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Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

I really wish I didn’t have to make this post, but unfortunately, I do. Unlike many folks I encounter, I have a code of ethics and morals and I believe in true equality. Many folks seem to have this hypocritical habit of supporting things like free speech and equality only when it suits them or their interests, or only when the topic in question is not too controversial or only so long as certain people they place upon pedestals don’t object. This is not the mark of a patriot, a freedom fighter, an independent or someone worthy of support. Its the mark of a coward, a hypocrite, an imbecile and folks who ought not to have the right to inhabit our country.

I don’t hate very many people or organizations, but The Westboro Baptist Church (WBC) is one fundamentalist Christian organization I do reserve a special spot in the deep, dark bottom of my cold, dead heart for. WBC is better described as a cult and its a disgusting little organization run by a deranged lunatic who appointed himself to be a preacher named Fred Phelps. The flock is comprised mostly of members of his family. I truly hate this organization, its membership, its leaders and what it stands for.

Being a gay homosexual myself, I am one of the groups of people they have targeted. So far, I have had a couple of run-ins with this organization, the most recent of which was when they came to Moore, Oklahoma and decided to picket Moore High School. Moore has alot of gay youth, as one friend of mine so politically incorrectly observed, “Moore is where all the bottoms come from.”. There is a video about the protest that I got involved in on my YouTube channel.

Now word comes that The Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) is going to hear an appeal regarding a lawsuit filed against him Phelps for WBC’s activities. One fine day in 2006, Phelps decided to picket the funeral of a dead US solider in Maine with their usual vile message of hate. The family sued WBC and Phelps and was awarded the family over $11 million in damages for emotional distress. The judge reduced the award to $5 million, then a federal appeals court threw out the award all together. The family now appeals to SCOTUS to reinstate the damages.

This is an important case because we are about set a key precedent. That family deserves the money, that I will tell you. But unfortunately, if they are awarded those funds, it will come at great expense to all of us. Because the case will not just decide if they get the money, it will decide if free speech extends to funerals. While most decent people know that a funeral is no place to make a political statement, this is not about decency – of which Phelps has none – this is about freedom of speech. As we should all be aware, the right to speech in this country includes the right to speak at times when it is not socially acceptable (at a funeral) and also the right to say unintelligent, disagreeable, stupid things (as WBC does early and often). As we should also be equally aware, rights are have often been lost by taking a well-meaning step towards silencing a highly offensive message in the name of cleaning up the public forum.

Fred Phelps is an old man, soon he will be in the ground dead and no longer voicing his hatred for all. WBC has not been very successful in recruiting new members, either. When his family dies off, so to will his church and its vile message of hate. While the message Phelps and WBC have for the world is annoying and undoubtedly painful for those who have to hear it, it is not worth gutting the first Amendment over to rid ourselves of it! If we start saying that objectionable or offensive speech is not allowed at funerals, we have just set a dangerous precedent that you can bet will be promptly extended to other areas – like churches and other religious gatherings. Will it be illegal for homosexuals to protest WBC while they are in session if SCOTUS decides in favor of the family? Thats a real possibility if SCOTUS finds in favor of this family.

Many people are going to argue that funerals are off-limits and that no one has the right to come into a funeral and make a statement. In other words, SCOTUS should find in this family’s favor because the ends (stopping people from being assholes through speech at funerals) justify the means (making it illegal to be an asshole through speech at places where such conduct is prohibited by law). In one way, they are correct. Funerals are closed events and there should be a legal right to exclude undesirables. Funerals, when held on private property as they usually are, are off-limits to anyone who does not have permission of the real property owner to come onto that private property. All that is needed is for the property owner to tell the Phelps that they are not welcome and ask them to leave. If they don’t, a phone call to the police will result in an arrest for trespassing.

But if they stand beyond the property line on public property or on the property of someone who allows them to be there, then that’s fair play. Legally, there is no sound argument to be made for silencing WBC so long as they stand beyond the property line. That wont keep them from sending their message, and the best thing to do would to be to use a very large piece of property, so that the property line is far enough away that the Phelps are out of sight and out of mind. If this case is about protecting the privacy and sanctuary of funerals, this will be an adequate fix to the problem. But I suspect alot of people want to see this family win to silence the Phelps and thats not an action that should be undertaken.

