Sunday, May 30, 2010

Morocco in the News: May 24th - 31st

Doctors, Dentists Provide Medical Care in Morocco.
By Staff Sergeant Brock Jones  / Utah National Guard
AGADIR, Morocco, 
May 24, 2010 — Moroccan medical personnel and their U.S. counterparts from the Utah Air National Guard's 151st Expeditionary Medical Group began the medical portion of humanitarian civil assistance missions of Exercise African Lion 2010 in the southern Moroccan town of Manizla, May 18, 2010.

Men, women and children of the village in the foothills of the Atlas Mountains waited in the courtyard of the Mohamed El-Alem School for their turn to be examined and treated by Moroccan and U.S. medical personnel who had set up temporary medical clinics in the surrounding school rooms.

Air Force Colonel Paul Byrd of American Fork, Utah, commander of the 151st EMG, said approximately 1,500 patients were seen by doctors and dentists on the first day of the joint Moroccan-U.S. operation in which medical professionals from both countries shared workspace, tools, and knowledge to help the local residents.

In addition to Manizla, Moroccan and U.S. medical professionals are scheduled to visit four more towns in the Taroudant region during African Lion 2010, all chosen by the Moroccan government.

When choosing towns for medical humanitarian civil assistance activities, the Moroccan government takes a number of things into consideration, said Byrd.

"The towns are chosen by the Moroccan Ministry of Health," he said. "They identify where the critical needs are, based on certain incident rates of different diseases and so forth, as well as how much medical care has been able to be provided in that area."

The Moroccan and U.S. healthcare team provides medical treatment to as many people as possible in one day. At Manizla, townspeople stood in line for hours outside the school's gates to be seen by doctors specializing in everything from general health to pediatrics to obstetrics/gynecology to ophthalmology.

"The people are glad you have come," said Aloukas Khalid, a resident of the Manizla area who had come with his cousin.

Though the primary reason for the event, healthcare was not the only service provided by the medical personnel. Many doctors and nurses, when not busy helping patients, took it upon themselves to talk to and even entertain the people waiting to be seen. Lieutenant Colonel Ron Ulberg, a nurse with the 151st EMG, wandered around the schoolyard putting temporary cartoon tattoos on the hands of waiting children and handing out stuffed animals and candy.

"I hope our being here gives them (the local Moroccans) the opportunity to see Americans at work," said Ulberg, who has been to Morocco four times, three of which were as a member of the Humanitarian Civil Assistance medical team during previous African Lion exercises. "It seems like the foreign concept of America isn't always what we think it is, so this gives Moroccans the chance to see that we're really all alike."

Ulberg, a critical care nurse by trade, was assigned to work in pediatrics for this year's medical HCA.

"I have 15 grandkids, so maybe that qualifies me for the job," he said, smiling.

Every Manizla resident who left the schoolyard better than they arrived provided a boost to the doctors, nurses and other medical personnel of the joint Moroccan-U.S. medical team, giving them a surge of energy that will help them in the remaining days. Although they would like to help everyone in the regions they will visit during African Lion 2010, the goal of the Airmen of the 151st EMG is to help as many as they possibly can during their short stay in Morocco.

"We're anxious to capitalize on the opportunity to provide as much assistance as we can," said Byrd.

Exercise AFRICAN LION is a U.S. Africa Command (AFRICOM)-sponsored exercise that includes various types of military training including command post, live-fire training, peacekeeping operations, disaster response training, intelligence capacity building seminar, aerial refueling / low level flight training as well as a medical, dental, and veterinarian assistance projects and exercise related construction that runs concurrent with the training.

MOSTAFA CHTAINI Friday, May 28 2010

Washington / Morocco Board News Service -  Through the Green Plan and Millennium Challenge Account, Morocco is currently redoubling its efforts to introduce modern, sustainable agricultural methods and high-value crops, which are expected to increase agricultural productivity and income, particularly for small farms and reduce poverty.

The Kingdom of Morocco is entirely committed to increasing rural income through agricultural development.   Moroccans from all walks of life from the actual Minister of Agriculture on down who recognize the importance of conquering rural poverty, know that it will take time and money, and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices.

