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Understanding the Benefits of Holisticly Managed Livestock

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What does properly managed livestock mean?

In a recent post, I discussed why properly managed livestock are essential to saving civilization as we know it. Now let’s discuss what properly managed livestock means, because only by managing them properly will we be able to seriously address the complexity involved in both global desertification and climate change.

First let me be clear about what is not proper management.

By Allan Savory

Industrial factory farming of livestock.

Commonsense tells us that agriculture needs to be based on the biological sciences. Mainstream agriculture however is based on chemistry and technology driven by universities, corporations, major philanthropic funders, governments and international agencies – a consequence of reductionist management and policy.

Literally millions of cattle, pigs and poultry are managed in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). These include pigs bred in small cages with barely room for mothers to move. This does not constitute properly managed livestock. The Union of Concerned Scientists has criticized such practices.

Vegans and vegetarians who have expressed outrage are I believe correct – such practices are not only inhumane to animals, but treating animals in such a manner is degrading to humans. Apart from being inhumane and degrading, CAFOs are also damaging to the environment, economy and human health. In any nation calling itself civilized, such management of animals should be illegal. Unfortunately CAFOs have led many in society to vilify livestock rather than recognizing that the animals are innocent, while reductionist management and policies are the problem.

Properly managed livestock starts with managing the animals on the land in a manner that is good for the land and all life – well cared for until ending their lives as humanely as possible. Just as you and I would wish to be treated.

Managing animals on the land.

Here I need to differentiate between managing livestock in the more year-round humid environments (about a third of the world’s land), and managing them over the far greater areas of the world that are seasonally humid then dry environments. The first are nonbrittle environments in which dead leaves and stems crumple softly in your hand. The second are brittle environments where dead leaves and stems are so brittle they break into fragments in your hand.

Humid nonbrittle environments.

Remember that the countyside surrounding London is green year round, while that of Johannesburg with higher average rainfall is dry, dusty and brown much of the year, because these cities lie in entirely different environments. In the more humid environments, of say, East and NW coasts of America, or much of Europe, livestock have an essential role to play in the regeneration of soil life and health to decarbonize the atmosphere, but not in addressing desertification. In such humid environments – remember from my earlier blogs – no amount of overgrazing of plants or resting land (partial or total rest) leads to desertification.

As long as animals are out on the land and well treated in humid environments there are many ways of managing them. Past, and present, practices of centuries have involved either continuous grazing or rotational grazing. French pasture scientist Andre Voisin brought to light the shortcomings of rotational grazing. He developed a simple form of planning livestock grazing that he called “rational” grazing – meaning well thought out and planned, as opposed to simply rotated through pastures.

Here I need to digress to discuss the confusion that reigns about the many ways advocated for how grazing management should be done.

Cause of public confusion about grazing management.

Everett Rogers in his seminal book Diffusion of Innovations describes how new knowledge spreads in society. Because we are human with egos, when we learn something new we give what we have learned a new name and twist so that it appears our idea – and thus new ideas spread in a rather messy but eventually effective way.

From both Voisin’s work and my own people have come up with many new “grazing systems” of their own. Examples of some of these grazing systems are mob grazing, short duration grazing, management intensive grazing, high density grazing, cell grazing and adaptive multi-paddock grazing. Tragically in giving a new name and twist to the work of others the simple reason for success was lost. Like me telling your joke as my own, but forgetting the punch line! That dropped punch line was of course the decision-making and planning process.

What people in business understand easily is for some reason difficult for most ranchers and range scientists. Business people understand that a prescribed management system serves them well where things in the business are predictable.

For example they use an accounting system, or inventory control system – meaning a prescribed management system. However they would not dream of managing their entire business and all its unpredictability using any prescribed “business system”.

This confusion amongst farmers, ranchers and range management academics and in the public results I believe from our use of the word “system” to mean two different things. We refer to the ecosystem and other complex systems meaning the whole, or system, is complex – functioning in wholes and patterns, self organizing and indeed complex. In my second blog post in this series I discussed why our inability to manage what is complex is sinking humanity’s boat.

