What’s not being discussed in the gubernatorial race

It’s just over a month until the election, and while it might be useful to sum up what we know about the three main candidates, Tim Pugmire of Minnesota Public Radio takes the potentially more useful approach of asking what’s not being discussed. And what is that? Pugmire writes that “the three major-party candidates have largely ignored traditionally divisive social issues.”

Pugmire pinpoints several issues in which the next governor might have a say: gay marriage, abortion and gambling. And we actually do know where the candidates stand here: GOP candidate Tom Emmer opposes gay marriage and abortion, while DFL candidate Mark Dayton and IP candidate Tom Horner support the legality of both. All three, to some extent, support an expansion of gambling. Perhaps it is to their credits that the candidates haven’t been trotting out these subjects in order to create wedges but, then, perhaps the wedges are already there and they need not make a big fuss out of them. And perhaps they think the economy gives them a big enough stick to beat each other over the head with.

But that doesn’t mean these issues are in the background. Emmer’s opposition to gay marriage was at the center of the Target flap a few months ago, and if Emmer himself isn’t going to push the subject to the front and center of this election, others will. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis mailed out almost half a million DVDs this week in opposition to gay marriage, as the Glean mentioned Thursday. Further, the Minnesota Family Council and The National Organization for Marriage (who, in fact, oppose marriage, at least when it’s between people of the same gender) released a pro-Emmer ad where they invoke Martin Luther King and declare voting “our most important civil right,” stating that both Dayton and Horner oppose letting Minnesotans vote on the subject of gay marriage.

Now, we could discuss the fact that Dr. King actually supported gay rights, as Minnesota Independent’s Paul Schmelzer does. But perhaps we should simply point out that it used to be illegal for black people to marry white people, and it’s doubtful that Dr. King would have supported putting that up to a vote. But, then, marriage wasn’t really Dr. King’s focus. But they are right that Dr. King fought for voting rights — he was in attendance in 1965 when President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law. And how did that landmark piece of legislation come about? Was it voted on, state by state, in an astonishing demonstration of the power of direct democracy? Er, no. It came about following a long series of high-profile court cases and was voted into law by Congress, the way most laws are passed.

It might be worth exploring this a bit more. Because, in fact, what’s being asked for is a modern variation of states’ rights — an ancient argument in American history about who gets to make decisions, the federal government or the states. And that argument does have a long history in the fight for civil rights, but it was most often invoked to suppress them. Most notoriously, there was the Bloody Sunday March on Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., in 1965. There, civil rights activists were beaten by police while they marched to demand the right to vote — in Selma at the time, voting rolls were 99 percent white and 1 percent African-American. Of course, black people already had the right to vote, guaranteed by the 15th Amendment to the Constitution. But Alabama, among others, had put all sorts of roadblocks in the way of voting, leading to massive African-American disenfranchisement from the voting process, and the argument for their right to do so was a states’ rights argument — that each state had the right to establish its own rule regarding the voting process. So there is some irony in a states’ rights argument against gay marriage making use of the iconic image of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

And here we have another subject in the gubernatorial race that’s not really being discussed: That Tom Emmer is very much a states’ right sort of guy. We only have to look back to March, when Emmer was one of three Republican lawmakers who tried to pass a bill that would allow the state to ignore any federal law they disagree with unless it is approved by two-thirds of the Minnesota House and Senate. Emmer admitted to MinnPost’s Eric Black he didn’t really know if this was constitutional; as Talking Points Memo pointed out at the time, it isn’t. Emmer also authored H.F. No. 3012, in which all federal laws are presumed to be null and void until the governor, speaker of the state House, and state Senate majority leader decides that the federal government actually has the constitutional power to make that law. And any one of the three can veto that law if they decide it’s an overreach.

He was also responsible for the “Firearms Freedom Act,” which was designed to “protect firearm owners and manufacturers in Minnesota from federal government restrictions on the lawful exercise of Second Amendment rights.” Emmer actually articulates his logic in this, and its not just that some laws might violate the Bill of Rights, it’s that each state gets to decide for itself if that’s the case. And why? “For far too long, elected officials and unelected bureaucrats at the federal level have passively forgotten or actively neglected the Tenth Amendment that guarantees rights not enumerated in the Constitution be left to the individual states,” Emmer explained.

