In Nuclear Poker, Don’t Bet on Trump, Bloomberg JAN 19, 2017 BY James McManus Is North Korea’s belligerent young leader, Kim Jong-un, bluffing when he says the “last stage” is underway for testing a ballistic missile capable of hitting the U.S.? What about President-elect Donald Trump, when he tweets, “It won’t happen“?
As Trump’s administration begins, a showdown with North Korea over ICBMs seems all but inevitable. Just yesterday, South Korean media reported possible signs that the North may be preparing a new missile launch. In managing this conflict, few things will be more crucial than understanding the nature of bluffing. Unfortunately, for all his talk of being a good deal maker, Trump is a terrible bluffer — and his lack of skill is likely to destabilize nuclear politics.
A bluff is an untrue but plausible story. In the mindsport of poker, bluffs work when your opponent believes you have a better hand, so he can’t call your bet or raise, conceding you the pot. The savvier player wants to steadily grind away at the stack of his opponent over a large number of small pots, without risking too many of his own chips in any single hand. The weaker player can counter the “small ball” strategy by raising all-in fairly often, forcing all-or-nothing confrontations.
To understand why these dynamics are so crucial in nuclear negotiation, consider the work of John von Neumann, the prodigiously gifted polymath who immigrated to the U.S. from Hungary in 1933 and later contributed to the Manhattan Project. Von Neumann loved poker because its strategy involves guile, probability, luck and budgetary acumen, but is never transparent; it always depends on the counterstrategies deployed by opponents.
Trump bluffs almost constantly. He has spent his entire adult life overstating the value of his real estate holdings and branding endeavors, while bragging relentlessly about his wealth, sex life, length off the tee, and on and on. His bluffs during the campaign — that he had a replacement for Obamacare, a secret plan to defeat Islamic State and so on — were plainly false to anyone paying attention. To Trump, what was true hardly mattered.
Such tendencies would not serve him well in a poker game. Any player who continually misrepresents the size of his hand would cause sharp opponents to give his bets little credit. They’d simply wait for above-average hands and call him. As Daniel Negreanu, the all-time winningest poker tournament player, put it to me, “Trump’s bluffs are very effective against level-one thinkers. His lies are so outlandish that people think they have to be true or he wouldn’t have said it. The constant barrage makes him tougher to read. But sharper players would pick him apart.”
Kim may not be irrational, but he knows how to seem that he is, which gives him leverage. Kim’s contempt for most North Koreans means that he has less to lose by threatening to nuke an American city. The more we know about his pretensions to deity, his labor camps, the food and electricity shortages his policies have prolonged, the easier it is to believe he might sacrifice millions of Koreans in an absurd attempt to save face. Kim isn’t threatening to defeat the U.S., a bluff no one would credit; he’s trying to prove he could grievously injure it before dying himself, a bluff that must be taken seriously. As Negreanu puts it, Kim is “a scary player. Being unpredictable, capable of any move at any time, makes him hard to prepare for.”
In such circumstances, Trump’s long history of empty boasts is destabilizing. Kim may calculate that he has renewed leverage to push for concessions from the U.S. He might engage in riskier behavior, such as firing more test missiles or launching cyberattacks. Almost certainly, he’ll persist in developing missiles that can reach the U.S., calculating all the while that Trump’s Twitter outbursts are simply talk.
That may be true. But what if, for once in his life, Trump means what he says? What if he can’t bear to have his bluff called, and really is tempted to launch a preemptive attack if it looks like North Korea poses a real threat to the U.S. mainland?……..https://www.bloomberg.com/view/articles/2017-01-19/in-nuclear-poker-don-t-bet-on-trump
China’s Xi calls for a world without nuclear weapons, SCMP, 19 Jan 17, Chinese President Xi Jinping called for a world without nuclear weapons at the UN on Wednesday and urged a multilateral system based on equality among nations large and small.
His speech at the United Nations in Geneva came at the end of a diplomatic tour that included a landmark address at the World Economic Forum in Davos, just days before Donald Trump is sworn in as the 45th president of the United States.
Some experts have seen Xi’s Swiss tour as a bid to capture the mantle of global leadership at a time when Washington is clouded by uncertainty with an unpredictable political novice about to take charge.