I must say that in this case, I support the right of WBC to speak because it’s a right granted to all citizens of this country – even at funerals and even when the message being spoken is morally repugnant and devoid of value. I hope that SCOTUS, with its conservative makeup, makes this connection. True conservatives tend to understand these types of arguments and will see them under the Castle doctrine, so there is hope that common sense will prevail.

We must resist the temptation to take feel-good actions in extreme cases that have far-reaching consequences. Part of not being a hypocritical coward is having the courage to defend people you truely hate when their ability to remain equal is threatened. In this case, the equality of WBC and Phelps is being threatened in a manner that threatens our collective right to free speech. This I cannot and will not be a part of supporting.

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So this past Friday, I appeared on The American Heathen Radio Network’s talk show. We had a great time talking about the issues, and we also made an announcement. There is going to be a second lawsuit regarding vanity plates in Oklahoma in the near future. The host of the show, RJ Evans has previously been granted a tag reading “ATHEIST” by the OTC. However, the OTC has in the past denied the tag “GODLESS”. Evans is going to apply for the GODLESS tag later this week and when it is denied, bring suit against the OTC for the improper denial.

This is particularly disturbing (while at the same time being quite amusing) because it shows the highly subjective manner in which the OTC grants and denies tags. Simply put: the manner in which the OTC adjudicates applications is both arbitrary and capricious. Atheist means godless. The idea that the word atheist is not offensive but godless is offensive is pure poppycock. Whats more, it shows that the OTC is not even consistent in denying one side of a single issue the right to speak. While they have (as far as I know) kept all the gays from getting plates that could express their gayness, they clearly haven’t done the same for the atheists. No doubt, they’ll claim that this was another one of those plates that “slipped through”, but its been issued for over three years. As the Administrative Law Judge pointed out in the administrative hearings phase of the protest, each year a plate is renewed was an opportunity to deny such renewal and correct any plates that had “slipped through” and the OTC, in all of the examples that were considered at the hearing, elected not to do so.

So now we have the two biggest hot button issues in on this fight. We have religion and we have homosexuality. As RJ has astutely pointed out, this a separation of church and state issue as much as its a free speech and gay rights issue. We have a government agency which has claimed for itself the right to exclude certain people from the conversation that is taking place on about 56,000 vanity plates in the state based on criteria that is neither written nor specific. Who gets and plate and doesn’t get a plate is up to the personal prejudices of the individual encoder examining the application. When you let some people on one side of an issue talk and deny that right to others, its viewpoint-based discrimination. In Cimarron Alliance v. City of Oklahoma City, Ok, 290 F.Supp.2d 1252 (W.D. Okl., 2002), the federal Courts took a definitive stand against viewpoint-based discrimination.

While this started out being about me getting a license plate I wanted to express myself, it has quickly become about so much more. Its no longer just about me or my plate and its not even about gay rights. While all of these are components and motivating factors, This is about free speech and separation of church and state. Two of the most fundamental rights we as citizens of the United States hold to be of paramount importance. If the Oklahoma Tax Commission gets away with its conduct in this case, this signals a huge change in our rights. It will be the dawn of a new era in which the 1st amendment is void where prohibited, restricted or taxed by law or administrative rule. This case will set precedent and change the direction of free speech in this country.

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First up, we have American Family Association radio show host Bryan Fischer asking us to send all homosexuals to prison. He explained his position to a viewer who complained about his rhetoric as follows, in pertinent part:

It might be worth noting that what I actually suggested is that we impose the same sanctions on those who engage in homosexual behavior as we do on those who engage in intravenous drug abuse, since both pose the same kind of risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. I’d be curious to know what you think should be done with IV drug abusers, because whatever it is, I think the same response should be made to those who engage in homosexual behavior.

If you believe that what drug abusers need is to go into an effective detox program, then we should likewise put active homosexuals through an effective reparative therapy program.

Now isn’t that lovely? I have a better idea. Lets put straight people who have HIV in reparative programs to make them gay. They are just as much of a risk to spreading the disease as the homos and it makes just as much sense. If the lunacy these people come up with wasn’t so damned damaging, it might be funny.

