Why You Should Avoid Airport Scanners in the USA

In the US there has been a great outcry against the naked body X-ray scanners recently introduced into American airports as a counter terrorism measure. The transport safety authority (TSA) has always claimed that they were safe, but this has been greatly disputed by many in the health media and now it seems also by authorities who certainly seem to know what they are talking about.

It appears that TSA faked its safety data on its X-ray airport scanners in order to deceive the public about the safety of such devices. The evidence has emerged thanks to the revelations of a letter signed by five professors from the University of California, San Francisco and Arizona State University. The letter reveals:

• To this day, there has been no credible scientific testing of the TSA’s naked body scanners. The claimed “safety” of the technology by the TSA is based on rigged tests.

• The testing that did take place was done on a custom combination of spare parts rigged by the manufacturer of the machines (Rapidscan) and didn’t even use the actual machines installed in airports.

• The names of the researchers who conducted the radiation tests at Rapidscan have been kept secret. This means the researchers are not available for scientific questioning of any kind, and there has been no opportunity to even ask whether they are qualified to conduct such tests.

Further, none of the Rapidscan tests have been available to be subjected to peer review. They are quite literally secret tests using secret techniques engineered by secret researchers. We the People apparently have no right to see the data, nor the methodology, nor even the names of the researchers who supposedly carried out these safety tests.

What is perhaps the most worrying aspect is that the final testing report produced from this fabricated testing scenario has been so heavily redacted that “there is no way to repeat any of these measurements,” say the professors. In other words, the testing violates the very first tenant of scientific experimentation which is that all experiments must be repeatable in order to be verified as accurate.

As the professors state in their letter:

“The document is heavily redacted with red stamps over the words and figures. In every case the electric current used which correlates one to one with X-ray dose has been specifically redacted. Thus there is no way to repeat any of these measurements. While the report purports to present the results of objective testing, in fact the JHU APL personnel, who are unnamed anywhere in the document either as experimenters or as authors, were not provided with a machine by Rapiscan. Instead they were invited to the manufacturing site to observe a mock-up of components (spare parts) that were said to be similar to those that are parts of the Rapiscan system. The tests were performed by the manufacturer using the manufacturer’s questionable test procedures.”

Unfortunately, this is not that unusual when national defence is called into question. However with my alternative health hat on I cannot begin to imagine the outcry if a herbal product company claimed that its products cured cancer, and it did all the testing itself, and all the names of the researchers were kept secret, and the methodology was a secret, and the whole document was 50% redacted to protect “proprietary information.”

So is it safe? Well, the dose rates of X-rays being emitted by the Rapidscan machines are actually quite high — comparable to that of CT scans, say the professors. Yes, the dose duration is significantly lower than a CT scan, but the dose intensity is much higher than what you might think. And as anyone who knows a bit about physics and biology will tell you, the real danger from radiation is a high-intensity, short-duration exposure. That’s exactly what the TSA’s backscatter machines produce. Further, the radiation detection device used by Rapidscan to measure the output of the machines — an ion chamber — is incapable of accurately measuring the high-intensity burst of radiation produced by the TSA’s naked body scanners, say the professors.

At the same time, the radiation field measurement device used by the TSA — a Fluke 451 instrument — is incapable of measuring the high dose rates emitted by backscatter machines. The measurement devices, in effect, “max out” and cannot measure the full intensity of the exposure. Thus, the TSA’s claims of “low radiation” are actually fraudulent.
The amount of electrical current applied to the X-ray tubes has been redacted by the TSA (working with John Hopkins). This makes it impossible for third-party scientists to accurately calculate the actual radiation exposure, and it hints at yet more evidence of a total TSA cover-up.

The TSA adamantly refuses to allow independent testing of the radiation levels being emitted by the machines and this is on the basis that “terrorists might be able to circumvent the technology” if anyone is allowed to actually test the machine. For once, I cannot even find a comment to make.

So again, is it safe? Well the actual radiation emitted by the machines is far higher than what the TSA claims according to John Sedat, a professor emeritus in biochemistry and biophysics at UCSF and the primary author of the letter.