Everything we manage involves human organizations and nature – both defined as complex self-organizing systems. While that is fairly clear, confusion reigns when we then use the same word system in a different sense to describe a predetermined prescriptive way to manage grazing animals on the land.

This we do with rotational and the many other grazing systems. In doing this we ignore the social, cultural, economic and environmental complexity largely and present a recommended grazing system (like accounting system, or inventory control system) farmers and ranchers should use.

So in summary any of the plethora of grazing systems can be used in more humid regions where the land does not desertify, as long as animals are treated humanely throughout their lives. Land should improve as long as animals are bunched more and kept moving. People will be happy, as many good people and those advising them are, with what they are doing because they do not see the hidden costs.

For most small land holdings in the more humid regions Voisin’s simple planning process is excellent and superior to any grazing system. My wife and I had Voisin’s book republished by Island Press to make his original work more available for those wanting to do better than any grazing system can do.

Now we come to land that is desertifying, such as in the U.S. and over most of the world. Land where rainfall is seasonal, erratic and mostly below 400mm (16 inches) of rainfall – where no technology, tree planting or anything but livestock can practically reverse desertification and address climate change. Here we need to pay attention because such brittle environments cover the greatest land area on our planet – far larger than the tropical forests and humid regions.

Seasonal humidity brittle environments.

When in the 1960s I realized that we had no option but to use livestock to reverse desertification over most of the world’s land I faced a serious dilemma. How could this be done?

As explained in my TED talk on desertification http://on.ted.com/Savory, we had the experience of over 10,000 years of knowledgeable pastoralists herding their animals, while protecting them from predators and constantly moving them, just as they still do today. But that had led to the development of the world’s great man-made deserts of antiquity, and is still advancing desertification as I write. Clearly pastoral herding as it has always been, and still is, was not going to reverse desertification.

Then we had the experience of about a century of modern range management guided by range scientists, and this had increased desertification faster than pastoralists had done over thousands of years. That management included many grazing systems, fencing, water distribution, use of machinery, fire and chemicals. It also involved constant reduction of livestock numbers leading to pastoral genocide in Africa, Israel, China and elsewhere, as well as the dying western ranching culture in the U.S. – all clearly not working. So what were we to do? What are we to do?

All I knew decades ago was that we had to learn how to use the herding, bunching behavior of livestock in a manner similar to how they evolved in the presence of pack-hunting predators. Somehow we had to use livestock as a tool and as proxy for past intact grazing predator populations that no longer exist.

While managing livestock in a way mimicking nature we had also to manage very complex situations – socially, environmentally and economically. Voisin had provided a clue – use some planning process to address what is complex. I tried Voisin’s planning, but since it was developed on ever-green pastures in Europe it could not deal with the greater complexity we faced in African savannas. Nor could Voisin’s planning deal with the social and economic complexity.

Because we ecologists had never faced anything like this I began researching other disciplines to see if anyone had dealt with such complexity. The closest I found was in military experience developed over centuries in Europe. Military planners had been forced to develop ever more successful ways of planning extremely complicated, fast changing situations, in immediate battlefield conditions.

To do this smart minds had developed a simple way of producing the best possible plan at any moment in an often chaotic and changing situation. Rather than re-invent the wheel I merely cribbed what I had been taught as an army officer in the Rhodesian Army from Britain’s Sandhurst Military College – and that became Holistic Planned Grazing.

Holistic Planned Grazing (suitable for all environments).

In this successful and replicable process the first step is for those managing to use the holistic framework to manage what is so complex – starting with developing their own unique holistic context to guide management. This is the essential stage when people determine for themselves, in their own self-interest, whether livestock should even be managed and if so how.

Any farmer or corporation, in for example a Brazilian rainforest, would at this point realize that cattle should not be there. To run cattle on pastures in a cleared tropical forest would be socially, environmentally and economically unsound, and would not be in any person’s, corporation’s or nation’s long-term self-interest.

If, in line with their holistic context, those who were managing determined that livestock were essential to better their lives, and that nothing else could do so in that situation, then planning of the livestock management on the land would proceed. Proceeding that is with the knowledge that it was the right thing to do socially, environmentally and economically for their own lives and those of future generations.

