On Death Cults and the Modern World

Today as the US woke up, it was greeted with horrific news. The Pakistani Taliban attacked a school run by the Pakistani Army and slaughtered over 140 civilians, mostly children. Yes, the school wasn’t a military school, but an ordinary school for kids. At the same time, a car bombing in Yemen carried out by Al Qaeda claimed the lives of 20 children. And over the weekend, a crazed gunman with pretensions of Islamic State membership took a restaurant hostage in Sydney, causing his own death and the death of two hostages when the Australian special forces stormed the building.

I think the fallacy that the Taliban and AQ are “freedom fighters” combating “Western hegemony” has been put to rest. The last I checked, the children in Yemen and Peshawar weren’t on the CIA’s payroll. What the Taliban, AQ, IS, and their affiliates are is death cults. Any legitimate grievance they may have had has long faded into the rear view mirror. They now perpetuate violence, all in the service of a dark utopia. That utopia is being partly realized in the IS-held sections of Iraq like Mosul, and the results aren’t pretty, even for orthodox, conservative Muslims. It is a cult of death and austerity, a yearning for a return to some prelapsarian state which never existed. It is a search for a dark Eden which never was but should have been.

But, of course, a death cult isn’t peculiar to the Muslim world. We have our own versions here.

What else would you call it when an organization which has an outsized influence on our members of Congress says that school massacres on our shores warrant more guns, not fewer? What do you call it when a large percentage of our population treats their neighbors receiving life-saving health coverage as a threat to the Republic? What do you call it when fellow citizens go on social media and mock the deaths of Mike Brown and Eric Garner?

We can justly condemn what happened in Pakistan and Yemen. But we cannot do so while blind to our own failings.

Too many Americans are embroiled in their own death cults. They’re told that they’re the Elect, that people outside their circle don’t matter and deserve what they get. They’re told that their way of life is in danger, and only brute force will suffice. They see nothing wrong with the procedures outlined in the Senate torture report, and actually applaud them.

And now many of these same Americans will loudly bray about “Muslim barbarism”, without recognizing the logs in their eyes.

But for every loudmouth who mockingly says “I can’t breathe”, thousands take to the streets to make their voices heard. For every crazed “imam”, ordinary people tell their Muslim fellow citizens that #illridewithyou. For every outrage perpetrated by the Taliban, you see a standing of #indiawithpakistan.

The two centripetal forces in conflict in our modern world are life and death. The death cults have the splash, the sex appeal, the violent imagery so valued in our media culture. Life is much subtler, less noisy. But it’s no less powerful. And, perhaps, more powerful because of its quiet, its wonderworking power to change hearts one at a time.

Death is easy. It’s easy to pull a trigger. It’s easy to plant a bomb. It’s easy to mock the unjustly killed. One does it without thinking. One does it because one is conditioned.

Life is more difficult. It requires work. It requires thought. It requires constant care. It appeals to reason, rather than the dark, rampant id. Death chooses you. You choose life.

The world has to make a conscious decision for life. It is the only thing which will consign the cults of death to history’s dustbin. It is the only thing which fulfill humanity’s promise. Otherwise, we’ll just be another of the failed forms of life which have graced this earth.

113 Responses to “On Death Cults and the Modern World”

  1. 1 jacquelineoboomer
    December 16, 2014 at 3:04 pm

    Off to read your post, LL.

  2. 2 Nena20409
    December 16, 2014 at 3:12 pm

    Au ⭐ for J’OB. Congrats.

    LL you take my Breath away with this Post. Brilliant. Thank you.

    “Death is easy. It’s easy to pull a trigger. It’s easy to plant a bomb. It’s easy to mock the unjustly killed. One does it without thinking. One does it because one is conditioned.

    Life is more difficult. It requires work. It requires thought. It requires constant care. It appeals to reason, rather than the dark, rampant id. Death chooses you. You choose life.”

    Thank you, sir.

  3. 3 Gazelle
    December 16, 2014 at 3:15 pm

    Definitely OD-ing — feel pity for me! But Beecham’s interpretation/version is excellent, made a while back. 🙂

    Handel Messiah – Sir Thomas Beecham (16 Videos):


  4. 4 vcprezofan2
    December 16, 2014 at 3:25 pm

    Here I am, ready to real Lib_L’s post.

