "If you have a prophet that can exceed Moses, then you can have something that surpasses the Torah," and that therefore it's necessary for Moses to be of a particularly perfect constitution. This was the second example where traditionalist and non-traditionalist academics seemed to butt heads; the first was yesterday, after Charles Manekin's lecture.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:09 AM |


Noon -- Florida talk show host and U.S. Senate candidate Andy Martin calls for McDonald's boycott ``in response to harassment of Arabic-speaking workers in Israel''; McDonald's restaurant, 57th Street between Sixth and Seventh avenues, Manhattan.
Why he's doing this in NYC when he's a Senate candidate in Illinois is beyond me.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:34 AM |

Is York University the new Concordia? Let's look at what's going on. Here, in full, is a press release from the Hillel there that's been circulating over e-mail:

For Immediate Release
Toronto (Mar. 22, 2004) . Students at York University are shocked by news that the university administration has suspended the club privileges of Hillel @ York, the recognized voice of York.s Jewish students. This statement from the University, which is purportedly based on the confrontation last Tuesday, March 16 in Vari Hall, where Jewish students defended themselves against an incendiary form of anti-Israel guerilla theatre, has left Jewish students on campus feeling betrayed, silenced and vulnerable.
As a group that has always respected university directives and strives to pursue a healthy working relationship with the administration, we are shocked by this heavy-handed crackdown, which affects all areas of our religious, social and cultural activities, not only our political advocacy,. said Jordie Saperia, the President of Hillel @ York. .We are also extremely nervous at the message that this disproportionate response to the Jewish student voice on campus sends to the entire student body..
We feel betrayed.
On Tuesday, March 16th, members of Hillel @ York clashed verbally with pro-Palestinian activists who set up provocative and instigatory mock Israeli checkpoints in Vari Hall, an academic building off limits to political demonstrators. University administration and security officials stood by, watching, during almost an hour of intense confrontation. The disciplinary measures taken against Hillel are allegedly in response to Tuesday.s clashes,. said Seth Winberg, Vice-President of Hillel @ York.
But the record shows that the university has turned a blind eye to dozens of illegal and unauthorized rallies by opposing groups. It is only when Hillel members chose to begin defending themselves that the university decided to punish us..
Students are furious that such disproportionate, harsh action has been levelled against them for the simple act of verbally and non-violently opposing a highly insensitive and unauthorized demonstration, while in the past, rallies held in direct contravention of university guidelines have been ignored and glossed over.
In contrast, the location of a Jewish Unity rally scheduled by Hillel for last Thursday was dutifully changed only twenty-four hours in advance when the university.s Office of Student Affairs backtracked on permission granted weeks earlier.
We are confused and hurt by the university.s actions,. said Talia Klein, the Director of Hillel @ York. .Despite the marked instability at the Office of Student Affairs over the past few months, we have always maintained a close and mutually beneficial working relationship with university officials. Now it seems as if York has turned into Concordia..

For more information:
Jordie Saperia Talia Klein
President, Hillel @ York Director, Hillel @ York
(416) 419-6096 (416) 910-9032
Now, I'm still waiting for confirmation on the authenticity of this release, but it seems likely to be authentic.
Anyway, read that and then read this news report. The Hillel has also sent out an e-mail listing cases of unruly protest in the past, with the punishments noted, in an effort to indicate that their punishment has been significantly disproportionate to those of others. The thing is, it seems their punishment is in precise proportion to that received by the pro-Palestinian group that was involved in this flap. I'm keeping my mind open to the possibility that the news report is inaccurate, or that there's more information to be had, but with what we've got to go on right now, it seems York's Hillel is claiming a victimhood equivalent to Concordia's when in fact it doesn't even begin to approach what the latter went through.
Here's a report on the confrontation itself.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:12 AM |

I'm still at the Maimonides conference today, but a reader's sent in another event some might be interested in:

there is a lecture at Fordham today by Professor Daniel Sinclair on the subject, Halachah and Democracy and the Israeli Legal System. It's at 12:30 in Room 204 of Fordham Law School, 155 West 60th St., NY, NY.
If anyone goes, please report back.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 9:51 AM |

