The Market Ticker – Heh Look – There Really Are Bad Guys!

In the "no shit" department we have this:

PORTLAND, Ore. A Somali-born teenager who thought he was detonating a car bomb at a packed Christmas tree-lighting ceremony downtown here was arrested by the authorities on Friday night after federal agents said that they had spent nearly six months setting up a sting operation.

So we know there really are bad guys.  This is news..... how?

One thing it does point out - we seem to be able to identify them.  Look at what happened here - this kid (yes, really, he's 19) who happens to have a rather, uh, interesting name - "Mohammed Osman Mohamud" - started talking about blowing people up when he was fifteen.

More than a year ago he was watch-listed after he started communicating with people in.... wait for it..... Yemen and Pakistan.  Gee, I wonder what religion those people were?  Oh yeah..... you know.

The FBI followed up and ultimately some of their undercover folks gained this person's trust and provided him with a "demonstration" that they could get him the materials for a big fat bomb (including by setting off a smaller one for him in a remote area!) 

He bit, took the components, assembled them in a vehicle and drove it to the Portland, Oregon tree-lighting ceremony where he tried to set it off.

The bomb was a fake and he was arrested.

Wow, look at that - the FBI did their job and someone who actually intended to commit a really serious terrorist act was interdicted, stopped and arrested!

Interestingly enough, there's another gent with ties to robbing banks that was caught a couple of days ago with a huge cache of explosives in the San Diego area.

George Djura Jakubec, 54, pleaded not guilty to 12 felony counts of possessing destructive devices and 14 counts of possessing ingredients to make destructive devices, along with two bank robbery charges.

Deputy District Attorney Terri Perez told Judge Marshall Hockett that after a gardener was injured in an explosion at Jakubec's unincorporated Escondido home last week, a large amount of hexamethylene triperoxide diamine, or HMTD, was discovered.

A "large amount", in this case, was apparently over 12 lbs.  That's a ridiculously-large amount of explosives - and oh there were apparently some home-made grenades in there too.  For a guy who likes to rob banks, what the hell was he intending to do with that amount of explosives?  That's a rather-odd combination when it comes to crooks.

In any event it's obvious (for anyone who doubts it) that there are criminals who would like to commit acts of terrorism - or use events that some would describe as "terrorism" as cover for some other criminal act (like, maybe, bank robbery?)

What's also obvious is that when our law enforcement agencies do their jobs they can actually interdict these folks using long-standing legal procedures.  You know, warrants and other similar sorts of things - all within our Constitution?

What our nation needs to keep in mind is that the fact that there are bad people does not make us all criminals or suspects, nor should we tolerate any such assertion - by anyone.

This nation's law enforcement community continues to show us examples of both idiocy and good practice.  The solution to idiocy is not to cede our liberties - it is to hold those in government who are idiots to account, including where appropriate indictment for criminal negligence or worse.

In that regard we have a lot of arrestin' and prosecutin' to do.

The Market Ticker – Oops – Black Friday Was As I Expected

Well well well...

Were here to check things out today," said the 47-year- old nurse from Hoboken, New Jersey. "Well wait until vendors get more desperate.

Even as stores across the U.S. reported increased traffic on Black Friday, the busiest shopping day of the year, sales rose just 0.3 percent to $10.7 billion, ShopperTrak, the Chicago-based consulting firm, said yesterday.

Oops.  We'll wait until vendors get more desperate?

You won't have to wait long.

Theres no question theres pent-up consumer demand that will drive retail growth this season, he said. America is still a consumer-driven society. We just havent had the means to indulge.


I love this sort of pumping.  Remember, Americans are sheep and must have the latest gadget, even if they're broke.

Well, no.  And as I've repeatedly pointed out, the problem with people rolling off the unemployment programs is real and so is the increase in "NILF" - or "Not in Labor Force" - counts.  Those people have no income at all!

They're not going to be buying anything beyond base necessities, with good reason.

The media is doing their best to convince you otherwise, but this sort of "optimism" is nothing new.  It's blatantly dishonest, but heh, who cares about honesty, right?

Certainly not the clowns who are supposed you give you "unbiased" information (ha!) - yet their very existence is paid for by advertising by these same so-called "unbiased" people.

There are of course the usual excuses - people bought earlier, bad weather, the usual. 

