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still puffin
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this came up on a canadian BB i belong to...thought everyone here would like to see it...derrek:)

Oliver Stone's documentary Comandante airs on CBC Newsworld's The Passionate Eye
'THE AMERICANS HAVE A VIEW OF CASTRO THAT IS UNFORTUNATELY RIGID... I THINK THEY'RE WORRIED THEY MIGHT LIKE HIM.'

Oliver Stone spent three days in Cuba with Castro talking about youth, power, everything from Fidel's failings as a father to drinking nights with Krushchev. The result is a film HBO won't show, perhaps because it puts a human face on the U.S.'s eternal enemy. But the CBC isn't afraid to air it

By SIMON HOUPT
Saturday, March 20, 2004 - Page R1

NEW YORK -- The phone line to Los Angeles is weak and crackling, and Oliver Stone asks me to call him back. "I thought maybe our phone was being tapped by the Bush Administration," I say when I finally reach him. "Huh huh," he chuckles without mirth. "Huh huh. Huh huh. I don't know if that's funny or not."

The joke apparently cut a little close to home. Stone isn't quite an enemy of the state, but for a Hollywood director, he has the rare ability to bring on aesthetic heartburn among political, business and academic leaders in America. His latest film, Comandante, a documentary profile of Fidel Castro, had the misfortune to be scheduled for broadcast in the U.S. only weeks after the Cuban government cracked down on dissidents last spring and ordered the execution of three men who had hijacked a ferry to escape the island. Saying it needed more work in light of the turn of events, the normally fearless American pay channel HBO temporarily shelved the program. Eventually, the network quietly removed the film from its schedule. Comandante will finally get its North American premiere one week from tomorrow, playing on CBC Newsworld's The Passionate Eye Mar. 28 at 10 p.m. (ET).

The problem wasn't just one of timing. Castro rarely grants interviews, and some were disappointed with the gentle nature of Stone's approach. He gave Castro the right to pause the proceedings at any point if he objected to the questions. But there was no need to exercise that right since Stone, who appears on-screen in modest thrall to Castro, was going after a portrait of a man rather than a world leader. There is little tough questioning about the treatment of dissidents or other potentially hot topics. "It's one of the few documents of Castro actually being in the conversational mode," boasts Stone, sitting down for a coffee in an L.A. restaurant.

"It's like My Dinner with Andre. It's My Dinner with Fidel."

Actually, many dinners. Castro and a mustachioed Stone break bread together on-screen, travel the streets of Havana in the presidential Mercedes and wade through admirers at surprise appearances throughout the city. Culled from 30 hours of interviews that took place over three days in 2002, the film shows the Cuban leader relaxed and reflective, and almost simplistically playful.

"The Americans have a view of Castro that is unfortunately rigid," Stone says, the restaurant clatter amplified by his phone. "He is a man who's seen a lot. Let's give him his chance to speak. I think they're worried they might like him."

Stone continues. "They don't like to listen. They don't want to give Hussein, or anybody, more airtime. The Vietnamese were faceless -- you make the enemy faceless, you can obviously get away with that for a long time."

Comandante puts a human face on America's eternal enemy. Castro demonstrates his exercise regimen for Stone's cameras, pacing in a rectangular circuit around his small office. He sits in a screening room, nostalgic ease spreading across his 76-year-old face, as he dwells on his love of old movie stars such as Brigitte Bardot and Sophia Loren. He admits that he has perhaps not been as good a father to his sons as he might have been. He offers Stone, an old JFK assassination-conspiracy buff, his own thoughts on the lone gunman theory. And he recalls some evenings of heavy drinking through the decades with Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Yeltsin.

Somehow believing this sort of material might be greeted warmly back home, Stone stepped on a land mine. To some Americans, particularly those within the powerful Cuban exile community, which has the ability to move the vote in the swing state of Florida and therefore can grab the attention of federal politicians, the concept of a soft portrait of Castro is just short of criminal. In the days after Comandante screened for the first time at the 2003 Sundance Film Festival, the local Cuban exile community began a fierce campaign to have it suppressed.