In other news, CBS confirmed that it will be rejecting the Mancrunch Superbowl ad, which was designed to counter the recent Focus on the Family ad featuring Tim Tebow.Ā  The network said it was willing to work with its client on alternative placements. Some have assumed this means ones with fewer displays of homosexuality, while others say that allowing the Christian ad and denying the queer one is hypocritical. Well, duh. Also, this is not the first gay-themed ad CBS has kicked to the curb, they rejected an ad by GoDaddy.com featuring a retired footballer who launches a panty line. Funny how we have heard more about the ads this year than the game itself. I guess the real battle will be fought during the intermission.

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Its been happening in the queer community for a while now – and it disturbs me on several levels. I have watched as various Christian churches setup shop in our community, claiming to welcome and embrace all. In Oklahoma City, we now have a so-called “affirming” Church right next to our bars, on the main drag in the gayborhood. For the most part, they do embrace all as far as I can tell. But by us accepting them, we are sending a message to the younger generation that Christianity is an acceptable belief system by which to pattern your life after. By allowing these establishments into our community, we are legitimizing them and saying that a belief in them is OK.

Anyone who has spent any time reading the Bible (any version, take your pick) knows that said book is full of hatred for women and minorities of nearly every stripe. Further, Christianity is a life blueprint, its followers are expected to follow the plan laid out in the Bible in all aspects of their lives. The fact that several generations of holy men have worked tirelessly to present a gentler, kinder face for Christianity does not change the fact that its roots are in the barbaric practices of racism, sexism and hatred for those not like them. As such, Christianity is irreconcilably incompatible with values most of us in the queer community hold up: equality, freedom to personal belief, etc.

Let me be direct: Christianity, or more specifically – a belief in it, is a mental defect. If you believe in Christianity, you have a mental illness. Pure and simple. Why do I say this? Because belief in Christianity requires belief in things that you can neither see, nor prove exist. If someone talks to themselves and claims to see things that no one else sees, we call this person retarded, insane, mentally defective or whatever the current politically correct term is at the time. Why do we allow Christians a free pass on this?

The practice of Christianity has resulted in more bloodshed worldwide than every war humanity has ever fought combined. The queer community has suffered more unpleasantries at the hands of so-called men of the cloth than from all other sources combined. This is a fact that most do not dispute. Those who do dispute it are unable to provide any convincing evidence to the contrary. When someone espouses a hatred for or disapproval of homosexual/queer conduct, the justification for spewing forth that hatred or disapproval is overwhelmingly the spewer’s belief in Christianity. If you, as a fellow queer, recall all of the times you have been verbally assaulted for being who you are and then think of what justification the person who assaulted you had, 9 times out of 10 you’d find that you were dealing with some flavor of Christian religious nut.

I guess I am somewhat biased when it comes to this matter, for I do not believe in Christianity. I don’t believe that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, nor do I believe that there is a man in the sky who made the world in seven days. I don’t believe that I can be struck dead when said man chooses and I firmly believe that (except when I am drunk or high) I and I alone am in control of my actions, my life and my destiny. Numerous challenges to prove the existence of the Christian god have went unfulfilled. No one has ever proven beyond reproach that he even exists. This being the case, why do we allow our community to be taken yet again by Christianity? Haven’t the queers collectively suffered enough at the cruel hands of Christianity?

Friends don’t let friends become Christians. If you or someone you know is being taken in by the Christ lie, please help them see the light. And by see the light, I mean see reality. There is no god. Jesus never existed. And Christian churches exist solely to take money from the community and keep the queers in line so that they don’t become a force for good. As long as we allow Christian churches into our communities, we will always be oppressed. Only when we can rise up and call the Church on its bullshit beliefs, will we have a shot at truly being free.

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So, today I decided to entertain myself. I headed over to mormon.org and had an online chat with one of their missionaries. I decided to see what they would say if I posed questions about their hatred for homosexuals in a non-threatening, professional way. Well, it turns out, my missionary had a meeting to attend and ducked out of answering further questions. Hard to believe she left a soul unsaved just to go to a meeting!! What follows is a transcript of my conversation. I may continue this dialog with her, as its quite fun.

