Tag Archives: Philip Alston

UN poverty expert condemns UK coronavirus response as ‘utterly hypocritical’

Philip Alston: he warned us all about the Tories before but they were voted back in because people didn’t listen.

How else would you describe the way the UK’s Tory government threw away austerity the instant the well-being of the rich was threatened?

Philip Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, made a good point when he pointed out that the harm caused by austerity policies of the last 10 years cannot be undone – but the policy itself was reversed the instant it seemed likely to harm the rich.

He told The Guardian:

“My thoughts of course hark back to the sense of how utterly hypocritical it is now to abandon ‘austerity’ with such alacrity, after all the harm and misery caused to individuals and the fatal weakening of the community’s capacity to cope and respond over the past 10 years.

“And of course, many of the worst and most damaging aspects of ‘austerity’ cannot and will not be undone. The damage caused to community cohesion and to the social infrastructure are likely to prove permanent.

He said that globally “the most vulnerable have been short-changed or excluded” by official responses to the disease:

“The policies of many states reflect a social Darwinism philosophy that prioritises the economic interests of the wealthiest while doing little for those who are hard at work providing essential services or unable to support themselves.

“Governments have shut down entire countries without making even minimal efforts to ensure people can get by.”

The Tories would undoubtedly argue that they have indeed made efforts to ensure people can get by… but some would argue that those efforts have indeed been minimal.

Across the UK, people who claimed Universal Credit because their income dried up in the lockdown have found their five-week wait for benefit cash has culminated in a cheque for no money at all.

Others have been unable to claim the benefit because they don’t meet the government’s criteria.

And of course Boris Johnson won’t agree to a Universal Basic Income that will help everybody – and will be cheaper to administer than UC. Why? Because he likes to keep people poor and – if possible – push them into debt.

Look at the other coronavirus-related policies and you’ll find that most of them aren’t working – at least, not the way we were led to expect.

And now there’s huge pressure to sway public opinion in favour of lifting the lockdown so we can all go back to work, making profits for the rich again – before their income is harmed as that of the poor has been.

Put it altogether and it seems Mr Alston has a very good point.

Source: UK coronavirus response utterly hypocritical, says UN poverty expert | Politics | The Guardian

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UN poverty rapporteur’s condemnation of the Conservatives must be read

Philip Alston: He came to his conclusions by listening to people affected by Conservative policies on the poor, sick and disabled. Tories implemented those policies by ignoring the very same people – and now they are complaining because Mr Alston hasn’t done the same.

Sometimes important information drops off the news agenda because crafty operators do what they can to obscure it.

Sometimes there’s just so much going on that it is ignored.

In this case, with international controversy over an Iranian oil tanker and a British ambassador to the US, and domestic fuss over the pumped-up Labour anti-Semitism claims and the Tory leadership election, the latter seems possible (for a change).

But Philip Alston’s anger about the way the Tories have sidelined his report on the way their austerity policies (carried through at first with the complicity of the Liberal Democrats, let’s not forget), is well worth bringing back to public attention.

In his Independent article (link below) he writes [boldings mine]:

“In one of the world’s richest countries, I found 14 million people living in poverty, rising infant mortality rates, falling life expectancy for some groups, foodbanks springing up everywhere, rising homelessness, and overloaded and struggling schools and police services.

Most of these problems are the direct result of government policies.

“The government’s response so far has consisted of three strategies. The first is denial. The report is “barely believable”, they say. In other words, it’s a load of rubbish. A pity then that a senior official of the Department of Work and Pensions subsequently told a House of Commons committee that the report was “factually correct”.

“The second strategy is distraction. Rather than acknowledge the extent of poverty, inequality, unaffordable housing, or hunger, the government pointed to a “UN report” that supposedly shows “the UK is one of the happiest places in the world to live”… Acknowledging that many people in the UK are happy and that employment levels are at a record high does not refute the fact that too many are facing severe hardship.

“Third, attack the messenger. The government claimed the report was insufficiently researched, “based on a tiny period of time spent here”. But it knows that my team and I spent months preparing for this visit, reviewing countless existing reports, making more than 100 advance consultations, and reviewing more than 300 submissions.