    • 5 vcprezofan2
      December 16, 2014 at 3:34 pm

      Very relevant comparisons, L. We always find it easier to point the finger even while blocked by the ‘logs’ in our own eyes.
      ‘Life is more difficult. It requires work. It requires thought. It requires constant care. It appeals to reason, rather than the dark, rampant id.’

  5. 6 Linda
    December 16, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Tony Blinken vote for Deputy SOS will be held at 6 PM

  6. 7 sherijr
    December 16, 2014 at 3:31 pm

    Hello TOD, thoughtful writing LL. What a shit bunch of stuff people do to one another.. and when they do it to children, there is no way to understand.

    • 8 vcprezofan2
      December 16, 2014 at 3:35 pm

      Hi Sheri, you back on form today?

      • 9 sherijr
        December 16, 2014 at 5:34 pm

        Hi vc, yes much better thank you for asking… was off shopping online for xmas gifts. Where did the time go this month?? Hope all is well with you.

        • 10 vcprezofan2
          December 16, 2014 at 6:01 pm

          Good to hear your ‘head’ is much better, Sheri. That “m” word really terrifies me ever since I had my first bout with it.

          Christmas hasn’t come into its own yet, but otherwise life is fine in my corner of the world. 😀

          • 11 sherijr
            December 16, 2014 at 8:33 pm

            good, vc glad all is fine with you ! And yes migraines are not my favorite thing 😉 at all.

            I was sweating Christmas today, only as I was ‘ordering’ things to be shipped and was running into things not arriving in time for Christmas.. but was able to finish that up. All orders in place.. on to ‘toy shopping for the grandkiddies 🙂 I love toy shopping 🙂

  7. 14 sjterrid
    December 16, 2014 at 3:34 pm

    Thank you so much for your excellent essays. This piece is one of your best.

    The same people that say that torture is sometimes necessary and approve of police killing black men and children, because they are afraid don’t want to see that they are no different than those terrorists that they condemn in Pakistan. Who also claim they are doing it on behalf of their “religion”.

    Thank you for clarifying that the school was not part of the military. I only saw a couple of headlines and didn’t read the articles.

  8. 16 jacquelineoboomer
    December 16, 2014 at 3:40 pm


  9. 17 vcprezofan2
    December 16, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    Lib_L, what shocked me about the entire story is that these big, brave, seasoned killers chose to take their revenge on unarmed children. IOW, they were not brave enough to engage forces who might have fought back. I don’t see how any undecided, or moderate, or sane citizen could respect them or their cause after this.

    • 18 arapaho415
      December 16, 2014 at 3:53 pm

      VC, missed you yesterday. 😦

      You’ve carved out quite a big task, assembling photos of the year and compiling TOD responses. What a giving thing to do! And you received a lot of responses yesterday.

      Question: Is it possible to add additional nominations to your list of contenders?

      April and June were eventful months for PBO and FLOTUS, and I favor a couple of photos from PBO’s Asia trip and to the Standing Rock Reservation in ND.

      Still can’t get over the fact that Pete Souza could capture the shot with PBO and the horse both in crisp focus!

      And PBO and FLOTUS’ trip to Standing Rock will do real good for a community that is the definition of “underserved.”

      From last month, this classic pic shouldn’t be forgotten (IMHO):

      Finally, the photos from Christmas in Washington this weekend were spectacular! Can we include one of those in the list for December?

      Thanks, VC — I know this is a huge undertaking, and appreciate your thoughtfulness, commitment and energy as a gift to all of us.

      Just my two cents. Thanks for listening. 🙂

      • 19 Jeff
        December 16, 2014 at 4:13 pm

        looks like Putin was trying to hit on the president.

      • 20 GGail
        December 16, 2014 at 4:17 pm

        Hi arapaho – there’s room for you to put together a collage or – here’s another idea…VC could do part One and you do part Two.

        Cuz as you say, it is a huge undertaking. 🙂 Just my two cents 😉

        • 21 arapaho415
          December 16, 2014 at 5:22 pm

          Thanks, GG.

          After I posted this, thought of a compromise (meaning no work for me, LOL), and will run it by VC when she returns to the village.

