Respectful Insolence

Things are pretty hairy this week, what with a couple of grant deadlines fast approaching, not to mention a rather important site visit at my institution later this week. As a result, I had been intending to post a “rerun” today, but then I saw something that just cracked me up so much that I couldn’t resist taking a few minutes to do an uncharacteristically brief (for me) post about it.

Earlier this week, there was an announcement of a blockbuster deal in which AOL is buying that wretched hive of scum and quackery (take that, Dean Toney!), The Huffington Post, for $315 million. Since then, the interwebs have been abuzz with chatter about what, if anything, this means for AOL, HuffPo, and the “new media.” Under the deal, Arianna Huffington herself will become president and editor-in-chief of the Huffington Post Media group. Even worse, she will integrate all Huffington Post and AOL content, including news, entertainment, video.

What this all means, I don’t know. Neither does anyone else–not really. However, there’s no doubt that HuffPo has been very successful peddling a mix of news, liberal politics, celebrity gossip, quackery, and pseudoscience. Indeed, in terms of science and medicine, HuffPo is best known for a mixture of New Age woo, anti-vaccine lunacy, outright quackery, and even creationism, so much so that I recently felt the need to update my mockery of the very concept of a science section for HuffPo, a concept I first castigated a couple of years ago. Let’s just put it this way. Any blog or website whose very DNA is so steeped in anti-vaccine nonsense that it first became apparent within days of its launch back in 2005 cannot have a credible medical section. Any blog or website that embraced the quantum woo stylings of Deepak Chopra from the very beginning has no credibility in science or medicine. Any blog or website that embraces homeopathy, breast cancer quackery, biocentrism, and all manner of quackery is unworthy of a science section–and couldn’t do a credible one anyway if it tried. Unfortunately, with an infusion of hundreds of millions of dollars, it is possible that Arianna Huffington could become the Oprah Winfrey of the “new media.” She may well have truly idiotic beliefs about science, but that doesn’t preclude her from having an uncanny knack for giving the people what they want and driving eyeballs (and page views) to her website.

Whether AOL will prevent Huffington from serving up the purest quackery, as she has been doing in her little war on medical science at HuffPo for the last five and a half years, I don’t know. What I do know is that at least one quack appears to see an opportunity in this deal. Or he’s worried. Or maybe it’s a little of both. I’m referring, of course, to our old buddy Mike Adams of NaturalNews.com, who just posted an utterly hilarious article entitled With Huffington Post sold to AOL, NaturalNews invites top alternative health authors to join truly independent news network. No, your eyes are not deceiving you. Where other quacks despair, our old pal Mikey sees opportunity to try to poach reject quack talent from HuffPo:

The Huffington Post was sold to AOL for $315 million yesterday, meaning the site, which was once the darling of independent media, is now clearly positioned as institutionalized media. As the editor of NaturalNews, I have, over the last several months, received several concerning emails from credentialed medical writers and natural health authors whose stories were dropped from consideration for publication at Huffington Post. There was a rising sense of frustration long before this sale that seemed to indicate HuffPost was headed in the direction of conventional media.

Yesterday’s sale to AOL merely confirms this.

I don’t know what planet Mike’s on (I often wonder that, actually), but it’s not as though HuffPo has ever been about anything other than the money. It’s a business, and it’s been a very successful one, by and large. I mean, seriously. Look at the celebrity section of HuffPo. It might as well be People Magazine! As I write this, looking at the entertainment section of HuffPo, I see two stories about celebrity breakups, a well as a story about Lindsay Lohan, Kelly Osbourne’s cheating fiance, Katie Perry revealing her weight and Halle Berry’s nasty breakup, plus a photo of Jennifer Lawrence in a revealing swimsuit. None of this would be out of place on E!, that’s for sure.

The other question that I have is this: What on earth were these “alternative medicine” authors writing that they couldn’t get it published on HuffPo? I mean, think about it. After all, this is the blog that has routinely published the anti-vaccine stylings of Dr. Jay Gordon, Kim Stagliano, Jim Carrey, Jenny McCarthy, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and a seeming cast of thousands of anti-vaccine activists; the quantum evolutionary woo and mind-body dualism of Deepak Chopra,; the utterly loony biocentrism of Robert Lanza; the “functional medicine” quackery of Mark Hyman; and the blathering of everyone’s favorite homeopathic intelligence (as in: there’s not a single molecule of intelligence left, so diluted is it) Dana Ullman. If HuffPo will publish such rank pseudoscience and utter nonsense, what on earth won’t it publish? The mind boggles even to think of what could be so bad that HuffPo wouldn’t publish it.

