Refutation of the disinformation about Monica Pignotti

Archive for December, 2010

The Blind Stupidity of Google Search Engines and The National Enquirer

Come on people, it’s just a computer program and in my opinion, not such a good one at that because Google searches all too often, produce unreliable information. No offense intended personally to any of the individuals who are programmers for Google  — I have known a few and they are very bright individuals — but something really needs to be done because all too often, a Google search on a person’s name is not an accurate representation of who they are (which also points to the flaws in critical thinking of people who make such an assumption that it is). More and more people who have even minimal critical thinking skills are coming to understand that Google is not a reliable source for information and to really find out information about someone, sources of whatever comes up, need to be carefully and critically examined. Anyone can post anything on the internet about anyone and if they have a bit of technical knowledge and know how to Google bomb or if someone is a critic of certain pseudoscientific practices, the blind stupidity of the Google search engine will make these ads for practices come up with the person’s name. Anti-cult activists have been aware of this for quite awhile now. The reason these ads come up and not ads for more credible sources is that often, these pseudoscientific practices aggressively advertise on the internet whereas the more credible sources most often do not buy so many Google ads, if any. Academics and  clinicians who already have busy, successful practices often see no need for aggressive ad campaigns because they have busy practices with long waiting lists simply through word of mouth and do minimal to no advertising.

Perhaps this is why attorney John Dozier, co-author (with Sue Scheff) of the book, The Google Bomb has compared Google to The National Enquirer. Virtually anyone can post anything about someone and Google does not discriminate as to whether it is backed up by any evidence. Dozier stated:

I can see the day when Google will be the National Enquirer of the online world. And ironically, it will be by the vote of each of you. The online society will have voted to leave for greener pastures, tired of the trash Google presents as authoritative (p. 221).

Dozier went on to explain that better search programs will be developed. I highly recommend this book to anyone who has been victimized by an online smear campaign.

Ironically, what’s happening lately is that people, to defend themselves from the libel and defamation that comes up on Google searches that Google will not remove without a court order and since most people cannot afford to hire teams of lawyers to deal with this, is that people are getting Google alerts on their names and doing their own searches in order to defend themselves and this gives even more hits and business to Google. I would bet this is temporary, though, until a competitor steps in and creates a better, more reliable search engine.

So Google, get with it and fix your search program so it does not misrepresent people, or your competitors will do it for you and Dozier’s prediction will come true. In my opinion and experience, for critical thinkers, it already has. In the meantime, smart people or perhaps I should say people that have at least minimum levels of intelligence and critical thinking skills, do not jump to unwarranted conclusions about a person based upon Google ads or what comes up on Google searches.

Until this search engine reliability problem gets corrected, which could be years, I highly recommend people read books like The Google Bomb for things they can do to minimize the damage.

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Is it hypocritical to use the title “Dr” or “PhD” and yet challenge authority?

Recently I have been slammed by a certain reputation management company (who apparently has an axe to grind with ACT) and charged with being a  “hypocrite” because I use the titles Dr or PhD and yet encourage people to challenge authority. These are two completely different things. The fact that I use the title “Dr” or “PhD” which I worked very hard to earn in a fully accredited institution,  does not mean that I am a hypocrite if I criticize certain others who happen to also hold a doctorate degree and urge people to challenge authority.

On the contrary, part of my PhD training was to think critically and not just automatically accept something just because someone with an advanced degree says so.  It does not make me a hypocrite to criticize someone else who has a PhD.  The process of getting a PhD from a rigorous program is all about learning how to challenge authority and think critically.

It would only be hypocritical if I maintained that people should just blindly trust me because I have a PhD and I have never done that — that attitude runs contrary to everything I have ever stood for. I do not use my titles to convey the message that people should just unquestioningly accept anything I have to say because I am an “authority”. I use them because these are titles that I have worked very hard to earn and deserve to use them and I am addressed as “Dr” in any formal professional situation (for example, at conferences) I have been in, since defending my dissertation and earning my PhD.

That being said, I have never, ever, asked my students or anyone else to just take my word for anything and I have never graded a student down for disagreeing with me on a topic. In fact, I have been known to give students A’s on papers if the paper was well written and well argued even if they took a position I disagreed with. By the same token, if a student turns in a poorly written, poorly argued paper who happens to agree with me, I will still give such a student a low grade. In other words, I grade students on the actual quality of their work, not on whether or not they agree with me.

