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As China And Iran Hunt For Dissidents In The US, The FBI Is Racing To Counter The Threat

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Washington — After a student leader from the historic Tiananmen Square demonstrations ran for Congress in New York in 2022, a Chinese intelligence operator quickly hired a private investigator to look for any mistresses or tax issues that could jeopardize the candidate’s candidacy, according to prosecutors.

“In the end,” the operative warned his contact, “violence would be fine too.”

Tehran was listening as an Iranian journalist and activist in exile in the United States spoke out against Iran’s human rights violations. According to the Justice Department, members of an Eastern European organized crime group surveyed her Brooklyn home and planned to assassinate her in a murder-for-hire scheme directed from Iran. The attempt was disrupted, and criminal charges were filed.

The instances highlight the extraordinary efforts taken by countries such as China and Iran to intimidate, harass and even plot attacks on political opponents and activists in the United States. They demonstrate the alarming effects that geopolitical tensions may have for regular citizens, as governments that have historically been intolerant of dissent within their borders are increasingly casting a wary eye on those who cry out thousands of kilometers away.

“We’re not living in fear or paranoia, but the reality is very clear: the Islamic Republic wants us dead, and we have to look over our shoulder every day,” Iranian journalist Masih Alinejad stated in an interview.

The Justice Department has taken note of the matter, charging dozens of defendants with acts of global repression during the last five years. Senior FBI officials told The Associated Press that the tactics have become more sophisticated, including the use of proxies such as private investigators and organized crime leaders, and that countries are more willing to cross “serious red lines” ranging from harassment to violence to project power abroad and suppress dissent.

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AP News – VOR News Image

As China And Iran Hunt For Dissidents In The US, The FBI Is Racing To Counter The Threat

Foreign adversaries are increasingly prioritizing well-funded intimidation campaigns for their intelligence services, and more countries — including some not traditionally hostile to the United States — have targeted critics in America and elsewhere in the West, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss their investigations.

The Justice Department, for example, reported last November a foiled conspiracy to assassinate a Sikh activist in New York, which officials said was ordered by an Indian government official. Rwanda kidnapped Paul Rusesabagina of “Hotel Rwanda” fame from Texas and returned him to the country before releasing him, while Saudi Arabia has persecuted dissidents online and in person, according to the FBI.

“This is a huge priority for us,” said Assistant Attorney General Matthew Olsen, the Justice Department’s top national security officer, citing an “alarming rise” in government-directed harassment.

He stated that the prosecutions are intended not just to hold harassers accountable but also to convey that the actions are “unacceptable from the perspective of United States sovereignty and defending American values — values around free expression and free association.”

Other countries have witnessed a rise in incidents.

According to an April Reporters Without Borders investigation, London is a “hotspot” for Iranian attacks on Persian-language broadcasters, with British counterterrorism police probing a one-month-old attack on an Iranian television presenter outside his London home. Despite Moscow’s protestations, harassment and attacks on Russians in the United Kingdom and elsewhere in Europe, including a journalist who became ill as a result of a suspected poisoning in Germany, have long been blamed on Russian intelligence agents.

Inside the United States, the trend is exacerbated by a deteriorating relationship with Iran and tensions with China over issues ranging from trade and intellectual property theft to electoral interference. Emerging technologies such as generative AI are also expected to be used for future harassment, according to a new danger assessment from US intelligence authorities.

“Transnational repression is a manifestation of the broader conflict between authoritarian regimes and democratic countries,” Olsen added. “It’s been a consistent theme of the way the world is changing from a geopolitical standpoint over the last decade.”

According to officials and supporters, China and Iran are two primary offenders.

Emails sent to the Iranian mission at the United Nations have yet to be responded to. A representative for the Chinese Embassy in Washington denied that the country engages in the practice, stating that the government “strictly abides by international law, and fully respects the law enforcement sovereignty of other countries.”

“We resolutely oppose ‘long-arm jurisdiction,'” the statement stated.

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AP News – VOR News Image

As China And Iran Hunt For Dissidents In The US, The FBI Is Racing To Counter The Threat

However, US officials said China developed a campaign to do just that, starting “Operation Fox Hunt” to locate down Chinese expats targeted by Beijing to pressure them into returning to face charges.

A former Chinese city government official residing in New Jersey discovered a message in Chinese characters pinned to his front door that read: “If you are willing to return to the mainland and spend 10 years in prison, your wife and children will be fine.” According to a 2020 Justice Department case accusing a group of Chinese operatives and an American private investigator, “that’s the end of the matter!”

Though most defendants charged in transnational repression plans are based in their own country, arrests and prosecutions are rare; that particular case resulted in the conviction of a private investigator and two Chinese residents living in the United States last year.