Truth?  People are broke.

There are also reports coming in on the forum that some districts in certain retailers are down 25% from last year and (as expected) well-below expectations.  That's going to hurt.

Did some firms do well?  I'm sure there were winners.  There always are.  But selling at a loss is easy; making a profit less-so in a time of constrained income, and that's what we have.

My anecdote:

That's last evening around 6:00 PM local time at our local open-air mall.  Everything is open but there are no shoppers.  I tried to find a store with lots of people in it, or lots of people milling around.  No dice.

That's the center common area and there was nobody there.

Bad weather?  Bah.  It was nice and cool - a bit crisp but nothing a sweater or light windbreaker would not make comfortable - and it did, as my daughter and I were there to take in a movie.

Last year was really bad.  This year, thus far, isn't any better.  The local Olive Garden, at 5:30 PM, was 40% full - an eatery that during former Christmas Seasons would be packed with a half-hour or more long wait.

I'll post more updates on this, of course, as I get them and as I travel around and go to various stores and shopping centers in the next few days and weeks.

My first-blush read?  It's Grinchmas, about as I expected.

The Market Ticker – Gizmodo Goes Crazy, Reality Isn’t What It Seems

ICE (Immigrations and Customs Enforcement) apparently "seized" a bunch of domain pointers the last couple of days and has generated an immense amount of heat and damn little light. 

I'll try to add a bit of light and hopefully, not much (if any) heat.

First, these sorts of things are not new.  I used to get subpoenas from Customs on a somewhat-regular basis when I ran MCSNet.  I considered them one of the more-reasonable government agencies, actually - they paid for their document production and were rational people.

For those who are unaware if you're importing something into the country (yes, digitally counts) Customs has a right to get involved.  I know, I know, the all-on "open borders" folks will scream, but the fact of the matter is that this is in fact a specifically-delegated power.

Second, it appears they're actually getting court orders.  This means they're convincing a Judge in a US District Court to issue the seizure warrant.

Note that they didn't seize the site - they can't, as it's outside the United States (beyond their jurisdiction.)  Instead they seized the domain name pointers.

Meh.  That's a lot of staff attorney time and trouble to get a big fat nothing out of it, which is exactly what they get going down this road.  Why?  Because all they can do is redirect the domain pointers which will do exactly nothing when the sites re-register under a top-level domain not under the US Government's jurisdiction - and there are lots of them.

So let's recap before you go crazy:

  1. They had court orders.  That means they had due process of law - you might not LIKE the due process they had, but they in fact came with warrants signed by a judge.  That's how it works folks.

  2. They didn't seize machines beyond their jurisdiction, they seized domain pointers within their jurisdiction.  A nearly-entirely-symbolic exercise, but nonetheless, one that made their point - don't steal stuff - with a nice graphic when you went to it.

Something to get cranked up about?  Sorry, but no.

This appears to have been done within the letter of the law and due process, with a warrant signed by a judge. 

I just can't get excited about alleged "violations of people's rights" when in fact the law is followed, due process is observed, and warrants are issued. 

Sounds like "done right" to me irrespective of the bleating that's coming from the folks who love to steal stuff.

Now about that worthless COHICA bill that does nothing more than what ICE just did.....

The Market Ticker – More (Proved) Dishonesty Re: Security

This sort of nonsense is amusing...

So is the flying public rightly angered? The media have documented a string of monstrous cases in which prosthetic breasts have been exposed and urostomy bags worn by bladder-cancer patients have been disconnected, with humiliating consequences.

These incidents certainly demand better training for security personnel. But they do not invalidate the need for intrusive screening.

Really?  The standard for intruding on someone's rights is that you actually can make the case that they're an actual, or will be become actualized, threat of some sort.

Non-intrusive means (e.g.  metal detector) that do not violate a person, are another matter.  Ditto for "puff and blow" sorts of explosives-detection devices. 

So let's look at the record which you presented, to see if you have an argument.

Our adversaries have proved to be highly adaptive in their methods and unswerving in their efforts to bring down a large aircraft. It was inadequate screening in 2001 that allowed Richard Reid to board a flight from Paris to Miami with a bomb made of C-4 plastic explosives in his shoe. And it was insufficiently intrusive screening that last December enabled Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab to board a flight from Amsterdam to Detroit with a bomb made of PETN in his underwearwhich of course is why our underwear is now being searched.