So yes, I will continue to use the titles I have earned and make no apology for doing so and I will continue to encourage people to challenge authority and not just blindly accept something just because someone with a PhD or other form of doctorate said so. Anyone who has actually been through a good PhD program understands that the two are entirely compatible.

Hate Speech: A Subjective Term

Since Ronald Federici’s supporters are now accusing me of “hate speech” or a “hate campaign” on that other anonymous WordPress blog, I need to point out that “hate speech” is a highly subjective term. So-called “hate speech” or “campaign” is not against the law unless it contains libel/defamation or specific threats of/or incites violence or if it discriminates against someone because of their race, religion, or sexual orientation, but  my “speech” or writings have contained none of this, since Dr. Federici’s interventions are presumably not a religion and therapy interventions are not considered a “protected group” as race, religion, ethnicity are. In other words it is not against the law to “hate” or criticize TFT, EMDR, CISD, or any other alphabet therapy or Federici’s intervention although I do not equate criticism with hatred as the true believers in these approaches might.

The very idea of “hate speech” is highly controversial. One person’s “hate speech” could be another person’s sincerely held opinions and thus, the US Constitution protects hate speech that does not fall into the categories I described, even the type of hate speech most people would find repugnant (although again, no reasonable person would consider what I have written to fall into that category).

For example, Scientologists consider any criticism of Scientology to be “hate speech” especially former member/whistleblowers. Can they sue for that? Of course not. They have sued for many other things, but not hate speech. Scientologists have every right to believe that it is hate speech, but no right to enforce that belief on critics by silencing them.

During the civil rights movement, early activists were portrayed as angry haters, simply because they were fighting for their civil rights. The best definition for “hate speech” or a “hate campaign” seems to be anything someone says that one strongly does not like. But guess what? You don’t have to like it, but it is protected by our Constitution. People who want to silence the speech of others they do not like would be better off moving somewhere there is a totalitarian dictatorship and making sure they are the ones in power so they can oppress and silence anyone with whom they disagree, but here in the US, we have a Constitution.

Calling something “hate speech” appears to be yet another propaganda tactic to attempt to smear critics. No reasonable person would consider my sincere expression of concerns about interventions that lack evidence for safety and efficacy that may do harm to children to be “hate speech” or a “hate campaign”. Again, this looks to me to be yet another attempt to manipulate others with propaganda.

Ludicrous comparisons of ACT have been made to Fred Phelps and the blatantly false statement was made that ACT was “Scientology-backed” (the website in question, a reputation management company, which denies Federici had anything to do with it but yet vigorously defends him and states that he has retained their services, has now removed the false statement about Scientology but persists with their ludicrous analogy to Phelps — fine by me, as it exposes what in my opinion is quite obviously faulty thinking and blatant propaganda tactics — kind of like calling someone a Nazi).

In any case, to set the record straight, ACT is not Scientology backed in any way, shape or form. And no, the fact that I left Scientology 34 years ago and have been a strong critic of Scientology ever since, is in no way an indication that ACT is “Scientology-backed” and if this does get to court, this blatantly false statement will be exposed (this lie has been repeated more than once and not just by that rep management company who edited their website to remove the statement). I am adamantly opposed to Scientology and any Google search on my name will reveal very high profile, public criticism that I have been engaged in on the internet since I first got online in 1996. I have no desire whatsoever to ever be a member of Scientology and never have in the 34 years since I left, but there is no way Scientology would even allow a person who has criticized them to the extent that I have, to be a member, much less work for them. Public criticism of Scientology is considered by Scientology’s own policies to be a suppressive act of the highest order and that makes me a Suppressive Person, in the eyes of Scientology.

As for Phelps, their “opinions” and rationalization of it is in my opinion, some of the most convoluted and ludicrous propaganda I have ever witnessed. They argue that we are taking a ridiculous position and that no reasonable person wants to see a child subjected to terror. That has never been my argument or that of anyone connected to ACT. No one is saying what these therapists “want”. We are not mindreaders and would not presume to know what they want. What we have done is pointed to specific examples of therapy that employ prone restraint positions that much literature has shown to be dangerous, even when used in institutions by professionals under highly supervised conditions.