Bob Fu, a Chinese American Christian pastor whose group, ChinaAid, promotes religious freedom in China, said he has faced extensive harassment for years. Large crowds of demonstrators have gathered for days at a time outside his West Texas house, arriving in well-coordinated operations that he says are related to the Chinese government.

Phony hotel reservations have been made in his name, as well as phony bomb threats to police claiming that he intends to detonate explosives. Flyers picturing him as the devil were given to neighbors. He stated that he has learned to take precautions when traveling, such as instructing his staff not to disclose his schedule in advance and that he has relocated from his home at the request of law authorities.

“I’m not feeling safe,” Fu told the Associated Press. When it comes to returning to China, where he was reared and fled more than 25 years ago as a religious refugee, he says“I may be permitted to fly back, but it will be a one-way ticket. “I am sure I am on their wanted list.”

In 2020, protesters targeted Wu Jianmin, a former student leader in China’s 1989 pro-democracy movement, outside his home in Irvine, California. The harassment lasted more than two months.

“They shouted slogans outside my home and made verbal abuses,” he added. “They paraded in the neighborhood, distributed all sorts of pictures and flyers, and put them in the neighbors’ mailboxes.”

Wu says that perpetrators of harassment plots include retired Communist Party members living in the United States, their offspring, members of Chinese organizations with deep ties to the Chinese government, and even fugitives seeking bargains with Beijing.

“The end goal is the same,” Wu remarked during an interview in Mandarin Chinese. “Their task, as assigned by the Communist Party, is to suppress overseas pro-democracy activists.”

Last year, the Justice Department charged approximately three dozen officers from China’s national police force with using social media to target dissidents in the United States, including the creation of fake accounts that shared harassing videos and comments, and arrested two men who it claims helped establish a secret police outpost in Manhattan’s Chinatown neighborhood on behalf of the Chinese government.

The year before, federal prosecutors in New York revealed several wide-ranging plans to suppress dissidents, including one to dig up dirt on a little-known and ultimately unsuccessful congressional candidate.

Other targets have included American figure skater Alysa Liu and her father, Arthur, a political refugee who, according to prosecutors, were surveilled by a man posing as an Olympics committee member and requesting passport information.

A dissident artist in California made a sculpture depicting the coronavirus with the visage of Chinese President Xi Jinping, which was similarly destroyed and burned.

“We should be under no illusion that somehow these are rogue actors or people unaffiliated with the Chinese government,” Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi, an Illinois Democrat and member of a special House committee on China, said of the Chinese agents indicted.

‘Remove his head from his torso.’

In some cases, violence is organized in response to global events.

Prosecutors in 2022 charged an Iranian spy with paying $300,000 to “eliminate” Trump administration national security adviser John Bolton in retaliation for an airstrike that killed Iran’s most powerful commander.

This year, the Justice Department charged an Iranian, identified as a drug trafficker and intelligence operative, as well as two Canadians, one a “full-patch” member of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang, in a murder-for-hire plot against two Iranians who had fled the country and were living in Maryland.

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AP News – VOR News Image

As China And Iran Hunt For Dissidents In The US, The FBI Is Racing To Counter The Threat

“We gotta erase his head from his torso,” one of the hired Canadians is accused of stating. Law enforcement stopped the threat.

Alinejad, an Iranian journalist, was targeted even before the Justice Department revealed the murder-for-hire scheme last year. In 2021, prosecutors prosecuted a gang of Iranians allegedly working for the country’s intelligence agencies with plotting to kidnap her.

Alinejad is still a renowned journalist and passionate opposition leader, and she says she intends to continue speaking out, including at a sentencing trial last year for a woman who prosecutors say unknowingly sponsored the kidnapping plot.

However, the story specifics are deeply ingrained in her consciousness. The criminal cases revealed the gravity of the threat she faced and the heinous preparations involved, such as researching how to whisk Alinejad out of New York on a military-style speedboat and transport her to Venezuela, as well as discussing lures for luring her from her home, such as asking for flowers from the garden outside.

One of the defendants in the murder-for-hire scheme was apprehended in 2022 after being discovered driving through Alinejad’s Brooklyn neighborhood with a loaded firearm and rounds of ammunition. Another defendant was extradited from the Czech Republic in February to face criminal proceedings. Two other people have been arrested.

The FBI interrupted the plot and encouraged Alinejad to relocate, which she did. But it also meant bidding goodbye to her beloved garden, which had brought her delight as she shared homegrown cucumbers and other veggies with her neighbors.