Yes, yes, I know. Mike’s clearly implying that HuffPo has been pressuring its alt-med writers to become more mainstream, but in all honesty from my perspective it appears more as though the medical articles in HuffPo have been getting more and more chock full of quackery, not less, particularly since hiring detox homeopath and practitioner of traditional Chinese medicine, Patricia Fitzgerald, as its “wellness editor” two years ago. A more quack-friendly mainstream media outlet I am hard-pressed to imagine. Well, outside of Oprah and Dr. Oz these days. It just goes to show just how out of touch with reality ol’ Mike really is. So does this passage:

Beginning today, NaturalNews is actively welcoming credentialed writers and op-ed authors who wish to be featured on NaturalNews.com as part of our new format which places more emphasis on featured contributing writers. We especially welcome former Huffington Post writers who want to be part of a truly independent, yet well-established health news site that already reaches millions of readers each month.

We have nothing against the Huffington Post, which will no doubt continue to be a very influential news organization under AOL, but we’d like to offer HuffPost writers who saw their best stories dropped a new opportunity to get greater visibility (and more freedom of speech) at NaturalNews.com.

Specifically, we welcome medically credentialed health writers and published authors who are aligned with the principles of holistic healing, nutrition and disease prevention. We also welcome experienced speakers, researchers, thought leaders, grassroots leaders and others who deserve greater recognition at a truly independent alternative media site that’s rapidly growing in its audience and its content.

The topics we hope to attract articles on include energy medicine, nutrition, consciousness, herbology, environmental health news, health freedom, natural health activism, organic farming, preparedness, sustainability and much more.

I suppose I should be grateful to Mike for being so eager to supply me with even more copious blogging material than usual. I wonder if I should apply; I bet I could at least keep Mike going for a little while before he figured it out. On second thought, it already takes up more than enough of my free time trying to keep serving up the not-so-Respectful Insolence and agreeing to do periodic interviews with various podcasts and the like, all the while trying to hold down a demanding day job. In any case, I’m finding it quite hilarious that Mike is apparently begging HuffPo’s cast-offs to join up with his woo collective and send him posts that, if we’re to believe Mike, were too “alternative” even for HuffPo. Again, what on earth could be too woo-ey for HuffPo, I can’t imagine. I really can’t. In fact, I fear it. No, I don’t fear that it will threaten “conventional medicine,” as woo-meisters like to claim whenever I or another skeptic criticizes the scientific basis (or lack thereof) for an alt-med modality. Rather, I fear it will unleash a wave of neuronal apoptosis in my brain that will result in a whitish goo oozing out of my ears, much like the proverbial slime oozing out of your TV set.

Oh, look. There’s the first new recruit: Dr. Sherri Tenpenny, anti-vaccine loon extraordinaire! Joining him is supplement hawker, Dr. James Chappell. Somehow this contradicts a statement from Mike that is so amazingly out of touch with reality, so full of irony that Mike owes me yet another irony meter, having left mine quivering and bubbling in a pool of molten plastic and metal:

Our readers are the most intelligent, skeptical and well-informed people on the planet, I believe. They keep us on track and they have zero tolerance for B.S. They know spin when they see it. They don’t fall for typical corporate marketing propaganda, and they don’t watch network news (except to have a good laugh, perhaps). Instead, they read books and websites; they listen to intelligent podcasts; they watch informative videos. They are the sharpest minds on the ‘net, and frankly we are absolutely blessed to have the honor of serving this audience every single day.

I’ll give it to Mike: He and his audience do deserve each other. At least, I’ll give it to him after manage to get off the floor and out of the fetal position, where I had been laughing uproariously and pounding the floor after having read that paragraph. Yes, it’s very easy to laugh at Mike. However, it’s not so easy to laugh at the influence he apparently has, as he brags of having over 2,000,000 unique page visits a month. That’s P.Z. Myers-level traffic, people. Now, I don’t know that I necessarily believe that Mike’s traffic is that high, but I do believe it’s more than high enough and that he probably isn’t exaggerating by much when he says NaturalNews.com is “among the largest health news websites in the world.”

