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Bobby Jindal’s Disaster in Louisiana Shows Why You Shouldn’t Bet on Fossil Fuels

Mother Jones

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This story originally appeared in Grist and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

The state of Louisiana has fallen on hard times, and its situation offers some hard lessons. First, don’t let a right-wing ideologue cut your budget to the bone. Second, don’t hang your whole economy on fossil fuel extraction.

The Washington Post reports on the state’s budget crisis:

Already, the state of Louisiana had gutted university spending and depleted its rainy-day funds. It had cut 30,000 employees and furloughed others. It had slashed the number of child services staffers…

And then, the state’s new governor, John Bel Edwards (D), came on TV and said the worst was yet to come. …

Despite all the cuts of the previous years, the nation’s second-poorest state still needed nearly $3 billion—almost $650 per person—just to maintain its regular services over the next 16 months. …

A few universities will shut down and declare bankruptcy. Graduations will be canceled. Students will lose scholarships. Select hospitals will close. Patients will lose funding for treatment of disabilities. Some reports of child abuse will go uninvestigated.

For eight years, under former Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.), Louisiana slashed taxes and played tricks to fill budget holes. Jindal claimed that the tax cuts he pushed through would promote miraculous economic growth and make up for the lost revenue. That didn’t work, of course, just as it didn’t work on a national level under Presidents Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush. The Post writes:

Many of the state’s economic analysts say a structural budget deficit emerged and then grew under former governor Bobby Jindal, who, during his eight years in office, reduced the state’s revenue by offering tax breaks to the middle class and wealthy. He also created new subsidies aimed at luring and keeping businesses. Those policies, state data show, didn’t deliver the desired economic growth. This year, Louisiana has doled out $210 million more to corporations in the form of credits and subsidies than it has collected from them in taxes.

The current Republican presidential frontrunners are running on a similar program of massive tax cuts tilted towards the wealthy—which would likely lead to a similar budget crisis on a nationwide scale. (Jindal’s ill-fated presidential campaign had its own gigantic regressive tax cut proposal.)

When government budgets collapse, environmental protection takes a big hit. This is particularly worrying in Louisiana. The state is filled with severely climate-threatened low-lying regions such as the Bayou and New Orleans, and its coastline is disappearing under the rising sea, so it should be investing heavily in climate adaptation. The state’s poverty also intensifies its aching need for improved mass transit. Huge spending cuts at the federal or state level, never mind both, are putting the state’s populace at greater risk.

Louisiana’s budget problems also demonstrate that fossil fuel extraction may be less an economic boon than a massive liability. Louisiana, with its oil refineries and offshore rigs, has the third worst poverty rate in the nation—and that is sadly typical of fossil fuel–heavy states. West Virginia and Kentucky, for example, are among the top three states for coal production and among among the 10 poorest states overall. And these states ranked dismally on poverty metrics even when oil, gas, and coal were booming. Now that they’re not, things are even worse.

Politicians from all of these places, even Democrats, argue that fossil fuel production is a needed economic engine. But fossil fuel extraction is inherently temporary: one day, the well will run dry—if the market doesn’t dry up first. Commodity prices are inherently volatile, and when they fall, the first thing you see is a loss of revenue to that industry and a decline in tax revenues. What comes next in many places may be even worse: with lower prices making harder-to-reach deposits unprofitable to extract, the industry cuts back on production. Workers get laid off, and the hard times ripple throughout the economy.

For Louisiana, where the oil and gas is offshore and therefore more expensive to drill than the oil right under the Saudi desert, this is just what has happened. As the Post notes, “The price of oil and natural gas fell off a cliff, causing a retrenchment in an industry that provided the state with jobs and royalties.”

Louisiana is not the only state experiencing this. Declining oil prices have forced Alaska to cut $1 billion in spending from its budget over the last two years. Now it faces a $4 billion deficit. And low coal and natural gas prices have West Virginia facing a $466 million budget gap.

Whole countries are feeling the same pinch. Russia, which depends heavily on gas and oil exports, is looking at a national budget that will be shorn of over $38 billion in income.

Instead of just relying on a short-term, unreliable, and polluting industry, states such as Louisiana need to diversify into industries that draw on human capital—whether it’s computer programming or solar panel manufacturing—and can provide a more stable source of revenue. Microchip prices don’t fluctuate wildly. And the high-tech sector doesn’t just fall apart when demand slackens for current products; companies innovate new ones. Louisiana can&’t innovate its way out of its current problem by inventing a new fossil fuel that just happens to be under its feet.