The 10th Amendment. We won’t again go into the details of Tentherism — Eric Black detailed that quite nicely some time ago. But this is a very basic ideological divide in the gubernatorial race, and it’s strange that it hasn’t come to the forefront. Especially as the candidate who may make far-reaching decisions about abortion rights, gay rights and related social issues is somebody who believes federal law can be superseded by states’ rights. Heck, the first bill listed in this Glean, the one he co-sponsored with two other Republicans, was an attempt to block the federally mandated health care reforms. So while the candidates go on about the economy — which is important — we’re missing a discussion on how the next governor will position Minnesota in the context of the rest of the United States, and in relation to the federal government. As important as discussions of the economy are, that’s also an important discussion.

That’s not to say it’s not happening at all — but the only person who seems to be talking about it is our own Eric Black, who went onto FOX9 to discuss the subject. Black points out that strict Tentherism would require undoing enormous amounts of Supreme Court precedent, as that’s historically where the constitutionality of federal decisions has been tested. “Social Security, Medicare — even all the way down to segregated restaurants,” anchor Jeff Passolt responds.

Where are we now in the gubernatorial race anyway? According to a Rasmussen poll, reported by MPR’s Tom Scheck, Emmer and Dayton are in a dead heat. Emmer has 42 percent of the support of those polled, while Dayton has 41 percent. The candidates are pushing each other on the subject of education just now, detailed by MPR’s Tom Weber. All three are promising to increase funding for early childhood education — a reversal for Emmer, as Tom Horner pointed out, as he has consistently voted against such increases. Horner and Dayton have also promised to increase funding for advanced education, while Emmer would keep spending at its current levels.

Andy Birkey of Minnesota Independent looks at two new ads from Emmer. “Good jobs start with a good education,” Emmer says in the first, where he positions himself as a pro-education candidate — “Protect and fund education!” the ad declares, presumably mostly discussing K-12, as Emmer is actually looking to defund higher education to the tune of $400 million. Emmer’s second ad goes after Mark Dayton: “He was one of America’s worst senators,” the ad claims. “Now he wants to be America’s worst governor.” We at the Glean don’t recall Dayton actually articulating that goal, although we respect the challenge Dayton has set for himself if it is true. It’s a lot of work to be America’s worst governor — there’s so much competition.

In arts: The classic Ritz Theater in Northeast Minneapolis is in trouble, according to Gail Olson of North News, republished on the TC Daily Planet. The building, which is run by the Ballet of the Dolls dance troupe, is $725,671 in debt — this despite the fact that the theater has proven to be pretty popular, with 52,000 people attending shows since it opened. “When the theater opened, people weren’t aware that there was still work to do. We’re doing very well with box office revenue, concessions and theater rental. It’s all on target. Everything’s working. But we still owe this money,” according to managing director Michael Romens.

In sports: Judd Spicer, writing about the Twins for City Pages, asks which Jason is right for the baseball team — Kubel or Repko. We at the Glean don’t have an answer for this, and we’d be pretty much happy with any Jason. Jason Robards. Jennifer Jason Leigh. Jason DeRusha. Jason from “Friday the 13th.” Suit any of them up and we’ll watch the game.

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Comments (21)

  1. Submitted by Lauren Maker on 09/24/2010 - 10:32 am.

    And look at how Emmer is funding early childhood education– he’s stripping the money out of daycare. It was stated that boldly in his initial press release on his education budget, ignored by the media. How is that going to help parents with jobs?
    I would note that the press–Minnpost included–has been very lack in reporting on women’s issues in this campaign. Sales tax on clothing?–hits women disproportionately more than men–our clothes are more expensive, and we earn less. Are any of these boys also proposing taxing “nonessentials” like tampons and sanitary products? It’s been done before, and took feminists two years to get it undone. These are pocket book issues that can sway elections–inquiring minds do want to know.

  2. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/24/2010 - 10:37 am.

    Excuse me bunny, but you can’t discuss “the fact” that Dr. King actually supported gay rights, because it isn’t…a fact that is.

    King never addressed homosexuality publicly and none of his biographers ever suggested he did so privately.