“Nuclear weapons should be completely prohibited and destroyed over time to make the world free of nuclear weapons,” Xi said, according to an official translation.
China has been a nuclear power since 1964.
In an address that stretched beyond 45 minutes, Xi also sought to make the case for a global governance system that strives for a level playing field among countries where interventionist tendencies are resisted……..
While he made no mention of the incoming Republican administration, Xi’s message on nuclear weapons stood apart from Trump’s at times contradictory remarks on American nuclear power……http://www.scmp.com/news/china/diplomacy-defence/article/2063383/chinas-xi-calls-world-without-nuclear-weapons
Donald Trump and the ‘nuclear football’: What’s stopping President-elect launching lethal weapon strike http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/donald-trump-nuclar-football-codes-what-stops-president-elect-push-button-launch-nuclear-weapon-a7534926.html ‘In theory the president has full discretion over authorisation of nuclear use’ Peter Walker @petejohn_walker , 19 Jan 17 Donald Trump will be simultaneously handed power to launch nuclear weapons as he is inaugurated tomorrow.
Here we explain how the “thin-skinned” and “impulsively tempered” President-elect can wield the power of the ‘nuclear football’ and what’s stopping him from using it.
U.S. sees indications of possible North Korea missile test-launch Yahoo News, By James Pearson and Phil Stewart January 20, 2017 SEOUL/WASHINGTON (Reuters) – North Korea may be preparing for a new missile test-launch, U.S. officials told Reuters on Thursday, after South Korean media reported movement of what could be components of an upgraded prototype of an intercontinental ballistic missile.
The U.S. officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the United States was seeing activity in North Korea indicating a possible ballistic missile test, including positioning of two mobile missile launchers.
Still, the timing of the test and precise type of missile remained unclear, the officials said.
In his New Year’s speech, leader Kim Jong Un said North Korea was close to test launching an ICBM, and state media has said a launch could come at any time. Experts on the isolated and nuclear capable country’s missile program believe the claims to be credible.
The Pentagon declined comment on its intelligence about the North Korea threat, but spokesman Peter Cook assured reporters that Washington’s readiness would be not be diminished during the U.S. presidential transition, due to take place on Friday.
“I can’t get into intelligence matters. I can’t confirm what’s been reported there,” Cook told a news briefing.
“We would once again encourage North Korea not to engage in provocative actions that do nothing but destabilize the region.”
South Korean media said a test could potentially coincide with the inauguration of U.S. President-elect Donald Trump on Friday, South Korean media said.
Trump on Jan. 2 tweeted, “It won’t happen!” about North Korean ICBMs, although his precise meaning was unclear. The Pentagon has said it would not necessarily strike a test-launched ICBM if it did not pose a threat.
NEW TYPE OF MISSILE?
South Korean intelligence agencies reported on Wednesday that they had recently spotted missile parts being transported, believed to be the lower-half of an ICBM, raising fears that a test-launch may be imminent, the Chosun Ilbo newspaper said, citing unidentified military sources…….https://www.yahoo.com/news/u-sees-north-korea-activity-signaling-possible-missile-160137245.html
On Thursday, Rex Tillerson, Trump’s proposed secretary of state, made unprecedented statements on the attitude the next US government will take toward China’s land reclamation activities and construction of facilities on the islets and reefs Beijing claims as sovereign territory in the South China Sea.
Tillerson declared: “We are going to have to send China a clear signal that, first, the island-building stops and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”
The implications of such a policy are immense. The islands referred to by Tillerson are occupied by Chinese military personnel. The waters surrounding them are patrolled by the Chinese Coast Guard and Navy. The airspace above them is patrolled by the Chinese air force. The only conceivable way to deny China access would be through the large-scale deployment of US aircraft carriers and associated military forces into the South China Sea.
Media headlines around the world have reflected the recognition that war would be the most likely outcome of attempting to implement Tillerson’s declaration. For its part, the Chinese state-owned publication Global Times, whose editorial line is believed to come directly from the highest echelons of the Chinese regime, has not hedged its words in response.
Its January 13 editorial states: “Unless Washington plans to wage a large-scale war in the South China Sea, any other approaches to prevent Chinese access to the islands will be foolish. The US has no absolute power to dominate the South China Sea. Tillerson had better bone up on nuclear power strategies if he wants to force a big nuclear power to withdraw from its own territories [emphasis added].”
