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THIS DIARY IS BEING moved to its new home at Saturday Night Uforia and will reappear there in mid-2013.

(The reason for keeping the diary rather than deleting it is to retain the many interesting comments made by regular readers.)

Originally posted to two roads on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:16 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Tips for Saturday Night Tales... (21+ / 0-)

    ...backed by research.

    One item of potential interest: I asked my mom, who was a teenager in occupied Belgium in World War II, to describe the sound of a V-1 'buzz bomb'. Her immediate reply: it sounded like a motorcycle revving up and down -- pretty much as described by the witnesses in Paul Ryan's report.

    p.s. Once again, I'm out of town early in the a.m. so must get to bed, and probably won't be able to reply until I get back tomorrow night.

    p.p.s. And once again, I was so wordy that there wasn't any room left for this:


    1. The Battle of Los Angeles
    1. The Foo Fighters of World War II
    1. The Ghost Rockets of 1946
    1. The tale of the Nazi saucers
    1. "It seems impossible - but there it is" (from Ken Arnold to Roswell)
    1. 'Matters of National Interest' (Part 1)
    1. 'Matters of National Interest' (Part 2)
    1.  'Matters of National Interest' (Part 3)
    1. The death of Capt. Mantell, Part 1 -- ('Matters of National Interest' Part 4)
    1. The death of Capt. Mantell, Part 2 -- ('Matters of National Interest' Part 5)
    1. The death of Capt. Mantell, Part 3 -- ('Matters of National Interest' Part 6)
    1. The balloon master's tale
    1. Halloween-A-Palooza!
    1. 'Matters of National Interest' (Part 7) (Finale)
    1. In the News, 1947
    1. From the (X-)files of the FBI, 1947
    1. Air Pursuit, 1948
    1. Great (Green) Balls o' Fire! - Part 1
    1. Great (Green) Balls o' Fire! - Part 2
    1. Great (Green) Balls o' Fire! - Part 3
    1. Great (Green) Balls o' Fire! - Part 4

    The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. - H.L. Mencken

    by two roads on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 06:48:46 PM PST

    •  I bet this took a few minutes. (9+ / 0-)

      Very impressive tr.

      "The truth shall set you free - but first it'll piss you off." Gloria Steinem

      Iraq Moratorium

      by One Pissed Off Liberal on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:59:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  if the Soviets were experimenting with (5+ / 0-)

      buzz bombs or something similar...

      The obvious question is, why do it near highly sensitive military bases?

      And the logical answer is, because then you can observe how the military reacts to them.  Which in turn suggests that they had enough spies in the area to provide useful details about the military's response: the alerts, the blackouts, the investigations.  

      This could lead to some interesting revisions in post-WW2 history.

      We normally think of Soviet spying during that period, in terms of the big things: the "atomic bomb secret" and so on; a small number of highly-placed spies bringing in major prizes.  But intel works as well or better by collecting a large number of small details, and then from those, extracting the big picture that can be used to make further predictions about an adversary's behavior.  A large number of low-level spies could produce results that are equally useful as those from a small number of high-level spies.  

      Someone should do a historical workup based on the idea that the Soviets had a very large number of low-level spies in the US in the post-WW2 period, and from that, make exrapolations as to their actual effect.  

      The lessons from that might be relevant to the current situation with the proliferation of loosely-affiliated terrorist groups.  

    •  the plot thickens (3+ / 0-)

      Howdy. Sorry for not leaving a comment last night. I was too bagged after too many hours working on the computer. I should have prepared a post earlier in the week, actually, because i've got to tell you about the terrific book i received in the mail.

      Welcome to Mars: Fantasies of Science in the American Century 1947–1959, by Ken Hollings [Strange Attractor Press].

      Welcome To Mars draws upon newspaper accounts, advertising campaigns, declassified government archives, old movies and newsreels from this unique period when the future first took on a tangible presence. Ken Hollings depicts an unsettled time in which the layout of Suburbia reflected atomic bombing strategies, bankers and movie stars experimented with hallucinogens, brainwashing was just another form of interior decoration and strange lights in the sky were taken very seriously indeed.