Because of the cultural foundation of the country, no Moroccan wants to see other Moroccans living in substandard conditions.  Everyone wants to do something about poverty.  Moroccans who have been involved in a sincere, dedicated way to reduce rural poverty

are very much aware of its dehumanizing impact on the poor.  They are silently confronting poverty in all its aspects: 

•    Absolute Poverty
•    Monetary Poverty
•    Extreme Poverty
•    General Poverty
•    Relative Poverty
•    Human Poverty

These Moroccans are aware that the impact of rural poverty is greatest on those younger than 15 years of age, girls, and female widowers.

To date, the Kingdom has made many successful achievements in its efforts to modernize agriculture and reduce rural poverty, including the following:

•    Nearly 100 dams constructed to help provide hydroelectric power     and water, potable and for irrigation;
•    1.5 million hectares of irrigated land;
•    Modern agricultural education and training programs;
•    Progress in rural electrification;
•    Progress in rural literacy, health services, and education;
•    Reduction in infant and mother mortality;
•    Creation of rural cooperatives and associations;
•    Progress in the diffusion and application of scientific research;
•    Construction of a modern highway system;
•    Establishment of schools of agricultural and veterinary science and     research institutes.
•    Establishment of agricultural training schools

Morocco is at the take-off stage in terms of achieving its agricultural modernization goals.  In addition to the achievements noted above, it has the institutional infrastructure in place to advance this agricultural modernization process and create wealth while reducing poverty. 

Since Morocco’s independence in 1956, The Kingdom of Morocco implemented agrarian reform and land redistribution to poor rural families.  Lately, the Kingdom has reinforced the institutional infrastructure to enhance the viability of small family farms through the following programs:


Morocco’s office of rural development known as the Office Regional de Mise en Valeur Agricole (ORMVA) is organized in nine regional offices to introduce techniques and methods of agricultural modernization, to encourage cash crop production through the use of irrigation, and to organize small farmers into production cooperatives.  The ORMVA manages irrigation water in their regions and also helps poor farmers develop small income-producing projects.


The National Initiative for Human Development (Initiative Nationale pour le Developpement Humain) (INDH) has contracted with 32 different entities of which 14 are consulting firms specialized in development. Many partners and donor countries have supported the INDH and joint efforts are mobilized to combat poverty in 403 rural communes, representing 3.75 million rural poor.  The World Bank and donor countries stipulate the following benchmark: development of national expertise and evaluation follow-up.

3. ADA and the Green Plan

The Agency for Agricultural Development (Agence de Developpement Agricole) (ADA) manages the Moroccan Green Plan and the public land leasing initiatives. These actions and their participants seek to modernize Moroccan agriculture in a sustained development and capacity-building strategy.  This is to be accomplished through public-private programs to expand the cultivation of export-demand-driven high-value products.  The program will apply an aggregation strategy to develop capabilities of small farms and rural families to produce and market high-value crops and thereby increase their income.  The program intends to reduce the acreage for cereals and increase the production of fruit trees and high-value export crops.

4. APP and the MCA

The Agency for Partnership for Progress (APP) manages the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA), which has the mission of providing knowledge and building capacity through its fruit tree development program focused on olives, almonds, dates, and figs.  APP intends to accomplish this mission through ensuring an adequate balance in the aggregation process between farmers, large and small, including poor rural farmers.  The APP, operating within limits of time and funding, is contracting with local and international development consulting firms of experts to accomplish its mission.

These four elements of Morocco’s institutional infrastructure are in place to facilitate the transformation of agriculture to a modernized, sustainable state.

Morocco’s Agricultural Development Agency (ADA) and Agency for Partnership for Progress (APP), The National Initiative for Human Development (INDH) have contracted with development consulting groups to provide technical assistance in the production of selected crops under the Green Plan and the Millennium Challenge Account and in bringing capacity building to the 403 poor rural communes.  The agricultural plans call for aggregation on the part of large farms to support small farms. Bluntly speaking, it calls on the rich farmers to uplift the poor farmers. The only place where this dichotomy of large farmers uplifting small farmers became reality is the State of California in the United States.

To help create wealth for Morocco’s large and small farmers in coordination with aggregation programs, the anti poverty Moroccans as “agents of change” are sincerely dedicated to working directly with the ADA and the APP and the INDH, to support the Kingdom’s efforts, and those of the contractors, by implementing  strategies and extension service components that have proven themselves to be so successful and by applying common benchmarks to projects, building extension service capacity, enhancing the success of aggregation and marketing strategies, providing technical assistance and training to fill gaps in coverage, and ensuring follow-up in transparency and accountability.