I don’t know if Adams will manage to get even bigger by sucking up HuffPo cast-offs, but I do know that the crazy is strong within the Health Ranger.

Comments

  1. #1 sharon
    February 9, 2011

    “..the most intelligent, skeptical and well informed people on the planet.” Oh stop, please stop. I’m going to need some Rescue Remedy to calm down after being racked by paroxysms of laughter. Better still I’ll have a wine instead. Best laugh all day. Bless their cotton socks.

  2. #2 Joey Mack
    February 9, 2011

    Complain to Google about Biased/Offensive content showing up in their news listings here:

    http://www.google.com/support/news_pub/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=191183&rd=1

    Obviously, “Natural News” shouldn’t be showing up in Google News. Alex Jones lost his mind when they pulled him from the listings years ago. Since Mike and Alex are good buddies and basically believe all of the same bs, I think Google should be made aware of this situation.

    I specifically complained about his post on the Tuscon shooter being a mind-control victim, I had to link to proof that he removed that part of the article, probably after he came down from his mushroom high. Mike Adams is sick.

  3. #3 sheldon101
    February 9, 2011

    There’s merit in Mike Adams actions. IMHO readers of RI should do what they can to help him.

  4. #4 Anonymous
    February 9, 2011

    “I don’t know what planet Mike’s on”

    Teegeeack?
    http://www.truthaboutscientology.com/stats/by-name/m/mike-adams.html

  5. #5 sharon
    February 9, 2011

    Anonymous, Scientology is a passionate hatred of mine. Youve just made my day by linking Mike and CoS.

  6. #6 Vicki
    February 9, 2011

    On the other hand, howmanyofme.com guesses that there are about 453 people in the U.S. named “Mike Adams,” so it may not be him. That’s based on the number of people named Mike and the number named Adams; they don’t have a list of Mike Adamses.

  7. #7 Denice Walter
    February 9, 2011

    Actually, I have been tracking the rise of *another* new media empire: woo-based internet “radio” and “TV”, accompanied by “cutting edge” articles in print, provided free** through the generosity of Mike Adams and Gary Null ( respectively, Natural News and the Progressive Radio Network). Our wonder boys are not content to mangle the life sciences, but venture stalwartly ahead into new realms, eagarly spreading new misinformation, portraying themselves as alternatives to “biased”, “corporate-sponsored” mainstream media news. Occasionally, they might even snag a well-known, intelligent non-woo-meister who either has a book or charity to promote ( Robert Reich, Jane Goodall, respectively) or perhaps wants a laugh ( Brian Deer); usually though, it is woo through and through ( e.g. today, Andrew Wakefield is interviewed about the “structure of scientific revolutions” by Mikey.)

    And our two would-be Arianna’s in gym shorts also have a political angle that reflects their own health freedom/ free enterprise “progressive libertarianism”: they promote a view that the government should not be involved in regulation of alt med, should lower or flatten taxes, and not favor SB treatment for governmental or insurance reinbursement. And they talk about the economy as well.

    Our esteemed host is, thanks these two outlets, guaranteed a never-ebbing stream of pseudo-science to eviserate. I invite readers to sample these endeavors, “Come on in, the woo is fine!” ….. Now wait, if they would discourage their followers from surveying mainstream news and other sources of information *for every facet of life*, doesn’t that sound a bit, you know, cultish?

    ** free, just like info-mercials.

  8. #8 cervantes
    February 9, 2011

    OT but You’re gonna love this:

    CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan — The U.S. military is applying an ancient Chinese healing technique to the top modern battlefield injury for American soldiers, with results that doctors here say are “off the charts.”

    “Battlefield acupuncture,” developed by Air Force physician Col. Richard Niemtzow, is helping heal soldiers with concussions so they can return more quickly to the front lines.

    At Camp Leatherneck, an enormous Marine Corps base in southern Afghanistan’s Helmand province, a military doctor’s consulting room has dim little Christmas lights arranged across the ceiling and new age music playing.