He says, “..the best guess of the dose is much, much higher than certainly what the public thinks.” Peter Rez, the physics professor from Arizona State, says that the high-quality images described by the TSA could not be produced with the low levels of radiation being claimed by the TSA. The images, in other words, don’t match up with the TSA’s story. Rez estimates the actual radiation exposure is 45 times higher than what we’ve previously been told.

The TSA refuses to allow independent testing of its machines because it knows what informed readers already know: That if the machines were honestly and accurately tested, they would show far higher levels of radiation exposure than indicated and it would show that the TSA’s body scanners significantly increase the risk of cancer to a population that is already over-irradiated with medical imaging tests such as CT scans and chest X-rays.

There is already a very strong public backlash against these devices in the US and it has reached the point where the state of Texas is about to pass a law that would criminalize TSA agents who attempt to operate these naked x-rays. The TSA has put out a preemptive statement on its blog that claims none of this matters as “States cannot regulate the federal government.” It will certainly be interesting to see what happens and Texas would seem to be the ideal state to challenge this.

If you have any choice in the matter avoid the scanners altogether or go by sea.

Herbal Medicine – How the EU Ruling Affects You

May is not so merry this year if you, like me, are a fan of alternative medicine. Though calling herbal medicine alternative is a misnomer as it is has been used safely for hundreds of years and many common drugs are based on their active ingredients being synthesized, patented and made profitable. This move only helps drug companies and ignores thousands of years of medical knowledge.

This is despite the fact that recent studies show that at least six million Britons (26% of adults) have used a herbal medicine in the past two years and high level support from the Prince of Wales and Professor George Lewith, professor of health research at Southampton University, who said: ‘Evidence for the efficacy of herbal medicines is growing; they may offer cheap, safe and effective approaches for many common complaints.’

Unfortunately those views, and the thousands who signed the online petitions to the EU have been ignored and we have now lost access to hundreds of herbal medicines after European regulations came into force banning sales of all herbal remedies, except for a small number of popular products for ‘mild’ illness such as echinacea for colds and St John’s Wort for depression. The EU Directive erects high barriers to any herbal remedy that hasn’t been on the market for 30 years – though they are only concerned with commercial sales – not the hundreds of years of experiential use. That includes the most popular traditional systems like Chinese and Ayurvedic as well as the long-established English herbal tradition.

No more popping into your health store, or more recently Boots, to buy your herbal medicines but instead finding a practitioner – not all that numerous – and having to pay a consultation fee is going to deter many people. Both herbal remedy practitioners and long-established manufacturers like fear they could be forced out of business as a result.
Health Secretary Andrew Lansley approved a plan for the Health Professions Council to establish a register of practitioners supplying unlicensed herbal medicines, and in a written statement said the Government wanted to ensure continuing access to unlicensed herbal medicines via a statutory register for practitioners ‘to meet individual patient needs’. Well, not this patient and as this register is only open to those who could afford the licensing process which costs between £80,000 to £120,000 many individual practitioners are at risk of losing their business and livelihood.

At least 50 herbs, including horny goat weed (so-called natural Viagra), hawthorn berry, used for angina pain, and wild yam will no longer be stocked in health food shops, according to the British Herbal Medicine Association. Some familiar preparations may also disappear to be replaced by alternative licensed formulas, which may contain different ingredients – in some cases ‘unnatural’ ingredients such as artificial colourings.

Richard Woodfield, the head of herbal medicine policy at the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency claims that “the scheme means that consumers will have access to a wide choice of over-the-counter herbal medicines made to assured standards. The current signs are that the market will be lively and competitive. The key difference for consumers is that in future they will be in the driving seat and able to make an informed choice when they wish to use these medicines.”

Quite how you make an informed choice when your access to the proven remedies is limited is beyond me and presumably to the 750,000 people who also signed the petition against the ban. If the criteria is safety – as stated – then how safe is it to force people to buying online without the benefit of advice or from long-established companies with a proven track record?

There is an international trade in poor-quality, unregulated and unlicensed herbal products. Some of these have been found to contain banned pharmaceutical ingredients or heavy metals which are poisonous.

Licensing and registering is going to make money for the government and limit your choice to the few large commercial companies who can afford to do so. My advice is if you have a favourite herbal remedy you have been using for years then stock up quickly before it is no longer available or buy online only from a reputable company.