You are speaking live with Kelsey, who is a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Information provided in this session is to provide assistance only and is not an official statement of the Church.

Kelsey: Hi this is Kelsey, how are you today?

Keith: Good. I am wondering if you can tell me why Mormons hate homosexuals so much. They spend so much money opposing gay rights. Why?

Kelsey: LDS people do not hate homosexuals. We do not believe that homosexuality is appropriate though.

Kelsey: Thus, to protect the family, much effort is put forward to protect what we believe is correct.

Keith: How is it not appropriate? In what way?

Kelsey: We know that God has ordained marriage between a man and a women and anything that goes contrary to this is not correct.

Keith: I thought Mormons were the ones who believed in multiple wives? Its not just between one man and one woman?

Kelsey: We actually don’t believe in multiple wives. There was a time in the earlier years of the church that due to deaths of many womans husbands, multiple wives were permitted in order to support families, but that practice is no longer in effect.

Keith: I see. Do Mormons believe in divorce?

Kelsey: We believe that marriage is sacred and in temples we are married for eternity. Divorce is discouraged, but we do realize that there are some situations that simply call for a divorce due to abuse or other issues. Ideally though, both spouses would work

Kelsey: together to save their marriage.

Kelsey: Mormons who are divorced are not in any way looked down upon or treated differently. We all realize that no one is perfect and we all have different challenges that we must overcome.

Keith: Is a Mormon allowed the marry a non-Mormon?

Kelsey: We all have free agency from God, or the ability to choose what we want to do. LDS members can marry whomever they would like. It obviously is encouraged to marry someone who has the same beliefs and values as you though, also, in order to be married

Kelsey: for eternity in the temple, both the man and wife must be worthy members of the LDS church.

Keith: Does LDS subscribe to The Book of Mark?

Kelsey: I’m sorry, but I’m not sure if I know what you are referring to. We read the Book of Mark in the Bible and we also have the Book of Mormon. Are either of these what you mean?

Keith: Yes, the Book of Mark in the Bible.

Kelsey: we do use the King James version of the Bible, so yes.

Keith: 10:8-12 says that marriage is forever. So how can you permit or recognize divorce?

Kelsey: That is great, Mark is definitely saying that marriage under the proper authority of God is forever. We just realize that we are not perfect and therefore can not judge others for divorce, even if it isn’t right. I just know that God will make all

Kelsey: things right in the end.

Keith: Ok, how about Deut 22:13-21m which says that if a woman is not a virgin when you marry and have relations, you should stone your wife to death in front of her family.

Kelsey: There are lots of things that happened in the Bible in the ancient days that were traditions of that time, such as this and other things like sacrifices. That is the blessing of having a modern prophet today though, who can let us know the will of God

Kelsey: for our times.

Kelsey: Keith, I know sometimes there are lots of things that we don’t understand, but I have come to realize that if I rely on the Lord and have faith, all things will work out.

Kelsey: Sorry, but I have to run to a meeting, but I would love to answer some more of your questions. I can either answer them via email, arrange another time to chat, or I can even transfer you to someone else right now who can answer more of your questions.

Keith: Sure, you can give me your e-mail address.

Kelsey: You can send your questions to askaquestion02@mtc.byu.edu and just put in the subject box “kelsey” and then I can get back to you and we can even arrange to chat some more if you’d like.

Kelsey: is your email keithontap@gmail.com?

Keith: Yes.

Kelsey: okay. great. I look forward to getting your email. Have a great night!

Thank you for taking the time to chat with us and for your interest in the Church. Please know that you are welcome to worship with us any time, request a visit from Mormon missionaries, order a Book of Mormon, or continue to browse our Web site to learn more answers to life’s greatest questions.

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The Issue: Queer Marriage

I have heard the entire issue of gay marriage debated ad nauseum, like most citizens. Honestly, I’m tired of hearing about it because the level of intelligence in the conversation has devolved to the stone ages. Like most political issues of the day, we have a few smart people involved who are making intelligent arguments and looking for real solutions. Then we have them being vastly overshadowed by a factor of ten by the uneducated, ill-informed and sometimes mentally defective masses.