Monday, March 22, 2004  

Uber-intern Avi Zenilman notes the similarities between Yassin and Saruman. Not being a geek, I have no clue what the relevance of this is. But know this, you Middle Earth obsessives: there is most certainly a profound relevance.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:53 PM |

FYI: My AOL e-mail will be expiring March 29th; any e-mails sent there after that date will not be received. Please note the e-mail address posted in the sidebar.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:45 PM |

I've seen a few J-bloggers around town in recent days, some at the Maimonides conference sessions. Nachum Lamm has a post on yesterday's first session.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 2:43 PM |

A reader sends in a link to Future Simchas, which at present appears to be a mirror site of Only Simchas. The reader says he's heard Future Simchas is planned to become a dating site, and that an Only Simchas employee was handing out information on how to sign up to single guys at a wedding. I can't check any of it right now, but that sounds quite interesting.
UPDATE: Here's the dating URL.
Quick glance impressions: The sheer quantity of "observance" levels is hilarious, as are their titles ("Flexidox" = Tae Bo for Jews?); I think it's a bit much to refer to OnlySimchas addicts as "loyal fans".
So what will make this difference from, say, JDate? Sure, a lot of people say that going to JDate is pathetic...but I bet a lot more people say that regularly visiting OnlySimchas is yet more pathetic.
They've only got two "Modern Orthodox" women in the US so far, but one of them is certainly worth a crush. "Toiveleh" is a PhD in Jewish philosophy who doesn't smoke (but unfortunately also doesn't drink). The rest is a mixed bag:
I prefer reading People Magazine over Newsweek and jogging rather than taking a leisurely stroll.
Ugh, take off two points.
I'd rather spend a sunday at The Met as opposed to Wax Museum.
Add a point.
I love to shop.
I live to eat.
A walk in the rain is romantic.
I claim that I am allergic to pets,
A thing of wonder.
and I always prefer Coke over Pepsi.
Great choice.
A fun date would include: Barnes and Noble, Dining out, Miniature golf
Switch to "Dining in," and you're relatively on-target.
But enough about her.
On to the site's description of itself:

Learn more about all types of lifestyles. Meet guys from Jerusalem, London, Sao Paolo, or Johannesburg. Chat with girls from Milan, Paris, Sydney, or Montreal, or the girl next door you never had the guts to ask out...
Yeah, 'cause that guy who needs to go online to meet the girl next door is a big winner. The ability to promote stalking shouldn't be a major selling point of any dating site.
They've got a heavy-duty Terms and Conditions page...must've hired a lawyer or something.
A reader who's already registered tells me that you get the following message:
"While at present all usage of is free, we do want to let you know that we will be converting to a pay model over the next few months."
While I do think that a pay model is both a necessity and a good idea, they'll be better off using a pay-as-you-go with "collect call" capability method than the subscription service of JDate. I recently signed up for JDate, and was hoping to write about the various responses I got when I switched my profile this or that way, but I had to pay a monthly fee if I wanted to read the messages that people sent me; that model will never make sense, unless you're only targeting desperate people.
FutureSimchas could be the killer app for online Jewish dating; Frumster's too weak and JDate's too sketchy. FutureSimchas has a strong brand to build on and their tech team is pretty good, too. It's likely that FutureSimchas will lead to the mainstreaming of J-Dating that I predicted for 2004.
UPDATE: So the registered reader sends in their charges:
The following will be our fee schedule, a significant discount when compared with other sites:
1 Month $ 10
3 Months $ 24
6 Months $ 36
Okay, so it's subscription, and that sucks; significantly, it's cheap, so it sucks less. On one level, the subscription model for J-dating makes some sense, since most of them are trying to find one life-long relationship rather than a hodgepodge of short-term relationships or hookups (admittedly, there probably are a ton looking for the former, and while there are many looking for the latter, they're not necessarily looking for fellow Jews), but what if someone sets up a profile and then gets a response after letting their membership lapse? Again, it just doesn't make sense to make people pay for messages they've been sent -- it weeds out the desirable people.
Significantly, in addition, a subscription model doesn't weed out the undesirables -- in fact, it only encourages them to send more responses to make the most of their paid period. So they're charging the person who would be receiving many responses but responding to few the same amount as they're charging someone who just sends out lots of desperate shots in the dark; it doesn't make sense. Let free markets rule, and let beautiful people find each other while the rabble commingles.
ALSO: I just noticed that someone got to Protocols by clicking on a link in their OnlySimchas. Maybe they'll read this and comment.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:46 PM |