      All that and—yes, indeed—UFOs.

      I ordered it back in November and it's only just arrived (~2 mos. is about normal for books from the UK) but it is, as they say, well worth the wait. Though i'm still making my way through the McPhee (too much bloody work and not nearly enough time for reading!) i couldn't help but to race through the first 50 pages or so. This is great stuff!

      From the back cover:

      Ken Hollings has placed his critical focus at the precise point where the high technologies of information control and social manipulation intersect the passionate search for scientific ways to probe the human mind. Welcome to Mars is a searingly accurate and deeply disturbing exposé of the fantasies of American modernism that have inspired the many nightmares and the few hopeful visions of our new Millennium.
      Dr. Jacques Vallée

      If that wasn't enough, the foreword, by Erik Davis, had me hooked.

      1945 was a crossroads year, one of those rare junctures in the flow of history where everything seems to change. The world before Hiroshima is a distant, black-and-white place, a gone world whose artifacts have the ghostly air of Victrolas or the faded photographs of distant relatives. On the other hand, the decade or so that follows the war, which is the subject of the hallucinatory history you now hold, is an altogether more recognisable environment. Even from today's perspective, which follows the sixties, the fall of the Berlin Wall, and 9-11, the immediate post-war era—the politics, the culture and, perhaps most of all, the gadgetry of the late 1940s and 1950s—are all somehow familiar, sometimes uncannily so. The era's artefacts are less like the photographs of departed relatives than hazy magnetic recordings of our own earliest memories—partly fantasised, partly opaque, a feedback loop of dream and trauma.

      These, and other bits i've already read, suggest that this book will be a fine companion to your series here. Indeed, the first chapter, "1947: Rebuilding Lemuria" begins thusly:

      From the Suburbs to Outer Space

      Levittown—You can imagine how it will look from space: the houses and roads and backyards arranged in neatly ordered rows, a framework of streetlights and driveways in a perfectly arranged grid at night.

      Aside from the obvious connection to you masterful opener last week, this chapter also touches upon:

      Frank Lloyd Wright's plans for utopian living; Project RAND; von Neumann's Game Theory; William Menninger and the "new psychiatry"; Kenneth Arnold; the Maury Island incident; the "Shaver Mystery"; Dr. Albert Hofmann and the discovery of LSD; the Kinsey Report; Aleister Crowley and Jack Whiteside Parsons (i'd forgotten about that old devil!).

      The next 2 chapters, "1948: Flying Saucers Over America" and "1949: Behaviour Modification" are, as you might imagine, just as much fun. I was amused to see Norbert Weiner's, Cybernetics: or Control and Communication in the Animal and the Machine [1948] mentioned, as i'd just brought it down from the stacks a couple of weeks ago in order to look something up.

      Anyhoo, i'll leave it at that for now. As i said, i'm also going to try to leave the book aside until i'm properly done with McPhee's opus. It'll be difficult, though, as this is shaping up to be one great, fun read. Parts of it put me in mind of Adam Curtis's wonderful documentary, The Century of the Self (do have a look at that online—all 4 hours!) in its peeling back of the veneer of "normality" that was the early modern American lifestyle to expose things that are, by parts surprising, amusing, and quite disturbing. Ballardian, in fact.

      I'm looking forward, as ever, to read next week's diary! Thanks, once again, for putting in so much work on this series. It's very much appreciated.

      "They're telling us something we don't understand"
      General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

      by subtropolis on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:23:03 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  oh, and i forgot to mention: (3+ / 0-)

        The first chapter also touches upon the Green Fireballs!

        BTW, the book has its basis in a live, 12-part radio series which i'll try to track down online once i've finished reading.

        "They're telling us something we don't understand"
        General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

        by subtropolis on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 10:32:23 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

      •  Fascinating. (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        Went and explored and little bit, will look some more tomorrow. The layout of suburbia re: atomic bomb strategies hadn't occurred to me before (love it when that happens) and I will have to free associate about it (somehow, that's how I figure things out) at my next relaxed opportunity.

