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Matt Micheli

Matt Micheli: Wyoming Did It Right With Schools and the Pandemic

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By Matt Micheli, columnist

I have learned in this pandemic to never count chickens before they hatch and never take a celebratory lap too early – because something always seems to kick you in the face. Having said that, we are sitting here now almost at the end of February, some six months since school started.

I think we are at least safe to, at this moment, give a large, loud and hearty thank you to everyone involved with the Wyoming education system for all the steps they have taken to make sure our kids were able to go back to in-person school.

Every school board member, every superintendent, every principal, but most importantly every teacher, support staff, para-professional and all front-line workers deserve our gratitude.

Sometimes in Wyoming it is easy to take for granted how good that we have it here. It is easy to say, of course they went back to school.

But that did not have to be the case. In fact, the most recent data that I could find showed that as of two weeks ago, there were only two states in the nation with 100% of their schools doing live, in-person learning. That was Wyoming and Montana.

There were only two other states with more than 90% in-person learning – Florida and Arkansas. There were four more with 80% or higher, those included Texas, Utah, Nebraska, and North Dakota.

On the flip side, there were four states where not a single school had yet started in-person learning and seven more that had less than 10% doing in-person learning. In total, in 31 states had more than half of the schools in their state only doing virtual learning.

Democrats love to lecture conservatives on “science” and following the science. The science on this one is very clear.

There is no doubt and it has been demonstrated over and over that in person learning is much better for students in a whole myriad of ways.

All children are impacted from having schools shut down, but especially at risk children or children that don’t have the support system at home are slipping through the cracks. They are missing out on critical development and may never recover. In those states that have now been closed for an entire year, how many of those kids just never come back to school?

The science is also clear that opening schools did not make states less safe. Wyoming and Montana, the only two states with 100% of the schools meeting in person, both rank in the top half of states for fewest deaths per million people.

If you look at the 8 states with 80% of the schools open, that average death rate is better in those states than the overall average death rate of all the states.  When you look at the states with the strictest no school policies, there is no evidence it has helped their death rates.

For example, New Jersey has 2.5% of schools meeting in person, but has the single highest death rate in the country. New York has roughly 3/4 of their kids still learning remotely and has second worst death rate.

Compare that to Florida with 99.8% of their students in schools with a death rate that is more than 75% less than New York and New Jersey. Texas has 80% of their students in school and also has a much lower death rate than New York or New Jersey.  

If you want to compare a state a little more like Wyoming, New Mexico has 5.5% of their students attending in person classes and is ranked 35th for deaths/million, having a much worse death rate than the national average.

This same pattern holds true pretty much across the board. At a minimum, it is obvious that there is no correlation between opening schools and increased harm from the virus.  

As we watch the national news, we see the politicization of virtually every aspect of our lives, including our children’s education. That was never the case here.

Our education system, starting at the top and going all the way to every single school employee, has relentlessly focused on getting kids back in school and letting them learn in person. I cannot even imagine the hours and the work that went into all of this effort, all with one goal in mind – doing what is best for the children.

I, for one, am grateful for that. I am grateful that our teachers put the needs of our students first. So thank you.

Thank you, teachers, administrators, support staff and everyone else that has worked so hard to give my children and all of our children the best chance to be successful.

Thank you for doing everything you could to open our schools and allow in-person learning. Thank you for putting the best interest of the children above politics.    

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Matt Micheli: We Don’t Need Matt Gaetz’s Advice

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By Matt Micheli, columnist

Florida camera gnat Matt Gaetz parachuting into Wyoming to tell Wyoming what we should think about Representative Liz Cheney is the perfect illustration of politics in 2021.

Never mind that Liz voted with President Trump 93% of the time – much more often than Matt Gaetz ever did, never mind that Liz is far more conservative than Matt Gaetz’s own squish record, never mind that Liz is more effective at getting conservative legislation passed into law,  never mind that before last weekend Matt Gaetz could not have located Wyoming on a map.