Perhaps, instead of cutting taxes and education spending, Jindal should have invested in a more educated workforce. But then his support for creationism might not have gone over as well.

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Bobby Jindal’s Disaster in Louisiana Shows Why You Shouldn’t Bet on Fossil Fuels

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Bobby Jindal Sums Up His Struggling Campaign in One Chart

Mother Jones

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Things are looking up for Bobby Jindal, according to Bobby Jindal.

The Louisiana governor tweeted this afternoon about his campaign performance: “Momentum is building in Iowa.” The tweet was accompanied by a chart showing Jindal’s support among Iowa voters increasing exponentially.

The poll Jindal is proudly presenting is the latest NBC/Marist survey in Iowa, which shows him with a whopping 6 percent of the vote, tied with two candidates and behind four others. That looks impressive next to the 1 percent he got in a poll from the firm in July. But it’s less impressive if you consider the 4.7 percent margin of error, which could more than account for his rise from the September poll that had him at 4 percent. Likewise if you look at the polling average from Real Clear Politics, which puts Jindal at 3.5 percent in Iowa (in ninth place). A Gravis poll concluded on September 27 listed Jindal at only 2 percent (tied for eighth place).

But who cares? Just look at this chart!

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Bobby Jindal Sums Up His Struggling Campaign in One Chart

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Quote of the Day: GOP Primary Is "One Giant Boob-Off"

Mother Jones

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This is from the very conservative Jay Nordlinger over at National Review:

There’s been some comment of late about Bobby Jindal, and I’d like to add some of my own. As I’ve said before, I love the guy — even when he’s pretending to be a populist boob, in an effort to keep up with Trump. (Indeed, the entire GOP primary process may be thought of as one giant boob-off.)

Wait. This is Nordlinger’s party. It’s his conservative electorate. He likes and sympathizes with conservatism and conservative voters. And yet he concedes that the GOP primary is “one giant boob-off.” Doesn’t this say something disturbing about the movement he identifies with?

And by the way, Jindal’s populist boob persona (Bobby 3.0, I think) predates Trump, so don’t blame it on him. Jindal decided all on his own that it was his best chance of appealing to the Republican base.

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Quote of the Day: GOP Primary Is "One Giant Boob-Off"

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Planned Parenthood Survives Congressional Assault—For Now

Mother Jones

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A Republican effort to strip Planned Parenthood of its federal funding came up short in the Senate Monday, with a Democratic filibuster leaving the bill from Sens. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) and Rand Paul (R-Ky.) seven votes shy of the 60 needed for passage. But the failure of the measure, which aimed to take away more than $500 million in federal funding from the organization, is likely just a prelude to a fiercer debate to come.

Republican presidential candidates such as Paul and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) are threatening another government shutdown if federal money for the reproductive health and abortion service provider is not eliminated. Cruz told Politico that Ernst’s bill was nothing more than a “show vote,” and that when it comes to the real fight, he is willing to do whatever it takes to defund Planned Parenthood.

The recent conservative attacks on Planned Parenthood follow the July 14 release of two heavily edited video clips in which Planned Parenthood officials appear to be negotiating the sale of aborted fetuses. The videos, part of a conservative campaign against Planned Parenthood, were produced by a little-known anti-abortion activist named David Daleiden, whose group, the Center for Medical Progress, is associated with the anti-abortion organization Live Action. The video was circulated by Groundswell, a conservative strategy group, which Mother Jones’ David Corn reported on back in 2013. Groundswell includes such players as Ginni Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and conservative journalists and commentators from outlets like Breitbart News, which broke the news of the first sting video.

A day after the first video was released, House Speaker John Boehner called for Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell and President Obama to “denounce, and stop, these gruesome practices.” Louisiana governor and GOP presidential hopeful Bobby Jindal promised a state investigation, and Gov. Scott Walker followed suit in Wisconsin. Texas Gov. Rick Perry said the video was “a disturbing reminder of the organization’s penchant for profiting off the tragedy of a destroyed human life.” And Florida Sen. Marco Rubio tweeted, “Look at all this outrage over a dead lion, but where is the outrage over the Planned Parenthood dead babies.”

Currently, Planned Parenthood receives $528 million annually in government funds. Title X, a federal family-planning grant program, makes up 10 percent of Planned Parenthood’s federal support, and 75 percent comes from Medicaid, according to the Guttmacher Institute. The remaining funds come from a combination of state appropriations and block grants.