To find a herbalist in your area consult the National Institute of Medical Herbalists at www.nimh.org.uk or www.associationofmasterherbalists.co.uk

Increased Risk of Breast Cancer Recurrence With Common Drugs

High blood pressure is increasingly common with more and more people on lifelong medication to control it. However, we need to remember that the human body doesn’t exist in separate, unconnected parts and that if you take a drug directed at one particular organ or problem, it doesn’t mean that medication will only zero in on one symptom or function.

It can, and often will, impact other processes, cells and organs or even the immune system and a disturbing example of this is the connection that has just been made between widely prescribed drugs commonly used to control high blood pressure and heart failure in women and breast cancer.

According to a new study by researchers at UCLA’s Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, ACE inhibitors and beta blockers (the most frequently prescribed drugs for high blood pressure and heart problems) appear to be linked with an increased risk of recurrence in women who have had breast cancer. Dr. Patricia Ganz, author of the study, used data from the Life After Cancer Epidemiology (LACE) study, which included patients diagnosed with early stage breast cancer, as the basis for the research. Her findings have led her to conclude that a much larger clinical database study is needed as she was both concerned and surprised at the negative effect of the ACE inhibitors on chances for breast cancer recurrence.

For me this confirms the belief that medicine needs to be dealing with the whole picture and not just looking at isolated conditions or symptoms. Many women will certainly need to be taking medication for high blood pressure if they have not managed to control it by other more natural means like diet and exercise but drugs never act in isolation.

Many years ago I was involved with the writing of a book called The Medicine Chest which looked at the interaction between prescription drugs, food and supplements and it was quite startling to me to realise the impact that so many drugs have well outside their original sphere of influence.

No woman who has experienced breast cancer ever wants to repeat the experience and therefore this research is a timely reminder that by taking care of your own health and asking questions about every medication you are prescribed you will improve your own chances for well-being and longevity.

A good doctor will always answer your questions about what contra indications come with the drug and if they do not — and you cannot change your doctor — then I’ve always found pharmacists to be extremely helpful and the Internet is always a backup research tool.

If you have had breast cancer and are taking medication for either heart problems or high blood pressure then please discuss this with your doctor, particularly if you are under any degree of stress. A study carried out in September 2010 concluded that chronic stress works as a “fertilizer” to feed breast cancer progression through inflammatory signaling, significantly spiking the spread of disease.

We know that inflammation appears to play an important role in breast cancer and different classes of drugs may influence different pathways of inflammation is so as well as adopting a healthier lifestyle dealing with stress is also a high priority.

Concern Over Pesticide Exposure During Pregnancy Linked to Lower IQ in Children

Exposure to pesticides is known to carry health risks in both adults and children, but a new study at the University of California, Berkeley’s School of Public Health, has found a clear link between intelligence rates and prenatal exposure to organophosphate pesticides.

Organophosphates (OP) are a class of pesticides that are widely used on food crops and are well documented neurotoxicants. Indoor use of chlorpyrifos and diazinon, two common OP pesticides, has been phased out over the past decade, primarily because of health risks to children. However, this is the first time that exposure to their use has been linked to lower intelligence scores in children when they reach the age of 7.

The researchers found that every tenfold increase in measures of organophosphates detected during a mother’s pregnancy corresponded to a 5.5 point drop in overall IQ scores in the 7-year-olds. Children in the study with the highest levels of prenatal pesticide exposure scored seven points lower on a standardized measure of intelligence compared with children who had the lowest levels of exposure.

What this means in practice is that those children who have been exposed are also potentially being handicapped by having below average IQ rates and may possibly need more specialised education and support at school.

This is not an isolated study but part of a trio on pesticide exposure and childhood IQ that was published online April 21 in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The other two studies — one at Mt. Sinai Medical Center, the other at Columbia University — examined urban populations in New York City, while the UC Berkeley study focused on children living in Salinas, an agricultural center in Monterey County, California. The researchers sampled pesticide metabolites in maternal urine and umbilical cord blood levels of a specific pesticide, chlorpyrifos. A previous study also found an association between prenatal pesticide exposure and attention problems in children at age 5.

What is unusual is that these figures appear not just in urban areas but are consistent across all the population, which means that these pesticides have entered the food chain and are being consumed by everyone.