Prof. Haym Soloveitchik in refusing to speak to me as a reporter: "Your job is to simplify and my job is to find nuance."

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 12:18 PM |

Hey, Tikvat Yisrael is opening this weekend; do any of our readers plan to go?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:32 AM |

Here's what I'm wondering about the Yassin assassination: is this meant to be an example of what we'll see immediately before Sharon's unilateral withdrawal, or a sign of things to come after that withdrawal?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:20 AM |

Gerald Blidstein delivers his paper while Lawrence Schiffman, Haym Soloveitchik and Marc Shapiro look on.
Yesterday's sessions of the Maimonides conference were pretty interesting. Gerald Blidstein delivered a paper on Maimonides' view of rabbinic authority and the transmission of that authority; Haym Soloveitchik addressed the unusual organization of Sabbath laws in Mishneh Torah, asserting that the reasoning for that organization was owing to a desire to polemicize against the Karaites; Marc Shapiro noted the existence of certain erroneous citations of scripture in Maimonides' work, and the likelihood that that might create for Maimondes' having made similar errors in citation -- or failure to cite -- talmudic passages and subsequent rabbinic works.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 10:08 AM |

Sunday, March 21, 2004  

So, yeah, Yasser Arafat saw the film. But did he really say it wasn't anti-Semitic? This Reuters story uses only slightly-better sourcing than Peggy Noonan did for her Papal claim; for the reporter's sake, one hopes the conclusion will be that Reuters got the story more than slightly-better in the correctness department.
Jarvis catches this angle in JPost:

Nabil Abu Rudeneh, one of Arafat's closest advisers, watched the film along with the veteran Palestinian leader and a group of American and European Christians and Palestinian Muslim clerics.
"The Palestinians are still daily being exposed to the kind of pain Jesus was exposed to during his crucifixion," Abu Rudeneh said in a statement after he viewed the movie.
Rudeneh obviously didn't think through the practical ramifications of the theological implications he brings to the table: Okay, so maybe the Jews killed the Palestinians, but we have a sneaking suspicion that they really just handed them over to the Romans. Meantime, regardless of what happened, we're all responsible for Palestinian suffering, which is necessary for us to understand the impact of our sinning.
Yeah, I don't think Rudeneh had that in mind.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:27 PM |

Sorry for the light blogging today; I'd meant to be online during the Maimonides conference, but left my PCMCIA USB port card at home, and the Center for Jewish History, much like every Jewish organization everywhere, doesn't have WiFi.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:18 PM |

So the Maimonides conference is today, and one astute reader asked me over IM the other day, "Is there any news there?" Certainly, I think so, and I've got some thoughts about what it is. But what about you -- what do you think is the "news" of the conference and why?

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 11:05 AM |


10:30 a.m. -- Hadassah Zionist Women's Organization launches an oral history project, recording stories in the soundproof StoryCorps Booth; graybar passage, Grand Central Terminal.
It's not listed on their news page, but it'd be interesting to know what this is about.
Also today:
4 p.m. -- Mameloshen Forever presents a youth basketball tournament and gefilte fish eating contest; Manhattan Beach Jewish center, 60 West End Ave., Brooklyn
Basketball and lots and lots of gefilte fish; when I was a kid, something like this would be a contest to see who could last the longest without puking.
Also today is the beginning of the Maimonides conference.

posted by Steven I. Weiss | 8:37 AM |
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