        I'm sure you're already aware, but be very wary about Maury Island. Lots of rumor passing for fact, and possibly disinfo as well. For instance:

        Four people, including Harold Dahl and his son, witnessed the event from a salvage boat in a nearby bay...

        Dahl reported these events to Fred Crisman, a man he believed to have some connections in the intelligence community.

        So far, so good, except that Crisman is generally portrayed as Dahl's 'business partner'...

        Three days later, Arnold had more sightings, culminating with a woman recovering some unusual material in the same vicinity, who then turned the material over to FBI agent Guy Banister...

        In 1943-1952, Guy Banister was FBI "Special Agent in Charge" in the Pacific Northwest, later transferred to Chicago...

        Classified documents, recently discovered under the freedom of information act, also indicate that Crisman turned additional samples he had held back over to CIA agent Clay Shaw...

        As I said, be very careful.

        The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. - H.L. Mencken

        by two roads on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 08:24:12 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  oh, yeah, absolutely! (1+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          two roads

          Yeah, I know all about Crisman. I mean, as much as the next person, that is. No, i was just pointing out that the book touches upon it. Believe me, the author isn't swallowing it, either.

          The book itself is a lot of free-associating. Did i mention it's a really good read?


          "They're telling us something we don't understand"
          General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

          by subtropolis on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 11:30:11 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  Tagged to read over morning coffee (9+ / 0-)

    Love this series two roads.
    Thanks for all your work and I predict that these diaries will become an important clearinghouse for folks in the future.

    •  If only they were available ... (5+ / 0-)

      ... in podcast form, somehow. I'd pour over them on my morning and evening commutes. Beats watching the same ol' scenery go by. :)


    •  now that we're living in a reality-based culture.. (5+ / 0-) should be possible to look at this topic objectively, as per Two Roads' diaries.  

      And while it's not a crisis or urgent issue, it does have relevance to other fields.  One is airport safety: optical effects due to atmospheric conditions, that have potential to interfere with landings.  Others involve basic science: for example meteors and near-Earth objects, that are under NASA's wing.  

      Even wild speculation, in a reality-based frame of reference, is legitimate.  

      For example some of the small metallic discs in the post-WW2 period behaved in a manner that today suggests pilotless drones or robotic vehicles: OK, so "if" those are from somewhere else, then if "they" can do it, so can we.  

      That suggests a possible path forward for exploration of the outer planets: send out large numbers of light inexpensive robotic probes, some of which would drop down to collect atmospheric and surface data, some of which would remain in orbit, others would serve as signal relays back to Earth in a kind of mesh network.  If we'd had that kind of capability some years back, we would have been able to see the large-object impact on Jupiter directly, rather than indirectly: a once-in-many-lifetimes opportunity to study a rare event.  

      A mesh network system of cheap robotic probes could also constitute a gazillion-miles-wide astronomical array.  As someone else commented, that would practically enable us to predict the weather on distant planets, by which they meant, give us an incredibly detailed close-up view that we couldn't obtain otherwise.  

      Humans are to a large degree monkeys, and monkeys learn by imitation.  So when we see something that appears way-out, maybe the best lesson is to go ahead and speculate, though in a level-headed and rational manner, and see if we can learn something.  

  •  Wow... (7+ / 0-)

    Some of the reports sound exactly like fireworks, down to the high-pitched whine and the use of the term "fizzled out". Other reports sound like something fairly complicated, but not beyond the technology of the time. The reports of buzz-bomb sounds are intriguing as well.

    Sounds like there is a good possibility of the objects being of Soviet origin, made for psychological warfare.

    Looking forward to the finale!

    I'm so old school I drive a yellow bus with gothic arch windows. (-10.00,-8.87)

    by Texas Revolutionary on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:34:12 PM PST

  •  My Pop was stationed at White Sands (10+ / 0-)

    in the AAF in '47 as a radar tech-  he didn't see green fireballs or greys but he did see a lot of V2s, and a lab-coated Von Braun a few times.  Great series and thank you for all the work.