Oh, so let's see if I get this right.  First, we wait for the bad guys to announce how they're going to attack an aircraft - by actually doing it!  Then we screen everywhere except where they actually committed the offense for that same thing.

Oh, and we conveniently ignore that last December Umar was escorted around - that is, bypassing - the usual security apparatus, and that the "well-dressed" man who did so (proved by video release, much to the chagrin of our government) has never been identified.

Who was he?  And why was an aircraft cleared for departure and transit into US airspace with someone on board who had an "exception" made for him via this "well-dressed" man?

Did a similar thing happen with Richard Reid?  We don't know.  But we do know that it did in case of Umar.

True, both men might have been caught by intelligence revealing their ties to Islamic radicals, but intelligence is hardly foolproof. It can failand frequently does failto connect the dots. Screening at the gate, even if it too is sometimes unsuccessful, can offer a last chance to avert catastrophe.

Yeah, it's gonna work really well when you have "well-dressed men" walk someone around procedures that are long-established and are intended to identify the people on said plane, so you can correlate them with known risks.

We all want secure air travel.  But the fact of the matter is that on-balance we have it, and in fact we had it on 9/11.  What we don't have is competent government action in promoting and maintaining that security.  Funny how now the TSA is claimed to be "competent" to provide this security when the very same government - ours - both failed to do anything about Umar's override of security (and again, who was that murderous bastard that walked him around procedures?)

On 9/11 no security procedure was violated.  But again, as was the case with Umar, our government's responsibility to provide border security and control who comes into the United States was violated due to government incompetence.   Several of the hijackers were here on expired VISAs, just as Umar did not present a valid Passport for travel. 

In both cases the government had every ability to interdict the attack without any intrusive screening - indeed, without any screening at all!

Further, there's a second point, which is that on an International flight there is a far-better argument for "intrusive" screening.  Why?  Because again, the government has a near-absolute right to control what (and who) comes into the country, and to verify that everyone (and everything) that enters The United States is doing so lawfully.

Finally, actual security is not as simple as "we'll give you a virtual strip-search."  As I have repeatedly noted there would be no deterrent in such a search to preventing someone with a big fat suicide vest showing up in an airport, getting in the security line, and then blowing themselves up.  Such an attack would do much more damage than a bomb on a plane itself, as it would basically shut down that airport for weeks or months while repairs were made, not to mention the terror it would incite in the public.  (Would you go through a busy airport like Hartsfield or O'Hare if someone, a week earlier, had done this?  Neither would I.)

Finally, these "virtual strip-searches" (along with gropes) will not, and cannot, detect a device in a body cavity.  We already know the bad guys have figured this out because they attacked a Saudi Prince via this method over a year ago.  What response will our government put in place if such an attack is made against an airplane?  Will we then be told that we not only must be groped but physically violated in order to fly?

Our government's so-called "security response" has been reactive all along.  This is both pointless and worthless.  The actual problem - government idiocy and border control - remains unaddressed.

Those of us who are protesting the so-called  "security steps" are attempting to wake people up to the stupidity of the steps taken.  We're not interested in seeing planes blown up or air travel destroyed as a means of transportation.

Rather, we are interested in actual and pro-active security, along with identification of those who have facilitated previous attacks including the man who escorted Umar around departure procedures and let him on a plane and the people responsible for failing to interdict the 9/11 terrorists who were here on expired VISAS. 

We are very interested in ejecting those people from government service and, where possible, prosecution of those individuals for their roles in these attacks.

At the same time we're realists.  We recognize that there is no way to stop someone willing to place an explosive device inside their body from doing so and causing mayhem, but we can stop them from getting into the security line with a huge explosive vest on through layered security measures that actually make sense - but instead we spend millions on "Security Theater" nonsense that fails to interdict both threats - the impossible and the possible!

That is, we're interested in actual security, not the appearance of security while the truth of the matter is that we're not iota safer due to the so-called "measures" that our government claims are in our "best interest."

Until I see actual progress instead of smiley I will continue to advocate that people "opt out" through the most-effective means available: SNAPPING THEIR WALLETS CLOSED.

The Market Ticker – Foreclose Or Lose Your Mortgage!