"So many reporters in America killed the film without even seeing it," says a disappointed Stone. "They were all saying the same thing: It's soft-ball questions for old Castro. It was just so obvious that nobody had seen the film. That's amazing to me, that that kind of closing down of the First Amendment can happen so easily."

"I think I pushed Fidel. I wasn't trying to be Mike Wallace because I don't think Mike Wallace would have gotten anything from him. He's used to those people in his face, so I went about it as a filmmaker, not as a political reporter."

Stone habitually challenges authority, either by taking on official U.S. history with the swirling paranoia of JFK or an all-out assault on the corrupt media-saturated American culture in Natural Born Killers. He even faced nasty opposition to his last studio picture, Any Given Sunday, a critical look at professional football. "Oh, the NFL killed us, or tried to kill us," he says. "It took its gloves off. There was a lot of dirty stuff. If you take on the establishment here, it's not that easy. It's like Soviet Russia, you know. It's not that easy to take on the big boys. There's a climate of fear."

That's where HBO is supposed to come into the picture. The pay-TV network portrays itself as being above the quotidian commercial pressures that crush the creativity of the broadcast outlets. As a cable service, it can afford to offend just about anyone it wishes, be it a core of Italian-Americans with The Sopranos, the Catholic church with a documentary about sexual abuse by priests, or anti-**** advocates with a program about Nevada's Bunny Ranch whorehouse.

But the network, owned by Time Warner, may have felt Castro's defence of himself crossed a line. "What is a dictator? And is it bad to be a dictator?" Castro asks rhetorically, to little apparent objection from Stone. "Because I've seen the United States government being friendly with the biggest dictators."

HBO said this week it did not cave to pressure from a powerful lobby group, it merely took another look at Comandante when Castro's crackdown occurred and determined the film wasn't balanced enough. Saying it was "still in the works," the network asked Stone to return to Cuba for more material. He did so, securing another three days with Castro in May, 2003. The encounter was much testier, as Stone pushed him on his control of political opponents and the execution of the hijackers. Stone also spoke with dissidents.

But rather than incorporate that material into Comandante, Stone produced an entirely separate documentary entitled Looking for Fidel, which will be shown on HBO next month. (CBC Newsworld is negotiating for the rights.) HBO still has no intention of running Comandante, even as a companion piece to Looking for Fidel. "We don't feel there is a need to air Comandante," said Lana Iny, an HBO spokesperson.

CBC did not share HBO's concerns. "We've run portraits of Saddam Hussein, of the Pope -- quite a broad range of documentaries," said Jerry McIntosh, the director of documentaries for CBC News. "I think the fact that Castro is a dictator is not a reason for us not to look at the guy's life and his point of view."

Stone understands HBO's objections. but is disappointed that Americans won't get a chance to see the film except at select film festivals.

"I saw what the people are like in Cuba. I'm not seeing a Stalinist regime, North Korea, or Iraq. Let's not kid ourselves, millions of tourists go there every year, Canadians included, they see with their own eyes. At what point does it become ridiculous to put a hex on this island?"

He speaks from a wealth of experience. Stone is one of the best-travelled commercial filmmakers, often going abroad to make movies such as Salvador, Platoon, and his upcoming epic about Alexander the Great, Alexander, due out in November. "I've been in a lot of these countries: Honduras, Guatemala, Chile, Brazil, Argentina. I don't see where they're so free," he says with a grim laugh. "I don't understand what the comparison is and why Cuba is the bogeyman. I'd be a lot more scared to live in Guatemala, or frankly parts of New York or L.A. or Washington, than I would in Havana. I think it's very safe. There's very little crime."