“If there is any good news, it is that these policies could still be reversed with huge savings in terms of economic and social trauma and much greater productivity in the future.

“All that is needed is a vision to make all Britons, not just the wealthy, better off, and to commit to minimum levels of social justice for all.”

That won’t happen under the Conservatives, but Labour’s policies are specifically geared to do exactly what Mr Alston suggests.

Perhaps that is the reason the trumped-up controversy over anti-Semitism has been hyped beyond credibility – to make Labour seem an inappropriate choice.

There is nothing new in this. It shows that, as usual, the political debate is between the easily-led and those who think for themselves.

I know where Vox Political readers stand in that debate, but it is certainly time we all turned to our friends and colleagues and said:

“I think for myself on this. What about you?”

Source: I proved that austerity destroys lives and all the government has done is try to discredit me | The Independent

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Are they joking? UN poverty expert thought Tory response to his report was a ‘spoof’

Philip Alston: He came to his conclusions by listening to people affected by Conservative policies on the poor, sick and disabled. Tories implemented those policies by ignoring the very same people – and now they are complaining because Mr Alston hasn’t done the same.

At a time when we are all taking a long, hard look at the Conservative government of the last few years, this is damning.

Philip Alston, the New York-based human rights lawyer and United Nations rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, has responded with disbelief after the Tories responded to his report on poverty in the UK.

“I thought it might actually be a spoof,” he said after ministers claimed that his report was “a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty” and that the UK was among the happiest countries in the world.

“The statement is as troubling as the situation,” he said. “There is nothing that indicates any willingness to debate over issues which have generated endless very detailed, totally reputable reports across the political spectrum in the UK. All of these are dismissed.”

Alston’s report compared Conservative policies to the creation of Victorian workhouses. Amber Rudd, the work and pensions secretary, said she felt it was politically biased and alleged that Alston did not do enough research, only visiting the UK for 11 days.

Alston retorted that the government response amounted to “a total denial of a set of uncontested facts”.

Particularly contentious was Mr Alston’s claim that the Department for Work and Pensions had created “a digital and sanitised version of the 19th-century workhouse”.

Tory apologists rushed to rubbish the claim, like historian Dominic Sandbrook, who wrote in the Daily Mail that it was “simply ridiculous” and “an insult to our national intelligence”.

“I think breaking rocks has some similarity to the 35 hours of job search [required per week to receive universal credit] for people who have been out of work for months or years,” Mr Alston responded. “They have to go through the motions but it is completely useless. That seems to me to be very similar to the approach in the old-style workhouse. The underlying mentality is that we are going to make the place sufficiently unpleasant that you really won’t want to be here.

“Is it the case that 14 million people do not live in poverty? Do they contest the child poverty predictions? That is what it seems to be.”

It seems clear that this man will not be backing down.

As long-term readers of This Site will appreciate, that is a stance with which I can sympathise.

And it really is the only position to take with a government of bullies like the Tories, who deliberately (it seems) ignore the facts in order to continue pursuing malevolent policies of hate towards the poor and vulnerable.

Sadly, as I mentioned previously, the UK government may merrily ignore the findings of the United Nations report, without suffering any adverse backlash.

We know the Tories are wrong because we can see the evidence all around us. We know they are driving the entire country to ruin.

But they refuse to see it. Their attitude is symbolic of the pig-ignorance that came into office with David Cameron, back in 2010.

Source: UN poverty expert hits back over UK ministers’ ‘denial of facts’ | Society | The Guardian

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UN reports on poverty in the UK – and the Tory response is WORSE than expected

Remember when I responded to news of a UN investigation into cruel and inhumane treatment of disabled people by stating, “The UN will release a damning report stating that the UK’s Conservative government tortures disabled people, and the UK’s Conservative government will ignore it.”

The government’s response to UN expert Philip Alston’s report on poverty is, if anything, worse.

Mr Alston, the UN rapporteur on extreme poverty, accused ministers of being in a state of denial about the impact of policies, including the rollout of universal credit, since 2010. He accused them of the “systematic immiseration of a significant part of the British population” and warned that worse could be yet to come for the most vulnerable, who face “a major adverse impact” if Brexit proceeds. He said leaving the EU was “a tragic distraction from the social and economic policies shaping a Britain that it’s hard to believe any political parties really want”.