    His widow, as an active Democrat, has endorsed homosexuality, but his daughter, Bernice, said the following at a conference in Auckland, New Zealand:

    “I know deep down in my sanctified soul that he did not take a bullet for same-sex unions.”

    And of course, those of us that don’t limit our information gathering to “Minnesota Independent” know how his neice, Alveda King, feels about the subject.

    *Them’s* the facts, bunny. Just the facts.

  3. Submitted by B Maginnis on 09/24/2010 - 11:46 am.


    “Buildings” don’t have debt. The tenants do. Just like homes.

    And marriage by definition is between a man and a woman.

    Always was, and likely always will be.

    That just the way it is. Don’t try to drag MLK into that game, for reasons Mr. Swift has succinctly pointed out.

  4. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/24/2010 - 12:24 pm.

    Coretta Scott King, March, 1998:

    “I still hear people say that I should not be talking about the rights of lesbian and gay people and I should stick to the issue of racial justice,” she said. “But I hasten to remind them that Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.'”


    Now, you can take the position recently adopted by Archbishop Neinstedt, that if it’s not a fundamental right, it’s not discrimination. But our courts have held that marriage is a fundamental right.

    Would King’s religious beliefs have trumped this position? Perhaps. We’ll never know. Like the rest of us, he was human.

  5. Submitted by James Hamilton on 09/24/2010 - 12:33 pm.

    Rep. Emmer’s attempts to disown his own legislation are simply evidence of his need to pull from the middle. He studied these issues in law school and for the bar exam in ’87. Even if he’d forgotten the fundamentals, I’ve no doubt that his law office subscribes to Westlaw or another service from which he could have readily checked the validity of his own legislation. If he’s any lawyer at all, he knew exactly what he was doing when he decided to pander to a limited segement of the electorate. If he wants to claim that he’s not that good a lawyer or that smart, then perhaps his current supporters should reconsider. The last thing we need on Summit Ave. is an idiot.

  6. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/24/2010 - 12:43 pm.

    Bernice King, who opposes gay marriage, was five years old when her father was murdered. Alveda King, a conservative who has made a career out of lying about the civil rights movement, was 17 when MLK was killed. The idea that either of them would have more insight into his beliefs than the woman he was married to for 15 years and who worked closely with him during his work with the civil rights movement is just plain stupid.

  7. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/24/2010 - 02:15 pm.

    With all due respect to Mrs. King, she was not raised by her husband.

    Although it is reasonable to assume she agreed completely with him as regards the human right to be free from judgement based upon the color of one’s skin, is it any less reasonable to allow that they may have differed on the place a person’s *behavior* holds in our society?

    You’re familiar, I’m sure, with the term “A house divided” as it relates to husband and wife political differences?

    King spoke of judging being properly relegated to our “character”, I’d submit that our behaviors, public and private, are a direct reflection of our character.

    “Alveda King, a conservative who has made a career out of lying about the civil rights movement, was 17 when MLK was killed.”

    Ignoring the uncalled for, hateful slander, Alveda *was* raised to young adulthood by MLK.

    May we agree that he had a life shaping role in who she is, and what she believes?

  8. Submitted by Josh McCabe on 09/24/2010 - 02:34 pm.

    Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere, as King was known to say.

    Hey Swift, a review of your frequent rants reveals a tendency to deliver a high volume of unrelated distracto-diatribes meant to disrupt, not edify. It seems evident that what you want to do is stop people from discussing the issues raised in a given article. That’s really a shame and I wish you wouldn’t do that. I for one would really like it if you could actually engage in the discussion a little more honestly rather than thinking you are some sort of commenting luchador, so I’ll say it to you directly because it’s quite possible no one has done so yet. I feel a little sorry for you when you don’t seem to be able to understand the ethics and intent of these writers, seeming to view all the content here as lies from the start. If it’s all wrongheaded lies, Swift, it seems unlikely you can save us from consuming it, and your efforts won’t amount to any sort of change in the world. Most normal adults can tell you that it’s much more effective to apply your skills and energies supporting whatever you consider your true community. Please stop imagining you are some kind of special agent who has the power to disrupt your chosen opponents. You really don’t have any such abilities, and it’s sort of sad to watch you dive into the concrete day after day.