The objective is that no longer is the country’s agricultural development, Morocco’s main vocation, going to be driven by business as usual. Morocco’s battle against poverty is on the move and you better get out if you are in the way. The Kingdom of Morocco has been aware of the fact that the wealth of Morocco is not its phosphate or its wealthy citizens involved in light industry and manufacturing, or its landlords, or its labor force, or its universities; the wealth of the Kingdom is the character of its people: The Moroccan people who are docile, yet hard working, poor, yet dignified, unhappy, yet jovial, provoked, yet forgiving, with the majority of its youth full of love, affection, solidarity and understanding and who has evolved in the last 20 years to be knowledgeable and task driven. 

Mark my words, the Kingdom’s program for sustainable agricultural development modernization will bridge the gap between rural and urban disparities by providing jobs and income in the rural area creating new poles of growth out of the poor communes and adequately planned small towns out of villages and Souks while eliminating urban poverty in shanty towns and while saving the nature of the Kingdom’ soul: its identity.  

AUTHOR: Mr. Motapha Chtaini spent almost 50 years living in the US with frequent return trips to Morocco.  During this 50 years, He has earned two Master's degrees , one in Urban Studies and one in City Planning.  He taught Urban Studies and City Planning at the University level for 20 years and served as Washington Bureau Chief of the Moroccan News Agency ( Maghreb Arabe Presse) for 20 years. He is  currently consulting with the largest citrus company in the world, Sunkist, to export Moroccan citrus worldwide. These 50 years in academia, journalism, and business have provided Mr. Chtaini  with a rich experience and a perspective that enables him to contribute his analysis on current events.

Morocco holds conference on future of abortion
By Mohamed Chakir (AFP) –
RABAT — Medical experts were joined Friday by jurists, religious leaders and politicians in a first major bid to discuss what to do about clandestine abortions and unwanted pregnancies in Morocco.
"Medical experts, religious figures, jurists and politicians of all sorts are participating," said Chakif Chraibi, a professor of obstetric gynaecology and president of the Moroccan Association to Combat Clandestine Abortion (AMLAC), said on the sidelines of the two-day congress.
"This is a first!" for the North African kingdom, where abortion is mostly banned except in cases where the mother's life is at risk, Chraibi said of the conference.
Despite the ban, between 600 and 800 abortions are carried out every day with medical care in Morocco while 200 others take place on the back streets, according to AMLAC figures.
When these figures were confirmed by Morocco's Family Planning Association last year, there was a public outcry.
More than 50 percent of these abortions concern married women and most are carried out among the poorest of people, according to AMLAC figures.
Article 449 of the Moroccan penal code provides for jail terms of between six months and two years against both "the abortionist and the woman who has the abortion, as well as intermediaries, except when it is a matter of saving the health or the life of the mother."
But "in practice, abortion is tolerated in Morocco" and most gynaecologists practise it, a participant in the congress said.
Medical experts, religious figures and politicians, notably the leaders of the Islamist Party of Justice and Development (PJD) are taking part in the congress in Rabat where "recommendations will be drawn up", according to the organisers.
"We're going to draw up recommendations which will then be sent on to the parliament, to the general secretariat of the government, and we are even thinking of sending a letter" to the royal palace, Chraibi said.
"In his role as commander of the faithful, it is he (King Mohammed VI) who can decide on this type of question," he added.
AMLAC officials said they were "not calling for the legalisation of abortion, but we would like the law to authorise the voluntary interruption of pregnancy in certain cases such as rape, incest, malformations of the foetus and psychiatric pathologies."
Many Moroccan women's rights groups are lobbying parliament for changes to the law in cases of incest or rape.
Morocco counted 28.8 million land phone, mobile users in 2009, official data.
Hyderabad (India) - There were around 28.8 million land phone and mobile users in Morocco in 2009, official figures said.
    According to data included in Morocco's candidacy for the International Telecommunications Union Council's elections held in Guada la Jara (Mexico), the mobile phone network reached 25.3 million in 2009 while the number of users of land phones was estimates at 3.5 million with a coverage rate of 92.46%.
    Morocco's candidacy, presented by the Moroccan delegation in Hyderadab during the World Telecommunication Development Conference (WTDC-10), revealed that the number of internet users reached 1.2 million in 2009 while the number of internet surfers increased to 13 million up from 3.5 five years before.
    Call centres in Rabat almost quadrupled from 122 in 2004 to 415 in 2009, whereas the number of cybercafés reached 8950.
    Secretary General of the Ministry of Industry, Trade and New Technologies said the progress witnessed in the field of telecommunications and new technologies in Morocco is due to the efficiency of the legal and institutional framework launched by the Kingdom to liberalize the sector and encourage private enterprise.
   He told MAP that Morocco has set up a strategy to develop the sector dubbed "digital Morocco" which seeks to make of this field a cornerstone for human development, a source of productivity and a value added to other economic sectors.
   The "Digital Morocco 2013" strategy envisages nationwide access to high-speed internet, by 2013, bringing the administration closer to the needs of the user through an ambitious e-government programme, and encouraging the computerization of SMEs, he added.
   The election of the 46 members of the Council of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) takes place every four years, at Plenipotentiary Conferences.
From Morocco: Weddings keep you up until 6 a.m.
By Alexandra Cash  May 26, 2010,
After nearly nine months in Morocco, I was finally able to experience an extremely cultural event-a wedding.