    We demand that you set up a delicious buffet.

    by Dan Gallo on Sat Jan 17, 2009 at 07:52:15 PM PST

    •  That's what I like about two roads' series ... (6+ / 0-)

      ... In many of the articles, you do get they idea that some sort of military/political motivation is behind the phenomena. Decidedly different than a lot of other UFO writing I've seen that often assumes the only options are either "other-worldly visitors" or else "elaborate hoax". Two roads generally places his events in a historical frame, opening the reader up to other possible explanations.


      •  one of the things that emerges from this... (4+ / 0-) the irony that some branches of the military (or defense contractors) may have occasionally tested experimental aircraft without notifying other branches, thereby leading to mad scrambles to identify strangely-behaving objects.  

        That doesn't deal with all of the cases, but it solves the puzzle for some.  And our knowledge of meteorics has improved since the mid 20th century, such that we know more about what produces odd colors and behaviors (a friend of mine says that green might be due to the presence of nickel).

        Level-headed writing on this whole subject is definitely appreciated;  takes it off the fringes and puts it on the table for discussion by reasonable people in a reality-based culture.  And after all, everyone loves a good puzzle.  

        •  Maybe Boron. (7+ / 0-)

          (a friend of mine says that green might be due to the presence of nickel).

          It burns green also.

          I look forward to late Saturday night and the diaries of two roads.

          •  now we have.... (4+ / 0-)

            Nickel, copper (particles found in the atmosphere near one of the bases), and now boron.

            But a piece of the puzzle remains, since LaPaz said that some of the objects didn't behave like meteors.  

            We might reasonably assume that some of the objects were meteors, and others probably weren't.  

            So here's a wild hypothesis:  If the USSR had spies on these bases or in the communities, then it's likely they knew about some of the object sightings, and the fact that those sightings triggered alerts.  And at that point they might have decided to launch small solid-fueled rockets and so on, to trigger more alerts that they could watch up-close.  They would observe the speed of response, the procedures, and so on, and that information would have potential military value.

            Keep in mind that good intel very often emerges from large numbers of small facts and details.  Most spies on the ground collect this kind of information: for example the times of coming & going of Navy ships, the ship types and numbers, the number of supply trucks going onto the base each week, etc. etc.  

            If there's good reason to believe that the USSR did have spies in the vicinity of our most sensitve air bases and nuclear weapons facilities, we would have to revise our knowledge of the post-WW2 period.  

    •  so i have a question... (5+ / 0-)

      Do you think it likely that various branches of the military and the related private-sector R&D could have been doing their respective activities without a whole lot of communication or coordination between them?

      What I'm thinking of here is, what if one unit is testing a rocket, but hasn't told anyone else about it, and so everyone else sees this thing, doesn't know what's up, and treats it as an unknown that is potentially hostile...?

      It should have been fairly simple for the rocketry guys to let the nearby bases know something along the lines of "we'll be testing something this week so don't worry if you see anything unusual."  Even where highly compartmented information is at stake, a simple heads-up could prevent a lot of effort being spent needlessly.  

      Unless ("on the third hand") the people in charge of the rocket/missile development programs were also interested in finding out how their objects would be perceived at other bases & installations by people who are not specifically aware of what's going on.  For some reason this strikes me as more likely than the Soviet interpretation I've been thinking about so far.  It doesn't require new participants (lots of low-level spies), and it makes use of what is already well-understood about the behavior of the existing participants.  

      •  In the case of inter-branch services... (4+ / 0-)

        Do you think it likely that various branches of the military and the related private-sector R&D could have been doing their respective activities without a whole lot of communication or coordination between them?

        In the case of inter-branch services it's a remote possibility, but also not likely except as a random failure of communication. In most if not all of the significant events, the investigative effort was monitored by at least the number two man at the Directorate of Intelligence at the Pentagon.