Now, the perpetually attention seeking Matt Gaetz is somehow, without the record to back it up, the self-appointed voice for Wyoming “conservatives.” Oh, and anyone that opposes him is a RINO.  Just ask him, but be sure to get your question in while the camera light is on because he won’t be around later.

So, I have a few questions for Matt Gaetz and his anti-Wyoming buddies.

First, have you ever heard of trona? Didn’t think so. Mining trona provides more than 2,300 high paying jobs in Wyoming.

Liz Cheney saved that industry. She was able to get the federal government to reduce their royalties they take from trona to allow this industry to compete with subsidized artificial trona made in China.

If you work in the trona patch, you have a job in large part because of Liz Cheney. That is two thousand three hundred families that get to live and work in Wyoming thanks to Liz Cheney.

Second, Matt from Florida, what have you ever done for coal? Did you know Wyoming produces more coal than any other state?

Liz Cheney has introduced legislation to end the devastating coal lease moratoriums and to allow more of the money the federal government takes to mine Wyoming coal to come back to the State of Wyoming. Wyoming has never had a better friend of coal than Liz Cheney. 

Don’t believe me, go look what the Wyoming Mining Association and the more than 7,500 hard working Wyoming miners they represent say about Liz.

What about federal lands, Matt, do you deal with those much in Florida? Did you know Liz introduced legislation to overturn the absurd BLM Planning 2.0 rules (hint, Matt, when we say BLM in Wyoming, we are referring to the Bureau of Land Management).

Did you know Liz worked to overturn the BLM Methane Rules that would have devastated oil and gas development on federal lands? Again, Liz saved tens of thousands of Wyoming jobs and millions of tax revenue for Wyoming. That is why the Petroleum Association of Wyoming and the thousands of oil field workers they represent stand with Liz.

Speaking of federal lands, Liz sponsored the Resilient Federal Forest Act to improve our national forests to protect us from the devastating fires we have seen in Wyoming and help our local sawmills.

And what about farming and ranching, an incredibly important part of Wyoming’s economy. Liz sponsored legislation to protect Wyoming ranchers from frivolous lawsuits that could cause them to lose their grazing allotments.

She fought for sugar beet farmers and opposed legislation that would have devastated those hard-working Wyoming families. Liz co-sponsored the Gray Wolf State Management Act that would allow the State of Wyoming to manage wolves in Wyoming. You ever get to deal with the federal government introducing wolves in Florida – Matt? That is sort of a big deal here.

No matter the issue, Liz has been the effective, leading, job saving voice for Wyoming. Time after time, when we needed her, she was there.  

If we have learned anything from the first few weeks from the Biden administration, it is that he is a puppet to the far left/progressive wing of his party. He has taken actions that pose an existential threat to our state and to the good people that work here.

Liz Cheney is simply the most effective voice for Wyoming at a time when we need that voice. She has proven that she can fight and more importantly win on issues that matter to our state. If Wyoming is going to survive, we need Liz Cheney to remain in Congress. We need her leadership and her intelligence in fighting these battles. Now more than ever, Wyoming needs Liz Cheney.

I have one final point for Matt Gaetz. We have seen gadflies like you before. You don’t like the cold much. When the cameras go off, you will fly back home to the beach.

Meanwhile, those of us that love Wyoming understand that many conservatives are upset and that there are questions that Liz Cheney needs to answer. But you know what, she will. That is how it works in Wyoming. We get to talk directly with our elected officials.

We don’t need some random, elitist, wannabe celebrity coming to tell us hicks in flyover country what to think. We can figure it out on our own. And when we do, we will look at her entire record and judge her accordingly. 

Matt Micheli is the former chairman of the Republican Party in Wyoming.

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Matt Micheli: Protect Democracy By Truth

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By Matt Micheli, guest columnist
Former Chair of the Wyoming Republican Party

As the chairman of the Wyoming Republican Party, and as a member of the Republican National Committee at that time, I was able to be right at the U.S. Capitol steps and watch as the Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court held the Bible, and Donald Trump took the oath of office and became President of the United States.

As this happened, I thought of all the presidents throughout history that had gone through this same constitutionally envisioned moment.