How is Holistic Planned Grazing done?

Military minds had developed the profoundly simple idea of breaking a complicated situation down into small digestible parts to consider one by one. Even a stressed mind can do this. And then, having thoughtfully considered one small point, move on to the next, with each step building on those before to arrive at the best possible plan. I could see how this process could deal with an incredibly complicated situation even for people stressed and exhausted in battle, but there was another problem. Battles are fought for a short time.

People managing livestock have to plan for months or years ahead. They have to plan for unreliable changing weather, fires, plant poisons, predators, crops, other land uses, wildlife needs and more. At the same time they have to plan for changing nutritional needs of animals as they go through their breeding cycles. How could I use the military planning idea and solve such complexity over many months? Easily.

By simply laying out the planning on a chart we could reflect dimensions of time, area, numbers and many problems, issues, changing seasons and more on a flat piece of paper. So simple. We did this and it worked immediately. While I have seen thousands of farmers and ranchers fail to plan, I have yet to see Holistic Planned Grazing fail in any country. After all this process is based on more than 300 years of experience by bright minds.

Holistic Planned Grazing is quickly taught and easy enough for children to grasp. In Africa young people just leaving high school with no experience have learned to plan grazing in a day. In fact doing the planning is fun for any family or team of people, much like playing a game, with the knowledge in everyone’s heads pouring out onto the chart and then finally plotting the animal movement to produce the result all desire. Inexperience has yet to prove a difficulty because ignorance does not block learning in the way that what we already know, or our egos, block learning.

The steps for planning grazing are contained in an Aide Memoire (from the French meaning a memory aid) because of the origin in military colleges. This memory aid ensures the simple small steps are followed building, as they do, the final plan. The aide is universal (applicable in all environments and all manner of situations) reflecting the experiences in the field of thousands of farmers, ranchers and pastoralists.

Training, including self-teaching materials, is available and constantly updated from the Savory Institute and its world-wide network of locally led and managed hubs. And a simple version, together with community mobilization materials (developed with financial assistance from the Office of Foreign Disaster Assistance in USAID), is available for semi-literate people, NGOS and others in Africa.

Young woman facilitating semi-literate villagers in Zimbabwe to plan the grazing of their livestock.

Does Holistic Planned Grazing work?

You might wonder if what I write is supported by results or recognition from reputable bodies. Results have been demonstrated repeatedly for almost half a century. Naturally people have done what they did to varying levels of ability, but so great have been the successes that the Holistic Planned Grazing process is now practiced on well over twenty million hectares on six continents. In the U.S. ranchers managing holistically have dominated awards for good land stewardship.

To date a few reputable organizations have recognized the work despite the fact that using livestock to reverse desertification flies in the face of society’s, and thus institutional, beliefs:
• Australian International Banksia Award 2003 – “for the person or organization doing the most for the environment on a global scale.”
• U.S. Buckminster Fuller Award in 2010 -“for a strategy best addressing humanity’s most pressing issues”.
• Western A Price 2015 “for integrity and persistence in science”.
• Currently a finalist in the Virgin Earth Challenge, Sir Richard Branson’s $25m prize for scalable and sustainable ways of removing greenhouse gases from the air.

Criticisms and flaws.

Managing what is so complex was developed over decades of criticism helping to find flaws in either the logic or the science, as is normally how science and knowledge advances. Since the early 1980s further flaws have evaded discovery and only cosmetic change has occurred in the holistic framework, despite appeals to all scientists (as I still do) to help identify any flaws in either the logic or the science. Remember this is a decision-making and planning process that uses all available science as well as other sources of knowledge.

That said, however, anyone doing a Google search will bring up constantly recycling claims that Holistic Planned Grazing is neither based on, nor supported by science. And that it has not been experimentally proven. Such claims, that opponents use social media to spread widely, arise from papers, reports and articles produced by vegans, environmentalists and by Professors at respectable universities adding “legitimacy as objective scientists.”

While always reading the critic’s articles, and peer-reviewed publications, in case they have found something new, we have yet to find this to be the case. Despite their academic credentials the authors of such papers have consistently studied one or other of the many grazing system derivations, but not the Holistic Planned Grazing process.