However, the really significant finding is that while markers of prenatal OP pesticide exposure were significantly correlated with childhood IQ, exposure to pesticides after birth was not. This suggests that exposure during fetal brain development was more critical than childhood exposure.

The most at risk occupations are exposure are farm workers, gardeners, florists, pesticide applicators and anyone working at a manufacturer of such products.
A simple precaution that pregnant women could take would be to switch to as organic diet as possible, particularly for grains, vegetables and meat products. At home, or in the garden, then use natural nonchemical insecticides and pesticides.

St John’s Wort Could Have Benefit in Treatment of Recurrent Brain Tumours

Science is always fond of taking natural substances active ingredients and synthesizing them such as foxgloves into digitalis and white willow into aspirin. Now it is the turn of St. John’s wort which is more commonly known for its ability to treat depression because it contains hypericin, a compound naturally found in the plant.
Researchers have found that a synthetic version may be a promising treatment for patients with recurrent malignant brain tumors and they published their results online on March 31, 2011 in the journal Cancer.

Malignant gliomas, tumors that arise in the brain or spine, are largely incurable cancers with a poor prognosis and an average one-year survival. Gliomas are typically treated with a combination of surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapy. Now, laboratory studies have shown that synthetic hypericin strongly inhibits the growth of gliomas, due in part to its inhibitory effect on protein kinase C, a family of enzymes that promotes tumor proliferation.

The study was done at the University of Utah School of Medicine, and I suppose I am curious as to why they used a synethesised version as opposed to the real thing. We know from aspirin use that isolating the individual component that deals with pain relief and synthesizing it means you do not get the full synergistic effect of the whole plant. In the case of aspirin you don’t get the protection of the other parts of white willow that buffer the active ingredient and protect against stomach problems – something that regularly occurs with aspirin use.

In this study, the researchers gave the patients gradually increasing dosages of synthetic hypericin and monitored them for adverse effects. Forty percent of the study participants were able to complete a three-month treatment regimen, demonstrating that hypericin is well-tolerated as an oral medication in this patient group. They found that 22 percent of all study participants achieved either stable disease or a partial response during treatment with hypericin. Of the 18 patients who completed at least 60 days of hypericin treatment, 50 percent achieved either stable disease or a partial response.

The patients enrolled in the study were all individuals whose tumors had recurred or progressed after extensive prior therapy and I wonder if they had been given whole St John’s Wort if those improvement figures would have increased. Of course you cannot patent a natural substance and so it is of little interest to pharmaceutical companies as there is not the same profit level to be made and that is only one of the reasons that natural substances are extracted and synthesized.

Breakthrough Gel for Arthritis Treatment

Arthritis is a crippling disease that affects millions of people worldwide. Some suffer only mild symptoms but at its worst it is truly debilitating and extremely painful with treatment bringing patchy relief for many. Both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis are characterized by often debilitating pain in the joints and a new method of relief could be at hand.

Researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in the USA) report on an injectable gel that could spell the future for treating these diseases and others. Among its advantages, the gel could allow the targeted release of medicine at an affected joint, and could dispense that medicine on demand in response to enzymes associated with arthritic flare-ups. Arthritis is a good example of a disease that attacks specific parts of the body. Conventional treatments for it, however, largely involve drugs taken orally. Not only do these take a while (often weeks) to exert their effects, they can have additional side effects. That is because the drug is dispersed throughout the body, not just at the affected joint. Further, high concentrations of the drug are necessary to deliver enough to the affected joint, which runs the risk of toxicity

Nor could this new development be limited solely to arthritis but researchers believe could be useful for multiple medical applications including the localized treatment of cancer, ocular disease, and cardiovascular disease.

Jeffrey Karp, leader of the research and co-director of the Center for Regenerative Therapeutics, recently won the coveted SFB Young Investigator Award for this work. It is currently of course possible to inject a drug into the target area, but it won’t last long–only minutes to hours–because it is removed by the body’s highly efficient lymphatic system. There are also available implantable drug-delivery devices but these have drawbacks: most are made of stiff materials that in a joint can rub and cause inflammation on their own and they generally release medicine continuously–even when it’s not needed. Arthritis, for example, occurs in cycles characterized by flare-ups then remission.