And what was the Conservative government’s response?

Amber Rudd plans to lodge a formal complaint with the UN.

According to The Guardian, “Rudd will argue that Alston is politically biased and did not do enough research. The minister is seeking guidance from the Foreign Office on the best way to respond after Alston compared her department’s welfare policies to the creation of Victorian workhouses.

“In a statement, the government said his report was ‘a barely believable documentation of Britain based on a tiny period of time spent here” and “a completely inaccurate picture of our approach to tackling poverty’.”

Typical blinkered Toryism.

If they didn’t have their tame journalists in the partisan “mainstream media” to defend them, they would have been ousted as the charlatans they are, long ago. Look at the way Jo Coburn on the BBC’s Politics Live tried to deflect blame onto the Labour Party – the party of opposition that has absolutely no power to change anything – for the details of the damning Alston report:

In fact we know that Conservatives have spent the last 40 years systematically destroying every element of society that could give poor and working people a chance at a better life. Why do you think Margaret Thatcher destroyed our industrial base, back in the 1980s?

Their denials don’t ring true.

And if she goes through with it, I hope anyone seeing Amber Rudd in the streets will have the courage to call her out on it: “Amber Rudd – shame on you.”

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UN poverty expert has an uphill struggle – with DWP ministers who don’t even understand their own rules

“Ignorant”: Justin Tomlinson.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on poverty, Professor Philip Alston, has hit back at Conservative government ministers over their refusal to acknowledge his report on the consequences of their austerity policies in the UK.

But it seems he is on a hiding to nothing as at least one Conservative MP at the Department for Work and Pensions has revealed he does not even understand the way his party’s own rules work.

Ignorant Tories including the new Work and Pensions Secretary, Amber Rudd, have been lining up to say they “do not recognise” the validity of Professor Alston’s report, or to suggest its tone is “inappropriate”.

In response, he told The Guardian: “I think that dismissing a report that is full of statistics and first-hand testimony on the grounds that the minister didn’t appreciate the tone of the report rather misses the point.”

The report relied on undisputed statistics, such as the fact that 14 million people in the UK are living in poverty and local authorities have seen a 49 per cent real-terms reduction in funding from 2011 to 2018, and highlighted the disproportionate impact of austerity on children, the disabled and women.

It stated: “There are a number of steps that could be taken simply through instructions provided by the minister to DWP that would make the system much more humane.”

It seems that his faith in Tory ministers to take the right actions has been misplaced – if the behaviour of family support, housing and child maintenance minister Justin Tomlinson is any yardstick.

Mr Tomlinson told members of the Commons Work and Pensions committee, of which he is a member, that families could cope with the poverty created by the Tory benefit cap that limits their income to £20,000 a year – by taking in a lodger.

There’s only one problem: Anybody in a council house or housing association property who takes in a lodger would be breaking the rules of their tenancy and may be evicted.

And most private landlords ban tenants from taking in a lodger, either because of mortgage restrictions or extra legal burdens on the landlord.

Most telling is the fact that this Tory is putting tenants in a vulnerable position, simply to cover a shortfall in rent created by his government.

Professor Alston ended his critique of the government by saying, “I’m hoping that actions will speak louder than words.”

Considering Mr Tomlinson’s words, that may be a forlorn hope.

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Support the petition for the government to act on the UN poverty inspector’s report

Philip Alston gave a verbal report on his preliminary findings last Friday but it seems no Conservative politician can recognise him.

We all know what happened: UN poverty rapporteur Philip Alston said Tory government policies were worsening the lives of millions of people – but the tragedy could be reversed cheaply if we had a government with the political will to do so.

And we all know what happened next: Conservative ministers lined up to tell us they don’t recognise Professor Alston or his findings. Strange, when you think they were only discussing those findings with him a few days previously!

Some people think this impasse can be broken by petitioning the government to accept that Professor Alston has a point.

It’s a long shot – the Tories tend to find excuses to ignore any petitions they don’t like.