        The investigations were costly and time-consuming, and also drained resources away from other important work. For instance, remember the agencies involved in the 'Project Sign' effort:

        Now, through his memo, Twining was pushing to involve the Atomic Energy Commission, the JRDB ('Joint Research and Development Board' -- the Pentagon's scientific research and development program), NACA ('National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics' -- a federal agency responsible for advanced aeronautical research, including the X-plane program at Muroc), NEPA ('Nuclear Energy for the Propulsion of Aircraft' -- a Pentagon scientific research program), and the Rand Corporation -- the world's first 'think tank'.

        Remember also such facts as the intelligence 'collections memorandum' sent to commanders of U.S. bases in Europe and the Far East, in an effort to gather all possible information:

        This strange object, or phenomenon, may be considered, in view of certain observations, as long-range aircraft capable of a high rate of climb, high cruising speed (possibly sub-sonic at all times) and highly maneuverable and capable of being flown in very tight formation. For the purpose of analysis and evaluation of the so-called "flying saucer" phenomenon, the object sighted is being assumed to be a manned aircraft, of Russian origin, and based on the perspective, thinking and actual accomplishments of the Germans.

        And at Air Materiel Command at Wright Field, home to 'Project Sign':

        Every intelligence report dealing with the Germans' World War II aeronautical research had been studied to find out if the Russians could have developed any of the late German designs into flying saucers. Aerodynamicists at ATIC and at Wright Field's Aircraft Laboratory computed the maximum performance that could be expected from the German designs. The designers of the aircraft themselves were contacted. "Could the Russians develop a flying saucer from their designs?" The answer was, "No, there was no conceivable way any aircraft could perform that would match the reported maneuvers of the UFO's." The Air Force's Aeromedical Laboratory concurred. If the aircraft could be built, the human body couldn't stand the violent maneuvers that were reported. The aircraft structures people seconded this, no material known could stand the loads of the reported maneuvers and heat of the high speeds.

        -- Captain Ed Ruppelt, chief of the Air Force Project Blue Book
        The Report on Unidentified Flying Objects, 1956

        And though not always included in this series, the effort to eliminate other possibilities was exhaustive -- there are pages' worth on the green fireball phenomenon alone of investigative reports solely tracking whether anyone might be firing off flares.

        And at the time all significant 'private-sector R&D' as it relates to the subject was being done under contract to, and monitoring by, the military. So that's out too, IMO.

        That said, the thought that the phenomenon must be some super-secret U.S. activity occurred in the early stages of the best minds at both 'Project Sign' and the investigation of the green fireballs, so you're not alone in wondering.

        p.s. And now I'm heading out of town, and any further reply will have to wait until tonight.

        The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. - H.L. Mencken

        by two roads on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 05:20:06 AM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  random lack of clear communications (4+ / 0-)

          continues today throughout our military and government, though.

          And state / local / fed LEOs, and Emergency Management types, are still having a tough time with getting clear communications throughout their ranks.

          About the most effective comms protocol was born out of the fire service!

          All that said, this series fascinates and delights me.

          John Edwards:"One America does the work, another America reaps the rewards. One America pays the taxes, another America gets the tax breaks."

          by BlackSheep1 on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 11:04:57 AM PST

          [ Parent ]

        •  interesting..... (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          subtropolis, two roads

          OK, so I can mark that guess as "less likely."

          The item about maneuvers at first suggests a robotic device, for example a pilotless device or a remotely-piloted vehicle (RPV).  These are now common in the military though they perform like conventional aircraft and don't do things such as right-angle turns at high speed.  

          This item:  "The aircraft structures people seconded this, no material known could stand the loads of the reported maneuvers and heat of the high speeds." deserves to be revisited in light of current knowledge of materials science.  Do we have anything now that could perform successfully under those conditions?  

          Makes me wonder if Project Sign's conclusion that some of them are ET objects but no threat, wasn't in part a big sigh of relief:  along the lines of "some day we'll go into space too, so let's wrap this up and move on."   Back in those days, rational people wouldn't have had trouble with the idea that technologically capable civilizations would inevitably head for space, and that was no big deal.  