          It’s all good, and it makes no sense to disrupt the “alphabet soup” that japa21 referred to downthread, so I’ll get back to VC soon.


    • 23 jackiegrumbacher
      December 16, 2014 at 4:20 pm

      You know what, VC? I wish every outraged person in Pakistan and around the would call these killers what they are–COWARDS. The word should be on everyone’s lips every day and in every public place and private discussion so that it becomes synonymous with the murderers. No one should give them the dignity of calling them anything but the lily-livered, baby killing cowards that they are.

    • 25 japa21
      December 16, 2014 at 4:28 pm

      I have been around here so seldom of late, I keep seeing people give you an alphabet soup, but have no idea what they are talking about. I also would love to give you alphabet soup. What have I missed?

      December 16, 2014 at 7:09 pm


  10. 29 arapaho415
    December 16, 2014 at 3:41 pm

    GA TODville.

    This is a wake-up call to MSM/GOP/Comcast/Kochs:

    • 30 jackiegrumbacher
      December 16, 2014 at 4:07 pm

      Arapaho, I’m done with people who raise the bar so high for this president that neither a saint nor the Archangel Michael could reach their so-called standards. They are racists through and through, finding ways to criticize our African American president while forgiving his predecessor of the most obscene torture techniques since the Inquisition, the loss of a major American city and the worst economic mismanagement since Herbert Hoover. I no longer try to argue or explain, I just call them for what they are–ugly, bigoted cretins.

        December 16, 2014 at 7:11 pm


    • December 16, 2014 at 4:18 pm

      No one ask the other Presidents why they haven’t solved the racism, I wish someone would tell me why is it people think the one black President suppose to solve a problem which has been in this country for hundreds of years. This makes no sense at all.

    • December 16, 2014 at 4:47 pm

      The disease of racial fear and hatred is a disease of the soul. Since when is any president supposed to heal the souls millions of human beings of a wretched disease that has existed from time immemorial. America was founded on racism.

      • 34 0388jojothecat
        December 16, 2014 at 6:12 pm

        The media needs to ask why the GOP attracts SO MANY racist’s and why the media gives them a legitimate platform to spread their racist views.

  11. 35 churchlady320
    December 16, 2014 at 3:46 pm

    Thank you, LL. As one who has fought for decades to stop the killing by white extremists in our midst, and occasionally – too damned often – failing, the specter of death at the hands of the faux Elect is increasingly abhorrent. It’s not just that they believe somehow they’re the chosen but that others are justifiably their sacrificial lambs. The function of terror whether group sponsored OR state sponsored is to keep people from living full and useful lives by their own lights. How wicked are humans that some have to prove superiority by killing those who differ? These young people who died today are no different from the children of Sandy Hook or doctors who provide abortion services. They are all targets of someone’s demented notion that their own existence is justified by these deaths. Enough!

  12. 36 Linda
    December 16, 2014 at 3:47 pm

    Federal Judge Declares Obama’s Immigration Action Unconstitutional

    A federal judge in Pennsylvania ruled on Tuesday that President Barack Obama’s recent executive actions on immigration are unconstitutional.

    “The Court holds that the Executive Action is unconstitutional because it violates the separation of powers and the Take Care Clause of the Constitution,” wrote U.S. District Judge Arthur J. Schwab, who was appointed by George W. Bush.

    Schwab determined that Obama’s actions — which pave the way for three-year work permits for more than 4.4 million people (those brought to the U.S. as children and undocumented parents of American citizens) — were illegal because they permit “substantive rights” for “broad categories” of individuals.


    How can he rule on something that has not even happened yet ? Who is the injured party ? Deferred Action is not unconstitutional and allows for work permits…. The first such case was John Lennon.

    • 37 jackiegrumbacher
      December 16, 2014 at 4:10 pm

      Linda, I do not hold Pennsylvania judges in high esteem on any topic. The best one we had had to resign for enjoying pornography in his workplace. This judgment will not stand, but it will give thrills of delight to Faux News and it’s the only decision you will ever hear about even if 50 Federal judges disagree with him.

  13. 45 jacquelineoboomer
    December 16, 2014 at 3:51 pm
  14. December 16, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    “The rouble plunged more than 11 percent against the dollar on Tuesday in its steepest intraday fall since the Russian financial crisis in 1998 as confidence in the central bank evaporated after an ineffectual rate hike.