Federal funds cannot be used for abortions except in cases of incest or rape, or when the life of the mother is in danger, so the federal dollars in question are used for other services such as cancer screenings, family planning, and testing and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.

Before the vote, Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren passionately defended Planned Parenthood. “I came to the Senate floor to ask my Republican colleagues a question: Do you have any idea what year it is?” she asked. “Did you fall down, hit your head, and think you woke up in the 1950s or 1890s? Because I simply cannot believe that in the year 2015, the United States Senate would be spending its time trying to defund women’s health care centers.”

Republicans repeatedly brought up the grisly image of Planned Parenthood profiting from the sale of fetal body parts. “I think all Americans should be sickened by this,” said Paul. “This debate isn’t just about abortion, it’s about little babies who haven’t given their consent.”

While the Senate debated the measure, Jindal announced that he was severing Louisiana’s Medicaid contract with Planned Parenthood. A third Planned Parenthood clinic is being built in the state, and it is the only one that would provide abortions. In a statement, Jindal wrote, “In recent weeks, it has been shocking to see reports of the alleged activities taking place at Planned Parenthood facilities across the country. Planned Parenthood does not represent the values of the people of Louisiana and shows a fundamental disrespect for human life. It has become clear that this is not an organization that is worthy of receiving public assistance from the state.”

Although the measure did not pass, Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards warned that the debate would continue into the fall. “Anti-abortion politicians vowed to do everything in their power to cut patients off from care,” she tweeted after the bill failed. “Including forcing a government shutdown this fall.”

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Planned Parenthood Survives Congressional Assault—For Now

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What Is Going On With This Bobby Jindal Announcement Video?

Mother Jones

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Louisiana Republican Gov. Bobby Jindal launched his presidential campaign on Wednesday by releasing a video—a very strange video. In it, he and his wife, Supriya, break the news to their three kids that he’ll be spending much of the next six months (at least) in Iowa. What makes it so unusual is that it appears to have been filmed with a camera hidden in a tree. Jindal himself is partially obscured by a large branch. His kids don’t sound particularly excited about their father’s presidential bid. Maybe they’ve seen the polls.


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I had to tell a few people first. But I want you to be next. I’m running for President of the United States of America. Join me: http://www.bobbyjindal.com/announcement/

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Bobby Jindal on Wednesday, June 24, 2015

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What Is Going On With This Bobby Jindal Announcement Video?

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Louisiana Ran Out of Money. You Won’t Believe What They Did Next.

Mother Jones

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Bobby Jindal has become such an increasingly pathetic figure that I find it hard to work up the nastiness to even mock him in a blog post these days. But Jordan Weissmann links today to a piece in the Baton Rouge Advocate that’s truly mind bending. Jindal desperately needs to raise revenue this year because he’s left Louisiana in a huge budget hole thanks to his true-believer tax-cutting mania. But Grover Norquist won’t allow him to raise revenues. What to do? Here’s the Advocate explaining the Jindal/Norquist-approved SAVE program:

It would assess a fee of about $1,500 per higher education student and raise about $350 million total, but only on paper. Students wouldn’t have to pay anything because an offsetting tax credit for the $1,500. Nor would universities receive any new money.

However, the SAVE fund would create a tax credit for the $350 million that Jindal could use to offset $350 million of the new revenue that legislators are proposing to raise.

I’m not sure that’s entirely clear, but I think I understand what’s going on. Let’s break it down:

  1. SAVE raises $350 million in revenue to help close the budget hole.
  2. It also creates a tax credit that—in theory—offsets the new revenue with a $350 million tax cut. So far this is kosher because there’s no net tax increase.
  3. However, SAVE also creates $350 million in new student fees.
  4. Then the tax credit is used—in actual practice—to offset the student fees so students don’t have to pay any more than they did before.
  5. The net result is $350 million in new revenue that’s not offset.

WTF? All these years Grover Norquist has been terrorizing Washington with his no-new-taxes pledge, but it turns out that this is all it takes to wiggle your way around it? If we’d known this we sure could have avoided an awful lot of stubborn confrontation on Capitol Hill over the past couple of decades. I can think of a hundred ways we can use this dodge in the future.

You know, I live in California and we’ve engaged in a whole lot of budget smoke and mirrors over the years. So I hardly need smelling salts when I hear about state governments pushing the envelope during budget season. But this truly boggles the mind when it comes to sheer dumbness. Maybe next they’ll just start minting their own Louisiana bucks and paying for stuff that way.