I was invited by my best friend in town, Imane, to attend the wedding reception of her husband’s cousin. I was honored to be asked and even though I was very excited to go I knew I had to prepare myself for a long night which was ahead of me. True to all the stories the night was surely long.

I had arrived back home from traveling in mid afternoon and got in a nap because I knew I would be pulling an all nighter. I planned on going to Imane’s house at about 7pm after I taught an English class but I didn’t end up getting there until 8:30. Her house was full with family members in town for the wedding and many women primping and dressing. I was given her younger sister’s dress, called a keftan, to wear for the wedding and Imane helped me to put on some Moroccan style makeup. Black eyeliner, foundation that is way to light for your skin tone, and red blush.

We did not depart for the party until 11pm. It was in another part of town so we got a ride from Imane’s husband. Most Moroccan weddings are done in the home meaning there is typically a large tent set up outside as many houses can’t hold that amount of people. There were rugs covering the dirt we walked on and elaborate fabrics were held up by a frame of steel rods. I was wearing borrowed high-heeled shoes that were a size too big, which was difficult enough, but walking dirt made it look as if I had never worn heels in my life.

The tent was full of mostly women in some of the most intricate and detailed dresses I have ever seen. Just being a guest at a wedding means you show off your finest clothes and personal style. I was first ushered to a table which put me in perfect position to witness all the festivities  that were to come, the dancing, the singing, and watching the bride. 

It was probably one of the worst places for small children to be running around, with all the electrical cords and rugs to trip on, but there was no shortage of little ones having their fun. I was also in perfect position to cringe as the children would get themselves tangled in the videographers’s long power cord and nearly face plant into a steel pole holding up the tent. Much to my surprise the night went by without witnessing an injury. I will call in a miracle.

We sat in this place for about an hour as we all waited for the bride and groom to join us. I’m glad Imane is so understanding of me so she never made me get up and dance if I did  not want to and I also didn’t feel bad that I probably didn’t look like I was having much fun. About 70 percent of the women in attendance looked like they were sitting in a dentist’s waiting room. Adorned in gold bracelets and necklaces and colorful varieties of fabric, most of them were just mere observers of the activity going on.

The live music was very loud, continuous, and repetitive. It could have been one song on repeat for all I could tell, but it was just another one of the things that made me feel like I was in a fantasy world. The solid beat of the drums and the electric echoing of the violin inspired lots of hip shaking, arm movements, and unique moves that are always used when music is played. It’s interesting to me how each culture has such a specific way in which they move their bodies to music and the Moroccan style is one I love very much.

Finally the bride and groom came out and I felt like I was getting ready to watch a theatrical production. The brides’ first dress was all white and the groom wore a black suit. They came out surrounded by four dancers wearing gold capes who took the bride right to her silver pedestal, I will call it, were she sat and looked like the princess she seemed to be. The dancers then lifted her up, each holding one of four sides, and walked her around the tent for all to see. Then, much to my amazement, they started dancing with her in the air and I loved every minute of it. They then sat down in their gorgeously adorned  love seat where they would be for most of the night.