A series of experiments confirmed that the gel can release encapsulated agents in an on-demand manner and although the team has yet to test this in humans, they did find that in mice the gelremained stable for at least two months. Further, the gel withstood wear and tear representative of conditions in a moving joint.

Additional tests in mice are underway and a patent has been applied for so they can start research on human subjects.

The Importance of COQ10 in Improving Hypertension and Preventing Heart Failure

Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is a compound found naturally in the energy-producing centre of the cell known as the mitochondria. CoQ10 is involved in making an important molecule known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which serves as the cell’s major energy source and drives a number of biological processes, including muscle contraction and the production of protein. It is a very popular supplement in the UK, partly for its ability to boost energy, enhance the immune system, and as an antioxidant.

Clinical research reported in the journal Biofactors has now indicated that patients with congestive heart failure that were supplemented with the active form of coenzyme Q10 (ubiquinol) improved ejection fraction by 39%. Ejection fraction is a critical marker of heart function used to determine the volume of blood pumped by the heart through the vascular system. CoQ10 is essential to convert nutrients to energy and power the cellular engine, and natural production in the body declines with age.

The study conducted at the East Texas Medical Center focused on patients with advanced congestive heart failure that were classified as Stage IV, the most severe form of the disease. Patients were supplemented with 580 mg of the ubiquinol form of coenzyme Q10 daily to increase plasma blood levels by a factor of four.

The researchers found “the improvement in plasma CoQ10 levels is correlated with both clinical improvement and improvement in measurement of left ventricular function.” Prior to CoQ10 supplementation, most of the participants were considered critically ill and confined to bed or a wheel chair. After being given ubiquinol, patients typically improved to the point they were able to carry on a productive lifestyle.

This is a serious problem that affects as many as one in three adults and high blood pressure is closely associated with coronary artery closure due to plaque formation and arterial stiffening as the normally elastic vessels require more pressure to fully circulate blood to the body. The result of a study published in the journal Nutrition and Metabolism found that coenzyme Q10 supplemented along with other potent antioxidant nutrients (vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium) significantly increased small and large arterial elasticity that led to lower blood pressure and risk of a heart attack.

Subjects in this study received 60 mg of CoQ10 for a period of six months along with moderate amounts of the other nutrients. In addition to improved arterial elasticity, researchers found a significant decline in HbA1C blood sugar levels and an increase in protective HDL cholesterol levels. The authors of the research concluded that the CoQ10 nutrient antioxidant cocktail “has beneficial effect on glucose and lipid metabolism, blood pressure and arterial compliance in patients with multiple cardiovascular risk factors.”

Or in other words, they made a real difference to the patients’ health.

No More Needle Testing For Premature Babies Thanks To Irish Scientists

Scientists at Queen’s University Belfast have pioneered a new needle-free test to take the sting out of medicine testing in premature babies. The research will not only lead to greater accuracy in prescribing, but will also significantly reduce the trauma of such tests for newborn infants and their families. The latter alone ought to entitle them to a medal from grateful parents.

In the first published research project worldwide on this new approach to testing medicines in children, the findings were announced in leading US medical journal Pediatrics, though I would have thought a banner heading in the Lancet might be more appropriate. The study, which involves the use of blood spots obtained from a simple heel-prick, took place in the Belfast Hospital for Sick Children and the School of Pharmacy at Queen’s.

Principal Investigator, Queen’s Professor of Pharmacy Practice James McElnay said: “This type of testing will obviously reduce the discomfort of medicine testing in these vulnerable patients. What is even more important, however, is that it will ensure maximum accuracy in calculating the most appropriate dose of a medicine for a sick child.

“Some 80 per cent of infants in intensive care in hospitals receive medicines which have not been appropriately tested or licensed for use in such young patients, and the dosage is usually calculated based on licensed doses for adults or older children. Sizable blood samples are then required to measure the concentrations of the drug in the infant’s bloodstream. Our work opens up opportunities for using the same approach to study other medicines which are used in this manner in children, and we are currently studying a number of these.”

It has always been a concern that there is so little known about the proper dosage for premature children and if this new development eradicates that uncertainty it is even more important.

The Queen’s study involved the antibiotic metronidazole. The research team used single drops of blood collected on blotting paper from premature infants who were receiving the medicine as part of their routine care. The ‘spots’ were dried, analysed in the University’s School of Pharmacy, and the results used to develop dosage guidance for doctors.