I remember watching as President Obama stood there with President Bush and President Clinton and participated in this nonviolent, civil, honorable transition of power.

When the canons went off announcing the new president, a chill went down my spine, and the hair stood on the back of my neck. No matter what you think of Donald Trump or Barack Obama, I understood that what I was witnessing was a miracle. That the peaceful transition of power based on our constitutional democracy was perhaps the greatest blessing that America gave to our world. To be there in person and witness that event was sacred to me.

Decades prior, in the early 1990s, while overseas, I saw the aftermath from a failed coup attempt in another country. It was real, but a world away. I remember the overwhelming feeling of gratitude that I belonged to a country that would never have to deal with this type of turmoil. That I was from a place that respected the rule of law and respected elections. That America was different.

Or so I had thought.

As I watched the events unfold on Jan. 6, 2021, and watched rioters take over our own Capitol, I was overwhelmed with emotion. The videos of seeing hundreds of my fellow Americans chant over and over “Hang Mike Pence,” or rioters beating a cop with the American flag and reading about the murder of another police officer with a fire extinguisher are images that are burned into my mind forever.

I had to fight back tears as I thought about what was happening to our country. I came to realize how fragile the miracle of our American democracy and our peaceful transition of power really is. It is not something that is just given to us as our birthright as Americans, but something that must be carefully nurtured and protected.

Since those tragic events on Jan. 6, I have seen far too many downplay what happened or blame the other side or spew whataboutisms. Those sentiments probably break my heart more than anything else. I have heard people lament, “It’s just a building,” or “it’s the people’s house.”

It is more than just a building. Since 1800, the United States Capitol has stood as a beacon of freedom to the world. A representation that America was and is different. That although democracy is fragile, in America, it is strong. For the first time in its 120-year history, the steps of the Capitol were stormed and attacked by its own people. The implications cannot be downplayed. You can (and should) be both conservative and outraged at this assault on our democracy.

Truth time, folks. Everyone. You and I are accountable for what we say. Period. We all have to stop inflaming. Stop the spin. Stop the spouting. Just stop it. Talk the whole truth. So, here are a few simple truths. Donald Trump lost the election. I can go through line by line and unfounded allegation by unfounded allegation if you want, but hopefully a couple of examples will be enough.

Let’s start with Pennsylvania. The Third Circuit is the federal court just below the Supreme Court. Judge Bibas, a Trump nominee and very conservative judge on the Third Circuit, said this in his formal order deciding the election lawsuit: “Free and fair elections are the lifeblood of our democracy.

Charges of unfairness are serious. But calling an election unfair does not make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof. We have neither here.” It is worth reading the entire 21-page unanimous decision. Yes, unanimous.

Let’s move to Wisconsin, where Judge Ludwig, yet another federal court judge who is extremely conservative and was nominated by President Trump, concluded: “Plaintiff’s [Trump’s] electors claims fail as a matter of law and fact.

The record establishes that Wisconsin’s selection of its 2020 Presidential Electors was conducted in the very manner established by the Wisconsin legislature … This Court has allowed plaintiff the chance make his case, and he lost on the merits.” Again, I recommend reading the entire decision.

These are just two examples. Over 60 judges have entered orders just like the two I quote. Team Trump lost over 60 different court cases. That is the truth.

Perhaps the most appalling part of this entire episode is how differently the Trump attorneys talked to the press and how they talked to the court. Judge Ludwig gave the Trump attorneys a complete opportunity to present evidence of all their wild stories.

Instead of presenting evidence and bringing in witnesses and proving their case, the Trump team entered into an agreement with the State of Wisconsin about all the facts in their case. They did not even try to put on evidence. In the process, admitting that there was no fraud.

Similarly, in Pennsylvania, Rudy Giuliani multiple times told the court directly that they were NOT alleging fraud.

Here is the deal: when you lie to the court, you go to jail. When you put someone on the witness stand, they are subject to perjury laws and must submit to cross examination. For Rudy Giuliani and others to say the things they did to the media and completely concede in the courts is perhaps the single biggest portrait in cowardice I have ever seen.