This is interesting....

Ben Solomon is a lawyer with the Association Law Group, and practices community association law in Florida. Through his firm's efforts, his association client foreclosed on Otaime Paez, an owner who was delinquent on her condominium fees. Solomon then filed a lawsuit against Citibank, the lender who held the first mortgage on the Paez unit. The lawsuit basically told the bank "foreclose on the unit or abandon the mortgage."

The premise here is "restraint on alienation."  It's a rather important (but somewhat arcane) legal principle that restraining someone's right to sell or otherwise dispose of property is not permitted under the law.  So what Mr. Solomon did was to sue (on behalf of the condo association) to force Citibank to get off the dime - that is, to not sit on the mortgage and refuse to act, as the banks have been doing.

Interestingly enough LPS, one of the "default mills", now says that over 4.3 million loans are now more than 90 days delinquent, and 20% of those loans more than two years delinquent are not in foreclosure!

That's not surprising given my local experience - there are a lot of people around here who have made no mortgage payments in over a year - sometimes two. 

This has provided quite a nice "boost" to the economy - a seldom-mentioned fact by the media, and when it is, it's seen as a "positive" to consumer spending.

Well, no.  For the so-called "positive" there are lots of negatives, including those associations in managed communities.  Not that I have much sympathy for the folks who run HOAs and have them - I find the premise of an HOA in most cases (along with their bylaws) to be ridiculous in the extreme.  As with much of what's done in today's world what started as a good idea - the reasonable protection of property values - turns into a nightmare of kafkaesque proportions.

But in the case of townhomes or condos, a HOA is essential, as there is a legitimate community property problem that someone has to take care of, along with the insurance thereupon.  And the problems that a large percentage of non-paying units poses is, in those cases, very real.

Then there are the municipalities.  Those who aren't paying their mortgages are almost all not paying their property taxes either.  Yes, the counties sell tax certificates, but that doesn't get them the money now, which of course is what's used to pay for schools, police and fire protection and other essential services.  While I'm certainly in the camp that says that municipal budgets are bloated and full of waste, it is without question that this sort of "mexican standoff" game does harm to everyone involved - except the homeowner, of course, who "gets a freebie."

The distortions in the economic picture, along with the damage done to other (paying) homeowners and municipal governments, is massive.  And this is one place where the government's so-called "Bank Oversight" is not only negligent, it's criminally corrupt.  These institutions are often holding the notes, including any seconds behind the delinquent first, at or near full "PAR" value.  That's utter BS, and yet we know it's happening because "provisions" for losses have in fact been cut over the last two quarters - while this "shadow delinquency" number is not coming down to any material degree, and these people are not being foreclosed upon.

I like the approach taken by Mr. Solomon, and hope that it spreads.  In addition one has to wonder if the municipal governments could adopt a similar strategy, forcing the banks to disgorge these notes - either crap or get off the pot, so to speak.

But in point of fact the real problem lies with the so-called regulators at the OCC, FDIC and Fed who won't regulate, even though the black-letter of the law (remember that thing called "Prompt Corrective Action"?) requires them to do so.

Fixing that, I suspect, will require the insertion of an "Or Else" into the law by Congress so that civil or even criminal penalties can be applied to these agencies and their employees who act more in conspiracy with the big bank in the cooking of their books than in the enforcement of the law.

After all, our intrepid OTS did conspire with Indymac to falsely state the bank's health by backdating deposits.  And even better, the OTS employee involved did the same thing during the S&L crisis, and not only did he not get indicted and prosecuted for it, he kept his job!

Your government-sponsored and enhanced looting operation at work.

The Market Ticker – FDIC .vs. JPM: Clash Of The Titans?

Now we're starting to get into some interesting parts of the legal world....

NEW YORK (Dow Jones)--J.P. Morgan Chase & Co. (JPM) and the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. traded barbs again this week over which entity should have to face a lawsuit over mortgage-backed securities owned by failed Washington Mutual Corp.

In court motions, J.P. Morgan argued it never accepted the liability of WaMu's soured mortgage-backed securities in its 2008 FDIC-assisted purchase of the failed bank, while the FDIC alleged J.P. Morgan was "attempting to rewrite history" and should be held liable.