An analysis of the social forces and economic interests that stand behind Trump leaves no room for doubt that his administration is more than prepared to threaten a full-scale war with China, posing the risk of a nuclear exchange.
Before he is even sworn in, Trump and the cabal of billionaires and ex-generals who will comprise his cabinet have signaled they will provoke conflict with China over a range of issues. In addition to rejecting Chinese territorial claims in the South China Sea, these policies include imposing tariffs on Chinese exports; demanding Beijing force North Korea to shut down its nuclear weapons program; and threatening to repudiate the “One China policy” under which Washington, since 1979, has formally recognised that the island of Taiwan is part of China and not an independent state.
Adding to the possible list of provocations, one of Trump’s chief supporters in the Congress, Arkansas Republican Tom Cotton, joined with Republican presidential aspirant Marco Rubio to introduce the “Hong Kong Human Rights and Democracy Act” in November. The Act would require the US government to take action to ensure Hong Kong remains “sufficiently autonomous” from the mainland regime. Tibetan nationalists have enthusiastically welcomed Trump’s election as a signal that their cause might also be taken up by the incoming administration.
The focus on China flows directly from the interests of a powerful faction of the American corporate elite who view it as their greatest immediate economic, geopolitical and potential military competitor.
Rex Tillerson, the former CEO of oil conglomerate ExxonMobil, personifies this layer. Under Tillerson, ExxonMobil aggressively pursued access to potential oil and gas fields in the South China Sea, in partnership with Vietnam and in defiance of China’s territorial claims. In 2014, one of its fields was occupied by a Chinese oil rig. ExxonMobil’s ambitions for a stake in mainland Chinese energy production and distribution have been hindered also by the dominance of the Chinese state-owned companies that monopolise the domestic industry. Around the world—even in US-occupied Iraq—bids by American energy corporations for contracts have been undercut by their Chinese rivals.
The preoccupation of the Trump oligarchs with shattering Chinese competition is most clearly demonstrated in their willingness to defy the furious demands in the American ruling class for action first against Russia. Trump has thus far largely brushed aside the hysterical calls from the Democratic Party, figures in the Republican Party and the intelligence agencies for an immediate confrontation with Moscow over its alleged interference in the US election and its intervention in Syria to protect the regime of Bashar al-Assad from US-backed Islamist rebels……..ttps://www.wsws.org/en/articles/2017/01/13/pers-j13.html
In a statement released on Friday, Mr Keating warned the Australian government to reject Rex Tillerson’s declaration this week that a “signal” needed to be sent to Beijing that the construction of artificial islands in the contested region must stop and “access to those islands also is not going to be allowed”. The remarks from the former chief of Exxon Mobil, in which he also called for regional allies “to show backup”, have set the stage for sharply increased tensions between the US and China as the Asian superpower builds up its military presence on the islands to defend against competing territorial claims from neighbouring countries.
According to Mr Keating, Mr Tillerson’s testimony to his US Senate confirmation hearing “threatens to involve Australia in war with China”. And he has urged the Australian people to “take note” and recommended the government tell the Trump administration, which will take over on January 20, “that Australia will not be part of such adventurism, just as we should have done in Iraq 15 years ago”. “That means no naval commitment to joint operations in the South China Sea and no enhanced US military facilitation of such operations,” the former Labor prime minister said.
“Tillerson’s claim that China’s control of access to the waters would be a threat to ‘the entire global economy’ is simply ludicrous. No country would be more badly affected than China if it moved to impede navigation. On the other hand, Australia’s prosperity and the security of the world would be devastated by war.”……… http://www.theage.com.au/federal-politics/political-news/us-threatens-to-involve-australia-in-war-with-china-paul-keating-condemns-us-secretary-of-state-nominees-comments-20170113-gtqy0k.html
North Korea’s Nuclear Weapons: Under Kim Jong Un, Plutonium Stockpile Has Reached Unprecedented Levels, International Business Times, BY ON 01/12/17 In the past two years, North Korea has steadily increased its supply of plutonium and now has enough for 10 nuclear warheads, according to a report this week from the South Korean Ministry of National Defense. In all, South Korea’s 2016 Defense White Paper found that the North had increased its supply of weapons -grade plutonium to 50 kilograms, up from 40 kilograms two years ago, the Korea Times reported. The plutonium was obtained by reprocessing spent fuel rods.