These authors also repeatedly cite one another. In one publication by 8 authors (all holding a PhD) 19 papers were cited in support of their criticism but when all those citations were followed up, including the papers cited by those authors, not one had ever studied Holistic Planned Grazing. To claim that because the grazing systems they have studied do not reverse desertification and therefore Holistic Planned Grazing is not proven by experimental science, is twisted logic indeed. This behaviour is perhaps best described in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions by Thomas Kuhn.

We should never relax however and it is my hope that all of you reading my series of blog posts will challenge everything I write. Please feel free to, and do, share with any skeptics or critics you know, or can locate using Google search, and invite them to participate in the discussion. With the serious situation humanity faces all I ask is that you not be apathetic for the sake of future generations.

In my next blog I will summarize why it is that only by managing what is complex holistically – using livestock, properly managed, combined with the technology to develop benign mass energy – can we seriously address climate change and thus offer future generations the hope they deserve. Till then.

Source: Savory Global

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As the Golden Globes lose their luster, can we create a better version of Hollywood?

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Something interesting is happening in Hollywood. People are walking away from the Golden Globe Awards.

And for good reason.

Anyone who has ever worked in the filthy abyss of Hollywood, New York, or any major entertainment city will know first hand how these systems work. Sycophants, parasites and moguls and talent agents willing to step all over each other just for the sake of another prize. Some will even kill for a shot at the brass ring.  And industry divided cannot succeed.

The only good thing I found in the Golden Globes was watching Ricky Gervais lampoon the stars and their handlers from the stage. Bravo to Gervais, it doesn’t make a difference what you think of him, afterall, he had something that most of Hollywood doesn’t have. Balls. Guts. And a way of delivering amusing reality dosed insults to their face only to find he’s been re-instated as the show host for the next years showing.

 

The annual Golden Globes ceremony has been unable to find a broadcasting partner or any celebrities willing to present or collect its awards after a Hollywood boycott over its diversity and ethics scandal, resulting in a pared-down event with the emphasis on philanthropy.

According to Variety, the Globes’ talent bookers have failed to persuade any big Hollywood figures to attend the 2022 edition of the awards ceremony, a hitherto glittering annual event that traditionally kicked off the lucrative awards season. In March 2021 more than 100 public relations firms announced they would withdraw cooperation with the Globes, a series of high-profile Hollywood figures, including Tom Cruise and Scarlett Johansson, made stinging public criticisms, and TV network NBC cancelled its broadcast of the 2022 edition. (-The Guardian)

 
eguardian.com/film/2022/jan/09/golden-globes-lose-their-shine-as-a-listers-shun-unethical-ceremony

But this years showing not only lacked the luster of Hollywood today, but doesn’t even have a Network or Livestream to cover it.  I guess we’ll have to rely on celeb Twitter Feeds.

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How The Pentagon and CIA Have Shaped Thousands of Hollywood Movies into Super Effective Propaganda

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By David Swanson, World BEYOND War, January 5, 2022

Propaganda is most impactful when people don’t think it’s propaganda, and most decisive when it’s censorship you never knew happened.

 

When we imagine that the U.S. military only occasionally and slightly influences U.S. movies, we are extremely badly deceived. The actual impact is on thousands of movies made, and thousands of others never made. And television shows of every variety.

The military guests and celebrations of the U.S. military on game shows and cooking shows are no more spontaneous or civilian in origin than the ceremonies glorifying members of the U.S. military at professional sports games — ceremonies that have been paid for and choreographed by U.S. tax dollars and the U.S. military. The “entertainment” content carefully shaped by the “entertainment” offices of the Pentagon and the CIA doesn’t just insidiously prepare people to react differently to news about war and peace in the world. To a huge extent it substitutes a different reality for people who learn very little actual news about the world at all.