Note that this goes back to the "fire sale" WaMu purchase in the latter half of 2008 - a deal that, at the time, Jamie Dimon thought was a great idea and in fact claimed would be dramatically helpful to his institution.

Deutsche Bank, however, is after them.  Why?  Because there are a bunch of crappy mortgages in the "stuff" that JPM got with WaMu, and Deutsche Bank claims they were defrauded (as an aside, they should know, considering that they were all writing garbage.  I wonder why nobody's tried an estoppel claim on that point yet...... smiley)

How much are we talking about?  Oh just a "tiny" $10 billion or so.  Of course JPM claims:

"While Deutsche Bank uses very large numbers, the most important number here is actually zero," the J.P. Morgan filing said. "Zero is the number of contractual provisions that Deutsche Bank actually identifies as having been breached with regard to a specific loan ... And zero is the amount of damages Deutsche Bank can in any event seek to recover on the back of such purported claims."

Uh huh.  Now for my question: How many of these loans has JPM/WaMu/whatever cooperated with in an investigation of the original loan files so Deutsche Bank can prove up their case? 

Why do I suspect the answer is "zero"?

Whether that sort of intentional obfuscation of the evidence will ultimately hold up as a defensive tactic is a good question.  In fact, it might be the question, and the only "defense" that has any chance of success through the fullness of time, given the admissions made by Citibank's former Chief Underwriter.

Stay tuned.

The Market Ticker – From Pete Blome on The TSA

As this is not cited as an official Libertarian Party of Florida communication, I will take this as a personal transmission, albeit with a request for wide distribution. 

Consider it distributed.

All 22 quotes are attributed.

Are we going to sit for this?  If we are, then we're no longer citizens.  We're cattle, and the stun gun is right around the corner.  Mark my words.

(ed: In response to the question in the subject line below, our President has never seen a piece of the Constitution he's not willing to wipe his ass with... oh, and speaking of which, you will be happy to know that he's "making a list" of all who "resist" this new Neo-Nazi crap.  Assuming that report is accurate (and I have no reason to believe it is not) I stand proudly on it along with Ron Paul, Rush Limbaugh, Neal Boortz and millions of other red-blooded Americans who believe in the Constitution, The Rule of Law and our unalienable rights - rights given by our Creator.  Government may not grant that which it never possessed; rights and privileges are often confused as I noted yesterday on Blogtalk.   I, for one, will not go willingly into the gas-filled showers of the American version of Auschwitz.)

Sent: Tuesday, November 23, 2010 16:48
Subject: Violations of the 4th Amendment

Or doesn't that matter anymore?

The following are 22 quotes about enhanced pat downs and TSA groping.  They are presented without commentary because they speak for themselves.  Please share these quotes as widely as possible.  If Americans do not wake up now, when will they ever wake up?.

#1 Blogger Erin Chase:

I stood there, an American citizen, a mom traveling with a baby with special needs formula, sexually assaulted by a government official. I began shaking and felt completely violated, abused and assaulted by the TSA agent. I shook for several hours, and woke up the next day shaking.

#2 ABC News producer Carolyn Durand:

The woman who checked me reached her hands inside my underwear and felt her way around.

#3 Wendy James Gigliotti:

She said spread your legs. And then she took her full palms and started at my neck and ran all the way down my body, full palms, constant contact. And when she got down to my feet, she was in constant contact from my ankles all the way up to my groin, across my groin, and down the other leg. And she did that twice.

#4 Female air traveler Ella Swift:

The female officer ran her hand up the inside of my leg to my groin and she did it so hard and so rough she lifted me off my heels.

#5 Flight attendant Cathy Bossi:

She put her full hand on my breast and said, What is this?.  And I said, Its my prosthesis because Ive had breast cancer. And she said, Well, youll need to show me that.

#6 Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano:

I think we all understand the concerns Americans have. Its something new. Most Americans are not used to a real law enforcement pat-down like that.

#7 A 61-year-old bladder cancer survivor:

One agent watched as the other used his flat hand to go slowly down my chest. I tried to warn him that he would hit the bag and break the seal on my bag, but he ignored me. Sure enough, the seal was broken and urine started dribbling down my shirt and my leg and into my pants.

#8 An anonymous TSA worker:

Molester, pervert, disgusting, an embarrassment, creep. These are all words I have heard today at work describing me. These comments are painful and demoralizing.