    The rouble opened around 10 percent stronger against the dollar after the central bank unexpectedly raised its benchmark interest rate by a hefty 650 basis points to try and halt the currency’s slide, but it reversed gains in volatile trade and repeatedly set new record lows.

    It has now fallen close to 20 percent this week, taking its losses this year against the dollar to more than 50 percent and stirring memories of the 1998 crisis when the currency collapsed within a matter of days, forcing Russia to default on its debt.”


    • 47 Gazelle
      December 16, 2014 at 4:08 pm

      Freefall. Pootie’s horse ran away w/ his last shirt.

    • 49 jackiegrumbacher
      December 16, 2014 at 4:13 pm

      Unfortunately for the Russian people, it doesn’t look as if they can put two and two together and realize that it is Putin and no one else who is making their lives miserable. They choose to believe propaganda the way that many Germans chose to believe the Fuhrer in the lead up to WWII. Until the Russian people wake up and say no to being screwed by their so-called leader, they will continue to endure untold sorrow and hardship.

  15. 50 Linda
    December 16, 2014 at 3:57 pm

    Company Makes T-Shirts To Counter Garner Protests: ‘Breathe Easy, Don’t Break The Law’

    A cop who owns a clothing business in Indiana has responded to protests over the police killing of an unarmed black man in New York with T-shirts reading: “Breathe Easy: Don’t Break the Law.”

    The phrase was a play on the last words of the man, Eric Garner, after he was placed in a chokehold by New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo in July: “I can’t breathe.”

    Jason Barthel, a police officer and owner of South Bend Uniform, told television station WSBT the shirts were selling quickly.


  16. 54 arapaho415
    December 16, 2014 at 4:18 pm

    For FLOTUS fans (and who isn’t?), a couple of fashion tweets:

    From Michelle’s Monique Lhuillier gown at the Kennedy Center Honors, to Talbots at a travel blogger summit, to Sasha’s ASOS dress at the Christmas in Washington event:

    And here’s a slide show of outfits Michelle wore throughout the year:

  17. 57 arapaho415
    December 16, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Mmmm… latkes. (Love Jewish cuisine — I’ve mentioned before that my favorite CA personalized license plate was TACO LOX, lol.

  18. 59 JER
    December 16, 2014 at 4:20 pm

  19. 61 donna dem 4 obama
    December 16, 2014 at 4:20 pm

    Good Afternoon TOD!

    LL you reached inside my mind and read me like a book…

    “The world has to make a conscious decision for life. It is the only thing which will consign the cults of death to history’s dustbin. It is the only thing which fulfill humanity’s promise. Otherwise, we’ll just be another of the failed forms of life which have graced this earth.”

    This latest slaughter has put me in a complete state of sadness. When will these horrific acts ever end!

    Since the two year anniversary of Newtown I have been visiting the Facebook page “Remembering Ana Márquez-Greene”. Ana was one of those twenty babies that was slaughtered by madness two years ago.The page is a remembrance page setup by her mother and as I read her comments and looked at the pictures of that beautiful little angel I have wept with such profound sorrow for that family. I cannot even imagine the pain they must feel for her loss!!! 😦

    Sorry…. I know everyone cannot view FB so I am posting a picture of Ana as well.


    • 62 jackiegrumbacher
      December 16, 2014 at 4:41 pm

      Donna, today I’m feeling a lot of anger about things. I’m angry that people in this country chose to do nothing to prevent gun violence after Newtown and, in fact, allowed it to get worse so that we would all become inured to horror. I’m furious at the murderous cowards in Pakistan who killed little children to show what big men they were and I’m enraged at the whole racist mentality in this country that stands by while black boys are killed and mocks those who grieve. We have as a species allowed the worst elements in humanity to take center stage with their cruelty, brutality and moral corruption. We (the decent people) of the world have turned the other way, shaken our heads but done nothing to make a difference. For six years we’ve watched injury added to insult as the best president in our nation’s history has derided, sabotaged and vilified by a disgraceful press and the most loathsome political party since the landing of the Mayflower. I usually can find some saving grace, but I’m out of ideas. Little Ana and all the dear children who have been killed since her death deserved a life and a chance to shine in the vast darkness of this sometimes very ugly world.