So why does America hold a grudge against Cuba? "It's like Vietnam. It represents something that beat us," he says, then reconsiders his words. "Well, they wouldn't surrender. Castro outwitted us, stayed on, the revolution lasted, he took over the land."

"Taking land is the greatest sin in America," he says. "Revolution is not allowable -- although we had a revolution. We're still committed to destroying the Bolshevik Revolution of 1918, and I think in a strange way anything that exists outside our globalized financial structure is going to be the enemy. And Cuba is right up there on that list, with North Korea, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, but they won't put them on. Won't put Saudi Arabia on." He laughs.

This is as close as Stone will come to making specific comments about the current state of politics in the U.S. Perhaps he's tired of being attacked for his politics, but he leaves many questions alone, even seeming to pretend at times that he didn't hear them. Still, he will take a slap or two at the current American leadership, by way of pointing to the special place Castro holds in the hearts of the Cuban people.

"Every street we walked down [with Castro], there was a furor, an excitement, people rushing out to see him, lining up to see him, and I think we could have gone to 20 streets and found that kind of reaction," he says.

"If you just look at the faces, you'll see it. I hope that comes through a bit in the documentary. I'm sure there's some discontent that I'm not showing in their faces, but you don't generally see that kind of enthusiasm for a presidential candidate, unless he's John Kennedy or Bill Clinton. I don't know that you'd see it spontaneously for George Bush. I don't think George Bush would walk around any street in America. I think he'd be scared to death with what he'd get."

Oliver Stone's documentary Comandante airs on CBC Newsworld's The Passionate Eye at 10 p.m. on Sunday, March 28 and repeats on Friday, April 2 at 10 p.m.
 

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MoTheMentor
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Thanks for the material. Good reading. Now I want to see the movie.

Mo
 

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Should be interesting. One thought, though: is the reason Stone didn't see much, if any dissent, the fact that dissenters are in prison or executed?
 

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Test Subject
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I was in high school when that thug allowed the Soviet Union to start putting in missle bases and brought the world to the very brink of nuclear war. I remember not being able to sleep the night that the USA was setting up a navel blockade with Russian ships loaded with missles approaching and how an incident would probably set off a nuclear exchange that would end the world as I knew it..Kids were not going to school because what was the use they would be dead in a few days anyway. Most people born after that time don't think much about the Missiles of October except what is written in the history books but those of us who lived through it I for one don't want our government to ever regcognize Cuba until that pig draws his last breath........

Jerry in Minnesota
 

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I'm no expert on Cuban history. From what I've read, before Castro took over in Cuba, the Battista regime and the mafia controlled the country. The rich in Cuba were very rich and the poor were very poor. Corruption was rampant. Castro was seen as a hero to the Cuban people. Personally, it seems pretty stupid to me that we can't get along with our neighbor whether they are communists or not. Democracy will come to Cuba much quicker if we were to end the sanctions and prohibitions we have imposed on them than by leaving them in place. It seems to me that we're doing more to preserve communism in Cuba with our current policies than to thwart it. It's my understanding that the only reason Bush plays tough with Cuba is so he can garner the anti-cuban vote in Florida. Bush is putting his personal political agenda ahead of common sense (hard to believe!) . The Cold War and the Cuban missle crisis were over a long time ago. I think it's time for us to move on. But hey, that's just my opinion. Maybe cigars have warped my thinking.
 

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Do you think that Castro's personal life matches his public policy and if there is a difference between the two, how is he to be viewed?
 

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Hi Lamar,
Your question reminds me of my old school days when teachers used to ask: "Compare and contrast whatever..." I can't really compare and contrast Castro's personal life with his political life. I don't know anyone who knows him personally. I would suppose, his being a politician and all, he's probably a hypocrite who has one set of standards for himself to live by and another set of standards that he thinks everyone else should live by. Occasionally, there are exceptions. Not many though.