The U.S. military knows that few people watch boring and non-credible news programs, much less read boring and non-credible newspapers, but that great masses will eagerly watch long movies and TV shows without too much worrying about whether anything makes sense. We know that the Pentagon knows this, and what military officials scheme and plot as a result of knowing this, because of the work of relentless researchers making use of the Freedom of Information Act. These researchers have obtained many thousands of pages of memos, notes, and script re-writes. I don’t know whether they’ve put all of these documents online — I certainly hope they do and that they make the link widely available. I wish such a link were in giant font at the end of a fantastic new film. The film is called Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood. The Director, Editor, and Narrator is Roger Stahl. The Co-Producers are Matthew Alford, Tom Secker, Sebastian Kaempf. They’ve provided an important public service.

In the film we see copies of and hear quotations from and analysis of much of what has been uncovered, and learn that thousands of pages exist that nobody has yet seen because the military has refused to produce them. Film producers sign contracts with the U.S. military or CIA. They agree to “weave in key talking points.” While unknown quantities of this sort of thing remain unknown, we do know that nearly 3,000 films and many thousands of TV episodes have been given the Pentagon treatment, and many others have been handled by the CIA. In many film productions, the military effectively becomes a co-producer with veto power, in exchange for allowing the use of military bases, weapons, experts, and troops. The alternative is the denial of those things.

But the military is not as passive as this might suggest. It actively pitches new story ideas to movie and TV producers. It seeks out new ideas and new collaborators who might bring them to a theater or laptop near you. Act of Valor actually began life as a recruitment advertisement.

Of course, many movies are made without military assistance. Many of the best never wanted it. Many that wanted it and were denied, managed to get made anyway, sometimes at much greater expense without the U.S. tax dollars paying for the props. But a huge number of movies are made with the military. Sometimes the initial movie in a series is made with the military, and the remaining episodes voluntarily follow the military’s line. Practices are normalized. The military sees huge value in this work, including for recruitment purposes.

The alliance between the military and Hollywood is the main reason that we have lots of big blockbuster movies on certain topics and few if any on others. Studios have written scripts and hired top actors for movies on things like Iran-Contra that have never seen the light of day because of a Pentagon rejection. So, nobody watches Iran-Contra movies for fun the way they might watch a Watergate movie for fun. So, very few people have any notions about Iran-Contra.

But with the reality of what the U.S. military does being so awful, what, you might wonder, are the good topics that do get lots of movies made about them? A lot are fantasy or distortion. Black Hawk Down turned reality (and a book it was “based on”) on its head, as did Clear and Present Danger. Some, like Argo, hunt for small stories within large ones. Scripts explicitly tell audiences that it doesn’t matter who started a war for what, that the only thing that matters is the heroism of troops trying to survive or to rescue a soldier.

Yet, actual U.S. military veterans are often shut out and not consulted They often find movies rejected by the Pentagon as “unrealistic” to be very realistic, and those created with Pentagon collaboration to be highly unrealistic. Of course, a huge number of military-influenced films are made about the U.S. military fighting space aliens and magical creatures — not, clearly, because it’s believable but because it avoids reality. On the other hand, other military-influenced films shape people’s views of targeted nations and dehumanize the humans living in certain places.

Don’t Look Up is not mentioned in Theaters of War, and presumably had no military involvement (who knows?, certainly not the movie-watching public), yet it uses a standard military-culture idea (the need to blow up something coming from outerspace, which in reality the U.S. government would simply love to do and you could hardly stop them) as an analogy for the need to stop destroying the planet’s climate (which you cannot easily get the U.S. government to remotely consider) and not one reviewer notices that the film is an equally good or bad analogy for the need to stop building nuclear weapons — because U.S. culture has had that need effectively excised.

The military has written policies on what it approves and disapproves. It disapproves depictions of failures and crimes, which eliminates much of reality. It rejects films about veteran suicide, racism in the military, sexual harassment and assault in the military. But it pretends to refuse to collaborate on films because they’re not “realistic.”

Yet, if you watch enough of what is produced with military involvement you’ll imagine that using and surviving nuclear war is perfectly plausible. This goes back to the original Pentagon-Hollywood invention of myths about Hiroshima and Nagasaki, and runs right up through military influence on The Day After, not to mention the transformation — paid for by people who throw a fit if their tax dollars help prevent someone freezing on the street — of Godzilla from a nuclear warning to the reverse. In the original script for the first Iron Man movie, the hero went up against the evil weapons dealers. The U.S. military rewrote it so that he was a heroic weapons dealer who explicitly argued for more military funding. Sequels stuck with that theme. The U.S. military advertised its weapons of choice in Hulk, Superman, Fast and Furious, and Transformers, the U.S. public effectively paying to push itself to support paying thousands of times more — for weapons it would otherwise have no interest in.