We have criticized certain holding therapy methods, that do exist and in my opinion and in the opinion of many who have observed them are cruel and abusive, regardless of whether the people who employ them are in favor of terrorizing children. It is what they actually do, not what they want or intend, that is important. For example, view the video of Neil Feinberg, who finally, after more than a decade of subjecting children to these tactics as a licensed mental health professional, just this year finally had his license permanently revoked by the State of Colorado. This is not some made up problem. This was a licensed mental health professional that hundreds of parents trusted and turned over their children to for “therapy” for decades and he is not the only one.

Do I hate the way Feinberg is dealing with the child on that video? You bet I do. I hate, what in my opinion are verbally and physically abusive acts and the fact that they were done in the name of “therapy” makes them even worse. I have been accused of having “no respect” for such “professionals.” Darn right I don’t. Imagine how quickly a child would be removed from a parent’s custody if a parent were ever seen treating a child in that manner, yet therapists get away with it for years on end — this is a disgrace to the profession and to any licensing boards that allow these kinds of practices to continue. How many children suffered before that happened? Yet I do not know Neil Feinberg and have no idea what he really wanted and what his intentions were and I don’t give a flip what his intentions were or what he wanted. For all I know, he may have been merely misguided and sincerely believed he was helping children and had nothing but the best intentions. The bottom line is, however, that these so-called “therapies”, in our opinion, do terrorize children and in some cases have done much worse.

Their attempts to relate our protest of prone restraint procedures, coercive holding therapies and interventions that lack scientific research to support their efficacy is a completely reasonable position and has absolutely nothing to do with Phelps. Obviously a number of professional peer reviewers have disagreed with this reputation management company and consider our position and criticisms reasonable ones, because we have had a number of our articles published in peer reviewed journals. Trust me, I have absolutely no desire to know what is going on inside the minds of those who carry out these therapies and I don’t care if they have the best intentions in the world. I am not claiming to know what they want and what their intentions are. All I care about is the fact that they are using treatments that have no scientific evidence for their safety and efficacy and in my opinion, based on my observation of videotapes of these treatments, are cruel and abusive, regardless of what the therapists intended. Connell Watkins did not intend to kill Candace Newmaker. She thought she was doing “therapy” and helping her but that makes no difference because the bottom line is that a 10 year old child died.

The people using these propaganda tactics need to realize, however, that they may have grossly underestimated the intelligence of the average American who I believe is unlikely to fall for such an obvious smear tactic, attempting to make loose and convoluted associations to people and organizations that have nothing to do with ACT.

If people are interested in a more appropriate analogy, here’s one for you. Extensive interviews with the followers of Jim Jones who were fortunate enough to survive the Jonestown mass suicide/murder revealed that most of these followers were extremely well intentioned individuals who were attracted to following Jim Jones and his People’s Temple because they sincerely believed he was doing good in the world, fighting poverty and racism. Who would be opposed to that? We cannot fault them on their intentions, but nevertheless, instead, what ended up happening was that they were led by Jones to brutally murder their own children, but forcing them to drink a cyanide-laced punch. The act was brutal, but the vast of these people, if asked, would never have said they were in favor of murdering children and they would have been completely sincere. Yet that’s what they did. Prior to this mass atrocity, people who expressed their concerns about what was going on were seen as anticult cranks and fanatics by some. This is an example of what what people want and what they actually do can be quite different. Too often, people confuse motives with actions. And to anticipate a way this might be twisted, I am not saying that these cult members or Jim Jones was like attachment therapists. My point is that people who commit atrocities whether it be abusive “therapies” or cult members who abuse/kill their children, very often do not see themselves as bad people who want bad things to happen and this even often holds true for the leaders. Good actors who play villains in a convincing manner, know this.

Instead of flinging around terms that in no way would be anything anyone could be charged with, my offer to Dr. Federici remains open to have a professional, sensible discussion that names specific statements I have made that he considers to be legally actionable — meaning factually false. There is nothing I have written that I consider, based on my own careful review of the literature,  to be factually false but again, I am not infallible so my offer remains open.