“They didn’t kill me physically, but they killed my relationship with my garden, with my neighbors,” Alinejad added.

SOURCE – (AP)

Kiara Grace is a staff writer at VORNews, a reputable online publication. Her writing focuses on technology trends, particularly in the realm of consumer electronics and software. With a keen eye for detail and a knack for breaking down complex topics, Kiara delivers insightful analyses that resonate with tech enthusiasts and casual readers alike. Her articles strike a balance between in-depth coverage and accessibility, making them a go-to resource for anyone seeking to stay informed about the latest innovations shaping our digital world.

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Taiwan Scrambles Jets And Puts Missile, Naval And Land Units On Alert Over China’s Military Drills

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TAIPEI, Taiwan — Taiwan scrambled jets and placed missile, navy, and ground forces on notice Thursday in response to Chinese military maneuvers near the self-governing island democracy, whose new president took office this week.

The Chinese military claimed its two-day operations around Taiwan were punishment for separatist forces seeking independence. Beijing claims the island is part of China’s national territory, and the People’s Liberation Army sends navy ships and warplanes into the Taiwan Strait and other areas around the island daily to wear down Taiwan’s defenses and intimidate its people, who strongly support their de facto independence

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China | AP News Image

Taiwan Scrambles Jets And Puts Missile, Naval And Land Units On Alert Over China’s Military Drills

China’s “irrational provocation has jeopardized regional peace and stability,” according to the island’s Defense Ministry. It stated that Taiwan will not seek confrontations but “will not shy away from one.”

“This pretext for conducting military exercises not only does not contribute to peace and stability across the Taiwan Strait, but also shows its hegemonic nature at heart,” said the ministry.

In his inauguration speech on Monday, Taiwanese President Lai Ching-te urged Beijing to end its military intimidation and promised to “neither yield nor provoke” the mainland Communist Party leadership.

“Faced with external challenges and threats, we will continue to uphold the values of freedom and democracy,” Lai told sailors and top security officials Thursday while visiting a naval facility in Taoyuan, just south of Taipei.

While not directly referring to China’s actions, he stated that international society was concerned about Taiwan’s security. This is likely due to its critical role in supply chains for the most advanced computer chips and its democratic bulwark against Chinese attempts to assert control over the Asia-Pacific.

Lai has stated that he seeks engagement with Beijing while retaining Taiwan’s existing status and avoiding disputes that may involve the island’s principal ally, the United States, and other regional partners such as Japan and Australia

The main opposition, the Nationalist Party, widely regarded as pro-China, also criticized Beijing’s activities.

The Nationalists, sometimes called the KMT, “the opposite side of the (Taiwan Strait) to exercise restraint, cease unnecessary maneuvers, avoid a conflict in the Taiwan Strait and maintain the cherish the results of peace and development between the sides.

Thursday’s tensions arose amid protests outside Taiwan’s legislature over plans by the Nationalists and their allies to utilize their small majority to ram through legislation that might alter military expenditures and critical judicial and administrative appointments.

The People’s Liberation Army’s Eastern Theater Command stated on its official Weibo account that the land, navy, and air exercises around Taiwan are intended to test PLA units’ navy and air capabilities and joint strike abilities to hit targets and take control of the battlefield.

“This is also a powerful punishment for the separatist forces seeking ‘independence’ and a serious warning to external forces for interference and provocation,” stated the statement.

The PLA also released a map of the anticipated training region, which includes five distinct spots around Taiwan’s main island and neighboring islands, such as Matsu and Kinmen, which are closer to the Chinese mainland than Taiwan.

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China | AP news Image

Taiwan Scrambles Jets And Puts Missile, Naval And Land Units On Alert Over China’s Military Drills

In a statement, China’s coast guard also said that it had organized a fleet to conduct law enforcement drills around two islands near the Taiwanese-controlled island groupings of Kinmen and Matsu, which are just off the Chinese coast.

While China has labeled the exercises as retribution for Taiwan’s election results, the Democratic Progressive Party has now dominated the island’s administration for more than a decade, despite the pro-China Nationalist Party gaining a one-seat majority in parliament

Speaking in Australia, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Stephen Sklenka, the deputy commander of the United States Indo-Pacific Command, urged Asia-Pacific nations to criticize China’s military exercises.

“There’s no surprise whenever there’s an action that highlights Taiwan in the international sphere, the Chinese feel compelled to make some kind of form of statement,” Sklenka told the National Press Club of Australia in Canberra, referring to Monday’s presidential inauguration.

“Just because we expect that behavior doesn’t mean we shouldn’t denounce it, and we must do it openly. And it must come not only from us, but also, I believe, from other nations in the region. It’s one thing for the US to denounce China, but I feel it has a considerably greater impact when it comes from countries in this region,” Sklenka remarked.