Under the dictatorial rule of leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea has focused on developing its nuclear arsenal. More recently, North Korea has worked toward developing a reliable intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) that would be capable of carrying a nuclear warhead.
The increased stockpile comes amid continued threats from Kim. In a New Year’s speech, Kim provoked the West — the United States and South Korea especially — and claimed an ICBM was nearing completion…….
Should the North develop a reliable ICBM, it would likely have the capability of reaching the United States. A working ICBM could still be a ways off, however…….http://www.ibtimes.com/north-koreas-nuclear-weapons-under-kim-jong-un-plutonium-stockpile-has-reached-2474439
The F-35 may destabilize relations between the world’s two greatest nuclear powers — Russia and the US.
The F-35 may carry one of the US’s most polarising nuclear weapons sooner than expected http://www.businessinsider.com.au/f-35-b-61-nuclear-bomb-sooner-than-expected-2017-1?r=US&IR=T ALEX LOCKIE JAN 13, 2017 The Air Force designed the F-35A with nuclear capability in mind, and a new report indicates that the Joint Strike Fighter may carry nuclear weapons sooner than expected.
Mattis strikes sharp contrast to Trump on F-35, nuclear weapons 12 JANUARY, 2017: FLIGHTGLOBAL.COM BY: LEIGH GIANGRECO WASHINGTON DC
Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of defense supports Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter programme, the NATO alliance and restrained use of nuclear weapons during his confirmation hearing, marking a stark departure from the president-elect……..https://www.flightglobal.com/news/articles/mattis-strikes-sharp-contrast-to-trump-on-f-35-nuc-433139/
British nuclear weapons workers to go on strike over Atomic Weapons Establishment pensions dispute The Independent, 12 Jan 17 Staff manufacture and maintain nuclear weapons including the Trident programme Lizzie Dearden @lizziedearden Employees responsible for manufacturing and maintaining the UK’s nuclear weapons are to go on strike.
Workers at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) are to stage two 48-hour walk-outs as part of a long-running dispute over pensions.
A spokesperson said workers felt “deeply betrayed” by promises made decades ago guaranteeing their pensions, when they were transferred from the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to the private sector, being broken………
“The four days of strike action later this month are not being taken lightly. It is not a ‘political’ strike, but one taken reluctantly by our members who have no desire to see thousands of pounds wiped off their retirement incomes.”
Unite claimed new pensions proposals, which would see the AWE’s pension contributions lowered, violated pledges made in a ministerial statement to the Commons in the 1990s. The AWE, owned by a consortium of Lockheed Martin, Jacobs Engineering and Serco, is contracted by the MoD to build and maintain nuclear warheads for Royal Navy submarines. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/british-nuclear-weapons-factory-workers-berkshire-go-on-strike-prospect-union-awe-atomic-weapons-a7523516.html
Puget Sound’s ticking nuclear time bomb, Crosscut by Glen Milner, 10 Jan 17 “……“Command and Control” shows what can happen when the weapons built to protect us threaten to destroy us, and it speaks directly to Puget Sound citizens: Locally, we face a similar threat in Hood Canal with the largest concentration of deployed nuclear weapons in the United States at Naval Base Kitsap-Bangor.
An accident at Bangor involving nuclear weapons occurred in November 2003 when a ladder penetrated a nuclear nose cone during a routine missile offloading at the Explosives Handling Wharf. All missile-handling operations at the Strategic Weapons Facility Pacific (SWFPAC) were stopped for nine weeks until Bangor could be recertified for handling nuclear weapons. Three top commanders were fired but the public was never informed until information was leaked to the media in March 2004.
The Navy never publicly admitted that the 2003 accident occurred. The Navy failed to report the accident at the time to county or state authorities. Public responses from governmental officials were generally in the form of surprise and disappointment.