So, where do we go from here? For Republicans, first we have to admit Trump lost. Second, if you are trying to blame antifa or downplay what just happened, just stop. Protect democracy by truth. Stop the destructive-ism. Get back to our belief in conservative principles of states’ rights and the separation of powers.

As for the left, you also have a role to play in this. If you think leftist radicals are not capable of this type of behavior, you are willfully casting a blind eye to your own problems. I am not trying to paint a false equivalent here. I just want to point out that people of goodwill from every walk of life have got to stop this madness.

I’m speaking the truth – and asking you to join by speaking truth by facts and facts alone. The fact-mirror we hold up – to ourselves, our parties, our state, our electeds and their staffs – is literally vital to the continuation of America as we know it.

If we want to secure our American democracy and pass this incredible, yet fragile, miracle on to our next generation, it takes all of us. We all need to reevaluate our actions, and I put myself at the top of that list.

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Matt Micheli: Christmas and the Power of Light

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By Matt Micheli, guest columnnist

A few years ago when we went to visit my parents in New Zealand, one of the activities we did was to go through a guided tour of one of New Zealand’s most famous underground caves.

After we had descended what seemed like 1,000 feet of stairs and winded through some caverns, we entered a large room. Our tour guide gathered us all close in and shut-off the lights.

As the tour guide continued to talk, the complete darkness fell on us like a blanket. The guide had us lift our hands to our face. You could touch your nose and not see a single thing.

After sitting in darkness for several minutes, the tour guide continued the tour to a different part of the cave.

Suddenly, the top of the cave was illuminated with what looked like the night sky with a million stars.

The entire mood of the room changed instantly. We all went from a deep, oppressive and almost depressing darkness to a beautiful and even awe-inspiring state of joy and happiness.  

You could hear gasps and laughter as people pointed at the array of lights. Of course, these were not stars, but New Zealand glow worms that live on the top of the cave and produce light to attract the insects that make their way into the cave in the running water.

Martin Luther King Jr. once said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.”

These tiny glow worms on the top of the cave were the perfect illustration how even the tiniest amount of light transforms our entire state of being.

As this article runs today, we are literally at the darkest days of the year.

Many of us, unfortunately, are surrounding by darkness figuratively as well. Whether it is loneliness, pain, losing a loved one, economic uncertainty, or even political strife; we all struggle with different types of darkness in our life.

The good news is, it is during these times of darkness that we are more able to truly seek light.

While on the Earth, Jesus Christ declared, “I am the light of the world; he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness but shall have the light of life.”

As we turn to celebrate His birth this week, I hope that we can focus on His light that He brings to each of us.  

His light compels us to be more kind to each other, show more love and compassion to strangers, and work to make all of us feel part of our community.

I love the Christmas season. I love the focus on our Savior and His life. I love the analogies of the light that Christmas brings – the new star of Bethlehem, the lights of the Christmas tree, and the lights on houses and around town.

All of these lights point us towards the Light of Christ. I love that we celebrate Christmas at the turning point of the light. Where days stop getting shorter and start getting longer.

In perhaps the greatest example of the transformative power of light, we see that as the light begins to change and as the light continues to grow, the earth begins to thaw, and spring eventually comes.

Just like those million tiny glow worms can take a deep dark cave and turn it into one of the true wonders of the world, each of us can focus on the Light of Christ and spend our time trying to magnify that light and share it with others.

If we can do that, our communities, our towns and our state can be transformed to a better place. That is the message of Christmas. Darkness cannot drive out darkness, hate cannot drive out hate.

The Light of Christ is the most powerful force on Earth.

Sharing it freely with others will transform each of us individually and all of us collectively. As that light continues to grow, the cold frost of winter will recede, and spring will come.  

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Matt Micheli: Wyoming Needs Solutions, Not Anger

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By Matt Micheli, guest columnist
Former Chairman, Wyoming Republican Party

Last month I published an op-ed about the “alt-right” in Wyoming. I went to great lengths to explain that when I refer to the Wyoming alt-right, I am talking about people who focus primarily on anger, fear and division in political discourse.