But it’s worth a try, and thousands of people have signed already.

The petition is here and the text runs like this:

“We demand that government fully and publicly accept the 2018 United Nations Alston preliminary report on UK poverty and act on any United Nations recommendations or resolutions as a result of the full report when it is produced.

“The preliminary report was damning about the current welfare system and government welfare policy, austerity and in particular Universal Credit.”

[It states:] “‘Universal Credit and the other far-reaching changes to the role of government in supporting people in distress are almost always ‘sold’ as being part of an unavoidable program of fiscal ‘austerity’, needed to save the country from bankruptcy. In fact, however, the reforms have almost certainly COST THE COUNTRY FAR MORE THAN THEIR PROPONENTS WILL ADMIT.’

“The full report is due to be completed and released in the summer of next year but this petition intends to make sure this government does not forget the report’s initial findings.

“United Against Universal Credit then plans to make sure the full report is fully exposed to the general public so that this government acts on any recommendations contained within it or acts to improve upon the misgivings it finds within it.”

The petition has had more than 7,000 signatures in four days.

Please add yours.

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Marr’s meltdown over ‘patronising’ Chakrabarti couldn’t have been more poorly-timed. Here’s why (Part Three of Three)

Meltdown: Andrew Marr.

We have seen that a story broke yesterday (November 18), confirming a UN inspector’s claims about the Conservative government’s policies on benefits – and BBC anchorman Andrew Marr helped a Tory minister brush it under the carpet.

This is not acceptable behaviour for a member of our national news media. We expect them to hold power to account. It might be understandable, at least, if he showed similar leniency to people of all political persuasions – but events were to prove that this was not the case.

It lays both Mr Marr and the BBC open to serious questions about their competence, impartiality and fitness to continue as a news reporter of record.

Shortly after the incident with Kwasi Kwarteng, Mr Marr interviewed Shadow Attorney General Shami Chakrabarti, discussing Theresa May’s 585-page Brexit deal.

Baroness Chakrabarti showed remarkable restraint when he – patronisingly – asked her if she had read all of the document she was there to discuss – especially as he had not.

But what happened next went beyond the pale. Mr Marr tried to put his interviewee in an impossible – if fake – position, contrasting Labour’s manifesto commitment to honour the result of the 2016 EU referendum with her own preference for remaining in the European Union. When she responded that she was a democrat, he leaned in and warned her not to patronise him.

It’s a completely false argument. Baroness Chakrabarti had said “I don’t know about you, Andrew, but I am a democrat.” His claim to be “as much a democrat as you are” strikes hollow, considering he was suggesting that she should have ignored the result of the referendum to follow her own preference. Is that what he would have done? Her excellent response was, in the circumstances, remarkably restrained.

Commenters on the social media were, understandably, less calm about the matter:

Nooruddean pointed out: “Andrew Marr doesn’t speak to Theresa May or Nigel Farage or Marine Le Pen like this. It’s really unprofessional.”

And Dr Lauren Gavaghan demonstrated that the attitude is evident elsewhere among BBC political anchormen: “Oh lord. Andrew Marr – really? Is this as good as you’ve got? A man with your years of experience?

“It’s as bad as Dimbleby telling me “don’t wag your finger at me young lady” once upon a time on Question Time.”

And James! drew attention to the tactic Mr Marr used to prevent Baroness Chakrabarti from upbraiding him about his own behaviour: “I can’t stop thinking about this from Andrew Marr. Totally unprofessional & uncalled for.

“Note the ‘anyway’ after his attack.

“He wants to draw it to a close and move on.

“Shameful behaviour & really quite sinister. When the mask slips…”

Many made the point that Mr Marr went on to give Dominic Raab – the former Brexit Secretary who did not understand the significance of the Dover-Calais crossing – exactly the same kind of easy ride he had provided to Kwasi Kwarteng earlier in the show:

Ash Sarkar added: “It’s Andrew Marr’s job to put politicians through the wringer, no matter what their political stripe. I support that. But I just don’t understand why Dominic Raab is getting handled with kid gloves, while Shami Chakrabarti got treated like this?”