#9 Robert Colella:

If some total stranger walked up to you in the street and said I am either going to see you naked or touch your genitals, What would be the likelihood of that person walking away from that encounter?

#10 CNN employee Rosemary Fitzpatrick:

As an experienced traveler for work who was in tears for most of the search process, I have never experienced a more traumatic and invasive travel event!

#11 Meagan Quinn:

I will not board an airplane in America until the TSA body scanners are gone. No one is seeing my naked body unless I let them. I will also not settle for being GROPED in public as an alternative.

#12 A lawsuit filed on behalf of a female college student from Amarillo Texas:

As the TSA agent was frisking plaintiff, the agent pulled the plaintiffs blouse completely down, exposing plaintiffs breasts to everyone in the area.

#13 Bruce Sargent:

The sexual humiliation of detainees at Abu Ghraib is not so very different then the sexual humiliation being heaped on American air travelers at airports. Why is TSA torturing us to protect us?

#14 A 37-year-old Texas woman who had her nipple ring removed with a pair of pliers before she was allowed to pass through security:

My experience with TSA was a nightmare I had to endure. No one deserves to be treated this way.

#15 A soldier returning from Afghanistan:

So were in line, going through one at a time. One of our soldiers had his Gerber multi-tool. TSA confiscated it. Kind of ridiculous, but it gets better. A few minutes later, a guy empties his pockets and has a pair of nail clippers. Nail clippers. TSA informs the soldier that theyre going to confiscate his nail clippers.

#16 A flight attendant named Megan:

The agent went up my right leg first and then met my vagina with full force.the same on the other leg with the same result. She then used both of her hands to feel my breasts and squeezing them. At this point I was in shock.

#17 Jay Glover:

I spend on average $30K per year on business travel. The airlines get the bulk of this but hotels, car rentals, meals and miscellaneous expenses add up as well. Where I can cut travel, I will. When those associated with airport travel feel the financial pinch just watch how fast this all will change.

#18 Paul Craig Roberts:

It is difficult to imagine New Yorkers being porno-screened and sexually groped on crowded subway platforms or showing up an hour or two in advance for clearance for a 15 minute subway ride, but once bureaucrats get the bit in their teeth they take absurdity to its logical conclusion.

#19 Secretary of State Hillary Clinton when asked if she would like to go through the new pat-downs:

Not if I could avoid it. No. I mean, who would?

#20 TSA Administrator John Pistole during a Congressional hearing:

If you are asking me, am I going to change my policies? No.

#21 U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller to TSA chief John Pistole:

I Think Youre Doing A Terrific Job.

#22 Congressman Ron Paul:

I introduced legislation last week that is based on a very simple principle: federal agents should be subject to the same laws as ordinary citizens. If you would face criminal prosecution or a lawsuit for groping someone, exposing them to unwelcome radiation, causing them emotional distress, or violating indecency laws, then TSA agents should similarly face sanctions for their actions.

The Market Ticker – About Those Stress Tests….

Oh, from over yonder....

Remember last summers famous stress testing of European banks? This was meant finally to put the lid on the European banking crisis by reassuring the money markets that eurozone banks were essentially solvent.

Temporarily it seemed to work. For a few months things calmed down. But now the tests have turned out to be not just demonstrably worthless, but in some cases downright dishonest too.

Of course they were dishonest.

They were here too.

What saved the bacon - for now - over in the US was the change in "mark to market" accounting.

But there's a problem with that - it only puts off the inevitable.  It doesn't change the outcome unless you can manage to make bad assets good again.

When it comes to synthetics, you can't.  When it comes to homes, we haven't.  And there's the problem, in the end - the cash flow continues to deteriorate and the "value" - what remains of it anyway - is sucked out to pay the electric bill.

This just makes you go further and further underwater, until finally you start gulping water instead of air - and you're done.

Of course you don't see the so-called "Analysts" talking about this, with a few exceptions - Chris Whalen being one of them.  But it is nonetheless true.

The QE and "fast money" game is all nice and well but as we're now seeing that was a charade too.  Far too much of it was simply insider trading and scams.  Gee, who'd-a-thunk eh? 

I give this entire crap-pile about another three to six months - if we don't get a black swan or three first that gets caught in the gears - and we very well might.

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