Now at this point posed picture after posed picture was taken and family members lined up to each have a picture with the newlyweds. Basically their only responsibility was to sit there, wear a smile, and look beautiful.

After some time the couple was escorted back into the house where the bride would change her dress for the first time. I will skip the foreshadowing and just tell you that she wore seven dresses that night, all within about a seven hour period, each one unique and interesting. With each dress change more pictures would be taken and the permanent   fake smile would be kept on the couples faces. I don’t mean to say they were not happy, but smiling for seven hours straight can get pretty old.

I knew there was a meal coming I just wasn’t sure when. I had purposefully not eaten much that day because the longer you are in Morocco the more you are able to predict situations. I knew I would be eating both chicken and beef, as well as be served tea and sweets. And I of course knew lots of pop would be involved as I have now deemed it the Moroccan champagne, because it is present at any celebration.

Two a.m. rolled around the women were in position to receive their meal. Yes I said two a.m.. I honestly can’t tell you why any of these traditions are the way they are but honestly I also couldn’t tell you why in American weddings the bride throws her bouquet at the end either. They just are what they are and even though I thought eating dinner at two a.m. was crazy I felt honored to be observing solid traditions of another culture.

There were many strikingly beautiful Moroccan women present and somehow I felt like a little girl watching in awe as they shook their hips to the beat of the drums. I got up to dance once with another friend I ran into at the wedding and she was surprised at how well I was at their style of dance. Taking a few belly dance classes helped but I’m also just good at mimicking what I see around me.

The bride and groom were such a handsome couple and, like a creeper, I really enjoyed staring at them all night long. The groom was a very handsome man but I found more enjoyment with admiring the bride who was such a beautiful woman and wore seven dresses that I probably could never dream up myself. The traditional dresses are in my eyes part of a magical fantasy that was taking place around me. It was fun to see a cultural event where nothing is simple and dressing up like a princess is completely normal.