But it was MP Dan Carden who made the crucial connection – that Mr Marr supports Conservatives and undermines Labour politicians because that is the current culture at the BBC.

“We have a media that shows deference & respect to its establishment Tory chums, and derision to those who challenge the utterly broken status quo,” he tweeted.

“As Chomsky once brilliantly told Marr – ‘if you believed something different, you wouldn’t be sitting where you’re sitting’.”

Here’s the proof:

This corresponds perfectly with the words of UN special rapporteur on poverty, Professor Philip Alston, whose report on poverty in the UK had been dismissed with a query about whether it was “appropriate” by Mr Marr earlier in the programme.

So we see a situation in which Professor Alston’s assertion, that poverty is deliberately inflicted on people by the Conservatives, is proved with an example – that of Emily Lydon. His further claim that the Conservative government is in a “state of denial” is proved by the response of Mr Kwarteng. And the assertions by commenters – that the BBC (and others in the mainstream media) have disguised or hidden the reality, and that the mainstream media are complicit with the Tories – is demonstrated by Mr Marr’s behaviour.

However, in the name of the “balance” that the BBC tries to present in its reporting, I should point out that there were some who supported Mr Marr’s meltdown.

Mennie Maahes tweeted: “I have no problem with anyone telling this mouthy foreigner where to shove her views, Marr did it from the wrong standpoint but still applicable. Interesting Marr is getting annoyed because people will not accept Remain is right-perhaps he now knows what Leave folk feel like?”

However, in the name of accuracy I must add Rachael Swindon’s response: “Referring to The Right Honourable Baroness Shami Chakribarti as a “mouthy foreigner” is rather stupid, what with her being born in the London Borough of Harrow.”

It all contributes to a standard of reporting that falls well below what we should demand of our public service – and publicly-funded – broadcaster. We don’t fund the BBC in order to be force-fed Conservative Party propaganda, no matter what Andrew Marr might think.

Sadly, we are let down by those other members of the national press who we might reasonably expect to hold the BBC to account (for not, in its turn, holding Tory politicians to account). Consider Eoin Clarke’s summary of the way the exchange between Mr Marr and Baroness Chakrabarti was reported:

These are serious criticisms.

Sadly, as the BBC is self-regulating, there is no possibility of any change for the better – at least in the immediate future.

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Kwarteng dismisses concerns about Tory benefits policies – and Marr lets him off the hook (Part Two of Three)

Soundbite: Kwasi Kwarteng.

The second act of the three-part farce acted out on the BBC’s Andrew Marr Show on Sunday (November 18) started when a panel including Conservative MP Kwasi Kwarteng was asked to discuss the possible eviction of vCJD sufferer Emily Lydon (read her story here).

As the story was breaking only days after the UN special rapporteur on poverty, Professor Philip Alston, had warned that the hardship suffered by the most vulnerable people in the UK had been deliberately inflicted on them by the Tories, to achieve “radical social re-engineering”, Mr Kwarteng would have been well-advised to take a diplomatic approach.

He did not.

Here’s what he said:

Notice he said he did not know “who this UN man is” – confirmation that the Tories are determined to ignore Professor Alston’s findings.

People in the real world condemned Mr Kwarteng’s words and pilloried their speaker.

For example, Loula Abdulla tweeted: “There’s obviously something very wrong with this man. I think he’s a sociopath, there’s no other possible explanation for such an ignorant brushing aside of that example of Tory injustice.”

And this is from Barbara Keeley: “Tory MP Kwasi Kwarteng response on this case is disgraceful. No compassion or empathy. Says it all about the Tories.”

Critically, the show’s anchor, Andrew Marr, was soft on Mr Kwarteng to the point of liquidity. His only contribution was to ask if Mr Kwarteng thought the UN report was “appropriate” – to which he received the obvious answer from a Tory.

Here‘s Andy Searson on that: “Look how easily Marr allows the Tory off the hook when faced with the reality of their policies on ordinary people.”

And former Shadow Work and Pensions Secretary Debbie Abrahams hit the nail squarely on the head.