I also made clear that this designation was not to any specific person or even groups of people but describes a mindset that can at different times apply to every single one of us. Indeed, my final paragraph read:

All of us can fall into the “alt-right” at different times. All of us are susceptible to be motivated by fear. All of us tend to believe things that fit our preconceived internal narrative.

The only way we overcome the influence of the alt-right is to continually ask ourselves if we are feeding the divide or if we are working towards solutions.

Whether we are giving into fear or actively working to improve our state. Whether we are listening to all voices critically to find the best ideas or shouting down anyone that dares think differently than us.

I am not asking anyone to compromise their political philosophies and ideals. That is the opposite of what I am talking about. Apply those ideals to our real problems and work towards a solution.

The alt-right mentality is a growing cancer in our state that is something all well-intended citizens of Wyoming should affirmatively work to extinguish.

That is it. That was the entire point of my op-ed. Politics based on fear and anger will not solve Wyoming’s $1.5 billion deficit.

Politics based on fear and anger will not keep our schools open or prevent us from seeing our taxes skyrocket.

The only way we avoid those types of outcomes is by rolling up our sleeves and working towards actual solutions.  Solutions – that is the point.  What solves problems?  How do we get beyond just anger and more anger, and more ugly political bullying?

Perhaps the most interesting part of my previous op-ed were the reactions from different people. The vast majority of the responses have been overwhelmingly positive.

I truly believe most people are good and most people want solutions for Wyoming. They want to be a part of keeping Wyoming’s conservative values strong BY PARTICIPATING in ideas for solutions to this state’s many challenges. 

However, if you read that op-ed and thought it was about somebody else, you completely missed the point. Also, if reading a political op-ed that called for all of us to work personally to stay away from insults and be more solution minded offended you, maybe you need to look yourself in the mirror.  

Each one of us needs to look at ourselves and make our own personal assessment. Are we just the angry bystander, or are we really going to step up and show our best ideas for a solution – civilly. 

The op-ed was not meant to point the finger at “those guys,” but was meant to point the finger at each of us, no matter where you fall on the political spectrum.

My favorite response, however, came from the out-of-state group that thrives on hate and division more than any other entity in Wyoming.

The Dorr brothers from Minnesota and Iowa have created an entity known as “Wyoming Gun Owners” (WyGO).

Using this entity, and similar entities in multiple states, the Dorr brothers have made a nice living by importing hate to those states.

That is why the NRA called them scam artists and why the Minnesota Republican Party dedicated a whole web page to exposing their scams (https://www.mnscammersexposed.com/)   

Read it. Google them. You will see their money scheme profiting off of division, fear and hate. 

Unfortunately, they have chosen to include Wyoming in their hate campaign.

Their response to my op-ed was a Facebook post saying “Matt Micheli… was and is a loser.” Awesome!

Then, they set about calling me all sorts of names contending I am a “liberal RINO,” which is hilarious.

This post and the related string of hate posts and the organized campaign from their out of state social media people, however, demonstrates my point exactly.

Ironically, the people behind WyGO could not care less about Wyoming.

Their kids don’t go to school here, they are never going to pay Wyoming taxes. They probably don’t even know what “Steamboat” is.

They care about one thing – creating controversy. Controversy gets people riled up and that means more money in their pockets. That is why they attack some of the most pro-gun legislators.

That is why when Ember Oakley, a strong conservative, pro-Trump, pro-gun, Republican county prosecutor comes to Cheyenne to fix significant problems with draft gun legislation and her work was instrumental in getting that legislation in a form that it could actually become law, WyGO makes up a fake controversy to attack Ember.

WyGO cares far more about controversy than Wyoming. That is precisely what I am talking about when I say the alt-right. Anger. Vitriol.  No responsibility because they are not Wyoming in the first place. 

I want all Wyoming voices to participate. I want Wyoming conservatives to engage in the debate.

I really want Wyoming conservatives to work on things that will actually help solve our fiscal crisis. Calling me a “loser” and a “RINO” is certainly not going to make sure Wyoming never gets an income tax.