The result of such an explosion likely would not cause a nuclear detonation. Instead, plutonium from the approximately 108 nuclear warheads on one submarine could be spread by the wind…… http://crosscut.com/2017/01/nuclear-accidents-bangor-accident-command-and-control/
US Rejects North Korea’s Nuclear Claim Amid Growing Concerns http://www.voanews.com/a/us-rejects-north-korea-nuclear-claim-amid-growing-concerns/3665388.html, 5 Jan 17, Amid speculation surrounding North Korea’s nuclear capabilities, the U.S. government said this week that Pyongyang has yet to acquire the ability to outfit an intercontinental ballistic missile with a nuclear warhead.
The latest assessment came after North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s statement that the preparations for launching an intercontinental ballistic missile had “reached the final stage.” His claim, in a New Year’s Day address, immediately sent ripples across the world’s capitals, prompting President-elect Donald Trump to tweet, “It won’t happen!”
Despite the U.S. rejection of North Korea’s purported capability, experts are raising concern about the threats emanating from the regime. Continue reading
The secret nuclear bunker built as the UK’s last hope, Dug for an underground ‘shadow factory’ for aircraft during World War Two, the Drakelow tunnels were re-purposed as a nuclear bunker to be used by the UK government. We went inside., BBC By William Park 4 January 2017
Deep beneath a hill in the Worcestershire countryside, about 20 miles west of Birmingham, lie a series of hidden tunnels. Once home to a secret aeroplane factory during World War Two, they were later repurposed to protect the UK in the event of a nuclear war: it’s from here that the government would have continued to run the country.
“This would have been the last resort of the UK government,” says Michael Scott, a volunteer with the Drakelow Preservation Trust, which is restoring the site. The Trust’s aim is to reopen parts of the tunnels as a museum to preserve their history in World War Two and the Cold War. But the organisation remains some years away from finishing the work, and without much funding, the volunteers are restricted mostly to repainting walls.
When cities across the UK came under siege during the war, the government needed to find a way to continue production of tanks, aircraft and ammunition. The solution was to build underground factories – also called shadow factories – away from large cities. The Drakelow Tunnels housed one of them. And the same remoteness and fortress-like qualities that made Drakelow an effective underground aircraft factory would later make it the location of choice for responding to nuclear attack in Britain.
Today, the entrance used by Scott and the other volunteers is called Adit A; it’s where the security office would have stood. Most of the hillside around the entrance is bare, revealing a sandstone mass towering above us that would have made this site virtually bomb-proof in World War Two.
Adit A shows many signs of the alterations that were made to Drakelow Tunnels to retrofit it for use as a nuclear bunker – including covered air vents that would have protected those inside from fallout. Through the heavy steel door, visitors would have had to strip, incinerate their clothes and shower as they decontaminated themselves……..
There are examples of similar subterranean shadow factories in Germany, too. The largest was Mittelwerk, Kohnstein, which produced V-1 and V-2 bombs from 1943 to 1945. The move underground was a direct result of the destruction of other, above-ground V-2 production plants, like Peenemunde in northern Germany. Unlike Drakelow, Mittelwerk was left in ruins after the war.
Perhaps the most intriguing underground network of Nazi military tunnels is the series of seven structures that make up Project Riese. Buried in the Owl Mountains – then part of Germany but now in south-west Poland near the Czech border – these sites were never finished and documents about their full purpose seem to have been destroyed…….
Top-secret military construction did not end with World War Two. In 1949, as the Cold War bloomed, the UK government began to build 15 fortified war rooms across the country.
But in the case of the much bigger threat of a nuclear attack, these buildings would not have been enough to protect their inhabitants. They were too small, making them unable to support a workforce for the extended period of time they’d need to remain indoors to avoid the fallout of a nuclear explosion. They also were built too close to the major cities which could have been a target for an attack: five were built in London, for example.
Having seen the effect of a nuclear attack in Japan, the British government commissioned the Strath Committee, led by head of the Central War Plans Secretariat William Strath, to analyse the potential effects of a nuclear attack on the UK. In 1955 the committee published the Strath Report which found that even a ‘limited’ attack would have devastating consequences. Food and water would be contaminated, the NHS would be overwhelmed with four million serious casualties and 12 million deaths, and industry would shut down. In short, the “social and economic fabric of the country [would be] destroyed”.