          I get the idea that once we start moving toward another Moon landing, the same attitude will come back and talk of possible ET objects will become unremarkable again.  

          •  we still can't do right-angle turns (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            two roads

            Even if we had a craft that had the maneuverability to pull at, or very near, right-angle turns, the airframe probably couldn't take it for long. Aside from the frame structure, there's the engine mounts, the hydraulics, etc. (not to mention keeping the pilot from turning to pudding). Aircraft have come an awful long way in 60 years but i don't think we're quite at the stage some of these "things" appear to be at.

            I do think it'd be neato to buzz around in something that was essentially like riding a 3d air-hockey puck. w00t!

            "They're telling us something we don't understand"
            General Charles de Gaulle, Mai '68

            by subtropolis on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 11:41:43 PM PST

            [ Parent ]

    •  Wow. Thanks. (3+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      DaleA, subtropolis, ItsJessMe

      Totally unexpected. This particular entry was so wonky that I wondered if even the regulars would lose interest.

      Just read your synopsis, and you're more than kind. And it means a lot to me that this subject could qualify for rescue. My intent has never been to convince, only to inform. To me, the documented history of the phenomenon is fascinating, and I think truth in history always has value -- even when it's an esoteric topic highly subject to ridicule.

      p.s. I'm just as pleased for Dr. La Paz's sake.

      It's nice to think he'll be remembered by a few more people.

      The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. - H.L. Mencken

      by two roads on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 08:42:02 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  I was delighted to rescue this (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        subtropolis, two roads

        I admit, the length did make me gasp initially, but then I started reading it and honestly didn't even think about the length again- I read the whole thing avidly and made a note to go back to your previous installments.  It was fascinating.  When will the next installment be out?

        •  Saturdays. Usually between 7 & 7:15. (2+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          subtropolis, ItsJessMe

          Hence, Saturday Night Uforia. :)

          p.s. I'm now incredibly pleased not only that you just discovered it, but that you read it 'avidly'. What better encouragement could an author ask for? And I truly appreciate your taking the time to let me know.

          But fair warning: they're all pretty long (I spend an average of 30 hours a week on each one, mostly researching). And I'll repeat here what I've said many times before: they're built to be read at leisure, whether it's the night they're posted or months later. So no hurry -- I'd much prefer people read only when they've got the inclination and time to consider what's been presented.

          p.p.s. This is a chronological survey of the phenomenon, so the first entry (The Battle of Los Angeles) takes place in 1942, the next (The Foo Fighters of World War II) in 1944/45, and so on. This was the 22nd entry, and we're only up to January, 1949, so there's a lot more to go.

          The fact is that the average man's love of liberty is nine-tenths imaginary, exactly like his love of sense, justice and truth. - H.L. Mencken

          by two roads on Sun Jan 18, 2009 at 09:37:16 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

          •  Something about the "path" interested me. (1+ / 0-)
            Recommended by:
            two roads

            The path of the object seemed to start just west of Amarillo. What's there?  Pantex is 17 miles northeast of Amarillo. In WWII Pantex was the assembly plant for the US's weapons spread over 16,000 acres.  

            Pantex was abruptly deactivated after the war ended. It remained vacant until 1949, when Texas Technological College in Lubbock (now Texas Tech University) purchased the site for $1. Texas Tech used the land for experimental cattle-feeding operations.

            In 1951, at the request of the Atomic Energy Commission (now the Department of Energy (DOE)), the Army exercised a recapture clause in the sale contract and reclaimed the main plant and 10,000 acres (40 km²) of surrounding land for use as a nuclear weapons production facility.

            What remained on-site? Was there anything powerful enough to travel a couple hundred miles? Were there accidents there or at the helium plant mentioned below?

            There is also a helium plant 35 miles north of Amarillo which dates from the WWI period and for many years was the nation's prime source of helium.

            The truth is we are tortured by the truth.

            by walkshills on Mon Jan 19, 2009 at 12:22:20 AM PST

            [ Parent ]

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