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Louisiana Ran Out of Money. You Won’t Believe What They Did Next.

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Louisiana Republicans Wondering Why Bobby Jindal Doesn’t Call Them Anymore

Mother Jones

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal has a new health care reform plan, a new political non-profit, and dreams of running for president in two years. But for the time being, he’s still governor of Louisiana.

Sort of.

Even as the legislature wrestles over hot-button issues—including a bill to rein in the Common Core math and English standards and a proposal to prevent parishes from suing oil companies for coastal land loss—the second-term governor has been largely AWOL from Baton Rouge. He’s as likely to pop up at the DC speech circuit (or in an early 2016 primary state) as he is to pick up the phone to hammer out legislation. And according to Louisiana-based investigative reporting site The Lens, Republicans back home are starting to take it personally:

Pearson said he finds Jindal’s detachment “a little disheartening.” The Slidell Republican said he has seen the governor twice this session: on opening day and at a committee chairman’s lunch.

“We have big problems with the budget. It looks like we’re kicking the can down the road for the next one or two years,” Pearson said, adding, “God, it would be nice to see his face on the House floor.

“He’s the governor, the leader of the state. It’s like being on a battlefield and seeing your general to know he’s there and cares about the troops,” Pearson added. “He should want to be here, be engaged. I don’t see any evidence that he is.”

Unease over Jindal’s frequent out-of-state visits has been simmering for a while now among conservative allies. (Previously, The Lens explored the governor’s failure to build to relationships with GOP lawmakers, with more than a dozen on-the-record critiques.) When I profiled Jindal for the magazine in March, I was struck by just how little love was lost between the boy-genius governor and the rank-and-file of his state party. As GOP presidential primary season creeps closer, those tensions aren’t likely to go away.

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Louisiana Republicans Wondering Why Bobby Jindal Doesn’t Call Them Anymore

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This Is Bigger News Than Bobby Jindal’s Health Care Plan

Mother Jones

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Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal made another effort to jump back into the upper tier of 2016 Republican presidential wannabes on Wednesday, releasing a 26-page plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act and replace it with…something else. Jindal’s plan includes things like block grants for Medicaid, an elimination of the employer subsidy for insurance, and the ability to purchase insurance across state lines—basically the same things conservatives have been pushing for years. (Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan’s 2015 budget, unveiled one day earlier, also calls for block grants.) As I reported in the most recent issue of Mother Jones, it’s only the most recent in a string of efforts by Jindal to elevate his sagging national profile to its previous heights.

But while he was pushing a hypothetical agenda for his hypothetical presidency, thinks weren’t going so well in Louisiana:

Louisiana’s House Education Committee voted down legislation that sought to scrap the Common Core education standards and replace them with a not-yet-developed set of academic benchmarks and assessments. The committee’s vote was 12-7.

Gov. Bobby Jindal submitted a green card—indicating support—for State Rep. Brett Geymann’s legislation to the House Education Committee, after several weeks of being circumspect about the his views on Common Core. But no one from Jindal’s staff testified on the bill and his spokesmen did not respond to media requests for information about why he backed Geymann’s legislation.

Jindal originally supported the implementation of the Common Core standards, a set of defacto national math and English standards approved by 46 states in 2009. But the standards became a lightning rod for conservative activists, who considered it a government takeover of local schools (or worse). So when the backlash came to Louisiana last year, he changed his tune. Sort of. Jindal argued that Louisiana shouldn’t take orders from Washington, and after a long period of indecision, quietly signaled his support for Geymann’s bill, which would have put the state’s tests on hold and form a 32-person committee for further study. It’s not quite hitting control-z on the entire program, but it would certainly be a step away from the original plan. But that attempt at damage control is dead for now, and so instead of being able to tell voters about how he reined in Common Core, Jindal is stuck with it.

That might not be on the 2016 radar yet, but given how despised the Core is among grassroots voters in Iowa, Florida, and South Carolina, it’s potentially a much bigger deal than a boilerplate white paper.


This Is Bigger News Than Bobby Jindal’s Health Care Plan

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Bobby Jindal to axe officials who took on Big Oil

Bobby Jindal to axe officials who took on Big Oil

Gage Skidmore

Lawsuits against Big Oil make Bobby Jindal feel emotions.