Strath recommended the UK invest in a network of nuclear bunkers to protect the population. However, estimates put the cost of such an enormous series of bunkers at £1.25bn (equal to £30.88bn in 2016)……… http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20170103-the-secret-nuclear-bunker-built-as-the-uks-last-hope
The “madman theory” of nuclear war has existed for decades. Now, Trump is playing the madman. VOX, by Boston Globe and the Washington Post in response to the president-elect’s foreign policy moves: his provocations toward China, his attacks on NATO and the UN, his warm overtures toward Rodrigo Duterte and Vladimir Putin.Jan 4, 2017, Is Donald Trump a madman? Or, at least, would he like foreign leaders to think he might be just a little unstable? Such questions are being batted around in papers like the
Across the pundit-sphere, analysts are asking, is he crazy, or crazy like a fox?
In no context is the question more pertinent than Trump’s position on nuclear weapons. His comments both as candidate and president-elect show a more cavalier attitude toward their proliferation and use than any president in the past 30 years. “You want to be unpredictable,” Trump said last January on Face the Nation when asked about nuclear weapons. More recently, he tweeted that it was time for the US to start stockpiling nukes again. The comments prompted instant parallels to Richard Nixon’s “madman theory” of foreign relations: the idea that the president couldn’t be controlled — including where America’s nuclear arsenal was concerned — so foreign leaders should do everything in their power to appease him.
The madman question is so important here because madness has been a mainstay of nuclear culture since the atomic age flashed into being in the Jornada del Muerto desert in 1945. The bomb, carefully engineered by some of the 20th century’s most brilliant scientists, able to raze cities and civilizations, has always spanned rationality and irrationality, logic and madness.
The brightest minds created the most destructive force, and then leaders spent years working out rationales for its world-ending use. It was a madness begot by logic. But that madness doesn’t always present in the same way, which is why the history of nuclear madness has to precede our understanding of the Trump-as-madman debate…….
A brief, terrifying history of America’s nuclear mishaps
four years after Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the Soviets tested their own nuclear bomb, and the race was on for more powerful bombs, for better strike capability, for the ability to annihilate the other side before it could return fire. By the mid-1950s, the arms race had reached its illogically logical endpoint: If one side struck, everyone would be wiped out. Mutual assured destruction. MAD.
The acronym stuck, perhaps because of the horrific absurdity of it all. The logical conclusion, the position to which the world had been brought by the combined education and expertise of scientists and strategists, was the verge of obliteration………
As time passed, Mutually Assured Destruction came to seem — MAD……….
World leaders understand that nations with nuclear weapons are treated differently than those without, and so there is a rational reason for pursuing nuclear technology. At the same time, the use of nuclear weapons against an enemy would make a nation-state into a global pariah. It would be insane.
Enter Donald Trump. The president-in-waiting is schooled in none of these particulars, claiming to believe only in strength and the desire to use it. His loose talk about nukes has re-raised the long-dormant question: Is he crazy enough to actually press the button?
Here, the history of nuclear madness may be as much a trap as a guide. Because the questions now shouldn’t be about Trump’s madness but his impulsivity and ignorance. Whatever one thinks of Nixon and Kissinger’s madman theory, it was a calculation. Kissinger was steeped in game theory and Nixon had a deep knowledge of international affairs. Reagan was a foreign policy autodidact with experienced ideological advisors. Their administrations could tell a hawk from a handsaw. (Admittedly, some of these comforting thoughts were only fully evident in hindsight.)
Trump doesn’t share his predecessors’ considered strategic thinking and mastery of geopolitics, but that doesn’t make him a madman. The madness is in the weapons themselves, powerful enough to obliterate entire countries, entire peoples, and in the logics that grew up around them to govern their disuse. The only hope is that, as with Nixon and Reagan before him, Trump’s time in office makes clear how badly things can go in an atomic age, and how important it is to continue the push to contain, if not eliminate, the madness in our midst.
Nicole Hemmer, a Vox columnist, is author of Messengers of the Right: Conservative Media and the Transformation of American Politics. She is an assistant professor at the University of Virginia’s Miller Center and co-host of the Past Present podcast. http://www.vox.com/the-big-idea/2017/1/4/14165670/madman-theory-nuclear-weapons-trump-nixon
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