  9. Submitted by Dan Hintz on 09/24/2010 - 04:17 pm.

    Mr. Swift, its not slander if its true. Alveda King has made a career out of perverting the history of the civil rights movement – claiming that MLK was a Republican, that (Planned Parenthood member) Rosa Parks was a pro-life leader, etc. I don’t call her a liar because of hate – I call her that because the things she says are obviously and verifiably false.

    “May we agree that he had a life shaping role in who she is, and what she believes?”

    Given that she doesn’t just oppose gay marriage, but equates it with genocide, I would say no. She clearly learned absolutely nothing from Martin Luther King.

  10. Submitted by Eric Ferguson on 09/24/2010 - 04:20 pm.

    It never ceases to be bizarre how conservatives want to claim King to support their positions given how intensely they hated the man. He was almost surely the most hated man in the country when he was assassinated. What a shame one of his relatives expounds the sort of prejudice he was murdered for opposing. His niece learned nothing except how to get gigs on Fox News.

  11. Submitted by Thomas Swift on 09/24/2010 - 06:09 pm.

    Dan, I don’t know if King was a Republican, but he was certainly a conservative. You people seem to forget King was first and foremost a minister of the “black” Baptist church.

    It is no secret that the vast majority of the people that make up that segment of his former ministry are vehemently opposed to both homosexual behaviors and abortion.

    Why in the world would you believe King himself would be any different?

  12. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 09/24/2010 - 07:43 pm.

    Good piece, Max.

    Indeed, it’s curious that the traditional “wedge” issues don’t seem to have played much of a part in the gubernatorial race, at least so far. That seems to be the case in the 6th CD television ads, as well. Clark and Bachmann are bashing each other over taxes and spending, but so far, at least, Mrs. Bachmann has been restrained from issuing – on TV, at least – one of her loopy pronouncements.

    As one of those who read Eric’s entire piece – the ongoing series, really – on Tentherism, it seems equally curious that none of the candidates have been asked – again, so far – to take a position on the issue. It’s especially interesting because, as Max and Eric have both pointed out, Emmer has sponsored bills in the legislature making the explicit argument that, despite the Civil War and the ensuing century and-a-half of American history, he believes that nullification is, or ought to be, alive and well. I’m surprised Horner and Dayton have not both gone after him about this at length and in detail.

    But then, if he really believes in nullification, I’m even more surprised that he managed to graduate from law school without, apparently, learning anything about the law. Most lawyers are familiar with the heavy emphasis that courts tend to place on what we civilians call “precedent” or previous examples. We’re talking about all the precedents, or previous examples, established since (and including) the gathering at Appomattox Court House in April of 1865, when it was rather firmly established that the powers and rights of states do NOT supersede those of the national government. Grant was generous in victory, but, lest there be some confusion on the part of Mr. Emmer and his supporters, the North DID win that contest. My guess is that, in 2010, the idea that individual states get to individually decide whether or not to adhere to federal law not only won’t fly, the tail assembly has fallen off and the engines won’t even start.

    Props to Max for the “America’s worst governor” riff. I certainly agree that it’s a stiff challenge, and will require a lot of work due to the intense competition.

  13. Submitted by Tony George on 09/24/2010 - 10:51 pm.

    Someone should ask Tom Emmer why he donated money to Bradlee Dunn who supports gay executions. Even if the question embarrasses Target Stores and Best Buy in their support of Tom Emmer, some journalist should have the courage to ask this question anyway. We need to know if we’re voting in a hog’s ear or silk purse as Governor of Minnesota.

  14. Submitted by Sally Todd on 09/25/2010 - 05:25 am.

    A little light on who Coretta Scott was…

    Conservatives will be profoundly disappointed if they do the first jot of research. Coretta entered Antioch College, Yellow Springs Ohio in the fall of 1947. I entered ten years later. We served together on the Alumni Board in later years, her only family endorsed archive is at the college, and since we Alumni have now purchased the college, and will be reopening in the fall of 2011, my hope is a top Biographer will take up the calling of finally doing her “book.”