When I hear that someone has made a documentary film about Castro which has been criticized for going too soft on him, and, as a result, the film is not going to be shown, I don't like it. This is (was) a free country where we are supposed to be tolerant of views even if we don't agree with them. The Bill of Rights is the backbone of what makes this country great. If a broadcaster wants to preface the showing with some kind of warning that this is just one viewpoint and not necessarily the broadcaster's viewpoint that's okay with me. But, let me watch the film and decide for myself whether its a bunch of bullshit or not. I don't like the government or some politically-aligned parties making that decision for me. Censorship weakens our country.

We criticize governments like Iraq for controlling the press. Then we do the same thing. No Castro film. No alternate view of Ronald Reagan. Let's all freak out over Janet Jackson's right breast and have the FCC and congress waste their time over it (aren't there more important things they should be doing?). Let's fine Howard Stern $500,000 for telling fart jokes.

Our forefathers came to America to escape from onerous governments and they tried to set up an open form of government where one group of people doesn't get to shove their opinions and their way of life down the next person's throat. Separation of church and state is one example. And, more to the point, freedom of speech. It seems to me we're drifting away from these concepts and I don't like it.

Thanks for listening to my rant.
 

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I think what I was saying though has absolutly nothing to do with Castro or his regime. But Oliver Stone. Stone makes a horrible and stupid football movie then tells the press (which he hates when they don't come-a-runnin' to him) that the NFL is trying to shut him down. The NFL's take on it was, "ummm, don't know about that... what's going on again?" Stone uses this stuff for self promotion. At the end of the day Stone made a half-assed movie (par for course) and the NFL went skipping away using their money to try and build Janet Jackson a private entrance to her dumbass shit.

The Bush Administartion is NOT tapping some hack director's phone. period. end of story. This is common sense.

Castro is not a misunderstood regular guy who wants a wife, some kids, a dog and a nice picket fence. Ask any Cuban born person living in South Florida about this.

Because your name is Oliver Stone and your interview's name is Fidel Castro does not mean one of the largest cable outlets will run your piece. Especially if your whole shebang is boring, trite and slanted politicaly. This has nothing to do with the First Amendment, it has to do with quality of work and acceptence practices at a particular company. Talk to any record executive about that.

This stinks of made up shit to stew the world political pot a little faster.

:sb
 

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Hi Kingmeatyhand,
If broadcasters were to eliminate everything that is of poor quality, boring, trite, and politically slanted, there wouldn't be much of anything on TV. I don't understand why you would have a problem with a crappy Oliver Stone documentary. Doesn't your TV have an on/off switch and channel selector?

How do you know whose phones the Bush administration is tapping and whose they aren't? The Patriot's Act has given the government broad powers. All the administration has to do is label a political adversary a "suspected terrorist" or someone with suspicious ties and they can pretty much disregard their constitutional rights. Does Oliver Stone going to Cuba and yukking it up with Castro for a few days make him some sort of suspect? Maybe. It is not common sense that the Bush administration and the conservatives are not tapping the phones of Hollywood's liberals. It wasn't very long ago that we had the McCarthy hearings. More recently we witnessed the witch hunts launched against the Clinton administration.

As for asking any Cuban-born person in South Florida about what they think of Castro, you should realize that those who had to leave Cuba and settled in Florida were the ones who were living high-on-the-hog during the corrupt Battista regime. They are about as "fair and balanced" as Bill Reilly and the Fox network are. Why not ask Saddam Hussein's family and cronies if they think George Bush is a misunderstood regular guy? Ask anyone who has fallen from power what they think of those who made them fall and the responses are likely to be negative. Obviously the Cubans in Florida have an ax to grind with Castro.