On one hand, we have the religious quacks who think that we are trying to take their pulpits away and break up their happy marriages. Then there are the insecure straight people, who simply can’t handle seeing two guys who love each other kiss in public. Somewhere in there, there is probably a Catholic priest or two gravely worried that his supply of smooth, underage altar boys will be cut off. The religious quacks make up the majority of the against gay marriage folks and thanks to the hysterics of a few preachers abusing their tax exempt statuses, a large majority of the religious public is in hysterics.

On the other side, we have the gay folks and there are several factions here, too. First, there are the I don’t give a shits. These are the same folks who you can’t get to do anything in the gay community and there are a bunch of these. As long as there are still a few bars open and a circuit party every now and again, they don’t give a shit about anything. Sadly, in most gay issues, this is a very large group of people. Our community is very often its own worst enemy and this would not be any exception to that rule to be sure.

Then there is a large group of people who are fighting the right by mobilizing huge grass roots campaigns to run initiatives through the ballot boxes of every state. This group consists of GOTV (Get Out the Vote) folks, PACs (Political Action Committees), Facebook campaigns, protesters, street marchers and every kind of activist you can think of. At the head of this are old-school Gay, Inc. activist organizations like The Human Rights Campaign. We’ve spent alot of money, pounded alot of pavement, knocked alot of doors and burned up more airtime running ads than O.J. Simpson’s murder trial trying to legalize marriage at the ballot box on a state to state basis. What do we have to show for it? One failure after another. Not a single success.

Gee, I dunno, maybe we need to change something.

Queer Marriage: Its About the Benjamins, Stupid

Many people fail to grab whats really at stake here. Gay marriage has never been about getting married. Its not about the cake, the flowers, the ceremony, the marriage license, love or the honeymoon. Its about all of the things that come with marriage. Like health insurance, lower taxes, joint checking accounts, inheritance and spousal benefits at work. These are just a few, but there are many, many more.

Lets not forget divorce, too! You’d think we’d be seeing a huge surge in contributions to pro-marriage campaigns by the trial lawyers associations, since the increase in the need for estate planning services, divorce and litigation would be a boon to the lawyers. Either that, or maybe the lawyers are the smart ones. They do make lots of money and are generally not called stupid. Gee, maybe we’re on to something here. Lets look at this. Maybe they’re saving their money because they realize that under the current plan of attack, we’re not gonna win jack shit.

Ugh oh, I said it. This is not going to get me on Cimmaron Alliance Foundation’s (CAF) holiday card list. I am writing this for a national audience, so I need to keep in mind that not everyone will get my references to the Oklahoma gay activist political landscape. CAF is Oklahoma’s version of HRC. They have raised lots of money and in the past ten years, have both done damn near nothing in terms of moving gay rights forward. But they sure have managed to hold alot of dinner jacket and tie, preach to the choir type gatherings. Oh, and lots of fancy dinners and cocktail parties. I routinely get hammered by various members of the community for calling a spade a spade, as powerful people (like Oklahoma City attorney and wannabe politician Richard Ogden) sit on these organization’s boards.

But I digress. Back to the topic at hand.

Epic Fail: Gay Rights on Life Support

Gay rights in this country are on life support. We’re under attack from every angle and we’ve hardly prepared to go to war with the establishment. If we don’t wind up getting stuffed back in the closet (or worse) it will be a miracle. Because the race is on to stuff the homos back into their closets before society has to deal with us and acknowledge that yes, despite the fact that we may suck cocks, we are humans too and thus qualify for equal protection under the Constitution.

As a community, we picked a fight with a very powerful enemy (the church) and we are going about it on the basis that the general public (which has been attending public schools for about two hundred years – and significantly dumbed down as a result of it) will examine the facts, determine that homosexuals are people (despite the fact that they engage in some things they’d rather not know about – like cock sucking) deserving of all the same rights as everyone else. Then, the public, after being poked and prodded by the TV ads, news stories on the rallys and GOTV effort, will run to the polls and give homos their rights.