Ronald Federici: Dox or GTFO (or alternatively, consider my offer)

The so-called History Making Lawsuit blog is now giving the number of the clerk’s office when they know darn good and well that it’s not open on weekends and thus no verification can be done through that number for two days. Given that so many repeated lies have been told about me with regard to court cases, it is not unreasonable for me to expect to see actual documents. Not snippets of documents. Entire documents including the names of all the parties being sued, the court seal, and the case number. If Ronald Federici really filed a lawsuit, this should be no problem to scan in and post to the blog. Since the blog contains numerous scanned-in documents, we know they have the equipment to do this.

So bottom line: There is no reason for me to believe these postings, given the long history of false statements made about me by anonymous individuals on the internet. By posting a phone number where someone cannot be reached for two days it appears to me as if they are trying to mess with me, once again and I will not allow that. Time and time again, these anonymous posters have dropped bombshells late on Friday when things cannot be checked out. They did this when they lied about the criminal charges that never materialized.

Of course it is possible that this case refers to an appeal he has been threatening to refile for months now against the parties that he lost against in small claims court in June 2010. Many things are possible, but unless I see evidence, the rational response, given the repeated lies, is to assume these are yet more lies, until and unless shown otherwise. I am open to evidence. I am not open to petulant little rants in all capital letters that insist it’s “REAL”. A broken caps lock is not evidence.

Hence, as the saying goes, Dox or GTFO (an internet acronym, not an all caps word, that stands for produce the documents or get the F___ out). If the document exists, it should be very easy to just post it. Not doing so shows that the most reasonable assumption I can make, which many close friends have opined, is that these folks are trying to mess with my mind and I do not allow anyone to do that. I refuse to spend my weekend worrying about something that might not be true, especially given the track record of lies that have been posted about me online. If that was their intention, they failed. There are only so many times crying wolf will work.

You want to talk to me about incessant whinging? If you’re going to sue me, then go ahead and sue me, but all this saber rattling is really getting old.

Just remember, Dr. Federici, that I have repeatedly made you the offer to specifically identify what specific statements that I made that you believe to be false and fall into the category of libel/defamation. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again now that my intention is to be truthful in my writings so if you have any evidence that contradicts any fact I have mentioned in any of my writings, please present it and if I deem it to be valid evidence, I will be more than happy to retract such a statement. You may respond right here on this blog, if you wish, or you may contact me privately either via e-mail or telephone. I am more than happy to hear you out and to and carefully consider what you have to say.

So far, in spite of my making this offer, in good faith, no response from Dr. Federici. What I am not willing to do is give up my legitimate rights to free speech. That is, my right to write about things that do not fall into the category of libel/defamation and to the very best of my knowledge, nothing I have written fits into that category.

However, I remain open, should Dr. Federici wish to reconsider my offer and save us both the time, energy and expense of a lawsuit. However, if Dr. Federici is demanding that I relinquish my right to criticize and express my opinion about his work in ways the United States Constitution guarantees me, that is a deal breaker for me and I am unwilling to give up such rights and will face you in a court of law, if it comes to that because I remain confident that I have done nothing wrong. Your call, Dr. Federici.

Clarification Regarding the So-Called History Making Lawsuit Blog

Update 12/8/2010: Although the lawsuit was not filed on the date the anonymous blog claimed (10/1) a phone call to the Fairfax County Circuit Court Clerk’s office has confirmed that on November 24, 2010 Ronald Federici filed a lawsuit against me, four other individuals and an organization. As of today’s date at the time of this posting, I have not been served with any papers, nor has anyone attempted to serve me with such papers. If anyone does, I will accept service. Suffice it to say for now, I welcome the opportunity for the facts to be presented regarding these issues and am hoping that this matter will be resolved in a manner that is fair and just.

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Some misunderstandings have arisen regarding this other WordPress blog entitled A History Making Lawsuit which is claiming that a lawsuit has been brought against me. One person on a list serv (I am not on the list serv but was made aware of it) jumped to the completely false conclusion that I am being sued by Scientologists. This is wrong on two counts.