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China | AP News Image

Taiwan Scrambles Jets And Puts Missile, Naval And Land Units On Alert Over China’s Military Drills

While visiting the United States, Japan’s top ambassador declared that Japan and Taiwan share values and principles such as freedom, democracy, basic rights, and the rule of law.

“(Taiwan) is an extremely important partner with whom we have close economic relations and people exchanges, as well as a precious friend,” Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa told reporters in Washington after meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

She stated that the two ministers discussed Taiwan and the significance of keeping the Taiwan Strait, one of the world’s most significant maritime routes, peaceful.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Harvard Holding Commencement After Weekslong Pro-Palestinian Encampment Protest

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Harvard | Harvard.com Image

CAMBRIDGE, Massachusetts – Harvard University planned to host its commencement ceremony on Thursday, following a weeks-long pro-Palestinian encampment that closed off Harvard Yard to save individuals with university links and heightened campus tensions.

Those tensions were heightened on Wednesday when school authorities revealed that 13 Harvard students who participated in the encampment would not be permitted to graduate alongside their classmates.

Those in the encampment demanded a cease-fire in Gaza and Harvard’s divestment from firms that support the war.

Also on Thursday, Northwestern and Rutgers University presidents are scheduled to speak before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce on concessions they made to pro-Palestinian protesters to cease campus rallies. The Chancellor of the University of California, Los Angeles, was also due to attend the most recent hearings looking into how universities have responded to the protests and charges of antisemitism.

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Harvard | AP News Image

Harvard Holding Commencement After Weekslong Pro-Palestinian Encampment Protest

The decision by the school’s top governing board comes after faculty members recommended on Monday that the 13 students be allowed to graduate despite their participation in the encampment.

However, Harvard’s governing board, the Harvard Corporation, stated that each 13 had been determined to have violated university standards during the camping protest.

“In coming to this determination, we note that the express provisions of the Harvard College Student Handbook state that students who are not in good standing are not eligible for degrees,” the company stated in a written statement.

The statement did not rule out the possibility of an appeals procedure, stating that the corporation knows “that the inability to graduate is consequential for students and their families” and supports the Faculty of Arts and Sciences’ goal to accelerate the examination of appeal requests.

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Harvard | The Forward Image

Harvard Holding Commencement After Weekslong Pro-Palestinian Encampment Protest

“We care deeply about every member of our community — students, faculty, staff, researchers, and alumni — and we have chosen a path forward that accords with our responsibilities and reaffirms a process for our students to receive prompt and fair review,” said the statement.

Protesters packed up their things and departed a pro-Palestinian campsite at Drexel University in Philadelphia on Thursday after the school announced a decision to have police clear the area

Supporters of the students said that the decision not to allow them to earn degrees at commencement violated a May 14 agreement between interim President Alan Garber and the Harvard Out of Occupied Palestine alliance, which would have allowed them to graduate.

Protesters opposing Israel’s war with Hamas willingly demolished their tents after university administrators agreed to hear their concerns over the endowment, bringing a peaceful end to the types of demonstrations that were broken up by police on other campuses.

The group issued a statement late Wednesday, claiming that the decision jeopardizes the 13 students’ post-graduate careers.

“By rejecting a democratic faculty vote, the Corporation has proved itself to be a wholly illegitimate body, and Garber an illegitimate president, accountable to no one at the university,” claimed the organization.

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Harvard | Harvard Crimson Image

Harvard Holding Commencement After Weekslong Pro-Palestinian Encampment Protest

“Today’s actions have plunged the university even further into a crisis of legitimacy and governance, which will have major repercussions for Harvard in the coming months and years,” claimed the organization.

Supporters of the protestors planned a vigil outside Harvard Yard on Thursday to support the 13 and urge for a cease-fire in Gaza.

Protesters packed up their things and departed a pro-Palestinian campsite at Drexel University in Philadelphia on Thursday after the school announced a decision to have police clear the area. A wave of pro-Palestinian tent encampments on college campuses has resulted in over 3,000 arrests nationally.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Biden Is Honoring Kenya With State Visit As The East African Nation Prepares To Send Police To Haiti

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Biden | NBC Image

Washington — President Joe Biden is greeting Kenyan President William Ruto to the White House for a three-day state visit as the East African country prepares to send troops to Haiti as part of a United Nations-led effort to calm a deteriorating security situation in the Caribbean.

Some 1,000 Kenyan police personnel will soon arrive in Haiti as part of a multilateral security support operation aimed at reducing gang violence. Other countries anticipated to assist the Kenyan military include the Bahamas, Barbados, Benin, Chad, and Bangladesh.