I am by no means a Castro supporter. But that doesn't mean I believe everything negative that is said about him. The Bush administration, from my perspective, likes to exaggerate about how evil our enemies are. Examples include: how powerful Saddam was- in reality he was a paper tiger, what about the weapons of mass destruction that were going to be launched against the U.S. at any moment- in reality they had no weapons of mass destruction, and now Castro is so evil that we can't be allowed to see a documentary about him. I am inclined to believe he probably has done some good things for Cuba. I'm no commie, But I don't believe communism threatens Democracy. Communism works in poor countries where they're trying to get things on track. Communism might be the best first step when a country's economy and law & order are out of control. We don't have to try and eradicate communism. Over time, it seems like it loses out to democracy on its own. Do you really think Americans are gonna watch Oliver Stone's documentary and then want to move to Cuba or that they will acquire a new appreciation for communism? Isn't it far more likely that Bush is pandering to Cubans in Florida to get their votes? I think its fairly well recognized that that is what he is doing.

If you think that the Bush administration isn't using its influence to control free speech, I think you must be wearing blinders. Michael Powell, the head of the FCC (gee I wonder how he got that job?), is a lackey for the religious right and the Bush administration. Clear Channel Communications, headed by bonafide right wingers, has, in effect, taken a shit on our constitutional right to free speech on Bush's behalf. I never thought I would see the day where the radio programs of those who oppose the current administration were taken off the air. This is the kind of crap that goes on in countries like Iraq, not the U.S.A..

Castro may not be a good guy. Oliver Stone may be an a-hole. That's not a good enough reason to revoke free speech. You and I may not agree on this issue, but we should celebrate the fact we both have the freedom of expression we have. I respect your right to disagree.
 

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Once again Tom, I'm not really talking (typing?) about the political situation in Cuba or the political situation here in the US.

I'm talking about a megolomaniac film maker who went and did a fluff peice on one of the most controversial figures of our time. Then, when it was deemed unaceptable by the powers that be (the people paying him) he rants and raves and makes crazy conspiricy statements. And by using a few, well timed keywords got the press he was seeking for his potential flop.

I have worked in the music business for quite awhile so I'm all for artistic expression, stoking the fires, etc. But at the end of the day you have to hand the final product to the people that pay you. If it's not what they want then, usually, they aren't happy and either have you redo it or trash it altogether. They aren't trampling my or my artists right to free speech, they just don't think it fits with what they want. So be it.. it's their money, their company everyone moves on.

As far as Clear Channel, the FCC and that whole mess. You need to look back to the Telecommunications Act of 1996 and the brand spanking new Broadcast Decency Enforcement Act Of 2004. In reality, these have very little to do with the Christian right wing and a whole lot to do with money and perceived power.

Sorry, didn't want to go on this long about some guy I really don't care that much about saying ludicrous things.

I'll drop it now *drops it*

Time for a smoke :w
 

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HOT for HILLARY!!
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How can anyone speak poorly of Oliver Stone after his brilliant and accurate portrayal of the JFK assassination? (insert smiley face with a sarcastic grin who is making a gesture suggesting self-gratification)

Im glad HBO shut this down. I am not at all for government sensorship (which this is not), but I do believe in proper labeling. Labels showing albums to have explicit lyrics do not infringe on the artists rights to use those lyrics, and similarly, I think we should have labels showing movies and "documentaries" to be BS. Oliver Stone may be a great entertainer, but he is certainly no historian. Far too many people are misguided and take his work as the truth...especially JFK. Here at Pitt, I was shown JFK in an elective class I took (supposedly on philosophy of science), and it was presented not as an opinion, but as evidence of what happened.

This leads to what I believe is one of the three sources of modern liberalism. The first being true Marxism (doesnt work, but atleast they have a philosophy), the second being those who simply want to scare the public into electing them to office, and the third being those who smile, nod, vote, and then drool on themselves in their government issued barcaloungers.
 

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Hi KingMeatyhand & AAlmeter,

Jeez, I thought I was up late last night. What the heck were you guys doing up in the middle of the night?

AAlmeter, you left off stating that you were lead to what you believed was one of the three sources of modern liberalism: Marxism, those who scare the public into electing them, and some other people drooling and smiling in government-issued barcaloungers.