  20. 65 JER
    December 16, 2014 at 4:24 pm

  21. 67 Paulita
    December 16, 2014 at 4:26 pm

    He TOD! The Atlantic has an article entitled “Get Ready for the Obama Boomlet”. Not a bad read, sorry I don’t know how to bring the link. 🙂

  22. 73 japa21
    December 16, 2014 at 4:40 pm

    LL, I always compliment your essays, of which all are stellar. But this one goes beyond stellar. This is, without a doubt in my mind, the best you have ever written.

    You speak of what would basically be a dichotomy with humankind: those who practically worship death and those who prefer life, prefer to live it and to help others live theirs.

    There is no doubt, that looking purely at those two positions, the life lovers far outnumber the death worshippers. But there are two problems. The first is that, almost by definition, the life lovers are non-violent and have qualms about initiating violence aginast the other side, whereas the death cultists have no qualms at all.

    But there is another aspect which is just as much a problem, and maybe even the biggest problem. Instead of a dichotomy, there is really a trichotomy. In addition to the two groups already mentioned, there is a third. These are people who would normally, and rightfully, put themselves in the life lovers category, but who are fascinated by the doings of the death cultists and give the death cultists the attention they crave.

    These people are who the media is seeing as their target audience. It is why the media will spend 10 times more energy covering death than they will life.

    I suppose we all have a portion of our brain that is stimulated by violence, the basic core, the lizard brain, so to speak. Some are dominated by it (the death cultists) some will occasionally get overpowered by it (life lovers who get fascinated by death) and the rest are able to repress it when it gets triggered.

    And yes, there are many death cultists in the US, just as you otuline above. They may not actually participate in creating death directly, but they will in some way or another cheer it on and want to make sure they have the ability to deliver death if they feel the need (which is usually more of a desire than need).

    • December 16, 2014 at 5:14 pm

      I posit that there may be a 4th group: the “not my problem” people. If something doesn’t affect them, whether for good or ill, it’s none of their concern. We see that when people don’t register to vote, and when those who are registered don’t bother to show up and vote.

    December 16, 2014 at 4:43 pm


  24. December 16, 2014 at 4:51 pm

    Thank you, LL. We have today more evidence of the fruits of extremist fundamentist religion. We have a Christian fundamentalist preacher, Chuck Hagee, who is agitating for America to attack Iran with nuclear weapons bringing death to millions of men, women, and children, just so that we can hasten the end times. It’s another side of the same coin as the Taliban, only it’s Christian Taliban.

    • 81 57andfemale
      December 16, 2014 at 4:57 pm


      Also, the American fundamentalists have been at work in Russia, Poland, etc. for decades. In a religious vacuum, they swept in like locusts. The reason for the far-right hatred of gays, etc. is due to this. A very little-known story that Americans should be aware of.

      December 16, 2014 at 6:57 pm


  25. 83 Mela in TX (@bluetexasmoon)
    December 16, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    LL, I echo the rest of TOD in their admiration for this essay. I enjoy all your writing but this, THIS is your best yet!

  26. 84 globalcitizenlinda
    December 16, 2014 at 5:02 pm

    So the body of the PA man who went on the shooting spree of his family has been found near his home?

  27. December 16, 2014 at 5:12 pm

    Hey all, back from lunch.

    Thanks for the comments. I was trying to think of things to tweet about, but Twitter just seemed so trite for something like Peshawar. It had to come out in long form.

    • 89 mtmarilyn
      December 16, 2014 at 5:42 pm

      LL, your posts always seem to say the words I can’t always speak. Seems like you know what is in our hearts. I agree there is a group that says not my problem. I truly believe there is an awaking coming. This cannot go on. Know how much we appreciate you.

      Just want to add sorry you FIL isn’t doing better and the missus will be gone over Christmas. Sending healing energy and prayers to you and your family.

  28. 92 donna dem 4 obama
    December 16, 2014 at 5:22 pm

  29. 93 donna dem 4 obama
    December 16, 2014 at 5:22 pm

    • 94 sherijr
      December 16, 2014 at 5:37 pm

      well that’s cool, Donna, thanks… I just bought a Timex sport watch for my youngest son.. and it’s on the Union list ! woohoo 🙂

      • 95 arapaho415
        December 16, 2014 at 5:44 pm


        My fav (only) watches have been the Timex Indiglo — it’s handy when you’re blind as a bat without your glasses (like me) and want to see what time it is when you awaken in the middle of the night.