  • First, there is no evidence I am being sued at all. The claim was made on October 1 on that blog that I had been sued and to date, I have not been served with any papers. In today’s posting a “case number” was given which I found out was not even in a searchable format on the internet. The only thing that comes up on a Google search is that blog and the VA case numbers I did find did not begin that way.
  • Second, the person the blog is claiming is suing me (although I repeat, to date, I have no evidence he is) is not a Scientologist. The person is Ronald Federici, PsyD, a Virginia licensed psychologist who has been threatening to sue me since July 2009 because I have criticized some of his writings. The blog in question explicitly states it is Dr. Ronald Federici, so there is no need to guess here. I don’t know if Federici or one of his supporters or someone he hired is writing the blog, but the claim is that Federici is suing me. Federici already sued some other people (not me, but people I am associated with) in small claims court, lost, and has a few more months to appeal those cases. It is definitely not Scientology.
  • Scientology has absolutely no reason to go after me. I left Scientology 34 years ago and am no threat to them at all. They are currently using their resources to go after Marty Rathbun and other very recent, very high level defectors with much to tell and have been all over the news, whereas I have nothing new to tell and they couldn’t care less about me and that’s just fine by me.
  • I have every right to criticize Dr. Federici. Any factual statements I have made, I have backed up with evidence and I have expressed my opinions about that evidence. I have repeatedly invited Dr. Federici, if he thinks I have gotten any facts wrong, to provide me with specific evidence to the contrary, but to date, no such evidence has been forthcoming. So far, no response with any specifics which is what he would have to do in court. In court, he would have to provide actual factual statements, prove the defendants wrote them, prove they are false and prove that the defendants knew they were false and that this damaged him.
  • I will not back down. Just imagine a world where people are so afraid of lawsuits, that they are afraid to challenge something they see that they sincerely believe is wrong. If this happens, we might as well be living in a totalitarian dictatorship and I am not willing to live my life that way.
  • Here is a summary of some of the main criticisms I have of Dr. Federici, who is a licensed clinical PsyD psychologist, not a Scientologist.
  • I am not a “therapist” and I have no business interest whatsoever in this matter. I am not a “business” competitor of Dr. Federici’s in any way, shape or form. The postings about me offering adoption services are false and were made via anonymous remailers. I am offering no such services. My motivation is loyalty to values and doing the right thing.

Let’s have a look at the track record here. To sum up,

  • Postings were made saying that criminal charges were being filed against me and I received threatening e-mails about this, sent via anonymous remailers saying I was “finished”. That turned out to be a lie.
  • Subsequently, postings were made that I had been arrested, charged with harassment by computer, jailed in Florida, placed in solitary for fighting with inmates, reading vampire novels while in prison, Sarner posted bail, Sarner revoked bail, was fighting and awaiting extradition to Virginia– all deliberate lies. Pure fiction. None of it happened. I was never charged or arrested for anything and have done nothing that would lead to such charges. As an interesting PS to this, it turns out that it is Federici who may be the fan of vampire novels as his picture appears on a web page on a book signing for a Dracula novel. Nothing wrong with that. Just sayin.
  • The lie was posted that I was trying to sabotage an adoption cruise. Here’s my posting setting the record straight on what really happened.
  • The lie was posted that I am offering adoption services and am setting up a center in 2011 in California. I have no such plans and am offering no such services. This seems to be an attempt to misportray me as a business competitor.
  • The lie was posted on October 1, 2010 that Federici had brought a lawsuit against me and in subsequent weeks, postings I was running from service of papers appeared. No one has ever attempted to serve me with any such papers and I have received none in the mail.
  • Now the claim is being made that the case has a number and has been filed. Note that this is essentially an admission that the postings at the beginning of October were lies, since if they had been filed back then they would have had a case number then and service would have been made during that month. With a track record like that, who in their right mind would believe anything on those anonymous blogs. There have simply been too many lies to believe anything these folks are posting about me.
  • If they were really suing me would they be stupid enough to tip their hand in the way they have in the History Making Lawsuit, revealing many of the questions they plan to interrogate me with and material they are going to demand from me? Unlikely, although I must confess that in the past, I have been guilty of overestimating intelligence and underestimating stupidity.
  • A more reasonable explanation, in my opinion, would be that they’re trying to scare me into giving up my legitimate rights to express my concerns about the interventions being promoted by Ronald Federici in his books and media appearances.
  • Unless I actually have court documents in my hands or see them on a legitimate court website, I have no reason to believe what has been posted.
  • Of course, anyone can sue anyone else for any reason, but that does not mean that the case is legitimate and if that were to happen, I would receive support from individuals in the scientific mental health community who no doubt would consider this a threat to the freedom to criticize that is so vital for scientific mental health practices to move forward. Because of the high value I place in freedom to criticize and its necessity if there is any chance of scientific mental health practice existing at all, even if I were to be sued, I would not back down.
  • The recent blogs are ranting on and on about how yes, its “REAL”, really it really is this time!  Rants in all capital letters are being posted asserting that the Fairfax case is real, calling us “crazy”. Yeah, right, shouting in all capital letters and calling us “crazy” really makes your arguments more compelling — not. And these are people who work with children who they claim have problems with pathological lying? Some role models.
  • It is also worth noting that even if the worst case scenario were to materialize and he somehow succeeded in silencing ACT and certain individuals in the US, there would still be no way for him to stop people who live far outside the jurisdiction of the US from speaking out. For instance, Daniel Ibn Zayd, who I have no association with whatsoever, has begun to post some very strong criticisms of Ronald Federici and because he lives in a country where he cannot be stopped, there is absolutely nothing anyone can do to silence him. He can criticize Federici all he wants and as far as I have been able to determine, there is nothing that Federici can do about it. This same thing happened when people began speaking out on the internet against Scientology. Ultimately on the internet, even though selected individuals can be stopped, free speech cannot be stopped because there will always be people who cannot be silenced, due to their geographical location. I have to note the irony, however, of the fact that Ibn Zayd, being in a country outside the US is freer to speak his mind on the internet than those of us in the US are. The average person would assume just the opposite — that we in the US would be freer and this may be the case on some issues, but not necessarily so. This really should give people pause to consider what is happening here in the US to chill free speech and how what kind of legislation might be proposed to remedy that.