Calling me names is not going to resolve our $1.5 billion deficit. But hey, profit off of attacking conservatives all you want, you are only proving my point.  

Meanwhile, we in Wyoming see through your scams. I have great confidence in the people of Wyoming to figure out solutions to our problems without interference from interlopers.

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Matt Micheli: ‘Alt-Right’ Drives Division In Wyoming GOP

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Guest column by Matt Micheli
(Former Chairman, Wyoming Republican Party)

Over the last several years, Wyoming has experienced a new political phenomenon. Some of this mirrors what we have seen nationwide, but with a unique Wyoming twist. 

Living within our own social media bubbles and having only our worst inclinations and preconceived ideas reinforced and never challenged has led to the well-documented division and isolation of political thought.

This unique set of circumstances has helped give rise to what, on the conservative side of the political spectrum, has been called the “alternative right” or the “alt-right.”  

Much of the division happening right now in Wyoming politics and within the Republican Party can be attributed to the rise of this “alt-right.”

The Oxford Dictionary defines the “alt-right” as “a right-wing ideological movement characterized by a rejection of mainstream politics and by use of online media to disseminate provocative content, often expressing opposition to racial, religious, or gender equality.”

The division in Wyoming, then, is between this new wave of “alt-right” voices and traditional Reagan Conservatives. 

Many of the characteristics of the alt-right are described above — rejection of the normal political discourse and philosophies, dissemination of provocative content that is usually based on misleading information, and relying on fear to motivate voters. 

However, the single best way to identify the “alt-right” in Wyoming is that its members never have any actual solutions.

The “alt-right” is not interested in the real problems facing our state. It is much easier to make a meme or distribute misleading content online based on oversimplified generalizations or flat-out lies than it is to actually try to make Wyoming a better state.

It is much easier to manipulate voters with fear, lies and half-truths than it is to honestly look at the problems we are facing and try to resolve them.

The alt-right would much rather yell and scream and throw stones than try to figure out a path forward. Its members care far more about controversy and shouting down their opponents than advancing Wyoming’s interests. 

If you think about it, the alt-right and the far left actually have a lot more in common than either would ever admit. Both are intent on silencing any opposition and bullying anyone who tries to speak out in opposition of their tactics.

Both love free speech that perfectly aligns with their own beliefs but hate and try to silence speech that they might disagree with. And most importantly, both have the same ultimate goal — accumulating power for themselves.

Let’s be honest, that is really what this is about. The alt-right cares first and foremost about its own power and will go to any means to try to obtain it, just like the far left. 

The divide between the alt-right and the traditional conservatives in Wyoming has nothing to do with political philosophy. The dictionary rightly points out that the “alt-right” is defined by its rejection of mainstream politics.

I have yet to meet any person associated with the alt-right who is more conservative than me on any actual issue. The alt-right has no political philosophy at all — other than to drive controversy, fear and division.

In fact, I have yet to hear a single member of the alt-right ever even try to articulate how Wyoming can resolve its fiscal crisis.  

Instead of addressing the real and very difficult issues facing Wyoming, the “alt-right” continuously builds strawmen and beats the living daylights out of those strawmen to distract you from the difficult issues its members are too afraid to address.

The “alt-right” is far more interested in creating false issues than addressing the real and complicated problems facing Wyoming. 

Which brings me to my final point. All of us can fall into the “alt-right” at different times. All of us are susceptible to be motivated by fear. All of us tend to believe things that fit our preconceived internal narrative.

The only way we overcome the influence of the alt-right is to continually ask ourselves if we are feeding the divide or if we are working toward solutions. Whether we are giving into fear or actively working to improve our state. Whether we are listening to all voices critically to find the best ideas or shouting down anyone who dares think differently than us. 

I am not asking anyone to compromise their political philosophies and ideals. That is the opposite of what I am talking about.

Apply those ideals to our real problems and work toward a solution. The alt-right mentality is a growing cancer in our state that is something all well-intended citizens of Wyoming should affirmatively work to extinguish. 

Matt Micheli is a Cheyenne attorney and former chair of the Wyoming Republican Party.

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