Does this all sound deluded to you? Because it should. Here is a hint: people who believe that a man in the sky controls the world are usually not rational people. In fact, most psychologists (who are unbiased on the subject of religion) will tell you that most religious people could be diagnosed with a mental disorder. In fact, they are not far removed from being insane. And they are especially prone to doing things they would not normally do, especially if they believe that god wants them to, or (worse yet) god is telling them to. One only need study mass murders and serial killers for validation of this fact. Many report that god wanted them or event told them to kill. So is it really surprising that they are willing to take away our rights when their preachers convince them that god wants them to do so?

It shouldn’t come as any huge shock to you if you have been a student of the past. We can look to history to see what religion has allowed stupid people in large groups to accomplish before. A little stroll down memory lane, if you will. It brought Hitler to power, provided for the crusades and allowed Wiccans to be burned at the stake. If they are willing to kill millions of people, do you think they’ll have any qualms with stuffing us in a corner somewhere where they can pretend like we don’t exist.

They ignore the other pages of their bible (remember, the Bible is God’s word – despite the fact that God has been dead for 2,000 years and yet they keep releasing new versions of the bible) that say you should love your neighbor, treat others as you wish to be treated, not judge others and not kill people. They ignore those parts and selectively focus on and then exaggerate the ones they like. And if god is perfect and never makes mistakes, then everyone was made exactly as they were supposed to be. Every person. Including every faggot. Thank you to Queer as Folk character Michael Novotny for giving us this line of thinking. Like George Carlin has observed, these people are full of bullshit.

These people are nuts! Bat shit crazy! There is no reasoning with them! Oh, the truth. Its just so damn inconvenient sometimes!

Setting the Record Straight

And lets get one thing straight, while we are at it. The ballot boxes are not being fixed. In all of the states that have refused gay marriage at the ballot box, its because – gasp – a majority of citizens in said state do not believe that homos should have the right to marry. And yes, they really do believe it! Its not because we didn’t spend enough on TV ads, knock enough doors or hand out enough flyers. We could have spent ten times more and our opposition a hundred times less and the outcome would have still been the same. So we need to stop acting like the there is something wrong with the results. The results reflect the wishes of the people.

Only in the United States of America, we have a Constitution that says ALL people are equal. Even if some would rather certain others not be considered so. And thus, what the majority of the American public thinks about homos being equal doesn’t fucking matter. Thats right, its irrelevant. We need to stop pretending that it does matter by going to the ballot boxes.

Learning from Our Mistakes: Moving Forward

Thankfully, its not too late to pick up the pieces and put together a movement that can rescue our rights and finally end this sad chapter in American history. Below are my ideas on how to resolve the matter.

Option #1: Dismantle Marriage as We Know It

In my opinion, this is the best option. The religious nuts are all in a fervor that letting homos wed will destroy marriage. Lets give them what they want. Thats right, lets take their sacred institution of marriage apart, brick by brick. This fight is really about rights, so lets make it about rights instead of marriage.

  • Get a few single straight and gay people to file a class action lawsuit against the Internal Revenue Service and have the tax code declared unconstitutional because it taxes single people at different rates than married people, a violation of equal protection.
  • Get a few more to sue for denying survivor’s benefits to gay couples on the basis of equal protection violations.
  • Another group can sue to invalidate inheritance taxes when they are imposed after a spouse passes on.

This is doable. It takes a few brave souls, a lawyer and about $300 to file the lawsuit in federal court. One of two things will happen. Either they’ll sit back and let us tear the whole thing down or they’ll RUN to implement my next option with the hope of saving whats left of the institution of marriage. This would be an automatic win for us, for the reasons explained below.

Option #2: Privatize Marriage – Get the Government Out

I am a fan of giving credit where its due and not re-inventing the wheel. So I will let David Boaz present this argument to you. He astutely articulated it way back in 1997. And its still just as valid today as it was then, maybe more so now. By getting the government out of marriage, we remove the ability of the government to tell us who can get married and who can’t and put that back in the hands of the church. Fred Phelps is proof that anyone can start a church, no matter how insane they are. I am sure that we have a couple of good homos somewhere who could start a church that recognizes and officiates our marriages.

Folks, its time to take the gloves off. No more Mr. Nice Fag. You want your rights? Then demand them and be willing to fight for them. Or shut up.

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