Irrelevant postings with my name (Monica Pignotti) on them in the posting tags

Another tactic of the smear campaign by those who are attempting to silence my criticism  is to post to that other WordPress blog about cases I have absolutely no connection to and put my name in the tag. Other than the document that was just posted, (the blog posting appears to be written as some kind of warning to me and certain others), I know absolutely nothing specific about the case in question involving Charly Miller and Bryan Bledsoe, a doctor who I have never had any dealings with in any way, shape, or form, nor have I ever written about his work. The only thing I know about this doctor is that I have read his criticisms on Critical Incident Stress Debriefing and I agree with those criticisms 100%. I have no idea what the specific conflict was that lead to the lawsuit or what exactly the charges and complaints were. All I can say is that I greatly respect the work that Charly Miller has done exposing the dangers of prone restraints (which she backs up with valid citations from the literature) and I also greatly respect the writings of the doctor exposing the dangers of Critical Incident Stress Debriefing, a practice I have also been highly critical of, even though he and I have never directly communicated.

Thus, I have no opinion about that case, but from the looks of the document, the court did not order her to pay any money and both parties have to pay their own legal fees, so it looks like a draw to me. She only has to pay money if she mentions things about the doctor that are not already in the public domain. She also remains free to mention his name on her website, as long as the documents were already in the public domain.

If this was meant as some kind of warning or attempt to silence my criticisms of certain other people, it doesn’t apply because I have not posted info about anyone that is not already in the public domain, nor has ACT — their page on Federici is all fair use quotes from his own writings and information that has already been in the public domain. He attempted, unsuccessfully, to file a DMCA complaint against the ACT website about those fair use quotes and failed because posting fair use quotes is not a copyright violation.  Tiffany Rad and Chris Mooney of Project DoD, explained the whole situation in a recent talk at a conference which can also be viewed on YouTube. And no, their attempts to sue Federici and that case getting dismissed on jurisdictional grounds has nothing to do with the fact that his DMCA complaints against fair use quotes were not valid and in fact, thanks to Project DoD’s courage and their following the law to the letter, the ACT website with their fair use quotes, remains up.

All of my criticisms of Ronald Federici have come from information that was already out there in the public domain, such as his books, media appearances and public documents.

None of this has anything even remotely to do with Dr. Bryan Bledsoe who I think has done an excellent job debunking CISD.

And by the way, if anyone has a sound argument (not appeals to authority or persona smears on critics) in favor of Dr. Federici’s prone restraint method that he recommends in his book, I would be very open to hearing that.

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