I left the party at six a.m. with ringing ears, the desire to crash for half a day, and many memories that will be kept for a long time to come.
95-million-year-old pterosaur fossil found in Morocco. 2010-05-27
Scientists have identified a new type of pterosaur (giant flying reptile or pterodactyl) that existed about 95 million years ago.
With the help of ancient fossils unearthed in the Sahara desert, the scientists made the discovery.
According to the findings published in the online peer-reviewed scientific journal PLoS ONE on May 26th, the scientists consider the newly identified pterosaur to be the earliest example of its kind.
Unearthed in three separate pieces, the jaw bone has a total length of 344mm (13.5 inches). Each piece is well preserved, uncrushed, and unlike most other pterosaur fossils, retains its original three dimension shape.
"This pterosaur is distinguished from all others by its lance-shaped lower jaw which had no teeth and looked rather like the beak of a heron," says Nizar Ibrahim, a PhD research scholar from University College Dublin, Ireland, who led the expedition. "During the excavation, we also discovered a partial neck vertebra that probably belonged to the same animal, inferring a wing span of about six metres."
The scientists have named the new pterosaur Alanqa saharicafrom the Arabic word 'Al Anqa' meaning Phoenix, a mythological flying creature that dies in a fire and is reborn from the ashes of that fire. (ANI)
Meandering through Morocco.
Jeremy Cato / QUARZAZATE, Morocco — Globe and Mail Update Published on Wednesday, May. 26, 2010
Up ahead is a long, steep and narrow stretch of rocky trail. The left side looks better, so standing tall on the pegs, I throttle over there, away from the long, uncomfortable drop-off to my right. A wrong turn here and it’s 2,300 metres of bouncing down the side of an arid mountain dotted with pointed outcroppings.
I am, though, riding a bike well-suited for this sort of adventure touring. The BMW F800GS is something of a throwback to a time when mid-range bikes such as the Honda Africa Twin were derived from the Paris-Dakar race. That was back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, when the adventure tourer market had its birth.
BMW, naturally, had the boxer-twin GS (GS stands for Gelande Strasse in German, translated into English as Off-Road/On-Road). A favourite of that era was the R100GS Paris-Dakar. It put out 60 horsepower, had a five-speed gearbox, did 0-100 km in 5.6 seconds and weighed 250 kg. Here we are 20 years later, and the F800GS puts out 85 hp, does 0-100 km in about four seconds flat and tips the scales at a very manageable 185 kg.
The 800 is a sister bike to the mammoth R1200GS. The latter is a lot of bike for this sort of trail riding. The lighter, more agile GS is an easy ride for modestly skilled types such as yours truly
In fact, it’s perfectly suited for unpaved roads leading onto steep mountain trails filled with challenging terrain. When the going gets difficult, the knobby tires on my tester worked hard to gobble up holes and bumps, leaving me relatively unjarred standing on my pegs. For the most part, the F800GS does not jump around unpredictably, and it’s light enough to lift easily if you go down.
Interestingly, the standard seat height seems quite tall at 880 mm for this sort of riding, but after a day of bouncing over rocks, through sand and across river beds, I was glad my bike had not come with a lowering kit (850 mm). The temptation to put a foot down, what with the ground a bit nearer, might have been too much and that’s how you break an ankle. Stand tall in the pegs, work the throttle and trust the bike to climb the terrain – that’s the way to do this sort of riding, I learned the hard way.
On pavement, I found it easy enough to plant both feet on the ground, but just barely. The seat is narrow at the front and the chassis is streamlined, so only when the ground is uneven does it get tricky to plant the soles of your boots. Those of you shorter than six feet, consider the 850-mm seat option.
Most important for this sort of riding are the foot pegs. They are low enough for comfort and placed correctly for stand-up riding. The gear lever and foot brake on this 800 are ergonomically correct for off-road boots, too.
You appreciate those things when riding 250 km a day on mixed terrain, much of it unpaved or worse. I also came to appreciate the wide aluminum handlebar; it minimizes vibrations, which on some bikes can leave your hands numbed. Only a few low-frequency vibrations come through.
Overall, the handlebar provides excellent control. The turning radius is tight, which is good for slow-speed manoeuvres, tight gravelly corners and nasty, steep hairpins – all of which I encountered during the ride.
As for power, the 798-cc parallel twin engine comes from the F800S. Smooth, linear torque really is important at low and moderate speeds and that is mostly what you get here. The fuel-injected, twin-cylinder engine produces a maximum 85 hp at 7,500 rpm and 61.2 lb-ft of torque at 5,750 rpm.
Occasionally, I was challenged to find the right gear ratio to get the power I needed for tricky terrain – especially oddball stuff, the really steep, rutted and off-camber stretches. But 85 horses are more than enough, given the relatively light weight. Still, the F800GS has a chain final drive, so if you’re clever or ambitious, some sprocket modifications can help you change some of the performance characteristics.
That brings us to engine cooling. Riding kilometre after kilometre in first and second gear, sometimes third, can really cause a bike engine to heat up. To keep temperatures down, BMW’s engineers have installed a wide radiator and placed the cylinders in a way to improve lubrication.
The long suspension travel (230 mm up front, 215 mm at the rear) is just the ticket for dual-purpose riding – not too much, not too little. As for paved road handling, the F800GS is very stable.
Stopping power is one area where this bike shines. The F800GS has a 300-mm floating disc up front, and a 265-mm disc at the rear. Antilock braking is optional and not really wanted in off-road conditions, anyway. Point is, the brakes are very strong and wonderfully easy to modulate.
My tester had ABS, so I turned it off by pushing the ABS button while the bike is in neutral and until the ABS warning light stopped blinking. Unfortunately, you need to do the same thing again and again each time the ignition is turned off. However, on slippery and unfamiliar roads, ABS can keep you from sliding and that’s a good thing.
All in all, the F800GS is a very good long-range touring bike. The fairing doesn’t offer much protection from the wind, but it does minimize headshake and buffeting when you’re wearing a big helmet. I am told a taller touring screen is available, but it’s not what you want if you’re really into dual-purpose riding.
I suppose this bike could have a bit more power or at least the three lower gears could be lower still for more punch. But the most glaring downside: the seat. It’s well proportioned, but hard. Hours in the saddle can get downright painful.
As a whole, I like this package. It’s light and pretty agile and given that over a span of four days I dropped or crashed my tester seven times in the off-roading, it seems pretty darn durable, too.
Despite everything, it never failed to start and keep going.

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