Huh?

You left us hanging. Which one of the three were you lead to? How does that relate to the article dvickery was kind enough to post here? I consider myself to be conservative and I was not aware of the fact that free speech was something liberals believed in and conservatives did not. I didn't know the liberals had a monopoly on free speech; I thought it was something all good Americans believed in. Marxism, scary people, drooling, barcaloungers? I'm confused.

I noticed the immediate reaction to dvickery's post by fellow club stogie members was an interest in seeing the film. As a cigar smoker, I share that interest. Does that make us Marxists? I guess that's what everyone meant when they were talking about "the slippery slope." And, I thought they talking about smoking cigars! Now that I think about it, I have to admit to drooling ever so often when I smoke cigars. Yikes, I'm beginning to show all the symptoms! Next, I'll be buying a barcalounger!
 

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HOT for HILLARY!!
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I didnt mean the movie or anyones desire to see it led me to that....it was more that being on my soapbox led me to throwing out my opinions on the sources of modern liberalism.

and no, liberals certainly do not have a monopoly on free speech...in fact i would argue that they dont own even an ounce of the idea (yeah yeah, cant own free speech, capitalism is evil, etc).

and please do feel free to go ahead and buy that barcalounger. it is a wonderfully comfortable chair and a great place to relax and have a smoke.
 

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still puffin
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Discussion Starter · #17 ·
well i watched it last night...i am just not into politics so it was 2 hours of wondering when he was going to talk about cigars!!!

it was mostly castro talking...simultaneous translation...subtitles so it was also a bit hard to follow.

i only hope my memory is as sharp as fidels when i turn 75.

most interesting bit was when he talked at length about che.some good film of che in the congo angola and bolivia.

derrek:)
 

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Hi dvickery,

I have a question or two about the film.

The subject of the article you posted was that in the U.S., HBO decided not to air the show. HBO claims they decided to not air the film because it was "still in the works" and wasn't balanced enough. Others believe the show was not shown because HBO caved into political pressure from the Bush administration.

Did it seem like Oliver Stone approached the documentary with some sort of liberal slant? Did he ask "softball" questions? Or, did it seem like he was just trying to get Castro's perspective on things?

Did the documentary paint Castro as a good guy?

Do you think there is any good reason why Americans shouldn't be allowed to see the film?

And, finally (sorry, a question or two turned into 6), what do you think- does it seem more likely that HBO pulled the show because it was not complete and balanced or because of politics in the U.S?

If you find the time to respond, I'd be interested in your perspective. Thanks.

Tom
 

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still puffin
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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
tom

i just cant answer your questions to do with politics ...i would say it showed him in a way you might not expect.
showed him as a bit squeeky 75 year old man...personally i thought i was going to see the "revolutionary"...he is very sharp tho.
yes a good guy i suppose.OS would ask a short question and let fidel ramble on and on , so it was fidel on fidel...he is a good guy in his own eyes.
i dont see why you wouldnt be allowed to see it.

i know this isnt the answers you wanted...but i find it just to awkward to get involved in politics with people from another country(as i know so little about your politics)and dont want to offend anybody for reasons i dont understand.



derrek:)
 

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Yes, I watched the doc, Stone did ask some hardball questions . Asked Fidel why he carries a gun with him .Fidel answered that because of all the attempts on his life from the US and just to maintain the look of the uniform.He then took it off and put it in the back window of the car.I felt it was more of just spending a few days with Fidel and see what it is he does from day to day.It was interesting to see Fidels son and grand son. Stone is planning another doc soon where he plans on visiting political prisoners and asking Fidel more questions on dissent in Cuba and such. I enjoyed watching the doc as it seemed Fidel and Stone became good friends during the filming and this seemed to open up the conversation. Fidel looked very healthy with a great sense of humour.I look forward to the next one.Can't see any reason why it shouldn't be shown in the US.
 
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