        And extremely durable — my watch must be almost 20 years old, and it’s still working great! Has outlived a number of watch bands.

        • 96 sherijr
          December 16, 2014 at 8:30 pm

          I always liked timex too, my first watch was a timex. I wanted to get him something with a stop watch- so he can time his runs, for track. They do last, those Timex 🙂

    • 97 Linda
      December 16, 2014 at 5:51 pm

      Here is another really good site for Made in America Products.



      Baby Gear
      Bed & Bath
      Green Products
      Handcraft Artisans
      Home Decor
      Kitchen & Dining
      Music & Audio
      Sporting Goods
      Toys & Games
      Yard & Garden

  30. December 16, 2014 at 5:40 pm

  31. 99 arapaho415
    December 16, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    OK, this cracks me up.

    I’ll start by saying my childhood HERO was Sandy Koufax, a Jewish pitcher for the Dodgers from Brooklyn NY — I would have crawled across glass to meet him.

    And I probably laughed too loudly at that Airplane! sight-gag where the stewardess hands the passenger a “Jewish Sports Heroes” newsletter when he says he wants light reading.

    But I had no idea there was a “Jewish Baseball News” — RWNJs will tear their hair out for “unqualified” ambassadors, but cool that PBO can honor one of his beloved White Soxers:

    • 100 mtmarilyn
      December 16, 2014 at 5:54 pm

      Oh Arapaho415, Sandy Koufax, was my hero too and I did meet him and Don Drysdale. I lived in So Cal 1964-1968, Went to almost all the Dodger games. I didn’t know there was a Jewish Baseball News, congratulations to Mark Gilbert.

    • 101 GGail
      December 16, 2014 at 6:19 pm

      arapaho – thanks for sharing this!
      My grandfather was a Detroit Tiger fan and he did not like it when that “Sandy Koufax” fella came to the mound for the opposing team 😀

      Congratulations to Mark Gilbert – please do all of us Proud!

      • 102 arapaho415
        December 16, 2014 at 6:41 pm

        Understand your grandfather’s sentiment exactly, GGail.

        I didn’t much like it when Hank Aaron was the batter against my Sandy Koufax, LOL.

    • 104 GGail
      December 16, 2014 at 6:20 pm

      Yea! I received this email just a minute ago and was gonna send it to vc for her to post – and here you are with it!

  32. 105 donna dem 4 obama
    December 16, 2014 at 6:05 pm

    Lawd Have Mercy! This is what passes for journalism nowadays. The replies are hilarious 🙂 😯 🙂

  33. 108 carolyn
    December 16, 2014 at 6:13 pm

    LL, it is amazing to me how you continue to get better and better! This essay is a heart gripper for sure. You tell the truth and tell it loud and strong.

    I’m thinking that we need to publish your essays in a book, or ebook. If that happens I will choose it for my composition classes to study…..both for the content……so very important, and the style, the structure, the language, and also importantly, for the heart and soul. Thank you for writing this.

    • December 16, 2014 at 6:26 pm

      Thank you so much, carolyn.

      One of my quirks is that a lot of my essay titles begin with the word “On”. That’s the remnant of my reading philosophy; so many of the classics begin with “On’. So if I ever do collect the essays into a book, I know the title will have to begin so.

  34. 111 HZ
    December 16, 2014 at 7:04 pm

    {{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{{ LL, your words moved this little senior to the flow of precious tears.}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}}} Thank you for your brilliant writing.HZ

    • 112 carolyn
      December 16, 2014 at 7:45 pm

      HZ, you and I are two little seniors together who are still very much concerned for our country and future…..and both know the wisdom of this essay. I will never understand the fascination some people have with death, either their own or others. Life is just too precious to take lightly. Hope your brother is doing well.

  35. 113 amk for obama
    December 16, 2014 at 9:42 pm

    “we’ll just be another of the failed forms of life which have graced this earth.”

    well said. we are the worst form of life that has sullied this earth with wanton, senseless destruction of both living and non-living.

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