    Commander Keith Stuessi asks his patients to relax in his darkened chamber and then gently inserts hair-thin needles into special points on their body: between the eyebrows, in the ear lobe, on the top of the head, into the webbed part of the hand between the thumb and fingers, and on top of the feet between the first and second metatarsal. The needles may look gruesome but don’t hurt.

    Stuessi, a naval doctor whose rank is equivalent to Lieutenant Colonel, treats concussions, also known as mild brain trauma.

    “I’m seeing pretty incredible results,” said Stuessi, who’s based at the Marine Corps’ Camp Pendleton, near San Diego, and is originally from Wales, Wis. “In my heart I think this will, down the road, become one of the standards of care.”

    Read more: http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/02/07/108250/military-deploys-acupuncture-to.html?storylink=MI_emailed#ixzz1DTYkYraq

  9. #9 Dangerous Bacon
    February 9, 2011

    Mike Adams: “Beginning today, NaturalNews is actively welcoming credentialed writers and op-ed authors who wish to be featured on NaturalNews.com as part of our new format which places more emphasis on featured contributing writers.”

    What this announcement seems to be saying is that LooNatural News is, in its own way, going mainstream – seeking out “credentialed” (whatever that means) and published woo-authors, instead of the “citizen journalists” who’ve been doing articles for the website. Mike apparently thinks he can gain greater credibility and advertiser appeal weeding out the rankest amateurs in favor of better known crazies.
    It’s a risky strategy though – Mike risks pissing off the low-level grunts who see him as a hero and a way to get exposure. Now they may be limited to expounding their theories on personal websites (complete with horrendous graphics and single pages of closely spaced text that run on forever).

  10. #10 Denice Walter
    February 9, 2011

    Oh Dangerous One: true, there’s a chance of him angering the grunts ( a/k/a customers) but then, being Mikey, perhaps he’ll try to maintain *both* amateur (albeit, ameliorated) and professional woo efforts, and assuage readers with “video contests” as he has been wont to do.

    “LooNaturalNews”? It says it all!

  11. #11 lilady
    February 9, 2011

    I’ve been following the comments about the sale of H-P to AOL, on the H-P site. Yes I do comment at times on the H-P web page, mostly some light stuff. A recent comment was directed to the article by Secretary Kathleen Sibelius about the Re-authorization for the CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Plan) signed by President Obama. It was a staight forward commentary about the genesis of the program, sponsored by Senators Orrin Hatch and Ted Kennedy and signed into law by President Clinton. With a wee bit of snark, I commented that it was an example of reaching across the aisle..back in the day when there wasn’t huge divisiveness in government. President Bush vetoed the re-authorization of the CHIP program as it might lead to government nationalization of health care. I, of course pointed out that it filled a gap between Medicaid and private insurance and offered lower income families to purchase health insurance for their children. Costs to fund this program were to a large measure through the huge taxes placed on cigarettes.

    Reference was also made to the study by Brigham Young University…not a liberal tool of socialists…about the fiscal soundness of the program. BYU found that this “bridge” between Medicaid and private insurance resulted in far fewer ER visits and resulting expensive hospitalizations, because children have access to pediatricians, preventive care and care for simple medical problems. An overwhelming number of responses to my posting were positive…with the exception of one or two far to the right political trolls.

    Other postings that I have submitted, including one that questioned the “credentials” of a nutrition specialist who used a ten year old article about olive oil, were denied. I then offered up the “American Heart Association, for the most up-to-date information about saturated, unsaturated, mono-unsaturated and poly-unsaturated cooking oils”; it was accepted.

    I’ll continue to post at H-P, keeping my snark at a low level.

  12. #12 René F. Najera
    February 9, 2011

    What about MY media empire? When will a big fail of a company throw millions at my stuff?

    Oh, that’s right… I keep it real, real. No BS = No controversy = No traffic.

    I can live with that.

  13. #13 Paco
    February 9, 2011

    Saw this today:
    Military deploys acupuncture to treat soldiers’ concussions
    http://www.mcclatchydc.com/2011/02/07/108250/military-deploys-acupuncture-t
    o.html

  14. #14 rob
    February 9, 2011

    Sturgeon’s law applies here. 90% of stuff on the internet is crap. in a venn-like manner, natural news seems entirely encompassed by the boundary separating crap from the rest.