We told you last month that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal (R) doesn’t want Big Oil to be forced to spend billions of dollars to repair the marshes that once protected his state from floods.

Now comes news of the extreme steps Jindal is willing to take to ensure that the gas and oil industry, which has paid more than $1 million into his election campaigns, is protected from a lawsuit filed in July by the Southeast Louisiana Flood Protection Authority-East.

The flood authority is suing BP, ExxonMobil, and other oil companies in a bid to force them to spend billions restoring shorelines that they tore up while exploring and drilling for gas and oil and building pipelines. Those shorelines had been home to marshes and other coastal ecosystems that naturally buffered the New Orleans area from rising seas and storm surges.

The flood-control officials would like those marshes back, pretty please. But Jindal thinks their lawsuit is an outrageous attack on a wholesome industry that shouldn’t be held accountable for its own actions. He’s moving to kill the lawsuit by reshaping the authority’s 11-person board, axing members who support it. From the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Garret Graves, chairman of the Coastal Protection and Restoration Authority, said Friday that Jindal “will not” reappoint Tim Doody, president of the levee authority, and Vice President John Barry. Both Doody and Barry, whose terms officially expired June 30, have faced attacks from the Jindal administration, which opposes the levee authority’s controversial lawsuit demanding that 97 energy firms repair wetlands damage or pay to repair the damage. …

“Barry and Doody will not be reappointed,” Graves said. “In regard to other members of the board, we plan to continue working with them to better understand the implications of the lawsuit.”

The authority was created after Hurricane Katrina to serve as an independent body that would oversee flood protection in the New Orleans area. By axing these two commissioners, Jindal is not only tampering with the authority’s supposed independence — he is promoting deadly flooding in his own state.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: johnupton@gmail.com.Find this article interesting? Donate now to support our work.Read more: Climate & Energy



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Bobby Jindal to axe officials who took on Big Oil

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Giant, oil-belching sinkhole dooms more than 100 homes in Louisiana

Giant, oil-belching sinkhole dooms more than 100 homes in Louisiana

It’s looking like a neighborhood in Assumption Parish, La., has been permanently wiped out by a sloppy salt-mining company.

A sinkhole in the area has grown to 15 acres since an old salt mine that was emptied to supply the local petrochemical industry with brine began collapsing in August. Hundreds of neighbors were long ago evacuated, and many of them are now accepting that they will never return to their homes.

The sinkhole isn’t just endangering homes, it is also burping out oil, natural gas, and debris, shaking the area so powerfully that seismic equipment is being used to monitor the site. And brine from the sinkhole is in danger of contaminating local waterways. This thing is so big it even has its own Facebook page.

On Wings of Care

This is not a lake. It’s part of the 15-acre sinkhole in Assumption Parish.

By Monday, the company responsible for the disaster, Texas Brine, had reached agreements to buy up the homes of 44 affected households, but dozens more are still negotiating or have filed suit against the company. From the Baton Rouge Advocate:

“While not every resident chose to participate in the settlement process, Texas Brine has been committed to offering reasonable offers to those residents who decided they wanted to move from the area and voluntarily participated in the settlement process,” [Texas Brine spokesman Sonny] Cranch said.

But not everybody thinks the offers are reasonable.

“Me and my wife worked for the last 10 years to get where we are,” Jarred Breaux said at his home Tuesday afternoon. “Do you feel like starting over?”

He said Texas Brine’s offer just wasn’t enough for him to pick up his family and leave his home, but he would be interested in extended discussions and participating in mediation with Texas Brine.

“I know we’ve got a big decision (to make) pretty soon,” said Breaux, who doesn’t have an attorney but said he likely will look for one soon.

This is not the first such trouble triggered by a former brine mine, but it caught the attention of Louisiana lawmakers. From a report earlier this month in the New Orleans Times-Picayune:

Gov. Bobby Jindal [on] Friday signed a slew of bills tightening regulations for underground cavern operators and written in response to a debris-filled sinkhole in the swamps of Assumption Parish. …

“These laws will ensure that companies are acting in good faith and upholding public safety. It’s critical that we hold companies accountable when they put communities at risk and these new laws will help achieve that goal,” Jindal said in a statement.

John Upton is a science fan and green news boffin who tweets, posts articles to Facebook, and blogs about ecology. He welcomes reader questions, tips, and incoherent rants: johnupton@gmail.com.

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Giant, oil-belching sinkhole dooms more than 100 homes in Louisiana

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