Pain Control and Help for Nausea in Cancer Treatment Without Needles

March 28, 2011 by  
Filed under Health, Medical Research & Studies

I have often extolled the value of acupuncture having benefited hugely from it myself for back pain and seen its value with friends for pain control during childbirth. It has also been successfully tried for treating nausea in cancer patients, however, I know that needles are not the answer for everyone, however attracted they may be to try it out.

Just for them there is great news from the Karolinska Institutet and Linköping University in Sweden that shows that ‘simulated’ needles are apparently just as effective as ‘real’ acupuncture.

Cancer patients undergoing radiotherapy often suffer debilitating nausea and a trial of 277 patients found that when the group were randomly assigned traditional or placebo (without needles) acupuncture or just the standard medications for nausea the results surprised them.

Patients in both the acupuncture groups, real or simulated, suffered significantly less nausea than patients, who received only standard medications. Anna Enblom, researcher at the Osher Centre for Integrative Medicine at Karolinska Institutet commented: “The beneficial effects seem not to come from the traditional acupuncture method, but probably from the patients’ positive expectations and the extra care that the treatment entails.”

Which is indeed one of the standard arguments used against most ‘alternative’ therapies as it is perceived only as a placebo effect. However I would argue that the interaction, concern and care act physiologically as well as emotionally on the immune system and stimulates the patient’s own healing process.

This is borne out by the statistics of the research which show that of the patients who had had some form of acupuncture, only 37 felt nausea and seven per cent vomited, compared with 63 per cent and 15 per cent of the standard care group. The patients’ expectations seemed to be important for the effect: 81 per cent of those who expected to feel ill did so, in contrast to only 50 per cent of those who did not.

Dr Emblom makes an valuable observation here that I would love to see other doctors take on board: “It’s important to remember that the effects of the treatment are valuable to the patients, even if they can be said to have been caused by unspecific factors, such as the manner in which the patients were taken care of and their positive expectations.”

One of the constant refrains I have is that your attitude affects your health, and this study seems to confirm that it also affects your treatment and how you respond to it.

Keep Mobile Calls To A Minimum to minimise radiation risk

It is a rare person these days who does not have a mobile – if only for emergencies – and among the young they are practically an extended limb. The health risks of mobiles has been flagged up before, but a new study raises new concerns, particularly related to the length of time you are on the phone.

For several years, doctors, scientists and activists have been raising concerns about the possible connection between cell phones and brain cancer and recent research by scientists at NIH and the U.S. Department of Energy conclusively determined that a cell phone’s electromagnetic field can indeed cause changes in brain activity – and not in a good way.

Brain activity means that the cells are using glucose to create energy and a test group of 45 individuals who were on their mobile phones for 50 minutes had ‘significantly higher’ brain activity in the area closest to the telephone antenna. After this period the emitted radiation from the phone increases the activity in your brain cells and causes biological changes. The study has also raised the concern that if acute cell phone radiation is impacting glucose in the brain, an established marker of brain activity, might it also be impacting neurotransmitters and other brain biochemistry?

We know that increased glucose also occurs with infections and other inflammatory processes, and leads to the production of potentially damaging reactive oxygen radicals that can alter the ways that cells and genes work. The researchers called for a better understanding of how radiofrequency radiation might contribute to increased risk for brain tumours as well as other alterations in brain functions.

How to minimise radiation from your phone:
There are some very simple ways to reduce your exposure to cell phone radiation:

1 Use a wired headset instead of holding the phone to your ear or use the loudspeaker as both these will keep the antenna far away from your skull.

2 Get used to texting as also keeps the handset away from your brain, reducing the radiation risk.

3 Don’t use your cell phone as an alarm clock or ‘reminder’ as you will probably need to keep it close to your head and even when it’s not taking calls there’s still radiation being emitted.

4 Don’t carry your phone in your pocket as there’s preliminary research to indicate that men who carry a phone in their pocket all day could be putting their fertility at risk,

5 Use a radiation-blocking case

6 Use a radiation protector that can be fitted directly to your phone as a shield

If all these methods are employed you can reduce cell phone radiation by two-thirds.

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