    Coretta, though she was too young to vote in 1948, was elected a delegate to the Progressive Party Convention that nominated Henry Wallace, representing Alabama. She also was part of a special Labor/NAACP youth delegation to the Democratic Convention that year. She was there when Hubert gave the Sunshine Speech.

    Coretta was recruited for Antioch according to a plan that aimed at preparing the first Black to achieve major roles at the Met Opera. By 1945 it was understood that the great hope, Marian Anderson, probably would not succeed, so Paul Robeson and others, including Walter Anderson who would be the first black music director at the Kennedy Center, (and one founder of PBS), had a competition for the best potential. Prize was the Antioch Education which would include one year at Oberlin Conservatory, One year at the New England Conservatory, (co-op jobs in Antiochian Speak) to be followed by full scholarship, four years at Julliard, followed by Italian, German and French training. Coretta won the competition, and started on the plan in 1947.

    She majored in Music, of course, but first year she developed a very special relationship with Dr. Chatterjee, Professor of Sociology, and personal representative for Gandhi in the US from 1928 till Indian Independence in 1947. Chatterjee taught Gandhi’s theory of Non-Violence, and it was through this mentorship Coretta moved into that circle of American Blacks and Congress Indians that seeded aspects of our own Civil Rights Movement. CORE, founded in Chicago in 1941 was part of this, so was a network of mostly Baptist Black Clergy who had been traveling to India for studies since the 1920’s, largely under auspices of U of Chicago Seminary.

    Coretta met Martin during her last months at Antioch while she was doing Choral Studies at the New England Conservatory. She broke everyone’s heart when she decided to become a Baptist Pastor’s Wife instead of the first Black Woman to play major classical roles at the Met Opera — no Julliard obviously — but into that relationship virtually all of the Theory of Non-Violence came through her. Her understanding of Homosexuality, and much else, came through her close friendship with Bayard Rustin, whom she insisted Martin bring to Alabama when the Montgomery Movement had violent threats from all sides. Together, they taught Martin Non-Violence, and forced him to give up his guns. Non-Violence was not his true orientation in the mid 50’s and the early years of their marriage. Rustin and Coretta Scott became friends during the Wallace Campaign of 1948, and remained friends and soul mates till Bayard died. Martin’s own comprehension of Homosexuality probably also developed in discussions with Rustin, and his circle, in the early 1950’s.

  15. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 09/25/2010 - 11:03 am.

    Thanks, Sally Todd, for that very personal and accurate description of who Coretta Scott King REALLY was. Now can we lay to rest the conservative meme that the opinions of his children (some of whom clearly meet the devil side of the old aphorism that preacher’s kids are either angels or devils) indicate ANYTHING about who their father (or there morther, for that matter) was?

    In the same vein, why, after all, don’t we hear similar claims about their parents’ points of view regarding all the children who were raised by famously conservative parents.

    I, for one, am convinced that Dick Cheney is a secret liberal and is completely in favor of the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell (Mary Cheney, being his lesbian daughter, you see). This makes as much sense as posthumously claiming that MLK was secretly a conservative republican because of the statements of one or more of his children.

  16. Submitted by Melodie Morstad on 09/26/2010 - 03:55 pm.

    I wish everyone would stop speculating on what were a dead man’s opinions. If you don’t have any evidence, something he wrote or said, stop trying to claim him for your side. It seems like its popular these days to invoke MLK and have him posthumously endorse one’s beliefs to lend credence and holiness to one’s cause. Its easier to claim a dead person to your side, because not only can you can cherrypick quotes and twist words, but the person can’t even defend himself. It’s incredibly disrespectful and offensive and silly. What would Jesus say about nuclear power? What would Ghandi say about illegal immigration? What would Abraham Lincoln say about child predators on the internet? If MLK did not support gay rights, I still would because I believe in justice and equality.

  17. Submitted by David Willard on 09/26/2010 - 11:34 pm.

    I guess the true test of MinnPost and their credo: “A Thoughtful Approach To News” will be if they resist the urge to throw mud at Republicans days before the election ala the Star Tribune, “Newspaper of the Liberal Elite.” in the last quarter century.