“Documentaries” on the Discovery, History, and National Geographic channels are military-made commercials for weapons. “Inside Combat Rescue” on National Geographic is recruitment propaganda. Captain Marvel exists to sell the Air Force to women. Actress Jennifer Garner has made recruitment ads to accompany movies she’s made that are themselves more effective recruitment ads. A movie called The Recruit was largely written by the head of the CIA’s entertainment office. Shows like NCIS push out the military’s line. But so do shows you wouldn’t expect: “reality” TV shows, game shows, talk shows (with endless reunifications of family members), cooking shows, competition shows, etc.

I’ve written before about how Eye in the Sky was openly and proudly both completely unrealistic nonsense and influenced by the U.S. military to shape people’s ideas about drone murders. A lot of people have some small idea of what goes on. But Theaters of War: How the Pentagon and CIA Took Hollywood helps us to grasp the scale of it. And once we’ve done that, we may gain some possible insights into why polling finds much of the world fearing the U.S. military as a threat to peace, but much of the U.S. public believing that U.S. wars benefit people who are grateful for them. We may begin to form some guesses as to how it is that people in the United States tolerate and even glorify endless mass-killing and destruction, support threatening to use or even using nuclear weapons, and suppose the U.S. to have major enemies out there threatening its “freedoms.” Viewers of Theaters of War may not all immediately react with “Holy shit! The world must think we’re lunatics!” But a few may ask themselves whether it’s possible that wars don’t look like they do in movies — and that would be a great start.

Theaters of War ends with a recommendation, that movies be required to disclose at the start any military or CIA collaboration. The film also notes that the United States has laws against propagandizing the U.S. public, which might make such a disclosure a confession of a crime. I would add that since 1976, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights has required that “Any propaganda for war shall be prohibited by law.”

To learn more about this film, view it, or host a screening of it, go here.

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The Grinch That Stole Christmas

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Back in the mid 70’s as my wife and I were starting our photography business Wally Miller, a successful local businessman, invited us to his office to offer help in the form of business advice. He asked only that we bring a financial statement and of course we complied.  The business startup process was new to us and after two years we were still losing money, and there it was in plain sight on the financial statement.  Wally welcomed us warmly and after a few minutes of careful study of our financials offered this observation, “You have no bad debts.”

Naturally I took this as a compliment.  I was proud that we had no bad debts, but that is not what Wally meant.  He elaborated, “If you have no bad debts that means that your credit is too tight and that translates into lost business.” His meaning was clear.  To be successful, really successful, you have to accept reasonable losses.  It’s the very nature of business.  If you want 100% certainty there can be no risk and without risk there can be no profits.

There’s a lesson in this thinking for Joe “McFuqwad” Manchin, the tight-ass, penny-pinching Grinch ruining Christmas for every American under the cover of “fiscal responsibility.”  His staffers gave us a look into his rationale, revealing two of the real reasons behind Joe’s decision to be the big NO.

Apparently Manchin believes that giving money to the poor in the form of a child tax credit is unwise because in his view, many will spend the extra dollars on drugs.  Likewise he is opposed to paid leave, stating that people will just call in sick and then go off deer hunting.

Now let’s all agree that in a free society, there are good and bad actors.  No law can legislate what is in the hearts of men.  No law can dictate integrity or honor.  If that were the case, there would be no GOP, no Jim Jordan, no Ted Cruz, no Matt Gaetz, No Marjorie Taylor Green, no Lauren Boebert. You get my drift, but I digress.

Once you agree to recognize that the actions of individuals are beyond your control, you must the adjust your decisions and subsequent actions to affect the greatest good for the majority.  Charity benefits the worthy and unworthy alike, without discrimination.  To withhold benefits from the worthy because there will always be unworthy recipients is to succumb to the devil’s play, a game of reduction that punishes all for the few.

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