  15. #15 mad the swine
    February 9, 2011

    On the other hand, howmanyofme.com guesses that there are about 453 people in the U.S. named “Mike Adams,” so it may not be him. That’s based on the number of people named Mike and the number named Adams; they don’t have a list of Mike Adamses.

    Well, Adams does agree with Scientology about psychiatrists, if that’s any help. And if you search naturalnews.com for Scientology or Scientologists, you find all sorts of other good things said about them. Adams believes, for instance, that e-meters work, because anything the FDA rejects must be a valid treatment. It’s crank magnetism at its finest.

  16. #16 Jon F
    February 9, 2011

    So far at least 80% of reactions I’ve gotten to this deal – including my own initial one – is “wait, AOL still exists? Huh?”

    So we’ve got everyone’s grandma on the Internet who can’t figure out how to search for things without typing “www.yahoo.com” into Google, we’ve got one of the most widely-viewed sources of Woo on the Internet given editorial control over content viewable to them… huh, can we get Oprah and her people (eg, Dr. Oz) in on this somehow? It’d be nice to have all the antireality in one headache-inducing basket.

    AOL: F’in Magnets, How Do They Work?

  17. #17 Doctor Smart
    February 9, 2011

    @Joey

    Stop censoring internet searches. That’s what wacked out communist overlords do. Let freedom ring.

    @ everyone else

    The Huff and Puff Post is selling to AOL? Hmm. If I had known that I would have bought it. Is it still for sale? I would like very much to buy it and reorganize it and fire all the liberals there and team up with Fox News, the Washington Times, and Natural News for a brand new News site that actually reports important things.

    Also. The Huff and Puff Post is not worth 315 million dollars. I would give them $3.15 on a good day for it though. That includes interest payment.

    @ Chris

    Don’t even think about it. I’ll call my brother and he’ll just get you riled up again.

  18. #18 Chris
    February 9, 2011

    Oh, wow! You are a real idiot. You and your various sock puppets are just comedy gold.

  19. #19 presuming ed
    February 9, 2011

    My favourite comment on the sale was from the person who calculated that following its 315 million dollar purchase, AOL was now worth 310 million dollars

  20. #20 Anonymous
    February 10, 2011

    I vaguely remember at one point finding some link between a Canadian chiropractor/Scientologist named Trueman Tuck and Truth Publishing. But I’ve forgotten the details and I could be wrong.

    Anyway it’s a waste of time to dig for links between the “not a Scientologist buts” and the CoS (oh hai Dr. Gordon!). All except the most rabid Scilons are re-defining themselves as New Thought Christians, pagans, John-Rogers fans, Hindus, Buddhists –you get the idea.

    The re-branding kinda makes me sad. A while back I noted some circumstantial evidence of surveillance, so I started reading other people’s stories at whyweprotest.net. My God. I never imagined anything so petty and cruel and relentless could be going on here in the US. First time in my adult life I encountered a real feeling of righteousness.

    And that is a kick-ass feeling. It’s rare cuz usually hate is mixed with worry and pity which kills the buzz.

  21. #21 Kristen
    February 10, 2011

    Jon F,

    huh, can we get Oprah and her people (eg, Dr. Oz) in on this somehow? It’d be nice to have all the antireality in one headache-inducing basket.

    I fear it would destroy the universe, sucking it into a vortex of anti-reason.

  22. #22 Medicien Man
    February 10, 2011

    @Chris

    My brother called last night and said you were stalking again after he told you not too. Now, I’m here to annoy you for it.

    La laah la, can’t hear you, la laah la, can’t hear you!

  23. #23 Chris
    February 10, 2011

    You are either a Poe, or very very disturbed and illiterate. I don’t whether to laugh or pity you and your sock puppets.

  24. #24 Beamup
    February 10, 2011

    I have a sneaking suspicion that he’s actually 10 years old, or thereabouts. Certainly acts like it.

  25. #25 jen
    February 10, 2011

    Orac, if I were you I would worry more about stuff like Helen Ratajczak’s article review in J. of Immunotoxicology. It’s about autsim and this researcher believes autism is increasing and definitely could be the result of vaccines.

  26. #26 Chris
    February 10, 2011

    jen, so you have named the author and the journal. You are now missing the title and date.

  27. #27 JohnV
    February 10, 2011

    @jen

    researcher believes or research has evidence?