For years, the United States has worked with Kenya on counterterrorism initiatives in Africa, notably the fight against the extremist group al-Shabab. Kenya has joined the Ukraine Defense Contact Group and an international maritime task force established by the Biden administration in December in response to Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

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Biden | AP News Image

Biden Is Honoring Kenya With State Visit As The East African Nation Prepares To Send Police To Haiti

A top Biden administration official praised Ruto’s decision to send police personnel to Haiti, calling it an “unprecedented undertaking” and demonstrating Kenya’s international leadership.

Kenya is the first African nation to have a state visit from the United States since 2008.

“This is a deep and broad partnership,” White House principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said last week. He said it begins with combatting terrorism in Kenya’s region of Africa and progresses to “becoming a net security provider in our own hemisphere” with the upcoming deployment to Haiti.

The state visit begins with the two leaders meeting with CEOs at the White House in the afternoon. The goal is to increase relations between the American and Kenyan IT industries. The White House predicts that Teneo, Alphabet, and Semiconductor Technologies Limited executives will attend.

On Thursday, Biden and Ruto will hold formal talks and a joint press conference before attending a state dinner. Ruto is also scheduled to attend a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event with Vice President Kamala Harris this Friday.

Ruto began his journey to the United States in Atlanta, where he visited The King Center, met NBA icon Shaquille O’Neal, and dropped by Tyler Perry Studios.

The United States and Kenya are commemorating their 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations. According to White House officials, the leaders’ agenda will include trade and investment, technological innovation, climate and sustainable energy, as well as health and security.

Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell stated that the two countries would make “substantial commitments” to strengthen Kenya’s technical industry. Kenya hosts Google and Microsoft headquarters and established itself as East Africa’s technology hub, the Silicon Savannah.

In December 2022, Biden gathered dozens of African leaders in Washington to make the case that the United States was “all in” on Africa’s future, promising billions of dollars in government and private investment in health, infrastructure, business, and technology. The Democrat also promised to visit Sub-Saharan Africa in 2023.

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Biden | AP news Image

Biden Is Honoring Kenya With State Visit As The East African Nation Prepares To Send Police To Haiti

But other issues got in the way last year, notably the Israel-Hamas conflict and Biden’s lengthy battle with Republicans to renew financing for Ukraine’s war with Russia. Biden’s projected journey to Africa never occurred.

All the while, Russia has attempted to strengthen its economic and military influence in Africa. The junta in the West African nation recently ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Niger, which should be complete by mid-September. Meanwhile, Russia sent military trainers to Niger.

In addition, the United States needs to catch up to rival China in terms of investment in Africa, which has emerged as a vital battleground in the rivalry between great powers.

Biden and his advisers foresee fierce economic competition with Beijing in Africa but have attempted to argue that Washington is a far more stable partner in the long run

To that purpose, Biden took steps early in his presidency to prioritize Africa over his predecessors, including hosting over 50 leaders for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Conference in December 2022. However, analysts think the administration’s involvement has waned since the summit.

Cameron Hudson, a senior scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Africa Program, highlighted that Biden has only hosted one African leader, Angola President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, for meetings at the White House since the conference.

“This visit today feels a bit like a fig leaf, not just for the Kenyans but for Africa in general, and a kind of a placeholder for the administration to say: All of those things that we said early on in the administration, they all remain true,” Hudson stated.

According to Macharia Munene, a professor of international relations at the United States International University in Africa, Ruto hopes to use the visit to boost his international reputation. He feels that deploying Kenyan police to Haiti will help him achieve that aim.

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Biden | AP news Image

Biden Is Honoring Kenya With State Visit As The East African Nation Prepares To Send Police To Haiti

“Ruto wishes to be known as the African leader, particularly in the West. “And this kind of recognition fuels that desire,” Munene explained.

Ruto has stated that Kenya’s mission to Haiti aims to “formulate actionable strategies that will lead to long-term solutions” in the poorest Western Hemisphere country. For decades, Haiti has suffered from poverty, political instability, and natural calamities. The United States has agreed to offer direct financial assistance to the United Nations-backed mission and training, logistics, and material support.

However, Ruto’s decision to involve Kenyan police in a crisis hundreds of miles abroad has sparked criticism in Nairobi, including legal challenges to prevent police troops from being deployed.

International intervention in Haiti has a complex history. A sexual abuse scandal and the arrival of cholera, which claimed over 10,000 lives, hindered a U.N.-approved stabilization operation in Haiti that started in June 2004. The mission concluded in October 2017.

SOURCE – (AP)

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