  18. Submitted by Sally Todd on 09/26/2010 - 11:58 pm.

    The Life and Times of Martin and Coretta King are profoundly accessable. The Three Volume works of Taylor Branch, about 2200 pages total, all well footnoted, are now out in quality paperback. Obviously there are other historians and biographers, but Taylor Branch would be a good beginning for those who did not personally know these persons, as I did, and did not work and walk with them during those times. As folks have been saying for years, you may be entitled to your own interpretation, but you are not actually entitled to make up your own facts.

    Gandhi on legal and illegal immigration??? Easy. He was an attorney trained in Gray’s Chambers in London. He went to South Africa with all the credentials one needed to practice law in the British Empire, and one of his interests, and many of his cases were about rights of migrants from British India to British South Africa. He had much to say on the topic, but of course you have to know a little about the British Empire, round about the beginning of the 20th Century, and you have to fit what he has to say into the context of that time and place. If you want to suggest something he wrote applies to current situations, well you need to know a little about comparative law, and a whole lot about how you work with an idea, and not just words and a quote, to make a potentially workable translation. In otherwords you have to read the books and try to lay out the best facts. Once this is done, then interpretation of meaning at least has underpinnings.

    Lincoln on the Internet??? a bit of a stretch. I do know he liked to go to the Military Telegraph Office and read battle reports as they came in during Civil War Battles. He was impressed with Telegraph Technology, and did things about the Atlantic Underwater Cable during his Presidency. Maybe while he was waiting for news from Gettysburg he did some doodles on the back of an envelope, sealed them away, and made a note that at sometime in the future they should be given to Al Gore when it came time to invent the Internet? No I don’t believe that actually, but a little irony keeps the sanity.

  19. Submitted by Paul Udstrand on 09/27/2010 - 09:40 am.

    One of the biggest contradictions of the conservative wing is their need for historical revision and their claim to be historical preservationists. They deride any attempts to interpret history in the light of context or new information as “revisionism”, then they constantly revise history in order to buttress their own ideological agenda. Conservative’s have to revise history frequently because and large History has not recorded a lot to be proud of in terms of popular appeal. History has recorded several hysterical and bigoted attempts to restrict basic freedoms. This conflicts with the image of champions of freedom conservatives want to promote. Of course the lie is that is has been the government that has fought to restrict freedom in the US, when in fact it has usually been conservatives who have fought, and continue to fight expanded freedoms.

    On another note, I’d have to say the absence of wedge issues in this campaign season doesn’t entirely surprise me. The wedge issues have never been very important to the vast majority of voters. Their power has been amplified over the last 30 years by narrow margins of electoral victory and voter apathy. And you have to remember, the ongoing liberal drift regarding social issues is one fundamental cause of conservative hysteria in the first place.

  20. Submitted by Sally Todd on 09/28/2010 - 12:25 am.

    Sorry, I meant to comment on Greg Kapphahn’s note. Yes, I suspect the fact of growing up in the Manse, and needing to be perfect kids had an impact on Coretta and Martin’s children. But that Manse was always a target of Terrorism one must remember — people did put bombs under porches, and they did try to blow it up. They always lived with that threat, and the kids had to live with it 24/7. And then J. Edgar Hoover was listening on the phone, and some of the folk around were spies — all not exactly a kiddie perfect environment.

    Coretta sent the kids for several summers to Yellow Springs, where they could live with her friends and former faculty advisor’s families, and do normal summer stuff. That is where they learned to ride bikes, hunt frogs in the creek, learn to ride the ponies at the stable, take swimming lessons at the village pool, and stop at the village soft ice place for a cone. It was all done very simply, no one knew the kids were there except all those volunteers who spent hours making sure everything was safe. Yellow Springs was not totally “integrated” in the late 50’s and 60’s, but all the children’s activities were completely interracial. Local police were great, but everyone was concerned about outside law enforcement. Klan once burned a cross on the College Campus, but it was determined Klan had no knowledge of the place being used as summer camp for the King kids.

    They may have their family dynamics problems, and they may have evolved some ideas others don’t agree with politically, but I think living childhood with the threat of Terror nearly full time can account for some of this.

    Today I suppose Homeland Security would provide armed guards for such kids, and J. Edgar would have rolled in his grave — I suspect those pre-hippy era Liberal academics on bikes probably provided a little just plain friendly normality.

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