So, despite the revelation of an atrocity that is being committed by the Tory government against UK citizens who are powerless to prevent it, one of our most prominent press representatives failed to hold a member of that government to account. He was to prove hypocritically less compliant when interviewing a member of Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition, unfortunately…

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Tories have DELIBERATELY increased poverty in the UK, according to UN inspector

Professor Philip Alston: He came to his conclusions by listening to people affected by Conservative policies on the poor, sick and disabled. Tories implemented those policies by ignoring the very same people – and now they have vowed to ignore Professor Alston.

The United Nations’ special rapporteur on poverty, Philip Alston, has said he believes the UK’s Conservative government deliberately increased poverty in the country, for ideological reasons.

He said the harm done to the poorest and most vulnerable could be reversed with very little investment; all that is needed is the political will. Sadly, we all know that a change of government will be required to achieve this.

The Tories themselves confirmed this, by stating that they do not recognise the findings of Professor Alston’s report. Clearly they will not act upon those findings either.

In an interview with Channel 4 News, he said the following:

And this is from his verbal report:

A wealth of material has appeared about this – mostly on the social media (and we’ll discuss the reasons for this below), so it is possible to put together a good summary of the report, the reaction to it, and wider issues from that. So here are the headlines:

Here’s the underlying implication – that the Tory government intended to create this problem for the people of the UK in order to achieve “radical social re-engineering”:

Professor Alston said the situation could change overnight with very little investment, if there was a different government:

But the current government is unlikely to do anything because it is in a “state of denial”:

https://twitter.com/Anoosh_C/status/1063402905569583107

It is well worth noting that Professor Alston used the words “hostile environment” to describe the Conservative government’s policies brings to mind the Windrush Scandal – and the Department for Work and Pensions, which is responsible for so many of the policies which have caused the harm, is now being run by the woman who took the rap for Windrush – Amber Rudd.

The effect of Tory policies on women was highlighted by the special rapporteur:

This Site suggested yesterday that Esther McVey resigned as Work and Pensions Secretary, not because of Brexit but because she did not want to face the criticism she would receive from Professor Alston. In his report, he revealed that he had met Ms McVey – and her comments were alarming:

https://twitter.com/Anoosh_C/status/1063405551852404736

One can see why she may not have wanted to stick around for the fallout from that. Instead, as Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell points out, they “manipulate statistics” and “refuse to accept responsibility”.

And how do they get away with it? The answer is obvious:

Excellent points. And if you think the BBC isn’t hiding important facts from you, were you aware of the following?

No? Then the BBC, together with other right-wing news organisations, has been hiding the facts from us all.

We need responsible news media, holding the government to account for its actions, and a cabinet minister willing to accept the facts and act on them in the national interest.

We have been given Amber Rudd.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: This would be a farce if not for the fact that people are dying.

Did McVey resign to avoid dealing with UN report on poverty?

Professor Philip Alston: He came to his conclusions by listening to people affected by Conservative policies on the poor, sick and disabled. Tories implemented those policies by ignoring the very same people.

Let’s get this right: UN special rapporteur Professor Philip Alston is set to issue a preliminary statement on the connection between Conservative government policy and the increase in poverty, homelessness and benefit-related suicide, on November 16 – and Esther McVey resigned as Work and Pensions Secretary the day before.

She quit to get out of having to answer his charges, didn’t she?

I mean, it’s more believable than her claim that she couldn’t look her constituents in the eye and defend Theresa May’s Brexit deal, isn’t it?

If you’re wondering why Ms McVey would want to pretend to quit over Brexit, rather than defend her record and that of the other Tory Work and Pensions secretaries since 2010, consider what we know of Professor Alston’s findings:

He berated the Tory government for “outsourcing” the task of keeping people alive to food banks.

He has heard stories of “families facing homelessness, of people too scared to eat, of those on benefits contemplating suicide”.

And he said the effect of Universal Credit – hey, what’s Esther McVey’s position on Universal Credit?

… And he said the effect of Universal Credit on the poverty experienced by disabled people and other groups “would play an important part” in his report.

So what do you think?

Did Esther McVey resign because of Theresa May’s Brexit?

Or did she want to get out of being told off by the man from the UN?

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