  28. #28 Scientizzle
    February 10, 2011

    Just so nobody waste’s their time waiting, there’s two reviews by Ratajczak…here’s the cites:

    Ratajczak HV. J Immunotoxicol. 2011 Jan-Mar;8(1):80-94.
    Theoretical aspects of autism: biomarkers—a review. PMID: 21299356 doi:10.3109/1547691X.2010.538749

    Ratajczak HV. J Immunotoxicol. 2011 Jan-Mar;8(1):68-79.
    Theoretical aspects of autism: Causes—A review. PMID: 21299355 doi:10.3109/1547691X.2010.545086

  29. #29 jen
    February 10, 2011

    thanks, Scientizzle

  30. #30 squirrelelite
    February 10, 2011

    The PubMed abstract for the second article states:

    Autism, a member of the pervasive developmental disorders (PDDs), has been increasing dramatically since its description by Leo Kanner in 1943. First estimated to occur in 4 to 5 per 10,000 children, the incidence of autism is now 1 per 110 in the United States, and 1 per 64 in the United Kingdom, with similar incidences throughout the world. Searching information from 1943 to the present in PubMed and Ovid Medline databases, this review summarizes results that correlate the timing of changes in incidence with environmental changes. Autism could result from more than one cause, with different manifestations in different individuals that share common symptoms. Documented causes of autism include genetic mutations and/or deletions, viral infections, and encephalitis following vaccination. Therefore, autism is the result of genetic defects and/or inflammation of the brain. The inflammation could be caused by a defective placenta, immature blood-brain barrier, the immune response of the mother to infection while pregnant, a premature birth, encephalitis in the child after birth, or a toxic environment.

    In other words, the key causes are “include genetic mutations and/or deletions, viral infections, and encephalitis following vaccination”.

    That’s encephalitis following vaccination, not just vaccination.

  31. #31 Chris
    February 11, 2011

    What is a “toxic environment”? Is it one where a child is bathed in bacterial toxins, like cholera, pertussis, botulism, tetanus, etc? Or one where a child lives near a Superfund site?

    So, jen, why were you unable to provide the information on the titles and date? Scientizzle provided the information for two different articles, which one is the one you are talking about? It would have helped to know which of the two papers you referred to when you said “Helen Ratajczak’s article”, which is singular.

  32. #32 Militant Agnostic
    February 11, 2011

    I noticed there was no mention of diagnostic substitution, broadening of diagnostic criteria or increased awareness in the abstract. I smell the confluence of a crank with a failure of peer review if the paper didn’t address any of the above.

  33. #33 Travis
    February 11, 2011

    I wanted to check up on the presence of diagnostic substitution in the papers themself but sadly my library does not seem to index that journal so I do not appear to have access.

    I guess I will have to life through others at this point.

  34. #34 Orac
    February 11, 2011

    Ratajczak’s review article is an embarrassment. How such a shoddily argued review, chock full of dubious references, such as from David Ayoub, was accepted to this journal demonstrates that this must be a crappy, bottom-feeding journal. Seriously, it’s that bad–Geier-grade bad.

    Might be blogging material for Monday; that is, if the anti-vaccine movement is still flogging it. I suspect that it’s so bad that it will be rapidly forgotten.

  35. #35 JohnV
    February 11, 2011

    The journal’s impact factor suggests that it doesn’t put out top quality work :P

  36. #36 Narad
    February 12, 2011

    Complain to Google about Biased/Offensive content showing up in their news listings here:

    http://www.google.com/support/news_pub/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=191183&rd=1

    I would note that this seems to be an excellent time to do so, as a Google News search for ‘pertussis death’ just brought up a Feb. 9 entry from NN. The thing is that it’s just a regurgitation of a three-month-old Reuters story with a nod to Viera Scheibner tacked on.

  37. #37 Rune C. Olwen
    November 15, 2011

    AOL will avoid risks to be sued; therefore some of the people with the more egregious claims will be rejected on the combined website.
    But are these also the claims clearly outside of selfhealing abilities?
    I doubt it, therefore nothing will change.
    And (in)famous Arianna has not done anything to explain functions and limits of selfhealing methods to those many people who grow up with religious mistrust in their bodies and a diffuse wish to make it better.

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